Category Archives: Stuart

The rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666  (Samuel Pepys, 1666)

View-of-the-River-Thames-and-the-City-of-London

On this day in 1666, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

 “[T]hrough the City … , observing the ruins … .  So … to the [rebuilt] Upper ‘Change, which is almost as good as the old one; only shops are but on one side”.

Remarkably, a matter of mere  weeks after the devastating Great Fire of September 2nd-6th, the City was already getting back on its feet and beginning to function as normal again.  It would be well over forty years, though,  before the  rebuilding process was completed, with Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral only officially opening on Christmas Day, December 25th, 1711.

The  new City was to differ  from the old one in several  important respects.  The old narrow streets were to be replaced with new wide ones, designed to  simultaneously hinder the spread of fire and unencumber the flow of traffic.  In accordance with the Royal Proclamation of 1666 and the  “Act for the Rebuilding of the City of London” of 1667, the old  houses were to be be replaced by new ones of four categories of standard build, of fire-proof stone and brick rather than timber: those of the first category, fronting “by-streets and lanes”, of two storeys; those of the second category, fronting “streets and lanes of note, and the Thames”, of three storeys; those of the third category, fronting “high and principal streets”, of four storeys, with storey heights specified; and those of the fourth category, designed for” people of quality”, also of four storeys, although with storey heights unspecified.      The old  breeding-grounds for disease would  be swept aside in the process, although incidentally rather than  by design.  And, as another incidental, the old organic economy would be replaced by a modern mineral economy, considerably ahead of its time, fuelled by (sea-)coal rather than wood.  The cost of the entire enterprise, incidentally, would be covered by an emergency  tax on coal imposed by Act of Parliament.

Fall from grace (Archbishop William Laud, 1640)

Laud - Copy

On this day in 1640, Archbishop William Laud was arrested, and wrote in his diary:

“I was accused by the House of Commons for high treason, without any particular charge laid against me … .  Soon after, the charge was brought into the Upper House [of Lords] … .  I was presently committed to the Gentleman Usher, but was permitted to go in his company to my house in Lambeth for …  such papers as pertained to my defence … .  I stayed in Lambeth till the evening to avoid the gazing of the people … .  As I went to my barge, hundreds of my poor neighbours stood there and prayed for my safety and return to my house, for which I bless God and them”.

Laud was later imprisoned in the Tower of London, early in 1641.

Laud's trial in the House of Lords

After the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, he was tried  for and convicted of high treason in the House of Lords, in 1643-4, and eventually executed on Tower Hill, in 1645.   Among the charges levelled  against him were:  “That, by false erroneous doctrines, and other sinister ways and means, he went about to subvert religion, established in this kingdom, and to set up popery and superstition in the church … .  […] That to suppress preaching, he hath suspended divers good and honest ministers, and hath used unlawful means, by letters, and otherwise, to set all bishops to suppress them.  […] That, to save and preserve himself from being questioned and sentenced from these and other his traiterous designs, from the first year of his now Majesty’s reign, until now, he hath laboured to subvert the rights of parliamentary proceedings, and to incense his Majesty against parliaments … .”

Laud had previously been made Bishop of London in 1628, and Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, and become known for his “High Church” views, and his fierce opposition to and persecution of Puritans.

Some of the many executions in Tudor and Stuart London

Site of Tyburn Tree.JPG

On this day in 1541, according to the account given by Charles Wriothesley in his “Chronicle of England during the Reigns of the Tudors …”:

The Executions of Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham

“Culpeper [Thomas Culpeper, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber] and Dereham [Francis Dereham, Secretary to Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine Howard] were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and there Culpeper, after an exhortation made to the people to pray for him, he standing on the ground by the gallows, kneeled down and had his head stricken off; and then Dereham was hanged, membered, bowelled, headed, and quartered [for high treason against the King’s majesty in misdemeanour with the Queen].  Culpeper’s body buried at St Pulchre’s church by Newgate, their heads set on London Bridge”.

Also on this day in 1541, according to Wriothesley:

“Rafe Egerton, … one of my Lord Chancellor’s servants, and … Thomas Herman, sometime servant with Fleetwood, one of my Lord Chancellor’s gentlemen, were drawn from the Tower … to Tyburn, and there hanged and quartered for counterfeiting the King’s Great Seal”.

