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Archdale, Combs &c. of the Middle Temple
Archdale, Combs &c. of the Inner Temple
Archdale, Combs &c. of Grey’s Inn (1)
Archdale, Combs &c. of Lincoln’s Inn (2)


Background & History

In the course of records collections of our Archdale, Combs and Associated Families, it became necessary to learn more about those who were members of the London Inns of Court :

According to “A Topographical Dictionary of England, Inns of Court and Courts of Judicature”, Samuel Lewis, S. Lewis and Company, London, 1831, Vol. 3, pp. 141-2, the Inns were “originally like colleges in a university, but confined to the study of the law. Though their origin cannot be exactly ascertained, they may be presumed to have owed their rise to the establishment of the courts of justice at Westminster; by Henry III, which, collecting in their neighhourhood the whole body of common lawyers, or practitioners, in those courts, they began to form themselves into a society (supposed at Thaives Inn, Holborn,) in a collegiate manner; hence their place of residence was denominated an Inn (Hostel), or House of Court… the king, in 1244, forbade the teaching of law in schools set up in the city, as had been accustomed, and restricted its study to these inns. Their increase, as well as division into Inns of Court and Inns of Chancery, is not recognized till the reign of Edward III [1327/8-1377], when their students are called apprentices of the law (from the Fr. Apprendre [to learn]), and the Inns of Court became appropriated solely to the study of the common law, as were the latter to such clerks as studied the forming of writs and other process in chancery. Till late in the seventeenth century, the students of the various inns were exercised before the principals in sharn pleadings, called mootings, and many antiquated customs were retained, as well as occasionally splendid ceremonies exhibited.”

“At present [1830] the Inns have become mere residences, not for lawyers only, but any persons who choose to hire chambers in them; and the law-student, before being called to the bar, is now only obliged to be entered of one of these places, and dine in the common hall a certain number of terms; after which, should his admission not be objected to by the members, an occurrence that rarely happens, he is legally qualified to plead and conduct causes. The Inns of Court are not incorporated, consequently the masters, principals, benchers, &c., by whom they are governed, can make no by-laws, nor possess estates, &c.; yet they have certain orders which, by consent and prescription, have obtained the force of laws: the societies are entirely supported by sums paid for admissions and for chambers; and from the benchers, or seniors, in whom the government is vested, a treasurer is usually chosen to manage these funds; the other members may be divided into outer barristers, inner barristers, and students.”

“The principal Inns of Court are four:-The Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln’s Inn, and Gray’s Inn. The Inns of Chancery are seven, viz., Clifford’s Inn, Lyon’s Inn, Clement’s Inn, and New Inn, belonging to the two Temples; Furnival’s Inn, belonging to Lincoln’s Inn; and Staples Inn, and Bernard’s Inn, belonging to Gray’s Inn. Thavies Inn, Scroop’s Inn, Chester Inn, or Strand Inn, as well as Johnson’s Inn, and some others in the city, have long been disused. Of the two Serjeant’s Inns, in Fleet-street and Chancery-lane, the latter only is appropriated as chambers for the Serjeants at law, who removed thither from Symond’s Inn, which is falling to decay, and merely tenanted as chambers by any one who chooses to rent them. Serjeant’s Inn, Fleet-street, consists now of private residences.

