Tag Archives: City of London Blue Plaques

Elizabeth Fry, Charles Brooking, a Church and a Hall

Continuing my series of posts, tracking down all the City of London’s blue plaques, here are another selection of the wide range of people and places commemorated across the City, starting with:

Mrs. Elizabeth Fry – Prison Reformer

Where Poultry meets the Bank junction, there is a plaque on a side wall recording that Mrs. Elizabeth Fry, Prison Reformer, lived here between 1800 and 1809:

Elizabeth Gurney, as she was before marriage, was born in Norwich in 1780. Her parents were Quaker’s, which probably influenced her future work.

She came to London in 1800, the same year that she had married Joseph Fry, so the plaque commemorates her first London home.

Her prison reform campaigning started around 1813 following a visit to Newgate prison. This visit was described in the book Prison Discipline by Sir Thomas Powell Buxton, and it really must have been a shocking sight:

“She found the female side in a situation which no language can describe – nearly three hundred women, sent there for every graduation of crime, some untried, and some under sentence of death, were crowded together in the two yards and the two cells.

Here they saw their friends and kept their multitude of children, and they had no other place for cooking, washing, eating and sleeping. They slept on the floor, at times one hundred and twenty on one ward, without so much as a mat for bedding, and many of them were nearly naked.

She saw them openly drinking spirits, and her ears were offended by the most terrible imprecations. Every thing was filthy to excess, and the smell was quite disgusting. Every one, even the Governor was reluctant to go amongst them. He persuaded her to leave her watch in the office, telling her that his presence would not prevent its being torn from her.

She saw enough to convince her that everything bad was going on. In giving me this account, she repeatedly said ‘all I tell thee is a faint picture of the reality; the filth, the closeness of the rooms, the ferocious manners and expressions of the women towards each other, and the abandoned wickedness which everything bespoke, are quite indescribable’. Two women were observed in the act of stripping a dead child, for the purpose of clothing a living one.”

As a result of this visit, Elizabeth Fry started to campaign for improved conditions for women prisoners. She started bible lessons in Newgate and in 1817 formed the Association for Improving the Condition of Female Prisoners in Newgate”. It was initially assumed that the association was doomed to failure and that prisoners in Newgate could not be reformed, however the association pushed forward. As well as the women, their concern was the condition of the children who were imprisoned with their mothers. The Association opened a school dedicated to children within the prison.

The Association’s work gradually brought about change:

“The efforts of the committee to induce order soon began to produce visible effects. It even excited surprise to watch their rapid progress to an almost total change of scene. The demeanour of the prisoners is now quiet and orderly, their habits industrious, their persons clean, their very countenances changed and softened. The governesses of the schools for children, and for adults, are themselves prisoners, whose steadiness and good conduct procured their selection, and have justified the preference.”

As well as work within Newgate, Elizabeth Fry campaigned for change in how prisoners were managed and in 1823 prison reform legislation was introduced in Parliament.

Her work expanded. She would sit with those who were condemned for execution, she visited convicts in prison ships prior to their being transported to Australia, and provided items such as blankets to provide some comfort during the voyage. She visited many other prisons to inspect their conditions and campaign for change. This included prisons across England and Scotland as well as France.

She corresponded with those in power across Europe, including the King of Prussia and the Dowager Empress of Russia.

Many people went to visit Newgate to see the improved conditions, and watch the work of Elizabeth Fry. Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington met with her.

She was also interested in causes outside of prison reform, for example she also sent bibles and reading material to isolated coastguard stations across the country. She also campaigned for improved conditions for working women, improved housing for the poor, and she established a number of soup kitchens.

From 1809 to 1829 Elizabeth Fry lived in East Ham at Plashet House, then moved to a house in West Ham, where she lived until 1844. She then possibly moved to Kent as a year later she died at Upton, Ramsgate in Kent.

She was buried in the Friends burying ground in Barking.

Portrait of Elizabeth Fry  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Elizabeth Fry apparently lived in St Mildred’s Court. I cannot find an exact location, however another blue plaque, a very short distance away indicates where the name of the court would have come from.

St. Mildred’s Church

Facing onto Poultry is another blue plaque:

Recalling the site of St Mildred’s church, demolished in 1872:

St Mildred’s church was one of the many City churches demolished during the second half of the 19th century. The City had been rapidly developing as a commercial centre. This reduced the number of residents and the size of church congregations. Space was also needed for road widening, additional office and commercial space, so many City churches, such as St Mildred’s were demolished.

An article in the Morning Post on the 18th of May 1872 provides some background to the church:

“The church of St. Mildred, Poultry, built by Sir Christopher Wren, is about to be sacrificed to the widening of the thoroughfare. It was erected in 1676 in the place of a decayed fabric which had dated from 1420, and which had superseded another of great antiquity that had fallen into dilapidation.

Previous to the first erection of the church, Thomas Morstead, surgeon to King Henry IV, V and VI, gave a piece of land adjoining the church, 45ft long and 35ft wide, for a burial ground.

Among persons of interest buried in the old church was Thomas Tusser, born in 1515, who wrote a book called ‘Points of Husbandrie’ which passed through 12 editions in 50 years. He is said to have led a wandering and unsettled life, being at one time a chorister, then a farmer, and afterwards a singing master. A quaint epitaph in verse commemorated his name and services. Previous to suppression of religious houses St Mildred’s belonged to the priory and canons of St. Mary Overy.

The length of the fabric now about to be taken down is 56ft, the width 42ft and the height 36ft. the tower is 75ft in height and is surmounted by a gilt ship in full sail.”

St. Mildred’s was shown on a 1754 map of Cheape Ward. I have circled the church in red in the following extract from the map:

In the above map, number 9 refers to St. Mildred’s church, and number 10 to Scalding Alley. I cannot find St Mildred’s Court on a map, so wonder if this was the alley by the side of the church.

When the church was demolished, the dead were relocated to the City of London cemetery at Ilford, Poultry was widened and new commercial buildings constructed on the site.

A short walk from Poultry, we find Tokenhouse Yard, a turnoff from Lothbury, where there is a plaque to:

Charles Brooking – Marine Painter

At the entrance to Tokenhouse Yard is a plaque to Charles Brooking who lived near the site of the plaque.

Not that much is known of the life of Charles Brooking. It is believed that he was born in Greenwich and he died at the relatively young age of 36. The plaque gives the years of his (assumed) birth (1723) and death (1759), not the years that he lived near the site of the plaque, and I cannot find when he did live near the site, or for how long.

The Illustrated London News provided some additional background on Charles Brooking at the time of an exhibition of his work at the Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art in 1966:

“A meticulous knowledge of shipping and a poetic lyricism in his observation of natural phenomena combine to make Charles Brooking the greatest of all marine painters. Born as he was in the 18th century his talents were perfectly fitted to satisfy the chauvinism engendered by Britain’s naval supremacy. What is remarkable is that Brooking’s painting avoids all forms of brashness and conceit which one almost expect. His high proficiency in technical detail and his emotional restraint are even alien to much of modern taste, which is a possible reason why Brooking has become a classic example of the great painter overlooked.

