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City of London

A legal enclave forming two-quarters of the Inns of Court and situated south of the western half of Fleet Street. Crusading military order the Knights Templar established a church and residential quarters by the river around 1160. Temple Church was built in two phases and completed in 1240. The order’s clergy lived in a consecrated precinct on the east side of the church. The Templars’ order was suppressed in 1312 and parliament voted its buildings to the order of St John of Jerusalem, which leased them to students of law. There is some debate about when, why and even if the college divided itself into two halves. The usual explanation is that sometime in the late 14th or early 15th century the lawyers agreed on the split for administrative purposes. Another theory holds that there were always two separate societies, which later came to be called the ‘Inner Temple’ and ‘Middle Temple’ because the former lay nearer the City, while the latter occupied the buildings in the middle of the complex. Most of the medieval buildings were destroyed in the Great Fire and in three subsequent fires in the second half of the 17th century and the Temple was rebuilt to a more collegiate plan. The grounds were extended southwards with the construction of the Victoria Embankment in 1870, when Temple station opened. The Temple and its church were badly bomb-damaged during World War II but sensitive restoration has preserved the other-worldly intimacy of the enclave, where the courtyards are still illuminated by gas lamps. Law is no longer taught here and barristers’ chambers occupy most of the buildings.
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Temple Church of St Mary

The American Senator at Temple Bar is one of Anthony Trollope’s lesser known works. Television companies have made frequent use of the Temple, in productions as diverse as the BBC’s David Copperfield and ITV’s The Bill. Temple Church has recently gained international fame for its role in the novel The Da Vinci Code. ‘I suspect that we will have a very significant surge in visitor numbers for the next three or four weeks,’ said master of the Temple Church, the Reverend Robin Griffith-Jones, after the release of the film in May 2006.

Postal district: EC4 (Temple station is in WC2)
Station: Circle and District lines (zone 1)
Websites: www.innertemple.org.uk , www.middletemple.org.uk and www.templechurch.com

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

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