Medieval London, Pt. IV – Surviving Structures

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) …

Surviving Structures

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. 

The Tower of London

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 Tower of London (late eleventh century).
Note the typically Norman or Romanesque style of architecture, in particular the rounded arches.

… 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 (built in 1366)

The Jewel Tower, part of the Palace of Westminster, also stands. 

Surviving structure of Edward III’s manor-house

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 Bishopsgate (1210). An example of the Early English Gothic style.

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. 

North entrance, Westminster Abbey

Much of the external structure of Westminster Abbey is thirteenth-century English  Gothic, including the north entrance, …

Chapter House, Westminster Abbey

… 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

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. 

Southwark Cathedral from Borough High Street.
This is the view that pilgrims on their way to Canterbury would have had in Chaucer’s time.

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. 

Medieval wall painting, St Martin Ruislip

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, …

Surviving fragment of Blackfriars Priory believed to be part of the prior’s or provincial’s lodgings)

… Blackfriars Priory, …

… the Charterhouse, …

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Surviving Gothic arch from Holy Trinity Priory

… Holy Trinity Priory, …

Gate-House, Priory of St John (rebuilt in1504)
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Effigy of Prior William Weston, crypt of former priory church (d. 1540).
It is said that Weston died on the very day of the Dissolution, of a broken heart.

… the Priory of St John, …

Crypt-cum-Charnel House, Priory of St Mary Spital.
This is where many of the victims of the famine of 1258 were buried.

… the Priory of St Mary Spital, …

Surviving remains of Whitefriars Priory

… Whitefriars Priory, …

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Great Hall, Winchester Palace (twelfth century; rose window a fourteenth-century insertion)

… and Winchester Palace, that survived the Reformation and Dissolution, remain. 

Door to “Cell B”, Charterhouse

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.

Exterior, Westminster Hall (essentially late fourteenth century)
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Interior, Westminster Hall. Note the double-hammerbeam ceiling.

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”. 

Guidhall (early fifteenth century; porch an eighteenth-century addition).
The slate oval in the courtyard describes the outline of the Roman Amphitheatre, which lies 20′ beneath.

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. 

Barnard’s Inn Hall (late fourteenth century)

The Hall of Barnard’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court, also still stand; as do parts of the Merchant Taylors’ Hall.

Crosby 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. 

Elis David alms-houses (bulit in 1447)

And Elis David’s  alms-houses also still stand in Croydon. 

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