Red Lion Chambers has an illustrious history that began in the 1940s when Fred Lawton set up our first home at 5 King’s Bench Walk.
Barry Hudson, who later became a distinguished defence silk, subsequently joined Chambers and was joined by the junior clerk, Stanley Hopkins, who carried the bags for Norman Birkett QC in his famous trials. He eventually became one of the old style Temple impresarios, a formidable and powerful figure.
Norman Birkett lent his name to the new set and it headed the board outside number 5 until his death in February 1962. They were soon joined by Lord Michael Havers, who later in life became Law Officer and Lord Chancellor, and Sir Harold Cassel, a renowned silk and circuit judge.
Early Years under Lawton
Fred Lawton subsequently built up a highly successful common law practice. Some of his best known pupils included a young Margaret Thatcher and Sir Robin Day. Down to earth and with a fiercely analytical mind, he went on the bench and was knighted in 1961, ending his career as a Lord Justice of Appeal.
When he retired, Lord Lane, adopting the words of the collect for Whit Sunday, said he had “a right judgement in all things”. By then Michael Havers had built a large practice in crime and general common law, and it was principally through him that the present day Chambers acquired its East Anglian connection leading to its Chelmsford annex.
Davies and Havers Era
Alun Talfan Davies QC was invited to become the new head of Chambers after Fred Lawton was made a judge in 1961. Alun Davies appeared with other members in the legendary case of Griffiths, the lime fraud case (Regina V Griffiths and others; CCA 1965). This was one of the first cases that altered the complexion of serious criminal trials making it considerably longer than anything during the Norman Birkett and Marshall Hall era.
After deciding to return to South Wales, Alun Davies resigned in 1980 and was succeeded by Michael Havers, who having served as Solicitor General from 1972-1974, was now Attorney General in Margaret Thatcher’s government, which he served from 1979-1987. He gave crucial advice in the Falklands conflict in 1982 and earned the Prime Minister’s gratitude for his unflappable role behind the scenes.
In 1987 he was appointed Lord Chancellor and David Cocks QC, a leading silk, took over, serving for 10 years until 1997.
Growth and Expansion
David Cocks oversaw a policy of expansion during the 1990s, including the Chelmsford annexe and our membership expanding to 37. Kenneth Darvil was appointed Chief Clerk and Mark Bennett (Practice Director) was then his deputy. Between them they ran a highly efficient and trustworthy administration.
Chambers then moved to 18 Red Lion Court, originally the home of William Hawkins (serjeant-at-law), who in 1716 had published the first text book on criminal procedure, ‘Hawkins’ Treatise Pleas of the Crown’.
Chambers constitution was revised so that the Headship of Chambers was for a fixed term on a revolving basis. Anthony Arlidge QC, a renowned silk and thespian took over as head. He was succeeded by Peter Rook QC, now a judge of the Central Criminal Court, David Etherington QC and Max Hill QC.
Members of Chambers have appeared in many leading cases over the last sixty years. They have furnished numerous circuit judges and the recent Recorder of London, Peter Beaumont QC.
Michael Havers’ ex-pupil, Derek Spencer, continued the Law Officer connection by serving as Solicitor General from 1992-1997. Four members have also chaired the Criminal Bar Association, David Cocks QC, Peter Rook QC, Linda Dobbs QC, and current Head of Chambers, Max Hill QC.
Our commitment to equality is reflected by the growing number of female members at Chambers.
Dame Linda Penelope Dobbs, DBE, was the first black person to become a High Court judge and she was elevated alongside John Blofeld QC. Linda Stern, later a silk and circuit judge, became our first female tenant in 1972. Even someone as forthright and formidable as Stern could have hardly contemplated the exponential growth that has occurred since.
We are proud of our history and the values we have inherited from our predecessors. Today, we boast 89 barristers, who everyday demonstrate their skill and dedication, inspired by the members who made Red Lion Chambers what it is today. Many of our members have gone on to take judicial appointments.