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.

Bridewell Precinct

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. 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. 

According to the antiquarian John Stow, writing in his “Survey of London” of 1598, “King Henry VIII. built … [in the area known as the Bridewell] … a stately and beautiful house of new, for the receipt of the Emperor Charles V., who, in the year of Christ 1522, was lodged himself at the Blackfriars [on the opposite, eastern, side of the River Fleet], … a gallery being made out of the house over the water [of the Fleet], … into the emperor’s lodging”.

Later, in 1529, Henry VIII again stayed in Bridewell Palace, as it had come to be known, and the Papal Legate, Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio, in the Blackfriars. This was on the occasion of the Legatine Court in the Parliament Hall in the Blackfriars, convened to address the King’s “Great Matter”, his proposed annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (which would enable him to marry Anne Boleyn). The Court ruled out the proposal. The rest is history.

When Henry VIII died in 1547, the Palace passed to his son Edward VI, and when Edward died in 1553, he gave it to the Mayor, George Baron, “for the commonalty and citizens, to be a workhouse for the poor and idle persons of the city”, as Stow put it. According to “The London Encyclopaedia“, the former palace was also used “for the reception of vagrants and homeless children and for the punishment of petty offenders and disorderly women”. There are records, too, of a hospital in the precinct as well as the workhouse and prison building, and later of a school. And there would undoubtedly have been some form of place of worship. The Parish Clerks included “Bridewell Precinct” in their register of deaths (the “Bills of Mortality”).

The Bridewell Prison in 1720 (from John Strype’s revised edition of Stow’s “Survey … “)

The Bridewell was burned down in Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt in 1667. It went on to be demolished between 1864-71. 

The new building on the old site of Bridewell Palace
Entrance to new building
Bust of Edward VI
Commemorative Plaque

The new building on the old site  bears  a commemorative plaque. 

St Bride Fleet Street

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. 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. 

St Bride Fleet Street (“C” on “Agas” map/Map of early Modern London) was possibly originally built as long ago as the sixth century (*), on a former Roman site, and extended in the eleventh, early twelfth (twice), thirteenth to fourteenth, and fifteenth.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “of old time a small thing, which now remaineth to be the choir, but since increased with a large body and side aisles toward the west, at the charges of William Venor, esquire, warden of the Fleet, about the year 1480”. John Caxton’s apprentice Wynkyn de Worde, who had himself set up a printing-press nearby, was buried in the church in around 1535; Richard Lovelace, the poet, in 1657. Richard Baker, who had died in the Fleet, where he had been imprisoned for debt, was buried here in 1645. He had previously written a chronicle of his times, which had ended abruptly at the start of the Civil War, as follows: “Yet our hope is it will be but a fit and the storme once passed faire weather againe and fairer perhaps than it was before and then with joy we shall resume our stile”. Samuel Pepys was christened in the church in 1633. 

The church was burned down in the  Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt by Wren between 1670-75.  It was then gutted by bombing on the night of  29th December 1940, and rebuilt again  in 1955-7.  The church   is perhaps best known  for its steeple of gracefully diminishing octagons, once memorably described by the poet W.E. Henley as “a madrigal in stone”, and  said to have influenced the design of the modern wedding cake. It also has many important literary and artistic associations, unsurprisingly in view of its proximity to Fleet Street and its printing presses. John Dryden, John Milton, the “Compleat Angler” Izaak Walton and the antiquarian Elias Ashmole were parishioners here in the seventeenth century; Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Oliver Goldsmith, Alexander Pope, Joshua Reynolds and William Hogarth, in the eighteenth.

Roman Tessellated Pavement
Pre-Eleventh Century Saxon Stonework
Saxo-Norman Stonework
Medieval Stonework

The Saxon and Medieval crypts survive, and are home to a fascinating exhibition of the church’s long and rich history, and its extraordinary eight incarnations. 

There is also a rather gruesome charnel house.

(*) There is some imprecisely-dated pre-eleventh century Saxon stonework that has been postulated, although not proven, to date to the sixth century, the church’s purported founder Bride, or Bridget, the Abbess of Kildare in Ireland, living from 450-525.

