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Gardens of Middle Temple * (including Fountain Court, Elm Court, Pump Court, Church Court, Brick Court, New Court) City of London

Summary

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple is 1 of the 4 Inns of Court, along with Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. It is possible that there have been gardens since the Knights Templar established themselves here in c.1160. Leased to students of the law since the C14th, in 1608 the land was granted by a Charter of James I to the Benchers of the Inner and Middle Temple. By the mid C15th the buildings and gardens had been separated into the Inner and the Middle Temple although formal division took place in 1732. Middle Temple's gardens and buildings were reworked in mid-late C17th when the gardens were enclosed by brick wall. They included a Benchers' Garden, terrace south of the Hall and the main Lower Garden below the terrace. In 1681-82 Fountain Court was formed; 2 mulberry trees were planted here in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee. The main garden today is little changed from 1870s when Victoria Embankment was constructed and doubled the area of the garden. Elm Court has a small formal garden with fountain; and Hare Court has Mediterranean-style planting.

Basic Details

Site location:
The Temple, Middle Temple Lane, Victoria Embankment

Postcode:
EC4Y 9AT ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Institutional Grounds

Date(s):
medieval; C17th, C19th & C20th

Designer(s):

Listed structures:
LBI: Middle Temple Hall; Middle Temple Gatehouse; Gateway to New Court from Devereux Court. LBII: Lodge at Victoria Embankment Gateway; Fountain basin in Fountain Court; pair of lamp standards in New Court

Borough:
City of London

Site ownership:
The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple

Site management:
The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple

Open to public?
Yes

Opening times:
Private but with public access. Middle Temple Garden May-Sept: Mon-Fri 12.30-3pm (check website)
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 18 times, most recently in 2017.

Special conditions:

Facilities:

Events:

Public transport:
Tube: Blackfriars/Temple (District, Circle). Bus: 11, 15, 23, 26, 76, 172, 341.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.middletemple.org.uk

Further Information

Grid ref:
TQ311809

Size in hectares:
MT: 0.484; FC: 0.198

Green Flag:
Yes

On EH National Register :
Yes

EH grade:
Grade II

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
No

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:
Yes

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
No

In Conservation Area:
Yes

Conservation Area name:
Temples

Tree Preservation Order:
Yes (Fountain Court)

Nature Conservation Area:
No

Green Belt:
No

Metropolitan Open Land:
No

Special Policy Area:
Yes - Thames Policy Area/St Paul Heights Policy Area (part)

Other LA designation:
Monument Views and Setting (part)

Gardens of Middle Temple * (including Fountain Court, Elm Court, Pump Court, Church Court, Brick Court, New Court)

Gardens of Middle Temple, June 2008. Photo: S Williams

Click photo to enlarge.

Album

Fuller information

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

The Honourable Societies of the Inner Temple and of the Middle Temple are two of the four Inns of Court, along with The Honourable Societies of Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn (q.q.v.). Note: on EH Register these are now two separate sites: Middle Temple and Inner Temple. It is possible that gardens have been on this site since the Knights Templar established themselves here in c1160 when they moved from Holborn but Temple Church (q.v.) is only surviving building from that time. In the C14th the property was leased to students of the law by the Knights of the Order of St John, who had succeeded to the property by order of Parliament in 1324 after the Knights Templar were suppressed by the Pope. Middle Temple Hall dates from Elizabethan times, begun in 1562 when Edmund Plowden was Treasurer of the Inn, and was central to the life of the Inn. Here Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' was first performed in 1602 and may have been written for this particular audience. In 1608 the Temple land was granted by a Charter of King James I to the Benchers of the Inner and Middle Temple, 'their heirs and assigns for ever, for the habitation and education of the students of law'.

The main open areas surviving from early gardens are those of the Middle Temple and Inner Temple, extending west-east for 240m along the Embankment; Fountain Court to north-west of Middle Temple Garden, and King's Bench Walk to north-east of Inner Temple Garden, this latter used largely as a car park today. Temple buildings were badly bombed in World War II when Lamb Building was lost, its site now Church Court. The present Middle Temple and Inner Temple Gardens both have extensive sweeps of lawn, enclosed to the south by a raised east-west walk, lined by notable mature planes, with railings along the outer boundaries. The gardens were already renowned for their roses in Shakespeare's time and he set the dispute that led to the War of the Roses here (Henry VI Part 1, Act 2). By the mid C15th the Temple buildings and gardens had been separated into the Inner and the Middle Temple although formal division took place later in 1732; the division roughly followed the line which divided the consecrated land to the east (Inner Temple) and the unconsecrated land to the west (Middle Temple). Middle Temple Gardens and buildings were reworked in the mid to late C17th, the gardens enclosed with brick wall in 1640s to preserve them from flooding by the Thames at high tide.

By the late C17th the gardens included the Benchers' Garden on the site of the western portion of the present Fountain Court and extending south and north, the Hall Court to the east, a terrace to south of the Middle Temple Hall and the main garden below the terrace with grass plats and formal rows of trees. In 1681-82 Fountain Court was formed on the north side of Middle Temple Hall, originally paved with Purbeck stone and with a fine central fountain of 1681, trees and walks; a parapet wall overlooked the lower garden. The fountain is reputedly the oldest permanent fountain in London; in Dickens' 'Martin Chuzzlewick', it was here that Ruth Pinch meets John Westlock. Fountain Court has mature planes planted mid-C19th, chestnuts and, near the fountain, two mulberry trees planted in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee, also a reminder of a plantation attributed to James I that had originally been planted closer to the river. It was repaved with flagstones in 1999 replacing an earlier C20th gravel surface.

Middle Temple Garden, formerly called the Lower Garden, is terraced in the north; the last major change came in 1870 when Victoria Embankment was created which doubled the area of the garden and the overall layout shown in OS 1873 remains little altered today. In the southern half of the lawn is a large circular flower bed with sundial of 1719 in the centre, originally further south when there were two circular beds. On this lawn is a statue of a boy holding a book erected in 1930 in memory of Charles Lamb. The lawns are bounded by occasional trees - almond, flowering cherry, ailanthus - and rise northwards to terraced bedding displays below Middle Temple Hall. There is a notable herb garden close to the south of Middle Temple Hall, and a small bed to the west of the Hall contains among other plants the Roses of York and Lancaster. Steps lead up to Fountain Court.

Within the Middle Temple precincts are various courtyards, some of which are landscaped. Elm Court has a formal garden with fountain, and a plaque on the wall referring to Fig Tree Court. Brick Court has a number of trees and Pump Court is paved, and has trees. Church Court, shared by both Inner and Middle Temple, is paved and enclosed with Farrars Building with cloisters to the west. It adjoins the Master's Garden and Temple Church of St Mary (q.v.). The Inner and Middle Temple Gardens were exempted from the provisions of the London Square Preservation Act, 1931 on the undertakings of the Benchers to preserve their Gardens (and Squares) as permanent open spaces.

Sources consulted:

EH: E Cecil, 'London Parks and Gardens', 1907, p261-279; N Pevsner, rev B Cherry, 'London I', 1985, 335, 341; G Taylor, 'Old London Gardens', London, 1953 p28-36; Hatton, 'New Views of London', 1708, p797; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); article in The London Gardener, volume 3 1997-98, p39-48. Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.). See www.middletemple.org.uk

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