Tag Archives: City of London Blue Plaques

From Bread Street to Australia – More London Plaques

For this week’s post, I am returning to the plaques that can be found around the City of London. I originally started this series of posts with just the City Blue Plaques, however there are so many interesting stories to be found in other types of monuments and plaques around the City of London, that I have since broadened the scope of these posts.

Today’s post starts with a monument to Admiral Arthur Phillip, who provides the connection that is the title of the post – From Bread Street to Australia.

Admiral Arthur Phillip, R.N. Citizen of London

If you walk to the western end of Watling Street in the City of London, towards St. Paul’s Cathedral, you will come to an open space, with gardens on the left and the shops of One New Change on the right.

Tucked in the southern part of the space, up against the gardens is a small monument:

Admiral Arthur Phillip, R.N. Citizen of London

The monument is to Admiral Arthur Phillip, Royal Navy, and it is a bronze bust of Phillip that sits at the top of the monument. The bust was rescued from the church of St. Mildred, Bread Street, after the church had been destroyed by bombing in 1941.

A plaque below the bust provides some background:

Admiral Arthur Phillip, R.N. Citizen of London

As the plaque states, Admiral Arthur Phillip was born in the ward of Bread Street on the 11th of October 1738. He went to the Royal Hospital School at Greenwich, and joined the Royal Navy in 1755.

In his time in the Navy, he was involved in the Battle of Menorca and the Battle of Havana, but after these battles he was left without a ship, and as was the custom at the time, naval officers had to find other sources of employment and Arthur Phillip took up farming in Hampshire.

In 1769, he rejoined the Royal Navy, and in the following years was involved in a number of battles around the world.

Although his time in the Navy appears to have been successful, if he had not been appointed the first Governor of Port Jackson, which he also named Sydney, after his friend Lord Sydney, his name would probably have been very little known today, and not commemorated in the City of London.

The following portrait shows Captain Arthur Phillip, as he was in 1786. The portrait is by Francis Wheatley:

Admiral Arthur Phillip, R.N. Citizen of London
Source: State Library of New South Wales. Out of Copyright

I found a newspaper report from 1936 regarding a commemoration service to be held in St. Mildred’s, Bread Street for Admiral Arthur Phillip, and the article provides some additional information on his expedition to Australia, and the founding of the settlement at Port Jackson, which would later become part of the city of Sydney.

“Admiral Arthur Phillip, for whom a commemoration service will be held at St. Mildred’s Church, Bread Street, London on Tuesday, commanded the Sirius on an expedition to New South Wales some years after it had been discovered in 1770 by Captain Cook.

The expedition, which first arrived at Botany Bay, consisted of an armed trader, three store ships, and six transports. The persons on board the fleet included 40 women, 202 marines of various ranks, five doctors, a few mechanics, and 756 convicts. The live stock included cows, a bull, a stallion, three mares, some sheep, goats, pigs, and a large number of fowl. Seeds of all descriptions were provided for planting in the strange land, but Botany Bay was found unsuitable for settling upon. The expedition finally ended at Port Jackson, near the present site of Sydney.

Later on, other convict ships arrived, and in 1793 came the first free settlers, who were presented with grants of land.

The memorial service in London to the admiral will be attended by the Lord and Lady Mayoress of London, Lord Wakefield of Hythe, and the Sheriffs of the City, while Sir Archibald Weigall, Governor of South Australia from 1920 to 1922, will give the address”.

As the plaque states, St. Mildred’s, Bread Street, was destroyed during the Second World War, and was not rebuilt.

Although the original church has been lost, the memorial service continues to this day, and is currently held annually in St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside.

Arthur Phillip was in charge of the first fleet of convicts that had sailed from England to start the first colony in Australia.

The first fleet was the result of ideas that had been put forward for how Australia should be colonised, and what to do with the numbers of convicts which were seen to be a cost to the state, and how they could be usefully employed.

The following newspaper extract is from the 5th of November 1784:

“A plan has been presented to the minister, and is now before the cabinet, for instituting a new colony in New Holland. In this vast tract of land, which is so extensive as to participate of all the different temperaments or climates which affect the globe, every sort of produce and improvement, of which the various soils of the earth are capable, may be expected.

It is therefore proposed to send out the convicts to this place, under such regulations as may tend to the establishment of a new colony.

The only inhabitants which are thought to possess New Holland, are a few tribes of harmless uncultivated people, who loiter on the shore, and are only to be found in some creeks which seem convenient at once for shelter and provision, so that from there the European can have but little to fear, especially as it may be supposed no settlement will be attempted without sufficient force, at least in the first instance, to protect it from every species of surprise or depredation.”

It is horrendous to read, 240 years later, the lack of any interest in the history and culture of the indigenous population, and to understand what their fate would be over the years after the first fleet’s arrival.

The name New Holland in the above article is the first European name given to the continent of Australia in 1644 by the Dutch explorer Able Tasman who was employed by the Dutch East India Company, and after whom the island of Tasmania would be named.

There are a couple of reliefs on the monument, one on each side. The following shows “The discovery and fixing of the site of Sydney on Wednesday 23rd January 1783. Reading from left to right, Surg. J, White, R.N. Capt. Arthur Phillip, R.N. Founder, Leut. George Johnston, Marines, A.D.C. Capt. John Hunter, R.N. and Capt. David Collins, Marines”.

Admiral Arthur Phillip, R.N. Citizen of London

The second relief shows “The founding of Australia at Sydney on Saturday, 26th January 1788. Figures in rowing boat leaving H.M.S. Supply are Capt. Arthur Phillip, R.N. Lieut. P. Gidley King, R.N. and Lieut. George Johnston, Marines A.D.C.”:

Admiral Arthur Phillip, R.N. Citizen of London

Whilst the reliefs show a heroic view of the arrival at Port Jackson / Sydney, the reality of living at the settlement in the years after was rather challenging.

The following letter is from the Kentish Gazette on the 2nd of June, 1789. It provides a very honest view of the terrible conditions of the first settlers, and also their interaction with the indigenous population, who are described as “savages”.

“The following from Port Jackson, is written by a female pen; and as from a particular circumstance it seems an upright picture of the place, we lay it before our readers.”

The letter was written in Port Jackson on the 14th of November, 1789, and the author of the letter is not named.

I take the first opportunity that has been given us, to acquaint you with our disconsolate situation in the solitary waste of the creation. Our passage, you may have heard by the first ships, was tolerably favourable; but the inconveniences since have suffered for want of shelter, bedding &c. are not to be imagined by any stranger. However, we have now two streets, if four rows of the most miserable huts you can possibly conceive, deserve the name; windows they have none, as from the Governor’s house, &c. now nearly finished, no glass could be spared; so that lattices of twigs are made by our people to supply their places.

At the extremity of the lines, where, since our arrival, the dead are buried, there is a place called The Church Yard; but we hear as soon as a sufficient quantity of bricks can be made, a church is to be built, and named, St. Philip’s after the Governor’s namesake. Notwithstanding all out presents, the savages still continue to do us all the injury they can, which makes the soldiers duty very hard, and much dissatisfaction among the officers. I know not how many people have been killed. As for the distress of the women, they are past description, as they are deprived of tea and other things they were indulged in, in the voyage by the seamen; and as they are all totally unprovided with clothes, those with young children are quite wretched. Besides this, though a number of marriages have taken place, several women who became pregnant on the voyage, and are since left by their partners, who are returned to England, are not likely, even here, to form any fresh connections.

We are comforted with the hopes of a supply of tea from China, and flattered with getting riches when the settlement is complete, and the hemp the place produces is brought to perfection. Our Kangaroo cats are like mutton, but is much leaner; and here is a king of chickweed so much in taste like our spinach, that no difference can be discerned. Something like ground ivy is used for tea; but a scarcity of salt and sugar makes our best meals insipid. The separation of several of us to an uninhabited island was like a second transportation. In short, every one is so taken up with their own misfortunes that they have no pity to bestow on others. All our letters are examined by an officer; but a friend takes this for me privately. The ships sail tonight.”

The following map is from 1789, the same year as the above letter, and shows how small the settlement at Sydney Cove Port Jackson was, and features from the letter can be seen in the map. Arthur Phillip’s ship, the Sirius, is shown in the bay. The ships are numbered and identified at top left.

Admiral Arthur Phillip, R.N. Citizen of London

Map source: State Library of New South Wales

The description to the map is “Sketch & description of the settlement at Sydney Cove Port Jackson in the County of Cumberland taken by a transported convict on the 16th of April, 1788, which was not quite 3 months after Commodore Phillips’s landing there”.

When looking at the above map, it is remarkable that this small settlement developed into what is now the city of Sydney.

The following print shows H.M.S. Sirius and Supply, the ships of the First Fleet to arrive at Jackson’s Bay © The Trustees of the British Museum):

Admiral Arthur Phillip, R.N. Citizen of London

The majority of people arriving in the new settlement in the years at the end of the 18th century were convicts, and these featured in many prints of the time.

The following print shows “Black-Eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth, taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany Bay” © The Trustees of the British Museum):

Admiral Arthur Phillip, R.N. Citizen of London

In the print, the jailer is shown urging the two convicts to get on the ship which will take them to Australia, and perhaps to remind them of what they have escaped, there is a gallows on a hill in the background.

After a challenging start for the colony at Port Jackson, the rest of Australia would gradually be colonised, and the original site of Port Jackson would grow into the city of Sydney that we see today.

The following map shows the size of the city of Sydney, and I have marked the location of the original colony in the area around Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Bridge (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Admiral Arthur Phillip, R.N. Citizen of London

In just under two weeks time, on January the 26th it will be Australia Day, which commemorates the landing of the First Fleet, and the day on which Arthur Phillip from Bread Street in the City of London raised the Union flag at the first colony.

St. John the Evangelist, Friday Street

Next to the monument to Arthur Phillip is one of the City of London blue plaques, recording that it was the site of the church of St. John the Evangelist on Friday Street, and that the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666:

There is not much to be found about the history of the church. In “London Churches Before The Great Fire” by Wilberforce Jenkinson (1917), there is the following paragraph about the church:

“At the end of Friday Street, at the corner of Watling Street, stood the church of St. john the Evangelist, one of those known as a ‘Peculiar’. In 1361 a chantry was founded by William de Augre. The first rector was Joh. Hanvile, who retired in 1354. The income of the benefice was returned in 1636 as £76, 10 shillings. After the Fire the parish was annexed to that of All Hallows, Bread Street. A small portion of the churchyard at the corner of Watling Street may still be seen.”

The church was known as a ‘Peculiar’, and the book gives the following definition:

“Peculiars were exempt from ordinary jurisdiction. The name of Peculiar was given to thirteen churches, of which Bow Church was the chief, and signified that they were exempt from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London and were under the Archbishop of Canterbury”.

The plaque can be seen in the following photo on the wall on the right. One New Change is the building in the background, and the monument to Arthur Phillip is on the left, behind the greenery.

The church stood in Friday Street, and according to “London Past and Present” by Henry Wheatley (1891), the origin of the name is:

“So called, says Stow of fish mongers dwelling there, and serving Friday’s market.”

The location of the church was still marked in this 1772 Ward map of Breadstreet and Cordwainer’s Wards:

In the lower right corner of the above map is a view of St. Mildred’s, Bread Street. This was the church that was bombed during the last war, and from where the bust of Arthur Phillip was recovered from the ruins.

St. Paul’s School, Founded by Dean Colet

A very short walk to the west from the site of the above monument and plaque is the street New Change, and on the western side of this street is the following plaque, recording that St. Paul’s School, stood near the site of the plaque, from 1512 to 1884:

St. Paul's School, Founded by Dean Colet

Although the plaque states 1512, there has been a school associated with the cathedral for many centuries before the 16th century.

Some form of school where those who sung in the cathedral were taught was probably in existance at some point after the cathedral’s founding in the early 7th century.

In the early 12th century, a Choir School was established where boy choristers were taught. The boys were typically those in need, and as well as being taught, the Choir School provided them with food and a place to live. The boys in the Choir School would have sung in the Cathedral.

