The Garden Guide

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

Gray's Inn Gardens

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There is more character about the gardens of Gray's Inn than either the Temple or Lincoln's Inn. They have come down with but little alteration from the hands of that great lover of gardens, Bacon. But long before his time gardens existed. The land on which Gray's Inn stands formed part of a prebend of St. Paul's of the manor of Portpoole, and subsequently belonged to the family of Grey de Wilton, and in the fourteenth century the Inn of Court was established. Between its grounds and the villages of Highgate and Hampstead was an unbroken stretch of open country. There, in Mary's reign, Henry Lord Berkeley used daily to hunt "in Gray's Inne fields and in those parts towards Islington and Heygate with his hounds," and in his company were "many gentlemen of the Innes of Court and others of lower condition... and 150 servants in livery that daily attended him in their tawny coates." In Bacon's time it must still have been as open, and Theobald's Road a country lane with hedgerows. The Garden already boasted of fine trees, and among the records of the Society there is a list of the elms in 1583 all carefully enumerated, and the exact places they were growing: "In the grene Courte xi Elmes and iii Walnut trees," and so on. Eighty-seven elms, besides four young elms and one young ash, appear on the list; so the Garden was well furnished with trees even before Bacon commenced his work. Gray's Inn was the most popular of the four Inns of Court in the Elizabethan period, and many famous men, such as Lord Burghley, belonged to it. It was in 1597 that Bacon took the Garden in hand, some ten years after he became a Bencher. In the accounts of that year �7. 15s. 4d. appears "due to Mr. Bacon for planting of trees in the walkes." In 1598 it was resolved to "supply more yonge elme trees in the places of such as are decayed, and that a new Rayle and quicksett hedge be sett upon the upper long walke at the good discretion of Mr. Bacon, and Mr. Wilbraham, soe that the charges thereof doe not exceed the sum of seventy pounds." On 29th April 1600, �60, 6s. 8d. was paid to "Mr. Bacon for money disbursed about garnishing of the walkes."