Temple Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Temple Meaning
The Temple surname is indisputably associated
with the Knights Templar,
of the 12th century.  Temple here could
apply to a horse soldier employed as a Templar, to someone who worked
at the Knights’
headquarters known as the Temple, or to someone who lived on Templar
England the surname Temple was also given to foundlings baptized at the
Church in London, so called because it was built on land belonging to
Templars.  The surname may also be Scottish from the parish of Temple in Edinburgh, so called because it was the site of the local headquarters of the Knights Templar.
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Temple Ancestry

The Knights Templar owned
land throughout England and the Temple place-name was to be found in
places – for example in London (the Inns of Temple), in Lincolnshire
(Temple Bruer),
in Yorkshire
(Temple Newsam), in Leicestershire (Rothley Temple), and in Cornwall
Bodmin Moor).

The Temples of Leicestershire
claimed a
pre-Norman ancestry.  Henry de Temple was
the first to adopt the Temple name in the 13th century.
W.H. Whitmore’s 1856 book Account of the Temple
covered the
early lineage.  The family home was
Temple Hall near Wellsborough where they were to remain until the
1660’s.  Peter Temple, a staunch Puritan
there, had
signed the King’s regicide in 1649 and his property was forfeited on

However, Temples by the 1600’s
had established themselves elsewhere:

  • Peter Temple leased Stowe manor in
    Buckinghamshire in 1571 and his grandson Thomas was able to purchase a
    baronetcy for himself in 1611.  The last
    of the Stowe line was Field Marshal Richard Temple, created Viscount
    who died childless in 1749.
  • but this Temple name re-established itself in
    1796 when Richard, whose mother was a Temple, assumed the Temple name.  These Temples were 19th century British
    administrators in India and made baronets.
  • meanwhile Thomas Temple of the
    family had been made Provost of Trinity College in Dublin in 1609.  His son and grandson both lived in a city
    townhouse that is now part of the Temple Bar in Dublin.
    Thomas was the forebear of an Anglo-Irish
    dynasty that included First Lords of the Admiralty, Secretaries of
    State, First
    Lords of the Treasury, and the 19th century British Prime Minister Lord
    Palmerston.  His name came from the
    family estate that is now a Dublin village.  

was another Temple family in Wiltshire, at Bishopstrow House near
Warminster.  William Temple from Devon
had acquired the estate in 1635 and it remained with the Temple family
1950.  William Temple endowed the local
St. John’s church that was built in 1865.

However, Temples in the south have been outnumbered by the
Temples in
the north, in particular in the northeast running down from
Northumberland to the Temples in
north Yorkshire

William Temple had been born in Berwick-on-Tweed,
just across the border in Scotland, around the year 1650.
His son George and grandson William held the
post there of General Riding Surveyor and were important merchants in
the town.  Later Temples of this family

  • the Rev. William Temple, an English cleric
    and essayist of the late 18th century, now remembered as a
    correspondent of
    James Boswell  
  • and the Rev. Frederick
    Temple who served as the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1896 until his
    death in
    1902.  His son William Temple was also
    Archbishop of Canterbury, from 1942 to 1944.

Other Temples of NE England

  • a Temple line, beginning with
    Lionel Temple of Hutton Buscell near Scarborough in Yorkshire, dating
    from the
    late 1500’s  
  • George Temple, of possible
    Scottish origin, who married Margaret Partis in Elsdon, Northumberland
    1751.  George died there in 1815 at the
    grand age of ninety five.  
  • Simon Temple,
    father and son shipbuilders in South Shields, Durham in the late 18th
    and early
    19th centuries.
  • while Thomas Temple,
    born in 1797 in Skelton near York, was an ancestor of Kate Middleton,
    now the
    Duchess of Cambridge. 

Scotland.  The
Knights Templar were also in Midlothian in Scotland.
Temple surname in Scotland
, originally Tempill, came from the
village there. 

Ireland.  The census of 1659 recorded
the Temple name
in Dublin, this being the illustrious Anglo-Irish family. Another
implant was the Temples at Tipperary and later at Cork.
Captain Robert Temple departed Cork for
America in 1717.

The Temple name later
surfaced in Donegal.  John Magee had
opened a small drapers shop in Donegal Town in 1866.
His cousin Robert Temple joined the business
a few years later and acquired it in 1900.
Magee of Donegal, well-known for its tweeds and knitwear, is now
run by
the 3rd and 4th generation of Temples. 