As the school developed, two forms of education emerged. There was the Choir School and a Grammar School, the later concentrating less on the teaching of singing.

This is where Dean Collet comes in, and where the plaque may need a bit more detail for those casually looking at it.

Dean was not a first name. The plaque refers to John Colet who was Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. John Colet was the son of Sir Henry Colet, who had been the Lord Mayor of London for two terms.

On Sir Henry Colet’s death, John inherited a substantial fortune, and with part of this inheritance, endowed and refounded the Grammar School at St Paul’s.

Dean Collet’s refounding of the church is interesting as he seems to have taken a very “renaissance” approach to education and governance of the school.

As would have been expected, education was based on Christian principles, but also employed a humanist approach. He also started a separation of the school from the Cathedral, as he chose members from “the most honest and faithful fellowship of the mercers of London” as school governors, rather than clergy from St. Pauls.

The choir and grammar schools continued to diverge and have separate premises, and today, the school founded by Dean Collect has been based in Barnes, West London since 1968.

The location of the plaque is shown in the following photo:

St. Paul's School, Founded by Dean Colet

Although St. Paul’s School has moved to Barnes, the building where the plaque can be found is still as school, as the St. Paul’s Cathedral School, which is the school that the original Choir School has evolved into.

St. Paul’s School in 1807 is shown in the following print, looking across St. Paul’s Churchyard (part of the cathedral is on the right):

St. Paul's School, Founded by Dean Colet

I believe that the school shown in the above photo is that founded by Dean Colet, as the following invitation to an event involving the school shows the same buildings, and the final part of the event is to “Dine at Mercers Hall in Cheapside”, and it was Dean Colet who employed members of the Mercers Company as Governors of the school © The Trustees of the British Museum):

St. Paul's School, Founded by Dean Colet

Although Dean Colet’s school has moved to west London, the survival of a school on the site, associated with the Cathedral, is one of the places of centuries long continuity that can be found across the City.

Water Fountain by the Company of Gardeners of London

If you walk from the location of the plaque to Dean Colet’s school, you will find to the south east of St. Paul’s Cathedral a grassed area, with fountains, surrounded by paving and seats:

Water Fountain by the Company of Gardeners of London

Set into the surrounding wall is a plaque that records that the wall fountain was the gift of the “Master Wardens, Assistants and Commonality of the Company of Gardeners of London – 1951”.

Water Fountain by the Company of Gardeners of London

The year of 1951 should offer a clue as to why the gardens are here. They were part of efforts to improve the post-war environment of the City, and their completion was timed to coordinate with the Festival of Britain, which is why they are called Festival Gardens.

The following photo shows the gardens soon after opening in 1951:

Water Fountain by the Company of Gardeners of London

The street at the top of the above photo that runs to the right was St. Paul’s Churchyard, and this street, along with the circular feature at the very top of the photo, have since disappeared in the creation of gardens running along the south side of the cathedral.

Another street that has been lost is also recorded:

Site of Old Change – A City Street Dating From 1293

At the western end of the gardens is a wall, with fountains facing onto the grassed area. At the back of this wall there is a plaque on the northern corner of the wall:

Old Change

The plaque records that this was the site of Old Change, a city street dating from 1293, and as you walk along the paved area to the side of the wall and plaque, in the lower right of the above photo, you are walking along part of the original route of Old Change:

Old Change

“London Past and Present” Henry Wheatley (1891), provides some historical background to the street, along with its original name, and the source of the name:

“Old Change, Cheapside to Knightrider Street, properly Old Exchange, but known by its present name since the early part of the 17th century.

Old Exchange, a street so called of the King’s Exchange there kept, which was for the receipt of bullion to be coined. Stow, p.129.

The celebrated Lord Herbert of Cherbury lived in the reign of James I, in a ‘house among the gardens near the Old Exchange’. At the beginning of the last century the place was chiefly inhabited by Armenian merchants. At present (1890) it is principally occupied by silk, woolen and Manchester warehousemen. On the west side were formerly St. Paul’s School and the church of St. Mary Magdalen, on the east is the church of St. Augustin.”

As I have mentioned before on the blog, it is always difficult to know what is really true. The above extract states that the name Old Change applied from the early part of the 17th century, however the reference to the street in “A Dictionary of London” by Henry Harben (1918) states that “First mention ‘Old Change’ 1292-4”, however Harben’s book does confirm the name Old Exchange also applied, and that the name came from the Kings Exchange, which was “situated in the middle of the street”.

I have marked the location of Old Change in this ward map from 1755.

Old Change

The uppermost red arrow shows the section from Watling Street to Cheapside, and the lower arrow shows the section from Watling Street down to the junction of Old Fish Street and Knightrider Street.

The map shows how built up the area immediately surrounding the cathedral was, and which lasted until the post-war development, which opened up some of the surroundings of the cathedral.

I have marked the location of Old Change in the following photo which is from my father’s series of post-war photos from the Stone Gallery of St. Paul’s Cathedral:

Old Change

The wall at the back of the fountain on which the plaque is mounted is along the side of the street at the position of the arrow head in the above photo.

The plaques and monuments to be found across the City of London tell some remarkable stories of the City’s history, and of those who were born and have lived in the City.

Well worth more than a quick glance when walking the City’s streets.


College Hill – The Street With Four Plaques

A walk along College Hill in today’s post, but first, if you would like to come on one of my walks, a couple of places have just become free on two of my final walks until late next spring next year. Details and links are:

2 places available on the walk Bankside to Pickle Herring Street – History between the Bridges on Sunday the 5th of November

1 place available on the walk Limehouse – A Sink of Iniquity and Degradation on Sunday the 12th of November

College Hill is a short street that runs from Cloak Lane to College Street, to the west of Cannon Street Station in the City of London.

It is only 238 feet in length, but within that distance there is a considerable amount of history and four City of London plaques commemorating people and places within the street. I cannot yet confirm, but I suspect this is the highest number of plaques in such a short street.

This post will explore the street based on the stories that the plaques tell, and also hopefully show some of the difficulties in being able to be certain of the truth, and that whilst the sources on the Internet require a degree of scepticism, this also applies to many written books on the history of London.

I will also find a plaque that appears to commemorate someone’s burial before he was actually dead.

So, turning into College Hill from Cloak Lane in the north, the first plaque is to:

Turners’ Hall

The first plaque along is on the left of a very ornate doorway on the east side of College Hill:

Turners Hall

Recording that “On or near this site stood the second Turners’ Hall. 1736 to 1766”:

Turners Hall

Turners’ Hall was the home for only 30 years of the Worshipful Company of Turners.

Members of the Tuners’ were those who specialised in wood turning on a lathe, and whilst this would have included the manufacture of furniture, a key product of the Turners’ appears to have been wooden measuring vessels, a device that would hold a set quantity of liquids such as wine or ale, and therefore able to show that an expected quantity (such as a pint or a quart) was being provided.

The trade of a Turner seems to date back many hundreds of years. According to “The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London” by John Bromley (1960):

“In 1310 six turners were sworn before the mayor not to make any other measures than gallons, pottles and quarts, and were enjoined to seize any false measures found in the hands of others whether free of the City or not.”

The problem with false measures was still a problem a couple of hundred years later, when in 1547 Turners were again summoned before the mayor and ordered to make only measures which conformed to the standard.

The mayor is still indirectly responsible for measures in the City of London, although rather than being hauled up before the Mayor, today it is the City of London Corporation Trading Standards team that manage this, and the sale of ale is still on their agenda as they have a web page dedicated to the Pub trade within the City of London and “Was your pint a short measure?”.

In 1604, King James the 1st granted the Turners’ their first Royal Charter.

The first Turners’ Hall was in Philpot Lane, off Eastcheap, where the company leased a mansion in 1591.

The Turners’ occupied this hall until 1736 when they had o leave their Philpot Lane location due to the landlord and the legal representative of the landlord’s estate both going bankrupt, apparently as a result of the South Sea Bubble.

The hall in College Hill was basically a merchants house. It was small, so did not have room for large, formal dinners, and at the same time the trade of the Turners’ was in decline, so in 1756 the building was let, and the Turners’ finally sold the building in 1766.

Today, the Turners’ do not have their own hall and now use halls of other City companies for their formal functions.

The Arms of the Turners’ are shown below:


The hatchet at the bottom and the columns on either side represent tools of the Turners’ craft, however the wheel in the centre has a much more gruesome origin.

It is a torture or execution wheel, also known as an execution wheel. It was used to break the bones and execute those convicted of crimes such as murder, and was also the device intended for the execution of St. Catherine of Alexandria in the early 4th century, by the Roman emperor Maxentius for converting people to Christianity.

Allegedly, when Catherine touched the wheel intended for her execution, it broke into many pieces, although rather than being set free, she was then beheaded.

“The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London” provides the following regarding the link between the Turners’ and St. Catherine:

“Because of her eloquence and learning St. Catherine is generally regarded as the patroness of students and philosophers, but she has also, as a result of her emblem, been adopted as the tutelary saint of wheelwrights and mechanics. Whether the emblem was used by the Turners’ on account of its traditional use by other similar crafts, or whether the Company was originally founded as a fraternity with vows to St. Catherine has not been determined.”

Catherine appears at the top of the Turners’ arms.

St. Catherine also gave her name to the firework known as a Catherine Wheel, so if you see one of these spinning round on November the 5th, recall that the origins of the name go back to an instrument of torture and execution and a 3rd century saint.

The plaque is on the far left of the following rather intriguing building:

College Hill

Two massive entrances lead to courtyards behind. The doorways have impressive sculpture above.

This is number 22 College Hill and the building is Grade II* listed. The Historic England listing details are:

“Circa 1680 probably by Nicholas Barbon. Double gatehouse with inexplicably grand stone front now painted. 2 principal storeys. 2 round arched entrances with double gates and wooden tympanum. Bolection moulded surrounds and segmental pediments on carved brackets with richly carved ornament above each arch. Circular windows above with carved surrounds. Small shop inserted in centre with square and round arched windows over. Plain parapet. Rear of red brick (partly rendered) with wooden eaves cornice to tiled roof. Dormers. Central part set forward but whole much altered.”

I like the comment “inexplicably grand stone front” in the listing. The shop mentioned in the listing in the centre is now a restaurant, the India, and photos on their website show the restaurant is within a long, brick arched room, rather like the arch under a railway viaduct, which looks very unexpected when compared to the front of the building.

The entrances on either side of the building lead through to a courtyard and offices at the rear:

College Hill

The following print dating from 1837 shows one of the entrances to the building, along with the building next along the street, which has a sign above the first floor windows stating that it is the Mercers School © The Trustees of the British Museum):

College Hill

The Mercers School dates from 1542, and was in College Hill from around 1805 until the school moved to High Holborn in 1894.

There is another print which shows the building, but adds some confusion, The following print is dated to between 1829 and 1831 and is titled “Whittington’s College, College Hill”  © The Trustees of the British Museum):

College Hill

The text on the British Museum collection website for the photo reads “View of Mercers’ School, founded by Whittington, c.1419, rebuilt c.1668; a cart laden with barrels stands outside the grand arched entrances to the college, a tower rises in the background.”

The text states that it is a view of the Mercers’ School, however the previous print shows the school in what is the empty plot of the above photo, so I wonder if the school originally moved into the building with the ornate entrances before a purpose built building was completed next door.

The text also states that Mercers’ School was founded by (Richard) Whittington c1419, however according to the Mercers’ School History, the school was started in 1542, over one hundred years after Whittington’s death.

There was though a Whittington College in College Hill, however it was dissolved in 1547 during Henry VIII’s dissolution of religious establishments. It was revived after his death by Mary, but finally wound up during the reign of Elizabeth I, so long before the building was constructed in 1680.

So the British Museum text appears to have errors, and whoever published the print of the building appears to have wrongly assumed that it was Whittington College, when by the time of the print the Mercers’ School was in College Hill.

The House of Richard Whittington

At numbers 19 to 20 College Hill is another Grade II listed building, dating from the mid 19th century:

Richard Whittington

On the left of the building is a plaque which states that “The House of Richard Whittington Mayor of London Stood on this Site in 1423”:

Richard Whittington

There has been much written about Richard Whittington, and many of these stories are myths. There was no cat (this was added centuries later), he was not poor, and whether he turned again as he was leaving the City to the north is probably unlikely.

