Friday, 15 July 2016

Middle Temple Library

My class outside Middle Temple Church
Photo credit to Dr Welsh

It’s kinda impossible for me to summarize the library itself before I talk about what I really want to: the absolutely beautiful architecture! I literally gasped when we walked through the doors to the library and the Princes Room. It’s so pretty! (And I’m pretty sure the walls are the same colour as my bedroom, haha)

The Prince’s Room, named after honorary member Prince William, was formerly the benchers smoking room.

The hall was built in 1570, after the treasurer at the time talked members of the inn to fund it. It has a double hammer beam ceiling, one of four in the world. It’s the largest example of that type of ceiling, and it’s also the largest of all of the inn’s halls. It’s currently used for dining, ceremonies (including weddings), and other inn functions. On the walls are the coats of arms of the readers. The bench we stood next to was donated by Elizabeth I!

During WWII, a bomb hit near the building, and destroyed the screen, though it was rebuilt after the war. Thankfully, the stained glass windows were removed before the bomb hit, and were saved.

Middle Temple is one of four inns of court, and their focus is on European Union and United States law, as well as ecclesiastical law. Because of this tie, the current U.S. ambassador is an honorary member. Five of the members of Middle Temple were signers of the Declaration of Independence, and seven signed the U.S. Constitution! A lot of pictures were taken of a copy of a lithograph The current library was founded in the 1640s, though it may be older, as books have gone missing. They have three globes on display – two are a unique pair of a standard globe featuring landmasses, etc., and a celestial globe. While there are others in existence of these two globes, this is the only pair in the world.

The floor holds only current editions of books and journals. English law is based on precedence, so 
all past editions are kept in storage just in case they become relevant in a court case.

Interestingly enough, Middle Temple has a Shakespeare connection: the Twelfth Night was performed in the hall, and is possibly mentioned in Henry VI. 

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