Lambeth Palace

Westminster and Lambeth in the sixteenth century (“Agas” Map/Map of early Modern London)

Another in the series on the historic secular buildings of London …

Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury,  was originally built in the thirteenth century, and subsequently extended in the late fifteenth and sixteenth, under Henry VII and Mary respectively. 

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Lambeth Palace from the roof of the church of St Mary (with the Palace of Westminster in the background)
Gate-House

The surviving Chapel and Lollard’s Tower date to the late Medieval; the Gate-House, built by Cardinal John Morton, to the post-Medieval, to  1495.  The Garden was probably originally laid out in the late fifteenth or sixteenth century.

Edward III’s Manor House, Rotherhithe

Another in the series on historic secular buildings of London …

Rotherhithe was first recorded as Rederheia in around 1105, and takes is name from the Old English “redhra”, meaning mariner, and “hyth”, meaning landing place.  It appears to have been a small settlement surrounding the church of St Mary in the Medieval period, when Edward III had a retreat on the river here.

The remains of the retreat still survive, near King’s Stairs.

A Museum of London Archaeology monograph describes in detail the findings of recent archaeological excavations at  Medieval sites in Rotherhithe (Blatherwick & Bluer, 2009).  Another  investigates the later, maritime history of the area, based on the findings of excavations at Pacific Wharf  (Heard & Goodburn, 2003).

Guildhall

Another in the series on historic secular buildings of the Cities of London and Westminster …

The Guildhall and the surrounding area in the sixteenth century (“Agas” Map)

The Guildhall was originally built sometime before 1128, possibly on the site of an even older building, where the Saxons held their “Husting”, or indoor assembly.  It was subsequently substantially rebuilt between 1298-1356, and rebuilt again, by the Master Mason John Croxton, between 1411-30. 

The exterior of the Guildhall today
The interior of the Great Hall

It was then damaged in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and repaired  in the aftermath, only to be badly damaged in the so-called Second Great Fire of 29th December, 1940, during the Blitz of the Second World War, and repaired again after that. 

A Medieval horn-glass window
Part of the Medieval crypt system

The lower levels of the walls (up to the level of the clerestorey) still survive from the Medieval period, as do some of the original windows, made from slivers of  horn-glass, and the crypts. 

The porch, though, is a later, eighteenth-century addition, by Dance, in a bizarre style described as Hindoo Gothic.  Inside, the famous statues of the mythical giants Gog and Magog replace two sets of earlier ones, the first destroyed in the Great Fire, and the second in the Blitz. 

The outline of the Roman Amphitheatre is marked by a black slate oval in Guildhall Yard

The remains of the Roman Amphitheatre were discovered some 20′ below modern ground level during renovation work on the Medieval Guildhall in 1987.

Amphitheatre

The remains of the Amphitheatre may be viewed in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery.

The Palace of Westminster

Another in the series on historic secular buildings of the Cities of London and Westminster …

Part of Westminster, including part of the old palace, in the sixteenth-century (left)

The old Palace of Westminster was purportedly originally bult for Cnut in around 1016, and subsequently rebuilt by Edward “The Confessor”, in 1042-65, and extended by succeeding kings, with Parliament meeting in Westminster Hall from 1265, and then in the secularised Royal Chapel of St Stephen from 1547/8.  Some of the palace complex was destroyed in a fire in 1512; and most of what remained in another fire in 1834, with essentially only Westminster Hall and the Jewel Tower surviving, together with parts of the Royal Chapel of St Stephen, including the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft.  The new palace was built by Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin, in the Victorian Gothic style, between 1840-58.

Westminster Hall exterior, with part of the new Palace of Westminster in the background
Westminster Hall interior
Plaque commemorating Thomas More, who was condemned to death at his trial in the hall in 1535

Westminster Hall was originally built as a royal residence cum banqueting house by William II in 1097-99, and subsequently rebuilt,  with a spectacular hammerbeam roof by Hugh Herland and Henry Yevele, for Richard II, in 1394-1401.  It survived the fires of 1512 and 1834, but was damaged during the Blitz of the Second World War, and has since been  further damaged by Death Watch Beetle, the infestation thought to have taken hold in  timbers that had become soaked during the war-time fire-fighting (note also, though, that Westminster was historically particularly prone to floods, Matthew Paris describing one such in 1241, during which “people rode into the great hall on horseback”). 