Brooking’s extraordinary technical ability in painting all kinds of naval gear make it reasonable to accept the inconclusive literary evidence that he came from Deptford and was trained in the dockyard there as the son of a master-craftsman at Greenwich Hospital. Seventeen twenty-three is an acceptable date for his birth, as he is known to have died in 1759 and was very probably 36 at the time.”

Most references to Charles Brooking put the brilliance of his work down to his early years being spent in and around Greenwich where he would have seen so much of the multitude of different types of ships in use during the early decades of the 18th century.

The following image shows one of Brooking’s works, dated from around 1755 and titled “Shipping in the English Channel”:

Source: Charles Brooking, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Tokenhouse Yard is an interesting little street. Built during the reign of Charles I on the site of a house and garden owned by the Earl of Arundel. The name comes from a building in the vicinity where the tokens issued by small traders as a replacement for small value coins, could be exchanged for legal tender

At the far end of Tokenhouse Yard, a small alley leads through the buildings at the end of the street through to Telegraph Street / Copthall Buildings:

Tokenhouse Yard, and the surrounding streets deserve a dedicated post, however the plaque to Charles Brooking at the entrance to the street does provide a reminder of a brilliant marine artist, who captured naval scenes during a couple of decades at the first half of the 18th century.

Also in Lothbury, is the site of the next plaque, to:

Founder’s Hall

Where Founders Court joins Lothbury there is a plaque recording that Founder’s Hall stood in the Court between 1531 and 1845:

Founder’s Hall was the hall of the Worshipful Company of Founders, one of the old Company’s of the City of London, dating back to 1365, when “In 1365 the men of the mistery of founders presented a petition to the mayor and aldermen stating that some of the mistery made ‘works of false metal and false solder’ and requesting that ordinances be approved to regulate the trade”.

The company may have been in existence prior to 1365, but it is this date which seems to be the accepted date for when the company came into existence, as a company that had powers to regulate aspects of their members trade.

Founders worked in brass, alloys of brass and tin, and produced articles such as candle sticks, stirrups for horses, pots etc. The basic materials of everyday life.

Their hall was built in 1531 when members of the Company purchased a number of houses and a garden in Lothbury, and constructed their hall.

Lothbury seems to have been the location of many who worked in the founders trade. Stow goes so far as to say that the name Lothbury comes from the number of founders who worked along the street, with their noise being found loathsome to those walking on the street, with the street attracting the name of Lothberie.

A Dictionary of London does not place much faith in Stow’s explanation, and suggests that the name comes from “lode” (a cut or drain leading into a large stream), with Lothbury leading over the Walbrook, or more probable the name coming from a personal name of Lod, or Loda.

The area around Lothbury has long been part of London’s populated history, as a Roman tessellated pavement was found opposite Founder’s Court at a depth of 12ft, along with a Roman pavement. Copper bowls were also found nearby at a depth of 10 ft. in wet, boggy soil.

I cannot find much about why the Founder’s vacated Founders Court. I did find a couple of newspaper articles from 1847 which hint at why they moved “TELEGRAPHIC CENTRAL STATION – The whole of the extensive buildings, including Founders Hall and Chapel in Founders Court, Lothbury, fronting the Bank of England, are being demolished, the Electric Telegraph Company having purchased the property for the formation of their central metropolitan station”.

The Electric Telegraph Company had been founded in the previous year, 1846, and was the world’s first public telegraph company.

Prior to the founding of the Electric Telegraph Company, the telegraph as a technology had mainly been used by the railways with wires being strung along railway lines in order to send messages between stations.

The Electric Telegraph Company was formed to offer the technology to potential users across business and the public. The Electric Telegraph Company could be compared with the earliest Internet service providers such as Compuserve, AOL, DELPHI and Earthlink, who took a technology that was used by a limited research and scientific community and opened it up to the wider public.

Some of the earliest users of the Electric Telegraph Company were the newspapers who suddenly had a means of receiving news at almost the instant it was happening. Initial use of this service was reported with some care, for example in a report in 1848, newspapers were detailing news of rebellions in Ireland, and included:

“The Electric Telegraph Company vouched for its arrival in Liverpool. On the whole, therefore, we did not feel justified in refusing to publish it. we inserted it just as it reached us, giving the authority, and at the same time stating that we have received nothing of the sort from our own correspondents”.

This statement from the papers of 1848 is a fascinating foretaste of what was to come, when new technology would continue to grow exponentially, the ability for news to flow in, before any trusted authority had been able to verify the source and factual basis of the news.

The Electric Telegraph Company grew during the following years, and merged with similar companies, eventually becoming part of the Post Office, and today, British Telecom.

The Founder’s then seem to have moved around a bit. Their next hall was in St Swithin’s Lane, and the current hall, dating from 1987, is located in Cloth Fair, opposite the Hand and Shears pub.

The following print, dating from 1855 shows the new Founder’s Hall in St Swithin’s Lane  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Above the door is the coat of arms of the Founder’s, which consists of two taper candlesticks on either side of a laverpot (a container for filling a washing bowl) – both being examples of the Founder’s art.

Four more plaques which commemorate some of the people that have lived in the City and the buildings that have often been on the streets for centuries, but are now just recorded by a plaque on a wall.

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Bull and Mouth Inn, Northumberland House, French Church and Aldersgate – City of London Blue Plaques

Today, I am starting in St Martin’s le Grand for the third post in my search for all the City of London Blue Plaques.

Three plaques can be seen on a building on the western side of the street, each arrowed in the following photo:

Bull and Mouth Inn

Starting from the left, and the blue arrow is pointing to:

Bull and Mouth Inn

Bull and Mouth Inn

The Bull and Mouth Inn was an old coaching inn located in a side road off St Martin’s-le-Grand / Aldersgate Street. This side road had the same name as the inn – Bull and Mouth Street.

The Bull and Mouth was an old inn, and can be found in William Morgan’s 1682 map of London. In the following extract from the map, the inn is numbered 407 (circled red), and the large courtyard can be seen, surrounded by the buildings of the inn, and with a narrow entrance on to Bull and Mouth Street.

Bull and Mouth Inn

The name is unusual, and appears not to have been the original name. An article about the inn in the London Mercury on the 15th April 1848 records that the 16th century historian and antiquarian John Stowe referred to the inn as of “great antiquity”, and that the current name was a corruption of the original name of Boulogne Mouth or harbour)

The Bull and Mouth was a very busy coaching inn, with regular coach services to the north of the country. The inn was mentioned in the 1909 book “Inns, Ales and Drinking Customs of Old England” by Frederick Hackwood:

“Where could have been found a finer or more typical specimen of the old coaching-house than the Bull and Mouth in Aldersgate Street?

The scene presented by a coach-yard in full activity was always an animated and interesting one. The coach, a handsome, well-built vehicle, in all the brilliancy of a highly varnished claret ground, or it may be of a bright yellow, when ready, would stand well in the middle of the drive. the four beautiful, spirited animals attached to it, with their glossy, velvety skins, covered with cloths till the moment of ‘putting to’, would be under the charge of two stablemen in corduroy breeches and heavy boots.

Then the coachman, mounted on the box, getting his whip and his ribbons adjusted exactly to his mind. He is well buttoned up to the throat in an enormous box-coat of whitish drab colour, fastened with immense mother of pearl buttons. There is a rakish brim to his hat, which goes well with the air of nonchalance he affects – for is he not the skipper as it were, not only in command of the gallant equipage, but controlling, for the time at least, the destiny of all his passengers.”