Where he did have a challenge is that he was the younger son of Sir William Whittington, from Pauntley in Gloucestershire, and being a younger son, he would not have inherited his father’s wealth and lands.

On his arrival in London, he was apprenticed to a mercer, and gradually grew a reputation as a successful trader and also sold to the King. Between 1392 and 1394 Richard II purchased around £3,475 worth of goods from Whittington. He exported wool and also lent money to the King, all activities which built his wealth and reputation within the royal court.

His future reputation would be sealed when he became Mayor of London. It was his money lending, friendship and loyalty to the King, Richard II which enabled this, as in 1397 the City of London was being badly governed.

The King confiscated much of the City’s land, and selected Richard Whittington to be Mayor of the City, a choice which was confirmed by a vote of those eligible to vote within the City of London.

He appears to have been liked by the people of London, he carried out a number of improvements to the City, which apparently included rebuilding parts of the Guildhall, and according to the Museum of London, he built a communal ‘longhouse’, a communal privy which would have overhung the Walbrook river. He also ensured that the City was able to buy back the land that the King had confiscated.

Although he did own property, he did not own large estates, including a large estate outside of London, as would have been normal at the time for a person of his position and wealth.

He was Mayor of the City of London in 1397, 1406 and 1419, and he was also an MP, as well as being a member of the Mercers Company.

He wife Alice died in 1410, and Whittington died in 1423, and as they had no surviving children, much of Whittington’s wealth was left for charitable purposes.

The date on the plaque is 1423 for Richard Whittington’s house being on the site. This is the year that he died, and it highlights one of the problems with these plaques, in that they do not explain the relevance of the date.

Whilst it was the year he died, was he living in the house at the time, how long had he owned or lived in the house, why is 1423 important as regards the house?

But there is a much stranger date on the next plaque.

Richard Whittington Founded and was Buried in this Church 1422

The plaque can just be seen on the corner of the church, highlighted by the red arrow:

College Hill

So, there is an immediate problem with this plaque, according to nearly all the sources I have read, Richard Whittington died in 1423, not 1422, so at the time of the date on this plaque, claiming burial in the church, he seems to have been very much alive.

Richard Whittington

I may be wrong that the date on the plaque refers to his year of death, it may be something to do with the church. According to records in the London Metropolitan Archives, Whittington paid for the rebuild of the church in 1409, so did it take thirteen years to complete, and was being reconsecrated / reopened in 1422?

This is one of the problems with some of the plaques in the City of London, they do not provide any context to some of the dates listed.

The sources stating his death was in March 1423 include:

Along with many others books and websites. An example of a book which could perhaps be expected to have the correct date is Old and New London by Walter Thornbury, where in a comprehensive listing of Lord Mayor’s of the City, Whittington is stated as having died in 1627, four years after what appears to have been his correct year of death.

An early 17th century “true” portrait of Richard Whittington  © The Trustees of the British Museum):

Richard Whittington

Two hundred years after his death, the story of the cat seems to have been established as he is shown stroking a small cat in the above print, which also lists his good works:

“Thrice Mayor of London, a virtuous and godly man full of good works and those famous he builded the Gate of London called Newgate which before was a miserable dungeon. He builded Whittington College and made it an almshouse for poor people. Also he builded a great part of the hospital of St. Bartholomews in West Smithfield in London. He also builded the great Library at Grey Friers in London called Christes Hospital. Also he builded the Guilde Halle Chapel and increased a great part of the east side of the said hall, beside many other good works.”

The plaque is on the corner of the church of St. Michael Paternoster Royal, and there are a number of stories regarding the founding and age of the church.

The plaque claims that the church was founded by Richard Whittington, but that is not quiet true.

The first reference to a church on the site dates from 1219. The name of the church comes from the sellers of paternosters or rosaries who were based in College Hill, which was then called Paternoster Lane. The Royal element of the name comes from a now lost nearby street called Le Ryole, which was a corruption of the name of a town in Bordeaux called La Reole. The street was apparently home to wine sellers, which presumably explains the Bordeaux connection.

Richard Whittington’s involvement with the church dates from 1409 when he paid for the rebuilding of the church, and the extension of the church by the purchase of a plot of land in the street Le Ryole.

Although he was not responsible for the founding of the original church, Whittington did found a College within the extended church for the training of priests, the College of St Spirit and St Mary. The association of the church with the college enabled St Michael’s to become a collegiate church, so perhaps this is what the plaque is referring to.

The college is also the reason why the street is called College Hill.

The church was destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire, and rebuilt by Wren, with Nicholas Hawksmoor adding the steeple between 1713 and 1717.

The church was badly damaged during the last war, and there was a proposal to demolish all of the church except for the tower, however this was opposed by the Corporation of the City of London, and the church was finally rebuilt and restored in the late 1960s, the last City church to be rebuilt after the damage of the early 1940s.

The tower and steeple of St. Michael Paternoster Royal:

St. Michael Paternoster Royal

St. Michael Paternoster Royal as it appeared in 1812  © The Trustees of the British Museum):

St. Michael Paternoster Royal

And by 1859, houses and a pub appear to have been built on the open space to the south of the church, down to Upper Thames Street, with a pub, the White Swan on the corner  © The Trustees of the British Museum):

College Hill

The main door to the church:

St. Michael Paternoster Royal

Every time I have walked past the church, it has been closed. I hope at some point I will be able to get in and write a more comprehensive post on the church.

Although there is nothing left of Richard Whittington’s tomb, there is apparently a marked stone on the floor near the altar recording the location of his burial place.

The view looking up College Hill is shown in the following photo. The hill is an indication that the street is sloping down towards the Thames.

College Hill

The following history of the street name is from one of the books on London that does seem accurate and well researched, Harben’s “A Dictionary of London” (1918):

“The earliest name Paternosterchurch Street (1232) commemorated the church, then in all probability its distinguishing feature.

The subsequent name ‘La Reole’ recalls the memory of the foreign merchants assembled there for purposes of their trade of whom a great number are said to have imported wine from the town of ‘La Reole’ near Bordeaux and to have named the street in which they resided after their native town. The name appears to have been given in the first instance to one principal messuage or tenement, and only later applied to the whole street.

The present name commemorates the great foundation of Whittington College in the church of St. Michael Paternoster Royal.”

There is one more plaque to find in College Hill, and this is on the left / west side of the street, so I walked back up the street to find the site of:

The Duke of Buckingham’s House

As you walk back up College Hill, on the left, on a large brick building, next to an entrance to a courtyard, is another plaque, arrowed in the following photo:

College Hill

The plaque states that this is the site of the Duke of Buckingham’s House, 1672:

Duke of Buckingham's House

The information on this plaque does not really explain which Duke of Buckingham, and the relevance of the date. Was 1672 when the house was built, when it was demolished, or when the Duke of Buckingham lived in the house, and if it was only for a single year, why does it need a plaque?

Firstly, who was the Duke of Buckingham?

The Duke of Buckingham in the 17th century refers to two generations of the Villiers family.

George Villiers purchased a number of large estates in the early 17th century, He was a favourite of King James I, and one history of the county of Rutland (where Villiers primary country estate was located) states that “It was his elegant legs that first brought George Villiers to the adoring attention of James I”.

George Villiers was made the first Duke of Buckingham in 1623.

James I died in 1625 and Charles I then took the throne and George Villiers continued to have royal favour, although it appears he was not a popular man, and was often used as a scapegoat for poor decisions.

Villiers end came about due to failed naval battles. He had the position of Lord Admiral, and led a naval force to attempt the relief of La Rochelle. The attempt was a failure and there were around 5,000 casualties in the forces led by Villiers.

A second expedition also failed, and following these two naval disasters sailors and soldiers were left unpaid, fed up with Villiers command and willing to mutiny. In the naval town of Porrsmouth, sailors rioted even though Villiers promised to provide their pay from his own funds.

Such was the feeling among the sailors of the navy, that one of their number, John Felton assassinated Villiers on the 23rd of August 1628, and that was the end of the first Duke of Buckingham.

Seven months prior to his death, his first son George was born, and it was to this infant that the title of the second Duke of Buckingham passed.

George Villiers, the second Duke of Buckingham grew to follow in his father’s footsteps and continue to support the king, Charles I. He fought on the Royalist side during the Civil War and escaped to Europe with the future Charles II he was later captured and prisoned in Jersey, Windsor and the Tower of London.

After Cromwell’s death in 1658, Buckingham was released from the Tower in 1659, and with Charles II restored to the throne, Buckingham had his estates restored and became a rich man, and was also at the centre of the royal court.

Buckingham did though have very expensive and extravagent tastes, and also racked up large gambling debts.

George Villiers, the Second Duke of Buckingham died in 1687, and his estates were sold to pay off his debts.

He had no legitimate heir, so the 17th century father and son, both George Villiers and the first and second Dukes of Buckingham ended in 1687, so the plaque refers to one or both of these two men.

I have read in some well respected blogs that the house belonged to George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham, with no mention of the second Duke. The first Duke died almost 50 years before the date on the plaque.

The book “A Handbook for London, Past and Present” by Peter Cunningham (1849) states that Buckingham House was “A spacious mansion on the east side of College Hill, for some time the city residence of the second, and last Duke of Buckingham“.

There is an error in this statement, as if the plaque is in the right position, Buckingham House was on the west side of College Hill, not the east.

The City of London Queen Street Conservation Area document states that “The Dukes of Buckingham owned a substantial property accessed from the west side of College Hill until its redevelopment in 1672”.

Strype, writing in 1720, stated “Buckingham house, so called as being bought by the late Duke of Buckingham and where he some time resided upon a particular humour: It is a very large and graceful Building, late the Seat of Sir John Lethulier an eminent Merchant; some time Sheriff and Alderman of London, deceased“.

Buckingham House was shown on Ogilby and Morgan’s 1676 map of London. The yellow arrow in the following extract points to the house which was a substantial building for the area, between College Hill and New Queen Street:

College Hill

The building appears to have been accessed through an alleyway from College Hill which the red arrow points to, and as far as I can tell by aligning maps, an alley still exists in the same place today (the Buckingham House plaque is on the left of the entrance to the alley):

Duke of Buckingham's House

At the end of the alley is the small space of Newcastle Court, surrounded by offices, but occupying a small part of the space that was once in front of Buckingham House.

So after reading many different sources, there is still no final answer as to which Duke of Buckingham owned Buckingham House, or whether it was both of them. And no firm answer as to the relevance of the date 1672.

In writing these posts, I try and avoid stating what may appear to be simple statements of truth, when in reality there are many different versions, and I suspect it would only be after some considerable effort in various archives, that the correct story could be revealed, if documents covering the period, the two Dukes of Buckingham, and the house on College Hill still remain.


Bethlehem Hospital, Life Assurance, a Botanist, Church and City Inn

This Sunday, I am continuing with my search for all the plaques commemorating events, people and places in the City of London. The plaques that have been the subject of previous posts can be found on the map at this link.

A mix of very different subjects this week, starting with:

Bethlehem Hospital

On the wall of the old Great Eastern Hotel on Liverpool Street, where the station is also located, is the following plaque marking the site of the first Bethlehem Hospital:

The Bethlehem Hospital (also know as Bethlem or Bedlam) was founded in 1247 when a Sheriff of London, Simon FitzMary donated a parcel of land to the Bishop of Bethlehem.

On this land was founded the Priory of St Mary of Bethlehem. As well as being a religious establishment, the priory also cared for the poor who were sick.

The hospital occupied a space of around 2 acres where Liverpool Street Station now stands. The Historic England record for the hospital states that it was “centred around a courtyard with a chapel in the middle, it had approximately 12 ‘cells’ for patients, a kitchen, staff accommodation and an exercise yard.”

The hospital was taken over by the City of London in 1346, and later in the 14th century and early 15th century, it seems to have gradually changed from being a hospital for the poor, to a hospital that treated “lunatics” – not that any realistic treatment was available.

