Middle Temple

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Middle Temple Hall Middle Temple Hall Exterior, London, UK - Diliff.jpg
Middle Temple Hall
Fountain Court, at the heart of Middle Temple Fountain Court London.jpg
Fountain Court, at the heart of Middle Temple

The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known simply as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers, the others being the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. It is located in the wider Temple area of London, near the Royal Courts of Justice, and within the City of London.

Inns of Court Professional associations for barristers in England and Wales

The Inns of Court in London are the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales. There are four Inns of Court – Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple.

The call to the bar is a legal term of art in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party and are then said to have been "called to the bar" or to have received a "call to the bar". "The bar" is now used as a collective noun for barristers, but literally referred to the wooden barrier in old courtrooms, which separated the often crowded public area at the rear from the space near the judges reserved for those having business with the Court. Barristers would sit or stand immediately behind it, facing the judge, and could use it as a table for their briefs.

Barrister lawyer specialized in court representation in Wales, England and some other jurisdictions

A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, researching the philosophy, hypothesis and history of law, and giving expert legal opinions. Often, barristers are also recognised as legal scholars.



Part of Middle Temple, c. 1830, as drawn by Thomas Shepherd. The great hall is beneath the cupola. Middle Temple by Thomas Shepherd c.1830.jpg
Part of Middle Temple, c. 1830, as drawn by Thomas Shepherd. The great hall is beneath the cupola.
Middle Temple Library, 1892, by Herbert Railton MiddleTempleLibrary-London-Railton-1892.jpg
Middle Temple Library, 1892, by Herbert Railton

During the 12th and early 13th centuries the law was taught in the City of London, primarily by the clergy. But a papal bull in 1218 prohibited the clergy from practising in the secular courts (where the English common law system operated, as opposed to the Roman civil law favoured by the Church). As a result, law began to be practised and taught by laymen instead of by clerics. To protect their schools from competition, first Henry II and later Henry III issued proclamations prohibiting the teaching of the civil law within the City of London. As a result, the common law lawyers moved to premises outside the City, which in time became the inns of court. [1]

City of London City and county in United Kingdom

The City of London is a city and local government district that contains the historic centre and the primary central business district (CBD) of London. It constituted most of London from its settlement by the Romans in the 1st century AD to the Middle Ages, but the agglomeration has since grown far beyond the City's borders. The City is now only a tiny part of the metropolis of London, though it remains a notable part of central London. Administratively, it forms one of the 33 local authority districts of Greater London; however, the City of London is not a London borough, a status reserved for the other 32 districts. It is also a separate county of England, being an enclave surrounded by Greater London. It is the smallest county in the United Kingdom.

Papal bull Type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church

A papal bull is a type of public decree, letters patent, or charter issued by a pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the leaden seal (bulla) that was traditionally appended to the end in order to authenticate it.

Common law Law developed by judges

In law, common law is the body of law derived from judicial decisions of courts and similar tribunals. The defining characteristic of “common law” is that it arises as precedent. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts, and synthesizes the principles of those past cases as applicable to the current facts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is usually bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision. If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases, and legislative statutes are either silent or ambiguous on the question, judges have the authority and duty to resolve the issue. The court states an opinion that gives reasons for the decision, and those reasons agglomerate with past decisions as precedent to bind future judges and litigants. Common law, as the body of law made by judges, stands in contrast to and on equal footing with statutes which are adopted through the legislative process, and regulations which are promulgated by the executive branch. Stare decisis, the principle that cases should be decided according to consistent principled rules so that similar facts will yield similar results, lies at the heart of all common law systems.

The Middle Temple is the western part of "The Temple", which was the headquarters of the Knights Templar until they were dissolved in 1312. There have been lawyers in the Temple since 1320, when they were the tenants of the Earl of Lancaster, who had held the Temple since 1315. [2] The Temple later belonged to the Knights Hospitallers. In 1346 the knights again leased the premises to the lawyers – the eastern part (which became Inner Temple) to lawyers from Thavie's Inn, an Inn of Chancery in Holborn, and the western part to lawyers from St George's Inn. [3] The Cross of St George is still part of the arms of Middle Temple today.

Temple, London area of central London, England

The Temple refers to the area in the vicinity of Temple Church. It is one of the main legal districts in London and a notable centre for English law, both historically and in the present day. It consists of the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple, which are two of the four Inns of Court and act as local authorities in place of the City of London Corporation within their areas.

