London barristers chambers named after slave trade supporting Lord Chancellor rebrands

Hardwicke Chambers to become Gatehouse Chambers as it seeks to 'truly live out its values'

Brie Stevens-Hoare QC and PJ Kirby QC

Leading London barristers’ set Hardwicke Chambers is to rebrand as Gatehouse Chambers after discovering it was named after a historical legal figure who helped legitimise the Atlantic slave trade. 

The chambers said the link between 18th century Lord Chancellor Lord Hardwicke, after whom it was named, and the slave trade came to light last year during the Black Lives Matter protests thanks to investigations by legal bloggers.

Hardwicke was one of two authors of the Yorke-Talbot opinion in 1729, which was relied on by slave owners to provide legal justification for slavery for many years. 

Brie Stevens-Hoare QC, joint head of chambers, said: “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 what we are as an organisation.”

In a statement announcing the name change, the chambers reaffirmed its commitment to diversity, equality and inclusivity, pointing out that it participated in a number of diversity initiatives, including Bridging the Bar, All Rise, 10,000 Black Interns, Pathways to Law and FreeBar. 

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 will go into effect next month and will coincide with the chambers’ move to a new premises at Lady Hale Gate, Gray’s Inn. The chambers has occupied the Hardwicke Building, named by Lincoln's Inn, since 1991. 

The chambers said the new space, which includes a client and seminar suite, two roof terraces, and ‘state-of-the-art’ IT, will enable ‘flexible and hybrid’ ways of working for its staff, barristers and clients during the gradual shift into the post-pandemic world. 

Commenting on the new office, chief executive Amanda Illing said that though the decision to change locations had been made prior to discovering the origins of the chambers’ name, the move would provide staff with an opportunity to “start fresh” in a new space that “will better reflect the modern and innovative nature” of the chambers. 

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

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