The original Temple Bar was one of the ancient gate
s of the City of London
, at the western end where Fleet Street
becomes the Strand
. It is the ceremonial boundary where the Sovereign
enters the City and is greeted by the Lord Mayor
. For most of the last seven hundred years the Bar was an arched building across the street, and one of its uses was to display the heads of traitor
The Temple is the district between Fleet Street and the River Thames, and here after the Knights Templar were dispersed the lawyers of London made their headquarters. Two of the four Inns of Court are now here, called the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. The first mention of the street being closed off by some kind of bar on the north side of the Temple is in 1293.
In 1351 it was replaced by a wooden gateway with three arches, and a prison above it. This survived the Great Fire of London but was in a decayed state, so as part of the rebuilding of the City it was replaced in 1672 by a great Portland stone edifice in Corinthian style, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. This still exists, but not in London, though it is due to return later this year. Traitors' heads atop the Bar were a popular tourist attraction between 1684 and 1746.
By 1878 London traffic was too great to allow such a constriction on the main east-west thoroughfare. On the north side of the Strand the ornate, Neo-Gothic Royal Courts of Justice were being built; and they took the opportunity to carefully dismantle Wren's Temple Bar and store it. It was later bought by Sir Henry and Lady Meux (pronounced "Myooks") and re-erected in 1889 at their home of Theobald's Park (pronounced "Tibbalds") in Hertfordshire (pronounced "Haafadsha"), where it has remained until now. Having been dismantled again, it will soon be rebuilt in London, not near the place called Temple Bar, but in a redeveloped Paternoster Square near St Paul's. (I don't know how we're going to refer to the two separated Temple Bars come November.)
Today the ceremonial gate and bound of the City of London is marked by a tall and ornate pedestal in the centre of the road, with royal statuary in the niches, and topped by a great metal dragon, symbol of London. This Temple Bar Memorial was erected in 1880.
http://www.thetemplebar.info/ --for most of this; and lots of pictures
http://www.photolondon.org.uk/nmr/nmr_temple.htm --for a good photo
http://www.leevalley-online.co.uk/towns/misc/theobalds.htm --for Theobald's Park