THE HISTORY OF THE INN
The Inn’s name derives from the Knights Templar who were in possession of the site we now call the Temple for some 150 years. The origins of the Inn trace from two roots: the occupation of the Knights and the replacement of priestly lawyers by a lay profession.
On Christmas Day 1119 and at the instance of King Baldwin II of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and of the Patriarch of Jerusalem nine knights took monastic vows, styling themselves The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Jesus Christ. They were quartered in the remains of the Temple of Solomon (of which today only the Wailing Wall remains) and hence the other name by which the Order was known: the Knights of the Temple of Solomon. The purpose of the foundation was the protection of pilgrims from Western Europe on their way through the Levant to visit the Holy Places. A considerable increase in the 12th century of the number making that pilgrimage and the developing conflict between Christian and Muslim made that necessary.
Once established, the Order grew quickly in its importance. Houses of the Order were founded in many European countries to recruit members and to act as rear echelons for the knights in the field in the Levant or Outremer, as it was called. The building and maintenance of their many castles there, the payment of their local mercenaries and the attendant costs were considerable. In England the Order’s first House was in Holborn where the first Round Church was built, all Templar Churches being circular on the model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Within a short time the Order was given land South of what is now Fleet Street and moved to the New Temple. The Round of the present Church was built and was consecrated in 1185 in the reign of Henry II by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Part of the land formed a monastery and part remained unconsecrated. The monastic buildings lay around the present Church Court, hence the present-day building called Cloisters, with the refectory on the site of the present Inner Temple Hall. Another hall lay on or somewhat to the East of Middle Temple Lane and housed the lay brethren and other laymen. Laymen of knightly rank could serve with the Order.
The New Temple soon developed connections with the King’s administration and particularly with the Exchequer. In the height of the Templars’ influence the New Temple was a centre of royal, diplomatic and fiscal activity. A secure site held by a religious and military Order could not be bettered for the purposes of a treasury. The Bishopric of Ely and the Exchequer were closely connected. As early as 1257 the incumbent Bishop succeeded in the Courts in a claim that his See enjoyed as of ancient right a lodging “in the houses of the Master” with rights in the Hall and other buildings.
The Master was the head of the House in England, though subject to the Grand Master in Outremer. Even today that title and tradition live on. The priest appointed to the Temple Church is called “The Master”: his proper style is “The Reverend and Valiant”. The Middle Temple still speaks of itself as Domus and the two Inns are on occasions referred to as the “Societies of this House”.
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The Lay Profession
By the Norman Conquest the settled pattern was that only those in priestly orders could act as lawyers. Their training was in Canon Law, but as the Common Law developed from the decisions of the Judges in the King’s Courts that too became their province. Those priests who studied to practice the law were attached to certain of the City churches, where they lived and took their meals in common in hostels that were law schools.
The King’s Justices sat primarily at Westminster but also in and near the New Temple. The students were sent to listen and learn. They were provided with a common room or “crib”. In time laymen must have been admitted to the schools for by 1207 priests were forbidden to practice in the secular courts, and in 1252 even to teach the Common Law. The two systems of Canon and Common Law thereafter followed their separate paths. In 1254, and for reasons that may reflect this separation, a Writ of King Henry III directed to the Mayor and Sheriffs to close the schools of law in the City. These law schools and their hostels moved to the Western borders of the City. It was from among these institutions that the four Inns of Court emerged. The others over time became known as Inns of Chancery and at first trained those students who went on to become students in the four Inns of Court. Later they were to become the preserve of solicitors, and later only social clubs until they were dissolved.
In the late 13th century are found the first surviving records of the qualifications required of those who would follow the profession of Advocate. In 1275 was published the “Speculum Juris” which set out the qualifications required. The City’s “Liber Custumarum” of 1280 contains the standards and rules of the profession which was already divided into attornies (presently solicitors) and countors (or apprentices, the title barrister being of later date and reflecting strictly the man’s status in his Inn). An attorney had to be admitted by the Mayor before practising in the City. A countor was forbidden to act as an attorney.
Finally, in 1292, King Edward I charged his Judges of the Common Bench (Common Pleas) with choosing the “best lawyers from the counties, so that the King’s court and the people of the Kingdom should be better served and those selected should follow his court and be present therein, and no others”. The heading to this provision is “De attornatis et apprenticiis“: both branches thus came under the control of the Judges. The apprentices were usually described as the “Apprentices of the Common Bench” or “of the Bench”. The Serjeants, or servintes ad legem, were of older institution and enjoyed rights of audience in the King’s Courts, but there would have been a need to supplement that small group with other lawyers of recognised qualifications. It has always been accepted that the right of the four Inns of Court to call appropriately qualified students to the Bar is one delegated to them by the Judges. The King gave it as his opinion that seven score lawyers would suffice, but the Judges had a discretion to nominate more.
