Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Middle Temple Definition:

One of four Inns of the Court, self-regulating associations of barristers in England and Wales.

Related Terms: Inns of Court, Gray's Inn, Inner Temple, Lincoln's Inn, Chancery Lane, Inns of Chancery

Formally, the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple.

With the legal and law school education of students for the Bar now vested in universities, the role and relative importance of the Middle Temple in the profession and practise of law in the United Kingdom, has changed.

According to the website of the Middle Temple (circa 2012):

"Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court which have the exclusive right to Call men and women to the Bar, i.e. to admit those who have fulfilled the necessary qualifications to the degree of Barrister-at-Law, which entitles them, after a period of pupillage (vocational training) either to practise as independent advocates in the Courts of England and Wales or to take employment in government or local government service, industry, commerce or finance.

"The Inn is comprised of student, barrister and Bench members. The Inn is governed by the Masters of the Bench who are usually senior members of the judiciary or Queen's Counsel. The Head of the Inn is the Treasurer."

Middle Temple armsRecords dated 1388 (the Year Book of Richard II) refer to the "Middle Temple", which is believed to have existed as a separate secular monastery teaching barristers and lawyers in London circa 1290.

Although a hotly disputed fact, the Middle Temple appears to have been the original Inn of the Courts. The Inner Temple was formed in about 1322 from the deepest parts of the old Temple, hence Inner Temple.

The Middle Temple has perpetuated the heraldic symbol of the Knights Templar by using the Agnus Dei symbol, a sacrificial lamb holding the banner of innocence set in a red cross on a saintly white background. The doors and borders of the Middle Temple are generally marked by this symbol, as those belonging to the Inner Temple are marked with the Pegasus.

In 1381, the rebellion of Wat Tyler reached the outer gates of the Middle Temple. The Temple rooms were pillaged and priceless law books and the earliest records of the Inns of Court burned.

In 1562, the lawyers built the Middle Temple Hall which was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth I in 1576. Over time, the Middle Temple amassed a world-famous collection of silver.

In 1774, this anonymous poem was published:

As by the Templars' hold you go
the horse and lamb displayed
in emblematic figures show
The merits of their trade.

That clients may infer from thence
how just is their profession
the lamb sets forth their innocence
The horse their expedition

Oh happy Britons, happy Isle!
Let foreign nations say
"Where you get justice without guile,
and law without delay"

Famous alumni: William Blackstone, Edmund Plowden, Justice James Dyer, Justice Edmund Saunders, Charles Dickens, Henry Fielding and Kind Edward VII, a student in 1861.

REFERENCES:

  • Daniell, Timothy, A Literary Excursion to the Inns of Court in London (London: Wildy & Sons, 1971)
  • Headlam, Cecil, The Inns of Court (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1909)
  • Ingpen, A. R., "The Middle Temple", published in The Inns of Court and of Chancery (London: McMillan and Co., 1912), page 126-127
  • middletemple.org.uk

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