Project Gutenberg's Mediaeval London, Volume 1 (of 2), by Walter Besant

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Transcriber’s Notes

The cover was created by adding text to a plain background and is placed in the public domain.

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations in hyphenation and spelling remain unchanged except where in conflict with the index.

Page numbers have been added to the index entries for City Police, the, and for Kingston-on-Hull.

The Survey of London


“For the student, as well as for those desultory readers who are drawn by the rare fascination of London to peruse its pages, this book will have a value and a charm which are unsurpassed by any of its predecessors.”—Pall Mall Gazette.

“A vivid and fascinating picture of London life in the sixteenth century—a novelist’s picture, full of life and movement, yet with the accurate detail of an antiquarian treatise.”—Contemporary Review.


With 116 Illustrations and a Reproduction of Ogilby’s Map of London in 1677.

“It is a mine in which the student, alike of topography and of manners and customs, may dig and dig again with the certainty of finding something new and interesting.”—The Times.

“The pen of the ready writer here is fluent; the picture wants nothing in completeness. The records of the city and the kingdom have been ransacked for facts and documents, and they are marshalled with consummate skill.”—Pall Mall Gazette.

From MS. in British Museum. Royal 15 E4.




Publisher's device




1. Henry II. 3
2. Richard I. 9
3. John 13
4. Henry III. 20
5. Edward I. 35
6. Edward II. 48
7. Edward III. 58
8. Richard II. 78
9. Henry IV. 92
10. Henry V. 103
11. Henry VI. 111
12. Edward IV. 138
13. Richard III. 152
1. General View 159
2. Port and Trade of London 185
3. Trade and Gentility 216
4. The Streets 226
5. The Buildings 240
6. Furniture 255
7. Wealth and State of Nobles and Citizens 259
8. Manners and Customs 264
9. Food 294
10. Sport and Recreation 307 vi
11. Literature and Science in London
§ I. The Libraries of London 327
§ II. London and Literature 330
   § III. The Physician 336
12. Fire, Plague, and Famine 341
13. Crime and Punishment 349
14. Christian Names and Surnames 372



Edward IV. and his Courtiers Frontispiece
Henry II. 3
Coronation of the “Young King” 5
Becket disputing with the King 7
Great Seal of Henry II. 8
First Seal of Richard I. 10
Cross of Knight Templar 12
King John 13
Henry Fitzailwyn, Knt., First Lord Mayor of London 14
King John hunting 16
A Portion of the Great Charter 17
Coronation of Henry III. 21
Jews’ Passover 27
A Pope in Consistory 29
Edward I. 35
Queen Eleanor of Castile 36
Charing Cross 41
Parliament of Edward I. Facing 44
Great Seal of Edward I. 46
Head of Edward II. 48
Shrine of King Edward II., Gloucester Cathedral 56
Edward III. 58
A Joust or Tournament of the Period 63
Sir Henry Picard entertaining the Kings of England, France, Scotland, Denmark and Cyprus Facing 70
John Wyclyf 76
Richard II. 78
King Richard II. and his Council go down the Thames in a Barge to confer with the Rebels 83
Wat Tyler for his Insolence is killed by Walworth, and King Richard puts himself at the Head of the Rebels 85
King Richard II. in Great Danger in the City of London 87
Henry of Lancaster brings King Richard back to London 90
How Richard II. resigned the Crown to the Duke of Lancaster Facing 90
Henry IV. 92viii
Funeral Procession of Richard II. Facing 94
“The True Portraiture of Richard Whittington, Thrice Lord Mayor of London” 98
The Porch of the Church of St. Alphage, London Wall, formerly the Chapel of the Priory of Elsinge Spital 99
Henry V. 103
Ships at La Rochelle 106
Marriage of Henry V. and Katherine of France 108
Henry VI. as an Infant 111
The Duke of Bedford 115
Henry VI. 119
Henry VI. at the Shrine of St. Edmund 123
White Hart Tavern, Bishopsgate Street 130
London Stone 131
Henry VI. and his Courtiers 133
Edward IV. 138
Ships of the Period 141
The Bastard of Falconbridge attacks London Bridge 143
“The Hierarchy of the Sciences,” as conceived by Mediæval Thought 149
Richard III. 152
North-East View of Crosby Hall 153
Interior of the Council Room, Crosby Hall 153
Sketch Map of London in the Fifteenth Century 159
The White Tower 160
St. Katherine’s by the Tower 161
Chaucer 163
The Old Fountain in the Minories, built about 1480, demolished 1793 175
North-West View of the Ancient Structure of Merchant-Taylors Hall, and the Alms-Houses adjoining, in Threadneedle Street 179
A South-East View of London before the Destruction of St. Paul’s Steeple by Fire, A.D. 1560 181
Temple Church, London 183
A Household Dining 203
The Steelyard, Thames Street 207
The Merchant 213
The Knight 219
Court of King’s Bench. Temp. Henry VI. 221
View of the Ruins of Part of the late Church of St. Leonard 229
View of the Crypt on the Site of the late College of St. Martin Le Grand 229
Arch of Blackfriars Priory, revealed by the Demolition of a Building in Ireland Yard, May 1900 238
Matthew Paris Dying 241
Embassy from the King of England to ask the Hand of the Lady Isabella of France in Marriage 243
Hall of the Knights of St. John 247
“The Ladies’ Bower” 249
Whittington’s House in Swithin’s Passage, Moor Lane 250
Builders at Work 252
Retinue of the Earl of Warwick 260ix
House Servant and Porter, Early Fourteenth Century 261
Earl Rivers presenting his Book to Edward IV. 262
Knights preparing for a Passage of Arms 265
Queen Isabella and her Ladies out Riding 269
Making Tapestry 271
Honi Soit qui mal y Pense Facing 274
Westminster Hall 276
Parting of St. Thomas and the Two Kings 277
Beggar Importuning Noble Lady 285
Banquet in London. Temp. Edward IV. Facing 296
A Banquet 301
A Hunting Party 311
Types of Chaucer’s Characters 313
A Banquet 315
King and Jester 316
Types of Chaucer’s Characters 317
Tournament of the Earl of Warwick 321
Coronation of Henry IV. Facing 322
English Knights Travelling 323
A Tournament in London 325
John Lydgate presenting his “Life of St. Edmund” to Henry VI. 328
Page from Pleshy Bible 331
Lydgate at Work 335
The Doctor of Physic 336
An Operation 337
Surgeon Operating on the Skull 337
An Alchemist’s Laboratory 338
The Couvre-feu 341
Prisoner being Sentenced and taken to Execution 349
The Tun, Cornhill 355
The Scold’s Bridle in Walton-on-Thames Church 356
A Beggar 363
A Hand-to-Hand Fight 367




[In considering the reigning Kings in order, I have found it necessary to reserve for the chapters on the Mediæval Government of the City the Charters successively granted to the Citizens, and their meaning.]

HENRY II. (1133-1189)
From his effigy at Fontevrault.

The accession of the young King, then only three-and-twenty years of age, brought to the City as well as to the Country, a welcome period of rest and peace and prosperity. These precious gifts were secured by the ceaseless watchfulness of the King, whose itinerary shows that he was a most unwearied traveller, with a determined purpose and a bulldog tenacity. From the outset he gave the whole nation, barons and burgesses, to understand that he meant to be King. To begin with, he ordered all aliens to depart. The land and the City were full of them; they were known by their gait as well as their speech; the good people of London looked about the streets, the day after the proclamation of exile, for these unwelcome guests, whose violence they had endured so long. They were gone “as though they had been phantoms,” Holinshed writes. During his long reign, 1154-1189, Henry, who seldom stayed in one place more than a few days, was in London or Westminster on twenty-seven occasions, but in many of them for a day or two only. These occasions were in March 1155; in April 1157; in March, July, and October 1163; in April and September 1164; in September and October 1165; in April and June 1170; in July 1174; in May, August, and October 1175; in March and May 1176; in March and April 1177; in July 1178; in August, November, and December 1186; in March 1185; in June 1186, and in June 1188. And all these visits together amounted to less than three months in thirty-five years. We may note that Henry held his first Christmas at Bermondsey, not at Westminster. One asks in vain what reason there was for holding the Court at a monastic house in the middle of a marsh,4 much more difficult of access than that of Westminster. It was here that it was decided that the Flemings, who had flocked over during the last reign, should leave the country. Among them was William of Ypres whom Stephen had made Earl of Kent. We hear very little of the King’s personal relations with the citizens, by whom he was respected as befits one of whom it is written that he was “pitiful to the poor, liberal to all men, that he took of his subjects but seldom times any great tributes, and, further, that he was careful above all things to have the laws duly executed and justice uprightly administered on all hands.”

In the year 1170 Henry II. had his eldest son Henry crowned King; but the “Young King,” as he was called, never lived to occupy his father’s place; after a career of rebellion he died of a fever in 1183.

Henry’s Charter gave the citizens privileges and liberties as large as those granted by Henry I.—with one or two important exceptions. The opening clause in the former Charter was as follows:—

“Know ye that I have granted to my citizens of London to hold Middlesex to farm for three hundred pounds upon accompt to them and their heirs: so that the said citizens shall place as sheriff whomsoever they will of themselves: and as Justiciar whomsoever they will of themselves, for keeping of the pleas of the crown, and of the pleadings of the same, and none other shall be justice over the same men of London.”

Except for a few years in the twelfth century the sheriffs were always elected by the Crown. In the reign of Stephen the citizens are said to have bought the right of electing their sheriffs. The omission of so important a clause indicates the policy of the King. It was his intention to bring the City under the direct supervision of the Crown. He therefore retained the appointment of the sheriff in his own hands; he calls him “my sheriff,” meus Vicecomes; and it was so kept by himself and his successor Richard the First. When John restored to the City the election of the sheriff, the post had lost much of its importance because the communal system of municipal government had been introduced under a mayor. Thanks mainly to the strong hand of the King, who enforced peace and order throughout the country, the prosperity of London greatly increased during his reign. As yet the City was governed by its aristocracy, the aldermen of the wards, which were at first manors or private estates. They endeavoured to rule the City as a baron ruled his people each in his own ward: there was, however, the Folk Mote to be reckoned with. The people understood what was meant by meeting and by open discussion: the right of combination was but a corollary.

It is at this time that we first hear of the licences of guilds. We may take it as a sign of prosperity when men of the same craft begin to unite themselves into corporate bodies, and to form rules for the common interest.

In the year 1180 it is recorded that a number of Guilds formed without licence were fined:—


“The Gild whereof Gosceline was Alderman or President, thirty marks; Gilda Aurifabrorum, or Goldsmiths, Radulphus Flael, Alderman, forty-five marks; Gilda de Holiwell, Henry son of Godr. Alderman, twenty shillings; Gilda Bocheiorum, William la Feite, Alderman, one mark; Gilda de Ponte Thomas Cocus, Alderman, one mark; Gilda Piperariorum, Edward——, Alderman, sixteen marks; Gilda de Ponte, Alwin Fink, Alderman, fifteen marks; Gilda Panariorum, John Maurus, Alderman, one mark; Robert Rochefolet, his Gild, one mark; Richard Thedr. Feltrarius, Alderman, two marks; Gilda de Sancto Lazaro, Radulph de Barre, Alderman, twenty-five marks; Gilda de Ponte, Robert de Bosio, Alderman, ten marks; Gilda Peregrinorum, Warner le Turner, Alderman, forty shillings; Odo Vigil, Alderman, his Gild, one mark; Hugo Leo, Alderman, his Gild, one mark; and Gilda de Ponte, Peter, son of Alan, Alderman, fifteen marks.” (Maitland, vol. i. p. 53.)

From Vie de St. Thomas (a French MS., 1230-1260).

If there were unlicensed guilds, there must have been licensed guilds. Unfortunately it is not known how many, or of what kind, these were. Among them, however, was the important and powerful Guild of Weavers, who were at that time to London what the “drapiers” were to Ypres in Flanders. (See p. 201.)

It is sufficient to note the claim of the King to license every guild. As for the fining of the unlicensed guild, since the business of a guild is the regulation of trade, one would like to know how trade was regulated when there was no guild. But enough of this matter for the present.

In this reign occurs an early instance of heresy obstinate unto death. The heretics came over from Germany. There were thirty of them, men and women. They called themselves Publicans; one of them, their leader, Gerard, had some learning: the rest were ignorant. They derided matrimony, the Sacraments of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and other articles. Being brought before the King, they were pressed with Scripture, “but stuck manfully to their faith and refused to be convinced.” It was therefore ordered that they should be burned with a hot iron6 on the forehead, and the leader on the chin as well, that they should be whipped, that they should be thrust out into the fields and that none should give them food, or fire, or lodging; which was done, the sufferers singing all the time, “Blessed are ye when men do hate you”—and so they went out into the open country, where they all died of cold and starvation. A pitiful story!

Here is a strange story told by Stow. It is a good deal amplified from that given by Roger of Hoveden, but perhaps Stow obtained more material from other authorities also:—

“A brother of the Earle Ferrers was in the night privily slayne at London, which when the King understoode, he sware that he would bee avenged on the Citizens: for it was then a common practice in the Citie, and an hundred or more in a company of young and old, would make nightly invasions upon the houses of the wealthie, to the intent to robbe them, and if they found any man stirring in the Citie within the night, they would presently murther him, in so much, that when night was come, no man durst adventure to walke in the Streetes. When this had continued long, it fortuned that a crewe of young and wealthy Cittizens assembling together in the night, assaulted a stone house of a certaine rich manne, and breaking through the wall, the good man of that house having prepared himselfe with other in a corner, when he perceived one of the Theeves named Andrew Bucquinte to leade the way, with a burning brand in the one hand and a pot of coales in the other, whiche he assayed to kindle with the brande, hee flew upon him, and smote off his right hande, and then with a lowde voyce cryed Theeves, at the hearing whereof the Theeves tooke their flight, all saving hee that had lost his hande, whom the good man in the next morning delivered to Richarde de Lucy the King’s Justice. This Theefe uppon warrant of his life, appeached his confederates, of whome many were taken, and many were fled, but among the rest that were apprehended, a certaine Citizen of great countenance, credite, and wealth, surnamed Iohn the olde,1 when he could not acquite himselfe by the Watardome, offered the King for his life five hundred Marks, but the King commanded that he shoulde be hanged, which was done, and the Citie became more quiet.” (Howe’s edition of Stow’s Chronicles, p. 153.)

Here, then, is a case in which the ordeal by water was thought to prove a man’s guilt. In another place will be found described the method of the ordeal by water. What happened was, of course, that the unfortunate man’s arm was scalded. However, the City became quiet, which was some gain.

In the year 1164 London Bridge was “new made of timber” by Peter of Colechurch, who afterwards built it of stone.

In the year 1176 the stone bridge over the river was commenced. It was not completed until 1209, after the death of the architect.


Henry I. had punished the moneyers for their base coin. Henry II. also had to punish them for the same offence, but he chose a method perhaps more effective. He fined them.

From MS. in British Museum—Claudius D2 (Cotton).

The relations of Thomas à Becket with the King: their friendship and their quarrels and the tragic end of the Archbishop, belong to the history of the country. It does concern this book, however, that Thomas was by birth a Londoner. His father, Gilbert, whose family came from Caen, was a citizen of good position, chief magistrate, or portreeve, in the reign of Stephen. Gilbert Becket was remembered in the City not only by the history of his illustrious son, but by the fact that it was he who built the chapel in the Pardon Churchyard, on the north side of St. Paul’s, a place where many persons of honour were buried. It was ever the mediæval custom to make one place more sacred than another, so that if it was a blessed thing to be buried in a certain church, it was more blessed to lie in front of the altar. The old story about Gilbert’s wife being a Syrian is repeated by the historians, and is very possibly true. Holinshed says she was a “Saracen by religion,” which is certainly not true. Thomas Becket was born in wedlock; his father was certainly not married to a Mohammedan, and the birthplace of the future martyr was in a house on the site of the present Mercers’ Chapel, which itself stands on the site of the chapel of St. Thomas of Acon.

Gilbert Becket died leaving behind him a considerable property in houses and lands. Whether the archbishop took possession of this property as his father’s son, or whether he gave it to his sister, I do not know. Certain it is that after his death his sister Agnes, then married to Thomas Fitz Theobald de Heiley, gave the whole8 of the family estates to endow a Hospital dedicated to her brother Saint and Martyr. Nothing should be kept back: all—all must be given: one sees the intensity of affection, sorrow, pride, with which the new Saint was regarded by his family. There could be no worshipper at the altar of St. Thomas à Becket more devout than his own sister. (See also p. 278.)




The coronation of King Richard on September 3, 1189, was disgraced by a massacre of the Jews—the first example of anti-Jewish feeling. Perhaps when they first came over these unfortunate people hoped that no traditional hatred of the race existed in England. Experience, alas! might have taught them, perhaps had taught them, that hatred grew up round the footsteps of the Infidel as quickly as the thistles in the field. When the Jew arrived in England what could he do? He could not trade because the merchants had their guilds; and every guild had its church, its saint, its priests, its holy days. He could not hold land because every acre had its own lord, and could only be transferred by an Act including a declaration of faith; he could not become a lawyer or a physician because the avenues to these professions lay also through the Church. Did a man wish to build a bridge, he must belong to the Holy Brotherhood of Bridge-Builders—Pontifices. Was an architect wanted, he was looked for in a Monastery. The scholars, the physicians, the artists were men of the cloister. Even the minstrels, gleemen, jugglers, tumblers, dancers, buffoons, and mimes, though the Church did not bless their calling, would have scorned to suffer a Jew among them. That was the position of the Jew. Every calling closed to him, every door shut. There was, however, one way open, but a way of contempt, a way accursed by the Church, a way held impossible to the Christian. He might practise usury. The lending of money for profit was absolutely forbidden by the Church. He who carried on this business was accounted as excommunicated. If he died while carrying it on, his goods were forfeited and fell to the Crown. In the matter of usury the Church had always been firm and consistent. The Church, through one or two of the Fathers, had even denounced trade. St. Augustine plainly said that in selling goods no addition was to be made to the price for which they were bought, a method which if carried out would destroy all trade except barter. So that while the usurer was accursed by the Church, to the King he became a large and very valuable asset. Every Jew who became rich, by his death enriched the King. It was calculated (see Joseph Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin England) that the Jews contributed every year one-twelfth of the King’s revenues. The interest charged10 by the usurer was in those days enormously high, forty per cent and even more: so that it is easy to understand how rich a Jew might become and how strong would be the temptation to squeeze him.


As for the hatred of the people for the Jews, I think that it had nothing whatever to do with their money-lending, for the simple reason that they had no dealings with them. The common people never borrowed money of the Jews, because they had no security to offer and no want of money except for their daily bread. Those who borrowed of the Jews were the Barons, who strengthened or repaired or rebuilt their castles; the Bishop, who wanted to carry on his cathedral or to build a church; the Abbot, who had works to execute upon the monastery estates, or a church to beautify. The great Lords of the Church and the Realm were the borrowers; and we do not find that they murdered the Jews. The popular hatred was purely religious. The Jew was an unbeliever: when no one was looking at him he spat upon the Cross; when he dared he kidnapped children and crucified them; he it was who crucified our Lord, and would do so again if he could. Why, the King was going off to the East to kill infidels, and here were infidels at home. Why not begin by killing them first? So the people reasoned, quite logically, on these premisses.

To return to the coronation of Richard I. For fear of magic it was ordered that no Jew and no woman should be allowed admission to the Abbey Church during the function. Unfortunately, the Jews, hoping to conciliate the new Sovereign with gifts, assembled outside the gates and endeavoured to gain admission. It was always characteristic of the Jews, especially in times of persecution, that they never in the least understood the intensity of hatred with which they were regarded by the world. One would think that on such an occasion common prudence would have kept them at home. Not so, they endeavoured to force their way into the Hall during the Coronation Banquet, but they were roughly driven back, and the rumour ran that the King had ordered them to be put to11 death; so they were cudgelled, stoned, struck with knives, chased to their houses, which were then set on fire. From mid-day till two of the clock on the following day the mob continued to murder, to pillage, and to destroy.

It is noted that at Richard’s Coronation Banquet the Chief Magistrate of London, not yet Mayor, officiated as Butler, an office claimed in the following reigns from that precedent.

When Richard prepared for his Crusade he ordered the City to furnish a certain quantity of armour, spears, knives, tents, etc., for the use of his army, together with wine, silken habits, and other things for his own use.

On the departure of Richard for Palestine his Chancellor, William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, took up his residence in the Tower. Power turned his head; he acted like one whose position is safe, and authority unbounded. He annoyed the citizens by constructing a moat round the Tower, and by including within the external wall of the Tower a piece of land here and another there, a mill which belonged to St. Katherine’s Hospital, and a garden belonging to the City. He offended the Bishops by seizing his brother Regent, Bishop Pudsey; and the Barons by insulting Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, the son of Fair Rosamond. Thereafter, when John, at the head of a large army, summoned him to justify himself at Reading, Longchamp closed the gates of the Tower.

John proceeded to ascertain the disposition of the leading citizens of London. On the one hand Longchamp was the representative of the King, appointed by the King, to whom obedience was due. On the other hand, he had exasperated the citizens beyond endurance. They were ready—but with exceptions—to transfer their allegiance to John—always as the King’s representative. And here they saw their opportunity for making terms with John to their own advantage. Why not ask for the Commune? They did so. They made the granting of the Commune the condition of John’s admission into the City, and therefore of Longchamp’s disgrace. Should John refuse they would close their gates and support the Chancellor. But John accepted.

He rode from Reading into London accompanied by the Archbishop of Rouen and a great number of Bishops, Earls, and Barons. He was met by the citizens. The gates were thrown open; and John’s army sat down to besiege the Tower from the City and from the outside. This done, he called a council in the Chapel House of St. Paul’s and there solemnly conceded the Commune, upon which the citizens took oath of obedience to him, subject to the rights of the King. The meaning of this concession will be found more fully considered later on. At present it is sufficient to observe that it was followed by the election of the first Mayor of London: that other towns hastened to get the same recognition: and that the Commune, though never formally withdrawn by Richard himself, was never allowed by him.


Two Charters were granted to the City by Richard. The first, dated April 23, 1194, was an exact copy of his father’s Charter, with the same omission as to the election of Sheriff and Justiciar. It is not addressed to the Mayor, because Richard never recognised that office, but, as the Charter of Henry II. and that of Henry I., “To the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Earls, Barons, Justices, Sheriffs, Ministers, and all others his faithful Friends and English people.”

The second Charter of July 14, 1197, authorised the removal of all weirs in the River: “For it is manifest to us ... that great determent and discommodity have grown to our City of London and also to the whole realm by reason of the said wears.”

We now arrive at the first intimation of an articulate discontent among the people. In all times those “who have not” regard those “who have” with envy and disfavour; from time to time, generally when the conditions of society seem to make partition possible, this hatred shows itself openly. In the year 1195, there first arose among the people a leader who became the voice of their discontent: he flourished for a while upon their favour; in the end he met with the usual fate of those who rely upon the gratitude and the support of the people. (See vol. ii. pt. i. ch. vi.)

In the year 1198 the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex were ordered by the King to provide standards of weight, length, and measures to be sent into all the Counties.

Richard was received by the City, on his return from captivity, with the greatest show of rejoicing; the houses being so decorated as to move the astonishment of the “Lords of Almaine” who rode with the King.


“When they saw the great riches,” Holinshed writes, “which the Londoners shewed in that triumphant receiuing of their souereigne lord and king, they maruelled greatlie thereat, insomuch that one of them said unto him:‘Surelie, oh King, your people are wise and subtile, which doo nothing doubt to shew the beautiful shine of their riches now that they have receiued you home, whereas before they seemed to bewaile their need and povertie, whilest you remained in captiuitie. For verelie if the emperor had understood that the riches of the realme had bin such, neither would he have beene persuaded that England could have been made bare of wealth, neither yet should you so lightlie have escaped his hands without the paiment of a more huge and intollerable ransome.’” (Vol. iii. p. 142, 1586 edition.)

The whole period of Richard’s residence in London, or, indeed, in England, was limited to a few weeks after his coronation and a few weeks after his return from captivity.



John granted five Charters to the City.

By the first of these Charters, June 17, 1199, he confirmed the City in the liberties which they had enjoyed under King Henry II.

KING JOHN (1167(?)-1216)
From the effigy in Worcester Cathedral.

By the third Charter, July 5, 1199, he went farther: he gave back to the citizens the rights they had obtained from Henry I., viz. the farm of Middlesex for a payment of £300 sterling every year, and the right of electing their own sheriffs. This seemed a great concession, but was not in reality very great, for the existence of a Mayor somewhat lessened the importance of the Sheriffs.

The second Charter confirmed previous laws as to the conservation of the Thames and its Fisheries.

The fourth Charter, March 20, 1202, disfranchised the Weavers’ Guild.

The fifth Charter, May 9, 1215, granted the right of the City to appoint a Mayor. Now there had been already a Mayor for many years, but he had not been formally recognised by the King, and this Charter recognised his existence. The right involved the establishment of the Commune, that is to say, the association of all the burghers alike for the purpose of protecting their common interests. It was no longer, for instance, the Merchant Guild which regulated trade as a whole; nor an association of Trade Guilds: nor was it an association of City Barons: nor was it a tribunal of Justice: it was simply the association of the burghers as a body.

We are now, however, approaching that period of the City History in which was carried on the long struggle between the aristocratic party and the crafts for power. In this place it is only necessary to indicate the beginning of the strife.14 The parties were first the Barons and Aldermen, owners of the City manors; secondly, the merchants, some of whom belonged to the City aristocracy; and, lastly, the craft. The Chief Magistrate of the Commune held a position of great power and importance. It was necessary for the various parties to endeavour to secure this post for a man of their own side.

From an old print.

The disfranchisement of the weavers certainly marks a point of importance in this conflict. It shows that the aristocratic party was for the time victorious. The Weavers’ Guild, as we have seen, had become very powerful. Their Guild united in itself all the tradesmen belonging to the manufacture, or the use, of textile fabrics; such as weavers, clothmakers, shearmen, fullers, cloth merchants, tailors, drapers, linen armourers, hosiers, and others, forming a body powerful by numbers, wealth, and organisation. To break up this body was equivalent to destroying the power of the crafts for a long time.

The domestic incidents of the City during this reign are not of great importance.

A very curious story occurs in the year 1209. The King’s Purveyor bought in the City a certain quantity of corn. The two Sheriffs, Roger Winchester and15 Edmund Hardell, refused to allow him to carry it off. King John, who was never remarkable for meekness, flew into a royal rage on this being reported to him, and ordered the Council of the City to degrade and imprison the said Sheriffs—which was done. But the Council sent a deputation to the King, then staying at Langley, to intercede for the Sheriffs. Their conduct, it was explained, was forced upon them. Had they not stopped the carrying off of the corn there would have been an insurrection which might have proved dangerous. This makes us wonder if the Commonalty resented the sending of corn out of the City? If so, why? Or was there some other reason for preventing it?

After the King’s return from his Irish expedition the Parliament or Council held at St Bride’s, Fleet Street, took place. John wanted money. He insisted on taking it, not from the City but from the Religious Houses. It was an act worthy of an Angevin. The fact, and the way of achieving the fact, are thus narrated by Holinshed:—

“From hence he made hast to London, and at his comming thither, tooke counsell how to recover the great charges and expenses that he had beene at in this journey and by the advice of William Brewer, Robert de Turnham, Reignold de Cornhill, and Richard de Marish, he caused all the cheefe prelats of England to assemble before him at St. Bride’s in London. So that thither came all the Abbats, Abbesses, Templars, Hospitallers, keepers of farmes and possessions of the order of Clugnie, and other such forreners as had lands within this realme belonging to their houses. All which were constreined to paie such a greevous tax, that the whole amounted to the summe of an hundred thousand pounds. The moonks of the Cisteaux order, otherwise called White Moonks, were constreined to paie 40 thousand pounds of silver at this time, all their privileges to the contrarie notwithstanding. Moreover, the abbats of that order might not get licence to go their generall chapter that yeere, which yeerelie was used to be holden, least their complaint should moove all the world against the king, for his too too hard and severe handling of them.” (Holinshed, vol. iii. p. 174, 1586 edition.)

This act of spoliation belonged to the period of the six years’ Interdict. The Interdict was pronounced on Passion Sunday, March 23, 1208, “which,” says Roger of Wendover, “since it was expressed to be by authority of our Lord the Pope, was inviolably observed by all without regard of persons or privileges. Therefore, all church services ceased to be performed in England, with the exception only of confession; the viaticum in cases of extremity; and the baptism of children: the bodies of the dead, too, were carried out of cities and towns, and buried in roads and ditches without prayers or the attendance of priests.”

From MS. in British Museum—Claudius D2 (Cotton).

At the beginning of the Interdict, the solemn silence of the church bells, the closing of the church gates, the cessation of all religious rites at a time when nothing was done without religion taking her part, struck terror into the minds of all folk. But as time went on and the people became accustomed to live without religion, this terror wore itself away. One understands very plainly that an Interdict too long maintained and too rigorously carried out might result in the destruction of religion itself. We must also remember, first, that the Interdict was in many places only16 partially observed, and in other places was not observed at all. Some of the Bishops remained on the King’s side; some of the clergy were rewarded for disobeying the Interdict. And in London and elsewhere there were relaxations. Thus, marriages and churchings took place at church doors; children were baptized in the church; offerings might be made at the altar: in the Monastic Houses the canonical hours were observed, but there was no singing. In a word, though the close connection of religious observances with the daily life made the Interdict grievous, there can be no doubt that its burden was felt less and less the longer it was maintained. Moreover, the King afforded the City a proof that the longer the Interdict lasted the richer and more powerful he would become: a fact which would certainly weaken the terror of the Church, while it might make the King’s subjects uneasy as to their liberties; for John confiscated all the property of the Church that he could lay his hands upon. “The King’s agents,” says Roger of Wendover, “converted the property of the Bishops to the King’s use, giving them only a scanty allowance of food and clothing out of their own property. The coin of the clergy was everywhere locked up and distrained for the benefit of the revenue: the concubines of the priests and clerks were taken by the King’s servants and compelled to ransom themselves at great expense. Religious men and other persons ordained, of any kind, when found travelling on the road, were dragged from their horses, robbed, and basely ill-treated by the satellites of the King, and no one could do them justice. About that time the servants of a certain sheriff on the confines of Wales came to the King, bringing in their custody a robber with his hands tied behind him, who had robbed and murdered a priest on the road: and on their asking the King what it was his pleasure should be17 done to the robber in such a case, the King immediately answered,‘He hath slain an enemy of mine. Release him, and let him go!’”

In the year 1210 the Town Ditch was dug for the greater strengthening of the City.

From the copy of original in British Museum. Rischgitz Collection.

A larger image is available here.

In 1213 the Standard Bearer of the City, Robert FitzWalter, one of the malcontent Barons, fled to France rather than give a security of his fidelity to John the King, whereupon John ordered his castle—Baynard’s Castle—to be destroyed. This castle stood at the angle in the junction of Thames and Fleet. The second Baynard’s Castle, erected by the Duke of Gloucester, was some little distance to the east, also on the bank of the river.

The leader of the Barons was this Robert FitzWalter, “Marshal of the Army of God and of Holy Church.” He was Castellain of London, Chief Banneret of the City, Baron of Dunmow, owner of Baynard’s Castle, and of a soke which now forms the parish of St. Andrew by the Wardrobe. As Castellain and Banneret it was his duty to direct the execution of traitors by drowning in the Thames. At the Court of Husting his place was on the right hand of the Mayor. In time of war the Castellain proceeded to the western gate of St. Paul’s, attended by nineteen knights mounted and armed, his banner borne before him. The Mayor and Aldermen came forth to meet him, all in arms, the Mayor carrying the City banner, which he placed in FitzWalter’s hands, at the same time giving him a charger fully caparisoned valued at £20. A sum of £20 was also given to FitzWalter for18 his expenses. The Mote bell was then rung, and the whole party rode to the Priory of the Holy Trinity, there to concert measures for the defence of the City.

The events which led to the concession of Magna Charta belong to the history of the country. But the part played by London in this memorable event must not be passed over.

The Barons, under FitzWalter, were besieging Northampton when letters arrived from certain citizens of London offering their admission into the City, no doubt on terms and conditions. The chance of getting the chief city of the country into their power was too good to be refused. A large company of soldiers took back the Barons’ answer. They were admitted within the walls secretly; according to one Chronicle, at night and by scaling the wall; according to another, by day, and on Sunday morning, the people being at mass; according to another, openly and by Aldgate. Once in the City, however, they seized and held the gates and proclaimed rebellion against the King, murdering his partisans. Then the Barons themselves entered London. From this stronghold they threatened destruction to such of the Lords as had not joined their confederacy. And for a time all government ceased; there were no pleas heard in the Courts; the Sheriffs no longer attempted to carry out their duties; no one paid tax dues, tolls, or customs. The King, at one time reduced to a personal following of half a dozen, found himself unable to make any resistance; and on the glorious June 15, 1215, Magna Charta was signed.

The Barons, who retained London by way of security, returned to the City and there remained for twelve months, but in doubt and anxiety as to what the King would do next. That he would loyally carry out his promises no one expected. He was sending ambassadors to Rome seeking the Pope’s aid; and he was living with a few attendants in the Isle of Wight, or on the sea-coast near the Cinque Ports, currying favour with the sailors.

The rest is national history. The Barons appear to have spent their time in banqueting while the King was acting. Presently they found that the King had become once more strong enough to meet them. Indeed, he attempted to besiege London, but was compelled to abandon the enterprise by the courageous bearing of the citizens, who threw open their gates and sallied forth. The Barons were excommunicated; the City was once more laid under an Interdict; these measures produced no effect, but the Barons clearly perceived that their only hope lay in setting up another king. They therefore invited Louis, son of the French King, to come over; and then John died.

To return to the grant of Magna Charta. Its effects upon the liberties of the people have been thus summarised by George Norton in his Historical Account of London:—


“This charter has become the very alphabet of the language of freedom and proverbialized in the mouths of Englishmen.... Merchants could now transact their business without being exposed to arbitrary tolls: the King’s Court for Common Pleas should no longer follow his person but be stationary in one place: that circuits should be established and held every year: and that the inferior local courts should be held only at their regular and appointed times ... that the Sheriffs should not be allowed in their districts to hold the pleas of the crown: that no aids should be demanded of the people except by consent of Parliament and in the three cases of the King’s captivity, the making his son a knight, and the marriage of his daughter. And lastly, as an object of national concern, it was expressly provided that London and all the cities and boroughs of the kingdom should preserve their ancient liberties, immunities and free customs.”

The words which Norton describes as the alphabet of freedom are the following:—

“Nullus liber homo capiatur vel imprisonetur, aut disseisiatur de libero tenemento suo, vel libertatibus, vel consuetudinibus suis, aut utlagetur aut exulet aut aliquo modo destruatur: nec super eum ibimus, nec super eum mittimus, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum vel per legem terrae. Nulli vendemus: nulli negabimus, aut differemus rectum vel Justitiam.”



John was succeeded by his son Henry, then a boy of nine. The death of their enemy brought back the Barons to their allegiance: forty of them at once went over to the young King, the rest followed one by one. Louis was left almost alone in London with his Frenchmen. The pride and arrogance of the foreigners went far to disgust the English and inclined them to return to their loyalty. After the defeat at Lincoln, Louis found himself blockaded within the City walls, unable to get out, and, unless relief came, likely to be starved into submission. This is the second instance in history of the City being blockaded both by land and sea: the first being that siege in which Cnut brought his ships round the Bridge. The Thames was closed: the roads were closed: no provisions could be brought into the City by river or by road. And when a fleet, sent by the French King to the assistance of his son, was defeated by Hubert de Burgh off Dover, whatever chance the Prince might have had on his arrival was gone. Louis made terms. He stipulated for an amnesty for the citizens of London: on the strength of that amnesty, or as the price of it, he borrowed 5000 marks (or perhaps £1000) of them and so returned to France.

The young King was received by the citizens with the usual demonstrations of exuberant joy. Had they known what a terrible half-century awaited them, they would have been less demonstrative.

A Parliament was held at London as soon as Louis had gone: the care of the young King, whose mother had already married again, was committed to the Bishop of Winchester.

The new buildings at Westminster were commenced by the Bishop of Winchester as one of the first of Henry’s acts.

The story of the wrestling match which belongs to the year 1221 throws some light upon the internal conditions of the City. In itself it had no political significance except to show the readiness with which a mob can be raised on small provocation and the mischief which may follow. It was on St. James’s Day that sports were held in St. Giles’s Fields near the Leper Hospital. The young men of London contended with those of the “suburbs,” especially those of Westminster.21 Those who have witnessed a great football match in the North of England will understand the intense and passionate interest with which each “event” was followed by the mass of onlookers. A gladiatorial combat was not more warlike than the wrestling of these young men. The Londoners came out best in this match, whereupon the Steward of Westminster, according to the account, resolved upon revenge, and a very unsportsmanlike revenge he took. For he invited the young men of London to a return match. They accepted, suspecting nothing; they went unarmed to Tothill Fields, ready to renew the bloodless contest: they were received, not by wrestlers, but by armed men, who fell upon them and wounded them grievously, and so drove them back to the City. One feels that this story is incomplete, and on the face of it impossible. Holinshed’s account of what happened in consequence is as follows:—

From MS. in British Museum—Vitellius A. XIII.

“The citizens, sore offended to see their people so misused, rose in tumult, and rang the common bell to gather the more companies to them. Robert Serle, mayor of the Citie, would have pacified the matter, persuading them to let the injurie passe till by orderlie plaint they might get redresse, as law and justice should assigne. But a certeine stout man of the Citie named Constantine FitzArnulfe, of good authoritie amongst them, advised the multitude not to harken unto peace, but to seeke revenge out22 of hand (wherein he shewed himselfe so farre from true manhood, that he bewraied himselfe rather to have a woman’s heart),—

... Quod vindicta
Nemo magis gaudet quam fœmina—

still prosecuting the strife with tooth and naile, and blowing the coles of contention as it were with full bellowes, that the houses belonging to the Abbat of Westminster, and manelie the house of his steward might be overthrowne and beaten downe flat with the ground. This lewd counsell was soone received and executed by the outragious people, and Constantine himselfe being cheefe leader of them, cried with a lowd voice, ‘Mount Joy! Mount Joy! God be our aid and our sovereigne Lewes!’ This outragious part comming to the notice of Hubert de Burgh, Lord Cheefe Justice, he gat togither a power of armed men, and came to the Citie with the same, and taking inquisition of the cheefe offenders, found Constantine as constant in affirming the deed to be his, as he had before constanlie put it in practise, whereupon he was apprehended and two other citizens with him. On the next day in the morning Fouks de Brent was appointed to have them to execution: and so by the Thames he quietly led them to the place where they should suffer. Now when Constantine had the halter about his necke, he offered fifteene thousand marks of silver to have beene pardoned, but it would not be. There was hanged with him his nephew also named Constantine, and one Geffrey, who made the proclamation devised by the said Constantine.” (Holinshed, vol. iii. p. 204, 1586 edition.)

