Thursday, 1 August 2013

Temples and Towers

Day 27:

Our group started today at the Middle Temple Library, which is a law library at one of the four main Inns of Court (legal groups) in London. The four Inns of Court (Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Lincoln's Inn, and Gray's Inn) share material because each has a different legal focus.  The Middle Temple Library first began when Robert Ashley donated his personal collection, including mostly non-legal books in 1641.  In the 18th century, the teaching of the law slowed down, but by the 19th century there was a resurgence of legal studies.  The library was built in 1861, but it was bombed twice during World War II.  In 1958, the current building was designed by Edward Maufe, who used reinforced concrete because he was afraid of bombings.  He also included offices for librarians, which was a progressive for the times.

The library collections include English Law (which is quite a large portion of the collection since they have to keep everything because English law is based on precedent), European Union, American Law (much of which was donated by the Carnegie Foundation), and African and Indian Law.  The collection also includes material on Insurances, Tax, and Eccelesiastical Law.

The library has a few items that are of particular interest to visitors.  They have portraits of all of the British Prime Ministers that were donated in the 1970s.  They have the Molyneux Globes, which are the earliest globes made in England.  They are made of paper-mache' and have sand inside to weigh them down and keep them in place.

Molyneux Globes (sorry about the reflections on the glass cases)

The third-floor American Law section was dedicated in honor of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, VA.  The Middle Temple has had a close relationship with the United States since the 18th century, even after the American Revolution.  Even today, they maintain a close rapport with American law schools such as Pepperdine University.  Part of the relationship was built on the Middle Temple's investments in the Virginia Company (both monetary and personnel) during the 17th century.  There were even members of the Middle Temple who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Lithograph of Declaration of Independence
The five signatures with a red star indicate Middle Temple members.

 We also got to see the bench apartments, which are the rooms where the benchers and barristers relax and socialize.  Benchers are people who hold honorary positions because they have achieved certain accomplishments.  Prince William and Queen Elizabeth are two of the Middle Temple's royal benchers, and they have special rooms named after them.  Originally, the members of the inns of court lived in the "chambers" at the inns.

Queen's Room--the ceiling and the rug mirror each other

The Queen's Room

The Prince's Room

In the hallway between the bench apartments, there is a wall of coats of arms.  The coats of arms belong to the readers who come to the Temple. 

Middle Temple Hall was built in 1570 by Edmund Ploughdon and serves as the Temple's dining hall, theater, performance area, and meeting place.  It has a double hammer beam roof, which is extremely rare.  The head table is made of four beams of oak that were floated down the Thames River from Richmond.  It matches the rest of the wood in the room, which is also all oak.  This room was the scene of the first performance of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in 1602.

Middle Temple Hall

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Following our visit to the law library, our class headed to the Old Bank of England Pub for lunch.  The pub is the site of Sweeney Todd's barbershop and his mistress's pie shop.  They offer traditional English pub fare, and I tried the steak and venison pie which was delightful!

After lunch, a few of us headed to the Tower of London to continue our sight-seeing for the day.  We started out with a Beefeater tour, but we broke away because the group was too big for us to really hear the tour guide.  Seeing all of the towers, the ravens, the armor, and the information about the menagerie was really interesting.  I have always been fascinated by castles (I even did a project in middle school about castles), so I enjoyed being able to explore one in person.  Here are some pictures from our day.

Tower of London
View from the Moat

The White Tower
Beefeater Guard

Armor of King James I and his horse

Tower Bridge

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