Category Archives: London History

Grim’s Dyke

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Plaque

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Grim’s Dyke is an intermittently-preserved bank-and-ditch earthwork that runs for a distance  of some miles through North-West London, from Pinner Green, or possibly Ruislip, in the south-west, to Harrow Weald Common, or possibly Stanmore, in  the north-east.  Recent archaeological evidence indicates that it probably dates to the Iron Age, rather than to the Dark Ages, as had long been thought.    Apparently associated Iron Age pottery was  unearthed at an excavation in Montesole Park in Pinner Green in 1957, and a first-century – or earlier – hearth in the grounds of the Grim’s Dyke Hotel on  Harrow Weald Common in 1979.   Note in this context that there are further   Iron Age sites in Stanmore, believed to have then been home to a tribe of Ancient Britons known as the Catuvellauni.

Uxbridge

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Uxbridge was first recorded in c. 1145  as Wixebrug, from the name of an Anglo-Saxon tribe, the Wixan, and the Old English brycg, meaning bridge, and referring to a bridge over the River Colne (a tributary of the Thames lying some distance to the west  of London).

During the course of the  Medieval and post-Medieval periods, it developed into an important market-town, and later, into a local communications hub.   One John Leland described Uxbridge during Henry VIII’s  reign as: “one longe streete; but … well buildyd”, with a “Chapel of Ease” (the church of St Margaret); a “paroche Church … almoste a mile out of the towne in the very High Waye to London, called Great Hellindon” (the church of St John the Baptist); and a “Market ons a weke”.  Three  Protestant heretics were burnt at the stake in Lynch Green in the town during the short reign of the Catholic Queen “Bloody” Mary in 1555.  And in 1576, in the middle of   Elizabeth I’s long reign,   a number of men were punished here  for playing football, “by reason of which unlawfull game there arose amongst them a great affray”.   Later, in Stuart rather than Tudor times,  176 people died in Uxbridge of the plague in 1603.  And in 1645, in the midst of the Civil War, delegations from the occupying Parliamentarian and opposing Royalist forces met under a temporary truce in the surviving “Crown and Treaty” public house to attempt to negotiate a peace treaty.  Sadly, the negotiations were to break down, apparently on account of the king’s – Charles I’s – intransigence, and the war was to go on for several more years, and to claim the lives of many more combatants and civilians.

In the eighteenth century, the existing – London to – Oxford Road was widened, to facilitate the passage of stage-coach traffic, and the old Market House was demolished and replaced with a new one.  The Grand Junction canal arrived at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the now-disused branch line of the Great Western railway at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth, and the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines of the London Underground railway in the early twentieth.

Church of St Margaret

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The surviving church of St Margaret was originally built, as a chapel-of-ease to the church of St John the Baptist, in the Medieval period, around the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and it was subsequently rebuilt around the turn of the fourteenth and  fifteenth.   The oldest surviving part is the north tower, which dates  to the late fourteenth century.  The north aisle, arcade and nave date to the early fifteenth century, the font to the late fifteenth, c. 1480.

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The oldest memorial is that to Dame Leonora Bennet, who died in 1638.  Dame Leonora’s third husband, Sir John Bennet, was sometime Chancellor to James I’s Queen Anne (of Denmark).

Cranford

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Cranford was first recorded the Domesday Book of 1086 as Craneford, meaning ford frequented by cranes or herons, and referring  to the point at which the ancient route and track from London to Bath crosses the River Crane (a tributary of the Thames).  Note  that there was evidently at least temporary settlement in the area  in prehistory, and permanent settlement in the so-called Dark Ages.

The manor was recorded in the Domesday Book as having a priest, and presumably therefore also a church (see below).  The manor was divided into two in 1220: Cranford St John coming to be owned by the Knights Templar (later Knights Hospitaller); Cranford Le Mote, by the Abbey of Thame.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, it was re-united, and conveyed to Andrew, Lord Windsor, in 1540.  The manor was  then  bought by Sir Roger Aston, Barber, Gentleman of the Bedchamber and Keeper of the Great Wardrobe to James I, in 1603;  and in turn by Elizabeth, Lady Berkeley – a relative of Anne Boleyn – in 1618.

It remained in the Berkeley family for over 300 years, until  it was finally sold to the local authority in 1932, and opened to the public as Cranford Park in 1949.  Cranford House was built here in the seventeenth century, extended in the eighteenth, and substantially demolished in the twentieth.

Church of St Dunstan

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The church of St Dunstan was probably originally built by the Knights Templar in the thirteenth century (as a chapel – whence the lack of aisles).  It was subsequently extended in the fifteenth century, when the chancel and the lower part of the tower were built, and again  in the seventeenth, when the upper part of the tower was added; amended in the eighteenth, when the nave was rebuilt; and restored in the nineteenth and again in the twentieth.

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The interior contains a number of surviving Medieval and post-Medieval features, including the remains of a pre-Reformation wall-painting …

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Detail of Aston memorial

… and a memorial  to the aforementioned Sir Roger Aston (d. 1612), …

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… and another to Elizabeth, Lady Berkeley (d. 1635).  The Berkeley memorial  is attributed to Nicholas Stone the Younger, who studied under  Bernini.

In the churchyard  is a  memorial plaque commemorating the comedian Tony Hancock (d. 1968), whose ashes were brought here from Australia, where he had committed suicide, for burial.

Kingston

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Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Kingston was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 838 as Cynings tun, meaning the king’s estate or manor, and alluding to the fact that in Saxon times it was owned by the  king.

