In the middle of Middle Temple stands Temple Church. Like all the other buildings in the area, it is taken care of by the law fraternities, but its roots were once again with the Knights Templar in the 13th and 14th Centuries.
It is a beautiful, light old church, modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It had wonderful stained glass windows and a round vaulted ceiling that made the interior so bright.
The founders of the church were also buried here. Their final resting places still maintained even after 800 years.
The law was also a subplot in the novel Our Mutual Friend, and some of the action was focused on the Temple area. Eugene Wrayburn and his friend Mortimer Lightwood had their chambers here, and it was where school master Bradley Headstone stalked Wrayburn night after night. The gate below leads from the river into Middle Temple.
The Inner and Middle Temples are now filled with law chambers, but there was a time when the area belonged to the Knights Templar, hence the name. Consequently, it’s one of the oldest lanes still existing in London today. In the late afternoon, it’s a peaceful place for a stroll.
The lawyers seemed to all be making a beeline for the Royal Courts of Justice, the equivalent of our Supreme Court, I suppose. It’s a mammoth building that faces Fleet Street, and where Dickens, as a young journalist, used to ply his trade. We didn’t go inside, but I’m sure the inside would be just as grand as the outside.
It seems like most of my posts from London have been about the past. Well, I’m not going to stop now!
Being in London, one 19th Century author’s novels became very real – Mr. Charles Dickens. It hit me every day as I walked through the East End that I was walking the same streets that he, and his characters, walked – Fagin’s Saffron Hill and Bleeding Heart Yard in Little Dorrit is literally around the corner. But I’m not going to linger on the East End in this series of posts, but on the law district of London, which form the core of many of Dickens’s novels, such as Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend.
The first place is Lincoln’s Inn, where the old courts of the Chancery used to be. Below is the ‘new’ hall, built in the 19th Century. The old hall across the way was built in Tudor times and was used for chancery sittings up until then.
The Court of Chancery was the focus of Bleak House. It was where wills were contested and settled – except that cases could last a lifetime, or even several lifetimes – and people literally went insane waiting for a settlement that never came.
On a sunny spring-ish day, all of this bleakness seemed a bit far off, if it weren’t for the fleets of lawyers trundling boxes and folders to court.
There were of course more modern fashions on display. These were 1940’s tweed suits, all prim and proper.
And startlingly classic. They have never completely gone out of style.
And then, there were the designer ball gowns from the 1950’s.
They have also remained in fashion, because they are so wonderful.
One can imagine Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn in this.
The V&A is another one of those overwhelming museums with multiple floors and dozens of galleries. There were some wonderful Tudor and Stuart galleries recreating the lives from that era, but my favourite was the fashion gallery. There were some lovely clothes from the Regency and Victorian eras.
Mr Darcy and Miss Bennet.
A lady’s outfit.
Out for a night on the town clothes.
Mmm, makes me want to watch another Jane Austen period drama.
We’re in the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A for short), which was originally set up (you guessed it) by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to house the decorative arts collection of the realm. Like the British Museum (and the Natural History and the Tate Galleries, to name a few) they are absolutely free to visit.
The museum is housed in a grand old building, and its foyer was lovely to sit in.
Around the corner, we bump into, once again, this lady. This time she is a copy, not the real thing as in the British Museum.
I had a nice view of St Paul’s all the way across the bridge.
I wasn’t the only one heading in that direction.
And here we are.
The very high dome of the Cathedral is certainly a sight. Imagine it back in the old days, in the 17th Century, when there were no other skyscrapers, when it would have towered above all the other buildings in the city, when all around it was filth and poverty. Londoners back then must really have thought that it was a place of God.
There were loads of people out enjoying the sunshine – office workers on lunch breaks, joggers, tourists from all over Europe… and the odd busker taking advantage of the low tide.
The Thames isn’t really busy nowadays, just the odd barge or ferry or cruise boat.
And unlike in medieval times when there was only one bridge across (the infamous London bridge), there are now many ways to cross, even dedicated footbridges like this one.
I took advantage of a warm sunny day in early March, and walked along South Bank from Waterloo Station to St Paul’s. It was a spring-like 14C (a temperature never again reached while we were there, by the way), and it was lovely to walk along the banks of the Thames.