In this singular incident we perceive very plainly the existence of a French party in the City. It was only two or three years since Prince Louis had been called over: there was no love for the advisers or the guardians of the young King: the memory of John still rankled: the cries of “Mount Joy!” came from men of the French party: the party was so strong that they believed themselves certain to be respected: Constantine fully expected to be acquitted if he were tried by his peers. And the party contained some—perhaps a majority—of the wealthiest merchants, since one of them was able to offer 15,000 marks for his release, equal to £10,000, and about six times as much according to our present value. The story also enables us to understand both the exaggerated belief in their own powers entertained by the citizens of London, and the resentment with which the King would receive indication of this belief. It wanted fifty years of Henry and thirty of Edward to make the citizens lay aside the belief that king-making was one of the privileges exclusively granted to the City.

Meantime the resentment of the young King, who never forgot or forgave this affair, was shown by the arrest of many citizens on the charge of taking part in the business, and their punishment by the loss of hand, foot, or eyesight. The King also deposed all the City officers. In this way the seeds of animosity and distrust between the King and the City were sown.

In the year 1227 Henry declared himself of age. This declaration was followed by five Charters granted to the City of London.

In the first of these Charters, February 8, 1227, the King grants the citizens the Sheriffwick of London and Middlesex; all their liberties and free customs; the election of their Sheriffs, whom they are to present to the King’s Justices; but not the election of their Mayor. The second Charter, of the same date, gives them23 the power of electing their Mayor “every year.” It is addressed to Archbishops, Bishops, etc., and all faithful subjects; and it speaks of the King’s “Barons” in his City. The third Charter orders the removal of all weirs in the Thames and the Medway, recites the privileges granted by the Charter of King John with “all other liberties which they had in the time of Henry I.” (It is remarkable that Edward the Confessor appears no longer in Charters and in laws.) The fifth Charter, dated August 18, 1227, refers to the warren of Staines.

In 1229 came over to England Stephen, the Pope’s Nuncio, with orders to levy a tenth upon all property, spiritual or temporal, for the Pope. After much hesitation, and only to avoid excommunication, the Bishops and Abbots consented; but the temporal Lords refused, in some cases giving way when they were compelled to do so, and in others holding out. The Earl of Chester, for instance, would not allow the tax to be levied on any part of his lands or upon any priest, or Religious House. The Nuncio made himself odious, partly by his grasping demands, even taking the gold and silver chalices when there was no money; partly by the tax itself, which gave over, as it seemed, the whole country into the hands of the Pope; and partly because the Nuncio brought over with him certain “Caursines,” or Caursini, agents for the Pope, who collected the tax. These foreigners remained, and, as will be seen, increased yearly in wealth and in the detestation of the people.

In this reign, also, the country people received other lessons as to the duty of affection for the Pope by the arrival among them of foreigners intruded into their benefices from Rome; these priests knew no English and were unable to instruct the people. The troubles which arose on account of these evils belong to the history of the country.

Despite his Charters the King’s exactions grew continually more grievous. He levied a Poll Tax in the City and a Ward Tax, and after a fire which destroyed a large part of the City, he exacted a sum of £20,000. In 1231 the Jews built a synagogue “very curiously,” but the citizens, by permission of the King, obtained possession of it, and caused it, humorously, to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary. About the same time the King built “a fair church adjoining thereto in the City of London near the old temple,” e.g. the Domus Conversorum or House of Converts. Stow says that there were a great many converts who were baptized and instructed in the laws of Christ and “did live laudably under a learned man appointed to govern them.” The “fair church” was the Rolls Chapel, wantonly destroyed in the year 1896.

The Chronicles of this date contain a great deal of information about the weather. I have not thought it necessary to note the hard frosts, the high tides, and the storms, which were remarked in London and elsewhere. The weather seems to have been much the same at all times in this country. Now and then24 a storm more than commonly severe is experienced. For instance, on January 25, 1230, while the Bishop was celebrating High Mass in St. Paul’s, there arose a terrible storm of thunder and lightning, and so dreadful a “savour and stinke withal” that a panic seized the people and they rushed out of the church headlong, falling over each other, priests and choristers and all, saving only the Bishop and one deacon. When the storm passed away, they all went back again, and the Bishop continued the Mass. In 1233 there was a wet summer with floods in all parts of the country and a bad harvest. We are not yet out of the age of prodigies and miracles and monsters. Four suns appeared in the sky at the same time, together with a great circle of crystalline colour; and in the South of England two dragons were seen fighting in the air until one overcame the other, when both plunged into the sea. In the North of England and also in Ireland bodies of armed men sprang out of the ground and fought in battle array and then sank into the ground again. To show that this was no mere apparition the ground was trodden down where they had fought. And once a strange star appeared with a flaming tail. What could these prodigies portend?

In the year 1236 the City received the new Queen with every outward sign of welcome, and, unfortunately for themselves, of wealth. What was Eleanor of Provence, what was the young King, to think of the resources of the city which could receive them with so brave a show? Thus writes Stow concerning this Riding:—

“The cittie was adorned with silkes, and in the night with lampes, cressets, and other lights without number, besides many pageants and strange devices which were shewed. The citizens rode to meete the king and queene, beeing clothed in long garmentes embrodered about with golde and silke of divers colours, their horses finely trapped in arraie to the number of three hundred and sixty, every man bearing golden or silver cuppes in their hands, and the king’s trumpeters before them sounding. The citizens of London did minister wine as butlers.” (Howe’s edition of Stow’s Chronicles, p. 184.)

In the year 1236 water was first brought into the City by pipes from the Tyburn, or from wells or springs in the district called Tyburn, now Marylebone. These pipes were of lead and discharged the water into cisterns which were afterwards castellated with stone. The most important of them was that in Chepe: there were in all, when other pipes had been laid down, nineteen conduits: and it became the custom, once a year, for the Mayor and Aldermen to ride out in order to inspect the Heads from which the conduits were supplied, after which they were wont to hunt a hare before dinner and a fox after dinner in the fields about Marylebone.

In the year 1238 a singular procession passed out of St. Paul’s Cathedral along Fleet Street and the Strand as far as Durham House, then the palace of the Legate. The procession consisted of a large body of ecclesiastics, Doctors in Divinity and Law, followed (or preceded) by a company of young men: they were ungirded,25 without gown, bareheaded and barefooted. There were the Heads of Houses, the Master and Students of the University of Oxford headed by Ado de Kilkenny, Standard Bearer to the scholars: they were on their way to pray the Legate’s pardon for a late lamentable outbreak in Oxford. It began with an Irish undergraduate, who went into the Legate’s kitchen to beg for food. The cook in reply took up a pot filled with hot broth and threw it in his face. A Welsh student, also come on the same errand, was so exasperated at the sight of the outrage that he killed the cook, there and then. After which the students rose in a body and attacked the house. The Legate fled for his life, taking refuge in a church steeple whence he escaped under cover of the night. As soon as he was safe he interdicted the University, and excommunicated all concerned in the riot. But on their submission he granted his forgiveness and removed the Interdict.

In 1250 the King sent for the principal citizens, and assured them that he would no longer oppress them by taxation. This promise was never meant to be kept. On a frivolous complaint of Richard, the King’s brother, the City liberties were seized and a custos appointed, who remained in office until the City had paid a fine of six hundred marks. Five hundred more were demanded for a new charter by which the incoming Mayor might be presented to the Barons of the Exchequer every year instead of the King. The old jealousy with which the citizens looked upon the Tower was about this time revived and strengthened by the erection of a wall round the Tower. Longchamp had made the ditch, but his work remained incomplete. Henry resolved to carry it on and to make an independent fortress surrounded by its own walls and having its own communications with the river and the country outside. The citizens looked upon the rise of this wall with suspicion and misgiving. Before the work was completed the wall fell down. It was put up again, and again it fell down, to the great joy of the people, who looked upon it as a direct intervention of Heaven on their behalf. That this was really the case was proved by a story which ran about the City that the overthrow of the wall was done by St. Thomas à Becket himself.


“A vision appeared by night to a certain priest, a wise and holy man, wherein an archprelate, dressed in pontifical robes, and carrying a cross in his hand, came to the walls which the King had at that time built near the Tower of London, and, after regarding them with a scowling look, struck them strongly and violently with the cross, saying, ‘Why do ye rebuild them?’ Whereupon the newly-erected walls suddenly fell to the ground, as if thrown down by an earthquake. The priest, frightened at this sight, said to a clerk who appeared following the archprelate, ‘Who is this archbishop?’ to which the clerk replied, ‘It is St. Thomas the martyr, a Londoner by birth, who considered that these walls were built as an insult, and to the prejudice of the Londoners, and has therefore irreparably destroyed them.’ The priest then said, ‘What expense and builders’ labour have they not cost.’ The clerk replied,‘If poor artificers, who seek after and have need of pay, had obtained food for themselves by the work, that would be endurable; but inasmuch as they have been built, not for the defence of the kingdom, but only to oppress harmless citizens, if St. Thomas had not destroyed them, St. Edmund the Confessor and his successor would still more relentlessly have overthrown them from their foundations.’ The priest, after having seen these things, awoke from his sleep, rose from his bed, and in the dead silence of the night told his vision to all who were in the house. Early in the morning a report spread through the city of London that the walls built round the Tower, on the construction of which the King had expended more than twelve thousand marks, had fallen to pieces, to the wonder of many, who proclaimed it a bad omen, because the year before, on the same night, which was that of St. George’s day, and at the same hour of the night, the said walls had fallen down, together with their bastions. The citizens of London, although astonished at this event, were not sorry for it; for these walls were to them as a thorn in their eyes, and they had heard the taunts of the people who said that these walls had been built as an insult to them, and that if any one of them should dare to contend for the liberty of the City, he would be shut up in them, and consigned to imprisonment; and in order that, if several were to be imprisoned, they might be confined in several different prisons, a great number of cells were constructed in them apart from one another, that one person might not have communication with another.” (Matthew Paris.)

The wealth of the Jews—or at least of one Jew—is shown by the exactions of the King from Aaron of York. He made this man—one of “his” Jews—pay him the sum of 14,000 marks for himself and 10,000 marks for the Queen. He had before this made the unfortunate Aaron give him 3000 marks besides 200 marks of gold for the Queen, in all about 60,000 marks or £40,000, which in our money would be equal to about half a million sterling. In 1252 the King seized the half of all the property possessed by the Jews. But there was worse trouble for the Jews than mere plunder. In 1225 the Jews of Norwich were thrown into prison on a charge of circumcising a boy with the intention of crucifying him at Easter. They were accused, convicted, and “punished”—hanged or burned. In 1255 one hundred and forty-three Jews were brought to Westminster charged with crucifying a child named Hugh de Lincoln. Eighteen of them were hanged; the rest were kept in prison a long time. In 1239 they were accused of a murder “secretly committed,” and were glad to escape with the loss of the third part of their property. The Pope’s Nuncio, Stephen, was succeeded by one Martin, who carried on the same exactions, regardless of murmurs and threats. The King was persuaded to hold an inquiry into the number and value of the benefices held by foreigners preferred by the Pope. The annual value was found to be 60,000 marks, or £40,000, an enormous sum at that time. The detention of a messenger with letters from the Pope to his Nuncio,27 brought the matter to a head. On an occasion when a large number of lords, knights, and gentlemen met together at Dunstable, they united in sending a message to Martin that he must quit the kingdom. He was then residing in the Temple. The story shows the exasperation of the people and the helplessness of the King, whose authority was thus usurped:—

From a missal of the fifteenth century.


“Maister Martine hearing this, got him to the court, and declaring to the king what message he had received, required to understand whether he was privie to the matter, or that his people tooke it upon them so rashlie without his authoritie or no? To whome the king answered, that he had not given them any authoritie so to command him out of the realme; but indeed (saith he) my barons doo scarselie forbeare to rise against me, bicause I have maintained and suffered thy pilling and injurious polling within this my realme, and I have had much adoo to staie them from running upon thee to pull thee in peeces. Maister Martine hearing these words, with a fearfull voice besought the king that he might for the love of God, and reverence of the pope, have free passage out of the realme; to whome the king in great displeasure answered, ‘The divill that brought thee in carrie thee out, even to the pit of hell for me.’ Howbeit, at length, when those that were about the king had pacified him, he appointed one of the marshals of his house, called Robert North or Nores, to conduct him to the sea side, and so he did, but not without great feare, sithens he was afraid of everie bush, least men should have risen upon him and murthered him. Whereupon when he came to the pope, he made a greevious complaint both against the king and others.” (Holinshed, vol. iii. p. 237, 1586 edition.)

After a futile remonstrance with the Pope, the Barons and Lords resolved that they would pay no more tribute to Rome. The Pope therefore ordered the Bishops to set their seals to the Charter by which John had consented to the tribute. This they did, whereupon the King, who was always strong in words, swore that so long as he should live no tribute should be paid to Rome. The position of the country towards the Pope was considered at a Parliament called in London in Lent 1246. As regards London, it is sufficient to note the quarrel and to remember that the attitude of the country, three hundred years before the Reformation, was thus hostile to the claims of the Pope.

In the year 1241 took place the election of Boniface, Bishop Elect of Basle, and uncle of the Queen, as Archbishop of Canterbury. This election was the greatest and the worst of the many intrusions of foreigners into English offices. Matthew Paris tells the story of the election:— 29

“The monks of Canterbury, then, finding that the Pope and the King indulged them by turns, and mutually assented to each other’s requests, after invoking the grace of the Holy Spirit and the King’s favour, elected as the pastor of their souls, Boniface, bishop elect of Basle, and an uncle of the Lady Eleanor, the illustrious Queen of England, yet entirely unknown to the aforesaid monks, as regarded his knowledge, morals, or age, and (as was stated) totally incompetent, compared with the archbishops his predecessors, for such a dignified station. They however elected him, on this consideration, namely, that, if they had elected any one else, the King, who obtained the favour of the Pope in everything, would invent some grounds of objections, and reject and annul the election. And in order that the Pope might not reject the bishop elect as incompetent, or rather that he might appear competent and fit for such a high dignity, the King, who endeavoured by all the means in his power to promote the cause and raise the fame of the said Boniface, now elected or about to be elected, ordered a paper to be drawn up, in which the person of the said Boniface was praised beyond measure, and in evidence of the truth of it appended his royal seal to the said writing. He then sent it to the bishops and abbats, enjoining or imperiously begging them to set their seals also to it, and to bear evidence to his assertion; several, however, unwilling to violate the integrity of their conscience, and fearing to break the Lord’s commandment, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness,’ firmly refused to obey him. Several of the clergy of the higher ranks, however, namely some bishops and abbats, were alarmed and enervated by the King’s threats, and, laying aside their godly fear, and showing reverence to man more than to God, affixed their seals to it, as a guarantee and testimony of their belief, and willingly accepted of this Boniface as their superior. Although he was of noble blood and a most particular friend of the princes of both kingdoms, and himself well-made in person, and sufficiently qualified, yet the monks of Canterbury were extremely sorry that they had been overcome by the King’s entreaties and agreed to his request in this matter; and some of them, after reflecting within themselves, knowing the misery in store for them, seceded from their church, and, in order to perform continued penance, betook themselves to the Carthusian order.”

From MS. in British Museum. Add. 23,923.

Nine years later, in 1250, there occurred an ecclesiastical scandal of a very unusual kind caused and provoked by the arrogance of this prelate. It is related by Stow as follows:— 30

“Boniface, Archbishop of Canterburie, in his visitation came to the priory of Saint Bartholomew in Smithfielde, where, being received with procession in the most solemne wise, he said he passed not upon the honor but came to visit them, unto whome the Chanons answered, that they having a learned Byshoppe ought not in contempt of him to bee visited by any other, which answere so much misliked the Archbyshopp, that he forthwith fell on the Subprior, and smote him on the face with his fist, saying, ‘Indeede! Indeede, doeth it become you English Traytors so to answere me?’ Thus raging with othes not to be recited, he rent in pieces the rich coape of the Subprior, trode it under feete, and thrust him against a pillar of the chancell, that he hadde almost killed him but the Chanons seeing that their Subprior was almost dead they ranne and plucked off the Archbyshoppe with such a violence that they overthrew him backwardes, whereby they might see that he was armed and prepared to fight. The Archbyshoppe’s men seeing their maister downe (being all strangers, and their maister’s countrymen borne in Provance), fell upon the Chanons, beate them, tare them, and trode them under their feet: at length the Chanons getting away as well as they could, ranne bloddy and myrie, rent and torne, to the Bishoppe of London to complaine, who bade them go to the king at Westminster, and tell him thereof: whereupon four of them went thither, the rest were not able, they were so sore hurt: but when they came at Westminster, the king woulde neyther heare nor see them, so they returned without redresse. In the meane season the whole citie was in an uproare, and ready to have rang the common bell, and to have hewed the Archbyshoppe into small pieces, but he was secretly gotte away to Lambeth.” (Howe’s edition of Stow’s Chronicles, p. 188.)

At a Parliament held in the year 1246, a memorandum was drawn up of the injuries sustained by England at the hands of the Pope, especially in the presentation of English benefices to foreigners. The document is of the highest interest, but belongs to the national history. The reading and adoption of this memorandum was followed by the despatch of letters from (1) “all the English”; (2) the Abbots of England; (3) the general community of England; (4) the King—all these to the Pope—and lastly from the King to the Cardinals. The third of these letters, which was sent out with the seal of the City of London, was the most straightforward. It may be quoted here:— 31

“To the most holy Father in Christ and well-beloved Lord, Innocent, by the grace of God supreme Pontiff of the Universe Church, his devoted sons, Richard, earl of Cornwall; Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester; De Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex; R. le Bigod, earl of Norfolk; R., earl of Gloucester and Hereford; R., earl of Winchester; W., earl of Albemarle; H., earl of Oxford; and others throughout the whole of England, barons and nobles, as well as the nobles of the ports dwelling near the sea-coast, as also the clergy and people in general, Health and due reverence in all respects to such a potent pontiff. The Mother Church is bound so to cherish her children, and to assemble them under her wings, that they may not degenerate in their duty to their mother, but may make stronger efforts on her behalf, if necessary, and taking up the sword and buckler, may oppose themselves to every peril in her defence, from whose milk they derive consolation, whilst they hang on the breasts of her motherly affection: for the mother ought to remember the children of her womb, lest, by acting otherwise, and withdrawing the nourishment of her milk, she may appear to become a stepmother. The father, also, who withdraws his affection from his sons, is no father, but ought, with good reason, to be called a stepfather, as he considers his natural children as illegitimate ones, or stepsons. On this account, reverend father, ‘chariot of Israel and its charioteer,’ we confidently resort to the asylum of your affection, crying aloud after you, humbly and devoutly praying of you, in the hopes of divine retribution, compassionately to listen to the voices of those crying after you, and to apply a salutary remedy to the burdens, injuries, and oppressions repeatedly imposed and practised on the kingdom of England, and our lord the king: otherwise, scandal will necessarily arise, urged on as we are ourselves, as well as the king, by the clamours of the people; since it will be necessary for us, unless the king and kingdom are soon released from the oppressions practised on him and it, to oppose ourselves as a wall for the house of the Lord, and for the liberty of the kingdom. This, indeed, we have, out of respect for the Apostolic See, hitherto delayed doing; but we shall not be able to dissemble after the return of our messengers who are sent on this matter to the Apostolic See, or to refrain from giving succour, as far as lies in our power, to the clergy, as well as the people of the kingdom of England, who will on no account endure such proceedings: and your holiness may rest assured that, unless the aforesaid matters are speedily reformed by you, there will be reasonable grounds to fear that such peril will impend over the Roman church, as well as our lord the king, that it will not be easy to apply a remedy to the same: which God forbid.”

The reign of Henry III. should have taught the citizens the great lesson that a charter is only a recognition and a promise: a recognition of ancient rights and liberties achieved, and a promise to respect these rights and liberties. When a king ascended the throne, who had no regard for oaths or charters, and who was strong enough to enforce his will, what became of the rights and liberties? The City had to learn that more than a king’s word was necessary. “Make a law,” is the cry of the weak and ignorant. “Let us defend what laws we have,” is the cry of the strong. During the greater part of this long reign London was weak and ignorant. The weakness of London—the alternate fits of rage and apathy—as, one after the other, her liberties were taken from her, is to be explained by the fact that the City was divided within itself. London united and of one mind could have dictated terms to king or barons. The secret of the successful and long-continued oppression of the City is the internal dissension of the people.

I must reserve for another chapter the history of the King’s encroachments and the internal dissensions. They form part of the growth—though apparently a check or hindrance—of the civil liberties.

The City, at the same time, laboured together with the country under heavy grievances. An arbitrary and extravagant king; the immigration of foreigners by swarms; the exactions of the Italian usurers, licensed by the Pope; the continuous and almost hopeless struggle against the domination and pretensions of the Pope; the loss of foreign and home trade, owing to internal dissensions and unchecked piracies,—all these things together make the long reign of Henry III. the most disastrous in the whole history of London. The struggle with the Pope belongs to the history of the country rather than to that of London. The unpopularity of the King was extended to the Queen as well. Perhaps Eleanor was regarded as the chief cause of the invasion of the country by these foreigners—ecclesiastics and usurers. The hatred of the people was shown on one unfortunate day when the Queen proposed to go by boat from the Tower to Windsor. As she drew near the Bridge, according to Holinshed, “a sorte of lewd naughtepacks, got them to the Bridge, making a noise at her, and crying ‘Drown the witch!’ threw down stones, cudgels, dirt, and other things at her, so that she escaped in great danger of her person, fled to Lambeth, and, through fear to be further pursued, landed there, and so stayed till the Mayor of London, with much ado appeasing the peril of the people, repaired to the Queen and brought her back again in safety to the Tower.”

London suffered worse things than the country because her people were32 throughout this long reign the unceasing object of the King’s rapacity, tyranny, and hatred. He deprived the City of the Mayor and Sheriffs, substituting a Custos and Bailiffs; he fined them relentlessly and on the smallest pretext; he laid upon them more heavy taxes than they had ever before known; he made them pay for their charters; he tried to divert the trade of the City to Westminster; yet from time to time he seems to have understood the necessity for conciliation: he met the citizens at a folk-mote; he took leave of them before going abroad. On another occasion he cut down the expenses of his household, even suppressing some of the tapers on his altar, so that he was not always an extravagant monarch. Again, on another occasion we find him spending the day and dining with the Dominican Friars, so that he was not always a luxurious monarch. And there is the memorable scene in Westminster Hall, which may be given in the words of Matthew of Westminster:—

“The day fortnight after Easter, a great parliament being assembled, nearly all the prelates being met together, requested that the King, observing their charters and liberties as he had often promised, would also permit the Holy Church to enjoy its liberties, especially in the matter of the elections of prelates of the cathedral churches, and of the churches of convents: all which the King protested that he would observe inviolably, and thus obtained the consent which he desired from them and from the other nobles, to the subsidy which he required for his pilgrimage. Accordingly, there was granted to the King one-tenth part of all the ecclesiastical revenues for three years, and from the knights a scutage for that year, at the rate of three marks for each shield. And the King promised in all good faith that he would inviolably observe all those things which he had on other occasions repeatedly sworn to, and which had been originally granted by his father John. And that they might feel more sure of his promise, he ordered sentence to that effect to be publicly pronounced in his presence, which was also done in the following manner:—

Accordingly on the third of May, in the larger royal palace at Westminster, in the presence of, and under the authority of the Lord Henry, by the grace of God, King of England, etc., etc. And after this was done, the charter of his father John was produced before the assembly, in which the said King John had granted the same things of his own absolute will, out of which charter they caused the aforesaid liberties to be recited. But while the King was listening to the aforesaid sentence, he held his hand to his breast with a serene and willing countenance; and at last, when all the tapers had been thrown down and were smoking, each person said, ‘So may all those who transgress this sentence be extinguished and stink in hell’; and the King, with all those who were standing by, answered,‘Amen, Amen.’”

When civil war broke out the City took the side of the Barons. London provided a contingent of 12,000 men. At Lewes the Londoners were routed by Prince Edward in return for the insults with which they had assailed the Queen,33 his mother; at Evesham their party was defeated and the King was once more restored to power. He deposed the Mayor; he put a Custos in his place; he refused to receive the citizens when they went to London to sue for mercy; he imprisoned Thomas FitzThomas for life; he confiscated the property of sixty of the wealthier citizens; he fined the City 20,000 marks, and because it was from the Bridge that the Queen had been insulted by the citizens, he gave the Bridge and its tolls to her. She kept it for a few years, neglecting to keep it in repair, and then gave it back to the City.

In the year 1257 Henry issued a new coinage of golden pennies, each weighing two sterlings, i.e. two silver pennies, and each ordered to represent twenty sterlings. He asked the advice of the City upon the matter. There was a general feeling that the golden penny was not wanted, and that it would cause a depreciation in the value of gold. The King ordered the coinage to be continued, but that no one should be compelled to take it.

We now come upon a confused episode in the history. It is that of the occupation of the City by the Earl of Gloucester (Gilbert de Clare). As Arnold FitzThedmar tells the story, the Earl was coming to London by command of the Legate, who held the Tower. The Legate further told the citizens that Gloucester was a friend of the King, and that they must admit him and his men into the City. However, the citizens begged the Earl not to take up his quarters within their walls by reason of the great multitude with him. Accordingly, he rode through with his host, and lay at Southwark. But next day the Earl came back, to hold a conference with the Legate, and there remained, he and all his people. The roving bands of the “disherisoned” who had been wasting Norfolk from their headquarters at Ely appeared before the City. The Earl took the keys of the gates, let in these dangerous marauders, and assumed the command over the whole City. Many of the better sort went away from this, and the Earl ordered their chattels to be seized for his own use or allowed his soldiers to plunder them. His men were joined by certain “low people” calling themselves the “Commons of the City”—they were obviously the craftsmen—who seized the opportunity to assert themselves: they arrested many of the principal citizens and spoiled and wasted their goods; deposed the mayor and sheriffs; they chose three of themselves to be custos and bailiffs; they imprisoned some of the aldermen; they invited back all those who had been expelled the City for breach of the peace against King Henry; and they released those who were prisoners in Newgate, Ludgate, Cripplegate, and any other prison. Some of the disorderly company of the “disherisoned” marched to Westminster, and there did as much mischief as they could to the palace, breaking the glass windows, drinking the wine, and defacing the buildings. The Pope’s Legate, meantime, was in the Tower. With him were many of the King’s friends—those of the aristocratic party—and a great number of Jews; we may also believe34 that the Caursini and the foreigners were taking shelter in the Tower. The Jews, who had with them their wives and children together with all their portable wealth, were assigned the defence of one ward of the Tower, which, it is pleasant to read, they did defend valiantly. In the end peace was made, and the City escaped without a fine save 1000 marks for the destruction of the house of the King’s brother Richard at Isleworth.

In 1267 the King gave the City of London to his son Edward in order that he might rule over it, and to enjoy its revenues. Edward appointed a Custos, one Hugh FitzOthon, who was also Constable of the Tower.

In 1271 the Prince restored the Mayor and Sheriffs and obtained a charter of confirmation for the City. This done he assumed the Cross and went upon his crusade.

The amount of revenue obtained by the King from the City of London in the year 1268 is shown by the following return furnished by the Bailiffs Walter Hervey and William de Durham.

£  s. d.
By the amount of Tunnages (king’s weigh-house) and petty strandages 97 13 11½
By the amount of Customs of Foreign Merchandise together with the Issues of divers Passages 75 6 10
By the Metage of Corn and Customs at Billingsgate 5 18 7
By the Customs of Fish, etc., brought to London Bridge Street 7 0 2
By the Issue of the Field and Bars of Smithfield 4 7 6
By Tolls raised at the City Gates and Duties in the River Thames westward of the Bridge 8 13 2
By Stallages, Duties arising from the Markets of Westcheap, Grass Cheap, and Wool Church, Haw and Annual Socage of the Butchers of London 42 0 5
By the Produce of Queenshithe 17 9 2
By Chattels of Foreigners forfeited for trading in the City 10 11 0
By Places and Perquisites within the City 86 5 9
By the Produce of the Waidarii and Ambiani or Corbye and Neele French Merchants of these towns 9 6 8
Total £364 13

In the year 1267 there was a serious riot, showing that the craftsmen had not yet learned the lesson of fraternity towards each other. It rose from a quarrel between the goldsmiths and the tailors. Other trades joined in: for instance the tawyers who prepared fine leather: and the parmenters who dealt in broad-cloth. For several days the streets were thronged with companies of these conflicting trades, fighting and murdering. In the end the riot was suppressed and the ringleaders were executed.



EDWARD I. (1239-1307)

The new reign began with the adjustment of an outstanding quarrel. Flanders was the principal cloth-making country, and, as such, she was always the chief customer of England for wool, in the trade of which so many of the London merchants were interested. In the year 1270, when the Countess of Flanders thought fit to lay hands upon the wool and other merchandise belonging to English merchants in her dominions, Henry issued a writ to the Mayor and Sheriffs forbidding the export of wool anywhere out of the kingdom. This measure failed to produce the desired effect. The King therefore, in 1270, seized all the goods of the Flemings, Hainaulters, and other subjects of the Countess; he ordered the London merchants to draw up an estimate of their wares, to be replaced out of the Flemings’ goods, and banished every Fleming out of the country. The property seized more than covered the amount of the loss. When the old King died during the absence of Edward in the Holy Land, the Chancellor, Walter de Merton, continued to banish the Flemings.

On his journey home, Edward received an embassy from the Countess, and sent for four discreet citizens to confer with him. The four chosen were Henry Waleys, afterwards Mayor of Bordeaux, as well as of London; Gregory de Rokesley, goldsmith and wool merchant; John Horn, evidently of Flemish descent; and Luke de Battencourt, Sheriff. Peace was concluded and signed in the same year—1274.

On the return of Edward from the Holy Land, he was received by the City with every appearance of joy, all the houses being hung with silk and tapestry, while the conduits ran with wine.


He was crowned at Westminster Abbey with his Queen Eleanor on August 19, 1274. The ceremony took place in the Abbey Church very much as we see it, though without later additions of chapel and western towers. The Abbey had been rebuilt by Henry III. though as yet it was not finished. The Queen-mother, Eleanor of Provence, was present. The day after the coronation Alexander III. of Scotland did homage. In honour of the occasion five hundred horses were let loose among the crowd for any to take who could. One would like a picture of the scramble which followed, and an enumeration of the dead and wounded when all the horses had been ridden away.

From the effigy in Westminster Abbey.

In the City the contest between the two parties was continued. The old party tried to obtain the election of their man Philip le Taillour, but were beaten by the common sort who elected Walter Hervey. An appeal was made to the King: a committee of ten, five on each side, were to agree upon a Mayor. The names of the members of this committee on both sides show pretty plainly the real nature of the quarrel. For one side are Walter Merton, William le Polter, John Adrian, Henry de Coventry, and Thomas Basyng, all members of old City families; on the other side are Robert Grapefige, Alan the Capmaker, and Bartholomew the Grocer. It was while the dispute was still unsettled that the old King had died, and Walter Merton told the people at Paul’s Cross that they should have their Mayor. The new Mayor and Sheriffs set themselves to regulate the trade of the City, especially the sale of bread, meal, and provisions generally, and to pass laws for the punishment of those who gave short weight or adulterated food. The laws being passed, the City Fathers, as was customary in those times, sat down with the consciousness of having done their duty. The appointment of an executive force to insist upon the observance of the laws was an expedient not yet invented by the wit of man.

It is, however, another illustration of the upheaval and discontent of the people that in the third year of this reign, the juries of the wards made a presentment to the King complaining that although the City ought not to be tallaged except by order of the King, yet it had been on several occasions tallaged by the37 Mayor; and that although all the citizens were equal as regards their freedom and privileges, yet some of the Aldermen and others had obtained charters from Henry III. exempting them from tallage: in so much that all the tallage fell upon the middle sort and the poor, to their great loss and oppression.

The King further considered the complaints against the Jews for usury. They were forbidden to practise their trade; and it was ordained, as a mark of infamy, that every usurer should wear upon his breast a badge, the “breadth of a paveline,” in sign of his trade. This law was levelled at the Italian merchants, the men of the Pope, who traded in money and refused to obey any laws against the practice except those of the Pope. As for the unfortunate Jews, being deprived of the only trade open to them—if they were really deprived, but I think the edict was never enforced,—they took to clipping and diminishing the King’s coin—if they really did do so, but one doubts—and were all seized and imprisoned in one day: out of those so arrested in the City, two hundred and eighty were executed. Alas! poor Jews!

It is an illustration of the melancholy condition to which London was reduced by the late disastrous reign that in the year 1281 it was reported to the King that London Bridge had become so ruinous that it might any moment fall down. This was in consequence of the Queen of Henry III. having spent the revenues and rents upon herself, and left the fabric to fall into ruin, in so much that in 1282 a great frost happening, five of the piers were carried away by the ice. Edward ordered a toll of one penny for every horseman and one halfpenny for every saleable pack of goods that crossed the bridge, the toll to continue for three years. Grants of land, made to the City by Edward I. and following kings for the repair of the Bridge, prove that the citizens had recovered their ancient rights as to its custody.

Nor were the City Gates in much better case than the Bridge. Thus, the Hanseatic merchants enjoyed the privilege of trading in the City on the condition of keeping one of the Gates—Bishopsgate—in repair, and of defending it in case of siege. The condition was imposed by Henry III., but the merchants neglected the Gate so that it had by this time fallen into ruin. On being called upon to fulfil their contract they at first refused, but when the case was decided against them by the Court of Exchequer, they performed their duty with zeal, and a hundred and fifty years later, when the gate again fell into decay, they pulled it down and rebuilt it.

The brutality of the time is illustrated by the reception given to the head of Llewelyn, Prince of Wales. He had fled to the castle of Builth after losing his last battle. Here he was betrayed into the hands of Roger le Strange, who cut off his head with his sword and sent it to the King. Edward ordered that it should be carried to London. Consequently the head of the dead warrior was borne on a lance, crowned with a silver chaplet, through the streets with a38 cavalcade of men-at-arms, with trumpets and drums, and with the shouting of the people. Then it was stuck up on the Tower, crowned with a mock diadem. One remembers also the unspeakable indignities perpetrated on the dead body of Simon de Montfort.

All the histories of London notice the remarkable case of Lawrence Ducket mentioned by Fabyan. It occurred in the year 1284, and presents many points of mystery. Lawrence Ducket was a goldsmith who, in some kind of affray, wounded one Ralph Crepin in Westchepe. Immediately after the deed, it would seem, probably running away from the crowd, he took sanctuary in Bow Church tower. But certain friends of Crepin getting into the tower at night hanged Lawrence from one of the windows in such a manner that it seemed as if he had committed suicide. And a Coroner’s jury holding inquest on the body brought in a verdict of self-murder, whereupon the body was thrown into a cart, carried out of the City, and buried in a ditch. Then, however, a boy came forward and deposed that he was sleeping in the tower with Lawrence Ducket, and that he witnessed from a corner where he hid himself—the murder by certain persons whom he named. Arrests were made and more information obtained, in consequence of which it was discovered that a woman had contrived and designed this murder and sacrilege. She was burned alive. Sixteen were hanged; and many others, persons of consideration, were fined. A notable murder.

One remembers the quarrel between the Goldsmiths and the Tailors fifteen years before this. Was it a renewal of that, or some other old feud? That would seem the only way of accounting for so determined and so daring a revenge.

Two things are remarkable in the year 1285. First, the great conduit of Cheapside was set up in this year. It was a cistern of lead built round with stone and castellated. The water had been brought from Paddington fifty years before, but this was the first attempt to form a reservoir; the leaden pipes originally used were changed for wooden pipes formed by hollowing out trunks of trees. There were three sections: one of 510 rods from Paddington to “James’ Head”; one of 102 rods from “James’ Head on the hill” to the Mewsgate; from the Mewsgate to the Cross in Cheape, 484 rods. For a long time this conduit formed the sole supply of water brought in from without for the whole City excepting the foul waters of the Fleet and the Walbrook. There were, however, many private wells and springs in the City, and of water without the City there was a plentiful supply.

The second noticeable act of the year was the order of the Archbishop of Canterbury that all the Jews’ synagogues in the City should be destroyed. The hatred of the Jews was, it will be seen, rapidly becoming irresistible.

In 1285, also, thirteen years after the death of King Henry, there comes to light what is either an act of revenge or a curious survival of the spirit of discontent which placed the Londoners on the side of the barons. A citizen named39 Thomas Piwilesdon (? By Willesden) who in the time of the barons had been a great “doer, to stir the people against King Henry,” was arrested on the charge of compassing new disturbances. No doubt this was in connection with the efforts of the craftsmen. The Custos arrested him and banished him, with fifty others, out of the City for life.

What followed was, apparently, a concession to the merchants. The foreign traders had formerly been compelled to lodge in the houses of citizens and to sell their goods by procuration, through the London merchants. Afterwards being allowed to take houses and use them for storage and for sale, they were now charged with abusing the privilege in various ways; they caused their goods to be weighed by their private beams instead of the King’s beam; and they used false weights. Twenty of them were arrested and taken to the Tower; their false weights were publicly destroyed in West Chepe, and they themselves, after a long imprisonment, were fined a thousand pounds.

The City had sunk into a dreadful condition by the bad government of the mayors and sheriffs, the internal dissensions, and the general anarchy. The streets were nightly infested with companies of robbers and murderers; the crafts, especially those whose work overlapped each other, were perpetually quarrelling; there was dissension everywhere; the old order was breaking up. For a time it was well that London should cease to elect her Mayor. Moreover, there were examples of this despotic remedy under Henry III. The Sheriff of the year 1285 was Gregory Rockesley, who was a goldsmith. With his friend Henry Waleys he had taken turns in holding the chief office of the City. Waleys was a vintner. Both were wealthy men and of good repute with the King. In 1275 Henry Waleys stepped from the Mayoralty of London into that of Bordeaux. In 1274 Rockesley held no office in London, because he was sent to Flanders on an embassy. The following table will illustrate the position in the City of these two merchants.


