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Doctor's Commons

This college of civilians is established for the study and practice of the civil law, in which courts are kept for the trial of civil and ecclesiastical causes, under the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London; as in the court of arches, and the prerogative court. There are also offices in which wills are deposited and searched, and court of faculties and dispensations. The name of commons is given to this college, from the circumstance of the civilians commoning together, as in other colleges. This edifice is situated in Great Knight Rider Street, near the College of Arms, on the south side of St. Paul's Cathedral. The old building, which stood in this place, was purchased for the residence of the civilians and canonists, by Henry Harvey, doctor of the civil and canon law, and dean of the arches. But this edifice, being destroyed by the general devastation in 1666, they removed to Exeter House, in the Strand, where the civilians had their chambers and offices, and the courts were held in the hall. But some years after, the commons being rebuilt in a more convenient and elegant manner than before, the civilians returned thither. The causes, of which the civil and ecclesiastical law do, or may take cognizance, are, blasphemy, apostasy from Christianity, heresy, ordinations, institutions to benefices, celebration of divine service, matrimony, divorces, bastardy, tithes, oblations, obventions, mortuaries, dilapidations, reparations of churches, probates of wills, administrations, simony, incest, fornication, adultery, pensions, procurations, commutation of penance, right of pews, and others of the same kind. Those who practise in these courts are divided into two classes,—advocates and proctors. The advocates are such as have taken the degree of doctor of civil law, and are retained as counsellors and pleaders. These must first, upon their petition to the archbishop, obtain his fiat, and then they are admitted by the judge to practise.—The following is the manner of their admission. Two senior advocates, in their scarlet robes, with the mace carried before them, conduct the doctor up the court with three reverences, and present him with a short Latin speech, together with the archbishop's rescript. Then, having taken the oaths, the judge admits him, and assigns him a place, or seat, in the court, which he is always to keep when he pleads. Both the judge and advocates, if of Oxford, wear in court scarlet robes and hoods, lined with taffeta; but if of Cambridge, white minever, and round black velvet caps. The proctors, or procurators, exhibit their proxies for their clients, and make themselves parties for them, and draw and give pleas, or libels and allegations, in their behalf, produce witnesses, prepare causes for sentence, and attend the advocates with the proceedings. These are also admitted by the archbishop's fiat, and introduced by two senior proctors. They wear black robes and hoods, lined with fur. The terms for the pleading and ending of causes in the civil courts are but slightly different from the term times of the common law. The order, as to the time of the sitting of the several courts, is as follows;—The court of arches, having the pre-eminence, sits first in the morning; the court of admiralty sits in the afternoon on the same day; and the prerogative court also sits in the afternoon.

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Lord Chancellor's Court

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King's Bench

Common Pleas

Exchequer Chamber

Courts of Requests

Court of Admiralty

Insolvent Debtors' Court

Law Proceedings

Mode of making a Judge

Old Bailey Sessions

Inns of Court

The Temple, Inner, Middle

Lincoln's Inn

Gray's Inn

The Inns of Chancery

Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819