Tag Archives: Elizabeth I

A real-life Fagin in Tudor London 

Burghley

On this day in 1585, the Recorder of London, William Fleetwood, wrote in a letter to William Cecil, the First Baron  Burghley or Burleigh (*):

“[W]e … did spend the daie … searching out … sundrye that were receptors of ffelons … .  Amongst our travells this one matter tumbled owt by the waye, that one Wotton a gentilman borne, and sometyme a marchauntt man of good credyte, who falling by tyme into decaye, kept … neere Byllingesgate … a schole howse sett upp to learne younge boyes to cut purses.  There were hung up two devises, the one … a pockett, the other … a purse.  The pockett had yn it certen cownters and was hunge abowte with hawkes bells … ; and he that could take owt a cownter without any noyse, was allowed to be a … ffoyster: and he that could take a peece of silver owt of the purse … was adjudged a … Nypper.  Nota that a ffoister is a Pick-pockett, and a Nypper … a Pickepurse, or a Cutpurse”.

(*) A statesman and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I through much of her reign.

A description of Whitehall Palace (Baron Waldstein, 1598)

On this day in 1598, the Moravian aristocrat and gentleman-traveller Baron Waldstein wrote in his diary, on a visit to London:

“We … went into the royal residence known as … White Hall.  It is truly majestic, bounded on the one side by a park which adjoins another palace called St James’s, and on the other side by the Thames, and it is a place which fills one with wonder, not so much because of its great size as because of the magnificence of its … rooms which are furnished with the most gorgeous splendour.

First you come to a vast hall which leads through into a very large walled garden where they keep deer and all kinds of other animals.  We then went to see the rooms, every one of them furnished and arranged with perfect taste and elegance, with all sorts of statues and pictures to add to their beauty …

There is … a portrait of Edward VI in 1546 at the age of nine – note the artist’s ingenuity in perspective …

Another room has … some very rich hangings.

A portrait here shows Queen Elizabeth when she was still young, in the dress which she wore when going to attend Parliament …

In another place we saw … the Queen’s couch which is woven with gold and silver thread … .  The Queen’s bed-chamber has rich tapestries all around: The adjoining room is reserved for the Queen’s bath: the water pours from oyster shells … .  In the next room there is an organ on which two persons can play duets … .

The next room to this was the one where the Queen keeps her books, some of which she wrote herself …

From here we were taken into a large and lofty banqueting hall …

In another room Henry VII and Henry VIII and their wives are painted … ”.

The site of Whitehall Palace, which was substantially destroyed in a fire in 1698, is visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” themed special.

The Banqueting House.JPG

The  surviving  incarnation of the Banqueting House, designed by Inigo Jones for James I in 1622, and notable as the first Renaissance building in London, is also visited on our “Rebellious London” themed special (it being outside this building that Charles I was executed in 1649).

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, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

St Etheldreda (and Ely Palace)

Today is the Feast of St Etheldreda, who was the Abbess of Ely in the seventh century …

The church of St Etheldreda

6 - Reconstruction of Ely Palace.JPG

Easily  overlooked on account of its tucked-away location in Ely Place, the church of St Etheldreda was originally built as a private chapel in Ely Palace (see below), owned by the Bishops of Ely,  in  around 1293, and subsequently pressed into service as an Anglican church after the Reformation.  It was undamaged  in the  Great Fire of 1666, although it has been somewhat modified subsequently.  It was “restored to the old faith” in 1874.

1 - The decorated Gothic exterior of the church of St Etheldreda.JPG

The exterior  is a rare, restrained  and fine surviving example of the Decorated Gothic style of ecclesiastical architecture.

2 - The interior of the church, with effigies of Catholic martyrs on the walls.JPG

The interior contains a number of memorials to Catholic martyrs, including John Houghton, Prior of Charterhouse, who was hanged, drawn and quartered  at Tyburn in 1535 for challenging King Henry VIII’s  supremacy over the Church.