The Execution of John Roberts

And on this day in 1610, the Roman Catholic Priest – and since 1970 Saint – John Roberts was taken to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn for contravening the “Act Forbidding Priests to Minister in England”.  In the event, the crowd, who revered him for the work he had done among them during an outbreak of  the plague in 1603, saw to it that he died by hanging and was spared  the suffering of drawing  and quartering.  What could be  salvaged of his body was taken to the Benedictine priory he had founded at Douai in northern France.  One of his finger bones is preserved as a holy relic in Tyburn Convent.

Reversal of Fortune (1621)

Fortune Theatre window, St Giles Cripplegate

On this day in 1621, the “Fortune Theatre”, built by “Good Master” Edward Alleyn in 1600, burnt down …

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The site of the theatre is marked by a plaque on Fortune Street.

Edward Alleyn and Fortune Theatre windows, St Giles Cripplegate.JPG

Both the theatre and Alleyn are commemorated in a stained glass window in the church of St Giles Cripplegate.

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Alleyn is also commemorated by a statue in Dulwich College.

Readers interested in further information on the theatre and on the contemporary scene are referred to Julian Bowsher’s excellent recent book entitled “Shakespeare’s London Theatreland” (Museum of London Archaeology, 2012).

“Pride’s purge” (1648)

Cromwell dissolving the Long Parliament (Andrew Gow, 1907)

On this day in 1648, during the English Civil War, the Parliamentarian Colonel Thomas Pride expelled over one hundred Presbyterian Members of the “Long Parliament” from the Houses of Parliament, in what became known as “Pride’s Purge” (*).  The remaining Members, constituting the “Rump Parliament”, then instigated the legal proceedings against the King, Charles I, that led to his trial for treason, and eventually to his execution.

(*) At this time, the King and supporting Royalists were Episcopalians (who believed in the supremacy of the Bishops), and opposing Parliamentarians were divided among two factions, Independents and Presbyterians (who did not).  The Independents mistrusted the English Presbyterians because their Scottish counterparts had earlier entered into an alliance with the King.

“An Emporium for many Nations”

Cheapside-procession-of-Marie-de-Medici-1638-sepia-resized

Yesterday I attended the 53rd annual Local History Conference of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society in the Museum of London, which featured seven talks and an additional  number of poster presentations on the theme of “An Emporium for many Nations” – London shaped by trade.

The highlight for me was the talk by Dr John Price of Goldsmiths’, University of London, on “Porters, sugar boilers, stone cutters and surgeons: trades in London on the eve of the Great Fire”.

Price demonstrated that the commonest occupations in London in 1666, based on Hearth Tax returns pertaining to 2000 householders (out of a total of 39000), were, in decreasing order, Merchant-Tailor, Seaman, Goldsmith, Victualler, Shoemaker, Silkman, Cooper, Haberdasher, Alehouse-Keeper, Porter, Draper, Druggist, Apothecary, Joiner, Tobacconist, Skinner, Vintner, Fishmonger, Blacksmith, Chandler, Barber, Bookseller, Carpenter and Clothworker (*).   He  also  demonstrated a certain amount of occupational zoning, with, for example, mercantile and ancillary trades concentrated in the parishes of St Gabriel Fenchurch, All Hallows Staining and St Katherine Coleman, in the area between  Leadenhall Market and Aldgate; and jewellery, luxury goods and book trades, in the parishes of St Botolph Aldersgate, St Anne and Agnes and St Martin-le-Grand, in the area around Cheapside and St Paul’s.

The  Hearth Tax dataset that formed the basis of his analysis may be accessed  through the “British History Online” website.

(*) Incidentally, the Baker Thomas Farriner, of the parish of St Margaret New Fish Street, is recorded in the returns as having five hearths in his household, and also one oven – the fateful one in which the Great Fire of London was to break out on the night of 1st/2nd September, 1666!

The Battle of Turnham Green (1642)

The battle of Turnham Green

Image courtesy of “Look and Learn” (www.lookandlearn.com)

The Battle of Turnham Green, in the English Civil War, took place on this day in 1642.

The site of the battle is marked by a series of informative plaques.  According to the plaques, after losing the Battle of Brentford on November 12th, 1642, the Parliamentarians took up a strategic defensive position at Turnham Green, with their left flank protected by the river, and their right by a series of enclosures.  It was here that the following day  they  essentially faced down the Royalists, who found themselves unable to manoeuvre past, in one of the largest-ever confrontations on English soil (albeit a substantially bloodless one), involving some 40000 troops.   This was a decisive moment in the history of the war, the country, and its  capital.

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