Author Archives: Bob Jones - The Lost City of London

About Bob Jones - The Lost City of London

My name is Bob Jones and I am a writer on the history of London.

“An Emporium for many Nations”


Yesterday I attended the 53rd annual Local History Conference of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society in the Museum of London, which featured seven talks and an additional  number of poster presentations on the theme of “An Emporium for many Nations” – London shaped by trade.

The highlight for me was the talk by Dr John Price of Goldsmiths’, University of London, on “Porters, sugar boilers, stone cutters and surgeons: trades in London on the eve of the Great Fire”.

Price demonstrated that the commonest occupations in London in 1666, based on Hearth Tax returns pertaining to 2000 householders (out of a total of 39000), were, in decreasing order, Merchant-Tailor, Seaman, Goldsmith, Victualler, Shoemaker, Silkman, Cooper, Haberdasher, Alehouse-Keeper, Porter, Draper, Druggist, Apothecary, Joiner, Tobacconist, Skinner, Vintner, Fishmonger, Blacksmith, Chandler, Barber, Bookseller, Carpenter and Clothworker (*).   He  also  demonstrated a certain amount of occupational zoning, with, for example, mercantile and ancillary trades concentrated in the parishes of St Gabriel Fenchurch, All Hallows Staining and St Katherine Coleman, between  Leadenhall Market and Aldgate; and jewellery, luxury goods and book trades, in the parishes of St Botolph Aldersgate, St Anne and Agnes and St Martin-le-Grand, immediately north of Cheapside and St Paul’s.

The  Hearth Tax dataset that formed the basis of his analysis may be accessed  through the “British History Online” website.

(*) Incidentally, the Baker Thomas Farriner, of the parish of St Margaret New Fish Street, is recorded in the returns as having five hearths in his household, and also one oven – the fateful one in which the Great Fire of London was to break out on the night of 1st/2nd September, 1666!

“All London did eat and drink and made merry” (Henry Machyn, 1558)

Sixteenth-century statue of Queen Elizabeth I, St Dunstan-in-the-West (formerly Ludgate) .JPG

On this day in 1558, Henry Machyn wrote in his diary:

“Between 11 and 12 a’forenoon, the lady Elizabeth was proclaimed queen Elizabeth, queen of England, France and Ireland, and defender of the faith, by divers heralds of arms and trumpeters, … dukes, lords  … and the lord mayor and the aldermen, and divers other[s].  The same day, at afternoon, all the churches in London did ring, and at night did make bonfires and set tables in the street, and did eat and drink and made merry for the new queen Elizabeth … ”.

It was the start of a Golden Age.

Hever Castle, Kent

1 - Castle, moat and drawbridge.JPG

2 - Courtyard.JPG

Hever Castle, which is situated near Edenbridge in Kent, some thirty miles south-east of London,  was originally built by the de Hever(e) family in the thirteenth century.   In 1462, it entered the possession of the sometime Lord Mayor of London, Sir Geoffrey Bullen, and was converted by him into a moated manor-house.  It remained in the Bullen, or Boleyn, family, until 1540, and became the  childhood home of Anne Boleyn, who went on to become the second wife of Henry VIII, after her father Thomas inherited it in 1505 (Anne of Cleves, Henry’s fourth wife, also lived here, from 1540-57).  In 1557, it came to be owned by Sir Edward Waldegrave, and it remained in his family until 1715.  It was later owned in turn by the Humphreys family, from 1715-49; by the Waldo family, from 1749-1903; and by the Astor family, who undertook extensive repair and renovation works on it, from 1903-83.  Since 1983, it has been owned and managed by a private company, Broadland Properties.

3 - Medieval stonework.JPG

The oldest surviving part of the building is the gate-house, which dates to the Medieval period.

4 - Inner Hall.JPG

Post-Medieval features of note include the Inner Hall,

5 - Dining Hall.JPG

the Dining Hall,

6 - Book of Hours.JPG

Anne Boleyn’s Bedroom and “Book of Hours” Room,

7 - Long Gallery.JPG

8 - Anne Boleyn.JPG

the Staircase and Long Galleries,

9 - Priest-hole.JPG

and, most evocatively of all, the Morning Room, with its priest-hole,

10 - Oratory Chapel.JPG

and the Waldegrave Room, with its private Oratory Chapel (the  Waldegraves had remained practising Catholics even after the Protestant Reformation).

