London – Chapel Royal Of The Savoy

From St. Mary’s and St. Clement’s it is but a few minutes’ walk back along the Strand to the Chapel Royal of the Savoy, that once served all the district, but it is now perhaps the tiniest parish in London west of Temple Bar. There it stands in its quiet graveyard, all that is left to remind us of “the fayrest manor in England.”The old palace of the Savoy was built by Simon de Montfort, that “Cromwell of the Middle Ages,”on land granted by Henry III. to his wife’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, for which the said Peter had to pay the not very exorbitant rent of three barbed arrows. Afterwards it came into the possession of the Dukes of Lancaster. Here it was, in 1357, that the Black Prince, riding on a little black hackney, brought his prisoner King John of France, who stayed here, with brief intervals, till his death, as nobody seemed able to raise the money for his ransom. And here lived John of Gaunt, with his numerous household, not least of whom was Geoffrey Chaucer. Later came Henry IV., who annexed the manor, and since his time it has always belonged in a particular manner to the reigning house.

Nothing is left, though, to tell of it, save the chapel, which was begun by Henry VII. in place of a more ancient one fallen into decay,-and that strange judicial survival, the Court Leet with view of Frankpledge of the Manor and Liberty of the Savoy. Few people know that once a year the jury of the Court, headed by the Beadle with his silver-topped and carved staff of office, solemnly makes the round to inspect the boundary marks of the Manor. One is in Child’s Bank, another on the Lyceum stage, one in Burleigh Street, one by Cleopatra’s Needle, another in Middle Temple Lawn, where many scuffles have taken place in the past between the jurymen and indignant Benchers and officers of the Inns of Court concerning the question of trespass. The Court itself, which dates back to Saxon days, sits annually about Easter time, and still does “what is usually called everybody’s business, and nobody’s business,”as a former High Bailiff wrote.

The old Roman Bath in Strand Lane is a little beyond St. Clement Dane’s, and next to the Tube station. That belongs to a later chapter, but a short way further, on the same side of the road, is another bit of unnoticed London.