Another in the series on the history of London up to the time of the Great Fire of 1666, largely taken from my book, “The Flower Of All Cities” (Amberley, 2019) …
Essentially nothing now remains of the majority of the Medieval seats of power, religious houses and secular buildings that stood within and without the walls of the City of London before the Great Fire.
However, the Tower of London, which survived the fire, survives still, substantially intact, within the walls of the City London; …
… the Chapel of St John in the White Tower representing a fine example of the Norman or Romanesque architectural style.
And on nearby Tower Hill are the remaining ruins of the Medieval Postern Gate.
The Jewel Tower, part of the Palace of Westminster, also stands.
And the footings and some of the standing structure of Edward III’s manor-house, in Rotherhithe.
Moreover, of the 97 churches within the walls of the City at the time of the fire, 8, namely, All Hallows Barking, All Hallows Staining, St Alphage, St Andrew Undershaft, St Ethelburga, St Helen, St Katharine Cree and St Olave Hart Street, survived the fire, and survive still, with at least some pre-fire structures standing, above ground (note also that St Alban Wood Street, St Mary Aldermary, St Dunstan-in-the-East, St Mary-at-Hill and St Michael Cornhill were rebuilt after the fire incorporating into their designs significant portions of pre-fire structure).
St Helen is a substantially complete early thirteenth-century (re-)building of c. 1210, with later additions, embellishments and restorations, and stands as a fine example of the Early English Gothic architectural style. It is dubbed “The Westminster Abbey of the City” because of the beauty of its interior and the richness of its memorials. The alabaster effigies of Sir John de Oteswich and his wife, salvaged from the church of St Martin Outwich, date to the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, and that of Sir John Crosby to the late fifteenth. The arcade separating the former nuns’ quire from the nave dates to 1475, and the nuns’ squint, built into the monument to Johane Alfrey, to 1525.
All Hallows Barking has the restored body of a Medieval church severely damaged during the Blitz of the Second World War, together with an undercroft and crypt, in one of the chapels of which is an altar table of stone salvaged by the Knights Templar from the thirteenth-century Crusaders’ castle at At(h)lit below Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. There are also numerous Medieval monuments, including a canopied tomb to John Croke (d. 1477), and a fine Flemish painted panelled altar-piece, known as the Tate Panel, dating to at least the fifteenth century.
All Hallows Staining has a fourteenth- or fifteenth- century tower.
The relocated St Alphage has the tower and shell of a fourteenth-century building, namely, the chapel of Elsing or Elsyng Spital, which was converted into a parish church after the Dissolution in the sixteenth. The original eleventh-century church, located a little to the north, was demolished at the same time.
St Andrew Undershaft is a substantially complete early sixteenth-century building of c. 1530-2, that is, strictly, of the post-Medieval period, although still built in an essentially Medieval Gothic style.
St Ethelburga has the restored body of a thirteenth- to sixteenth- century building severely damaged by an IRA bomb in 1993.
St Katharine Cree has an early sixteenth-century tower of 1500-4, that is, of the post-Medieval period, although built in the Medieval style.
And St Olave Hart Street has the restored body of an essentially thirteenth- to fifteenth- century church, with later additions, severely damaged during the Blitz.
A further 5 City of London churches, namely All Hallows London Wall, St James Duke’s Place, St Katherine Coleman, St Martin Outwich and St Peter-le-Poer, were also undamaged in the fire but either demolished or rebuilt afterwards; 49 were burned down in the fire and rebuilt afterwards; and 35 were burned down in the fire and not rebuilt afterwards.
Without the walls, St Bartholomew the Great, St Bartholomew the Less, St Etheldreda, St Giles Cripplegate, St Mary Overie (Southwark Cathedral), the west tower and south porch of St Sepulchre, “new” Temple Church, and Westminster Abbey also still stand. The round nave of “new” Temple Church, built between 1160-85, is in the Norman style; the rectangular nave, built between 1220-40, in the Early English Gothic style.
Much of the external structure of Westminster Abbey is thirteenth-century English Gothic, including the north entrance, …
… and the chapter house, although the Henry VII Lady Chapel is sixteenth-century Perpendicular Gothic (and the west towers, by Hawksmoor, eighteenth-century Baroque).
St Etheldreda, built in 1294, stands as an example of the Decorated Gothic style of the late thirteenth century, which was never as flamboyant as on the continent.
The exterior shell of St Mary Overie (Southwark Cathedral) is substantially thirteenth- to fourteenth- century Perpendicular Gothic . The interior contains many memorials, including a wooden effigy of a knight buried in around 1275.
Rather further afield, ten miles or so to the north-west, stands St Martin Ruislip, with its late Medieval, ?fifteenth-century, wall-painting depicting the “Seven Deadly Sins”, that miraculously survived the Reformation.
And, within or without the walls, precious fragments of Bermondsey Abbey, …
… Blackfriars Priory, …
… the Charterhouse, …
… Holy Trinity Priory, …
… the Priory of St John, …
… the Priory of St Mary Spital, …
… Whitefriars Priory, …
… and Winchester Palace, that survived the Reformation and Dissolution, remain.
The surviving parts of the “rambling nest of Medieval and Renaissance buildings” in the Charterhouse that date back to the monastic period include some of the stone buildings in Wash House Court as well as the doorway to “Cell B” in the Norfolk Cloister, with its guichet or serving hatch. Many of the buildings, fragments of buildings, and fitments on the site sustained damage during the Blitz of the Second World War, and had to be restored to their original state in the post-war period. The restoration work was undertaken by John Seely, 2nd Baron Mottistone and his partner Paul Paget, whose home and office was at nearby 41/42 Cloth Fair.
Furthermore, Westminster Hall still stand stands. Westminster Hall is fortunate to still stand, as it must have come close to being washed away by the great flood of 1241, chronicled by Matthew Paris, during which “such deluges of rain fell, that the river Thames, overflowing its usual bounds and its ancient banks, spread itself over the country towards Lambeth … and took possession, far and wide, of the houses and fields in that part” and “ … people rode into the great hall at Westminster on horseback”.
As do parts of the Guildhall. The walls of the Guildhall – 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, and the crypts. The porch, though, is a later, eighteenth-century addition, by Dance, in a bizarre style described as Hindoo Gothic (the Medieval frontage had featured statues of the civic virtues of Temperance, Fortitude, Justice and Prudence (or Discipline)). 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 of the Second World War.
The Hall of Barnard’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court, also still stand; as do parts of the Merchant Taylors’ Hall.
The private residence of Crosby Hall, originally built on Bishopsgate by Sir John Crosby in 1466-75, now stands at a new location in Chelsea. There are some wonderfully evocative old black-and-white photographs it in its original location in 1907.
And Elis David’s alms-houses also still stand in Croydon.