St Bartholomew the Less

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. 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. 

St Bartholomew the Less was originally built,  as one of five chapels attached to the Priory of St Bartholomew  in the twelfth century, and subsequently extended in the fifteenth (see also previous posting on St Bartholomew the Great). It became a parish church after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the early sixteenth century.  Inigo Jones was baptised in the church  in 1573, and John Lyly was buried there in 1606.

Stained-glass window depicting founder Rahere as a jester

The church was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, although nonetheless requiring to be substantially rebuilt by George Dance the Younger between 1789-93, and again by Thomas Hardwick between 1823-5, and restored by his grand-son Philip Hardwick between 1862-3.  Damaged in the Blitz, and repaired in 1950-1.  The oldest surviving part is the  fifteenth-century tower, located just inside the eighteenth-century Henry VIII Gate leading into St Bartholomew’s Hospital. 

Among the many treasures in the church is a – defaced – memorial brass commemorating John Markeby (d. 1439) and his wife Alice (d. 1479).

St Bartholomew the Great

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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. 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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The Augustinian Priory of St Bartholomew was built by Rahere, a courtier of  Henry I,  in 1123, and much extended and modified in the thirteenth to early sixteenth centuries, before being dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539, when the prior’s lodgings became Sir Richard Rich’s, and that part of the priory church that was spared demolition became  the parish church of St Bartholomew the Great (temporarily serving as a Dominican Convent under Mary). 

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The church was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, although nonetheless requiring to be restored by Aston Webb in 1884-1921, and also  undamaged in the Blitz, such that   much  of its ancient  fabric still survives. The west porch, with its characteristic dog-tooth mouldings, is early thirteenth-century, although incorporated into a later, late sixteenth-century, gate-house.  The brick tower is early seventeenth-century, dating to 1622-8. 

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The interior is darkly atmospheric and evocative. The nave is partly twelfth-century, and in the Norman Romanesque style, …

… and partly fourteenth-century, and in the later Medieval Gothic style; …

… and the oriel window, inscribed with Prior Bolton’s rebus of a bolt and tun, immediately post-Medieval, dating to 1509, and in the Tudor style.

The memorial to Rahere is  fifteenth-century; …

MIldmay memorial (1589)
Freshwater memorial (1617)
Cooke memorial (1652)

… numerous others,  sixteenth-  to seventeenth- century.  

The dedication of the priory to St Bartholomew was on account of Rahere’s recovery from malaria following a vision he had of the Saint.

St Andrew Holborn

Resurrection Scene …

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. 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. 

St Andrew Holborn was originally built in timber at least as long ago as the mid-tenth century  (being referred to as an “old wooden church” in a Charter of Westminster Abbey of 951), and subsequently rebuilt in stone in the fifteenth.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow recorded a number of monuments in the church, including those of “Thomas, Lord Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, buried 1550” and “Ralph Rokeby of Lincoln’s Inn, esquire, Master of St Katherine’s, and one of the masters of requests to the queen’s majesty, who deceased … 1596”. In his will, Rokeby left “to Christ’s Hospital in London one hundred pounds, to the college of the poor of Queen Elizabeth in East Greenwich one hundred pounds, … to the prisoners in the two compters in London two hundred pounds, to the prisoners in the Fleet … , … in Ludgate … , … in Newgate … , … in the King’s Bench … , … [and] … in the Marshalsea one hundred pounds, to the prisoners in the White Lion twenty pounds [one wonders what they must have done to deserve such discriminatory treatment], to the poor of St Katherine’s twenty pounds, and to every brother and sister there forty shillings”. At the time, £100 was approximately six times the annual wage of a skilled tradesman.