America.  Temple descendants in
America were traced in
Levi Temple’s 1900 book Some Temple

New England.  The first
Temple in America was Abraham
Temple who had come to Salem, Massachusetts in 1636, but died four
later.  His origins are uncertain
(although he has been linked with the Stowe Temples).

One son Richard made his
home in Concord, another son Robert
departed to Saco, Maine.
However, after Robert’s death in 1675, the family reassembled in
Massachusetts.  His eldest son Richard
was the forebear of the Temples of Reading, Massachusetts.

Captain Robert Temple arrived in Boston from
Ireland in 1717 and immediately started plans for a Scots Irish
settlement in
Maine.  Several hundred immigrants
arrived at Temple Bar (now Bath in Maine).
But the settlement was not a success and the immigrants
dispersed.  Captain Temple returned to
Boston and
acquired the Ten Hills farm on the Mystic river. 

Virginia.  William Temple came to Virginia sometime in the
1680’s.  His line was covered in Lucy
Temple’s 1978 book William Temple of
Prince George County

Joseph Temple,
the son of a Bristol merchant, arrived in 1722 and started the
plantation in King William county.  His
son Benjamin inherited the estate and later fought in the Revolutionary

“Benjamin Temple fought on the American side
in the Revolutionary War, even though his cousin George Grenville had
been the
British Prime Minister who had been the author of the odious Stamp Acts.  Benjamin forfeited his rights to titles and
estates which might have come to him from England.”

.  George Temple had arrived
in Maryland in the
mid-1700’s.  He purchased land in Queen
Anne’s county that came to be known as Templeville.
His grandson William became Governor of
Delaware in 1846 at the young age of thirty two.

Alexander Temple came to upstate New York
from Aberdeenshire in Scotland sometime in the 1780’s.
His son Robert, who based himself in
Pennsylvania, was a drummer boy in the War of 1812.
A descendant was Shirley Temple, the famous
child actress of the 1930’s. 

West.  Jonathan Temple from Reading,
Massachusetts departed first for the Hawaiian islands and then came to
Angeles while it was still Mexican territory in 1828.
Known as Don
Juan Temple
, he became a leading merchant there and was one of
its earliest

The momentum was continued
by his younger half-brother Pliny Fisk Temple who arrived from
Massachusetts in
1841.  The Temple and Workman families,
by marriage, were prominent in Los Angeles’s later development under
the US

Canada.  Two Temples came to New
Brunswick in the
early 1800’s in different guises.
William Temple arrived in St. John from London in 1820 and soon
established himself as one of the leading Methodist ministers in the
provinces.  Thomas Temple meanwhile came
with the British army in the 1830’s.  He
later was a prominent
businessman and political
figure in Fredericton, New Brunswick


Temple Miscellany

Who Were The Knights Templar?  The Knights Templar, also known
as the knights of St. John, were a crusading order named because they
the right to occupy the site in Jerusalem of the original Christian
temple.   Templar knights in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross were among the most skilled fighting units of the

The order was founded in
1118 in France and grew rapidly in membership and power throughout Europe.  It soon became one of the wealthiest and most powerful orders in
Christendom. They were particularly prominent in Christian finance.  Non-combatant members managed a large
economic infrastructure, developing innovative financial
techniques that
were an early form of banking.  They were
also major landowners.

The order flourished for
two hundred years.  However, when the Holy Land was lost, support for the
order faded. Rumors about the Templars’
secret initiation ceremony created distrust.
King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the order, took
advantage of
the situation to gain control over them.
In 1307 he had many of the order’s members in France arrested,
into giving false confessions, and burned at the stake.
Pope Clement V suppressed the order as being heretical in 1312 under pressure from King Philip. The
abrupt reduction in power of a significant group in European society
gave rise
to speculation, legend, and legacy around the Knights Templar through the ages.

With their military mission and extensive
financial resources, the Knights Templar had funded a large number of
projects around Europe. Many of these structures are still standing.  Many sites also maintain the name
“Temple” because of a centuries-old association with the Templars.
For example, some of the Templars’ lands in London were later rented to
which led to the Temple Bar gateway; while two of the four Inns of
Court which may call members to act as barristers are the
Inner Temple
and Middle Temple.

The Temple Surname in Scotland.  George Fraser Black in his 1946 book The Surnames of Scotland had the following to say about the Temple surname.

