The Escutcheon

Volume 13

Number 1 – Michalemas Term, 2007

Society Visit to Lincoln's Inn

Lester Hillman

We are indebted to Professor Mark Watson-Gandy of 13 Old Square, Lincoln's Inn, for a wonderful CUHAGS visit to The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn on Friday, November 23rd, 2007 for the swift administration of the event and to Ambrogio Caiani.

About 18 of us climbed to the second floor Chambers and toasted CUHAGS in bubbly, courtesy of Professor Watson-Gandy. Here, in the shadow of St Clement Danes, ours was an auspicious visit on the Feast of St Clement, patron of blacksmiths and hatters. Amongst our party were those who had made the pilgrimage from as far as Terrington St Clement, in West Norfolk.

Before visiting the Inn Chapel, hard by Old Square, our host pointed out the Inns of Court and City Yeomanry. On formation of this military unit it was found that the titles 'King's Own' and 'Queen's Own' were already taken and so the title 'Devil's Own' was claimed by the lawyers. The Chapel of Lincoln's Inn was consecrated on Ascension Day, 1623. Thwarted briefly in a Left Ascension of the Chapel steps our party executed a Right Ascension and entered to gaze upon the magnificent East Window.

Here the crests and arms of 228 Treasurers from 1680 to 1908 fill the window. Treasurers head the Inn and the office holder changes annually. It was announced 24th November 2007, the day after our visit that RoyAmlot Q.C. would hand over to Mr Justice Lightman for 2008. A hundred years previously the handover had monumental consequences. With the East Window finally filled to capacity the Treasurers arms began a long embrace with the Northeast and Southwest windows immediately to either side. A Zeppelin in 1915 destroyed two other windows of the Chapel and in the Second World War all the windows were removed and safely stored. St Clement Danes is the Central Church of the Royal Air Force and it was an Act granted Royal Assent on 29th November 1917, 90 years to the week of our visit, that created the Air Force and an Air Council.

Above the windows, on the corbels of the ceiling and on the walls immediately beneath, are the diocesan arms of preachers who were or later rose to Bishoprics or Archbishoprics. There in the corner were the arms of Armagh's James Ussher. It was Ussher in the 17th Century who is most often associated with the creationist calendar and our visit was exactly one month in to the 6011th year. At the consecration John Donne had preached a "right rare and learned sermon' of those present 'two or three were endangered and taken up for dead for the time, with the extreme press and thronging". With sermons like that the Chapel has required continual maintenance. Sir Christopher Wren, a member of Lincoln's Inn, was consulted in 1685 about repairs.

Outside as we toured the grounds our President drew attention to still more heraldic decoration on the exterior walls. A large new fountain was in full flow but the pumping mechanism and design seems to have caused difficulties, our host sharing with us the legal niceties of mixing electricity with water. Immediately following our visit it was announced that Miss Elizabeth Appleby, Q.C. had been elected to the office of 'Master of the Library and of the Walks'. If the fountain is included in the responsibilities the office holder has the sympathy of CUHAGS and we trust the election was welcomed and not unexpected.

St Clement Danes emblem is an anchor. It includes the patronage of The Guild of the Glorious and Undivided Trinity – Trinity House. A table, set for CUHAGS in the Hall of Lincoln's Inn, was as a long ship set within a heraldic sea, the walls being filled with heraldic detailing. We had brought our very own Senior Treasurer and Honorary Vice President who anchored one end of the table. Our host anchored the other whilst Monica Morrill floated presidentially amidships. For dessert not for us oranges and lemons, but honeyed figs. St Clement Danes is probably not the city church associated with oranges and lemons in the nursery rhyme. The Inn in administering student dining accounts adopts a respectful lightish blue for paperwork and CUHAGS members had difficulty choosing their dining status.

On the death of a bencher it is the custom to toll the Inn bell at mid day. This custom is believed to have inspired "for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee" from John Donne's 'No man is an Island'. As the bell tolled two we left. It being the night of a full moon, and rail excursion fare rules being what they are, our Cambridge-bound group needed to be home.

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