Illustrations of the site and neighbourhood of the New Post Office, 1830.

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Williams The Old Mourning Bush Revived - The New Post Office Coffee House Tavern

Williams The Old Mourning Bush Revived - The New Post Office Coffee House Tavern

There is, perhaps no spot more fertile in historical recollections, than St. Martin's-le-grand and its neighbourhood: "imperium in imperio," says Pennant, "surrounded by the city, yet subject near three centuries to the governing powers of Westminster Abbey." Here, in the catholic times, stood one of the most ancient and magnificent royal free chapels in England, endowed " with the dreadful privilege of sanctuary," which made it the terror of the citizens of London, and an asylum for the greatest reprobates; at the same time that it was the presumed retreat of religion, and even the occasional residence of royalty. It was near this spot, that the old publisher, John Day, fixed one of the earliest printing-presses— that one of the most ancient parts of the city wall ran, and one of its first gates was situated -  and, besides combining numerous other subjects, interesting for their age or otherwise, it is now the site of one of the most magnificent buildings connected with the commercial intercourse of the country, which the capital can boast of.
If we go back to the extremely remote periods of metropolitan history, we have more than probable evidence, that as early as the Lyndin, or London of the Ancient Britons, here ran one of the great trackways, with which, for commercial purposes, that people intersected the kingdom, and which has been ever since known by the denomination of the Watling Street. It took its course from Belingsgate, along the street still so called, to Aldersgate, where, quitting the city, it ran along Goswell Street to the west of Islington, through Hagbush Lane, yet in part remaining, to Verulamium, or St. Albans. In the Roman times, we are certain this was a remarkable spot; for traces, both of the living and the dead - coins, beads, ornaments of dress, glasses of various shapes, pottery— in amphoras, Samian ware, both plain and beautifully figured; funeral arms, with burnt bones and ashes, lachrymatories, &c. have been excavated in abundance. ( Several specimens of these are now in the Guildhall library.)

That a building existed on the site of St. Martin'sle-grand, appropriated by the early christians to religious worship, is extremely probable, not only from remains discovered in excavating the spot, but from the bull of Pope Clement, exempting the original or Saxon College, from episcopal visitation; because, its church is stated to have been founded before bishops tbere ordained in the kingdom, and episcopal jurisdiction had been usurped over them during times of civil commotion; ' insurgente procella turbutionis in regno.' Its dedication also to St. Martin, a particular favorite with the early christians, and the patron of many churches of the highest antiquity, further indicates its great age, and makes it likely that the brothers, Ingebric and Girard, who are said to have been its founders in the reign of Edward the Confessor, were merely the revivers of some more ancient establishment.

We shall omit noticing, however, (as foreign to our purpose) eras so very remote, together with the further history of the college for the present; and looking about us on all sides, take a glance of this interesting neighbourhood, during the flourishing periods of that celebrated foundation.
At the conquest, then, we find the Norman, William, granting to St. Martin's, amongst other gifts— "All the land and the moor without the postern called Cripplegate." This great fen or moor (magnam moram) was the same with the modern Moorfields or Finsbury; and on this large sheet of water, when frozen, were the city youth accustomed to amuse themselves on the ice. The monk Fitzstepben, a century afterwards, gives us the following account, which, though often quoted, so properly belongs to this part of our description, that we shall repeat it once more— the ancient custom of sliding differed but little from the present, the skaiting and other feats seem to have considerably varied.

"When the great moorish lake on the north side of the city wall is frozen over, great companies of young men go to sport upon the ice; some take a run, and setting their feet at a distance from each other, and their body sideways, are drawn by their fellows, who hold each others hands; and going so fast, they sometimes all fall down together. — Those who are more expert, fasten bones to their shoes, (as the tibia of some animals,) and impelling themselves forward, by striking the ice with staves shod with iron, glide along as swift as a bird through the air, or as a dart from a warlike engine. Sometimes, two persons starting from a distance, run against each other with their staves, as if they were at tilt, whereby one or both of them are thrown down, not without bodily hurt; and after their fall, are, by the violent motion, carried onward and grazed by the ice; and if one fall upon his leg or arm, it is usually broken; yet our youth, who are greedy of honour, and emulous of victory, do thus exercise themselves in counterfeit battles, that they may sustain the brunt more strongly, when they come to it in good earnest."

This moor also appears to have been a common fishery of the city, for the jurors, on an inquisition, 2nd Edward I. returned, "That the City of London and its appurtenances, with the County of Middlesex, were held of the King, in capite, by a certain yearly payment into the King's Exchequer, by the Sheriffs of London, and that the said City of London were possessed, and always had been, until the time that Walter Hervey was Mayor of London, of a certain moor and fishery appertaining to the commonalty of the said city, (c'tate d'ce civitatis) but which moor and fishery, had been in the possession of Walter de Morton, since such mayoralty of the said Walter Hervey, to the disherison of the Lord the King, and to the damage of the said commonality of the city;— they (the jurors) know not by what authority. And a subsequent inquest found, that the lords of Finsbury had raised the banks of a certain ditch, and impeded the common way towards the said moor, leading from the Cross at Finsbury to the way called Eldestrete, and from which a path extended to the Church of Soresdych. They add, as to the moor without the walls, that they return to the same effect as had been returned by former juries.

