W. J. (William John) Loftie.

Rambles in and near London : or, London afternoons online

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authorities, and in or soon after 1103 the church was no
longer in Alfune's hands. It was given by a deed which
is witnessed by Reyner, who is known to have been an
archdeacon in that year and later to the dean and chapter
of St. Paul's, subject to the incumbency of the donor,
Aelmund, and his son Hugh. This was a very common
arrangement at that period. Aelmund was probably
married, as it is believed most parish priests were at the
time. After the lapse of some 800 years the dean and
chapter of St. Paul's still hold the advowson which Ael-
mund gave them. The first event in the history of the
church must have occurred very soon after Aelmund's
gift. Good Queen Matilda, the wife of Henry L, founded
in it a guild or brotherhood, called after St. Mary and
St. Giles; and this must have been before 1118, for in
that year the Queen died.


The parish lies wholly without the wall, a great bastion
of which is in the spacious churchyard. By tracing the
parish boundaries on a map, the places of two other
bastions further south may be found, though the bastions
themselves are concealed or have disappeared. An unfor-
tunate guess of Stow connects the name with cripples
begging at the gate. But Crepul-geat, in Old English,
as I have said elsewhere, means a covered way in a
fortification, and here a postern opened in the wall, and
the covered way communicated with the Barbican.

There is a noteworthy little point of historical
curiosity connected with this churchyard. In 1662,
it being found that there was scarcely room for all
the dead, a piece of ground was taken on lease from the
City to add to the cemetery. It is described as " near
Crowder's Well." This was a spring of water which was
exceedingly popular, not only with the parishioners, but
also with strangers, as it was believed to be particularly
good for ophthalmia, and also that " the use of it would
restore an intoxicated person to his senses sooner than
any other." The parish boasted of another spring near
the ditch of the City wall, which was arched over for them
by Whittington, and had other sources of supply, such as a
pipe or conduit from Highbury. " Hence we find," says
one writer, without the slightest inkling of the real mean-
ing of his words "Hence we find the parish was well
supplied with that excellent element many years previous
to Sir Hugh Middleton's memorable work." He then
goes on to describe the frightful ravages of the plague
in 1603, when even the clerk died, and the number of
interments was such that the extensive churchyard was
raised two feet. It does not seem to have occurred to
anyone to connect the shocking death-rate with the use
of the well in the churchyard or that in the City ditch.


The old Norman church of Alfune and Aelmund has
long disappeared. The church, whatever it was then,
was entirely destroyed by fire in 1545, and the present
building is mainly as it was afterwards restored. Still,
it is in what Pugin used to call " the Gothic or Christian
Pointed style," large, wide, and light, without much beauty
of form or detail, but convenient and airy. It consists of a
nave with narrow side aisles, and has not suffered very
materially from the ruthless hands of modern " restorers."
Between the church and the street there is a curious
old building, the parish " Guest House," where the ward
inquest used to be held, and where now the parochial
charities are managed. It contains some handsome
plate, among the articles being two or three silver cups,
with such inscriptions as this : " The Fyne of Peter
Phillips for being Released from being Scavenger, 1612."
Evidently the jurymen, " in merry pin," sometimes elected
a wealthy fellow-citizen to the unpleasant office in order
to obtain a cup from him. The parish beadle's staff is
decorated with a model in silver of old Cripplegate, with a
wooden-legged cripple, hat in hand, walking through
the archway. It was given by Sir Benjamin Maddox,
who is commemorated at the West End by Maddox Street,
Hanover Square, which covers part of a suburban farm
which he owned. The Guest House is about to be pulled

In the church of St. Giles are interred the remains
of John Milton, the poet, and of John Milton, the
scrivener, his father. Their grave is " in the upper end
of the chancel, at the right hand," and therefore not very
near the conspicuous monument in the south aisle which
was put up in 1793 by Samuel Whit bread.