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The Lawyers in the New Temple and the Fall of the Templars
Over time the Templars acquired many estates the income from which helped to furnish the money needed for their work overseas. The Order’s own need to move funds to Outremer produced another source of income by their extending their facilities to traders on the great mediaeval trade route to the Middle and Far East, the Order acting as bankers. To the need that the Order would have for the services of lawyers must be added that of the Exchequer and the government. So it is clear that at the height of the Templars’ power and prestige many lawyers would have followed their calling within the New Temple.
By the end of the 13th century that prestige was on the wane. The Crusading Orders had been defeated, the Latin Kingdoms had collapsed and the Christians had effectively been driven out of the Levantine mainland. The Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, the Hospitallers, occupied Rhodes where they continued their care of the sick and whence they fought to contain the expansion of the Turks into Anatolia. By contrast the Templars, who had retreated to Cyprus, attempted to establish a bridgehead but achieved little more in furtherance of their purpose over ten years than some raiding of the mainland. The Order had lost its way.
King Philip IV of France brought about the downfall of the Templars. His exchequer was bankrupt. He was a religious zealot and became persuaded that the Order practised idolatry and that its members were blasphemers and were guilty of sexual immorality. In 1307 he ordered James of Molay, the Grand Master and a Frenchman, to come to Paris and bring the treasure of the Order. James of Molay obeyed and was arrested, together with all the members of the Order in France. Torture produced the necessary confessions. Notwithstanding the failure of a Papal Commission to find evidence of anything more than some occasional immorality, the Grand Master and some sixty of the Order were burned.
Whatever the truth of the charges, and modern historians hold that they were contrived, the Order was discredited. In 1312 and despite some third of all its avowed members having died, as we would say today, on active service, a General Council suppressed the Order. The Pope, Clement V, was in thrall to the King of France. In England, unlike other European countries, its members were not persecuted but were allowed to enter other monastic communities.
In England King and Pope disputed the spoils, the Pope contending that the lands of the Order were at his disposition, the King that they escheated to the Crown. The Pope claimed to have given the lands to the Hospitallers who certainly thereafter occupied the consecrated parts of the New Temple, while the King installed a series of favourites in the secular area. The last of these, Hugh Despenser, fell in 1326, and the lands were again escheated. The New Temple was let to one Langeford, who remained as Keeper, until 1338 when he appears to have negotiated the sale of the entire New Temple to the Hospitallers. The Hospitallers as a community remained at their Priory in Clerkenwell, the Temple land was surplus to their needs and was held by them as an investment.
Various records survive from the early 14th century to illustrate the Temple’s connection with the law. In 1334 Langeford leased a plot of land from the City to build a hall and three suitable chambers for the sessions of the justices appointed to deliver Newgate gaol. Pleas in Chancery were held in the New Temple in 1336 and 1337. In 1338 the Prior of the Hospital made a return to his Grand Master his expenditure, listing “pensions due by the common deed to other magnates and secretaries and servants of the Lord King and of others” and some obligations were noted as dating “from the time of the Templars”.
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The Inns of the Temple
The societies that became the Middle and the Inner Temples were not to enjoy any clear title to the New Temple until the Charter of King James I and VI two hundred and fifty years later. They are likely to have had tenancies from the Hospital of St John, or from whomsoever administered the Temple on the Hospital’s behalf. When in the 1570s Sir Edmund Plowden built the Hall that remains the glory of this Inn he built it on what was, following the dissolution of the monasteries, again Crown land. Hence it is less surprising that there is no surviving record of how or when the Inns came to occupy the former Templar lands. The middle years of the 14th century had experienced the Black Death with its very considerable disruption of the organisation and life of society.
That two of the law schools should move to the old Halls in an area that already had a strong connection with the law and its practice is readily understandable. Parts of the New Temple were in considerable disrepair when Langeford went into possession so the Halls and adjacent buildings may not have commanded any great rent. Historians have attempted to identify which of the law schools or societies it was that became the two Inns of the Temple but the better view is that to do so is at best speculation.
