52 Ancestors #22 Middle Temple


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small,

and this week’s challenge is “Commencement.”

middle_temple_by_thomas_shepherd_c.1830Since “commencement” has to do with school or beginnings, I chose to write about my 10th great grandfather and his brother attending a law school in London, a place called Middle Temple. The photo is a drawing by Thomas Shepherd in 1830, but my guys attended there in 1621. The Honorable Society of Middle Temple is/was a prestigious law school in England, one of the five “Inns” where the rich kids attended. There are only four today, but they still boast the exclusivity of being the places where students are trained to become barristers or lawyers.

My grandfather, John Culpepper, was admitted ‘specially’ to Middle Temple on May 7, 1621 as “Mr. John Culpeper, second son of John Culpeper of Astwood, Worcestershire, Esquire.” His brother, Thomas, was admitted the same day as “Mr. Thomas Culpeper, son and heir apparent of John Culpeper of Astwood, Esquire.” John was fifteen. Thomas was nineteen.

Thomas graduated from the school and embarked on a professional career as a lawyer, but John did not pursue law, probably to the dismay of his lawyer father. John instead purchased a ship and became a merchant. His father did not help him with financing. It was his brother who stepped up to assist him. They named the ship the Thomas and John and John ran a successful merchant business between England and the Virginia Colony. There is some evidence he also sailed to Barbados.

middle temple hall black and whiteThe Inn at the time of their schooling consisted of a group of buildings like a campus, and most of the school is the same today. The center of inn life was Temple Hall (photo that looks like Hogwarts) which was used as a dining and meeting room. Today it is used for banquets and weddings. William Shakespears’s Twelfth Night reportedly had its first performance here in 1602.

Fountain Court at Middle TempleThere is also Fountain Court (photo), Temple Library, and Temple Church which was erected by the Knights Templar in the 13th century and still stands today.

Members of the gentry class, holding British properness and manners in high esteem must have risen to the occasion, learning the art of persuasion and rhetoric and arguing. One can only imagine the verbal sparring that took place at the time in this hall and around this fountain. Their words had so much more meaning than ours do today.

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