The first change, on this moor being drained or dried up, was to convert it into gardens and arbours for the citizens; but these being afterwards obliged to make room for houses, the district was constituted a prebend of St. Paul's Cathedral, by the apellation of Mora. The ancient Fleet or river of Wells, passing in its course the south end of Old Street, ran through the moor, near the north corner of London Wall, by Fore Street, to its influx at Walbrook, on the east side of Moorgate. The stone arch it flowed under in Whitecross Street, occasioning a stoppage of the water from its narrowness; we find the following presentment of a jury respecting it in the 3rd of Edward I. viz:—" That the abbots of Rumsay and the priors of St. Trinity, having built, six years past " (as the Inquisition ran) " a certain stone arch at the White Crosse, in the Ward of Cripplegate, beyond the course of a certain water coming down from Smethefeld del Barbican, in that ward, towards the Moor; which arch the aforesaid abbot and prior ought to maintain and repair; the same from being straightened, prevented the water there having its full course, and caused great annoyance to the inhabitants."
Beech Lane, near this spot, is mentioned in the records of St. Giles in the Field's hospital, as the way Lying " versus le Beche," or the shore of the great lake; which seems rather to have given name to it, than the circumstance of beech trees growing there, or its being the habitation of a Sir John de la Beech, as Stowe supposes. It formerly exhibited at its west corner a red cross, contrasting with the white one just noticed, and both evidently gave name to the respective streets on their sites. The burghkenning or Roman city watch-tower, commonly called the Barbican, as above, stood near the Red Cross, and was afterwards the site of the town mansion of the Bridgewater family, whence the present Bridgewater Square.

Scarcely any spot became more altered from building on, than where St. Bartholomew the Great church now stands. The ancient legend, once belonging to the priory, and at present at the British Museum, draws a disgusting picture of its state before Rayhere began his foundation; namely, that it was a common laystall in the midst of an uncomfortable marsh, and ornamented with the public gibbet.

"Truly, this place, before its cleansing, pretended no hope of goodness. Right uncleane it was, and as a marsh, dung and fenny, with water almost every time abounding; and that which was eminent above the water and dry, was deputed and ordained to be the gibbet or gallows of thieves."

Aldersgate Ward, which adjoins the priory, was anciently called the Ward of Wolmer of Essex,— "Ward a Wolmer de Essexiae." And by a passage formerly called "Pottage-pot Alley," connected the Monastery Close from Aldersgate Street. We here anciently reached another dreary place,— the Gardinum Judceorum, or national Jewish cemetery, now called Jewin Street. This was the first burial-place appointed to the use of the Jews in this city or kingdom, as well as the only one for the sepulture of that nation, from all parts of England, till the year 1177; when by an indefatigable application to Parliament, they obtained permission to have burial grounds in the several places they resided at. It remained to them until the time of their final banishment out of England, and was then turned into little gardens with cottages and summer houses. Gadbury, the old almanack maker and astrologer, dates many of his pieces from "Jewin Gardens."

The erection of Cripplegate Church, in the parish whereof Jewin Street stands, took place immediately before the foundation of St. Bartholomew priory and hospital, in the reign of Henry I., as is thus quaintly noticed in the legend alluded to.— "A certeyn olde man, Alfun by name, not long beforne" (that is the building of St. Bartholomew Priory) hadde beldid the Chirche of Seynt Gyles, at the gate of the Cyte, that ynne English tonge is called Crypilgate, and that goode work happily he hadde endyd."

Pennant tells us:—" The name St. Giles, always imports something of beggary; and accordingly, Cripplegate, here received its name, from the number of cripples and beggars with which it was haunted formerly. St. Giles was their patron; he was a noble Athenian, and of so great charity, as at length to give away the very coat he wore on his back, which he bestowed on a sick beggar; who no sooner put it on, than he was restored to health." So says the legend. This same saint had in this very street, a fraternity, afterwards founded by Henry V. who built a handsome house for its use; and to which we find various documents directed amongst the patent rolls— no vestige of it now remains.

In the neighbouring precinct,— at this time narrowed to Crowder's Well,— Stowe mentions poor Ann of Lodbury to have been drowned in 1244. It had long after been converted to what that writer terms, "a boss of clear water," by the famous Lord Mayor Whittington. From this pond, in its original state, it appears a water course ran towards Aldersgate, possibly to some receptacle near the Castle and Falcon,— for we find it objected against " one Hugo Gregory," in the reign of Edward I., "That he had diverted the water of a certain stream, or waterfall, in the parish of St. Giles, without Cripplegate, which used to run through his garden ;— to the great annoyance of the neighbourhood.

From Cripplegate, exactly at the distance of between five hundred and six hundred feet, was situated Aldersgate, connected by a part of the city wall, of which much still remains. The chief portion forms the southern boundary of the churchyard of St. Botolph, (at the back of Bull and Mouth Street, or "Stukandislane," as it was anciently termed,) where it may be examined, and will be found tolerably perfect. Hence it proceeded due East, across Aldersgate Street, consequently, the gate stood at a small distance this way, from the Castle and Falcon Inn, and Harrow Court; whence it continued in the same direction; perhaps, about two hundred feet, where it formed an angle, and had a curious bastion. It then went rather to the north north east of Falcon Square, eastward of Castle Street, where it is now standing, externally incorporated with the walls of houses; and in the cellars of these it is still to be traced, the stone being very smooth in several, massy, and entirely perfect; thence it proceeds and exhibits large remains in the church-yard of St. Giles, Cripplegate.

This course of the wall, and the relative position of the objects mentioned, will be better understood from the subjoined sketch, copied from the plan drawn by order of the Corporation of London, to ascertain the extent of the great fire of 1666, and now preserved in the Comptroller's Office, Guildhall:

St Martins le Grand and Wall of London

St Martins le Grand and Wall of London

Little Britain, anciently Breton Street, lay on the opposite or west side of Aldersgate Street, and received its name from the Dukes de Bretagne, who had a magnificent town mansion on the spot. To this adjoined, at that time, Montague House, and two or three other noble residences. Queen Jane, or Joan of Navarre, widow of Henry IV. had what is termed a "mese or mansion, in which she kept her wardrobe, beside Aldrichegate;" the keeping, and overseeing of which, was given by letters patent, 1 Edward IV. to Sir John Fogg, Bart, with twelve tenantries or habitations thereto, for which he received the wages of two-pence per day. In more modern times, the spot became celebrated as the Paternoster Row of booksellers. Robert Scott, appears to have been the principal dealer in Little Britain, and he had warehouses on the continent, particularly at Frankfort and Paris. A newspaper in 1664, states, that four hundred and sixty pamphlets were published in Little Britain within four years. Richard Chiswell, a resident here, and buried in St. Botolph Aldersgate Church, in 1711, is said by a contemporary brother of the profession, to have deserved the title of metropolitan bookseller of England, if not of the world. Thomas Rawlinson, who had apartments at London House, a little distance, and who was also buried in St. Botolph's Church, was remarkable for his large collection of books, which obtained him the name of Tom Folio, in the Tatler, No. l58. after he had stuffed four chambers in Gray's Inn so full, that his bed was obliged to be removed into the passage; his library was sold, 1725. At the old Aldersgate coffee house, whose back extends towards Little Britain, was the hall of an ancient catholic guild of the Holy Trinity, called Trinity Hall; it had a curious timber, roof, and various coats of arms in the window. The great poet Milton, who before resided in Jewin Gardens, is thought to have removed to, and taught school in a large house adjoining this hall, which had then a front garden, and is now the meeting place of the City of London Literary and Scientific Institution.