“The Temple surname came
from the village of Temple in the parish of the same name in
Midlothian, formerly
the principal place of residence of the Knights Templars in Scotland.  The preceptories or priories of the Knights
Templars were often called Temples and even manorial residences and
belonging to them obtained the same appellation.

The name consequently passed to the tenant or
bailiff of such a property.   Agnes de
Tempill held land at Elstanfurd in Haddingtonshire in 1429.   William Tempill, canon of the Collegiate
Church of Holy Trinity in Edinburgh, appeared frequently in records in
first half of the 16th century.”

Legend has it that, when
the Knights Templar were dissolved in 1312, their treasure was secretly
from Paris, to be hidden at Temple in Scotland.  A local rhyme

“Twixt the oak and the elm tree,

You will  find buried the millions free.”

The Temples in Leicestershire.  The family of Temple was,
according to various genealogists, descended from a younger son of Leofrick,
the Saxon Earl of Mercia.  His wife was the
Godiva who had ridden naked through the streets of Coventry.  He himself died in Coventry in 1057.

From this
family came Henry del Temple who lived in a manor near Bosworth in
Leicestershire.  The family took their
name from the manor of Temple which the Earl of Leicester had given to
Knights Templar and they to Henry.  The
family home there became Temple Hall.

Temples in North Yorkshire.  The 1851 Census listed 96
individuals with the surname Temple in north Yorkshire, with 49 of
these living
in just six locations – Cayton, Ebbertson, Raskelf, Sawdon, Scarborough

Taken as a whole, the Temples
were spread along the North Sea coast from Redcar to Scarborough and
the southern edge of what is now the North Yorkshire Moors National
Park.  It seems likely that many of these
stemmed from the same ancestry.

Robert and Richard Temple in Massachusetts and Maine.  Robert Temple was born in 1639 in Salem,
Massachusetts, the son of immigrant Abraham Temple.
At the age of twenty one he was fined in
Salem for wearing silver lace when he was thought not to have property
sufficient to sustain such expense.

Perhaps because of this affront, he departed for Saco, Maine soon
after.  He was a constable there in 1671
and a selectman in 1672.  Tradition is
that he was killed by Indians at Biddeford, Maine during Philips War in

His wife and family then returned to Massachusetts.
The eldest son Richard, born in 1668, was the
forebear of the Temples of Reading, Massachusetts.

Don Juan Temple in California.  Jonathan Temple – who styled himself Don Juan Temple –
was a Yankee who did very well in Mexican California.
He had arrived at the Pueblo de Los Angeles
in 1828 and opened the settlement’s first store there.
Two years later he married Rafaela Cota, a
good marriage for him as she was connected
to nearly
every prominent family in California.

1843 he purchased the Rancho Los Cerritos from his wife’s
relatives.  His adobe survives as part of National Landmark site
there. Temple created a thriving cattle ranch and prospered, making him
one of
the wealthiest men in post-statehood Los Angeles county.

His marriage to
Rafaela was quite fortunate, as she was connected to nearly every
family in California.

One contemporary Horace Bell remarked that Temple was at one time the
richest man in Mexico.  He almost owned
the whole Mexican government; foreclosed a mortgage on the Mint at
Mexico City;
and coined money on his own account.  He

“John Temple used to bleed this county at the rate of
$100,000 a year.  This was, money
received from his immense sales of cattle, all of which he would carry
Mexico City for investment.

Dave Brown
and two other men were determined to waylay Temple on his way to San
murder him if necessary, but without fail to secure his bags of gold.  Temple would start out in the morning about
sunrise.  The arrangement was that Brown
and co. would leave town during the night and lay in wait in the high
down about Florence, stop Temple and rob him, convey the cash to the
river bed
and bury it in the water and sand, and wait and take their chances.

or unfortunately, as the reader may choose to regard it, about twilight
on the
eve of the contemplated robbery, Dave Brown accidentally let his
revolver go
off on the sidewalk in front of the Bella Union and shot himself in the
foot, a
circumstance well remembered by many pioneers. A lucky shot for old
Temple, surely.”



Temple Names

  • Henry Temple, better known as Lord
    , was a British statesman who dominated its foreign policy in the mid-19th
    century and twice served as its Prime Minister. 
  • Jonathan Temple was a prominent early merchant and developer of Los Angeles in the mid-19th century. 
  • Shirley Temple was an American actress who was Hollywood’s number one box-office draw as a child actress in the late 1930’s.

Select Temple Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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