What’s in a name?

24 May 2024

In November 2023, after nearly 70 years at 5 Essex Court, we moved to our new home at Gray’s Inn and became 5 Essex Chambers. But we took with us reminders of our longstanding home. Fiona Barton KC has a framed drawing made in 1991 by the late John Sabine, her pupil master. Within the image it’s possible to see the name of a founder member, Sir Michael Eastham, at the top of the board. Fiona recalls that, at the time, they were quite a small select group.

Sir Michael Eastham was called to the Bar in 1947 and quickly acquired a substantial common law practice. In 1954 he and John (later Judge) Williams started their own chambers at 5 Essex Court. They were clerked first by Tom Burn (a wartime Brigadier and OBE) and then by Peter Thomas – apparently they were both considerable characters in their own right.

5 Essex Court flourished and in 1964 Sir Michael took silk before becoming a High Court Judge at the age of 58. He ran chambers for 24 years in a relaxed and informal manner. He gave everyone a nickname and there was much teasing and irreverence. After his departure, he remained a frequent visitor to chambers, particularly if there was the possibility of a good lunch.

Talking to Fiona, she reflects on the fact that this collegiate culture was evident when she joined chambers and remains true today.

In this year where we celebrate our 70th anniversary and make plans for the future, our name and address have both changed but we have brought the spirit of 5 Essex Court with us to 5 Essex Chambers.


Fiona Barton KC

Call 1986 | Silk 2011


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