West Ham

Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

West Ham was first recorded  in 1186 as Westhamma, from the Old English “hamme”, meaning area of dry land bounded by water, and referring to its  situation between the Rivers Lea, Roding and Thames (Ham was first recorded in 958 as Hamme).

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The church of All Saints, also known as West Ham Parish Church, was originally built – or possibly rebuilt) in around 1180, and extended in the thirteenth century, and again in the fifteenth, when the tower was added, and yet again in the sixteenth, when the chapels were added.  It was owned by Stratford Langthorne Abbey from 1334 until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 (see previous posting on “Stratford”).

Keystone from door to Charnel House (now in church of All Saints, West Ham)

Inside the church are some relics from the dissolved abbey, including a window, in the porch, and a carved stone from the charnel house, in the tower.

St Dionis Backchurch

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Another in the series on historic churches in the City 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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.

 

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St Dionis Backchurch (“S. Denys” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the thirteenth century, on part of the the site of Roman Basilica and Forum, and using robbed Roman building materials.  Stow described it as “lately new built in the reign of Henry VI [in the fifteenth century]”.  Pepys visited it in 1664, and noted the “very fine store of good women there is in this  church, more than I know anywhere else about us”.

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The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt by Wren, in 1670-86, only to be demolished in 1878, when the parish was merged with All Hallows Lombard Street.

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It is one of the twenty-one lost Wren churches, and one of the ten lost between 1860 (“Union of Benefices Act”)  and 1900.

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A Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks its former site.

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The burials from the graveyard were relocated to the City of London Cemetery.

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The salvaged communion table, font and pulpit from the church survive, in that of St Dionis in Parsons Green.  A “squirt”, or fire extinguisher, from the vestry  can be seen   in the Museum of London.

Dionis or Dionysius the Areopagite, also known as Denys, is the patron saint of France, who was beheaded after attempting  to convert Paris to Christianity in the  third century.    The church on, or rather just off, Fenchurch Street dedicated to him became commonly  designated  “backchurch”; that dedicated to St Gabriel,  “forechurch”.

 

St Clement Eastcheap

Another in the series on historic churches in the City 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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.

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St Clement Eastcheap  (“F” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as  the eleventh century, and described by Stow at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth as “a small church, void of monuments”.  It was repaired and beautified in 1632.

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The church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and was subsequently rebuilt by Wren between 1683-7, and altered in 1872 and again in  1932-4.

This is probably the St Clement’s of nursery rhyme fame.

 

St Christopher-le-Stocks

Another in the series on historic churches in the City 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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.

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St Christopher-le-Stocks on Threadneedle Street (shown immediately to the north-east of the “Stokes” on the sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the thirteenth century, being first recorded in 1280, although at that time, before the Stocks were built, it was known simply as St Christopher.  It was subsequently at least partially rebuilt in the fifteenth century, and again in the sixteenth, Stow describing it at that time as “re-edified of new: for Richard Shore, one of the Sheriffs 1506, gave money towards the building of the steeple”.

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The church was badly damaged in the  Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt yet again by Wren, in 1669-71, using some surviving materials. As Edward Hatton wrote, in his “New View of London” of 1708, “all the old part which the fire left, is of the Gothick Order; but the pillars within, are of the Tuscan. And the walls are of old stone, finished or rendered over”.

It was demolished in 1781, to allow for improvements to the security  of the Bank of England after the previous year’s Gordon Riots, wherepon  the parish was merged with St Margaret Lothbury.   The remains of those interred in the church and churchyard, including my eleven-times great uncle and aunt,   John and Frances West, were later removed to Nunhead Cemetery.

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It  is one of the twenty-one lost Wren churches.

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Only   parish boundary markers survive at its former site.  Some salvaged  interior fittings survive in St Margaret Lothbury, including the bronze sculpture by Hubert le Sueur  (and the paintings of Moses and Aaron).   The salvaged reredos survives in St Vedast-alias-Foster, the pulpit in St Nicholas  in Canewdon in Essex.

A thirteenth-century gravestone, discovered during the rebuilding of the Bank in 1934, can be seen   in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

 

The Lower Lea Valley

Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

I intimated in the last blog in this series that the Medieval and later prosperity of the area around Stratford and Bow was on account of it being a hub of industry originally founded on the milling of grain for use in baking and distilling.

Readers may be interested to know that milling continued in Bow right up until the last century.

Three Mill Island

Three Mill Island

House Mill

House Mill

Custom House

Custom House

Clock Tower

Clock Tower

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Clock Mill

Clock Mill from downstream

Clock Mill from downstream

Cartouche on House Mill bearing initials of Daniel Bisson

Cartouche on House Mill bearing initials of Daniel Bisson

Three Mills Green, with Abbey Mills Pumping Station in the background

Three Mills Green, with Abbey Mills Pumping Station in the background

And also that one – eighteenth-century – tidal mill, the House Mill, on Three Mill Island, has recently been restored as a working museum.   The House Mill was bought by the Huguenot Peter Lefevre in 1727, and rebuilt by his partner Daniel Bisson in 1776.

