A Delightful Visit to the Middle Temple in London
By Monty A. McIntyre
In April of 2011, I visited London and the Honourable Society of
the Middle Temple. The four English Inns of Court in London provide
training to those who want to become Barristers, which are the
trial lawyers in the English courts. The training is provided by
Benchers (the senior members of the Inn) and other Barristers, and
generally takes about a year to complete.
As a Master in the Honorable William B.
Enright American Inn of Court in San Diego, California, I was
able to request and obtain a "letter of
introduction" from the American Inns of Court national office
allowing me to visit and tour one of the four Inns.
I decided to visit the Honourable Society of the Middle
Temple. The Inn's name derives from the Knights Templar who
owned the Middle Temple land for about 150 years and built the
Temple Church. The Temple Church was part of the plot in Dan
Brown's book The Da Vinci Code. Several Knights Templar
are buried in the church, and Brown's book describes it as a church
near the "center of London" which reputedly holds a major secret
regarding Jesus and Christianity. As I learned during our tour,
however, the church holds no secret, but the success of the Da
Vinci Code has created a renewed interest in the church.
The Knights Templar lost the property as a result of their
downfall at the hands of King Philip IV of France. The king was
bankrupt while the Templars had amassed great wealth and the king
became convinced that the Templars practiced idolatry, were
blasphemers, and guilty of sexual immorality. In 1307, King
Phillip ordered James of Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights
Templar and a Frenchman, to come to Paris and bring with him the
treasure of the Order of the Temple. James obeyed and was arrested,
together with all of the members of the Order in France. The Order
was suppressed thereafter and their land in England was taken over
by the king.
The Middle Temple and the Inner Temple came to own the former
Templar land under the Charter of King James I and VI in the
1600's. The king apparently needed to save money and it was costly
to maintain the Temple Church. The solution-the land was granted to
the Middle and Inner Temples to be used to train young lawyers, but
they also had to agree to maintain Temple Church in perpetuity.
They still do so today.
The highlight of the tour of the Middle Temple was enjoying
lunch in Middle Temple Hall, a magnificent hall built in 1562 that
is 101 feet long, 41 feet wide, and spanned by a gorgeous double
hammer beam roof. You've probably seen Middle Temple Hall dressed
up as Hogwarts Dining Hall in the Harry Potter movies.
At the front of the hall is the High Table, where the Benchers
sit. The High Table is made from 29 foot planks from a single oak,
reputedly a gift from Elizabeth I. In 1586, Sir Francis Drake
visited the Middle Temple and regaled the members with stories of
his successful expedition against the Spanish Indies. The hatch
cover of his ship the Golden Hind was later used to make the
present Middle Temple "cupboard." Since then the cupboard has been
the center of the Middle Temple ceremonies: on it is laid the book
that members sign when they are "called to the Bar" and officially
At the other end of the hall from the cupboard is a splendid,
elaborately carved huge wooden screen made in 1574. The screen was
extensively damaged during the German bombing in World War II, but
the rest of the building survived intact. After the war the screen
was so well repaired that the joins cannot be seen.
After our lunch we saw a signed copy of the Declaration of
Independence. I didn't expect an English Inn to have a copy, and I
was surprised and delighted to learn that five members of the
Middle Temple Inn signed the Declaration of Independence. Later,
nine members of the Middle Temple Inn signed the Constitution of
the United States. Apparently many young men from England sailed to
the colonies to seek their fortune in those days, and Barristers
did so as well.
The Molyneux Globes, the earliest globes to be made in England
by an Englishman, were spectacular. Made in 1592 and modified
in 1603, the globes show no continent of Australia-it had not yet
We also got to see the beautiful gardens along the Thames River.
I thoroughly enjoyed our fascinating tour of the Middle Temple. I
highly recommend that you request a letter of introduction through
the American Inns of Court and visit one of the English Inns. Like
me, you'll be glad that you did.
Monty A. McIntyre is a shareholder of Seltzer Caplan McMahon
Vitek in San Diego, California. He is a civil trial lawyer and also
serves as a private mediator. He is a member of the Hon. William A.
© 2012 Monty A. MyIntyre. This article was
published in the March/April 2012 issue of The
Bencher, the flagship magazine of the American Inns of Court.
This article, in full or in part, may not be copied, reprinted,
distributed, or stored electronically in any form without the
express written consent of the American Inns of Court.