Probably a bit of a romantic description of a lost method of travel, however it must have been an impressive sight, a coach being readied for departure, and the travelers heading across the country from the yard of the Bull and Mouth.

And coaches from the Bull and Mouth really did travel some distance.

The first mention I could find of the Bull and Mouth, was from the Derby Mercury on the 27th December 1733 where George Paschall was advertising that his wagon made a regular journey between Derby and London, leaving the Red Lyon in Derby every Saturday, reaching the Bull and Mouth on the following Saturday, from where it would depart on the Monday, arriving on either the following Friday or Saturday.

The wagon was probably for carrying goods rather than people, and the journey time between Derby and London was around five / six days.

The Bull and Mouth must have been incredibly busy. The Bull and Mouth listed the coaches and wagons departing from the inn in the Public Ledger and Advertiser on the 27th April, 1824.

The following table shows the destinations of Royal Mail coaches departing every evening from the Bull and Mouth (these were the ultimate destinations, each of these was an individual route that had plenty of intermediate stops):

Bull and Mouth Inn

The same listing also included the destinations of coaches that were not part of the Royal Mail network, along with passenger carrying wagons, again, plenty of intermediate stops before these destinations were reached:

Bull and Mouth Inn

It must have been remarkable to watch the immense amount of activity at the Bull and Mouth with the number of coaches, wagons, passengers and goods for transport, arriving or departing from the inn.

Some of these journey’s must have been incredibly arduous if you were heading to the end point of the coach’s route. I mapped out the stops of the Bull and Mouth to Glasgow coach in the following map  (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Bull and Mouth Inn

Starting at the Bull and Mouth Inn, the stops to Glasgow were then: Barnet, St. Neots, Buckden, Stilton, Grantham, Newark, Ollerton, Worksop, Doncaster, Ferrybridge, Wetherby, Boroughbridge, Leeming Lane, Catterick Bridge, Bowes, Brough, Appleby, Penrith, Carlisle, Longtown, Lockerby, Moffat, Hamilton, and finally arriving at the Pontine Inn, Glasgow.

The coach to Glasgow departed London in the evening, and arrived in Glasgow on the second morning after departure, so a total of around 36 hours, plus or minus, depending on the exact time of departure and arrival.

A long running project has been to list and map out the routes from London’s many coaching inns as they provided the city with a very comprehensive network of routes connecting London with the rest of the country. In many ways, the network of destinations and stops seems more comprehensive than the current rail network, although coach services were not as frequent, had far less capacity, and took far longer to complete than a journey by train.

A view of the inner yard of the Bull and Mouth inn dated 1810, showing the galleried interior of the inn with the rooms available for a stay, running around the galleries. A loaded wagon on the left, and barrels and boxes on the right, possibly ready for collection, or for their transport across the country (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Bull and Mouth Inn

The following print, dated 1829, is titled “The Post Office, St Paul’s Cathedral and Bull and Mouth Inn”. The view must be along St Martin’s le Grand, so I assume there must have been an entrance to the inn from this street, as well as the street named after the inn. This entrance can be seen on the right where there is an archway entrance through the buildings, with some sculpture on the upper floors of the building (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Bull and Mouth Inn

A sign from the Bull and Mouth inn can be found in the garden of the Museum of London:

Bull and Mouth Inn

According to Henry Harben’s Dictionary of London, the Bull and Mouth Inn was destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire, was rebuilt, and then rebuilt again in 1830 as the Queen’s Hotel.

The London Mercury confirms this change and in an issue dated the 15th of April, 1848 comments that: “The Bull and Mouth had been a coaching inn ever since coaches had an existence”, and that it was the “largest and most generally recognised inn in London”. The article also alludes to the demise of the Bull and Mouth, in that when the inn was rebuilt around 1830 the railways were not yet in existence, but beginning to be talked about, and if the railways had not spread quickly across the country “the magnificent Queen’s Hotel would not have arisen on the site of the old coach-house”.

It is difficult to know the date of the Bull and Mouth sign in the Museum of London garden. The very good condition of the sign probably indicates that it was from the 1830 rebuilding of the inn.

Bull and Mouth Inn

The core of the sign is a perfect visual representation of the name of the inn:

Bull and Mouth Inn

Leaving the Bull and Mouth, we now come to the middle of the three plaques, highlighted by the orange arrow, for:

Northumberland House

Northumberland House

There seems very little to be found about Northumberland House. The only reference I could find was in Henry Harben’s A Dictionary of London, which states:

“Northumberland House, on the west side of St Martin’s Lane, now St Martin le Grand, in the parish of St Anne and St Agnes, in Aldersgate Ward.

It is described as a messuage, shop and garden belonging to the Earl of Northumberland, granted to Queen Joanna by Henry IV, by name of the Hostel of the Earl of Northumberland.

Stow says it was called the Queen’s Wardrobe, but now a printing house.”

A messuage was the term used to describe the collection of a residential house, outbuildings and garden.

Queen Joanna was Joan of Navarre, whose second marriage was to Henry IV in February 1403.

The Northumberland House plaque typifies one of the problems with these plaques. As a plaque it is almost meaningless. There is no context, no dates or anything to suggest why Northumberland House should have a plaque.

Information on Northumberland House is hard to find, and for the casual walker of London’s streets the plaque would get a quick glance before being forgotten. A reference to Queen Joanna, and the fact that the house must have been 15th century would at least add some background as to why the plaque is there.

The final plaque on the wall of three is the one on the right with the green arrow, and is for the:

French Protestant Church

French Protestant Church

An article in the Illustrated London News in 1848 provides background information on the French Protestant Church, and a good description of St Martin’s le Grand at the time:

“Another new church for London! – just now finished, and about to be opened. The site chosen is one which has felt the full benefit of modern improvements. Not many years ago St Martin’s le Grand had little to recommend it to the eye – now it is surrounded by fine buildings, and forms one of the choicest openings in the tortuous monotony of London bricks and mortar.

We have here one of our best Grecian buildings, the Post-Office, next to the Hall of the rich Goldsmiths; then that most magnificent of caranserais with the most un-euphonious of titles – the Bull and Mouth; and last and least, the small, but picturesque chapel of the French protestants.

The French Protestants original church was in Threadneedle Street; their church being an old structure, with few architectural pretensions. This having been demolished, they have removed their place of worship to St Martin-le-Grand.

The architect, Mr. Owen, has succeeded in completing a very perfect, though small, pointed Gothic chapel. The interior, with its lancet windows, tall roof, and appropriate pulpit, is well managed, considering the confined space the artist had to work in. The cost has been £5,000 and the public will soon have the opportunity of judging how wisely it has been expended, as the church will shortly be opened for divine service.”

Although the church was demolished, we can still have the “opportunity of judging how wisely it has been expended“, by looking at the following photo of the French Protestant Church:

French Protestant Church

Source: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I cannot confirm the date of the above photo, however given the church was only about 40 years old when it was demolished, it does give the impression of being much older. Probably the Gothic design, along with the level of dirt on the building from the smoky atmosphere of London.

