Page images
PDF

The service was of a superior parish church character, with the exception that two professional ladies, sometimes with and sometimes without bonnets, and two men in decent coats, waistcoats, &c., came forward in the little box gallery in front of the organ at intervals, and sang hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs in quartett, to the members of the two honourable Societies, who stood up, listened,‘and sat down again edified. The organ was played by Mr. Wvarne, a clever musician, entirely blind.‘ The instrument had, at the time we are now speaking of, great reputation ; but more historical than real, for to the ears of a modern organist it was wofully defective. It had no pedal

organ or pedal board—most important and characteristic parts,

of the organ. It had about five stops in the swell; but, notwithstanding its defects, it still disconrsed most excellent music. The beauty of tone in the pipes which were there, compensated for much which was absent, and the uncritical and confiding audience for the most part was satisfied. We were proud of “our church” and “ our organ,” and were content with the service.

But now there arose the spirit of innovation in the Societies. The fittings and decorations of the church were found to be in bad taste--the service inconvenient. A little restoration—then beginning to find favour with English ecclesiastics connected with the High (lhurch party—was suggested. There were not a few malcontents when this was proposed. Had we not, said they, the best preachers in London? There was Benson the master, whose silvery tones and eloquent periods were of the highest order, and we had in his absence They er Smith—~now, alas,numbered with the dead I--whose lectures, though not perhaps much admired by the lawyers’ ladies, were still incomparably the best examples of learning, logic, and deep subtle thought, combined with fervent honesty and- outspoken sense, of all which the metropolis 0011111 then —peradventure can now—boast. We had an efiicient Reader

‘ A century prior to Warne’s time, John Stanley, famous also as “the blind organ-player,” held the ofiice of organist to the Temple.

and a model clerk, whose antistrophes_in the psalms, and_wh‘ose “ amens ” after the prayers, were all that could be desired. Why, then, should this wild spirit of innovation have entered our plastered porch, and disturbed our whitewashed walls? Yet enter it did; and a revolution—with some of the good and some of the evil consequences of revolutions—broke out, and set up a new order of things.

The powers and authorities in the Temple, in bending to this spirit, were but following the example which had frequently been set them before by their predecessors, who at intervals had repaired and adorned their church, and remodelled the services as public taste demanded. This is shown by an oft-repeated account taken from the “ New View of London,” which, however, extends only to what was done to the church since the middle of the seventeenth century. We do not know of any detail as to its condition prior to the “ Fire of London.” That the puritanism of the preceding generations had defaced this beautiful building, and the indifference of their successors had perpetuated the barbarism, is very probable, and would account for the depth of whitewash accumulated on the walls. 1/Ve read in the “ New View of London,” that the church, “having narrowly escaped the flames in 1666, was in 1682 beautified, and the curious wainscot screen set up. The south-west part was, in the year 1695, newly built with stone. In the year 1706 the church was wholly new whitewashed, gilt, and painted within, and the pillars of the round tower wainscoted with a new battlement and buttresses on the south side; and other parts of the outside were well repaired ; also the figures of the Knights Templars were cleaned and painted, and the iron-work enclosing them was painted and gilt with gold. The east end of the church was repaired and beautified in 1707.” '

The New History of London (1708) describes the church as then being “ well pewed, and wainscoted with right waz'nscot;” and, in 1737, we are told the exteriors of the north side and east end were again repaired.

In 1811, the church was (what is termed) “ generally repaired.”

In a tract cited in Burge’s account of the restoration of the Temple Church, and entitled “Facts and Observations relating to the Tem~ ple Church,” after describing those repairs, the hope is expressed “ that, by the very complete manner in which it had been repaired, it was restored to the full appearance of that beauty and elegance generally allowed to belong to it." So differently do difl“erent ages judge of “beauty” and propriety, that what this author deemed the height of successful repair, the next denounced_as the perfection of perverted ingenuity and stupid presumption. Did the horrid thought ever cross the mind of our last restoration committee, that peradventure their zealous and ingenious efforts might be one day condemned as costly blunders? We are inclined to think, from internal evidence, that such an idea never overshadowed their happiness.

