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Archive for the ‘Medieval London’ Category

A guest post by LH Member Roger Williams. 

Review:  The History of the Port of London — the Vast Emporium of All Nations
By Peter Stone

51FqDHqHplL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_It is flattering when a publisher asks out of the blue if you would care to write a book. That’s what happened to London Historian member Peter Stone, when his posts about the city on his The History of London website caught the eye of Pen & Sword History Press.

The subject he chose was the port of London because, he says, as a Londoner born in the East End, he wanted to know more about it, and there were few comprehensive books on the subject. The result is The History of the Port of London — the Vast Emporium of All Nations, a 250-page book with 16 photographs, half a dozen prints and a dozen clear, specially-drawn maps that tell the story of the port from Roman Londinium to DP World London Gateway.

Medieval London is particularly well researched. This was a time when wine was the biggest import, and the Vintners Company established a 400-year monopoly. Trade was wrapped up in rules and regulations, even stipulating where foreigners could stay ashore. In the early 12th Century crews of foreign ships, when approaching London Bridge, we learn, were required to sing the Kirie Eleison to show they were not pagan pirates.

Elizabethan times saw a great expansion is shipping. Legal quays were established along the City’s foreshore, which held a monopoly on the landing of imports for 250 years. Suffrance wharfs on the south bank were later added to handle the increased volume of cargo brought mainly by charter companies like the East India Company that held monopolies on trade in great swathes of the world.

The first wet dock was in Rotherhithe. Howland Wet Dock was initially designed to shelter ships en route to London, but it also served the whaling fleets, whose messy business was kept away from the city. By 1800 an estimated 8,500 vessels could be seen between six miles below London Bridge and two miles above it. Import and export docks were sorely needed and they developed with great rapidity –– London, West India, East India, St Katharine’s, the Surrey Docks complex and the Royal Docks. An aerial photograph from 1957 shows their enormous extent.

With quotations from Pepys to Millicent Rose, the book is good on social history, on the lives of all those involved in the docks that by 1900 supported 20,000 full-time jobs and half as many casual ones. Ben Tillett, the unions and the everyday lives of dock workers are evoked, and the role of the Port of London Authority fully explained. There is the development of the villages from the City to the Isle of Dogs, from the time when Stepney was a village with a dock at Ratcliffe to today, when everything has slipped way down the river. But Tilbury, it is heartening to read, is still active, exporting engines from Ford at a rate of two vessels a day and importing a quarter of a million vehicles a year. Petroleum, steel, timber and sugar are still important imports, while DP World London Gateway, which covers an area twice the size of the City of London, can handle the largest vessels in the world,

The story of London’s ports is the story of the city, and, with a final chapter that looks to the future, Peter Stone has given the port of London a fulsome and highly readable biography.


The History of the Port of London — the Vast Emporium of All Nations
by Peter Stone is published by Pen & Sword History with a cover price of £19.99.


Review by Roger Williams. His latest book is ‘Whitebait and the Thames Fisheries’, Bristol Book Publishing, £7

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Or know about. I contend that you can’t begin to understand London’s history properly without a pretty decent knowledge of its geography too, and how it’s changed over time. The answer, of course, lies in maps.

There have been many, but here – up until the end of the 19C – are the most notable, milestones if you will (with a few other items thrown in, e.g. Visscher, Tallis).

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Tudor London by Braun and Hogenberg

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Mid 18C London by John Rocque

c1560 Ralph Agas (attr. disputed)

1572 Braun and Hogenberg, Civitates Orbis Terrarum

1593 John Norden. Maps of the Cities of London and Westminster

1616 Claes Visscher (1586 – 1652)   A Panorama of London

1667 Wenceslaus Hollar (1607 – 1677), City of London after the Fire, and more

1676 John Ogilby (1600 – 1676) and William Morgan (d 1690), City of London

1682 William Morgan, London &c Actually Survey’d, London and Westminster

1746 John Rocque (1706 – 1762) A plan of the cities of London and Westminster, and borough of Southwark.

1762 House numbering introduced.

1799 Richard Horwood (1757 – 1803), PLAN of the Cities of LONDON and WESTMINSTER the Borough of SOUTHWARK and PARTS adjoining Shewing every HOUSE

1827 Christopher (1786-1855) and John  Greenwood  (d 1840) Map of London.

1840 John Tallis (1817 – 1876), London Street Views

1898 Edward Stanford (1827 – 1904), Stanford’s Map of the County of London.

My list is just scratching the surface. There are dozens – possibly hundreds – of omissions, not least speciality maps relating to bombs, insurance, poverty, temperance, religion etc., And then there are the panoramas. Pure joy.


