July 2018: Balls at the Middle Temple

The Ball has for centuries been the highlight of many a social calendar, and the Inn is no exception. Music, dancing and festivity have of course, in various forms and arrangements, been present at the Inn virtually since records began, but this month we focus on the Balls given from the early twentieth to the early twenty-first centuries - from waltzing in Hall on the eve of the First World War to the uproarious 'Glastonbury in a Tuxedo' events at the turn of the millennium.

Programme of Dances for the Subscription Ball, Middle Temple, 1912 (MT.7/GDE/50)

In the summers of 1912 and 1913, 'Subscription Balls' were given at the Inn - these were events to which one would 'subscribe' by buying a set of tickets and were generally held for fundraising purposes. Summary accounts survive in the archive for these which do not indicate great success in this regard - in 1913, the Inn's expenditure on the event came to just over £394, and ticket sales raised only £319, leaving the society with a loss of around £75. To this regrettable calculation a further addition has been made in pencil, recording that once the £52 14s of the society's wine consumed was taken into account, the loss was still more considerable.

Cost of the Subscription Ball, Middle Temple, 1913 (MT.7/GDE/52)

The programme for this Ball included twenty-one dances, most of which were waltzes, played by the Stroud Haxton Orchestra, and concluded with a doubtless rousing chorus of God Save the King. This particularly charming archival record still has the miniature pencil attached which was to be used to record one's 'Engagements' for each dance.

Programme of Dances for the Subscription Ball, Middle Temple, 1913 (MT.7/5/GDE/55)


Lord Rothermere was one of the Inn's most significant benefactors - his Harmsworth Scholarship still benefits many young Middle Templars today, and his gifts of silver are well-documented. In addition to these many gifts, he also contributed the entire cost of a Ball at the Inn in 1935. This came to a total of £3,750, and covered refreshments, entertainers, flowers, servants, the hire of a grand piano and the special services of the City of London Police.