Old London – Part II

Returning to Aldersgate Street we turn down Jewin Street and soon catch sight of the picturesque tower of St. Giles’, Cripplegate. This Church is most likely an older foundation even than St. Bartholomew’s, and its history is wonderfully complete. The present building dates from the end of the 16th century but the ” restorers ” have been very hard at work and the Guest House, the last survival of its kind, on the north wall of the Church has recently been removed.

The pre-eminent interest attaching to St. Giles’ is of course its connection with Milton “one of the greatest pillars of our country’s glory.” His father, a scrivener in Bread Street, was burled in the chancel in 1646 and in 1674 the remains of the great poet were laid in the same grave. It was here also that Oliver Cromwell was married in his 21st year to Elizabeth Bouchier on August 22nd, 1620, and another interesting link with Milton and the Protector is the tomb of the Egerton family, for it was at Ludlow Castle, their country home, that Milton’s “Comus” was first presented.

Foxe, the author of the ” Book of Martyrs,” is also buried in the vaults under the Church. On account of his Protestant views he was deprived of his fellowship at Brazenose College, Oxford, and he became tutor at Charlcote, the house of Sir Thomas Lucy, who is supposed to be the original of Shakespeare’s immortal “Justice Shallow.” The tomb of Constance Whitney (Lucy’s grand-daughter) in the north wall shows an open coffin with a woman seated upright within it, and the story tells, though it is quite a romance however, that – Mrs. Whitney being buried, the body-snatchers opened the grave and coffin to steal her rings and jewels, and, being unable to get the rings from one finger, attempted to cut it off. This restored her to consciousness and, to the amazement of the resurrection men, the dead woman arose and fled to her house.

An interesting addition to the memorials has only recently been added. It is that to the memory of Sir Martin Frobisher buried here in 1595, but in spite of his gallant services to country and Queen, he slept for 300 years without a stone to mark his grave. How-ever, at the tercentenary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada the long neglected memorial was erected. The handsome window at the west end is the memorial to Edward Alleyn, founder of Dulwich College. The pulpit and font are the work of Gibbons.

In the Churchyard is a bastion of old London wall, built nearly 15oo years ago. It is composed of cemented flint and has lasted from the days of Julius Caesar, the masonry being now as strong. as when fresh from the hand of the builder.

The Churchyard of St. Alphage, London Wall, close by, contains another fragment of the Roman wall, and although the frontage of the Church is commonplace, the tower possesses unique architectural value. It is a survival of the last of the leper hospitals, and there still exists the little window through which the lepers who were not allowed to come into the Church were enabled to hear Mass.

The monument to the memory of Sir Roland Hayward with his two wives and sixteen children has lately received notice from the fact that last Easter (1906), the ” ghost ” of the old citizen arrayed as of yore, was reported as having been seen lurking behind the rails of the Churchyard, and particulars of the vision were given in the City Press a few days after-wards.

Leaving the neighbouring Churches which are all Wren’s work for our return journey, we will now make our way by Electric train from Aldersgate Station or on foot by way of London Wall and Wormwood Street, to historic Bishopsgate.

Between the houses numbered 51 and 53 almost enfolding it in their embrace, is the very. small Church of St. Ethelburga. It is so hidden by the shop fronts that a sharp look out must’ be kept or it will escape notice. St. Ethelburga is unique in respect of containing almost untouched the last remains of the early English pointed arches to be found in London.

When some few months ago London was startled by the announcement that Crosby Hall had been purchased by a bank and would shortly be pulled down, the idea seemed absolutely incredible, but events proved that it was but too true. A strenuous agitation was set on foot, and all the antiquarian and scientific societies have been agitating and petitioning ever since. Whether they will be successful is even yet in doubt. One can only express the hope that this age will not be disgraced by allowing this national treasure to be destroyed. This beautiful mansion was built by John Crosby in 1466, when he obtained a lease of the site for eleven pounds a year. He was knighted some two or three years later by Edward IV., and died in 1475. His handsome and well-preserved tomb is in the adjoining Church of St. Helen’s.

The Banqueting Hall is truly a magnificent apartment and certainly the most perfect specimen of mediaeval domestic architecture in London. It is about 50 ft. long and 30 ft. broad, with a fine oriel window and beautiful timber roof. The throne room which is a floor above the Banqueting Hall has also a very fine oriel-window.

It was in the Council Chamber at Crosby Hall that, tradition says, a deputation of the citizens of London offered Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the crown of England, on June 20th, 1483.

