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 an independent London Tour Guide, an Author, a member of London Historians and a keen Blogger. I conduct guided walking tours on the theme of the Lost City of London, and I am the author of a number of published works (including the 'Lost City of London' but also several paleontology text books and scientific papers). You can find out more about my journey from the geological to the historical on my About.me profile. But what do I mean by 'The Lost City of London'? Well, in 1666 London was devastated by the Great Fire, which gutted over 13,000 houses and over 80 parish churches, as well as old St Paul's Cathedral. So much was lost, but some original structures and streets survived the blaze and can still be found today - if you know where to look! On my Guided Walks (and in my book) I will show you what remains of the City of the Black Death, the Peasants' Revolt, the Reformation, the Civil War, and the Great Plague; the City of Chaucer and Shakespeare and Pepys. Not forgetting that great shaper of post-fire London - Christopher Wren! Join me to discover hidden Roman ruins, some rare surviving pre-fire parish churches, the historic drinking establishments still open for business - and much more! Not to mention Wren's remaining (and lost!) gems of the fire's immediate aftermath.

A voice from the past (Samuel Pepys)

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On this day in 1703 Samuel Pepys died.  He is buried in the church of St Olave Hart Street, which to this day holds an annual service to  honour his memory.

The following are selected extracts from the entries in his diary for the days of the Great Fire of London in 1666:

“September 2d .  …  Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire … in the City.  So I rose, and slipped on my night-gown, and went to her window; and thought it to be … far enough off,   and so went to bed again … .  … By and by Jane comes and tells me that … the fire …  is now burning all down Fish Street, by London Bridge.  So I made myself ready … and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places … ; and … did see the houses at  that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side of the end of the bridge … .  So down, with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant … , who tells me that it begun … In the King’s bakers in Pudding-lane, and hath burned  St Magnus’s church and most … of Fish-street already.  So I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and … there saw a lamentable fire.   …  Every body endeavouring to remove their goods, and …  bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one … stairs, by the waterside, to another.   … Having staid, and in an hour’s time seen the fire rage every way, and nobody, to my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods, and … the wind mighty high and driving it into the City, and everything, after so long a drought, proving combustible … : I to White Hall, … and did tell the King … what I saw; and that, unless his Majesty did command houses to be pulled down [to create fire-breaks], nothing could stop the fire.  The King commanded me to go to my Lord Mayor [the singularly ineffectual Thomas Bloodworth]” and command him to … pull down  [houses].  At last met my Lord Mayor … .  To the King’s message he cried, like a fainting woman ‘Lord, what can I do?  I am spent: people will not obey me.  I have been pulling down   houses; but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it’”.

September 3d. (M)y Lady Batten sent me a cart to carry away all my money, and plate, and best things, .., which I did, riding … in my night-gown, in the cart … .

September 4th.  … (T)o the Tower Street, and there met the fire burning … .  And … Sir W. Pen and I did dig [a pit], and put our wine in it, and I my parmazan cheese … .

September 5th.  … About two in the morning my wife … tells me of new cryes of fire, it being come to Barking Church … .    I up; and finding it so, resolved …  to take her away, and did, and … my gold … ; but, Lord! what a sad sight it was by moone-light, to see the whole City almost on fire … .  Home, and whereas I expected to have seen our house on fire, … it was not.  … (G)oing to the fire, I find, by the blowing up of houses … by Sir W. Pen, there is a good stop given to it … ; it having only burned the dyall of Barking Church, and part of the porch, and … was there quenched.  I up to the top of Barking steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation I ever saw… ”.

The aforementioned churches of All Hallows Barking (Barking church) and St Olave Hart Street, which are closely associated with Pepys, are visited, although not generally entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights” and “Great Fire of London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

 

The martyrdom of John Forest (1538)

Martyrdom of John Forest

On this day in 1538, the Franciscan Friar John Forest was burned at the stake in Smithfield for refusing to take an oath acknowledging the King – Henry VIII – as the Supreme Head of the Church in England (it is said that fuel for the fire was provided by a statue of St Derfel from the pilgrimage site of Llandderfel in North Wales, which it had been prophesied would “one day set a forest on fire”).   Forest had been a confessor to Henry  first wife, Catherine of Aragon (*), and in 1532 had publicly spoken out against his plans to divorce her (from the open-air pulpit at St Paul’s Cross).

Smithfield is visited on “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London” and “Tudor and Stuart London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

(*) There was a Franciscan Friary attached to the Royal Palace at Greenwich.

Civil War and Commonwealth

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On this day in 1649,  at what was effectively the end of the Civil War, the Long  Parliament passed an Act making England  a Commonwealth and Free State “where Parliament would constitute the officers and ministers of the people without any kings or lords”.

Sites associated with the Civil War and Commonwealth are visited on various of our walks, including the  “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

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Rebel Barons capture London (1215)

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On this day in 1215, rebel barons captured London, going  on to force the king, John to set his seal to Magna Carta on the tenth of the following month (*).

