VISITING MIDDLE TEMPLE

Ping! Went the email. Would I like a tour of Middle Temple and lunch? It took about two seconds to hit the reply button saying YES PLEASE. Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court in London in which barristers are called to the Bar. It is a building steeped in history in an area of London that has remained unchanged for centuries. I confess that I had thought that Middle Temple was out of bounds to those who are not members. Turns out that visiting Middle Temple is open to anybody, you just need to book.

Middle Temple gatehouse

VISITING MIDDLE TEMPLE

Middle Temple Hall is generally reckoned to be the finest Elizabethan Hall surviving in London. It is massive at 101 feet long and 41 feet wide. The wood-panelled walls and stained-glass windows are awash with the coats of arms of notable lawyers. Walking in is how I imagine walking into the Hogwarts dining room would be. It was here that Twelfth Night had its premiere with Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare both in attendance.

Middle Temple hall

A magnificent double hammerbeam roof tops the hall off. What is a double hammerbeam and how does it differ from a single Hammerbeam? I hear you cry. A hammerbeam is when a roof beam does not go all the way across a roof but just juts out a little bit, supporting the roof’s weight on a far smaller area and enabling a wide roof span. A double hammerbeam is where there are two layers of these short beams. Those who know about these things reckon that the double hammerbeam roof was the most spectacular endeavour of English Medieval carpenter, so pretty special. To see the largest Hammerbeam roof in Europe take a look at my Palace of Westminster post.

Middle Temple Hammberbeam roof

When Queen Elizabeth I gave permission for the Hall to be built in 1562, she not only signed the relevant pieces of paper she also gave a gift. A very large oak tree was selected from the forest at Windsor and then floated down the Thames. Not much of a present you might think, but three planks of wood were hewn from the tree and used to make a 29 foot long table that is still in the great hall and still used today.

Middle Temple table

To enter the main hall you have to pass through a massive ornately carved wooden screen. It looks solid and ancient. The screen was constructed in 1574 but was shattered during the Blitz. All the pieces were collected together and once the war was over work started on putting them all back together. I imagine that it must have been a particularly tricky jigsaw puzzle. To look at it today it is hard to imagine that it was damaged in anyway.

Middle Temple screen

Whilst the other rooms that you see on the tour are not as vast, they are all quite ornate. The Queen’s Room was named for the Queen Mother who was called to the Bar in this room. No, that doesn’t mean that the Queen Mum was a barrister in her spare time, it means that she was a Royal Bencher. The ceilings have ornate plaster work with the Lamb of God, Middle Temple’s symbol, looking down from the ceiling.

Queens Room Plasterwork ceiling Middle Temple
The Queen Mother dined in this room most years from 1944, when she was called to the Bar, until 2001 a few months before her death. Her portrait by Sir James Gunn hangs in the room.
Queens Room Middle Temple
Next to the Queen’s Room is the Parliament Chamber. Film buffs may like to know that this is very spot where Mr Darcy proposed to Bridget Jones. I looked very hard for Mr Darcy but he was nowhere to be seen. Big windows over look the gardens but it is not the rose beds that catch your eye but the stained glass memorials to Elizabeth I and other monarchs.
Queen Elizabeth I stained glass window Middle Temple
The dining table has a large ship’s bell attached to it. Traditionally members ring the bell to indicate that they are ready for coffee. I’m wondering if we installed such a bell at Cultural Wednesday towers whether anybody would bring me coffee or if I would have to walk to the kitchen myself?
Coffee Bell Parliament room Middle Temple

LUNCH AT MIDDLE TEMPLE

During law term weekdays, the Middle Temple Hall is a very posh works canteen. Members of Middle Temple, who are all barristers and tend to work in the chambers surrounding the hall itself are able to just wander in to eat lunch. Members of the public can join them, but we need to book. You need to be pretty peckish as £25 is way more than I would usually spend on a quick weekday sandwich. If you have time then the three course buffet offers excellent value. Whooshing round on your broomstick and pretending that you are at Hogwarts is not encouraged.

Lunch Middle Temple

MIDDLE TEMPLE IN THE MOVIES

Middle Temple and the narrow cobbled streets that surround it are catnip to film makers. Look carefully and you may recognise the setting for Shakespeare in Love, Pirates of the Caribbean or, of course, Bridget Jones. Sherlock Holmes has also paced around noticing tiny clues invisible to mere mortals.

VISITING MIDDLE TEMPLE NEED TO KNOW

Just turning up and hoping to get into Middle Temple won’t work before you visit you need to:

  • Ring 020 7427 4820 to book in advance
  • Tours will only go ahead if a minimum of ten people are booked in
  • Tour cost £12 per head
  • Tours take about an hour
  • Lunch is £25 a head for a three course buffet lunch and must be pre-booked
  • Lunch is only available during one of the four legal terms; Hilary: mid January – Easter, Easter: Easter – end of May, Trinity: beginning June – end July and Michaelmas: beginning October – Christmas. For exact dates ring and check

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Visiting Middle Temple

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Middle Temple invited me for the tour and lunch, all opinions are my own.

46 Comments

  1. March 18, 2018 / 1:07 am

    Funny, I’d always thought all the Inns of Court were off limits to the public too. That dining hall looks very grand – reminds me of the Oxbridge colleges.

  2. March 18, 2018 / 5:56 am

    Hi Catherine, what a spectacular building. It definately has an essence on Hogwarts about it. Putting it back together must have been a bit of a head scratcher though.

    xx

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 18, 2018 / 9:56 am

      Like a giant three dimensional jigsaw!