There are several other monuments of interest, and
one, which represents Constance Whitney rising in her


winding-sheet from the grave at the Day of Judgment, in a
very realistic style, has been made the subject of a curious
local story, which Mr. Woodthorpe attributed to Daniel
Defoe (who was an inhabitant of the parish), and which
is one of the best known of all graveyard and sepulchral
legends. The lady was said to have fallen into a death-
like trance, and to have been buried. The grave-digger,
the night after the funeral, hid himself in the church,
opened the vault, and to obtain some valuable rings which
were on the hand of the supposed corpse, proceeded to
cut off one of its fingers. How far he had succeeded
in this operation we are not told ; but the bleeding, it is
said, restored the lady to life, and she was able to rise and
walk home, to the astonishment, let us hope to the joy,
of her husband and servants. The story is so circum-
stantial, and contains at the same time so many improba-
bilities, that it has all the appearance of a work of Defoe,
whose fictitious diary of the Great Plague has been often
received as true. Constance Whitney has, however,
a more substantial claim on our attention, for she was
the granddaughter of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote,
whom Shakespeare has immortalised as Justice Shallow.
She died at the age of seventeen, as an affecting epitaph
records. Her aunt, Margaret Lucy, is also buried in
the church.

The celebrated Lancelot Andrewes was at one time
vicar of St. Giles's, and some of the monumental inscrip-
tions are attributed to him. If the attribution is
correct he was no poet. Of Charles Langley, who died
in 1602, we read, for instance, after a description of his
charities in life :

"And when he died he gave his mite,
All that did him befall,


For ever once a Yeere to cloath

St. Giles his poore withall.
All Saints he pointed for the day,

Gownes twenty ready made,
With twenty shirts and twenty smocks,

As they may best be had."

This doggrel, and more like it, is actually signed by
Andrewes. There are monuments in the church to
Foxe, who wrote the " Book of Martyrs " ; to Speed, the
historian ; and to the bold mariner, Martin Frobisher,
all of whom are buried here. The register contains some
interesting entries. Among them is the marriage of
Oliver Cromwell and Elizabeth Boucher, August 22,
1620. The burial of Daniel Defoe in the Bunhill Fields
cemetery is thus recorded : " 1731, April 26, Mr. Dubow,

Although St. Giles's Church has many interesting
memorials, it is to St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, that the late
Dean Stanley gave the title of " the Westminster Abbey
of the City." It contains a grerter number of handsome
tombs than St. Giles's, but the persons commemorated
are not so eminent. There is no Milton, no Foxe, no
Defoe at St. Helen's. But those who are buried in the
church had a considerably greater idea of their own im-
portance than the poor literary men upon whom probably
they would have looked down. The monuments which
belong to St. Helen's were largely recruited in 1877,
when the neighbouring church of St. Martin Outwich
was removed, and the dead men's bones were carted away
to Ilford.

The church, like so many others, belonged early to
St. Paul's. It was given to the dean and chapter by
Ranulph, a canon, and Robert, his son, about the year
1148, on condition that the anniversary of Archbishop


Thurstan of York who, by the way, had been himself a
canon, and was, presumably, a friend as well as an ecclesi-
astical brother of Kanulph should be kept in the church
for ever. Either Ranulph himself or some previous
member of his family must have built and endowed the
church, which belongs, therefore, to the great church-
building epoch that followed the fire of 1136.

The priory of St. Helen stood on the north side of the
church, where is now St. Helen's Place. The north aisle
of the church was the priory chapel, and being at the
Dissolution left unoccupied, was speedily almost filled
with the great tombs which we see in it now. But the
nuns seem sometimes to have worshipped, as Prior Bolton
worshipped from his oriel at St. Bartholomew's, without
coming into church, as they had in the south wall of
their cloister a traceried opening, which looked, from
within the church, like an altar-tomb, as well as an ordinary
window. As the cloister was at a lower level than the
church, the opening, which in the church is close to the
floor, must, at the other side of the wall, have been at a
most convenient height. The old doorway remains
at the foot of a short flight of steps. The priory was
founded about the year 1212, and was more or less under
the control of the Dean of St. Paul's, who seems to have
had constant trouble with the nuns and their prioress.
Dugdale and other historians give summaries of the
regulations made by successive deans, but apparently
in vain. A series of injunctions, issued in the fifteenth
century, and discovered by Mr. Maxwell Lyte among
the archives of St. Paul's, desired the nuns to sing fully
and distinctly at divine service, and not so fast as hitherto,
but with the proper pauses ; and orders them to refrain
from kissing secular persons. Further, they are en-
joined to wear their veils according to the rules of their


order not too sumptuous in character ; and the prioress
is ordered to keep not more than one or two dogs, and
is forbidden to receive guests at table or elsewhere.

