Index to Stow's original Survey of London written in 1598
But besides all this, there is in and about this city a whole university, as it were, of students, practicers or pleaders, and judges of the laws of this realm, not living of common stipends, as in other universities it is for the most part done, but of their own private maintenance, as being altogether fed either by their places or practice, or otherwise by their proper revenue, or exhibition of parents and friends; for that the younger sort are either gentlemen or the sons of gentlemen, or of other most wealthy persons. Of these houses there be at this day fourteen in all; whereof nine do stand within the liberties of this city, and five in the suburbs thereof; to wit:
Serjeants’ inn in Fleet Street, Serjeants’ inn in Chancery lane; for judges and sergeants only.
The Inner temple, the Middle temple, in Fleet street; houses of court.
Clifford’s inn in Fleet street, Thavies inn in Oldborne, Furnival’s inn in Oldborne, Barnard’s inn in Oldborne, Staple inn in Oldborne; houses of Chancery.
Gray’s inn in Oldborne, Lincoln’s inn in Chancery lane by the old Temple; houses of court.
Clement’s inn, New inn, Lion’s inn; houses of Chancery, without Temple bar, in the liberty of Westminster.
There was sometime an inn of sergeants in Oldborne, as you may read of Scrop’s inn over against St. Andrew’s church.
There was also one other inn of Chancery, called Chester’s inn, for the nearness of the Bishop of Chester’s house, but more commonly termed Strand inn, for that it stood in Strand street, and near unto Strand bridge without Temple bar, in the liberty of the duchy of Lancaster. This inn of Chancery, with other houses near adjoining, were pulled down in the reign of Edward VI. by Edward Duke of Sommerset, who in place thereof raised that large and beautiful house, but yet unfinished, called Sommerset house.
There was moreover, in the reign of King Henry I., a tenth house of Chancery, mentioned by Justice Fortescue in his book of the laws of England, but where it stood, or when it was abandoned, I cannot find, and therefore I will leave it, and return to the rest.
The houses of court be replenished partly with young students, and partly with graduates and practisers of the law; but the inns of Chancery, being, as it were, provinces, severally subjected to the inns of court, be chiefly furnished with officers, attorneys, solicitors, and clerks, that follow the courts of the King’s Bench or Common Pleas; and yet there want not some other being young students, that come thither sometimes from one of the Universities, and sometimes immediately from grammar schools; and these having spent some time in studying upon the first elements and grounds of the law, and having performed the exercise of their own houses (called Boltas Mootes, and putting of cases), they proceed to be admitted, and become students in some of these four houses or inns of court, where continuing by the space of seven years or thereabouts, they frequent readings, meetings, boltings, and other learned exercises, whereby growing ripe in the knowledge of the laws, and approved withal to be of honest conversation, they are either, by the general consent of the benchers or readers, being of the most ancient, grave, and judicial men of every inn of the court, or by the special privilege of the present reader there, selected and called to the degree of utter barristers, and so enabled to be common counsellors, and to practice the law, both in their chambers and at the bars.
Of these, after that they be called to a further step of preferment, called the Bench, there are twain every year chosen among the benchers of every inn of court to be readers there, who do make their readings at two times in the year also; that is, one in Lent, and the other at the beginning of August.
And for the help of young students in every of the inns of Chancery, they do likewise choose out of every one inn of court a reader, being no bencher, but an utter barrister there, of ten or twelve years’ continuance, and of good profit in study. Now, from these of the said degree of counsellors, or utter barristers, having continued therein the space of fourteen or fifteen years at the least, the chiefest and best learned are by the benchers elected to increase the number, as I said, of the bench amongst them; and so in their time do become first single, and then double, readers to the students of those houses of court; after which last reading they be named apprentices at the law, and, in default of a sufficient number of sergeants at law, these are, at the pleasure of the prince, to be advanced to the places of sergeants; out of which number of sergeants also the void places of judges are likewise ordinarily filled; albeit, now and then some be advanced, by the special favour of the prince, to the estate, dignity, and place, both of sergeant and judge, as it were in one instant. But from thenceforth they hold not any room in those inns of court, being translated to one of the said two inns, called Sergeante’s inns, where none but the sergeants and judges do converse.