Tag Archives: Thomas Gresham

The Royal Society (1660)

Bust of Wren, Wren Library, Triforium Gallery, St Paul's

Modern portrait of Robert Hooke.jpg

On this day in 1660 was founded the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, nowadays generally known simply as the Royal Society.  The purpose of the Society, according to its Charter, was and is “To improve the knowledge of all natural things, and all useful Arts, manufactures, Mechanick practises, Engines and Inventions by Experiments – (not meddling with Divinity, Metaphysics, Moralls, Politicks, Grammar [or spelling, presumably], Rhetorick or Logick)”.

The founder members of the Society included Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Robert Moray, John Wilkins, and William, Viscount Brouncker.   Christopher Wren was an architect and a  member of an aristocratic family who had finally found favour in the Restoration, after years in the wilderness during the Protectorate and Commonwealth.  He was also an anatomist and astronomer (one wonders whether he, like Sartre’s autodidact, acquired his learning by reading an encyclopaedia, starting with the letter “A”); a follower of the “New Philosophy” of Francis Bacon; and, in short, an archetypal (English) Renaissance Man.    Hooke was another architect, who worked alongside Wren on the reconstruction of London following the Great Fire of 1666.  He was also a pioneer microscopist and polymath, although curmudgeonly as well as brilliant, and memorably described by  Samuel Pepys as  “the most,  and promises the least, of any man in the world that I ever saw”.

The Society’s first meetings were held at Gresham College, founded by a bequest by the financier and philanthropist Thomas Gresham, on the site of his house on Bishopsgate (now occupied by Tower 42).   Available to it here was not only a  room for its meetings, but also a separate room for its anniversary elections, another for its Repository and Museum of Curiosities, a Gallery, and a Great Hall.  Meetings were temporarily suspended in 1665 on account of the outbreak of Plague, and then temporarily moved to Arundel House after the Great Fire of 1666, when  the business of Gresham’s Exchange (the Royal Exchange), which had been burnt down, was moved to Gresham College, which had survived.

The Society’s meeting place and headquarters was later at Crane Court, from 1710-1780, at Somerset House,  from 1780-1857, and at Burlington House, from 1857-1967, and  has been at Carlton House Terrace since 1967.

The site of Gresham College, where the Society’s first meetings were held,  is visited  on various of our walks, including the “Historic Shoreditch and Spitalfields” standard walk, and the“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).

The Royal Exchange

1 - The old Royal Exchange

On this day in 1566, the first stone of the original Royal Exchange was laid (*).

3 - Gresham

The building, modelled on the bourse in Antwerp, was the brainchild of the City financier and philanthropist Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-79) (see also January 23rd and May 6th postings).  Incidentally, Gresham also founded Gresham College, by bequest.  He is buried in the church of St Helen, Bishopsgate.

The Royal Exchange was burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.  An eye-witness, one Thomas Vincent, wrote:

“The Royal Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded with much violence.  And when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run round the galleries, filling them with flames; then descendeth the stairs, compasseth the walks, giving forth flaming volleys, and filleth the courts with sheets of fire.  By and by, down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the stone building after them, with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing”.

2 - The new Royal Exchange

A replacement building was built in 1669, and burnt down in 1838; and a second replacement was in turn built in 1844.

4 - Gresham's grasshopper symbol atop the Royal Exchange

The grasshopper on the top of the building is Gresham’s insignia.

The site is visited on our “Tower to Temple” standard walk, and on our “Post-Medieval (Tudor and Stuart) London”, “Post-Medieval (Tudor and Stuart) City Highlights” and “Great Fire of 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).

(*)  Much to the disgust of native Londoners, the architect was a foreigner.  On a related note, a  census taken in the City on this day in 1567 revealed the presence of 40 Scots, 428 Frenchmen, 45 Spaniards, 140 Italians, 2030 Dutch, 44 Burgundians, 2 Danes and 1 Liegois”.

Whose exchange?  The Queen’s Exchange

1-the-old-royal-exchange

On this day in 1570/1, Elizabeth I opened the – first – Royal Exchange (see also June 7th posting).