Two other houses of entertainment are mentioned as being near this spot ; one, as old as Edward the Second's time, called the Taborer's Inn, of which we know nothing but the name ; the other, more recent, under the denomination of the Crown Tavern, stood at the end of Duck Lane, and is described in Ward's London Spy, 1709, as possessing a noble room, painted by Fuller, with the Muses, the Judgment of Paris, the Contention of Ajax and Ulysses, &c. " We were conducted by the jolly master," says he, a true kinsman of the bacchanalian family, into a large stately room, where at the first entrance, I discerned the master strokes of the famed Fuller's pencil, the whole room painted by that commanding hand, that his dead figures appeared with such lively majesty, that they begat reverence in the spectators towards the awful shadows. We accordingly bade the complaisant waiter oblige us with a quart of his richest claret, such as was fit only to be drank in the presence of such heroes, into whose company he had done us the honour to introduce us. He accordingly gave directions to his drawer, who returned with a quart of such inspiring juice, that we thought ourselves translated into one of the houses of the heavens, and were there drinking immortal nectar with the gods and goddesses.

"Who could such blessings when thus found resign?
An honest vintner faithful to the vine;
A spacious room, good paintings, and good wine."

Having cursorily surveyed some of the more prominent curiosities without the gate, (adopting for the most part the descriptions in our common histories of London), we shall next endeavour, with somewhat more of research, to point out those objects within the walls, which, as matters of antiquity, are most worthy observation.

The parish of St. Anne and St. Agnes, was the first on entering London through Aldersgate; the church stands in St. Ann's Lane, which formerly seems to have been a mere country path, it being stated in an ancient presentment, as " a certain lane leading from St. John Zachary to Aldersgate," which was then stopped up, and had been so a long while. Aldersgate itself, at the same time, seems to have been greatly neglected, it is said to have had a purpresture or laystall on both sides of it. Stowe mentions this parish to have been anciently called, St. Anne in the willows, possibly from the church being at first overshadowed by that species of tree, which, from the once marshy nature of the whole land hereabouts, seems no strained interpretation. That this church was of very remote date, has just been proved by the discovery of a stone coffin, in digging a vault in it, the age and decay of which, rendered it impracticable to remove it, so as to make those observations which would have been desirable.

It appears, from documents preserved in the vestry, that St. Anne's church, before it was rebuilt, contained two chapels, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Katherine, each having an altar and image of its respective saint, and that the various chantries in it maintained no less than six priests. The most remarkable object, in the way of monumental record, was the tomb of Peter Heiwood, great grandson , of the person who seized Guy Fawkes with his lantern, as he was quitting the cellar of the parliament-house, preparatory to the execution of that horrible treason, called the Gunpowder Plot, and who, his epitaph informs us, "for his zealous prosecution of papists, as justice of peace, was stabbed in Westminster Hall, by John James, a Dominican Friar, A.D. 1640.

"Reader, if not a papist bred,
Upon such ashes gently tread." .

Of the more ancient interments known, the principal was Sir William Gregory, Lord Mayor in 1451, who was a distinguished parishioner and benefactor, and some of whose bequests still remain to the parish. The Church of St. Anne was burnt in 1548, and again in 1666, when every house was destroyed. The last rebuilding cost 2448 l. The front is of brick, and very little decorated, but having an open yard before it with several trees, the effect is rather pleasing. The inside ought to be more known for its beauty; and at the first glance the similarity it bears to St. Stephen Walbroke, speaks both to be the work of the same architect, Sir Christopher Wren. Like that, the site here is confined, and the artist has made the most of it. It consists of a square, in which are four composite pillars, with gilt capitals, and whose pedestals, seeming to rest on the pews, support four arches. The entablatures are enriched to the full licence of the order, and the segments are adorned by a variety of beautiful flowers, and large pannels, formed by clusters of leaves, entwined with ribbands. The ceilings in each corner are horizontal, and contain circles of flower and fruit, and the adjoining angles, cherubim, festoon, and branches of palm intersecting lines from the four pillars, from the roof into the same number of plain arches, with a centre of gilt acanthus leaves." The decorations of the altar and other parts correspond, and place St. Anne's, notwithstanding some trifling defects, amongst the handsomest of our London churches.

(St Anne's parish, measuring it as the houses stood before the pulling down of Aldersgate, and the erection of the new post office, extended north and south from the gate, which it included, to the east side of Dean's Court, taking in part of that court, and three houses beyond, excepting three houses in St. Leonard's parish, about half of St. Anne's Lane, and of Bell's Court. On the west side of the parish, next St. Martin's Lane, it took in from Aldersgate to one house south of Four Dove Court; and in that compass half of Bull and Mouth Street; and on the east side of the parish, half Angel Street, King's Head Court, part of Lillypot Lane, and part of Noble Street, comprehending the following streets, lanes, courts, alleys, &c.

South - Part of St. Anne's Lane.
South - Bell Court.
South - Dean's Court
West - Angel Street.
West - Bull and Mouth Street.
West - King's Head Court.
West - St. Martin's-le-grand.
West - Part of Four Dove Court
West - Noble Street.
West - Church Alley.
West - Dolphin Court.
West - Dome's Court.
West - Combe's Alley.
West - Lillypot Lane.