The term lunatic was a catchall for anyone who had any form of mental illness, and the term would continue to be in use for centuries to come. As an example, in a previous post where I looked at 18th century Bills of Mortality, there were frequent deaths due to “lunatic”, and you were automatically assumed to have this condition if you committed suicide, for example with the following record from January 1716 “Hanged himself (being Lunatick) at St. Olaves Southwark”.

Conditions were harsh at Bethlehem Hospital, and it seems to have been more a place to keep people off the streets rather then to provide treatment, with those in the hospital frequently being restrained and chained.

By the middle of the 17th century, the site was considered too small, run down, and in a very crowded area, so in 1676 the Bethlehem Hospital moved to Moorfields.

The following image uses embedded code, not sure if it will display in the emails. If not, go to the home page of the website.

The image shows “Construction work in the extension to Liverpool Street Station by the Great Eastern Railway, 1894 on the foundations of the first Bethlem Hospital. © Historic England BL12561B”:

The following photo shows the plaque on the side of the building with the street Liverpool Street on the left:

The plaque is a reminder of the harsh treatment of people with conditions of which there was no understanding at the time.

Parsonage of St. Nicholas Acons

In Nicholas Lane in the City of London is a plaque recording that Scientific Life Assurance began at the site in 1762.

Assurance is cover for something that will happen, whilst insurance is for something that may happen, and with life assurance, a payout is inevitable, as along with taxes, the only other certainty in life is death.

However the problem with life assurance is being able to calculate the profile of death in the population being covered. Basically, for how long will people be paying their premiums and when will payout be expected after their death.

Unless this could be fully understood, those offering life assurance ran the risk of making it so expensive that no one would buy the cover, or too cheap and the business running at a loss.

The first company to use a statistical approach to calculating life assurance premiums and payouts was the Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships, which was established in the parsonage of St. Nicholas Acons in 1762.

Work on a statistical approach to mortality had been underway before 1762, with Edmund Halley (after whom the comet is named), having created mortality tables in 1693. A mortality table is basically a table of ages, and for each age a probability is given of death before the next birthday, so for someone aged 45, it would show the probability that they would die before their 46th birthday.

The mathematician James Dodson took Halley’s work further, and although he had died before the founding of the Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships, the society took his work as the basis for their calculations of premiums and payments.

Edward Rowe Mores was instrumental in the use of Dodson’s work, and he was one of the group that founded the company. Mores was a typical 18th century scholar, as his interests ranged from mathematics, typography, history and statistics.

In establishing the company it was Mores who first used the term “actuary” for the person responsible for making the calculations of mortality, premiums and payouts.

The plaque can be seen on the wall in Nicholas Lane, near to Nicholas Passage:

The Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships was known for trying to be fair to its customers, and allocated some of their financial surplus back to their policy holders. The following from the London Evening Standard on the 6th of December, 1851 illustrates their approach:

“Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships, New Bridge-Street, Blackfriars. Instituted 1762.

At the end of every ten years two-thirds of the Surplus Funds of the Society are appropriated to the oldest 5000 Policies, and one-third is reserved as an accumulating fund.

At the last investigation – on the 31st December, 1849 – the Capital of the Society exceeded Eight Millions Sterling, invested in Three per Cents and on Mortgages.

The surplus amounted to £3,215,000, of which £2,113,000 were appropriated to the oldest 5000 Policies, and the remaining £1,102,000 were added to the reserves.”

The Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships eventually became Equitable Life, and the plaque records where the use of statistics were used in financial services, and where the profession of actuary was formalised.

I wrote about Bills of Mortality, and an earlier work by John Gaunt, published in 1676, who took an earlier statistical approach to mortality in my post Bills of Mortality – Death in early 18th Century London.

William Curtis, Botanist. Gracechurch Street

In Gracechurch Street there is a plaque recording that the botanist William Curtis lived in a house at the site of the plaque:

It is low down on the wall of a building at the southern end of Gracechurch Street, as can be seen at the bottom left of the following photo:

William Curtis was a Quaker, who was born in the town of Alton in Hampshire in 1746. He appears to have had an interest in the study of plants and insects from an early age, and after arriving in London he had a position as a Demonstrator of Botany at the Chelsea Physic Garden (see this post for my visit to the Chelsea garden).

Such was his success that he opened his own garden, the London Botanic Garden in Lambeth, where he is reported to have grown and exhibited in the order of 6,000 plants.

The 18th century was a time when plant collectors were bringing back specimens from across the world. Collectors such as Joseph Banks, who would become President of the Royal Society encouraged the activity.

This influx of foreign specimens did concern William Curtis though, who was worried that they would take over from indigenous species. This led him to publish a set of books that would make his name.

The six volume set was called Flora Londinensis, which had the following full title:

“Flora Londinensis, or, Plates and descriptions of such plants as grow wild in the environs of London : with their places of growth, and times of flowering, their several names according to Linnæus and other authors : with a particular description of each plant in Latin and English : to which are added, their several uses in medicine, agriculture, rural œconomy and other arts.”

The six volumes, published during the last quarter of the 18th century aimed to record all the plants to found within an area of roughly ten miles around London. Each plant was described and illustrated, such as the following example:

The above image is from the Biodiversity heritage Library, where the books are available for download and marked as “not in copyright”.

After publishing Flora Londinensis, William Curtis went on to publish The Botanical Magazine, which contained illustrations and descriptions of various plant species along with other botanical articles.

The magazine continued after his death in 1799 and is still published today by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, as Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, and it is believed to be the oldest botanical magazine in the world, still in publication.

William Curtis:

His magazine made him very financially successful, and along with Flora Londinensis, and his work in London’s gardens, his place was secured in 18th century botanical history, and he is now remembered by the plaque in Gracechurch Street.

St. Dionis Backchurch

In Lime Street, there is a plaque recording the site of St. Dionis Backchurch:

St Dionis was Dionysus the Areopagite, who was a judge in Athens during the first century AD. He converted to Christianity and was said to have been a follower of St. Paul.

He is the patron saint of France, where he is also known as St. Denis, as a result of having converted the French to Christianity.

In the 1870s there were proposals for the demolition of a number of City churches. The local population was insufficient to justify so many churches, and the aim was to consolidate parishes and congregations.

Newspapers had lengthy articles about some of the churches, and the City Press on Saturday the 16th of September, 1871 had a full column on the history of St. Dionis Backchurch. The following is from the beginning of the article and provides an overview of its history:

“This parish is first mentioned in the records of the Corporation, Letter-book H, folio 105. John Fromond, in 1379, being charged before John Philpot, Lord Mayor, for stealing the dagger or knife called a ‘baselard’ from his girdle, for which charge, it being proven, he, the said John Fromond was adjudged the punishment of the pillory, and then to be banished from the City.

The foundation of the church is of great antiquity; Reginald de Standen was rector in 1283; he was succeeded by Richard Grimston in 1350. The church was newly built early in the reign of Henry VI., 1427-30, John Derby, Alderman, added a fair isle or chapel on the north side, in which he was buried in 1466. Lady Wych, widow of Sir Hugh Wych, who was Mayor of London in 1461, gave some other benefactions; John Bugg also contributed to the new work of restoration. The structure falling into decay, it was partially rebuilt in 1628 – 32, the middle isle of the same being laid in 1628 and a new turret and steeple were added in 1630, and in 1632 new frames were made for the bells. The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

It was rebuilt, all but the tower, from the designs of Sir Chistopher Wren, and was finished in 1674; and about ten years afterwards it was found necessary to rebuild the tower, which was done under the direction of the great architect. The building consists of a nave and two aisles formed by Ionic columns, which support the entablature; and arched ceiling in which, under groined openings, small circular lights are introduced on either side. the length of the church is 66 feet, and the breadth about 70 feet; the tower is 90 feet high. At the west end is situated the organ gallery.”

The later half of the 19th century was a time of great change in the City of London. The City was growing rapidly in terms of global influence, trade and finance. Victorian architects wanted to build a City that reflected this, and in 1877 the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings was founded by William Morris to try and preserve many of the buildings at risk, including the church of St. Dionis Backchurch, however in their second annual meeting in 1878, they reported that:

“Amongst the objects the Committee had taken in hand was the preservation of the City churches, and in this respect they were able, to a certain extent, to report favourably, for, although St, Dionis Backchurch had been demolished, the interesting church of St. Mary-at-Hill, Eastcheap, has been saved, in spite of strenuous opposition.”

I wrote about the church of St. Mary-at-Hill in this post. Incredible to think that the church could have been demolished.

The following print of the church, dating from 1813, provides some detail as to the origin of “Backchurch” in the name as “given to distinguish this church as standing behind a row of houses from that of St. Gabriel’s, which previous to the fire of London, stood in the middle of Fenchurch Street” ( © The Trustees of the British Museum):

I wrote about the church of St. Gabriel Fenchurch, in this post. The description of the origins of the name again illustrates how many City churches they were, and how close together.

The plaque can be seen on the wall on the left, in Lime Street, a short distance north of the junction with Fenchurch Street:

As well as the plaque, in the above photo you can see one of the Lime hire bikes across the walkway. This was not how the bike was originally left, and it is interesting how much anger these seem to generate.

I have seen them left in some ridiculous places, blocking pavements, in the middle of the road etc. however whilst I was photographing the plaque, a cyclist arrived at the cycle stand. Saw the Lime bike in the rack, threw it angrily (along with some choice language) out onto the pavement (narrowly missing a pedestrian), putting his own bike in its place, and walking off.

All rather strange.

Crosskey’s Inn

In Gracechurch Street, at the entrance to Bell Inn Yard, is a plaque recording the location of the Crosskeys Inn:

In the 16th century City of London, there were four main locations where plays were performed. These were the Bell Savage off Ludgate Hill, the Bell at Bell Inn Yard (the location of the above plaque), the Bull off Bishopsgate Street, and the Crosskeys Inn.

Inn’s were perfect locations for the performance of plays. They frequently had a large yard which was normally used for the arrival and departure of coaches and wagons, but could also provide the space for actors and an audience.

They were places were people could congregate, and the Inns benefited from the sale of food and drink before, during and after a performance.

There has been some research that suggests that the Crosskeys were one of the few locations that put on plays inside rather than in the yard, however this is difficult to confirm.

Actors of the time were frequently grouped in a company that was financed by a wealthy sponsor, and the company took on the name of sponsor.

At the Crosskeys Inn, Lord Strange’s Men performed in 1589, when William Shakespeare may have been with the company. Lord Strange was Ferdinando Stanley, the 5th Earl of Derby, and after Stanley’s father died, and he became the Earl of Derby, they became known as the Earl of Derby’s Men.

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men are also believed to have played at the Crosskeys Inn in 1594.

The use of these inns for performances seems to have ended around 1593 and 1594, when they were banned following an appeal by the Lord Mayor to the Privy Council. This is believed to have been due to an increase in the plaque, and they moved out of the City to the Theatre in Shoreditch and the Globe on the south bank of the river. 

It may also have been due to the rowdy behaviour that sometimes accompanied a play, which the City may well not have appreciated within their boundaries.

The Crosskeys Inn continued in use during the 17th century, until it was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666.

What is confusing is why the plaque to the Crosskeys Inn is at the entrance to Bell Inn Yard.

Morgan’s map of London from 1682 shows the location of the inn (the inn was rebuilt after the fire).

In the following map, the red circle is around the location of the Crosskeys Inn and the yellow circle around Bell Yard:

The key to Morgan’s map includes the number and location:

I have checked a number of maps, and tried to accurately align them along Gracechurch Street, and as far as I can tell, the Crosskeys Inn was located along the current Bell Inn Yard, and Bell Yard was just a bit further north and has been lost under the larger buildings that now line the west of the street.

The Crosskeys Inn was rebuilt after the Great Fire, and continued as one of the City’s busy coaching Inns. The name appears on Rocque’s map of 1746, and there are numerous newspaper reports referencing the inn.

It appears to have closed in 1850 and been demolished soon after. There is a newspaper report in the Illustrated London news on the 24th of May 1851, which referring to Gracechurch Street states:

“On the west side of that thoroughfare, and on the site of the old Cross Keys, an Inn from which the licence was withdrawn some twelve months ago”.

