Archive for the ‘Post medieval history’ Category

London Stone (on display in the Museum of London) May 2017

The London Stone is a city landmark which traditionally stood in a grilled alcove in a wall at 111  Cannon Street. It is the remains of ageing much larger limestone object, which seems to have stood on the site, or nearby, for many centuries.

A map of 1550  shows the stone located opposite St Swithern’s church in Candlewick Street (now known as Cannon Street). The first documented reference is in 1598, when the London historian John Stow, records ” a great stone called London Stone”. He claims it was listed in a bible from the reign of King Aethelstan (924-39) in a list of properties of Christchurch Canterbury ( a.k.a. Canterbury Cathedral) ”  being near to London Stone”. A further reference is found in documents of 1098 and 1108 of a man called “Eadwaker aet lundene stane” (Eadwacker at London Stone), who gives a property, or properties, to the Cathedral. It seems this use in names became fairly common as there are a number of mediaeval references, where people add the term ” of London’s stone”  to their names. Most notable of these is Ailwen of London Stone,  father of Henry Fitz-Alwen, Mayor of London from 1193 to 1212. It is known that the Fitz-Alwen house was located in Candlewick Street.

In 1540, the rebel Jack Cade made his way to the city stopping at the stone.  He struck the stone with his sword claiming to be the Lord of the city. It is unclear whether this is something he had made up or whether there was some ritual regarding city Lordship which he was imitating.

Jade Cade at London Stone. By editor: Howard Staunton; artist Sir John Gilbert (1817-1897) – Works of William Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 1881) vol 8, Public Domain,

By Elizabethan times, the stone had become associated with King Lud, the legendary founder of the city of London. It is listed in Samuel Rowland’s ‘Sights of London‘ published in 1608. In 1671, members of the spectacle makers company confiscated a batch of spectacles from a shop in Cannon Street. These were taken to the Guildhall, where they were condemned as being of inferior quality and ordered to be smashed on the remains of the London Stone.

By 1742 the stone had become an obstruction to the passage of traffic and the remains were moved to the wall of  St Swithern’s church opposite.

St Swithern’s Church 1831.By artist: T. H. Shepherd; engraver: J. Tingle – original engraving, Public Domain,


The London Stone (1887). By Image extracted from page 559 of volume 1 of Old and New London, Illustrated, by Walter Thornbury. Original held and digitised by the British Library. , Public Domain,













The church was destroyed by bombing in 1940, but the section of wall containing the stone remained standing. The remains of the church were actually not demolished until 1962 and were then replaced by an office building.

London Stone niche in the remaining walls of St Swithern’s Church Cannon St (1962). By David Wright, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The stone was relocated in a grilled niche in the wall of this building, the ground floor of which was used as a stationer and newsagents. This was not a very satisfying relocation as being at ground level it rather looked like a ventilation grill. I wonder how many people walked past it each day and didn’t even know it was there?

The rather unassuming location of the London Stone in the wall of WH Smiths in Cannon St. By John O’London – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

This building, in turn, was scheduled for the demolition in 2016 and the stone was moved to the Museum of London,  where it is currently on display until it can be relocated when the new office building on the site is completed. It is hoped that the new location will show the stone off so it can once again become a tourist attraction – the heart of the City.

So what was this stone?

Over the years there have been many suggestions: a Roman milestone; a sacred city stone (as with the golden milestone in the forum at Rome); a talismanic stone (as in the Palladium in Troy); a prehistoric or a druidic sacred stone; a stone from the remains of the Roman praetorium or governors Palace,which is believed to lie under Cannon Street station; a mark stone of ley-lines or in a recent book, the stone from which King Arthur pulled Excalibur. No one knows, but it has clearly played a part in the history and conscience of the city of London for many centuries.

Japanese Garden, Dartmouth

Dartmouth, situated at the mouth of the river Dart in Devon is a town which has long-standing naval links. It was recorded in 1147 and 1190 as a departure port for the crusades and was twice raided and sacked during the Hundred Years War. This led to the practice of closing the estuary each night by stretching a chain across from Dartmouth to Kingswear on the other side.

Dartmouth Railway Station. Built in preparation for a railway connection to the South Devon line. Unfortunately, the Railway never reached the Town.

Naval references are found everywhere in the town.

Lots of little lanes ascend the hillside.

