West Wickham

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

As noted in the post of July 7th, what is now known as West Wickham was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 973 as Wic hammes gemaeru, meaning “boundary of the homestead associated with the vicus”; and later as Wicheham in the Domesday Book of 1086, as Wicham in 1231, and as Westwycham in 1284.  It was clearly settled at least as long ago as Roman times, but remained sparsely populated until after the arrival of the railway in 1882.  Even to this day, it retains something of a rural character, especially to the south.  Note, though, that is is technically part of the London Borough of Bromley.



The church of St John (the Baptist) was probably originally built here in the Saxon period,  rebuilt in the later Medieval, and rebuilt again in the early Post-Medieval, in the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509), by Sir Henry Heydon, a lawyer and Justice of the Peace, who married  Anne Boleyn, the great-aunt of the future queen of the same name.   There are some surviving Medieval to Post-Medieval memorials in the interior, including one to William de Thorp, a one-time rector (d. 1407), and another to Sir Samuel Lennard (d. 1618), another  lawyer and Justice of the Peace (also a Member of Parliament), and the husband of Elizabeth Slayne (daughter of Sir Stephen Slayne, another one-time Lord Mayor of London).


There are also some particularly fine stained-glass windows, believed to be by Anglo-Flemish artists.


A manor house was built here in the early Medieval period, and rebuilt in the late, between 1469-1480, also by Sir Henry Heydon.  In the   Post-Medieval period, it entered the possession of the Lennard family.  In 1935, it was sold and adapted for use as a hotel, and it is currently  a preparatory school, named  Wickham Court.  Some original features survive.


Another in the  occasional series on “London Settings for Shakespeare’s Plays” …

Temple (Henry VI Part I)

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Temple was first  recorded in the twelfth century as Novum Templum, or “the New Temple”It takes its name from the Knights Templar of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, who relocated themselves here in the twelfth century (having previously been located in Holborn), and whose former land here became the site of the  Inns of Court of Inner and Middle Temple after the order was suppressed in the early fourteenth.

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The surviving Inner Temple Gate-House, a timber-framed town-house, is  Jacobean, and dates to 1610-11.

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The surviving Middle Temple Hall is Elizabethan, and dates to 1571.  Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” premiered here in 1602.  It was performed here again exactly 400 years later in 2002, with an all-male cast, authentic  hand-made costumes and period music and instruments.

West Wickham Common Earthworks

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

West Wickham Common Earthworks

What is now known as West Wickham was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 973 as Wic hammes gemaeru, meaning “boundary of the homestead associated with the vicus [Romano-British settlement]”.  It was clearly settled at least as long ago as Roman times, and lay on the Roman road from Lewes in Sussex to London.

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The impressive earthworks on West Wickham Common have been interpreted by some as the remains of an Iron Age “hill fort” (and by others as post-Medieval).



The much more degraded earthworks on  nearby Keston Common have also been interpreted by some as Iron Age.

The Winchester Geese


Further to recent postings on  “Southwark” and on “The Stews, Animal-Baiting Arenas and Play-Houses of Southwark” …

Many of the stews of Bankside in Southwark were licensed by the Bishops of Winchester, such that  the prostitutes who worked in them  came to be known as “Winchester Geese”.  When they died, they were interred, with the other “Outcast Dead”,  in an unconsecrated burial ground now known as  “Cross Bones Graveyard”, on Redcross Way.  The graveyard remained in use up until the nineteenth century.

A “Museum of London Archaeology Service” monograph describes in detail the findings of recent archaeological excavations at the site.


One of the excavated skeletons, of a  nineteenth-century woman,  aged only around sixteen to nineteen,  exhibited pathological indications of advanced syphilis.  Research undertaken for an episode of the BBC television series “History Cold Case” in 2010  indicated  that this skeleton was likely to be that of one Elizabeth Mitchell, who is recorded as having been admitted to nearby St Thomas’s Hospital suffering from the running sores all over the body symptomatic of advanced syphilis, and as having died there, on 22ndAugust 1851, aged nineteen.


Having recently been at least temporarily spared from “development”, the site, which is owned by Transport for London,  is currently in use as a community garden of remembrance (under the auspices of the Bankside Open Spaces Trust).  It is generally open  between 12-3 on weekdays.  Regular vigils for the dead are also held here, at 7:00 pm on the 23rd of every month.


