This article was taken from an insertion of the Church's
The story of the
In ancient Israel the temple was the centre of religious life, symbolising God's presence among His people. Diferent from the synagogue, which was used for day-to-day worship, the temple was the House of the Lord, and reserved for very special ordinances and covenants. This beautiful London Temple is dedicated for those same eternal purposes.
A whole historical pattern led up to and determined the circumstances that made this Temple possible. The settlement of Britain, the Norman conquest that contributed to its unification, the Reformation that rendered it religiously free - these prepared t he way for the Gospel to be restored and for it to thrive in this country by making men both free and able to understand its principles and accept the responsibilities and opportunities it offers.
Events such as these comprise the London Temple just as much as its portland stone facing; and our forebears who developed this free nation helped build this Temple as much as those whose tithing contributions paid for its construction.
The area of Newchapel, in which the London Temple is sites, is rich in history. The brook runing through it is called Eden, and the Romans built the road which is now the A22 as an access way to the Channel. On the north side of the property lies anothe r historic road - Pilgrims Way, made famous in Chaucers Canterbury Tales. The area around Newchapel was once occupied by the Celts and, after the Romans, by Saxons and Danes.
First mention of the land upon which the Temple is located comes in the Domesday Book, commissioned by William the Conqueror in about 1086 A.D.. The 32 acre site is part of the fourteenth-century baronial estate of Newchapel Hall. In 1953 it was purchas ed from the Pears family - famous for their soapmaking. The old Manor House, which stands to the north of the Temple, has 30 rooms and eight baths.
The Newchapel site was not for sale at the time the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instructed the British Mission President, Stayner Richards, to find land for a temple. He found two or three prospective sites, and Pr esident David O. McKay, the ninth president and world leader of the Church, approved the most attractive of these, on the fringe of the Wimbledon area.
While the negotiations were underway, an agent suggested the the Church might consider another site - a 32 acre property at Newchapel, in Surrey. Once President McKay saw Newchapel, negotiations for the original site were suspended.
Then the owner of the site, Mr Pears, died and his wife, aged 80, found the property difficult to maintain. Fortunately she was willing to sell, and in June 1953 the Newchapel site was purchased.
Under the direction of President McKay, Edward O. Anderson was appointed as the architect for the London Temple project. He described his reaction thus:
When President McKay told me that the Church was going to build a temple... his description of it fixed a picture so firmly in my mind that I could draw it...
The architect supervising the actual construction was Sir Thomas P Bennett, of T.P. Bennett & Son, London, and the contractors were the London firm of Kirk & Kirk Ltd.
Originally a lily pool stood in the front of the tennis court - had it remained it would be in front of the temple today. Draining it was necessary to avoid building the footings and foundations in water. There is now a reflecting pool on the south side of the Temple. When President McKay visited the site, he gave strcit instructions that the oak tree in front of the temple, which an expert estimated to be 450 years old (almost 500 years old now) was not to be uprooted. This tree became known as the D avid O. McKay Oak.
In the shade of an alcove of the formal Newchapel gardens, just east of where the Temple was to rise, 1,000 British members and missionaries gathered on 27 August 1955 to witness the groundbreaking.
The ground for the Temple was broken by President McKay, with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir - on a European concert tour - present, along with other visiting authorities from Salt Lake City.
Speaking on that occasion Sir Thomas P. Bennett, the supervising architect, said this was to be a building:
...which we think will build a tradition in itself in the course of the years to come... and it is the users who build the tradition, not the architects. It is the users who make it a building which is something fine in conception, something perso nal in its reaction in their minds, and in due course somthing personal in the minds of perhaps many generations.
President McKay emphasized themore enduring purposed for which the Temple was being built:
In the years to come, many of us may not be able to return and traverse the highway which you're facing, but our children may; and as they pass the completed structure, dedicated to the Lord, they will say: See, my parents, or my grandparents, wer e there on the occasion that the ground was broken on the south-east corner of that edifice.