As Stow put it:

“The Queen’s Majesty attended with her nobility came from her house at the Strand called Somerset House, and entered the City by Temple Bar, through Fleet Street, Cheap, and so by the north side of the Bourse through Threadneedle Street to Sir Thomas Gresham’s in Bishopsgate Street, where she dined.  After dinner Her Majesty, returning through Cornhill, entered the Bourse on the south side; and after that she had viewed every part thereof above the ground, especially the Pawn, which was richly furnished with all sorts of the finest wares in the City, she caused the same Bourse by an herald and a trumpet to be proclaimed the Royal Exchange, and so to be called thenceforth and not otherwise”.

The exchange, modelled on the bourse in Antwerp, was the brainchild of the aforementioned City financier and philanthropist Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-79), and was originally intended to have been called Gresham’s rather than the Royal Exchange.  Incidentally, Gresham also founded Gresham College, by bequest.  He is buried in the church of St Helen, Bishopsgate.

The building was burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.  An eye-witness, one Thomas Vincent, wrote:

“The Royal Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded with much violence.  And when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run round the galleries, filling them with flames; then descendeth the stairs, compasseth the walks, giving forth flaming volleys, and filleth the courts with sheets of fire.  By and by, down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the stone building after them, with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing”.

2-the-new-royal-exchange

A replacement was built in 1669, and burnt down in 1838; a second replacement was in turn built in 1844.

5-grasshopper-royal-exchange

The grasshopper on the top of the building is Gresham’s insignia.

The site is visited  on our “Tower to Temple” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights” and “Great Fire of 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).

St Helen Bishopsgate

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

The church of St Helen Bishopsgate was originally built in the eleventh century, possibly around 1010, the  adjoining former Benedictine nunnery church in the thirteenth, around 1210, and still later rebuilds, additions and embellishments to the fourteenth through early seventeenth  (*).  It was undamaged by the Great Fire, although nonetheless requiring to be restored in 1893, only to be damaged by IRA bombs in 1992 and 1993,  and restored again in 1993-5.

The exterior of the church is substantially surviving thirteenth-century, although  both  west front doors are later replacements, and the porch housing the south side door is much later, built, in the Renaissance style,  in 1633.   The construction of the church made use of much Roman dressed stone and tile, most likely sourced  either from a   Roman building  that once stood on the site, or from the city wall that once stood a short distance away.

The church is dubbed “The Westminster Abbey of the City” because of the beauty of its interior and the richness of its memorials.

1-coldbrok-memorial-1393

2-oteswich-memorial-c-1400

3-crosby-memorial-1478

4-pickering-memorial-1574

5-gresham-memorial-1579-with-nuns-squint-to-left

6-spencer-memorial-1609

7-bond-memorial-1643

The alabaster effigies of Sir John de Oteswich and his wife, salvaged from the church of St Martin Outwich, date to the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, and numerous other monuments to the fifteenth to seventeenth, including those of Sir John Crosby (d. 1476), Sir Thomas Gresham (d. 1579), and Martin Bond (d. 1643), together with some brasses with their “superstitious inscriptions” deliberately defaced by Puritans in 1644.  The arcade separating the former nuns’ quire from the nave dates to 1475; the nuns’ squint, built into the monument to Johane Alfrey, to 1525.  The carved wooden figure of a beggar supporting the poor-box,  the intricately carved and panelled  pulpit, and the south doorcase all date to the first half of the seventeenth century;  the inscribed wooden sword-rest to 1665.

The church   is visited on various of our walks.

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).

(*) The nunnery was suppressed in 1538, whereupon the nunnery church was incorporated into the parish church, and the remaining nunnery buildings and land were given to Thomas Cromwell’s adopted son Richard Wyllyams, who sold them  to the Leathersellers’ Company.

The Royal Exchange

1 - The old Royal ExchangeAccording to de Loriol, on this day in 1566, the first stone of the original Royal Exchange was laid (*).

3 - Gresham

The building, modelled on the bourse in Antwerp, was the brainchild of the City financier and philanthropist Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-79) (see also January 23rd and May 6th postings).  Incidentally, Gresham also founded Gresham College, by bequest.  He is buried in the church of St Helen, Bishopsgate.

