Category Archives: Medieval


Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Greenford was first recorded, as Grenan forda, in the ninth century, in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 845.  It takes its name from the Old English grene, and ford, referring to a vegetated area around a  ford over the River Brent.  The manor was in the hands of Westminster Abbey from the time of the Norman Conquest in the eleventh century until that of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth.  It remained essentially rural until the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the arrival of the railway.

Church of Holy Cross

General view - Holy Cross Greenford

Weatherboarded tower

Old gravestone with skull and crossbones motif

The old church of Holy Cross on Oldfield Lane is thought to have been founded in  the twelfth century, around 1157.  The oldest surviving parts of the present church, though, are thirteenth- to fourteenth- century, and the main body of it  is late fifteenth- to early sixteenth- century, with some nineteenth-century  modifications.  There are a number of surviving fifteenth- to early seventeenth- century memorials and monuments in the church, alongside a font dating to 1637.  There are also some interesting stained-glass windows acquired from King’s College, Cambridge, and inserted in the nineteenth century, although dating to the fourteenth to sixteenth.

The neighbouring new church was built in 1943, to cater for the then rapidly growing population of local factory workers and commuters.

A Virtual Tour of Medieval London, Part Three.


35 – Cheapside



First recorded – as Westceap – in c. 1100, although evidently already in existence earlier.  Takes its name from the Old English ceap, meaning market.

36 – 80B Cheapside



The site of the Cheapside Conduit, a part of the Medieval water supply system.

37 – Ironmonger Lane


The site of the birthplace of Thomas Becket.

38 – Old Jewry

Takes its name from the Jewish community established hereabouts in the late eleventh to twelfth centuries, and expelled in the thirteenth.



The site of a number of synagogues, and of the discovery of the remains of ritual baths or mikva’ot.

39 – Guildhall Yard


The site of the Medieval Guildhall, built by Master Mason John Croxton between 1411-30.  Also of Blackwell Hall, the centre of the important  wool trade.

40 –Aldermanbury Square


The site of the Aldermanbury Conduit,  another  part of the Medieval water supply system.

41 – Ruins of St Alphage London Wall


Originally a chapel attached to  Elsing Spital, a – priory – hospital specialising in the treatment of blind persons.  Became a parish church after the Dissolution.

42 – St Alphage Gardens


The site of a section of city wall.  The lower part is Roman; the middle – stone – part, thirteenth-century; the upper – brick – part fifteenth-century.

43 – Noble Street


The site of another  section of city wall.


The prominent bastions to the north are thirteenth-century.

44 – St Mary-le-Bow, or Bow Church, Cheapside


Originally built in c. 1077-87, by Archbishop Lanfranc.  Rebuilt in 1091, 1196 and 1271 (and again after the Great Fire and after the Blitz).   The crypt survives  from the eleventh century.

45 – Site of Cheapside Cross, Cheapside/Wood Street


Built by Edward I to commemorate his queen, Eleanor of Castile, who died in 1290.

46 – St Paul’s Churchyard


The site of Paul’s Cross, built in c. 1191, and used as a sort of open-air pulpit in the Middle Ages.

47 – St Paul’s Cathedral


“Old”  St Paul’s was built beginning in  1087 by Bishop Maurice, and extended in succeeding centuries, before being  burned down in the Great Fire of 1666 (image, Museum of London).



The outline of the fourteenth-century Chapter House may be made out  to the  south of the present building.

48 – Wardrobe Place, off Carter Lane


The site of the Royal Wardrobe, built during the reign of Edward III in c. 1361, and burned down in the Great Fire of 1666.

49 – St Andrew’s Hill


The site of the First Baynard’s Castle, built by Ralph Baynard in the late eleventh century, and demolished in the early thirteenth (after the baronial conspiracy against King John in 1212).  Blackfriars Priory was built on the site in 1278.

50 – Ireland Yard




The site of some surviving remains from Blackfriars Priory, dissolved in 1538, and substantially destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.  Probably part of the Provincial Prior’s house.

51 – Queen Victoria Street



The site of the Second  Baynard’s Castle, built in 1338, rebuilt in 1428, and burned down in the Great Fire of 1666.  The London Headquarters of the House of York during the Wars of the Roses.

A Virtual Tour of Medieval London, Part Two.


18 – St Helen Bishopsgate, Great St Helens



Dates back in part to the eleventh century, although the bulk of the standing structure is thirteenth, and in the Early Gothic style.



Dubbed “The Westminster Abbey” of the City because of the beauty of the interior and richness of its memorials, including those of John Oteswich and John Crosby. Crosby was knighted for his role in the defence of the City during the Bastard Fauconberg’s assault (Wars of the Roses).

