The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple dates back many hundreds of years, during which time its buildings have been periodically rebuilt due to fire, decay, damage, or wartime destruction. The majority of the buildings you see today, with the exception of the Temple Church and those constructed post-war, were built during the period spanning the late-seventeenth and mid-nineteenth centuries. An excellent history of the each of the buildings and their predecessors can be found on the Inner Temple Library website.
There have been many post-holders since the first Surveyor, Mr Gorham, was appointed in 1770. Prior to this, Benchers, as proprietors, were able to bring in their own builders and surveyors, with correspondingly chaotic results and, one imagines, a wide variation in the quality of the buildings. The Inner Temple estate, together with the Middle Temple estate, comprises the Temples Conservation Area, and contains one of the largest concentration of Grade I listed buildings in London, with many of the others being listed Grade II* or II.
The Surveyor’s Department is responsible for the maintenance, repair and management of this wonderful estate, and aims to ensure that future generations inherit an estate in as good a shape as possible. Keeping historic buildings in good repair poses numerous difficulties. In some cases historic repairs were carried out in a manner unsympathetic to the original construction owing to limitations in the available technology and building materials at the time. The Department aims to ensure that all repairs are undertaken within a conservation ethos which preserves or enhances the special architectural and historic characteristics of the buildings. We do so as harmoniously as current practice and building materials allow, often utilising the original methods of construction. A quinquennial cycle of external redecoration and repair is adopted which ensures that the buildings are always well repaired and well presented, and allows conservation work to be undertaken to the areas of the buildings most sensitive to decay or environmental degradation.
The estate includes the twelfth century Temple Church, originally home to the Knights Templar, and the grade II listed Inner Temple Garden which forms a beautiful, tranquil space within the heart of the Temple. The garden contains a number of specimen trees and wonderful borders providing year round interest. The estate also incorporates Serjeants Inn, which was let in 2008 to Apex Hotels. They embarked upon a total refurbishment of the complex to create the four star Apex Temple Court Hotel, which opened in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim.
The Inner Temple is a thriving business and residential community, and the historic nature of the majority of the buildings does not readily accommodate the technology needed by modern barristers’ chambers. When commercial chambers fall vacant the opportunity is taken to upgrade them, if required, by the installation of heating and new wiring and conduit for power, telephones and computers. This is usually by the introduction of floor mounted boxes which reduce the cabling distances, and minimise the intrusion to the walls and fabric of the buildings. Residential chambers are similarly refurbished when the opportunity permits to ensure that the Inn’s accommodation remains fit for purpose and readily lettable. The Department attempts to manage chambers’ aspirations for growth, moving chambers between buildings to ensure that sets wishing to expand can do so, to ensure that accommodation can be provided for pupils and practitioners to meet the needs of the Bar in the 21st Century.