“Her Majesty departed this life” (John Manningham, 1603)

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On this day in 1603, John Manningham wrote:

“This morning about three at clock her Majesty [Elizabeth I] departed this life, mildly like a lamb, easily like a ripe apple from the tree … .  About ten at clock the Council and divers noblemen having been awhile in consultation, proclaimed James VI, King of Scots, the King of England, France and Ireland, beginning at Whitehall gates, where Sir Robert Cecil read the proclamation which he carried in his hand, and after read again in Cheapside.  Many noblemen, lords spiritual and temporal, knights, five trumpets, many heralds.  The gates at Ludgate and portcullis were shut and down, by the Lord Mayor’s command, who was there present, with the Aldermen, etc., and until he had a …  promise … that they would proclaim the King of Scots King of England, he would not open.  Upon the death of a king or queen in London the Lord Mayor of London is the greatest magistrate in England”.

Manningham was a lawyer of the Middle Temple who kept an account of life in London between 1601-03, i.e.,  in the dying days of Elizabeth’s – and the Tudor dynasty’s – reign.

The Red Bull, Clerkenwell

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On this day in 1661, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“To the Red Bull (where I had not been since plays came up again) up to the tireing-room, where strange the confusion and disorder there is among them in fitting themselves, … where the clothes are very poore, and the actors but common fellows.  At last into the pitt, where I think there was not above ten more than myself, and not one hundred in the whole house.  And the play, which is called “All’s Lost but Lost” [by Rowley], poorly done; and with so much disorder, among others, in the musique-room, the boy that was to sing a song, not singing it right, his master fell about his eares and beat him so, that it put the whole house into an uprore”.

The Red Bull Inn in Clerkenwell had previously been leased  in 1604 to Aaron  Holland, a servant of the Earl of Devonshire,  to be converted to an open-air  play-house (or possibly a covered theatre – an illustration of it from Kirkman’s “Book of Wits”, published in 1662,  appears to show chandeliers suspended from a roof).  It had then functioned as such between the beginning of 1606/7 and 1642, when the performance of plays was banned by an Act of Parliament forced through by the Puritans (although there is some evidence to suggest that plays continued to be staged there even after the ban).  And it had re-opened as a play-house after the Restoration in 1660.  Its new lease of life was short-lived, though, and it appears to have closed by 1663, and been demolished by  1665.  It was not destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666, as some sources maintain.

The play-house was home to various acting troupes, including Queen Anne’s Men (or the Queen’s Servants); Prince Charles’s Men (later the King’s Men), partly financed by the theatrical impresario Edward Alleyn, who was also involved with the Fortune in nearby Finsbury (see December 9th posting); the Red Bull Company; and, after the Restoration, Michael Mohun’s Company and George Jolly’s Troupe.  A number of specially-written new plays by, among others, Heywood, Dekker and Webster were staged here.  However, the play-house was to become infamous for staging unsophisticated plays, to unappreciative audiences!

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The site of the playhouse, on Hayward’s Place (formerly Red Bull Yard), is visited on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” 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).

 

“The Singularities of  London” (L. Grenade, 1578)

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Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts and descriptions of the historic City of London,  this rather wonderful – if  in part fanciful – one from “The Singularities of  London”, written, originally in French, by L. Grenade in 1578 …

On the foundation of London, its names, its site and the River Thames

There is a certain fool (but entirely ignorant of history) who has written that England was formerly called Britain, since its language was brief and concise.  This stupid etymology, however, is most worthy of such a dullard.  In fact, it endows him with ears longer than those of an ass, for this name comes from an excellent Trojan named Brutus, … who bestowed on England the name of Britain from his own name … .

This Brutus of whom I speak, having long wandered hither and thither … following the total ruin of Troy, finally reached the island called at that time Albion.  And, since the country seemed a suitable place to end his … travails, having chosen a location on the River Thames, he began to build a city.  This was in the year of the world 2855, and 1188 years before the coming of … Christ.  This clearly demonstrates the antiquity of the city, … that we now call London.

So, having begun to build his city, Brutus … named it New Troy.  And this name remained until the coming of King Lud, who in the year 68 before … Christ, called it Ludunum after his own name.  But since then, over time, a change has been made and it has been called Londinium … .

Now, Brutus could not have selected a place … more fitting nor more rich in everything required for the location of a place more perfect in all respects.  And to prove this, I will first relate something of the neighbouring places so as to add greater lustre to all the rest.

Let us consider therefore (but with wonder) the environs of this noble city.  … [I]f we stand in the elevated place called Highgate, we have from there a full view of the city which with its buildings is wondrously pleasing on the eye, and in its shape and situation alongside the river, describes an arc of very beautiful form.  Then, if we cast our gaze from there towards the east, we follow the Thames flowing gently into the arms of its father the Ocean.  And turning towards the south, we see that lovely and rich county of Kent … , as full of delight as it is of fertility.  Finally, let us look west and north towards the descent of the Thames to the sea.  O what joy to see the level plain extending as far as the eye can see, very fertile in all things.

Now let us come to the site itself of this excellent city, which lies beside a great river called the Thames, which brings great profit and convenience to the said city.  The length of this river is 30 French leagues … .  This river conveys large vessels  of between two and 300 toms burden to the aforementioned city : … by which means all manner of goods from all countries abound here.  The great ships which approach it are accustomed on entering – and when they are opposite the magnificent royal Tower – to salute the city with great cannon shots, as if rendering thanks to God … .