  1. The Temple is so called from its original inhabitants, the Knights Templars, who, on quitting their old house in Southampton-buildings, Holborn, in the reign of Henry II., built a house in Fleet-street, thence called the New Temple, which occupied all the ground from White Friars to Essex-street. On their suppression by Edward II., the Temple, after two or three intermediate grants from the Crown, was, by Edward III., given to the monastery of St. John of Jerusalem, the prior and convent of which afterwards demised it to the lawyers, supposed to have emigrated here from Thavies Inn, at a yearly rent of £10, a sum for which they still enjoy from the Crown the whole of this splendid property. The Temple is at present divided between the two societies-the Inner and Middle Templers, each consisting of benchers, barristers, and students, the government being vested in the benchers. In term-time the members dine in the hall of the society, which is called keeping commons; to dine a fortnight in each term, is deemed keeping the term, and twelve of those terms qualify a student, after being called to the bar, to plead and manage causes in the courts: each society has also a treasurer, sub-treasurer, steward, chief butler, three under-butlers, upper and under cook, and various other officers and servants. The Temple Church is the chief architectural attraction belonging to these societies, though each has also a fine large hall, and an extensive library, as well as beautiful gardens: the garden of the Inner Temple affords a remarkably fine summer promenade. The houses are generally large plain brick edifices, divided into sets of chambers, most of which are spacious apartments.
  2. Lincoln’s Inn occupies, with its gardens and squares, a very extensive plot of ground on the western side of Chancery-lane. It has a fine ancient brick gateway opening from Chancery-lane, built by Sir Thomas LOVEL in the reign of Henry VII.; a hall erected by the same person, wherein the Lord Chancellor holds his sittings; and a chapel built by Inigo JONES, in the English style of architecture. The buildings occupy four large squares, exclusively of the avenues to them, &c.; and the garden affords a most agreeable promenade.
  3. Gray’s Inn is chiefly remarkable for its large and beautiful garden. The buildings consist principally of two quadrangles, separated by a hall and chapel, and two handsome ranges of building recently erected, called Verulam and Raymond buildings: the chambers and regulations of both these last inns are similar to those of the Temple. Most of the other inns consist of double courts, surrounded by large brick buildings divided into chambers: all of them have halls, and several have good libraries and gardens. The finest, in point of architecture, is Furnival’s Inn, situated in Holborn, which has been lately rebuilt in an excellent style, and forms a large and beautiful pile of buildings.
  4. The Temple, Inner and Middle, are organizations with origins in the 12th century, and still in existence today. It is believed that from the beginning, two societies existed in the Temple with one, the “Inner Inn” occupying the hall next to the cloisters, and the other, the “middle inn”, using the unconsecrated buildings between the inner portion and the Outer Temple. Although the Temples produced barristers and solicitors, the majority of students were country gentlemen [whose attendance was not for the purpose of becoming learning the law, but more a form of continuing education].”

According to The Inner Temple, A Brief Historical Description, by J. H. Baker, Q. C., LL.D., F.B.A, an Honorary Master of the Bench, the Middle Temple was dominated by west countrymen whereas the Inner Temple drew more from the north, the midlands and London. Baker adds that “the sixteenth century was an age of expansion for the common law and its practitioners, and all the inns were substantially enlarged and beautified during the Tudor period… Some of the development may be traced through the Inn’s records, since the minutes of parliament (the governing body of benchers) exist from 1505; but most building projects were carried out with private money, the investors retaining a freehold interest in the chambers. Very few of these Tudor buildings survived into the nineteenth century, though the name Hare Court still commemorates a rebuilding scheme financed by Nicholas HARE in 1567. In HARE’S time there were 100 sets of chambers in the Inn, making it the second largest (after Gray’s Inn); in 1574 it is recorded that only 15 benchers and 23 barristers lived in, well outnumbered by the 151 resident students. Celebrated alumni from this period included Sir Thomas AUDLEY (d. 1544), the Inn’s first lord chancellor, two subsequent holders of the great seal (Sir Thomas BROMLEY and Sir Christopher HATTON), and, above all, Sir Edward COKE (d. 1634). COKE is still remembered for his Reports and Institutes, which included a Commentary on LITTLETON; but perhaps the greatest achievement of his stormy judicial career was the foundation of English administrative law… The expansion of membership continued throughout that period: over 1,700 students were admitted to the Inn between 1600 and 1640. In 1642, however, the news of Edgehill* sent bench and bar rushing home. The Inns were all but closed for four years, and the legal university suffered a mortal collapse. Readings were discontinued, and their revival after the interregnum was short-lived. The first Restoration reading [was] by Sir Heneage FINCH in 1661… King Charles II attended the reader’s feast in person, and the Duke of York (later King James II) became the first royal bencher. But readers in general found it was easier to pay the fine for default than to prepare lectures and pay for feasts, while the Inn doubtless concluded that monetary compensation was more useful than specific performance… Distinguished alumni included John HAMPDEN (d. 1643), opponent of ship-money, John SELDEN (d. 1654), legal historian and defender of English liberties, Henry ROLLE (d. 1656) and Sir John VAUGHAN (d. 1674), two very learned chief justices, Lord NOTTINGHAM (d. 1682), the ‘father of modern equity’, and the notorious ‘Judge JEFFREYS’ (later Lord Chancellor JEFFREYS, d. 1689) of the Bloody Assizes…”

