Tag Archives: Deptford

A Latter-Day Pilgrimage from London to Canterbury – London to Shooters Hill

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas (a) Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on Tuesday 29th December, 1170 (by knights acting on what they had interpreted as an instruction from the  King, Henry II).  The site became an important one of pilgrimage throughout the later Middle Ages (the penitent Henry making the journey barefoot in 1174, the year after Thomas was made a saint).  The practice of pilgrimage ceased after the Reformation and Dissolution under Henry VIII in the sixteenth century, but may be said to have resumed in later  centuries.  Research published by the Chaucer Society in the nineteenth century suggests that the route taken by pilgrims from London to Canterbury ran more less along the line of the old Roman road of Watling Street – or its modern equivalent, the A2 – through Dartford, Rochester and Faversham (note in this context that Rochester is mentioned in the Monk’s prologue, Sittingbourne in the Wife of Bath’s prologue, and Boughton-under-Blean, which is near Faversham, in the Canon Yeoman’s prologue, in “The Canterbury Tales”).  Further research from this time suggests that the journey along this – sixty-mile or so – route would probably have taken four days, with overnight stops at each of the three aforementioned towns (where suitable accommodation was available).  I follow in the pilgrims’  tracks …

City of London

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Thomas Becket was born on Cheapside  in the City of London in circa 1120, the son of Gilbert, a merchant of Norman ancestry, and Matilda.  He was educated at Merton Priory, and later at one of the  grammar schools    in London, possibly St Paul’s, before entering the church, and eventually rising to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162.

There is a chapel dedicated to him inside the Mercers’ Livery Company Hall at the corner of Cheapside and Ironmonger Lane.

London Bridge

“Old” London Bridge was rebuilt, by Peter, chaplain of St Mary Colechurch, in 1176-1209, and stood until 1831 (an alcove still survives in the grounds of Guy’s  Hospital).

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There were scores of buildings on it then, including a chapel dedicated to St Thomas (depicted in a stained glass window in the church of St Magus the Martyr).

Southwark

Southwark was first recorded as “Sudwerca” in the “Domesday Book” of 1086, taking its name from the Old English “suth”, and “weorc”, meaning defensive work or fort, in reference to the Roman defences south of the river.  It  was unaffected by the Great Fire of London in 1666, the southward progress of which across the river was halted at a gap in the buildings on London Bridge that formed a natural firebreak.  However, it suffered its own Great Fire in 1676.

Historically, Southwark was a so-called “liberty”, free of many  of the regulations governing life in the City across the river.  Over time it  became one of the poor places in which it, the rich City, attempted to locate  – and forget – some of its more “undesirable” buildings (including prisons such as the Clink, King’s Bench, Marshalsea and White Lion), industries (including tanning) and activities (including – in the numerous “stews” – prostitution, animal-baiting, and the performance of stage plays, all of which attracted large and unruly crowds).

Southwark Cathedral

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What is now Southwark Cathedral was originally founded as a nunnery in 606, becoming the priory of St Mary Overie in 1106, the  parish church of St Saviour  following the Dissolution in 1540, and Southwark Cathedral and the Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie in 1905.  Being over  the “rie” or river, the church was undamaged in the Great Fire, and also survived the bombing of the Blitz.  Some elements of the present structure are survivors  from the  twelfth century building, although most are from the thirteenth or early fifteenth rebuilds following fires in 1212 and 1390 (the former of which, incidentally, reportedly killed 3000 people).  The interior contains  many memorials, including a wooden effigy of a knight buried in around 1275, and the tomb of Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), who was responsible for the translation of the Authorised or King James Version of the Bible.

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What was St Mary’s re-established its  public infirmary as St Thomas’s Hospital in the early thirteenth century (the hospital later relocated to Lambeth).

Winchester  Palace

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On nearby Clink Street are the remains of Winchester Palace (and also the site of the Clink Prison).  The palace was originally built in the twelfth century by King Stephen’s brother Henry de Blois, the Bishop of Winchester (at this time, Southwark was in the Diocese of Winchester).  It was subsequently rebuilt in the late thirteenth to fourteenth century, and remained in use until the time of the Civil War in the seventeenth, when it was portioned off.  It was substantially destroyed by a fire in the nineteenth century, with only parts of the Great Hall surviving to this day.  The Great Hall dates to the twelfth century, circa 1144; the “Rose Window” to the fourteenth (and possibly to the Bishopric of William of Wykeham, circa 1367-98).

Borough High Street

Borough  was first recorded as “Southwarke borrow” in 1559, taking its name from the Old English  “burh”.  Borough High Street is  part of, and was once known as,  Stane Street, the Roman road to the south, and Borough Market was first established in the thirteenth century.