Ely Palace

John of Gaunt

John of Gaunt lived in Ely Palace after his own Savoy Palace was destroyed in the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 (see June 15th posting).  In a scene in Shakespeare’s  “Richard II”, set here, he uttered the immortal words:

“This royal throne of kings, this sceptr’d isle,|This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,|This other Eden, demi-paradise,|This fortress built by Nature for herself|Against infection and the hand of war,|This happy breed of men, this little world,|This precious stone set in the silver sea,|Which serves it in the office of a wall,|Or as a moat defensive to a house,|Against the envy of less happier lands,|This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”.

The palace’s gardens were said to produce the finest strawberries in London, in honour of which a “Strawberrie Fayre” is still held nearby  every June (this year’s was on June 15th).  In a scene in “Richard III”, Gloster says to Ely:

“My Lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn, I saw good strawberries in your garden there; I do beseech you, send me some of them”.

The palace’s Great Hall was famed for its banquets.  One such, in 1531, attended by the then king, Henry VIII and his queen,  Catherine of Aragon, is said to have lasted for five days!  According to surviving records, the guests managed to get  through 24 oxen, 51 cows, 91 pigs, 100 sheep, 168 swans, 444 pigeons, 720 chickens and over 4000 larks!

Sir Christopher Hatton.jpg

In 1576, the palace was ordered by Elizabeth I to be leased to  her  favourite Sir Christopher Hatton, for a rent of £10 a year, ten loads of hay, and a rose picked at mid-summer.   It remained more or less continuously  in the possession of the Hatton family until the death of the last Lord Hatton in 1772, when it was finally demolished to make way for what is now Hatton Garden.

The church and the site of the palace are  visited on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London”  themed special.

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, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

 

The Royal Exchange

1 - The old Royal Exchange

On this day in 1566, the first stone of the original Royal Exchange was laid (*).

3 - Gresham

The building, modelled on the bourse in Antwerp, was the brainchild of the City financier and philanthropist Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-79) (see also January 23rd and May 6th postings).  Incidentally, Gresham also founded Gresham College, by bequest.  He is buried in the church of St Helen, Bishopsgate.

The Royal Exchange was burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.  An eye-witness, one Thomas Vincent, wrote:

“The Royal Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded with much violence.  And when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run round the galleries, filling them with flames; then descendeth the stairs, compasseth the walks, giving forth flaming volleys, and filleth the courts with sheets of fire.  By and by, down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the stone building after them, with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing”.

2 - The new Royal Exchange

A replacement building was built in 1669, and burnt down in 1838; and a second replacement was in turn built in 1844.

4 - Gresham's grasshopper symbol atop the Royal Exchange

The grasshopper on the top of the building is Gresham’s insignia.

The site is visited on our “Tower to Temple” standard walk, and on our “Post-Medieval (Tudor and Stuart) London”, “Post-Medieval (Tudor and Stuart) City Highlights” and “Great Fire of London” themed specials.

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, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

(*)  Much to the disgust of native Londoners, the architect was a foreigner.  On a related note, a  census taken in the City on this day in 1567 revealed the presence of 40 Scots, 428 Frenchmen, 45 Spaniards, 140 Italians, 2030 Dutch, 44 Burgundians, 2 Danes and 1 Liegois”.

Sir Francis Drake and the “Golden Hind(e)”

The Golden Hinde in Deptford in 1581

On this day in 1581, Elizabeth I visited Francis Drake’s ship, the “Golden Hind(e)” (*), which had been “drawn into a creek … at Deptford as a perpetual memorial for having circuited round about the whole earth”, and “consecrated it with great ceremonie, pompe and magnificence eternally to be remembered”; and knighted Drake.  The ship  remained at Deptford for about 100 years, until it started to disintegrate and had to be broken up.  A  plaque on the water-front there marks the site and commemorates the event.

Bow.JPG

The modern reconstruction of the “Golden Hind(e)” in St Mary Overie Dock is visited on our “Historic Southwark” standard walk and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” themed special.

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, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

(*) Originally named the “Pelican”, the ship was re-named the “Golden Hind(e)” in honour of one of Drake’s patrons,  Sir Christopher Hatton, whose coat-of-arms featured the device of a golden hind.

