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

The Gunpowder Day Sermon (John Donne, 1622)

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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”).

 

“There is Cooke’s head set up for a traitor” (Samuel Pepys, 1660)

Cook - Copy

Harrison - Copy

On this day in 1660, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“George Vines carried me up to the top of his  turret, where there is Cooke’s head set up for a traitor, and Harrison’s set up on the other side of Westminster Hall.  Here I could see them plainly, and also a very fair prospect about London”.

John Cook(e) was the chief prosecutor at Charles I’s trial at the end of the Civil War, and Thomas Harrison one of the  signatories  to his death warrant,  both hunted down and executed by Charles II after the Restoration of the Monarchy.

 

“Iniquities at Charing Cross” (John Evelyn, 1660)

Cook

On this day in 1660, John Evelyn  wrote in his diary:

“Scot, Scroop, Cook and Jones suffered for reward of their iniquities at Charing Cross, in sight of the place where they put to death their natural prince, and in the presence of the King his son … .  I saw not the execution, but met their quarters, mangled, and cut, and reeking, as they were brought from the gallows in baskets on the hurdle.  Oh, the miraculous providence of God!”.

Thomas Scot, Adrian Scroop and John Jones were signatories to the death warrant of Charles I hunted down and executed by Charles II.   John Cook (pictured) was the chief prosecutor at Charles I’s trial.  Shortly before his execution, he wrote: “We fought for the public good and would have enfranchised the people and secured the welfare of the whole groaning creation if the nation had not more delighted in servitude than in freedom”.

 

Election of the Lord Mayor of the City of London

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Today, Michaelmas Day,  is the day of the election of the new Lord Mayor of the City of London, the leader of the City of London Corporation, in the so-called “Common Hall” in the Guildhall (*).  According to equally long-standing tradition, the new Lord Mayor will formally assume office, in the so-called “Silent Ceremony”, on the Friday before the second Saturday in November; and the Lord Mayor’s show will take place on the following day.

(*) The first (Lord) Mayor to be appointed, by King Richard I, was Henry Fitz-Ailwyn de Londonestone, in 1189.  The first to be elected by peers, under the “Mayoral Charter” of King John, was Serlo de Mercer, in 1215.  Such was the prestige of the position that  the by-then Lord Mayor, William Hardel(l), was invited by King John to be  a witness to the sealing of, and an Enforcer or Surety of, the Magna Carta, later in 1215.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-40)

Priory of St John

The   Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in 1536-40 essentially resulted in the appropriation by the Crown  of all the monastic houses in England, Wales and Ireland, of which there were several hundred, and of all of their assets (monastic houses in Scotland were annexed by the Scottish King, James VI, in 1587).    The smaller  houses, with incomes of less than £200 per year, as evaluated by the Valor Ecclestiacus, were dissolved  under The Act for the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries of 1536; the larger  ones, by The Act for the Dissolution of the Greater Monasteries of 1539.   After the Dissolution, the assets of the monastic houses were disbursed, under the auspices of Henry’s  Vicar-General and Vice-Gerent in Spirituals Thomas Cromwell, and his Court of Augmentations.   In London, the change in land ownership and usage is evident in the marked contrast between the map of 1520, from before the event, and the  “Copper Plate” one of 1556-8, the “Agas” one of 1561-70, and the Braun and Hogenberg one of  1572 (*), from after the event.  Many of the former monastic properties evidently became parish churches, hospitals, orphanages or schools, or combinations thereof, or play-houses, while others passed into private ownership.    Of the  former monks, nuns and priors, of whom there were several hundred city-wide, and several thousand country-wide, most went to work in the newly created parish churches, although a still substantial number were forced to seek out entirely new ways of life (**).  All were at least  offered more or less generous pensions, although none of their servants was.

(*) The Braun & Hogenberg map was published in 1572, but still shows “old” St Paul’s with the  spire it lost in a lightning strike in 1561.

(**) Lest we forget, between 1535-40, the Prior (John Houghton) and six Carthusian monks from the London Charterhouse, two Priors from other Charterhouses, a Bridgettine monk from Syon Abbey, and a secular priest were hanged, drawn and quartered for treason, for refusing to take an oath acknowledging the king as the head  of the church, most of them at Tyburn.  And in 1537, a further nine monks from the London Charterhouse died, or rather were allowed to die, of starvation, in gaol at Newgate.

London in the Civil War (William Lithgow, 1643)

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Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts and descriptions of the historic City of London,  this one written by William Lithgow   in 1643  (i.e., during the Civil War, when it was under  Parliamentarian control,  and work was underway on its fortification) …

“I found the … court before Whitehall Gate guarded, and what was more rarer, I found the grass growing deep in the … king’s house.  The daily musters and shows of all sorts of Londoners here are wondrous and commendable in marching to the fields and outworks … carrying … iron mattocks and wooden shovels, with roaring drums, flying colours and girded swords; most companies being interlarded with ladies, women and girls … carrying baskets to advance the labour … .  I saluted … two forts upon Tyburn Way and Marylebone Fields … , both pallisaded, double-ditched and barricaded with iron pikes, the one clad with eight demi-culverins and the other … with four … , both wondrous defensible”.

 

Francis – and Nicholas – Bacon

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban,  died on this day in 1626.  Bacon was something of a Renaissance Man, a “natural philosopher”  – or what we would now call a scientist – and philosopher as well as a lawyer and statesman (and one of those instrumental in the creation of the colonies in the Americas).  Ironically, it was evidently his scientific curiosity that led to his death – he caught a chill while experimenting with freezing a chicken with snow!

Statue of Francis Bacon

He  is commemorated by a statue in Gray’s Inn, where he received his legal training.

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Both he and his father Nicholas, as sometime Lords Keeper of the Great Seal, once lived in York House, not far from  Whitehall.   Francis  also once  lived in Canonbury House in Islington.

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Incidentally, Nicholas Bacon died in 1579, and is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral. His memorial shows signs of charring from the Great Fire of 1666!