Temple Bar at Paternoster Square

While I am on the subject of Paternoster Square, a few words about the historic structure that dominates it.

Temple Bar was the only one of the ancient gateways to the City of London to survive the demolition of the Roman wall in the eighteenth century. It stood where Fleet Street meets the Strand and served as the principle entrance to the City of London from Westminster. Several gatehouses occupied this spot over the centuries. The Medieval bar, built of timber, was destroyed in the Great Fire and replaced with a new structure designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672. This featured a massive arch of Portland stone decorated with statues of James I and Anne of Denmark on one side, Charles I and Charles II on the other.

Throughout the eighteenth century the heads of traitors were displayed from iron spikes on the main arch, as Dickens described in A Tale of Two Cities. The Wren bar was still standing in Dickens’s lifetime, though the keystones had sunk and the arches were propped up with supports. He complained of it as a “leaden-headed old obstruction” in Bleak House. It was increasingly a bottleneck for traffic. In 1878 the Bar was finally dismantled and replaced by the current Temple Bar Marker. The Wren bar was purchased by Sir Henry Meux, a wealthy brewer, who erected it at his country home in Hertfordshire. Lady Meux entertained her guests, including King Edward VII and Winston Churchill, in the upper room of the gatehouse.

In 1984 the Meux estate returned the Bar to the City of London for the nominal sum of £1 and it was rebuilt at Paternoster Square in 2004.

Temple_Bar_1870
Temple Bar in situ on Fleet Street, circa 1870
Temple Bar at Paternoster Square today

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