Laying the Cornerstone
Work began in earnest. Just twenty months later the cornerstone was laid, on 11 May 1957. The laying of the cornerstone and its dedication were undertaken by Elder Richard L. Evans, who had served in England as a youthful missionary, and had gone on to become an Apostle. The event was witnessed by a crowd over 1,5000. He expressed gratitude for:
...this land with all its long traditions for freedom...and for all those who have, with Thy help, presered the climate of freedom...and that from this land have come tens of thousands of faithful men and women who, over the centuries, have planted and cared for these grounds, and that Thou hast rewarded their work with the beauty that is here.
Inside the cornerstone is a copper box containing a set of the scriptures of the Church, along with periodicals, clilppings, photographs, and other mementoes of the occasion.
The completion of the Temple took a further three years. The highest standards of craftsmanship were practised, as indicated in this account by Edward O.l Anderson, the architect, describing the skills involved in aspects of the carpentry:
Not nails, but screws secure the wood trim to the wood ground and backing. They are installed in holes...after which wooden plugs, called pellets, are glued in the holes and smoothly finished with the wood surface. In many cases it is difficult t o see the plug. This method of blind finishing has almost become a lost art, even in Great Britain.
The marble used came from Italy and the stainless steel baptismal font, with its 12 bronze supporting oxen, were made in Switzerland. By December 1957 the top of the distinctive spire - a characteristic of modern-day temples - was being put into place.
The Temple was built of reinforced concrete and structural steel. The walls are brick masonry faced with cut white Portland limestone and the roof is of sheet copper, with the spire covered in lead coated copper. It stands 56 feet high, 159 feet long an d 84 feet wide with the spire rising to 156 feet 10 inches above the ground. At the time of its construction it had 75 rooms, and a total seating capacity of 1,500. The building included three storeys and a mazzanine gallery, above ground, plus a baseme nt. The building totalled 37,800 square feet.
The Open House
Upon completion of the Temple an Open House period was held, from 15-30 August 1958. Over 76,000 people took advantage of the opportunity to tour the building and grounds. Temporary parking areas were established, to help cope with the inflow of traffic .
President McKay presided and conducted at the dedication, held over the 7-9 September 1958 period.
There were more General Authorities in this country at that time than at any time except the early 1840 period, when the work was just beginning.
The London Temple was the Fourteenth to be built by the Church. By the time of the rededication, in 1992, that number had increased to 44, worldwide.
The Temple Closes
More than thirty years on, in 1989, maintenance concerns had developed, and a reappraisal of the overall situation with regard to demands was carried out.
Rather than simply accomplish the needed reparis, it was decided to take the opporunity to carry out an extensive refurbishment of the building. In consequence, the Temple closed on 31 March 1990. The work took two-and-a-half years to complete.
The architects for the project were Peter J. Crockford ARIBA, of New Milton, Hampshire. The contractors were the Thornton Heath firm of Walter Lilly and Co. Ltd.
A whole new floor was added, replacing the mezzanine balcony. The opportunity was taken to create three additional instructional rooms, bringing the toal to four, and the number of sealing rooms (where eternal marriages are performed) was increased from six to eight.
A completely new heating and ventilating system was installed, with 40% of the total area now air-conditioned. Wheelchair access to all key areas has been provided, and the electrical, alarm, and security systems were all upgraded.
Parking is extended, and significant landscaping improvements have also been completed. The refurbished Temple now totals 42, 590 square feet, an addition of 4,790 square feet over the original structure.
It was one of the workmen on th original construction project who contributed, unwittingly, one of the most profound observations on the Temple. Nto knowing that Temple work will extend into the Millennium, he said:
Why, you've put such steel and stone in this building that it might well stand 1,000 years!
One wonders what he might have said had he understood that the scred work undertaken in a temple - the House of the Lord - is more durable even than steel or stone, and will last forever.
In the hearts and minds of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today, this temple holds that same profound significance.
As the House of the Lord it stands as an ever-present reminder of the restoration of all the covenants and blessings of ancient times, and of the eternal relationship that exists between God and man.