The church was demolished by 1888, and newspaper articles in June 1887 reported on the closure of the church “The last service has been held in the French Protestant Church in St Martin’s-le-Grand and the singularly beautiful and interesting little church is doomed to prompt destruction in order to make way for an extension of the General Post-office.”

The origins of the French Protestant Church date back to 1550, when Edward VI signed the charter granting freedom of worship to Protestants from France, Wallonia, and the Netherlands.

The majority of Protestant immigrants from continental Europe came after 1661, when the Edict of Nantes (which had protected the Protestant faith in France) was dismantled by Louis XIV. In the following years around 50,000 Huguenots fled to England, and a number of churches were set-up specifically for the new arrivals.

After the St Martin’s-le-Grand church was demolished, the church received £26,000 of compensation which enabled a site in Soho to be purchased (an area which had at the time the greatest concentration of French protestants), and the current French Protestant Church of London on Soho Square was built.

That’s a brief overview of the three plaques on the western side of the street. Directly opposite is another plaque, which can be seen on the side of the Lord Raglan pub:

Aldersgate

Aldersgate

The plaque records that one of the original gates in the City wall was on the site and was demolished in 1761:

Aldersgate

Aldersgate was one of the principal gates through the City wall, and can be seen in the same extract from Morgan’s map that I used for the Bull and Mouth inn (circled in red):

Aldersgate

The name appears to derive from the name of an individual, either Ealdred or Aldred, however the problem with being sure of the source of a name for something as old as the gate is that there have been many different variations, and no written records that confirm the original source.

Harben’s Dictionary of London lists a number of variants to the name, and states there were sixty-two variations of the name to be found in documents between 1274 and 1597.

A view of Aldersgate can be seen at bottom left in the follow print showing the gates of the City from William Maitland’s 1756 History of London (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Aldersgate

Harben lists some dates when there were changes to the gate:

  • 1335 – it was ordained that the gate should be covered with lead and a small house made under it for the gate-keeper
  • 1617 – The gate was taken down and rebuilt
  • 1670 – Repaired and beautified after the 1666 Great Fire
  • 1739 – Repaired again by the Lord Mayor
  • 1750 – The apartments over the gate were occupied by the Common Crier

The gate was finally demolished in 1761, with the materials sold for £91.

By the later years of the 18th century, the City gates were an obstruction for the traffic that moved through the gate. With the northwards expansion of the City, the gate had long lost its role as a protective gateway into the City, so it made sense to demolish and open up the road for the growing numbers of people and horse drawn traffic travelling along the City streets.

A final look down St Martin’s-le-Grand. Aldersgate would have been just in front of me. The Lord Raglan pub with the Aldersgate plaque is on the left, and the other three plaques are along the building on the right.

Aldersgate Street

The photo was taken from the point where St Martin’s-le-Grand (in the photo) changes into Aldersgate Street (behind me).

That is four more City of London plaques recording the diverse range of buildings and structures that have been lost from the City’s streets.

There will at some point, be an interactive map of the plaques, along with a spreadsheet to download listing all sites and details of each plaque.

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An Accountant, Hall, Church and Shakespeare – City of London Blue Plaques

A couple of months ago, I wrote the first post of a series in which I hope I will track down the roughly 170 City of London plaques. The plaques tell a small part of the City’s long history, however due to the limited size of the plaque, they often just provide a name, leaving the viewer to wonder what is actually being commemorated.

For today’s post, I take a look at another five, some of which have plenty of information, others need some digging.

City of London plaques record the churches, Guild and Livery Company Halls, infrastructure, key events and people that have contributed to the City’s history. The majority of people are men, there are very few plaques to women, so to start this week’s wander through the City of London, let me start with:

Mary Harris Smith FCA – The Worlds First Female Chartered Accountant

Walk north along Queen Victoria Street, and just before the junction with Poultry and the Bank, you will find number 1 Queen Victoria Street. Walk to the right of this building, along Bucklersbury, and on the side you will see one of the most recent of the City of London plaques. Arrowed in the following photo, as in the shade on a bright day:

City of London Plaques

This plaque is less than two years old, and was installed on the building in September 2020. It records Mary Harris Smith, the world’s first female Chartered Accountant:

City of London Plaques

The story of Mary Harris Smith is the story of many women who were struggling to gain recognition in male dominated professions.

Mary Harris Smith had been an accountant for many years, firstly working for a City firm before setting up her own practice in Queen Victoria Street in 1887.

Despite working as an accountant, she was repeatedly refused admission to the accountants professional body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, either through the route of recognition of her years of work, or through taking the exams set by the Institute.

Whilst there was some support for her admission, the Institute’s solicitor advised the applications committee that the charter only used the male terms of he, him etc. to refer to members, and there was no support to change the charter.

Mary Harris Smith’s persistence eventually worked. She had been seeking the support of other City professionals, members of the Institute and MPs, and in 1919 she was finally admitted to her first professional body, the Incorporated Society of Accountants and Auditors.

The Journal and Express on the 6th of December 1919 recorded the event:

“AFTER 31 YEARS – At a recent meeting of the Council of the Incorporated Society of Accountants and Auditors it was resolved to admit Miss Mary Harris Smith to the Honorary Membership of the Society. Miss Harris Smith has been in public practice in the City of London since the date of the Society’s incorporation and first made application for admission to membership in the year 1886. After 31 years of waiting Miss Harris Smith has seen removed the last obstacle to the admission of women to the Society, and we think there will be general agreement in the profession with the compliment the Council have paid Miss Harris Smith by electing her to Honorary membership”.

Although now a member, the above article refers to her admission as being the “compliment the Council have paid Miss Harris Smith” rather then her right to membership through her ability and years of experience.

A year later, in 1920, she was admitted to the Institute of Chartered Accountants – the event which is commemorated on the plaque.

The Vote newspaper, (subtitled the Organ of the Women’s Freedom League) had been running a series of articles on women in the professions and on the 8th of February 1924 included an article on Women Accountants which featured Mary Harris Smith, who had been elected as a Fellow.

The article also mentions Ethel Watts, who was the first women to pass the Institute of Chartered Accountants exams and gain the ACA qualification:

“The Institute of Chartered Accountants has at present two women members. One of these, Miss Harris Smith, admitted a Fellow of the Institute in May, 1920, was the first woman accountant in public practice before the examination system was started, and has been engaged on highly skilled work for over 30 years.

The other, Miss Ethel Watts, B.A. passed her final examination early this year, and is the first woman to write ‘A.C.A.’ after her name. She served her articles with a Manchester firm, but took her Honours degree at London University. During the war, she became an administrative assistant at the Ministry of Food, and was at one time the private secretary to the Director of Oils and Fats in the Ministry.

She had intended to study law, but her work at the Ministry gave her an interest in business, so she turned to accountancy. In addition to these members, there are 30 women training under articles.”

No idea if there is a plaque to Ethel Watts in Manchester. If not, there should be.

Mary Harris Smith had waited a long time for professional recognition, she was 76 when finally becoming a member. Ill heath forced her to give up work in the late 1920s and she died in 1934.

Mary Harris Smith photographed around the time of her membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1920:

Mary Harris Smith

I can think of only two or three City of London plaques to women, and Mary Harris Smith is a very recent addition – hopefully the first of many more to come.

