Category Archives: Guided Walks

The Putney Debates (1647)

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On this day in 1647, in the midst of the Civil War, the so-called “Putney Debates” began in the church of St Mary The Virgin.

The debates, chaired by Cromwell and attended by officers and men of his New Model Army, many of whom were “Levellers”, addressed  nothing of less import than the post-Civil War future and constitution of England.

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Among the issues discussed were not only whether power should be vested in the King and House of Lords or in the Commons, but also whether there should be universal – male – suffrage (“one man, one vote”).  Colonel Thomas Rainsborough (*), personifying the radical contingent, famously argued that:

“ … [T]he poorest hee that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest hee … ”.

Among the outcomes was a declaration of “native rights” for all Englishmen, including  freedom of conscience, and equality before the law.

The Civil War is discussed on various of our walks, including the “Tudor and Stuart London” and “Rebellious 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).

rainsborough-plaque-st-john-wapping(*)   Rainsborough went on to be killed during the siege of Pontefract, and to be buried in the church of St John in Wapping on November 14th 1648.

For a fuller account of his extraordinary life, the reader is referred to “The Rainborowes” by Adrian Tinniswood.

October 27th – The execution of Robert Hubert (1666)

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On this day in 1666, one Robert Hubert was hanged at Tyburn for  allegedly having deliberately started  the Great Fire of London the previous month (see September 2nd posting).  As his dead body was being taken down to be handed to the Company of Barber-Surgeons for dissection, it was torn limb from limb by an angry  mob of Londoners.

Although the fire is now almost universally regarded as having been brought about by “the hand of God” (*), it was at the time, a time when the  tide of xenophobic sentiment in England  was running more than usually high, widely regarded as having been brought about by a foreign hand (**).   In its aftermath, Hubert, a watchmaker from Rouen in Normandy in France, quickly – and almost certainly “under duress” – confessed to having  set the fire while  acting as an agent of the Pope (***), and was equally expeditiously convicted of the supposed crime (****, *****).

The events are discussed on various of our walks, including the “Great Fire of 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).

(*) Or perhaps more accurately, the  negligence of Thomas Farriner or Farynor, who owned the bakery on Pudding Lane where it started!

(**)  Indeed, until   as recently as 1830, the inscription on the Monument to the Great Fire included lines to that effect!

(***) He  was actually not a Catholic, but a Huguenot, or Protestant!

(****) By a jury containing members of Farriner’s family – who had their own dark reasons for wanting to attach  the blame for the fire to  such a convenient scapegoat!

(*****) After his execution,  exculpatory evidence came to light that he had been aboard a Swedish ship called the Maid of Stockholm at the time of the outbreak of the fire!

“Iniquities at Charing Cross” (John Evelyn, 1660)

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On this day in 1660, John Evelyn  wrote in his diary:

“Scot, Scroop, Cook and Jones suffered for reward of their iniquities at Charing Cross, in sight of the place where they put to death their natural prince, and in the presence of the King his son … .  I saw not the execution, but met their quarters, mangled, and cut, and reeking, as they were brought from the gallows in baskets on the hurdle.  Oh, the miraculous providence of God!”.

Like Thomas Harrison (see October 13th posting), Thomas Scot, Adrian Scroop and John Jones were signatories to the death warrant of Charles I hunted down and executed by Charles II.  John Cook (pictured) was the chief prosecutor at Charles I’s trial.  Shortly before his execution, he wrote: “We fought for the public good and would have enfranchised the people and secured the welfare of the whole groaning creation if the nation had not more delighted in servitude than in freedom”.

The Banqueting House, where Charles I was executed,  is visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” and   “Rebellious 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).

 

Southwark Cathedral (1539)

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On this day in 1539, the Augustinian Priory of St Mary Overie was dissolved, the priory church then becoming the parish church of St Saviour, and eventually the Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie (Southwark Cathedral).

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Southwark Cathedral is visited on our “Historic Southwark” standard walk, and on our “Medieval 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).

 

“Hanged, drawn and quartered” (Samuel Pepys, 1660)

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On this day in 1660, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“[I]n the morning … I went out to Charing Cross, to see … Major-general Harrison hanged, drawn and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition.  He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy.   … Thus it was my chance to see the … first blood shed in revenge for the blood of the King [Charles I] at Charing Cross”.

Thomas Harrison was   one of a number of the signatories to the death warrant of Charles I at the end of the Civil War in 1649 to be  hunted down and executed by Charles II after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 (see Don Jordan and Michael Walsh’s “The King’s Revenge – Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History”).