19 – Site of Crosby Hall, Crosby Place


Originally built for John Crosby in 1466-75, and described by John Stow as “very large and beautiful”.  Relocated stone-by-stone to Cheyne Walk in Chelsea in 1909.

20 – St Ethelburga Bishopsgate


Originally built in the early Medieval period, and rebuilt in the late, and again after having been severely damaged by an IRA bomb in 1993.

21 – Bishopsgate


The site of another of the gates in the Medieval city wall.  It was through this gate that Edward IV left the city on his way to the Battle of Barnet (Wars of the Roses).

22 – Austin Friars, off Old Broad Street



The site of an Augustinian Priory built in the thirteenth century (and dissolved in the sixteenth).  Many of the knights killed in the Battle of Barnet were buried here.

23 – Threadneedle Street


First recorded in the post-Medieval period,  although evidently already in existence in the Medieval.  Possibly takes its name from the arms of the Merchant Taylors, whose Hall is here.

24 –53 Threadneedle Street


The site of St Anthony’s Hospital, founded in 1242 for the treatment of sufferers from St Anthony’s Fire or ergotism, a disease caused by eating cereals contaminated by an alkaloid-secreting fungus.

25 – Merchant Taylors’ Hall, 30 Threadneedle Street


Originally built in the late fourteenth century, and damaged, but not destroyed, during the Great Fire of 1666.


Parts of a Medieval Great Kitchen still survive (alongside a chapel crypt).

26 – Royal Exchange Avenue


The site of the church of St Benet Fink, built in c. 1216.   There was an  anchorhold here in the Medieval period.

27 – Cornhill


First recorded in c. 1100,  although evidently already in existence earlier.  Thought to take its name from “a corn market out of time there holden” (Stow).

28 – St Michael Cornhill


Originally built in the Medieval period, and rebuilt, incorporating much Medieval fabric, after the Great Fire of 1666.

29 – Lombard Street


First recorded as such in 1318,  although evidently already in existence earlier.  Takes its name from the Lombards who assumed the roles of bankers after the expulsion of the Jews in 1290.

30 – Cannon Street


First recorded as Candelewrihtstret (Candlewright Street) in 1183,  although evidently already in existence earlier.

31 – 111 Cannon Street


The site of the “London Stone”, that stood in the middle of the street in the Middle Ages, and was apparently used as a place from which to make important public proclamations.

32 –  St Swithun’s Church Garden



The site of a – modern – memorial to Catrin ferch Owain Glyndwr, who was surreptitiously buried here after dying under suspicious circumstances in  the Tower of London in 1413.

33 – Walbrook


First recorded in the late thirteenth century.  Takes its name from the Walbrook, a now-lost tributary of the Thames that in the Middle Ages entered the City at Moorgate and exited into the Thames at Dowgate.

34 – Poultry


First recorded in the early fourteenth century,  although evidently already in existence earlier.

A Virtual Tour of Medieval London, Part One.

Map1 – St Magnus the Martyr


Among the many treasures here  is a modern scale model of “Old London Bridge” as it would have looked in its Medieval heyday.

2 – “Old London Bridge” (and Port of London)


“Old  London Bridge”  was built by Peter, chaplain of St Mary Colechurch, between 1176-1209.  There were scores of buildings on the bridge, including a chapel dedicated to St Thomas Becket (it was on the pilgrimage route to Canterbury).

The Medieval Port of London lay to either side of the bridge.

3 – Eastcheap


The site of one of the principal markets of the City in the Middle Ages, where livestock was  brought for slaughter.  The street would have been evil-smelling, and exceedingly unpleasant underfoot – whence the invention of the “patten” (recalled in the name of the church of St Margaret Pattens).

4 – Custom House, Thames Street



The site of the original Custom House, built at least as long ago as 1377, close to the centre of activity on the waterfront.  Geoffrey Chaucer once worked here as a “Comptroller of the Customes and Subside of Wools, Skins and Tanned Hides.

5 – All Hallows Barking, Byward Street

Among the Medieval features here are:


an altar table of stone salvaged by the Knights Templar from a Crusader castle in the Holy Land;


a Flemish altar-piece known as the “Tate Panel”;


and the  canopied tomb of one John Croke.

6 – Tower Hill



The site of the executions of Robert Hales, the Lord High Treasurer, and Simon of Sudbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury, during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.

Somewhat to the east, in East Smithfield, is a recently-excavated “plague pit” in which victims of the “Black Death” of 1348-9 were buried.

