The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known as Middle Temple, is comprised of student, barrister and Bench members. Most of the Inn is occupied by barristers' offices, known as "chambers". One of the Middle Temple's main functions now is to provide education and support for new members to the profession. This is done through advocacy training, the provision of scholarships, subsidised accommodation both in the Temple and in Clapham, and by providing events where junior members may meet their more senior colleagues for help and advice. It is located in the wider Temple area of London, near the Royal Courts of Justice, and within the City of London.
The Middle Temple's name derives from the Knights Templars who were in the possession of the Temple site for some 150 years. The Middle Temple is the western part of "The Temple", the headquarters of the Knights Templar until they were dissolved in 1312; the awe-inspiring Temple Church still stands as a "peculiar" (extra-diocesan) church of the Inner and Middle Temples. An order of 1337 mentions the "lane through the middle of the Court of the Temple", used by chancery justices and clerks on their way to Westminster, which became known as Middle Temple Lane and probably gave its name to the Inn.
The Hall was the centre of the Inn's life. Hall did not see only solemn occasions: it was the scene for plays and pageants, plays being performed on many of the Inn's great occasions. Twelfth Night was first played there in 1602.
In the 17th and 18th centuries students came from the American colonies and from many of the West Indian islands. The Inn's records would lead one to suppose that for a time there was hardly a young gentleman in Charleston who had not studied here. Five of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence were Middle Templars, and notwithstanding it and its consequences Americans continued to come here until the War of 1812. In the 19th century Indian addresses begin to appear and within a few years of that Indian names as well. The close connection with many of the countries of the Commonwealth remains to this day.
The Inn is governed by the Masters of the Bench who are usually senior members of the judiciary or Queen's Counsel.