*The reference is to the Battle of Edgehill which took place on 23 Oct 1642 at Edgehill between Parliamentarians and Royalists (Civil War)

Extracted by Combs Researcher Barbara Jones from In Search of Ancestry, Gerald Hamilton-Edwards, Michael Joseph Ltd, London, 1966, Chapter 12, pp 82-86, in reference to the legal profession in England and Wales:

"… men in the legal profession divide into two groups, barristers and solicitors. A solicitor cannot be a member of the bar and a barrister cannot be enrolled as a solicitor… To become a barrister you must be admitted through one of the inns of court, which are today, Lincoln’s Inn, which is particularly linked with Chancery practice, the Middle Temple, the Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn. When men enter these inns certain particulars about them are recorded, including their parentage, usually a description of their father’s occupation or status and his place of residence… While barristers are usually university graduates and therefore traceable through the matriculation records, solicitors even today are not always so and in the past were seldom so. Their names and the place where they practised can be traced through the law lists… discover when a solicitor died, and you would normally expect, in view of his profession, that he would leave a properly drawn up will… In earlier times young men were apprenticed to attorneys in the same way that others were to other trades… in the eighteenth century period … there was a tax on apprenticeship indentures… details … in the Society of Genealogists’ index of apprentices. Judges of all courts are appointed from the barristers… Magistrates, or justices of the peace, are laymen… appointed by the Lord Chancellor… record of appointment … among the Lord Chancellor’s records … [and/or] county record offices."


1 Only one Archdale (and no Combs?) is recorded as having entering Grey’s Inn:

16 Feb 1607/08 Gray’s Inn. Admitted: John ARCHDALE [eldest son of Martin & Barbara SEXTON Archdale (Ayloffe) of London and Suffolk]

Whether there were Combs at Gray’s Inn is not yet known, although the following record would tend to indicate that a John COMBE was there in 1644:

1644 John COOMBES of Gray’s Inn Award to 1644 (Add. 61681 f. 42, British Library Manuscript Collection) Note: This record may connect to Bedfordshire as the above-referenced entry is described as being “CORRESPONDENCE AND PAPERS OF THE TREVOR FAMILY, F. Section I. PAPERS OF THE BOTEI,ER FAMILY, 61681, 61682. BLENHEIM PAPERS. Vols. DLXXXI, DLXXXII. Papers of the Boteler family of Biddenham, co. Bedf., mostly official papers of Sir William Boteler IV (b. 1608, d. 1658), as sheriff of Bedfordshire, 1637-1638, and as leading member of the Bedfordshire committee for 1644. The present papers were apparently acquired with the Boteler estates in Biddenham by Robert Trevor, 4th Baron Trevor, in 1712. They are substantially those calendared in H.M.C. 8th Report, pt. 1, pp. 2-11. Further Boteler papers, including papers of Sir William Boteler IV in both official capacities, remained with the Biddenham estate records amongst the Trevor-Wingfield muniments, now in the Bedfordshire Record Office. See Publications of the Bedfordshire Historical Record Society, XVIII, 1936, pp. 1-42, 55-88, and XLIX, 1970, pp. 56-122.”

2 Only one Archdale, the brother of the above John, and one early Combs are recorded as having entered Lincoln’s Inn:

6 Aug 1612 Daniel ARCHDALE, Matriculated pens. from Christ’s College, Cambridge University, Dec. 1610... Son of Martin, of London, admitted at Lincoln’s Inn. (Cambridge University Alumni)

no date givenEdmund COMBE, of Grante Court, Lincoln’s Inn, and Hartley wintney, Hants, b. 16 Oct. 1677; m. 14 April, 1702…” (See Archdale, Combs &c. Visitations)
©1998, Denise Mortorff;

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