Staple Inn review
If you want to see a Tudor building from the time of Shakespeare then here it is: Staple Inn. It's had a few renovations down the years, but it's basically the same as Shakespeare would have seen it when he was writing Romeo and Juliet.
It was originally attached to one of the four Inns of Court, which were training schools for London's lawyers. Most of these fell into decay and were demolished or rebuilt by the Victorians, but Staple Inn was covered over in plain plaster and survived. In the 1930s they removed all of this unsightly plaster and uncovered the black beams again, only for the Germans to come along and drop a bomb on it. Luckily for us the front facade escaped with a few minor cuts and bruises, but the old Hall and courtyard behind we're pretty much obliterated.
But let's have a look at the front first... how cool is that! This is Elizabethan London. This is the London of 1590. When Shakespeare was strolling past here singing his sonnets Walter Raleigh was locked up inside the Tower of London thirty minutes down the road. People we're still celebrating the defeat of the Spanish Armada and putting posters of Francis Drake on their bedroom wall. This was probably how all their houses looked: overhanging floors (a bit wonky at the top), with a runny, muddy footpath out the front stinking of whatever they tipped out the window. I've seen streets of this stuff at Stratford-upon-Avon, so Shakespeare would have felt right at home.
If you head through the central arch then you'll find yourself in a pretty little cobbled courtyard. At the time of writing it's just me and a few bees, pink blossom on the trees, and overflowing flower baskets dripping with water by the doors. You'd never know it from a cursory look, but this is the courtyard that got hit by the Luftwaffe in 1941. They obviously weren't satisfied with their night's work because they pummelled it again in 1944, reducing the Old Hall to rubble. Fortunately they managed to rebuild and repair a lot of it using the salvaged stones and bones of timber from the Blitz, and you can still see it standing in the far right corner, looking a lot older than its seventy years.
If you head through the next arch then you'll find yourself in another pretty little space, but this time the far end has been disfigured by an ugly modern office block. Maybe we should invite the Luftwaffe back again to erase it from existence. We'll call it compensation for what they did during the war.
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