According to most sources, the church was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666.  Note, though, that there is a building on Hatton Garden that was, according to a plaque affixed to the outside,  erected as a church  “to serve the needs of the neighbourhood after St Andrew’s Holborn had been destroyed in the Great Fire”.  In either case,  the church was rebuilt by Wren ?and Hawksmoor between 1684-7.  It was later  restored in the nineteenth century, and again in the twentieth, after sustaining bomb damage during the Blitz.  The stone arches leading to the altar in the chapel are original, fifteenth-century.  Thomas Coram, the founder of the Foundlings’ Hospital in Coram’s Fields, is buried in the church.  The Renatus Harris organ presented by Handel  to the same Foundlings’  Hospital can now be seen in the church.

Holy Trinity the Less

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. 

Holy Trinity the Less (not shown  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the thirteenth century, the earliest written reference to it being from 1266; and subsequently rebuilt in the early seventeenth, in 1606-7. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, John Stow described the church as “very old, and in danger of falling down”, adding that “collections have been made for repairing thereof, but they will not stretch so far, and therefore it leaneth upon props or stilts”. Stow also recorded a number of monuments in the church, including that of John Brian, alderman in the reign of Henry V. [1413-22], a great benefactor”. Henry Machyn, a merchant taylor or clothier who chronicled events in London between 1550-63, recounted how in 1559 the then Rector, Thomas Chambers, became involved in an unseemly brawl with a young man, breaking a bottle over his head, for which he was imprisoned “first in the Compter [given the date, either the Poultry Compter or the then newly-built one in Wood Street] and then in Bridewell”.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt again afterwards, the former parish merging  with that of St Michael Queenhithe.  Essentially nothing now remains of it other than a parish boundary marker in Great Trinity Lane.

St Thomas the Apostle

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. 

St Thomas the Apostle, Great St Thomas Apostle (reversed “Z” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, the oldest written reference to it being from 1181, and at that time dedicated to St Thomas Becket. It was subsequently substantially rebuilt in the fourteenth century, in part by John Barns, mercer, mayor in 1371. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as a “proper church”, adding, though, that “monuments of antiquity there be none”. He also noted that among those known to have been buried in the church was “Sir William Littlesbery, alias Horne, for King Edward IV. so named him, because he was a most excellent blower in a horn”. Littlesbery alias Horne, salter and merchant of the staple, had been mayor in 1487.

The  church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666,  and not rebuilt afterwards, the former parish uniting with that of St Mary Aldermary.   A Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks its former site.

St Swithin London Stone

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. 

St Swithin London Stone (“S” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the thirteenth century, the oldest written reference to it being in Pope Nicholas IV’s “Taxatio Ecclesiastica” of 1291.  It was subsequently rebuilt in 1420. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow recorded a number of monuments in the church, including those of “Sir John Hend, draper, mayor [1391 and 1404]”, and “especial” benefactor, who “lieth buried … with a fair stone upon him, but the plates and inscriptions are defaced”, and “Ralph Jecoline, mayor [1464]”, another benefactor, “buried in a fair tomb”. Later, at some point during the inter-regnum (1649-60), the Rector, Richard Owen, was ejected from his post for his support of the Royalist cause, evidently going on to hold clandestine services in the home of the diarist John Evelyn. John Dryden was married to Lady Elizabeth Howard in the church in 1663.   

The church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt again, by Wren, in 1677-86, using materials salvaged from St Mary Bothaw.  It went on to be severely damaged by bombing in 1941, and to be demolished in 1957. 

It is one of the twenty-one “lost” Wren churches, and one of the four lost during the Blitz of the Second World War.

Essentially only the so-called “London Stone”, that had been built into the south wall of the church in 1798, still   survives at its former site, as stipulated in the conditions for its redevelopment. 

Note, through, that there are also parish boundary markers on Cannon Street and in Oxford Court.  

The churchyard  also survives,  between Oxford Court and Salters Hall Court.  The Welsh freedom fighter Owain  Glyndwr’s daughter Catrin and her  daughters were buried here after dying in captivity in the Tower of London  in 1413, the year in which Henry IV died.  (The circumstances were suspicious, as Catrin’s daughters, by Edmund Mortimer, had a claim to the throne at the time). 

A modern Gelligaer bluestone sculpture by Nic Stradlyn-John and Richard Renshaw, inscribed with a Welsh englyn by Menna Elfyn, marks the spot.  (Freely) rendered into English, by me, the  englyn reads: “In the Tower, now her home,|Her heart-song turns to longing:|The exile’s silent lament”.  

