Tag Archives: Henry VIII

The execution of Elizabeth Barton, the “Holy Maid of Kent” (1534)

Elizabeth Barton

On this day in 1534, Elizabeth Barton, otherwise known as the “Holy Maid of Kent”, was hanged and beheaded at Tyburn for treason, for having earlier prophesied that if the king, Henry VIII, were to break from  the Catholic Church and divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn,  he would die, and be sent to Hell (*).  Her head was impaled on a spike on London Bridge, and the rest of her body buried in Greyfriars Church (now Christ Church Greyfriars or Christ Church Newgate Street).

Elizabeth had been born in the parish of Adlington in Kent in 1506, and reportedly begun to experience visions prophesying the future in 1525.  Thousands of ordinary folk came to believe in her prophesies.  Some of the highest in the land also came to believe in her, including Bishop John Fisher, Archbishop William Warham, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the second most powerful man in England after the king, and indeed, if only for a short while, while she spoke for him, the notoriously fickle king himself.  However, as soon as  she started speaking against the king, he turned against her, and his agents, including Thomas Cromwell,  arranged for her to be condemned without trial, by a Bill of Attainder.

(*) Also on this same day in 1534, prominent citizens of London were required to swear the Oath to the  Succession, acknowledging Anne as Henry’s lawful queen, and any children they might have as lawful heirs to the throne.

 

 

Remembering Syon

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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”.

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

Archaeological Excavations

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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.

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The death of Henry VIII

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On this day in 1547, Henry VIII “dyed at hys most princely howse at Westminster, comenly called Yorkeplace or Whytehall”  (Stow).

There is an extraordinary at least broadly contemporary anonymous painting of the scene in the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square.  It is entitled “An Allegory of Reformation”, and depicts  on the left Henry on his death-bed handing his kingly power, and with it the responsibility for the defence of the Protestant faith, to the central figure of his young son, the future Edward VI – with a defeated Catholic Pope at his feet!  Standing to Edward’s left is  his  uncle, Edward Seymour, First Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector.  Seated round a table, under a painting of image-breaking, are: in white vestments, Thomas  Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; with a grey beard, John Russell, First Earl of Bedford and Lord Privy Seal; and five further gentlemen whose identities are either disputed or altogether unknown.

The site of Whitehall Palace is visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart  London” and “Rebellious 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).

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (d. 1530)  

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On this day in 1530 died Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s Archbishop of York, Lord Chancellor and, in practice, alter rex, or “other king”.

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Wolsey  had been en route from York to London, where he had been due to face a trial for treason  over his failure to  secure an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon (so as to enable him to marry Anne Boleyn).  Among his last words were the following: “Had I but served my God with but half the zeal as I served my king [in his “Great Matter”], He would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies”.

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The most of Wolsey’s many notable services to the state included arranging the “Anglo-French Treaty” in 1514, and the “Treaty of London” – essentially a pan-European non-aggression pact – in 1518, as well as the “Field of Cloth-of-Gold” (Camp du Drap d’Or) in  1520.

Blackfriars, where Henry appeared before Wolsey and the (Papal)  Legatine Court in 1529 to petition for the  annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, is visited on our “London Wall” standard walk and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” themed special

The site of Whitehall Palace, which was originally Wolsey’s York Place,  is visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” 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).

 

Woolwich

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

Woolwich was first recorded in 918 as Uuluuich, from the Old English wull, meaning wool, and wic, probably in this context referring to a riverside trading settlement (note, though, that there is also evidence of habitation here  in the earlier – late seventh- or early eighth- century – Anglo-Saxon, Roman and even prehistoric periods).  From the tenth century to the twelfth, it was ruled by the Abbots of St Peter’s Abbey in Ghent, who were given it by Alfred the Great’s daughter Aelfryth.  Woolwich remained a comparatively small rural settlement throughout the remainder of the Medieval period, but burgeoned into an important naval and military base and industrial town in the post-Medieval. Its fortunes began to decline in the twentieth century, after the naval and military bases ceased operations, although it has been undergoing something of  a regeneration in recent years.  Nominally part of Kent throughout much of its history, it is now part of the London Borough of Greenwich.

Woolwich Dockyard

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Woolwich Dockyard was originally founded here by Henry VIII in 1512, and remained operational  for nearly four centuries, during which time a  number of historically important ships were built here, including the “Henry Grace a Dieu” or “Great Harry” (in 1514), the “Prince Royal” (in 1610),  the “Sovereign of the Seas” (in 1637), the “Royal Charles” (in 1655), the “Dolphin” (in 1756), and the “Beagle” (in 1820) (see also September 10th posting on “Deptford”).  It  was finally decommissioned  in 1869.  The oldest surviving building is the Dockyard Office, dating to 1783-4 (which it is now known as the Clock House).  Some associated structures also survive, both in Woolwich and in  the Woolwich Dockyard Estate in North Woolwich (i.e., on the north bank of the Thames).