  3. March 18, 2018 / 7:28 am

    Wow! What an amazing place to visit. I bet you didn’t know what to look at first. #MySundayPhoto

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 18, 2018 / 9:55 am

      My eyes and camera were out on stalks!

  4. March 18, 2018 / 7:43 am

    Well Catherine, this is something I now wish to do! it’s funny these spaces in London that you don’t imagine are open to the public but are. Middle Temple looks amazing and you have educated me about the Hammerbeam Roof! That must have been one ginormous oak tree too. #mysundayphoto

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 18, 2018 / 9:54 am

      Can you imagine the tree being floated down the Thames, I wonder how long the journey took?

  5. March 18, 2018 / 7:43 am

    I didn’t realise you could visit Middle Temple either. What an absolutely beautiful building – that wood panelling and ceiling are stunning #MySundayPhoto

  6. March 18, 2018 / 8:38 am

    I love exploring history through buildings like this. What an amazing place and that table, WoW! #mysundayphoto

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 18, 2018 / 9:49 am

      Just think of the people who have eaten on it ….. Queen Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Sir Francis Drake and more recently Diana
      , Princess of Wales and Queen Elizabeth II. The stories it could tell

  7. March 18, 2018 / 8:56 am

    What a stunning building, it would be so much fun to dine there and take in the history x

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 18, 2018 / 9:45 am

      I want to go back with a gaggle of friends!

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 18, 2018 / 9:43 am

      The narrow cobbled streets that surround it call out to be photographed as well

  8. March 18, 2018 / 9:49 am

    What a stunning place, I’d love to check it out myself! #MySundayPhoto

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 18, 2018 / 9:58 am

      Fitting in with the law terms adds an extra dimension of trick Ines to planning a visit

  9. March 18, 2018 / 10:47 am

    It’s amazing to think how old it is. Really stunning and a rare place to visit. #MySundayPhoto

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 18, 2018 / 10:52 am

      If only walls could talk …..

  10. bavariansojourn
    March 18, 2018 / 10:55 am

    Wow, I had no idea you could visit either. I worked close by for many years too (kicks self)… What a fascinating history! (:

  11. March 18, 2018 / 11:08 am

    What a stunning building and that ceiling is just amazing. It looks so similar to a Grand hall my friend got married in. I’m going to have to ask her where it was 🙂

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 18, 2018 / 11:14 am

      You can hire it for weddings and so maybe …..

  12. March 18, 2018 / 11:31 am

    That’s absolutely beautiful – all that history!

  13. Julie Cordiner
    March 18, 2018 / 12:04 pm

    Thank you so much for these tips Catherine – it is resulting in a long list of places I want to visit! What a wonderful place this is.

  14. March 18, 2018 / 7:16 pm

    It looks so interesting and full of history. I have never been there. I may have to make a visit. Thanks for sharing! #mysundayphoto

  15. March 18, 2018 / 10:20 pm

    Wow the double hammerbeam ceiling is just amazing in your photo. I’d love to see it in real life!

  16. March 20, 2018 / 9:27 am

    How lucky! I’d love to visit one day!! #mondayescapes

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 20, 2018 / 9:29 am

      I can’t wait to take the teens for lunch …. trying to find a day when they are off school and the legal term is still on

  17. March 20, 2018 / 11:22 pm

    What an amazing building, and that ceiling is fabulous (I never did know what hammerbeam ceilings were) – I had always assumed it would be off limits to the general public as well. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping and revealing the truth!

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 20, 2018 / 11:31 pm

      The “truth”must be told!

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 22, 2018 / 7:26 pm

      Same here ….. hence the short lecture on how to make your own hammerbeam roof!

  18. March 21, 2018 / 11:16 am

    What a fabulous building. I had no idea you could go inside, let alone have lunch! Have files away with all my things to do in London #CityTripping

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 22, 2018 / 7:25 pm

      If your to visit file is anything like mine it will be bulging!

  19. March 21, 2018 / 12:21 pm

    very Harry Potter like:) #citytripping

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 22, 2018 / 7:25 pm

      Indeed, find it hard to believe that wasn’t used as an HP location

  20. Clare Thomson
    March 22, 2018 / 7:06 pm

    OK Catherine, I NEED to do this and I also need to get on your email lists!! I’ve already written the phone number down in my notebook. This is on my London wishlist for this year. Thank you so very much for inspiring me on #FarawayFiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 22, 2018 / 7:21 pm

      Next time something interesting pops up I’ll see if you free too!

  21. March 23, 2018 / 6:01 pm

    Catherine, this place looks amazing! Thanks so much for featuring it. What a spectacular day out, and a great place to take those budding barristers too! #farawayfiles

  22. March 24, 2018 / 7:12 pm

    What a great thing to find out about! 25 quid is a bit pricy for a workday lunch, true, but not bad for surroundings like that, especially if you get to ring for more coffee. Cool!

  23. March 24, 2018 / 10:02 pm

    Next time I’m in London we should meet up there for lunch and pretend it’s Hogwarts! You know you want to 😉

  24. March 26, 2018 / 5:37 am

    What a wonderful day out! I love everything about this, the table, the history, the Pirates of the Caribbean mention… I do envy the amount of amazing history available to those of you who live in London! Definitely putting this on my list for next time I’m in town. #farawayfiles

  25. Beth
    March 29, 2018 / 12:07 pm

    I’ve heard about this but never took advantage of previous opportunities to tour. Your photos and explanation have me completely intrigued. The main hall immediately reminded me of Hampton Court Palace’s Great Hall, they are magnificent and it is amazing they have survived all these millennia. #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 29, 2018 / 12:18 pm

      It is one of those ‘if only walls could talk’ buildings!

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