Tag Archives: Temple Church

MEDIEVAL LONDON contd.

Another in the  series of posts taken from  my forthcoming book, “The Flower Of All Cities” …

Building Works

The Normans built the first stone buildings within and without the walls of the City for hundreds of   years.

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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).

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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.

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Important new secular public buildings of the Norman period  included  Westminster Hall, built in 1097-99; and the Guildhall, built sometime before 1128.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Surviving Structures

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Knights Templar and Hospitaller

The Knights Templar came into being in around 1129 as an Order of “fighting monks” tasked principally with the protection of  Christians on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and with participation in Crusades, and incidentally with infrastructure and finance.  They soon became immensely wealthy and powerful, and at the same time the subject of much mistrust, on account of the secrecy surrounding  their activity, making themselves many dangerous enemies as well as friends.

On 13th October 1307 – according to myth the original unlucky “Friday the Thirteenth”,  the leaders of the Knights Templar were arrested on a  variety of charges, at least some no doubt trumped up by debtors and other vested interests, under a warrant reading “God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the Kingdom” (“Dieu n’est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume”).  They were later tortured into confessing to having “spat three times on the Cross” (”  … craché trois fois sur la Croix … “), and done to death by being burned at the stake, and the entire Order was  eventually disbanded, essentially to be subsumed into that of the Knights Hospitaller.

Interestingly, there are two Knights Templar or Hospitaller sites still in existence in London.

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One  is Temple Church, home of the Knights Templar, in a precinct off Fleet Street.  The church was originally built in 1160-85 and 1220-40 (although it has been restored or rebuilt on a number of occasions subsequently, most recently following bomb damage sustained during the Blitz).  The round nave, modelled on either the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, is twelfth-century, and Norman, or Romanesque in style, with typically round-arched windows.    The rectangular chancel is thirteenth-century, and Early Gothic, with pointed-arched lancet windows.

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The famous Purbeck Marble effigies of Knights are also thirteenth-century.

The other is the Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, home of the Knights Hospitaller, in a precinct in Clerkenwell.  The priory was originally built in around 1145, and destroyed during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 (it was actually deliberately targetted at this time because  the then prior, Robert Hales, was also the Lord High Treasurer, and responsible for the introduction of the hated Poll Tax).  It was rebuilt by Prior John Redington immediately afterwards and restored by Prior Thomas Docwra in 1504, and dissolved in 1540.  It is said that the last Prior, William Weston, died on the very day the priory was dissolved, of a broken heart.

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The former priory and later parish church, also with a round  nave, was substantially destroyed during an air raid  on the last night of the Blitz, 10th-11th May, 1941, and subsequently rebuilt (the original outline picked out on the paved area to the front).

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Remarkably, the original crypt of 1145 still survives, with its memorial to Prior Weston.

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A separate gate-house of 1504 also survives.  The gate-house served between 1560-1608 – that is, immediately after the Dissolution – as the “Office of the Revels” (how wonderful!), where theatrical performances were licensed, and sets and costumed procured.  It re-entered the possession of the  by-then Order of St John in 1873, and now houses the Order’s museum.

In 1237, Matthew Paris  chronicled the departure of  a party of Knights Hospitaller to the Holy Land  as follows:

“They … set out from their house at Clerkenwell, and proceeded in good order, with about thirty shields uncovered, with spears raised, and preceded by their banner, through the midst of the City, towards the bridge, that they might obtain the blessings of the spectators, and, bowing their heads with their cowls lowered, commended themselves to the prayers of all”.