|Model in the Museum of London, showing the new spire.|
|Detail from Visscher Panorama, 1616|
Today I took Paul on the epic “Medieval London” special walk, through not only the City but also Spitalfields, Southwark, Smithfield, Clerkenwell, Holborn and Westminster.
As always, it was so good to see all the sites on one walk – even if it does make it a bit of a monster!
The Seven Surviving Medieval Churches in the City of London
Top row, left to right: All Hallows Barking; All Hallows Staining; St Andrew Undershaft; St Ethelburga.
Bottom row, left to right: St Helen; St Katharine Cree; St Olave Hart Street.
The story may be said to have begun at least as long ago as 1237 or thereabouts, when a house was built on the banks of the Thames for the Bishops of Norwich. The house was later handed over by Henry VIII to his brother-in-law Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, and then by Queen Mary to the Archbishop of York in 1556, at which point it came to be known as “York House”. York House was then in turn owned or occupied by Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, from 1558; by his son Francis Bacon, from 1617; by George Villiers Senior, the First Duke of Buckingham, from 1621; by Villiers’s widow, from 1628; by General Sir Thomas, Lord Fairfax, during the Civil War; and eventually by Villiers’s son, George Junior, the Second Duke of Buckingham, after the Restoration (by which time he had married Fairfax’s daughter Mary). The house survived the Great Fire of 1666. However, it was substantially demolished in the 1670s, whereupon Nicholas Barbon re-developed the site, and in deference to its former owner set out new streets named George, Villiers, Duke and Buckingham – and an alley named Of!
(Incidentally, of York House, only the Water Gate, believed to have been designed and built by the master-mason Nicholas Stone in 1626, survives to this day, in Victoria Embankment Gardens).
|The Ship of State|
Today (3rd October) I went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament, also known as The Palace of Westminster (*). I found it a strangely moving experience, simply being in the space where so much history has been made. And felt a particularly strong surge of emotion on being reminded by the guide of Charles I’s attempted unconstitutional arrest of five Members of Parliament here in 1642 – essentially the last in the series of events that led to the Civil War. One of the said “Five Members” was my distant relative John Hampden, who went on to fight on the Parliamentarian side in the War, and was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chalgrove Field.
The Old Palace was purportedly originally built for Cnut in around 1016, and subsequently rebuilt by Edward, “the Confessor” in 1042-65, and extended by succeeding kings, with Westminster Hall eventually becoming the seat of Parliament, to be succeeded, in 1548, by the then-secularised Royal Chapel of St. Stephen.
|Westminster Hall exterior|
|Westminster Hall interior|
|Jewel Tower exterior|
|Jewel Tower interior|
|Victoran Gothic extravagance|
|Victorian Gothic aspiration|
(*) For those wanting to see inside the Palace of Westminster – here is a link to the official website with details of how to book …
This is Open House London weekend (21st-22nd September 2013), meaning that many buildings or parts of buildings of architectural or historical merit that aren’t ordinarily open to the public are, and for free.
Today I went on tours of the triforium gallery in St Paul’s cathedral, and of the church of St Helen Bishopsgate.
I had to queue up for an hour-and-a-half to book a place on the tour of the triforium gallery in St Paul’s, and then wait another three hours until it started.
|Some salvaged bits of old St Paul’s|
But it was totally worth it, and utterly magnificent.
|The Geometric Staircase (this is as close to the edge as I could go with my acrophobia)|
The Wren Library there is now officially one of my very favourite places of all. The atmosphere inside is as rich, dark and deep as a cup of coffee from the “Giddy Up” stall in Guildhall Yard – the best anywhere, by the way!
|The Wren Library|
Link to Open House London : http://www.londonopenhouse.org/
Today Bob discovered that it is difficult to hand around his laminated illustrations when his bare hands are numb with cold!
It really was horribly chilly today. Fortunately everyone was well wrapped up (apart from Bob’s hands, that is!)
Highlights of today’s Tower to Temple walk included:
– a helpful explanatory compass just outside Tower Hill station, giving a good preliminary over-view of the sights to come
– the Whitefriars monastery: tucked away where you’d never expect to find it!
– the London stone (hidden in clear view)
-the Monument (some decided to make a return visit after the walk finished, to climb up to the top for the excellent views!)
– exploring inside the Inns of Court
Unfortunately the Roman Amphitheatre, under the Guildhall Art Gallery, was unexpectedly closed to visitors today, due to a rehearsal of some kind (not mentioned on their website – grrrrr!) Everyone strained for a glimpse through the glass doors to the Amphitheatre basement, and had to make do with that for today. Such a shame. Here’s hoping those on today’s walk will take the opportunity to make a return visit another time.
A running joke with today’s group was the plethora of vanished churches along the route – marked only by plaques or parish boundary markers. That’s the Great Fire for you – it really did wipe out a lot of buildings!
But various street names, many surviving from medieval times, did provide interesting glimpses of that long-gone London. For example, today’s group were interested to learn that Cannon Street’s name has nothing to do with artillery, stemming instead from the name of the local trade conducted there way back in 1183…. Any guesses?