Recommended Reading/Owning
The Times Atlas of London (2012)
London, a History in Maps (2012)  by Peter Barber
Mapping London, Making Sense of the City (2007) by Simon Foxell


Recommended Sites
Locating London’s Past
Mapco
Motco
Stanfords


My final tip. Join the London Topographical Society.

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General the Lord Dannatt recently retired from the ancient position of Constable of the Tower. Here, LH Member Chris West writes a guest post about some of the highlights of this 900 year old office.

This is the most senior appointment at the Tower; the first Constable was Geoffrey de Mandeville, appointed by William the Conqueror in 1078. In the medieval period, four Archbishops of Canterbury held the office, Thomas à Becket being the most famous. The Constable of the Tower was nominally responsible for management of the site when the monarch was not in residence; the duties for managing the site devolved to a deputy known as the Lieutenant of the Tower, who had an office with clerks to oversee administration, accounting and running the Constable’s own court of law.

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Over time Constables acquired a variety of legal and financial privileges which included collecting tolls on selected goods from trading ships and entitlement to all flotsam and jetsam on the Thames. They also gained from fees paid by state prisoners for their upkeep, the ownership of livestock falling from London Bridge and passing swans. Sir Henry Bedingfield was appointed Constable by Queen Mary and was responsible for Princess Elizabeth while incarcerated at the Tower prior to her removal to Woodstock. The Princess was reported by some sources to have lived in fear for her life while at the Tower. Following her succession, Queen Elizabeth may have advised Bedingfield to stay away from Her Court. Sir John Holland, Duke of Exeter, was a leading army commander who had served at Agincourt. He was appointed Constable and died in 1447. Originally, his tomb was in the nearby Royal Foundation of St Katharine but is now in St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower itself. Since 1784 the Constable has been a senior Army officer, either Field Marshal or General. Henry VIII built The Queen’s House for Anne Boleyn which has since been used by Constables and Governors.

duke of wellingtonArthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington was Constable from 1769 to 1852. He made important changes, which included draining the moat, removing the menagerie of wild animals, reorganising the establishment of the Yeoman Warders, overseeing the building of the Waterloo Barracks and other extensive restoration of the site. He also made the last, unsuccessful attempt to refill the moat. Wellington did not favour its development into a museum and preferred the Royal Repository at Woolwich for the prizes from Paris in 1815. He did ensure that the guns captured in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo would be preserved at the Tower, some of which are still outside the Waterloo Block. His memory is honoured with a plaque in the Chapel Royal- though interestingly, this was only initiated recently.

Since 1933 the Constable’s appointment has been for five years. His installation is celebrated on Tower Green before an invited audience. The Lord Chamberlain hands the keys of the Queen’s House to the new Constable, who then entrusts them to the Resident Governor, responsible for the management of the Tower.

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The Constable still retains the right to direct access to the monarch. Ceremonial events are attended, including gun salutes, state parades and the Ceremony of the Dues, representing the historic toll of wine or goods paid by ships entering the Pool of London. A Royal Navy vessel berths at Tower Wharf, bringing into the Tower a ceremonial keg slung from an oar, accompanied by a parade headed by the Chief Yeoman Warder, then a military band followed by the ship’s company. At Tower Green, they are met by Tower officials in full dress uniform and the keg is presented. Both parties and guests then retire for refreshments.

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Former Chief of General Staff, General the Lord Dannatt has just finished his tenure as the 159th Constable, having served for seven years instead of the usual five. He has further distinguished himself with his extensive input while resident. Being a Trustee of Historic Royal Palaces (the independent charity responsible for running the Tower), he was involved in the excellent 2014 poppies installation in the moat, ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’. He also helped coordinate the services charities involved and was a central figure in the daily Roll Call ceremony.