In 1825, under the direction of Sir Robert Smirke, the architect of the Inner Temple, the repair of the south side (externally), and the lower part of the circular portion of “the round,” was commenced. In 1827, this job was completed. Some of the wainscoting round the columns, and some of the monuments which had been stuck to them, were then removed; but the paint and whitewash were left, and the oblong part of the church remained in all the perfection of the eighteenth century adornment.

In 1840, the condition of the church was again reported to be such as to require instant and extensive repair. In April of that year, the two honourable Societies ordered that the roof and east end should be “completely repaired, the interior beautified, repaired, and warmed.” A joint committee was accordingly formed, consisting of the respective treasurers and three masters of each of their benches, for the purpose of carrying into effect that order, and of reporting their recommendations thereon to their two societies.

Sir Robert Smirke now fell ill, and the functions of architect to this restoration committee devolved upon Mr. Savage, the architect to the Middle Temple. This committee soon recom

mended the Benchers to take various important steps, viz. :—' First, “ That the doorway should be repaired, and restored to its" original state.” How successfully this has been done, we may in passing remark, is to be seen by any one who will examine the peeled stone and patchy work which the doorway now presents. An experiment seems to have been tried on the stone of the porch, which will not lead to the general adoption of the plan here pursued. Secondly, the committee recommended, “That the interior of the church, with the tablets, monuments, pavements, &c., be repaired and cleaned; that the woodwork of the pews, pulpit and screens, &c., should be repaired, cleaned, and re-varnished; that the Purbeck pillars should be scraped; that the two side arches leading from the round into the oblong church should be opened; and that the Benchers should take into consideration the propriety of removing the organ and altar screen, and of refitting these portions of the church more consistently with its character.”

The last of these recommendations was the thin end of the wedge. Now the committee began to investigate closely the condition of the church; which, indeed, they ought to have done before they had made their report. Like other people who begin to do a “little repairing,” the committee found much more which they could well enter on, than they had at first contemplated or recommended.

The flooring and lower underwork generally of the pews, pulpit, and desk, it was now said, were not sound, and the ground was damp and full of bad smells. The pews would be an expensive thing to repair in panel. Could not better seats be inserted, and more “consistent” pulpit and desk? The flooring, too, was a foot higher than the original pavement. Accordingly, the altar screen and railing having been condemned, the pews were next removed, and now it also became needful to take away the wainscoting round the church; and this again invited the repair of thesstonework of the walls. And next the organ-loft, standing on the screen aforesaid, was found to be very unsightly, and in a highly dangerous condition, and down all this had to come. And next came terrible revelations as to

the state of the pillars and the roofs. The six columns in the

circular part of the church “were found so injured, that it was

indispensable that new columns should be supplied.” The roof of the “round” was so bad, that it ought really to be entirely

renewed. This was far cheaper than repairing, it was alleged.

“Other extensive repairs,” says a member of the committee,

“were required for the exterior, as well as for the interior, of ' the two churches, the details of which it is unnecessary to give.”

The Societies were thus “unavoidably engaged" to do more

than they had anticipated. In vulgar phrase, they were “in for

it; ” but we believe they never knew to what extent till the last

bill was paid. To them, however, a poetical bencher in con

solation recited, and in print repeatcd-

“Give all thou canst ,' high heaven rejects the lore
Of nicely calculated less or more.”

And, indeed, there is every reason to believe that high heaven has not rejected the societies “lore” on the ground of their nice calculations or economical estimates. One of the most active of the committee in judiciously laying out the money which belonged to the Societies, and which we shall presently count up for our readers’ instruction, was the late Mr. Burge, who, afterwards becoming insolvent under circumstances which nothing can extenuate, terminated his career in jail.

Encaustic paving of the proper pattern had now to be laid down, and to Mr. Minton was accorded the pleasing and profitable duty of making and laying the tiles.

From the floor it is an easy transition to the ceiling. Indications of colour there discovered under the wash, suggested the repainting thereofl “There could be no doubt but that the Temple Church had been richly decorated.” Mr. Willement was consulted on this, and on the question of stained glass for the windows. He quite approved of painting both roof and Windows.

Mr. Savage, the second architect consulted on this magnum opus (in 1841), soon seceded; and the frequent change of professional men being always considered highly conducive to carrying

« PreviousContinue »