Knights Templar Western Christian military order; medieval Catholic military order

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, also known as the Order of Solomon's Temple, the Knights Templar or simply the Templars, were a Catholic military order founded in 1119 and recognised in 1139 by the papal bull Omne datum optimum. The order was active until 1312 when it was perpetually suppressed by Pope Clement V by the bull Vox in excelso.

Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster 13th and 14th-century English nobleman

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and Leicester was an English nobleman. A member of the House of Plantagenet, he was one of the leaders of the baronial opposition to his first cousin, Edward II of England.

After Henry VIII seized the Temple from the Knights Hospitallers in 1540, each Inn continued to hold its share of the Temple as tenants of the Crown for £10 a year, [4] until it was granted to them jointly in 1608 by James I, to be held in perpetuity so long as they continue to provide education and accommodation to lawyers and students and maintain the Temple Church and its Master. [5] The Temple Church, consecrated in 1185, still stands as a "Royal Peculiar" (extra-diocesan) church of the Inner and Middle Temples. [6]

Temple Church Church in London

The Temple Church is a Royal peculiar church in the City of London located between Fleet Street and the River Thames, built by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters. It was consecrated on 10 February 1185 by Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem. During the reign of King John (1199–1216) it served as the royal treasury, supported by the role of the Knights Templars as proto-international bankers. It is jointly owned by the Inner Temple and Middle Temple Inns of Court, bases of the English legal profession. It is famous for being a round church, a common design feature for Knights Templar churches, and for its 13th- and 14th-century stone effigies. It was heavily damaged by German bombing during World War II and has since been greatly restored and rebuilt.

A Royal Peculiar is a Church of England parish or church exempt from the jurisdiction of the diocese and the province in which it lies and subject to the direct jurisdiction of the monarch.

Much of the Middle Temple was destroyed in a fire in 1678, which caused more damage to the Inn than the Great Fire of 1666. The Thames being frozen over, beer from the Temple cellars was used to fight the fire, which was eventually only contained by blowing up some buildings with gunpowder. The Lord Mayor of London tried to exploit the occasion to assert his own jurisdiction over the Temple – which was independent of the City – and on being thwarted in this endeavour, he turned back a fire engine which was on its way to the fire from the City. [7]

Great Fire of London disaster in 17th century England

The Great Fire of London swept through the central parts of the English city from Sunday, 2 September to Thursday, 6 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman city wall. It threatened but did not reach the aristocratic district of Westminster, Charles II's Palace of Whitehall, or most of the suburban slums. It consumed 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, St Paul's Cathedral, and most of the buildings of the City authorities. It is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the city's 80,000 inhabitants.

The Inns served as colleges for the education of lawyers until they stopped being responsible for legal education in 1852, although they continue to provide training in areas such as advocacy and ethics for students, pupil barristers and newly qualified barristers. Most of the Inn is occupied by barristers' offices, known as chambers. One of the Middle Temple's main functions now is to provide education and support to new members of the profession. This is done through advocacy training, the provision of scholarships (over £1 million in 2011), subsidised accommodation both in the Temple and in Clapham, [8] and by providing events where junior members may meet senior colleagues for help and advice.

Legal education

Legal education is the education of individuals in the principles, practices, and theory of law. It may be undertaken for several reasons, including to provide the knowledge and skills necessary for admission to legal practice in a particular jurisdiction, to provide a greater breadth of knowledge to those working in other professions such as politics or business, to provide current lawyers with advanced training or greater specialisation, or to update lawyers on recent developments in the law.

A pupillage, in England and Wales, Northern Ireland, Kenya, Pakistan and Hong Kong, is the final, vocational stage of training for those wishing to become practising barristers. Pupillage is similar to an apprenticeship, during which bar graduates build on what they have learnt during the BPTC or equivalent by combining it with practical work experience in a set of barristers' chambers or pupillage training organisation.

In law, a chambers is a room or office used by barristers or a judge. A barrister's chambers or barristers' chambers are the rooms used by a barrister or a group of barristers. A judge's chambers, on the other hand, is the office of a judge, where the judge may hear certain types of cases, instead of in open court.

