Tag Archives: Thomas Cromwell

Hatches, Matches and Despatches (1538)

The Bills of Mortality for the Plague Year - Copy

On this day in 1538, Henry VIII’s Vicar-General Thomas Cromwell mandated the keeping by parish clerks of registers of births, deaths and marriages (“every wedding, christening and burying”) within their parishes  – to which we owe much of what we now know of everyday past life in London.

The Parish Clerks’ “Bills of Mortality” for the “Plague Year” of 1665 are examined at  the church of All Hallows Staining on our “London Wall” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City highlights”, “the Great Fire of London” and “Lost City highlights” themed specials (*).

According to these records, 68596  people died of the – bubonic – plague in London in  1665, including 112 in the parish of All Hallows Staining (the church collapsed in 1671, it is said  on account of undermining of its foundations by plague  burials).  A  further 4808 people died of “consumption and tiffick”, which might actually have been the plague as well.  And 5 died of being “distracted”!

Among the plague victims was my twelve times great-aunt’s first husband, Robert Mickell, who  succumbed on 17th September, 1665  (having written in his will only days earlier, evidently only too aware of his own mortality, “I … being well in body … praised bee God for the same but considering the frailty of man’s life and not knowing how soon it may please Almighty God my creator to call me out of this transitory world doe make and ordayne this my last will and testament … ”).

He died as the epidemic reached its peak, killing around a thousand people a day (see also August 31st posting).  At this point, it grew  so deathly quiet that throughout the City the River Thames could be heard flowing under the nineteen arches of Old London Bridge.

The epidemic finally began to abate with the onset of  the cold weather in October, 1665, which would have rendered inactive the rat fleas responsible for its  spread (see also April 30th posting).

(*) 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).

 

Wimbledon

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

Wimbledon was first recorded in c. 950  as Wunemannedune, from the  Old English personal mane Wynnmann and  “dun”, “hill”.  The original church of St Mary  was built here in the Saxo-Norman period  (see below).  A manor house, known as the Parsonage House and later the Old Rectory,  was built here in c. 1500; and a second one, known as Wimbledon House or Palace in c. 1588 (see below).

The village of Wimbledon grew up around the church and manor houses.

Eagle House, on the High Street, was built for Robert Bell, Master of the Worshipful Company of Girdlers and Co-Founder and  Director of the British East India Company, in either 1613 or 1617 (sources differ).

Rose and Crown

IMG_20160708_104938

The Rose and Crown, also on the High Street, was built in the  middle part of the seventeenth  century.

The area only began to become densely built up after the arrival of the railway in 1838.   It is now part of the London Borough of Merton.

Church of St Mary

As noted above, the  original church of St Mary was built during the Saxo-Norman period, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.  It was rebuilt in the later Medieval period, at the end of the thirteenth century, and again in the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries.    The oldest surviving part is the chancel.

The Cecil Chapel contains a stained-glass window dating back to the fifteenth century, and a number of memorials from the seventeenth century, including that  of Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledon  (d. 1638), son of Thomas (see below), and grandson of William (see below).  Elsewhere in the  interior are  memorials to Philip Lewston, who died in 1462, and William Walter, who died in 1587.    And commemorative plaques to the abolitionist William Wilberforce, who lived locally and died in 1833, and who is buried in Westminster Abbey, and to the “Sewer King” Joseph Bazalgette, who also lived locally, and died in  1891, and who is buried in the family vault in the churchyard.

Old Rectory

Old Rectory

What is now known as the Old Rectory was built in c. 1500 for the church, the manor at that time being owned by the Archbishops of Canterbury.  After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the King, Henry VIII, gave it   to Thomas Cromwell, in 1536, and then – after Cromwell’s fall from grace and execution –  to the Queen, Catherine Parr, in 1543.  Henry visited the house in 1546, after being taken ill on a tour of his Surrey palaces, and indeed was so ill he could not make it up the stairs, such that  a bed had to be made up for him in front of the fireplace in the entrance hall.  In 1550, it  became a grace-and-favour home for William Cecil, who went on to become 1st Baron Burghley – and Elizabeth I’s chief adviser. The house still stands to this day, its appearance altered from that in Tudor times essentially only by the demolition of some parts and the restoration of others in the early eighteenth century.  However, it is now carefully screened from public view.

Wimbledon House or Palace

Wimbledon House

Wimbledon House or Palace was built in c. 1588 for William’s son Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter.   It was subsequently rebuilt – by Inigo Jones and Nicholas Stone – in 1639,  for King Charles I’s  Queen, Henrietta Maria, taken away from her during the Civil War in 1642, and only given back after the Restoration in 1660, and sold – in a sorry state of repair – in 1661.  It was eventually demolished in 1717.