After passing through many hands it was purchased by the famous Sir Thomas More about 1525, and after his execution his devoted daughter Margaret and her husband resided in the house which had become to them the most sacred spot on earth as the last home of their noble father. Most interesting of all its associations is the immortality that Shakespeare has conferred on the old building thrice referred to in the play of Richard III.

Just behind Crosby Hall is St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate—the “Westminster Abbey of the City ” — so called by Dean Stanley, because of its wonderful collection of tombs of the City Fathers. When one turns out of Mark Lane and comes unexpectedly upon the beautiful south door of St. Helen’s, the delight experienced is but a preparation for the glories within.

The Church is a very old foundation and was united with St. Helen’s Priory about 1200. The present building is 13th century work.

In 1542 the convent building passed into the possession of the Leathersellers’ Company and until the year 1799, when it was pulled down to make room for St. Helen’s Place, the nun’s refectory was used as the Hall of the Company.

In his researches in the Library at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Mr. Maxwell Lyte makes many discoveries of interest concerning instructions to the nuns of St. Helen’s. They were to sing distinctly at Divine Service—not so fast as usual, and with proper pauses, and they were also ordered to refrain from kissing secular persons. The nuns appear to have been by no means without a certain amount of twentieth century frivolity, for behind the tomb of Sir Thomas Gresham may be seen the nuns’ grating through which the daughters who were in a state of insurrection or insubordination to authority and not permitted to enter the Church, were enabled to hear mass. The remains of a stair-case leading to the adjoining Benedictine Priory may still be seen, also the seats used by the Black Nuns in the Church.

The tomb of Sir Thomas Gresham is to the north of the Communion Table. Gresham built the Royal Exchange, and was without doubt the founder of the modern commercial City of London, as he was the first merchant to see the importance of attracting foreign merchants to London instead of always travelling to the Continent to sell goods. Close by is the very handsome monument of Sir William Pickering, who is depicted clad in full armour under a canopy. There is a handsome monument to Sir John Spencer who lived in Crosby House, or Crosby Hall, and was the father of the celebrated Elizabeth Spencer who eloped with Lord Compton. Elizabeth is said to have been carried off by her lover in a clothes or baker’s basket. This escapade took place from Canonbury Tower in 1609. The Alderman’s great possessions thus came into the Compton family and the district of Canonbury has been since that time an in-exhaustible mine of gold to their descendants. Sir Andrew Judd, the founder of Tunbridge School (died 1558) and Sir Julius Caesar (died 1636), Master of the Rolls under James I. are also buried under handsome canopied tombs.

A careful study of the map or a good pilot will now be necessary, or we may miss a shrine dear to the heart of the antiquarian — St. Andrew’s Undershaft, Leadenhall Street, which contains the tomb of John Stow.

All our knowledge of the ancient City of London before the fire is practically got from Stow’s ” Survey.” Stow was born about 1520. He was a tailor by trade, and lived near the pump at Aldgate, but his ” goose ” was not able to lay him golden eggs, nor his needle and thread to fix him to his board. In the British Museum are enshrined 6o volumes containing the real work of his life-timehis wonderful ” Survey.” His tomb erected by his widow shortly after his death, was very skilfully and reverently restored a few years back, and is a delightful memorial of the great Londoner.

Stow, as old age crept upon him, fell on evil times. Poor and in disgrace with the King and Powers that were, all that a grateful country could do to reward him for the priceless service he had rendered to London, was to give him a license to beg, and this was granted him by James I. Well may he refer to the ” many weary miles travel and hard earned penny and pound and many a cold night’s study that it cost him to complete his life’s work.”

As Stow died in poverty one is somewhat at a loss to account for his very handsome alabaster tomb, for his widow must have been a poor woman. It may have been of course that after his death his work soon began to be recognised and money realized by the sale of his books may have come in.

It is dreadful to know that his poor body was not even allowed to rest in peace, but that in 1732 it was dug up and removed to an unknown grave to make way for that of a more important person whose only claim to notice is the insult that was thus done to the remains of one whose name is now the honoured and revered one of ” London’s great Archaeologist.”

By the side of Stow’s tomb is a curious brass with figures of a man and wife with their 19 children — 11 sons and 8 daughters — and another tomb close by tells also of the domestic felicity of Anne Bynge who had no less than three husbands ” all bachelors and all stationers.” Mary Dachelor the founder of the Grammar School is also buried here, as is also the translator of ” Don Quixote.”