In 2008 the 400th anniversary of the charter of James I was celebrated by Elizabeth II issuing new letters patent confirming the original grant. [9]


The Middle Temple owns 43 buildings, many of which are listed buildings. The ones in the Temple itself are still held under the 1608 letters patent of James I, but some others just outside the Temple were bought subsequently. [10] Some buildings are modern, replacing ones which were destroyed in The Blitz, but others date back to the 16th century. (There is a list here, showing the dates of construction, architect, and listed status.) The Inn is also jointly responsible, with Inner Temple, for Temple Church and the Master's House next to the church, a Georgian townhouse built in 1764. [11]

The Hall

Interior of the hall and its double-hammerbeam roof Cmglee London Middle Temple hall.jpg
Interior of the hall and its double-hammerbeam roof

Construction of Middle Temple Hall began in 1562 and was completed in 1572, although it was officially opened in 1576, by Queen Elizabeth I. Its hammerbeam roof has been said to be the best in London. [12] One of the tables at the end of the hall is made from the timbers of the Golden Hinde , the ship used by Sir Francis Drake to circumnavigate the world. [13] Above the table is a massive painting of King Charles I by Anthony van Dyck, and also portraits of Charles II, James II, William III, Elizabeth I, Queen Anne and George I. [14] On the walls are panels bearing the coats of arms of Readers (senior members [note 1] ) dating back to 1597. [15]

The first recorded performance of Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night occurred in the hall on 2 February 1602. [16] Shakespeare himself was probably present. [17]

The hall survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, but was damaged by bombing in the Second World War.

Middle Temple Hall is at the heart of the Inn, and the Inn's student members are required to attend a minimum of 12 qualifying sessions there. Qualifying sessions, formerly known as "dinners", combine collegiate and educational elements and will usually combine a dinner or reception with lectures, debates, mooting, or musical performances.

Middle Temple Hall is also a popular venue for banqueting, weddings, receptions and parties. In recent years, it has become a much-used film location—the cobbled streets, historic buildings and gas lighting give it a unique atmosphere.


Nothing is known about the original library, which was probably just a room in a barristers' chambers. All the books were stolen prior to the reign of Henry VIII. In 1625 a new library was established at the site of what is now Garden Court, and in 1641 it was enlarged when a member of the Inn, Robert Ashley, died and left his collection of books and £300 to the Inn. This library was demolished in 1830. After an interval of three decades, a new library was built, in a Gothic style designed by architect H. R. Abraham. It was opened by The Prince of Wales on 31 October 1861. [18] This Victorian library was badly damaged during the London Blitz in 1940, and was demolished following the war. A new Library was constructed in the 1950s to a design by Edward Maufe and opened by the Queen Mother in 1958. [19] The building still houses the Inn's library and archives as well as various administrative offices, and is now known as the Ashley Building.

Middle Temple Library possesses Emery Molyneux's terrestrial and celestial globes, which are of particular historical cartographical value.


The present gatehouse, on Fleet Street on the northern boundary of the Inn, was built in 1684 by Sir Christopher Wren. It replaced an earlier one which had been allowed to decay until it had to be demolished. [20] It leads into Middle Temple Lane, which proceeds southwards through the Inn to end at gates on the Victoria Embankment, south of the Temple. All of the buildings in the Temple lying west of the lane belong to Middle Temple; the buildings to the east belong to one inn or the other.


West of Middle Temple Lane

Proceeding south from the Fleet Street gatehouse, Middle Temple Lane passes Brick Court to the west, so called because it is said to consist of the first brick buildings to be built in the Temple, in the reign of Elizabeth I. Sir William Blackstone worked here before becoming the first professor to lecture in law at Oxford University. The poet and playwright Oliver Goldsmith also lived here from 1765 (having earlier resided in Garden Court), and is buried in the Temple Church. Blackstone, living on the floor below Goldsmith's chambers, complained about the noise made by Goldsmith's raucous parties, which were attended by many celebrities of the time, including Samuel Johnson. Blackstone later moved to Pump Court; whether because of the parties or for some other reason is unknown. [21]

Next to Brick Court are the buildings called Essex Court, which actually form part of the same courtyard. The earliest record of Essex Court is from 1640, but the original buildings were replaced in 1656 and 1677. [22] Today Essex Court and Brick Court are occupied by barristers' chambers. Through a passageway to the west is New Court, built by Wren, and a gate leading out of the Temple into Devereux Court and Essex Street. (Another passageway to the north leads through Outer Temple to Fleet Street.)