Woolwich Arsenal

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Woolwich Arsenal was originally founded here in 1671, and remained operational for nearly three centuries (i.e., throughout  the most important period of the growth of the British Empire, and both World Wars).  It was finally decommissioned in 1967.   The oldest surviving buildings are the Royal Brass Foundry, dating to 1716-17, and the Beresford Gate, the entrance to the Gun Machining Factory, dating to 1717-20.

The football club now known as the Arsenal was originally founded here – as   Dial Square – in 1886.  It changed its name in 1904, and relocated north of the river to Highbury in 1913.

Church of St Mary Magdalene

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The church of St Mary Magdalene was built in 1727-39, on or near  the site of an earlier   church, as one of the “fifty new churches” commissioned by Act of Parliament in 1711.  The interior contains a stained-glass window commemorating the seven hundred souls lost in the sinking of the paddle steamer “Princess Alice” in a collision at Tripcock Point in nearby Thamesmead in 1878.

Whitehall Palace (1529)

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On this day in 1529, the Tudor King, Henry VIII appropriated the thirteenth-century York Place, which had  originally been built for the Archbishops of York, from the then Archbishop, Cardinal Wolsey, and he renamed it Whitehall Palace (whence, from Shakespeare’s “King Henry the Eighth”, “You must no more call it York Place: that is past; For since the Cardinal fell that title’s lost.  ‘Tis now the King’s and called Whitehall”).

Whitehall Palace essentially came to take the place of the  Old Palace of Westminster, large parts of which had been rendered unusable by a fire in 1512 (see also here).

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It was considerably extended by Henry VIII and later by his daughter Queen Elizabeth I, and  by the Stuart Kings  James I, Charles I and Charles II.  It was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, but substantially burnt down in another fire in 1698.

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Essentially only the Banqueting House, built for James I by  Inigo Jones in 1622, and notable as the first Renaissance building in London, with a ceiling by Rubens, still stands (together with “Henry VIII’s wine cellar” in the nearby Ministry of Defence building in Horse Guards’ Avenue, the site of his tilt-yard in Horse Guards’ Parade, part of his tennis court  in the Cabinet Office at No. 70 Whitehall, and “Queen Mary’s Steps”, built in 1691, on the Embankment).  The Holbein Gate, built in 1532, and notable as the probable  place of the clandestine marriage of Henry and Anne Boleyn in 1533,  survived  both fires, but was demolished in 1759.

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Charles I was executed outside the Banqueting House in 1649.

The site of Whitehall Palace is visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” themed special.  The Banqueting House, where Charles I was executed,  is also visited on our “Rebellious 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).

To live and die in Charterhouse

 

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Today is the anniversary of the death in 1101 of St Bruno, the founder of the Carthusian Order (of hermit-monks). 

The Carthusian monastery, or “Chartrouse” in Charterhouse Square was built  in 1371 by Sir Walter (de) Manny, “a stranger born, lord of the town of Manny, in the diocese of Cambray, beyond the seas,  who for service done to  Edward III was made Knight of the Garter” (Stow).  In fact, the site was first consecrated as a burial ground for victims of the “Black Death” in 1348-9 (again as Stow put it, “A great pestilence … overspread all England, so wasting the people that scarce the tenth person of all sorts was left alive, and churchyards were not sufficient to receive the dead, but men were forced to choose out certain fields for burial”). 

During the Reformation, between 1535-40, the Prior, John Houghton and six  Carthusian monks from the London Charterhouse were hanged, drawn and quartered for treason, for refusing to take an oath acknowledging the king (Henry VIII) as the head  of the church, most of them at Tyburn.  And in 1537, a further nine  monks died, or rather were allowed to die, of starvation, in gaol at Newgate.

After the associated Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site became a private residence, originally owned by Sir Edward North, the Chancellor of the Court of Augmentations, from 1545; and then a charitable alms-house and school founded by a bequest by Thomas  Sutton, the one-time Master of the Ordnance in the Northern Parts and the richest man in England, from 1611  (the school relocated to Godalming in Surrey in 1872). 

Remarkably, much still survives here from the Medieval to post-Medieval, Tudor to Stuart period, either in its original state, or restored thereto by Seely and Paget following damage sustained during an incendiary bombing raid in 1941.

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Perhaps the most notable buildings, fragments of buildings or fitments are Sutton’s memorial in what is now the Chapel, but was once the Chapter House, dating to 1614; North’s Great Hall, dating at least in part to the 1540s; his Great Chamber, also dating at least in part to the 1540s, and one of the finest in all England, where Queen Elizabeth I more than once held court, at great cost to her host; Wash-House Court, dating back to the early 1530s, in the case of the brick buildings, and to an even  earlier part of the monastic period, in the case of the stone ones; and the doorway to “Cell B”, in the Norfolk Cloister, complete with  its guichet or serving hatch, dating all the way back to the time of the original foundation of the monastery in 1371.

A “Museum of London Archaeology Service” monograph describes in detail the findings of recent archaeological excavations at the Charterhouse site.    And on a related note, excavations at  the associated “Crossrail” development site  have unearthed a number of skeletons from the “Black Death” burial ground.

Charterhouse  is visited, although not entered, on our “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London” and “Tudor and Stuart 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).