So that in thirteen years no other citizen was put forward as Mayor except these two, and when the City after twelve years returned to its old constitution, one of these two—probably the survivor—became once more Mayor.

In the year 1285 Edward took over the City into his own hands in the manner following. On the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (June 29) the Lord Treasurer summoned the Mayor to the Tower there to give an account of his keeping of the peace. The summons was an infraction upon the liberties of the City (see also vol. ii. part i. ch. iv.). Gregory Rockesley, however, without formally refusing to obey, marched in procession with the City Fathers as far as Barking Church. Here he cast aside his gown, his collar, his rings, and dismissed his officers, and entered the Tower as a private person there appearing before the Justices. They asked him what he meant. He replied that as mayor he was not bound to appear before any Court beyond the liberties of the City. I think that we may assume that this question and this answer had been arranged beforehand, because it was most unlikely that the Treasurer was ignorant of the City’s Charters. Rockesley was allowed to retire. Next day, he and the principal citizens were arrested and put in prison. The King, “finding the City without a Mayor,” took it into his own hands and appointed as Custos Sir Ralph Sandwich. After this everybody was released and the Custos remained in charge.

The whole story shows previous arrangement. The only two men who seemed possible for the post of Mayor were growing old; the office was more onerous than they could well bear; the City grew daily more lawless; deeds of violence were more rife; the quarrels of the craftsmen more frequent; street fights more common; the arm of the law weaker. But the King was strong, there was no doubt on that point. Long before his accession Edward had proved to the citizens that he was strong and just and inflexible. Let the King take over the City and keep possession till the restoration of good order. Not by trampling on the Charters. Let it be done by a legal quibble.

So it was all arranged, and Gregory Rockesley, being released from prison, retired from office to the quiet management of his own affairs. As we hear no more about him we may assume that he was probably dead when the citizens returned to the election of their Mayor. And the King finding the City without a mayor appointed a Custos in his own name. One of the citizens, Aswy, Alderman of Chepe, was kept in prison a little longer, for some other reason, which we are not able to learn. The new Custos, it is evident, was a strong man. He not only knew how to make laws but he enforced them. He would allow no foreigner to wear any weapon, nor to be abroad after curfew; and since the late disturbances took place chiefly by night, all people wandering about the streets after dark were liable to be arrested and clapped into the Tun of Cornhill. No vintners or victuallers were to keep their shops open after curfew: and, since many lewd persons learned the art of41 fencing as a help to their disorderly conduct, all schools of fencing were closed: the Aldermen were enjoined to make a visitation of their wards and to arrest rogues and bring them to punishment. As a practical example, the Custos arrested fifty-eight persons and banished them from the City. Then the hearts of honest men were gladdened. They had got a just and strong King who had appointed a just and strong Custos. The laws would be obeyed. As for the City liberties, they would doubtless be restored when the City had purged herself and was ready to live a cleanly and reputable life. Another important step was taken. It was ordered, with the view of securing for the King an army of defence in case of need, every man was to have arms and armour according to his rank, and that the armour should be inspected twice a year; and, further, for the better security of the City that every gate should be guarded by six men and should be closed from sunset to sunrise.

Grove and Boulton.

Designed by Pietro Cavalini.

This strong king, by another act of justice accomplished at the same time, filled the souls of wrongdoers in high places with terror. This was the punishment of the King’s Justiciars for the delays and corruptions with which they had conducted their Courts. Twelve Judges were found guilty and condemned in42 various penalties and fines. The Chief Justice was stripped of all his property and banished. Another was fined 32,000 marks, an enormous sum of money; the rest were fined from one thousand to seven thousand marks.

Respect for the law, after a long period of lawlessness, was the lesson which the nation had to learn. In London it was sternly taught the citizens by the King’s Custos, Sir Ralph Sandwich. And first by the example of the foreign merchants: for finding them justly charged with short measure and false weight, he imprisoned them all in the Tower, and fined them a thousand pounds. This punishment struck a salutary terror into the heart of many an honest trader: quart pots, for instance, were everywhere restored to their original dimensions by the removal of the pitch which had raised up the bottom. Another useful lesson was given when a rescue was attempted. The Sheriff was haling a criminal to prison when three misguided citizens assaulted him and forcibly released the man. They were promptly arrested, tried, and sentenced to have their right hands struck off. It is a punishment which one would not willingly see revived; at the same time, it may be acknowledged that the spectacle of these unhappy stumps must have reminded the citizens every day of the respect due to a magistrate. It was an object lesson which continued till the death of the last survivor of the three. And another lesson was taught them when some of the principal citizens broke open the Tun prison and set the prisoners free. They were themselves imprisoned and the City was fined 20,000 marks.

In the year 1295 there happened a thing happily most unusual in the annals of the country—the deliberate venal treachery of a knight esteemed honourable and loyal as he was already proved to be courageous. There is an account of the case in Holinshed; Stow and others briefly notice it; the fullest account, however, is that of Bartholomew Cotton, quoted in the Appendix to the Chronicles of Old London (FitzThedmar):—

“In the same year (A.D. 1295) a certain knight, Thomas Turbevile by name, who had been taken by the French at the siege of Rheims, and detained in prison by the said King of France, came over to England with traitorous designs, and said that he had escaped from prison of the said King of France: whereupon, he was kindly received by our Lord the King of England, and much honoured. But after he had remained some little time in the Court of our Lord the King of England aforesaid, he attempted to send a certain letter to the King of France: whereupon, his messenger carried the same to our Lord the King of England and gave him a full and open account of the treachery of his employer. The traitor, suspecting this, took to flight, but was taken shortly after. The tenor of his treasonable letter was as follows:—

The whole of the letter need not be quoted here. It proved the treason of the man up to the hilt.


“‘And know that the King is sending into Gascoigne twenty ships laden with wheat and oats, and with other provisions and a large amount of money: and Sir Edmund the King’s brother will go thither, and the Earle of Nichole, Sir Hugh le Despenser, the Earl of Warwyk, and many other good folks: and this you may tell to the high Lord. And know that we think we have enough to do against those of Scotland! and if those of Scotland rise against the King of England, the Welsh will rise also. And this I have well contrived, and Morgan has covenanted with me to that effect. Wherefore I counsel you forthwith to send great persons into Scotland: for if you can enter therein, you will have gained it for ever.’”

The said Thomas was seized on the Saturday next before the Feast of Saint Michael, and taken to the Tower of London: and on the Saturday next after the Feast of Saint Faith (October 6) he had his trial, and departed in manner underwritten:—He came from the Tower, mounted on a poor hack, in a coat of ray, and shod with white shoes, his head being covered with a hood, and his feet tied beneath the horse’s belly, and his hands tied before him: and around him were riding six torturers attired in the form of the devil, one of whom held his rein, and the hangman his halter, for the horse which bore him had them both upon it: and in such a manner was he led from the Tower through London to Westminster, and was condemned on the dais in the Great Hall there: and Sir Roger Brabazun pronounced judgment on him, that he should be drawn and hanged, and that he should hang so long as anything should be left whole of him: and he was drawn on a fresh ox-hide from Westminster to the Conduit of London, and then back to the gallows: and there is he hung by a chain of iron, and will hang so long as anything of him may remain.

In the year 1290 Edward lost his Queen, Eleanor of Castile, and to show his grief for her death he erected crosses of a beautiful design at all the stopping-places of the funeral procession on its way from Nottingham to London. It may be remembered that one of the suggested derivations of Charing Cross is “Chère reine,” in allusion to the cross there. The present cross in the station courtyard is on the model of the ancient one, though not exactly like it.

In the same year those remaining of the Jews were banished, their lands and houses were seized; though they were suffered to carry with them their portable property. The hardships endured by these unfortunate people are spoken of elsewhere (see p. 9). The following simple story of brutal murder is related by Holinshed (vol. ii.):—

“A sort of the richest of them, being shipped with their treasure in a mightie tall ship which they had hired, when the same was under saile, and got downe the Thames towards the mouth of the river beyond Quinborowe, the maister mariner bethought him of a wile, and caused his men to cast anchor, and so rode at the same, till the ship by ebbing of the stream remained on the drie sands. The maister herewith entised the Jewes to walke out with him on land for recreation. And at length, when he understood the tide to be coming in, he got him backe to the ship, whither he was drawne up by a cord. The Jewes made not so much hast as he did, bicause they were not aware of the danger. But when they perceived44 how the matter stood, they cried to him for helpe; howbeit he told them, that they ought to crie rather unto Moses, by whose conduct their fathers had passed through the Red Sea, and therefore, if they would call to him for helpe, he was able inough to helpe them out of those raging floods, which now came in upon them; they cried indeed, but no succour appeared, and so they were swallowed up in the water. The maister returned with the ship, and told the King how he had used the matter, and had both thanks and reward, as some have written. But other affirme (and more trulie as should seem) that diverse of those mariners, which dealt so wickedlie against the Jewes, were hanged for their wicked practise, and so received a just reward of their fraudulent and mischeevous dealing.”

In the end the banishment of the Jews brought no alleviation to those who wanted to borrow money. The Lombards and the Caursini proved as flinty-hearted in the matter of interest as any Jew had been.

Edward granted but one Charter to the City. This was in 1298, when the Mayor was restored to the City. It is simply a Charter of Confirmation. The citizens are to have all their old liberties together with the right of electing their Mayor and Sheriffs. The election of Henry Waleys as the first of the new series showed that the preponderance of power was still with the aristocratic class. Edward’s financial embarrassments and his wars belong to the history of the country. As regards the City, Edward borrowed money of the Italian Companies (see p. 212); he created knights by the hundred; he searched the monasteries and churches for treasure; he seized the lay fees of the clergy; he got £2000 out of the City in recognition of his knighting the Mayor; and he persuaded, or ordered, the Londoners to furnish him with three ships, forty men mounted and equipped, and fifty arbalisters for the defence of the southern coast.

After the King’s victorious campaign in Scotland, he was welcomed on his return with a procession and pageant most magnificent. The houses were hung high with scarlet cloth; the trades and crafts appeared, each offering some device or “subtlety” showing its kind of work. Thus, the fishmongers marched with four gilt sturgeons and four silver salmon on horses; they also equipped forty-six knights in full armour, riding horses “made like luces of the sea”; the knights were followed by St. Magnus—his church is at the bottom of Fish Street—with a thousand horsemen.

From Pinkerton, Iconographia Scotica.

On August 10, 1305, Westminster witnessed a trial surpassed by few in interest and importance—that of the patriot Sir William Wallace, who had been captured in his Highland retreat by treachery, and had been brought to London. Wallace was at this time not more than thirty years of age: in the full vigour of manhood and of genius. He had filled his short life with fights and forays. As a hero of romance, the ideal patriot, all kinds of legends and stories have accumulated round his name. All we know for certain about him is that he was at the head of an army gathered from that part of the Lowlands lying north of the Tay; that without the help of the Scottish earls or barons he defeated the English at Stirling and drove them out of the country; and though he was defeated at Falkirk he awakened in the hearts of the Scots the spirit of independence: he made them a45 nation. On his arrival in London the illustrious prisoner was taken to the house of a private citizen, William De Leyre by name, who lived in the parish of Allhallows the Great. It does not appear why he was not taken to the Tower. Perhaps it was desired to attach as little importance as possible in the case. “Great numbers,” however, according to Stow, “both men and women came out to wonder upon him.... On the morrow, being the eve of St. Bartholomew, he was brought on horseback to Westminster, John Segrave and Geoffrey, knights, the Mayor, Sheriffs and Aldermen of London and many others, both on horseback and on foot, accompanying him: and in the Great Hall at Westminster he being placed on the south bench, crowned with lawrel—for that he had said in time past that he ought to bear a crown in that hall as it was commonly reported—and being appeached as a traitor by Sir Peter Mallorie the King’s Justice, he answered that he was never traitor to the King of England: but for other things whereof he was accused”—what were those other things?—“he confessed them.” What he pleaded was, in fact, that he could be no traitor because he owed no allegiance to the King of England. It is clear from this statement that the name and fame of William Wallace were spread over the whole of England; and that the man who had driven out the English and ravaged Northumberland and defied the conqueror, was sent up to London as a captive fore-doomed to death. The prentices ran and shouted; the women looked out of the upper chambers—pity that a man so gallant, who rode as if to his wedding instead of his death, should have to die the death of a traitor. As for the manner of his death, it followed the usual ceremony: first he was dragged at the heels of horses to the place of execution, the Elms at Smithfield; he was placed on a hurdle, otherwise he would have been dead long before reaching the place, for from Westminster Hall to the Elms, Smithfield, is two miles at least. There were multitudes waiting at Smithfield to see this gallant Scot done to death. First they hanged him on a high gallows, but only for the ignominy of it, not to kill him; then they took the rope from his neck, laid him down, took out his bowels and performed other mutilations which one hopes were done when the life was out of him. Then they cut up his body and distributed it in parts: some to rejoice the hearts of the English on London Bridge, at Newcastle, at Berwick: and of the Scots at Perth and Aberdeen. The business was as barbarous as possible, but it was the fashion of the time. Two hundred and fifty years later in the reign of Queen Elizabeth the same punishment in all its details was inflicted upon Babington and his friends. Three hundred and eighty years later almost the same punishment was inflicted upon Monmouth’s adherents. The execution itself, apart from the cruel manner of it, which belonged to the time, is generally condemned as a blot upon the life and reign of the great Edward. Perhaps, however, the history of the case may show some reason for an act quite contrary in spirit to the King’s usual treatment of the indomitable Scots. After the overtures of Balliol, the Scottish46 lords swore homage to Edward. Wallace alone—a simple knight—refused to recognise the surrender, called the people to arms, against the wish of nobles and priests, drove the English out of Scotland and led a foray into Northumberland. At the battle of Falkirk the Scots were defeated and cut to pieces, Wallace himself escaping with difficulty. That was in 1298. But the struggle was continued. For six years Edward was occupied with other troubles. When, in 1304, he again invaded the country, the Scottish lords laid down their arms and the conquest of Scotland was accomplished without further bloodshed. A general amnesty was extended to all. But the name of Wallace was excluded—“let him submit to the grace of the King, if so it seemeth him good.” Wallace would not submit: he retreated to the Highlands, where he was captured.


In every age civilised war is governed by certain rules: one must play the game according to these rules. One of them is that when the King has accepted peace, there shall be peace. Wallace might be supposed to have broken that rule. His country had submitted formally: he alone stood out. Patriot he was, no doubt. So was Andreas Hofer; but irregular warfare everywhere is treated as treason or rebellion. And therefore the King, who might well have shown a magnanimous clemency, was justified in his own eyes in putting Sir William Wallace to a shameful end.

The opinion of the English people upon Wallace may be understood from that of Matthew of Westminster, who pours a shower of abuse upon his head. William Wallace is “an outcast from pity, a robber, a sacrilegious man, an incendiary, a homicide, a man more cruel than the cruelty of Herod, more insane than the fury of Nero.” He made men and women in the North of England dance naked before him; he murdered infants; burnt boys in schools “in great numbers,” and at last ran away and deserted his people.

It remains to be added that Wallace’s head was the first of many which decorated London Bridge.


The remarkable robbery of the King’s Treasury by Podelicote took place in 1305.

In the same year the King offered an excellent example of obedience to the laws by sending his son, Prince Edward, to prison for riotously breaking into the park of Walter Langton, Bishop of Chester, and at the same time banished from the realm the Prince’s companion and unworthy friend, Piers Gaveston.

On July 7, 1307, King Edward died while on his way to carry out his vow of vengeance against Bruce.



The least worthy, or the most worthless, of all the English sovereigns, was the first who sat upon the sacred stone of Scone, brought into England by Edward I. The coronation was held on February 25, 1308, the Queen being crowned with the King. The Mayor and Aldermen took part in the function and in the banquet afterwards.

From effigy in Gloucester Cathedral.

The history of this miserable reign chiefly consists of the troubles caused by the King’s favourites. London, however, played a large part in the events arising out of their quarrels. In the autumn of 1308, the first year of the King’s reign, the Barons succeeded in getting Piers Gaveston banished. In 1309, however, he was back again and was made Earl of Cornwall, “to the great detriment of the realm” (French Chronicle). The indignation of the Barons waxed daily greater against the favourite, who lavished the wealth that was heaped upon him in ostentation and display. We must remember the strong feeling of the time that rank should be marked by such display as we now call ostentation. An Earl, for instance, was expected to carry about with him a great retinue; to wear costly armour; to give his followers a rich livery; and to keep up a noble house. But Piers Gaveston, whatever rank the King had conferred upon him, was a foreigner and an upstart, the son of a simple Gascon knight. That he was enabled to exhibit the display which befitted an ancient House made the nobles recall his origin. Besides, the man had a ready wit and a keen tongue. He gave every one of the Barons a nickname. Lancaster was the “old hog” or the “churl”; Gloucester the “cuckold’s bird” or the “Bastard”; Lincoln was “Bursten bellie”; Pembroke was “Joseph the Jew”; Warwick was the “Black hound of Arderne”; and so with the others.

There had been trouble about this favourite in the late King’s reign. In 1305, as we have seen, Edward put his son in prison for riotously breaking into a Bishop’s park,49 “and because the Prince had done this deed by the procurement of a lewd and wanton person, one Piers Gaveston, an Esquire of Gascoine; the King banished him the nation, lest the Prince, who delighted much in his company, might, by his evil and wanton counsel, fall to evill and naughtie rule.” (Holinshed.)

The first thing the new King did, then, was to recall his favourite and to create him Earl of Cornwall. He also married him to his niece, the daughter of his sister Joan, and of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester.

The favourite repaid these favours as might be expected. He furnished the Court, Holinshed says, with “companies of jesters, ruffians, flattering parasites, musicians, and other vile and naughtie ribalds, that the King might spend both daies and nights in jesting, plaieng, blanketing, and other filthie and dishonourable exercises.”

How the Barons remonstrated with the King; how they took Gaveston prisoner under promise to deliver him to the King; how they broke that promise and beheaded him, is to be read in every history of England.

It is noted by Sharpe as one reason for the hatred which the citizens of London as well as the Barons felt towards this and the following favourites, that they were always soliciting small favours from the citizens for their own friends. “At one time,” he writes, “it was Piers Gaveston who wanted a post for his valet: at another time Hugh le Despenser asked for the Small Beam for a friend.”

It was before this, however, that the Barons appointed “ordainers” to draw up ordinances for the better government of the City. When their work was completed it was laid before a Parliament which assembled at the Black Friars, and here it received sanction. The ordinances were afterwards proclaimed at St. Paul’s Cross.

In March 1311 the City gave the King the sum of 1000 marks. The Mayor, Richard de Refham, who belonged to the popular party, caused an examination of all the charters and documents concerning the City liberties. He then read them publicly, and asked the people if they were resolved upon the maintenance of their liberties. He also took steps to clear the streets of the night-walkers and “roreres” who for a long time had committed murders and robberies unchecked. The entries in Riley’s Memorials of London under the year 1311 show the activity of this Mayor’s reign. He would tolerate no abusive language in his Court; he would not allow trades which were a nuisance to be carried on in the street, such as the skinning of dead horses, the dressing of fur, etc.; he arrested and committed to prison a great number of rogues, criminals, and strumpets. He strengthened and guarded the Gates, keeping a night watch of sixteen men for every one. Perhaps his activity made enemies, for he was deposed before his term of office had expired. The French Chronicle, however, says nothing about any deposition.

In November 1312 a son was born to the King, named Edward of Windsor. The following account shows how such an event was received and celebrated by the loyal citizens:—


The Queen herself sent a letter to the citizens.

“Isabel by the grace of God, Queen of England, Lady of Ireland, and Duchess of Aquitaine, to our well-beloved, the Mayor, and Aldermen, and the Commonalty of London, greeting. Forasmuch as we believe that you would willingly hear good tidings of us, we do make known to you that our Lord in His grace has delivered us of a son, on the 13th day of November with safety to ourselves, and to the child. May our Lord preserve you. Given at Wyndesore, on the day above-named.”

“Of this letter the bearer was John de Phalaise, tailor to the Queen: and he came on the Tuesday next after the feast of St. Martin (November 11) in the 6th year of the reign of King Edward, son of King Edward. But as the news had been brought by Robert Oliver on the Monday before, the Mayor and Aldermen, and great part of the Commonalty, assembled in the Guildhall at time of Vespers and carolled, and showed great joy thereat; and so passed through the City, with glare of torches, and with trumpets and other ministrelsies.

And on the Tuesday next, early in the morning, cry was made throughout all the City to the effect that there was to be no work, labour, or business in shop, on that day; but that every one was to apparel himself in the most becoming manner that he could, and come to the Guildhall at the hour for Prime: ready to go with the Mayor, together with other good folks, to St. Paul’s there to make praise and offering, to the honour of God, who had shown them such favour on earth, and to show respect for this child that had been born. And after this, they were to return all together to the Guildhall, to do whatever might be enjoined.

On the Wednesday following, the Mayor, by assent of the Aldermen, and of others of the Commonalty, gave to the said John de Phalaise, bearer of the letter aforesaid, ten pounds sterling and a cup of silver, four marks in weight. And on the morrow, this same John de Phalaise sent back the present aforesaid because it seemed to him too little.

On the Monday following, the Mayor was richly costumed, and the Aldermen arrayed in like suits of robes; and the drapers, mercers, and vintners were in costume; and they rode on horseback thence to Westminster, and there made offering, and then returned to the Guildhall, which was excellently well tapestried and dressed out, and there they dined. And after dinner they went in carols throughout the City all the rest of the day, and great part of the night. And on the same day the Conduit in Chepe ran with nothing but wine for all those who chose to drink there. And at the Cross just by the Church of St. Michael in West Chepe, there was a pavilion extended in the middle of the street, in which was set a tun of wine, for all passers-by to drink of, who might wish for any.”

In 1313 an important case was argued before the Royal Council sitting at the White Friars. The King had issued orders for a tallage which the City refused to pay on various grounds, but especially on the ground that their charters granted them exemption from tallage. By lending the King £1000 they obtained a51 postponement of the question till the meeting of Parliament. When Parliament did meet, eighteen months later, they obtained a further postponement by another loan of £400, part of which was devoted to the equipment of 120 men for the Scottish war.

In the years 1314 and 1315 there was a dearth, and many died of hunger. “There followed this famine”—Stow’s Chronicle—“a grievous mortalitie of people, so that the quicke might unneath bury the dead. The Beastes and Cattell also by the corrupt Grasse whereof they fedde, dyed, whereby it came to passe that the eating of flesh was suspected of all men, for flesh of Beastes not corrupted was hard to finde. Horseflesh was counted great delicates; the poore stole fatte Dogges to eate; some (as it was sayde) compelled through famine, in hidde places, did eate the fleshe of their owne children, some stole others which they devoured. Thieves that were in prisons, did plucke in peeces those that were newly brought amongst them and greedily devoured them half alive.” In 1315 there was also a storm which damaged Holborn Bridge and Fleet Bridge.

In the years 1316, 1317, and 1318, under the Mayoralty of John de Wengrave, Recorder and Coroner of the City and Alderman of Chepe, there were dissensions in the City.

The French Chronicle lays the blame upon the Mayor, who, he says, “did much evil in his time to the Commons.” They were drawing up for submission to the King certain Articles for the more regular Government of the City. As John de Wengrave owed his third election to the King it was not unreasonable to suppose that he was acting in the interest of the King rather than that of the citizens. However, the articles were confirmed by the King, who got £1000 in return. The Charter touches on a great many points, most of them fruitful in quarrels and disturbances. The analysis of the Charter given in the Liber Albus is as follows:— 52

“That the Mayor and Sheriffs of London shall be chosen by the citizens of that City according to the tenor of their Charters, and in no other manner.

That the Mayor of the said City shall not remain in office as such Mayor beyond one year at a time.

Also, that no Sheriff of the City shall have more than two clerks and two serjeants by reason of his office, and those, persons for whom he shall be willing to answer.

Also, that the Mayor of the said City, so long as he shall be Mayor, shall hold no other office pertaining unto that City than such office of Mayor.

Also, that the Mayor shall not demand to have brought before him, or hold, any plea that belongs to the Sheriff’s Court.

Also, that the Aldermen of that City shall be removable yearly, and be removed, on the day of Saint Gregory (12th March), and in the year following shall not be re-elected, but others (shall be elected) in their stead, etc.

Also, that the tallages, after being assessed by the men of the Wards thereunto deputed, shall not be augmented or increased by the Mayor and Aldermen, except with the common consent of the Mayor and commonalty.

Also, that the monies arising from such tallages shall be in the keeping of four reputable men, commoners of the said City.

Also, that no stranger shall be admitted to the freedom of the said City, except at the Hustings.

Also, that an inhabitant, and especially an Englishman by birth, a trader of a certain mystery or craft, shall not be admitted to the freedom of the City aforesaid except upon the security of six reputable men, of such certain mystery or craft, etc.

Also, that enquiry shall be made each year, if any persons enjoying the freedom of the City have traded with the property of others who are not of the freedom, avowing that such goods are their own. And those who shall be lawfully convicted thereof, shall lose the freedom.

Also, that all who wish to enjoy the freedom of the City shall be in Lot and Scot, and partakers of all burdens for (maintaining) the state of the City, etc.

Also, that all persons of the freedom of the City, and dwelling without the said City, who by themselves and their servants follow a trade within the City, shall be in Lot and Scot with the commoners of the same City, etc., or shall be removed from the freedom thereof.

Also, that the Common Seal shall be in the keeping of two Aldermen and two commoners, by the commonalty to be chosen, and that the same shall not be denied to poor or to rich.

Also, that the giving of judgment in the Courts of the City, after verdict (given), shall not be deferred, unless some difficulty intervene. And if such difficulty shall intervene, such verdicts shall not stand over beyond the third Court.

Also, that the weights and beams for weighing merchandize as between merchant and merchant, the issues of which belong to the commonalty, shall be in the keeping of reputable men, by the commonalty to be chosen.

Also, that the Sheriffs may entrust the charge of collecting toll and other customs into their ferm pertaining, as also other public duties unto themselves belonging, to sufficient men for whom they shall be willing to answer.

Also, that merchants who are not of the freedom, etc., shall not sell wines or other wares by retail within the said City.

Also, that in future there shall be no brokers of any merchandize in the said City, but those who have been chosen thereto by the traders of their mysteries; and that they shall be sworn before the Mayor.

Also, that common hostelers, although they may not be of the freedom of the same City, shall be partakers of all (burdens) unto the said City pertaining, etc. Saving always, that the merchants of Gascoigne and other strangers may dwell and keep hostels for each other in the said City, in such manner as they have heretofore been wont to do.

Also, that the keeping of the Bridge shall be entrusted unto two reputable men of the City aforesaid, other than the Aldermen thereof.

Also, that no Serjeant of the Chamber at the Guildhall shall take a fee of the commonalty, etc., or do execution, unless he be one elected by the commonalty thereto.

Also, that the Chamberlain, Common Clerk (and) Common Serjeant of the City, shall be chosen and removed by the commonalty, at the will of the same commonalty.

Also, that the Mayor, Recorder, and the Chamberlain and Common Clerk aforesaid, shall be content with their fees, from of old appointed and paid.

Also, that the property of the Aldermen of the said City shall be taxed in aids, tallages, and contributions, by the men of the Wards in which such Aldermen shall be residing, in the same manner as the property of the other citizens of the same Wards.

Also, that the Aldermen and commonalty, for the necessities and advantage of the said City, may among themselves assess and levy tallages upon their property within the said City, rents as well as other things.” (Riley’s Trans. pp. 127-129.)

According to this Charter the only way to the civic franchise was by becoming a member of the civic guilds: “That no inhabitant, of any mystery or trade, be53 admitted into the freedom of the City, unless by surety of six honest and sufficient men of the mystery or trade that he shall be of”—a fact which proves the importance of the guilds. “At this time,” says the French Chronicle, “many of the people of the trades of London were arrayed in Livery and a good time was about to begin.” But few of the trades were as yet incorporated.

The history of this unhappy reign, as concerns the City, is much occupied with charges, claims, and attacks upon the rights of the citizens of London. In these, the King was advised or led, by men who understood how to evade and to ignore the law. Edward II., like his predecessor Henry III., and his successor Richard II., was always in want of money and never without advisers to show him how to extort money from the City, whose wealth they believed to be inexhaustible. Among the last of these attempts was one made in the year 1321 by means of an Iter. The business is passed over by Maitland, Holinshed, and by the French Chronicle. Its history is related by R. R. Sharpe (London and the Kingdom). He says:

“Its professed object was to examine into unlawful colligations, confederations, and conventions by oaths, which were known (or supposed) to have been formed in the City. The annoyance caused by this Iter, the general stoppage of trade and commerce, the hindrance of municipal business, is realised when we consider that for six months not only the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen for the time being, but every one who had filled any office in the City since the holding of the last Iter—a period of nearly half a century—as well as twelve representatives from each ward, were called upon to be in constant attendance. All charters were to be produced, and persons who had grievances of any kind were invited to appear. Great commotion prevailed among the citizens upon receiving the King’s writ, and they at once addressed themselves to examining the procedure followed at former Iters.” ...

“The opening of the Iter did not augur well for the City. Fault was found at the outset, by Geoffrey le Scrop, the King’s Sergeant-pleader, because the Sheriffs had not attended so promptly as they should have done. The excuse, that they had only acted according to custom in waiting for the grant of a safe-conduct, was held unsatisfactory, and nothing would please him but that the City should be at once taken into the King’s hand.

Again, when the citizens claimed to record their liberties and customs by word of mouth without being compelled to reduce them into writing, as the justices had ordered, the only reply they got was that they did so at their own peril. Three days were consumed in preliminary discussion of points of etiquette and questions of minor importance.

On the fourth day the Mayor and citizens put in their claim of liberties, which they supported in various charters. The justiciars desired answers on three points, which were duly made, and matters seemed to be getting forward when there arrived orders from the King that the justiciars should inquire as to the ancient right of the Aldermen to record their liberties orally in the King’s Courts. Having heard what the citizens had to say on this point, the justiciars were instructed to withhold their judgment; and this and other questions touching the liberties of the City were to be postponed for future determination.

On the ninth day of the Iter, a long schedule, containing over a hundred articles upon which the Crown desired information, was delivered to each ward of the City. Days and weeks were consumed in considering various presentments, besides private suits and pleas of the Crown. Suits were determined in the Great Hall of the Tower facing the Thames, whilst pleas of the Crown were heard in the Lesser Hall, beneath the eastern tower. The justiciars occasionally protracted their sittings till dusk, much to the disgust of the citizens, whose business was necessarily at a stand-still, and as yet no indictments had been made. These were to come.”


First on a pretext of dilatory attendance the Sheriffs were reproved and the City taken into the King’s hands; then, when the citizens put in their claims and pleaded their rights, everything was disputed, discussed, and deferred. The Mayor was deposed, and one Richard de Kendole took his place as the King’s Commissioner; indictments were issued against certain leading citizens on one pretext or another; and after five weary months the Iter was brought to an abrupt conclusion, having effected nothing. The reason of this was the rebellion of the Earl of Hereford, which made it dangerous to exasperate the citizens too much. The King’s Commissioner retired and a new Mayor was elected.

The Earl of Hereford wrote a letter to the City asking for an interview. The Mayor, Hamo de Chigwell, a diplomatist of a high order, managed so as to keep on terms both with the King and the Lords. He promised that he would not aid the Spensers nor would he oppose the Lords: the City, in a word, proclaimed neutrality. The Mayor preserved order by a patrol of a thousand men. The events which followed belong to the history of England; London played her part: she sent a contingent with the King to punish Sir Bartholomew de Badlesmere for an insult offered to the Queen; she gave the king 500 archers to fight at Boroughbridge, when the Earl of Lancaster was taken prisoner. After taking part in the defeat of Lancaster the people of London set him up as a Saint: they declared that miracles were wrought at his tomb. Edward tried to force a “Charter of Service” binding the Londoners to go out with him to war, but the City stood firm: Edward’s time was nearly completed. The Queen came over with the avowed intention of banishing the Spensers. The King fled from London, and London rose in open revolt. Edward, before leaving, placed the town in the hands of Sir John de Weston, gave the custody of the City to Walter Stapleton, Bishop of Exeter, and then set out for the western part of the kingdom, for the defence of his favourites, and, as it turned out, to meet his death. The determination with which the Prince constantly stood by his favourites argues obstinacy at least as a quality which might have been turned to better purpose.

Hamo de Chigwell, who was a fishmonger, seems to have led one party and Nicholas Farringdon, a goldsmith, another; but the King appears to have set up and deposed both in turn and with impartiality. In 1326, when the Queen was in Flanders and her lands were seized, Hamo de Chigwell was Mayor. The streets of London were every day the scene of rioting and fighting; the trades fought with each other; the partisans of the Queen fought with the partisans of the King. When the Queen came over bringing her son with her she sent a letter to London with a proclamation denouncing the Spensers. This proclamation amid the cheers of the people was affixed to the Cross in Chepe. Hamo de Chigwell forsook his post and fled to the Black Friars for safety. Hither came the commons and forced him to proclaim the enemies of the King and Queen and their son. And they55 showed that they meant what they said by seizing one William Marshall, an adherent of the Spensers, and murdering him. It is a curious story of wild justice. The City was for some time entirely in the hands of the common people, who robbed and murdered all suspected of being favourable to the King and the Spensers. The events are thus graphically related by the French Chronicle:—

“At this time, at Saint Michael, Lady Isabelle, the Queen, and Sir Edward, her son, sent their letters to the commons of London, to the effect that they should assist in destroying the enemies of the land: but received no answer in return, as to their wishes thereon, through fear of the King. Wherefore a letter was sent to London by the Queen and her son, and was fixed at daybreak upon the Cross in Chepe, and a copy of the letter on the windows elsewhere, upon Thursday, that is to say, the Feast of Saint Dionis (October 9), to the effect that the commons should be aiding with all their power in destroying the enemies of the land, and Hugh le Despenser in especial, for the common profit of all the realm: and that the commons should send them information as to their wishes thereon. Wherefore the commonalty proceeded to wait upon the Mayor and other great men of the City at the Friars Preachers in London, upon the Wednesday before the Feast of Saint Luke (October 18), which then fell on a Saturday: so much so, that the Mayor, crying mercy with clasped hands, went to the Guildhall and granted the commons their demand, and cry was accordingly made in Chepe, that the enemies to the King, and the Queen, and their son, should all quit the City upon such peril as might ensue. It happened also on the same day, at the hour of noon, that some persons had recourse to arms, and seized one John le Marchal, a burgess of the City, in his own house near Walbrok, who was held as an enemy to the City and a spy of Sir Hugh le Despenser; and he was brought into Chepe and there despoiled and beheaded. Just after this, upon the same day and at the same hour, there came one Sir Walter de Stapelton, the then Bishop of Exestre and Treasurer to the King the year before, riding towards his hostel in Eldedeaneslane, to dine there; and just then he was proclaimed a traitor; upon hearing of which, he took to flight and rode towards Saint Paul’s Church, where he was met, and instantly dragged from his horse and carried into Chepe; and there he was despoiled, and his head cut off. Also, one of his esquires, who was a vigorous man, William Walle by name, took to flight, but was seized at London Bridge, brought back into Chepe and beheaded; while John de Padington, another, who was warden of the manor of the said Bishop, without Temple Bar, and was held in bad repute, was beheaded the same day in Chepe. Upon the same day, towards Vespers, came the choir of Saint Paul’s and took the headless body of the said Bishop, and carried it to Saint Paul’s Church: where they were given to understand that he had died under sentence: upon which, the body was carried to the church of Saint Clement without Temple Bar. But the people of that church put it out of the building:56 whereupon certain women and persons in the most abject poverty took the body, which would have been quite naked, had not one woman given a piece of old cloth to cover the middle, and buried it in a place apart without making a grave, and his esquire near him all naked, and without any office of priest or clerk: and this spot is called ‘the Lawless Church.’ The same night there was a burgess robbed, John de Charltone by name. Also, on the Thursday following, the Manors of Fynesbury and of Yvilane, which belonged to Master Robert Baldok, the King’s Chancellor, were despoiled of the wines and of all things that were therein, and many other robberies were committed in the City. Also, upon the same day, the commons of London were armed and assembled at the Lede Hall on Cornhille, and the Constable of the Tower there agreed with the commons that he would deliver unto them Sir John de Eltham, the King’s son; as also, the children of Sir Roger Mortimer, Sir Moriz de Berklee, Sir Bartholomew de Burghasche, and the other persons who had been imprisoned in the Tower, by reason of the dissensions for which Sir Thomas de Lancaster and other great men had been put to death: those who were released being sworn unto the commons that they would live and die with them in that cause, and that they would maintain the well being of the City and the peace thereof. Also, there were sworn and received into the protection of the City, the Dean of Saint Paul’s, the Official of Canterbury, the Dean of the57 Arches, the Abbots of Westminster and of Stratford, and all the religious, and all the justices and clerks, to do such watch and ward as unto them belonged to do. At the same time, upon the Vigil of Saint Luke (October 18) the tablet which Saint Thomas de Lancastre had painted and hung up in the church of Saint Paul was replaced upon the pillar: which tablet had been removed from the pillar by the rigorous command of the King’s writ. At the same time, the Friars Preachers took to flight, because they feared that they should be maltreated and annihilated: seeing that the commonalty entertained great enmity against them by reason of their haughty carriage, they not behaving themselves as friars ought to behave. At this time, it was everywhere the common talk that if Stephen de Segrave, Bishop of London, had been found, he would have been put to the sword with the others who were beheaded: as well as some Justiciars and others, who betook themselves elsewhere in concealment so that they could not be found.”

G. W. Wilson & Co.


The condition of London during the later years of Edward II. was miserable. There was no authority: the King deposed one Mayor and set up another; the crafts quarrelled and fought with each other; the popular sympathies were with Queen Isabella: we have seen how these sympathies ended with robbery and murder; the Black Friars who were thought to favour the King had to fly for their lives.

On the 15th of November 1326 the Queen sent the Bishop of Winchester into the City. He met the Aldermen at Guildhall, received the freedom of the City, swore to maintain its franchise and then presented a letter from the Queen restoring to the citizens the right of electing their Mayor—a right withheld since the Iter of 1321. They showed their sense of obligation by electing two citizens, named Richard de Betoyne and John Gisors, who had been active in assisting the escape of Mortimer from the Tower in 1322.