Early references associate the Apprentices of the Common Bench with the Temple: one example being that in 1356 they were pardoned for the death of a servant of the steward of the New Temple.
The Middle Temple
It was once speculated that the two Inns of the Temple arose from the division of a single earlier one, but that is now thought to be improbable. The likelihood must be that the Judges delegated their duty to license, or as we say today to “Call”, practitioners to the four Societies that exist today, and that those Societies all came into being at about the same time. An explanation why this Inn is the Middle Temple, when the Outer Temple is no more than the name of a Victorian office building, is found in the 1337 Close Roll.
The Templars had kept open the main gate of the Temple in the daytime so that those travelling between the City and Westminster, and to go by river was then the preferred route, could pass through the New Temple and embark at the “bridge” or jetty below. In 1329 there were complaints that the gate was now closed and the bridge ruinous so that travellers, among whom the King’s justices and clerks of the Chancery were named, were hindered as they went about their business. In 1337 Langeford was ordered to do further repairs to the bridge, and that order referred to the lane “through the middle of the Court of the Temple”, now citing those inconvenienced as including magnates and others coming to parliaments and councils at London who so crossed from the City to Westminster. There cannot be doubt about the line of that lane, for there are reference to another gate somewhat to the East which remained closed (clearly Inner Temple Lane), nor that “Middle Temple Lane” would have been its name in common parlance.
This Inn’s Hall was thus in what was seen as the middle of the Temple area. The monastic area was Inner, as nearer to the City. Early references to the two Inns are often to the Inner Inn or to the Middle Inn of the Temple. They were “Inns” because their members lived in common, as had the members of the law schools from which they grew: they were “Inns of Court” because their members were apprentices of the law and so of the Courts.
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The first explicit reference to the Templ Inns is in th appointment of Serjeants in 1388, five being from the Inner and one from this Inn. Another early reference is in the Will of one John Bownt of Bristol with its bequest to Robert “mancipio Medii Templi”: a manciple was a steward, particularly one of an academic institution. But perhaps of greater interest is the introduction in the prologue to the Canterbury Tales of a “gentle manciple of a Temple” who served a society of “masters more than thrice ten”. While we should not suppose that that Inn then counted such a number of Benchers, a society of more than thirty members was not an inconsiderable one, with presumably a still larger number of students. One must assume that Chaucer would have been confident that his readers would understand the reference. The academic character of the Inns is apparent from a passage in one of the Paston letters in 1440 where the writer speaks of “your College, the Inner Temple”.
1381 saw the burning of the New Temple by Wat Tyler’s rebels, an action so the chronicler relates that was motivated by their hatred of “Robert de Hales, the Master of the Hospital of St John” and, if this be correct, not primarily aimed at his lawyer tenants. They were described as apprenticii juris nobiliores or of the upper rank, a description which conforms to those apprentices who were in the Temple having a special status. Another chronicler recorded that the rebels “broke open the chests found in the church or the chambers of the apprenticii and tore up whatever books they found, whether ecclesiastical or charters and muniments in the safety chests of the apprenticii, and fed them to the fire”.
The Inn’s Records
In earlier times records were considered the property of their maker who would retain them as he left office. Unusually Lincoln’s Inn kept its own records from an early date, 1422, when its Black Books recording the proceedings of its Bench begin. An entry for 1442 refers to a payment for a wine party (pro potacione) with the Middle Temple. The Inn’s earliest records date from 1501 and so reflect a mature and well-established Society. A survey in the 1574 found some 200 members (11 Benchers, 40 barristers and 139 other gentlemen) and 138 chambers.
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The Sixteenth Century
The Inn revealed by its early records was already, with the other three Inns, the third university as described by Sir Edward Coke in 1602. The Inns, besides training those who would make the law their career, educated the sons of the nobility and country gentry, as well as for those others who would require some knowledge of the law in their lives. The Inns retained close contacts with the Court and with government and its administration.
Much of the teaching was done in Moots where legal problems were argued in mock courts before the Benchers, a mode of teaching which has not only survived to this day but which has gained new life as today’s teaching of advocacy relies heavily upon that ancient format. The students sat within the mock court’s “Bar” to listen and so were “Inner Barristers”. As they qualified they could advance an argument at the Bar and so became Outer Barristers, or Utter Barristers as the word has come down to us. When today’s student member qualifies he or she is called by the Treasurer “to the Degree of the Utter Bar”.
