HISTORY OF NOS. 57-58 AND 59-60
The Well Staircase and one of the Conference Rooms on the ground floor
The ornamental alcove with the coat of arms in reception dates from 1759 (Issac Ware).
The fireplace in the same room comes from Spencer Perceval’s occupation (1791-1809). Sir John Soane carried out the limited works required to re-unite 59-60 for Percerval in 1802 after Issac Ware have divided them (v). Since then it has remained one building.
The present 57-58 (pictured below) was built about 1730, replacing a previous structure. Although it was intended to be the same design as 59-60, it attracted criticism(1734) for failing to be of the same quality and detracting attention from 59-60 because of the height (iii). With one exception the exterior, which is of stone, has changed even less that that of 59-60. Originally it was one house with one door. In about 1795 Soane divided the house into two (the reverse of what he was later to do at 59-60), created two doors, and masked them with the current Roman Doric porch (v). The elliptical staircase running from the basement to the top of No. 57 was inserted at this time and is one of the most attractive features of the building. It is one of only three known – another being in Sir John Soane’s Museum also in
The exteriors are Grade I listed.
History and Literature
Some sources say 59-60 was lived in by Robert Bertie, 1st Earl of Lindsey (Charles I’s general at the battle of Edgehill in 1642 – the first major battle of the English Civil War – at which he was killed. However, this association is probably a confusion with two Earl Lindseys who lived here after 1685 – and from whom its common description in the books of “Lindsey House” is derived. In 1683, during the 2nd Stuart Tyranny (1683-5), a friend of the family of the then occupier Lord Winchester, Lord William Russell was beheaded in Lincoln’s Inn Fields after having been convicted of treason by association with the Rye House plot – the aim of which had been to assassinate Charles II and James, Duke of York – the future James II-in order to prevent a Catholic accession to the throne. In a gruesome aftermath his body was brought into the house and his head sewn back on before being carried off for burial(iii)(vi). The blood stain can still be discerned on the main reception floor. Spencer Perceval has the distinction of being the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated – on 11th May 1812 in the lobby of the House of Commons – by a bankrupt who had a grievance against the government. The deep safe in which it is believed he kept his ministerial red boxes is in reception.
57-58 has a gentler history. Edward Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich – the creator of the comestible and a principal figure in organising Charles II’s restoration – was here between 1664-1666. He was patron of Samuel Pepys, the diarist and clerk to the Exchequer under both Cromwell and Charles II. Pepys visited that “fine house” on a number of occasions but notes the rent was “deadly dear” - £250 per year (iii). Tulkinghorn, the lawyer to the aristocracy from Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House” lived here. Dickens described it as “a large house, formerly a house of state. It is let off in a set of chambers, and in those shrunken fragments of its greatness lawyers lie like maggots in nuts”. (ii)(vii). Here Tulkinghorn was found one morning shot through the heart when on the point of revealing Lady Dedlock’s terrible secret to her devoted husband.(vii) There is a non-fictitious association with Dickens. On 22nd December 1844 he read one of his ghost stories “The Chimes” to a company of friends including the historian Thomas Carlyle in this building.
By the beginning of the 20th century the buildings had become the offices of Marks & Clerk, the Chartered Patent Agents, who acquired 57-58 in 1908 and 59-60 in 1918. They remained here until the transfer to Garden Court Chambers in December 2004.
Ghosts and Hauntings
To those who are ‘sensitive’ there seem to be certainly two presences in the buildings, with possible a third which is more indistinct.
It is Lord William Russell who is the most likely source of haunting in Nos. 59-60. They have been unable to remove the blood from the oak floor in reception.
During the renovations of the building in early 2005, the builders were constantly being ‘spooked’ by foot steps and doors opening and closing by themselves, and things being moved overnight. The basement and ground floor and the third floor can become icy – even with the heating on full – in specific areas and this iciness will move around. Even now we still have footsteps and doors opening and closing by themselves, and when people are in the building by themselves, they have heard their names being called…and things will disappear to appear later in really odd places. It is now always put down to the “ghost”. There is also another tale of a baby or young child who fell (or was pushed?) down the dumb waiter from the third floor to the basement. This could well be the third rather indeterminate ghostly presence that can be felt.
In Nos. 57-60 there is a story of the grey lady. She is usually seen appearing through a now disused and blocked-up doorway and standing on the landing above the elliptical staircase and then throwing herself over the banisters to her death. Unfortunately her identity remains a mystery.
Click HERE to see Garden Court Chambers Website. You can see a picture on the left hand side of the elliptical staircase, down which the Grey Lady threw herself.
“A Guide to the Architecture of
Volume 3 of the London County Council’s Survey of London “The Parish of St. Giles in the Fields” Part 1 Lincoln’s Inn Fields pages 97,90,100,93 (cities Pepys diary entry for 10/2/1664) pub.LCC 1912
The Cromwell Association website – entry for Lindsey House
“Sir John Soane and
“A Student’s History of England” by S.R.Gardiner Vol.2 London 1900 pages 625-6
“Bleak House” by Charles Dickens Penguin edition 1983 pages 72 and 189
I hope you find it interesting!