There used to be a belfry tower over the entrance to
Great St. Helen's from Bishopsgate, but it was taken
down in 1696. Nevertheless, the visitor who enters
now cannot fail to be struck with the aspect of the place.
The houses which surround the churchyard present a
specimen of almost every style, and the church contains
examples quite as various. Crosby Hall is Gothic, and
Borne of the houses adjoining it are quite worthy of Sir
Christopher Wren. One, now pulled down, dated 1606,
looked, with its brick pilasters, very like the work of Inigo
Jones, but was too early. The almshouses of Sir Andrew
Jud, on the north side, are devoid of beauty, but are
very characteristic of the year 1729, in which they were
rebuilt. The south entrance of the church is an exceed-
ingly picturesque example of the style in vogue in 1633,
and is attributed with less doubt to Inigo Jones. How
it and the beautiful porches within have escaped
" restoration " I cannot imagine. When we enter the
church we are almost confused by the number and
magnificence of the sepulchral monuments. The most
beautiful is to the north of the communion-table, close to
the altar-tomb of Sir Thomas Gresham. It shows Sir
William Pickering, a handsome Elizabethan knight, lying
in full armour under a canopy of excellent design, supported
by marble pillars.

The most curious monument is behind the organ in
a kind of south transept. It was erected by Lady Caesar
to the memory of her husband, Sir Julius Caesar, and
cost her the large sum of 110, equal to fully 1,000 now.
Nicholas Stone was the sculptor. On a great slab of
black marble is what looks like a parchment deed inlaid


in white marble, with a signature, and below a seal and
an attesting document. The inscription imitates the
lawyers' writing of the day, and is in Latin. In it Sir
Julius Caesar, otherwise Delmare, promises : " I will
cheerfully pay the debt I owe to Nature whenever it shall
please God to appoint it." This oddly named knight
was of Italian descent, his father having been a physician
who came over to attend Queen Mary, and remained
with Queen Elizabeth. The son was born at Tottenham
in 1557, and, boasting through his mother of descent
from the ducal family of Cesarini, he dropped his father's
name of Adelmare, or Delmare, and called himself Caesar.
He rose to eminence as a lawyer, and was Chancellor
of the Exchequer under Cecil. His brother was Dean
of Ely and has a beautiful monument in the Cathedral.

In a chapel at a slightly lower level, to the eastward,
are some brasses, one of them, which is raised on a stone
base, being particularly interesting, as it represents a
lady covered with a mantle, on which a coat of arms is
emblazoned. Two altar tombs bear each a pair of stone
effigies of the fourteenth or fifteenth century. They
came from St. Martin's, and are believed to represent
members of the Outwich or Oteswich family. In the
nuns' aisle are two very handsome canopied Gothic tombs,
which were formerly decorated with brasses. They
came also from St. Martin's, and belong respectively to
families named Clitherow (1469) and Pemberton (1500).
The Clitherows succeeded the prioress of St. Helen's at
Boston House, her manor near Brentford, and their
descendants hold it still. Opposite, on the south wall of
the church, is a very handsome monument, gorgeous with
colours and gilding. It represents Richard Staper, alder-
man of this ward of Bishopsgate Within, and his wife and
eight children. He died in 1608, and is described in his


epitaph as " the greatest merchant in his tyme." This
also came from St. Martin's.

It would lie impossible to go through even a tithe of
the monuments in St. Helen's ; but we must pause a
moment to look at Sir John Spencer, who, in Queen
Elizabeth's time, occupied Crosby's old house, and also
Prior Bolton's villa at Canonbury. He and his wife
lie in great state on the tomb, and before them kneels
their daughter and sole heiress, the wife of Lord Compton,
and ancestress of the earls and marquises of Northamp-
ton (p. 235). Among other eminent people buried in St.
Helen's I must also mention Spencer Compton, the godson
of Sir John, who was killed at Hopton Heath in 1643 ;
Richard Williams, paternal great-grandfather of Oliver
Cromwell, who died in 1546 ; Sir Andrew Jud, who was
Lord Mayor during Wyatt's rebellion, and died in 1558 ;
and Sir John Crosby himself.

