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

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.

Tomb of Nicholas Bacon.jpg

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!


The Medieval Inns of Court and Chancery (John Fortescue, 1470)

Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts and descriptions of the historic City of London,  this one on the Medieval Inns of Court and Chancery, written by John Fortescue in 1470 …

“In England, laws are learned in three languages, namely English, French and Latin [and] not in universities, but in a certain public academy situated near the King’s courts [in Westminster].  That academy is not situated in the city, where the tumult could disturb the student’s quiet, but in a suburb.  There are in this academy ten lesser Inns of Chancery to each of [which] at least a hundred belong.  These students are for the most part young men learning the elements of the law, who, becoming proficient as they mature, are absorbed into the greater Inns of Court, of which there are four in number, and to the least of which belong 200 students or more.

[I]n these greater inns there can no student be maintained for less expenses by the year than 20 marks.  And if he have a servant to wait upon him, as most of them have, then so much the greater will his charges be.  Now by reason of these charges the children only of noble men do study the laws … .  For the poor and common sort of the people are not able to bear so great charges … and merchant men can seldom find in their hearts to hinder their merchandise with so great yearly expenses.  And thus it falleth out that there is scant any man found within the … laws, except he be a gentleman born … .

Wherefore they more than any other kind of men have a special regard to their nobility and to the preservation of their honour and fame.  And to speak uprightly there is in these greater  inns, yea and in the lesser too, beside the study of the laws, as it were an university or school of all commendable qualities requisite for noble men.  There they learn to sing, and to exercise themselves in all kinds of harmony.  There also they practise dancing, and other noble men’s pastimes, as they do which are brought up in the king’s house”.

An individual’s right to trial by jury was enshrined  in the Magna Carta in the reign of King John in the early thirteenth century, and that to legal counsel and representation in the form of an “attorney” (solicitor) and a “pleader” before court (barrister) in the reign of Edward I in the late thirteenth; and the Inns of Court were established in the fourteenth and fifteenth (Temple in the early fourteenth, Gray’s Inn in the late fourteenth, and Lincoln’s Inn, in its present location, in the fifteenth).

Only post-Medieval and later buildings survive in the modern Inns of Court.

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These include the Elizabethan Middle Temple Hall, where plays were and are performed for the entertainment of the Templars (Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” premiered here in 1602).

Lincoln's Inn Old Hall.JPGMedieval arch (from Bishop of Chichester's House), Lincoln's Inn Old Hall.jpg

Note, though, that  Lincoln’s Inn Old Hall, which dates to the reign of the first Tudor King, Henry VII, incorporates into its construction a Gothic arch from an older, Medieval, building, very possibly  the thirteenth-century Bishop of Chichester’s House.


Cakes and Ale


The annual “Cakes and Ale” ceremony takes place today in the Stationers’ Hall (*).  The ceremony takes place every Shrove Tuesday at the bequest of Alderman John Norton, who was the Master of the Stationers’ Livery Company in 1607, 1611, and 1612.  It is followed by a special service in the Chapel of St Faith in the Crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.


(*) The present Hall was originally built in 1673, after the Great Fire of 1666 had burned down the previous one.  It was subsequently extended in 1776, 1825 and 1885, and restored in 1957 (after having been damaged by bombing  during the Blitz of the Second World War).



The last  in the  series on City of London buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666, and that still survive to this day …

The Guildhall was originally built sometime before 1128, possibly on the site of an even older building, where the Saxons held their “Husting”, or indoor assembly; and subsequently substantially rebuilt between 1298-1356, and rebuilt again, by the Master Mason John Croxton, between 1411-30.





It was damaged in the Great Fire, and repaired  in the aftermath, only to be badly damaged by  bombing  in the Blitz, and repaired again after that.  The lower levels of the walls – up to the level of the clerestorey – still survive from the Medieval period, as do some of the original windows, made from slivers of  horn, and the crypts.  The porch, though, is a later, eighteenth-century addition, by Dance, in a bizarre style described as Hindoo Gothic.  Inside, the famous statues of the mythical giants Gog and Magog replace two sets of earlier ones, the first destroyed in the Great Fire, and the second in the Blitz.




Tower of London

Another in the  series on City of London buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666, and that still survive to this day …




The Tower of London was originally built under William I, William II and Henry I in the late eleventh to earliest twelfth century, between 1076-1101, and added to by a succession of later kings and queens, many of whom used it as a royal residence, through to the seventeenth (the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within is arguably of even older, Saxon origin).




The Tower features in the earliest known painting of London, by an unknown artist, dating to the late fifteenth century, and commissioned to illustrate a book of poems written by Charles, Duc d’Orleans, who was imprisoned here for twenty-five years after his capture at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.   Hundreds were imprisoned here over the centuries; and scores tortured and executed, in a variety of horrible ways – one wonders how much better a world it would have been if all the imaginative effort expended in  devising means of inflicting suffering had instead been channelled elsewhere.


St Olave Hart Street

Another in the  series on City of London buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666, and that still survive to this day …




The church of St Olave Hart Street was originally built in wood in the eleventh century, sometime after the canonisation of St Olave in 1031, and rebuilt in stone in the late twelfth to early thirteenth, and again in the mid-fifteenth, around 1450, and extended in the sixteenth to seventeenth.  It was undamaged  in the Great Fire,  although damaged by bombing on the last night of the Blitz, 10th/11th  May,  1941,   and rebuilt again between 1951-4.





The thirteenth-century crypt, some thirteenth- and fifteenth- century walls, the fifteenth-century tower, the gateway, dating to 1658, and the vestry, dating to 1662, survive, as do a number of sixteenth-, seventeenth- and early eighteenth- century memorials, including  ones to not only Samuel Pepys but also his long-suffering wife Elizabeth (whose expression suggests she is “admonishing her wayward husband”).  The gateway  to the churchyard is especially memorable   for its adornment of skulls and cross-bones, from a design by Hendrik de Keyser.


St Katharine Cree

Another in the  series on City of London buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666, and that still survive to this day …


The church of St Katharine Cree was originally built in the grounds of Holy Trinity Priory in  around 1280-1303, and rebuilt between  1500-4, in the Late Gothic style, and again between 1628-31, this time in the Renaissance  style.  It was undamaged by the Great Fire, although later requiring restoration  in 1878-79, and again, after being damaged in the Blitz, between 1956-62.


The tower dates to 1500-4, the porch to 1628-31, and the gateway to the churchyard, on Mitre Street, by William Avenon, to 1631.


The interior contains some Late Gothic elements, such as the east window, in the form of an elaborately stylised Katharine Wheel, and the intricately ribbed ceiling; and some Renaissance ones, such as the Corinthian columns in the nave.


It also contains monuments to Sir Nicholas Throkmorton (d. 1570) and Sir John Gayer (d. 1649), a marble font of around 1631, and a Father Smith  organ of 1686, once played by Handel and Purcell (as well as  some  memorial plaques and a reredos salvaged from St James Duke’s Place).


The church is the home of the “Lion Sermons”, given each year on or around  October 16th in remembrance of the aforementioned Merchant Adventurer of the Levant Company and former Mayor Sir John Gayer being spared by a lion in Syria on that day in 1643.


It has associations from that same Civil War period with the Royalist cause, and even contains a wooden statue of Charles I, depicted as a martyr and saint.


Archbishop William Laud, who reconsecrated the church in 1631, was executed in 1645 for his support of  Charles, his High Church views, and his persecution of Puritans.