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Lord Dannatt was extensively involved in life at the Tower, its residents and the various ceremonies, while still regularly attending at the House of Lords. Lord and Lady Dannatt were key figures in raising money to renovate the Chapel Royal and to improve funding for the unique choir, successfully hosting many special day and evening events.

General Sir Nicholas Houghton replaces Lord Dannatt as the 160th Constable.


 

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Last Saturday London Historians went on an awayday to St Albans; 12 of us. We were led by fellow Member and guide, Rob Smith, a longstanding resident of the city who gave us a wonderful tour.

I was aware, of course, of the ancient Roman town very near by, Verulamium. And that it has a fine old abbey, now a cathedral. But I was unprepared for quite how much of this city’s historic fabric survives. You can walk entire streets where the newest building might be Victorian. I was particularly pleased to see lots of old coaching inns which today shops, pubs, flats, whatever. But still there. St Albans escaped WW2 bombing but importantly it’s less careless about its heritage than London: I gather the St Albans Civic Society has a fearsome reputation.

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The cathedral itself, like many large and ancient survivals, is a hodge-podge of styles, and none the worse for that. At the beginning of its timeline, still an abbey, we have its beautiful Norman tower. At the other end we have the much-derided west front by Victorian architect Edmund Beckett Denison who took over the building’s restoration from Sir George Gilbert Scott. It looks okay to me but will never compare with – for example – Hawksmoor’s west front towers at Westminster Abbey.

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Inside is the shrine and tomb of St Alban himself, a local man who during the Roman persecution, took the rap for a Christian priest, and was beheaded. Like today, pilgrimage was massive business in the Middle Ages, only more so. When the martyrdom of Thomas Beckett turned Canterbury into a serious rival destination, St Albans successfully petitioned Rome for Alban’s beneficiary, Amphibalus, also to be sanctified.  Two saints!

Shrine of St Alban.

Shrine of St Alban.

Shrine of St

Shrine of Amphibalus. Some TLC needed, though.

In addition to these two blameless fellows, notable St Albans residents included Matthew Paris, who was a monk at the abbey, and a medieval chronicler; Francis Bacon, the scientist and philosopher who developed the Scientific Method. Queen Anne’s friend Sarah Churchill, who preferred St Albans to Blenheim; and Samuel Ryder, a seed magnate originally from Preston, who sponsored the first Ryder Cup.

The Wars of the Roses. Did you know they kicked of at St Albans? In May 1455, the armies of the Dukes of York and Somerset fought it out in the streets, alleys, ditches and the market square. The issue was that the King, Henry VI, was mentally ill, so who ruled England in his stead? York prevailed on this occasion, but not before St Albans, which had no investment in the quarrel whatsoever, got horribly sacked.

St Albans is but two stops on the train from St Pancras and therefore – for me – takes no more time than to reach fair Greenwich, which I visit quite frequently. You may find the same. No excuses. Rob has another scheduled tour coming up on 9 July.

Rob tells us about the ancient Great Gate to the Monastery.

Rob tells us about the ancient Great Gate to the Monastery.

View from St Albans's town Clock Tower in the market square.

View from St Albans’s town Clock Tower in the market square.

Clock Tower bell, known as Archangel Gabriel, case in Whitechapel c1400!

Clock Tower bell, known as Archangel Gabriel, cast in Whitechapel c1400!

Roman mosaic, in situ.

Roman mosaic, in situ.

I’ve put more pictures on our Flickr space here.

Finally, in view of my previous post, on the pipe organ, here is St Albans Cathedral’s tribute to David Bowie.

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DSC01912_250Last week I went to the Royal College of Physicians to take a look at their new display celebrating the Tudor polymath John Dee. I don’t know why but I rather foolishly had no big expectations of the Royal College itself. But what an amazing place! My apathy may have been caused by the fact that their home is in a building designed by London’s number one brutalist concrete maestro, Sir Denys Lasdun. Grade I listed and opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1964, it’s actually a rather handsome structure and once inside you realise it does a great job. One would expect this incongruous mid-20C building to stick out like a sore thumb amid the classical, cream Nash-ian terrace of Regent’s Park, but no: the RCP’s headquarters is indeed a gracious neighbour.

