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That’s one in the eye

This short story fits loosely in with the idiom theme that I’ve been perusing recently. The term is used to mean a disappointment or setback for someone or something.

At the moment I’m researching a new tour, this time based in the Temple. The Temple is an area of Barristers chambers situated between the Strand and the Embankment. It’s a very old part of London and there has been a legal Prescence there since the 16th century.

Temple Church

When I started to do my research I was a little afraid that I would turn up mostly dry old legal facts, names and dates, but quickly I realised that the opposite was true and that the area had seen it’s fair share of incidents of the years.


The Temple has three main entrances, with several other smaller gateways that have been added over the last three to four hundred years. Because the Temple used to abut the River Thames, before the Embankment was created, and given that the river was one of the quickest ways to travel many Barristers would use it for their commute into chambers. One of the nearest dropping off points was Essex Stairs and so to facilitate the easiest access to the Temple a small gate was constructed in the surrounding wall to give access to Milford Lane and thence the river. This gate like all the others had it’s own keeper and in 1689 the custodian was Richard Merridy.

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It is not known how long Merridy had held the position, but in early December of that year he seems to have lost it due to a misdemeanor which was not recorded. His replacement was John Pascal, who took over the role immediately and kept the gate through Christmas and into the following January.

On the twentieth of that month Pascal was dealing with the morning rush as several wherries or water taxis had just deposited their passengers at the stairs and those wishing to enter the Temple were queuing to get through the gate. I would imagine that Pascal by then knew most of the Barristers who entered chambers this way and would let them through as quickly as possible, but anyone unknown to him would be stopped. Back then the Temple could only be accessed if you were not a member by ticket. These were obtained from the Barrister or chambers you were visiting and there was a strict no admittance policy to those not bearing the correct document. Pascal was working his way through the ticket holders when he spied Merridy in the queue. Seemingly they were known to each other and Pascal halloed him as he moved forwards in the line.


A Chape

When it was Merridy’s turn the couple exchanged greetings and Pascal asked to see the visitors pass. Merridy didn’t have one and tried to bargain with the gate keeper to gain access, something Pascal refused to allow. The conversation became heated and a scuffle ensued between the two until Merridy stabbed Pascal in the eye with the point of his scabbard known as a Chape to a depth of an inch and a half, causing a fatal wound that the gate keeper died of later that evening. Merridy was seized by onlookers and wrestled to the ground shouting that it was no more Sin to Kill one of the Temple Officers, than to Kill a Dog, or a Cat, and that he would have the Blood of some of them should he escape his captors. He was tried and found guilty of murder and was hung in the February after a failed escape attempt from Newgate prison..

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