Another in the series of posts taken from my forthcoming book, “The Flower Of All Cities” …
The Normans built the first stone buildings within and without the walls of the City for hundreds of years.
These included a number intended to symbolise their sovereign authority over the Saxons: the White Tower in the Tower of London, built, of Caen Stone, from 1076-1101 onwards; the first Baynard’s Castle and Montfichet’s Tower, also built in the late eleventh century; and, further afield, Windsor Castle, built between 1070-86. The first Baynard’s Castle and Montfichet’s Tower were both built, a little to the south-west of St Paul’s, in the late eleventh century (Baynard’s Castle by Ralph Baynard, and Montfichet’s Tower by Richard de Montfichet, both of them Norman noblemen). They were then both demolished in the early thirteenth (Blackfriars Priory was built on the site of the first Baynard’s Castle in the late thirteenth, in 1276).
The Normans also initiated a major phase of church and other religious house building in the late eleventh to early twelfth centuries, in the Norman or Romanesque style. The collegiate church and monastery of St Martin-le-Grand was originally founded by two brothers, Ingelric and Girard, in around 1056; the parish church of St Mary-le-Bow, or Bow Church, by the Norman King William I’s Archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc, in around 1077-87; the Cluniac Priory and Abbey of St Saviour, or Bermondsey Abbey, in 1082; the parish church of St Mary-at-Lambeth sometime before 1086; what is now known as “Old St Paul’s”, by Bishop Maurice and his successors sometime after 1087; the parish church of St Giles Cripplegate in around 1100; Holy Trinity Priory, by the Canons of Augustine, in 1108; the Augustinian Priory of St Bartholomew in 1123; the Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, in Clerkenwell, the English home of the Knights Hospitaller, in 1144; the Augustinian Priory of St Mary, also in Clerkenwell, in 1145; the Royal Hospital of St Katharine by the Tower, in 1148; and the round nave of Temple Church, the English home of the Knights Templar, modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, in 1160-85; and the nunnery of St Mary Overie (Southwark Cathedral) was refounded as a priory in 1106.
Important new secular public buildings of the Norman period included Westminster Hall, built in 1097-99; and the Guildhall, built sometime before 1128.
Later, the Plantagenets added inner and outer curtain walls to the Tower of London in the thirteenth to early fourteenth centuries; built Savoy Palace in the early fourteenth, in 1324; the second Baynard’s Castle also in the early fourteenth, in around 1338; and the Royal Wardrobe in the late fourteenth, in 1361; in Westminster, the Jewel Tower (part of the Palace of Westminster), in 1365-6; and, further afield, a manor-house on the then-waterfront in Rotherhithe in 1349-53. Also further afield, a succession of Plantagenet Kings extended Windsor Castle. The second Baynard’s Castle was built, in a river-front location, in the early fourteenth century, around 1338, and rebuilt in early fifteenth, around 1428, and possibly again in the late fifteenth. It was used by a succession of Kings and Queens in the late fifteenth to sixteenth centuries, before being essentially completely destroyed in the Great Fire in the seventeenth. It was the London headquarters of the House of York during the Wars of the Roses. According to the chronicler Fabian, The Earl of March was hailed King Edward IV here, before he was formally crowned in Westminster Abbey, in 1461 (“[T]he Earls of March and Warwick with a great power of men, … entered into the City of London, the which was of the citizens joyously received, and … the said earl caused to be mustered his people …, … whereupon it was demanded of the said people whether … Henry [VI] were worthy to reign as king any longer or no. Whereunto the people cried hugely and said Nay, Nay. And after it was asked of them whether they would have the Earl of March as their king and they cried with one voice, Yea, Yea. After the which admission thus by the commons assented, certain captains were assigned to bear report unto the said Earl of March then being lodged in his place called Baynard’s Castle”). Later, in 1483, Richard III is believed to have asserted his claim to the throne, over that of Edward’s infant sons, here.
The Plantagenets also continued the church and religious house building or rebuilding programme in the later Medieval, in the Gothic style.