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


Scadbury was first recorded in 1254 as Scadhebir, from the old English scathe and burh, meaning “fortification used by robbers or thieves”.




A moated manor-house was built here in timber by the wealthy de Scathebury family in the mid-thirteenth century.   It was rebuilt in brick by the equally wealthy and even-better connected Walsingham family, who also built the nearby church of St Nicholas  in the fifteenth, c. 1424.  The Walsingham family continued to live here  until the seventeenth century.  One member, Sir  Thomas, entertained Elizabeth I here in the late sixteenth.  The house was eventually substantially demolished by the by-then owners of the manorial estate, the Townshend family, in the eighteenth century.   Well-preserved footings and a few standing structures still survive, as does the surrounding moat.  The site may be viewed remotely from a vantage point at the end of a long approach-path leading to and from the St Paul’s Cray Road.  It is occasionally opened  to the public by the  Orpington and District Archaeological Society.

The Stews, Animal-Baiting Arenas and Play-Houses of Southwark


Further to last week’s posting on “Southwark” …

Historically, Southwark was a so-called “liberty”, free of many  of the regulations governing life in the City across the river.  Over time it  became one of the poor places in which it, the rich City, attempted to locate  – and forget – some of its more “undesirable” buildings, industries and activities (including – in the numerous “stews” – prostitution; animal-baiting; and the performance of stage plays; all of which attracted large and unruly crowds).


The first “stews” were founded in Bankside  in  the early twelfth century (the word “stew” meant originally a fish pond, subsequently a public bath-house, and eventually a brothel).  They lay between the Thames to the north, Bank End to the east, what was then Maiden Lane and is now Park Street to the south, and Cardinal’s Cap Alley to the west, on land owned either by the Bishops of Winchester, who had built a palace on nearby Clink Street in c. 1144, or by the Prioresses of Stratford Priory.   Ordinances for their governance had to be put in place as long ago as 1161, under Henry II (*).   Tax records from the fateful year of 1381 show that there were seven open  at this time; further records from the later 1400s, that there were eighteen at this time.  The stews were temporarily closed in 1505 by the first Tudor King, Henry VII, after an outbreak of syphilis, although most re-opened within the year.  They were supposedly permanently closed in 1546 by Henry VIII, who wished Bankside “no more to be used as a common Bordell[o]”, although most if not all re-opened after Henry’s death in 1547.

There were twenty-two in operation in Bankside in 1546, namely, the “Antelope”, “Barge”, “Bear”, “Bell”, “Boar’s Head”, “Bull’s Head”, “Cardinal’s Hat”, “Castle”, “Cock”, “Crane”, “Cross Keys”, “Elephant”, “Fleur de Lys”, “Gun”, “Hart”, “Hart’s Horn”, “Horseshoe”, “Lion”, “Little Rose”, “Rose”, “Swan” and “Unicorn” (the infamous “Holland’s Leaguer” in Paris Gardens opened during the reign of the first Stuart King, James I,  in 1603).  Their more-or-less precise locations have been established by painstaking historical work involving a wide range of source materials (including a Tudor mural depicting Edward VI’s coronation procession in 1547, in which they all appear in the background).

Readers interested in further details are referred to E.J. Burford’s estimable “Bawds and Lodgings – A History of the London Bankside Brothels”, published by Peter Owen in 1976 (and republished as “The Bishop’s Brothels” by Robert Hale in 2015).

(*) Some of the ordinances were concerned with the welfare of the working girls, for example “no brothel-keeper to prevent his whore entering or leaving the premises at will” and “quarterly searches of every brothel must be carried out to ensure no woman is imprisoned there against her will … ”.  Others, though, restricted their rights, for example “all whores to wear some agreed garment indicating their profession” (and “no whore to wear an apron”).   Still others were concerned with public health, for example “no brothel-keeper to let any whore work on his premises if he knows she has ‘the burning sickness’”.  Or with public order, for example “no whore to entice any man into the brothel by pulling on his coat or any other item of clothing”, “no whore to throw stones at passers-by or pull faces at them for refusing to come in” and “no whore to chide with any man and make a fray”.