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Famously, there were some  fifty  inns and other drinking establishments on and around Borough High Street at the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, including the “Tabard” and  “White Hart”, which were known to and written about by Chaucer and Shakespeare.  They all survived that fire, although many were burnt down in the  Great Fire of Southwark in 1676.  The “Tabard” and the “White Hart” were later rebuilt, but  no longer stand, having been demolished in the late nineteenth century.   The “George”, originally built sometime before 1542, was also rebuilt after the Great Fire of Southwark, in 1677, as a galleried inn, and still stands.

Crossbones Graveyard

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Just off Borough High Street, at the corner of  Union Street and Redcross Way, is the unconsecrated burial ground known as the “Crossbones Graveyard”.  Here from Medieval times were interred the “Outcast Dead”, including the “Winchester Geese”, which is to say women who worked as prostitutes in brothels or “stews” licensed by the Bishops of Winchester.  An “Ordinance for the Governance of the Stews” was  issued  by King Henry II in 1161.

Tabard Street

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The church of St George the Martyr, at the corner  of Borough High Street and Tabard Street, was originally built in the twelfth century,  and rebuilt in the fourteenth (and again in the eighteenth, in the Neo-Classical style).  Henry V was met here by the Aldermen and Mayor of London upon his triumphal return from the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

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Old Kent Road

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The “Thomas a Becket” public house on the Old Kent Road stands on the site of the “St Thomas a Watering”, alluded to as follows in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”:

“And forth we rode a little more than pace

Unto the watering of St Thomas … ”

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A little further east is the former North Peckham Civic Centre, featuring a fine mosaic mural by Adam Kossowski depicting, among other things, that very scene.

Deptford

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Deptford was first recorded as “Depeford” in 1293, taking name from the Old English “deop”, meaning deep, and “ford” (across the Ravensbourne).  The church of St Nicholas was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, and  subsequently rebuilt in the fourteenth, and again in the late seventeenth, in 1697, only to be badly damaged during the Blitz.  The fourteenth-century tower still stands.  Christopher Marlowe is buried in the churchyard.

Blackheath

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Extraordinarily, in the Middle Ages, no fewer than three rebel armies gathered on the high windswept at the top of  Blackheath Hill preparatory to marching on London: the first under Wat Tyler during the  “Peasants’ Revolt”, in 1381 (see June 15th posting); the second under Jack Cade, in 1450 (see May 8th posting); and the third under Michael Joseph and Thomas Flamank  during the “Cornish Revolt” , in 1497 (see June 17th posting).

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Shooters Hill

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Shooters Hill is one of the highest points in, and  at the outermost  edge of, London, and commands fine  views of the city to the west …

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… and of the open countryside of Kent to the east.

Perestroika – and Peter the Great

On this day in 1557, the first Russian Embassy opened in London, and on this same day exactly one year later, a Russian trade mission arrived in London, bringing with it many sable skins.

On a more-or-less related note, the entry in John Evelyn’s diary for February 6th, 1698 records that:

“The Czar Emp: of Moscovy [Peter the Great], having a mind to see the Building of Ships, hired my house at Says Court [*], & made it his Court & palace, lying & remaining in it … ”.

Perhaps not altogether surprisingly, the Czar, who had something of a  reputation for drunken riotous living, was far from a model guest.   He  proceeded to comprehensively  trash Evelyn’s house – knocking a hole in the wall to allow easier access to the shipyard, breaking over three hundred windows, twenty pictures and  fifty chairs, ruining all the paintwork, curtains and bedding, covering all the floors with ink and grease, and in all causing £150 worth of damage!  Worse, he destroyed Evelyn’s pride and joy, the “impregnable” hedge  in his garden, “four hundred foot in length, nine Foot high, and five in diameter … [that] mocks at the rudest assaults of the Weather, Beasts or Hedge-breakers” – making a great play of being repeatedly pushed through it in a wheelbarrow!

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The Czar’s visit is also recalled by a  statue on the west bank of Deptford Creek ..

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… by a plaque on the site of the Friends’ Meeting House on Deptford High Street …

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… by “Czar Street” in Deptford, and by “Muscovy Street” just off Great Tower Street in the City – near the long-lost pub he drank so much in that the landlord  renamed it “The Czar of Muscovy” in his honour!

(*) Sir Richard Browne’s Sayers Court in Deptford, which Evelyn moved into after he married Browne’s daughter in 1652.  The house was demolished in 1728-29, and a workhouse put up in its place.  Part of the estate was later acquired by the Admiralty for use as its Victualling Yard (now defunct).

Deptford

Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Deptford  was first recorded in 1293 as Depeford, meaning deep ford (across the River Ravensbourne, a tributary of the Thames).

