Hidden away between Fleet Street and The Embankment is a place where time has stood still. The Temple is home to a beautiful ancient church and one of the main legal districts in London. The grand terrace now houses barristers chambers and the cobbled streets adorned with gas lamps creates a real secluded and tranquil space in the heart of the City.
Middle Temple is one of the four ancient Inns of court within this area and boasts one of the finest Elizabethan Halls in London, built in 1570.
Now, I had no idea until recently of the Blue Badge guided tours available to the public of this magnificent building or that lunching in the historic Hall was even an option! My overly eager acceptance of an invite I received to experience both the tour and lunch probably gave away my history geek ways.
Walking into the 101 foot long and 41 foot wide Elizabethan Hall felt like being in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. The striking double hammer-beam roof will take your gaze upwards in awe.
Christmas decorations adorned the hall giving it an extra magical look. I half expected Dumbledore to be sat at the huge High Table, in reality the table was laid for the high benchers of the court. Of course it came with an impressive story too.
Made from 29 foot planks of a single oak and apparently a gift from Elizabeth I to the Middle Temple. The story goes that the tree from Windsor Forest was floated down the Thames and placed in the Hall before the completion of the building due to its sheer size. I couldn’t stop caressing the table in amazement as the guide regaled the story, completely blown away by its antiquity.
The wonderful historical artefacts continued with a rather unassuming if not large table tucked away in the corner. Named the cupboard, it takes centre stage at ceremonies when newly qualified barristers are sworn in. It’s believed to be the hatch cover of Francis Drake’s ship the Golden Hind.
Our guide went on to explain how a dining hall is not its only use. The first performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was held here in 1602. Nowadays you’re more likely to see it being booked for parties, wedding or filming.
The tour continued through to a series of adjoining rooms. Wood panelled and beautifully decorated with walls adorned with portraits of dignitaries.
The King Edward VII Room was being set up for a function as we wandered around. I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the beautiful stained glass window.
In the Queen’s room there’s a plaque on the spot where a Zeppelin delivered bomb pierced the floor. Middle Temple survived the Great Fire of London but was a victim of bombs in both World Wars.
The former members smoking room, is now named the Prince’s Room, in honour of Prince William. One can only imagine the conversations those walls have heard.
Our guide ended the incredibly informative tour back in the hall, which was now in full canteen swing. Granted, not like any canteen I had ever seen. As part of the tour we were invited to dine in the hall with the barristers.
Something else I didn’t realise is anyone can dine on the buffet lunch available in this magnificent hall, as long as you call ahead and book in advance – Just like any other restaurant! And the bonus, you won’t be changed the earth for it. The prices are so reasonable considering your dining in Central London amongst the most incredible historical surroundings?
I tucked into a warming curried parsnip soup for my starter, a wild mushroom, gruyere and pine nut tart with salad for my main, followed by a delicious apple tart. There was also fish and chips and a 32 aged striploin of beef with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and horseradish.
This hidden gem of London is a real find full of charm and character you really do feel like you’re entering a world long past. Tours last an hour and must be pre-booked through the Events Department on 020 7427 4820 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. A minimum number of 10 people are required for a tour which costs £8.00 per person.
Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest of Middle Temple for a complimentary tour and lunch, however, all views, opinions and photos are my own and remain a trademark of the Curious Pixie.
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