Temple Bar has finally returned to the City of London. In the December meeting of the Court of Common Council in 2001, the Corporation of London agreed to fund the return of Temple Bar to the City of London. At a cost of just over £3.0m - funded by the Corporation along with donations from the Temple Bar Trust and several Livery Companies - the reconstruction of Temple Bar on a site next to St Paul's Cathedral was completed in November 2004.
Both ancient monument consent for the removal of the arch from Theobalds Park, and planning consent for the re-erection in Paternoster Square were necessary. The arch previously owned by the Temple Bar Trust was donated to the Corporation of London. In its new position adjacent to the north west Tower of St Paul’s Cathedral, it forms a pedestrian gateway into the redeveloped Paternoster Square.
The stonework needed a considerable amount of conservation and restoration work which was carried out by a specialist contractor, the Cathedral Works Organisation.
It was originally adorned with four royal statues (Charles I, Charles II, James I and Anne of Denmark) carved by John Bushnell and these have now been restored and returned to the four niches on the main elevations of Temple Bar.
In addition new statues depicting the Royal Beasts, City Supporters and associated Coats of Arms (cartouches) were carved by Tim Crawley of Fairhaven of Anglesey Abbey. These replace the original statues which were lost after Temple Bar was removed from Fleet Street in the nineteenth century.
Click here to see the Temple Bar site charting the move.
With the completion of Temple Bar, a unique part of the City’s history will have returned from obscurity. Whilst the monument still retains the distressed character reflecting its age and past history, English Heritage saw the project as having provided a “unique” opportunity for the conservation of an ancient monument in the heart of the City of London in as near an original condition as possible. It was possible to retain over 95% of the original stonework.
When the boundaries of the City of London were more defined than they are today, Temple Bar was one of the entrances or gates through which people and traffic had to pass. It originally stood where Fleet Street now meets the Strand, which was actually outside the London boundary wall. A bar is first mentioned in 1293, at which time it was probably no more than a chain (or bar) between wooden posts.
Its name derives from the fact that it was next to the Temple law courts. It is the only surviving gateway to the City of the original eight because, when it was removed to ease the flow of traffic, it was taken away and re-erected in Hertfordshire. The other gateways, Aldgate, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, Ludgate, Moorgate and Newgate, were all demolished before the end of the eighteenth century.
Although there was some kind of gate at the site from very early times, the surviving structure is the imposing Portland stone arch completed in 1672 and reputedly designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The Temple Bar ceremony, which is still occasionally re-enacted at a monument to the Bar, involves the monarch stopping to request permission to enter the City and the Lord Mayor presenting the Sword of State as a sign of loyalty.
As well as being featured in ceremonies and processions, Temple Bar has many gory tales to tell. It was often used to display, using spikes, the heads and other body parts of traitors who had been executed. It must have been a chilling sight to people passing under the arch and the last heads exhibited in this way were those of participants in the rebellion of 1745.
Eventually, in the nineteenth century, the arch became a cause of traffic congestion and was expensive to maintain, so it was taken down in January 1878. The Corporation ensured that each stone was numbered and put into storage until it could be re-erected somewhere else. In 1880 Sir Henry Meux, the brewer, bought the stones and made use of the Temple Bar as a gateway to his park and mansion at Theobalds Park, between Enfield and Cheshunt. It was erected in 1889. The mansion is now used as part of a conference centre and Temple Bar stood there alone and unused, surrounded by woods and grass.
The Temple Bar Trust had been established in 1976 with the intention of returning Temple Bar to the City of London. The Trust was established by the late Hugh Wontner GBE CVO, Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1974. The Trustees are drawn from members of the Corporation of London together with others involved in the preservation of the nation’s architectural heritage. In 1984 the Temple Bar Trust became owner of Temple Bar and permission was granted for the removal of the Bar from Theobalds Park to Paternoster Square, adjacent to St Paul’s Cathedral.
The journey to return it to the City of London started in the summer of 2003.
On 10 November 2004 Alderman Robert Finch, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, officially returned Temple Bar to the City of London. Accompanied by the Sheriffs and Members of the Court of Common Council, he unveiled a plaque before officially pushing open the gates of Temple Bar, weighing just over 1.2 tons each, helped by 14 of the stone masons who have worked on the project over the last 14 months.
The Lord Mayor said: “It is fitting that the Bar should be placed here as a symbol of London’s history together with its modern role. I hope that Temple Bar will continue to bring pleasure to visitors and to act as a symbol of the City’s welcome to the world for the centuries to come.”