“Her Majesty departed this life” (John Manningham, 1603)

death-mask-of-elizabeth-i

funeral-effigy-of-elizabeth-i

On this day in 1603, John Manningham wrote:

“This morning about three at clock her Majesty [Elizabeth I] departed this life, mildly like a lamb, easily like a ripe apple from the tree … .  About ten at clock the Council and divers noblemen having been awhile in consultation, proclaimed James VI, King of Scots, the King of England, France and Ireland, beginning at Whitehall gates, where Sir Robert Cecil read the proclamation which he carried in his hand, and after read again in Cheapside.  Many noblemen, lords spiritual and temporal, knights, five trumpets, many heralds.  The gates at Ludgate and portcullis were shut and down, by the Lord Mayor’s command, who was there present, with the Aldermen, etc., and until he had a …  promise … that they would proclaim the King of Scots King of England, he would not open.  Upon the death of a king or queen in London the Lord Mayor of London is the greatest magistrate in England”.

Manningham was a lawyer of the Middle Temple who kept an account of life in London between 1601-03, i.e.,  in the dying days of Elizabeth’s – and the Tudor dynasty’s – reign.

Remembering Syon

1-time-team-reconstruction-of-bridgettine-monastery-church-syon

The Monastery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon

On  this day in 1415, the “Monastery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon” was founded in Sheen (later, in 1431, moving to a nearby new location between Brentford and Isleworth).  The monastery-cum-nunnery was of the Bridgettine order, the richest and most powerful of  its time, named after its founder, the mystic and later saint Queen Birgitta of Sweden (1303-73).  One of the brothers, Richard Reynolds, was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1535 for challenging King Henry VIII’s  supremacy over the Church; famously encouraging those who suffered alongside him by promising them that after their “sharp breakfast” they would have a banquet in heaven.  The monastery itself was dissolved in 1539, by Henry.  Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was confined here while awaiting her execution in 1542.  Five years later, in 1547, the coffin containing Henry’s body was accommodated overnight here on route from Westminster to Windsor.  According to one colourful account, the decomposing body burst open during the night, and in the morning dogs were discovered lapping up the liquid that had seeped from the coffin!

Syon House

Syon House was built on the site of the monastery by Edward Seymour, the First Duke of Somerset (and Lord  Protector), sometime between 1547-1552.    After Seymour’s execution in 1552, it came to be owned by John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, and it was here that his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey was offered the crown at the beginning of her short  and ill-fated reign.  After Dudley’s execution in 1553, it reverted to the monarch.  In 1594, the then Queen, Elizabeth I, granted the house to Henry Percy, the Ninth Earl of Northumberland, and it has remained in his family from that time to this.  In the late eighteenth century, Hugh Percy, the First Duke of Northumberland, commissioned Robert Adam to redesign the interior, and Capability Brown to landscape the gardens, thereby creating “one of the finest villas in Europe”.

3-fourteenth-century-monastery-barn

4-seventeenth-century-ninth-earls-arch

The fourteenth-century  “Monastery Barn”  and seventeenth-century “Ninth Earl’s Arch” still stand in the grounds of the house.

Archaeological Excavations

1-time-team-reconstruction-of-bridgettine-monastery-church-syon

2-google-earth-visualisation-of-kings-college-chapel-cambridge

In 2003, a  “Time Team” archaeological excavation in the grounds of the house unearthed the remains of the Bridgettine monastery church – which was evidently approximately twice as large as the broadly contemporary King’s College Chapel in Cambridge!  A number of burials were later unearthed within the church by a team from Birkbeck University of London. Surviving written records, including a “mortilage”, have enabled the buried individuals to be identified.  One was the order’s last recorded librarian, Thomas Betson, who died in 1517. Betson’s library catalogue shows that at one time the monastery possessed nearly 1750 books, many of them the only copies in Britain, but almost all now lost.  His notebook includes a herbal, that is to say, a list of healing plants, and a list of remedies.

p1220337