Ralph of Coggeshall wrote:

“With alliances sworn with the citizens of London via go-betweens, … the barons came to London and seized it without opposition, the citizens being busy at Mass. Having entered, the barons captured all of the King’s supporters whom they found, depriving them of their goods. They broke into the houses of the Jews, rifling store-houses and strong boxes, and having spent much time in this holy work, abundantly restuffed their own empty purses. Robert fitz Walter, Marshal of the Army of God and Holy Church, and Geoffrey de Mandeville, earl of Essex and Gloucester, vigilantly and daily reinforced the city walls with stones taken from the houses of the Jews. They could not, however, take the Tower of London, defended against them by a small but brave garrison. As soon as it became known, far and wide, that the barons had seized the royal metropolis, all, save only the earls of Warenne, Arundel, Chester, Pembroke, Ferrers and Salisbury, and amongst the barons only William Brewer … defected to the baronial party; … so that …  the King was seized with such terror that he now dared travel no further than Windsor”.

(*) The First Barons’ War broke out in late  1215, when it became clear that when John  had no intention of abiding  by the terms of the charter.   At this time, the  barons sought to have Philippe II’s son Prince Louis of France replace John as king, and indeed welcomed him to London as king in early 1216.  However, when the war ended, by the Treaty of Lambeth, brokered by William Marshall, in 1217, they agreed to accept John’s son Henry III as king (John himself having died in late  1216).

The Bastard Fauconberg’s assault on London (1471)

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During “The Wars of the Roses”, between 1455-85, London was an important centre of political machination, and the Tower, the scene of a series of chilling politically motivated murders, in forgotten dreadful cubicles behind great locked doors (see also February 18th posting).

There was also some actual action in the City (see also July 2nd  posting); and indeed there were pitched battles on its outskirts, at St Alban’s in 1455 and 1461, and  at Barnet in 1471 (see also April 14th posting).

On May 14th, 1471, London’s  Yorkist garrison was bombarded and then assaulted, as the contemporary “Chronicle of London” put it, “on alle sydys”, by Lancastrian forces  under the privateer Thomas Nevill, illegitimate son of William Nevill, Lord Fauconberg, and otherwise known as the Bastard Fauconberg.  In response, the  Lord Mayor, John Stockton,  and his Sheriffs, John Crosby (*) and John Ward,  rode from gate to gate to rally the City’s  defences, “in alle haast with a Trumpett”.   And for the most part the defences held firm.  Aldgate came under the most sustained attack, “with mighty shott of hand Gunnys & sharp shott of arrowis”.  Indeed, some attackers even  managed to enter the City there, only to be held up by defenders under the Recorder of the City, Thomas Ursewyk, and an Alderman named John Basset, and then to be forced to retreat  by the arrival of defensive reinforcements from the Tower of London, “which dyscomffortid the Rebellys”.  The attack had failed, and the attackers who had evaded capture took to their ships, and sailed out to the safety of the Thames estuary.  Many  of those  who had been captured  were summarily executed, including Spysyng and Quyntyn.  And within days, Henry VI was apparently also done to death, on the orders of Edward IV, in the Tower.

Aldgate   is visited on our  “London Wall” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London” and “Medieval City Highlights” themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

(*) Crosby was later knighted for his role in the City’s defence.  His memorial in the church of St Helen Bishopsgate shows him in armour.

“O put not your trust in princes”

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On this day in 1641, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford and Lord Deputy of Ireland, an ardent supporter of the King, Charles I, in his power struggle with Parliament in the period leading up to the Civil War, was executed for high treason on Tower Hill (specifically, for allegedly saying to the King “You have an army in Ireland you may employ here to reduce this kingdom”).

His last words, taken from the Psalms, were:

“O put not your trust in Princes, nor in any child of man; for there is no help in them”.

A not particularly oblique reference to the sense of betrayal he felt toward the King, who had promised him that he “should not suffer in his person, honour or fortune”; and then, when expedient, signed his death warrant!

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Tower Hill  is visited on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London”, “Tudor and Stuart London” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

“The custome and manners of a Commonwealth” (John Reresby, 1658)

Custom and manners of a Commonwealth

On this day in 1658, the politician Sir John Reresby (1634-89) wrote in his diary (*):

“The citizens and common people of London had then soe far imbibed the custome and manners of a Commonwealth that they could scarce endure the sight of a gentleman, soe that the common salutation to a man well dressed was “French dog,” or the like. Walkeing one day in the street with my valet de chambre, who did wear a feather in his hatt, some workemen that were mending the street abused him and threw sand upon his cloaths, at which he drew his sword, thinkeing to follow the custome of France in the like cases. This made the rabble fall upon him and me, that had drawn too in his defence, till we gott shelter in a hous, not without injury to our bravery and some blowes to ourselves”.

(*) The diary has been described by the historian Henry Wheatley as follows:

“ … the work of an accomplished man who united in himself the qualities of a courtier and those of a country squire. The book contains a pleasing record of the chief events, some of them of very great importance, which came under his notice [including not only the  Civil War and Commonwealth, but also the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the Popish Plot in 1680, and the Glorious Revolution in 1688], as well as of other matters founded on the mere gossip of court circles. The author writes with distinction, and the reader cannot well follow his adventures without a feeling of esteem and sympathy, although it must be confessed that he was somewhat of a self-seeker … .  To those who read his pleasant narrative with interest, this must, however, appear a hard saying. He lived in a difficult period, and, although he was whole-heartedly loyal to Charles II, he does not appear to have approved of the next sovereign, and his protestant feelings prevented him from being troubled with much regret when the revolution was completed; so that he had not any difficulty in deciding to swear allegiance to William III”.