Jewel Tower

The Jewel Tower was originally built by Henry Yevele for Edward III in 1365-66.

The Tower of London

The first in a series on historic secular buildings of the Cities of London and Westminster …

The Tower today
The eleventh-century Chapel of St John

The Tower of London was originally built under William I, William II and Henry I in the late eleventh to earliest twelfth century, between 1076-1101, and subsequently extended by Henry III in the late thirteenth (inner curtain wall), Edward I in the late thirteenth to early fourteenth (outer curtain wall), and a succession of later kings and queens, many of whom used it as a royal residence, through to the seventeenth.  The chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within is arguably of even older, Saxon origin. 

The Tower features in the earliest known painting of London, by an unknown artist, dating to the late fifteenth century, and commissioned to illustrate a book of poems written by Charles, Duc d’Orleans, who was imprisoned here for twenty-five years after his capture at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.  

The Tower in the fifteenth century, with London Bridge in the background
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The Tower in the sixteenth century (“Agas” Map/Map of early Modern London)

Hundreds were imprisoned in the Tower over the centuries; and scores tortured, and/or executed,  in a variety of horrible ways.  One wonders how much better a world it would have been if all the imaginative effort expended in  devising means of inflicting suffering had instead been channelled elsewhere. 

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One of the more comfortably appointed cells
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Tudor graffito

The remarkable menagerie established here in the thirteenth century  was eventually closed down in the nineteenth by the then Constable of the Tower, the Duke of Wellington, who did not want it interfering with military matters any longer. The animals were rehomed in  Regent’s Park, in what was to become the zoo there.

Beasts of the Menagerie

Stepney Church (St Dunstan and All Saints)

Memorial to “honist” Abraham Zouch of Wappin, rope maker (d. 1648)

The last in the series on the historic churches of the out-parishes of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. There were a further twelve  in the out-parishes of Middlesex (north of the river) and Surrey (south of the river).

Exterior
Interior

Stepney Church (St Dunstan and All Saints) was originally built in the Saxon or early Medieval period, and subsequently rebuilt in the later Medieval.  It is known as “The Mother Church of the East End”, and also as “The Church of the High Seas”, on account of the area’s maritime association.  

Saxon rood cross

There is a surviving Saxon rood cross in the interior. 

Memorial to Abraham Rallings, mariner (d. 1644)
Memorial to Admiral Sir John Berry (d. 1689)

As might be expected, there are also a number of memorials to seafarers and ancillary tradespeople.  

Tomb of Sir Henry Colet, twice Lord Mayor of London (d. 1510)

During the Great Plague of 1665, there were 6583 plague deaths in the parish, more than in any other parish in London.

St Mary, Rotherhithe (Rotherhithe or Redriff Church)

Another in the series on the historic churches of the out-parishes of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. There were a further twelve  in the out-parishes of Middlesex (north of the river) and Surrey (south of the river).

St Mary, Rotherhithe was originally built in the Medieval period, when there was comparatively little settlement in the area, apart from Edward III’s retreat on the river-front.

Church
Watch House
Associated Free School

The church was subsequently rebuilt in 1715, by which time Rotherhithe had become an important maritime centre, with timber and ship-building yards, docks and wharves, where artisan mast-makers, coopers, anchor-smiths, and others plied their trades.

The memorials of a number of men associated with the maritime trade were salvaged from the old church. These include those of Captain Thomas Stone, who died in 1666, and Captain Anthony Wood.

Captain Christopher Jones was also buried in the church, in 1622. He had been the Captain of the Mayflower, which set sail from Rotherhithe  in 1620 for Plymouth and eventually the Americas. 

