The Temple Church in London – History, Architecture, Art

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The Temple Church in London – History, Architecture, Art

 Edited by Robin Griffith-Jones and David Park

Publisher: Boydell Press

First published 2010

Paperback edition Nov 2017

Price £19.99

It is impressive to allot 219 pages to a single church – the Temple Church – which has stood between Fleet Street and the River Thames hard by the Inns of Court, London, since the late 12th century.

It was built by the Knights Templar as their London headquarters and is characterised by having a round nave modelled on the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and because of that a favourite choice of the Templars for their churches.

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The Templar Churches round nave beloved of its makers.

The book is a collection of nine essays by academics from the universities of London, Oxford, Leicester, Cardiff, York, and Santa Cruz in California. With a chapter each, they trace the evolution of this remarkable church which boasts among other treasures an important collection of 13th-14th century stone effigies.

Not surprisingly the church, one of the most important medieval churches in London, has been changed, rebuilt in parts, adapted and refurbished over time, including work by Sir Christopher Wren reflecting changes in the perception of the church’s significance in the 18th century.

It underwent a major overhaul in the 1840s. Then came the bombing of May 1941 and the devastating fire that ensued, making extensive re build and restoration necessary.

The 109 black and white photographs are interesting, particularly a group taken in 1885 taken by the architectural photographers Bedford Lemere, which give some idea of what the church looked like in high Victorian times.

The fact that the book sprang from a conference experts on the Temple church held at the Courtauld Institute explains why it is shaped as it is with versions of the papers presented at the symposium.

6. Military effigies x 4 since 1842, photos by Bedford Lemere, c.1885

Some of the Templar Church’s 13th-14th century Knight effigies.

Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the Temple at the Temple Church and David Park professor, Courtauld Institute of Art, are the book’s editors and they also contribute a chapter apiece. The books was partly inspired by the fact that Temple Church has not attracted much literary or scholarly attention to date, despite its importance.

This is a book for church and church architecture scholars, there is not much ‘popular’ about it with its ample detail and extensive foot notes. There is little orienteering for the ordinary reader but there is a welcome summary at the very start of the book.

However, the lay person interested in the church itself, ancient London churches, the Templars, Wren, Victorian refurbishment and the Blitz – should find it  full of information and interest with the text greatly enhanced by a generous number of colour and black and white photograph.


Hilaire Gomer



A Living Tradition

In a special guest post, Sarah Harrison, Executive Director of the Lettering Arts Centre, writes about how Britain’s tradition of memorial art and letter-carving is being kept alive.

As W.H. Auden wrote, “art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.” And the art of the memorial, with its powers to help assuage the sense of loss, is perhaps the most important way in which one generation can break bread with another.

Britain has an extraordinary tradition of memorial art and letter-carving and has been a pioneer of fine lettering for much of the last three centuries. The ancient art of the stone carver continues to be passed down to contemporary artists, who are designing and making joyful, creative memorials. Memorials by Artists is an affiliation of more than 75 of the UK’s foremost letter carvers under the auspices of the Lettering & Commemorative Arts Trust, a charity which champions Britain’s rich heritage in the art of lettering.  Founded in 1988 to help with the commissioning of beautifully lettered memorials, they guide clients to skilled artists across the UK who can design and create a memorial that is personal, unique and a work of art.

The skills of the master letter carver raise what can be a drab, semi-industrial product to the level of art. No machine can match the subtlety of the trained hand and eye in making the slight adjustments in spacing which bring an inscription to life. It is a form of ‘visual poetry’ as Dr Jonathan Foyle wrote in his article on letter carving in The Financial Times.

Every aspect of the memorial, the shape of the stone, the style and spacing of the inscription, the decoration and carving are elements which work together to make a single statement, at the heart of which is the inscription itself.

Reinvigorated by craftsmen

The skills required for letter carving are hard won – the design, drawing and layout of letters take years to master. The UK has led the world in this craft in the past century, since it was reinvigorated by craftsmen like Eric Gill (pictured below) under the influence of the calligrapher Edward Johnston. The artists on the Memorials by Artists register are rigorously selected, submitting their work to a panel of distinguished experts so that only the most talented are listed.  The advisors at the Lettering Arts Trust are familiar with all the artists’ works, so that they can match client with artist.


Once an artist has been selected, client and artist collaborate closely, often using photographs, favourite texts and reminiscences to inform the design of the memorial. One of the most important skills an experienced artist offers, is the ability to help the client whittle down the layers of memories to find the most important elements to inspire and inform the design.  This process should not be rushed and the best artists demonstrate enormous patience and sympathy. Over the ensuing months, clients will often visit the studio to see how the memorial is progressing. When it is completed, the finished work will be professionally installed at its chosen site.  This gentle and intimate process; the empathy between the artist and the client; the completion and installation help to bridge the emotional journey from grief to commemoration.

As one client wrote of her experience commissioning a memorial, “The artist’s workshop was a revelation, and I was able to take my time. I was immediately aware of the great quality of the artist’s work and his wide range of approaches, choice of material and use of lettering. Every time I visit my husband’s grave I feel happy – happy memories of getting him a headstone I love, and he would have loved and happy memories of the whole experience, that took part at the lowest time in my life.”

