'On Carey Street' - the source of the term and some building history

25 MAY 2010

To be "On Carey Street" in the common parlance of London town is to be in a problematic position. You could of course just be on your way to New Square or Chancery Lane, but more likely than not you could also be a bankrupt. Where does this term come from? Carey Street will be familiar to modern users of the bankruptcy courts in the Thomas More building as the road runs along the back facade of the Royal Courts of Justice. Before the Thomas More Building was constructed in the 1960s the bankruptcy jurisdiction had maintained a presence on the road since 1892.

Pictured to the right are the 'new' Bankruptcy Courts as unveiled in 1892. The "handsome building" was approached from the Strand by St Clement's Gardens standing midway between Lincoln's Inn and the Royal Courts of Justice. The building was a huge structure running the whole length of the North side of the Royal Courts of Justice. The building housed the bankruptcy division of the High Courts of Justice, the "head-quarters o the bankruptcy administration in England." A contemporary commentator goes on:

"There are three entrances - the one on the west, near Clement's Inn; the central doorway, overlooking the garden, and the unimposing entrance in Carey Street. On entering the building by one of these portals, the visitor finds himself in a very long and broad corridor, which is crowded daily with learned expounders of our bankruptcy laws and their clerks and is constantly the scene of bustling activity."

The building replaced the old Bankruptcy Court that was established in Lincoln's Inn Fields. The 1892 structure was itself eventually replaced by the Thomas More building. This was necessary as the 1892 building received extensive damage during the Second World War II. For those who now frequent the Thomas More Building on a regular basis, the decision to build anew, as opposed to repair, must be a source of sincere regret.

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