Rather remarkably, a South Sea Island Prince, Lee Boo, was also buried in the church, in 1784. The story of how this came to be is as follows. In 1782, three Rotherhithe men set sail on the East India Company’s packet the Antelope in order to round Cape Horn and cross the Pacific from east to west in search of trade opportunities. But after a year at sea they became shipwrecked on the reefs of the “Pelews” – Palau. Here, they befriended the local royal family, and, with their assistance, they repaired their ship, and renamed it the Oroolong. It was then agreed by both parties that they would take young Prince Lee Boo with them on their onward journey, that he might learn their ways, and become an Englishman. They first sailed to Macao and Canton, where Lee Boo began his “education” in the Western way of life, writing about it in a journal. Finally, in 1784, they arrived in England. Lee Boo then travelled from Portsmouth to London by coach, describing how he had been put into “a little house which was run away with by horses”, and how he had slept, but still gone on, and had gone on one way, while the fields, houses and trees went the other. On his eventual arrival, he was given a room in the house of a Captain Wilson in Paradise Row in Rotherhithe, where he lived as one of the family. He attended a local school, and, on Sundays, the local church, of St Mary. Sadly, on 27th December, 1784, Lee Boo died, of smallpox, and two days later, according to the parish register, he was buried in St Mary’s, on the other side of the world from where he had been born. He was twenty years old.

The Liberation of Belsen

The Lost City of London - Before the Great Fire of 1666

On April 15th, 1945, shortly before the end of the Second World War, the Nazi concentration camp at Belsen was liberated by the advancing British Army.  It was subsequently established that some  70,000 camp inmates died, or were  killed, here over the course of the war, 14,000 of them in the days and weeks after the liberation.   Most of the dead were Jews from all over occupied Europe, including, famously,  the diarist Anne Frank, and her sister Margot, from Amsterdam in the Netherlands.  Note, though, that many  Russian Prisoners-Of-War also died  in Belsen (which had been  used as a P.O.W. camp until 1943).

The Team.JPGInmates being boarded onto an ambulance.JPG

On  April 21st, 1945, a team from the Friends [Quakers] Relief Service arrived to help clear the camp, to comfort the many dying inmates, and to care as best they could for the surviving ones.

My uncle, Eryl Hall Williams, was among them. …

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St Mary, Whitechapel (Whitechapel Church)

Another in the series on the historic churches of the out-parishes of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. There were a further twelve  in the out-parishes of Middlesex (north of the river) and Surrey (south of the river).

As Stow put it, in his “Survey of London” of 1598, “Whitechapel Church … a [thirteenth-century] chapel-of-ease  to the parish of Stebinhith [Stepney], and the parson of Stebinhith hath the gift thereof, which, being first dedicated to the … Blessed Virgin, is now called as St. Mary Matfellon”. As to the unusual name, he added: “About the year 1428, … a devout widow of that parish had long time cherished and brought up of alms a certain Frenchman, … , which most … cruelly in a night murdered the said widow sleeping in her bed, and after fled with such … stuff of hers as he might carry… . … . Then the constables having charge of him … : … so soon as he was come into the parish where before he had committed the murder the wives cast upon him … much filth and ordure of the street … [and] … slew him out of hand: and for this feat, it hath been said, that parish … purchased the name of St. Mary Matfellon: but I find in record … that in the year 1336, … the parson of Stebinhith … presented a clerk to be parson in the church of the Blessed Mary called Matfellon, without Aldgate of London … “.

The church survived the Great Fire of 1666.  However, it was subsequently rebuilt again, in the Neoclassical style,  in 1673, and yet again, in the Victorian Gothic style,   in 1877.  It was seriously damaged by bombing in the Blitz of the Second World War, in 1941, and subsequently demolished in 1952. 

Its  former site is now  a garden, named  Altab Ali Park, in honour of a young Bengali who was murdered nearby in a racially motivated attack in 1978.  Richard Brandon, the  rag-man from the Royal Mint who was given the task of beheading Charles I in 1649, was buried in the churchyard. 

St Mary, Islington

Another in the series on the historic churches of the out-parishes of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. There were a further twelve  in the out-parishes of Middlesex (north of the river) and Surrey (south of the river).

St Mary, Islington was originally built in the twelfth century, and subsequently rebuilt in the fifteenth.  The Jacobean playwright John Webster, perhaps most famous as the author of the revenge-tragedy “The Duchess of Malfi“, married his second wife, Sara Peniall, in the church in 1606, under special licence. She was seventeen, and heavily pregnant.

The church was rebuilt again in the eighteenth century, and yet again  sustaining bomb damage  during the Blitz in the twentieth, which had left only the tower still standing.