The town has many buildings dating back to the Middle Ages and Tudor periods.

The cherub public house, probably the oldest building in Dartmouth. Dating back to c 1380 it was originally the house of a townsman or merchant.

Inside The Cherub

It is home to the Royal Brittania Naval College, founded in 1863 and housed in an impressive hillside building overlooking the town, completed in 1905.

Britannia Royal Naval Academy

All that remains of the Medieval Franciscan Monastery in London, or the famous school which occupied the same site, are two blue plaques on the wall of a London office building.

The friary was founded in Stinking Lane, part of the Butchers quarter, in 1225. The land was donated by merchants, the timber by King Henry III and the church building was financed by the Mayor of London. It was a prestigious foundation and rapidly expanded -within 20 years it housed 80 friars. The church was expanded again in the 13th century to have 11 chapels and amongst those buried there are 3 queens of England – Eleanor of Provence (Henry III); Margaret (Edward I) and  Isabella (Edward II).

Greyfriars-site-map in early 16th century By Peter Damian – The Grey Friars of London by C.L. Kingsbury, Public Domain, https/commons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=12313224

It continued on the site until it was closed down in 1538 on the orders of Henry VIII as part of his dissolution of the monasteries.  The building passed to the City of London and the church continued to be used for worship. Henry’s son, Edward VI founded Christ’s hospital, a school for Orphans, in the friary buildings in 1552.

The church was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren and became known as Christchurch.

Remains of Christchurch

For more details on Christchurch go to

( ).

View of Greyfriars site 1895 = Public Domain, httpsen.wikipedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=27356487

Christ’s Hospital school remained on the site until 1902 when it relocated to Horsham in Sussex. The site was redeveloped and now houses the offices of Merrill Lynch International.


Perhaps one of the strangest named churches in the city of London, St Vedast-alias-Foster lies within the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral. Its dedication is to Vedast, a sixth century Bishop of Arras in France, who had restored Christianity to that area by the conversion of King Clovis of the Franks. It is an unusual dedication in England and only two others are known – one in Tathwell in Lincolnshire and the other is in Norwich (the church no longer exists and is only remembered in a road name). There are a number of possibilities as to how a  parish in central London came to be named after such a little-known French saint. One is that St Vedast was particularly venerated by the Augustinian Friars and that this may have been how the dedication arrived in London. Alternatively, it may have been set up by the Flemish community living in London. A third possibility is that we know that one Ralph d’Arras was the Sheriff of London around 1275 and he may have brought the dedication from his hometown. Although there is some indication of a church on this site stretching back possibly as far as  1170, there was certainly a church on the site by the end of the 13th century. The ‘alias-Foster’ in the title refers to its position in Foster Lane, although if there was only one church with this dedication in London why did the location have to be added. Maybe there is another church yet to be discovered?

Entrance to St Vedast

The church was expanded in the 15th and 16th centuries, but as with many City churches succumbed to the great Fire of London in 1666. it would appear that although the church was gutted, the damage was not too severe as St Vedast appears to have continued in use form shortly afterwards. However in the 1690s, it became clear that the structural damage from the fire would need to be addressed and the church was rebuilt under the guidance of Sir  Christopher Wren, who completed the work in 1699. Again in keeping with many City churches, St Vedast was burnt out following the bombing raid of 29 December 1940. Plans for rebuilding were laid in 1947, but work on the restoration did not begin until 1953.



Stained Glass above main altar

Secluded courtyard garden entered through St Vedast church

St Vedast, as it stands today, is a haven of peace and quiet in one of the busiest parts of the city. In addition to its architecture, the church also has a  collection of church silverware which include some pieces from before the Commonwealth period. This is quite unusual as most of these were destroyed by the Commonwealth inspectors.

Elizabethan Chalice and Paten.

Amazing! What is still to be discovered elsewhere in London?

Stephen Liddell

As the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for centuries, Lambeth Palace, which sits on the south bank of the River Thames in London might be expected to have its fair share of graves of prominent people in history.

However, recent building work at the now deconsecrated church of St Mary-at-Lambeth has unearthed some incredible and totally unexpected findings.    Despite every corner of this old church being carefully examined and renovated over the years, builders have just discovered the remains of several Archbishops of Canterbury from the 17th century beneath a medieval parish church in south-west London.

