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

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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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24 Comments

A barrister

Good decision.

(30)(101)

Not Lord Hardwicke

Hardwicke Chambers was founded about 30 years ago. From scratch, the set has expended untold sums and considerable effort establishing its name in the legal environment. To chuck that away and start from scratch again takes considerable courage and comes at the cost of sacrificing all that work in establishing the Hardwicke brand.

(63)(13)

Bob

Oh dear lord.

(34)(10)

Anon

In other news Essex Court is changing its name to “All hail the People’s Republic of China and its Glorious Leader Chambers (now please let us earn money in China again)”

(97)(3)

Crashcoursefortheravers

Yet more pandering to the trendy, ‘right-on’ woke politics and division stirring we have experienced this past year. Britain is not a racist society. Historical figures such as Hardwicke may have been involved in events considered grimey now, but does that mean we have to dismantle Hadrian’s Wall as the Roman Empire ws built largely on slavery? People need to get a firmer grip and stop guilt-tripping the majority of us.

(92)(48)

Old Guy

I think there is a big difference between a structure built by someone and therefore referred to by the name of the constructor or benefactor, and a barrister’s chambers founded in memory of someone who died a long time before its founding and named in honour of said person. Societies evolve and (hopefully) move forward, nothing is permanent. I always wondered why people who live in a world that changes constantly then get angry at further change or call it being woke.

(28)(71)

#Britainisliterallyaracistsociety

“Britain is not a racist society” LOL. https://www.theweek.co.uk/107406/how-racist-is-britain-today.

(16)(41)

Person

Spoken like a true middle class white Englishman. The U.K. is the most racist society in the western world outside of the US

(9)(81)

Je ne parlez

You ever been to rural Brittany? Even refuse to speak to you in French there….

(2)(0)

Voicemail

Hardwicke had a lot of brand equity for what it was; however it isn’t great to be named after a slave supporter. My biggest objection is “Gatehouse” – it sounds so tenth rate. At least before you could tell put the emphasis on the “Hard” and people might subliminally think you a big swinging d1ck and know not to mess with you.

(15)(38)

Annie Onimouse

Gatehouse is an absolutely ridiculous name. A gatehouse is a control point preventing access to the main event – like the main house or the stately home. Go to the gate house if you can’t get into/can’t afford access to the real place.

Not very well thought out branding. They could have gone for Hale Chambers given their new location which has a pleasing Hail Chambers! homophoness to it.

(31)(4)

Pupil (not at Hardwicke or Hailsham)

‘Hale Chambers’ perhaps too similar to Hailsham Chambers?

(4)(0)

Nope

The problem with *any* rebrand is that the one thing everyone can always agree on is that the new proposed name is always crap. Great. Everyone agrees. Every time. But pick any single one of them, and they can’t come up with anything better.

(10)(3)

Anon

Why did it take them so long to find out?

(32)(11)

Anonymous

So the Chambers was named after a building. The building doesn’t have a racist bone in its body and yet the Chambers feels the need to rebrand. What a pathetic excuse for self-promotion! This sort of behaviour is so Ryanair/BrewDog i.e. actions taken simply to generate publicity.

(60)(10)

Mousey Anon

The linking of this decision to moving offices does seem to allow that inference. The proof of the pudding would be when exactly Chambers was first aware of the issue regarding Hardwicke’s opinion, after all it is referred to pretty explicitly on Lord Hardwicke’s short wikipedia page.

(26)(0)

Anon

According to their HoC on Twitter, June 2020 around the same time as lots of businesses were evaluating their names following the death of George Floyd and the BLM movement.

I suspect that the delay in announcement probably does tie in to the move and also the fact that it takes time to re-brand an organisation.

(5)(0)

Anon

My understanding is that Hardwicke was instructed to provide a joint opinion and did so. I am not sure that that shows that he supported the slave trade. What is the difference between this an the whole Essex Court debacle?

“The Bar Council strongly condemns any threat against members of the Bar simply for doing their job. Sanctioning a chambers or any legal organisation because a member has given a legal opinion in accordance with their professional obligations is an attack on the rule of law.”

(46)(4)

Anon

I suspect that the issue was that Hardwicke was (i) a government officer when he wrote the opinion – he was attorney general, (ii) was petitioned to write the opinion by slave merchants in his capacity as an officer of the crown and as a question of policy and not as counsel properly opining on issues of law, (iii) he cited no authority for any of his conclusions and (iv) overlooked multiple authorities that undermined his opinion.

Later, when he was on the bench, he repeated his views (in Pearne v Lisle) in favour of the slave trade and sought to overturn the previous authorities based on a clearly unsupportable construction of an earlier case (Smith v Brown & Cooper).

The Yorke-Talbot opinion was anything but a member of the Bar simply doing his job.

(11)(39)

EnglandPi

God help us all.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

How is saying he thought slavery was permitted under the then law racist? It was a legal opinion, not a moral dictate.

Anyone who did Roman Law will tell you slavery was legal under the law. It doest mean they agree with slavery.

It’s so sad that even barristers can’t distinguish between an opinion on what thee law is vs what it should be.

(6)(1)

Law Student

As much as I’m sure Hardwicke himself doesn’t care much about his legacy now considering he’s been dead for well over 200 years, this sets a pretty damning precedent. The fact that the chambers has attempted to figuratively exhume his corpse and defame him for apparently supporting slavery as a virtue signalling publicity stunt is pretty poor show imo. I’m sure the learned gentlemen (and ladies) at ‘Gatehouse’ wouldn’t take too kindly to their legacy being wrongly dragged through the dirt in this way.

(2)(2)

#BothVotesSNP #IndyRef #IStandWithNicola #VoteYes #TransRightsAreHumanRights #Dissolvetheunion

The Ladies and Gentlemen at Gatehouse are not maniacal people responsible for crimes against humanity.

(0)(0)

A Solicitor

Taking Chambers’ publicity at face value, it appears his lordship is being quasi-‘cancelled’ merely for writing an Opinion giving his advice on the pre-Wilberforce law as it stood at the time. Yet an Opinion is not a moral treatise, and all good lawyers know that the law and morality may differ, but it is a lawyer’s job to advise on the former without fear or favour. It is uncomfortable for the rule of law, the independence of the legal profession, and the ability of clients to obtain unbiassed legal advice, if a lawyer is to face personal moral criticism for legal advice given. Where would that stop?
It would have been good to see Chambers’ publicity stressing its members’ fundamental commitment to these important principles, and identifying precisely their objection to his lordship’s actions, in a way that does not impliedly threaten all lawyers (and thereby their clients’ interests) in the future …

(2)(0)

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