Our History

Outer Temple Chambers take its name directly from the building it proudly occupies – The Outer Temple, just next to the historic Temple church in London.

The beginning

Under Henry VIII’s reign, the Knights Templar was dissolved by Papal order in 1312 and the Temple was seized by the crown. Under Edward II, the land was divided into the Inner Temple (inside the City of London) and the Outer Temple (outside the boundary) and leased to the legal profession. Inner Temple was further divided into Inner Temple and Middle Temple and became Inns of Court. They are still two of the four Inns of Court to this day.

There is some mystery over the fate of Outer Temple at that time. Historic records have identified some fellows of the Outer Temple and there are said to have been ten Inns of Chancery but there is still some uncertainty over whether Outer Temple was the tenth inn.

The building

The actual site that Outer Temple Chambers operates from used to be a tavern.

Since 1612 it was the Palsgrave Head Tavern, a favourite haunt of the playwright Ben Johnson, and named after Frederick Palsgrave who married Princess Elizabeth, James I’s daughter.

The Tavern was demolished in 1883 to make way for the ‘Royal Courts of Justice Restaurant’, named in order to attract patrons from the newly built Royal Courts of Justice which was at the time the largest Court Centre in Great Britain. The building also contained three floors of offices that chambers now occupies.

Built by architects Goymour Cuthbert and William Wimble, (who also designed the old Baltic Exchange), the building is a shining example of Victorian architecture at the peak of the Victorian Age. It had electric light produced from steam engines and dynamos, and air conditioning powered by two women on a tandem in the basement who drove a giant bellows!!

The restaurant, despite its sumptuous interior by Goymour Cuthbert and William Wimble, wasn’t a success and failed to attract lawyers and clients from over the road. It closed after three years and remained unoccupied until 1895, when it was converted into a major Lloyds bank (who had recently merged with Praed & Co and Twining & Co private banks), who occupied the ground floor up to as recently as 2017.

Described by the Penny Illustrated Paper as “the handsomest and most elegant bar bank in London” the ‘lobby’ feels like you’re standing in a decorative church, complete with ornamental fountains at each end and decorative tiles (from the Royal Doulton Company) depicting flora and fauna.

 

Even the corridor leading to our entrance is famous, having featured in many films like Mary Poppins Returns and programmes such as The Crown.

The set

The set was formed over 60 years ago, originally based in Lamb Building just a stones’ throw from our existing site.

Only about 15 strong, in circa 1995 we moved to 35 Essex Street, with Alan Rawley QC as Head of Chambers.  Whilst at Essex Street, we were expanding.  There were soon about 30 barristers, with others in the wings wishing to join us.

Our growth meant another move, this time to The Outer Temple in 2003 and Outer Temple Chambers was born. The name was chosen after a competition where many other names were considered.

The building was a newly renovated office building and just a shell when we agreed to take over the lease. Although it had been offices above the restaurant and then bank, it was the first time this building had been used for a Set of Chambers and converted specially to our requirements.

Christopher Wilson-Smith took over as Head of Chambers in this new building, overseeing about 60 barristers and we have continued to expand ever since.

Christopher was succeeded by Philip Mott QC. Further (former and current) Heads of Chambers include:

We have continued to expand at pace and now boast over 100 barristers – with around 80 based in our namesake London building. It has all been a most successful adventure!

Former members of Chambers

We are proud of our history and our former members of Chambers including:

His Honour Judge Tolson QC

Robert Tolson QC was called to the Bar in 1980 and took Silk in 2001.

His Honour Judge Climie

Stephen Climie was called to the Bar in 1982, appointed as an Assistant Recorder in 1998 and as a Recorder in 2000.

His Honour Judge Ralls

Peter Ralls QC was called to the Bar in 1972, was appointed as an assistant Recorder in 1999 and as a Recorder in 2000.

Employment Judge Brown

Jill Brown was called to the Bar in 1991 and appointed a Fee-paid Employment Judge in 2009.

Employment Judge Burgher

Benjimin George Burgher was called to the Bar in 1995 and appointed a Salaried Employment Judge of the Employment Tribunals (England and Wales) in 2019.

District Judge Mullins

Mark Mullins was called to the Bar in 1988 and joined Chambers in 2003. He was appointed a District Judge of the Court of Protection in November 2020.

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