| Extract from The Knights
Templars by C.G. Addison
"The Knights Templars first established the chief house of their order in England, without Holborn Bars, on the South side of thestreet, where Southampton House formerly stood, adjoining to which Southampton Buildings were afterwards erected: and it is stated that about a century and a half ago, part of the ancient chapel annexed to this establishment, of a circular form, and built from Caen stone, was discovered on pulling down some old houses near Southampton Buildings in Chancery Lane. This first house of the Temple, established by Hugh de Payens himself, before his departure from England, on his return to Palestine, was adapted to the wants and necessities of the order in its infant state, when the knights, instead of lingering in the preceptories of Europe, proceeded at once to Palestine, and when all resources of the society were strictly and faithfully forwarded to Jerusalem, to be expended in defence of the faith; but when the order had greatly increased in numbers, power, and wealth, and had somewhat departed from its original purity and simplicity, we find that theknights resident in London beagan to look abroad for a moreextensive and commodius place of habitation. They purchased a large space of ground, extending from the White Friars Westward to Essex House without Temple Bar, and commenced the erection of a convent on a scale of grandeur commensurate with the dignity and importance of the chief house of the great religio-military society of the Temple in Britain. It was called the New Temple, to distinguish it from the original establishment at Holborn, which came thenceforth known as the Old Temple.
Alanus Marcel, Master of the Temple
Temple Church London
|This new Temple was adapted for the residence of numerous military monks and novices, serving brothers, retainers, and domestics. It contained the residence of the superior and of the knights, the cells and apartments of the chaplains and serving bretheren, the council chamber where chapters were held, and the refectory or dining hall, which was connected, by a range of handsome cloisters, with the magnificent church, consecrated by the patriarch. Alongside the river extended a spacious pleasure ground for the recreation of the brethren, who were not permitted to go into the town without the leave of the master. It was used also for military exercises and the training of horses."|
|The Temple church was consecrated on 10 February 1185 by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem. The church was the heart of the Templars site in London and therefore the centre of activity for the whole of Britain. The Templars received a great deal of royal patronage, Henry II was present at the consecration of the church; King Henry III favoured them so much that he wished to be buried in the church. To make ready for this occasion, the choir of the church was pulled down and the far larger one, which we see today was built in its place. This was consecrated on Ascension day 1240 in the presence of the King. However, after he died it was discovered that his will had been altered, and he was accordingly buried in Westminster Abbey.||
Interior of the Round Church
Effigies in the Round Church
|The Master of the Temple in England sat in parliament as the first baron of the realm, (primus baro Angiae). The Templars had and held great influence and power in the kingdom. The preceptory in London was the regular residence of Kings and also the legates of the Pope. This powerful company did not rule the Templars though, they were strong and immovable in their resolve. This was probably one of the reasons for the final downfall of the order in this country. As an example, of their defiance of royal orders; the temple was regularly used by noblemen of the realm as a safety deposit box, or a bank. One such person was Hubert de Burgh, earl of Kent, the chief justiciary, and at one timegovernor of the king and kingdom of England. He stored a great deal of his wealth in the safety of the Temple. It came about that he was disgraced and committed to the Tower. Once under lock and key the king demanded that the unfortunate earls treasure should be turned over to the crown. The Master of the Temple's reply was "money confided to them in trustthey would deliver to no man without the permission of him who had intrusted it to be kept in the Temple." The king did not resort to force to remove it from the Temple. Instead he "persuaded" Hubert to sign it over to the crown. It was a sign of the strength of the Templars that the Master would stand up to the king in such a way.|
Following the dissolution of the Templars, the London preceptory was takenm over by King Edward II. It then passed into the hands of the Knights Hospitaller. The Knights Hospitaller in turn rented the property to the two colleges of lawyers in the city, who came to be known as the Inner and Middle Temples. The two colleges shared the use of the chapel and this arrangement continues to this day. In 1540 Henry VIII abolished the Hospitallers and confiscated their property. The Temple returned to Crown hands, Henry provided a priest and he was known as 'Master of the Temple'. The two "Inns of Court" were unhappy about the arrangement with the crown and at the end of the 16th century petitioned the king to make their arrangements more permanent. On the 13th of August 1608 King James I granted a Royal Charter giving them use of the Temple in perpetuity. One condition of this was that the Inns must maintain the church. The Temple and the Church are still governed by that charter. In 1666 after the great fire of London, although undamaged by the fire, the church was restored by Sir Christopher Wren, and an organ introduced into the church for the first time. Further retoration was conducted in Victorian times, 1841, by Smirke & Burton. During WWII in 1941, the Luftwaffe managed to greatly damage the church with incendiary bombs. A picture painted the morning after, now hangs in the church porch, a reminder of the tragedy that befell this great church. Retsoration took a long time to complete and the church was re dedicated in March 1954. One of the results of the restoration was the return of the Wren reredos which were removed from the building during the Victorian restorations, and taken to Bowes Museum in Couty Durham.
Today the church stands surrounded by large buildings and is not visible from the road. The proximity of other buildings makes a good external picture difficult to get and the interior quite dark. The church is open daily as far as I know and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. The feel of the place is very stark and church of England. It is immaculate and has none of the charm and intrigue of other Templar churches. This is a result of the constant restorations, inevitable due to its location and history. Anything incongruous was erased years ago. I would have loved to have visited this building before Wren got his hands on it. The best thing about the church is the fact that you can actually stand inside a Templar round church and imagine what it was perhaps like in its heyday. Experience the size, and soak up what little atmosphere is left. The floor of the round part of the church is "decorated" with the effigies of benefactors that are buried in the church. The drawings above left is of these tomb lids.
The pictures I have of this site are poor. I hope to upgrade as and when possible. If you have any good shots you would like to share please send them to me.
The Knights Templars - C.G. Addison (well out of print, printed around 1840)
Temple Church - Pitkin Guides - available mail order - Pitkins Guides, Healey House, Dene Road, Andover, Hampshire, SP10 2AA, UK.
Temple Church Pictures by Simon Brighton
Click on the link above to see a set of fantastic pictures from site contributor Simon Brighton.