The ford, and the trackway leading to and from it, had almost certainly been in existence in the pre-Roman period, and became incorporated into Watling Street in the Roman.

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By Medieval times, a small village had sprung up here, on what had by then become part of the pilgrimage route from London to Canterbury, and it was  referred to in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”, published in 1400.  The Battle of Deptford Bridge was fought here in 1497 (see June 17th posting).

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In later post-Medieval times, the former village  grew into a sizeable town, with strong and lasting links to the Royal Navy, and to maritime trade (including the iniquitous slave trade).  One of the Royal Naval Dockyards was built here in 1513, Trinity House in 1514 (the first master being Captain Thomas Spert of the “Mary Rose”), and the East India Company Yard in 1607.

In 1549, a mock naval battle was staged here for the entertainment of Edward VI (see June 19th posting); in 1581, Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake here aboard his ship the “Golden Hind(e)”, recently returned from its successful circumnavigation of the globe (see August 4th posting); and in 1698 the Russian Czar Peter the Great stayed in John Evelyn’s house here in order to study the shipyards (see February 2nd posting).

The area’s comparative prosperity began to decline in the eighteenth century, after the seventeenth-century rebuilding of Chatham Dockyard, which was more accessible to ocean-going shipping, being situated in the Thames estuary, some twenty-five miles further downriver.

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The decline continued into the nineteenth century, as evidenced by William Booth’s “Poverty Maps”, and was accelerated by the bombing of the Blitz of the Second World War in the twentieth, but is now in the process of being reversed by regeneration.

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Deptford was historically part of the county of Kent, but since 1965 has been officially part of Greater London.

Church of St Nicholas

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The church of St Nicholas was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, and subsequently rebuilt in the fourteenth or fifteenth century and again, partly through the benefaction of the East India Company,  in the late seventeenth,  around 1697, only to be badly damaged in the Blitz of the twentieth.  The fourteenth- or fifteenth- century tower still stands.

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The poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe – he of the “mighty line” – is buried in the churchyard, having been murdered in a  nearby tavern in 1593  (see also May 30th posting).  There are also a number of surviving post-Medieval memorials in the interior, including those to Sir Richard Browne of Sayers Court (d. 1604), who was John Evelyn’s father-in-law, and to other members of both Browne’s and Evelyn’s families; and to Jonas Shish (d. 1680) and his sons  Michael (d. 1685) and John (d. 1686), all of them Master Shipwrights.  And a late seventeenth-century carved wooden panel of “Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones” that has been attributed to Grinling Gibbons, who is known to have once lived and worked nearby.

Nicholas is the patron saint not only of children but also of mariners and fishermen (and of those wrongly condemned).

The Mock-Battle of Deptford (Edward VI, 1549)

On this day in 1549, the boy-King, Edward VI wrote in his journal:

“I went to Deptford, being bidden to supper by the lord Clinton … .   After … was there a fort made upon a great lighter on the Thames …, of which Mr. Winter was captain, with forty or fifty other soldiers … .  To the fort also appertained a galley … , …  for defence … .  Wherefore there came 4 pinnaces … , which … with clods, squibs, canes of fire, darts … and bombards, assaulted the castle; and at length … burst the outer walls of the castle, beating them of the castle into the second ward, who after issued out and drove away the pinnaces, sinking one of them, out of which all the men in it … leaped out, and swam in the Thames.  Then came th’ admiral of the navy and three pinnaces, and won the castle by assault, and burst the top of it down, and took  the captain … ”.

The Golden Hinde

The Golden Hinde in Deptford in 1581 - Copy

On this day in 1581, Elizabeth I attended a banquet on board the Golden Hinde, which had shortly beforehand been “drawn into a creek … at Deptford as a perpetual memorial for having circuited round about the whole earth” under the captainship of Francis Drake in 1577-80 (a plaque on the water-front there marking the site and commemorating the event).  She “consecrated it with great ceremonie, pompe and magnificence eternally to be remembered”, and then knighted  Drake.  Readers may be interested to know that the ship, prior to its voyage of circumnavigation, was renamed the Golden Hinde in honour of Drake’s patron Sir Christopher Hatton, whose family coat-of-arms featured the device of a golden hind (it was originally named the Pelican).

The original Golden Hinde remained in Deptford  for about 100 years, until it started to disintegrate and had to be broken up.

The modern reconstruction of the ship in St Mary Overie Dock is visited on our “Historic Southwark” standard walk.

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, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Perestroika – and Peter the Great

On this day in 1557, the first Russian Embassy opened in London, and on this same day exactly one year later, a Russian trade mission arrived in London, bringing with it many sable skins.