The next plaque is to one of the many men commemorated across the City:

William Shakespeare and the Mountjoy Family.

If you start at the roundabout with the Museum of London in the Centre, and walk a short distance along London Wall, you will come to a small garden which is the site of the church of St Olave, a church that was destroyed in 1666 by the Great Fire.

On one of the low walls in the seating area, there is another of the City of London plaques, highlighted by the arrow:

City of London Plaques

The plaque records that “William Shakespeare had lodgings near here in 1604, at the house of Christopher and Mary Mountjoy“:

City of London Plaques

The discovery that William Shakespeare lived for a time at or near London Wall was made in the first decade of the 20th century. A Dr. Charles William Wallace who was Associate Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Nebraska, had, along with his wife, spent their holidays in records offices searching for references to Shakespeare.

They found one set of documents from a legal case dating from May and June 1612, where Shakespeare had been a witness, and the documents included a very rare signature of Shakespeare.

The Illustrated London News on the 16th of February 1910 carried an article on the discovery, which included the core of the legal case:

“Christopher Montjoy or Mountjoy, a Huguenot refugee, living in Silver Street, with a wife and only child, Mary, carried on there the business of a tiremaker. The occupation would seem to have combined the making of Ladies head-dresses with the work of milliner.

In 1598 Mountjoy took as apprentice one Stephen Bellott, whose mother, a woman of Huguenot family, had married as a second husband an Englishman named Humphrey Fludd. Young Stephen Bellott proved an apt workman, and was much liked by his master and his master’s family.

The daughter, Mary Mountjoy, was attracted by her father’s apprentice, and her parents approved a marriage between the couple. But Stephen Bellott was no ardent wooer, and some pressure had to be brought to bear on him to ‘effect’ a match.

According to the evidence, ‘one Mr. Shakespeare laye in the house’ of the Mountjoy’s when their daughter’s engagement was under discussion. The statement suggests that Shakespeare lodged at the time with the Mountjoy’s, or, at any rate, that he was then staying there. Both parents appealed to Mr. Shakespeare to use his persuasions with the young man.

According to Shakespeare’s evidence, Mrs Mountjoy ‘did sollicitt and entreat’ him ‘to move and perswade’ Stephen Bellott to marry her daughter, and ‘ accordingly he did move and perswade’ him thereunto.

The young man regarded the proposal in a sternly practical light. He asserts that he yielded on specific conditions, namely that the young lady should receive from her father the sum of fifty pounds on her marriage, and the sum of two hundred pounds on her father’s death, together with ‘certaine house-hold stuff’ of substantial value.”

The marriage of Mary and Stephen took place on the 19th of November 1604 in St Olave’s, Silver Street, the site of the plaque.

Mrs Mountjoy died in 1606, and the relationship between Stephen Bellott and his father-in-law became very strained. He claimed that the “household stuff” that Mountjoy had given his daughter was old and worthless, and Mountjoy then denied he had ever made the promises to Bellott.

Bellott then took the case to court, trying to compel his father-in-law to comply with the terms of the alleged contract, and it was because of this that Shakespeare was a witness for the plaintiff.

In his signed deposition, Shakespeare stated that he had known both Mountjoy and Bellott for ten years, that Bellott did “well and honestly behave himself”, and that Mountjoy had promised a “marriage-portion” with his daughter, but he could not remember the amount.

The documents found by Dr. Wallace in the National Archives do not record the outcome of the case, and it seems to have been refered to another authority for judgement.

Dr. Wallace assumed that Shakespeare had lived with the Mountjoy’s from 1598 to 1604, which was the period of Bellott’s apprenticeship, although there is no evidence to confirm this. Dr. Wallace also made a number of claims, including that Shakespeare used the name Mountjoy as the French herald in Henry V from the name of the family he had been living with. Again, there is no evidence to confirm this.

Mountjoy’s house was on the corner of Silver Street and Monkwell Street – two streets that disappeared during the rebuilding of the area following the bombing of the last war. The following map is from Roque’s 1746 map of London, and I have marked the location of the house with a red circle. Just below the red circle is St Olave’s cemetery, the site of the garden we can see today.

Mountjoy House

The location today of Mountjoy’s house is just slightly north of the location of the plaque, and is probably under the current route of the dual carriageway of London Wall.

A pub, the Coopers Arms was later built on the site of the house and in 1931 it was reported that the Coopers Arms had an old inscription commemorating Shakespeare’s stay.

The Coopers Arms – Silver Street to the right, Monkwell Street disappearing to the left. Strange to think that London Wall now runs through this scene.

Coopers Arms

Two plaques covering people who have lived or worked in the City. Now for one of the staple of City of London plaques – one of the City’s Guilds or Companies.

Curriers’ Hall

Not far from the Shakespear / Mountjoy plaque is one to mark the site of Curriers’ Hall. Walk a short distance east along London Wall, up Wood Street, and a short distance along is a pedestrianised walkway to the east, which has some remnants of the City Wall alongside.

Opposite the wall is the goods entrance to one of the new buildings that cover the area, and to the right of the entrance is a City plaque:

City of London Plaques

The plaque marks the nearby sites of Curriers’ Hall between 1583 and 1940:

City of London Plaques

A Currier was a leather worker. Currying leather was the process by which tanned skins were stretched and shaved into a fine finish to produce leather which was suitable for the production of leather goods, such as shoes.

The coat of arms of the Curriers’ shows arms rising at the top, with hands holding the tool of the Currier, the shaving knife which was scrapped across a skin, gradually reducing the thickness and producing a smooth finish to the material. The tool is also shown on the shield.

Curriers Company

Curriers were originally part of the Cordwainers’ Guild, but an ordnance of 1272 brought about the separation of the professions by requiring that they should have separate working regulations.

Full self governance by the Curriers was achieved through a 1415 ordinance, with an extension of their powers through an Act of 1516, and the grant of a Charter on the 30th of April 1606.

The grant of a Charter was rather late, and was given “by prescription” where a company that had existed for a long time was assumed to have been granted a charter, but which had been lost.

The walkway shown in my photo of the plaque’s location was the original route of the street London Wall (see my post on the history of London Wall).

The location of the plaque is roughly where an entrance to a courtyard in front of the Curriers Hall would have been located.

The same extract from Roque’s 1746 map that I used for the Mountjoy’s house, also shows the location of the Curriers’ Hall, which I have ringed in the map below:

Curriers Hall

Halls of the City companies were often built back from the street, accessed via an alley from the street, into a courtyard with the hall. I assume this approach separated the hall from the busy street (see also my post on Monkwell Street and Barber Surgeons Hall).

The following print from the mid 1850s shows the alley leading from London Wall to Curriers’ Hall. I assume that the coat of arms of the Company are above the entrance (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Curriers Hall

The last version of Curriers Hall was destroyed during the heavy bombing and fires that the area suffered in December 1940.

The Worshipful Company of Curriers still exist today. They do not have a hall, and use the halls of other City companies for their ceremonial events. As with other City companies, they do not have regulatory powers, and today support charitable activities in trades still involved in working leather, or where leather products are used, such as horse riding.