The execution of Thomas Cromwell (1540)

 

Thomas Cromwell, as portrayed by Holbein in c1533

On this day in 1540, Henry VIII’s Chief Minister Thomas Cromwell was beheaded at Tower Hill on trumped-up charges of treason and heresy, having eighteen days earlier been attainted, or  in other words essentially found guilty without trial.

He had finally fallen out of favour, and victim to the sort of court intrigue that to that date he had himself customarily been behind, over his ill-advised choice of Anne of Cleves as the new wife for the King.

The lawyer, politician and chronicler Edward Hall recorded Cromwell’s last words, as follows:

“I am come hether to dye, …  for …  I am by the Lawe comdempned to die, and thanke my lorde God that hath appoynted me this deathe, for myne offence: For … I have lived a synner, and offended my Lorde God, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes. And …  beyng but of a base degree, …  have offended my prince, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes, and beseche you all to praie to God with me, that he will forgeve me. O father forgeve me. O sonne forgeve me, O holy Ghost forgeve me: O thre persons in one God forgeve me. And now I praie you that be here, to beare me record, I die in the Catholicke faithe … .  Many hath sclaundered me, and reported that I have … mainteigned evill opinions, whiche is untrue, but I confesse that like as God by his holy spirite, doth instruct us in the truthe, so the devill is redy to seduce us, and I have been seduced: but beare me witnes that I dye in the Catholicke faithe … . And I hartely desire you to praie for the Kynges grace, that he maie long …  reigne over you. And once again I desire you to pray for me, that so long as life remaigneth in this fleshe, I waver nothyng in my faithe”.

Hall also recorded, as follows:

“[H]e … committed his soule, into the handes of God, and so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very ungoodly perfourmed [botched] the Office [Execution]”.

Plaque marking site of execution on Tower Hill

The Tower of London, where Cromwell died, and Austin Friars, where he once lived, are visited on various of our tours, including the “Tudor and Stuart London” and “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights” 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, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Hatches, Matches and Despatches

Hatches, Matches and DespatchesSeptember 5th – On this day in 1538, Henry VIII’s Vicar-General Thomas Cromwell mandated the keeping by parish clerks of registers of births, deaths and marriages (“every wedding, christening and burying”) within their parishes  – to which we owe much of what we now know of everyday past life in London.

The Parish Clerks’ “Bills of Mortality” for the Plague Year of 1665 are examined at  the church of All Hallows Staining on our “London Wall” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City highlights” and “Lost City highlights” themed specials.

According to these records, 68,596  people died of the – bubonic – plague in London in  1665, including 112 in the parish of All Hallows Staining (the church collapsed in 1671, it is said  on account of undermining of its foundations by plague  burials).  A  further 4,808 people died of “consumption and tiffick”, which might actually have been the plague as well.  And 5 died of being “distracted”!

Among the plague victims was my twelve times great-aunt’s first husband, Robert  Mickell, who  succumbed on 17th September, 1665  (having written in his will only days earlier, evidently only too aware of his own mortality, “I … being well in body … praised bee God for the same but considering the frailty of man’s life and not knowing how soon it may please Almighty God my creator to call me out of this transitory world doe make and ordayne this my last will and testament … ”).

He died as the epidemic reached its peak, killing around a thousand people a day (see also August 31st posting).  At this point, it grew  so deathly quiet that throughout the City the River Thames could be heard flowing under the nineteen arches of Old London Bridge.

The epidemic finally began to abate with the onset of  the cold weather in October, 1665, which would have rendered inactive the rat fleas responsible for its  spread (see also April 30th Plague Year posting).

Austin Friars (and “Wolf Hall”)

 

Statue of Austin Friar

Statue of Austin Friar

The street of Austin Friars, off Old Broad Street,  takes its name from the Augustinian  Priory that once stood nearby.  The priory was originally built by Humphrey de Bohun, Constable of England, in around 1253, the priory church incorporating  the existing parish church of St Peter-le-Poer as a private chapel; and it was extended in 1354.  The priory was attacked during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, when 13 Flemings were dragged from its sanctuary and beheaded.  Many of the barons killed at the Battle of Barnet in the Wars of the Roses in 1471 were buried here.   Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Dutch priest, theologian and philosopher, the so-called “Prince of the Humanists”,  lodged here in 1513, complained about the quality of the wine on offer, and  left without settling his bill!  Miles Coverdale worked on his translation of the Bible here in 1529.  And Thomas Cromwell, the lawyer, banker and soldier, and sometime statesman, Vicar-General and Vice-Gerent in Spirituals to Henry VIII, lived here from the 1520s until his execution for treason and heresy  in 1540.