This compass in the new view of London, 1708, is said to have included 98 houses. And in the parish-clerk's remarks, 1732, 144 houses, besides Aldersgate, and two houses by the church, a glebe to the rector; of which, within St. Martin's-le-grand liberty there stood, Half of Bull and Mouth Street, taking in part of the Bull and Mouth Inn, and King's Head Court, Four Dove Court, Half of Angel Street, and Dean's Court.

According to Newcourt, there have been forty eight rectors here from 1322, to 1696.

The back of St. Anne's church, as will be seen from the plan, immediately adjoined London Wall; the west end, and probably the old steeple, standing at a short distance from the gate; between these two, and originally filling up the whole space from the inner side of Aldersgate to St. Anne's Lane end, was the large tavern distinguished in after times by the name of the Mourning Bush, whose vaulted cellars, as they remain from the fire of London, disclose the foundation wall of that structure, and as fine a specimen of early brick arch-work as is, perhaps, any where to be met with. This was the house, whose landlord in the civil wars, took the singular method of showing his loyalty, which we find recorded, but which together with the tavern itself, We shall at present pass by, in order to give it hereafter a more particular mention, proceeding in the mean time with the other antiquities hereabouts.

That Aldersgate derived its name from its age, and no other circumstance, will we think be readily admitted by any one who sees the massy foundations of the gate remaining in the cellars of the Mourning Bush, and the portion of city wall which adjoins them. Not only are these foundations enormous in themselves, and indicative of vast age, but what must at once be conclusive, they have regular courses of Roman brick worked into them, still as fresh as ever, and so hard, that the antiquary, whose digestion would attempt to reduce them to any thing modern, must have a tooth as strong as that of Cerberus himself.

The famous early printer, John Day, who lived over Aldersgate, occurs in the parish books as churchwarden of St. Anne, under the date 1574. He signs himself as " Stacioner," agreeably to the following mention of him by Stowe :— " John Day, stationer, a late famous printer of many good books, in our time dwelled in this gate, and builded much upon the wall of the city, towards the parish church of St. Anne." There is an excellent bible printed by Day, in Edward the Sixth's time, with this title, " The Old and New Testament," &c. "printed by John Day, dwelling over Aldersgate, beneath St. Martyn's, 1551, the 3d day of Maye." His other publications were numerous, as enumerated in Ames's Typographical Antiquities; and all have the address," dwelling over Aldersgate." Most of them are theological; and were very instrumental, when the times allowed him to print such, in overthrowing the reign of popery. One of these books printed here, has a wood-cut in the title, representing Day with a whip in his hand, in a room at the top of this gate, where his boys were in bed, and the sun shining on them, with the punning line, "Arise;, for it is Daye !"

It may be observed of Aldersgate, (which was rebuilt after Day's time), that it was of more modern date appropriated, like the upper parts of the other city gates, to the residence of different civic officers; as the common-cryer, common-hunt, &c. Besides the original postern on the east side, there was in 1740, an additional postern made to this gate, through two houses out of Bull and Mouth Street. The gate itself was repaired at the same time, and what is called "beautified," as far as so ugly a fabric could be made beautiful.

St. John Zachary, which stood opposite the east end of St. Anne's Lane, is now, like several of the city churches destroyed by the great fire, reduced to a small fragment, and the rest of its site occupied as a cemetery. It has since that calamity been united to St. Anne, but was previously independent, and contained the monuments of various distinguished characters. The most conspicuous was of Drugo Barentine, Lord Mayor in 1398, whose house stood opposite Goldsmith's Hall, and had a communication with it by a gallery, built across the street. Goldsmith's Hall, itself, (which is now immediately to be pulled down,) is a good specimen of the style of building which prevailed in Charles the Second's time, and contains several fine pictures and curiosities; "but to say," quoth Stowe, that Bartholomew Read, goldsmith, mayor in 1502, kept such a feast in this hall, as some have fabled, is incredible and altogether impossible, considering the smallness of the hall and numbers of the guests; which, as they say, were more than one hundred persons of distinction. For the messes and dishes of meats to them served, the paled park, in the same hall, furnished with fruitful trees, beasts of venery, and other circumstances of that pretended feast, well considered, Westminster Hall would hardly have sufficed, and therefore I pass it by." Boundaries of St. John Zachary in 1732.

The parish of St. John Zachary, takes in eight houses on the south side of Maiden Lane, east from Wax-chandler's Hall, with that hall itself, and four houses in Mutton Court; seven houses from Maiden Lane south, on the east side of Gutter Lane; three houses in Huggin's Alley, and three on the west side of Gutter Lane, next unto, and south from Goldsmith's Hall; and six houses on the south side, and eight on the north side of Cary Lane, and five on the east side of Foster Lane, south from Goldsmith's Hall, together with Goldsmith's Hall itself, and ten houses on the west side of that lane, south from St. Anne's Lace; nine houses in Bell Court, four in Three Crown Court, five houses on the south side of St. Annc's Lane, West from Foster Lane, and three houses on the north side; three houses next to St. John Zachary's church-yard, (one being the rector's) on the east side of Noble Street,) and six houses on the north side of Maiden Lane, east from that church-yard, and six houses north, on the west side of Staining Lane from Maiden Lane.

Streets, Lanes, Courts, &c. in the above.
Part of Hoggin's Alley.
Part of Foster Lane.
Part of Bell Court.
Part of Three Crown Court.
Part of St Ann's Lane.
Part of Noble Street,
Part of Maiden Lane.
Part of Mutton Court,
Part of Staining Lane,
Part of Gutter Lane,
Part of Cary Lane,
(except two houses.)
The number of houses in this parish in 1708, was 84, and in 1732, 88 ; besides the two halls and rectory-house.
(Signed) " John East, clerk of the united parishes."