Mortimer himself, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and a large following, repaired to the Guildhall early in the year 1327, and there swore to maintain the liberties of the City. A few days later the unhappy Edward was brutally murdered.



EDWARD III. (1312-1377)
From a print in the British Museum.

The letter from the Queen in November 1326; the visit of Mortimer in 1327 and his oath taken before the Mayor and Chamberlain; and the first acts of the new reign—not of the new King, who was not yet of age,—all together prove the importance of the City in the minds of the new rulers. For the first acts were the grants of three simultaneous charters.

The Liber Albus contains a brief synopsis of the contents of the first of these charters, which Maitland rightly calls golden. It is dated 6th March 1327:— 59

“That the citizens of London shall have their liberties according to the form of the Great Charter, etc.; and that impediments of usurpation upon them in that behalf made shall be repealed and annulled.

Also, that the Mayor of London for the time being shall be one of the Justiciars for (the delivery of) the Gaol of Newgate.

Also, that the citizens of London shall have Infangthef, and Outfangthef, and the chattels of all felons who shall be adjudged by them as such within the liberties of the City aforesaid.

Also, that whereas the citizens of London had been charged by the Sheriffwick of London and Middlesex in the sum of four hundred pounds into the Exchequer of his lordship the King, the said citizens shall in future have one hundred pounds thereof remitted.

Also, that the citizens of London may devise their tenements within the liberties as well in mortmain as in any other way.

That the Sheriffs of London, so often as it shall happen that they are amerced for any offence, shall be amerced according to the extent of such offence, in the same manner as the other Sheriffs of the realm.

Also, that for the escape of thieves the Sheriffs of London shall on no account be charged or amerced otherwise than other Sheriffs, on this side Trent; who for such escapes are amerced, it is said, in the sum of one hundred shillings.

Also, that the citizens of London shall not be charged otherwise than as of old they have been wont to be charged, for the custody of those who flee to churches for immunity, etc.

Also that the citizens of London may remove and seize all Kidels in the waters of Thames and Medewaie, and shall have the punishments therefore unto us pertaining.

Also, that foreign merchants coming into England shall sell their merchandise within forty days after their arrival, and shall lodge at the tables of the free hosts of the City.

Also, that neither the Steward or the Marshal nor the Clerk of the Market shall sit within the liberties of the City, or exercise any office there.

Also, that the Mayor for the time being shall exercise the office of Escheator within the City aforesaid.

Also, that the citizens of London shall not be compelled to go or to send to war beyond the City aforesaid.

Also, that the Constable of the Tower of London shall not make prises, by land or by water, of provisions or of any other things whatsoever.

Also, that the citizens of London shall have wardens of the number of their fellow-citizens to hold pleas in all good fairs of England, pleas of land and pleas of the Crown excepted.

Also, that the Sheriffs for the time being shall not be compelled to make oath at our Exchequer, except at the rendering of their accounts.

Also, that the citizens shall have all their liberties and free customs, as from of old they were wont to enjoy the same, notwithstanding that the said citizens at the Iter of Henry de Stantone and his associates, etc., were challenged as to the same.

Also, that one writ shall suffice in the Exchequer, and in every place of his lordship the King, for the allowance of their charters.

Also, that no summons, attachment, or execution shall be made within the liberties of the City by any officer of his lordship the King, with writ or without writ, but only by the officers of the said (City).

Also, that the Sheriffs of London shall have wholly the forfeitures of victuals, and of other articles and merchandise, according to the tenor of the Charters, etc.

Also, that the citizens of London in future shall at their Iters, be dealt with according to the same laws by which they were dealt with at the Iters holden in the times of their lordships John and Henry, late Kings of England, and other their progenitors.

Also, that nothing in the Iter aforesaid done or attempted against the liberties and free customs of the citizens, shall act to their prejudice or prevent them from being dealt with as from of old.

Also, that the citizens of London, in aids, grants, and contributions, shall be taxed and shall contribute with the commonalty of the realm, like men of the counties and not like men of the cities and boroughs; and that they shall be quit of all other tallages.60

Also, that the liberties of the City of London shall not be taken into the hand of his lordship the King for any personal trespass or personal judgment of any officer of the said City; and that no Warden shall in the same on such pretext be appointed.

Also, that no officer of his lordship the King shall make any prise within the City aforesaid, or without, of the goods of citizens against their will, unless he shall immediately make due payment for the same.

Also, that no prise shall be made of the wines of the said citizens by any servant (of ourselves) or of our heirs, or of any other person, against their will; that is to say, (prisage) of one tun before the mast and of one tun behind the mast.

Also, that no officer or purveyor of the King or of his heirs shall trade, by himself or by others, within the said City or without, in anything as to which their offices are concerned.

Also, that the lands lying without the City of such citizens of London as have been, or shall hereafter be, officers of the City aforesaid, shall be held liable for keeping the said City harmless, etc., as to matters that concern their offices, in the same way as their tenements within the same City.

Also, that no market shall in future be held within seven miles in circuit of the City aforesaid.

Also, that all Inquisitions to be taken by the Justiciars and other officers of the King as to men of the said City shall be taken at Saint Martin’s le Grand, and not elsewhere, except inquisitions taken at Iters at the Tower and for delivery of the Gaol of Newgate.

Also, that no citizen shall be impleaded or troubled at the Exchequer or elsewhere by bill; except as to those matters which concern his lordship the King or his heirs.

Also, that the citizens of London shall have all their liberties and free customs whole and unimpaired, as freely as they ever had the same (the Statute for merchants, to the injury of the liberties of the City aforesaid, in the Parliament at York in the ninth year of Edward the Third enacted to the contrary notwithstanding), etc.” (Riley’s Trans. pp. 129-132.)

It will be observed that this charter is not only a confirmation of all the ancient Privileges and Liberties, but it creates new ones. (1) The Mayor was appointed one of the Judges of Oyer and Terminer for the trials of criminals in Newgate; (2) the citizens were to have the right of Infang-thefe and Outfang-thefe, i.e. the right of trying every thief or robber taken within the City, and the right of bringing back to the City for trial every citizen apprehended elsewhere. (3) A right to the goods and chattels of all felons condemned within the City. (4) The remission of £100 a year on the rent of Middlesex. (5) The right of devising real property. (6) The Sheriffs of London to be amerced no otherwise than their brothers south of the Thames. (7) All Foreign Merchants to sell their goods within forty days. (8) The citizens not chargeable with the custody of those who take Sanctuary. (9) The King’s Marshal, Steward, or Clerk of the Household to have no authority in the City. (10) The Mayor to be the King’s escheator of felons’ goods. (11) The citizens who resort to country fairs to carry with them a Court of Pie Powder. (12) The citizens to be free from tallages, other than those assessed upon other places. (13) The City liberties not to be seized on account of the personal offences of any magistrate. (14) The King’s Purveyor to have no right to fix the price of anything. (15) And no market to be held within seven miles of the City.


The charter looked as if the citizens had been simply invited to take what they pleased in the way of liberties.

By another charter Southwark, i.e. the King’s Manor, not the whole of Southwark, was granted as a part of the City. By a third a general pardon for all late offences was also granted.

Maitland speaks of a dangerous insurrection of certain trades and of their parading the streets armed, killing many. The so-called “insurrection” seems to have been nothing more than a continuation of the late lawless brawls; the people had tasted the joy of fighting in the streets and wanted to continue that amusement. The King addressed a letter to the Mayor calling upon him to keep better order. A number of arrests were made and a good many persons were executed; but the riotous condition of the City continued. The chief cause of trouble was the continual quarrelling between the trades. Thus at this very time, viz. the first years of Edward III., the Mayor arranged a dispute, which led to free fighting in the streets, between the Saddlers of the one part and the Joiners, Painters, and Loriners of the other part. 62

“Be it remembered, that whereas a certain affray lately took place between the men of the trade of the saddlers of the City of London, on the one part, and the men of the trades of the joiners, painters, and loriners, as well in copper as in iron, of the same City, on the other part, by reason of a certain rancour and dissension which had lately arisen between them, namely, on Thursday, the Feast of our Lord’s Ascension (May 20) last past: upon which day, certain of them, on either side, strongly provided with an armed force, exchanged blows and manfully began to fight, as well in Chepe as in the street of Crepelgate, and elsewhere in the same City; on which occasion certain among them were wickedly, and against the peace of our Lord the King, killed, and many others mortally wounded; by reason of which dissension and exchange of blows, the greater part of the City was in alarm, to the great disgrace and scandal of the whole City, and the manifest peril thereof; which dissension and exchange of blows became so serious and so outrageous as hardly to be appeased through the intervention of the Mayor, Sheriffs, and officers of the City; such contention being however at last, so well as it might be, allayed by the Mayor, Sheriffs, and other officers of the City, the said Mayor and Sheriffs appointed a day for the men of the trades aforesaid to appear before them at the Guildhall, namely, the Friday following, being the morrow of Our Lord’s Ascension, to the end that they might set forth their reasons on either side.

Upon the said day, there came accordingly to the Guildhall the men of the said trades, and, in presence of the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen, did set forth their grievances in writing, Whereupon, a certain Petition was presented to the Mayor by the joiners, painters, and loriners. The causes of quarrel are too long to be detailed here. Suffice it to say that all these trades attempted then what they attempt still, and that they cried out on each other for wickedness.”

The reception of the Lady Philippa of Hainault, who came over to be married to the young King, was made an occasion for the display and magnificence which the City has always loved.

As soon as the King was crowned he set out to take the field against the Scots. The Londoners gave him a hundred horsemen fully equipped, and a hundred footmen, on the assurance that this gift would not be taken as a precedent. The expedition accomplished little, and the war was ended by the Treaty of Northampton, which angered the Londoners against Isabella and Mortimer excessively.

In November 1328 the Earl of Lancaster rose in revolt against the Queen-mother. How that rebellion fared we know. Mortimer came out of it, apparently, stronger than ever.

It is difficult to make out clearly what passed in London during and after the revolt of Lancaster. The citizens regarded the want of success in the Scottish Expedition as due to Mortimer and the Queen. But between anger and rebellion there may be a wide gulf. There were partisans of Lancaster and there were supporters of the Queen; the King’s name was used by both parties.

We have already, in the preceding reign, heard of Hamo de Chigwell: we find him now brought to trial; not for favouring the late King, but on a charge of feloniously appropriating two silver basins, the property of the Abbot of Bury St. Edmunds. He was convicted, but claimed the benefit of clergy, and was conveyed to the Bishop of London’s prison. His character is not of the clearest to decipher, but he was one of the foremost citizens of the time, and it was a time when they demanded much strength and resolution. A year later he was allowed to go free. But as the citizens prepared to make a demonstration of rejoicing and welcome, the Queen with alarm ordered his arrest. He escaped, however, and is heard of no more in the City. In 1332 he devised some property to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s to found a chantry.

Before leaving England in 1329 the King sent to the City a general proclamation. No one was to carry arms in the City except the officers of the City. No one was to walk about the City after curfew; there were to be no covins or congregations; no tavern was to be kept open after curfew; nobody was to spread lies about the City; no one was to harbour a stranger more than one night and one day, if he did not wish to be answerable for him.

The question which occupied the City at this time was practically that of Free Trade. There had been certain towns at which was established the Staple; that is to say, the market from which wools could be exported. No wool was to be exported until it had remained at a staple for a period of forty days. The63 rule was relaxed by Edward II. in favour of all towns except London, merchants being allowed to remove wool after fifteen days. The merchants of London naturally complained of this exception, but at first without success.

From Strutt’s Manners and Customs.

Edward proposed, next, to remove the Staple to the Continent, but the opposition of the merchants obliged him to renounce this project. He thereupon abolished all Staples, and established Free Trade in Wool. He also invited Flemings to come over, settle in England, and carry on their weaving here.

Cheapside would seem to present a narrow and confined area for the manœuvres and the combat of mounted knights, yet King Edward held a great Tournament64 there in the year 1331. We must remember that between the Church of St. Peter in the west and the House of St. Thomas of Acon in the east the street was a great deal wider than it was afterwards: for a length of 750 feet east and west it had a width of something like 150 feet; the space being occupied chiefly by stalls. It narrowed on the east side at the Poultry, and on the west side at St. Peter’s Church, part of the burial ground of which still remains. Stow’s account of what happened at the Tournament is as follows:—

“In the middle of the City of London in a street called Cheape, the stone pavement being covered with sand, that the horses might not slide when they strongly set their feet to the ground, the King held a tournament three days together, with the nobility, valiant men of the realm, and other some strange knights. And to the end the beholders might with the better ease see the same, there was a wooden scaffold erected across the street, like unto a tower, wherein Queen Philippa and many other ladies, richly attired, and assembled from all parts of the realm, did stand to behold the jousts: but the higher frame, on which the ladies were placed, brake in sunder, whereby they were with some shame forced to fall down, by reason whereof the knights, and such as were underneath were grievously hurt: wherefore the Queen took great care to save the carpenters from punishment, and through her prayers (which she made upon her knees) pacified the King and Council, and thereby purchased great love of the people. After which time the King caused a shed to be strongly made of stone for himself, the Queen, and other estates to stand on, and there to behold the joustings, and other shows, at their pleasure, by the Church of St. Mary Bow, as is showed in Cordwainer Street Ward.”

The stone “selde” or shed, as Stow calls it, was still standing in his time. “Without the north side of St. Mary Bow towards West Cheap a fair building of stone called in record Seldam: a shed which greatly darkeneth the said church; for by means thereof all the windows and doors of that side are stopped up.” Henry IV. granted the place to certain Mercers who established shops there but did not pull it down or alter it, and it remained until the Great Fire as the place from which great personages witnessed City shows. The places most commonly used for tournaments were Smithfield and Tothill Fields. At the former was held a very great tournament thirty years later, in the presence of the King and Queen, and another forty years after there was another when the old King conducted thither, to grace the sports, his mistress Alice Perrers, sitting in a triumphal chariot, as the “Lady of the Sun.”

The example in anarchy and disorder witnessed during the last reign makes it less surprising to hear of fresh riots in London, apparently among the Craftsmen. The King addressed a strong letter to the Mayor calling upon the City to repress these disorders. Further measures were taken against disorderly folk in the City but without success, since the King was forced to write again upon the subject. On Wednesday, 12th April, Sir Robert de Asheby, Clerk of the King, summoned the Mayor and Aldermen before the King’s Council at Westminster. Here they were informed that the King was going to war; that this was a costly amusement; and that he desired the City to lend him £20,000. The Mayor begged for time, and called a meeting of the Aldermen and the better sort, not at Guildhall, but at the65 Chapter House of Westminster. They began by offering the King 5000 marks, which is £3333: 6: 8. This the King refused, with an intimation that if they could do no better than that, he should ask for a list of the principal citizens. They therefore held another meeting and offered to lend the King £5000—“although it was a hard thing and difficult to do.” This offer was accepted. To raise this sum the whole of the City was assessed, sparing none. The richest man in the City was William de Caustom, Alderman, who was assessed at £400; that is to say, his share of the loan was set down at £400.

In 1338 there was a scare about a French descent. The King ordered the City to be “strictly closed” and fortified against any sudden attack by water. Everybody was to aid in this work, whether belonging to a religious community or not.

An inventory of munitions of war was drawn up in 1339. It shows that at a house near the Tower called the “Bretasche” there were 7 springalds (large crossbows); 380 quarels or bolts feathered with leatten or latone (a mixed metal); 500 quarels of wood; 29 cords; and 8 bows of ash for the springalds. At Aldgate 1 springald and 40 quarels; in the Chamber of the Guildhall 6 engines of latone usually called “gonnes” and 5 rollers for the same; also pellets of lead weighing 4½ cwt.; and 32 pounds of powder. This is the earliest mention of guns in England, the next earliest occurring five years later. Riley suggests that they had been brought over to this country by the Bardi from Florence whose guns had been used in war as early as 1326. He quotes Chaucer, House of Fame, book iii.:

“Swift as a pellet out of a gonne
When fire is in the powder ronne.”

The King and the citizens were on friendly terms throughout: but from time to time we see a touch of the Plantagenet.

The assessment shows the comparative wealth of the various wards:

£   s.  d.
Tower Ward 365 0 0
Billingsgate Ward 763 0 0
Bridge Ward 765 6 8
Dowgate Ward 660 10 0
Langburn Ward 352 6 8
Wallbrook 911 0 0
Bishopsgate Ward 559 6 8
Limestreet Ward 110 0 0
Cornhill Ward 315 0 0
Cheap Ward 517 10 0
Broadstreet Ward 588 0 0
Vintry Ward 634 16 8
Bread Street Ward 461 16 8 66
Queenhithe Ward 435 13 4
Cordwainer Street Ward 2195 3 4
Faringdon Ward Within 730 16 8
Faringdon Ward Without 114 13 4
Cripplegate Ward 462 10 0
Colemanstreet Ward 1051 16 8
Candlewickstreet Ward 133 6 8
Aldgate Ward 30 0 0
Portsoken Ward 27 10 0
Castle Baynard Ward 63 6 8
Bassisshaw Ward 79 13 4
Aldersgate Ward 57 10 0
Sum Total £12,385 13 4

A riot in the streets between the Fishmongers and the Skinners led to results much more useful than a King’s letter, for two rioters were executed—an example greatly needed and extremely useful.

Among the ships of Edward’s Fleet were three belonging to London: “La Jonette,” “La Cogge,” and “La Sainte Marie Cogne.” The last ship belonged to William Haunsard, ex-Sheriff. London also sent a contingent of nearly 200 men fully armed on board these ships. These ships were among those which fought in the great victory of Sluys. The battle is thus described by the French Chronicle:—

“In this year all the mariners of England, by commission of our Lord the King, had all their ships speedily assembled and victualled, and hardy and vigorous men from all parts well equipped and armed at all points, in every place to fight for life or death. And when the fleet of ships of England was assembled in manner aforesaid, Sir Edward, our King, and his people were in the parts of Bury Saint Edmund’s: and from thence he passed on to Orwelle, where he put to sea, with his people beyond number, upon the Thirsday next before the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist (24 June) which was on a Saturday: and upon the next Friday morning, our King espied his enemies upon the sea, and said ‘Because our Lord Jesus Christ was put to death on a Friday, we will not shed blood upon that day.’

The wind had then been in the east for a whole fortnight before the King put to sea, but by the grace of Him who is Almighty, the wind shifted immediately to the west: so that by the grace of God, the King and his fleet had both wind and weather to their mind. And so they sailed on until sunrise at break of day: when he saw his enemies so strongly equipped, that it was a most dreadful thing to behold: for the fleet of the ships of France was so strongly bound together with massive chains, castles, bretasches, and bars. But, notwithstanding this, Sir Edward our King, said to all those who were around him in the fleet of England:67—‘Fair lords and brethren of mine, be nothing dismayed, but be all of good cheer, and he who for me shall begin the fight and shall combat with a right good heart, shall have the benison of God Almighty: and everyone shall retain that which he shall gain.’

And so soon as our King had said this, all were of right eager heart to avenge him of his enemies. And then our mariners hauled their sails half-mast high, and hauled up their anchors in manner as though they intended to fly: and when the fleet of France beheld this, they loosened themselves from their heavy chains to pursue us. And forthwith our ships turned back upon them, and the mêlée began, to the sound of trumpets, nakers, viols, tabors, and many other kinds of minstrelsy. And then did our King, with three hundred ships, vigorously assail the French with their five hundred great ships and gallies, and eagerly did our people exert great diligence to give battle to the French. Our archers and our arbalesters began to fire as densely as hail falls in winter, and our engineers hurled so steadily, that the French had not power to look or to hold up their heads. And in the meantime, while this assault lasted, our English people with a great force boarded their gallies, and fought with the French hand to hand, and threw them out of their ships and gallies. And always our King encouraged to fight bravely with his enemies, he himself being in the cog called ‘Thomas of Winchelsee.’ And at the hour of tierce there came to them a ship of London, which belonged to William Haunsard, and it did much good in the said battle. For the battle was so severe and so hardly contested, that the assault lasted from noon all day and all night, and the morrow until the hour of prime: and when the battle was discontinued no French man remained alive, save only Spaudefisshe, who took to flight with four and twenty ships and gallies.”

The Battle of Sluys was followed by the Siege of Tournay which proved fruitless: the King came home without any money, and furious against his ministers, whom he sent to prison. An inquiry was ordered as to the mode of collecting the King’s revenues in the City. The citizens objected to the judges holding this session in the City; they refused to answer any questions unless their liberties were respected; they raised a special fund for the purpose of defending the City’s rights. The King retorted by ordering an Iter, but being unwilling to alienate the City, which was so useful in time of war, he desisted and gave the citizens a new Charter (26th March 1341). At the same time they were called upon to provide twenty-six ships fully equipped and victualled, and the King for his part got another thousand pounds for himself. After a truce for three years the war was renewed. In March 1346 the London contingent of 600 archers, 100 men-at-arms, and 200 horsemen, were called out and paraded on Tothill Fields. They sailed with the King’s fleet of a thousand ships on the 10th July 1346.

After the battle of Crecy the King sent word to the Mayor that many of his men had deserted, and that all who could be found were to be seized and sent back, whether they were knights, esquires, or of lower order. This seems to show that68 they went out on short service time which had expired. It also shows that no police existed to prevent deserters from taking ship across the Channel. Another fleet was fitted out to which the City contributed two ships. All the ships in the port were also seized.

After the surrender of Calais the King came home, his army laden with spoil. “And now,” says Holinshed, “it seemed to the English people that the sunne breake foorth after a long cloudie season, by reason both of the great plentie of althings, and remembrance of the late glorious victories: for there were few women that were housekeepers within this land, but they had some furniture of household that had beene brought to them out of France as part of the Spoile got in Caen, Calis, Carenten, or some other good towne. And beside household stuffe, the English maides and matrones were bedecked and trimmed up in French women’s jewels and apparell, so that as the French women lamented for the loss of these things, so our women rejoiced of the gaine.”

In the twentieth year of Edward’s reign he issued an ordinance providing for the expulsion of all leprous persons from the City. “Forasmuch,” he begins, “as we have been given to understand that many persons, as well of the City aforesaid, as others coming to the same City, being smitten with the blemish of leprosy, do publicly dwell among the other citizens and sound persons and there continually abide; and do not hesitate to communicate with them as well in public places as in private: and that some of them endeavouring to contaminate others with that abominable blemish (that so to their own wretched solace they may have the more fellows in suffering) as well as in the way of mutual communication, and by the contagion of their polluted breath, and by sexual intercourse with women in stews and other secret places detestably frequenting the same, do so taint persons who are sound, both male and female, to the great injury of the people dwelling in the City aforesaid, and the manifest peril of other persons to the same City resorting....” And he orders the removal of all such persons from the City within fifteen days, and forbids for the future any one to harbour in his house any one “smitten with the blemish of leprosy.” This order seems to have been obeyed.

It is unfortunate that we do not know the number of the wretched lepers who were thus driven out. The disease itself, the ravages of which had been terrible, was now slowly disappearing: within two hundred years from this time it had practically disappeared. That there were still a good number of lepers in London is proved by the fact that the citizens in obedience to the law began to build lazar houses outside the City. Three at least there were already: that of St. Giles in the Fields, founded by Queen Matilda, wife of Henry I.; that of St. James in the Fields, founded for leprous virgins; and that of Great Ilford in Essex, founded by King Stephen, the only one now left of the leprous foundations. The new lazar houses erected were: one at the Lock without Southwark in Kent Street; one69 between Mile End Road and Stratford-le-Bow; one at Kingsland between Shoreditch and Stoke Newington; and one at Knightsbridge. One is mentioned twenty years later at Hackney. Another was founded a hundred years later by one William Yeoman of the Crown, himself a leper, on the high road between Highgate and Holloway. Twenty-six years later John Mayn, a baker and a leper, “who had oftentimes been before commanded by the Mayor and Aldermen to depart from the City” (oftentimes! Here is a proof of the weakness of the Executive!), was finally ordered to depart at once. It is not stated whether he obeyed.

In 1348 the Black Death broke out. We shall hear of this again. It is sufficient here to record that probably two-thirds of the whole population of London were killed by this pestilence. The churchyards were full, and would hold no more bodies. The Bishop of London gave one piece of ground and Sir Walter Manny gave another, making in all over 13 acres of land for the burial of the dead: in a short time 50,000 persons were lying there. Another piece of ground given by a priest named John Cony for the same object on the east side of the City was also speedily filled with thousands of bodies.

Scarcely had the City recovered from this calamity when it was called upon to join in suppressing pirates who in time of war and trouble always infested the Channel. The City furnished two ships, one with forty men-at-arms and sixty archers, commanded by Andrew Turk, and one with thirty men-at-arms and forty archers, commanded by Gosceline de Cleve. The fleet destroyed a Spanish fleet and captured twenty-four ships laden with merchandise.

The return of the Black Prince with his royal captive after the battle of Poitiers was an occasion for such a display as the City always loved. A thousand of the citizens, richly clad and well mounted, met the Prince at Southwark: the King of France rode a splendid charger: beside him the victorious Prince rode a little galloway. At the foot of London Bridge they were met by the Mayor, Aldermen, Sheriffs, and the several craftsmen in their liveries and colours. All through the streets the houses were hung with tapestries and glittered with arms and armour of all kinds. It was perhaps the greatest day for the national pride and rejoicing that the City had ever seen.

At the expiration of the Two Years’ truce the war broke out again. A French fleet swept along the coast of Sussex landing an army of 20,000 men, who committed the atrocities common to an invading force, burning towns, destroying crops, killing men. The City of London fitted out a fleet of 80 vessels with 14,000 men, including archers, but these were too late to meet the enemy.

It was at this time that Henry Picard, the Vintner, gave that most famous of all the City banquets, at which he entertained the King of England, the King of France, the King of Scotland, the King of Denmark, and the King of Cyprus, as well as the Black Prince.


The war lingered on for some years, but there were no more glorious victories, and in 1375 peace was concluded. A change was attempted in the constitution of the City; by this the election of Mayor, Sheriffs, and Common Council was placed in the hands of the guilds instead of the wards, but after ten years the new plan was found not to work so well as the old, to which the City returned.

In 1365 an important ordinance was passed concerning what things a tenant in leaving a house might take with him:—

“It is ordained that if any persons hire a tenement, House, or Houses, in the city of London or in the suburbs of the said city, to hold the same for the term of Life, or of Years, or only from year to year, or from quarter to quarter: if the said tenant shall make, or cause to be made, any pentyses or other easements in the said tenement, house, outhouses, fixed with nails of iron or wooden pegs to the premises, or to the soil thereof: it shall not be lawful for such tenant to remove such pentyses or easements at the end of the term, or at any other time to destroy them: but they shall always remain to the landlord of the said premises, as a parcel thereof.”

This ordinance was translated from Latin into English with the following explanation:—

“Whereas nowe of late amonge divers people was sprongen Matter of doute upon the most olde custome had and used in this Cyte of London, of suche thyngys which by tenauntys terms of lyfe or yerys been affixyd unto houses, without specyall lycence of the owner of the soyle, whether they owe to remayne unto the Owner of the Soyle, as Parcel of the same, or ellys whether it shall be lawfull unto suche Tenantys on thende of her terme all suche thyngys affyxed to remove.

Whereupon olde Bokys seen, and many Recordys, olde processys, and judementys of the sayd Cyte, it was declared by the Mayre and Aldermen, for an olde prescrybed custome of the Cyte aforesayd, that all suche easementys fixyd unto houses, or to soyle by suche tenementys, without specyal and expresse lycence of the owner of the soyle, if they be affyxed with Nayles of Irne or of tree, as pentyses, glasse, lockys, benchys or ony suche other, or ellse yf they be affyxed with Morter or Lyme, or of erther or ony other Morter as forneys, leedys, candorous Chemyneys, Corbels, pavemettis, or suche other: or elles yf plantes be roetyd in the grounds, as vines, trees, grasse stounks, trees of fruit, etc., it shall not be laufull into suche tenauntys in the end of her terme, or ony other tyme therin, nor only of them, to put awaye more, or plucke up in ony wyse, but that they shall alway remayne to the ownar of the soyle, as parcels of the same soyle or Tenement.”

At the Good Parliament of 1376 three City Aldermen were charged with malversation. All three were deprived of their posts: one was imprisoned, one fled to Flanders to escape trial, one was deprived of his patent of monopoly. With the design of winning favour from the young heir to the Crown, the City resolved upon presenting him with an entertainment and gifts. The Prince with his mother and his suite was living at the Palace of Kennington.

From the Fresco painting in the Royal Exchange, London, by permission of the Artist, A. Chevallier Tayler.


“For which purpose, on the Sunday before Candlemas one hundred and thirty-two citizens on horseback in Masquerade attended by trumpets, a variety of other musical instruments, and a vast number of flambeaux, marched from Newgate through the City and Borough of Southwark, to the Prince’s residence aforesaid. In the first division rode eight and forty persons dressed in the habits of Esquires, with Red Coats, Say2 Gowns, and beautiful Vizards. Then followed the same number of persons apparelled like knights, in the same livery as the former. Then rode one in a very pompous imperial habit, followed at some distance by a person resembling the Pope, attended by four and twenty Cardinals: followed by ten persons in hideous black vizards, as legates from an infernal Pontiff. This Cavalcade of masquers being arrived at the Palace, they dismounted and entered the hall, whither instantly repaired the Prince, the Princess of Wales, and the Nobility their attendants. They were saluted by the masquers, who, producing a pair of Dice, showed their inclination of playing with the Prince. The Dice were so artfully prepared that, whenever the Prince threw, he was sure to win, and having thrown three Times, he won a Bowl, a Cup, and a Ring, all of massy gold: after which the said masquers set the Princess, the Duke of Lancaster, and all the other lords, each with a gold ring which they likewise won: whereupon they were most sumptuously entertained at supper: and, after having the honour of dancing with the Prince and Nobility, they joyfully returned to the City.”

In 1371 the King granted a charter ordering that no strangers, i.e. none except freemen, should be allowed to sell by retail, within the City and the suburbs. This privilege had always been resented by the citizens, who were more in favour of free trade.

The reign of Edward III. is remarkable for the regulations of the crafts and companies which were issued, and the formation of companies under rules and by royal license. In Riley’s Memorials we find Charters, Articles, and Ordinances granted to the following long list, between 1327 and 1377. The list is set down in chronological order:—

Pellipers, or Skinners, Girdlers, Hostlers and Haymongers, Tapicers, Butchers, Bakers, Taverners, Vintners, Cutters, Brewers, Spurriers, Whittawyers, Turners, Heaumers, Hatters, Pewterers, Glovers, Shearmen, Furbishers, Braelers, Masons, Farriers, Wax Chandlers, Alien Weavers, Tylers, Dyers, Plumbers, Tawyers, Flemish Weavers, Bowyers, Fletchers, Pouch Makers, Blacksmiths, Leather Sellers, Poulterers, Cordwainers, Barbers, Fullers, Hurers, and Cheesemongers. Some of the articles of the new Companies will be dealt with in another place.

The Black Death of 1349-50 caused a dearth of labour which ran up wages enormously.

Some attempt to fly in the face of the effect of demand upon supply was made soon after the Pestilence by a Proclamation issued (24 Ed. III. 1350) by order of the Mayor, Walter Turk, the Aldermen and the Commonality in which wages were laid down “to be held and firmly observed for ever.” This proclamation gave the craftsmen 6d. a day in the summer months and 5½d. a day in the winter. Any72 employer who paid more was fined 40s.:—any craftsman who took more was sent to prison for 40 days. It seems strange that in a commercial and industrial city it could be supposed possible to regulate wages and prices “for ever,” or for a week. Like so many other mediæval laws and ordinances there is no proof whatever of any obedience, while in the trials that follow there is no case reported of disobedience. We may assert without fear of contradiction that the proclamation fell dead, and that the craftsmen continued to make the most of the situation.

The relations of Edward III. and the City, on the whole of a cordial kind, are illustrated by some of the papers in Riley’s Memorials. Thus, in November 1328, the King and the Queen being at Westminster, the City resolved to send them a present, and these were the seasonable gifts they sent:—

“To our Lord the King:—10 carcasses of beeves, price £7: 10s.; 20 pigs, price £4;—these being bought of Nicholas Derman: 24 swans, price £6; 24 bitterns and herons, price £4: 4s.; and 10 dozens of capons, price 50s.;—the same being bought of John Brid and John Scott: 5 stone of wax, price £19: 19: 0¾; 4 barrels of sturgeon, price £12; 6 pike and 6 eels, price 10 marks;—these being bought of Hugh Medefrei.

To our Lady the Queen:—5 carcasses of beeves, price 75s.; 12 pigs, price 48s.;—these being bought of the said Nicholas Derman: 12 pheasants, price 48s.; 12 swans, price 60s.;—these being bought of the said John Brid and John Scot:—3 stone of wax, price £11: 19: 5¼; 2 barrels of sturgeon, price £6; also, 3 pike and 3 eels, price 66s. 8d.

Sum total paid for the gift aforesaid, £95: 13: 6.”

Nine years later, at the meeting of Parliament, held in London, the City voted a great number of gifts to the King, the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of London and Durham and many great Lords. To some, money was given, to others, silver plate, silk cloths, gloves for holding the marks. Apparently, the gifts were intended to buy their favour, for the City got a charter which secured their liberties, although they had appeared in danger from the new statutes about the Staple.

While mentioning these presents we may state that in the year 1363 we find a dozen trades uniting to send a small present of money, amounting in all to no more than £40, to the King. Four companies also present King John of France, then a captive, with money amounting in all to £24: 6: 8; and in the year 1371 a magnificent present of plate costing, for the time, a vast sum of money, was given to the Black Prince on his return from Gascony.

In 1357 the King, evidently from his own observation, called attention to the lay stalls and filth allowed to accumulate on the banks of the river, and gave orders that all should be cleaned up without delay. In the same year he ordered the streets to be kept free of such impediments. And, which shows a glimmering of sanitary science, he orders that this refuse shall be put into carts and taken out of the City, or into the dung boats which were probably intended to carry the refuse down the river; but nothing was to be thrown into the river. When one remembers73 the uses to which the Walbrook and the Fleet, together with the banks of the Thames, had been put, it is easy to understand that it was necessary to do something. At the same time, the Thames is a broad river, and capable of cleansing itself from a good deal of corruption.

In some cases of robbery or violence the King interfered himself. Thus in 1359 the King ordered the Mayor to make Inquisition into a robbery committed at the House of the Crutched Friars in Hart Street, Aldgate, and to send him the result of his Inquisition. The case is curious, one that implicated certain Brethren of the House. The things stolen consisted of a chalice, two sets of vestments, many valuable books and other goods, the whole valued at £87: 13: 4, i.e. over £1200 of our money. The robbers were Robert de Stannowe, John de Dunmowe, and Richard de Evesham, all Brethren of the Holy Cross. The witnesses, John Bretoun and eleven others, swore that these three were all malefactors and disturbers of the Peace of our Lord the King, and that they stole these things and “committed other enormities.” What became of the sacrilegious three is not known. Possibly the Bishop’s prison could reveal the secret.

There is also a proclamation against sturdy vagrants who get alms “which would otherwise go to many poor folk, such as lepers, blind, halt, and persons oppressed with old age and divers other maladies.” They are ordered to be put in the stocks and then to forswear the City for ever. Nothing is as yet said about whipping vagrants through the streets.

There is a proclamation against evening markets. Nothing was to be sold after sunset because it is easy in the dark to pass off old things for new.

Another scare of a French descent took place in 1370, when it was reported that certain galleys were lying off the Foreland of Thanet. It was ordered that a watch should be kept every night between the Tower and Billingsgate, to consist of 40 men-at-arms and 60 archers. The companies were to form the watch in the following order:—

The bad government of London at this time is illustrated by the decay of archery. The recent victories in France had proved the immense superiority of the archers to the mounted knights in battle: yet we find the youth of London allowed to neglect a weapon which could only be serviceable if its practice was74 encouraged and ordered. On this subject we find that the King sent the following letter to the Sheriffs of London in the year 1365:—

“The King to the Sheriffs of London, greeting.

Because the People of our Realm, as well of good Quality as mean, have commonly in their Sports before these Times exercised the Skill of shooting Arrows; whence it is well known, that Honour and Profit have accrued to our whole Realm, and to us, by the Help of God, no small Assistance in our warlike Acts; and now the said Skill being, as it were, wholly laid aside, the same People please themselves in hurling of Stones and Wood and Iron; and some in Hand-ball, Foot-ball, Bandy-ball, and in Cambuck, or Cockfighting; and some also apply themselves to other dishonest Games, and less Profitable or useful; whereby the said Realm is likely, in a short time, to become destitute of Archers:

We, willing to apply a seasonable Remedy to this, command you, that in Places in the foresaid City, as well within the Liberties as without, where you shall see it expedient, you cause publick Proclamation to be made, that every one of the said City, strong in Body, at leisure Times on Holidays, use in their Recreations Bows and Arrows, or Pellets, or Bolts, and learn and exercise the Art of Shooting; forbidding all and singular on our Behalf, that they do not after any Manner apply themselves to the throwing of Stones, Wood, Iron, Hand-ball, Foot-ball, Bandy-ball, Cambuck, or Cockfighting, nor such other like vain Plays, which have no Profit in them, or concern themselves therein, under Pain of Imprisonment. Witness the King at Westminster, the twelfth Day of June.”

In the same year the City was visited by a company of Flagellants. They were Dutch and a hundred and twenty in number. They marched through the streets stripped to the waist, wearing hats with one red cross before and one behind: in their hands they carried whips. They sang a Litany as they walked, and then began to flagellate each other till the blood ran down their bodies. This they are said to have done twice a day either in the streets or in St. Paul’s.

In the disturbances and quarrels which marked the conclusion of the third Edward’s reign and the commencement of Richard’s, it is difficult to separate the part taken by London from the general history of the country. It was a gloomy time for London as well as for the nation: the conquests and the vast possessions acquired by Edward had been lost more quickly than they were won. In 1372 the English fleet was destroyed off Rochelle: in 1373 Poitiers was lost and the English army destroyed: in 1374 Aquitaine was lost: our holding in France was reduced to certain strong places, as Bordeaux and Calais: the King was falling into dotage: the Black Prince was dying: not only the pride of the country was humiliated, but her wealth was impoverished and her trade diminished.

