A step through legal London (Exploring the Law)

In the induction period, new LLB students at the City Law School were asked to undertake the ‘Exploring the Law’ activity – wandering round the local area to find certain buildings, statues, streets or murals on one of eight trails around legal London (compiled by Emily Allbon), along with their tutor group. They then penned a short blog on some aspect of their travels. 21 students were chosen as winners and these will be posted here on Lawbore Future Lawyer. This excellent piece was chosen as one of the 21 (joint second place) – well done to Insha Irfan Farzandali.

What better way to ease yourself into the first week at university than to totally immerse yourself into the history of Law and go to the very heart of ‘Legal London’ to experience first hand, the locations that have contributed to the creation of the term itself. The nerd in me was squealing for joy at the fact that I can step where so many have stepped before (even died perhaps? St Sepulchre Church, I’m looking at you). Even the slightly wide eyed and intimidated side of me was half glad that I was put to this task with my small tutorial group.

St Sepulchre Church

Is it just me or does this photo just ooze the ghosts of Christmas past? This church is even name dropped in the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ . As it happens, the ‘bells of Old Bailey’ refer to the bells of St Sepulchre. These tenor bells rang at 9 o’clock on the morning of the prisoners of Newgate’s executions (occurring pre 1783). The night before their execution, the ‘candle to light you to bed’ was taken around to the prisoners’ cells and was a notification that their deaths had been scheduled. This was accompanied by a taunting rhyme that consolidated that they only had a few hours left to live and they should spend their time repenting for their sins so that you may not to eternal flames be sent.’ So not just Christmas then.

It is almost a little sadistic that children are taught to skip around the playground singing such morbid rhymes that more often than not are so focused around death and torture. I only recently learned that the song ‘Mary Mary quite contrary,’ meant that Queen Mary I (famously referred to as ‘Bloody Mary’) tortured and beheaded Protestants in her back garden (which was conveniently a graveyard). I suppose this isn’t something we would normally think of when were happily swinging our arms around pretending to chop off [the] head[s].Ah, the joys of growing up and learning what once sounded innocent, is actually rooted in  peoples’ deaths.

Staple Inn Chambers

Without a doubt, my favourite location of the day. It was literally walking through a hidden passage and stepping into a secret location. Camouflaged on the bustling Chancery Lane is a cobblestone passageway that leads to a square of mahogany coloured brick buildings, in the middle of which lies oak trees and a bench. This location was a tranquil gem, a ‘time-out’ spot from the busy city bustle. With its origins in wool trading (find out more via Hidden London), it transformed into the offices of lawyers and studentsand was dubbed the Society of Staple Inn. It was here where the lawyers and barristers in training ate, read, studied, mooted and even lived. Come 1884 however, the educational purposes of the location was deemed inactive by a Royal Commission. The Institute of Actuaries then rented the space, thus preserving the legal history of the courtyard.

The experience of exploring the ‘inns’ and outs of ‘legal London’ was a truly the perfect introduction to the course with the added benefit of meeting new people in a relaxed manner, simply strolling together through the city. This opportunity allowed us not only to get to know the people we would work closely with for the next three years, but bond over our mutual interest for the subject while learning about the rich history of our surrounding institutions.


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