Category Archives: London History

St Mary Bothaw

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

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St Mary Bothaw, also known as St Mary Botolph (“T”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the twelfth  century, around 1150. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow gave the name as St Mary Boathaw, meaning “adjoining to a haw or yard, wherein of old time boats were made, and landed from Downgate to be mended, as may be supposed”. He also noted that “within this church, … divers noblemen and persons of worship have been buried, as appeareth by … defaced tombs … “. Indeed, at least two Mayors of London are known to have been buried here, including the very first, Henry Fitz Ailwyn of London Stone, Mayor from his appointment in 1189 until his death in 1212, and Richard Chicheley, Mayor in 1422. Chicheley’s will, incidentally, provided for a good dinner and two pence to be given to 2400 poor men of the City each year upon the anniversary of his birthday.

The church was gutted in the Great Fire of 1666, and never rebuilt, the former parish uniting with that of St Swithin London Stone.   Some materials salvaged from the shell of the church were used in the rebuilding of St Swithin’s.

Some parish boundary markers and a Corporation “Blue Plaque” mark its former site, on what is now Cannon Street. There are also registers of Christenings, Marriages and Burials in the Guildhall Library that date back to 1536 – three years before registration was officially mandated in 1539. 

St Mary-le-Bow

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

St Mary-le-Bow or de Arcubus, also known as Bow Church (“Bowe church” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in around 1077-87 by the Norman King William I’s Archbishop of Canterbury, one Lanfranc (possibly on the site of an even older, Saxon, church). It was subsequently rebuilt following damage by a tornado in 1090/1; following a fire during “William Longbeard’s Revolt” in 1196; following a partial collapse in 1271; and in 1512-6.  The  tornado of 1090/1 virtually levelled the church, and drove four 26’  rafters vertically into the “marish” ground.  From accounts of the damage, meteorologists estimate that it  would have rated T8 on the T scale, which runs from T1 to T10, with winds in excess of  200 mph. It also damaged 600 other buildings, including London Bridge, and caused two fatalities.

Historically, St Mary’s was the principal of the thirteenth – non-Royal – “peculiars” in the City of London, which fell under the direct jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury rather than that of the Bishop of London. A full list of the “peculiars” reads as follows: All Hallows Bread Street; All Hallows Lombard Street; St Dionis Backchurch; St Dunstan in the East; St John the Evangelist; St Leonard Eastcheap; St Mary Aldermary; St Mary Bothaw; St Mary le Bow; St Michael Crooked Lane; St Michael Royal; St Pancras Soper Lane; St Vedast. The Ecclesiastical Court of Arches or Curia de Arcubus sat in the church from at least as long ago as the thirteenth century onwards. The court is mentioned in Middleton & Decker’s play “Roaring Girl“, written sometime between 1607-10, and in Pepys’s diary for 1663. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow recorded the monuments of numerous worthies in the church, including “John Coventry, mercer, mayor, 1425” and “Nicholas Alwine, mercer, mayor, 1499”.

The church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and was rebuilt again by Wren between 1670-83.  It was then gutted by bombing on 10th/11th  May, 1941, the last night of the Blitz of the Second World War, and rebuilt yet again between 1956-64.

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The famous  bells, used to sound the nine o’clock “curfew” in the Medieval and post-Medieval periods, survived the Great Fire, but were destroyed during the Second World War. It used to be said that only those born within earshot of the bells  could truly call themselves “Cockneys”. 

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The  eleventh-century crypt also survived the Great Fire, and was incorporated into Wren’s rebuilt church.

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The iron balcony overlooking Cheapside is said to echo the former grand-stand built nearby by  Edward III, as a vantage point from which to view jousts taking place  on the tilt-yard  in  Crown Fields.  

The wonderful 9’ long copper weather-vane made by Robert Bird in 1679 in the form of a flying dragon is also worthy of note. 

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In the churchyard is a statue commemorating the Citizen and Cordwainer Captain John Smith  (1580-1631), who founded Jamestown in Virginia (“from which began the overseas expansion of the English-speaking peoples”). 