The newspaper report was about the collapse of a building which was under construction and covered a wide area along Gracechurch Street, including the site of the Crosskeys Inn.

The building using a frame of iron girders, collapsed when one of the girders snapped. There were around 80 workmen on the building, with many injured and 3 deaths.

So the plaque refers to the version of the Crosskeys that was part used for putting on plays in the later part of the 16th century. The inn was rebuilt and continued in use as a coaching inn to the mid 19th century.

The name Crosskeys comes from the arms of the papacy, where the crossed keys are St. Peter’s keys, and the keys to heaven.

Attribution: Coat of arms of the Holy See, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

And there is now a Wetherspoons on this part of Gracechurch Street called the Crosse Keys. It is in the former premises of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation, which was designed by W. Campbell Jones and dates from 1913.

It has a rather splendid interior and is well worth a look.

That is about 25 of the roughly 170 plaques within the City of London covered, so still a number to go.


Samaritans, Physicians, Cutlers, the YMCA and Freemasons

Firstly, a quick apology for an error in last week’s post. I had confused the size of the floors in the Swan pub, at Wapping Dock Stairs. The newspaper article I referred to stated they were 30 feet square on each floor, which I stated would have been just over 5 feet on each side (30 square foot, rather than 30 feet on each side of a floor), so a much larger room, and a reminder to me to read through my posts a couple of times before sending.

Thanks to those who let me know about the error.

For this Sunday’s post (and after reading through three times), a return to discover some of the fascinating stories told by the plaques that can be seen whilst walking around the City of London, starting with;

The Samaritans – St Stephen Walbrook

There is a blue City of London plaque on the side of St Stephen Walbrook, where St. Stephen’s Row heads along the rear of the Mansion House, arrowed in the following photo:


The plaque records that the Samaritans were founded in the church in 1953 by the rector, Chad Varah:


Edward Chad Varah. to give him his full name, was born on the 12th of November 1911 in the Lincolnshire village of Barton-on-Humber. He was the eldest of nine children and the name he would be known by came from St Chad, founder of the parish.

He did not intend to follow his father into the church, however he was persuaded by his godfather, Archbishop Hine.

In the early 1950s, he was based at Clapham Junction, carrying out house visits, and working as the chaplain of St John’s hospital, Battersea, however despite these activities, his stipend was very low, with hardly any money available for his work, and just enough to pay for a secretary. To help generate additional income, he took on a second career as a scriptwriter for children’s comics.

Varah had very liberal views for the time, particularly for a person of the church. He was a strong believe in sex education, and believed this was key for poorly educated young people.

His believe in the importance of sex education, and willingness to listen to people, to provide advice, and eventually to start the Samaritans may have come from an event in 1935 when Varah was an assistant curate in Lincoln. He had to conduct his first funeral which was for a 13 year old girl who had taken her own life. The girl had started her period, however without knowing what was really happening she feared she had a sexually transmitted disease which would result in a slow, painful and shameful death.

His lack of money whilst working in Clapham Junction, along with the responsibility of a parish, prevented any formal development of a system of help for those at risk of suicide, of which there was an average of three a day in London in the early 1950s.

Help came when he was offered the living of St Stephen Walbrook by the Grocers’ Livery Company. This was a City church without any parishioners when compared to Clapham Junction, and this provided Varah with the time to set up the service which would become the Samaritans.

Varah started with a single telephone on the 2nd of November 1953.

His connections in the publishing industry through his work on comics immediately led to some publicity for his new service, such as the following from the Daily Mirror on the 7th of December 1953:

“DIAL 9000 FOR WORDS OF COMFORT – A telephone emergency service, run on the same lines as the police 999 calls, will soon be available to people in distress who need spiritual aid.

All Londoners need do is dial Mansion House 9000, the number of the Telephone Good Samaritans, and advice will be given immediately.

The scheme has been thought up by the Rev. Chad Varah, 42, Vicar of St. Stephen’s in the City, and will be in operation within the next few months.

If a case is sufficiently urgent, a Good Samaritan will dash to the caller and try to comfort and help him or her, said Mr. Varah yesterday.

The Vicar hopes to enroll Samaritans – volunteer workers for his service – from all parts of London.

I want to spread the organisation so that there are at least two Samaritans for every four square miles of Greater London and the suburbs, he said.

I first got the idea from the many letters I received from people in mental and spiritual distress. And I have found that a chat, a kind word and some good advice from an outsider can often save a person’s life.

He said that he intended to deal with personal spiritual problems concerning everything from quarrels between married couples to would be suicides.

The qualifications Samaritans need are tact, patience and the ability to keep other people’s confidences, he said. Religion is a secondary requirement.”

The Daily Herald had a similar report, but ended with the following paragraph, which provides an indication of how many calls Chad Varah was receiving:

“Mr. Varah is now missing meals to keep up with the phone calls he is getting. The former vicar of St. Paul’s Clapham Junction, he has just taken over St. Stephen’s.”

He soon collected a group of volunteers together to take calls, and in February 1954 he handed over the responsibility to take calls to the volunteers leading to the organisation of the Samaritans.

Chad Varah was involved with the Samaritans for the rest of his life. He retired from St Stephen, Walbrook in 2003 after being rector of the church for 50 years. He died in 2007, just a few days before his 96th birthday.

A remarkable man, who started an organisation that must have saved countless lives since starting seventy years ago in St. Stephen Walbrook in 1953.

The City of London plaque to the founding of the Samaritans is next to a small alley, St. Stephens Row which runs alongside the church, and the rear of the Mansion House.

On the wall of the Mansion House close, to the plaque is a stone block, which I think warns that anyone sticking bills or damaging the walls will be prosecuted. There is no date, but from the faded script, and style, it is of some age:

St. Stephen Row Samaritans

St. Stephen’s Row leads between the church and Mansion House:

St. Stephen Row Samaritans

I suspect St. Stephen’s Row dates from the construction of the Mansion House.

The first stone of Mansion House was laid in 1739 and the home of the Mayors of the City of London was completed in 1758.

Although it was still under construction, by the time of Rocque’s 1746 map of London, it is shown on the map, and there is an alley between the Mansion House and St Stephen’s, which continues to the right of the Mansion House. Although it is not named on the map, it is the route of St. Stephen’s Row today:

St. Stephen Row Samaritans

Going back to William Morgan’s 1682 map of London, and the space for the future Mansion House was then occupied by the Woolchurch Market. There looks to be buildings between the market and church, but there is no sign of the alley:

St. Stephen Row Samaritans

There was a church which stood where the Mansion House now stands called St Mary Woolchurch Haw. The church was lost during the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt, and the market took the name of the church.

I have written about the church and the market towards the end of the post at this link.

The view along St. Stephen’s Row, with the church on the left and Mansion House on the right:

St. Stephen Row Samaritans

The entrance to the churchyard at the rear of St. Stephen Walbrook from St. Stephen’s Row:

St. Stephen Walbrook Samaritans

Now to a very different location:

The Royal College of Physicians

In Warwick Lane, which runs between Newgate Street and Ave Marie Lane, to the west of St. Paul’s Cathedral, there is a plaque shown arrowed in the following photo:

Royal College of Physicians

Recording that this was the site of the Royal College of Physicians between 1674 and 1825:

Royal College of Physicians

The origins of the Royal College of Physicians dates back to the early 16th century when a number of leading medical men, including Thomas Linacre, the physician to King Henry VIII became concerned about the state of medical practice in the country, the lack of any regulation, and the impact that untrained physicians were having on their patients.

Thomas Linacre, along with five other leading physicians, persuaded the kIng to allow the founding of a College of Physicians.

A Royal Charter was received and the College of Physicians was founded in London on the 23rd of September, 1518, and an Act of Parliament in 1523 extended the authority of the College from London to the whole of the country.

The “Royal” was added to the name after the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II in the later part of the 17th century.

The Royal College of Physicians original home in the City of London was destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire, and nine years later, following some successful fundraising, the Royal College purchased land and property in Warwick Lane.

The new building was designed by Robert Hooke, and had a large central courtyard with wings either side. There was a public gallery, an anatomy theatre which was topped by an octagonal dome, and a large library which was designed by Christopher Wren.

The view of the Royal College of Physicians in Warwick Lane  © The Trustees of the British Museum):

Royal College of Physicians

The large courtyard at the rear of the block facing onto Warwick Lane  © The Trustees of the British Museum):

Royal College of Physicians

By the early 19th century, the City was becoming a crowded, busy and dirty place, and the building in Warwick Lane had deteriorated so was sold in 1825, and finally demolished in 1890.

Following the exit from Warwick Lane in 1825, the College moved to Pall Mall, before moving in 1964 to Regents Park, where they remain to this day.

Although not marked by a plaque as it is still in use, there is an interesting building next to the plaque:

Cutlers Hall

This is Cutlers Hall:

Cutlers Hall

My go to book on the City’s Companies (The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London by John Bromley, 1960) records the following about the Cutlers:

The cutlery trade of the Middle Ages included the making of swords, daggers and knives of all kinds. originally it was a highly specialised industry, comprising the separate trades of hafters who made handles or hafrts, bladesmiths and sheathers, with the cutlers acting as assemblers and salesmen. Both hafters and sheathers were ultimately merged into the Cutlers Company while the bladesmiths were first united with the Company of Armourers, and then allowed by a decision of the Court of Aldermen of 1528 to depart unto the fellowship of Cutlers at will.”

Given their trade, you would expect the Cutlers to be one of the old Company’s of the City, and they are indeed, with the first mention of an organised craft of Cutlers in 1328 when seven cutlers were elected to govern the craft and search for false work.

The Cutlers moved to the hall we see today in Warwick Lane in the 1880s, when their original hall in Cloak Lane was demolished to make way for the construction of the Inner Circle Line by the Metropolitan and District Railway Company (now the route of the Circle and District lines between Mansion House and Cannon Street stations).

I wrote a post about the original hall, and the construction of the railway in this post: Cloak Lane, St John the Baptist, the Walbrook and the Circle Line

The arms of the Cutlers can be seen above the entrance to the hall, and the following image shows the arms:

Cutlers Company

The swords are an obvious reference to one of the products of the Cutlers. The use of elephants in the arms is old, and was recorded in 1445 where members of the Cutlers wore elephants as decorations on their coats or shields when the City welcomed Queen Margaret on her marriage to Henry VI in 1445.

The use of the elephant may be down to the use of ivory in the hafts (handle of a knife) made by members of the Company.

The elephant is featured in the sign hanging from the side of Cutlers Hall:

Cutlers Hall

One remarkable feature of Cutlers Hall is the frieze along the façade of the building. The frieze is a detailed view of the work of cutlers, and was created by the sculptor Benjamin Creswick.

The following image shows the frieze, with the left most panel at the top:

Cutlers Hall

The red terracotta frieze is a wonderful record of the work of the trades that formed the Cutlers Company.

Now to St. Paul’s Churchyard to find two very different organisations, starting with the:

Young Men’s Christian Association

In front of the cathedral, there is an office block with shops on ground level running along the line of St. Paul’s Churchyard. There is a covered walkway in front of the shops, and at the western end of this walkway, next to the old gate of Temple Bar are two plaques, the first arrowed in the following photo:


The arrow is pointing to a plaque on the wall recording the founding of the Young Men’s Christian Association:


The plaque states that in 1844, George Williams with eleven other young men employed in the City of London…….Founded the Young Men’s Christian Association. But why here?

The Drapery House mentioned in the plaque was the offices, factory and warehouses of Hitchcock, Williams & Co.

The firm was established in 1835 by George Hitchcock and a Mr. Rogers, who would leave in 1843.  George Williams (mentioned in the above plaque) who originally joined the company as an apprentice, became a Director with Hitchcock in 1853 when the partnership Hitchcock, Williams & Co was formed. Always based in St. Paul’s Churchyard, firstly at number 1, then at number 72, with the firm expanding to take in many of the surrounding buildings.

