London – Some Ancient Doorways

The Queen Anne revival has not yet given us any counterpart of the delightful canopied doorways of which there are a few yet surviving in London. That tranquil corner of old Westminster, Queen Anne’s Gate, contains some eight or ten genuinely antique specimens. The workmanship is so good that for 200 years they have braved wind and weather triumphantly, and the quaint grotesque faces above the windows smile back a confident message that if left alone they can last 200 years more.

The statue of Queen Anne close by is the one which, according to local testimony, was for many years endowed with the property of coming to life for one hour every year at the anniversary of her death.

Several beautiful examples of doorways may be seen in the City, two of the best are to be found in Lawrence Pountney Hill, Cannon Street. One feels a thrill of anxiety every time we pass lest they should have vanished. The evil eye of the demon of destruction could not kill them however, for they would be sure to be re-incarnated in the direction of Wardour Street. Their date in bold relief is 1703.

Nearly opposite to these old houses is the ancient graveyard of the Church of St. Lawrence Pountney destroyed in the Fire of London and not re-built. Anne Clarges who became the Duchess of Albemarle, was the daughter of a blacksmith in Drury Lane, and was married here in 1632 to one Thomas Radford, a farrier. Twenty years later (Radford having disappeared in the meantime in consequence of domestic squabbles with his shrewish wife) General Monk led the terrible Anne to the Altar of St. George’s, Southwark.

Pepys calls her a “very ill-looking woman and a dowdy.” However she did not allow her lack of style to interfere with her ambitious designs, for she very soon became her husband’s master and is generally supposed to have played a considerable part in arranging the negotiations which ultimately led to the restoration of Charles II. who afterwards created Monk Duke of Albemarle. He and his termagent Duchess are buried in Henry VII. Chapel, Westminster Abbey. The validity of Monk’s marriage to Anne Clarges was the subject of the celebrated law-suit between the representatives of the families of Monk and Clarges.

In Little Trinity Lane, behind the Mansion House Station, another very pleasing and effective doorway may be found. It is that of the Paper Stainers’ Hall, and has carved garlands of flowers and fruit and a shield bearing the arms of the company.

Whittington’s almshouse on College Hill must not be forgotten in this connection. The doorway of the ancient almshouse, occupied until a few years back by the Mercers’ School fortunately still survives.

The doorway of the Brewers’ Hall in Addle Street is excellent, and the hall contains some interesting portraits and very good stained glass and wood carving. The Hall can generally be seen by application to the clerk.

Whittington had a quaint dispute with the Brewers’ Company in 1422 for selling dear ale. The Company was convicted and fined £2o, and the masters were ordered to be imprisoned until the fine was paid.