The Banqueting House, where Charles I was executed,  is visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” and   “Rebellious 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).

The Knights Templar and Hospitaller

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The Knights Templar came into being in around 1129 as an Order of “fighting monks” tasked principally with the protection of  Christians on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and with participation in Crusades, and incidentally with infrastructure and finance.  They soon became immensely wealthy and powerful, and at the same time the subject of much mistrust, on account of the secrecy surrounding  their activity, making themselves many dangerous enemies as well as friends.

On 13th October 1307 – according to myth the original unlucky “Friday the Thirteenth”,  the leaders of the Knights Templar were arrested on a  variety of charges, at least some no doubt trumped up by debtors and other vested interests, under a warrant reading “God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the Kingdom” (“Dieu n’est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume”).  They were later tortured into confessing to having “spat three times on the Cross” (” … craché trois fois sur la Croix … “), and done to death by being burned at the stake, and the entire Order was  eventually disbanded, essentially to be subsumed into that of the Knights Hospitaller.

Interestingly, there are two Knights Templar or Hospitaller sites still in existence in London.

One  is Temple Church, in a precinct off Fleet Street.  The church was originally built in 1160-85 and 1220-40 (although it has been restored or rebuilt on a number of occasions subsequently, most recently following bomb damage sustained during the Blitz).  The round nave, modelled on either the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, is twelfth-century, and Norman, or Romanesque in style, with typically round-arched windows.    The rectangular chancel is thirteenth-century, and Early Gothic, with pointed-arched lancet windows.  The famous Purbeck Marble effigies of Knights Templar are also thirteenth-century.  The alabaster altar-tomb to Edmund Plowden, the Treasurer of Middle Temple, dates to 1584; the  monument to Richard Martin, the Recorder of London, to 1615.

The other is the Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, in a precinct in Clerkenwell.  The priory was originally built in around 1145, and destroyed during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 (it was actually deliberately targetted at this time because  the then prior, Robert Hales, was also the Lord High Treasurer, and responsible for the introduction of the hated Poll Tax).  It was rebuilt by Prior John Redington immediately afterwards and restored by Prior Thomas Docwra in 1504, and dissolved in 1540 (it is said that the last prior, William Weston, died on the very day the priory was dissolved, of a broken heart).  The former priory and later parish church, also with a round  nave, was substantially destroyed during an air raid  on the last night of the Blitz, 10th-11th May, 1941, and subsequently rebuilt.  Remarkably, the original crypt of 1145 still survives.  A separate gate-house of 1504 also survives.  The gate-house served between 1560-1608 – that is, immediately after the Dissolution – as the “Office of the Revels” (how wonderful!), where theatrical performances were licensed, and sets and costumed procured.  It re-entered the possession of the  by-then Order of St John in 1873, and now houses the Order’s museum.

In 1237, Matthew Paris  chronicled the departure of  a party of Knights Hospitaller to the Holy Land  as follows: “They … set out from their house at Clerkenwell, and proceeded in good order, with about thirty shields uncovered, with spears raised, and preceded by their banner, through the midst of the City, towards the bridge, that they might obtain the blessings of the spectators, and, bowing their heads with their cowls lowered, commended themselves to the prayers of all”.

Temple Church is visited on our “Tower to Temple”, “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” and “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London” themed special;  the Priory of St John on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” and “Medieval London” ones.

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).

“Shakespeare and his fellow actors promise to be good neighbours” (Henry Carey, 1594)

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On this day in 1594, Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, wrote to the Lord Mayor of London:

“Where my now company of players have been accustomed … for the service of her majesty [Elizabeth I] …  to play this winter time at the Cross Keys in Gracious [Gracechurch] Street; these are to require and pray your lordship (the time being such as, thanks be to God, there is now no danger of the sickness [plague]) to permit and suffer them to do so.  The which I pray you rather to do for that they have undertaken to me that, where heretofore they began not their plays till towards four o’clock, they will now begin at two and have done between four and five and will not use any drums or trumpets at all for the calling of people together and shall be contributories to the poor of the parish where they play, according to their abilities”.

Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon (1526-96) was a nobleman, a courtier to his cousin, Elizabeth I, and a politician as well as a patron of Shakespeare’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.  He was the son of Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary, and it has been speculated that he was fathered by Henry VIII.

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The site of the Cross Keys, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, is visited on our “Historic Shoreditch and Spitalfields” (“Aldgate-Bishopsgate and beyond”) standard walk, and on our “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).