Surviving relics from Augustinian Priory under altar table of present Dutch Church

Surviving relics from Augustinian Priory under altar table of present Dutch Church

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, most of the priory precinct came into the possession of Sir William Paulet, the First Marquess of Winchester, who built himself a substantial town-house there, which survived the Great Fire of 1666, but  was demolished in 1839.  (Cromwell’s house came into the possession of the Drapers’ Company in 1543, but was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666).

The former Augustinian Priory complex - as shown on the Copper-Plate Map of c1550 (1 - Church; 2 - Cloister; 3 - Cromwell's House; 4 - Gate-House)

The former Augustinian Priory complex – as shown on the Copper-Plate Map of c1550 (1 – Church; 2 – Cloister; 3 – Cromwell’s House; 4 – Gate-House)

In 1550, under Edward VI, part of the priory church was given over to the local Dutch Protestant community to serve as their church, “notwithstanding that they do not conform with the rites and ceremonies used in our Kingdom”; and the remaining part reverted to  being the parish church of St Peter-le-Poer.  The Dutch Church survived the Great Fire of 1666, but was destroyed  in another fire in 1862, rebuilt  in 1863, destroyed again in an air raid  in 1940, and rebuilt again in 1950-56.

The late nineteenth-century Dutch Church - as sketched by van Gogh in 1876

The late nineteenth-century Dutch Church – as sketched by van Gogh in 1876

The present Dutch Church

The present Dutch Church

St Peter-le-Poer was also  essentially undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, although ash from the fire settled on an open prayer book in the church, and obscured the text.  However, it later fell into disrepair, and had to be repaired in 1716 and rebuilt, by Jesse Gibson, in 1788-92, only to be demolished in 1907-08, when the parish was merged with St Michael Cornhill.  Nothing now remains of the church at its former site, although the salvaged pulpit and font still survive, in St Peter-le-Poer in Friern Barnet.

Thomas Cromwell - as painted by Holbein in c1533

Thomas Cromwell, painted by Holbein in c1533 – a study in inscrutability

On a related note, Thomas Cromwell’s house in Austin Friars is the setting for a number of scenes in the historical novels “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up The Bodies” by Hilary Mantel.  The books have been adapted – by Mike Poulton –  into stage plays: utterly compelling pieces of narrative story-telling, clearing some of the sometimes confusing “scribble of mist” of the books, while retaining much of their evocative atmosphere. They have now also been adapted – by Peter Straughan – for television, with Mark Rylance playing Thomas Cromwell.

Statue of Austin Friar

Austin Friars is visited on our “Aldgate, Bishopsgate and beyond” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London” and “Medieval City Highlights” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail lostcityoflondon@sky.com, or by phone 020-8998-3051.

Far-Flung Lost London III – Islington

Islington was first recorded as Gislandune in around 1000, taking its name from the Old English personal name “Gisla” and “dun”, or down, meaning an area of high and dry ground.

Prior William Bolton of the Priory of St Bartholomew the Great built Canonbury House in Canonbury Square here in 1509, of which the tower still stands.   The house was later occupied at one time or another by Thomas Cromwell, by the one-time Lord Mayor of London John Spencer, and by Francis Bacon (not to mention, in the eighteenth century, by Goldsmith).

Canonbury Tower

Canonbury Tower (photograph by Bob Jones)

Hatches, Matches and Despatches

5th September – On this day in 1538, Henry VIII’s Vicar-General Thomas Cromwell mandated the keeping by parish clerks of records of births, deaths and marriages (“every wedding, christening and burying”) within their parishes  – to which we owe much of what we now know of everyday past life in London.
The Parish Clerks’ “Bills of Mortality” for the Plague Year of 1665 are examined at  All Hallows Staining on our Friday morning walk “London Wall”.
According to these records, 68596  people died of the plague in London in  1665, including 112 in the parish of All Hallows Staining (the church collapsed in 1671, it is said  on account of undermining of its foundations by plague  burials).  A  further 4808 people died of “consumption and tiffick”, which might actually have been the pneumonic strain of the plague.  And 5 died of being “distracted”!
Keeping records of deaths at this time was  in itself a dangerous undertaking.  There is a story in my family that my twelve times great-aunt’s first husband, Robert  Mickell, contracted the plague while going about his business a  part-time? parish clerk,  and died on 17thSeptember, 1665  (he was evidently only too aware of his mortality as he wrote in his will, only weeks earlier, “I Robert Mickell … being well in body … praised bee God for the same but considering the frailty of man’s life and not knowing how soon it may please Almighty God my creator to call me out of this transitory world doe make and ordayne this my last will and testament … ”).  He died as the epidemic reached it’s peak, killing around a thousand people a day.  At this point, probably to conceal the scale of what was unfolding, the  authorities ordered that burials should take place at night, and without the tolling of bells.  And it grew  so deathly quiet that throughout the City the River Thames could be heard flowing under the nineteen arches of Old London Bridge.