George Williams, as well as becoming a partner with Hitchcock, received a knighthood from Queen Victoria for services, which included the inauguration of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)  which was founded in a room of the company’s premises in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

The history of the YMCA states that the group founded the YMCA as “a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets of London”.

The buildings of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. were destroyed during the raids of the 29th December 1940. A paragraph in the newspaper reports of the raid included a mention of the company and the YMCA:

“The historic room in which the Young Men’s Christian Association was started was among the places destroyed on Sunday night. With seven other buildings, the George Williams Room – named after the founder, the late Sir George Williams – was burned to ashes. It was situated in the premises of Messrs. Hitchcock, Williams and Co, manufacturers, warehousemen and shippers, of St. Paul’s Churchyard, and was originally one of the bedrooms used by the 140 assistants employed in the Hitchcock drapery business.”

As stated in the plaque, “from its beginning in this place inspired of God the association grew to encompass the world” and all because George Williams started as an apprentice here, in one of the many businesses that once lined St. Paul’s Churchyard.

I wrote a post dedicated to the company’s experience in the 1940s in this post: Operation Textiles – A City Warehouse In Wartime.

The Grand Lodge of English Freemasons

There is another plaque in the same place as the plaque recording the YMCA. Directly opposite, in the entrance to the covered walkway shown in the photo of the location of the YMCA plaque is the following:


The significance of the plaque and the site is the reference to the Grand Lodge, as prior to 1717 there had been four London lodges, and on the 24th of June 1717, they met at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard, and elected Anthony Sayer as the first Grand Master.

This was the first Grand Lodge not only in the country, but also across the world of Freemasons.

The four original lodges had all met in pubs; the Goose and Gridiron in St. Paul’s Churchyard, the Crown in Parkers Lane, the Apple Tree in Covent Garden, and the Rummer and Grapes (no location given).

Pubs continued to be used for meetings, but in 1767, the Grand Master, the Duke of Beaufort had the idea for a Central Hall, and a committee was formed to purchase land for a new hall, and a “plot of ground and premises consisting of two large, commodious dwelling houses, and a large garden situated in Great Queen Street” were purchased.

The hall built on the site was opened in 1776, and the Freemasons still occupy the same site, with the current hall being built between 1927 and 1933.

The plaques featured in today’s post show the wide range of organisations that have made the City of London their home over the centuries, or have been founded in the City.

From organisations such as the Samaritans, who must have been responsible for saving and helping so many people since 1953, to global organisations such as the YMCA, City Livery Companies, Medical Institutions and the Freemasons.

And they all continue to make their mark today.


Doctors Commons to the Daily Courant – City of London Plaques

Today’s post continues my exploration of all the plaques in the City of London, today covering Doctors Commons, St Thomas the Apostle and St. Leonard’s churches, Haberdashers Hall and the Daily Courant, the country’s first daily newspaper.

Doctors Commons

Walk along Queen Victoria Street, and to the right of one of the doors to the magnificent Faraday Building (see this post), is a blue plaque:

Doctors Commons

Recording that this was the site of Doctors’ Common, demolished in 1867:

Doctors Commons

Doctors Commons was founded on the site in 1572 as the College of Advocates and Doctors of Law. The buildings housed the Ecclesiastical and Admiralty Courts, along with the advocates who practicsed within these courts,

There were a total of five courts within Doctors Commons:

  • Court of Arches which was the highest court belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The name comes from the arches of the original Bow Church in Cheapside which was the original location of the court.
  • Court of Audience. This was another of the Archbishop’s courts, and was where the Archbishop would make a judgment on the cases that were brought to the court.
  • Prerogative Court. This was the court where wills and testaments were proven.
  • Court of Faculties and Dispensations. This was where special permission was granted to do something which the law would not normally allow. There are newspaper records of this court being used to allow quick marriages without the normal requirement for banns to be read in church.
  • Court of Admiralty. This court belonged to the Lord High Admiral of England and is the court where matters relating to mariners, merchants, ownership of ships etc. were settled.

The accounts of the cases brought to these courts are fascinating and shed a light on the legal system of the time. One of the activities of the Court of Admiralty was to decide on the ownership of captured enemy ships, for example, in July 1744:

“Last Monday a Court of Admiralty was held at Doctors Commons, when the Santa Rosetta, a Spanish Ship, taken by the Romney, Man of War, Greenwill, was condemn’d as a legal Prize, and the Shares ordere’d to be paid to the Captors forthwith.”

And in June 1747:

“On Tuesday was held at the Court of Admiralty at Doctors Commons, when the French Ships taken by the Admirals Anson and Warren, were condemned as lawful Prizes.”

The decision that these ships were prizes seems to have been a formality as I could not find any report where the status of a prize was not the outcome. Many a ship’s captain must have come away from Doctors Common a very happy, and financially better off, person.

The plaque next to the door of Faraday House implies that Doctors Commons was specifically at that location, however it occupied a much larger area. I have outlined the area occupied by Doctors Commons in the following extract from Rocque’s map of 1746:

Doctors Commons

Queen Victoria Street had not been built when the above map was created. It was built during the 1860s and is why the plaque gives the end date of Doctors Commons as1867 (see this post for the story of Queen Victoria Street). To get an idea of the route of Queen Victoria Street, the College of Arms can be seen to the right of the above map, and this now sits on the northern side of Queen Victoria Street, so the street ran along the southern edge of the College of Arms, down to the left where it met Thames Street.

Doctors Commons was mentioned by Charles Dickens in David Copperfield and the Pickwick Papers, and it seems to have been the type of place where the intricacies of the law, were often dragged out, and mainly to the benefit of the legal profession at the time.

The Prerogative Court dealt with wills and probate, and before its closure, was recorded as having a vast store of wills, including those of Sir Isaac Newton and Inigo Jones. This store also included a will written on a bed post, which was presumably a will written in the very last moments of life.

The following print shows the Prerogative Office in Doctors Commons in 1831, This office is marked in Rocque’s map, in the top left of the extract I have shown above  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Doctors Commons

By the time of demolition, many of the buildings of Doctors Commons had fallen into disrepair. Various acts of Parliament had changed the way that legal matters were dealt with, and the Court of Probate Act and Matrimonial Causes Act, both in 1857, along with the High Court of Admiralty Act of 1859 ended the majority of legal work at Doctors Commons.

The land was sold off and rebuilt. The southern tip of the area was incorporated into Queen Victoria Street, and this old legal area was reduced to a blue plaque.

St. Thomas the Apostle Church

The next plaque is to one of the many City churches that were destroyed during the 1666 Great Fire of London and were not rebuilt. The plaque is on a low wall on the corner of Great St. Thomas Apostle:

St Thomas the Apostle Church

Next to the street name sign:

St Thomas the Apostle Church

I cannot find any prints of this church, and there is little information available. My source for all pre-Great Fire churches is Wilberforce Jenkins “London Churches Before The Great Fire” (1917), and he writes about the church:

“The Church of St Thomas Apostle was in Knight Rider Street, at the east end of the street where the modern Queen Street crossed. from the earliest times it belonged to the canons of St. Paul, and is mentioned in the register of the Dean and Chapter in 1181. William de Sleford was priest in 1365 and William Stone was chaplain in 1369, being appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

And yet the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s presented William Brykelampton in 1415. The church would appear to have been rebuilt before this date, for Stow tells us that ‘John Barnes Mayor in 1371 was a great builder of St. Thomas Apostle parish church as appeareth by his arms there both in stone and glasse’. the same John Barnes left a chest and 1000 marks, to be lent to young men ‘upon sufficient pawne, and for use thereof”.

John Barnes was the Lord Mayor at the time, which probably explains why he had his arms inscribed on the stone and glass of the church.

The church has long gone, but the street name and plaque records that it was here.

St. Leonard’s Church

In Foster Lane, between the ground and first floors of a modern building is a plaque:

St Leonard's Church

Recording that St. Leonard’s, another of the churches not rebuilt following the Great Fire, was located here:

St Leonard's Church

Again, the book “London Churches Before The Great Fire” is my main source for information on this long lost church, and the book records that:

“St. Leonard’s, Foster Lane, formerly stood on the west side of that street, being a small parish church designed for people of St. Martin-le-Grand, and founded by the dean and canons of the priory on the thirteenth century. Outside of the church was a monument to John Brokeitwell, one of the founders and new builders of the church.

Francis Quarles, the somewhat eccentric poet, well known as the author of The Emblems was buried here in 1644.

The first rector of the church was William de Tyryngton who died in 1325. William Ward was rector in 1636, and was censured by a committee of Parliament for innovations. He was forced to fly, plundered, and at last died of want.

In 1636 the yearly income, including a house, was £139. the church was burnt in the Great Fire and not rebuilt, the parish being united to that of Christchurch.”

Francis Quarles seems to have been an interesting character. He took the Royalist side during the Civil War, and published several pamphlets in support of the Royalist cause, but he is one of those research rabbit holes that I must avoid going down so I can get a weekly post completed.

All that remains now of the church is the City of London blue plaque.

Haberdashers Hall

On the corner of Staining and Gresham Streets is a plaque:

Haberdashers Hall

Recording that this was the site of the Haberdashers Hall from 1458 to 1996:

Haberdashers Hall

The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers dates back to the 14th century when those engaged in the trade of selling items such as ribbons, pins, gloves, toys and purses formed a Company. They were joined by the Hatmakers in 1502.

The name Haberdasher may have an origin with the name of the coarse, thick cloth used under a suit of armour. In two lists of custom dues on cloths and furs coming into London during the reign of Edward I (1272 to 1307), the word “hapertas” appears in one list and “haberdassherie” appears in the second list. Given that they both appear in lists of cloths and furs, and they are similar words, they may have the same meaning.

The word “hapertas” was the word used for the cloth used under armour, so this may be the origin of the word haberdashery, but, at this distance of time it is difficult to be sure.

The corner location of the plaque had been the site of the Haberdashers Hall for over 500 years. The first hall was built in 1458, but was destroyed in 1666 during the Great Fire. It was followed a couple of years later by a second hall which was built on the same site.

This second hall lasted until 1940, when it was destroyed during wartime bombing of the City.

A third hall was built in 1956, but was not a standalone hall, rather it was part of a larger office development. This hall would only last for 40 years, as in 1996 the whole site was redeveloped as office space. The Haberdashers moved to a new hall in West Smithfield, which they still occupy today.

The following print shows the Haberdashers Hall in 1855:

Haberdashers Hall

A bit difficult to see, but the arms of the Haberdashers can be seen above the door in the above print. These arms can still be seen today at the site. If you look to the left of the blue plaque, the following arms are set on the wall:

Haberdashers Hall

I assume this is a boundary or ownership marking, implying that whilst the Haberdashers have moved location, they still own the property on the site of their old hall.

The Aldermanbury Conduit

On the wall in Love Lane alongside the location of the church of St. Mary Aldermanbury, is a plaque:

Aldermanybury Conduit

Which records that the Aldermanbury Conduit stood in this street providing free water from 1471 to the 18th century:

Aldermanybury Conduit

Whilst the plaque is accurate for the presumed opening date of the conduit, it just lists the 18th century as the end of the conduit. I wondered if there was an illustration of the conduit in prints of the church. The earliest print I found was from 1750 and no sign of the conduit.

Rocque’s map of 1746 has a couple of squiggles were the conduit should be, but I think these are trees, so the conduit probably disappeared in the early 18th century.

What was a conduit? It was basically a structure where water was stored and dispensed to people in need of water. Water could be fed into the conduit through pipes, a stream or spring, or being carried in buckets from another source.

I have photographed two conduits, so whilst I have no idea of what the Aldermanbury Conduit looked like, these others provide an example of their basic form and function.

The first is a possibly 14th century conduit at New River Head in Clerkenwell. The following photo shows the conduit to the rear of the site of the old Metropolitan Water Board building:

Aldermanybury Conduit

It is not in its original location, as it was at located next to Queen Square in Bloomsbury, and moved when the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square was being extended to the rear.

The following is typical of newspaper reports of the discovery:

“The extension scheme of the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square includes the acquisition of Chalfort House, and in the garden of the latter there is a very interesting old relic of the past. It is the conduit head which leads down to a small reservoir from which, since the thirteenth century, the water supply has been conveyed through a pipe to the Grey Friars, and later to Christ’s Hospital, more than a mile away.

