Just to the east of Clement's Inn, separated from it by an open railing, rise the Royal Courts of Justice, or Law Courts, an imposing Gothic pile, erected in 1874-82 (with additions in 1913) for the Supreme Court of Judicature, established in 1873 (see below). The building occupies the whole block between the Strand and Carey St. (17 feet higher than the Strand) and forms a square of about 500 feet. The architect was G. E. Street (1821-81), who died about a year before the completion of his work, which was finished by Sir Arthur Blomfield and A. E. Strest, The best parts of the exterior are the arcaded front towards the Strand and the clock-tower. The judgesï¿½ entrance is in Carey St. The main feature of the interior is the Central Hall, 238 feet long by 38 feet wide, and 80 feet high, with a mosaic pavement designed by Street, a marble statue of Lord Chief Justice Russell (1832-1900), by A. Bruce-Joy (unveiled by Mr. Choate in 1905), a monument to Street, by Armstead, and a painting of the Anti-Slavery Convention of June, 1840 (with portraits of American delegates). In the Bar Library is a replica of G. F. Watts's ï¿½Hemicycle of Lawgiversï¿½. There are 1100 rooms in all. The public entrances to the courts are in the towers flanking the main entrance.
The superior courts of Common Law in England originated in the Curia (or Aula) Regis of the early Norman kings, which was likewise the germ of the Privy Council and the Cabinet. The chief officials were the Chief Justiciar, the Chancellor, and the King's Justices. At first, the Courts followed the King from place to place but Henry II. appointed five justices to form the Court of King's Bench, sitting in one place, and the Court of Common Pleas (for suits between subject and subject) was fixed at Westminster by an article of Magna Charta (1215). The third great division of the Curia was the Court of Exchequer. All three henceforth sat regularly in Westminster Hall and afterwards in an adjoining building erected for their special accommodation, as did also the Court of Chancery till its removal to Lincoln's Inn. This separation of common law and equity ultimately proved very unsatisfactory in many ways, and the Judicature Acts of 1873-76 combined all the superior courts of the land into a Supreme Court of Judicature, sub-divided into courts of original and appellate jurisdiction (High Court of Justice and Court of Appeal). The former includes the three divisions of ï¿½King's Bench,ï¿½ ï¿½Chancery,ï¿½ and ï¿½Probate, Divorce, and Admiralty,ï¿½ and is served by twenty-five Puisne Justices, presided over by the Lord Chief Justice of England. The Lord Chancellor is the head of the Court of Appeal, which, however, in the ultimate resort, may be overruled by the House of Lords, represented by its legal members. A Court of Criminal Appeal was added in 1907.
In 1919 the Great Hall served for three weeks as a dormitory for 1500 men of the U.S. Navy. A volume containing the signatures of these men and the names of their ships is kept in the Middle Temple Library.