The number of houses here, and in St. Anne's, in the population returns of 1802, was 275 houses, and 4 uninhabited. The parish of St. Anne in the catholic times, as was evidently the case also with the above, was much thinner peopled than afterwards. This fact, as to St. Anne, would appear from the small income of its rector alone, compared with that even of the adjoining parish of St. Leonard, for in Valor Ecclesiasticus, (29 Hen. VIII.) " John Morton clerk, rector of the parish of the blessed virgin St. Anne and St. Agnes, received from the said rectory, per annum, for all and singular the profits and commodities to the same belonging, the sum 6f 81. only; whilst the rector of the former received 26 l. 13s. 4d. This is to be accounted for, as to St. Anne's, from the existence ot St. Martin Vie- grand college, whose walls then inclosed the whole of Dean's Court, or the dean's house and garden, and the site of which^ though in this parish, and the spot on which it is afterwards stated to have had several houses, was at this time unbuilt; the unbuilt state of Noble Street, both then and long afterwards, operated in the same manner, leaving all the space behind it, since converted into St. Anne's Alley, Dolphin Court, Dyer's Court, &c. uninhabited. This paucity of dwellings, we see also from the foregoing statements, con tinned in a degree in both parishes, even long after the fire of London, particularly in St. Anne's parish, where in 17S8, we only find ninety-eight houses enumerated; in 1732, only twenty-four years later, one hundred and forty-four. As the vacant places were entirely built on, soon after the fire of London, this successive increase is only to be accounted for by the subdividing of the larger mansions in both parishes into smaller tenements, or building such on their sites when pulled down.

In endeavouring to trace, chronologically, the progress of building in St. Anne's parish, to which we shall now confine ourselves, from old plans, the following are the results furnished-

In Aggas's Plan of London, 1560-74, there is only a single house standing within or adjoining the inner side of Aldersgate; nor is there any house on the north-east side of St. Anne's Lane except this, and another house, near the site of the present St. Anne's school, or the Corner of Noble Street. Noble Street itself is but thinly built on. and not at all on its north-west end, where there is only a wall. The city wall is conspicuously seen running from a bastion near Crowder's well, in the direction of Aldersgate Street, and turns off westwards, by the end of Noble Street, to form that portion of it in which Aldersgate is inserted, and, from whence it continues in a line, along Bull and Month Street. The north extremity of St. Martin's liberty, is marked by a gate, which crosses Foster Lane, a little south of Cary Lane, and which evidently was inserted in one of its boundary walls.

The College of St. Martin's-le-grand, swallowed up the greater part of the two parishes just mentioned with small portions of two or three others, and included within its precincts, nearly all the remarkables not already noticed.

Hogenberg's plan, 1574, shows London Wall, Aldersgate Street, &c. nearly as above, only the north side of St. Anne's Lane appears more builded on. The scale of this plan is however too minute to draw any decisive conclusions from.

In a plan of London, 1679, showing the rebuilding of London after the fire, both sides of St. Anne's Lane appear built on, but the house adjoining Aldersgate is not re-erected, only two or three houses at the beginning of St. Anne's Lane, this way, and these must have been only very recently finished, for a prior plan in Northwick's History of London, showing " the extent of the dreadful conflagration of 1666," make the Arc to have entirely consumed every house in the parish, as well as St. Anne's church. The whole parish was rebuilt in less than twenty years afterwards; for the large plan by Philip Lea, 1698, exhibits continuous lines of houses from Aldersgate to St. Anne's Lane, and on both sides of that lane, the church yard excepted, as well as on the sites of the courts in Noble Street.

Between 1708 and 1732, when forty-seven houses are stated to have been added to the parish, it is probable, the remains of the great mansion called Northumberland house, had been cleared away, and the whole of its grounds built on; forming, amongst other buildings, the north side of Bull and Mouth Street; the south side of that street was built as early as 1679, as appears from a marble tablet, discovered on pulling down the corner honse, adjoining the Bull and Mouth Inn, and an inscription on which acquaints us, it was then called " Stukeley Street." The removal of Aldersgate, only afforded room for the single house, standing between the Mourning Bush and the Castle and Falcon.

Taking Le Roque's Plan of London, 1746, as our guide, and its accuracy may be depended upon, we see exactly the extent of St. Martin's-le grand liberty; how far that liberty extended into the parish of St. Anne, as well as St. John Zachary, &c.; and how much of both has been annihilated, or at least the houses in them, to complete the new post office.

St Martin le Grand - Roques plan 1746

St Martin le Grand - Roques plan 1746

It contained the fine college church, or Free Chapel of St. Martin's, (for such it only was, though probably possessing parochial rights) or rather those rights attached to the church of St. Leonard's, which before the year 1231, was included within the college church. In that year, the canons built a separate church, or as it is described in the records, "a chapel in the court of their church, to prevent the parishioners of that parish, having to resort to St. Leonard's altar in the college church." And these canons afterwards are charged with a misdemeanour, in having obstructed a certain gate by which it was customary to go to this church of St. Leonard. The college chapel extended east and west, nearly from Foster Lane to St. Martin's-le-grand, or about 200 feet, and consisted of a body and choir, but without transepts agreeably to the rule in chapel building.

Besides St. Martin s liberty, we have here marked the other parts of St. Anne's parish. The boundaries of the liberty appear by the dotted part of the plan, severed from the ward of Aldersgate, and show it to have contained as follows :—

The principal street of St. Martin's le-grand, on both sides, and the following courts and places:—

Round Court, out of which an entry led into New Rente, two passages leading into Foster Lane, one of them called the Dean's Entry, Mouldmaker's Rents, with several passages from it into the two Sean's Courts, Great Dean's Court, Little Dean's Court, George Street, St John's Alley, Cock Alley, Christophers Alley, Four Dove Court, King's Head Court, Angel Street, &c.

Within St. Martin's liberty, the parts of St. Annes parish encroached on in building the new post office, are, the site of the north side of Dean's Court, (Great and Little), and
Without the liberty, parts of Bell Court and Three Crown Court.
Of St. Zachary's parish; ten houses on the west side of Foster's Lane, south from St. Anne's Lane; nine houses in Bell Court; four houses in Three Crown Court, and five houses on the south side of St. Anne's Lane—all lying Within St, Martin's liberty.

