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Courts of Justice.

EVEN in early times, they were held in Westminster hall, where monarchs themselves usually presided; for which reason the King's Court was called Curia Domini Regis, and one of the three is now called the Court of King's Bench. Originally the communia placita followed the king's court wheresoever it happened to be. The king presided in person, and was attended by his judges: he sate on an elevated scat, and the judges on a bench below to assist him with their advice.--The most ancient of the courts now held under this venerable roof, is that of the Chancery, where the Lord High Chancellor sits during term. There is no account of the first person who filled this office. The next court is that of the King's Bench, the ancient Curia Domini Regis. The justiciarius Angliae presided when the king did not. The Common Pleas is the third court of justice held in this hall. The first chief justice was Gilbert de Preston, appointed in 1233. There are also the Courts of Exchequer, the Duchy of Lancaster, &c.; but having previously mentioned them, in speaking of the courts of law and equity, further detail regarding them is not requisite.

During the suspension of business in the houses of parliament by its dissolution, and in the law-courts by the vacation and the absence of the judges on the assizes, all those places underwent a most thorough repair and cleaning. The courts of justice, which are places much too confined for the objects to which they are devoted, and which have long been in a deplorably dirty condition, experienced a very liberal share of the purifications by means of painting, varnishing, white-washing, &c., that have been going forward. The figures in the niches over the judges' seats, strangely as they are dressed, have been presented with new costumes; and the whole has now a very refreshing and agreeable appearance, especially when the aspect of the courts in recent times is recollected. The hall itself has experienced no change, no cleaning; and the old dilapidated doors still remain. The lighting of it with gas, which took place some two or three years ago, as it is open at nights during the sitting of either house, is a great improvement; and the effect produced by its full and steady, rather than its glaring, illumination of this antique and grand hall, is uncommonly fine, giving a pleasing solemnity to the scene.

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