St Mary Aldermary

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Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

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St Mary Aldermary (reversed “3”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as  1080. Stow, in his “Survey of London” of 1598, opined that the suffix appended to the appellation of the church signified that it was “elder than any … St Marie in the Citie”, including St Mary-le-Bow, which dates to 1087. Schofield has suggested that the church could have been built as long ago as 1020. Richard Chaucer, Vintner and grandfather of the more famous Geoffrey, was buried there in 1348, which was, coincidentally or otherwise, the year of the “Black Death”; William Taylor, Grocer and Mayor, in 1483.

The church was subsequently rebuilt in 1510-28, formerly at the expense of, and latterly from a bequest from, the sometime Mayor Henry Keble; and again in 1626-9, when a new tower was added, by one Radoway. Keble was buried in the church when he died in 1517. Fuller described, in his “Worthies of England” of 1662, how “years after, his bones were unkindly, yes inhumanely cast out … , his monument plucked down for some wealthy person of the present time to be buried therein” (possibly William Laxton, Grocer, who died in 1556, and/or Thomas Lodge, Grocer and Mayor, who died in 1583). The parson of the church lost his life in the affair of “The Maid of Kent”, whose actual name was Elizabeth Barton, in 1534. According to the “Chronicle of the Grey Friars“, “Thys yere was the mayde of Kent with the Monkes freeres and the Parson of Aldermary draune to Tyborne, and there hangyd and heddyd … , the Monkes burryt at the Blacke freeres … , the holy mayde at the Gray freeres, and the parsone at his Church”.

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The church was substantially destroyed during the  Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt yet again by Wren between  1679-82, and further modified in 1701-4, when the tower was replaced, and again in 1876-7.   Wren was evidently able to incorporate some parts of the pre-Great Fire church into his rebuild. As Nairn put it: “[He] treated Gothic as though it were a cantankareous aunt: with affectionate disrespect”. 

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The fan-vaulted ceiling is very fine. 

Some of the interior fittings were salvaged from St Antholin.

Putney

Another in the series on historic sites on the “Thames Path” walk …

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Putney was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Putelei (sic), and later, in 1279, as Puttenhuthe, taking its name from the Old English putta, meaning hawk, and hyth, landing place (Putta was also a personal name). However, archaeological evidence points to the existence of an isolated settlement here both in Roman times and indeed in prehistory.

For most of its long history, Putney was a quiet, predominantly pastoral agricultural and fishing village on the south bank of the Thames a few miles upriver from the City. In the Middle Ages, ferries connected it to Fulham on the north bank and to Westminster downriver. At this time, Putney constituted part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Manor of Wimbledon, alongside Mortlake and Roehampton. In the post-Medieval period, the manor passed into private hands, and a scattering of aristocratic houses were built here at this time, including John Lacy’s Putney Palace, where Elizabeth I and James I were royally entertained.

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Thomas Cromwell, who went on to become Henry VIII’s Chief Minister, was born in Putney in 1485, although not into the nobility – famously, he was the son of a blacksmith, brewer and innkeeper, and fuller and cloth merchant.

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Putney began to be more intensively built up after a bridge linking it to Fulham was built in 1729, and even more so after the arrival of the overground railway in 1846 and the “underground” in 1880 (the bridge was rebuilt in 1884-6). In the eighteenth century, it was something of a fashionable outer suburb, and the haunt of the Duchess of Marlborough and the Earls Spencer. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, though, the relentless spread of London made it a decidedly inner suburb, albeit an at least locally leafy and affluent one.

Church of St Mary the Virgin

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The church of St Mary the Virgin was originally built at least as long ago as the thirteenth century, the first record of it being from 1291, and Archbishop Winchelsea held an ordination there in 1302. The church was subsequently extended in the fifteenth century, in 1440, and rebuilt, to the design of Edward Lapidge, in the nineteenth, in 1836. It was then damaged by fire in 1973 and repaired and reopened in 1982. The tower survives from the fifteenth century.

The Putney Debates

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The so-called “Putney Debates” were held in the church in 1647, in the midst of the Civil War. 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.

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.

(*)   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.

St Mary Aldermanbury

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Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

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St Mary Aldermanbury (“20” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as 1181 (and possibly even in earlier, Saxon times). It was subsequently restored and extended, by the former Mayor, William Eastfield, in 1438. John Heminge and Henry Condell, who were fellow actors and personal friends of Shakespeare’s, were parishioners at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was they who, after Shakespeare’s death, “collected his dramatic writings regardless of pecuniary loss and without the hope of any profit gave them to the world” (in the so-called “First Folio” of 1623).