Another City Guild or Company that produced products that would have been used along with those of the Curriers is the:

Loriners’ Trade

Walk along Poultry, towards the Bank junction, and on the right is 1 Poultry. There is an access under the building just before reaching the Bank junction, called Bucklesbury Passage. Underneath the name sign for the passage is a plaque:

City of London Plaques

Stating “Site of the Loriners’ Trade 11th – 13th Centuries”:

City of London Plaques

I love the City of London plaques, however they are also rather frustrating. A casual passerby would have no idea what Loriners’ Trade means.

The Loriners were an old City Guild or Mistery, and were granted ordinances in 1260 / 1261 along with their rules of self government.

A Loriner is an example of how specific many of these skilled trades were, as a Loriner was a maker of bridle bits and other examples of metal work used for horses. The Loriner was also a maker of spurs, however spurs became a separate company before joining the Company of Blacksmiths in 1571.

The arms of the Loriners Company show three horse’s bits, along with three black metal bosses:

Loriners Company

The plaque in Bucklesbury is unusual in that it is recording where the trade was carried out, rather than the location of a hall.

The Loriners’ did have a hall, which remained until the mid 19th century. The hall was located on London Wall, opposite Basinghall Street (not sure if there is a City plaque at the location of the hall – I need to check). Rocque’s map again is useful in confirming the location of the hall, as shown circled in the following extract:

Loriners Hall

By the end of the 19th century, the Loriners’ Company had very little involvement with any aspects of the old profession, and it was more a club for social and dining activities. This was common with many other City companies, as this article from the Evening News on the 21st of January 1914 implies:

“They endure, these old guilds, because of the dinner. The Loriners who have very little knowledge of the loriners’s trade. Gold and Wire Drawers who might essay in that delicate little job of drawing gold and silver wires. I know a Citizen and Fishmonger whose lore is not enough to help him in choosing a middle cut of salmon at the stores. Nevertheless, these Loriners and Fishmongers and Wire drawers still flourish, branch and root, dining as their ancestors dined.”

The Worshipful Company of Loriners is still in existence, and still dining, using some of the other City Company halls for their events, but is also involved in a wide range of charitable and educational activities.

My final location in this ramble through a number of the City of London’s plaques is not far away from the Loriners.

Walk through number 1 Poultry to Queen Victoria Street and walk up to the Mansion House, where on the Walbrook corner of the building is a plaque recording the location of:

St Mary Woolchurch Haw

Tucked away on the corner of the Mansion House is a plaque, arrowed in the following photo:

City of London Plaques

Which records that the plaque marks the site of St Mary Woolchurch Haw:

City of London Plaques

St Mary Woolchurch Haw was one of the City’s churches that was destroyed during the 1666 Great Fire, and not rebuilt. It is remarkable how many churches were in the City before 1666. Many were not rebuilt. A further wave were lost during the late 19th century rebuild of much of the City, and a number were lost and not rebuilt during and after the last war, yet still whenever on a City street we are not far from a church.

The name of St Mary is interesting, but the plaque gives no further information. The dedication is to Mary Woolchurch a name which implies that the church was near to, or had some involvement with wool, but what does Haw mean?

To find out, I referred to the book I use most for learning about pre-1666 City churches – “London Churches Before The Great Fire”, by Wilberforce Jenkinson and published in 1917.

The section on St Mary Woolchurch Haw includes the following:

“St Mary Woolchurch formerly stood near the Stocks Market, which was on the site of the present Mansion House. Stow writes that it was so called ‘of a beam placed in the church yard, which was therefore called Wool Church Haw, of the Troanage, or weighing of Wool there used’

The church was built by Hubert de Ria in the time of William the Conqueror. The first rector whose name is recorded being William de Hynelond, 1349-50. The patronage was partly with the Crown and partly with the Convent of St John the Baptist, Colchester. The church was rebuilt in the 20th year of Henry VI.

John Tireman, rector in 1641, at the commencement of the Civil War was compelled to retire in consequence of his loyalty. john Bull was preacher during the Protectorate, and was afterwards Master of the Temple. The church was not rebuilt after the Fire, but the parish was annexed to that of St Mary Woolnoth”.

So a Haw was a form of beam which was used in the weighing of wool. The Victoria and Albert Museum have a Wool Weight which would have been used with a Haw (Source Link).

St Mary Woolchurch

The wool weight in the above photo dates from between 1550 and 1600. As can be seen in the photo, the weight has a hole at the top, and through this would have been threaded a leather strap which allowed the weight to be hung on one end of a beam or Haw.

Weights were typically of 7, 14 and 28lbs. The one in the photo is 14lbs.

The beam was pivoted in the middle, with wool suspended at one end, and weights added to the other end of the beam. When the beam balanced, the weight of the wool could be read from the number and weights of the weights used.

The extract from the book mentions that “St Mary Woolchurch formerly stood near the Stocks Market“.

The Stocks Market dates from the 13th century with a charter issued by Edward I. The market was named after the only set of fixed stocks in the City which were used for punishments, such as when William Sperlynge was pilloried in the stocks for trying to sell rotten meat, which was burnt under his nose whilst he was held in the stocks.

The market gradually specialised and by the 15th century it was known as a meat and fish market.

The market was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666, along with the church of St Mary Woolchurch Haw.

Although the church was not rebuilt, the market was, and expanded to included the land once occupied by the church. It became a general market, which as well as meat and fish, included fruit and vegetables and was one of the major markets of the City.

The following print from 1753 shows the market in operation (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Stocks Market

The church in the background of the above print with the dome and tower is St Stephen Walbrook. The large statue at the front of the Stocks Market is of Charles II, but it has a very interesting history.

The statue originally came from Italy and was an unfinished work showing the King of Poland, John Sobieski on his horse which was trampling on a Turk,

The statue had been brought to London by Sir Robert Vyner who was Lord Mayor of the City in 1675.

A Polish king would make no sense in a City market, and Robert Vyner had the head of the statue replaced with one of Charles II, and the head of the Turk was replaced by one of Oliver Cromwell (or possibly the original head was reworked).

The following side view of the statue gives a better idea of the modified statue. The rider does look like Charles II, however I am not sure whether the person underneath the horse looks like Oliver Cromwell, but this was probably not important. The statue was meant to show the triumph of the Monarchy over the Commonwealth created by the Civil War (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Charles II

When the statue was removed, it was given to a descendant of Sir Robert Vyner who apparently relocated it from the City to a family estate in Lincolnshire, from where it was later moved to Newby Hall in North Yorkshire, where the statue that was originally on the site of the Stocks Market, and what is now the Mansion House, can still be seen today:

Charles II

Image credit / attribution: Chris Heaton / Statue at Newby Hall / CC BY-SA 2.0

When the Mansion House was built in 1739 on the site of the Stocks Market, a stone believed to have come from the church was found in the new foundations (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

St Mary Woolchurch

That is five more City of London plaques. They are fascinating as each one, although brief, opens up a whole volume of the City’s long history.

I also find it interesting how bits of London can be found scattered across the country. I have found numerous examples of these, with the statue of Charles II being the latest.

Now that Mary Harris Smith has a recent plaque, I hope that many more of the women who have been a part of the City’s history will also be getting their own plaques in the years to come.

