Category Archives: 14th Century London

Flagellants attempt to ward off the Black Death (1349)

flagellants1

Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts of events in the history of London, this one written by Robert of Avesbury in 1349 …

“In that same year of 1349, about Michaelmas, over six hundred [flagellants]  came to London from Flanders … .  Sometimes at St Paul’s and sometimes at other points in the city they made two daily public appearances wearing cloths from the thighs to the ankles, but otherwise stripped bare.  Each wore a cap marked with a red cross in front and behind.  Each had in his right hand a scourge with three tails. Each tail had a knot and through the middle of it there were sometimes sharp nails fixed. They marched naked in a file one behind the other and whipped themselves with these scourges on their naked and bleeding bodies.  Four of them would chant in their native tongue and, another four would chant in response like a litany. Thrice they would all cast themselves on the ground in this sort of procession, stretching out their hands like the arms of a cross. The singing would go on and, the one who was in the rear of those thus prostrate acting first, each of them in turn would step over the others and give one stroke with his scourge to the man lying under him.  This went on from the first to the last until each of them had observed the ritual to the full tale of those on the ground. Then each put on his customary garments and always wearing their caps and carrying their whips in their hands they retired to their lodgings. It is said that every night they performed the same penance.”

The lost monastic houses of London

On this day in 1322, hundreds of needy poor people were crushed to death in a rush to beg food and money at the gates of Blackfriars’ (Dominican) Priory.  The Blackfriars’ was one of a number of monastic houses established in London in the early Medieval period, which altogether included those of the  mendicant friars not only of the Dominican order (the Black Friars), but also of the Carmelite and Franciscan orders (the White and Grey Friars, respectively); the hermit monks and nuns of the Benedictine, Cluniac and Carthusian orders; the monk- and nun- like regular and friar-like secular canons and canonesses of the Augustinan order(s); and the Knights Templar and  Hospitaller.  The monastic houses came to dominate not only the religious life, but also the philosophical and indeed even the physical life of the City, becoming wealthy and powerful in the process, and making many enemies as well as friends.

Bermondsey Abbey (chants, caught on the wind of a thousand years ago, can be heard here, still) - CopyBermondsey Abbey

Blackfriars Priory - CopyBlackfriars Priory

Charterhouse (monks once cloistered here, and offered up silent prayer, beside the plague pit) - CopyCharterhouse

Holy Trinity Priory - Copy   Holy Trinity Priory

Priory of St John - CopyPriory of St John

St Mary Spital - Copy       St Mary Spital

Whitefriars Priory - CopyWhitefriars Priory

The   Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in 1536-40 essentially resulted in the appropriation by the Crown  of all the monastic houses in England, Wales and Ireland, of which there were several hundred, and of all of their assets (monastic houses in Scotland were annexed by the Scottish King, James VI, in 1587).    The smaller  houses, with incomes of less than £200 per year, as evaluated by the Valor Ecclestiacus, were dissolved  under The Act for the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries of 1536; the larger  ones, by The Act for the Dissolution of the Greater Monasteries of 1539.   After the Dissolution, the assets of the monastic houses were disbursed, under the auspices of Henry’s  Vicar-General and Vice-Regent in Spirituals Thomas Cromwell, and his Court of Augmentations.   In London, the change in land ownership and usage is evident in the marked contrast between the map of 1520, from before the event, and the  “Copper Plate” one of 1556-8, the “Agas” one of 1561-70, and the Braun and Hogenberg one of  1572 (*), from after the event.  Many of the former monastic properties evidently became parish churches, hospitals, orphanages or schools, or combinations thereof, or Inns of Court, or  play-houses, while others passed into private ownership.    Of the  former monks, nuns and priors, of whom there were several hundred city-wide, and several thousand country-wide, most went to work in the newly created parish churches, although a still substantial number were forced to seek out entirely new ways of life.  All were at least  offered more or less generous pensions, although none of their servants was.

(*) The Braun & Hogenberg map was published in 1572, but still shows “old” St Paul’s with the  spire it lost in a lightning strike in 1561.