South of New Court and Essex Court lies Fountain Court. The fountain there was described by Charles Dickens in Martin Chuzzlewit . [23] In her notes to her poem The Middle Temple Gardens, Letitia Elizabeth Landon says of it: 'it is the poetry of the place, or, rather, the voice of the poetry with which it is filled'. To the south of Fountain Court are, from west to east, Garden Court (where the old library used to be), Middle Temple Gardens (which extend to the southern perimeter of the Temple), and Middle Temple Hall. The current buildings of Garden Court, which lie along the western edge of the Temple, were constructed in 1883. [24] South of Garden Court are Blackstone House, Queen Elizabeth Building, and a gate leading out of the Temple (and a short distance from Temple tube station).

South of the hall, and east of the gardens, are Plowden Buildings, built in 1831, which contain the Treasurer's office. South of that is the current library, and then, at the end of Middle Temple Lane, are the buildings called Temple Gardens, built on both sides of the lane by both inns in 1861. [25] The western part belongs to Middle Temple, and the eastern part is Inner Temple's. The lane passes through the middle of Temple Gardens via an archway and leads out of the Temple.

East of the lane

Along the east side of Middle Temple Lane (proceeding northwards from the southern archway), the buildings belong to Inner Temple, until the lane reaches Lamb Buildings. Lamb Buildings belong to Middle Temple, which bought the land from Inner Temple after the Great Fire of 1666. Inner Temple needed the money because it found itself short of funds due to the extensive property destruction. Lamb Buildings are built on the site of Caesar's Buildings, which were destroyed in the fire, and which had belonged to Inner Temple. [26] The Lamb of God is the symbol of Middle Temple and is engraved above the entrances to the building.

Behind Lamb Buildings, further east, is Elm Court, built in 1880. [27] The buildings on the south and east sides of Elm Court are part of Inner Temple; the west and north buildings are Middle Temple. Further north is Pump Court, one of the oldest courts in the Temple. [28] Most of the buildings here belong to Middle Temple, except those in the north west corner. Further east are Middle Temple's cloisters, leading to Church Court between Temple Church and Inner Temple Hall. North of Pump Court is Inner Temple's Hare Court, and then more buildings belonging to Middle Temple, until the lane ends at the gate to Fleet Street.

Parallel with and to the east of Middle Temple Lane lies Inner Temple Lane, which runs from Fleet Street to Church Court. On the east side of Inner Temple Lane, and opposite Hare Court, is Goldsmith Building, so named because of its proximity to Goldsmith's tomb in the adjacent Temple Church. Despite its location in the Inner Temple, Goldsmith Building actually belongs to Middle Temple, for reasons which are no longer remembered. It was built in 1861. [29]

Structure and governance

The Inn's supreme body is its Parliament, which is made up of the Benchers (judges and senior barristers), who are elected for life, and headed by a Treasurer who is elected annually. The Parliament approves the Inn's budget and authorises the Call of student members to the Bar. [30] Members of the Royal family who are made honorary benchers are known as "Royal Benchers". The first of these was Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, made a Royal Bencher when he opened the newly-constructed library in 1861. [9]

The Inn is run from day to day by an Executive Committee and four other committees, which are accountable to the Parliament. [31] The Executive Committee consists of 14 voting members (including the Treasurer and the Deputy Treasurer) and two non-voting members (including the Under Treasurer). [32]

The Treasurer for 2019 is the Right Honourable Lord Justice David Bean. [33] The Under Treasurer and chief executive is Guy Perricone, who was appointed in 2013. [34]


Middle Temple (like the Inner Temple) is one of the few remaining liberties, an old name for a geographic division. It is an independent extra-parochial area, [35] historically not governed by the City of London Corporation [36] (and is today regarded as a local authority for most purposes) [37] and equally outside the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. The Middle Temple's functions as a local council are set out in the Temples Order 1971. [38]

It geographically falls within the boundaries and wards of the City, but can be thought of as an independent enclave.

Some of the Inn's buildings (those along Essex Street, Devereux Court and the Queen Elizabeth Building near the Embankment) lie just outside the liberty of the Middle Temple and the City's boundary, and are actually situated in the City of Westminster. Quadrant House (7–15 Fleet Street) was acquired by the Middle Temple in 1999, and after five years of conversion is now a barristers' chambers. [39] This lies outside the liberty (though immediately adjacent to it) but is within the City of London.