11 - Drawing Room.JPG

The Drawing Room,

12 - Library.JPG


13 - Astor Suite.JPG

Astor Suite,

14 - Loggia, Italian Gardens.JPG

and Italian Gardens are chiefly the later works of the Astors.

The Battle of Turnham Green (1642)

The battle of Turnham Green

Image courtesy of “Look and Learn

The Battle of Turnham Green, in the English Civil War, took place on this day in 1642.

The site of the battle is marked by a series of informative plaques.  According to the plaques, after losing the Battle of Brentford on November 12th, 1642, the Parliamentarians took up a strategic defensive position at Turnham Green, with their left flank protected by the river, and their right by a series of enclosures.  It was here that the following day  they  essentially faced down the Royalists, who found themselves unable to manoeuvre past, in one of the largest-ever confrontations on English soil (albeit a substantially bloodless one), involving some 40000 troops.   This was a decisive moment in the history of the war, the country, and its  capital.


The Battle of Brentford (1642)

The Battle of Brentford, in the English Civil War, took place on this day in 1642 …


Informative plaque

The site of the battle is marked by a granite memorial and by a series of informative plaques.

According to the plaques, what happened here was as follows:

“Parliamentarians had arrived in the prosperous market town on Friday 11 November.  The following day the royalists marched from Hampstead Heath and in the early afternoon broke through a parliamentary barricade at the bridge over the Brent.  Near this information panel, the royalists were delayed, fighting two or three hours until the parliamentarian soldiers fled.  This position was defended by about 480 of Lord Brooke’s regiment and survivors of the earlier fighting, with two small pieces of artillery. The royalists soon gained the upper hand.  There seem to have been no civilian dead despite the capture of the town.  About 20 royalists were killed, and perhaps 50 parliamentarians died in the fighting with more drowning in the Thames.  Parliamentary Captain John Lilburne was amongst those captured”.

And what happened next was as follows:

“Later that afternoon the royalists pressed on towards London.  There were more parliamentary troops in a large open area, probably Turnham Green and Chiswick’s Common Field.  These green-coated men of John Hampden’s regiment of foot charged five times, holding the royalists back.  But with night coming and the royalists exhausted from fighting both sides disengaged.  The royalist soldiers who had captured Brentford ransacked the town … The Battle of Turnham Green took place the following day”.

John Gwyn, a royalist soldier, wrote:

“We beat them from one Brainford to the other, and from thence to the open field, with … resolute and expeditious fighting, …  push of pike and the butt-end of muskets, which proved so fatal to Holles’ butchers and dyers that day”.


November 11th – Remembrance Day

Today I remember my grandfathers, both of whom fought in the First World War, and also those of their comrades-in-arms who never came home …

Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) memorial (Holborn).JPG

Ready to face the rapacious Hun armed only with a fag.JPG

My maternal grandfather (Grandad) Charles Reuben Clements, of London, enlisted in the 24th  (2nd Sportsman’s) Battalion of the City of London Regiment (the Royal Fusiliers) on May 30th, 1915, and was given the regimental number 3526.  It is evident from his surviving “Medical Record”  (Army Form B178),  that he lied about his age when he signed up, claiming to be 22. Also, that he was only 5’6” tall, and only weighed 130lbs (9st4lbs). Private Clements went on to serve on the Western Front for three years, fighting in the Battles of the Somme and  the Ancre,  in 1916; Arras and Cambrai in 1917; St Quentin, Bapaume and Arras on the Somme in March, 1918, during the German “Spring Offensive” (*); and Albert,  also on the Somme, in August, 1918 (among others).  According to his “Casualty Record – Active Service” (Army Form B103), he was seriously wounded by shrapnel in the left arm (elbow) and leg (thigh, knee and ankle) – judging from the 24th Battalion’s “War Diary”, almost certainly at  Havrincourt – on September 12th, 1918, on the opening day  of the Battle  of the Hindenburg Line, which was in turn part of the “Hundred Days Offensive” that eventually won the war.   He was then picked up by the 5th Field Ambulance and taken to the 46th Casualty Clearing Station in Bailleulval, just west of Arras, also on September 12th, and thence transferred to the 12th General Hospital in Rouen on 13th, before being repatriated to the U.K. on 15th, spending the remaining two months of the war in hospitals in Keighley and Shoreham. After the war, he returned to his job as a gentlemen’s outfitter in London, and died there in 1958. Sadly, I was only three months old when he died, and have little to remember him by bar these few bald facts of his life, and replacements for his lost 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory medals.