 

Hornchurch

Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Hornchurch  was first recorded as Monasterium Cornutum in 1222, and as Hornechurche in 1231.  The name is thought to derive from the figure of a horned  bull’s head that was used on official seals in the town in the Medieval period.  Leather-working was an  important industry here as long ago as the thirteenth century, when  what is now the High Street was known as Pellestrate  (Pelt Street).

A short terrace of post-Medieval, seventeenth-century buildings still stands here.

Church of St Andrew

The church of St Andrew was originally built here in the fourteenth century (on the site of a priory dedicated to St Nicholas and St Bernard that had been built in the twelfth, in 1159).  It has been much modified subsequently (“each generation in turn having cared for it and added to or subtracted from it, …  to suit needs of the time”, as the web-site puts it).  The tower is believed to have been built by William of Wykeham (1320?-1404) in the fourteenth century.  Parts of the nave also date to the fourteenth century, and the ceiling to the fifteenth.

In the interior are a number of Medieval to post-Medieval memorials, including those to Boniface de Hart, Prior from 1323-25; Francis Rame, Steward to Sir Anthony Cook of Gidea Park, Tutor to Edward VI   (d. 1617); Thomas Withrings, Chief Postmaster (d. 1651); and Sir Francis Prujean, President of the College of Physicians (d. 1666).  In the sanctuary is  the interesting sixteenth-century Ayloffe table-tomb.

Turn again, Whittington

Stained glass window of Whittington and his non-existent cat, St Michael Paternoster Royal

Stained glass window of Whittington and his cat, St Michael Paternoster Royal

October 30th –  On this day in 1397 Dick Whittington became Lord Mayor of London for the first time.  Among the many public works undertaken by Whittington, in or out of public office, were the acquisition and conversion into a Market of the old Leaden Hall, on Leadenhall Street; the establishment of the College of St Spirit and St Mary, on what is now College Street, where he lived; the reconstruction of the church of St Michael Paternoster Royal, also on College Street; the reconstruction of the Guildhall; the reconstruction of Newgate Gaol at the junction of Newgate Street and Old Bailey, which had been damaged during the Peasants’ Revolt (and of which he had written “by reason of the foetid and corrupt atmosphere that is in the heinous gaol … many persons are dead who would have been alive”); and the bequest of a library valued at £400 to Christ Church Newgate Street.  Not to mention the construction of a 128-seater public lavatory!

Whittington House

Whittington plaque, St Michael Paternoster Royal

Whittington plaque, St Michael Paternoster Royal

Unfortunately, most of the sites associated with Whittington were destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666.  However, he is commemorated by a Corporation “Blue Plaque” on the site of his house on College Street, by another outside the church of  St Michael Paternoster Royal,  and  by a stained glass window inside the church, depicting him and the non-existent cat that is nonetheless forever associated with him, through the fable and pantomime. The cat  is commemorated by a statue on Highgate Hill, looking back over its shoulder toward the City paved with gold…..

probably-the-worlds-only-statue-of-a-non-existent-cat-highgate-hill

Probably the world’s only statue of a non-existent cat, Highgate Hill

Probably the world's only piece of topiary in the form of a non-existent cat (looking a bit bedraggled), Whittington Park, Upper Holloway

And this is probably the world’s only piece of topiary in the form of a non-existent cat (looking a bit bedraggled), Whittington Park, Upper Holloway

Ilford

Ilford Alms-houses (4)Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Ilford was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ilefort, meaning ford over the River Hyle (an early name for the Roding).  At that time, it  was  a small village occupying both banks of the river, and indeed it was not until the nineteenth century that it finally became suburbanised.  Little Ilford, on the west bank, is part of Manor Park; Great Ilford, on the east bank, part of Barking.

Hospital Chapel

The then Abbess of Barking, Adelicia or Adeliza, founded a hospital for thirteen elderly and infirm men here in the twelfth century, around 1145, and  dedicated it to St  Mary the Virgin.  A later Abbess, Mary, extended the hospital in around 1180, and re-dedicated it to St Mary and St Thomas in memory of her brother, Thomas Becket, the murdered Archbishop of Canterbury.  The hospital began to admit lepers in the thirteenth century, around 1219, by which time leprosy had become widespread in Europe (following its introduction from Asia at the time of the Crusades), and was further extended in the fourteenth.     It remained in use essentially as a leper hospital until the sixteenth century, when it was seized by the Crown, thereafter  becoming alms-houses.  It has been still further extended, and  large parts of it have been rebuilt, since.  The buildings are currently  owned and administered by the Abbess Adelicia Charity.