New ideas were rising up in all directions, precursors of the Reformation. Wyclyf wanted a return to simpler external forms and the lowering of the pride and wealth and power of the Church. Piers Plowman spoke for the inarticulate: Chaucer shows the kindly and good-humoured contempt of the well-to-do bourgeois for Friar and Monk: the commons demanded the dismissal of the Clergy from Civil Service: a few years later they petitioned the King (Henry IV.) to suppress all the monastic Houses. And the most powerful noble in the land, John of Gaunt, espoused the popular side and stood forth as the protector of Wyclyf and of John of Northampton.


Unfortunately John of Gaunt meddled with trade. Probably in ignorance of what he was doing he placed himself in the hands of a merchant named Richard Lyons in whom he seems to have had great confidence. Lyons was clearly the predecessor of many who have followed him in the endeavour to make fortune by short cuts; he got from John permission to ship his wool without taking it first to the Staple, thus avoiding the tax; he got himself made farmer of customs at Calais and levied higher duties than those imposed by Parliament; he bought up the King’s debts at a large reduction and made the Council pay him in full; he made corners, obtained and sold monopolies.

In 1376, the year before the old King’s death, the Good Parliament sat. Their speaker, Peter de la Mare, in the name of the Commons refused all supplies so long as the Duke of Lancaster, Lord Latimer, and Sir Richard Sturrie remained counsellors to the King, and so long as Alice Perrers remained the King’s concubine. The charge was allowed. Then the Parliament considered certain abuses in the City. First, they impeached Richard Lyons, “of divers deceits, Extortions, and other Misdemeanours, as well at the Time when he repaired to certain of the King’s Council, as when he was Farmer of the Subsidies and Customs; and especially for his obtaining Licences for the Exportation of large Faizons of Wool and staple Ware; for procuring new Impositions upon staple Ware; for devising the Change of Money; for making the King, for one Chevizance of twenty Marks, to pay thirty Pounds; for buying Debts of divers Men due by the King for small Values; for taking Bribes by way of Brokage for paying the King’s just Debts. All which, it seems, he was guilty of, by tampering with the Council.

To some Part of which Articles Richard answered, and to the rest submitted himself to the King’s mercy; Whereupon he was committed to Prison, and his Estate, both real and personal, confiscated, and for which Crimes he was also disfranchised.

John Peach of London was soon after impeached for procuring a Licence under the Great Seal, for the sole Privilege of selling sweet wine in London; it was said that by colour of this Grant, he took of every Vintner four shillings and fourpence for every tun he sold. The which he justified, as lawfully he might; yet nevertheless he was adjudged to prison, and to make Restitution to all Persons aggrieved. Whereupon the Grant was reversed, and the Citizens restored to their ancient Right of selling such Wine, under the Restriction of having the Price thereof always regulated by the Mayor.” (Maitland, vol. i. p. 134.)

The Parliament, however, came to an end. John of Gaunt returned to power; Richard Lyons and John Peach were let out of prison; the late Speaker, Peter de la Mare, was committed to Nottingham Castle; Alice Perrers went back to the King.


JOHN WYCLYF (d. 1384)
From MS. Harl. 4866.

It does not belong to this history to attempt an estimate of the character and the political career of John of Gaunt. Yet it may be mentioned that he was regarded with the deepest jealousy and was suspected of designs upon the Crown; for it was considered it might be easy for him to supplant the young prince Richard. Yet he was undoubtedly the greatest and most powerful noble in the land. Moreover, in matters of religion he took the side of Reform, especially as regards the wealth and power of the higher clergy. In this respect he undoubtedly had with him the general opinion of the City, both of the better sort—Whittington, among others, was reputed to lean in that direction—and of the craftsmen, among whom the Friars and their teaching had great influence. Unfortunately he offended the City beyond all power of forgiveness by proposing to abolish the Mayoralty and to encroach further upon their liberties. And then came the famous trial of Wyclyf in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Wyclyf was summoned to appear at St. Paul’s before the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London to answer certain charges as to opinions.

He obeyed, but there came with him his protector, John of Gaunt, and the Earl Marshal, with, one doubts not, a sufficient following to protect their persons. The Cathedral was filled with people drawn together by the desire to see and to77 hear this fearless champion of Reform. It was with difficulty that the party could work their way through to the place of hearing, which was the Lady Chapel. The Earl Marshal exercised his authority, perhaps loudly, to keep the people back. The Bishop of London, indignant at the exercise of any authority but his own in his own Cathedral, declared that had he known how Lord Percy would act he would have forbidden him admission. The Duke of Lancaster with equal heat assured the Bishop that the Lord Marshal would maintain order, despite him. When they reached the Lady Chapel, the Earl Marshal demanded a seat for Wyclyf. The Bishop refused. Then angry words passed and recriminations; it was rumoured that John of Gaunt threatened to drag the Bishop out of the Church by the hair of his head. The quarrel grew to a tumult; the Court was dissolved; Wyclyf, who had said nothing, withdrew, and the Duke with his party left the Church and rode to the house of one John de Ypres.

There was rancour against the Duke of Lancaster for other reasons, apart from this insult to the Bishop. It was rumoured that he had the design of abolishing the Mayor and of appointing a Custos in his place; and that he held that the Marshal of England should have the right of arresting criminals in London as well as in other parts of the kingdom. The quarrel at St. Paul’s was only the last drop in the cup. That strange wildfire which seizes mobs, beginning one knows not where, and spreading one knows not how, flamed up in the London streets. The mob would have the Duke’s life. He, who was at the house of John de Ypres in the City, and at dinner, was startled by one of his knights who came to warn him. There was no time to be lost; he rose from table and hastening down to the nearest stairs took boat across the river and went to the Palace at Kennington. When the mob found that he was gone they came to his Palace of the Savoy, where they murdered a priest, and would have wrecked the palace but for the intervention of the Bishop of London.

The Mayor and Aldermen obtained an interview with the King and expressed their sorrow at what had happened: they said it was the act of a few lawless men, who should be found and punished, and therewith the Duke seemed satisfied. But the insults of the populace continued; they hung up his shield reversed to show that he was a traitor; they posted libels and insults upon him until he demanded the excommunication of the City. The Bishop of London refused; whereupon the Bishop of Bangor pronounced the excommunication. Had, then, one Bishop the right of excommunicating the people in the diocese of another Bishop? The Mayor, Adam Staple, was removed, and Nicolas Brembre was elected. Certainly it seems as if Adam Staple had shown his own weakness in not maintaining order. Lastly, the City tried to appease the Duke by offering a wax taper bearing his arms in St. Paul’s. Just then the old King died.



RICHARD II. (1367-1399)
From a painting in Westminster Abbey. Artist unknown.

No one who considers the life and reign of Richard II. can fail to observe, and in some measure to understand, the very remarkable personal affection which he inspired in the people, especially the people of London, whose loyalty he rewarded so shamefully. His singular beauty, his kingliness, his charm of manner, the splendour and luxury of his court, his love of art and music, his personal bearing, all these things dazzled and fascinated the populace. Never was there a more gallant prince to look upon. That he was proud, almost as proud as Henry III., proud to a degree which is in these days absolutely unintelligible; that79 he was wasteful and prodigal; that he was led by unworthy favourites almost as much as his great-grandfather; that he was revengeful; that he always wanted money and cared nothing about charters, rights, and liberties, upon all of which he trampled without scruple in order to get money,—these things the people of London were going to find out to their cost. Meantime they loved the lovely boy, the son of the Black Prince. To begin with, the nobles called Richard the Londoners’ King. We shall see that the City endured blow after blow, before they finally abandoned him. Mostly, I think, the City regarded Richard with gratitude and affection for that deed of desperate daring when he faced the mob, himself a mere boy, and persuaded them to go home. Every citizen who remembered those few terrible days when the wildest mob ever seen in London streets held possession of the City, and when they remembered what the better sort had to endure, robbery, fire, and murder, looked on that act as the salvation of himself as well as of the City. The alienation of the City which followed was due solely to the King’s long-continued exactions and his arbitrary disregard of Charters.

The new reign—Richard was only eleven—began happily for London by a reconciliation of the City with the Duke of Lancaster. At the Coronation Banquet the Mayor and Citizens claimed their right to assist the chief butler, but were refused by Robert Belknap, Chief-Justice of the Common Pleas, who told them that they might come and wash up the pots and pans if they pleased. The citizens therefore set up an effigy of Belknap on one of the arches erected in Cheapside for the procession. The figure was made to vomit wine continuously. This is an early example of caricature in things political. Robert Belknap withdrew his opposition; the effigy was removed, and the Mayor and Aldermen played their accustomed part in the Coronation Banquet. It is noted by Sharpe (London and the Kingdom, p. 213) that the King’s Butler in ordinary could claim the post of City Coroner.

The City granted the Council an advance of £5000 on the security of the Customs. When Parliament met, it granted a tallage of two-tenths and two-fifteenths, and named two citizens, Walworth and Philpot, to act as treasurers. At this time, nearly the worst in our annals, the French were harrying the south coast almost unopposed; the Scottish army was on the borders; and a Scottish fleet was in the North Sea making descents upon the ports and seaboard towns. The Abbot of Battle drove off the French, and it was left to a private merchant of London to destroy the Scottish fleet.

This fleet was commanded by a man named Mercer who was called a pirate. Like his countrymen on the Border he probably called his own proceedings lawful acts of war. Sir John Philpot, hearing that this sea captain, or pirate, Mercer was plundering English towns and picking up English ships, fitted out at his own80 private expense a fleet of ships manned with a thousand men well armed, went on board himself as Admiral or Commander, sailed north, met Mercer’s fleet off Scarborough, valiantly attacked it, and killed him and took all his ships; then, with these and fifteen Spanish vessels, deeply laden, which had been captured by Mercer, he returned to London. The Council sent for him and asked him to explain his presumption in going to war on his own account. But the citizens showed their approval of his work by electing him Mayor in the following year.

The late King having died while the petition of the City for a confirmation of their liberties was impending, they renewed it on the accession of Richard. The House of Commons also prayed the King that the City might continue to enjoy all the Franchises and usages granted by his Progenitors. This was answered by a Charter of Confirmation as follows:—

“Whereas the said Citizens, by their Petition exhibited to us in Parliament, did set forth that although they, for a long time past, have used and enjoyed certain free Customs, until of late Years they have been unjustly molested; which Customs are as followeth, viz., That no Foreigner do buy or sell of another Foreigner any Merchandises within the Liberties of the said City, upon Pain of forfeiting the same. Nevertheless, being desirous, for the future, to take away all Controversies about the same, We do by these presents, with the Assent aforesaid, will and grant, and by these Presents, for us and our heirs, do confirm unto the said Citizens, and their Successors, that, for the future, no Foreigner sell to another Foreigner any Merchandises within the Liberties of the said City: nor that any Foreigner do buy of another Foreigner any Merchandise, upon pain of forfeiting the same; the Privileges of our Subjects of Aquitaine in all Things excepted, so that such buying and selling be made betwixt Merchant and Merchant.”

The City was still at this time torn by internal dissensions. The party headed by John of Northampton, representing the popular cause of the craft guilds, was always striving after more power and always meeting with the most determined resistance; it is also certain that a new and very important spirit had been introduced into the City, which was teaching new ideas concerning personal holiness, the riches of priest and monk, the true teaching of Christ as set forth in the Gospels, and spread abroad by Wyclyf’s preachers. The other side, headed by Philpot and Brembre, represented the old aristocratic party with the great guilds of distribution, import and export. The Duke of Lancaster, for reasons of his own, gave his support to John of Northampton and the popular party. In this he was joined by his brother Thomas of Woodstock, Earl of Buckingham, who three times accused Brembre before the Parliament: first of connivance in a riotous attack upon his house, and next of treason. The Earl showed his resentment still further by withdrawing from the City with all his following and all his friends. He must have had a great many friends, because the blow to trade was so sorely felt that the richer merchants subscribed and bribed him to come back again. The history of the City factions will be found in another place.

In 1379 a poll tax was imposed. Every man had to pay according to his rank and station. The Mayor of London was assessed as an Earl and paid £4. The81 Aldermen, assessed as barons, paid £2 each. The lowest workmen had to pay a groat—fourpence. The poll tax of the City amounted to no more than £700. It is estimated that there was a population of about 46,000. But the expenses of collection are not included. In the taxation of the whole population, man, woman, and child, there must have been a great number of clerks and collectors. Perhaps 25 per cent was spent in the work. That would give us a population of 56,000. Next year the poll tax was again imposed; but this time the smallest sum to be paid was three groats, and that by every man, woman, and child over the age of fifteen. What would this tax mean at the present day? It would mean that every working man would have to pay half-a-crown for himself, half-a-crown for his wife, and half-a-crown for every one in his house over fifteen years of age, say four half-crowns, or ten shillings in all. How long would a Government last which should impose such a tax? The tax produced in London alone no more than £1000. It was a fatal impost for the country, for it proved the cause of the rebellion, the most formidable rising of the peasantry which this country ever had to encounter, that named after Wat Tyler. The history of this insurrection belongs to the history of England rather than that of London, but the later and more dramatic part of it took place in the City. Perhaps I cannot do better than transcribe the short and graphic contemporary account given in Riley’s Memorials (p. 449):—

“Among the most wondrous and hitherto unheard-of prodigies that have ever happened in the City of London, that which took place there on the Feast of Corpus Christi, the 13th day of June, in the 4th year of the reign of King Richard the Second, seems deserving to be committed to writing, that it may be not unknown to those to come.

For on that day, while the King was holding his Council in the Tower of London, countless companies of the commoners and persons of the lowest grade from Kent and Essex suddenly approached the said City, the one body coming to the town of Southwark, and the other to the place called ‘Mileende,’ without Algate. By the aid also of perfidious commoners within the City, of their own condition, who rose in countless numbers there, they suddenly entered the City together, and, passing straight through it, went to the mansion of Sir John, Duke of Lancaster, called ‘Le Savoye,’ and completely levelled the same with the ground, and burned it. From thence they turned to the Church of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, without Smethfeld, and burnt and levelled nearly all the houses there, the Church excepted.

On the next morning, all the men from Kent and Essex met at the said place called ‘Mileende,’ together with some of the perfidious persons of the City aforesaid; whose numbers in all were past reckoning. And there the King came to them from the Tower, accompanied by many knights and esquires, and citizens82 on horseback, the lady his mother following him also in a chariot. Where, at the prayer of the infuriated rout, our Lord the King granted that they might take those who were traitors against him, and slay them, wheresoever they might be found. And from thence the King rode to his Wardrobe, which is situated near to Castle Baynard; while the whole of the infuriated rout took its way towards the Tower of London; entering which by force, they dragged forth from it Sir Simon, Archbishop of Canterbury, Chancellor of our Lord the King, and Brother Robert Hales, Prior of the said Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, the King’s Treasurer; and, together with them, Brother William Appletone, of the Order of Friars Minors, and John Leg, Serjeant-at-arms to the King, and also, one Richard Somenour, of the Parish of Stebenhuthe; all of whom they beheaded in the place called ‘Tourhille,’ without the said Tower; and then carrying their heads through the City upon lances, they set them up on London Bridge, fixing them there on stakes.

Upon the same day there was also no little slaughter within the City, as well of natives as of aliens. Richard Lions, citizen and vintner of the said City, and many others, were beheaded in Chepe. In the Vintry also, there was a very great massacre of Flemings, and in one heap there were lying about forty headless bodies of persons who had been dragged forth from the churches and their houses; and hardly was there a street in the City in which there were not bodies lying of those who had been slain. Some of the houses also in the said City were pulled down, and others in the suburbs destroyed, and some too, burnt.

Such tribulation as this, greater and more horrible than could be believed by those who had not seen it, lasted down to the hour of Vespers on the following day, which was Saturday, the 15th of June; on which day God sent remedy for the same, and His own gracious aid, by the hand of the most renowned man, Sir William Walworthe, the then Mayor; who in Smethefelde, in presence of our Lord the King and those standing by him, lords, knights, esquires, and citizens on horseback, on the one side, and the whole of this infuriated rout on the other, most manfully, by himself, rushed upon the captain of the said multitude, ‘Walter Tylere’ by name, and, as he was altercating with the King and the nobles, first wounded him in the neck with his sword, and then hurled him from his horse, mortally pierced in the breast; and further, by favour of the divine grace, so defended himself from those who had come with him, both on foot and horseback, that he departed from thence unhurt, and rode on with our Lord the King and his people, towards a field near to the spring that is called ‘Whittewellebeche’; in which place, while the whole of the infuriated multitude in warlike manner was making ready against our Lord the King and his people, refusing to treat of peace except on condition that they should first have the head of the said Mayor, the Mayor himself, who had gone into the City at the instance of our Lord the King, in the space of half an hour sent83 and led forth therefrom so great a force of citizen warriors in aid of his Lord the King, that the whole multitude of madmen was surrounded and hemmed in; and not one of them would have escaped, if our Lord the King had not commanded them to be gone.

From Froissart’s Chronicles.

Therefore our Lord the King returned into the City of London with the greatest of glory and honour, and the whole of this profane multitude in confusion fled forthwith for concealment in their affright.

For this same deed our Lord the King, beneath his standard, in the said field84 with his own hands decorated with the order of knighthood the said Mayor, and Sir Nicholas Brembre, and Sir John Phelipot, who had already been Mayors of the said City; as also Sir Robert Launde.”

“Jack Straw” before his execution made a full confession. It has been doubted whether this confession is genuine, but it seems possible and even probable. They promised to have masses said for his soul (which assured him that it was purgatory to which he would be sent) and on this promise he declared that they had intended to seize the King, to carry him about in order to reassure the people, and in the end to kill him and all who were set in authority. They were going to spare the mendicant friars alone. And they were going to set up separate kingdoms all over the country.

The doctrines of Wyclyf’s preachers and “simple priests” certainly made this rebellion possible: they filled the minds of the rustics with new ideas of equality and right; they made them question authority; they made it possible for them to unite. As regards London, on inquiry after the rebellion, it was proved that two hundred persons had left the City in consequence, which does not seem to show that Lollardy was advanced by the rebels, or that there was any sympathy extended to them from the Lollards of the City. Now London at this time, Walsingham says, was full of Lollards—they were all Lollards. A little later than this even Whittington was accused of being male credulus. As regards the word Lollard its true meaning has been ascertained by Professor Skeat (Piers the Plowman, Early Eng. Text Soc., vol. iv. p. 86). There was a sect in Brabant before Wyclyf was born who were called Lollards.... “Sive Deum laudantes,” says one writer. “Mussitatores,” i.e. mumblers of prayers, says another. The name of Lollard, a term of reproach in Brabant, was borrowed from that country and applied to the followers of Wyclyf in order to render them unpopular. The word lollere or loller—one who lolls, an indolent person—had nothing to do with the word Lollard: nor with the Latin lolium, tares, which was also pressed into the service in order to make the new opinions unpopular.

After the murder of Archbishop Sudbury, William Courtenay became Archbishop of Canterbury: he was a man of high birth, a scholar, one of a temper which would not bear opposition, and one who held the strongest views as to authority and the power of the Church. He naturally saw in the late dangerous rising of the people a blow against authority, which he also ascribed, quite reasonably, to the teaching and the influence of Wyclyf. The doctrines of the rebel leaders were, however, an exaggeration and perversion of those taught by Wyclyf. And we must remember that Jack Straw looked forward to a time when the Franciscans should inherit the whole earth, an aspiration certainly not shared by Wyclyf. Twice had Wyclyf been summoned to appear before an ecclesiastical court. Courtenay called a Court and again summoned Wyclyf to appear. He was probably prevented by a85 stroke of paralysis, for he did not come. The Court was held in his absence in the Great Hall of the Black Friars. There were assembled (see Milman’s Latin Christianity, v. 509) eight Bishops, fourteen Doctors in Civil and Canon Law, six Bachelors of Divinity, four monks, fifteen Mendicant Friars, not one being a Franciscan, which is significant. Twenty-four articles were gathered out of the writings of Wyclyf, all to be condemned. In order to give these scenes great solemnity, a procession of clergy and laity walked barefoot to St. Paul’s to hear a sermon on the subject. (See Appendix I.).

Etchd. By. J Harris

From Froissart’s Chronicles.

There is the significant fact that in 1393 the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London complained formally to the King of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs—Whittington being then one of the Sheriffs—as male creduli, upholders of Lollards, detractors of religious persons, detainers of tithes, and defrauders of the poor. Richard II.’ s “Good Queen Anne” was a Wyclyfite. She read86 the Gospels for herself in English, in Bohemian, and in Latin. Nobles and knights, among them Sir John Oldcastle, sometimes called Lord Cobham, and the Earl of Salisbury, were avowed Wyclyfites. Even among the monks themselves there were Lollards. Peter Patishull, an Augustinian monk, and actually one of the Pope’s chaplains, preached plain Wyclyfism at St. Christopher’s Church, close to the monastery of St. Augustine. And he affixed a written document to the doors of St. Paul’s, stating that “he had escaped from the companionship of the worst of men”—meaning his brethren of St. Augustine’s—“to the most perfect and holy life of the Lollards.” And again there is that most remarkable Petition of the London Lollards to Parliament. Remember that these words were written a hundred and fifty years before the Dissolution of the Religious Houses. They were the opinions of the common people put into articulate speech by such men as Peter Patishull. The document is, as Dean Milman says, “vehemently anti-papal, anti-Roman.”

“Since the Church of England, fatally following that of Rome, has been endowed with temporalities, Faith, Hope, and Charity have deserted her communion. Their Priesthood is no Priesthood: men in mortal sin cannot convey the Holy Ghost. The clergy profess celibacy but from their pampered living are unable to practise it. The pretended miracle of Transubstantiation leads to idolatry. Exorcism or Benedictions are vain, delusive, and diabolical. The realm cannot prosper so long as spiritual persons hold secular offices. One who unites these two is a hermaphrodite. All chantries of prayer for the dead should be suppressed: one hundred religious houses would be enough for the spiritual wants of the realm. Pilgrimages, the worshipping of the Cross or images, or reliques, is idolatry. Auricular confession, indulgences, are mischievous or a mockery. Capital punishments are to be abolished as contrary to the New Testament. Convents of females are defiled by licentiousness and the worst crimes. All trades which minister to pride or luxury, especially goldsmiths and sword cutlers, are unlawful.” (Latin Christianity.)

London was placarded with these manifestoes, half wise, half foolish. The Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London hastily summoned Richard from Ireland by information that an outbreak of Lollards was at hand. Probably fear and hatred exaggerated the danger. Then came the deposition of Richard, the accession of Henry and his declaration that he would support the Church. For a time the Lollards were quiet.

Returning to City history it was perhaps in the hope of increasing the popularity of the King that Brembre in 1383 issued a proclamation “concerning the liberties lately granted to the Citizens of London by the Lord King in his Parliament.”

The substance of the Charter is given in the Liber Albus. It was obtained partly by the good offices of the Queen, and partly by an advance, loan, or gift of 4000 marks.87

From Froissart’s Chronicles.

In the year 1392 the King, wanting money as usual, ordered every London citizen who possessed an estate worth £40 at least to take up the honour of knighthood for which heavy fees would have to be paid. The Sheriffs reported,88 however, that all tenements and rents in the City were “held of the King in capite as for burgage at a fee farm (ad feodi firmam); that the tenements were constantly in need of repair, and that it was impossible to make such a return as the King desired. The King had to withdraw the order. But he had a new quarrel with the City: he offered some jewels as security for a loan; the citizens said they were too poor to advance the money; therefore the King sent to a certain Lombard who promised to find the money; in order to get it, he himself borrowed of the citizens. Another version of the story is that the citizens learning that this Lombard, one of the Pope’s licensed usurers, had advanced the money, fell upon him and beat him grievously. If this story is true the reasons were probably the general ill feeling towards foreigners always existing in the City, and next, a special rage that this man should have become so rich. Richard heard of this; for the moment he said nothing, for he was in some respects a most self-restrained prince, though at all times most revengeful. Moreover, he had another quarrel with the City on account of the side they took in the late troubles. His chance came. It began with a loaf of bread snatched from a baker’s tray by a servant of the Bishop of Salisbury, named Roman, in Fleet Street. The baker, as the tale is told, naturally resented the robbery and tried to recover his loaf: in the scuffle he was wounded by the said Roman—probably they had both drawn their knives. A crowd collected; Roman’s fellow-servants rescued him, dragged him into the house and refused to give him up. The crowding people round the gates bawled that they would set fire to the place in order to get the man out. The Mayor and Sheriffs hurried to the spot and with some difficulty persuaded the people to go home, before violence was done. Here the affair, really a trifle, should have ended. But the Bishop of Salisbury, who is said to have desired an opportunity to do the City a bad turn, hurried to the King and asked if the Londoners were to be allowed with impunity to insult the Church and defy the State.” “Certainly not,” said Richard; “if necessary I will raze the City to the ground.” He ordered the Mayor, the Sheriffs, the Aldermen, and four-and-twenty principal men of the City to attend him to Nottingham there to answer for these grievous disorders.

It was very soon discovered that the King meant mischief. The citizens threw themselves upon his mercy as the shortest and perhaps the cheapest way out of the quarrel. He committed the Mayor to prison at Windsor, and the Sheriffs to Odysham and Wallingford. He then appointed a commission under the Great Seal—his uncles the Dukes of York and Gloucester being the Commissioners—to inquire into the misgovernment of the City. The prisoners had to pay a fine of 1000 marks for the first offence, whatever that was, of which they were convicted; 2000 marks for the second; and in the third the Liberties of the City were seized by the King, contrary to the Charters. The Mayor was degraded, the Sheriffs and Aldermen deposed and others appointed in their place, and a Custos was given89 to the City—Sir Edward Dalyngrigge. Richard then summoned the Aldermen to Windsor and imposed a fine of £100,000 upon the City. But it does not appear that he meant it to be paid, for in the following month he announced his intention of riding through the City. Then the citizens humbled themselves and made a very expensive effort to win back the King’s favour. They prepared a most magnificent reception for him. First, at St. George’s Church, Southwark, he was met by the Bishop of London, all the clergy, and five hundred choristers in surplices: at London Bridge he was presented with a splendid charger richly clad in cloth of gold, and to the Queen was given a stately white pad with rich furniture: the streets through which he passed were lined with the City Companies in order: the conduits ran wine: and the people shouted. At the Standard in Cheapside stood a boy in white raiment, representing an angel, who presented the King a crown of gold and the Queen with another: he also offered wine from a golden cup. Then the Mayor and the City Fathers rode with the King to Westminster. The next day, to complete this show of loyalty, they sent the King two silver gilt basins in each of which lay a thousand nobles of gold: and a picture of the Trinity said to have been valued at eight hundred pounds—one cannot believe there was then any picture in the world valued at so much. The King remitted the fine of £100,000 and restored the Charters.

The citizens on receiving back their Charters proceeded to institute certain reforms. They resolved that their Aldermen should be elected for life, and not year by year: a measure which diminished the factious quarrels over the elections. They also divided the Ward of Farringdon into two.

In the year 1394 the Queen Anne of Bohemia died. She had the reputation of being a good friend to the City. In the Latin poem of “Richard of Maidstone” (Camden Society, Deposition of Richard the Second), the Queen is represented as pleading with the King for the City:—

Ingreditur Regina suis comitata puellis,
Pronaque regales corruit ante pedes.
Erigitur, mandante viro, “Quid,” ait, “petis Anna,
Exprime, de votis expediere tuis.”

Supplicatio Reginae pro eisdem civibus.

“Dulcis,” ait, “mi Rex, mihi vir, mihi vis, mihi vita,
Dulcis amor, sine quo vivere fit mihi mors.
Regibus in cunctis similem quis possidet urbem?
Quae velut haec hodie magnificaret eum?
Et rogo constanter per eum quem fertis amorem
Ad me, condignum si quid amore gero,
Parcere dignemini plebibus, qui tanta dedere
Munera tam prompte nobis ad obsequia.
Et placeat veteri nunc urbem reddere juri,
Ac libertates restituisse suas.”

Two years later the King went through the form of marriage with the French90 princess Isabel who was brought over at the age of eight. The Mayor and Aldermen went out to meet the “little Queen” at Blackheath, and escorted her to Kennington Palace, and the next day from that Palace to the Tower, the roads and streets being crowded with an innumerable throng.

The extravagance of the King had now become an intolerable burden to the country, especially to London. He is said to have maintained 10,000 persons at his Court. There were 300 employed in the kitchen alone. There was never any prince who clad himself more gorgeously: one cloak he had made of gold and silver cloth studded with jewels which cost him £2000, or about £40,000 of our money. He seems to have been unable to understand the meaning of money or the relation between things he desired, and the taxable wealth of the country. His last method of extortion was to issue blank charters which the merchants were to sign and he was to fill up at his pleasure. This proved too much for the long-suffering City. John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, had recently died; so they sent for his son Henry, Duke of Lancaster.

From MS. in British Museum. Harl. 1319.

The rest is history; Henry came, was received with acclamations by the City, a company of 1200 Londoners, fully armed, was raised for him; he marched out with them and with others and seized the King whom he brought back to London with him. The rabble wanted to murder their former idol on the way. The Recorder91 with a great number of Knights and Esquires went out to meet Lancaster and his captive. In the name of the City this functionary begged Henry to behead the King. Perhaps, however, the story is not true. Holinshed simply speaks of the immense joy of the people, and says that “many evil-disposed persons, assembling themselves together in great numbers, intended to have met with him and to have taken him from such as had the conveying of him, that they might have slain him.”

From Froissart’s Chronicles.

In the Parliament which was called on the arrival of the King at the Tower, thirty-three articles were drawn up showing that he was worthy of deposition. These articles were read at the Guildhall. The King, brought to Westminster, read publicly the renunciation of his Crown.



We have now to consider a rare event in the history of London—the accession of a sovereign who honestly maintained friendly relations with the City of London and respected its liberties. The note of conciliation was struck at the Coronation Banquet, at which the Mayor and Aldermen claimed and were assigned places of honour and their right of assisting the Chief Butler. Let us assist at one of the many mediæval banquets—we can do so by the help of Fabyan:—

HENRY IV (1367-1413)
From portrait in the possession of the Earl of Essex.


“Upon Monday, beyng the day of seynt Edwarde and the xiii day of October, the King was crowned at Westmynster of the archebysshop of Canterbury: after which solempnyte fynysshed, an honourable feest was holden within the great halle of Westmynster, where the kynge beynge set in the mydde see of the table the Archebysshop of Canterbury with iii other prelates were set at the same table upon the right hande of the kynge, and the archebysshop of Yorke with other iiii prelatys was sette upon that other hande of the kynge, and Henry the kynges eldest sone stoode upon the right hande with a poyntlesse swerde holdynge up right and the erle of Northumberlande, newely made constable, stode upon the lefte hande with a sharpe swerde holden up right, and by eyther of those swerdys stode ii other lordys holding ii cepters. And before the kynge stode all the dyner whyle the dukys of Amorarle, of Surrey, and of Exetyr, with other ii lordys. And the erle of Westmerlande, that newely made marshall, rode about the halle with many typped staves about hym, to see the roume of the halle kept, that offycers myght with ease serue the tables. Of the whyche tables the chief upon the ryght syde of the halle was begunne with the barons of the v portys, and at the table next the cupborde upon the lefte hande, sate the mayer and his bretherne the aldermen of London, which mayer that tyme beynge Drewe Barentyne, goldsmyth, for servyce there by hym that daye done, as other mayers at every kyngs and quenys coronacion use for to do, had there a standynge cuppe of gold. Then after the seconde course was servyd, Syr Thomas Dymmoke, knyght, benyng armed at all peacis, and syttynge upon a good stede, rode to the hygher parte of the halle and there before the kyng caused an herowde to make proclamacyon, that what man wolde saye that Kynge Henry was not rightfull enherytoure of the crowne of Englonde, and rightfully crownyd, he was there redy to wage with him batayll then, or sych tyme as it shuld please the kynge to assynge. Whiche proclamacion he causyd to be made after in iii sundry places of the halle in Englysshe and in Frenshe, with many more observauncies at his solempnytie exercysyd and done whiche were longe to reherse.”

The reign began with the very remarkable conspiracy formed by the Abbot of Westminster, and the Lords of Albemarle, Surrey, Exeter, and Salisbury and Gloucester. This rebellion was speedily put down with the help of the Londoners, and the chiefs of the rebellion were all beheaded. The Abbot of Westminster was struck by paralysis. It was probably in consequence of this rebellion, and the knowledge that there would be more risings as long as Richard lived, that he was murdered at Pontefract. But his death did not put a stop to conspiracies.

Early in the second year of Henry there were more executions for treason, viz. Sir Roger Claryngton, two of his servants, and eight Franciscan friars. London Bridge and the City Gates were decorated with the heads of the traitors. In the year 1404 one of the murderers of the late Duke of Gloucester at Calais was arrested and brought to London, where he was tried, found guilty and drawn all the way to Tyburn, to be hanged and quartered. The next year the Archbishop of York94 and Lord Mowbray rebelled, were defeated, and taken. As a new thing in the land the Archbishop was beheaded as well as the noble. The general horror aroused by this execution of a Prelate is shown by the story that grew up. “The Archbishop,” it was said, “in worship of Christ’s five wounds, entreated the executioner to strike him five times. At each stroke the King sitting in his lodging felt that stroke exactly as if some person were striking him. And shortly after he was stricken with leprosy, so that he recognised the hand of God. And soon after God shewyd many miracles for the sayde Bishop, which called the Kynge into the more repentance.”

In 1407 there was an ordeal by battle held at Smithfield between “one named the Welsh Clerk” and a knight, Sir Percyval Sowdan. The latter was accused by the clerk of treason. They fought for a “season,” but the clerk proved recreant: therefore they took off his armour; laid him on a hurdle and so to Tyburn, where he met the usual death. In the same year London Bridge received the heads of the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Bardolf. And after these examples the land for a brief season had rest from rebellions.

Returning to the relations of the City and the King. Henry granted a Charter the provisions of which are enumerated in the Liber Albus. They confirm the fullest liberties, and privileges are granted to the City. He also repealed the Act (27 Ed. III.) by which the Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs were liable to be tried by a foreign inquest taken from the counties of Kent, Sussex, Essex, Hertfordshire, Bucks, and Berks, together with the penalties and forfeitures belonging to the Act; he gave the London merchants the same liberty of packing their cloths as was enjoyed by the foreigners; and he won the favour of the commonalty by allowing all fishermen foreign or not, provided they belonged to countries at amity with the King, to sell fish in the London market. The first appearance of Free Trade, it will be seen, is intended to cheapen provisions. The City was able to show its readiness to support the King in the business of the conspiracy above mentioned. When Henry went to meet the rebels it was with an army of twenty thousand men, among whom was a strong contingent of six thousand Londoners. They were rewarded by a Charter giving them, with the custody of the City, all the Gates and Fortresses, the collection of the Tolls and Customs in Cheap, Billingsgate, and Smithfield, and also the Tronage or weighing of lead, wax, pepper, alum, madder, etc.

From Froissart’s Chronicles.

Whether honestly or not, there were many who professed to believe that the late King Richard was still living, and one William Serle was active in spreading abroad this persuasion. Yet Henry had caused the face of the dead King to be exposed when the body was brought to London in order that there might be no possible doubt. Serle was arrested at length and brought to London, where he was executed at Tyburn. But still the delusion lingered on. Sixteen years later one95 Thomas Ward, called “Trumpyngtone,” personated the King, and two London citizens named Benedict Wolman and Thomas Bikering hatched a conspiracy to produce the false Richard. They were, however, arrested: one of them died in prison, the other was executed. Four years later, when Ward was dead, two more Londoners were arrested for keeping up the mischievous story. One of them was released, the other was kept in prison.

The Church and the clergy at that time had grave cause for anxiety. The spirit of discontent was abroad. It was shown by the late rebellion of the Essex and the Kentish men; it was shown by the falling off in bequests and donations and foundations of chantries, obits, and anniversaries; it was shown by the general hatred of the mendicant orders, and especially of the Franciscans, formerly so widely, and so deservedly loved; it was shown by the murmurings, deep and low, against the wealth of the Church, against the laziness and luxury of the Religious, against the general immorality imputed, rightly or wrongly, to the Ecclesiastics of all kinds—there were sixty clerks in Holy Orders caught in the act of adultery in the years 1400 to 1440: there were notoriously women who kept disorderly houses for priests and procured girls for them (see Riley’s Memorials). The spirit of revolt was shown by the action of the City when it prayed for the dissolution of St. Martin’s Sanctuary on the ground that the place was a mere receptacle of murderers, thieves, and bankrupts; it was shown most decisively and unmistakably in the remarkable prayer of Parliament that the King would take over into his own hands the whole of the Church lands. This petition demands larger notice. The following is Fabyan’s account:— 96

“In this yere (xi Henry IV.) the kyng helde his parliament at Westmynster, during the whiche the commons of this lande put up a bylle to the kyng, to take the temporall landes out from spiritual mene’s handes or possession. The effect of whiche bylle was, that the temporaltes, disordynately wasted by men of the churche, myghte suffice to find for the kyng xv erles, xv C knyghts, xi M and CC esquyers and C houses of almes, to the releef of poore people, more than at these dayes were within Englande. And over all thyse aforesayd charges the kynge myght put yerely in his coffers xx M pounds. Provyded that every erle should have of yerely rent iii M marke, every knyght an C marke & iiii ploughe lande, every esquyer xl marke by yere, with ii plughe land, and every house of almesse an C marke and oversyght of ii trewe seculers into every house. And also with provicion that every township shoulde kepe all poore people of theyr owne dwellers, whiche myght not labour for theyr lyvynge, with condycyon that if more fell in a towne than the towne myght maynteyn, that the said almesse houses to releve suche townshyppes. And for to bere thyse charges, they allegyd by theyr sayd bylle, that the temporalyties beyng in the possession of spirituell men, amounted to CCC and xxii M marke by yere, whereof they affermyd to be in the see of Caunterbury, with the abbeys of Cristes Churche, of Seynt Augustyns, Shrowsbury, Coggeshale, and Seynt Osiys xx M marke by yere.

