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.

Woolwich

The first in an occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

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Woolwich was first recorded in 918 as Uuluuich, from the Old English wull, meaning wool, and wic, probably in this context referring to a riverside trading settlement (note, though, that there is also evidence of habitation here  in the earlier – late seventh- or early eighth- century – Anglo-Saxon, Roman and even prehistoric periods).  From the tenth century to the twelfth, it was ruled by the Abbots of St Peter’s Abbey in Ghent, who were given it by Alfred the Great’s daughter Aelfryth.  Woolwich remained a comparatively small rural settlement throughout the remainder of the Medieval period, but burgeoned into an important naval and military base and industrial town in the post-Medieval. Its fortunes began to decline in the twentieth century, after the naval and military bases ceased operations, although it has been undergoing something of  a regeneration in recent years.  Nominally part of Kent throughout much of its history, it is now part of the London Borough of Greenwich.

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Woolwich Dockyard was originally founded here by Henry VIII in 1512, and remained operational  for nearly four centuries, during which time a  number of historically important ships were built here, including the “Henry Grace a Dieu” or “Great Harry” (in 1514), the “Prince Royal” (in 1610),  the “Sovereign of the Seas” (in 1637), the “Royal Charles” (in 1655), the “Dolphin” (in 1756), and the “Beagle” (in 1820).  It  was finally decommissioned  in 1869.  The oldest surviving building is the Dockyard Office, dating to 1783-4 (which it is now known as the Clock House).  Some associated structures also survive, both in Woolwich and in  the Woolwich Dockyard Estate in North Woolwich (i.e., on the north bank of the Thames).

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Woolwich Arsenal was originally founded here in 1671, and remained operational for nearly three centuries (i.e., throughout  the most important period of the growth of the British Empire, and both World Wars).  It was finally decommissioned in 1967.   The oldest surviving buildings are the Royal Brass Foundry, dating to 1716-17, and the Beresford Gate, the entrance to the Gun Machining Factory, dating to 1717-20.  The football club now known as the Arsenal was originally founded here – as   Dial Square – in 1886.  It changed its name in 1904, and relocated north of the river to Highbury in 1913.

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The church of St Mary Magdalene was built in 1727-39, on or near  the site of an earlier   church, as one of the “fifty new churches” commissioned by Act of Parliament in 1711.  The interior contains a stained-glass window commemorating the seven hundred souls lost in the sinking of the paddle steamer “Princess Alice” in a collision at Tripcock Point in nearby Thamesmead in 1878.

Lewisham

Another in the occasional series on “Far Flung Lost London”

Lewisham was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 918 as Lievesham, meaning, in Old English, homestead or hamlet of Leofsa.  That same year, the manor was given by Elfrida, the daughter or niece (sources differ) of Alfred the Great to the abbey of St Peter at Ghent.  Lewisham was to remain a semi-rural  settlement surrounded by farms and fields throughout the later Medieval and post-Medieval periods.  It only began to be more extensively developed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when a number of fashionable mansions were built among the existing  farmhouses.  (Sub)urbanisation began after the arrival of the railway in the middle part of the nineteenth century.

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The church of St Mary was originally built in or before  918, and subsequently   rebuilt between 1471-1512.  It was substantially rebuilt  again between 1774-7, and  yet again, after a fire, in 1830, and extended in 1881.   The tower of the late Medieval church still survives, and is the oldest structure in Lewisham.   The vicarage dates to 1692-3.

Rainham

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The last in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Rainham was first recorded in the “Domesday Book” of 1086 as Raineham, probably from the Old English personal name Regna and ham, meaning homestead.  It essentially remained a small village on the banks of the Thames throughout the later Medieval and post-Medieval periods, only finally becoming (sub)urbanised  in the early twentieth century (following the establishment of a  coaching link to London in the eighteenth century, and the arrival of the railway in the nineteenth).  Note, though, that there was also some boat-building industry here as long ago as the sixteenth century.  Note  also that the river-front was redeveloped in the eighteenth century, at which time muck was brought here from London for use in the fields.  Rainham Hall was built here for Captain John Harle in 1729.  Historically part of the county of Essex, Rainham  town has been  part of the London Borough of Havering since   1965.

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The church of St Helen and St Giles was originally built in the Norman period, between 1160-70, by Richard de Lucy (who was, incidentally, one of those implicated in the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170).  It was restored in 1893-1906. It is the oldest building in the Borough of Havering.

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Among the treasures in the interior are some surviving fragments of Medieval wall painting and an ancient ship graffito.

Havering-atte-Bower

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Havering-atte-Bower was first recorded in 1272, taking its name from the Old English personal name Haefer, and ingas, meaning settlement, and the Middle English bour, meaning bower, or royal residence (*).  It essentially remains to this day an isolated small village on the top of a high hill on the north-eastern edge of London, commanding fine views over  the surrounding countryside and encroaching built-up areas.  Historically part of the county of Essex, the village has been  part of the London Borough of Havering since   1965.

The village is steeped in royal history.

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In the eleventh century, Edward the Confessor  built a hunting lodge here that over the years evolved into Havering Palace, a royal residence used by a succession of kings and queens in the later Medieval to early post-Medieval periods, before being demolished in the seventeenth century (some materials salvaged from it were used in the construction of Bower House in the early eighteenth).

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The present church of St John the Evangelist was built in the nineteenth century, on the site of a previous church that had itself once been one of the chapels in Havering Palace.  The Purbeck Marble font dates back to the early Medieval period.

There was also once another royal residence, called Pyrgo Palace, a little to the east, which had been  bought by  Henry VIII in the post-Medieval period,  as a replacement for the then-declining Havering Palace, and which was eventually demolished in the eighteenth century.  Pyrgo Park occupies the site today.