The architecture of the vaults, as appeared by the late excavations, was partly Saxon, and partly of the early pointed orders; of the style in which the superstructure was built we are ignorant; we are only told that it had a sollar or balcony next its west door in St. Martin's Lane, whose jetty being too low, was presented as a nuisance. It probably also had a turret with a bell. The choir part of it answered to the crypt under it, and was most probably the work of William of Wickham, who, whilst dean here, in the reign of Edward III. is said to have made great additions to the college. There are also letters-patent of that king extant, to enquire into the defects in the chapel of St. Martin, &c. In the Valor Ecclesiasticus 29 Henry VIII. the prebends or canonries are stated to have been reduced to two, the. amount of whose incomes was little above 20 l. a year each. The chantries amounted to eight in number, each whereof had po doubt its altar and its priest, which will afford us some idea of the magnitude of the chapel; and it may be further inferred, that this was considerable, from Otto, the pope's legate, convening here in 1238, all the abbots of the Benedictine order throughout England, in Order to promulgate certain new constitions to be decreed by them.

The prebendal houses for the canons extended along this side, north to the site of the late dean's court, where was the dean's house and garden, the latter having a wall, which ran west and east from St. Martin's Lane to near Foster Lane, or as it was more anciently called, the lane of St. Vedast, whence the boundaries ran straight along by Foster Lane towards Cheapside, &c. The whole ground formed nearly a square, which was enclosed by walls and gates, and it had a liberty or sort of "Rules" around it, extending westwards to the side of Bagnio Court, where there was a wall dividing them from the precinct of the Grey Friars, now the Blue-coat Hospital, The college walls, in which were three great gates of entrance, besides posterns, ran as follows:—
The south wall or enclosure, next Cheapside and Newgate Street, stood just at the back of the present line of houses, extending from the corner of St. Martin's-le-grand, to within a few doors of the corner of Foster Lane, or to the midst of the house of Roger Wright, grocer, which stood about where Cheapside commences. It contained the great gatehouse or principal entrance at which the judges are stated to have held their sittings. The east wall was in like manner, at the back of the houses on the west side of Foster Lane, (excluding St. Leonard's church and church-yard at the corner,) and ended at Bell Court, opposite Goldsmith's Hall. From thence extended a third wall, confining the north side, where was the dean's garden mentioned, and a Hugh Paine's garden. The west or St. Martin's-le-grand side, was formed partly by a fourth wall, the prebendal houses, and the front of the college chapel; and here were the the other two principal entrances, namely, the west church door, and the dean's gate, or way leading to that dignitary's private residence, as well as to the interior of the college, and the exact site of which was marked by Great Dean's Court and Little Dean's Court, lately standing there. The liberty, as will be seen by the plan from Le Roque, took the street as far as the channel or kennel of all the four boundary ways, viz.— Cheapside, and Blowbladder or Newgate Street, Foster Lane, St. Anne's Lane, and St. Martin's-le-grand; and further included, for a certain distance, both sides of the street, and extended beyond it so as to comprehend part of Angel Street, then Angel Court, with part of the Bull and Mouth Inn, and the whole space thence south to Bagnio Court, which was enclosed as described.

The above particulars will appear from an ancient description and plan of these boundaries, first given in Stowe's Survey, Ed. 1632, and since several times reprinted, but which as matter of curiosity here, and as indeed necessary to authenticate what we have advanced, we shall again present to the reader. The account is contained in a declaration of William Boston, abbot of Westminster, after St. Martin's-legrand had been transferred by Henry VII. to that foundation, and is as follows :—

"Imprimis.— Beginning at a wall lying directly against a post, that standeth in the midst of one Roger Wright's, a grocer's house, which standeth of the east side of the south side of St. Martin's; and from the wall in the the said grocer's house, with the half deal of the street, into the channel of the same side, that house standeth upon sanctuary; and so forth from the east, westward, into the midst of St. Martin's Lane, next to the chapel of St. Martin's, against the tenement of the Bull's Head, which tenement lyeth at the south-end of the said lane, on the west part.

"Item.— Half part of the street of St. Martin's Lane, sanctuary, from the south unto the north, as far forth as the houses. appertaining to the Bull's Head do extend northwards.

"Item.— From the said place of the Bull's Head, then the whole lane of St. Martin's, sanctuary, on both sides, unto a post or stoop that standeth of the north side or end of the two tenements standing by the great gate next going into the Dean's Court.

"Item.— From the said St. Martin's Lane, at the aforesaid Bull's Head, turning by a wall that divideth the said tenement of the Bull's Head and St. Martin's ground, which wall turneth and extendeth from the east, westwards, unto a back wall that closeth in St. Martin's ground of the west side; all within the said wall, sanctuary. "

"Item.— Along by the same back wall, that closeth in the west part of St. Martin's ground from the south end of the said wall into the north, unto a wall that divideth my lord of Northumberland's ground, and St. Martin's ground from the south end; all within the aforesaid walls, sanctuary; and so forth from the south side, unto the north of my lord of Northumberland's ground, sanctuary; along by a back wall of the Grey Friers, which back wall closeth in my lord of Northumberland's grounds of the west part, unto the north part of Angel Alley, abutting northwards, the south side of Robert Bowman's house into the street wards, and so sanctuary still, from the said back wall of Grey Friers, along by the Angel Alley, and by the south part of the said Robert Bowman's house, from the west unto the east, until you come to a post or stoop, standing on the north part of the two tenements next lying on the north side of a great gate, entering into the Dean's Court.

"Item.— From the aforesaid wall, along from the north, southward, unto Hugh Paine's dwelling house; and from thence, by the north side of the said Hugh Paine's garden, sanctuary still, from the west unto the east part thereof.

"Item.— Again, from the north side of the above rehearsed Hugh Paine's garden, southwards, unto the dean's garden, sanctuary.


"Item.- Along, by the wall on the north side of the dean's garden, from the west unto the east thereof, sanctuary.

"Item.— From the north unto the south of the aforesaid dean's garden, with St. Leonard's church, sanctuary, as by a wall it there sheweth.
"Item.— From the east end of St. Leonard's church, westward of the south of St. Martin's, unto the Bell Alley, sanctuary; as appeareth also by another wall there.