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The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt by Wren in 1671-5.

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It was further modified in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, only to be gutted by incendiary bombing on the night of 29th December, 1940, after which the parish was merged with St Vedast-alias-Foster. It is one of the twenty-one “lost” Wren churches.

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Only the foundations remain at the site today, together with a city garden created in 1966. 

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Much of the building material salvaged from the church survives, in the   remarkable recent reconstruction, true to Wren’s design,  in the grounds of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri (where Winston Churchill made his famous “iron curtain” speech).

St Mary Abchurch

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

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St Mary Abchurch (“U” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the twelfth century, the first record to it being in a deed of 1198. It was subsequently “restored and beautified”, at the expense of the parishioners, in the seventeenth, in 1610, and the walls were painted with murals, by Isaac Fuller, in 1636. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow describes the church as standing “on rising ground” (on the west bank of the Walbrook), whence its appellation “Upchurch”, corrupted to “Abchurch”. He also notes that “Simon de Winchcombe founded a chantry there in the nineteenth of Richard II [1395]”, and lists a number of monuments, including that to Sir John Branch, Draper, Mayor in 1580. Sylvester records a monument to “the right worshipfull and most religious Lady” Dame Hellen Branch, who died in 1594.

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The church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and was rebuilt by Wren between 1681-7, and restored in 1708, when the ceiling was painted, by William Snow, who was a parishioner. It was then badly damaged by bombing in  the Blitz of 1940, and substantially rebuilt again  between 1945-57.  Some  fourteenth-century remains came to light in the churchyard after the bombing.  However, the story that the  late seventeenth-century Grinling Gibbons reredos was blown to bits during the bombing, and meticulously reassembled afterwards, appears to have no basis in fact.

The interior is a surprise and a  delight, described by Betjeman as “both uplifting and intimate”, with “three levels of attraction: ground and eye level … ; wall level … ; and roof level”.    

Battersea

Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Thames Path” walk …

Battersea was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 693 as Badrices ege or Batrices ege, from the Old English personal name Beaduric and eg, meaning island, or high, dry land in an otherwise  marshy area. 

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There is also evidence  of even older human presence, in the form of Stone, Bronze and Iron Age artefacts,  the most famous being the Iron Age Battersea Shield, now in the British Museum.

The Medieval to post-Medieval settlement was centred around what is now Battersea Square. The church of St Mary was built here sometime before 1067 (see below); …

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… and the former Raven public house during the reign of Charles II. 

Development began to spread during  the Georgian period of the eighteenth century, although the area remained essentially rural, and the economy  predominantly agricultural, and subordinately industrial, until the Victorian period of the nineteenth. 

Urbanisation and heavy industrialisation began with the arrival of the railway at nearby Nine Elms in  1838, although approximately  200 acres of  green space was preserved when Battersea Park  was created in 1853, following recommendations made to Queen Victoria’s “Commission for Improving the Metropolis” in 1843.   

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The present Battersea Bridge  was built by Joseph Bazalgette between 1886-90, to replace an earlier, wooden one built between  1771-2 (and immortalised in Whistler’s evocative nocturnes). 

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The former Battersea Power Station, currently being redeveloped, was built between 1929-55.

The “Peace Pagoda” in Battersea Park was built in 1984-5.

Church of St Mary

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The church of St Mary was originally built sometime before 1067, and at this time given by William I to the monks of Westminster Abbey.  It was partially rebuilt by the master mason Henry Yevele in 1379, and extended in 1400  and 1469, when the south aisle and chapel were added, and in 1613   and 1639, when the north aisle and tower were added; and subsequently substantially rebuilt again, by the local architect Joseph Dixon, between 1775-7. Most of the manor house that used to stand near the church was demolished in 1778, and the remaining part in the early twentieth century, some materials being salvaged and shipped to the United States for re-use at this time.

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The east window, of  stained-glass depicting Margaret Beauchamp, Henry VII and Elizabeth I, survives from  the seventeenth century.

The church has links with the artist J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), who used to sit in one of the windows overlooking the Thames  to paint the play of the light on the water.

