Thursday 23 August 2012

Gray's Inn and the Tyldesleys

Gray's Inn—between 1561 and 1570

Gray's Inn prospers today as one of the four Inns of Court at the heart of legal London. Its connection to legal education dates back into the 14th century. Segar's List—a note of prominent Readers or Benchers made in the days of Charles II by Simon Segar, chief butler and Librarian of Gray's Inn—records three names from that time: William Skypwith 1355, John Markham 1391 and William Gascoigne 1398 [FN1] .Chronologically the fourth name on the list is Thomas Tildesley (1403) who was mentioned in a previous post and who died in 1410.

For many years, the educational function of Gray's Inn extended beyond the law. In 1468 Fortescue wrote "that knights, barons, and the greatest nobility of the Kingdom often place their children in these Inns of Court, not so much to make the laws their study, much less to live by their profession, having large patrimonies of their own, but to form their manners" [FN2]. The cost for maintaining a student was not inconsiderable—some 20 marks a year in 1486 [FN3]. Consequently admission was limited as noted by Feme in 1586: "Nobleness of blood, joyned with virtue, compteth the person as most meet to the enterprizing of any publick service; and for that cause it was, not for nought, that our antient Governors in this land, did with a special foresight and Wisdom, provide, that none should be admitted into the Houses of Court, being Seminaries, sending forth men apt to the Government of Justice, except he were a gentleman of blood." [FN4]

The Admissions Register for Gray's Inn from 1521 to 1889 was transcribed and published by Joseph Foster. [FN5] It contains twelve members of the Tyldesley family listed below and numbered for ease of reference. Foster notes that "It was the practice of the Inn that each Treasurer, Bencher, or Reader, introducing a student or honorary member, should enter the admission himself in the Register". This no doubt explains the short explanation attached to entry 6, the admission of Edward Tyldesley.
  1. 1528—Jeffrey Tildesley (folio 416)

  2. 1544—Edward Tyldesley (folio 467)

  3. 1557—Richard Tildesley (folio 517)

  4. 1577—Thomas Tyldesley of Staple Inn (folio 661)

  5. 1592/3—29 January—William Tildesley, of Morleys, co Lanc (folio 248)

  6. 1605/6—10 March—Edward Tildesley, son and heir apparent of Thurstan Tildesley, of Tanzaker (Stanzaker), co. Lancaster, Esq., " sine fine, quia Edwardus Tildesley, avus suus et meus avunculus admisit me sumptibus suis proprius Thomas Tildesley, lector." (folio 588)

  7. 1605/6—15 March—Thomas Tildesley, gent., son and heir of Thomas Tildesley, Esq., now reader. (folio 588)

  8. 1612/13—1 March—Richard Tildesley, son of Thomas T., of Orford, co. Lancaster, Esq.(folio 678)

  9. 1617/18—21 February—Thomas Tildesley, of Garret-in-Tildesley, co. Lancaster, Esq., son and heir of Lambert T., of same, Esq, deceased. (folio 714)

  10. 1620—3 July—Rowland Tildesley, son of Thomas T., Knight, one of the readers. (folio 773)

  11. 1622—20 November—Thomas Tildesley, of Morleis, co. Lancaster, Esq. (folio 800)

  12. 1629—6 November—Thomas Tildesley, of Garret, co. Lancaster, Esq. (folio 865)
The map shown above [FN6] is a small extract from that published by Ralph Aggas, probably between 1561 and 1570. It is discussed by Fletcher [FN7]:
A rough notion of the size and surroundings of the Inn during the early days of Elizabeth may be gained from the map of Ralph Aggas, a portion of which is reproduced on another page. It is true that the date—1560—sometimes assigned to this map is impossible. Aggas, in that year, was not out of his teens ; moreover, he pictures St. Paul's Cathedral without the spire which it possessed down to 1561. But at whatever date his work was made public, his plan of Gray's Inn certainly does not show the buildings erected by Sir Edward Stanhope and others between 1570 and 1580, and it may be concluded that the survey on which it was based was taken, by Aggas or another, before the earlier of these dates. The map is hardly correct in regard to scale, and it does not very clearly indicate the Hall. It does, however, corroborate the conclusion to which the building orders in these records lead—that prior to the accession of Elizabeth the Inn consisted of buildings irregularly grouped round one court, afterwards known as Middle, or Chapel, Court, i.e., the southern portion of Gray's Inn Square. Aggas shows a line of houses, some of which would have formed part of the Society's premises, bordering Gray's Inn Lane from the Chapel to the corner of Holbom. But South Square is uninclosed on the west, and cows are feeding there. The only gateway is that which opens upon Gray's Inn Lane. North of the buildings there is the garden, afterwards the site of Coney Court, and beyond that the " Panyerman's close," which, together with a field to the west of the Inn, was eventually converted under Francis Bacon's auspices into the celebrated " Walks." The housing question was evidently in these days somewhat pressing. The members slept two in a chamber, and even then the Inn was too small to hold them. About 1556 Bentley's Rents' were built by private enterprise just outside the bounds "for the ease of the house, lodgings at that time beinge verry scant," and some buildings known as the Irish Rents, standing on the west of the strip of ground afterwards acquired for the entry into Holborn, were hired by the Society. But if there was close packing in the chambers, there was fresh air outside. The Inn stood practically in the country, open to the breezes of the Hampstead and Highgate hills, and was, in fact, famous then, and for a hundred and fifty years afterwards, for its healthfulness.

1. Harl. 1912
2. De Laudibus Legum Anglia, Sir John Fortescue, 1468
3. Ibid
4. The Blazon of Gentrie, Sir John Feme, 1586
5. The Register of Admissions, Gray's Inn 1521-1889, Joseph Foster, 1889
6. My thanks to the excellent MAPCO site where the full map is available.
7. The Pension Book of Gray's Inn 1569-1669, Ed. Reginald J Fletcher, 1901