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Three Halls and a Hospital – City of London Blue Plaques

If you have walked the street of the City of London, you may possibly have noticed one of the City of London blue plaques.

The City of London Corporation have their own plaques to mark the locations of lost churches, hospitals, halls of the Guilds of the City, famous names and events etc. Whilst English Heritage are responsible for the circular blue plaque outside of the City, within the City, the rectangular blue plaque is the standard, and there are around 170 to be found.

New plaques are still occasionally installed, however the process is slow as there is approximately five years for a successful application, with many authorities being consulted regarding the subject of the proposed plaque, along with the owner of the building on which the plaque will be installed.

They display a minimal amount of information – “Site of”, “Near this spot” etc. followed by a name of a building or institution. Where an individual’s name is the subject of a plaque, there is usually a small amount of additional information, although limited by the standard dimensions of the plaque.

One of my many photographic side projects has been to photograph these over the years, so to start a very occasional series of posts on the City’s plaques, for today’s post, the story of three halls and a hospital.

Upholders’ Hall

The first plaque is not that obvious. Walk up towards St Paul’s Cathedral, along Peter’s Hill from Queen Victoria Street, and towards ground level on one of the buildings on the right, partly covered by some planting, is the plaque recording the site of Upholders’ Hall (see bottom right corner in following photo):

Upholders Hall

Site of Upholders’ Hall, destroyed in the Great Fire 1666:

Upholders Hall

My go to book on the City’s Guilds is “The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London”, by John Bromley and published in 1960. The book provides an overview of each Guild or Company, along with their coat of arms. The book describes an Upholder as:

“An upholder, or upholster, was originally one who dealt in soft furnishings which involved the use of stuffing to ‘uphold’ them”.

Therefore an upholder is an upholster, and the origin of the word upholster which is now generally used as a verb, is from the act of stuffing an item of furniture.

The Upholders’ formed around 1360, and as with most of the City’s Guilds at the time, their main role was to regulate their craft and ensure that goods produced met certain standards and quality, and were sold at a fair price (to both the customer and other craftsman to minimise any undercutting of members of the Guild). In 1474, the scope of the Upholders’ included “feather-beds, pillows, mattresses, cushions, quilts, curtains and spervers” (a sperver was the canopy over a bed).

The scope of the Upholders’ was enlarged in 1495 to provide them with powers of inspection and control “throughout the kingdom”, and the manufacture of clothing also came within their scope, including mourning clothes which led the Upholders to be spoken of as:

“The upholder, rueful harbinger of death, Waits with impatience for the dying breadth”

As the plaque describes, their Hall was close to Peter’s Hill and was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666. As with a number of Guilds, their hall was not rebuilt and they were able to use the halls of other Guilds for their ceremonial events.

The Worshipful Company of Upholders, as they are now known, is still in existence. As with many of the City’s Guilds or Companies, they lost their regulatory powers during the 19th century, and are now mainly a charitable organisation, but still have strong links with those in the upholstery business and upholstery trade organisations.

The Upholders were granted their Coat of Arms in 1465, and Charles I granted a Royal Charter which was lost during the fire in 1666.

The coat of arms of the Upholders is shown below:

City of London Blue Plaques

The book has a rather complex description of the coat of arms, which seems to reduce to three canopies (or spervers) with one covering the lamb of god and a cross (for religious significance) with the lamb sitting on a pillow of gold. Both the canopy and pillow being products of the Upholders trade.

My next plaque records the location of:

Poulters’ Hall

Just to the north of St Paul’s Cathedral is King Edward Street, next to the ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars, there is a plaque on the left column of a rather impressive arched entrance that leads to the offices of Bank of America. One of the very few places where I have had a security guard come out and ask me why I was taking photos.

City of London Blue Plaques

The plaque records that near the location of the plaque stood the site of Poulters’ Hall, between 1630 and 1666:

Poulters Hall

The Worshipful Company of Poulters are an old company, with their origins dating back to at least 1299, when, according to “The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London”, “poulterers were one of the trades of the City of London, which elected men to supervise their respective trades in accordance with a proclamation for the regulation of food prices”.

The first documentation stating how the governance of the Poulters’ would work dates from 1370, and the Company was incorporated around 1503.

The company had the power to regulate the trade in poultry, swans, pigeons, rabbits and small game, along with butter and eggs.

Prices for these products were set by either Government, or the Mayor and Alderman of the City, and it was the Poulters’ responsibility to be answerable for any infringements of these prices.

The charter of incorporation dated June 1665 includes “all persons within seven miles of the City who trade of ‘meere poulters or selling poultry wares'”.

Companies such as the Poulters’ were almost an early form of Trading Standards. The type of action against an infringement that the Poulters’ would take, was recorded in newspaper reports on the 22nd June 1749: “Was tried in the Court of Kings-Bench at Westminster-Hall, a Cause wherein the Poulterers Company were the Prosecutors, against one Francis Patterson, for following the Trade of a Poulterer, having no Right or Title thereto; on which the said Patterson was convicted and fined £22. And we hear the said Company are determined to prosecute all Offenders in that Way, which will be a general benefit to the Public, there being no Trade in which Buyers are more imposed upon by Hawkers, and other Interlopers, who send bad and unwholesome Goods, at greater Prices that the Fair-Trader would good ones”.

As stated on the plaque, the Poulters’ Hall was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666 and was not rebuilt, becoming one of the City Companies that use the facilities of other Halls. Since the end of the last war, the Poulters’ have used the Armourers’ Hall in Coleman Street.

The coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Poulters’ is shown below:

City of London Blue Plaques

The book “The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London” has a different view of the birds on the shield to the Poulters’ Company, who describe the birds as storks.

The book believes these to be Cranes and claims that the evidence of storks is meagre, with the earliest reference to storks being from around 1780.

A manuscript dated 1587 and held in the British Museum refers to the birds as cranes, and the crane as a food source was far more popular than the stork.

The two birds on either side of the shield are Pelicans, which provide the religious reference as the symbol of the pelican with blood on its breast comes from a pre-Christian legend that in times of famine, a mother pelican would pierce her breast, allowing her young to feed on her blood, thereby avoiding starvation (see my post on St Martin Ludgate for more on this).

Today, the Worshipful Company of Poulters’ run a number of charitable trusts, including one that aims to develop training and education in the poultry, egg and game industries and trades.

My next two plaques are along Aldersgate Street:

Cooks Hall

Walk up from Cheapside, along St Martin’s Le Grand to Aldersgate Street, just before the roundabout that circles part of the Museum of London, and opposite the junction with Little Britain is a building with two plaques.

City of London Blue Plaques

The first plaque, on the right in the above photo records that this was the site of Cooks Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1771:

Cooks Hall

The Worshipful Company of Cooks is one of the City’s old Guilds or Companies, with origins dating back possibly to the twelve century.

The Cooks received their first charter in July 1482, however in the years prior to the award of a charter, the definition of a Cook was not clear, and different groups involved in the production of food were setting up their own Guilds.

The book “The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London” provides some background (and uses the original word for a Guild, a Mistery):

“Some confusion exists as to the early functions of the Cooks, the Pastelers, and the Pie-Bakers, each of which appears to have existed formerly as a separate mistery with its own master and ordinances. Regulations of 1379 and 1388, forbidding pastelers to buy ‘garbage’ (probably offal) from cooks for the purpose of making pasties, indicates that the pasteleres’ trade was concerned with the manufacture of meat pies.”

