London – Temple, Inns of Court and a war leader

Back on the other side of the river we were in search of Temple Church which is just south of the impressive Royal Courts of Justice. This seemed harder to track down than the map suggested. Finally we were directed down a passageway by some scaffolding contractors who were blocking one entrance.

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The church was closed today unfortunately but Greg still wanted to see it. This medieval church was built by the unique order of soldier monks the Knights Templar, founded to protect monks on their way to and from the Holy Land,  Jerusalem in the 12th century. The monks took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The Church is in two parts, the Chancel and the Round Church which as consecrated in 1185 and designed to recall the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, notable for its circular nave. In the Dan Brown book the Di-Vinci Code, the characters believe that the 13th century stone effigies of the Knights in the church are actual tombs, but this is not in fact the case.

We much come back again when the church is open!

The temple is situated in the heart of London’s legal quarter as are two of the four ancient Inns of Court (the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales, which also provide libraries, dining facilities and professional accommodation).

The Inner Temple and Middle Temple are “liberties” of the City of London which means they are within the boundaries of the City, but not subject to its jurisdiction but operate as their own local authorities.

The two Inns occupy the core of the Temple area, where there are numerous Chambers all with the names of the all barristers and their clerk listed outside. (Barristers cannot form partnerships or companies, and are therefore regarded as self-employed sole practitioners. To share costs and expenses, barristers typically operate with each other as “chambers” administered by barrister’s clerks). Middle Temple Hall is a very grand building built between 1562 and 1573 and virtually unchanged, having survived the Great Fire of London and world wars. The first ever performance of Twelfth Night took place here in 1602!

We had more trouble finding our way out of the Temple are, as we found the exit gates of Temple gardens and whole complex appeared to be locked, and being a Saturday there were almost no workers about! The Inns are private property and it was easy to feel we were trespassing rather! Eventually we backtracked and found our way out, catching a number 11 bus past Trafalgar Square and to Westminster.

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Our next destination was Churchill’s war rooms. This secret WW2 bunker and museum shows the story of Winston Churchill and the story of how the war was won. This group of basement offices in Whitehall served as the nerve centre of Britain’s war effort. The complex was occupied by leading government ministers, military strategists and Winston Churchill.

The building was reinforced and adapted to provide meeting rooms during air raids and to house a military information centre based around a “map room”. The war cabinet met here 115 times during the war, and the War Rooms were in use 24 hours a day until 16 August 1945 when the lights were turned off. It opened as a museum in 2005.

It’s a fascinating insight into what it would have been like working with Churchill, who was a workaholic and could be a difficult boss, but stories from the ladies that worked with him, showed how immensely proud people were to have been part of the hugely important work here. The price you paid was the lack of daylight, rather cramped conditions, and still the fear that a direct hit by a bomb could still leave you trapped underground.

Map Room, Churchills War Rooms

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London – Temple, Inns of Court and a war leader

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