In the see of Durham and other abbeys there, xx M marke: in the see of York & abbays there, xx M marke: in the see of Wynchester & abbays there, xx M marke: in the see of London with abbays and other houses there, xx M marke: in the see of Lincoln, with the abbays of Peterbourth, Ramsay, & other, xx M marke: in the see of Norwych, with the abbays of Bury and other, xx M marke: in the see of Hely, with the abbays of Hely, Spaldyng, & other, xx M marke: in the see of Bathe, with the abbay of Okynborne & other, xx M marke: in the see of Worceter, with the abbays of Euisham, Abyngdon, & other, xx M marke: in the see of Chester with precinct of the same, with the sees of Seynt Davyd of Salisbury & Exceter, with theyr precinctes, xx M marke: the abbays of Ravens, or Revans, of Founteyns, of Geruons, and dyvers other, to the number of five more, xx M marke: the abbays of Leyceter, Waltham, Gisbourne, Merton, Circetir, Osney, & other, to the number of vi more, xx M marke: the abbays of Dovers, Batell, Lewis, Coventre, Daventry, & Tourney, xx M marke: the abbays of Northampton, Thornton, Brystow, Kelyngworth, Wynchecombe, Hayles, Parchissor, Frediswyde, Notley, and Grymysby, xx M marke.

The which foresayd sumes amounte to the full of CCC M marke: and for the odde xxii M marke, they appointed Herdford, Rochester, Huntyngdon, Swyneshede, Crowlande, Malmesbury, Burton, Tewkisbury, Dunstable, Shirborn, Taunton, & Bylande.

And over this, they allegyd by the sayd byll, that over and above the sayd sume of CCC & xxii M marke dyvers houses of relygon in Englande, possessyd as many temporalties as might suffyce to fynde yerely xv M preestes & clerkes, every preest to be allowed for his stipende vii marke by yere.

To the which byll none answere was made, but that the kyng of this matyer wolde take delybracion & advycement, and with that answer it endyd.”

This estimate of the revenues of the various religious houses at the enormous sum of 322,000 marks, or £216,000 sterling, a sum which we must multiply by fifteen or twenty in order to get an approximation to our money, would thus be equivalent to a revenue of from three millions to four millions and a quarter. If we bear in mind the vast extent of the country then lying waste, untilled, and uncleared, merely forest land, we can understand the enormous proportion which the lands of the Church bore to the rest of the cultivated soil. The Religious Houses of London (not including Westminster) were set down at 20,000 marks or £13,333 a year, equivalent to £200,000 a year of our money.

In the next reign (2 Henry V.) the Commons returned to the subject, and sent up the same Bill. And this in the face of the recent severities towards the Lollards. Fabyan asserts that in fear lest the King should give to this Bill a97 “comfortable audyence,” certain Bishops and other head men of the Church reminded him of his claims upon France, and he says also that this Bill was the cause of the French wars which followed. It might have been one of the causes, perhaps; Henry V. was the last man to quarrel with the Church or to deprive the Church of her lands; at the same time, his title to the throne was accounted defective—there were many elements of trouble; there were nobles to conciliate; there were towns to please. He would not willingly create new enemies; a successful foreign war is always most popular; what the Black Prince achieved,—the same popularity, the same splendid reputation,—he might also achieve. The King therefore gently laid aside the Bill and presently embarked upon his war with France.

The clergy knew perfectly well that the main cause of the national discontent with the existing forms and institutions of religion was the teaching of the Wyclyfite.

From the engraving by R. Elstrack.

It was, indeed, to be expected that his preaching would be popular in all classes down to the very humblest. How should it be otherwise? He addressed all who could be moved by noble and generous inspirations. He preached against the enormous wealth of the clergy and the Religious Houses, wealth which choked up and destroyed the springs of piety; against the vices which too many of the clergy flaunted impudently in the face of the world, sloth, luxury, gluttony, intemperance, and incontinence: he preached in favour of personal righteousness, purity, and faith: it is significant that no new Monastic Houses were founded; that on the other hand, men like Whittington, Carpenter, Niel, and Sevenoke, in the City were founding schools, endowing libraries, rebuilding prisons, erecting almshouses, but never endowing monasteries. Whittington, for instance, gave a library to Grey Friars: he built and endowed an almshouse called God’s House: he founded the College of the Holy Spirit for five fellows, clerks, conducts, and servants: he restored the hospital of St. Bartholomew: he provided “bosses” or taps of fresh water in various parts of London: he rebuilt Newgate: he gave money for a library at the Guildhall. Of other civic benefactors in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries we must record the names of Sir John Philpot, who destroyed the pirates: of Sir William Sevenoke, who founded a grammar school in his native town: of Sir Robert Chichele, who gave money to provide a dinner and two-pence once a year to 2400 poor householders: of Sir John Wells, who brought water from Tyburn: of Sir William Estfried, who constructed a conduit from Highbury to Cripplegate: of John Carpenter, town clerk, who has given us the Liber Albus, and who founded a small charity which in time grew into the City of London School: of Sir John Niel, master of the hospital of St. Thomas Acon in Chepe, who proposed to found four new City schools: of William Byngham, who founded at Cambridge the small college called God’s House for twenty-four scholars, which afterwards developed into the illustrious and venerable College of Christ: of William Elsinge, who founded the Spital for a hundred poor men which afterwards became Sion College: of John98 Barnes, who left money to be lent to young men beginning in business: of Philip Malpas, who left the then large sum of £125 a year for the relief of poor prisoners, besides great benefactions to the poor, and a sum of money then yielding £25 a year for Preachers on the three Easter Holydays at St. Mary Spital. When we remember that a priest could then live on £6 a year—does that include his lodging?—the remuneration for three sermons seems generous indeed. Robert Large belongs to the latter half of the fifteenth century: he left a great sum of money in various bequests, including the very useful charity of a marriage dot for poor Maids. There were others, but these may suffice. They sufficiently prove the wealth of the donors, because a man thinks first of his own children or nephews: when he has provided for them, and not till then, he may consider how best to dispose of the residue. They prove also what is known from other sources of information that the endowment of monastic houses had practically ceased. Whittington, it is true,99 founded a college, but the chief duty of the Fellows was to sing masses daily and for ever for the repose of his own soul and that of his wife. I know nothing that shows the decay of the old belief in monks and friars more clearly than the list of fourteenth and fifteenth century benefactions and endowments. “Let us have libraries for scholars, and almshouses for the aged poor,” says Whittington, and endowed them. “Let us have schools,” says Sevenoke, Carpenter, and Byngham, and they endow them. But for the rich monks of the Holy Trinity, St. Mary of Grace, of St. Albans, of St. Peter’s—nothing.

Grove and Boulton.


Henry could not afford to quarrel either with the Church or with the City. He passed the statute De comburendis haereticis and the Bishops began to light those baleful fires of Smithfield which, far more than wealth, far more than luxury, alienated the hearts of the people from the Church.


The first of London Martyrs was a priest of St. Osyth’s in the City. At the head of a narrow lane south of Cheapside called Size Lane—or St. Osyth’s Lane—is one of those tiny enclosures which in the City mark the site of a former church and churchyard, encroached upon by successive generations, surrounded by high walls, a melancholy reminder of the past. Here was the church of St. Osyth, and on this spot were preached the doctrines of Wyclyf by William Sautre. He was chosen as the first victim on account of his personal popularity. The greater the man, the more terrible would be the example. Already he had been tried and convicted of heresy. He was now tried and convicted as a relapsed heretic. He denied the doctrine of transubstantiation, which has always been the heretic’s stumbling-block. They burned him at Smithfield after a ceremony of degradation at St. Paul’s. Sharpe thinks that he was sentenced by special order of the King, because it took place before the passing of the Statute.

In the year 1410 was burnt a humble working man, a tailor—but the Chronicle and Stow call him a clerk—of Worcester, named John Bradby. The Prince of Wales, already a zealot in the cause of orthodoxy, was present. The poor wretch was placed in a cask surrounded with faggots. At the agonised shrieks of the wretched man, the Prince ordered him to be taken out, and offered him life and enough to live upon if he would confess the true faith. The man refused and was put back again into the cask. The story is thus related in the Chronicle:—

“This same yere there was a clerk that beleved nought on the sacrament of the auter, that is to seye Godes body, which was dampned and brought into Smythfield to be brent, and was bounde to a stake where he schulde be brent. And Henry, prynce of Walys, thanne the kynges eldest sone, consailed him for to as forsake his heresye, and holde the righte wey of holy chirche. And the prior of seynt Bertelmewes in Smythfield broughte the holy sacrament of Godes body, with xii torches lyght before, and in this wyse cam to this cursed heretyk: and it was asked hym how he beleved: and he ansuerde, that he belevyd well that it was halowed bred and nought Godes body: and thanne was the toune put over him, and fyre kindled thereinne: and whanne the wrecche felte the fyre he cried mercy: and annon the prynce comanded to take away the toune and to quench the fyre, the whiche was don anon at his comaundement: and thanne the prynce asked him if he would forsake his heresye and taken hym to the feith of holy chirche, whiche if he wold don, he schuld have hys lyf and good ynowe to lyven by: and the cursed schrewe wold nought, but contynued forth in his heresye: wherefore he was brent.”

Besides the weapon of the stake the King gave the clergy other help in suppressing heresy. He put a price upon the head of Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, who was considered the leader of the Lollards. His importance is indicated by the huge rewards offered for his capture. Information which would lead to his arrest would be rewarded by 500 marks: actual arrest would be rewarded with a thousand marks: the city or borough which should take him should be forever free of all taxes, tallages, tenths, fifteenths, and other assessments. Conventicles were forbidden; and, to prevent the performance of heretical services, no one was allowed to enter a church after nine in the evening or before five in the morning.


In the year 1407 there occurred a pestilence in the City which carried off, Stow says, thirty thousand in London alone. Nothing, however, is said about it in Holinshed, or in the Chronicle.

In 1409 there was a great and noble tournament held between the Hainaulters and the English.

In order to gratify the richer part of the commonalty by keeping out the country, those who flocked into the towns and wanted to learn trades and be apprenticed, Henry passed a law forbidding any to be apprenticed who had not land to the extent of 20s. a year. The act was repealed, however, in the next reign.

Everything points to a condition of great prosperity in the City before the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses. After every restoration of order the prosperity of London goes up by leaps and bounds. Many important buildings were erected: the Guildhall was removed to its present site from its former site in Aldermanbury “and of an olde and lytel cottage, made unto a fayre and goodly house”: Leadenhall Market was built: the walls of the City were repaired and strengthened: the City Ditch was drained out and cleaned: a new gate was built: the streets were lit at night, or ordered to be lit, which is not quite the same thing: and, as we have seen, the rich merchants gave large and costly gifts to the City.

The consideration and respect in which the City was held at this time is illustrated by the fact that when Parliament granted the King a shilling in the pound on all lands they placed the money in the hands of four Treasurers, three of whom were citizens of London.

In the year 1412 the Sheriffs were called upon to prepare a return of the amount of lands and Tenements held in the City—for purposes of taxation. The gross rental of the whole City was returned at £4220, or, in our money, about £60,000, which would not now represent Cheapside alone. But comparisons based on the assumed modern value of money at any period are at best unsatisfactory. How, for instance, can we reconcile the fact that Richard Whittington’s estate was worth no more than £25 a year with the great sums which he possessed and spent?

The death of King Henry is a thrice-told tale. Let Fabyan tell the story:—it belongs to the Annals of Westminster. 102

“In this yere, and xx days of the moneth of November, was a great counsayll holden at the Whyte Freres of London, by the whiche it was amonge other thynges concluded, that for the kynges great journaye that he entendyd to take, in vysytynge of the holy sepulcre of our Lord, certayne galeys of warre shuld be made & other pursueaunce concernynge the same journay. Whereupon all hasty and possyble spede was made: but after the feest of Christenmasse, whyle he was makynge his prayers at Seynt Edwardes shryne, to take there his leve, and so to spede hym upon his journaye, he became so syke, that such as were about him feryd that he wolde have dyed right there: wherefore they, for his comforte, bare hym into the abbottes place, & lodgyd him in a chamber, & there upon a paylet, layde him before the fyre, where he laye in great agony a certayne of tyme. At length, whan he was comyn to himselfe nat knowynge where he was, freyned of suche as then were aboute hym, what place that was: the which shewyd to him that it belongyd unto the abbot of Westmynster: and, for he felte himselfe so syke, he commaunded to aske if that chamber had any specyall name: whereunto it was answeryd, that it was named Jerusalem. Than sayd the kynge, louvynge be to the Fader of Heven, for noew I knowe I shall dye in this chamber, accordyng to the prophecye of me beforesayd, that I shulde dye in Jerusalem: and so after he made himself redy, and dyed shortly after.”

Other details given by Monstrelet bear the stamp of truth.

“The king,” he says, “in great pain and weakness lay before the fire, his crown on a cushion beside him. They thought him dead. Then the Prince took up the crown. But the king recovered, it was a fainting fit before the end. ‘Fair son,’ he asked, ‘why hast thou taken my crown?’ ‘Monseigneur,’ replied the Prince,‘here present are those who assured me that you were dead, and because I am your eldest son and to me will belong the crown when you have passed from life, I have taken it.’ Then said the king, with a sigh, ‘Fair son, how should you have my right to the crown when I have never had any, and that you know well?’ ‘Monseigneur,’ replied the Prince,‘just as you have held it and defended it by the sword, so will I defend it all my life.’ Then said the king,‘Do with it as it seemeth good to thee.’”



HENRY V. (1387-1422)
From the engraving by Greatbach of the picture at Windsor Castle.

On the night of his father’s funeral, the new King remained in the Abbey. He spent that night in confessing and praying at the cell of the anchorite which was outside the Chapel of Saint Catherine where are now the Little Cloisters. Stanley calls this the Conversion of Henry. That is because Stanley believed all that has been written about the youth of Henry—about his wild days, and his wild companions. But this Prince never existed except in the later popular imagination. That is to say, it has been clearly proved that he was so much occupied in Wales and elsewhere during his youth and early manhood that there was small opportunity for wild revels in London. It must be owned that there has been a persistent104 tradition of a stormy time in youth, but it seems as if the popular imagination had confused Henry with Edward II. Holinshed, for instance, quotes one:

Ille inter juvenes paulo lascivior ante, Defuncto genitore, gravis constansque repente Moribus ablegat corruptis regis ab aula Assuetos socios, et nugatoribus acrem Poenam (si quisquam sua tecta reviserit) addit, Atque ita mutatus facit omnia principe digna, Ingenio magno post consultoribus usus, etc. (Vol. iii.)

However this may be, Henry was always open to the influences of religion. He was crowned on 9th April, Passion Sunday. The coronation was marred by a heavy thunderstorm with torrents of rain, so that men’s hearts failed them for fear, thinking of what evil things this portent might mean. In the end it was recognised as foreshadowing trouble for the French.

His first act was the removal of King Richard’s body to Westminster with great pomp and state. He was probably induced to perform this pious act by the desire to dissociate himself and his father from any connection with the deposed King’s death. He then, being urged thereto by Archbishop Arundel, arrested Sir John Oldcastle, but first sent for him and caused him to explain his faith and teaching. This Sir John did, declaring the King, and not the Archbishop at all, to be his supreme judge, and offering to purge himself in battle or to bring a hundred knights or esquires for his purgation. The King, however, being advised by his Council, handed him over to be tried by the Spiritual Courts. The trial was held first in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and next in the Hall of the Dominicans. The verdict of the Archbishop was, of course, that Oldcastle was a heretic. He was sent back to the Tower, whence he managed to escape. And then occurred the mysterious plot, which one cannot avoid concluding was no more a plot than any fabricated by Titus Oates. What really happened was this. Sir Roger Acton, a knight “of great wit and possessions,” one John Browne, an esquire, and one John Beverley, Priest, and some others were reported to the King to be gathered together in armour near St. Giles Church. It was also said that they expected reinforcements in large numbers from the City: Holinshed says 50,000 were expected; Walsingham puts the number at 5000. The time of year was soon after Christmas. The King caused the City gates to be closed, then he repaired to Westminster and there getting together a sufficient force, rode out to St. Giles where he found the people assembling at midnight, and falling upon them, either killed or took them all prisoners. Possibly the leaders proposed a Lollard demonstration, armed, no doubt, because every one carried arms for every occasion; certainly, next day the arrest of suspected persons began: in a short time the City prisons were full: those who appeared to be the leaders were tried, some for heresy by the clergy, and some for high treason at105 the Guildhall. In the end twenty-nine were either hanged or burned, the latter, for the greater terror, gallows and all.

This so-called rising gave an occasion for a more severe statute against the Lollards by which the secular power, no longer contented with carrying out the sentences of the ecclesiastical courts, undertook the initiative against heretics. This points to some kind of panic. Perhaps the clergy had realised the full danger of the Lollard movement. Early in 1415 Henry sent an offer of pardon to Oldcastle if he would make submission. He refused, perhaps distrusting the promise, and, according to Walsingham, prepared for an insurrection as soon as the King should have gone to France. But the King went to France not troubling about Oldcastle: and there was no rising. Probably, therefore, Walsingham imagined or invented this motive. The fires of martyrdom were lit again that same day. Witness the letter written by the Mayor or Aldermen to the King, touching the trial and execution of John Cleydon. The man was a currier by trade: he had in his possession a number of heretical books, for which he was tried by Archbishop Chichele in St. Paul’s on 17th August 1415. The king being then in France, the Mayor himself gave evidence against the prisoner, who was sentenced to be burned with all his books. The case was deemed of sufficient importance to demand a special letter to the King, of which the following is the important part:—

“Forasmuch as the King of all might and the Lord of Heaven, who of late graciously taught your hands to fight, and has guided your feet to battle, has now, during your absence, placed in our hands certain persons who not only were enemies of Him and of your dignity, but also, in so far as they might be, were subverters of the whole of your realm: men commonly known as “Lollards” who for long time have laboured for the subversion of the whole Catholic Faith and of Holy Church, the lessening of public worship, and the destruction of your realm, as also the perpetration of very many other enormities horrible to hear: the same persons, in accordance with the requirements of law, we have unto the Reverend Commissaries of Reverend Father in Christ, and Lord, Richard, by Divine permission, the Lord Bishop of London, by indenture caused to be delivered. Whereupon one John Cleydone, by name, the arch parent of this heretical depravity, was by the most reverend Father in Christ, and Lord, Henry, by Divine permission, the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all your realm and other Bishops, his brethren, as well as very many Professors of Holy Scripture and Doctors of Laws, in accordance with the canonical sanctions, by sentence in this behalf lawfully pronounced, as being a person relapsed into heresy, which before had been by him abjured, left in the hands of the secular Court: for the execution of whose body, and the entire destruction of all such enemies, with all diligence, to the utmost of our power we shall be assisting.” (Riley’s Memorials, p. 617.)

We may perhaps see in this letter the desire of the City Fathers to clear themselves from any suspicion of Lollardy. The worthy citizens did not desire a reform in church doctrine so much as a return to simple measures and holy living.

From Froissart’s Chronicles.

For two years Oldcastle led a wandering life with a few companions. He was once nearly taken at St. Albans, where the Abbot’s servants heard of him and went out to arrest him. He got away, but some of his servants were caught: and they found books of devotion upon them in which the painted heads of the Saints had106 been scraped off: the names of the Virgin and of the saints had been blotted: and divers writings had been made up and down the page in derogation of honour paid to the Virgin and to the Saints. These books were displayed at Paul’s Cross to illustrate the extreme wickedness of Lollardy. At length Sir John Oldcastle was taken by Sir Edward Charlton, Lord of Powis. So much importance was attached to the capture that Charlton received a reward of 1000 marks. There does not107 appear to have been the slightest grounds for representing this great and noble man, a hundred and fifty years in advance of his age, as a traitor, a conspirator, or in any sense hostile to the King. He was free for two years to work his conspiracies and he refrained. But he was always active in disseminating Lollard teaching. In 1417 he was hung on a gallows by chains, and was, it is said, slowly burned to death, at St. Giles, close to the south end of the present Tottenham Court Road. Like so many martyrs, like Latimer, like Cranmer, like Ridley, he was sustained through the fiery torment by the steadfast faith which burned in his soul more fiercely than the crackling flame without. Before he suffered he prayed forgiveness for his enemies: he exhorted the people to obey the Scripture in all things: he refused the ministrations of a priest. “To God only, now as ever present, he would confess.”

It seems afterwards, amid the wars and strifes and bloodshed of the century, as if Lollardy was dead. It was not. The memory of Sir John survived; the teaching of the simple life, the pure life, the chaste life, remained in men’s hearts and bore fruit when they found time and opportunity to compare once more the Church of the present with the Church of the past.

Henry, for the purpose of strengthening his doubtful seat on the throne by the prestige of victories, resolved upon continuing the foreign policy of Edward III. On 10th March 1415 he informed the Mayor of his intention. A great meeting, with the King’s brothers and some of the Bishops, was held at the Guildhall to consider the question of finance. This meeting is important because the precedence of the Mayor in the City was there decided. He was considered as the King’s representative in the City, and therefore took the highest place with the Bishops on his right and the King’s brothers on his left. The King pledged his jewels and the security of his customs for the sum of 20,000 marks. Later on, the City advanced the sum of 5000 marks and a further sum of £2000 on the security of a valuable sword set in gold and precious stones.

The conspiracy of the Earl of Cambridge and Lord Scrope, discovered on the eve of sailing from Southampton, proves that the crown of the Lancastrian was still insecure. But Henry was going to show himself in the light of a great captain against whom conspiracies were useless and futile.

From MS. in British Museum. Roy. 20 E vi.

There was no doubt as to the loyalty of the City under Harry of Monmouth. When the forces in France were suffering from scarcity of victuals, the citizens sent off to Rouen thirty butts of sweet wine, 1000 pipes of ale and beer, and 25,000 cups for the men’s use. And they scoured the City for any vagrant soldiers, whom they shipped off as they were pressed, to join the army. The news of Agincourt (Oct. 25, 1415) reached London on 28th October when the new Lord Mayor, Nicholas Wotton, was sworn into office at the Guildhall. He conveyed the news to the Lord High Chancellor, and they celebrated the event with a Te Deum at St. Paul’s. On the following day the Mayor, accompanied by the Aldermen, the108 companies, and as many of the nobility as had houses in the City, walked in procession to Westminster, where they made oblations at the shrine of St. Edward. They were careful to record that this walking on foot was not to be taken as a precedent or to supplant their riding. When the King himself returned he was received with the greatest rejoicings, rejoicings unlike those which greeted many of his predecessors, for they were real. A victorious Prince, young, gallant, successful, wins all hearts. He brought to England with him all his prisoners, a goodly company. He was met on Blackheath by the Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs dressed in scarlet gowns, with three hundred of the principal citizens all richly accoutred. At St. Thomas Watering the London clergy met him with their most gorgeous robes; the City was decorated with carpets and tapestry, and there were pageants with children representing angels and singing praises and psalms, while the conduits ran wine. This is William Gregory’s account of the Riding:— 109

“And the xxiij day of November the kyng came unto London whythe alle hys prisoners above sayd. And there he was resseyvyd worthily and royally by the mayre with all the aldermen whythe hym there. And whythe a royalle processyon he was broughte home: and there was made stondyng upon the brydge Syn George royally armyd, and at the Crosse in Cheppe was made a castelle and there with was moche solemnyte of angelys and virgenys syngyng. And soo he roode untylle that he came to Powbys and there mette whithe hym xvi byschoppys and abbatys whithe processyon and seizyd him and broughte hym uppe into thw quere whythe devoute songe, and there he offered and the Fraunsythe lordys alle so. And thaunce he roode forthe unto Westmynster: and the mayre and hys brethren broughte hym there.”

The day after this triumph the Mayor and Aldermen presented the King with the sum of £1000 in gold and deposited it in two golden basins worth half as much.

There was another grand procession of 14th June 1420, when the news arrived of the Treaty of Troyes which made Henry heir to the French crown. In February 1421 the King with his newly-married Queen, Katherine, arrived at London and lay at the Tower. Another grand procession escorted them to Westminster where Katherine was crowned. On this occasion, as on the return from Agincourt, the City assumed every appearance of joy.

As regards internal affairs during this reign, the Mayor in 1415 ordered the citizens to hang out lanthorns for the lighting of the City by night. Leadenhall Market was built at the expense of Sir Simon Eyre, sometime Mayor. He designed it as a public granary in time of scarcity, but it never appears to have been used as such. On one side was a chapel with a college endowed as a Fraternity of the Trinity, consisting of sixty priests, by whom mass was sung on market day. In the Hall was kept the common Beam for weighing wool, and a public market was held. The Hall was afterwards used as an Armoury for the City, and lastly turned into a Meat Market.

And then, alas! this gallant Prince died, being then no more than thirty-two years of age. This lamentable event, which prepared the way for all the miseries of foreign humiliation and civil war, happened at Bois de Vincennes on the 31st August 1422. The body of the King was brought over from France, and received a funeral worthy of his kingly virtues. In an open chariot it lay coffined; and above the coffin was the effigy of the King in royal robes, a crown upon his head, a sceptre in one hand and the orb in the other. The figure lay upon a rich cloth and the canopy was borne by nobles. The obsequies were performed at St. Paul’s, and the body was then taken to Westminster.

And so ended prematurely the life of the best-beloved King that ever England saw, and they were no feigned or perfunctory tears that flowed abundantly at his obsequies. Let me transcribe the words of John Hardyng in his Chronicle:—


“O good Lord God that art omnipotent,
Why streched not thy power and thy might
To kepe this prince, that sette was and consent
With th’ emperour, to conquere cirry right,
And with Christen inhabite, it had hight
Why favoured so thyne high omnipotence
Miscreaunce more then his benevolence.
Above all thyng he keped the lawe and peace
Through all England, that none insurrection
Ne no riotes were then withouten lese,
Nor neighbour werre in faute of correccion:
But peasebly under his proteccion,
Compleyntes all, of wronges in generall,
Refourmed were well under his yerd egall.
When he in Fraunce was dayly conversant
His shadow so obumbred all England,
That peace and lawe kepte continuant
In his absence throughout all this land,
And else, as I conceyve and understand,
His power had been lite to conquere Fraunce
Nor other realmes that well were lesse perchaunce.
The peace at home and lawe so well conserved,
Were croppe and rote of all his hie conquest
Through whiche the love of God he well deserved
And of his people by North, South, Est, and West,
Who might have slain that prince or downe him cast
That stode so sure in rightfull governaunce
For common weale, to God his hie pleasaunce.”



From Strutt’s Manners and Customs.

The disastrous and miserable reign of Henry of Windsor began when the King, an infant less than a year old, was carried through London in the lap of his mother. He was placed under the guardianship of the late King’s brothers, the Duke of Bedford and the Duke of Gloucester. The former being the elder claimed to be Protector of the Realm, which was granted him, his Protectorate to begin on his return from France. The glories and victories of the late reign, the personal popularity of Henry V., and his constant support of the Church seemed to112 have removed for the time all fears of further risings against the Lancastrian House. But the materials for rebellion always remain where there is a rightful heir standing apart, and not contented with the simple rank of noble. The reign, indeed, began with the conviction of Sir John Mortimer for treasonable designs in favour of the Earl of March. In addition to this danger, the great nobles were always ready to take offence and to join any insurrection that might offer; while, as regards the City, though it was true and loyal to all appearance, its loyalty, as had been already proved on many occasions, would not stand the strain of bad trade, increased taxation, or invasion of the City liberties. Above all, the young King had a very long period of tutelage before him, and the country had to expect during that period the uncertainties and the dangers of a Protectorate. The first sign of approaching disturbance was the quarrel between the Duke of Gloucester and Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester. It is a very singular story as told by Gregory. The Bishop was going to seize the City by armed force. Why? with what object? Perhaps he proposed to depose the Duke of Gloucester, but then he would have had to reckon with the Duke of Bedford.

“And that same yere that the mayre rode to Westmynster on the same daye for to take hys othe, that ys, was the xxix daye of Septembyr, whenne that he come home to hys mete with hys aldyrmen and with hys goode comyners, or that they hadde fully, etc., the Duke of Glouceter sende for the mayre and hys aldermen that they shulde come speke with hym: and whenne they come he cargyd the mayre that he shuld kepe welle the cytte that nyght for my Lorde of Glouceter and the Byschoppe of Wynchester were not goode frendys as in that tyme. And on the morowe certayne men kepte the gatys of the brygge of London by the commaundement of the Lorde of Glouceter and of the mayre. And by-twyne ix and x of the belle ther come certayne men of the Byschoppys of Wynchester and drewe the chaynys of the stulpys at the brygge ende in Southework ys syde, the whiche were both knyghtys and squyers, with a great mayny of archerys, and they enbaytaylyd them, and made defens of wyndowys and pypys as hyt hadde bene in the londe of warre, as thowe they wolde have fought agayne the kyngys pepylle and brekyng of the pes. And thenne the pepylle of the cytte hyrde thereof, and they in haste schytte in ther shoppys and come downe to the gatys of the brygge in kepyng of the cytte ande savacyon of the cytte a-gayns the kyngys enmys, for alle the shoppys in London were schytte in one howr. And thenne come my Lorde of Cauntyrbury ande the Prynce of Portynggale, and tretyd by twyne my Lorde of Glouceter and the Byschoppe of Wynchester for they rode viij tymes by twyne the duke and the byschoppe that day. And thonkyd be God, thoroughe goode governaunce of the mayre and hys aldyrmen, alle the pepylle was sessyde and wentte home ayenne every mann, and none harme done thorough ealle the cytte, thonkyd be God.” (W. Gregory’s “Chronicle” in Collections of a London Citizen.)


The same story is told more briefly in the Chronicle of London (Nicolas). The Duke of Bedford came over and acted as arbitrator. The citizens made him a present of a thousand marks in gold with two golden basins; but he received them coldly, one cannot tell why. However, he patched up a peace between the Bishop and his brother and took the Bishop to France with him, perhaps to get him out of the way. When, five years later, Beaufort was made Cardinal and Papal Legate he returned, and was honourably received by the citizens, “and he was resiayvd there worthily and ryally of the mayre and alle hys brethreyn.”

The following letters between the King, i.e. the Protector in the King’s name, and the Mayor are quoted by Maitland to show certain claims and alleged immunities made by the Corporation at this time.

“Henry, by the Grace of God, King of England and France, and Lord of Ireland, to the Mayor and aldermen of the City of London, greeting. Willing for certain Causes, to be certified upon the Tenors of divers Liberties and Customs of the aforesaid City, and concerning the Records and Memoranda of Servants and Natives coming to the aforesaid City, and tarrying there for a Year and a Day, without complaint of their Lords or Masters before you had, and inrolled in our Court of our Chamber of Guildhall of the aforesaid City as is said: We command you the Mayor, distinctly and openly to send the Tenor of the Liberties, Customs, Records, and Memoranda beforesaid, to us in our Chancery, under your Seal and this our Brief. Witness myself at Westminster the twentieth of January, in the seventh year of our Reign.”

To which the Mayor and Aldermen returned the following answer:—

“Be it remembered that in the Time of Holy King Edward, heretofore King of England, and before from all time no Memory of Man, then was extant such dignity, liberty, and Royal Custom, among others was had, used, and approved in the City of London, which is, and from all time hath been called The free Chamber of the King of England, as from ancient Time it was used, and had in the great city of Troy: to wit, That every Servant whosoever he were, that came to the City of London, and tarried in it for a Year and a Day, without Reclamation of his Lord there, afterwards he may, ought, and hath accustomed through his whole Life so freely and securely to tarry there, as it were in the House or Chamber of the King: And thence it is, that the same holy King Edward, amongst other things, by his Laws remaining of Record in the Treasury of Guyhald of the said City, and reciting the City itself to be the head of his Kingdom, and that it was founded like and after the manner of old Troy; and that it containeth in it the Laws, Liberties, Dignities, and royal Customs of great Troy: He appointed and ordained, that the said city of London may have and keep everywhere, by one Inviolability always, all her old Usages and Customs, wheresoever the King himself shall be, whether in an Expedition or otherwise.

And afterwards King William the Conqueror, King of England, by his charter, which remaineth of the Record in the same Treasury, granted to the Men of London, that they be worthy of all that both Law and Right, as they were in the days of the aforesaid Edward. And moreover, the said William the King, among other laws at the said City made, with the consent of noble and wise men of the whole Kingdom, and remaining in the said Treasury, likewise remaining of record, appointed and ordained, that if Servants remain, without Complaint, by a Year and a Day in a Burgh compassed with a Wall, or in Castles, or in the cities of the said King; whence the said City of London, to that Time, and from all Time before, was one, and the more principal of the whole Kingdom, as is said before; from that Day let them become Freemen, and let them be for ever free and quit from the Yoke of their Servitude. And the Record continues, viz., It is to be noted, that the Laws, Recitements, and Statutes of holy King Edward, of which Mention is made above, are contained in Folio 34 of this Book, in the Title De Heretochiis and Libertatibus, London; and in Folio 113 of the Book of Customs of the said City: and in114 Folio 36 of the Book called Recordatorium London, etc. It is also had in folio 162 of the Red Book of the Exchequer, called the True Charter; by which the foresaid lord the Conqueror hath confirmed to the citizens of London all Rights and Laws which they had in the time of holy King Edward, together with certain other charters, by which the said Lord, immediately after the Conquest, gave the whole Hyde and land of the City of London, whereof he had then been possessed in his Demesne, to the Men of the said City, patent and remanent under the Seal of the said King, in the Custody of the Chamberlain, in the Treasury of the said City; which Charters are contained and incorporated in the Great Charter of the Liberties and Customs of the City of London, and are confirmed by the Lord the King (Henry the Sixth) and his progenitors. But the Tenors of the said Charters are patent in the Latin Tongue, in Folio 238 of the Book of Ordinations of the said City.” (Maitland, vol. i. p. 188.)

The fifteenth century is full of the disasters and violent deaths of great nobles. The history of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, brother to Henry V., belongs especially to London. On the death of his brother, being then about twenty-seven years of age, he was, as we have seen, named joint-guardian of the infant King, and was to rule England by consent of Parliament, until his elder brother returned from France. The wars and the threatening aspect of things kept the Duke of Bedford abroad except for occasional visits to England until his death. Gloucester is spoken of as a man of profligate habits and great ambition. These general adjectives are convenient for the historian; they sum up a man, and present him in bold outline. Now in nature there is no outline, only gradual shadings. He was, it is said, ambitious. The Court of the young, weak-minded King was full of intrigue and plottings and conspiracies for power and place. The courtiers were all ambitious. What any one wanted, if not power, it is not possible to arrive at with certainty. They all wanted power and place, nor is it easy to see that any one of the ambitious lords was in that respect worse than any other. And as regards Gloucester it must be remembered that if Henry died without heirs he stood next to Bedford in the succession, and that Bedford had no children. As for Gloucester’s morals, we have seen that London at this time, thanks to the Lollard movement, was exacting in the point of morals: yet Gloucester remained popular with the citizens: they made him presents—500 marks on one occasion and 1000 on another—though the latter gift was for the Duchess Jacqueline. It is said that Eleanor Cobham was his mistress before he married her. Perhaps he had the sense not to parade the liaison, in which case the good citizens would not be scandalised. But the morals of kings and princes have never been very jealously watched by their subjects. Charles II. and George IV. are by no means alone in immorality: and the world has forgiven or forgotten most of the others. In other words, there is nothing to show that Gloucester was specially blameworthy on the score of morals. It is, however, quite certain that he was a splendid and lordly Prince, a patron and a lover of the fine arts.


The stormy career of Jacqueline de Brabant, his first wife, belongs to the history of her time rather than that of London. Yet because her misfortunes first115 awakened the voice of the women of London her life may be briefly noted in this place. She was the only daughter and the heiress of William, Count of Hainault and of Margaret of Burgundy his wife. No one, to outward seeming, could be more strongly protected or in safer hands than this girl. She was married at five years of age to John, second son of Charles VI. of France, the young prince being like herself, a child. On the death of the Dauphin John took the title of the Dauphin du Viennois. He was killed by poison immediately upon arriving in France. Jacqueline was thus a widow at sixteen. They married her immediately to John, Duke of Brabant, her cousin german, by dispensation of the Pope. The Duke was an imbecile, with whom his wife refused to continue. In 1420 she left him and came to England. Here Duke Humphrey proposed to consider the marriage null and116 void. On the death of Henry V. a bull was obtained to that effect from the anti-Pope Benedict XIII., and she and Gloucester were married. Gloucester then demanded of the Duke of Brabant the restitution of his wife’s estates. On his refusal he entered the country with 5000 English troops prepared to encounter the allied forces of Brabant and Burgundy. But the latter withdrawing, Gloucester returned to England leaving Jacqueline in Mons. She was taken prisoner, conducted to Holland, escaped in the disguise of a soldier, and, then being reduced to great straits and receiving no succour from Gloucester, who could probably get none, she concluded peace with the Duke of Burgundy, her cousin. The Duke of Brabant was now dead. In the treaty of peace she acknowledged that she was not the lawful wife of Gloucester; she named the Duke of Burgundy her heir; and she engaged not to marry again without the Duke’s permission.

It was before this treaty, which separated Jacqueline entirely from English sympathies, that the women of London, for the first time in history, made their appearance in public. Filled with sympathy for the misfortunes of this unhappy heiress, thus driven out of her estates, a prisoner, a wanderer, deserted by her cousin and her husband, they presented themselves before Parliament in the year 1427 and laid before the Commons at Westminster assembled, a petition or letter complaining of the Duke’s behaviour towards his wife. In the following year the citizens themselves begged the consideration of Parliament for the abandonment of the Duchess. This would lead us to believe that in the distracted condition of the State the Duke of Gloucester simply could not get succour for his wife. It would be interesting to know how the women were got to act together, whether by meeting at Paul’s Cross and by female oratory, or, which is much more likely, by house-to-house visitation. Nothing, however, came of their interference.

Jacqueline very soon grew tired of her engagement not to marry without her cousin’s leave. She married a knight of Flanders named François de Borcelen, whom the Duke of Burgundy promptly imprisoned. Jacqueline bought his liberty by the surrender of all her estates, receiving only out of all her princely possessions a modest annuity. Meantime, the Duke of Gloucester was already married to Eleanor, daughter of Lord Cobham.