The masonry is still entire, but owing to changes of levels is now all several feet below ground. It has been known both as the Chimney Conduit and the Devil’s Conduit. there is also a brick-built tunnel which leads to a well several yards away.

Dr. Philip Norman some time ago made some very interesting discoveries regarding the ancient water supply of the old monastic house, and it would be a pity if this old conduit would be destroyed. If it could be in some way preserved it would certainly become an attractive showplace for American visitors.”

The conduit was rescued by Charles Fitzroy Doll, the architect of the Imperial Hotel which was built between 1905 and 1911 (the predecessor of the current Imperial Hotel). The Chimney Conduit name is rather descriptive of the appearance of the conduit, however I cannot find a confirmed source for the Devil’s Conduit name.

View from the entrance of the conduit showing the steps leading down into the space that once stored water:

Aldermanybury Conduit

Inside the conduit, showing how the walls arched to form a continuous wall / roof to the structure:

Aldermanybury Conduit

I found another conduit last year in Grantham as I was following the sites of the Eleanor Crosses.

This conduit also has its origins with the Grey Friars who purchased the land around a spring outside of Grantham and piped the water to their property.

In 1597 the water supply was extended by pipe to the conduit in the market place. The conduit and pipeline was constructed by the Corporation of Grantham.

The conduit has seen many repairs since it was built, in 1927 the roof was replaced, along with three of the distinctive pinnacles.

Aldermanybury Conduit

I have no idea whether the Aldermanbury Conduit looked like either of the above two examples, however there cannot have been too many variations as it was basically a stone box used to store water ready for distribution, either by pipe, or at the conduit.

Now the site is marked by the blue plaque.

The Daily Courant – London’s First Daily Newspaper

Where Ludgate Hill meets Ludgate Circus is a blue, City of London plaque:

Daily Courant

Recording that in a house near this site was published in 1702 the Daily Courant. The first daily newspaper (except Sunday’s) in London:

Daily Courant

The following is from a number of newspapers in January 1870, reporting on the Daily Courant:

“The first daily paper published in England was the Daily Courant, which was commenced on the 11th of March, 1702. It was published by E. Mallet, against the Ditch at Fleet-bridge, not far, we may presume, from the present head-quarters of the Times or Daily Telegraph. It was a single page of two columns; and unlike the papers of our own time, it professed to give merely the home and foreign news, the editor assuring his readers that he would add no comment of his own, ‘supposing other people to have sense enough to make reflections for themselves’. In 1785 the Daily Courant appears to have been absorbed into the Daily Gazetteer.”

A fascinating description of the location as being “against the Ditch at Fleet-bridge” recording that in 1702, the Fleet was still uncovered at this point where today New Bridge Street meets Farringdon Street, that there was a bridge to cross over to Fleet Street, and that it was very much a polluted ditch.

The article mentions that the paper was published by E. Mallet, this was Elizabeth Mallet who was already successful in the book publishing trade when she started the Courant. She seems to have used the initial E rather then her full first name due to the lack of women in the trade , and possible bias against the Courant if it was known that a woman was the publisher.

The sentence that the “the editor assuring his readers that he would add no comment of his own” is interesting. 18th century newspapers were based on written reports, letters, copy from other newspapers etc. Papers such as the Daily Courant did not have a network of reporters producing copy for the paper to publish.

The Daily Courant simply published the reports and letters they had received, and left it up to the reader to judge the truth, implications and wider context of the report. The paper did try and get more than a single source and often published reports from two or three different foreign newspapers about a single place or event.

The paper also published the following advertisement in the first few issues to reinforce the point:

“It will be found from the Foreign Prints which from time to time, as Occasion offers, will be mentioned in this Paper, that the Author has taken Care to be duly furnished with all that comes from Abroad in any Language. And for an Assurance that he will not under pretence of having Private Intelligence, impose any Additions of feigned Circumstances to an Action, but give his Extracts fairly and Impartially; at the beginning of each Article he will quote the Foreign paper from whence it is taken, that the Public, seeing from what Country a piece of News comes with the Allowance of that Government, may be better able to Judge of the Credibility and Fairness of the Relation: nor will he take upon him to give any Comments or Conjectures of his own, but will relate only Matter of Fact; supposing other People to have Sense enough to make Reflections for themselves.”

This approach did lead to problems for the Daily Courant, when in 1705 it reported on a great naval disaster for allies of Queen Anne. A report which turned out to be false.

The Daily Courant defended itself by stating that it had only been reporting what it had received in a “Paris Letter”, and it had assumed that its readers would not give much credibility to the report as it had come from a pro-French source.

The first issue of the Daily Courant:

Daily Courant

Image attribution: Edward Mallet from rooms above the White Hart pub in Fleet Street, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I found the above image on Wikipedia and copied the attribution required where the image is used, however this attribution states Edward rather than Elizabeth Mallet, and the majority of sources regarding the Daily Courant, including academic studies do refer to an Elizabeth Mallet.

18th century newspapers are fascinating, and they started to flourish in the years following the Daily Courant’s publication in 1702.

They became broadsheets full of content of what was happening across the country, across Europe and the wider world, and comparing with newspapers today (and much of the media in general), readers in the 18th century were much better informed about world news than a 21st century reader.

However, in the 18th century, readership was confined only to those who could afford a newspaper and could read, and much of the content was simply repeating accounts that had been received. Many reports begin with “We hear that” or “Letters received from XXXXX report that”, so much like the Daily Courant, what was written needed to be tested, and could not always be assumed to be the truth.

Global content also reflected the Empire and Britain’s trading links with much of the world, along with the wars and disputes that the country seems to have been involved in for much of the time.

It is interesting that the defence given by the Daily Courant in 1705, that readers should be aware of the source before establishing the credibility of a news report should still apply three hundred years later with much of today’s news reporting and social media.

That is six more plaques explored, and which again show the fascinating stories that can be uncovered by these simple plaques that can be found across the walls of the City of London.


Police, Bandits, Marine Society and Coffee Houses

I have written a number of posts about the City of London blue plaques that can be seen along the street of the City, however there are also many more interesting plaques that tell an aspect of the City’s history, so starting with this post, I am expanding the scope of this occasional series.

I have also created a map which shows all the City plaques that I have so far covered, with links to the relevant post. The map can be found here.

City of London Police District – Princes Street

I am starting with what appears to be a remarkable survivor that can be seen just above the entrance to the Bank Underground Station on Princes Street:

City of London Police District

The plaque states that the street is deemed to be within the special limits of the Metropolitan Streets Act of 1867:

City of London Police District

The Special Limits were powers granted by the act to Police Commissioners, allowing them to set or amend regulations on vehicle traffic along the street, as well as what could be loaded and unloaded along the street, and which could have blocked footpaths. These regulations usually applied for the majority of the working day, and presumably were intended to avoid too much traffic or activities that could have slowed down both traffic and pedestrians.

For Special Limits to apply, the Police had to advertise the fact at the street, ten days before they came into force, so presumably the sign is one of these advertisements that the Special Limits of the Act would apply to Princes Street.

The Act dates from 1867, but I was interested in the date of the plaque.

For Special Limits to apply, the City of London Police would have needed the approval of a Secretary of State, and at the bottom of the plaque is the name of A. Akers Douglas, stating that he approved the request and that he was a Secretary of State.

This was Aretas Akers-Douglas, 1st Viscount Chilston, who was Home Secretary between 1902 and 1905.

To confirm this date, there is the name of Bower at the bottom of the plaque, and although this line of text is damaged, he is listed as a Commissioner of the City of London.

Bower refers to William Nott-Bower who was Commissioner of the City of London police from 1902 to 1925, so his first years in this role align with the time that Akers-Douglas was Home Secretary, so the plaque dates from between 1902 and 1905.

It is remarkable what this plaque has seen. The Imperial War Museum archive includes a photo of bomb damage at the Bank road junction on the 11th of January 1941 when a bomb crashed through the road and exploded in the booking hall of the underground station.

The photo is not one of those that are downloadable and able to be reused on non-commercial sites, so a link to the photo is here.

Look to the left edge of the photo, and on the wall of the Bank there appears to be a couple of signs, one at the correct place and size to be the sign we see today.

It is a remarkable survivor.

Captain Ralph Douglas Binney – Birchin Lane

The next plaque is in Birchin Lane, part of the network of narrow streets and alleys between Cornhill and Lombard Street. Roughly half way along the lane, close to the entrance to Bengal Court, there is a plaque on a side wall, to the right of the following photo:

Captain Binney

The plaque was given by the Royal Navy in memory of Captain Ralph Douglas Binney who died on the 8th of December 1944 from injuries received, when bravely and alone he confronted violent men raiding a jeweller’s shop in the lane:

Captain Binney

The event made the national newspapers, and the following is from the Daily Mirror on the 9th of December 1944:

“Captain Dragged To Death By Bandits’ Car: Horrified crowds saw an act of gangster callousness in the streets of London yesterday, as cold-blooded as anything known in the wild days of Chicago under prohibition.

They saw a 56 year old naval officer who had flung himself at a smash and grab bandits’ car dragged along to drop dying in the roadway half a mile further along.

They saw the car speed ruthlessly on as the officer, Captain Ralph Binney, caught in the chassis of the car, cried out for help. Captain Binney, chief staff officer to Admiral Naismith, leapt on to the running board of the car as it swept away at high speed from the shop of a jewellers in Birchin-lane, EC4.

The Captain called to the bandits to stop, but £3,500 of jewellery, looted from the shop window, and their own freedom was worth more than a human life to the robbers.

Driving on to King William-street, carrying the captain with them, the bandits disappeared towards London bridge.

Three hours later, in a quiet ward in Guy’s Hospital, the heroic captain murmured a dying farewell to his wife and his brother, Colonel Binney. His chief, Admiral Naismith hurried into the ward twenty minutes too late.

Last night the car was found abandoned in Tooley-street, SE. Police are anxious to contact anyone who, during the last few days, sold a new woodman’s axe, the weapon believed to have been used to smash the jewellers’ window.

Captain Binney had served thirty six years in the Navy. After six years in retirement he was put in charge of harbour defences at Gallipoli. On his return home in 1942 he was awarded the C.B.E.

Captain Binney leaves behind a widow and a daughter who is training as a nurse. His sub-lieutenant son was killed aboard H.M.S. Tyndale a year ago.”

There was a huge police hunt for those who had carried out the raid, and on the 12th of January, 1945 newspapers were reporting that “At Mansion House, London, today, Thomas James Jenkins (34), welder, of Rotherhithe, and Ronald Hedley, (26) labourer, were charged, with two men not in custody, with the murder of Capt. Binney, who, said counsel, was killed while doing his duty as a brave citizen.”

Ronald Hedley was convicted of the murder of Captain Binney and was sentenced to death, however this was later reprieved and he served 9 years in jail. Thomas Jenkins was convicted of manslaughter and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

It appears that there were three others involved in the raid, but I cannot find any reference to their being identified, caught or sentenced.

Following Binney’s death, his naval colleagues formed a trust that would award a medal to a recipient who had shown bravery in the support of law and order in the areas controlled by the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police.

The Binney award / medal appears to be an award that is still given, and is administered by the Association of Chief Police Officers, now covering the whole country, rather than the Metropolitan and City of London Police forces.

The next plaque is in Change Alley, which runs off from Birchin Lane:

Marine Society – Change Alley

Change Alley is a strange alley as there are multiple branches of the alley, including two separate branches between Cornhill and Lombard Street. In the core of this network of alleys is a blue plaque on the corner of a building:

Marine Society

The plaque records that it is on the site of the King’s Arms Tavern, where the first meeting of the Marine Society was held on the 25th of June, 1756:

Marine Society

1756 was the year of the start of the Seven Years’ War, which ran between 1756 and 1763, and could be called the first world war, as it involved England, Spain and France, Prussia, Austria, Russia and Sweden. With conflict taking place in North America, across the Oceans and in the colonies occupied by the countries involved.