The Great War

Not all memorials are traditional headstones.  One family commissioned a memorial bench for their garden to commemorate family members who lost their lives in the Great War. They wrote to the artist, “I don’t know how to thank for your brilliance in producing such a magnificent memorial to the children’s forebears.  The seat and your matchless stone-cutting are things of real beauty which, God willing, the children and the generations that follow them will admire and wonder over.  Thank you so very much.”

To commission a memorial, please visit email telephone 01728 688 934

To find out more about the work of the Lettering Arts Trust, its programme of lettering exhibitions and education, please visit The charity is a custodian of the ‘Art & Memory’ collection, a permanent collection of contemporary memorial art in five major sites – Birmingham, Bristol, Perthshire, Canterbury and Suffolk, the home of the Trust.



The future of the Heritage Lottery Fund

A Government review is examining the roles and responsibilities of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF).

In recent years, HLF funding has helped many places of worship in the UK. The HLF has an annual budget of around £370m and all of their main funding streams are open to churches. Full details of their funding streams can be found here.

With a £16 million budget in 2017, the HLF’s Grants for Places of Worship funds urgent structural repairs to Grade I, II* and II listed places of worship in England, with similar programmes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Heritage organisations, and members of the public, can take part in the consultation by  completing an online survey. You can access the press release and online consultation here. There are quite a few questions, and in case you wish to plan in advance  the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance have created a pdf of all the questions – for organisations or for individuals. The closing date is Thursday 6 April.


You can also tell us your views about the HLF and its role in helping churches and chapels by emailing us at

And you can also take part in our own poll below.

Funding and support for the arts and heritage outside London

The Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport has published Countries of Culture: Funding and support for the arts outside London.

Recommendations relating to heritage include:

  • An awareness-raising campaign led by DCMS to ensure that all arts and heritage organisations which qualify for charity status and benefits see themselves as charities;
  • Grants to DCMS directly-funded institutions, National Portfolio Organisations and Major Partner Museums, and Heritage Lottery Funding recipients should be conditional upon them sharing best practice with local cultural organisations to improve their skills in revenue generation; and
  • DCMS should develop more case studies to showcase innovation in revenue generation, across the arts and heritage sectors, which may be able to learn from each other, and make this available across the sector.

More details

The Future of 3D in Churches and Heritage


In a guest post, Jacob Scott, who is part of the Events and Services Team at Rochester Cathedral, writes about new ways of exploring the heritage of churches using 3D modelling.

Our churches, cathedrals and other heritage sites of all shapes and sizes are full of beauty and intrigue, yet it is often obvious even to the casual observer that either by design, destruction or due to the ravages of time the vast bulk of what could have been seen at these places has been lost. Virtual reconstruction has given our imaginations a limitless canvas allowing archaeologists to tell the stories of sites through centuries or even millennia.

Reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon Cathedral at Rochester c. 700 AD (ctrl + mouse click to zoom).

Three-dimensional modelling of complex and unique buildings from scratch, however, remains time consuming and, thus, expensive. Photogrammetry, a process whereby a computer uses multiple two-dimensional photographs of an object taken from different angles to create a three-dimensional model, provides an opportunity for creating detailed models quickly and accurately. It has seen use in surveying for decades, but the formidable computing requirements have until recently limited its use to large commercial or academic outfits. Over the last few years however, photogrammetric software has been developed for ever improving consumer-end PCs and now even smartphones. This relatively simple process allows the creation of detailed models taking little more time than it takes the capture the photos required; which when uploaded to the internet can be viewed by a global audience. Models can also be viewed with newly released virtual-reality headsets, as well on visitor’s smartphones or tablets.

Tomb in north aisle, All Saints Church, Ulcombe.

Heritage4D uses photogrammetry alongside ‘manual’ virtual modelling techniques to aid interpretation of historical sites and archaeological data, publishing models and media from around the UK and overseas. Being based at Rochester Cathedral in Kent has allowed the construction of several thousand models over the last year from dozens of sites and several archaeological excavations (; where every minute detail of a trench could prove useful in future analysis yet is almost always re-covered or obliterated during the course of a dig.

Baptismal Font, All Saints Church, Ulcombe.

All Saints in Ulcombe, Kent; a beautiful 12th century church containing a collection of fantastically preserved medieval wall paintings, misericords and many other features, provided a perfect opportunity to model Heritage4D’s first church. Churches offer the opportunity to create model databases across hundreds of buildings and thousands of collections. Publication of 3D models that are titled, tagged and described can greatly increase the exposure of the church online, with names of graves and tombs available for genealogy queries on search engines.

Carving of wooden misericord, All Saints Church, Ulcombe.

We are still in the earliest of days, where almost everything that can be modelled has not been. As with the early days of two-dimensional photography in the 19th century, every model that is created can serve as a valuable reference for the future; sometimes the earliest visual record of an artefact or feature. Already we have modelled artefacts and features that have since been destroyed or covered, either through excavation or development. All too often in the heritage field it can feel that we’re in a race against time; photogrammetry offers us another tool with which to appreciate and conserve our heritage.

For more information visit or contact Jacob Scott, email:

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