Middle Temple

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Image:Middle Temple by Thomas Shepherd c.1830.jpg
Part of Middle Temple c.1830 as drawn by Thomas Shepherd. The hall is beneath the cupola.
Middle Temple Library, 1892, by Herbert Railton
Combined coat of arms of the four Inns of Court. The Middle Temple's arms are at top right

The Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English bar as barristers. (The others are the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn.) It is near the Royal Courts of Justice, within the City of London.

In the 13th century, the Inns of Court originated as hostels and schools for student lawyers. The Middle Temple is the western part of "The Temple", the headquarters of the Knights Templar until they were dissolved in 1312; the awe-inspiring Temple Church still stands as a Royal Peculiar church of the Inner and Middle Temples. There has never been an "Outer Temple", apart from a modern office block of that name - an order of 1337 refers to repairing the lane "through the middle of the Court of the Temple", which became known as Middle Temple Lane and probably gave its name to the Inn.

Middle Temple Hall is at the heart of the Inn, and the Inn's student barristers are required to dine there, followed by lectures or debates, for a minimum number of nights for several terms. However there is a long tradition of fun and drinking: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night was first presented here, and in the Christmas celebrations, judges, barristers and students have played tricks on each other for centuries.

The Inns stopped being responsible for legal education in 1852, although they continue to provide supplementary training. Most of the Inn is occupied by barristers' offices, known as "chambers". One of the Middle Temple's main functions now is to provide support for new members to the profession. This is done through the provisions of scholarships (£1 million in 2005), subsidised accommodation both in the Temple and in Clapham, and by providing events where junior members may meet their more senior colleagues for help and advice.

In 2004, the Inn's team won the World Universities Debating Championship.

Middle Temple Hall is also a popular venue for banqueting, weddings, receptions and parties. In recent years it has become a much-used film location - the cobbled streets, historic buildings and gas lighting give it a unique atmosphere.

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Middle Temple

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