It appears that if Pastelers and Pie-Bakers had existed as separate Guilds, by the time the Cooks received their charter, these separate Guilds may have simply integrated with the Cooks over time or just disappeared. A shame as I rather like the idea of a Worshipful Company of Pie-Bakers (there is still a Company of Bakers however their origins appear to be more aligned with those who baked bread).

The Cooks purchased land in Aldersgate for their hall around 1500, and remained on the site until the fire of 1771. Their hall survived the Great Fire of 1666, although was rebuilt shortly after, which implies there may have been some damage. There was another fire in 1764 before the fire which finally destroyed the hall in 1771.

Newspapers on the 16th August 1771 reported on the fire, and give an idea of the surrounding area of this part of Aldersgate Street:

“Yesterday morning, a little before One o’Clock, a Fire broke out at Cooks-Hall, in Aldersgate Street, which consumed the same, with a large Quantity of Timber in Mr. Hatton’s timber-yard adjoining; it likewise burnt the greatest Part of the Nag’s Head Alehouse, with a Stable and Outhouses belonging to it, and damaged the back part of several of the Dwelling-Houses that front the street”.

Fires were a regular occurrence across the city, and the above report gives an idea of how many buildings were clustered in a small area, and the inflammable materials that would help a fire to spread.

Companies such as the Cooks guarded their role in the setting of rules and regulation of their trade, as was typical of the City of London. On the same page as the above report of the fire, there is the following report, showing how far the City was prepared to go in protecting their privileges:

“My Lord Mayor, we are told, has declared he will spend every shilling he is worth sooner than submit to any Encroachments on the Privileges of the City, though by the King himself, to which end he is getting proper Information and is exceedingly assiduous to come to Action; and in order to enable him to go through with his design, ’tis said he will be again elected Lord Mayor for the Year ensuing”.

It may have been just electioneering, as having a Lord Mayor prepared to spend all their money in defense of the City’s privileges would have been a good message in the campaign for another term as Lord Mayor.

As the hall did not burn down until 1771, it was shown on the Roque map of 1746:

Cooks Hall

The coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Cooks is shown below:

City of London Blue Plaques

A pheasant is standing at the top, and to either side is a buck and a doe. Originally these were shown transfixed by an arrow – presumably to represent dead animals ready for cooking, however the arrows were removed from 1634 onwards.

The plant shown three times on the central shield is a Columbine, and there are a couple of theories as to the use of this flower as it does not have an obvious association with cooking.

It could be that the flower represents one of the three forms of ginger which apparently was known as colambyne, or it could have been down to possible medicinal properties of Columbine, and included in the arms of the Cooks to show the benefits of using a member of the Cooks Company for the cooking of food.

The Worshipful Company of Cooks are still an active City Company. After the loss of their hall, they met in the Albion Tavern in Aldersgate Street, and when this was demolished, they moved their functions to the Innholders’ Hall.

The Cooks are the only City company to have two Masters. The Cooks believe this was so that the Sovereign and Lord Mayor of the City could call upon the Master of the Cooks. with two Masters allowing this to happen at the same time.

The plaque recording the location of the Cooks Hall is interesting for those with a rather geeky love of what can be found on the City’s streets. It is one of a few that has the details of when it was made in the lower right corner of the plaque:

City of London Blue Plaques

The details imply that the plaque was made on the 26th December 1985, by David Birch of the London Pottery at 96 Kingston Road, SW19.

The London Pottery now seems to be part of the London Design Studio which is still at 96 Kingston Road.

The second plaque, just to the left of the Cooks Hall plaque is to mark the site of:

St Mark’s Hospital

The plaque records that this was the site of St Mark’s Hospital, founded by Frederick Salmon in 1835:

City of London Blue Plaques

Frederick Salmon was born in Bath in 1796, and moved to London to take up a position as a medical student at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. After qualification, he set up in practice in Broad Street, where he developed a special interest in rectal diseases, which seems to have originated from his apprenticeship in Bath where patients with intestinal problems would be found as taking the Bath waters was thought to be a cure.

To further this interest, and to help the large numbers of people he was seeing with these problems at his Broad Street practice, he purchased a building at 11 Aldersgate Street in 1835 where he established the “Infirmary for the Relief of the Poor afflicted with Fistula and other Diseases of the Rectum”.

The infirmary was set up as a charity, and was small, with only seven beds available.

The infirmary was not in Aldersgate Street for long. The size of the building and the number of beds that could be accommodated was a problem, so three years after opening, the infirmary moved to a larger building at 38 Charterhouse Square, with Frederick Salmon continuing to run the infirmary almost single handed.

The infirmary would not stay for long in Charterhouse Square, and the next move would also include a name change. Although the plaque in Aldersgate Street states St Mark’s Hospital, the full name of the establishment was the “Infirmary for Fistula and Other Diseases of the Rectum”.

Despite covering serious medical conditions, this was probably not a good name to use for fund raising, or perhaps for patients to admit where they were attending for treatment, so at a meeting of the Committee of Management reported in the Morning Post on 27th April 1852: “the Chairman directed especial attention to that part of the Committee’s Report which recommended the change in the title of the Charity from that of Fistula Infirmary to St Mark’s Hospital” – the recommendation to change name was universally carried.

By 1852, Frederick Salmon had additional support as the Committee of Management stated that “the cordial thanks of the Governors be given to John Daniel, M.D. the Honorary Physician and to Frederick Salmon, the Hon Surgeon, and Founder of the Institution, for the gratuitous and effective discharge of their duties during the past year”.

The change in name also took place at the same time as the third change in location. In 1851 a site in City Road was purchased from the Worshipful Company of Dyers, and following conversion, the hospital, with the new name, opened in April 1852.

Cuthbert Dukes in a brief history of Frederick Salmon and the hospital, claimed that the source of the name was the move of the hospital to City Road on St. Mark’s Day, the 25th of April I852. (The history can be found as a PDF here)

St Mark’s Hospital would stay in City Road until 1995, when it moved to Watford Road
Harrow, as part of Northwick Hospital.

St Mark’s continues to be a specialist hospital for diseases of the bowel, and with St Mark’s Academic Institute, works to develop skills and treatment for intestinal and colorectal disorders, so has stayed true to Frederick Salmon’s original specialist interest and intention for his original infirmary in Aldersgate Street.

Perhaps one of the most well known names treated by Frederick Salmon was Charles Dickens who was treated for an anal fistula in 1841, which Dickens blamed on too much sitting at his desk.

Frederick Salmon died at the age of 72 on the 3rd of January 1868 at Droitwich, which had become his home after retiring from St Mark’s Hospital in 1859.

Just four of the roughly 170 plaques that can be found across the streets of the City of London, but each hinting at a long and comprehensive history, of which I have only just scratched the surface in today’s post.

The St Mark’s Hospital plaque is historically wrong as the name would not come into use until the hospital moved to City Road, however I suspect the City of London were not too keen on the plaque recording the site of the “Infirmary for Fistula and Other Diseases of the Rectum”, but it is brilliant that Frederick Salmon, the founder of the hospital is named.

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