Swithin was Bishop of Winchester in the ninth century.

St Stephen Walbrook

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. 

St Stephen Walbrook (“R”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built on the west side of the street at least as long ago as the eleventh century, the oldest written reference to it dating to around 1096. It was subsequently rebuilt on the east side of the street, on a plot provided by the sometime mayor, Sir Robert Chichley, in 1439, and repaired in the early seventeenth century, in or before 1615. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as a “fair church”, and recorded a number of its monuments, including those to “Sir Richard Lee, mayor [1460 and 1469]”, “Sir John Cootes, mayor 1542” and “Rowland Hill, mayor 1549”, not to mention “John Dunstable, master of astronomy and music”, [who died] in the year 1453″, “Dr Owyn, physician to King Henry VIII.” and “Sir Thomas Pope, first treasurer of the augmentations”.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt by Wren between 1672-9, in the Baroque style, and with a dome that was a prototype for that of St Paul’s. It was then modified in the eighteenth century, when the spire was added, modified again in the nineteenth, damaged during the Second World War of the early twentieth,  and restored in the post-war period, and again, to redress subsidence into the soft sediments of the River Walbrook, between 1978-87.  The interior, approached up a flight of steps, is domed and filled with light, very much “in the spirit of St Paul’s”, and very beautiful (although, according to one critic, “worthy not of    Purcell, who never forgot his heart, but of J.S. Bach, who sometimes mislaid his”).  Vanbrugh is buried here, although he has no monument.

Nathaniel Hodges, a  local doctor who had dedicated himself to the treatment of those afflicted by the “Great Plague” of 1665,  is also buried here, and commemorated by a plaque.  Twice Hodges had thought himself succumbing to the symptoms of the disease, and twice he had kept it at bay by drinking increased draughts of sack (he had also taken a preventive electuary as large as a nutmeg each day). He had then gone on to write an account of his experiences, entitled “Loimologia … “, in 1672, lamenting therein the uselessness of bezoar stone, unicorn horn and dried toad as anti-pestilential treatments. Tragically, he had died a pauper in Ludgate Prison in 1688.

St Stephen Coleman Street

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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. 

St Stephen Coleman Street (not shown  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London), also known as St Stephen in the Jewry, was originally built at least as long ago as the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the oldest written reference to it dating to sometime in the reign of King John (1199-1216); and it was subsequently repaired and extended in the early seventeenth. In the early Middle Ages, it may only have been a chapel-of-ease to St Olave Jewry, but by the middle of the fifteenth century was evidently a parish church in its own right. In 1431, John Sokelyng, who owned a neighbouring brewery called “La Cokke on the hoop”‘, bequeathed a sum to the church on condition that it perform a Mass on the anniversary of his death and those of his two wives. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow found many of the monuments in the church “defaced”, but nonetheless was able to recognise a number, including that of “Thomas Bradbery, mercer, mayor, the 1st of Henry VIII. [1509]” Also buried in the church was the playwright, anti-Catholic propagandist and “pursuivant” Anthony Munday, who continued Stow’s “Survey”, and who died in 1633. In the early seventeenth century, St. Stephen’s was something of a stronghold of Puritanism. In 1624, John Davenport was appointed Vicar, and in 1637 he set sail for the Americas, with some of his parishioners, there – eventually – to found the colony of New Haven in Connecticut.

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The church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt again, by Wren, in 1674-81.  It was destroyed by bombing on  the night of 29th December, 1940 (the night of the “The Second Great Fire of London”). 

It is one of the twenty-one “lost” Wren churches, and one of the four lost during the Blitz of the Second World War.

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Nothing  of it remains at its original site, other than   some parish  boundary markers bearing the insignia of the “cock-a-hoop”. 

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A replica of the carved panel depicting the Last Judgement, that once stood above the entrance to the church, may be seen in the Museum of London. 

St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, put to death by stoning in Jerusalem in or around the year 35AD.