"Item.— From the Bell Alley, southward, unto the wall spoken of at the beginning, which is within the grocer's house, against the post that standeth within the midst of the same house, and so forth, directly again into the channel of the High Street, that lyeth before the south gate of St. Martin's. All within the bounds rehearsed, sanctuary."

Thus far the Abbot of Westminster's Declaration, at which time, as it appears, the disputes concerning the exact precincts of this sanctuary ran so high, that the matter was obliged to be referred to a jury. Of their depositions, a part only has been preserved, and is as follows: —

"Item.— The said Henry Williamson deposeth for the claimed bounds; and also for the privilege of sanctuary men, in the half street and lane next to St. Martin's, and for the setting up of the gallows on Evil May Day, and for the removing thereof, as others therein before have deposed.

"Item.— Ralph Tewyn deposeth, all wholly the claimed bounds to be sanctuary, and also the setting up of the gallows, and removing of the same; and the pavement to be done by the abbot; and that he knew one Bland, privileged both for treason and murder, ever used to walk in the street claimed as sanctuary, without any disturbance.

"Item.— William Bayley deposeth all the claimed bounds, and also the sitting of the justices in the south gate; and that he heard the justices say, that half the street against the said gate was sanctuary, and that there were persons therein arraigned, and others therein deposed; and that he knew the said Bland, privileged for treason and felony, to dwell in Angel Alley, and that the abbot ought to make the pavement, as others have deposed there.

"Item.— John Smith, clerk, deposeth for all the claimed bounds, and further saith, that he knew Dr. Morton, and also the Cardinal Morton to lie there, one in Roger Wright's house, and the other in Angel Alley, they both being privileged for treason; and also, he supposeth both Angel Alley and Bland Alley, to be holden of St. Martin's by certain rents, as parcel of the Earl of Northumberland's tenements; and also, for the pavements as others have deposed."

Besides the extent of sanctuary above claimed, the canons had before encroached on part of Noble Street, then described as ' a certain way between Aldersgate and Cripplegate, leading by the hermitage there.'

Dean's Court, Bell Alley, and Angel Alley or Street, we see from these documents, were names very early attaching to their respective sites; the others mostly arose after the suppression of the college. The singular circumstance of the sanctuary bounds extending into the midst of Roger Wright's house, acquaints us with the interesting fact of cardinal Morton's having lodged there. His flight from hence to join Richmond's standard, on his invading the kingdom, was thought to be an important defection by Richard III:—according to Shakspeare -

"Morton with Richmond touching me more near
Than Buckingham, and his rash levied numbers."

At a very early date, the evil of living in the vicinity of St. Martin's was felt by the inhabitants, it being stated amongst the presentments respecting this ward in the 2nd. of Edward 1. "That two walls had been illegally erected in Kyron Lane, one by Ralph le Bland, and the other by the Abbot of Warden, in order to prevent the insults of felons and harlots, their associates, particularly at night; and that a third wall had been built also, with the like intent, against the church of St. John Zachary by Simon de Portepool."

The most curious picture we have, however, of the ancient nature of this sanctuary, and the sort of offenders who took advantage of it, is in a set of regulations for its government of the age of Henry VI. when the enormities of the place had become so crying, that the king and his council were obliged to interfere. It shews us, at least, that we have not retrograded in the path of morality, for there is scarcely a modern piece of villainy which does not seem to have been here well known and practiced four centuries ago. It enumerates amongst the minor offenders,-
The "subtil pickers of locks, countefeitours of keys, contrivers of seales, forgets of false evidences, workers of counterfeit chaines, beades, broaches, ouches, rings, caps, spoones silvered, and plates of copper gilt, uttered for gold, unto the common hurt of the people." And amongst the greater offenders, not only traitors and murderers were privileged, as we have seen, but felons were suffered to issue out of the bounds, and commit depredations at noon day, and then to return to shelter, and to riot in their ill-gotten gains. Nay, though five of these fellows had hid themselves in Panier Alley, and rushed out and rescued a felon who was being conveyed by the sheriffs from Newgate they were defended on the score of church privilege, and screened from all punishment. It was therefore1 ordained, that all fugitives seeking sanctuary, should register themselves and their offences, and that on coming in, they should deliver up to the dean's officers all weapons and armour, except "a reasonable knife, to carve withall his meate," and that to be pointless.

Every known errant and open thief, murderer, and felon, requiring sanctuary, was to find security that he did not there commit further mischief, under colour of his privilege; and if any such, having so done, should after bring in stolen goods, they were to be restored; as were also any sorts of merchandize a debtor might rob his creditor of, with the intention of living upon whilst in sanctuary; and every "sanctuary man" " who might issue out by day or by night, and commit or do any robbery, murder, treason, felony or battery," on his return, was to be confined in the dean's prison,— unless he chose to depart, and then he was to depart at an hour to be assigned him by day, "betwixt sunne and sunne."

" Common putners, strumpets, and bawdes," were not to be allowed; deceitful games, "as plays at hazard, the dice, the guck, the kayelles, the cloysh, and other such unlawful and reprovable games." And finally, "all artificers dwelling within the sanctuary, as well harbours as others," were to keep not only the Sundays, but other great festivals, without breach or exercise of their craft, on pain of being committed to ward, or put into the dean's prison."

It would be tedious here to enter into a detail of privileges now no longer in existence; it maybe observed, however, as proof of the importance of the church or chapel, here, that it is constantly styled in old records, 'The King's Free Chapel of St. Martin's, London,' and that its right in consequence to be only visited by the king's commissioners was strenuously insisted upon. Thus we find in the reign of Edward I. that an attempt being made by the Archdeacon of Middlesex to encroach on this right, it was commanded the sheriff to attach the same archdeacon; and the king afterwards issued a second mandamus, ordering, because Adam de Phileby, a canon of the same church, was in parts beyond sea on the king's business, that this question of jurisdiction should be no further agitated until his return; and that, in the mean time, nothing should be done prejudicial to the crown therein.

