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First, but falling into a ruinous state in the present century, and having been partly destroyed by fire, the old Inn was taken down in 1817, and the present handsome pile of building erected on its site. It adds to the interest of the spot, that Sir Thomas More filled for three years the office of Reader in Furnival's Inn.
STAPLE Inn, dependent on Gray's Inn, on the south side of Holborn, is known to have been an Inn of Chancery at least as early as the reign of Henry the Fifth. It has been supposed to derive its name from having been anciently á staple, or emporium, where the merchants of England exposed for sale their wool, cloth, and other commodities; the Society having still for their arms a wool-pack argent. Stow, however, confesses that the derivation of its name had escaped his researches. Staple Inn is divided into two Courts, with a pleasant garden behind. On the 27th of November, 1756, a fire broke out at No. 1, which destroyed four sets of chambers; two females and two children perishing in the flames. The hall, which fortunately escaped destruction, is a small but handsome building, in which are portraits of Charles the Second, Queen Anne, the Earl of Macclesfield, Lord Chancellor Cowper, and Lord Camden. In Staple Inn (No. 11) resided Isaac Reed, the commentator on Shakespeare; and here he formed his rare and valuable collection of books.
BARNARD'S INN, also on the south side of Hol
born, was originally called Mackworth's Inn, from John Mackworth, Dean of Lincoln, whose executors made it over to the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln, on condition that they would find priest to perform divine service in the chapel of St. George, in that cathedral, where the dean lies interred. In the life-time of Dean Mackworth, it was leased to one Lionel Barnard, the last person who resided in it before it was converted into a Court of Chancery, and from whom it derives its present name.
In the hall is a fine full-length portrait of the upright and learned Lord Chief Justice Holt, who was for some time principal of Barnard's Inn; and also of Lord Burghley, Lord Bacon, Lord Keeper Coventry, and other eminent men.
During the famous Gordon riots, Barnard's Inn very nearly fell a sacrifice to one of those fearful acts of incendiarism, by which, on the eventful night of the 7th of June 1780, so many public and private edifices were devoured by the flames. It adjoined the extensive premises of Mr. Langdale, an opulent distiller, who on two accounts was exposed to the fury of the mob; both as professing the Roman Catholic religion, and from the temptation of the intoxicating liquors on his premises. The attack on Langdale's distillery, and its subsequent destruction by fire, - rendered the more awfully vivid from the quantity of ardent spirits which fed the flames,—was not among the least striking of those frightful scenes which occurred in
various parts of the metropolis. Many of the rioters are said to have literally drunk themselves dead; women and children were seen on their knees drinking from the kennels, which flowed with gin and other intoxicating liquors; and many of the rabble, who had drunk themselves into a state of insensibility, perished in the flames. Dr. Warner, who passed the night in his chambers in Barnard's Inn, writes on the following morning :-“The staircase, in which my chambers are, is not yet burnt down, but it could not be much worse for me if it were. However, I fear there are many scores of poor creatures in this town, who have suffered this night much more than I have, and with less ability to bear it. Will you give me leave to lodge the shattered remains of my little goods in Cleveland Court for a time? There can be no living here, even if the fire stops immediately, for the whole place is a wreck; but there will be time enough to think of this. But there is a circumstance which distresses me more than anything; I have lost my maid, who was a very worthy creature, and I am sure would never have deserted me in such a situation by her own will; and what can have become of her, is horrible to think! I fervently hope that you and yours are free from every distress.
“ Five o'clock.—The fire, they say, is stopped, but what a rueful scene has it left behind ! Sunt lachrymæ rerum, indeed; the sentence that struck me upon picking up a page of Lord Mansfield's
Virgil ” yesterday, in Bloomsbury Square. Sortes Virgiliana!
“ Six o'clock. — The fire, I believe, is nearly stopped, though only at the next door to me. But no maid appears.
When I shall overcome the horror of the night, and its consequence, I cannot guess. But I know, if you can send me word that things go well with you, that they will be less bad with me.”+
Such was the result of one of those disgraceful scenes, which, under the mask of zeal for the interests of the Protestant religion (but to which the allurements of gin and plunder were the principal incentives), disgraced, only seventy years since, the character of the English people! Gibbon, in one of his letters, observes a few days afterwards : —“Our danger is at an end, but our disgrace will be lasting; and the month of June 1780, will ever be marked by a dark and diabolical fanaticism, which I had supposed to be extinct, but which actually subsists in Great Britain, perhaps, beyond any other country in Europe.” Fortunately we live in a more enlightened age, when bigotry, whether in a Protestant or a Papist, has been rendered comparatively powerless. Scarcely sixty years, indeed, had elapsed after Gibbon penned his indignant tirade, when a body of London masons were to be seen quietly engaged in erecting the high altar of a magnificent Roman Catholic Cathedral, on the very spot in St. George's Fields, where the insane eloquence of Lord George Gordon excited that popular frenzy, which very nearly had the effect of reducing London to a heap of ashes.
* Lord Mansfield's house in Bloomsbury Square, together with his Lordship's fine library, had been burnt the day before by the mob.
+ The Rev. Dr. Warner to George Selwyn, dated “ Barnard's Inn, - what remains of it, - Thursday morning, 4 o'clock."Selwyn Correspondence.