The Hospitallers leased many of their buildings to London lawyers which were used as hostels, or Inns, by Barristers and Law Students and as time passed so began the Inns of Court and Chancery (a chancellor's court, or office or building, in which it is located). This group of buildings evolved into the equivalent of a University which taught the Arts, Theology and Medicine as well as the Law.
Gray's Inn - Famous for Law
Much of this history has been forgotten and Gray's Inn is now famous as one of the four Inns of Court School of Law. English Barristers are still required to join one of the four Inns (Gray's Inn, Middle Temple Inn, Lower Temple Inn and Lincoln's Inn) to qualify as a barrister. Gray's Inn dates back to from 1556 (though much restored in 1951), Middle Temple from 1573 and the Old Hall, at Lincoln's Inn, dates back to 1490.
Entertainment at Gray's Inn
Grays Inn is not generally known as a theatre. But the history and evolution of the site explains the connection. The Great Hall at Grays Inn was often used for lavish revels. Students who resided in Grays Inn were required to attend compulsory suppers in the Great Hall. As the residents could not go out to seek their entertainment the suppers were developed to produce their own in-house entertainment. The suppers were renown for being boisterous affairs, in fact revels, and plays were introduced to accompany the meals. The famous courtiers and statesmen of Shakespeare's era were members of Gray's Inn and it became a fashionable place for wealthy noblemen to send their sons (many of which had little inclination for the Law or other Education). The courtiers and Statesmen included Lord Burleigh, Lord Howard of Effingham, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Walshingham, Francis Bacon and Henry Wriothesley the third Earl of Southampton. Gray's Inn became famous for hosting various forms of entertainment including dancing, masques, river pageants, revels and of course the staging of plays. Queen Elizabeth herself was the Grays Inn's Patron Lady - it was clearly the 'In' place to be!
Shakespeare and Gray's Inn
Henry Wriothesley was the patron of William Shakespeare and his patronage bore a strong influence on the success of Shakespeare. In 1594 Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors was played in Gray's Inn Hall. The chronicles of the Inn comment that: 'A company of base and common fellows.. ' gave their performance on December 28 as part of the Christmas revels. The playwright was very probably one of the cast.
The Gray's Inn Theatre - Shakespeare's London History Lives On...
The history of Theatres that were prominent during the life of Shakespeare is fascinating and we have provided the London Map detailing Theatres that Shakespeare would have most certainly known and visited and quite probably have acted in. We have researched the history and locations of many of these theatres and plotted their locations into a modern Map of London. The names of many of these theatres still live on in London as they are reflected in the names of many current London Roads. Although we are born in bred in London we were not aware of this. We found the ' Gray's Inn' on the modern Map of London, what's more it is still in use as Seat of Law and Barristers are still required to join one of the four Inns (Gray's Inn, Middle Temple Inn, Lower Temple Inn and Lincoln's Inn). The Hall of Gray's Inn and its famous walks are beautiful - a tour of Gray's Inn is recommended when visiting London. These links with the past and Shakespeare's London are endless.