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(*) Note that a significant hoard of approximately 500 Bronze Age artefacts has recently been discovered from a site in the Borough of Havering.  The “Havering Hoard” is to be the subject of a special exhibition in the Museum of London Docklands next year.

Chingford

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Chingford was first recorded as Cingefort (sic) in the Domesday Book of 1086, and as Chingeford in 1181, probably taking its name from the Old English cingel, meaning shingle, and ford, and alluding to an ancient crossing-point on the River Lea.

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What is now known as Elizabeth I’s Hunting Lodge was actually originally built by Henry VIII between  1542-43, before Elizabeth became queen, in the then heart of Epping Forest.

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It now houses a museum featuring many original fixtures and fittings as well as Tudor period artefacts.

Enfield

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Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Enfield  was first recorded in the “Domesday Book” of 1086 as Enefelde, from the  Old English personal name Eana, and feld, in context probably referring to an area of cleared woodland.  What is now Enfield Town grew  up around the former village green.  It  grew rapidly following the arrival of the railway in 1849.  The Royal Small Arms Factory, which opened here in 1815, employed a workforce of some 2400 by the 1880s, and only closed down as recently as 1987.  The factory manufactured the Lee-Enfield rifle throughout the First and  Second World Wars,  and the Brno-Enfield machine gun, or Bren gun, throughout the Second. The church of St Andrew was originally built in the town centre in the twelfth century (see also below); and Enfield Grammar School in 1558; and the market square was laid out in 1632.  Elsyng Palace was built a couple of miles to the north of the town centre, on Forty Hill, at least as long ago as the fifteenth century, and Forty Hall on essentially the same site in the seventeenth (see previous posting).

Church of St Andrew

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The church of St Andrew was originally built in the twelfth century, and subsequently substantially rebuilt in the fourteenth through sixteenth, and restored in the nineteenth and early twentieth.  The nave and tower survive from the fourteenth through  sixteenth centuries, and a trefoil-headed lancet window in the chancel to the thirteenth.

In the interior are a large number of Medieval to post-Medieval memorials, including those to Jocosa, Lady Tiptoft (d. 1446); Edmund, Baron de Roos or Ros (d. 1508) …

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… William Smith, sometime servant to  Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I (d. 1592) …

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… Henry Middlemore, Groom of the Privy Chamber to Elizabeth I (d. 1610); Francis Evington, Alderman of London   (d. 1614) …

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… and Sir Nicholas Raynton, Lord Mayor of London  (d. 1646) (once imprisoned for refusing the King, Charles I, a loan).

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There are also some interesting later memorials, including that to Thomas Boddington, a one-time slave-owner who became involved with the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor and with the foundation of Sierra Leone in the late eighteenth century (d. 1821) …

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… and, in the churchyard, that to Samuel Garnault, Esq., Treasurer of the New River Company (d. 1827) (the New River passes nearby).  The Garnaults, incidentally, were a Huguenot family who arrived as refugees in Enfield  in 1684.  Michael Garnault bought a former Tudor mansion called Bowling Green House in Bulls Cross in 1724, and various members of the family continued to live there until 1812 (the site is now occupied by  Myddelton House, built by the Bowles family in 1818).

Elsyng Palace and Forty Hall

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Elsyng Palace

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Elsyng Palace or Enfield House, just outside Enfield,  is thought to have originally been  built sometime in the  fifteenth century by John Tiptoft (Junior), 1st Earl of Worcester, who lived from 1427-70 (it is also possible that it was built  even earlier, in the fourteeenth century, by Thomas Elsyng, a Citizen and Mercer of London).  After Worcester’s execution in 1470, during the Wars of the Roses,  the palace   passed  in turn to his  sister Philippa, to her son Edmund, Baron de Ros, to  his sister Isabel and her husband Sir Thomas Lovell, and to his great-nephew Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland.  Lovell, who was the Speaker of the House of Commons in King Henry VIII’s time, extended it “sufficient to receive the court on progress”: Henry’s sister, Queen Margaret of Scotland stayed here  in 1516; Henry himself, in 1520 and again in 1527; and his Queen, Katherine of Aragon, in 1532.

In 1539, in a property exchange, the palace passed to Henry, and remained Crown property throughout the remainder of the Tudor period.  It appears to have been used on occasion for family as well as for formal business: Princess Mary and Prince Edward stayed in the palace over Christmas in 1539; and evidently the entire family over Christmas in 1542; and Princess Elizabeth  and Prince Edward were brought here to be informed of Henry’s death in 1547.  On Henry’s death, the palace passed to Edward, who in 1550 gave it to Elizabeth.  Elizabeth visited it on average every four years or so until 1596, by which time it   was reportedly beginning to fall into disrepair.

The palace fell out of use under the succeeding first Stuart King James I, who preferred nearby Theobalds, and was partially demolished by him in 1608.  The surviving part was subsequently  demolished by Nicholas Raynton in 1650, to provide materials for the extension of  Forty Hall.

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Some remains have recently come to light in the grounds there, and many archaeological finds made.

Forty Hall

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Forty Hall is thought to have originally been built by  Sir Nicholas Raynton between 1629-32 (it is also possible that it was built  earlier, by Sir Hugh Fortee).  It was subsequently extended by Raynton’s  great-nephew, also named Nicholas, in 1656.  After the younger Nicholas’s death in 1696, the house passed to John Wolstenhome (*), who carried out further extension and refurbishment work.  Later owners included, from 1740, Eliab Breton; from 1787, Edmund Armstrong; from 1799, James Meyer; and, from 1894, Henry Carrington Bowles.  The  Bowles family sold the house to the Municipal Borough of Enfield in 1951, and it has been used as  a museum by them from that date to this.

(*) Likely a descendant of the merchant and financier of the same name who was also a member of the Virginia Company.