The renovation team were lifting flagstones and exposing the ground in the church when they uncovered what looked like an entry to a tomb.   To search the void, located next to Lambeth Palace, they used a mobile phone camera as their guide.

Incredibly the builders had discovered an ancient crypt that…

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The Banqueting Hall, Whitehall

The Banqueting Hall, Whitehall

The first record of occupation of this site comes from the 14th century when it was occupied by York house, the London residence of the Archbishop of York. It was in 1514, that the then Archbishop, Thomas Wolsey,  occupied the house. As he grew in favour with Henry VIII, the King would often visit him here. But by 1520 the relationship between the two had begun to sour – Henry stripped him of his assets in southern England and the palace passed into royal ownership. At this time the Royal family didn’t have a residence in Westminster. The old Palace of Westminster had been destroyed by fire eight years earlier and the king had been living at Lambeth Palace. He seized his opportunity and embarked on a massive rebuilding programme to turn the Archbishop’s residence into a royal palace, adding extra buildings, a tennis court and a tiltyard. But at this time a banqueting hall was a temporary structure erected in the gardens when required. There is a record of one being erected for the marriage negotiations of Elizabeth I with the Duke of Alencon  in 1581 and it seems at this time that somebody decided that perhaps it was more efficient  not to keep taking it down and putting it back up again, but simply to leave in place and it remained on the site of the current banqueting hall  for the next 25 years.

In 1606 James I decided to remove this ‘temporary’ building and build a permanent Banqueting House, which opened in 1609. It lasted only 10 years before it was destroyed by fire. The new building was designed by Inigo Jones with ceiling paintings by Rubens. These were painted in his studio in Antwerp and shipped to London for installation in the Palace. There is no evidence that Rubens at she ever saw them in situ as he did not accompany them.

Inigo Jones plan for Whitehall Palace. Public Domain,

Inigo Jones plan for Whitehall Palace. Public Domain,

The Civil War of 1642 to 1649 came to its great climax at the Banqueting House, chosen as the site of execution for King Charles I after he had been found guilty of treason.  On 30 January 1649, the king was brought there from St James’s Palace, led up through the galleries and out through a window onto the scaffold. I can’t help but wonder whether there was some deliberate ploy in this to give him a final reminder of what had been as he experienced the lavishly painted galleries on the way to his place of execution.

The execution of Charles [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The execution of Charles [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Palace remained deserted for five years until in 1654 it was reopened as the residence of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. He lived here until his death four years later. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660,  it is interesting that Charles II  processed through London, ending up at the Banqueting House, where he received speeches of loyalty from the Parliamentarians. Was this in some way payback for what they had done to his father reminding them as they swore loyalty of that day in 1649 when they had killed the King? Charles’ successor James II was the last King who would live at Whitehall Palace. When the Crown was offered to William and Mary in 1689, the ceremony took place in the Banqueting House. However, William, being an asthmatic, did not like living in the city of Westminster and moved the court his new palace in the village of Kensington. The Banqueting House was still used however for state occasions such as the lying in state Queen Mary in 1694.

Horse Guards Parade and the Banqueting Hall by Canaletto 1749 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Horse Guards Parade and the Banqueting Hall by Canaletto 1749 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Part of the Palace had been damaged by fire in 1691 and in 1698 a major fire occurred which destroyed everything except for the Banqueting House and two gates. Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to redesign the remaining building as a Chapel Royal and it remained as such until 1890,  although from 1808 it was used as a Chapel for the Regiment of Horse Guards. In addition to its function as a Chapel, it was also used as a site for concerts. In 1829, the exterior of the building was dressed in Portland stone as we see it today. From 1893  the building was used as a museum, amongst whose exhibits was the skeleton of Marengo, the horse of Napoleon Bonaparte. The museum closed in 1962 and the building was restored to it’s Stuart appearance and reopened under the care of historic Royal palaces.




King William's staircase

King William’s staircase

The accession to the throne of William III saw a programme of new royal building works including the building of Kensington Palace.

In 1689 William III commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build a new palace wing at Hampton Court, although Wren was eventually replaced by one of his assistants as the King deemed Wren’s plans too expensive. These additions included a completely new set of Royal apartments and audience chambers.


At the top of the staircase is the door to the waiting room. Here people would gather hoping to be able to see the King.