All Hallows Staining, Austin Friars Priory, Blackfriars Priory, the Charterhouse, Holywell Priory, St Andrew Undershaft, St Clare without Aldgate (also known as Holy Trinity Minories), St Ethelburga, St Etheldreda, St Helen, St Katharine Cree, St Leonard Shoreditch, St Mary Aldermary, St Mary-at-Hill, St Mary Graces, St Mary-le-Strand, St Mary of Bethlehem (“Bedlam”), St Mary Rotherhithe, St Mary Spital, St Mary within Cripplegate (also known as Elsing Spital), St Mary Magdalene Bermondsey, St Olave Hart Street, St Sepulchre, the rectangular chancel of Temple Church, possibly modelled on the Second Temple of Solomon, or on the Temple of the Lord (otherwise known as the Dome of the Rock), in Jerusalem, Whitefriars Priory, and Winchester Palace, among others, were all built at this time; and St Giles Cripplegate, St Mary-at-Lambeth, St Mary Overie (Southwark Cathedral), ”Old St Paul’s”, and Westminster Abbey, among others, rebuilt or extended.
“Old St Paul’s” was evidently an impressive building by the end of the Medieval period, measuring some 600’ in length, and, according to some estimates, over 500’ in height, inclusive of the spire, which was destroyed by lightning in 1444, and rebuilt in 1462 (only to be destroyed by lightning again in 1561). The “old” Chapter House, built in 1332 by the Master Mason William Ramsay, who went on to die of the “Black Death” in 1349, was the earliest example in London of the Perpendicular Gothic style that was to remain the fashion for the next two hundred years. Sadly, only the octagonal outline of the foundations survives, in the churchyard on the south side of the cathedral. Perhaps even more sadly, the celebrated wall-painting of the “Dance of Death” in the Pardon Cloister of the north side of the cathedral, commissioned by John Carpenter during his tenure as Town Clerk, between 1417-38, was destroyed in 1549, that is, before the Great Fire, on the orders of Protector Somerset. The painting is said to have been based on the “Danse Macabre” in the Cimetiere des Innocents in Paris. According to Stow, “the metres, or posey of this dance, were translated out of French into English by John Lidgate, monk of Bury”. The Master Mason Henry (de) Reyns, generally known simply as Master Henry (fl. 1243-53), is known to have worked extensively on the reconstruction of Westminster Abbey under Henry III in the thirteenth century; and also, incidentally, on the Tower of London. The Master Mason Henry Yevele (c. 1320-1400) worked on Westminster Abbey in the fourteenth century, on, among other things, the tombs of Edward III and Richard II, as well as on the tomb of John of Gaunt in “Old St Paul’s”, and the Charterhouse; and also, incidentally, on the Tower of London, the Savoy Palace, and the Palace of Westminster, including the Jewel Tower and Westminster Hall.
Important new secular public building works of the Plantagenet period included London Bridge, rebuilt between 1176-1209.
Also Westminster Hall, rebuilt in 1394-1401, in part by Hugh Herland (c. 1330-c. 1411), who was responsible for the spectacular hammerbeam roof. And its City rival, the Guildhall, rebuilt in 1411-30, by John Croxton(e) (fl. 1411-47). Incidentally, Herland also worked on the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey; Croxton(e), on Leadenhall Market and Garner.
New private buildings of the period included a number of Inns of Court; and Livery Company Halls. Some of the latter, such as the Merchant Taylors’, were particularly grand, including gardens, grounds and alms-houses – for “decayed” members of the company – as well as Great Halls (and kitchens), offices and private chapels.
New private residences included that of the wealthy grocer and twice Mayor Stephen Browne, in Billingsgate, which was evidently sufficiently grand as to have included its own quay; and that of the wealthy grocer John Crosby, immediately south of the church of St Helen on Bishopsgate, later owned by Richard, Duke of Gloucester (the future Richard III), Thomas More, and Walter Ralegh, which Stow described as “very large and beautiful”. The cheaper ones of the common man, such as those recently excavated on Poultry, were evidently built out of timber and thatch in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and of stone (or brick) and tile from the thirteenth onwards, after the use of combustible materials in construction was banned by the Mayor – Henry FitzAilwyn de Londonestone – following the terrible fire of 1212, in which thousands of people died.
