Category Archives: Site is on a Lost City of London Tour

The Gunpowder Day Sermon (John Donne, 1622)

Gunpowder Day Sermon.png

On this day in 1622, on the seventeenth anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, the Dean of St Paul’s, John Donne, felt compelled to give a sermon reassuring the congregation as to the ongoing commitment to the Protestant cause of the King, who was himself widely suspected of harbouring Catholic sympathies.   In his sermon, Donne described the King as “in his heart, as farre from submitting us to that Idolatry, and Superstition, which did heretofore oppresse us, as his immediate Predecessor [Elizabeth I], whose memory  is justly precious to you, was”.

There is a virtual reconstruction of the event at www.vpcp.chass.ncsu.edu.  It shows the sermon being given outside the cathedral, at (St) Paul’s Cross, whereas the original was actually given indoors on account  of inclement weather (“ a vicious squall of November rain”).

St Paul’s Cathedral is visited, although not entered, on various of our walks,  including the “Rebellious 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).

The Gunpowder Plot (Sir Edward Hoby, 1605)

The Gunpowder Plotters, with Fawkes third from the right

On this day in 1605 was discovered “a most horrible conspiracy of the Papish against the King [James I]” to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster, for their roles in which Guy Fawkes and his fellows were cruelly put to death (*).

Sir Edward Hoby (**) wrote of the event:

“On the 5th of November we began our Parliament, to which the King [James I] should have come in person, but refrained, through a practice but that morning discovered.  The plot was to have blown up the King at such time as he should have been set in his royal throne, accompanied by his children, Nobility and Commons and … Bishops, Judges and Doctors, at one instant and blast and to have ruined the whole estate and kingdom of England.  And for the effecting of this there was placed under the Parliament house [Palace of Westminster], where the king should sit, some 30 barrels of gunpowder … .

… In a vault under the parliament chamber before spoken of one Johnson [Guy Fawkes’s  assumed name] was found … who, after being brought into … the court, and there demanded if he were not sorry for his so foul and heinous a treason, answered he was sorry for nothing but that the act was not performed.  Being replied unto him that no doubt there had been a number in that place of his own [Catholic] religion, how in conscience he could do them hurt, he answered a few might well perish to have the rest taken away.  … When he was brought into the King’s presence, the King asked him how he could conspire so hideous a treason against his children and so many innocent souls which never offended him? He answered that … a dangerous disease required a desperate remedy”.

The Palace of Westminster  is  visited, although not entered, on various of our walks, including the  “Rebellious 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).

(*) The discoverer, one Thomas Knyvet(t), the Keeper of Whitehall Palace, was rewarded by the granting of  an extension of the lease on his house, in what was to become Downing Street.

Sir Edward Hoby, as portrayed in 1583

(**) Hoby (1560-1617) was a scholar and a courtier during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I.  He was the son-in-law of Elizabeth’s cousin Henry Carey, the First Baron Brunsdon (see October 8th posting), and the nephew of her chief advisor William Cecil, the First Baron  Burghley or Burleigh.

Whitehall Palace (1529)

On this day in 1529, the Tudor King, Henry VIII appropriated the thirteenth-century York Place, which had  originally been built for the Archbishops of York, from the then Archbishop, Cardinal Wolsey, and he renamed it Whitehall Palace (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”).   Whitehall Palace essentially came to take the place of the  Old Palace of Westminster, large parts of which had been rendered unusable by a fire in 1512 (see also here).

James I , with the Banqueting House in the background

It was considerably extended by Henry VIII and later by his daughter Queen Elizabeth I, and  by the Stuart Kings  James I, Charles I and Charles II.  It was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, but substantially burnt down in another fire in 1698.

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Detail from Rubens's ceiling

Essentially only the Banqueting House, built for James I by  Inigo Jones in 1622, and notable as the first Renaissance building in 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 tennis court  in the Cabinet Office at No. 70 Whitehall, and “Queen Mary’s Steps”, built in 1691, on the Embankment).  The Holbein Gate, built in 1532, and notable as the probable  place of the clandestine marriage of Henry and Anne Boleyn in 1533,  survived  both fires, but was demolished in 1759.

Charles I's execution

Charles I was executed outside the Banqueting House in 1649.