Badge and coat of arms

Coat of arms Bloye shield on Fountain Court, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham 3.JPG
Coat of arms

The badge of the Middle Temple consists of the Lamb of God with a flag bearing the Saint George's Cross. This symbol appears in the centre of the Inn's coat of arms, against a background consisting of the same cross (a red cross on a white field). The cross, and the lamb with the flag, each were symbols of the Knights Templar. [40]

Notable members

Royal benchers

See also


  1. Readers are Benchers of the Inn, who traditionally were appointed to give a 'Reading.'
  2. The Prince's appointment as Treasurer was honourary, and the office's functions were performed by the Deputy Treasurer.

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  1. Bellot, Hugh H.L. (1902). The Inner and Middle Temple: Legal, Literary and Historical Associations. London: Methuen & Co., p. 32
  2. Bellot (1902), p. 20
  3. Bellot (1902), p. 22
  4. Bellot (1902), pp. 19-25
  5. "June 2017: Royalty and the Inn – Middle Temple". www.middletemple.org.uk.
  6. "Temple Church" Inner Temple Library website, retrieved 5 August 2018.
  7. Bellot (1902), pp. 324-325
  8. Middle Temple accommodation for students (accessed 26 April 2007) Archived 31 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. 1 2 3 "Royalty and the Inn'" Middle Temple website, June 2017 (retrieved 12 November 2017).
  10. "Buildings," Middle Temple website, retrieved 12 November 2017.
  11. Bellot (1902), p. 231
  12. Bellot (1902), p. 281
  13. Bellot (1902), p. 282
  14. Bellot (1902), p. 283
  15. "Middle Temple Hall," Middle Temple website, retrieved 3 November 2017.
  16. British library website (retrieved 3 November 2017).
  17. Bellot (1902), pp. 286-288
  18. Bellot (1902), pp. 290-293
  19. [https://www.middletemple.org.uk/library-and-archive/library/history-of-the-library "History of the Library," Middle Temple website. (Retrieved 26 September 2019.)
  20. Bellot (1902), p. 269
  21. Bellot (1902), pp. 276-280
  22. Bellot (1902), p. 301
  23. Bellot (1902), p. 275
  24. Bellot (1902), p. 293
  25. Bellot (1902), p. 294
  26. Bellot (1902), p. 304
  27. Bellot (1902), p. 298
  28. Bellot (1902), p. 300
  29. Bellot (1902), p. 303
  30. "Parliament," Middle Temple website, retrieved 30 October 2017.
  31. "Standing Committees," Middle Temple website, retrieved 30 October 2017.
  32. "Executive Committee," Middle Temple website, retrieved 30 October 2017.
  33. "Officers of the Inn," Middle Temple website, retrieved 13 January 2019.
  34. "The Executive Management of the Inn," Middle Temple website, retrieved 13 January 2019.
  35. Association for Geographic Information [ permanent dead link ] What place is that then? (PDF)
  36. City of London (Approved Premises for Marriage) Act 1996 "By ancient custom the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple and the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple exercise powers within the areas of the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple respectively ('the Temples') concerning (inter alia) the regulation and governance of the Temples"
  37. Middle Temple as a local authority [ dead link ] Archived 30 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  38. Temples Order 1971 , released as part of a response from Under-Treasurer of the Middle Temple to a request made using WhatDoTheyKnow , accessed 16 September 2012.
  39. Building talk Archived 5 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine Major £12m Fleet Street refurbishment (2005)
  40. Bellot (1902), p. 28
  41. Bellot (1902), p. 290
  42. Odgers, William Blake (1918). "Sir William Blackstone". Yale Law Journal. The Yale Law Journal Company, Inc. 27 (1), p. 601
  43. 1 2 3 "Prince William becomes honorary barrister". The Daily Telegraph. 7 July 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2019. The Prince is the sixth member of the Royal Family to be called to the Bench as a Royal Bencher and is following in the footsteps of the Queen Mother, called in 1944, and his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, called in 1988.

Coordinates: 51°30′45″N0°06′43″W / 51.5125°N 0.112°W / 51.5125; -0.112