In the year 1441 Gloucester’s second marriage was brought to a miserable end. The Duchess was accused, it is said by the wicked wiles of Cardinal Beaufort, but it is quite possible that his wiles were not in this case exercised at all. Eleanor may have been, probably was, ambitious for her husband and for herself. Henry was by this time nineteen years of age and unmarried. The physical weakness of the lad was certainly known to his uncles and the Court circle. Perhaps he would never be able to marry. Perhaps he would die. In the latter event, which was by no means improbable, the Duke of Gloucester would succeed, the Duke of Bedford now being dead, and then Eleanor would be Queen. Of117 magic and witchcraft there was at this time plenty, as there is still, and always has been; that is to say, plenty to be had for those who could afford to pay for it. The Duchess learned where there was a wise woman, she paid her money, and she inquired and learned what she wanted, viz. how to get rid of a person whose end was ardently desired. Nothing was easier; one had only to make with fitting incantations and magical formulæ, an image in wax of the person whose death was desired, and then, simply by sticking pins into the image, or by holding it before the fire, to make it, and at the same time her enemy, waste away. There is nothing at all incredible in supposing that a woman in the fifteenth century, strongly tempted by ambition, conscious that her husband was watching every day with expectation the health of the feeble king, would follow such a course. The persons charged with being the Duchess’s accomplices were four—namely, Master Thomas Southwell, a Canon of St. Stephen’s, Westminster; Master John Hume, Chaplain of the Duchess; Master Roger Bolingbroke—his name is also written Bulbroke—and Wyche, “a man,” says Fabyan, “expert in negromancy”; and a woman named Margery Jourdemayne, surnamed the witch of Eye in Suffolk, obviously a wise woman of the time with some reputation for sorcery. The accused persons seem to have been brought before the Lords in Council, who also interrogated the Duchess. They are all said to have confessed. The four confederates were tried at the Guildhall. Was the offence, then, committed in the City of London? The three men were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered; the witch was sentenced to be burned. As regards the latter, poor old Margery, the sentence was duly carried out, for she was “brent” in Smithfield. The Canon of St. Stephen’s died in his cell the day before that appointed for his execution; John Hume, the chaplain, was pardoned and went about his business; the unfortunate “negromancer” alone, Roger Bolingbroke, paid the penalty of his crime. First he stood in pillory at Paul’s Cross, with all his instruments, the wizard’s tools and weapons hanging around him in the presence of the shuddering crowd; next he was drawn to Tyburn and there hanged, with the usual accompaniments. He protested his innocence to the last.

As for the Duchess she first took sanctuary at Westminster; then, for some reason unknown, she left sanctuary and fled to the “Castle” of Lesnes. Is this Lesnes Abbey near Woolwich? There she was arrested and examined by the Lords in Council. It is said that she confessed. The complete silence and inactivity of her husband, who does not appear to have moved a step in the matter, seems to show that he was convinced of her guilt, and that he was anxious not to appear involved in an odious crime which, if Henry were to die, would imperil his succession, or at least, blacken his name, and strengthen his enemies. Eleanor was ordered by the Council to do public penance. And here follows118 one of the most picturesque incidents in the whole history of Mediæval London. Accompanied by her women, the Duchess was taken on Monday, 13th November, from Westminster (from which we gather that she was lodged in the Palace), in a barge to the Temple Stairs. There her maids took off her shoes and stockings and her rich gown, wrapped her in a white sheet, took off her hood, tied a white handkerchief over her head, and placed in her hand a wax taper weighing two pounds. In this dismal guise, while trumpets went before, and men-at-arms marched before her and behind her,—one hopes she was allowed the attendance of her maids,—this great lady, the wife of the Regent or Protector, the greatest lady in the land, stepped barefooted along the rough road, while all the streets were crowded and every window was filled with curious eyes, and the people each asked the other if this pale and shrinking woman could be the wife of Duke Humphrey, the Duke of Gloucester, brother to King Henry V., Protector of the Realm? Pity she received none: who could pity one who had practised arts of devilish magic? And were not the ashes of her confederate, the witch of Eye, still smoking on the soil of Smithfield? At St. Paul’s she offered her taper at the high altar. Two days afterwards, she was again taken by barge from Westminster to the Swan Stairs, where she landed, and in the same guise as before, walked “through Bridge Streete, Groschirche Street, to the Ledenhalle and so to Crichurche.” And on Friday in the same way she landed at Queenhithe and so into Chepe and to St. Michael’s, Cornhill. It is a curious illustration of the time and of the respect due to rank that though this public and infamous penance was inflicted upon the lady, the Mayor, the Sheriffs, and the Crafts of London met her every day at her landing. It is not stated whether they accompanied her in her dolorous walk afoot. The Duchess was taken to Chester, where she lived in retirement for the rest of her life.

Six years later, the King being now in the hands of William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, the Duke of Gloucester met his end. He was arrested at St. Edmundsbury on a charge of treason, and on the morrow was found dead in his bed. People were frequently found dead in their beds in these circumstances. To give some colour to the charge of treason five of his people were accused of complicity, and condemned to the usual mode of death. They were drawn to Tyburn, hanged for a few moments, cut down alive, stripped naked and “marked with a knife in order to be quartered.” That is to say, slight incisions were made all about the body in order to guide the executioner’s hand. They were then, having experienced nearly all the agonies of death by violence and torture, unexpectedly pardoned by the Earl of Suffolk. Did the conductor of the proceedings keep the pardon in his pocket and produce it just at the critical moment when the knife had drawn those diagrams in lines of blood round the victims’ naked bodies? or did the Earl send off the pardon by special messenger who arrived119 just in time to save them? If so, then the situation is one of the most dramatic in all the annals of Tyburn. It is said that their clothes were kept by the hangman, and that they all had to return, naked and bleeding as they were, to the City, where they were received with great joy.

HENRY VI. (1421-1461)
From a portrait in Eton College.

The popularity of the Duke in the City is attested by the memory of his name which long survived in a proverb, “to dine with Duke Humphrey,” i.e. to have no dinner at all. The name of the “Good Duke,” who was buried at St. Albans, was given to a certain tomb in St. Paul’s, that of Sir John Beauchamp, warden of the Cinque Ports, who died in 1358. It became a custom for certain citizens—probably they were a club or association of some kind—to meet at this tomb on St. Andrew’s Day in the morning, and there, under pretence of holding offices under Duke Humphrey, to conclude with a feast. Also, on Mayday, watermen, bearers of tankards, and others, came to the tomb and strewed it with nuts and sprinkled water upon it as if they too were the servants of Duke Humphrey. This custom perished in the Great Fire, which burned up not only tombs and churches and great houses but the memory of great men.

The materials for the reign of Henry VI. as regards London are scanty. We can set forth the principal events in a short space. When the Duke of120 Burgundy changed sides and joined the King of France, the citizens first showed their detestation of perfidy by murdering a great number of Burgundians and other foreigners resident in the City, and also provided a large body of troops maintained at their own expense for the defence of Calais. There was trouble with the Fishmongers, who were made to abate their pretensions. There was trouble about sanctuary. A soldier named Knight was in prison at Newgate, his friends trumped up a charge of debt against him, and as they had expected, it was necessary for him to go to the Guildhall for trial. His friends, to the number of five, lay in wait in Panyer Alley and snatched him from the hands of the guard as he passed St. Martin le Grand. They hurried him into sanctuary where they defied the power of the City authorities. The two Sheriffs, however, forcibly entered St. Martin’s, and dragged out the whole gang, prisoners and rescuers. These they laid by the heels in Newgate and waited the event. It came, after much argument before the Judges, in the confirmation of St. Martin’s rights. The prisoners were all handed back to the Dean of the College, and replaced in sanctuary where they abode, probably till death.

In Gregory’s Chronicle (see p. 112) we read about a certain Sir Richard Whyche (or Wick) who with his servant was burned on Tower Hill for heresy, “for the whyche there was moche trobil amonge the pepylle, in soo moche that alle the wardys in London were assygnyd to wake there day and nyght that the pepylle myght nought have hyr ylle purpose as at that tyme.” The reason of the “trobil” is told by Fabyan. The people regarded this Richard Wick as a holy and righteous man and greatly resented his martyrdom. The Vicar of Allhallows, Barking, close by, thinking to profit in some way by the deception—probably proposing to get a saint, or martyr, or shrine with offerings, or pilgrimages for his own church—hit upon a notable design for increasing the popular reverence. He mixed fragrant powders with the ashes of the heretic as they lay on Tower Hill: then he loudly called attention to this marvel: “Lo! the very ashes of the martyr exhale a sweet scent.” And he sold small portions of the ashes for large sums of money. This villainy continued for some days until the whole town being disturbed by the strange story, they arrested the Vicar and made him confess. Perhaps the Vicar was himself a Lollard and endeavoured in this way to become a popular martyr. There had been, indeed, many popular martyrs, Sautre, Bradby, Cobham, Cleydon, and others; the people stood round the stake in tears, but no one ever dared to move. Lollardy was dying out save for the hatred entertained by the people against the wealthy Religious Houses.

In 1429 the King, being then eight years of age, was crowned at Westminster before being taken over to France to be crowned there. The ceremony and order of the coronation service are fully set forth by Gregory:— 121

“Nowe of the solempnyte of the coronacyon. Alle the prelatys wente on processyon beryng eche of hem a certayne relyke: and the Pryor of Westemyster bare a rodde callyde Virga regia, ande the Abbot of Westemyster bare the kyngys ceptoure. And my Lorde of Warwyke bare the kynge to chyrche in a clothe of scharlet furryd, evyn as the newe knyghtys of the Bathe wente whythe furryde hoodys with menyver. And then he was led up in to the hyghe schaffold, whyche schaffold was coveryd alle with saye by twyne the hyghe auter and the quere. And there the kyng was sette in hys sete in the myddys of the schaffold there, beholdynge the pepylle alle aboute saddely and wysely. Thenne the Arche-byschoppe of Cantyrbury made a proclamacyon at the iiij quartyrs of schaffolde, sayynge in thys wyse: ‘Syrys, here comythe Harry, Kyng Harry the v ys sone, humylyche to God and Hooly Chyrche, askynge the crowne of thy(s) realme by ryght and dyscent of herytage. Yf ye holde you welle plesyd with alle and wylle be plesyd with hym, say you nowe, ye! and holde uppe youre hondys.’ And thenne alle the pepylle cryde with oo voyce, ‘Ye! ye!’ Thenne the kynge went unto the hyghe auter, and humely layde hym downe prostrate, hys hedde to the auter warde, longe tyme lyyng stylle. Thenne the arche-byschoppys and byschoppys stode rounde a-boute hym, and radde exercysyons ovyr hym, and many antemys i-song by note. And thenne the arche-byschoppes wente to hym and strypte hym owte of hys clothys in to hys schyrte. And there was yn hys schyrte a thynge lyke grene taffata, whyche was i-lasyd at iiij placys of hym. Thenne was he layde a downe a yenne, and helyd hym with hys owne clothys yn the same maner a-fore sayde. And thenne the Byschoppe of Chester and of Rouchester songe a letany ovyr hym. And the Arche-byschoppe of Cantyrbury radde demany colettys ovyr him. Thenne the arche-byschoppys toke hym uppe a gayne and unlasyd hym, and a-noynted hym. Fyrste hys bryste and hys ij tetys, and the myddys of hys backe, and hys hedde, alle a-crosse hys ij schylderys, hys ij elbowys, his pamys of hys hondys: and thenne they layde a certayne softe thynge as cotton to alle the placys a-noyntyd: and on hys hedde they putt on a whyte coyffe of sylke. And so he wentte viij days: and at the viij dayes the byschoppys dyde wasche hit a-waye with whyte wyne i-warmyd leuke warme. And the knyghtys of the Garter helde a clothe of a-state ovyr hym alle the whyle of his waschynge. To the fyrste processe, aftyr the oyntynge he layde hym doune prostrate a-gayne. Thenne the arche-byschoppys raddyn solempne colettys with a solempne prefas. And thenne they toke hym up a-gayne and putte a-pon hym a goune of scharlette whythe a pane of ermyn, and Synt Edwarde ys sporys, and toke hym hys cepter in hys honde, and the kyngys yerde i-callyd Virga regia in hys othyr honde, sayyng there-with, Reges eos in virga ferrea, etc., he syttyng thenne in a chayre by fore the hyghe auter. And thenne alle the byschoppys seseden with a swerde, they alle syttynge there hondys thereon, ande alle they saynge thes wordys thys to hym, Accingere gladio tuo super femur tuum, potentissime. And at every tyme the kyng answeryd and sayde, Observabo. Thenne toke they the swerde122 a-gayne fro hym, and layde the swerde on the hyghe auter. Thenne bought the kyng hys swerde a-gayne of Hooly Chyrche for an C s. in signe and in tokyn that the vertu and power sholde come fyrste fro Hooly Chyrche. Thenne sette they on hys hedde Synt Edwarde ys crowne. Thenne rose he owte of hys chayre and layde hym downe prostrate a-gayne. And there the byschoppys sayde ovyr hym many hooly colettys. And thenne they toke hym up and dyspoylyd hym of hys gere a-yen, and thenne a-rayde hym as a byschoppe that sholde sing a masse, with a dalmadyke lyke unto a tunycule with a stole a-bowte hys necke, not crossyd, and a-pon hys fete a payre of sandellys as a byschoppe, and a cope and glovys lyke a byschoppe: and thenne sette a-yen on hys hedde Synt Edward ys crowne, and layde hym a-pon the schaffold and sette hym a sete of hys astate, and ij byschoppys stondyng on every syde of hym, helpyng hym to bere the crowne, for hyt was ovyr hevy for hym, for he was of a tendyr age. And then they be-ganne the masse, and the Arche-byschoppe of Cauntyrbury songe the masse. And a nothyr byschop radde the pystylle. And the Byschoppe of Worsethyr radde the gospelle at the auter. And at the offretory come the kyng downe and made the oblacyon of brede and wyne, there whythe offerynge a pounde weyght of golde, the whiche contaynyd xvj marke of nobbelys. And thenne wente he uppe a-gayne in to the schaffold and satte there in hys sete tylle the iij Agnus Dei, and thenne he come downe a-gayne and layde hym prostrate saying there hys Confyteor and alle the prelatys sayde Misereator. And thenne he sate uppe, knelynge with humylyte and grete devocyon, ressavyng the iij parte of the holy sacrament apon the paten of the chalys of the Arch-byschoppe handys. Thenne there come the Byschoppe of London with the grete solempne chalys by Synt Edwarde and servyd hym whythe wyne: the whyche chalis by Synt Edwarde ys dayes was praysyd at xxx M marke: and the Cardenalle of Wynchester and a othyr byschoppe helde to hym the towelle of sylke: and so he knelyd stylle tylle mas was i-doo. Thenne rosse he up a-gayne and yede a-fore the schryne, and there was he dyspoylyde of all the ornamentys that he weryde, lyke the ornamentys of a byschoppe, as hyt was sayde by-fore: and thenne he was a-rayde lyke a kynge in a ryche clothe of golde, with a crowne sette on hys hedde, whyche crowne Kynge Rycharde hadde made for hym selfe. And so the kynge was ladde thoroughe the palys yn to the halle, and alle the newe knyghtys be-fore hym in hyr a-raye of scharlette: and thenne all the othyr lordys comynge aftyr hym: thenne come the othyr lordys comynge aftyr hem. Thenne come the chaunceler with hys crosse bare heddyd: and aftyr hym come cardenelle with hys crosse in hys abyte lyke a chanon yn a garment of rede chamelett, furryd whythe whyte menyver. And thenne folowyde the Kynge, and he was ladde by-twyne the Byschoppe of Dyrham and the Byschoppe of Bathe; and my goode Lorde of Warwyke bare uppe hys trayne. And byfore hym rode my Lorde of Saulysbury as Constabylle of Ingelonde in my Lorde of Bedforde hys stede, and thenne my Lorde of Glouceter123 as Stywarde of Ingelonde. And aftyr hym rode the Duke of Northefolke as Marchalle of Ingelonde. And before the kynge iiij lordys bare iiij swerdys, ij in there schaberdys and ij nakyde. And one wa[s] poynteles of the iiij swerdys above sayde. And as they [were] syttyng at mete the kyng kepte hys astate: and on the ryght honde sate the Cardynalle whythe a lower astate: and on the lyfte syde sate the chaunceler and a byschoppe of Fraunce, and noo moo at that tabylle. And on the ryght honde of the halle at that borde kepte the baronys of the Fyffe portys, and soo forthe, clerkes of the Chaunsery: and on the lefte honde sate the Mayre of London and hys aldyrmen, and othyr worthy comynerys of the cytte of London. And in the myddys of the halle sate the byschoppys, and justysys, and worthy knyghtys, and squyers, and soo fyllyde bothe the myddylle tabyllys of the halle. And at the ryght honde of the halle uppon a schaffolde, stode the kyngys of harowdys alle the mete tyme in hyr cote armorys and hyr crownys in hyr heddys. Ande at the fyrste course they come downe and wente by fore the kyngys champyon, Syr Phylyppe Dymmoke, that rode in the halle i-armyde clene as Syn Jorge. And he proclaymyd in the iiij quarterys of the halle that the kynge was ryghtefulle ayre to the crowne of Ingelonde, and what maner man that wolde nay hyt, he was redy for to defende hyt as hys knyghte and hys champyon. Ande by that offyce he holdythe hys londys, etc.” (“Chronicle” in Collection of a London Citizen.) William Gregory as a good citizen cannot refrain from giving the menu124 of the Coronation banquet. One pities the poor child having to go through the long ceremony of the Abbey first and having to sit out this long banquet afterwards.

From MS. in British Museum. Harl. 2278.

Next year Henry was taken over to Paris, and there also solemnly crowned, with no doubt another Coronation banquet. In the same year there was a small and unimportant tumult which shows the lingering of Lollardy. The leader who called himself Jack Sharpe wanted to have a rising in London in order to take away the temporalities of the Church. The Chronicle of London says that his name was William Maundeville, some time a weaver of Abingdon. He chose his time when the King and most of the lords were away in France, when, with his friends, he spread abroad bills and placards in every town. Nothing came of it except to himself and his party, for he and some of his friends were hanged, drawn, and quartered, and their heads set upon London Bridge. And, the same year, there was one Russell, a craftsman of free and independent thought, who purposed to create an entirely new House of Lords after his own ideas. He, a Reformer before his age, was hanged, drawn, and quartered. In the same year it is casually mentioned “that Pucylle was brent at Rone and that was upon Corpus Christi Even.”

In January 1432 the King returned to England, and on St. Valentine’s Day (Sharpe says 20th February: Gregory says Valentine’s Day) he was received by the City, the Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs, with an immense following of citizens, who rode out as far as Blackheath to meet him. They presented him with the following address:—

“Sovereign Lord as welcome be ye to your Roiaulme of Englond, and in especial to your notable Cite London, otherwise called your Chambre, as ever was Christen Prince to place or people, and of the good and gracioux achevying of your Coronne of Fraunce, we thank hertlich our Lord Almighty which of His endless mercy sende you grace in joye and prosperite on us and all your other people long for to regnew.”

The King receiving this address rode on to Deptford, where he was met by a whole regiment of clergy all in their robes, with monks chanting psalms of praise. Thence into London where a noble reception awaited him. The description which follows is also taken from Gregory’s Chronicle.

“At the south end of London Bridge was erected a tower: and in the tower stood a giant holding a sword and saying solemnly Inimicos ejus induam confusione. On each side of the giant was an antelope, one with the arms of England and one with that of France. At the drawbridge was another tower with three crowned empresses namely, Nature, Grace, and Fortune who gave the young king gifts. On the right hand of the Empresses stood seven fair maidens in white powdered with stars of gold, who gave the king seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in the likeness of seven white doves. On the left side were seven maidens in white powdered with stars of gold, who gave the king seven gifts of worship, and the maydens sang an hevynly songe unto the kynge of praysynge and of hys victorye and welle comynge home.” 125

At the Conduit of Cornhill there was a tabernacle in which sat a King in royal apparel: with him the Lady of Mercy, the Lady of Truth, and the Lady of Cleanness, “hem embracing with Reson.” Before the King two Judges of great worthiness with eight serjeants-at-law with this scripture—

“Honowre of kyngys in every mannys syght
Of comyn curtosie, lovythe, equyte, and ryghte.”

At the Great Conduit there was a royal sight like unto Paradise. There were virgins drawing water and wine of joy and of pleasure and comfort, the which are to every man’s comfort and health. These maidens were named Mercy, Grace, and Pity. In this Paradise stood two old men “like heveynly folk.” They were named Enoch and Eli, and they saluted the King with words of grace and virtue.

“And soo rode he forthe unto the Crosse in Cheppe. There stood a royalle castelle of jasper grene, and there yn ij grene treys stondyng uppe ryght, showyng the ryght tytyllys of the Kyng of Inglond and of Fraunce, convaying from Synt Edwarde and Synt Lowys be kyngys unto the tyme of Kyng Harry the vj every kyng stondynge whythe hys cote armowre, sum lyberdys, and sum flourdelysse; and on that othyr syde was made the Jesse of owre Lorde ascendyng uppewards from Davyd unto Jesu. And so rode he forthe unto the Lytylle Condyte. And there was a ryalle mageste of the Trynyte, fulle of angelys syngyng hevynly songys, blessynge ande halowynge the kyngys whythe thes resonys in Latyn wrytyn; Angelis suis mandavit de te ut custodiant te, etc. Longitudinem dierum replebo in eum et ostendam illi salutare meum. And thenne vente he forthe unto Poulys, and there he was ressayvyd whythe bysvhoppys and prelatys whythe dene and the quere, and whythe devoute songe, as hyt longythe to a kynge. Ande so he offerryd there and thankyd God of hys goode speede and of hys welfare. And thenne he rode to Westemyster, and there he restyd hym: and on the nexte day followynge the mayre and the aldyrmen whythe a certayne comeners that were worthy men, and they presentyde the kynge whythe an hampyr of sylvyr and gylte, whythe a M l. there yn of nobellys, etc.”

The next great Riding was the reception of Margaret of Anjou when she came over to be married in the year 1445, when the same “properties,” castle, tower, and other devices, were brought out to greet her.

The disastrous wars in France, the lavish expenditure which produced nothing but defeat, the unsettled condition of the Low Countries with which the greatest part of the London foreign trade had been carried on, a succession of bad harvests, with other causes, affected the prosperity of the City as well as smaller towns very sensibly. When the Parliament of 1433 voted a fifteenth and a tenth it assigned £4000 to the relief of poor towns. Of this sum £76: 15: 6¼ was assigned to eighteen wards of London.

In 1447 a petition was presented to Parliament by four priests of the City,126 viz. William Litchfield, Allhallows the Great: Gilbert, St. Andrew’s Holborn; John Cote, St. Peter’s Cornhill: and John Neil, St. Thomas Acons Hospital, and St. Peter Colechurch; praying for permission to set up schools of grammar in their respective parishes. They base their request on the small and insufficient number of schools in London compared with the great number that had existed in former days. What schools were they? FitzStephen mentions three in the time of Henry II. What grammar schools were founded between 1150 and 1450? Every monastery it is said had its school. Certainly the novices and the wards of the Abbot were under instruction: their place was assigned to them in the Cloisters and there were rules as to their supervision. But the sons of the citizens were not admitted to these schools. The King replied that the schools might be established or provided, subject to the approval of the Archbishop.

We have now arrived at a strange and not wholly intelligible event, the rising of the Kentish men and their occupation of London.

The most important of these rebellions, known as that of Jack Cade, was one among many which showed the temper of the people. The reverses in France, where all that Henry V. had won was lost, never to be recovered; the exactions and taxations; the many cases in which persons were accused of treason and thrown into prison in order that others might obtain their lands; created a widespread discontent, which, in these risings, became the wrath which seizes on the sword and demands the ordeal of civil war. There were at least three other leaders in Kentish risings, one called Blue Beard, another named William Parminter and a third named John Smyth. In Wiltshire the Bishop of Salisbury was dragged from the altar and brutally murdered; and the insurgents in that county were reckoned at 10,000 men.

Why they rose, and what were their grievances, are shown in the remarkable document in which they are set forth.

As for the people who took part in these risings, it is certain that they were by no means the common labourers and villeins, such as those who went out with Wat Tyler. It is also certain that they chose as their leader one who had some knowledge of war. And it must be remembered that the men who flocked to the standard of Mortimer were as well armed, and as good soldiers, as any whom the King could collect or could command.

The leader called himself, or was called, Mortimer, and it is said gave out that he was cousin to the Duke of York. His real name it is said—but there seems some reason to doubt the story—was John Cade; he was an Irishman by birth and he had been in the service of Sir Thomas Dacre in Sussex, but had been compelled to abjure the country for having killed a woman with child. He passed over to France and served in the French army against England, but later he returned, assumed the name of Aylmer, and married the daughter of a Squire; at this time he127 called himself physician, and on the outbreak of the rebellion assumed the name of Mortimer.3

On the 1st of June the rebels reached London and encamped at Blackheath. The King, who was at Leicester, hastened to town with a large army of 20,000 men and lay at St. John’s Priory, Smithfield. Instead of marching upon the rebels at once, he waited, and sent messengers to know what they wanted.

They replied by a long and carefully drawn up “Bill of Articles,” which was evidently the work of some clerk or lawyer: it was a document which proves the rising to have been no chance effervescence, but a deliberate and intelligent attempt to set forth and to remedy grievances. It must be noted that Jack Cade or Mortimer kept up correspondence with the City, having appointed one Thomas Cocke, Draper, as his agent.

The following is the “Bill of Articles”:—

1. “Imprimis, it is openly noised that Kent shoulde be destroyed with a royall power, and made a wylde foreste for the Deathe of the Duke of Suffolk, of which the Commons of Kent thereof were never guilty.

2. “Item, the king is stirred to lyve only on his Commons and other men to have ther revenues of the Crown the which hath caused povertie in his excellencie, and great payments of the people, now late to the king graunted in his Parliament.

3. “Item, that the Lordes of his Royall bloud been put from his dayly presence, and other meane persons of lower nature exalted and made chiefe of his Privie Counsell, the whiche stoppeth matters of wronges done in the realme, from his excellent audience, and may not be redressed as lawe will, but if bribes and giftes be messengers to the handes of the Sayd Counsell.

4. “Item, the people of his realme be not payd of debts owing for stuffe and purveyance taken to the use of the king’s householde, in undoing of the sayd people, and the poor Commons of this realme.

5. “Item, the king’s menial servantes of householde and other persons, asken dayly goods and lands, of impeached or indited of treason, the which the king graunteth anon, ere they so endangered be convict. The which causeth the receyvers thereof to enforge labours and means applyed to the death of such people, so apeached or indited, by subtyl means, for covetyse of the said grauntes: and the people so impeached or indited, though it be untrue, may not be committed to the Lawe for their deliverance, but helde still in prison, to their uttermost undoing and destruction, for covetyse of goods.

6. “Item, though divers of the poore people and Commons of the Realme, have never so great right, trueth, and perfect tytle to these landes, yet by untrue clayme of enesessment made unto divers States, Gentles, and the king’s meniall Servauntes in maintenaunces againste the ryght, the true owners dare not holde, clayme, nor pursue their right.

7. “Item, it is noysed by common voices, that the king’s landes in Fraunce been aliened and put awaye from the Crown, and his Lordes and people there destroyed with untrue means of treason, of which it is desyred, enquiries through all the realme to be made howe and by whom, and if such traytors may be found guiltie, them to have execution of Lawe without any pardon in example of other.

8. “Item, Collectors of the 3rd pennie in Kent be greatly vexed and hurte in paying great summes of money, in the Eqchequere to sue out a Writ called Quorum nomina for the allowance of the Barons of the ports, which nowe is desyred, that hereafter in the lieu of the Collectors the Barons aforesaide may sue it out for their ease at their own costes.

9. “Item, the Sheriffs and undersheriffs, let to farme their offices and Bayliwikes, taking great suertie therefore, the which causeth extortions done by them and by their Bailiffs to the people. 128

10. “Item, simple and poore people that use not hunting be greatly oppressed by inditments sained and done by the said sheriffs, undersheriffs, Baylifs, and oter of their assent, to cause their increase for paying of their said farme.

11. “Item, they returne in names of conquests in writing into divers courtes of the kinges not summoned nor warned, where though the people dayly leese great sumes of money, welny to the uttermost of their undoing: make levie of amercementes called the Greene Ware, more in summes of money than can be founde due of recorde in the kinges bookes.

12. “Item, the ministers of the courte of Dover in Kent bere and arest diver people through all the Shire out of Castle warde passing their bands and libertie bred of oldde time, by divers subtile and untrue meanes and actions falsely sained, taking great fee at their lust in great hurt of the people on all the Shire of Kent.

13. “Item, the people of the saide Shire of Kent, may not have their free election in the choosing knights of the Shire, but letters bene sent from divers estates to the great Rulers of all the Country, the which embraceth their tenants and other people by force to choose other persons than the common will is.

14. “Item, whereas knightes of the Shire should chose the kinges collectors indifferently without any bribe taking, they have sent now late to divers persons, notifying them to be collectors whereupon giftes and bribes be taken, and so the collector’s office is bought and sold extortionously at the knightes lust.

15. “Item, the people be sore vexed in costes and labour called to the Sessions of peace in the sayd Shire, appearing from the farthest and uttermost parts of the west unto the east, the which causeth to some men v dayes journey, whereupon they desire the saide appearaunce to be divided into two parties, the which one part to appeare in one place an other part in an other place in releving of the grievaunce and intollerable labours and vexations of the said people.

The requestes by the Captaine of the great assemble in Kent

“Imprimis, desireth the Captaine of the commons, the welfare of our soveraigne Lord the king, and all his true Lords spirituall and temporall, desiring of our faire soveraigne Lorde, and of all the true Lordes of his counsell, he to take in all his demaines, that he may raigne like a king royall, according as he is borne our true Christian king annoynted, and who so will saye the contrarye, we will all live and die in the quarrell as his true liege men.

“Item, desireth the said Captaine, that he will avoide al the false progenie and affinitie of the Duke of Suffolk, the which bene openlye knowne, and they to be punished after the custome and Lawe of this Land, and to take about his noble person the true Lordes of his Royal bloud of this his realme, that is to say, the high and mighty Prince the Duke of Yorke, late exiled from our saide soveraigne Lordes presence (by the motion and stirring of the traiterous and false disposed the Duke of Suffolke and his affinite) and the mighty princes the Dukes of Exeter, Buckingham, and Norfolke, and all the Earles and Barons of this land and than that he be the richest king Christen.

“Item, desireth the said Captaine and Commons punishment upon the false traitors, the which contrived and imagine the Death of the high and mightful excellent Prince the Duke of Gloucester, the whiche is too much to rehearse, and which Duke was proclaomed as traitor. Upon the which quarrell, we purpose all to live and die that it is false.

“Item, the Duke of Exeter, our holy father the Cardinal, the noble Prince, Duke of Warwick, and also the realme of Fraunce, the Dutchie of Normandie, Gascoyne and Gwoin, Ansoy and Mayne, were delivered and lost by the meanes of the sayd traytors and our true Lords, knights, and esquires, and many a good yoman lost and sold ere they went, the which is great pitie to heare, of the great and grievous losse to our Soveraigne Lorde and his realme. 129

“Item, desireth the said captayne and commons that all the extortions bred dayly among the Common people, might be layde downe, that is to say, the Greene Ware the which is falsely bred, to the perpetuall destruction of the king’s true commons of Kent. Also the king’s bench, the which is too griefefull to the shire of Kent without provision of our Soveraigne and Lord and his true Counsell. And also in taking of Wheate and other graynes, Beefe, Mutton, and all other victual, the which is importable to the Sayd Commons without the brief provision of our said soveraigne Lorde and his true Counsell, they may no longer beare it. And also unto the statute of labourers and the great extortioners, the which is to say the false traytors, Slegge, Crowmer, Isle, and Robert Este.”

These bills were of course disallowed by the Council as presumptuous, and the King was exhorted to suppress the rebels by force. He thereupon moved from Westminster to Greenwich, but when he would have sent an army against the rebels the men refused to fight against those who “laboured to amende the Common Weale.” Then the King temporised, and since the rebels called out against Lord Saye, he committed him to the Tower to pacify them. He then returned to Westminster, and two days afterwards went against the rebels with 15,000 men. But they had withdrawn to Sevenoaks in Kent. Therefore the King sent off Sir Humphrey and William Stafford with a strong force to attack them. They did so, but with the unfortunate result that the force was cut up and all the men slain, and that Jack Cade and his men returned to Blackheath. Then the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Duke of Buckingham held an interview with the leader and found him “discreet in his answers,” though he would not separate himself from his people.

The King and Queen, meanwhile, hearing of more adherents to Cade’s army and perceiving the spread of disaffection among their own people, left London for Kenilworth. Hearing of their departure the “Captain of Kent” entered Southwark, taking up his lodging at the “White Hart”—was it accidental or by design that he chose an Inn with the sign of Richard II.’ s badge? On the same day the Commons of Essex in great numbers encamped at Mile End.

The Chronicles and authorities differ as to the order and details of what followed. The broad outlines are clear. The authorities, who appear to have been at first terror-stricken, resolved on putting the City into a state of defence, chiefly on the exhortation of Robert Horne, Alderman and Stockfish-monger. They placed a guard at all the gates and at the lanes and stairs leading to the river; they forbade the sending of arms outside the City; they placed machines for throwing stones on the wharves; they gave every Alderman four men to assist him in keeping the peace in his ward; but, in spite of all, the rebels came in. There was no resistance, somebody—nobody knew who—got the keys in some mysterious manner and opened the Bridge. And somehow, the courageous Horne found himself in Newgate. Jack Cade’s symbolical action in regard to London Stone is quoted in every child’s history book. Shakespeare alludes to it in Henry VI. (Part II. Act iv. Scene 6)—

SceneCannon Street. Enter Jack Cade with his followers. He strikes his staff on London Stone.

Cade. Now is Mortimer lord of this city.”

On the first day there was peace, no acts of violence were permitted. The rebels130 roamed at will about the London streets, and probably if they wanted anything they took it. In the evening most of them went home again. But some remained inside, and according to Gregory “searched,” i.e. robbed, all night. On the next day the real brutality of the mob showed itself. They arrested Lord Saye, the High Treasurer of England, and beheaded him in Chepe after a mock trial at the Guildhall, and in so great a hurry were they that they would not give him time to finish his confession. They also beheaded Sir James Crowmer, High Sheriff of Kent, at Mile End, one John Bayle at Whitechapel. Cade would also have beheaded Robert Horne, but his friends ransomed him for 500 marks. According to Fabyan it was after these murders—according to Gregory it was on the first day—that Cade began to pillage the rich merchants, commencing with Philip Malpas. “They spoyled him,” says Gregory, “ande bare away moche goode of hys and in specyalle moche money, both of sylvyr and golde, the valowe of a notabylle sum, and in specyalle of merchaundys as of tynne, woode, madyr, and alym, whythe grete quantyte of wollyn clothe and many ryche jewellys, whythe othyr notabylle stuffs of fedyr beddys, beddyng, napery, and many a ryche clothe of arys, to the valewe of a notabylle sum—nescio; sed Deus omnia scit.”

From an old print.

Cade also robbed other merchants. Now since nothing so rouses a merchant to fury as the prospect of being robbed, the Aldermen met again and seriously determined that at all costs the rebels must be kept out. They therefore put their131 defence into the hands of Lord Scales, Lord Governor of the Tower. And then follows a battle, now forgotten, which should have been one of the most picturesque in the whole list of desperate fights. Like the famous Holding of the Bridge of Rome was the Holding of the Bridge of London by Matthew Gough and the citizens. It began on the night of Sunday, July the 5th, at ten “of the bell,” and it continued all night long, without stopping, till eight in the morning. Sometimes the Kentish men drove back the citizens, but never beyond the drawbridge: sometimes the citizens drove back the Kentish men, but never beyond the “bulwark” of the bridge. Matthew Gough, lieutenant of the Tower, was killed in the encounter, so was John Sutton, Alderman, with many other stout citizens and sturdy rebels. All night long, in the clear twilight of the season, while the quiet tide ebbed and flowed beneath the bridge, there were the clash of arms and shouts and groans until the early sun rose. Beyond the Bridge stood the citizens waiting for their turn, which never came, for no one could pass out or in, but the fighting men in the front surged backwards and forwards in a solid mass. And in the houses the people lay sleepless: trembling while the din of battle ceased not.


The rebels were worsted in the end. That is, thinking it impossible to force their way into the City they withdrew. Then the Archbishop of Canterbury with the Bishop of Winchester offered them a free pardon, to include their leader, if they would go home quietly.

In the Church of St. Margaret, Southwark, an interview was held between Cade and the Archbishop. The pardons signed by the Chancellor were shown and132 handed over. The rebels accepted, and in a few hours the whole army had melted away. Probably Cade found that it was useless to hope for success since London held out so fiercely against him. It is said that he tried to continue a hopeless struggle by taking the prisoners out of the Marshalsea and King’s Bench. He then sent his treasures by ship to Rochester and prepared to march on that place with his army of prisoners. Here the story grows confused. There were certainly not enough prisoners to form an army. Perhaps Cade looked for local support at Rochester. However, he found that Rochester would not receive him, so he made an attempt on Queenborough, and he then fled, making for the dense forest which at that time covered nearly the whole of Sussex. He was pursued by the new Sheriff, Alexander Iden, and mortally wounded at a place called Heathfield.

When all was over and there was no more danger, the King returned to London and marched through the City in state. Mindful, perhaps, of Richard’s broken promises of pardon to the rebels, Henry continued his march into Kent and executed twenty-six of them. With these exceptions there seem to have been no other acts of revenge, and the men were tried by the King’s Justices. The usual distribution of rebels’ quarters followed, and the decorations of London Bridge were enlarged by the addition of Jack Cade’s head and by the heads of a few of his companions.

When we consider this strange insurrection it is impossible to class it with that of the rabble under Wat Tyler. There were men of substance among Cade’s followers. We do not find that at first they robbed or plundered or committed any acts of violence: they called upon all men to join them; and they undertook, as soon as these things were amended, to go home quietly again. The insurgents were not a mere rabble. In many villages they were regularly called out by the constables. Either they were an orderly body or they were kept in admirable order by this mysterious leader of theirs. It is true that a charge is brought against Jack Cade of taking things from the houses of two rich citizens; and of loading a ship with his plunder. It may be true, on the other hand it may be the invention of an enemy. When, again, we examine into the actual crimes charged against Cade we find that he executed Lord Saye, regarded as one of the greatest enemies of the realm; also Lord Saye’s son-in-law, late High Sheriff for Kent; one man whose offence is unknown; and one or two marauders in his own camp. That concludes the list of executions, or murders. We have also seen that he had influential friends in London. He kept good order; he defeated the royal force sent out to capture him; he sent up to the King, whoever drew it up, a well-drawn statement of grievances; the Archbishop thought it well to confer with him and was under no apprehension of ill treatment; on his giving the word of dismissal his men quietly dispersed and went home. It is impossible to believe that133 this man was a mere adventurer seeking an opportunity of private pillage. Who he was, what he was, whence he came, why he was made captain of the Kentish army, it is impossible to say. That he was a common robber and murderer the facts of the case will not allow us to believe. That he was considered of great importance is proved by the perfidy which granted him a “charter” of safety and pardon, and yet offered a reward for his body, dead or alive, and set up his head on London Bridge looking towards Kent. The “Short English Chronicle” (“Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles,” Camden Society) contains a memorable statement. The day after the all-night battle of London Bridge, the Chancellor—Cardinal Kemp—went to “the capteyne and gave him a charter and his men another and so withdrewe him homeward.” The “Charter” means a free pardon. Richard II. had done the same thing in the case of Wat Tyler’s rebellion. Yet, a day or two afterwards the charter was disregarded, and a proclamation made of a thousand marks reward for the capture of the leader quick or dead. The reason of this broken faith is said by the chronicler to be that it became known that the leader’s name was not Mortimer but Jack Cade, “and therefore his charter stode in no strength.” So they hunted him down and killed him.

