Farringdon Without History of the Most Interesting Places, Leading Events; and Some Account of the Eminent Men connected therewith, since the year 1600

Francis, Adolphus Decimus


The Temple

Was formerly the residence, containing the mansion and grounds, of the Knight Templars, a body having its origin as follows: After the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, in , the zeal or fanaticism for pilgrimage to the holy shrine, which, by reason of its difficult accomplishment seemed to be invested with double attractions, burst with its smothered intensity, and a fierce desire to visit the East permeated Europe. The cruel and bloody Turcomans, who had long been the scourge of the pilgrims, although expelled Jerusalem, had not been driven from Palestine; there maintaining vast strongholds and impregnable fortresses; from whence they made frequent raids, attacking fiercely the numerous bands of weary and peaceful pilgrims; plundering and murdering all who came within their power. To counteract these barbarities, to protect the saintly honour of the holy virgins and matrons, and the grey hairs of the


devout Palmers, nine knights of noble lineage, of high renown, formed themselves into a devoted band to do battle with the infidels, and aid each other, and all persons in distress. At first without fixed residence, they wandered hither and thither in quest of adventure; and it was not until , " the poor fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ," as they dubbed themselves, having acquired great renown for the services they rendered to Christians and Christianity, that Baldwin, king of Jerusalem, invited them to take up their residence in the sacred precincts of the holy temple on Mount Moriah: hence their name " Templars," or " Knights of the Temple of Solomon." About the year , one Hugh de Payens, who for his extraordinary valour and severe piety was elected "Master of the Templars," visited England to raise money and followers to support their cause and join their continental brethren in this Christian warfare. He was well received by all classes, had grants of land and rich presents given to him on behalf of the Templars, and he enlisted many noble men and doughty knights under their banner, fixing on, as their residence or inn, a magnificent mansion on the south side of Holborn, just without " the bars," and near where now stand Southampton Buildings. Subsequently the order purchased considerable property in land and houses, extending from the west of Whitefriars to the east of Essex House, Essex Street, Strand, being


bounded on the south by the river; and along this extended frontage on the Thames they built their more than regal palaces. In was erected and consecrated the beautiful Temple Church, the most perfect memorial of their order now in existence.

King John was for some time a resident in the Temple, where he took refuge against the coercion of his rebellious subjects, and here the barons compelled him to negociate the terms of Magna Charta; and it is somewhat doubtful if he did not sign the copy of it during this residence. We are told that Henry III. gave a sumptuous entertainment to ambassadors from Castile in the great temple hall, and the king especially ordered the Lord Mayor and sheriffs to escort them thither. The Templars were disbanded about the year by Pope Clement V., the chief cause of their ruin being their unbounded wealth, which was triparted amongst the pope, the king, and the order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, a rival body of military monks, who lived at a mansion north of Smithfield, the entrance being St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell. A portion of their possessions, viz., the Temple proper, was claimed in 1315 by Thomas Earl of Lancaster, and the claim allowed by Edward II. The Earl of Lancaster leased the premises to a company of lawyers, who fixed their abode here; and having once become housed, they managed to retain possession. The lawyers of the Temple were always famed


for plays, masques, and revels; they gave grand entertainments at Christmas, Halloween, Candlemas, and on Ascension Day; and these several periods were kept with great splendour in their hall. Charles II. dined with them in . At each of their fetes a play was performed, and after the play barristers sang songs to the sergeants and judges, who kept up the mirth and jollity of the scene by dancing round the sea-coal fire. It would be a strange sight in these times to see the grave and reverend lawyers tripping it on "the light fantastic toe" in all the stately elegance of a saraband or a minuet. One of the most remarkable entertainments given in the Temple was the Hunt, in which their huntsman entered attired in green velvet and green satin, dragging after him a cat, a fox, a purse net, and nine or ten couple of hounds, the cat and fox being tied at the ends of a staff to be hunted by the dogs amidst the blowing of horns.

Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English poetry, was a student in the Inner Temple, the author of "The Canterbury Tales," a series of poems full of beauty and merit, displaying a knowledge of mankind that ranks with the highest flight of human intellect. Born , died . Middle Temple Lane was formerly a thoroughfare to the river for conveyances, but the lawyers have shut the public out, and claim the inheritance as their sole right. From the Temple to Alsatia, or Sanctuary, seems but a step,


and this was once a privileged place from arrest for debt and small misdemeanours, and was inhabited by bullies, desperadoes, broken tradesmen, extravagant spendthrifts, affidavit men, or knights of the post, bully-cocks, and the refuse of society, who, having infringed and thereby become amenable to law, sought here a refuge from retributive justice; and too frequently found it, until crime growing daring in its enormity beyond endurance, Sanctuary was partially stamped out by the armed heel of power, and Alsatia gave place to law and order. Scott's " Fortunes of Nigel" vividly depicts the scenes that frequently arose in Sanctuary, and disgraced medieval ages.

The boundary of Alsatia on the west was the Temple; on the north, Fleet Street; on the south, the Thames; and on the east, Whitefriars, formerly Water Lane, where stood the monastery of the white-robed Carmelites, an order of mendicants deriving their name from Mount Carmel, in Judea, and practising great austerities; and thus was seen, as it ever is between law and religion, a congregation of the pariahs of society, fed on either side by the upheaving of unworthy members, who, hunted from the one to the other, took refuge in the common haunt of rascaldom. In Shire Lane or Lower Serle Street That stood on the north side of Fleet Street, immediately


contiguous to Temple Bar, and divided the city from the shire, removed to make way for modern improvements, lived Sir Charles Sedly, the contemporary and friend of Rochester, and one of the wittiest of the Court of Charles II.; his poems, though loose in morals, are elegant in diction, and captivating in style; here lived, too, Christopher Kat, the originator of, and at whose house was founded and held, the celebrated club called the Kit Kat, deriving its name from his, although some suggest that the title was taken from Kitten and Cat, and amongst them Pope, who thus apostrophises it:

"Whence deathless Kit Kat took its name,

Few Critics can unriddle;

Some say from pastrycook it came,

And some from Cat and Fiddle.

From no trim beaux its name it boasts,

Grey statesmen, or green wits;

But from the pell mell pack of toasts

Of old Cats and young Kits."

Kat was a pastrycook, famous for mutton pies, which formed a portion of the bill of fare of the dinners given by the club, which consisted of thirty-nine noblemen and gentlemen banded together for the purpose of giving stability to the Protestant succession of the House of Hanover.

Bell Yard was always a famous resort for fishing-tackle makers, as was also