The advowson and possessions of St. Martin's-le-grand, valued at 266 l. 13s. 4d. having been given to the abbots of Westminster, by Henry VII. in support of his new chapel there; and in consequence whereof, the contest took place respecting its boundaries, those abbots assumed the office of deans of St. Martins; and the duties of the prebends were performed by vicars of their appointment; from which time, the jurisdiction of the college being merged in that of Westminster Abbey, little worthy notice occurs, if we except the restrictions imposed for regulating this before much abused privilege of sanctuary. By a statute, 22 Henry VIII. it was enacted, that " none of the said places should give immunity or defence to any person who should commit wilful murder, rape, burglary, robbery on the highway, or in any house, church, or chapel; or should wilfully burn any house or barn with corn."
Henry VIII. also passed an act, debarring persons accused of high treason from the benefit of sanctuary, and ordained that sanctuary men should wear badges, and not go abroad before sun-rising, nor after sun-setting; and, finally, the privilege of sanctuary altogether was repealed by James I.

In 1547, St. Martin's coming to the crown, its chapel was levelled, together with the rest of the college-buildings, and a number of new houses were erected on their site. These let at high rents to foreigners, who, claiming the privileges attached to the sanctuary, were allowed here to exercise their callings without molestation from the city. At the east end of the chapel, a large wine tavern was afterwards built, named from the reigning sovereign Elizabeth, the Queen's Head, and to this circumstance was probably owing the preservation of the crypt lately met with beneath that building, these vaults happening to be the most appropriate possible for wine cellars. The other parts of the college site and liberty were chiefly inhabited by French, German, Dutch, and Scots. The trades carried on there were those of shoemakers, tailors, makers of buttons and button moulds, goldsmiths, manufacturers of pouches or purses, stationers, and merchants. There were also two throwsters or weavers of silk thread, who are recorded as being the first that practised that art in this country. Each of these particular trades at first had its own quarter, but they afterwards got mixed. "Mouldmaker's Row," amongst the old courts pulled down, clearly marks the spot occupied by the mouldmakers; and as early as the reign of Henry VII. we see the shoemakers here gave name to Shoemaker's Row, now forming the west side of St. Martin's-le-grand.

In 1593, a census being taken, the population of St. Martin's-le-grand is stated as follows :—

Aldersgate,— St Martin's-le-grand.
Strangers 57 (Denysons 45, Non-denysons 12 )
Their children 112
Men & women servants 115
English born servants, set on work by strangers 0

The situation of the post office in Lombard Street, having been found inconvenient for want of space, and it being determined to remove the business to a more centrical situation, the precinct of St. Martin's-le-grand was selected, as well calculated for the erection of a new post office on an enlarged plan, and an act of parliament was passed in 1815, making all necessary provisions for clearing the area, formerly occupied by the church and sanctuary of St. Martin.

In making the requisite excavations in the summer of 1818, the workmen laid open two ranges of vaults, which had served as cellars to the houses above, one of which was the wine cellar of the Queen's Head alluded to, and was most likely the work of William of Wickham. This was in the pointed style of Edward III. The second, or westernmost, which must have supported the nave, consisted of a building of very massy construction, and of the earliest sort of masonry: its original form and extent, from the curtailment of former building on the spot, could not be precisely defined; but it had the appearance of a square vaulted chamber, divided by piers of at least six feet square; in this vault was found a coin of Constantine, and a stone coffin, in which was a skeleton, (an evidence that the cavity must have been unknown and closed up since the suppression.)
Whether the vestiges described, were those of a structure erected by the Romanised Britons, or by their successors the Anglo-Saxons is not clear, but the remains were evidently of great age, and, at all events, a very little digging lower down, discovered undoubted Roman remains, in great abundance. Most of these were dispersed, but several are yet preserved, as has been already mentioned. There were also numerous tradesmen's tokens, and other remains of after ages found in and about the foundations which were removed.


So many accounts of this grand edifice have been laid before the public, that a very slight description. of it will suffice in this place.

The architect of the present pile, is R. Smirke, Esq. It occupies the whole of the space between St. Martin's-le-grand and Foster Lane in breadth, and extends from the back of the houses in Cheapside to those in St. Anne's Lane in length. The architecture is characterised, like the dress of the Roman matrons, by an excessive severity, yet has all the dignity of a vast national pile, devoted to commercial purposes. The principal front in St. Martin's-le-grand, has a portico of eight fluted Ionic columns in the centre, six in front, and two in flank, surmounted by a pointed pediment; and at the extremities of the front, two other porticos, each of which is composed of four columns of the same order, standing on a stylobeate, and containing the entablature of the order, which is continued as a finish round the whole building. The intercolumniations are pierced with windows, and the spaces between these and the centre portico have each fourteen windows, in two series: these parts of the building are flanked with sunk areas.

The other fronts of the building are of noble appearance, but exceedingly plain, and all pierced with numerous windows. Of the interior, it is enough to say, that it is in every respect completely adapted to the purposes of its erection, consisting of almost an infinity of parts, yet together forming an harmonious whole. The grand hall, flanked on each side with lofty Ionic colonnades of columns, corresponding with those of the exterior, has a magnificent effect. An ample area surrounds the entire pile, fenced in by an elegant iron railing. Commanding views are to be obtained of this grand building from different stations, but its fine proportions mass with most effect on entering town from Aldersgate Street, particularly about the entrance to Falcon Square, where the newly-fronted end of St. Botolph's Church, the buildings of the Bull and Mouth Inn beyond it, the Post Office, and the Cathedral of St. Paul, towering in the distance, will, with other new erections on this spot, when finished in the style which is intended, altogether form a groupe of buildings unrivalled by those of any other part of the metropolis.

The former state of St. Martin's-le-grand, with the sites of the various courts and dwellings covered by the new post office, together with a fine ground-plan of that building itself, will be found accurately laid down in the frontispiece, which has been reduced, by permission, from the plan made under the direction of the architect, R. Smirke, Esq. The additional interest it confers on this tract cannot fail to be appreciated by its readers.

And Last updated on: Friday, 15-Sep-2023 12:28:03 BST