Chambers can trace its origins to the set formed by the late Sir Frank Soskice QC MP in 1945 at the time of his appointment as Solicitor General. Sir Frank was appointed Attorney General in Clement Attlee’s government and then Home Secretary in Harold Wilson’s government. He retired in 1966 and was created a life peer as Baron Stow Hill of Newport in the county of Monmouth.
‘Yes Minster’ was based on Sir Frank! The co-creator, Sir Antony Jay said he wrote it after seeing in 1962 that Sir Frank as a Labour MP helped to start a petition to grant wrongly executed Timothy Evans a posthumous pardon, but then as Home Secretary three years later rejected any new investigation. He wrote ‘Yes Minister’ to hi-light the parliamentary hypocrisy.
Since then four Heads of Chambers, Sir Christopher French, Sir Stuart McKinnon, Sir George Newman and Sir James Dingemans, have been appointed High Court Judges and with Sir James Dingemans going onto the Court of Appeal in 2019 and in 2020 being appointed Vice-President of the Queen’s Bench Division. One previous Head, the late Sir Godfray Le Quesne QC was Chairman of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission between 1975 to 1987 before returning to practice at the Bar. Other heads of chambers have included Mervyn Heald QC, Mark Strachan QC, James Guthrie QC, Peter Knox QC, Simon Davenport QC and Jeffrey Golden QC (Hon). Howard Stevens QC became head of chambers in May 2022.
Chambers moved from its previous address at 1 Crown Office Row to new premises at 3 Hare Court in September 2000.
3 Hare Court occupies a site between Middle Temple Lane and Hare Court itself and is close to the Temple Church. The Temple owes its name and origin to the time of the crusades and the Order of soldier monks founded in 1118 as the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem. The order prospered under the patronage of successive Popes to whose exclusive jurisdiction they became subject. The first settlement of the Knights in England was in 1128 following the Council of Troyes. In the same year, Hugh de Payen, the first Grand Master of the Order, was received in Normandy by Henry I. Originally the Templars settled at the north end of what is now Chancery Lane (Old Temple). Sometimes between 1155 and 1162 they moved to the present site. Armouries and weapon forges were established on the north side of what is now Fleet Street.
The Temple Church was the first building constructed in what was then called ‘New Temple’. The Church was built in two stages between 1160-85 and 1220-40. Restoration was undertaken in the nineteenth century and again after severe damage by bombing in the Second World War. The Temple Church is not a Parish Church but, like Westminster Abbey, is a Royal Peculiar subject to the immediate jurisdiction of the monarch. The Order of the Knights Templar was suppressed in 1308 and in 1324 the buildings were given over to the Order of St John. In turn, the fourteenth century, the Order of St John leased the buildings to students of law. This was the start of a long association of the area with the law. The property reverted to the Crown upon the dissolution of the monasteries. In 1608, James I leased the land to the Benchers of the Inner and Middle Temple.
Hare Court derives its name from Nicholas Hare, nephew of Sir Nicholas Hare, who was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1547. Sir Nicholas Hare the Elder was a Bencher of the Inner Temple notable for his role in the defence in the trial of Cardinal Wolsey in 1530. He was subsequently elected speaker of the House of Commons. He fell from favour in 1553, having opposed the marriage of Queen Mary to Philip II of Spain. Nevertheless, he went on to become Master of the Rolls.
Nicholas Hare the Younger was admitted to the chambers of James Ryvett, a Bencher, in 1567 upon condition of rebuilding it. The reversion of the chambers on the south side of Hare Court thereafter remained in the Hare family for generations. The west side of Hare Court was destroyed by a catastrophic fire in 1678 at a time at which the Thames was frozen. In an attempt to douse the flames beer from a brewery at the west end of the Hall was used at a cost of £20. The beer proved insufficient and it was necessary to blow up a number of houses. The buildings were rebuilt after 1679.
The best known resident of 3 Hare Court (on the site of what is now number 2) was George Jeffreys who was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1663. At the early age of 23 he became the Common Serjeant of London. Thereafter his career on the Bench was marked by brutality, even for those times. He became infamous for his conduct of the ‘Bloody Assize’ in 1685 following the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion against James II, in reward for which he was appointed Lord Chancellor at the age of 37. He died in 1689 in the Tower of London.
The present buildings at number 2-3 Hare Court were built in 1893-4 to a design by Sir Thomas Jackson. These are the only buildings in the Temple in the Norman Shaw style. It is thought that the fine door cases may be part of the earlier, seventeenth century buildings.