At our wedding, the vicar asked us to stop for a moment and consider the wealth of emotion contained within the 11th Century Saxon tower we were standing under. It's probably ridiculously fanciful, but it was one of the most memorable phrases that have stayed with me over the years.
But, with an endless addiction to hedonistic tales of mischief, a rampant imagination cloaked in crinolines and armed with an oyster card to transport me from one side of London to the other, every time that I discover a new curiosity, I can't help but want to visit the buildings that normally keep their secrets behind carefully closed doors.
Last year we finally managed to crack a nut I have been peeking through the iron gates of for the entire time I have lived in London - the ancient heart of English Law: the Middle and Inner Temple Inns. A complex of buildings spanning from the Thames to the Strand/Fleet Street, traditionally the only way to visit the intriguing warren of beautiful buildings and barristers chambers is by specific appointment or invitation to private events. (Of course you could always train and qualify as a barrister, but that's a little extreme to gain entrance to a historic building - even for me.)
I've also learned that the garden of Inner Temple is normally open to the public from 12.30-3.00 each weekday, with access is via the main gate opposite Crown Office Row or you can book a weekday tour of Inner Temple here.
In the middle of the 12th century, the Military Order of the Knights Templar built a round church by the Thames, which became known as the Temple Church (see blog post here). Two centuries later, after the abolition of the Order in 1312, lawyers came to occupy the Temple site and buildings. They formed themselves into two societies, the Inner Temple and Middle Temple, first mentioned by name in a manuscript yearbook of 1388 with the later addition of Lincoln's Inn and Grey's Inn .
So, yeah, just 800 or so years of history (and a statue of Peter Pan for good measure).
The Middle Temple buildings are adorned with the Lamb & Flag, whilst Inner Temple buildings are graced with a Pegasus in flight (thought to derive from a misrepresentation of a broken tile of a knight with shield on horseback in the Temple Church, which was thought to have been a winged horse; in honour of Lord Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth I’s Master of the Horse, who took part in the Christmas revels at the Temple in 1561or from the Templars’ seal which showed two knights with shields on horseback, the two shields resembling wings.)
We wandered through the cobbled lanes that thread between the collection of beautiful buildings wandering into doorways that we fancied. Visiting a library overseen by ancient globes and marble busts, an Elizabethan banquet hall lined with heraldic shields and suits of armour, we admired rooms decorated with ornate plaster representations of the four countries of Great Britain, dodged through the curious crowds and turned our gazes skyward to spot gilded weather vanes.
It was amazing (and one of the joys of being a 'permatourist') and the ironic location of England's Tea Museum so close to one of the first office professions wasn't lost on me.
September is still sort of a long way away but before I know it though, the ninth month of the year - random fact for the day; the word September is late Old English, originating from Latin, from septem ‘seven’ being originally the seventh month of the Roman year. How it feels now pushed later in the monthly pecking order, we'll never know - will be approaching.
So in true London style where everything is organized months in advance or a day before, I've already got a date inked into my calendar. The 17th-18th of September are blocked out for London Open House, a completely free chance to nosey our way into another set of beautiful buildings not normally open to the public. Over the years we have visited a Pink Floyd album cover (Battersea Power Station), the Gothic marvel of St Pancras Stations Clock Tower, climbed to the best view of London's skyline (55 Broadway) and so many more that I still haven't blogged.
Oh the tales this gateway could tell... (One of my favourite stories related to the Inns and by proxy their church is of Lord Stowell, an eighteenth-century barrister who, according to Robin Griffith-Jones - Master of the Temple and head clergyman at the Temple Church, was ‘fantastically good at organising parties. Every year the Christmas party got wildly out of hand and he was disbarred as a punishment, but come October they needed somebody to organise the party so he was invited back again. It took him 15 years to qualify.’)
What is your favourite building?