The breadth of the subject matter of the older books in the Inn’s library attests to the its members’ interests and, presumably, to the subjects about which the students might gain information. All the subjects of history, social, economic, political and naturally legal, can be followed in the Inn’s rich Archives. The monarch’s regulations on such matters as legal education, dress and behaviour are there, including some chiding about the richness of the Inn’s Lenten diet.
The Hall was the centre of the Inn’s life and was visited by many famous people. Though he cannot be claimed as a member, Sir Francis Drake was frequently here: the Cup Board, the table at which the newly called barristers stand to enter their names in the Inn’s books, is made from the forehatch of his “Golden Hind”, and until it was destroyed in the bombing of 1941 the lantern of his ship hung in the entrance to Hall. If Drake was not a member, Sir Martin Frobisher and Sir Walter Raleigh were. Perhaps this goes some way to explain the style with which the latter acquitted himself at his trial, though acquittal itself escaped him as it did State prisoners in those times. The Inns appear to been associated with particular areas of the country: this Inn drew many of its members from the West Country. Richard Hakluyt, the author of many accounts of Elizabethan travels and travellers, lived for some time in the Temple.
Hall did not see only solemn occasions: it was the scene for plays and pageants, plays being performed on many of the Inn’s great occasions. Twelfth Night was first played there in 1602. There are enough “Inn” jokes and references in the play to suggest that it was written for that particular audience. The celebrated pageant The Triumph of Peace was staged in 1633. The students of the Inn continued the mediaeval tradition of a period of condoned disorder leading up to Candelmas and presided over by a Prince of Misrule, in the Middle Temple he was called the Prince of Love. There were poets among the Inns members, for those were days when the writing of verse was a necessary social accomplishment, and playwrights there were too. The writing for the Revels of 1594/5 was of such a high standard that a publisher thought it worthy of re-printing in 1660. The custom continues to this day, if in somewhat more decorous form, as each December brings its own Revels.
The disputes and disaffection that led to the Civil War was reflected within the Inn, whose members were ranged on either side. The life of the Inn came to a stop during the hostilities, and though at the Restoration the attempt was made to return to the old practices training in the Moots came to an end. Indeed little or no formal education was offered to those who still came as students to the Inns.
Call to the Bar or keeping terms in one of the four Inns a pre-requisite to Call at King’s Inns until late in the 19th century. At times in the 18th century as many entrants to the Inn gave addresses in Ireland as gave English ones. In the 17th and 18th centuries students came from the American colonies and from many of the West Indian islands. The Inn’s records would lead one to suppose that for a time there was hardly a young gentleman in Charleston who had not studied here. Five of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence were Middle Templars, and notwithstanding it and its consequences Americans continued to come here until the War of 1812. In the 19th century Indian addresses begin to appear and within a few years of that Indian names as well. The close connection with many of the countries of the Commonwealth remains to this day.
In 1852, following a Select Committee investigation, the four Inns established the Council of Legal Education and the formal responsibility for the education of students passed to that body. More recent years have seen a number of changes in the qualifications asked of a student who would be called to the Bar, and to the institutions where those qualifications can be attained.
The Present Day
Although the education of students for the Bar has now passed to outside institutions the involvement of the Inns in education is as important as ever. The Inn offers training to its student members to augment the teaching at their formal courses. Middle Temple Advocacy gives training to newly called barristers in pupillage, and thereafter under the New Practitioners Programme. As continuing professional training extends through the profession the Inn will, with the other Inns, become involved in it.
While the syllabus for the first students to come to the Middle Inn of the Temple would have little relevance today the education of those who profess the law at the Bar remains a central function of the Middle Temple today.
The History of The Temple Church
Admission to the Inn
Students may join the Inn while they are reading for a degree and there are many advantages in joining at an early stage. A student is required to complete a set of forms, provide two certificates of character from persons who have known them for at least a year, confirmation of their degree and a cheque for £85, the admission fees. This gives the student life membership of the Inn. Once a student has completed the academic stage of training by obtaining an appropriate law degree or conversion course (Common Professional Examination CPE or Post Graduate Diploma in Law PGDL), the next stage is the Bar Vocational Course (BVC). The educational requirements to embark on the BVC can be obtained from the General Council of the Bar. Successful completion of the BVC is the only method of qualifying as a barrister who intends to practise in England and Wales. The qualification is also accepted in some overseas jurisdictions. A student who wishes to study the BVC must join one of the four Inns of Court. Further information can be obtained from the Deputy Under Treasurer (Education)who has a fund of knowledge about all aspects of the Inn and the Bar.