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Temple Bar

Temple Bar
  • Temple Bar in Theobalds Park
    Temple Bar before renovations
    In 1880 Sir Henry Meux, bought Temple Bar to use it as a gateway to his park and mansion at Theobalds Park. It is said that Lady Meux entertained many guests in the chamber above the Arch including, Edward VII and Winston Churchill.
  • The Temple Bar Memorial
    Dragon in Fleet Street
    Following the removal of Temple Bar from Fleet Street, in 1880 Horace Jones, a City of London architect, designed a memorial to mark Temple Bar which still stands in front of the Royal Courts of Justice.

Temple Bar is the only surviving gateway to the City of the original eight. The other city gates, Aldgate, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, Ludgate, Moorgate and Newgate, were all demolished by the end of the 18th century.

When the boundaries of the City were more defined than they are today, Temple Bar stood where Fleet Street now meets the Strand. Considered one of the main points to enter the City, it also gave access to that part of London known as Temple, where most legal offices are still situated and from which it gets its name.

Dating from around the 13th century, the early Bar was probably no more than a simple chain across the road, later replaced by a timber gatehouse also including a prison. Badly damaged by the Great Fire of London (1666) a new Temple Bar was built.

Reputedly designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the imposing Portland stone arch was completed in 1672. The new design included niches on either flank of the opening on both sides filled with statues of Queen Anne of Denmark and James I on one side and Charles I and II on the other.

The Bar has featured in many ceremonies and processions and has many gory tales to tell. A row of iron spikes, used to display the heads of traitors throughout the 18th century, stood on top the main arch.

Did you know?

The story goes that during the procession celebrating the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Queen Elizabeth I was met by the Lord Mayor at Temple Bar. He presented her with the keys to the City, and in return, the queen gave him a bejewelled sword.

Still today, during certain ceremonies, it is tradition for the Queen to stop at Temple Bar requesting permission to the Lord Mayor to enter the City. The Lord Mayor, in exchange would present Her with the Sword of State as a sign of loyalty.

In the 19th century, the Bar was removed to allow easier traffic flow and to make room for the new Royal Courts of Justice. It was taken down, brick by brick, each stone was numbered, and it was eventually re-erected at Theobalds Park in Hertfordshire. Lady Meux of Theobalds Park was known to have entertained luminaries such as Edward VII and Winston Churchill in the chamber above the arch.

In 1976 Hugh Wontner, Lord Mayor in 1974, established The Temple Bar Trust with the intention of returning the Bar to the City. The Trustees were drawn from members of the City of London together with others involved in the preservation of the nation's architectural heritage, including several livery companies.

In 1984 the Temple Bar Trust became owner of Temple Bar and permission was granted for the removal of the Bar from Theobalds Park. The reconstruction and restoration was completed in 2004 placing Temple Bar back in the City, in Paternoster Square, near to St Paul's Cathedral.