On this day in 1868, Arthur Mumby wrote evokingly in his diary:
“ … I rambled through the old-fashioned streets about Cripplegate; attracted first by the fine massive antique tower of [St Giles] Cripplegate church … . In the quiet of a Saturday afternoon, when offices are closed and busy men departed, the world of modern life disappears for a moment, and these old 17th & 18th century streets and alleys, these deserted old churches, bring back something of the interest and delight with which one rambles through a medieval street abroad. Far better it is to ramble here, at such a time, than in some bustling suburb, mean, newfangled, fashionable or vulgar. I went, probably for the last time, through the mazes of old Newgate market: long low alleys, … walled on both sides with butchers’ shops nearly as old as the Fire: open sheds, with massy beams and rafters and blocks, browned and polished by age and friction. Many of the alleys were … dark, for the butchers had moved to the new Market at Smithfield: but two or three were lighted up & busy with buyers and sellers – long rude vistas of meat and men”.
Sadly, the area was substantially razed to the ground during the incendiary bombing of the Second World War. However, the subsequently restored church of St Giles still stands, at the heart of the Barbican complex.
On this day in 1558, Henry Machyn wrote in his diary:
“The 28th day of November the queen removed to the Tower from the Lord North’s palace, [which] was the Charterhouse. All the streets unto the Tower … new gravelled. Her Grace rode through Barbican and Cripplegate, by London Wall unto Bishopsgate, and up to Leadenhall and through Gracechurch Street and Fenchurch Street; and afore rode gentlemen and many knights and lords, and after came all the trumpets blowing, and then came all the heralds in array; and my Lord of Pembroke bore the queen’s sword; and then came her Grace on horseback, apparelled in purple velvet with a scarf about her neck, and the sergeants of arms about her Grace; and next after her rode Sir Robert Dudley the Master of her Horse; and so the guard with halberds. And there was such shooting of guns as never was heard afore; so to the Tower, with all the nobles … ”.
Today I went on a one of the Museum of London’s periodic tours of the most substantial surviving part of Cripplegate Roman Fort, preserved in the modern underground car park on London Wall. The fort was originally built in around 120AD, and housed a garrison of perhaps as many as 1000 or more troops, including cavalry, on a 12-acre site to the north-west of the Roman city of Londinium. Its west and north walls were subsequently incorporated into the City Wall in around 200. Part of the west wall, gate, and gate-house complete with guard-rooms and turrets, can still be seen in the modern car park, together with a fine reconstruction making sense of things.