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Seven Saxon kings are reputed to have been crowned here, on a site now occupied by the church of All Saints, including  Athelstan, the first king of the united England, in 924/925.

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The nearby Market Place is a Scheduled Conservation area, with some buildings purporting to date back to the  fifteenth or sixteenth centuries.

Church of All Saints

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The church of All Saints was originally built in the twelfth century, around 1130, on the site of an earlier, Saxon church dedicated to St Mary, although it has subsequently been much modified, most notably in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

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A surviving part of the wall of the Saxon church  may be seen in the churchyard.

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There are a number of interesting surviving Medieval and post-Medieval features in the interior,

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including part of a late tenth- or eleventh- century Saxon cross-shaft,

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fourteenth-century wall painting of St Blaise,

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and the early seventeenth-century tomb of Sir Anthony Benn.

Old Malden

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

What is now known as Old Malden  was first founded in Saxon times, although first recorded in the Norman “Domesday Book” of 1086 as Meldone, meaning, in Old English, hill (dun) with a cross or crucifix (mael).  The ancient settlement grew steadily in size through the later Medieval period and into the post-Medieval.  It lies in the modern London Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames.

Aside from the church of St John the Baptist (see below), there are a number of other historic buildings of note here, including the “Manor House”, originally built at least as long ago as eleventh century (although subsequently rebuilt in the seventeenth, and extended in the eighteenth), and the “Plough” public house on the green, originally built in the fifteenth century.  Henry VIII is known to have held court in the old “Manor House” in the sixteenth century (and Captain Cook lived in the new one in the eighteenth).

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Church of St John the Baptist

The church of St John the Baptist was originally built in the Saxon and/or later Medieval period, and subsequently rebuilt in the post-Medieval, in the early seventeenth century, in around 1611 (and extended in the late nineteenth and again in the early  twenty-first).  Parts of the Lady Chapel survive from the Medieval, and the south part of the nave and the tower from the post-Medieval.  In the interior, some memorials also survive from the post-Medieval, including that to the one-time Lord of the Manor John Goode (d. 1627), who funded the seventeenth-century reconstruction.

Whitehall Palace

The last in the  occasional series on “London Settings for Shakespeare’s Plays” …

Whitehall Palace (Henry VIII)

Whitehall Palace was originally built for the  Archbishops of York in the thirteenth century, circa 1240, when it was known as York Place.  It was subsequently acquired by Henry VIII from the then Archbishop of York, Cardinal Wolsey, in 1529, whence, from Shakespeare’s “King Henry the Eighth”, “You must no more call it York Place: that is past; For since the Cardinal fell that title’s lost.  ‘Tis now the King’s, and called Whitehall”; and extended both by Henry and by James I.

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The palace was undamaged in the Great Fire, but substantially burnt down in another fire in 1698.

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Essentially only the Banqueting House, designed by the  Palladian architect Inigo Jones in 1622, and notable as the first Renaissance building in central London, with a ceiling by Rubens, still stands (together with “Henry VIII’s wine cellar” in the nearby Ministry of Defence building in Horse Guards’ Avenue, the site of his tilt-yard in Horse Guards’ Parade, part of his real tennis court in the Cabinet Office building at No. 70 Whitehall, and “Queen Mary’s Stairs”, built in 1691, on the Embankment).

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Charles I was executed outside the Banqueting House in 1649.

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The Holbein Gate, built in 1532 and notable as the probable place of the clandestine marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533, survived the fires of  1666 and 1698, but was demolished in 1759.

Ewell

Another in the occasional series on historical sites  on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Ewell in Surrey was first recorded as such in the Medieval period, in the thirteenth century, having earlier been recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Etwelle (note, though, that the site  was almost certainly  settled at least as long ago as Roman times, lying on the Roman road from Chichester in Sussex to London, and note  also that much evidence of prehistoric activity has been unearthed hereabouts).  It takes its name from the Old English aewell, meaning “spring”.

Church

The church of St Mary the Virgin was originally built  in the thirteenth century, with records of incumbents dating back to  1239.   It was subsequently substantially demolished and rebuilt in 1848.

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Only a  bell-tower of around 1450 survives of the structure of the Medieval church, and the pulpit, font and chancel screen of the fitments.

The  Domesday Book of 1086 records 52 tenants, presumably tenant-farmers; and a later survey or custumal of 1290,    68,  including   Ralph the Chapman, William the Tanner, Richard the Mason and Thomas the Carter  (Harte, 2012, Scenes from Medieval Life in Epsom, Ewell and Cuddington … ).  Later inhabitants of  what at the time would evidently have been a largish village died in the “Third Plague” of 1369; and still others were caught up in the “Peasants’ Revolt” of 1381.  A  water-mill had been built on the Hogsmill, a tributary of the Thames, by 1408, as indicated in the rental of that year.  The trade in wool lay at the centre of the Medieval village’s economy, with sheep being  reared in surrounding farmland  (around 5 to the  acre).

By the  post-Medieval period, the population of Ewell  had become  polarised into farmers who had land, and labourers who did not, as evidenced by  the manorial survey of 1577.   The Lord of the Manor, Henry Lloyd, was granted licence to hold a market here  in 1618.  Samuel Pepys visited the village a number of times in the later seventeenth century, between 1663-5.

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Bourne Hall was built here in 1770, although of the original building only the so-called “Dog Gate” survives to this day; Ewell Castle, in 1814.

Henry VIII built Nonsuch Palace nearby in the post-Medieval period, demolishing the Medieval settlement of Cuddington in the process    (see July 21st posting).