England was at war with the French, and the Marine Society was formed to provide additional naval resources to support the conflict. A newspaper report from the 2nd of July, 1756 reports on the founding purpose of the society:

“We hear the Marine Society lately formed by some eminent Merchants of this City, intend to open with the following noble Scheme. They purpose to fit out a Number of fine sailing Ships of War, and to send them to invest the Island of Minorca quite round, in order to prevent the French from sending to their Army any Reinforcements of Supplies; and at the same time to distress their Commerce in the Mediterranean. We wish there may be Time for the Execution of such a public spirited project.”

The primary aim of the Marine Society was to recruit boys and young men for the Navy. They would be recruited from the poor, orphans, the homeless. They would be clothed and fed, then sent from London to join ships at one of the Navy dockyards.

The following year, in 1757, the Marine Society were sending recruits to the Navy. The following newspaper report is a typical example of mid-18th century journalism, and describes the process and ceremony when the recruits left London:

“Last Wednesday 75 friendless Boys and 40 stout young Men, all Volunteers, were completely clothed by the Marine Society to go on board the Fleet, and at One o’clock the same Day they were drawn up on Constitution Hill, in order to express their Gratitude to his Majesty with three Cheers for his late Royal Bounty.

His Majesty’s Coach went very slow all along the Bank, and a Smile expressive of paternal Delight overspread his Royal Countenance; from thence they marched to the Admiralty who expressed great Pleasure at the Sight; from thence the Boys went to Lord Blakeney’s Head in Bow-street, Covent Garden, to dine on Roast Beef and Plumb Pudding; and Members of the Marine Society to the Crown and Anchor Tavern to Dinner, which consisted of one Course made up of Dishes truly English, namely, Roast Beef, Hams and Haunches of Mutton; after Dinner his Majesty’s Health, the Prince of Wales’s, &c. were drank, attended by the proper Salutes of Cannon; in the Evening they marched with the Men and Boys at their Head, to the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane, where the Comedy of the Suspicious Husband was performed for the Benefit of the Marine Society, to a most brilliant Audience.

The Men and Boys were on Thursday reviewed by the Marine Society, at the Royal Exchange, and marched off to Portsmouth.”

The term “friendless boys” refers to orphans. With the relatively high mortality rate among the poor of the City, it was not unusual for a child to loose both parents and be left on the streets. These children were one of the target recruiting areas for the Marine Society. How much they knew of what they were getting into, and whether they really were volunteers is questionable.

After the recruiting exercise covered in the above report, the King gave £1,000 “to be paid for the use of the Marine Society”.

The number of conflicts the country was involved in during the late 18th century required a continual supply of manpower for the Navy, and in 1790, the Marine Society “since the appearance of a Spanish war, have already clothed and fitted out for sea, 1672 men and boys, most of them poor wretches, a burden to the community”.

The last sentence again highlights the target area for recruits, and that they were considered a burden to the community. Their transfer to the Navy relieved that burden and put them into a role that society at the time considered worthwhile.

The Marine Society would evolve over the late 18th and 19th centuries. It was recognised that sending recruits to the Navy who had a degree of training was of more benefit, so the society started training, and in 1786 the Marine Society became the first organization in the world to have a dedicated training ship, moored in the Thames at Deptford, where recruits would be trained before being sent to the Navy and the Merchant fleet.

Training became a growing element of the Marine Society’s role. The Navy would grow their own recruiting and training operation, so the Marine Society expanded their brief to the Merchant Navy and seafarers in general.

Based in a rather nice red brick building in Lambeth, next to the railway into Waterloo, the Marine Society is still in operation today. In recent years it has merged with the Sea Cadets and is now a major training organisation for seafarers and the maritime community – all from that meeting in a tavern in Change Alley in 1756.

Change Alley is an interesting set of alleys to explore. Many of the buildings that face onto the alley are the backs of the buildings that face onto the main streets of the area, so they present a very different view. Of much cheaper construction, no ornamentation, and with exposed utilities, such as the following building with multiple pipes leading up to the sky:

Marine Society

Despite many of these buildings being hidden in the alley, some do have a degree of decoration relating to the company that occupied the building:

Marine Society

My next plaque was in the same alley:

Jonathan’s Coffee House – Change Alley

The following photo is in one of the legs of Change Alley, and to the right of the middle small tree, there is a blue plaque, down almost at ground level:

Jonathan's Coffee House

The plaque states that on the site stood Jonathan’s Coffee House between 1680 and 1778, the principal meeting place of the City’s stockbrokers:

Jonathan's Coffee House

Funds raised by the Crown and by Government had been in the form of arbitrary taxes and by the selling of the right to operate a monopoly, along with the raising of debts which were often not repaid.

As commercial activity expanded, and trade increased a more formal system was needed which ensured that the state could raise funds, and those lending these funds were assured that they would be repaid, with interest.

This led to the creation of “English Funds” which were basically the government debt which could be bought and sold. These funds would have a repayment date, and paid the owner of the funds interest. They therefore had a value.

Trading of these funds started in the Royal Exchange, and in 1698, many of those involved in the trading of these funds and securities started operating in Jonathan’s Coffee House in Change Alley. The move was down to laws that were enacted to limit the numbers of brokers and to more regulate the market, as so many people had been tempted into the market based on “false rumours and reports were propagated to raise or depreciate the value of stocks. Mines of wealth were promised, stratagems of every kind were rife; some made fortunes, others were ruined”.

Many of the roles and terminology in play at Jonathan’s Coffee House are still in use today, although many did disappear as recently as the 1980s with the deregulation of the Stock Market during the “Big Bang”.

An 1828 description of Jonathan’s Coffee House also describes the meaning of many of the terms associated with stocks and share trading:

“In Change-alley was formerly a rendezvous of dealing in the funds, and the term Alley is still a cant phrase for the Stock Exchange, and hence a petty speculator in the funds is styled ‘a dabbler in the alley’. A stock-broker is one who buys and sells stocks for another; his commission is one-eighth per cent. A stock-jobber is one who buys and sells on his own account, buys in when low and endeavours to sell out at a profit.

A gambler in the funds is one who speculates to buy or sell at a future time for a present price, who may lose or gain according as the prices then fall or rise; this being illegal, no action for recovery of loss can be maintained. The buyers are styled ‘bears’ as they endeavour to trample down the prices; the sellers are named bulls, for a like reason as they attempt to toss them as high as possible. One who becomes bankrupt is termed a lame duck, and he is said to ‘waddle out of the alley’. Those who have thus waddled are not again admitted to the Stock Exchange”.

The following satirical print, dated the 2nd of May, 1763 shows Jonathan’s Coffee House, and the text below describes a visit by the Devil, who sees the characters in the coffee house, including the bull, the bear and the lame ducks, and old Nick cries that “there’s room for you all in the regions below”, and that “For sure ’tis a shame that such vile occupations, should suck the best blood from the best of all Nations” (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Jonathan's Coffee House

Jonathan’s Coffee House was destroyed in a fire that started on the 30th of March 1748 in Change Alley, in the premises of Mr Eldrige’s, a Peruke-maker (the long wigs worn by upper class men). Much of Change Alley, and some houses on Cornhill were destroyed, however Jonathan’s Coffee House was soon rebuilt, and trading continued.

Those engaged in trading at Jonathan’s Coffee House moved to a new location in Threadneedle Street in 1773, and papers on the 17th of July 1773 were reporting that at the new location: “Yesterday the brokers and others at New Jonathan’s came to a resolution, that instead of it being called New Jonathan’s, it should be named The Stock Exchange, which is to be wrote over the door. The brokers then collected sixpence each, and christened the House with punch.”

The Stock Exchange as it was now called began trading on more formal lines, and traders had to pay a fee to enter the trading room.

The Stock Exchange would continue trading within a physical place until the 1980s, when the deregulation of London’s financial markets resulted in the transition to screen based trading. The Stock Exchange moved from their Threadneedle Street location to offices in Paternoster Square in 2004 as a trading location was not needed, only offices for the administration, regulation and management of the Stock Exchange.

Following the change of debt being raised by the country, rather than the Crown imposing taxes or borrowing money, the national debt has always been a cause for concern.

The print below is a satirical print published in 1785 showing the Stock Exchange supporting the national debt in 1782, or what the print called the “English Balloon” (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Jonathan's Coffee House

In 1783, the National Debt stood at around £250 million. It had risen throughout the 18th century due to the many wars that the country was involved with. and which required considerable funding. Pitt the Younger who became Prime Minister in December 1783 put in place a number of changes to both clamp down on tax evasion (such as smuggling), and increasing taxes which resulted in the debt coming under control and confidence in the Pound being restored.

By comparison, the Office for National Statistics reports that the UK debt was £2,436.7 billion at the end of Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2022. Taxes are increasing and there was recently a brief loss of confidence in the Pound – something’s never really change. The “English Balloon” just gets much larger.

My final location is in Lombard Street, to the south of Change Alley, however my last comment on the alley is the origin of the name. It was originally called Exchange Alley as it was opposite the Royal Exchange. The name simply became abbreviated to Change Alley. Now leaving the alley to the south to find:

Lloyd’s Coffee House – Lombard Street

To the right of the main entrance to Sainsbury’s in the following photo is a blue plaque:

Lloyds Coffee House

Marking the site of Lloyd’s Coffee House:

Lloyds Coffee House

Very much like Jonathan’s Coffee House, Lloyd’s Coffee House was the original site for a City institution that is still running today.

Lloyd’s Coffee House was opened by an Edward Lloyd in February 1688. Initially in Tower Street, the Coffee House moved to the Lombard Street location indicated by the plaque in 1691.

Lloyd’s Coffee House became a meeting place for those involved in shipping and marine insurance.

The coffee house started publishing its own newspaper using the information gathered from customers, and the paper became an essential resource for those working in shipping related industries of the City.

An article / advertisement published on the 12th of June, 1758 explained why the paper had so much early information:

“This day is published number 140 of Lloyd’s Evening Post and British Chronicle. A paper of Military, Naval, Commercial and Literary Intelligence published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening at Seven O’clock.

Lloyd’s Coffee House is known to be the centre of intelligence, from the most considerable trading parts of the world, and accounts of naval transactions are frequently received there even before they arrive at the First Offices of State. Many articles of intelligence have therefore appeared in this paper, the authenticity of which has been questioned by news writers in the common posts, who, unable to fathom how they were attainable at first have, after exploding them, adopted and inferred them in their Papers as new, many days after they appeared in this.

It is no wonder therefore that this paper has met with uncommon opposition, the most notorious falsehoods have been propagated to prejudice it, its connection with Lloyd’s Coffee House has been publicly denied, and the facts inferred in it have been efficiently discredited. Notwithstanding which the paper thrives. Truth, which will always manifest itself, has dispersed the clouds of falsehood, and the merit of the paper has rendered all detraction and opposition ineffectual.

Advertisements are taken in at Lloyd’s Coffee House in Lombard Street.”

I love that the colourful language of the article, defending its position as an early source of news, ends with a simple statement about where advertisements should be sent.

Edward Lloyd died on the 15th of February 1713, and his son-in-law William Newton took over. Newton had married Lloyd’s daughter Handy, who died in 1720.

After 1763, the reputation of the coffee house started to decline. It became a place of gambling and also stock jobbing (as took place at Jonathan’s Coffee House), and a New Lloyd’s Coffee House opened at 5 Pope’s Head Alley in 1769, although the Lombard Street coffee house continued in business, still a meeting place for those in the shipping and maritime insurance trades.

The Society for the Registry of Shipping was founded at Lloyd’s Coffee House in 1760, and in 1786 the society moved to new premised at number 4 Sun Court, Cornhill.

So from Lloyd’s Coffee House, two City institutions evolved:

  • what would become the Lloyds of London Insurance market were the activities that moved from Lloyd’s Coffee House to 5 Pope’s Head Alley and;
  • what would become Lloyd’s Register which is now in Fenchurch Street were the activities that moved from Lloyd’s Coffee House to 4 Sun Court.

Five very different plaques which highlight the varied history of the City of London, and which have had significant influence on the city we see today.


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.


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:



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


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):


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):


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.


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.


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.