On a calm, warm sunny evening earlier this week, I was fortunate to go on a guided walk of the Temple area of London.
The Temple is a secluded area to the west of the city which is known today for its connections with the legal profession. It comprises two of the four Inns of Court, the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. To the north are situated the Royal Courts of Justice and a short walk east brings you to the Central Criminal Court.
The area is first recorded in the 12th century when the Knights Templars moved here from a site in Holborn to the west and built the Temple Church. Within the site were two Templar Halls, Inner and Middle Hall. Upon the dissolution of the order in 1312 the land was granted to the Knights Hospitallers, although it took them over 100 years to fully establish their control over the site. However, the Hospitallers already had a compound and hall in Clerkenwell and so were not interested in moving to this site. They leased it to a group of lawyers and so the long association began between this area and the law. The lands passed to the crown following the dissolution of the monasteries and the lawyers became Crown Tenants (annual rent £10 per year for each Inn). They were granted a charter by James I and the lawyers gained absolute title to the land.
Today, Temple houses many chambers of barristers along with other legal organisations and is governed by a committee of leading members.
The symbols of the Inner (Pegasus) and Middle Temples (Agnus Dei)
The Temple area suffered badly during the air raids of WWII and much had to be rebuilt. The original Templars church was badly damaged and much restoration was needed to return it to an image of its original self.
One building that did survive and remains a jewel in the crown was the Elizabethan hall in Middle Temple which we were fortunate enough to be able to visit. Completed in 1572 it is a wonderful building with a fantastic hammer-beam roof, argued to be the finest still existing in London.
A great way to spend a summer evening.