7 – Tower of London


Originally built by William I, William II and Henry I in the late eleventh to early  twelfth centuries (keep), and extended by Henry III in the mid  thirteenth (inner curtain wall) and Edward I in the late thirteenth to early fourteenth (outer curtain wall).

8 – St Olave Hart Street


Originally built in wood in the eleventh century, and subsequently  rebuilt in stone in the late twelfth to early thirteenth, and again in the mid fifteenth, around 1450.

9 – Crutched Friars


The site of one of the many monastic houses in Medieval London, founded by the crossed,  crouched or crutched friars in the late thirteenth century.

10 – All Hallows Staining, Mark Lane


Originally built in the early Medieval period, and rebuilt in the late.  The fourteenth- or fifteenth- century tower still stands.

11 – Fenchurch Street


First recorded in 1283, although evidently already in existence earlier.  Takes its name from St Gabriel Fenchurch, and the “fen” or marshy ground surrounding the Langborne, a lost tributary of the Thames.

12 – Aldgate



The site of one of the seven gates in the Medieval city wall.  Geoffrey Chaucer lodged in the gate-house while working in the Custom House in Billingsgate.

13 – Leadenhall Street


First recorded in the post-Medieval period,  although evidently already in existence in the Medieval.  Takes its name from a  lead-roofed manor-house converted into a market in 1309, given to the City – by Dick Whittington – in 1411, and rebuilt – by John Croxton – between 1440-55.

14 – 76 Leadenhall Street




The site of the remains of Holy Trinity Priory, founded by Augustinian canons in 1108, and extended and rebuilt in the later Medieval period.

15 – St Katharine Cree, Leadenhall Street


Originally built at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and rebuilt in the early sixteenth (and again in the early seventeenth).  The surviving  tower dates to 1500-4.

16 – St Andrew Undershaft, Leadenhall Street/St Mary Axe


Originally built in the twelfth century, and rebuilt in the fourteenth, and again in the sixteenth, between 1530-2.

17 –  St Mary Axe


The site of the church of St Mary Axe, originally built in the twelfth century, and suppressed as idolatrous in 1561.  The church purportedly  housed one of the axes that St Ursula and her accompanying  “eleven thousand Virgins”  were beheaded with, possibly by Attila the Hun.



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

Barnet was first recorded in c. 1070 as Barneto, from the Old English baernet, meaning land cleared by burning.


The church of St John  was originally built here in c. 1250,   subsequently substantially rebuilt in c. 1400, and restored in the nineteenth century, and twice in the twentieth.  And Queen Elizabeth’s School was built here in c. 1577, four years after the granting of a charter for that purpose.  It was originally a free grammar school, and subsequently became a boarding establishment (with specially constructed dormitories accessed by way of a staircase in the east turret).  The  old school moved to a new location in 1932.  The recently restored former school building on the original site is now owned by Hertfordshire County Council, and known  as Tudor Hall.


The Battle of Barnet was fought a short distance to the north in 1471, in the Wars of the Roses.


Artefacts from the site may be viewed in the Barnet Museum (on Wood Street).

The consecration of Westminster Abbey (1065)

Edward the Confessor's body being brought to the abbey for burial in 1066

Westminster Abbey was consecrated on this day  in 1065 …

A monk of St Bertin’s Abbey wrote of its construction:

“Outside the walls of London … stood a monastery [founded by Bishop Dunstan under King Edgar the Peaceable and] dedicated to St Peter, but insignificant in buildings … .  … The king [Edward the Confessor], therefore  … gave his attention to that place, for it both lay hard by the famous and rich town and also was a delightful spot, … [and] … decided to have his burial place there [he was to die on January 5th, 1066].  Accordingly, he ordered that out of the tithes of all his revenues should be started the building of a noble edifice, worthy of the Prince of the Apostles; so that, after the transient journey of this life, God would look kindly upon him, both for the sake of his goodness and because of the gift of lands and ornaments with which he intended to ennoble the place.  And … there was no weighing of the costs, … so long as it proved  worthy of … God and St Peter”.

The  coronation of William the Conqueror  (Orderic Vitalis, 1066)

1 - The coronation of William the Conqueror, Westminster Abbey, as depicted by Matthew Paris

On this day in 1066, William I was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey.  One Orderic Vitalis wrote of the occasion:

“So at last on Christmas Day …, the English assembled at London for the king’s coronation, and a strong guard of Norman men-at-arms and knights was posted round the minster to prevent any treachery or disorder.  And, in the presence of the bishops, abbots, and nobles of the whole realm of Albion, Archbishop Ealdred consecrated William duke of Normandy king of the English and placed the royal crown on his head.  This was done in the abbey church of St Peter the chief of the apostles, called Westminster, where the body of King Edward [the Confessor] lies honourably buried.

