The usual entrance to the Temple is by Wren's fine Gatehouse (1684) at Middle Temple Lane, which leaves Fleet St. near Temple Bar. The general name covers two Inns of Court, the Middle and the Inner Temple, consisting of a congeries of buildings, courts, and gardens extending from Fleet St. to the Thames, and named from their topographical relations to the City proper and the Outer Temple. The last, merely a piece of ground belonging to the Templars, was absorbed at an early date by private owners, and the name now survives only as attached to a substantial office-building in the Strand, opposite the Royal Courts of Justice.
The Temple was originally the seat in England of the famous Order of Knights Templars, or ï¿½Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.ï¿½ On the dissolution of the Order in 1312 the Temple passed to the Crown and later into the possession of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John, who leased it in the reign of Edward III. (circa 1338) to certain professors of the common law. The first trustworthy mention of the Temple as an Inn of Court is found in the Paston Letters, under November 30th, 1449. The Middle and Inner Temples appear to have been always separate societies. On the dissolution of the Order of St. John in 1539 the two societies continued their tenancy as lessees of the Crown, and in 1608 James I. granted the property in perpetuity to the ï¿½Benchers of the Inner and the Middle or New Temple,ï¿½ subject to a yearly payment by each of ï¿½10 (commuted in 1673). The church, the Priest's Hall, and the buttery of the Inner Temple Hall are the only edifices going back to the times of the Knights Templars, the other buildings dating mainly from the reign of Queen Elizabeth or just after the Great Fire of 1666, which destroyed most of the Inner Temple. Buildings belonging to the Inner Temple bear the device of the Winged Horse, those of the Middle Temple the Lamb and Flag.