The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room


How it might have been in the reign of William III

How it might have looked in the reign of William III


From this chamber a corridor leads past each of the rooms of the wing. It is interesting that they are arranged in order of privacy and the further along the corridor one met the King was a sign of your position in the court or country.


The first of these chambers was the Presence Chamber, where the King heard most petitions.

The Presence Chamber

The Presence Chamber

Nest to this was the King’s Eating Room where he could dine with important guests.

King's Eating Room

King’s Eating Room

The next room was the Privy Chamber, where the King would receive ambassadors and where formal ceremonies would be held.

Privy Chamber

Privy Chamber

Beyond this were the Withdrawing Room, a place where the King met with his ministers and the King’s two bedrooms. The Great Bedchamber, a large formal room and the smaller and more intimate Little Bedchamber.

The Great Bedroom

The Great Bedroom

Beyond these lay the closet and the back stairs which enabled the King to leave the apartments without having to cross the Waiting Room


Tower Green is an open space to the west of the White Tower. It is bordered on the south and west sides by the Queen’s House and on the north side by St Peter’s chapel.


The Queen’s House is the residence of the Tower officials such as the governor and the chief warder. Although the building dates from 1540 the name dates only from Victorian times and changes depending on the gender of the monarch.


Tower Green is traditionally the site of the execution scaffold within the Tower. Most executions were carried out in public on nearby Tower Hill, but 10 executions within the grounds are noted on a memorial, these include:

  • Queen Anne Boleyn – 1536
  • Queen Catherine Howard – 1542
  • Lady jane Grey – The ‘nine-day Queen’ – 1554
  • Margaret of Salisbury – last of the Plantagenet line – 1541
  • 1st Baron Hastings – Chancellor of England- 1483
  • Jane Boleyn – sister of Anne -Lady in waiting to Queen Catherine -1542
  • Robert, Earl of Essex – One-time favourite of Elizabeth I – 1601

The remaining 3 names are members of the Black Watch regiment who were found guilty of mutiny and executed by firing squad in 1743,

There is some debate about whether the monument is in the correct spot. In the reign of Queen Victoria, the Queen wanted to erect a monument to those who had been executed and this was the spot identified as being the site of the scaffold, but study of other sources suggests that the execution site was actually on the parade ground to the north of the White Tower or may have been different in each case as the scaffold was not a permanent structure but was erected when required..

Current memorial to victims of executions in the Tower (Photo by Wally Gobetz -

Current memorial to victims of executions in the Tower (Photo by Wally Gobetz –


In the cellar of the White Tower are some examples of items brought back from various military campaigns and presented to the Royal Armouries. Many of these are weapons but there are a few curiosities.


A golden winged lion statue captured by British forces beseiging the French in Corfu in 1809.


A bronze bell  taken from the Russian fort at Bomersund during the Crimean war. Most metal objects captured were melted down for casting as artillery, but this fine example survived.


A decorated strongbox captured from the Spanish at Havana Cuba in 1762, It has an interesting security system – the lock on the front is a dummy and the real lock is concealed on the top of the box.


A Burmese bell presented to Sir William Gomm, whilst he was Commander British forces in India 1850-55. He was later Constable of the Tower which probably explains how it came to be in the Royal Armoury collection.


There is evidence of the storage of royal treasures at the Tower since the 11th century. It is likely that these were the items which were not for everyday use, these being kept in the Palace of Westminster (a Jewel Tower was constructed within the Palace in 1369) or wherever the royal court was situated.

Wakefield Tower

Wakefield Tower

Initially the Treasury was housed in the White Tower but in 16th century it was transferred to a purpose built Jewel House. On the execution of Charles I, the keeper of the Jewels, Carew Mildmay, was imprisoned because he refused to turn over the keys of the Jewel House to the republican government. It only delayed the inevitable and they broke down the doors and either sold off or melted down all they found within. Following the restoration of Charles II the new crown jewels were housed in the Martin tower and then the Wakefield Tower (from 1869) before being housed in the new jewel house located within the Waterloo Block in 1967.

Waterloo Block

Waterloo Block


Door to Jewel House

Door to Jewel House in Waterloo block

As with Treasury the White Tower was also used to store the records of the chancery. These related mainly to details of property ownership and taxation. The records office moved to the Wakefield Tower in the late 14th century where it remained until 1858 when with the formation of the Public Records Office they were  moved to a purpose built building in Chancery Lane near Holborn.