I have mentioned St. Ethelburga's as a very ancient
church. It is situated just within the site of Bishop's Gate,
and unlike its near neighbour, St. Helen's, it is always
open. Why St. Helen's, with its wealth of monuments,
should always be kept locked except during service-time
is " one of those things no fellow can understand." At
St. Ethelburga's the quiet little church invites the passer-by
to enter and pray, or rest, or admire the solitary bit of
First Pointed or Early English architecture left in the
City, with the doubtful exceptions of the Lady Chapel in
South wark and the Temple Church, both of which are so
thoroughly restored that they belong not to the thirteenth
century, but to the nineteenth, and are worthless as archi-
tectural examples. St. Ethelburga's is not, and probably
never was, a handsome church ; but it is venerable and
curious. I know nothing of its history. It may have
been founded by King Alfred himself. It may belong



to the same category as St. Giles's and St. Helen's, and
have been founded after the great fire of 1136. This is
the safest theory, if a theory is necessary. The parish is
chiefly situated at the other or western side of the street,
and lies wholly within the line of the wall. The advowson
was long part of the property of the prioress of St. Helen's,
and was granted by Queen Elizabeth to the Bishop of
London. The curiously mean entrance, the lancet
windows, half built up, the minute dimensions of the
church, which is only fifty-four feet long and about half
that in width, and, above all, the comparatively genuine
and unsophisticated state of the ancient fabric, make
this one of the most interesting of London churches, even
though it contains no magnificent monuments, and is
connected, it is my duty to note, with the names of no
illustrious men.

The porch passing under or through a private house
is very characteristic of an old London church. We see
the same or similar arrangements at Allhallows, Lombard
Street, at St. Katharine Coleman, at St. Helen's, Bishops-
gate, and at St. Bartholomew's. A gate formerly existed
at Allhallows, Barking, St. Peter's, Cornhill, St. Andrew
Undershaft, St. Mary-le-Bow, and a great many other
places. It seems to point to the original foundation of
these churches as more or less private chapels. It is on
record that before the fire several parish churches notably
St. Mary Colechurch and St. Mary Mounthaw were
over the gateways of great mansions. Churches over
gates are very common in old towns, but they are generally
over town gates, as at Bristol, not over the entrances of
private houses. Two, I think, are over precinct gates
at Winchester. It will not do to press the point too far,
but it is well worth marking ; and it certainly goes to
strengthen the view I have ventured to put forward above


as to the number and smallness of London churches, and
the probability that a majority of them were of private
foundation and not of very great antiquity.

There is a curious little labyrinth of narrow streets
and alleys of old-fashioned houses between the churchyard
of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, and St. Mary Axe. There
have been great alterations going on in the district of late
years, but on the whole they have brought the ancient
church of St. Andrew more into view. The street of St.
Mary Axe was formerly called St. Mary at Axe, and that
implement is supposed to have figured on a neighbouring
signboard. A church of St. Mary stood on the west side
of the street until the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when
it was pulled down, and the parish united with that of St.
Andrew Undershaft.

It is not very easy to reconcile conflicting calculations,
but if we are not greatly mistaken St. Andrew's used to
stand on the highest ground in the City, being, in fact, on
the summit of the Cornhill. A place in Cannon Street
is now said to be higher. In ancient times there was no
distinction between Cornhill and Leadenhall Street, and
the church was St. Andrew upon Cornhill. It obtained
its present name from the street in front of it being the
place selected for the annual raising of a May -pole. We
are told that the shaft was taller than the steeple, but
we cannot argue from this as to its height, because the
steeple was rebuilt after the May -pole had been disused
for some years. The street must have been much wider
than it is at present at this point, or else the market-place
of Leadenhall was more open. In the beginning of the
reign of Henry VIII. the celebration of May-day upon
Cornhill came to a sudden end. A riot against foreigners
grew to such proportions that more than four hundred
people, including a number of women, were arrested and


brought before the young King at Westminster. He
pardoned all but thirteen, who were hanged, but the May-
pole and the celebration of May-day in the City were dis-
credited, and the shaft itself was hung on a range of hooks
under the eaves of a neighbouring row of houses, the
situation of which is probably marked by Shaft Alley.
For two-and-thirty years, from 1517 to 1549, it remained
there unmolested, but in the latter year " Sir Sampson,"
curate of the neighbouring parish church of St. Katharine
Cree, preached a sermon at St. Paul's Cross, in which
he denounced the popular rites and ceremonies of May-
day as heathenish and idolatrous, and so worked upon
the feelings of his audience by the vigour of his eloquence
that they attacked the old shaft with their knives and
whittled it all away.