Some surviving parts of the chapel  date to the twelfth to centuries, and some memorials to the fifteenth.    Recent archaeological excavations undertaken on the site unearthed some 22-25  skeletons of pre-fourteenth century date, several  of them showing signs of leprosy.

 

The Lost Monastic Houses of London

July 3rd –  On this day in 1322, hundreds of needy poor people were crushed to death in a rush to beg food and money at the gates of Blackfriars’ (Dominican) Priory.

Blackfriars

Remains of Blackfriars Priory, Ireland Yard

The Blackfriars’ was one of a number of monastic houses established in London in the early Medieval period, which altogether included those of the  mendicant friars not only of the Dominican order (the Black Friars) but also of the Carmelite and Franciscan orders (the White  and Grey Friars, respectively); the hermit monks and nuns of the Benedictine, Cluniac and Carthusian orders; the monk- and nun- like regular and friar-like secular canons and canonesses of the Augustinan order(s); and the Knights Templar and  Hospitaller.  The monastic houses came to dominate not only the religious life, but also the philosophical and indeed even the physical life of the City, becoming wealthy and powerful in the process, and making many enemies as well as friends.

Charterhouse (monks once cloistered here, and offered up silent prayer, beside the plague pit)

Surviving Carthusian Monk’s Cell with Guichet, Charterhouse

The   Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in 1536-40 essentially resulted in the appropriation by the Crown  of all the monastic houses in England, Wales and Ireland, of which there were several hundred, and of all of their assets (monastic houses in Scotland were annexed by the Scottish King, James VI, in 1587).   The smaller  houses, with incomes of less than £200 per year, as evaluated by the Valor Ecclestiacus, were dissolved  under The Act for the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries of 1536; the larger  ones, by The Act for the Dissolution of the Greater Monasteries of 1539.   After the Dissolution, the assets of the monastic houses were disbursed, under the auspices of Henry’s  Vicar-General and Vice-Regent in Spirituals Thomas Cromwell, and his Court of Augmentations.

Bermondsey Abbey (chants, caught on the wind of a thousand years ago, can be heard here, still)

Surviving fragment of Bermondsey Abbey, beneath glass floor of Del’ Aziz Restaurant, Bermondsey Square

In London, the change in land ownership and usage is evident in the marked contrast between the map of 1520, from before the event, and the  “Copper Plate” one of 1556-8, the “Agas” one of 1561-70, and the Braun and Hogenberg one of  1572 (*), from after the event.  Many of the former monastic properties evidently became parish churches, hospitals, orphanages or schools, or combinations thereof, or Inns of Court, or  play-houses, while others passed into private ownership.  Of the  former monks, nuns and priors, of whom there were several hundred city-wide, and several thousand country-wide, most went to work in the newly created parish churches, although a still substantial number were forced to seek out entirely new ways of life.  All were at least  offered more or less generous pensions, although none of their servants was.

(*) The Braun & Hogenberg map was published in 1572, but still shows “old” St Paul’s with the  spire it lost in a lightning strike in 1561.

 

St Giles Cripplegate

Another in an occasional series on churches outside the City walls that survived the Great Fire of 1666….

 

St Giles Cripplegate was originally  built in around 1100, possibly on the site of an even older, Saxon, church, and rebuilt in 1390, and again in 1545.  It was undamaged by the Great Fire of 1666, although nonetheless requiring to be restored in 1682-4, when the top stage of the tower was added.  It was later severely damaged by bombing on 24th/25th  August and 29th December, 1940, and substantially rebuilt by Godfrey Allen in 1960.  The walls are in part original, fourteenth-century.  The church was the site of Oliver Cromwell’s wedding, and of John Milton’s burial. There is also a memorial here to the sixteenth-century explorer Martin Frobisher.  Giles is the patron saint of cripples, indigents and social outcasts.

