Our history

Cornerstone Barristers is a long-established Chambers, formed in 1880 by Sir Charles Hall KC, Attorney-General to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). We were first based at 3, Temple Gardens and, after 93 years, moved to 8, New Square in 1973, then, 20 years later, to our current address, 2-3, Gray’s Inn Square. In 2011, we took the name Cornerstone Barristers.

Chambers has been home to some of the Bar’s most illustrious members, including the following late members:

Sir Edward Marshall Hall KC (1858 –1927) joined Chambers in 1888 and continued to be a member until his death almost 40 years later. A barrister with a formidable reputation, Sir Edward appeared in many of the most notorious murder cases of the day, including the Camden Town Murder case, the ‘Brides in the Bath’ murders, the Green Bicycle Case, and the cases of Seddon the poisoner, and Princess Fahmy. He was regarded as the greatest legal orator of his day.

(William) Norman Birkett, 1st Baron Birkett, PC, KC (1883 – 1962) joined Chambers in 1920. Birkett had a reputation for being a highly skilled advocate who was able to defend clients with apparently water tight cases against them. Sir Patrick Hastings KC, against whom he frequently appeared, said he was the advocate he would want to represent him if ever he had a need of such services. He initially refused an appointment to the High Court bench, but subsequently accepted and went on to become a LordJustice of Appeal. He sat as the alternate British judge at the Nuremberg Trials. During his time in the Court of Appeal he was involved in some of the most significant civil developments of the era, particularly in the law of contract.

Percy Lamb QC (1896 – 1973) was called to the Bar in 1923. After extensive military service he joined Chambers in 1928. He took silk in 1949. He became a Bencher of Gray’s Inn in 1947 and became Head of the Inn (Treasurer) in 1962. He was Recorder of Faversham from 1948 to 1950 and Recorder of Rochester from 1950 to 1959. He undertook extensive local government work, and published major works of their day such as “A Guide to Rating Practice and Procedure” and “Lamb’s Encyclopaedia of Housing”. He was appointed an Official Referee of the Supreme Court of Judicature in 1959, as well as sitting as a Commissioner of Assize. He was the first Chairman of the Inns of Court Executive Council.

John Widgery, Baron Widgery, PC, QC (1911 – 1981) was originally a solicitor before being called to the Bar. He joined Chambers in 1949 and became a High Court judge in 1961, then Lord Chief Justice an office he held between 1971 and 1980. As a lawyer and judge, he fashioned much of modern planning and administrative law.

Nigel Bridge, Baron Bridge of Harwich, PC, QC (1917 – 2007) joined Chambers in 1950. He was appointed a High Court judge in 1968, before going on to serve in the Court of Appeal and then the House of Lords. He was one of the leading British barristers and judges of the late 20th Century. He was Chairman of the Security Commission between 1982 and 1985, and served as a Law Lord from 1980 to 1992. He achieved his success without a University degree, being the only Law Lord to do so.

Sir Graham Eyre QC (1931-1999) joined Chambers in 1955, and was Head of Chambers between 1981 and 1989. He was one of the foremost members of the Planning Bar. From 1981 to 1984 he acted as Inspector at the London Airports Planning Inquiry which considered the expansion of Stansted Airport and the further development of Heathrow. In 1989 he was knighted for his contribution to planning.

Sir Anthony Hidden QC (1936 –2016) joined chambers in 1961. He was a formidable advocate and was appointed a High Court Judge in 1989. He chaired the public inquiry into the causes of the 1988 Clapham Junction rail crash, in which 35 people died and nearly 500 were injured. His report made recommendations for safety and other improvements which have since been implemented and have saved countless lives.

Anthony Scrivener QC (1935 – 2015) joined chambers in 1961 and became Chairman of the Bar Council in 1991 and Head of Chambers in 1992. He had a wide common law practice, which covered all types of civil, criminal, and public law work. He appeared in the House of Lords in cases ranging from property to crime. He represented Dame Shirley Porter as leader of Westminster Council (setting his own personal politics to one side), and appeared in high profile criminal cases such as those of Tony Martin, Asil Nadir, and Lee Clegg. He was also involved in significant public inquiries such as the Paddington Rail inquiry, and a plethora of important civil cases. He was widely expected to become Lord Chancellor, but for the untimely death of John Smith. Smith’s successor, Tony Blair, appointed his former pupil master, Derry Irving, instead.

Sir David Penry-Davey QC (1942 –2015) joined Chambers in 1965 where he practiced at the common law bar for 32 years. He became Leader of the South Eastern Circuit in 1992, and Chairman of the Bar Council in 1996. He was appointed a High Court Judge in 1997, and in 2004 became Deputy Chairman of the Security Vetting Appeals Panel.

Vernon Pugh QC (1945 – 2003) joined Chambers from practise in Cardiff in 1990. He balanced a busy planning and common law practice with his role as Chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union. He was twice re-elected Chairman of the International Rugby Union; an unprecedented feat. He was a bold and forthright leader of rugby union, responsible for turning the game professional in 1995. He was a versatile lawyer and also served as a Recorder in the Crown Court before dying at the early age of 57.