The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 21 The Inns of Court and Legal London

Middle Temple Hall

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On the west side of Middle Temple Lane is MIDDLE TEMPLE HALL (open on week-days 10-12 and 3-5, 10-4 in August and September; on Sunday immediately after morning service; visitors ring), a stately Elizabethan chamber of 1562-72 (100 feet long, 42 feet wide, 47 feet high), with a fine hammer-beam roof and pendants. The exterior was unfortunately stone-faced in 1757; the entrance tower dates from 1832. The hall is used as a dining-hall for the benchers, barristers, and students, who are summoned to table by the blowing of a horn. The ichly carved oak-screen dates from 1575. On the wall, adorned with the arms of Readers and Treasurers, are five royal portraits, including an equestrian portrait of Charles I., a replica or copy (probably by Henry Stone) of Van Dyck's work at Windsor. The armorial bearings in the windows (the earliest dating from 1540) are those of distinguished members of the Inn, including (in recent years) those who have been raised to the peerage. The large table is said to have been made of an oak in Windsor Park, and to have been given to the Inn by Queen Elizabeth. The smaller table is believed to have been made from the timbers of Drake's ship, the �Golden Hind.� The brass lantern hanging from the Minstrel Gallery is likewise Elizabethan. Shakespeare is said to have taken part in a performance of �Twelfth Night� in this hall on February 2nd, 1601-2; and it has been the scene of many historic incidents and entertainments to royalty. The Middle Temple Library (no admission), with 62,000 volumes, occupies a modern building (1861) to the south (near the Embankment) and contains a hall 86 feet long and 63 feet high. It is rich in works on law, divinity, and church history, and possesses also some curious books on witchcraft. The list of historical names connected with the Temple is endless. Among the members of the Middle Temple may be mentioned Clarendon, Pym, Ireton, Raleigh, Congreve, Wycherley, Shadwell, Sheridan, Grattan, Blackstone, Henry Fielding, Thomas Moore, Thomas De Quincey, Burke, Ashmole, Dickens, Richard Blackmore (author of �Lorna Doone'), Eldon, and Sir Henry Havelock; among those of the Inner Temple, Hampden, Selden, Coke, Littleton, Jeffreys, Beaumont, Lyndhurst, Thurlow, Hallam. and Samuel Warren (author of �Ten Thousand a Year'). Five signers of the Declaration of Independence (Edward Rutledge, T. Heyward, T. McKean, T. Lynch, and A. Middleton) and several other Revolutionary celebrities (John Rutledge, William Livingston, Arthur Lee, Peyton Randolph, etc.) were members of the Middle Temple. On No. 2 Brick Court, Middle Temple Lane, is a medallion commemorating the fact that Oliver Goldsmith died here. Blackstone, the celebrated jurist, occupied the rooms below Goldsmith, and complained of the noise made by his �revelling neighbour.� Thackeray (1853-59) and Praed also had chambers in this building. Charles Lamb was born (1775) and spent his first seven years in Crown Office Row (No. 2, on the north side of the Gardens), and he lived with his sister within the Temple from 1801 to 1817, first at 16 Mitre Court Buildings and (after 1808) at 4 Inner Temple Lane (both houses pulled down). Dr. Johnson occupied rooms at 1 Inner Temple Lane, now replaced by Johnson's Buildings. Thackeray had rooms at 10 Crown Office Row from 1848 to 1850. Fountain Court, to the north of Middle Temple Hall, is indissolubly associated with Ruth Pinch's tryst with her brother Tom ('Martin Chuzzlewit'). The fountain, dating from 1681, was restored in 1919 to its original condition.