The Honorable Society of King’s Inns is the oldest institution of legal education in Ireland. It was founded in 1541 during the reign of Henry VIII when the king granted the Society the lands and properties on which the Four Courts now stand but which were then occupied by a Dominican monastery. When the Four Courts were built in the 1790s, King’s Inns moved from Inn’s Quay to Constitution Hill; the eminent architect, James Gandon, who had earlier designed the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin, was commissioned in 1800 to design a new building for the Society on Henrietta Street. It was Gandon’s last public building in Dublin.
The Honorable Society of King’s Inns consists of benchers, barristers and students. The benchers include all the judges of the Supreme and High Courts and a number of elected barristers. King’s Inns is the headquarters of the Benchers and of the School of Law. The primary focus of the school is the training of barristers.
The School of Law is the oldest institution of professional legal education in Ireland. Its reputation is international with a long list of eminent graduates including former presidents of Ireland and of other countries, taoisigh (prime ministers), politicians and, of course, judges and barristers in practice throughout the English speaking world.
Up to 1800 the buildings at Inns Quay provided all that was needed for practice at the bar. There were chambers where barristers lived and worked, a hall for eating and drinking, a library for research, a chapel for prayer and gardens for recreation. Things changed somewhat with the move to Constitution Hill. Chambers and a chapel were to have been built but the plans were never executed. However, many of the 17th century traditions remain or are co-mingled with 21st century developments.
Guided tours are rarely available. Each October, as part of the “Open House” weekend, there is usually a tour of all the buildings.
See www.openhousedublin.com/ for full details.