The present church dates only from 1520. It is
uniformly built in late Perpendicular, and has within
a surprisingly spacious appearance. In the north aisle,
at the east end, is a monument which of itself would be
sufficient to make the church a place of pilgrimage. John
Stow, the historian of London, occupies a unique position
among the authors of the great Elizabethan age. Little,
indeed, should we know of the appearance of London
before the fire were it not for his descriptions. He was able
at a time when any legend, however wild, any tradition,
however garbled, did duty for history, to go to original
documents and to weigh facts for himself. In reading his
book one has to remember, as I have hinted on an earlier
page, that his guesses are as erroneous as those of any of
his contemporaries ; but when he quotes an ancient docu-
ment, or narrates a fact of his own knowledge, he may be
depended upon as absolutely accurate. In forming an idea
of this very spot we may see how Stow's account brings it
before our eyes. I quote from the first edition (1599, p. 105).


Speaking of the Priory at Aldgate he says : " These Priors
have sitten and ridden amongst the Aldermen of London,
in livery like unto them, saving that his habite was in
shape of a spirituall person, as I myself have seene in my
childhood : at which time the Prior kept a most bountifull
house of meate and drinke both for rich and poore, as
well within the house as at the gates to all comers accord-
ing to their estates."

One sentence like this transports us back beyond
the Reformation, and tells us more of the life of old London
than whole chapters written now can do. It is distressing
to know that Stow's bones were not suffered to rest in
peace where the loving hands of his wife had laid them.
In 1732 they were removed to make way for the body
of some citizen who was doubtless a personage of more
importance in the eyes of his contemporaries. But
the monument remains in its place. If Stow was so
poor before his death that he had a licence from James I.
to beg in London and Westminster, it is strange that so
beautiful and costly a tomb should have been erected.
Either his widow spent all her substance on it, or, what
is not improbable, his works began, after his death, to
bring in some money. " A Survay of London, Contayning
the Originall, Antiquity, Increase, Moderne estate, and
description of that Citie, written in the yeare 1598 by
John Stow, Citizen of London," had only been published
when he was seventy-four, and he died at the age of eighty
in 1605. The figure is of alabaster. The historian
is represented as sitting with a book on his knee, hi which
he writes, a " practicable " goose quill being from time
to time renewed. Over his head are the arms of the
Merchant Taylors, the City company to which he belonged.
In the recess on either side of him is a closed and clasped
book, as if to denote that he is represented as he sat in his


study. Altogether, if this was only the monument of some
private individual, it would still be worthy of notice for
the quiet dignity of the design. I wish I could add
that we know the name of the artist who made it.

The church of St. Katharine, a little further east hi
the same street, is a building of double interest. It forms
a link between the old Gothic and the later Classical or
Palladian styles. In addition, its connection with the
history of a very remarkable man, William Laud, beheaded
on Tower Hill on January 10, 1645, would be enough to
call our attention to it. The curious mixture of styles, all
the parts, however incongruous, being good in themselves,
imparts to the interior, hi a higher degree than any other
city church, that kind of picturesqueness which we call
quaintness. The visitor sees at once on entering that,
though some modern Goth has been at work upon it,
though the old woodwork has been destroyed, and though
the stained glass is of unusual ugliness, a master in art
designed the church, a man who could accept what
was best in both styles, and weld them together into one
harmonious whole. There was only one man in England
when the church was built who could have done this, and
skilled opinion almost universally assigns St. Katharine's
to Inigo Jones, Mr. Eeginald Blomfield standing almost
alone in doubting it.

Before proceeding, we may glance at the previous
history of St. Katharine's. Stow, in his original edition,

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Online LibraryW. J. (William John) LoftieRambles in and near London : or, London afternoons → online text (page 11 of 23)