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A little further downstream is the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, built in 1868 as part of the extraordinary sewerage system that was the brainchild of the brilliant Joseph Bazalgette.  Notwithstanding its lowly function, it resembles nothing more than an extravagant Byzantine church, and indeed is colloquially known as “The Temple of Sewage”.  The above photographs of it were taken from the stretch  of the “Capital Ring” walk that follows the line of the “Northern Outfall Sewage Embankment” – or NOSE!

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At this point the Lea briefly divides into the Abbey and Channelsea Creeks,  …

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… which re-unite to form the Bow Creek, entering the Thames at Leamouth.

Christ Church Greyfriars

Another in the series on historic churches in the City 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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.

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Christ Church Greyfriars or Christ Church Newgate Street (“Gray Fryers” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally founded as the priory church in Greyfriars Priory  in around 1225.  Exactly two hundred years later, in 1425, a library, valued at £400,  was added by Dick Whittington.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it was refounded  as a parish church, also incorporating the former parishes of St Audouen or Ewen and – get this – St Nicholas Shambles, in 1552.  Also at this time, the rest of the priory precinct became Christ’s Hospital and School (the school relocating to Horsham in 1902).

Three Queens, Edward I’s Margaret, Edward II’s Isabella, and Joan de la Tour of Scotland, and the heart of a fourth, Henry III’s Eleanor of Provence, were buried in the Medieval church, along with a total of 663 nobles (according to some sources, the heart of a King, Edward II, was buried here, too).  After the Dissolution, the majority of their tombs and memorials were sold for as little as £50.

 

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The church was badly damaged   in the Great Fire of 1666, although the glazed windows were “very little damnified”, and some reportedly rather beautiful choir stalls, built with timber salvaged from a Spanish warship of  the Armada of 1588, also survived.  It was subsequently rebuilt by Wren between 1677-1704.

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It was gutted during the “Second Great Fire of London” in the Second World War, on the night of 29th December, 1940, when tens of thousands of incendiary bombs were dropped on London during an air raid.

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Only the tower, with its impressive  steeple, restored in 1960, survives today (as a private residence), alongside  the partial shell of the rest of  the building.  The former nave was made into  a city garden in 1989.

A Museum of London Archaeology Service monograph describes in detail the findings of recent archaeological excavations at the site.

 

 

St Botolph Billingsgate

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Another in the series on historic churches in the City 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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.

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St Botolph Billingsgate (reversed “E” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as 1291, being listed in Pope Nicholas IV’s “Taxatio Ecclesiastica” of that year, and possibly as long ago as the twelfth or even the eleventh century (i.e., before the Norman Conquest).  The first rector was Thomas de Snodelonde, in 1343.   In 1559, the first full year of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, “the Rood and the Images of Mary and John and of the Patron of that Church were burnt with books of Superstition”.

At the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the antiquarian John Stow described it as “a proper church” with “many fair monuments”.  These included one to the John Rainwell or Reynwell, Fishmonger,  and Mayor of London in 1426, bearing the following epitaph:

“Citizens of  London, call to your remembrance,

The famous John Rainwell, sometime your Maior,

Of the staple of Callis, so was his chance.

Here lieth now his corps: his soule bright and faire,

Is taken to heaven’s blisse, thereof is no despaire.

His acts beare witness, by matters of recorde,

How charitable he was, ansd of what accorde.

No man hath beene so beneficial as hee,

Unto the Citie in giving liberallie”.  & c.

The  church was burned  down in the Great Fire of 1666 and never rebuilt, and the parish was merged with that of St George Botolph Lane.

Site of St Botolph Billingsgate upper burial ground

Essentially only the former churchyard survives above ground, between Nos. 31 and 35 Monument Street.  However, excavations in Billingsgate Lorry Park in 1982  brought to light  some underground remains.

Botolph, who died in 655, was the patron saint of travellers.  There were four churches dedicated to him in London in the Dark to Middle Ages, all of them at one or other of the city’s gates.

 

St Benet Sherehog

St Benet Sherehog (2)

Another in the series on historic churches in the City 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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.

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St Benet Sherehog (shown at northern end of “S. Sythes lane” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the early twelfth century, the first reference to it dating to between 1111 and 1138.  It was subsequently extended in the thirteenth century, and substantially rebuilt in the fourteenth, possibly in or around 1356, at which latter time it came to be commonly referred to as  either St  Sithe or Sythe (not to be confused with Osyth), or St Benet and St Sithe – whence “S. Sythes lane” and, eventually, Sise Lane.    Benedict or Benet of Nursia (420-80) was a religious reformer and the founder of western Christian monasticism.  The suffix “sherehog” could either come from a founder or benefactor, Alfwinus Scerehog having been suggested as one such, or from “shere hog”, meaning a ram castrated after its first shearing (the church being in the centre of the old wool district).  Zita of Lucca died in the late thirteenth century, in 1272, and her  cult spread to England by the fourteenth.

