Tag Archives: John Stow

Theft of the Queen’s Chamber-Pot (John Stow, 1564)

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Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts of events in the history of London, this one written by John Stow in 1564  …

“On the xxvi day of September in anno 1564, … ware arrayned at ye Guildhall of London iiii personas … for ye stelynge and receyvynge of ye queens lypott [chamber pot], combe, and lokynge glasse, with a bodkin of gold to brayd hir heare, and suche  othar small ware out of hir chambar in her progresse.  And on … ye xxviii day of September, ii of them …  were bothe hangyd before ye Cowrte gate … ”.

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St Andrew Undershaft, John Stow and “The Changing of the Quill”

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The church of St Andrew Undershaft was originally  built in the twelfth century, and rebuilt in the fourteenth, and again, in the Perpendicular Gothic style, in around 1520-32.  It was undamaged both in the Great Fire of 1666 and in the Blitz of 1940-41, although the seventeenth-century stained-glass windows were destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1992.  The artist Hans Holbein was a parishioner here.

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Among the many memorials inside is one to the Merchant Taylor and amateur antiquarian John Stow (d. 1605), the author of “A Survay of London”.

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Stow appears with a quill-pen in his hand.  Every third year, on or around the anniversary of his death on April 5th, as part of a special service in the church in his memory, he is ceremonially presented  with a new quill (and his old one is given to the  winner of an essay competition for local children, with London as its subject).

 

London’s Foundation-Myth

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John Stow wrote in his magisterial “A Survay of London, written in the year 1598“:

“ …   Geoffrey of Monmouth … reporteth that Brute [Brutus of Troy], lineally descended from the demi-god Aeneas, the son of Venus, daughter of Jupiter, about the year of the world 2855, and 1108 before the nativity of Christ, built this city near unto the river now called Thames, and named it Troynovant [New Troy] … ”.

And:

“ King Lud afterwards not only repaired this city, but also increased the same with fair buildings, towers and walls, and after his own named called it Caire-Lud … .  This Lud had issue two sons, Androgeus and Theomantius, who being not of age to govern on their father’s death, their uncle Cassibelan [Cassivellaunus] took upon him the crown: about the eighth year of whose reign, Julius Caesar arrived in this land with a great power of Romans to conquer it [in 55-4BCE] … ”.

Also in the sixteenth century, a statue of Lud was erected on the inner side of the city gate that had by then come to bear his name.  The statue was salvaged when the gate was later demolished, and may still be viewed in the church of St Dunstan in the West on Fleet Street.

 

John Stow

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Further to the March 27th posting, a brief account of the life and works of the antiquarian John Stow …

John Stow was born in 1525 in the parish of St Michael Cornhill in the City of London.  He went on to become a Merchant Taylor, by apprenticeship, setting up shop in Aldgate in 1549, and eventually retiring and becoming a pensioner  in 1579.

Despite the demands of his profession, Stow found time to embark on what was essentially a second career as an antiquarian, from around 1560, publishing “A Summarie of Englyshe Chronicles … ”, in 1561, and “Annales, or a Generale Chronicle of England … ” in 1580 (*).  It is  thought that he began  work on his magnum opus, “A Survay of London … ” in the 1560s, although it was not published until 1598 – tellingly, the famous last words are “And so I end, wanting time to travel further in this work”!  It is from his “Survay” that we derive much of our understanding of the topography, buildings and social history of Elizabethan London.

Stow died on April 5th, 1603, and is buried in the church of St Andrew Undershaft in the City.  His memorial in the church shows him with a quill-pen in his hand.  Every third year, on or around the anniversary of his death, as part of a special service in the church in his memory, he   is ceremonially presented  with a new quill (and his old one is given to the  winner of an essay competition for local children, with London as its subject).  This year’s service   is at   4:00pm on April 24th.

(*) During the course of his research, he was challenged more than once by the ecclesiastical authorities over his collection of books, some of which were categorised as “superstitious” or “in defence of Papistry” (i.e., Catholicism), but was able to convince them as to the truth of his Protestantism.

It is noteworthy in this context that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, was one of his patrons.

A Survay of London (John Stow, 1598)

Braun & Hogenberg map (1572)

Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts and descriptions of the historic City of London,  this one from John Stow’s “A Survay of London … ”, written in 1598:

“William FitzStephen, in the reign of Henry II, writing of the walls of this city, hath these words: ‘The wall is high and great, well towered on the north side, with due distances between the towers.  On the south side also the city was walled and towered, but the fishful river of the Thames, with his ebbing and flowing, hath long since subverted them’.

… [T]he [walled] city being far more in length from east to west than in breadth from south to north, and also narrower at both ends that in the midst, is …  compassed with the wall on the land side, in form of a bow, except denting in betwixt Cripplegate and Aldersgate … .

And now touching the maintenance and repairing the said wall,  … in the year 1257, Henry III caused the walls …, which were sore decayed and destitute of towers, to be repaired in more seemly wise than before … .  Also in the year 1282, King Edward I, having granted … license for the enlarging of the Blackfriars’ Church, … also granted to Henry Wales, mayor, and the citizens of London, the favour to take, toward the [re-]making of the wall … , certain customs or toll … .  This wall was then to be made from Ludgate west to Fleet Bridge along behind the houses, and along by the water of the Fleet unto the … Thames.  … In the 17th of Edward IV [1477], Ralph Joceline, mayor, caused part of the wall …  to be repaired: to wit, between Aldgate and Aldersgate.  He also caused Moorfield to be searched for clay, and brick thereof to be made … , for … furtherance of the work.

The circuit of the wall of London on the land side, to wit, from the Tower of London in the east unto Aldgate  is 82 perches; from Aldgate to Bishopsgate, 86 perches; from Bishopsgate … to Cripplegate, 162 perches; from Cripplegate to Aldersgate, 75 perches; from Aldersgate to Newgate, 66 perches; from Newgate … to Ludgate, 42 perches; … [f]rom Ludgate to the Fleet Dike … , about 70 perches; [and] from Fleet Bridge … to the … Thames, about 70 perches: and so the total of these perches amounteth to 643, every perch consisting of five yards and a half, which do yield 3536 yards and a half, containing 10,608 feet [actually, 10,609.5 feet], which make up two English miles, and more by 608 feet [*]”.

[*] Stow’s “English miles” were evidently each of 5000 feet.  A “statute mile” – as defined in the Weights and Measures Act of 1593  – is of eight furlongs, 320 perches, poles, or rods, 1760 yards,  or 5280 feet.

St Andrew Undershaft

Another in the  series on City of London buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666, and that still survive to this day …

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The church of St Andrew Undershaft was originally  built in the twelfth century, and rebuilt in the fourteenth, and again, in the Perpendicular Gothic style, in around 1520-32.  It was undamaged in the Great Fire, although the seventeenth-century stained-glass windows were destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1992.

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The artist Hans Holbein was a parishioner here.  Among the many memorials inside is   one to the Merchant Taylor and amateur antiquarian John Stow (d. 1605), the author of “A Survay of London” (the famous last  words of which were “And so I end, wanting time to travel further in this work”).

changing-of-the-quill

Stow appears  with a quill-pen in his hand.  Every third year, on or around the anniversary of his death on April 5th, as part of a special service in his memory, he   is ceremonially presented  with a new quill (and his old one is given to the  winner of an essay competition for local children, with London as its subject).