Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A

Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the largest public square in London, laid out in the 1630s under the initiative of the speculative builder William Newton.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields takes its name from the adjacent Lincoln’s Inn, from which the private gardens are separated by a perimeter wall and a large gatehouse.

Up to the 17th century, the fields were part of a agricultural land called Pursefield which belonged to St Giles Hospital. Katherine Smyth, the owner of the White Hart Inn on Drury Lane, leased the land from 1520 but then reverted to the Crown.

Its use as pasture meant that turnstiles were placed around the land to enable pedestrians to enter without animals escaping. Shops developed along these footpaths - still called Great Turnstile and Little Turnstile.

Inigo Jones drew out a plan for "laying out and planting" the fields but it was William Newton who was granted permission to erect 32 houses in what became known as Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1638.

The completion of the houses that surrounded the fields proceeded slowly. The oldest building from the early period is Lindsey House which was built in 1640. Another seventeenth-century survival is now known as Powis House.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields was largely occupied by lawyers attracted by its proximity to the Inns of Court. In Charles Dickens’ novel ’Bleak House’, the solicitor Mr Tulkinghorn, has his offices in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

The Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre was located here from 1661 to 1848 when it was demolished. The theatre presented the first paid public performances of Purcell’s ’Dido and Aeneas’, John Gay’s ’The Beggar’s Opera’ and Handel’s final two operas.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields was the site, in 1683, of the public beheading of Lord William Russell, son of the first Duke of Bedford, following his implication in the Rye House Plot for the attempted assassination of King Charles II.

The London School of Economics and Political Science moved onto the square in 2003, taking the leasehold of 50 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, on the corner of Sardinia Street.

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