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

The beginning  of the Black Death in London (Robert of Avesbury, 1349)

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In 1349, Robert of Avesbury wrote:

“The pestilence which had first broken out in the land occupied by the Saracens became so much stronger that, sparing no dominion, it visited with the scourge of sudden death the various parts of all the kingdoms … .  [I]t began in England in Dorsetshire … in the year of the Lord 1348, and immediately advancing from place to place it attacked men without warning … .  Very many of those who were attacked in the morning it carried out of human affairs before noon.  And no one whom it willed to die did it permit to live longer than three or four days.  …  And about the Feast of All Saints [November 1st, 1348], reaching London, it deprived many of their life daily, and increased to so great an extent that from the feast of the Purification [February 2nd, 1349] till after Easter [April 12th, 1349] there were more than two hundred bodies of those who had died buried daily in the cemetery which had been then recently made near Smithfield, besides the bodies which were in other graveyards … .  The grace of the Holy Spirit finally intervening, …  about the feast of Whitsunday [May 31st, 1349], it ceased at London … ”.

There were emergency burial sites, or “plague pits”, at East Smithfield, in the grounds of the Cistercian abbey of St Mary Graces, and at West Smithfield, in what were to become the grounds of the Carthusian monastery of Charterhouse, founded in 1371 (see Barney Sloane’s “The Black Death in London”, published by The History Press in 2011).

The Charterhouse site,  which only came to light during  work preparatory to the ongoing construction of the “Crossrail” station at Farringdon, has recently been partially archaeologically excavated.  A small number of skeletons have been unearthed here that have been dated to the time of the Black Death, and indeed  that still contain traces of the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis.  Many thousands more are thought to lie buried here still.  Archaeologists and epidemiologists suspect that so many deaths in evidently such a short space of time must have been caused a particularly contagious and virulent pneumonic or septicaemic strain of the plague, and not  by the bubonic strain (the pneumonic and septicaemic strains are capable of being transmitted directly from infected person to person, and are characterised by mortality rates of 90-100%, whereas  the vector-borne bubonic strain is transmitted by rat flea from infected black or brown rat to person, and is characterised by mortality rates of approximately 50%).  Another argument against the Black Death having been bubonic plague is that it began to spike  in London in the winter of 1348-9, when the rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) that transmits this strain of the disease would have been inactive, as it is  everywhere  today at temperatures of less than 10degC.

The Charterhouse site is visited on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” 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).

The execution of Robert Hubert (1666)

The execution of Robert Hubert at Tyburn

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!

“The town begins to be lively again” (Samuel Pepys, 1665)

Lord have mercy on London

On this day in 1665, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“The ‘Change pretty full, and the town begins to be lively again”.

The “Great Plague” was now well past its peak, and some semblance of normality was beginning to return to a stricken city.  The “Great Plague” killed at least 70000 people in London, and possibly as many as 100000 – far more than the “Black Death” of 1348-9, although far fewer in proportion to the overall population.  The “Bills of Mortality” show that of the 70000 recorded Plague deaths, only 10000 were in the 97 parishes within the walls of the City  – possibly because a significant proportion  of those inhabitants who could afford to do so had fled to the country.  The remaining 60000  Plague deaths were in the 16 parishes without the walls, the 5 in Westminster, and the 12 in Middlesex and Surrey.  Stepney was the worst affected, with 6500 deaths.

The Parish Clerks’ “Bills of Mortality” for the Plague Year of 1665 are examined at  the church of All Hallows Staining on our “London Wall” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City highlights” and “Great Fire of London” themed specials.  The bulk of the church collapsed in 1671, the foundations undermined by plague burials.

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 Fatall Vesper”, or “A pittiful accident in the black friers” (John Chamberlain, 1623)

A contemporary engraving of the accident in Blackfriars

In  1623, John Chamberlain (see also January 8th posting) wrote in a  letter to Dudley Carleton:

“The next day after I wrote last  here fell out a pittiful incident in the black friers, where the papists had hired a house next to the French Ambassadors (that so they might be as it were under his protection) to hold …  masse, … and perform all other their exercises and rites after the Romish manner; a great multitude being met there on the 26th of the last month [October] to heare father Drurie a famous Jesuit among them preach in an upper roome, the floore sunke under them, or rather the beames and joystes not able to bear the weight brake in the midst.  Many [possibly as many as one hundred] perished, partly battered and bruised, but for the most part smothered, for the first floore fell with such violence that it brake down a second under it.  A number were hurt …, which found little helpe or comfort at first, our people being growne so savage … that they refused to assist them … in their necessitie, but rather insulted upon them with taunts and gibes in their affliction …, but there was as much goode … to represse the insolencie and inhumanitie of the multitude, and for reliefe of the distressed”.

Blackfriars is visited on various of our walks, including the “London Wall“ standard and the “Tudor and Stuart 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).