7KBW is located in King’s Bench Walk at the eastern end of the Temple, an area that has been at the heart of legal London for many centuries. The Temple has been occupied by lawyers since the early fourteenth century, when the Knights Templar were disbanded by Pope Clement V and driven out.
King’s Bench Walk is so named because it was once the shady promenade which stood in front of the Office of the Court of King’s Bench. Lawyers’ chambers were first erected on the site of what is now 7 King’s Bench Walk in the sixteenth century, but those buildings were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The present chambers were built in 1685, the last year of the reign of Charles II.
Since its construction, the building has been occupied by a succession of intriguing individuals. An early non-legal occupant was the miniature and crayon painter John Dixon, appointed ‘Keeper of the King’s Picture Closet’ by William III. In 1791 the ‘Cellar Chamber Left’ became home to William Tidd, whose Practice of the Court of King’s Bench can be regarded as The White Book of its day and was referred to in reverent terms by Uriah Heep in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. In 1819, Serjeant Wilde (who later became the Lord Chancellor, Lord Truro) took a lease of ‘One Pair North’. He made his name the following year when he defended Queen Caroline against the capital charge of adultery. Wilde’s cross-examination of the Queen’s foreign servants was regarded as masterly, and the Queen was acquitted despite her notorious infidelities.
By the mid-nineteenth century, 7KBW was occupied by about fifteen legal men – barristers, solicitors, conveyancers and special pleaders. Among them was Sir Harry Bodkin Poland, one of the most famous prosecutors of his day. He was joined in chambers by Hardinge Stanley Giffard, who went on to become the Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury. Lord Halsbury held that Great Office of State on three separate occasions, his tenure being longer than that of any Lord Chancellor since Lord Eldon. One of his lasting legacies was the magisterial publication Laws of England. When they were in chambers, Giffard and Poland together successfully defended the notorious Governor of Jamaica, Edward John Eyre, against a murder charge.
The modern chambers at 7 King’s Bench Walk owes its origin to the merger of two long-established commercial sets – 3 Pump Court and 7 King’s Bench Walk – in 1967. The set at 3 Pump Court had been founded in 1893 at 4 Brick Court by Sir Richard Henn Collins (later Lord Collins, Master of the Rolls) and counted Lord Denning among its members. The origins of the set at 7 King’s Bench Walk are older still, stretching back to the nineteenth century. Its members included Lord Brandon.