Royal Naval Division War Memorial (Horse Guards' Parade) .JPG

FWJ in military uniform (with what looks like a Grenadier Guards cap badge).JPG

My paternal grandfather (Taid) Francis Wynn Jones, of Llandrillo in North Wales, enlisted in the 2/1st Pembroke Yeomanry, a second-line regiment, on January 18th, 1916, just after his eighteenth birthday, and was subsequently transferred to the 4th Reserve Battalion of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on July 11th, 1917, and then in turn to the 5th (Nelson) Battalion of the 2nd  Brigade of the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division on August 6th, 1917, and to the 8th (Anson) Battalion of the 2nd – later 188th – Brigade on February 28th, 1918 (the former Royal Naval Division had been incorporated into the 63rd  Division of the Land Army in 1916). Ordinary  Seaman  Jones was then posted to the “Flesquieres Salient” on the Western Front, and went  “missing” there on March 23rd, 1918, during the Battle of St Quentin, the first action of the German “Spring Offensive” (*) – judging from the Anson Battalion’s “War Diary”, somewhere between Havrincourt and Bertincourt.  An   unofficial letter to that effect was sent to his parents on April 13th, and an official one on April 20th.  He had in fact been captured, and spent the last six months of the war initially in temporary Prisoner-of-War/Labour  camps near  Bapaume and at St Amand in France (while registered as being at a permanent one at Limburg in Germany), and subsequently in Belgium, living on   “very short rations”, with many of his comrades dying of “want of food”.   He was somewhere south of Tongeren at the time of the Armistice.   After the war, he studied Economics at Aberystwyth, and went on to a career as a civil servant in the Ministry of Labour in London.  He retired to Aberystwyth in 1959, and died there in 1970.  Some of his former belongings have since come into my possession, including an enamel PoW mug (stamped “Wupperman 18”), and a hand-made wooden box given to him by a fellow PoW, both of which he brought  back from the front.

(*) Note that immediately preparatory to the launch of their ground-offensive on March 21st, the Germans unleashed  the largest artillery bombardment of the war, sending over some three-and-a-half million shells  – many of them gas-shells.  For every square mile of the fifty-mile-long by three-mile-deep front, one every second for five hours.  Some 17500 British troops were killed or wounded, and a further 21000 captured, on the first day of the offensive.  It was the second-worst day of the war for the British in terms of losses (only the first day of the Somme offensive was worse).


The Lord Mayor’s Show

The Lord Mayor's Show in 1836, by David Roberts

Today is the day of the annual Lord Mayor (of the City of London)’s Show …

Richard I appointed the  first (Lord) Mayor of London, Henry Fitz-Ailwyn de Londonestone, in effect to run the City,  in 1189; and John granted the City the right to elect its own Mayor in 1215 (the “Mayoral Charter” is now in the Guildhall Heritage Gallery).  The prestige of the position was such that the by-then Mayor, William Hardel(l),  was invited by John to be  a witness to the sealing of, and an Enforcer or Surety of, the Magna Carta, later in 1215.  Magna Carta granted the City of London “all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water”.  In exchange, the Crown required that, each year, the newly elected  Lord Mayor present himself or herself at court to ceremonially “show” his or her allegiance.  This  event eventually became the Lord Mayor’s Show we know today.  Interestingly, the  associated parade of the mayor and his or her entourage, from the City to  Westminster, used to take place  on the Feast of St Simon and St Jude at the end of October, whereas now it takes place on the second Saturday in November.  The parade also used to take place on the water, whereas now it takes place  on land – although the mobile stages are referred to as “floats”.  It travels, accompanied by much pomp, from the Lord Mayor’s official residence, Mansion House,  past St Paul’s Cathedral, to the Royal Courts of Justice, where the Cities of London and Westminster meet.