London is situated in the midst of a beautiful and spacious plain, which ensures that the city is well aired.  She is encompassed on all sides by beautiful meadows … , gardens and cultivable lands, which, on account of their fertility, yield much produce each year.

The villages (of which there is a great number in the environs) are … only about two harquebus shots distant from the city.  Therefore, people go there in great numbers on holidays when the weather is good”.

“Whipped at a cartes arse” (Charles Wriothesley, 1545)

 

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Charles Wriothesley (*) wrote in his “Chronicle of England during the Reigns of the Tudors …” that on this day in 1545:

“Hugh Weaver, a fishmonger … , was whipped at a cartes arse about London, with a paper set on his head,  for misusing the mayor … and strykinge his officer … ; and allso had after that longe prisonment in the Counter for the same”.

(*) Wriothesley, who lived from 1508-1562, was a herald at the College of Arms in the City of London as well as a chronicler.  He is buried not in the church of St Giles-without-Cripplegate, alongside  other members of the Wriothesley family, but in St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.

 

 

Life and death in Tudor London (Henry Machyn, 1563)

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On this day in 1563, Henry Machyn wrote in his diary:

“One master Lynsey armourer dwelling in Bishope-gate street did hang himself in a privy house for he had his office taken away from him … .  The same day there was a maid dwelling in Hay lane … did fall out of a window and break her neck.  The same day … in saint Martens there was a woman dwelling there took a pair of shearers for to have cut her throat, but she missed the pipe in her … madness, and … a day after … died … ”.

Machyn, who lived from 1496/1498–1563, was  a merchant-taylor or clothier but is now best known as a diarist or chronicler.  His  Diary, written between 1550-1563, contains descriptions of such  important events in Tudor history as the Reformation, and the conversion of the country to Protestantism, under Henry VIII, and the reversion to Catholicism under Henry’s daughter Mary.  Judging from his actions, as well as from  the tone of the Chronicle, Machyn would appear to have been at least  a closet Catholic.  In 1561, he committed the sinful act of “spyking serten [slanderous] words against Veron the [Protestant] preacher”, for which he paid penance at St Paul’s Cross.

The “Oranges and Lemons” service at St Clement Danes

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A special “Oranges and Lemons” service will take place in the church of St Clement Danes today, as it has on the third Thursday in March every year since 1919, to commemorate the reference to the church – or possibly that of St Clement Eastcheap – in the well-known nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons (say the bells of St Clements)” (*).

Participating children from the local Primary School will each be presented with an orange and a lemon to take home at the end.

(*) The nursery rhyme is of uncertain antiquity, although  versions of it  date back as least as far as the early eighteenth century.  Besides St Clements, other churches referred to include St Martin’s [?St Martin within Ludgate or St Martin in the Fields], Old Bailey [St Sepulchre without Newgate], Shoreditch [St Leonard], Stepney [St Dunstan and All Saints] and Bow [St Mary-le-Bow].

Oranges and lemons probably began to be  imported into London  at least as long ago as the fifteenth century.

 

James I‘s triumphal entry into London (1604)

On this day in 1604, James I, the newly crowned first Stuart King of England, entered  the City of London, and thence processed to  Westminster to attend his first parliament, amid much pomp and pageant.  A number of contemporary accounts of the event still survive, including those of Thomas Dekker, Gilbert Dugdale, Ben Jonson and Stephen Harrison, and also that of the King himself, who wrote,  with characteristic bombast:

“The people of all sorts rode and ran, nay, rather flew to meet me, their eyes flaming nothing but sparkles of affection, their mouths and tongues uttering nothing but sounds of joy, their hands, feet, and all the rest of their members in their gestures discovering a passionate longing and earnestness to meet and embrace their new sovereign.”

On its way from the City to Westminster, the  procession passed beneath  a series of allegorically-themed triumphal arches, designed by the aforementioned Stephen Harrison, that formed the backdrops for entertainments by some of the finest writers of the day, including Dekker, Jonson, Middleton and Webster (see also April 22nd posting on Charles II’s Coronation Cavalcade).

1 - The Arch of Londinium

The first triumphal arch, on Fenchurch Street, was the Arch of Londinium, representing the City of London.  The entertainment performed here portrayed the personification of British Monarchy, Divine Wisdom, and the  Genius of the City (alongside  Gladness, Veneration, Prompitude, Vigilance, Loving Affection and Unanimity).

2 - The Arch of the Italians

The second arch, on Gracious [Gracechurch] Street, was the Arch of the Italians (*), also symbolically depicting James receiving the crown of England …

3 - The Arch of the Dutchmen

… and the third, at the [Royal] Exchange, the Arch of the Dutchmen (**).

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The fourth, at the Great Conduit at the eastern end of Cheapside, was the Arch of New Arabia.

4 - The Arch of the Bower of Plenty

The fifth, at the Little Conduit at the western end of Cheapside, was the Arch of the Bower of Plenty, also symbolically depicting Peace, the nine Muses,  and the seven Liberal Arts (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry and Astrology).

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The sixth, at the Conduit on Fleet Street, was the Arch of the New World.

The seventh, and the last in the City of London, at Temple Bar, was the Temple of Janus (there was an eighth on the Strand in the City of Westminster).

(*) There had been an Italian community in the immediately surrounding area – centred on Lombard Street – since the late thirteenth century.

(**) There had been a Dutch community in the immediately surrounding area – centred on the Dutch Church on Austin Friars – since the mid-sixteenth century.