The Hidden Gems of Temple
Walking through the Inns of court, you step into another world. So often reproduced in films, it seems both strange and familiar and a sunny weekday is the perfect time for a wander.
To be able to practise as a barrister you must belong to on of the Inns of Court and only they can call you ‘to the bar’. There are four surviving inns; Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln’s and Gray’s which can be found dotted amongst the areas of Temple and Holborn in London.
Here’s some of their most beautiful sites and secrets to look out for…
Middle Temple Hall
You catch a tantalising glimpse of Middle Temple Hall from the Embankment of near Two Temple Place.
But before we get there you see these strange steps to nowhere.
Formally the entrance to Middle Temple Library, these stairs now just enjoy a lovely view over the gardens, as the library was bombed heavily during The Blitz.
The hall is one of the best examples of an Elizabethan hall, completed with an impressive hammer beam roof…
And an elaborately carved screen from 1574. It was badly damaged in The Blitz and had to be pieced back together from hundreds of pieces!
It also hosted the first recorded performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in 1602!
Next to Middle Temple is Fountain Court, fittingly with a fountain in the middle. There’s been a fountain here for over 300 years.
Each of the inns has their own symbol: Middle (lamb and flag), Inner (winged horse), Lincoln’s (lion) and Gray’s (griffin). You will see them everywhere…
They’re usually restricted to their specific inn, but sometimes you’ll see a cross over. These gates to Inner Temple Gardens were a gift from Gray’s, hence the griffin roundel and winged horse on top.
While we’re on details keep an eye out for…
Sun dials appear to be favourite gifts from Treasurers to the inns. Each Treasurer serves a year and they are chosen from ‘the bench’ (the most senior QCs and judges)
This one stands for Treasurer William Thursby. The latin means “Learn justice by admonition”.
So if you continue to see lots of ‘T’s about. That’s what they stand for…
Unsurprisingly, this was where they kept the water pump. The inns were plagued by frequent fires and despite surviving 1666 relatively unscathed, a fire in 1679 (when the water reservoirs had frozen) was a disaster.
After the fire these court buildings were rebuilt by Christopher Wren.
The main, circular Temple Church was built in 1185, then enlarged with an additional rectangle in the 1220s. Known for it’s effigies of knights inside (made even more famous by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code) I liked the column outside, showing two Templar Knights;
One of the vows knights made before embarking on crusades was for poverty, hence two men sharing one horse. It’s thought that a simplified version of two huddled knights on horseback might have developed into the motif of the winged horse used as Inner Temple’s symbol today.
The Master (full name; The Reverend and Valiant Master) is in charge of the running of Temple Church and gets to live next door;
It might looks massive, but it’s only one room deep. It does however come with a lovely front garden.
One of the sneaky exits back onto Fleet Street is through a 19th century tiled corridor – recently used for filming in Downton Abbey.