Joannes de Ram, ‘Temple Barr – The West-Side’. Dutch, c. 1690. © The Trustees of the British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

This is a view of the West side of Temple Bar (c. 1700) by the Dutch engraver, Johannes de Ram. Dating back to the 1290s, it was badly damaged by the Great Fire of London in 1666, and was rebuilt (possibly by Christopher Wren) between 1669 and 1672. The Temple Bar is the only extant gateway to London, a bar (as it were) between Fleet Street and the Strand.

In the early modern period, it was at the heart of the legal district of London, being close to the Temple Church, where the guilds of lawyers formed the four Inns of Courts, professional associations for barristers which acted as London’s legal universities: Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. The arch is enlarged pictorially to present an impressive scale, the dignity of the Inns and the magnificence of this particular site. But the figures, animals and carriages convey the lively bustle and busy human traffic in the legal spaces of early modern London.