Royal College of Physicians

Provided you sign in and don one of those human cattle badges on a lanyard (yellow), you’re free to explore virtually the whole building unhindered. Most wallspace is covered with portraits of the greats of medicine of the past, by some of the leading portrait painters of their times. Reynolds, Lely, Lawrence, Hoppner, Zoffany. Here and there are portrait busts: I spotted at least one by Roubiliac.

But the most engaging parts are on the ground floor: a large collection comprising several hundred apothecary jars; a museum room with a wonderful, intriguing and sometimes eye-watering collection of historical medical instruments and devices, the pride of which must be the rare example of a 17C Prujean chest, named after Dr Thomas Prujean who devised it; and the Censors’ Room, dressed in the original 16C Spanish oak, transferred from the college’s three previous homes. This is where you would have your final examination to become a Member of the College, that is to say a legally practising doctor of medicine. You’d face the torture of a proper grilling by the leading medical men of their age. Prompted by English physicians of the time, Henry VIII founded the college in 1518 to reflect that which pertained on the continent. Prestige.

Royal College of Physicians

Royal College of Physicians

Royal College of Physicians

Royal College of Physicians

What follows about Dee notwithstanding, I’d highly recommend a visit to the Royal College of Physicians any time.

John_Dee_250John Dee (1527 – 1608/9), like his exact contemporary Sir Walter Ralegh, was an Elizabethan renaissance man par excellence. The two men had much in common, not least sharing a catastrophic drop from favour when James I became king, despite in both of their cases being friends of – and championed by – young Henry, Prince of Wales. And while Sir Walter may have been a more belligerent man of action, Dee was no mean traveller himself and shared with Ralegh a great the vision of an English Empire.

Dee was a mathematician, an astronomer, a map-maker, an apothecary, a courtier, an achemist. While not a qualified physician, he was sufficiently trusted on medical matters for Queen Elizabeth to send him to Europe to seek a cure for one of her ailments. He believed, as many did then, that we could communicate with angels and indeed less benevolent creatures from beyond the veil. Assisted by his associate, the “scryer” Edward Kelley, he would communicate with spirits. Not surprising, then, that in 1555, Queen Mary had him locked up in the Tower as an alleged sorcerer. Fortunately – and unlike many others – he was able to charm and actually befriend his interrogator, Archbishop Bonner, establish his good Catholic credentials and be given the official stamp of approval.

Like most men of affairs during his era, John Dee was a great bibliophile. His library comprised over 4,000 books and manuscripts, vast by the standards of the day. It was housed at his home, a large house in Mortlake where he also kept his laboratory and entertained guests, including the queen herself. Heartbreakingly for Dee, most of his books were stolen or sold off by an unscrupulous relative – one Nicholas Fromond – while Dee was away on one of his travels. Down the years, over a hundred of these have come into the possession of the RCP, making it the biggest single collection of Dee’s books in the world. A selection of them forms the basis of a new display which opened last week. They are a joy to examine.

Royal College of Physicians, John Dee

Royal College of Physicians, John Dee

Clearly these tomes were not just for display, but for careful reading. For they are heavily annotated by Dee, as was the habit of those times. Underlinings all over the place, and marginalia comprising commentary and the little diagrams of the pointing hand here and there, a common Tudor era device (Henry VIII used it a lot, along with an eye). But there are also other types of diagrams – horoscopes, faces, shapes – particularly where topics like geometry are concerned. Best of all, though, is Dee’s drawing of a ship in full sail in the bottom corner of a page in Cicero’s Opera, published in 1539.

What interested me about this show was thinking about the golden generation of the late 16C – Shakespeare, Dee, Ralegh and their like – and comparing it with another golden generation but very different group a hundred years later – Wren, Hooke, Boyle, Evelyn, Pepys etc. In the interim, Francis Bacon had taught brainy men to think differently and the tumult of civil war and plague had entirely transformed the country, London in particular.

Hence, this exhibition is a must-visit for everyone interested in early modern history: absorbing and thought-provoking.

Scholar, Courtier Magician: the lost library of John Dee runs until 29 July 2016 at the Royal College of Physicians. Entrance is free.