A one-time curate, William Sawtre, was a “Lollard”, and was executed as a heretic  in 1401.  The sometime Mayor of London John Fresshe was buried in the church in 1397, the lawyer, politician and historian Edward Hall in 1547, and the poet Katherine (Fowler) Philips  in 1664.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, after which it was  not rebuilt, and its parish was merged with that of St Stephen Walbrook, although its  burial ground  remained open until 1853.

Two Museum of London Archaeology Service monographs  describe in detail the findings of an   archaeological excavation at the site in the 1980s (preparatory to the construction of No. 1 Poultry).

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These included the foundations and several courses of walls, together with a number of burials associated with the pre-fire church, including  one marked by  a Purbeck Marble headstone bearing the Latin inscription “+HIC : IACET : IN : TUMULO : CONIUX : ALICIA : PETRI” (“Here lies in the tomb Alice the wife of Peter”), and probably dating to sometime between 1190-1350.

St Benet Sherehog

A Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks the  site.

 

 

Stratford

Another in the series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Stratford was first recorded in 1067 as Straetforda, in reference  to a ford on a Roman road (note also that there is evidence of pre-Roman activity in the area). In the twelfth century, Queen Matilda caused the improvement of the road, that in time became Stratford High Street.

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In 1556, during the Counter-Reformation, some 20000 people gathered on Stratford Green  to witness the burning at the stake by the Catholic Queen Mary of thirteen Protestants (eleven men and two women) accused of  heresy.

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There is a memorial to the martyrs outside the – nineteenth-century – church of St John.

Stratford in the Medieval and post-Medieval periods was known for its industry, there being in the area a number of tidal mills,  distilleries and gunpowder and other manufactories.  By  the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were also  calico and silk-printing works and, just east of Bow Bridge, the Bow porcelain works.  The Eastern Counties Railway arrived in the mid-nineteenth century, and the southern  part of Stratford New Town was actually built by the railway company (at that time being known as Hudson Town after the company chairman).   The Central Line “tube” arrived in the early twentieth, the Docklands Light Railway and Jubilee Line “tube” extension in the late twentieth century, and the Channel Tunnel rail link in the early twenty-first.  Stratford has been a part of the London Borough of Newham since the local government reorganisation of 1965.  The London Olympics were housed in purpose-built stadia here in 2012, and at the same time a large-scale regeneration of the surrounding area was begun.

Stratford Langthorne Abbey

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Stratford Langthorne Abbey, also known as the Abbey of St Mary Stratford Langthorne, was originally built as a Savigniac house in 1135, possibly on the site of an earlier, Saxo-Norman manorial centre and associated church, and was incorporated into the Cistercian order in 1147.  It was subsequently rebuilt and extended at least twice, in around 1220; but also  to have begun to stagnate in around 1350  – coincidentally or otherwise close to the time of the “Black Death” of 1348-9.  It was  finally dissolved in 1538, at which time it was still evidently a wealthy abbey, owning property in numerous parishes throughout London.  After the dissolution, most of the buildings on the site were demolished, although the main gateway survived until the nineteenth century.

Keystone from door to Charnel House (now in church of All Saints, West Ham)

The key- stone from above the door to the charnel house may be seen in the nearby church of All Saints in West Ham.

Archaeological excavations on the abbey site, undertaken in conjunction with the construction of the extension to the Jubilee Line in 1973-94, revealed that the abbey church was  comparable  in size to that of  Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, founded at around the same time.  The excavations also revealed 647 burials in the abbey  cemetery, more than recorded in any other Cistercian site in Europe.  Two of the skeletons exhibited broken arm and leg bones held together with metal plates, implying that the monks possessed considerable medical knowledge and skill.  Many others, though, most notably those from the foundation of the abbey up to around 1220,  exhibited untreated fractures, implying that the monks were generally unwilling to perform surgery – perhaps interpreting as a ban a Papal Decree issued by Boniface VIII after  the Council of Tours in 1163 (“Eccelestia abhorret a  sanguine” ).

St Benet Paul’s Wharf

Another in the series on historic churches in the City 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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.

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St Benet Paul’s Wharf (shown at southern end of “Paules chayne” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London), also known as St Benet Hythe, was originally built in around 1111.    It stood a short distance  to the east of the Blackfriars Theatre, and Shakespeare would have known it well.  It is thought to be the church mentioned by the Clown, addressing the Duke, in “Twelfth Night“, written in 1601, as follows: “The Bells of St Bennet, Sir, may put you in mind – one, two, three”.  Elias Ashmole was married in the church in 1638.  Inigo Jones was  buried here in 1652.

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The church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and was subsequently rebuilt by Hooke, under Wren,  between 1678-84, still standing in something close to its rebuilt state, with many interior fittings attributed to  Grinling Gibbons, who had a workshop here.

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It was mercifully spared from demolition in 1879, when an Act of Parliament made it the Metropolitan Welsh Church of the City and Diocese of London (Sunday services at 11:00am and 3:30pm).

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There is a – nineteenth-century – memorial to Inigo Jones in the interior.