Above: Modern map showing the original site of Temple Bar, now a monument (in red). While the City boundary has moved over the centuries, the two streets called Strand and Fleet Street have not altered in their positions or boundaries. Today’s Westminster-City boundary is shown (dotted purple line) but is still passes through the site of old Temple Bar.
We are all familiar with the word ‘outlaw’ but do you know its real meaning? In the early days of community life in England — in the days of the Saxons and the Normans — they were times when communities were formulating rules of conduct, based mainly on the 10 Commandments in the Bible. If someone had committed a murder and had then run away from the community, that person could not be brought to trial. In cities like London, every street leading into the countryside had a marker beside it where it was considered that the city ended and the countryside began. If the person who was being accused of a crime, that person only had to leave the city and cross the boundary to escape justice. City officials had no power to punish someone who was ‘outside’ the city boundary. The offender was said to be ‘outside the law’ or an ‘outlaw’.
So that everyone in a city knew where the boundary was, posts were erected either side of every road and were known as ‘bars’. As time continued, many of the bars were replaced by archways with gates as well.
Temple Bar derives it name from being a ‘bar’ across the join of Fleet Street and Strand. Because on the south side of the roadway was The Temple, it was known as ’Temple Bar’. By the 16th century a large gateway, with large gates, was erected across the roadway. It is shown on the Agas map of 1561. In the 17th century a new gateway in stone was erected, designed by Christopher Wren. By 1874 the stonework was in a poor state of repair and the gateway was removed. It was used by a private owner for the gateway for his private estate. In 2004 the stone gateway was brought back to the City and installed a short distance north of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Temple Bar also served another important service. It was not only the boundary between the City of London and Westminster but it was the place, by tradition, where the Sovereign was met by the Lord Mayor of London and officially allowed to enter. If our present Queen enters the City for any reason she will stop to request permission to enter the City and the Lord Mayor will present the Sword of State as a sign of loyalty. When Temple Bar was removed, a monument marking the exact spot was erected and it still stands in the centre of the roadway to this day.
Having looked at several modern maps of the Strand recently I have noticed that there are various interpretations of where Strand ends and Fleet Street starts. For the record, they meet at the site of Temple Bar, now commemorated by the monument on the same site. The above map should clarify the boundary.