Time Travel Explorer Blog

Temple: where old maps are better than new

by Peter Watts 19. October 2010 14:04

You wouldn’t have thought it, but sometimes a really old map can help you get around far more satisfactorily than any of the newer ones. Take navigation in the Temple for instance. This curious corner of London between the Strand and the Thames east of Somerset House is a law unto itself. Literally, as it has its own rules and regulations distinct from the rest of the city.


Originally the base for the Knights Templars, Temple is now a home for barristers, and only they surely understand how to navigate the headspinning maze of alleys, courts and arched doorways that exist within its boundaries. Neither an A-Z or Google Map will help – both have unhelpfully ignored the byways of Temple, finding it all far too confusing. Tap in the postcode for Temple Church on Streetmap and it’ll stick a flag in the middle of a square surrounded by unnamed avenues that make little sense when you’re on the ground, surrounded by courts and alleyways and desperately trying to not be late for a meeting with the verger at the church (yes, this is bitter personal experience).


Use a map from 1862 on the Time Travel Explorer, though, and you’d be fine (bar some adjustment for bomb damage – Temple was badly mauled by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz). Here the delightful confusions of Pump Court, Hare Court, Fountain Court and Garden Court are all present and correct, even if Temple Church goes by the now unfamiliar name of St Mary (that is to whom it is dedicated) and you might get a bit lost if you’re trying to get there from Blackfriars, given that the then landmark City Gasworks no longer exists and, er, the Embankment hasn’t been built yet. Overcome those little difficulties however, and once you are inside Temple itself you’ll never leave a verger waiting at the altar again.