Hardwicke to rebrand as Gatehouse Chambers after discovering name has slavery links

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By Thomas Connelly on

Lord Hardwicke was co-author of 1729 legal opinion relied upon by slave owners

Lord Hardwicke (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Hardwicke is to rebrand after discovering its name has historical links to the slave trade.

The London chambers name originates from the English lawyer and former Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke, who was one of two authors of the Yorke-Talbot opinion. The 1729 opinion was relied upon by slave owners as providing legal justification for slavery for many years.

The premises of Hardwicke Building, named by Lincoln’s Inn, became the name of the chambers who have occupied it since 1991.

The Black Lives Matter protests prompted a group of legal bloggers to investigate historic legal figures, including Lord Hardwicke, and upon hearing of his pro-slavery connections, Hardwicke made the decision to rebrand.

It will operate as Gatehouse Chambers from next month.

Brie Stevens-Hoare QC, joint head of chambers, commented:

“The discovery of the provenance of our business’ name did not sit comfortably with our values as an organisation, or the inclusive and diverse nature of our people and our clients. We have spent many years building up a reputation for excellence, innovation and diversity. We are proud to move forwards with our new name which accords with who we are as an organisation.”

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PJ Kirby QC, joint head of chambers, added: “It’s not about paying lip service to this issue but truly living out these values and that’s why changing our name was an important decision for us.”

The name change coincides with its relocation to new premises at 1 Lady Hale Gate, Gray’s Inn in July 2021. Unlike traditional barrister digs, Gatehouse Chambers’ premises boasts a range of City law-esque amenities including a client suite, ‘plug and play’ IT and not one but two roof terraces.

Commenting on the new site, chief executive Amanda Illing said: “Whilst the decision to move offices had already been made before the pandemic and before we learnt about our name, we are pleased to start afresh with a new name, new address and a new space which will better reflect the modern and innovative nature and values of chambers. The timing of our move is also perfect, at a time when colleagues are looking forward to returning to the office at last.”

She added: “Scaling up our office space may seem counter-intuitive at a time when home-working is more prevalent. However, we are excited at the opportunities for barristers and staff to collaborate with clients and each other going forward.”

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