A Dictionary of London. Originally published by H Jenkins LTD, London, 1918.
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It consists of two Societies, known respectively as the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple, being two of the four Inns of Court established from early times for the study and practice of the law. Originally formed one Society, the separation having taken place in the time of Henry VI. First mention of Inner Temple 1440, both mentioned 1451 (Paston Letters).
The site was originally occupied by the chief house of the Knights Templars in England, erected temp. H. II. and called the New Temple to distinguish it from the first house of the Order in London erected near Holborn Bars and known as the Old Temple.
The Order was founded c. 1118 for the rescue and preservation of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple from the hands of the Saracens, and the house in Holborn now covered by Southampton Buildings was erected shortly after this date.
In a MS. c. 1115-30 relating to lands of St. Paul in London preserved among the archives of the Dean and Chapter, mention is made of the" Old Temple." It is the last-entry in the MS. and in a later handwriting than the rest of the MS.
On what occasion the Templars obtained the grant of the new site on the Fleet does not appear, but from charters dated not later than 1162 it appears that they received from Henry II. a grant of land on the Fleet, together with the course of the water to make a mill there, so that the foundation of this second house was probably prior to that date. Moreover, by a charter of the same date, the grant was made to the church of St. Mary of Lincoln and Bishop Robert of houses which belonged to the brethren of the Temple in the parish of St. Andrew of Holborn, with the chapel and garden, while in the 16th century the house of John bishop of Lincoln in Holborn was still designated the Old Temple (L. and P. H. VIII. VI. 274, and Cott. MS. Vesp. E. XVI. f. 14b.).
In course of time, possibly out of jealousy of their enormous wealth and influence, grave abuses were alleged against the Order, with the result that it was finally dissolved by decree of the Council of Vienna in 1324 and the lands of the Order were granted to the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem.
The Order was suppressed in England as early as the 8th Ed. II. and its possessions declared forfeited to the Crown. In the same year a grant of the manor of the Temple was made to Thomas, earl of Lancaster (Cal. P.R. Ed. II. 1313-17, p.184).
In 1324, after the decree above referred to, the King, at the instance of the Pope, made a grant of the site and manor to the Knights Hospitallers, who on their part gave permission to Hugh le Despenser to retain possession of the property.
The New Temple was burnt and its records destroyed in 1381, but from destruction by this and subsequent fires the beautiful round church and the old Halls have been pre-served, and the church remains in its original style of architecture to the present day.
Stow says that the Hospitallers made a grant of the Temple to the students of the Common laws of England in the reign of Edward III., but owing to the destruction of the records above mentioned there is no deed in existence relating to this grant, and after the dissolution of the Monasteries in the time of Henry VIII., when the estates of the Hospitallers passed to the Crown, although the two Societies continued in undisturbed possession of the New Temple, yet no lease, grant, or other document appears to have been executed in their favour, and their title was for some time a precarious one. However, in the reign of James I., in 1608, they obtained a patent from the King confirming: them in possession of the property and in the rights, franchises and privileges granted originally to the Templars and Hospitallers and enjoyed subsequently by the two legal Societies. These privileges included the right to hold a court leet, rights of sanctuary, etc.
In 1668-9 the privileges above mentioned were seriously challenged by the attempt of the Lord Mayor to assert his authority over the Temple precincts. The claim was energetically repudiated and one of the arguments adduced in support of the rights and privileges of the Societies was, that whilst the Charter of James I. to the City granted subsequently to that bestowed upon the Societies expressly confers upon the Lord Mayor jurisdiction over the precincts of Elackfriars, Whitefriars, Coldharbour, and Smithfield, no such jurisdiction over the Temple precincts was conferred by this grant.
These privileges of sanctuary, when the restraints imposed by the monastic authority and discipline were removed, became greatly abused and their final abolition, 9 George I., came as a relief to the inhabitants of the privileged areas.
The Temple escaped complete destruction in the Great Fire, but King's Bench Office and Walk, Crown Office, Alienation Office, Exchequer Office, Fuller's Rents, Tanfield Court, Fig Tree Court, and the Master's House were destroyed.
Subsequently to the year 1666 two other serious outbreaks of fire occurred within the Temple precincts in 1677 and 1678, which destroyed many of the Courts and chambers and necessitated the rebuilding of most of them, so that the church and the two Halls, the Cloisters and a small chamber under the buttery, possibly a small refectory, alone preserve their original style and characteristics.
The Inner Temple occupies the eastern portion and the Middle Temple the western portion of the precincts, and the limits of the two estates are determined by a Deed of Partition made 1732 (Baylis, 59). The church serves for and is maintained by both Societies.
In common with the other Inns of Court certain Inns of Chancery were attached to the two Temples, viz. to the Inner Temple, Clifford's Inn, Clement's Inn, Lyon's Inn; to the Middle Temple, New Inn, and Strand Inn.
Among the Courts, etc., contained within the Temple precincts are the following: Kings Bench Walk, The Terrace, Crown Office Row, Fig Tree Court, Elm Court, Pump Court, Fountain Court, Tanfield Court, Garden Court, Brick Court, Essex Court, New Court, Middle Temple Lane, Inner Temple Lane, Temple Gardens, Goldsmith Buildings or Court, Hare Court, the Temple Church, Inner Temple Hall, and Middle Temple Hall
Strype says in old times there were only posts, rails, and a chain there as at Holborn, and that the Gate was a later erection, first of timber, but after the Fire much larger and of Stone with side posterns (ed. 1720, I. iii. 278). It is referred to as "the gate called "Templebarre," 1353 (Cal. P.R. 1350-4, pp.528-530).
After the removal of the gateway in 1878-9 remains were found of a staircase and chambers, proving that the gate had been intended originally to accommodate a custodian and had possibly been designed as a guard-house (Trans. L. and M. Arch. Soc. VI. 235).
Temple Bar has always possessed a unique interest, as being the point at which the sovereign entered the City in state, receiving from the Lord Mayor the sword of the City, which the sovereign restored into his keeping forthwith.
Order for repair of the Bridge of the New Temple by which persons coming to Parliament and Councils at London commonly cross to Westminster from the City and suburbs, II Ed. III. (Cal. Close Rolls, Ed. III. 1337-9, p.218).
The remains, which were considerable, were pulled to the ground in 1825, and seven large slabs cover the ruins of the foundations, columns, arches, etc. Steps led down into the Chapel from the Church, and a door from the Chapel communicated with the Cloisters, Fratery, etc. (Baylis, 53-4, and I. T. Records, III. xlix.).