A group of Paviors enjoyed a tour of Middle Temple in the City of London on Wednesday 7 June.

Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court that have the exclusive right to call students to the Bar. The others are Inner Temple, Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn. The Inns were established by the middle of the 14th century. The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple has approximately 15,000 members, of which around 500 are Masters of the Bench, known as ‘benchers’. The senior bencher of each Inn is the Treasurer, a position which is held for one year only. Since the reign of Edward VII, there has always one Royal Bencher at Middle Temple, and currently this is Prince William.

The education and training of advocates lies at the heart of the Inn. After being called to the Bar, the Inn provides training in advocacy and professional ethics to newly-called barristers in pupillage and under the New Practitioners’ Programme. It is also a professional society for its members worldwide. Generally, the Inn aims to provide an environment in which members are inducted to the practice and ethos of the Bar, both through specific training and by example.

Middle Temple is located on the border between the City of London and the City of Westminster on the banks of the River Thames which, in times past, was accessed via Temple Steps to provide an easy transport route for the lawyers to both cities. The Middle Temple site is full of historic and awe-inspiring buildings. Its name derives from the Knights Templar, who had been in possession of the Temple site for over 150 years previously. Unusually, the Temple site is its own legal jurisdiction, is self-governing and owes allegiance to no-one.

The 23 Paviors and guests assembled in the entrance to Middle Temple Hall and were met by their tour guide, June. Participants then climbed stairs up to the gallery looking over Middle Temple Hall. The Hall is one of the finest Elizabethan Halls in London. Construction started in 1562, when Edmund Plowden, a famous law reporter, was Treasurer of the Inn. Work was completed and it was opened in 1570. The Hall is 101 feet long and 41 feet wide, and is spanned by a magnificent double hammer-beam roof. The stained glass is all original, and is one of the largest collections of 16th century stained glass in existence. The glass was removed during the Second World War, which was fortunate as the Hall suffered extensive bomb-damage in 1940.

The Paviors’ group were then shown the Queen’s Room, which was named after Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who was the Royal Bencher until her death in 2002. Next door is the Parliament Room, which contains a wonderful painting of the Judgement of Solomon. The final ante-room visited was the Prince’s Room, named after the current Royal Bencher. The group then retired to the main hall for an excellent lunch. The Paviors dined under portraits of King Charles I and II, King James I and II, and Queen Elizabeth I, plus plaques recording all of the Inn’s Treasurers since its foundation. The group viewed the top-table, made from 29-foot planks of oak cut from a tree in Windsor Forest, which was reputedly a gift from Elizabeth I. Generations of royalty have dined on this table, as did Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night received its first recorded performance in the Hall at the Feast of Candlemas in 1602.

The tour was arranged by Julia Lofthouse of the Paviors’ Liverymen’s Committee, who is to be thanked for arranging such a fascinating visit.