Animal-Baiting Arenas

The first animal-baiting arena on Bankside was probably built either in the late fifteenth century or the early sixteenth.  The last would appear to have closed down sometime in the late seventeenth century or the early eighteenth, after the opening of a new  venue in Hockley-in-the-Hole in Clerkenwell (note, though, that the barbaric practice of animal-baiting was not actually outlawed until  as recently as 1835).  Henry VIII is known to have witnessed a bear-baiting at Paris Gardens, from a barge moored offshore, in 1539.  In succeeding Stuart times, the actor Edward Alleyn and theatrical impresario Philip Henslowe, having just been jointly  appointed “Master Overseer and Ruler of the Bears, Bulls and Mastiff Dogs”, announced sometime in 1604: “Tomorrow being Thursdaie shall be seen at the Bear-gardin on the bankside a great mach plaid by the champins of Essex who hath challenged all comers whatsoever to plaie v dogges at the single beare for V pounds and also to wearie a bull dead at the stake and for your better content shall have pleasant sport with the horse and ape and whipping of the blind beare”.

At one time or another, there were six animal-baiting arenas in operation in Bankside.


The first play-house on Bankside was “The Rose”, built in 1587, the second, “The Swan”, built in 1595, the third, The Globe”, built in 1599, and the fourth, “The Hope”, built in 1614.

“The Rose” was originally built  by Philip Henslowe to a fourteen-sided design in 1587, subsequently rebuilt to a less regular design in 1592, and demolished in 1606.    The site is currently conserved in the basement of  Rose Court in Park Street, and marked by a Corporation Blue Plaque on the outside of the building.  Christopher Marlowe’s plays were first performed here.

“The Swan” was built in 1596, decayed by 1632, and last recorded in 1634. Ben Jonson’s lost play “Isle of Dogs” was performed here in 1597, drawing such criticism for its “seditious and slanderous” content that the author was temporarily thrown into – the  first Marshalsea – prison!

“The Globe” was built by the theatrical impresario Cuthbert Burbage in 1599, using some materials salvaged from his father James’s “The Theatre” in Shoreditch, after the expiry of the lease on that latter property.  According to the Shakespearean scholar Steve Sohmer, it opened on June 12th, 1599.   It was burnt down in a fire on June 29th,  1613, after sparks from a theatrical cannon set some  thatch  alight during a performance of Shakespeare’s “Henry the Eighth”. It was rebuilt in 1614, but fell into disuse after the performance of plays was banned by an Act of Parliament forced through by the Puritans in 1642, and it  was demolished, by order of the Puritan City authorities, on April 15th,  1644.  A plaque marks its site, on Park Street.  This was “Shakespeare’s (own) play-house, and the venue where many of his plays were first performed”.

“The Hope” was built as a bear-baiting arena cum playhouse by Philip Henslowe in 1614, the year after the original “Globe” burned down.  Its use as a playhouse was short-lived, however, as one of the players, Ben Jonson,  complained that it was “as durty as Smithfield and as stinking every whit”.  It was closed down in 1653, and pulled down in 1656.

Readers interested in further details are referred to Julian Bowsher’s “Shakespeare’s London Theatreland”, published by Museum of London Archaeology in 2012.


Foots Cray

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

Foots Cray was first recorded as such in c. 1100 as Fotescraei, referring to an estate on the River Cray once owned by a Saxon man called Godwine  Fot (the church of All Saints was probably originally built in the Saxon period).  It remained rural  until the eighteenth century, when a watermill was built, light industry moved in and it became (sub)urbanised.   Its fortunes began to wane somewhat in the nineteenth century after  it was by-passed by the railway linking London to north-west Kent (the nearest station being built in nearby Sidcup).

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Some post-Medieval buildings still survive on the otherwise mainly modern High Street.

Church of All Saints

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The church of All Saints was probably originally built in wood in the Saxon period, possibly at the time of the mission of Paulinus, the Bishop of Rochester,  in the seventh century.  It was subsequently rebuilt in stone in the fourteenth century, around 1330, and extended in the nineteenth, in 1861 and 1872.  Some of the windows date to the fourteenth century, the door-case and porch to the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth, and the door to the mid-seventeenth.  In the interior of the church are a font dating to the twelfth century, and the altar-tomb of the one-time Lord of the Manor, Sir Simon de Vaughan, dating to 1350. In the churchyard is the grave of the “yeoman” Martin Manning, dating to 1656.