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Middle Temple Ordeal

24 Sep 2020

A few weeks after the start of the London Blitz, the first bombs fell on the Middle Temple on 24 September 1940, devastating much of Elm Court. Over the following months, the Inn endured regular bombardments, causing severe damage to the Hall and leaving many of the Inn’s chambers and buildings, some dating back to the 17th century, in ruins. Further damage was done in 1944 – the Hall’s roof narrowly avoided complete destruction by relentless incendiary bombing in March, and by the end of the summer the Inn’s Victorian library had been damaged beyond repair. The Temple Church was all but destroyed.

Throughout this ordeal, Middle Temple staff, barristers, clerks and residents worked tirelessly, night after night, to guard and protect the Inn. Watching for bombs, fighting fires, and rescuing the trapped and wounded, they kept up morale (with the help of a great deal of tea) and endured it all.


After the war was over, and the Inn had embarked on the long process of rebuilding, a short booklet entitled ‘Middle Temple Ordeal’ was published. Compiled by an anonymous female member and resident of the Inn (now identified as one Kathleen Woodward), this drew on a number of first-hand accounts, as well as her own experiences, and told the story of those long, hard years at the Inn. Long out of print, ‘Middle Temple Ordeal’ has been digitised to mark 80 years since the first bombs fell, and is available to download below, free of charge.