Royal College of Physicians, John Dee

Victorian genre painting depicting John Dee at his house in Mortlake entertaining the queen and her entourage.

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DSC08924cToday I remembered to attend one of the City of London’s more obscure ceremonies, the delightful celebration of the Knollys Rose (pron. Knowles). It has its origins in the 14th Century when the wife of a City worthy Sir Robert Knollys built a footbridge over Seething Lane, near their home. Without permission. Thanks to Sir Robert’s esteem (he was a chum of John of Gaunt), the punishment against the Knollys family was to donate a rose from their garden to the City of London every year henceforth, to be presented to the Lord Mayor’s home, today in Mansion House, of course. The Lord Mayor in the year of this outrage – 1381 – was Sir William Walworth a name possibly familiar to some readers. Yes, it was he who slew Wat Tyler that same year in Smithfield in the presence of the boy-king Richard II. There is a statue in his honour on Holborn Viaduct.

The Knollys Rose Ceremony involves the plucking of a rose from a garden in Seething Lane, placing it on a fancy cushion and then taking it in procession from the ancient and wonderful All Hallows by the Tower to Mansion House, by way of Seething Lane and Lombard Street. Leading the ceremony is always the Master of the Worshipful Company of Watermen and Lightermen, currently Jeremy Randall.

Rev Bertrand Olivier and Master Jeremy   with this year's Knollys Rose.

Rev Bertrand Olivier and Master Jeremy Randall with this year’s Knollys Rose.

All Hallows's garden. We're on our way.

All Hallows’s garden. We’re on our way.

But this year there was a twist, a very nice one. Owing to construction work in the Seething Lane rose garden, the garden behind All Hallows had to be used instead, with the kind permission of vicar Bertrand Olivier. But what about the rose? This year it was specially supplied by Talbot House on the occasion of their centenary. Talbot House was founded in 1915 on the Western Front as a haven for soldiers travelling to and from the battlefield. The man responsible: the legendary Tubby Clayton, vicar of All Hallows from 1922 to 1962. In that time he saw his church firebombed in the Blitz virtually to oblivion then restored completely. I can’t begin to describe to you what a lovely and historic church it is. But a while ago I gave it a try.

Where it all kicked off: Seething Lane.

Where it all kicked off: Seething Lane.

Nearly there. Through Lombard Street. St Mary Woolnoth behind.

Nearly there. Through Lombard Street. St Mary Woolnoth behind.

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A few days ago the good people of Kent experienced an earthquake which measured 4.2 on the Richter scale. This follows a quake of very similar magnitude not long previously, in 2007.

Of course these are as nothing compared with the recent monster in Nepal and other quake-vulnerable spots around the world.

The epicentres of “our” disturbances tend to be in the Channel or Kent. But in past times there have been ones centred here in London.

21 May 1382.
A strong tremor rocked London at about 2 in the afternoon during a church Synod at Blackheath which had been convened to pass judgement of 24 Articles of John Wycliffe’s teachings. It naturally became known as the Earthquake Synod. It was presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Courtnay. A learned man, Courtnay  –  following Aristotle – explained to the terrified delegates that it was simply the Earth naturally expelling noxious fumes. Wycliffe’s followers, the Lollards, on the contrary interpreted the quake as God’s anger at the Synod. This earthquake caused sufficient turbulence in the Thames to capsize boats and quite severely damage St Paul’s.

1750.
Better known than the medieval quake were two which struck a month apart in 1750. We are, after all, now in the age of the printed word, and in abundance: Gentleman’s Magazine had much to say, for example. At about midday on 8 February. It was very localised in the City. There were reports of a chimney collapsing and the usual chattering crockery, but with no injuries reported it was clearly a minor, albeit alarming affair.
Exactly a month later on 8 March, a more powerful tremor struck the city in the small hours. There was much actual damage to buildings, crockery, furniture. Dogs howled and folks sprinted into the streets in various states of undress. The bishop of London insisted that divine retribution was at hand on account of London’s wicked ways.
Exactly another month later, many superstitious and gullible Londoners, headed out of town. Just to be sure.

LH Member, the Georgian Gentleman, has a great write-up of the 1750 quake.
Other good coverage of this quake here.

 

 

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