The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 11 Inns of Court

Clement's Inn, Clifford's Inn, Barnard's Inn, Staples Inn

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Although the four great Inns of Court are untouched, the lesser Inns have vanished or are vanishing. Clement's Inn has gone. The garden there was small, but had a special feature of its own-a sun-dial upheld by the kneeling figure of a blackamoor. This is now preserved in the Temple Garden, where it appeared soon after Clement's Inn was disestablished in 1884. Clement's Inn, which appertained to the Inner Temple, was so named from the Church of St. Clement Danes and St. Clement's Well, where "the City Youth on Festival Days used to entertain themselves with a variety of Diversions." The sundial is said to have been presented to the Inn by a Holles, Lord Clare, and some writers state that it was brought from Italy. It was, however, more probably made in London by John Van Nost, a Dutch sculptor, who came to England in William III.'s time, and established himself in Piccadilly. When he died in 1711 the business was continued by John Cheere, brother of Sir Henry Cheere, who executed various monuments in Westminster Abbey. Similar work is known to have issued from this studio. At Clifford's Inn, which was also attached to the Inner Temple, there is still a vestige of the garden, but it looks a miserable doomed wreck, a few black trees rising among heaps of earth and rubbish. It was described in 1756 as "an airy place, and neatly kept; the garden being inclosed with a pallisado Pale, and adorned with Rows of Lime trees, set round the gravel Plats and gravel walks." Its present forlorn appearance is certainly not suggestive of its past glories. Barnard's Inn has been converted into a school by the Mercers' Company; it also has its court and trees on a very small scale. Staples Inn, so familiar from the timbered, gabled front it presents to Holborn, carefully preserved by the Prudential Assurance Company, its present owners, still has its quiet little quadrangle of green at the back. It was of that Dickens wrote such an inimitable description. "It is one of those nooks, the turning into which out of the clashing streets imparts to the relieved pedestrian the sensation of having put cotton in his ears and velvet soles on his boots." Furnival's, Thavies', and all the other Inns famous in olden days, have disappeared, and their quiet little gardens with them.