The Medieval street layout, so organically developed or evolved, and so modified, after the Roman and Saxon ones as to be unrecognisable, was less in the form of a grid than of an intricate, almost beguiling, maze or web, although there were many streets parallel and many perpendicular to the river, some of the latter on land reclaimed. The intricately intermingled alley-ways and court-yards were the capillaries and alveoles of the City, where persons might pause, albeit fleetingly among the seething, and rest and refresh body and soul; the lanes and thoroughfares its veins and arteries, moving people and trade far and wide. Horse-drawn carts and wagons were widely used to transport goods.
Essentially nothing now remains of the the majority of the Medieval seats of power, religious houses and secular buildings that stood within and without the walls of the City of London before the Great Fire.
However, the Tower of London, which survived the fire, survives still, substantially intact, within the walls of the City London, the Chapel of St John in the White Tower representing a fine example of the Norman or Romanesque architectural style. And on nearby Tower Hill are the remaining ruins of the Medieval Postern Gate. The Jewel Tower, part of the Palace of Westminster, also stands, in the City of Westminster. And the footings and some of the standing structure of Edward III’s manor-house, in Rotherhithe.
Moreover, of the 97 parish churches within the walls of the City, 8, namely, All Hallows Barking, All Hallows Staining, St Alphage, St Andrew Undershaft, St Ethelburga, St Helen, St Katharine Cree and St Olave Hart Street, survived the fire, and survive still, with at least some pre-fire structures standing, above ground (note also that St Alban Wood Street, St Mary Aldermary, St Dunstan-in-the-East, St Mary-at-Hill and St Michael Cornhill were rebuilt after the fire incorporating into their designs significant portions of pre-fire structure). St Helen, (re)built in 1210, stands as an exemplar of the Early – English – Gothic architectural style of the early thirteenth century. A further 5 churches, namely All Hallows on the Wall, St James Duke’s Place, St Katherine Coleman, St Martin Outwich and St Peter-le-Poer, were also undamaged in the fire but either demolished or rebuilt afterwards; 49 were burned down in the fire and rebuilt afterwards; and 35 were burned down in the fire and not rebuilt afterwards. Without the walls, St Bartholomew the Great, St Bartholomew the Less, St Etheldreda, St Giles Cripplegate, St Margaret Westminster, St Mary Overie (Southwark Cathedral, Temple Church and Westminster Abbey also still stand. St Etheldreda, built in 1294, stands as an exemplar of the Decorated Gothic style of the late thirteenth century, which was never as flamboyant as on the continent.
Rather further afield, ten miles or so to the north-west, stands St Martin Ruislip, with its late Medieval, ?fifteenth-century, wall-painting depicting the “Seven Deadly Sins”, that miraculously survived the Reformation.
And, within or without the walls, precious fragments of Bermondsey Abbey, Blackfriars Priory, the Charterhouse, Holy Trinity Priory, the Priory of St John, the Priory of St Mary Spital, Whitefriars Priory and Winchester Palace, that survived the Reformation and Dissolution, remain.
The surviving parts of the “rambling nest of Medieval and Renaissance buildings” in the Charterhouse that date back to the monastic period include not only the doorway to “Cell B” in the Norfolk Cloister, with its guichet or serving hatch, but also some stone buildings in Wash-House Court. Many of the buildings, fragments of buildings, and fitments on the site sustained damage during the Blitz of the Second World War, and had to be restored to their original state in the post-war period (by Seely and Paget).
Furthermore, Westminster Hall still stands, in Westminster; as do the Guildhall, in the City of London; the Hall of Barnard’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court, without the City walls; and parts of the Merchant Taylors’ Hall, one of the Livery Companies’ Halls, within. Westminster Hall is fortunate to still stand, as it must have come close to being washed away by the great flood of 1241, chronicled by Matthew Paris, during which “such deluges of rain fell, that the river Thames, overflowing its usual bounds and its ancient banks, spread itself over the country towards Lambeth … and took possession, far and wide, of the houses and fields in that part” and “ … people rode into the great hall at Westminster on horseback”. The private residence of Crosby Hall, that once stood in Bishopsgate in the City, now stands at a new location in Chelsea.