The visionary poet and artist William Blake was married in the church  in 1782; and the high-ranking soldier  Benedict Arnold, who famously defected from the American Continental Army  to the British during the American Revolutionary War, was buried here in 1802. 

St Margaret Pattens

Another in the series on historic churches of the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

St Margaret Pattens, Eastcheap (“S. Margarits Patens” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the twelfth century, and subsequently rebuilt in the sixteenth, and repaired in the early seventeenth.  A rood or cross was set up in the churchyard while the church was being rebuilt in 1538, which, according to the antiquarian John Stow, “about the 23rd of May, in the morning, … was found to have been in the night preceding, by people unknown, broken all to pieces, together with the tabernacle wherein it had been placed”. The street on which the church stands is now known as Rood Lane.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt again by Wren between 1684-7, and restored in the twentieth century, following bomb damage sustained during the Blitz. 

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The very fine tondo in the interior is attributed to the fifteenth-century Italian sculptor Della Robbia. 

The church has long had an association with the Patten-Makers Guild or Livery Company (whence, presumably, its suffix), and there is an interesting exhibition of pattens in the interior. Pattens were under-shoes slipped on to protect the wearer’s shoes or clothing – not the least from the filth on the streets in the Middle Ages!

Jan van Eyck’s “Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife” of 1434 depicts a pair of pattens designed to protect “Poulaines”. “Poulaines” were sorts of shoes with elongated and pointed tips which originated in Poland and became popular throughout Europe, including in England, after Richard II’s marriage to Anne of Bohemia in 1382. According to one chronicler, these “accursed vices” were “up to half a yard in length”, such that “it was necessary for them to be tied to the shin with chains of silver”. Their use was restricted by a “Sumptuary Law” in 1463, and banned in 1465.

St Margaret New Fish Street Hill

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London.

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

What is now known as St Margaret New Fish Street Hill (not individually identified on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the twelfth  century. It was previously more generally known as St Margaret Bridge Street. In the Medieval era, the church was renowned for its relics. According to the “Book of Saint Margaret Fish Street” of 1472, these included – among others – at least fragments of “the bush of Moses”, “the rod of Moses wherewith he divided the Red Sea”, “the manger that our Lord Jesus Christ was laid in”, “the clothing of St Mary the Mother of Christ Jesus” and “the stone whereon Mary Magdalene did her penance”. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “a proper church”, although he also added, somewhat disparagingly, “monuments it hath none”.

The church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and was never rebuilt, the former parish uniting with that of St Magnus the Martyr.   The former Preacher, Thomas Brooks, wrote in his “London Lamentations” of 1670 of that “Fatal Fire … that turned London into a ruinous heap”.

A Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks its former site, which is where the  Monument (to the Great Fire) now stands (the church was the closest to the seat of the fire in Pudding Lane). 

There is also a parish boundary marker on the tower of St Magnus the Martyr. 

St Margaret Moses

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113.

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St Margaret Moses  (“9”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the twelfth  century, the first record of the church being in a deed of that date, which refers also to a priest named Moyses.  Stow recorded it as “St Margaret Moyses” in his “Survey of London” of 1598 (“so called, it seemeth, of one Moyses, that was founder”).  Stow  also recorded  a number of memorials in the church, including that of two Mayors, Richard Dobb(i)s, Skinner, who died in 1551, and John Allet, Fishmonger, who died,  in office, in 1591.

John Rogers, a Protestant, was rector here in 1550, before moving on to St Sepulchre Newgate Street, and being burned at the stake for heresy in   1555, in the Counter-Reformation of the Catholic Queen Mary’s reign (he was the first of the so-called “Marian martyrs”).

In 1559, the first full year of Mary’s successor, the Protestant Elizabeth I’s,  reign,  John Jewel, the newly-appointed Bishop of Salisbury, gave a famous sermon here in which he “said plainly that there was no Purgatory” (according to the  diarist Henry Machyn).

Site of St Margaret Moses

The church was burned  down in the Great Fire of 1666, and was never rebuilt,  the former  parish uniting with that of St Mildred Bread Street.   Essentially nothing now remains of the church on its former site, as the Corporation Plaque that once marked it was lost in the Second World War.     A silver dish given  to the church in 1631 is now in the Museum of London.