On a more-or-less related note, the entry in John Evelyn’s diary for February 6th, 1698 records that:

“The Czar Emp: of Moscovy [Peter the Great], having a mind to see the Building of Ships, hired my house at Says Court [in Deptford], & made it his Court & palace, lying & remaining in it … ”.

Perhaps not altogether surprisingly, the Czar, who had something of a  reputation for drunken riotous living, was far from a model guest.   He  proceeded to comprehensively  trash Evelyn’s house – knocking a hole in the wall to allow easier access to the shipyard, breaking over three hundred windows, twenty pictures and  fifty chairs, ruining all the paintwork, curtains and bedding, covering all the floors with ink and grease, and in all causing £150 worth of damage!  Worse, he destroyed Evelyn’s pride and joy, the “impregnable” hedge  in his garden, “four hundred foot in length, nine Foot high, and five in diameter … [that] mocks at the rudest assaults of the Weather, Beasts or Hedge-breakers” – making a great play of being repeatedly pushed through it in a wheelbarrow!

The Czar’s visit is also recalled by a  statue on the west bank of Deptford Creek, by a plaque on the site of the Friends’ Meeting House on Deptford High Street, by “Czar Street” in Deptford, and by “Muscovy Street” just off Great Tower Street in the City – near the long-lost pub he drank so much in that the landlord  renamed it “The Czar of Muscovy” in his honour!

 

‘Immortal with a Kiss’

1st June –  On this day in 1593, the colourful Christopher Marlowe, poet, playwright and supposed spy, was buried in an unmarked grave in the church of St Nicholas in Deptford. Born the same year as Shakespeare, Marlowe was only 29 when he died. He had been fatally stabbed (on or around 30th May) under mysterious circumstances in a tavern also in Deptford. The Coroner’s Inquisition at the time concluded that he had been killed by Ingram Frizer in self-defence, during an argument about a bill (or ‘reckoning’) – for further information, follow the link at the end of this blog post.

Plaque in St Nicholas’ graveyard


St Nicholas Church, Deptford
It is believed that Marlowe’s tragic death is alluded to, as “a great reckoning in a little room”, in his friend Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
The “Rose Theatre” in Southwark, where Marlowe’s plays, including Tamburlaine, Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, Massacre at Paris and possibly also Dido, Queen of Carthage, were performed, alongside Shakespeare’s, is visited on our Thursday afternoon walk “Historic Southwark – Shakespeare’s London and more” (see also April 23rd blog post).
The London of Shakespeare and his contemporaries is covered on all of our walks, perhaps most particularly our Thursday morning one “Aldgate, Bishopsgate and beyond – Priories and Play-Houses” and the Thursday afternoon one “Historic Southwark – Shakespeare’s London and more”.
A special themed half-day walk on “The London that Shakespeare knew” is also available on request.
Reservation is required for both scheduled and private walks. To book a place, please email lostcityoflondon@sky.com  or ring 020 8998 3051
Further information about this and our other walks is available from other parts of our website www.lostcityoflondon.co.uk
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POSTSCRIPT 
MARLOWE – THE ‘DEAD SHEPHERD’ OF SHAKESPEARE’S WORK
Christopher Marlowe

There are some who assert (unconvincingly, in my view) that Marlowe was in fact the true author of all the plays attributed to Shakespeare, and that he did not really die in 1593, but carried on writing secretly while hiding in Italy, shipping back the works supposedly written by Shakespeare. Putting that aside, Marlowe’s literary influence on Shakespeare is widely acknowledged, and indeed some linguistic scholars have pointed to internal evidence that Marlowe may have contributed significantly, as a co-author, to some of Shakespeare’s early dramas, such as Titus Andronicus. 


As mentioned above, Shakespeare references Marlowe in ‘As You Like It’ – believed to have been written in 1599. The play includes lines thought to refer to Marlowe’s death, spoken by the clown Touchstone: 

When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a
man’s good wit seconded with the forward child
Understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a
great reckoning in a little room. Truly, I would

the gods had made thee poetical.

William Shakespeare

The play also includes a direct quotation from Marlowe’s ‘Hero and Leander’ (published posthumously in 1598, but possibly available to Shakespeare earlier in manuscript form).

Phoebe, besotted with Rosalind dressed as Ganymede, says as an aside:

 Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might:
‘Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?’ 

Allusions to Marlowe, and quotations from his work, also appear in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado about Nothing and the Merry Wives of Windsor, among others.

Further information about the relationship between Marlowe’s work and that of Shakespeare, and about the peculiar circumstances of Marlowe’s death (leading some to think it was an assassination, and others to infer that the death was faked), can be found  on the Marlowe Society’s website here  including the (translated) text of the Coroner’s Inquisition here – a document not discovered until 1925.