The Royal Exchange was burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.  An eye-witness, one Thomas Vincent, wrote:

“The Royal Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded with much violence.  And when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run round the galleries, filling them with flames; then descendeth the stairs, compasseth the walks, giving forth flaming volleys, and filleth the courts with sheets of fire.  By and by, down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the stone building after them, with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing”.

2 - The new Royal Exchange

A replacement building was built in 1669, and burnt down in 1838; a second replacement was in turn built in 1844.

4 - Gresham's grasshopper symbol atop the Royal Exchange

The grasshopper on the top of the building is Gresham’s insignia.

The site is visited on our “Tower to Temple” standard walk, and on our “Post-Medieval (Tudor and Stuart) London”, “Post-Medieval (Tudor and Stuart) City Highlights” and “Great Fire of London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site (www.lostcityoflondon.co.uk).

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

(*)  Much to the disgust of native Londoners, the architect was a foreigner.  On a related note, a  census taken in the City on this day in 1567 revealed the presence of 40 Scots, 428 Frenchmen, 45 Spaniards, 140 Italians, 2030 Dutch, 44 Burgundians, 2 Danes and 1 Liegois”.

Whose exchange?  The Queen’s Exchange

On this day in 1571, Elizabeth I opened the – first – Royal Exchange (see also  here).

As Stow put it:

“The Queen’s Majestie attended with her nobility, came from her house at the Strande, called Somerset House, and entered the City by Temple-bar, through Fleet streete, Cheap, and so by the north side of the Burse, to Sir Thomas Gresham’s, where she dined”.

The exchange, modelled on the bourse in Antwerp, was the brainchild of the aforementioned City financier and philanthropist Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-79), and was originally intended to have been called Gresham’s rather than the Royal Exchange.  Incidentally, Gresham also founded Gresham College, by bequest.  He is buried in the church of St Helen, Bishopsgate.

The building was burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.  An eye-witness, one Thomas Vincent, wrote:

“The Royal Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded with much violence.  And when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run round the galleries, filling them with flames; then descendeth the stairs, compasseth the walks, giving forth flaming volleys, and filleth the courts with sheets of fire.  By and by, down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the stone building after them, with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing”.

A replacement was built in 1669, and burnt down in 1838; a second replacement was in turn built in 1844.  The grasshopper on the top of the building is Gresham’s insignia.

The site is passed on our “Tower to Temple” standard walk, and on our “Great Fire of London” themed special.

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

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the website, by email (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

The Royal Exchange

c3ce7-grasshopperroyalexchange

Gresham’s grasshopper symbol atop the Royal Exchange

June 7th –  According to de Loriol, on this day in 1566, the first stone of the original “Royal Exchange” was laid.  Much to the disgust of native Londoners, the architect was a foreigner.  On a related note, a  census taken in the City on this day in 1567 revealed the presence of 40 Scots, 428 Frenchmen, 45 Spaniards, 140 Italians, 2030 Dutch, 44 Burgundians, 2 Danes and 1 Liegois”.

The old Royal Exchange

The old Royal Exchange

Gresham

Gresham

The exchange, modelled on the bourse in Antwerp, was the brainchild of the City financier and philanthropist Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-79) (see also January 23rd and May 6th postings).  Incidentally, Gresham also founded Gresham College, by bequest.  He is buried in the church of St Helen, Bishopsgate.

The building was burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.  An eye-witness, one Thomas Vincent, wrote:

“The Royal Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded with much violence.  And when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run round the galleries, filling them with flames; then descendeth the stairs, compasseth the walks, giving forth flaming volleys, and filleth the courts with sheets of fire.  By and by, down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the stone building after them, with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing”.

A replacement was built in 1669, and burnt down in 1838; a second replacement was in turn built in 1844. The grasshopper on the top of the building is Gresham’s insignia.

The new Royal Exchange

The new Royal Exchange

The site is visited on our “Tower to Temple” standard walk, and on our “Post-Medieval (Tudor and Stuart) London”, “Post-Medieval (Tudor and Stuart) City Highlights” and “Great Fire of London” themed specials.

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

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