A Virtual Tour of Early Modern London, Part Two.


19 – Bell Inn Yard (off Gracechurch Street)


The site of the “Cross Keys Inn”, built in the fourteenth century, and burned down in the Great Fire of the seventeenth.   Plays were performed here at least as long ago as 1576.

20 – Royal Exchange

20bOriginally built by Thomas Gresham between 1566-9, as a rival to the bourse in Antwerp, and burned down in the Great Fire of 1666.  Subsequently rebuilt in 1669, and again in 1842-4.

21 – 80B Cheapside



The site of the Cheapside Conduit, a part of the Medieval water supply system.  The water supply was considerably improved by the construction of the “New River” by Hugh Myddelton in the seventeenth century.

22 – St Mary-le-Bow, or Bow Church, Cheapside


In the churchyard here is a – modern – statue to Captain John Smith, parishioner and merchant-adventurer, “first among the leaders of the settlement at Jamestown in Virginia [in 1607] from which began the overseas expansion of the English-speaking peoples”.

23 – Bread Street


The site of the Mermaid Tavern, where Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe  were wont to gather, Francis Beaumont memorably  writing of their encounters: “What things have we seen|Done at the Mermaid!|Heard words that have been|So nimble, and so full of subtle flame|As if that every one from whence they came|Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest|And had resolv’d to life a fool the rest|Of his dull  life”.  Also of the  birthplace of John Milton (at the sign of the “Spread Eagle”).

24 – Cheapside/Wood Street


The site of the Cheapside Cross, demolished by “furious and zealous” Parliamentarians during the Civil War.  The Cheapside Hoard, the greatest collection of Elizabethan and Stuart jewellery ever found, was buried nearby, on the eve of the war.

25 – Milk Street


The site of the birthplace of the Renaissance Man and “Man For All Seasons” Thomas More.

26 – Guildhall, Guildhall Yard


The site of a number of important trials in the post-Medieval period, including those of Anne Askew in 1546, Nicholas Throckmorton, Lady Jane Grey and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1554, and Father Henry Garnet in 1606.

27 – Masons Avenue, off Basinghall Street


The site of a row of houses built in 1928  in the “Mock Tudor” or “Tudor Revival” style, and giving some sense of how much  of pre-Great Fire London might have looked.  The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner evidently rather disapproved of the quality of the twentieth-century craftsmanship, and the “flimsy applied half-timbering”.

28  – Aldermanbury Square


The site of a bust of Shakespeare,  also commemorating his fellow-actors John Heminge and Henry Condell, who, on his death, gathered together all his unpublished manuscripts, and had them published, by Edward Blount and Isaac and William Jaggard, in the “First Folio”, in 1623.   The inscription on the bust reads, in part, “They alone collected his dramatic writings regardless of pecuniary loss and without the hope of any and gave them to the world.  They thus merited  the gratitude of mankind”.

29 – Site of St Olave Silver Street


Originally built in around 1181, and burned down in the Great Fire of 1666.


Silver Street itself was destroyed during the Blitz.  Shakespeare once lodged here, with a family of Huguenots.

30 – St Paul’s Churchyard


The site of Paul’s Cross, a sort of open-air pulpit, where one Dr Beal incited the “Evil May Day” riots in 1517, and Dean John Donne gave his famous “Gunpowder Sermon” in 1622.


Mary Frith, aka Moll Cut-purse, the model for Dekker and Middleton’s “Roaringe Girle”, was brought here for punishment in 1612.

31 – St Paul’s Cathedral



“Old”  St Paul’s was built beginning in  1087 by Bishop Maurice, and extended in succeeding centuries, before being  burned down in the Great Fire of 1666 (image, Museum of London).


The memorial to John Donne survived the fire, although, if you look carefully, you can still see scorch-marks around its base.

32 – St Andrew’s Hill




The site of “Shakespeare’s House” – the former gate-house of the dissolved Blackfriars Priory.  According to the Deed of Conveyance in the London Metropolitan Archives, it cost him £140, at a time when the annual salary for a teacher was £20.

33 – Playhouse Yard (off Blackfriars Lane)

The site of the Blackfriars Theatres.  The first was built by Richard Farrant in 1576 on the site of the Great Hall of the dissolved Blackfriars Priory;  and the second by James Burbage in 1596-1600 on the site of the Parliament Hall (in which, incidentally, the Legatine Court had met in 1529 to discuss the proposed annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon).


The “Second Blackfriars” was an indoor theatre, capable of being used throughout the year, and both during daytime and after dark, when it was lit by candles, and it was also an “all-seater”, seating some 6-700 in some – although not  much – comfort, at a cost of 6d a head.  In time, it became extremely popular with the fashionable set, and equally profitable.



The “Wanamaker” on Bankside is a modern replica of a Jacobean indoor  theatre,  and its interior conveys a real sense of what an indoor theatre     such as the “Second Blackfriars” would have been like.  A   sense of enclosed space, of intimacy, of proximity to the players, of exclusiveness perhaps.  Of  being surrounded by the shadowy  light of dancing candles, and the reflecting costumes and  jewellery of the actors and audience, “So  Glisterd in the Torchy Fryers”.  And, perhaps even more particularly,  of being surrounded by sound; and in enforced interludes in which the wicks of the lighting-candles are trimmed, by the sound of music.  Note in this context that the music in certain of Shakespeare’s later  plays, such as   “Cymbeline”, “The Winter’s Tale” and “The Tempest”, was not only well suited to, but probably also  specifically written for, performance in the indoor arena of the “Second Blackfriars”.

34 – Apothecaries’ Hall, Blackfriars Lane




Originally built in 1633, and burned down in the Great Fire of 1666.  Subsequently rebuilt in 1668.

35 – New Bridge Street



The site of Bridewell Palace, originally built by Henry VIII in 1520, and granted by his son, Edward VI, to the City of London in 1533, and burned down in the Great Fire of 1666.

36 – Queen Victoria Street


The site of the Second  Baynard’s Castle, built in 1338, rebuilt in 1428, and burned down in the Great Fire of 1666.  Lady Jane Grey and, nine days later, Mary (Tudor) were proclaimed Queen here in 1533.


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