 

Turn again, Whittington

 

Stained glass window of Whittington and his non-existent cat, St Michael Paternoster Royal

Stained glass window of Whittington and his cat, St Michael Paternoster Royal

October 30th –  On this day in 1397 Dick Whittington became Lord Mayor of London for the first time (of three).  Among the many public works undertaken by Whittington, in or out of public office, were the acquisition and conversion into a Market of the old Leaden Hall, on Leadenhall Street; the establishment of the College of St Spirit and St Mary, on what is now College Street, where he lived; the reconstruction of the church of St Michael Paternoster Royal, also on College Street; the reconstruction of the Guildhall; the reconstruction of Newgate Gaol at the junction of Newgate Street and Old Bailey, which had been damaged during the Peasants’ Revolt (and of which he had written “by reason of the foetid and corrupt atmosphere that is in the heinous gaol … many persons are dead who would have been alive”); and the bequest of a library valued at £400 to Christ Church Newgate Street.  Not to mention the construction of a 128-seater public lavatory!

Whittington House

Whittington plaque, St Michael Paternoster Royal

Whittington plaque, St Michael Paternoster Royal

Unfortunately, most of the sites associated with Whittington were destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666.  However, he is commemorated by a Corporation “Blue Plaque” on the site of his house on College Street, by another outside the church of  St Michael Paternoster Royal,  and  by a stained glass window inside the church, depicting him and the non-existent cat that is nonetheless forever associated with him, through the fable and pantomime. The cat  is commemorated by a statue on Highgate Hill, looking back over its shoulder toward the City paved with gold…..

probably-the-worlds-only-statue-of-a-non-existent-cat-highgate-hill

Probably the world’s only statue of a non-existent cat, Highgate Hill

Probably the world's only piece of topiary in the form of a non-existent cat (looking a bit bedraggled), Whittington Park, Upper Holloway

And this is probably the world’s only piece of topiary in the form of a non-existent cat (looking a bit bedraggled), Whittington Park, Upper Holloway

St Katherine Coleman

St Katherine Coleman

Another in the occasional series on churches that survived the Great Fire of 1666 but were rebuilt or demolished subsequently …

St Katherine Coleman blue plaque

St Katherine Coleman blue plaque

St Katherine Coleman was originally built around 1346, restored in 1489, and extended in 1624.  It survived the  Great Fire of 1666, but was rebuilt by James Horne in 1739-40, in the “Vernacular Palladian” style, and  demolished in 1925, when the parish was merged with St Olave Hart Street.

Part of the former churchyard survives, and a Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks the former site of the church.

Photograph of St Katherine Coleman

Photograph of St Katherine Coleman

Expulsion of a leper (City of London letter-book, 1372)

Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts of events in the history of London, this one from the City of London letter-book of 1372 …

Leper and physician

Leper and physician

“ … John Mayn, …  who had oftentimes … been commanded … to depart from the City, and provide for himself some dwelling outside it, and avoid the common conversation of mankind – seeing that he, John, was smitten with the blemish of leprosy – … by reason of the infection of that disease … was [ordered] before the mayor and aldermen at the Husting … [to] depart forthwith from the City, and … not return thereto, on pain of undergoing the punishment of the pillory, if he should contravene the same”.

Mayn was one of countless lepers expelled from the City after their presence there was banned under a Royal Edict issued by Edward III in 1346, which read, in part:

“all leprose persons inhabiting … should auoid within fifteen dayes …, and … no man suffer any such leprose person to abide within his house, vpon paine to forfeite his said house, and to incurre the kinges further displeasure”.

Leper with bell in margins of C14 MS

Leper with bell in margins of C14 MS

Seal of the lazar-house, Mile End

Seal of the lazar-house, Mile End

Seal of the leper-women of Westminster

Seal of the leper-women of Westminster

There is  no record  of what became of him after he was expelled.  If he was fortunate, he may have found himself a place in one of the leper colonies or hospitals, or “Lazar(us) Houses”,  on the rural fringes of the City, in St Giles (in the Fields), Westminster and Knightsbridge to the west, Kingsland to the north, Mile End to the east, and Southwark to the south.  The “lazar houses” were invariably strategically sited at crossroads, where the  lepers could  beg for alms from  passing pedestrians.

St Giles in the Fields, originally founded as a leper colony or hospital in 1101

St Giles in the Fields, originally founded as a leper colony or hospital in 1101