A couple of hundred yards further east is St. Katherine Cree Church. Although only 90 ft. long and 37 ft. high, it is a revelation and delight, and the skill of the architect is displayed in a truly remarkable manner. The beautiful columns of the nave, and the groining of the clerestory, are an artistic triumph. The building was consecrated by Laud in 1631, and his highly ritualistic ceremonial on that occasion has become a matter of history, for it gave so much offence to the Puritan party, and added so greatly to the suspicion with which he was regarded that as events proved it was mainly the cause of his death and the downfall of Charles I. Laud, of course, perfectly realized the significance of his action, and his attitude of defiance was very deliberately taken up.

Inigo Jones is generally considered to be the architect of St. Katherine’s. It is built upon the foundations of the older building, the level of which was some 15 ft. lower than the present. One of the columns of the old church is yet pointed out projecting from the pavement.

The canopied tomb of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton removed from the older church is the most important monument. Throckmorton was one of Queen Elizabeth’s ministers, but fell into disfavour and died at his dismissal by the Queen. He had been present at the death-bed of Henry VIII., of Edward VI., and of Queen Mary.

The oft-discussed question of the burial of Holbein in St. Katherine’s cannot ever be settled definitely, unless, of course, further evidence is forthcoming; but Mr. Loftie, after an exhaustive examination of expert opinion thinks that the tradition mentioned by Strype is almost certainly true, and that the great Holbein dying of the plague in a house a few yards away was buried here.

Billiter Street, nearly opposite St. Katherine’s, leads into Fenchurch Street, and behind the houses numbered 53 and 54. is the Tower of Allhallows Staining generally considered to be the oldest stone church tower in the city. Queen Elizabeth, on her release from the Tower of London, came to the old church—which fell down in 1671—to offer thanks for her deliverance.

Almost hidden under the shadow of Fen-church Street Station is St. Olaves, Hart Street, a most intensely delightful and picturesque building, which in addition to its claims to notice on account of its many architectural features will always be remembered—first of all as the Parish Church, and then as the final resting place of the immortal Diarist, Samuel Pepys.

Pepys watched the burning City from the tower of St. Olaves, and there are many interesting references in the diary to the church.

He is buried near the altar, close to his friend Sir John Mennes, 1671, Comptroller of the Navy under Charles lI.

In the vestry ceiling is an interesting figure of an angel in white plaster, and the beautiful unrestored organ gallery should not be over-.looked. Over the gateway of the churchyard —which Dickens called the Churchyard of St. Ghastly Grim—are carved some skulls and crossbones which have reference to the number-less burials during the plague. The registers of the Church date from 1563, and a dreadful and pathetic interest attaches to that of Mary Ramsey under date July 24th, 1665. She it was who is supposed to have introduced the plague into the City of London, and a fatal letter “p” is placed against her name. Before that sad year had passed more than 100,000 victims of that awful scourge had followed her to the grave.

The last, and in many respects the most interesting of the old churches, is Allhallows in Tower Street—a stone’s throw away.

Allhallows, Barking, contains the most perfect and interesting brasses to be found in any London church—the finest is that to the memory of Andrew Evyngar and his wife, Ellyn, and is now kept carefully covered by a mat to preserve it. The font has a most exquisite cover, one of Gibbons’ best works. Near the font is the interesting brass to the memory of William Thynne, Clerk of the Kitchen to Henry VIII. It is to Thynne we owe the first editions of Chaucer, the folios of 1532 and 1542.

Allhallows was founded in the reign of Richard I. by the nuns of Barking Abbey. Up to the time of the suppression of the monastries pilgrimages were made to Allhallows, and forty days indulgence was given to all the pilgrims who took part. The object of veneration was the image of the Virgin, which Edward I. had had placed in the church in consequence of a vision in which the Virgin appeared to him, and promised that if he erected a shrine and visited it four times every year he should be for ever victorious in battle.

The tower is particularly hideous, its one interesting association being the fact that, according to Strype’s edition of “Stow’s Survey,” in 1649 there was an explosion of 27 barrels of gun-powder at a gunsmith’s establishment close by. The gunsmith was killed, but a child sleeping in its cradle was hurled into the air, and lodged upon the top of the steeple. The baby was quite unhurt, but its father and mother were supposed to have been killed in the explosion, as they could not be discovered. The child was adopted by the churchwardens.

After his execution on Tower Hill, Laud was buried in the graveyard behind the church, but in 1663 his body was removed to the Chapel of St. John’s College, Oxford. The registers contain the name of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, who was baptised here on October 23rd, 1644. He was born in a house which stood on the ground now occupied by Trinity Square Gardens; and John Quincey Adams, the sixth President of the United States, who was married here.