The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4
On the spot now occupied by Southampton-buildings. on the south side of , there anciently stood a preceptory of knights templars, called the Old Temple. In the reign of Henry II. when this order had so far emerged from that primitive state of poverty which was indicated by the emblem on their seal of men riding on horse, as to be worth some manors; they purchased all that portion of ground on the banks of the Thames, extending from Whitefriars to , and erected on it a
|large and magnificent edifice, which received the name of the New Temple. Here, from the spaciousness of its halls, parliaments and general councils were frequently held; and here, also, as a place of superior safety, the jewels of the crown were kept, and persons of wealth deposited their treasures.|
On the suppression of the knights templars, in , Edward II., in the year of his reign, granted the Temple and its appurtenances to Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke; but years after he re-granted the premises to his uncle, Thomas, earl of Lancaster, on whose attainder they reverted to the crown. His portion of the Temple property was given for life to Hugh le Despenser, junior, who being attainted of treason, Edward III. the place would have again been in the crown, but the decree of the Great Council of Vienne, in , having made a general grant of the possessions of the Templars to the knights of St. John of Jerusalem, Edward III. was induced to present the Temple to that order; the prior and convent of which conveyed it to a society of lawyers, who emigrated here from , for a rent of per annum.
On the dissolution of the order of the knights hospitallers, in the d of Henry VIII. the Temple reverted to the crown, but was still continued to be held on lease by the law professors till the time of James I., who, by his letters patent, dated at , on the , in his year, granted the whole, by the description of
&c. to sir Julius Caesar, knt. and the treasurers, benchers, and others of this house, and their assigns, for ever,
at the rent of yearly from each society.
At the dissolution of the order of knights templars, that grant of their land which composed the Outer Temple, was bestowed on the canons regular of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, who disposed of them in , to Walter bishop of Exeter, who erected thereon a stately edifice, as a city mansion for himself and his successors, which he called Exeter house. This being afterwards alienated, came to the noble families of Paget and Leicester, and at last to that of Essex. It being afterwards pulled down, was built on its site.
The societies of the Inner and Middle Temple consist each of a treasurer chosen annually, a senior order of barristers called benchers, barristers generally, students, and a variety of inferior officers. The chief executive authority is vested in the treasurer, who has the power of admitting or rejecting students, of accepting or refusing tenants for the chambers; of recovering and paying away all monies; and generally of doing every thing which is of instant necessity, in the direction of the society's affairs. All matters of higher concern, or of a legislative nature, are determined
|in what are called parliaments of the society, which are usually held twice every term. Of old, no student could be called to the bar, before he had been examined as to his learning and abilities by the whole body of benchers, and had performed various grand and petty mootings; but now these ceremonies are dispensed with, and any student who has attended commons for a stated number of terms in the course of years, is entitled to demand a call to the bar. The benchers, however, still retain the power of refusing the call to any student, against whom they may conceive a prejudice, and in some instances are supposed to have exercised this right rather invidiously. At commons, there are degrees of tables, for the benchers, a for barristers, and a for students. Formerly they cut their meat on slices of bread, and drank out of wooden trenchers and green earthen jugs.|
Members of these societies, though required to attend at commons, need not be resident; and many of those by whom the chambers are occupied are solicitors and private gentlemen, who. have no connection with either of the houses.
 On pulling down certain houses, upwards of a century ago, some remains were discovered of this structure, which was of a circular form.