Category Archives: 17th Century London

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).


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).


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


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

4 - New Arabia

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


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).

6 - New World

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.


Shakespeare buys a house in Blackfriars (1613)

Shakespeare's house plaque

On  this day in 1613, according to the surviving Deed of Conveyance in the London Metropolitan Archives, William Shakespeare bought for £140 a “dwelling house or Tenement with th’appurtenaunces situate and being within the Precinct, circuit and compasse of the late black Fryers London, …  and now or late being in the tenure or occupacion of one William Ireland or of his assignee or assignes; abutting upon a streete leading downe to Pudle wharffe on the east part, right against the Kinges Maiesties Wardrobe; part of which said Tenement is erected over a great gate … ”  [the former entrance to the Black Friars Priory, dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538].

There is no evidence that Shakespeare  ever lived in this particular  house in London, returning to his native Stratford-upon-Avon in 1613, and dying there in  1616, but  he is known to have spent almost the entirety of his productive working life in London, and in truth is much more a London than a Stratford figure.    He is known to have arrived in London  sometime between 1585 and 1592,  and  to have lived in the parish of St Helen, near  “The Theatre” and the “Curtain” in Shoreditch, in 1596; in the Liberty of the Clink in Southwark, near   the “Globe”, in 1599; and in Silver Street, near  the  “Blackfriars”, in 1604.

As Peter Ackroyd put it in his marvellous “Shakespeare – The Biography” (Chatto & Windus, 2005), “Shakespeare did not need to address London directly … ; it is the rough cradle of all his drama”.  However, as Hannah Crawforth, Sarah Dustagheer and Jennifer Young suggest in their thoughtful and thought-provoking “Shakespeare in London” (Bloomsbury, 2014), he may have indirectly referenced the violence of Tyburn in “Titus Andronicus”; the political machination of Whitehall in “Richard II”; the class distinction of the Strand in “Romeo and Juliet”; the legal machination of the Inns of Court in “The Merchant of Venice”; the religiosity of St Paul’s Cathedral in “Hamlet”; the madness of Bedlam in “King Lear”; the misery of imprisonment for debt in the King’s Bench Prison in Southwark in “Timon of Athens”; the strange new world of the “cabinet of curiosity” on Lime Street in “The Tempest”; and the rich variety and cosmopolitanism of one of the first true World Cities in the form of an ever-present back-drop.  Moreover, he did set one of his most famous scenes in London, in Ely Palace: that in “Richard II” in which John of Gaunt utters the immortal words:

“This royal throne of kings, this sceptr’d isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,|This other Eden, demi-paradise,|This fortress built by Nature for herself|Against infection and the hand of war,|This happy breed of men, this little world,|This precious stone set in the silver sea,|Which serves it in the office of a wall,|Or as a moat defensive to a house,|Against the envy of less happier lands,|This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”.

The site of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars house is visited on our “London Wall” standard walk, 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 (



Shrove Tuesday riots (John Chamberlain, 1617)


On this day in 1617, a riot took place in London, as described in a letter written by John Chamberlain  (see also January 8th posting) to Sir Dudley Carleton, as follows:

Bawdy House in 17th Century England

“On … Shrove Tuesday, the ‘prentices, or rather the unruly people of the suburbs, played their parts in divers places, as Finsbury Fields, about Wapping, by St Catherine’s, and in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, …  in pulling down of houses, and beating of guards that were set to keep rule, specially at a new playhouse, some time a cockpit, in Drury Lane, where the queen’s players used to play.  Though the fellows defended themselves as well as they could, and slew three of them with shot, and hurt divers, yet they entered the house and defaced it, cutting the players’ apparel into pieces, and all their furniture, and burnt their playbooks, and did what other mischief they could… .  There be divers of them taken since and clapped up, and I make no question but we shall see some of them hanged next week, as it is more than time they were”.

It was not an isolated event.  Between 1606 and 1641, there were a total of 24 such Shrove Tuesday riots, generally targeting “bawdy-houses”.   And on Tuesday March 24th, 1668, there was another particularly large one, involving tens of thousands of the populace, and described by Samuel Pepys  in his diary.








Perestroika – and Peter the Great


On this day in 1557, the first Russian Embassy opened in London, and on this same day exactly one year later, a Russian trade mission arrived in London, bringing with it many sable skins.

On a more-or-less related note, the entry in John Evelyn’s diary for February 6th, 1698 records that:

“The Czar Emp: of Moscovy [Peter the Great], having a mind to see the Building of Ships, hired my house at Says Court [*], & made it his Court & palace, lying & remaining in it … ”.

Perhaps not altogether surprisingly, the Czar, who had something of a  reputation for drunken riotous living, was far from a model guest.   He  proceeded to comprehensively  trash Evelyn’s house – knocking a hole in the wall to allow easier access to the shipyard, breaking over three hundred windows, twenty pictures and  fifty chairs, ruining all the paintwork, curtains and bedding, covering all the floors with ink and grease, and in all causing £150 worth of damage!  Worse, he destroyed Evelyn’s pride and joy, the “impregnable” hedge  in his garden, “four hundred foot in length, nine Foot high, and five in diameter … [that] mocks at the rudest assaults of the Weather, Beasts or Hedge-breakers” – making a great play of being repeatedly pushed through it in a wheelbarrow!



The Czar’s visit is also recalled by a  statue on the west bank of Deptford Creek, by a plaque on the site of the Friends’ Meeting House on Deptford High Street, by “Czar Street” in Deptford, and by “Muscovy Street” just off Great Tower Street in the City – near the long-lost pub he drank so much in that the landlord  renamed it “The Czar of Muscovy” in his honour!

(*) Sir Richard Browne’s Sayers Court in Deptford, which Evelyn moved into after he married Browne’s daughter in 1652.  The house was demolished in 1728-29, and a workhouse put up in its place.  Part of the estate was later acquired by the Admiralty for use as its Victualling Yard (now defunct).


Statue of figure representing raving madness (mania).JPG

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).



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 (

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

Samuel Pepys.jpg

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 … ”.

“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.