Bits Of London That Moved: Temple Bar




Quite a few bits of London aren’t how they once looked and are in the wrong place. We do it to confuse visitors. One that I’m glad is back is Temple Bar. It was one of the original ceremonial gateways to the City of London, used for grand parades into the city; there had been eight gates once, as follows;

p042Aldgate, leading to Colchester and Essex, Bishopsgate, leading to Shoreditch and Cambridge, Moorgate, a Roman postern turned into a gate in 1415, leading to the Moorfields (marshes), Cripplegate, leading to the village of Islington, Aldersgate, leading to St. Barts, Smithfield Market and Charterhouse, Newgate, leading towards Oxford and the west, and Ludgate, leading to Bath and the South West.

And Temple Bar, the only one left. It’s supposed to have been built by Wren, and once displayed the heads of traitors on spikes. Perhaps we could revive that tradition, starting with the Quisling Mr Nigel Farage. The term Temple Bar refers to a notional bar, chain or any barrier across the route, but was applied to this gate.

Its name derives from the Temple Church to the south. ‘Temple’ is the name given to the area off Fleet Street which once belonged to the Knights Templar. In Bleak House, Chuck Dickens described it as ‘that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation’. There are lots of great stories about people being denied entry, although it was noted that the gate didn’t keep anyone out as you could nip into the city from the barber shop next door.

Temple_Bar,_London,_1878-768x967But the gate itself is now in the wrong place. It had stood where Fleet Street meets the Strand – outside the London boundary, as was – for 200 years before the old road was widened. The original spot has a monument marked with one of the City’s lovely heraldic griffins. For once, though, instead of simply bashing the gate to bits and chucking it away (something that happens to our most treasurable monuments) it was carefully taken apart, the 2,700 parts numbered, and stored.

And there it stayed in boxes for a decade, until Lady Meux, the wife of a brewery owner, fancied bigging herself up to her mates and had the gate rather absurdly installed at her estate in Theobald’s Park, Hertfordshire. The Temple Bar Trust was established to bring back the gate, and it officially returned to the revamped Paternoster Square in 2004. The Bar now heralds visitors into a bleak, bare square that once housed the Square Mile’s bookshops and can only now offer a Starbucks instead.

Never mind, have one of their frankly awful coffees and look at the Temple Bar from where you sit – a real piece of character in Square Mile.


16 comments on “Bits Of London That Moved: Temple Bar”

  1. Jo W says:

    Oh,Chris. I do like to laugh out loud in the mornings, it ‘clears the tubes’ so well. What did it today? The line -‘ We do it to confuse visitors’. 🙂 🙂

  2. Denise Treadwell says:

    If I remember correctly the Queen has stop there to enter the City of London !

  3. admin says:

    It’s bollocks, unfortunately Denise. The old saw that the monarchs must ask permission is appealing but untrue.

  4. SimonB says:

    Must remember to give this a proper look some time. We are down in London next week but planning to be further west.

  5. Brooke says:

    I like the idea of reviving public punishment and display of traitors at Temple Bar– think of it…enjoying a grande latte (ersatz) while contemplating the head of the contemptible. There are so many of them, it could become a weekly outing.

  6. JeffreyP says:

    Although I suppose I am glad Temple Bar is now in Paternoster Square, I used to love walking through the quiet woods just north of Whitewebbs and finding Temple Bar standing lonely and neglected in Theobalds Park. It felt like a new discovery every time, even though i’d seen it many times before.
    Its new location seems somehow too sterile and corporate….the dark woods seemed to reflect its dark past better than a Starbucks window.

  7. Davem says:

    I am surprised that you state Bishopsgate led to Cambridge … surely the wrong direction?

  8. Helen Martin says:

    I have not seen the gate itself but I have seen the marker and very nicely impressive it is. London geography drives me mad the same way as bookkeeping terminology does: if it’s your money it’s a debit – if it feels as if it should be north it’s probably south.

  9. Jan says:

    Is me heading towards even greater confusion or did the Euston arch get retired to Theobalds Park to keep the Temple Bar company? The Euston arch did end up in some palatial park north of the capital.
    Theobalds park was something to do with Tescos wasn’t it? (World Tesco.HQ or something?)

    Didn’t those Griffins at the City boundary end up getting relocated to some GPO building near to the Savoy and subsequently to a BT place up in Hertfordshire? I know it’s a bit scary half remembering this sort of stuff. Lots if it is very confused and faded now but it’s the sort of subject where you keep finding out more…….

  10. Denise Treadwell says:

    I rather like the idea that Her Magesty having to wait for the Lord Mayor of London to escort her into the city!

  11. admin says:

    London’s geographical currency is confusion. The tube is a good example. To go East at Baker Street you first have to walk along a platform going West. To go South from King’s Cross you first have to go West, which is labelled North.

  12. Denise Treadwell says:

    You mustn’t think about it, take a compass!

  13. Denise Treadwell says:

    Happy Valentine’s day by the way!

  14. Jan says:

    This myth about Royalty having to ask permission to enter the city stems from the C of L’s quite unique status. The city is some where “other” not part of the City of Westminster or any other London Borough. It’s unique, a special place on it’s own. An almost medievally governed enclave. A place both if great wealth + a strange status a remnant of a different time which survived because the wealth generated from the growth of the British Empire, through industrialization and the subsequent advances in informational technology plus an incredibly lucky place in the world dictating its primacy in market making has ensured it’s continuing importance.

    There is some evidence that Dr Dee and other sorcerors attempted to cast spells ensuring the continuing importance of London in relation to the recently discovered Americas. It’s interesting stuff a bit barmy but interesting.
    There might be a lot more to the siting of the Prime Meridian than is immediately obvious. I know i always end up saying this but it’s all about place.

  15. Helen Martin says:

    Tesco. We just received an advertising flier pointing out that our local grocery chain is featuring a Tesco aisle for those who really want the British taste.
    We just had the mini series on the effect of slavery on the British economy. Nothing is simple but we always seem to make wrong choices. I had to miss my genealogy class today where I was going to ask what are the odds of finding missing family on the list of slave owners. I don’t think we were ever able to have owned even one (thank goodness).

  16. Ian Luck says:

    Jan, how I wish that the Euston arch had been given a jolly in the country to keep Temple Bar company. Alas! It was quite literally smashed into rubble, and deposited at various sites around London. A TV show about it revealed that some had been found in a watercourse near a housing estate, and I have pictures in books of workmen drilling holes into the stonework, and taking huge hammers to it. A dismaying piece of vandalism indeed, especially when one viewed the egregious mess that replaced the old station.
    I do like the idea of Farage’s head on a pike, although he’d probably still carry the gormless expression on his face that it normally carries. As a nod to Oliver Cromwell, somebody could dig up Thatcher, and put her head up there to keep him company. Two utter bastards together.

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