But at the prompting of the devil, who hates everything good, a sudden disaster and portent of future catastrophes occurred.  For when Archbishop Ealdred asked the English, and Geoffrey bishop of Coutances asked the Normans, if they would accept William as their king, all of them gladly shouted out with one voice if not one language that they would.  The armed guard outside, hearing the tumult …, imagined that some treachery was afoot, and rashly set fire to some of the buildings.  The fire spread rapidly …, the crowd who had been rejoicing … took fright and throngs of men and women of every rank and condition ran out of the church in frantic haste.  Only the bishop and a few clergy and monks remained, … and with difficulty completed the consecration of the king who was trembling from head to foot.

… The English, after hearing of the perpetration if such misdeeds, never again trusted the Normans who seemed to have betrayed them, but nursed their anger and bided their time to take revenge”.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul (Westminster Abbey)

On this day in 1540, the Abbey Church of St Peter Westminster was made a Cathedral with its own See.   Not long afterwards, it was incorporated into the Diocese of London, and much of its estate was sold off to pay for repairs to St Paul’s – hence the expression, “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.  It is now a “Royal Peculiar”.

The abbey was originally founded, as the Benedictine monastery of St Peter, by the Bishop of London, Dunstan, under the Saxon King Edgar, in 960, on what was then Thorney Island – according to legend, on the site of a church founded by Sebert in around 604 (the same year that St Paul’s was founded).  It was rebuilt under Edward, “The Confessor”, in the years up to 1065, rebuilt again,  in the Early Gothic style, under Henry III, in the mid thirteenth century, and extended, in the Late Gothic style, under a succession of kings, including Henry VII, in the late fourteenth to early sixteenth (in part by the master mason Henry Yevele).

1 - Henry III's thirteenth-century north entrance with Rose Window

3 - Henry III's thirteenth-century Chapter House (left) and Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel (right).JPG

4 - Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel

5 - Wonderful grotesques on Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel  .JPG

The present structure is essentially surviving thirteenth- to sixteenth- century,


6 - Hawksmoor's eighteenth-century west towers.jpg

7 - Twentieth-century martyrs' memorial

although with some eighteenth-century additions in the form of  the west towers,  by Hawksmoor, and some twentieth-century  additions and restorations.

There are a great many important monuments in the interior, including those of no fewer than seventeen monarchs.  An equally large number of important state occasions have been held in the abbey, including all of the Coronations since that of the first Norman King, William I, the Conqueror, in 1066.  The fore-runner of Parliament, the “Great Council”, first met in the Chapter House here in 1257, only later moving to nearby Westminster Hall.

5 - Wonderful grotesques on Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel  .JPG

The execution of John Oldcastle (1417)


On this day in 1417, John Oldcastle was executed – by hanging in chains over a slow fire – at St Giles in the Fields for his role in the earlier so-called Lollard rebellion.  The Lollardy of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries sought to restrict the secular wealth and power of the established church, and to return to apostolic poverty and mission,  and has been described as the “Morning Star of the Reformation” of the sixteenth.

London’s “Little Ice Age” and the Great “Frost Fairs”

The Frozen Thames in 1677

On this day in 1434 a severe frost set in in London that was to last until the February of the following year, and the Thames froze over.

Further records indicate that in all the river froze  over  nearly forty  times between 1142 and 1895, and that it became the site of impromptu “Frost Fairs” in 1564-65, 1683-84, 1715-16, 1739-40, 1788-89 and 1813-14.

Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Steps (1684).jpg

In 1683-84 an entire street of stalls was set up on the frozen river, together with a press printing souvenir papers, one of which, entitled “A Winter Wonder of the Thames Frozen Over with Remarks on the Resort thereon” asked “ … [W]ho’d believe to see revived there in January, Bartholomew Fair?”.  The ice was evidently so thick that it was even possible to roast an ox on it!    In 1788-89, there was, according to the all-knowing Encyclopaedia of London, “one continual scene of merriment and jollity” on the frozen river from Redriff to  as far up as  Putney.

Frost Fair in 1814.jpg

And in 1813-14, thousands  attended the greatest fair of the nineteenth  century, although only after navigating a gap in the ice created by temporarily unemployed watermen, who demanded a fee of twopence for their assistance!  Then, in 1831, the  demolition of the Old London Bridge, which had  nineteen arches, and the construction of the new one, which only had five, allowed  the rate of flow of the river  to increase to the extent that it became  much less susceptible to freezing  over.

Readers interested in further details are referred to The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys (Union Books, 2007), and Frost Fairs on the Frozen Thames by Nicholas Reed (Lilburne Press, 2002).