John Cass (1661-1718)

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John Cass (1661-1718) of East Smithfield was at one time or another the Master of the Companies of Carpenters and of Skinners in the City of London, the Alderman of Portsoken Ward, a Sheriff, a Member of Parliament, a Knight, and a noted philanthropist.

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The John Cass School, founded by him in Aldgate in 1710 and rebuilt in 1908, and the John Cass Foundation, established  in 1748, commemorate Founder’s Day on or around this day each year, in a special service in the church of St Botolph without Aldgate.    The participants, who also include the Lord Mayor and representatives from the  Livery Companies, each wear a red feather to remember the founder  by (*).

(*) It is said that he died while writing his will, and that the quill pen he had been using became stained with blood – hence the red feather.

Bedlam

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On this day in 1669, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“I to  the office, while the young people went to see Bedlam”.

The Priory of St Mary of  Bethlehem (“Bedlam”) was originally founded just outside Bishopsgate in 1247, becoming a hospital  in 1329, a mental hospital of a sort in  1403, and  infamous for the shameful ill-treatment of its inmates by all and sundry thereafter.  It survived the Great Fire of 1666, but nonetheless required to be rebuilt  by Robert Hooke in Moorfields in 1675.  It was subsequently  rebuilt again at the junction of Kennington Road and Lambeth Road  in the Borough of Southwark in 1815, and finally relocated to the site of a former country house estate in Beckenham in the Borough of Bromley in Kent in 1930.   Corporation “Blue Plaques” mark  the two former City sites of the hospital (the Southwark also site survives to this day, and has housed the Imperial War Museum since 1936).  The Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber’s (1630-1700) extraordinary statues of figures representing “Raving and Melancholy Madness”, that used to stand outside the old hospital in Moorfields, may now be seen inside the museum of the new one in Beckenham.

Archaeological excavation work is currently ongoing on the  associated burial ground just outside Bishopsgate, originally established in 1569.  Among the 20000 or so Londoners  known from surviving records to have been laid to rest here are Robert Lockyer, a Leveller executed by firing squad during the Civil War, in 1649; and a number of people killed in Thomas Venner’s rebellion, in 1661.  Also  a large number who died in the Great Plague in 1665 (including one Mary Godfree, whose gravestone has recently been found).

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The City sites of Bedlam are visited on our “Bishopsgate and Beyond (Historic Shoreditch and Spitalfields)” and “London Wall” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights”, “Tudor and Stuart London” and “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights” 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).

“Winde … such as hath not been in memory before” (Samuel Pepys, 1662)

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On this day in 1662, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“Having agreed with Sir Wm Pen and my wife to meet them at the Opera, and finding by my walking in the streets, which were everywhere full of brick battes and tyeles flung down by the extraordinary Winde the last night (such as hath not been in memory before, unless at the death of the late Protector [Oliver Cromwell]) that it was dangerous to go out of doors; and hearing how several persons have been killed by the fall of things in the streets and … that one Lady Sanderson, a person of Quality in Covent garden, was killed by the fall of the house in her bed last night, I sent my boy home to forbid them to go forth … ”.

“Conscience is but a word that cowards use” (1478)

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During “The Wars of the Roses”, between 1455-85, London was an important centre of political machination, and the Tower, at least according to legend, the scene of a series of chilling politically motivated murders, in forgotten dreadful cubicles behind great locked doors (*).

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At least according to legend, on this day in 1478, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who later went on to become Richard III, ordered the death in the Tower of London of his brother George, Duke of Clarence – by drowning in  a butt of Malmsey wine.

The Tower is visited, although not entered,  on our  “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, 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 some actual action in the City as well (see also May 14th and July 2nd postings). And there were pitched battles on the outskirts, at St Alban’s in 1455 and 1461, as well as at Barnet in 1471 (see also April 14th posting).

 

Shock and Awe in London and Paris (Matthew Paris, 1247)

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According to the contemporary chronicler Matthew Paris, in his Chronica Majora and Historia Anglorum, on this day, the vigil of St Valentine,  in 1247, “there was a great earthquake in many places of England, especially in London about the banks of the Thames, destroying many houses”.

Paris was also a  Benedictine monk, scribe and illuminator of manuscripts, based at St Albans Abbey (see also February 2nd posting here). He was of French origin.

 

“Moll Cut-purse, a notorious baggage” (John Chamberlain, 1612)

The Roaring Girle

On this day in 1612, John Chamberlain (see also January 8th posting) wrote:

“This last Sunday Moll Cut-purse, a notorious baggage (that used to go into man’s apparel and challenged the field of diverse gallants) was brought to [Paul’s Cross], where she wept bitterly and seemed very penitent, but it is since doubted she was maudlin drunk. Being discovered to have tippled off three quarts of sack before she came to her penance”.

Moll Cut-purse, whose real name was Mary Frith, was  the model for Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton’s “The Roaring Girle”, written in 1611.

The execution of Lady Jane Grey (1554)

A romanticised view of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, by Delaroche

On this day in 1554, Lady Jane Grey was executed on the orders of Queen Mary.  She  had previously been proclaimed Queen on July 10th, 1553 (see July 10th posting), only to be usurped by Mary nine days later on July 19th (see July 19th posting), and   tried and convicted of high treason on November 13th.  This was despite the previous King, Edward VI, having in his will  nominated her  as his preferred successor to the throne (she being a fellow  Protestant; Mary,  a Catholic).

Lady Jane’s father, Henry Grey, was  executed a matter of a few days later, on February 23rd, for his role in “Wyatt’s Rebellion” (see also February 3rd posting).