From tapestry in St. Mary’s Hall, Coventry.

The most interesting of all the Paston Letters is one signed John Payn, in which the writer narrates his personal recollections of the Cade Rebellion. I quote it entirely as illustrative of the remarkable movement:—

“Pleasyth it your gode and gracios maistershipp tendyrly to consedir the grete losses and hurts that your por peticioner haeth, and haeth jhad evyr seth the comons of Kent come to the Blakheth, and that is at xv yer passed, whereas my maister134 Syr John Fastolf, Knyght, that is youre testator, commandyt your besecher to take a man, and ij of the beste orsse that were in his stabyll, with hym to ryde to the comens of Kent, to gete the articles that they come for. And so I dyd; and al so sone as I come to the Blakheth, the capteyn made the comens to take me. And for the savacion of my maisters horse, I made my fellowe to ryde a wey with the ij horses; and I was brought forth with before the capteyn of Kent. And the capteyn demaundit me what was my cause of comyng thedyr, and why that I made my fellowe to stele a wey with the horse. And I seyd that I come thedyr to chere with my wyves brethren, and other that were my alys and gossippes of myn that were present there. And than was there oone there, and seid to the capteyn that I was one of Syr John Fastolfes men, and the ij horse were Syr John Fastolfes; and then the capteyn lete cry treson upon me thorought all the felde, and brought me at iiij partes of the feld with a harrawd of the Duke of Exetter before me in the dukes cote of armes makyng iiij Oyes at iiij partes of the feld; proclaymyng opynly by the seid harrawd that I was sent thedyr for to espy theyre pusaunce, and theyre abyllyments of werr, fro the grettyst traytor that was in Yngelond or in Fraunce, as the seyd capteyn made proclaymycion at that tyme, fro oone Syr John Fastolf, Knyght, the whech mynnysshed all the garrisons of Normaundy, and Manns, and Mayn, the whech was the cause of the lesyng of all the Kyngs tytyll and ryght of an herytaunce that he had by yonde see. And morovyr he seid that the seid Sir John Fastolf had furnysshed his plase with the olde sawdyors of Normaundy and abyllyments of werr, to destroy the comens of Kent whan that they come to Southewerk; and therfor he seyd playnly that I shulde lese my hede.

And so furthewith I was taken, and led to the capteyns tent, and j ax and j blok was brought forth to have smetyn of myn hede; and than my maister Ponyngs, your brodyr, with other of my frendes, come and lettyd the capteyn, and seyd pleynly that ther shulde dye a C or ij [a hundred or two], that in case be that I dyed; and so by that meane my lyf was savyd at that tyme. And than I was sworen to the capteyn, and to the comens, that I shulde go to Southewerk, and aray me in the best wyse that I coude, and come ageyn to hem to helpe hem; and so I gote th’articles, and brought hem to my maister, and that cost me more emongs the comens that day than xxvijs.

Wherupon I come to my maister Fastolf, and brought hym th’articles, and enformed hym of all the mater, and counseyled hym to put a wey all his abyllyments of werr and the olde sawdiors; and so he dyd, and went hymself to the Tour, and all his meyny with hym but Betts and j [i.e. one] Mathew Brayn; and had not I ben, the comens wolde have brennyd his plase and all his tennuryes, wher thorough it coste me of my noune propr godes at that tyme more than vj merks in mate and drynke; and nought withstondyng the capteyn that same tyme lete135 take me atte Whyte Harte in Suthewerk, and ther comandyt Lovelase to dispoyle me oute of myn aray, and so he dyd. And there he toke a fyn gowne of muster dewyllers furryd with fyn bevers, and j peyr of Bregandyrns kevert with blew fellewer [velvet] and gylt naile, with leg-harneyse, the vallew of the gown and the bregardyns viij l. [£8].

Item, the capteyn sent certeyn of his meyny to my chamber in your rents, and there breke up my chest, and toke awey j obligacion of myn that was due unto me of xxxvj l. by a prest of Poules, and j nother obligacion of j knyght of x l., and my purse with v ryngs of golde, and xvijs vjd of golde and sylver; and j herneyse [harness] complete of the touche of Milleyn; and j gowne of fyn perse blewe furryd with martens; and ij gounes, one furryd with bogey, and j nother lyned with fryse; and ther wolde have smetyn of myn hede, whan that they had dyspoyled me atte White Hart. And there my Maister Ponyngs and my frends savyd me, and so I was put up tyll at nyght that the batayle was at London Brygge; and than atte nyght the capteyn put me oute into the batayle atte Brygge, and there I was woundyt, and hurt nere hand to deth; and there I was vj oures in the batayle, and myght nevyr come oute therof; and iiij tymes before that tyme I was caryd abought thorought Kent and Sousex, and ther they wolde have smetyn of my hede.

And in Kent there as my wyfe dwellyd, they toke awey all oure godes mevabyll that we had, and there wolde have hongyd my wyfe and v of my chyldren, and lefte her no more gode but her kyrtyll and her smook. And a none aftyr that hurlyng, the Bysshop Roffe apechyd me to the Quene, and so I was arrestyd by the Quenes commaundment in to the Marchalsy, and there was in ryght grete durasse, and fere of myn lyf, and was thretenyd to have ben hongyd, drawen, and quarterud; and so wold have made me to have pechyd my Maister Fastolf of treson. And by cause that I wolde not, they had me up to Westminster, and there wolde have sent me to the gole house at Wyndsor; but my wyves and j coseyn of myn noune that were yomen of the Croune, they went to the Kyng, and got grase and j chartyr of pardon.”

The Civil Wars and the part taken by the City belong to the history of the nation, and may be briefly dismissed in these pages. The City began with loyalty to the King. He was the son of their hero and darling, the Victor of Agincourt; and he was the grandson of their own King whom they themselves had brought over and set upon the throne. These two considerations outweighed all others, even the disasters in France, the miserable condition to which the country had been brought, and the weakness of the King. Meantime the long-deferred birth of a son strengthened the loyalty of all Lancastrians. The poverty of the City at this time is proved by the fact that when, in 1453, an assessment of half a fifteenth was made, eleven out of the twenty-five wards were in default. After the battle136 of St. Albans, 22nd May 1455, the Duke of York brought the King to London and lodged him in the Bishop’s Palace, St. Paul’s Churchyard.

There were no Jews to bait and murder, but there were the Lombard money-lenders. On two occasions there were riots between the mercers and the Lombards. After the first, two of the Lombards were hanged. They threatened to retire from the City altogether, but remained and suffered another attack a year later for which twenty-eight mercers were committed to prison. The internal dissensions were followed by the inevitable consequences, of diminished trade, the appearance of pirates in the Channel, and the descent of the French upon the coasts. They plundered Sandwich, for instance, and captured thirty ships. Thereupon the City raised a small force of 2000 men and fitted out ships for them.

The unhappy reign of Henry draws to a close. In 1458 the King tried to effect a reconciliation between the two rival sections of the nobility, and called a conference to meet in St. Paul’s. Warwick attended with a following of 600 men in his livery; the Duke of York and the Earl of Salisbury were received in the City; the young Duke of Warwick and others of the opposite factions were kept outside. And still further to prevent disorder, the Mayor kept a guard of 3000 men in readiness to stand by the Aldermen in case of a disturbance.

The conference was held, and the reconciliation was effected; a solemn service with a procession was held in the Cathedral. Six months later the war broke out again.

Early in 1460 the King issued a commission to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs for collecting men and arms to resist the Duke of York. The order was received with jealousy as threatening the City liberties, but the King explained that no such attack was intended. In February the masters and wardens were ordered to look to their arms and their men in view of the dangers threatening the City. In June the Yorkist Lords made a descent on Sandwich, and marched upon London. The City hurriedly placed itself in a position for defence. There was a great show of resistance; the rebel Lords were not to be admitted; they were to keep at a certain distance from the City; then a letter was received from the Earl of Warwick, and, no one knows why, the gates were thrown open and the Lords were admitted.

They proceeded to starve the garrison of the Tower into surrender. Lord Scales, the governor, attempted to reach Westminster by boat in order to take refuge in Sanctuary. He was discovered by the Thames watermen and murdered. After the Battle of Northampton, Henry was brought into London as prisoner. In October of the same year, 1460, the Duke of York declared his right to the Crown, and the struggle was no longer between rival sections of nobles, but between the King and the Claimant.

After the Second Battle of St. Albans, the Queen ordered provisions to be137 sent to her at St. Albans from London, but the mob stopped the carts. Margaret moved her troops farther north. Then Edward and the Earl of Warwick were admitted within the walls, London was lost to the Lancastrians, and the first half of the Wars of the Roses was at an end.

(and fully to be endid, payinge yerely the seid—
successours in hand halfe yere afore that is—
next suyinge xxiij s iiij d by evene porciouns.)



The reign of Edward IV., who had now become, as he remained to the end, the most popular of kings in the City of London, presents a record of continual agitation and excitement. He stayed first at Baynard’s Castle, where he began his reign by hanging an unfortunate grocer of Cheapside, trading under the sign of the “Crown,” for saying that his son was heir to the crown. Of course Walker must have said more than that. There were Lancastrians still among the citizens. One could hardly hang a man for making a feeble pun. His remarks were probably seditious and disrespectful to Edward’s title. From the139 death of Richard II. to the accession of Henry VIII. all the English kings were extremely sensitive as to the strength and reality of their titles.

EDWARD IV. (1442-1483)

The news from the north of the siege of Carlisle would not allow the King to be crowned at once as was intended. A week after the Proclamation he started hurriedly for the north to meet Henry, to whom he gave battle at Towton. The result of the stubborn contest was the defeat of Henry, who with the Queen and his son Prince Edward and such of the Lords as were left, fled into Scotland. Edward stayed awhile to set things in order and then rode south. He was welcomed by the Mayor and Aldermen and five hundred citizens at Lambeth on 27th July, and was escorted to the Tower, whence on the 29th—the 28th day of each month was accounted unlucky—he rode to Westminster and was crowned with due ceremony.

In the second year of his reign he granted a Charter to the City in which he confirmed all past privileges and liberties. The Mayor, Recorder, and Aldermen past the chair, were appointed perpetual justices as long as they continued to be Aldermen. They were also constituted justices of Oyer and Terminer for the trying of all malefactors within their jurisdiction; they were exempt from serving on Juries or on Foreign Assizes, and from having to undertake certain offices; they were empowered to hold a Fair in the Borough of Southwark; and they received certain other privileges connected with waifs, strays, and treasure trove. Three other Charters were granted by Edward. All of them will be found in the Appendix.

The year 1463 was taken up by another campaign in the north, with sieges of castles, and with the usual crop of treasures, perjuries, arrests, and beheadings. Surely there was never any war or contest more disgraced by change of sides, broken oaths, and villainies, than this War of the Roses.

Edward returned to London in February 1463, and was received by a procession of barges. It has been observed, doubtless, that the mediæval citizens were at all times perfectly regardless of the season: they had a Riding in January, a Coronation in December, a water procession in February quite as happily as in July or August. Yet it is very certain that the climate was as capricious and as uncertain then as now.

In 1464 the King married secretly Elizabeth, the young widow of Sir John Grey, and daughter of Lord Rivers. The Queen was crowned in May 1465. In the same year the unfortunate King Henry was taken prisoner, and brought to the Tower of London. At this point we may take up the somewhat tangled story of Alderman Coke. In the early years of King Edward’s reign Coke was treated with special favour by the King. Other Aldermen were made plain Knights. Coke was made a Knight of the Bath. He had a town-house and a country seat, Gidea Hall in Essex. It was this Coke who, when he was made Lord140 Mayor, finding at an entertainment that the most honourable seat at the table, which belonged to himself, had been taken by the Lord High Treasurer, refused to sit down at all, and with the Aldermen and the citizens retired to his own house, where he gave a dinner.

Coke in 1465 was impeached of treason. What kind of treason? Gregory says that many men both of London and of other towns were also impeached. Treason was everywhere. Every man’s dearest friend conspired against him. When one sees the things that were done by great lords we may believe the charges against the merchants. The times, moreover, were doubtful. It behoved men who were afraid of losing their substance, if not their heads, to be ready at any moment for a change. Therefore Alderman Sir Thomas Coke, K.C.B., may very well have carried on treasonable correspondence with the other side. He was arrested, released on bail, arrested again, his effects seized, and his wife committed to the care of the Lord Mayor. He was acquitted, but in spite of his acquittal he was sent to the Bread Street Compter, and thence to the King’s Bench, and there kept till he paid £8000 to the King, and £800 to the Queen. Moreover, the servants of Lord Rivers had pillaged his house in Essex, destroyed the deer in his park, killed his rabbits and his fish, carried off all his brass and his pewter, and Lord Rivers obtained the dismissal of the judge who acquitted him. When Henry VI. was restored Coke had his property restored, but on power being regained by Edward, he fled. He was caught, imprisoned, and then pardoned, with everybody else concerned. Coke is an ancestor both of Sir Francis Bacon and the Marquis of Salisbury.

In a few years the proverbial instability of fortune was again illustrated, together with the wisdom—the cunning of a fox—of keeping in with both parties. It was Edward’s lavish gifts to the Queen’s brothers and cousins, and his neglect of the few great nobles left, that caused the next disturbances. The defection of Warwick, and the Rebellion of Lincolnshire, hardly belong to London history. But it must be recorded that the rebels reached Charing Cross, that they found in the “Palace called the Mews” Lord Rivers and his son, whom they beheaded, and that they captured the King. Edward, however, found means to escape and reached London, where he was received with loyal assurances. And so the war began again, as may be read in the History of England.

On October the 1st, Edward fled to Scotland where he was certain to find safety at least. The Queen, then enceinte, took refuge in the Sanctuary. The Tower of London was surrendered to the Mayor, who held it until the arrival of Warwick and Clarence. But Henry was removed from his prison to the State apartments. There appears to have been no order maintained or attempted in the City during these distractions. Every man made haste to change his side, and the caps that had been tossed up for Edward now darkened the sky for Henry141 with equal zeal. There was a rising of the City rabble, headed by one Sir Geoffrey Gates, whose character is vaguely summed up by Maitland in the words, “of abandoned principles.” The mob, under his leading, spoiled the foreign merchants—Lombards, Flemings, and others—and then, probably having met with some resistance, they got over to Southwark, where they robbed, burned, and destroyed and ravished through all the Borough, together with St. Catherine’s, Limehouse, and Ratcliffe, the City not attempting anything until the arrival of Warwick, when the mob was dispersed and the ringleaders hanged.

From MS. in Brit. Mus. Reg. 15, Ed. IV.

Henry was once more a King, and lodged in the Bishop’s Palace. The Parliament, summoned in haste, met in St. Paul’s Chapter House and called Edward a usurper. But the Mayor took care to be sick and confined to his bed. Coke occupied his place, which seems to increase the probability of that alleged treason. The restoration of the unfortunate Henry lasted for six months. In April, Edward entered London again with the customary rejoicings, sallied forth immediately, met Warwick at Barnet, defeated and slew him, and returned for more rejoicings and in order to lead Henry clad in a long gown like a bedesman back to the Tower, and then marched into the west, where Tewkesbury witnessed the final destruction of the Lancastrian cause.

Then followed, as concerns London, the gallant attempt of the captain known as the Bastard of Falconbridge. We may look upon this leader as a freebooter and as a pirate, or we may look upon him as a loyal and faithful follower of Warwick. From either point of view it is a striking episode in the history of the time as well as the history of London. Moreover, it is one of the few early recorded appearances of the English sailor.

Thomas, the Bastard of Falconbridge, was an illegitimate son of William Nevill, Lord Falconbridge or Falconberg, Earl of Kent, and brother of the Earl of Warwick. He had received the freedom of the City in the year 1454, seventeen142 years before his attempt. (Sharpe, London and the Kingdom.) This distinction was in recognition of his services in connection with the destruction of pirates at the mouth of the Thames. As for his age, if he were about twenty-five at that time, he would be about forty when he led his men to the siege of London. He was by no means an unknown or an obscure person. The Earl of Warwick4 had made him Vice-Admiral of the Sea, “so that none should pass from Calais to Dover for the succour of Edward,” a post of no mean responsibility. Then, Grafton tells us, being driven into need and poverty, he became a pirate, and through his robbery and “shameful spoyling” got together a great navy of ships. We need not believe in the piracy; he probably held the navy for the Earl of Warwick, for whom he seems to have had a sailor-like fidelity. Nor is there anything to show need and poverty. Hearing, however, that his patron was again in the field, the Bastard resolved on striking a blow for him. He landed, therefore, on the coast of Kent and raised a large force of Kentishmen, who seem to have forgiven Henry for his perfidy in the Cade business and now joined the stout-hearted sailor who called himself Captain of King Henry’s people in Kent. He was not therefore a rebel, he was a soldier on the side of the Red Rose. He sent his ships up the Thames with orders to await his coming in the Pool off Blackwall; and with 17,000 men he marched through Kent and appeared before the gates of London Bridge. He wrote to the Mayor from Blackheath asking for permission to pass through the City, promising that no violence would be committed by any of his men. What the ships were to do meanwhile does not appear. It looks, however, very much like an attempt to seize the City. It is certain, further, that he had not received the news of Barnet, or of the death of his illustrious cousin. The Battle of Barnet was fought on 13th April. News could certainly reach the City on the same day, within two or three hours. But it was very possible that in those disturbed times, the ordinary channels of communication being broken off, the news might not reach Kent for some weeks. However that may be, or whenever Falconbridge heard of it, he did not know of Warwick’s death when he began to levy his men.

From a MS. in the University Library, Ghent.

Sharpe has found both Falconbridge’s letter and the Mayor’s reply in the archives of the City. The latter stated that he might possibly hold a commission for the Earl of Warwick, but that the Earl of Warwick was dead, slain on the field of Barnet together with his brother Montague. That further, since that battle, another, that of Tewkesbury, had been fought a week before (this was May 11, and Tewkesbury was fought on May 4), of which they had certain information from their own runners: that “Sir Edward,” the son of Henry VI., was killed after that battle. They143 therefore exhorted this Captain to disband his forces and to acknowledge King Edward IV. But as for passing through the City they were determined he should not do so. The Bastard professed not to believe that Warwick and Prince Edward were dead; perhaps he really did not believe it. In what followed, however, he certainly showed the intention of making himself master of the City if he could, and the Mayor evidently understood this to be his intention, for he proceeded to fortify the river bank, which, the wall having been long since taken down, was now accessible at fifty points by stairs and narrow alleys and courts leading from Thames Street to the river. The City had not been threatened with an attack from the river since the time of King Canute. The details of the fight which followed are very scanty. Falconbridge landed some of his men—three or four thousand—at St. Katherine’s, and attempted a simultaneous attack on Bishopsgate, Aldgate, the riverside, and London Bridge. Fabyan says that they shot guns and arrows and fired the gates, but nevertheless they seem to have effected nothing in their attack from the river; at Aldgate they actually got in, but the portcullis was dropped and none of them got out again. Robert Basset, the valiant Alderman of Aldgate Ward, was conspicuous for his courage on this occasion. He drove back the Kentish men, put144 them to flight and killed three hundred of them in their endeavours to reach their boats at Blackwall. Meantime, Falconbridge with the main body of his men was trying to fight his way across London Bridge. They lost heart on hearing of the repulse at Aldgate and fled, being pursued as far as Deptford, a great number being slain. Ralph Jocelyn, late Mayor, was in command of the citizens; he, too, like Robert Basset, performed prodigies of valour. Many of the men were taken prisoners and held for ransom “as they had been Frenchmen,” says Fabyan. The rising was treated as a rebellion, a good many being executed for their share in it. The Captain got on board ship and on the following night dropped down the river with his fleet and so escaped. At Sandwich he fortified himself, for, as he had 47 ships and 800 men, he was strong enough to dictate his own terms—pardon for himself and his men, in return for which he was ready to deliver the ships into the hands of the King. Edward accepted, and the Bastard did deliver up his ships. Six months later, we hear that he was captured at Southampton; and, one knows not on what pretence, they beheaded him. What are we to call the Bastard, pirate or patriot? Henry was still living, though his very hours were now numbered, for on Edward’s return—he had been brought back—it was announced that he was dead, having met with nothing but care and sorrow during the whole of his most wretched life. Gloucester—not of course Humphrey, but Richard—is said to have killed him; but then Gloucester is said to have killed everybody; tradition makes him a universal murderer. At the same time, as everybody else belonging to the Lancastrian party was killed, there seems a sort of rounding off and completion of the work by the murder of Henry. The fight happening so soon after Tewkesbury as to appear uninfluenced by that event, was a splendid example of the City loyalty. What the Mayor would have done had Tewkesbury gone the other way, it is impossible to say. Loyalty, fidelity, honour, truth, in the Wars of the Roses never survived defeat. They were, however, hugely encouraged by a victory. And when Edward rode back to London he heard with pleasure that while he had smitten his enemies in the West of England, his loyal City, his “Chamber,” had bravely rid him of all that were left in the South.

The Battle of London Bridge is recounted in a contemporary ballad:—


“In Sothwerke, at Bambere heth, and Kyngston eke,
The Bastarde and his meane in the contre abowte,
Many grett men in London they made seke,
Man, wyff, ne childe there durst non rowte,
Oxin, shepe, and vetayle, withowtyn any dowte,
They stale away and carrid ever to and froo.
God suffirs moche thyng, his wille to be doo.
Moche sorow and shame the wrecchis thay wroughte,
Fayre placis they brend on the water side.
Thayre myschevus dedis avaylid ham noughte,
Schamfully thay wrougte, and so them betyd.
Thay wolde not leve ther malice, but therin abyde,
Thay cryed kynge Edward and Warwicke also.
Thus the wille of God in every thynge is doo.
At Londone brygge they made asawte, sham to see,
The utter gate on the brygge thay sett on fyre;
Into Londone shott arrows withowte pete.
With gunnus thay were bett that sum lay in the myre.
Thay asked wage of the brygge, thay paid them thayre hire
Ever amonge thay had the worse, then wakynd thaire woo,
False men most be poyneshed, the will of God is soo.
At London brige anodyr sawte thay made agayne,
Wyth gunpowdir and wildefire and straw eke;
Fro the gate to the drawbrygge that brent down playne,
That x myle men mygte se the smeke.
Thay were not of thayre entent the nere of a leke
For into the cite they mygte not com for a wele ne for woo;
God restid thayre malice, the wille of hym was soo.
At Alegate thay sawtid in an ill seasoun;
Thay brente fayre howsis, pitie was to se.
Thus these false men did opyne tresoun,
Supposynge evermore to enture into cite.
God and good seyntes thereof had pitie.
Thayre malice was sesid and turned hem to woo
Thus in everythynge, Lorde, thy will be doo.
The erle of Esex, and also the aldurmen,
At Bysshopus gate togedder they mette,
And owte therat sewde like manly men.
Thay bete hem down, no man mygte hem lett;
Freshely on thayre enmyes that day did thay fyghte.
Thayre false treson brougte theym in woo;
Thus in every thynge, Lorde, thy wille be doo.
The erle Revers, that gentill knygte,
Blessid be the tym that he borne was
By the power of God and his great mygte,
Throw his enmyes that day did he passe.
The maryners were kellid, thay cryed ‘Alas!’
Thayre false tresoun brougte hem in woo,
Thus in every thynge, Lorde, thy wille be doo.”
(Political Poems and Songs, Ed. III.—Rich. III., p. 277;
edited by Thomas Wright.)

These tumults appeased, and the Civil Wars apparently ended, the City got itself to work upon a question of morals.

William Hampton, Mayor in 1473, hit upon a notable device of terrifying evil-doers. Until then, one pair of stocks had been considered sufficient for the whole City. Hampton set up a pair in every Ward. He also hunted out the women of loose conduct; “he corrected”—i.e. flogged—

“strumpets and causyd them to be ladde aboute the towne with raye hoodes upon their heddes divers and many; and spared none for mede nor for favour, that were by the law atteynted, notwithstanding that he might have taken xl pounds of redy money to hym offerid for to have spared one from that jugment.” (Fabyan.)

Henry’s remains lay in state at St. Paul’s and at Blackfriars. It was necessary146 that people should understand that he was really dead and out of the way. They were then carried to Chertsey where they were buried. Edward knighted all the Aldermen. Sharpe gives the list, in which one is grieved to find neither Robert Basset nor Ralph Jocelyn.

In the year 1475 by an Act of Common Council the election of the Mayor was ordered to be made henceforth by the Mayor, Aldermen, Common-Councilmen, and Liverymen of the City. And so it has remained ever since. Only while the City gave the election to the Liverymen it included all those who had the freedom of the City, excluding any other residents, tenants, foreigners, great Lords, or their followers. The house called “Gildhalla Teutonicorum,” the Steelyard, was in this year granted to the Hanseatic League. The history of this house will be considered separately.

Two more charters were obtained from the King. One granted permission to hold lands in mortmain to a limited extent: the other gave the City the privilege of package, portage, garbling of spices, gauging, wine-drawing, etc., a charter of a commercial and technical kind.

As for the rest of the acts of King Edward they concern not much the City of London. He entertained the Mayor and Aldermen at a hunt; he also sent the Lady Mayoress six fat bucks and a tun of wine, of which they made a great feast at Drapers’ Hall; he murdered his brother, the Duke of Clarence; he invaded France and came back again;—one must needs speak of his mistress, Jane Shore;—and he borrowed a great deal of money which he did not repay.

The history of the King’s mistresses should hardly claim a place in the history of London. There are, however, one or two of these favourites who, in some way inexplicable, have captured the imagination of the people, and have won their sympathies. Why do we think more of Jane Shore than of Alice Perrers? Why, out of the long list of frail beauties about the court of Charles II., do we fix our eyes upon Nell Gwynne and neglect the rest? Certain it is that, not only in her own lifetime but also long afterwards, Jane Shore was remembered with kindliness and pity. Everybody knows her story: she was the wife of a London citizen, a goldsmith; she attracted the attention of the man who is commonly believed to have been the handsomest man in the country, as he was certainly the most dissolute. If, however, the portrait of Edward IV. in the possession of the Society of Antiquaries is to be trusted, his beauty did not lie in his face; it must have been his stature and his strength which gave him this reputation. When he died, Jane Shore, whose husband had cast her off, fell into the power of Hastings or of the Marquis of Dorset. When Hastings was beheaded, Richard endeavoured to convict her of witchcraft, probably he had some private reason for personal malice against Jane Shore. This attempt failing, he accused her of unchastity, which was not to be denied. She was taken to the Bishop’s Palace147 there clothed in a white sheet, a wax taper was placed in her hand, and she was led to the Cathedral beside the Palace, where she offered the taper, and to Paul’s Cross, where she made confession of her sins. One is glad to think that the poor creature had so short a distance to walk in this deplorable guise. Some, as Stow says, may think this woman “too slight a thing” to be written of: yet who can read the words of the grave Sir Thomas More, and still think so? And one cannot read the words of Stow himself without feeling that it was no common woman who could thus draw all hearts to her; who could leave behind her the memory of so many good deeds; who expiated a youth of such splendid sin by an old age of such terrible poverty and neglect.

Here are the words of Sir Thomas More:—

“Her stature was mean: her hair of a dark yellow, her face round and full, her eye grey, delicate harmony being betwixt each part’s proportion, and each proportion’s colour; her body fat, white, and smooth; her countenance cheerful, and like to her condition. That picture which I have seen of her, was such as she rose out of her bed in the morning, having nothing on but a rich mantle, cast under her arm, over her shoulder, and sitting in a chair on which her naked arm did lie. What her father’s name was, or where she was born, is not certainly known: but Shore, a young man of right goodly person, wealth, and behaviour, abandoned her bed, after the King had made her his concubine.”

And, next, hear Stow:148—“This woman was borne in London, worshipfully friended, honestly brought up, and very well married, saving somewhat too soone, hir husband an honest citizen, yong and godly, and of good substance. But for as much as they were coupled ere they were wel ripe, she not very fervently loved, for whom she never longed, which was happily the thing that the more easily made hir incline unto the King’s appetite, when he required hir. Howbeit the respect of his royaltie, the hope of gay apparell, ease, pleasure, and other wanton wealth, was able soone to pierce a soft tender heart.

But when the King had abused hir, anone hir husband (as he was an honest man) left hir up to him altogether.

When the King died, the Lord Chamberlain tooke hyr, which in the King’s dayes, albeit he was sore enamoured upon hir, yet he forebare hir, eyther for reverence, or for a certain friendly faythfulnesse. Proper she was and fayre: nothing in hir bodie that you would have chaunged, but if you would have wished hir somewhat higher.

Thus say they that knewe hir in hir youth. Albeit some that nowe see hir (for yet she liveth) deeme hir never to have bene wel visaged, whose judgement seemeth me somewhat like as though men should gesse the beautie of one long before departed, by her scalpe taken out of the charnelhouse: so now is she olde, leane, withered, and dryed up, nothing left but riveled skin and hard bone. And yet being even such: who so wil advise her visage, might gesse and devise, which parts how filled would make it a faire face. Yet delited not men so much in her beautie, as in her pleasant behaviour. For a proper wit had she, and coulde both reade well and write, merrie in companye, readie and quicke of aunswere, neyther mute nor full of bable, sometime taunting without displeasure, and not without disporte.

The King would say that he had three concubines, which in their diverse properties diversly excelled. One the merriest, another the wyliest, the third the holyest harlot in his realme, as one whom no man could get out of the Church lightly to any place, but it were to his bed. The other two were somewhat greater personages, and nathelesse of their humility content to be namelesse, and to forbeare the praise of those properties. But the meriest was this Shors wife, in whom the King therefore took special pleasure. For many he had but hir he loved, whose favour to saye the truth (for sinne it were to belie the Devil) she never abused to any man’s hurt, but to manye a mannes comforte and relief: where the Kyng tooke displeasure, she would mitigate and appease his mynde: where men were out of favour she woulde brynge them in his grace. For manye that hadde highlye offended shee obtayned pardon. Of great forfeytures she gat men remission. And finally, in many weightie sutes she stoode many men in great steade, eyther for none or very small rewardes, and those rather gaye than riche: eyther for that she was content with the deed selfe well done, or for that shee delyted to bee sued unto, and to shewe what she was able to doe with the King, for what wanton women and wealthy be not always covetous.

I doubt not some shall thinke this woman too sleyghte a thing to be written of, and set among the remembrances of great matters: whych they shall specially thinke, that happilye shall esteem hir onely by that they nowe see hir. But me seemeth the chaunce so muche the more worthy to be remembered, in how much she is nowe in the most beggerlye condition, unfriended and worn out of acquaintance, after good substance, after as great favour with the Prince, after as greate sute and seekyng to with all those that those dayes had businesse to speede, as many other men were in theyr tymes, which be now famous only by the infamye of theyr yl dedes. Hir doings wer not much lesse albeit they be much lesse remembered because they were not so evil. For men use if they have an evill turne to write it in Marble; and who so doeth us a good turne, we write it in duste, whiche is not worst proved by hir: for at this day she beggeth of manye at thys daye lyving, that at this day had begged if she had not bin.”

From the Berri Bible in British Museum. Harl. 1585.

It will be observed that Stow speaks of Jane Shore as living at the time he wrote. She was born about 1450; and she became mistress of Edward IV. about 1470; the King died in 1483, when she became the mistress of the first Marquis of Dorset for a short time. She was imprisoned in the Tower on a charge of sorcery, her goods were seized and sold, she did penance as above149 described, she was imprisoned in Ludgate, she fell into poverty and she lived to an advanced age, dying, it is supposed, about the year 1526, at the age of seventy-five or six. Seeing Stow was born in 1525 how can he speak of Jane Shore as living at the time he wrote? He is obviously quoting some older writer. Sir Thomas More, who was born in 1478, and died in 1535, was five years of age when Jane Shore did penance; he could hardly remember the event, even if he saw it. Nor could the unfortunate woman retain much of her early beauty when More was of an150 age to observe and to compare. At the same time he probably knew plenty of people who could remember the London beauty in her pride, and in the full flow of her generosity and wit and grace.

The funeral of Edward was celebrated with great splendour. The following account is taken from Archæologia, vol. i.:—

“But when that noble prince the good King Edward the iiiith was deceased, at Westminster in his paleys, which was the 5th day of April, the xxiii yer of his reign:

First, the corps was leyde upon a borde all naked, saving he was covered from the navell to the knees, and so lay openly X or XII hourez, that all the lordes both spirituell and temporell then beying in London or ner theraboute, and the meyer of London with his bredre sawe hym so lyng, and then he was sered etc. and was brought into the chapell on the morn after, when wer songen iii solemn massez: first of our Lady songe by the chapeleyn: and so was the second of the courte: the iiide masse of Requiem whiche was songen by the bishop of Chichester, and at afternoon ther was songen dirige and commendacion.

After that he had the hole psalter seid by the chapell, and at nyght well wecched with nobles and oder his servants, whose names ensuen like an apperethe in the watche rolle from the first nyght in tyme he was beryed. And at the masse of Requiem the lorde Dacre, the queen’s chambreleyn, offred for the quene, and the lordes temporell offred dayly at that seid masse, but the lordez spirituells offred not to the bishop but to the high auter, and oder the King’s servants offred also: this ordre was kept in the paleys viii dayez, savinge after the first daye ther was but on solemp masse, whiche alway was songen by a bishop: and on Wednysday the xvii day of the monyth, the corps was convenied into the abbey born by divers knyghts and esquires that wer for his body: having upon the corps a riche and a large blak cloth of gold with a crosse of white cloth of gold, and above that a riche canapye of cloth imperiall frenged with gold and blue silk. And at every corner a baner. And the Lord Howard ber the King’s baner next before the corps, having the officers of armez aboute them. Wher was ordeyned a worthy herse like as it apperteyneth, having before hym a grete procession. And in that herse, above the corps and the cloth of gold abovesaid, ther was a personage like to the similitude of the king in habite roiall, crowned with the verray crown on his hed. Holding in that one hande a sceptr, and in that other hand a balle of silver and gilte with a crosplate. And after that the lordes that wer within the herse, and the bisshoppez had offred, the meyer of London offred, and next after hym the chef juge and other juges and knyghts of the Kings hous with the barons of the eschequier and aldermen of London as they myght went to. And when the masse was don and all other solempnite, and that the lordes wer redy for to ryde: ther was ordeyned a roiall char covered with blak velvet, having about that a blak clothe of gold with a white151 cross of gold: under that a mageste clothe of blak sarsenet, drawen with vi coursers trapped with blac velvet with certeyn scochens betyn upon sarsenet betyn with fyne gold. Apon the fore hors and the third hors sate ii charet men. And on the iiii oder hors satte iiii henchemen. On either side the for seid draught went divers knyghts and esquiers for the body and other: some leying their handez to the draught and some leyding the hors unto tyme they passed the townes whose namez ensuen.

And the Lorde Haward, the Kings banerer, rode next before the forschorse bering the Kings baner upon a courser trapped with blak velvet with divers scochons of the Kings armez with his morenyng hudd on his hed. When the corps with the personage as above with procession of bishoppes in pontificalibz and the iiii ordrez of frerez was conveyed to the chare. And in ordre as above to Charingcrosse wher the bishops sensed the char, and the lordes toke their horse, and so proceded to Syon that nyght, where at the churche dore the bishoppes censed the corps, etc., the corps and the personage was born as before in the qure. And ther the bishop of Duresm did the service. And on the morn in like ordre as above he was conveyed to the chare, and from thens to Wyndesore.”



On the death of Edward IV., the Duke of Gloucester made haste to seize upon the Prince, his elder son, then a boy of thirteen, on his way from Ludlow Castle to Westminster.

RICHARD III. (1452-1485)
After the painting in Windsor Castle.

The City thereupon began to busy itself about the Coronation Festival. The civic procession was already organised (Sharpe, London and the Kingdom, i. 319). The City Fathers were to meet the young King who would come into the City: they were to be arrayed in gowns of scarlet, their attendants, including five sergeants at mace belonging to the Mayor and nineteen belonging to the Sheriffs, would have153 gowns of pied de lyon colour: the sword-bearer with four hundred and ten persons, forming a deputation from the guilds, were to have gowns of murrey. The riding out duly took place: the procession met the young King and the Duke of Gloucester at Hornsey and rode back with them to the Tower. That same day the Queen-mother with her younger son took sanctuary again at Westminster.

Gloucester took up his quarters at Crosby House or Hall, which still remains though greatly altered. The house was built by Sir Thomas Crosby, Grocer and Woolman, in the year 1466, on a piece of land belonging to St. Helen’s Nunnery, let to him by Alice Ashfield, Prioress, for ninety-nine years. Sir John Crosby cleared away the tenements which covered the spot, together with the poor people who lived in them, and built this palace, where he died in 1475. When the long lease expired there was no nunnery left to claim the ground.

Grove and Boulton.


What follows belongs to the history of England. Yet it must be briefly narrated for the part taken in these events by the City. Gloucester began by executing without trial and without law Lord Hastings, the most powerful friend of the young King, on a trumped-up charge of conspiracy. He then called the Mayor and Aldermen to the Tower and gave them his version of the business. For himself the execution served his purposes: it removed an obstacle and it proclaimed his power. He next issued a proclamation as to the treason of Hastings, whom he connected with the notorious and unbridled incontinency of the late King. He then courted the City favour by bestowing honours on the City magistrates. London has always been open to flattery by royal distinctions. He made the Mayor a Privy Councillor. This drew to his side, one may suppose, not only the Mayor himself, but some of the Aldermen, with the Mayor’s brother, Dr. Shaw, a154 celebrated preacher. It was arranged that Shaw, who was to preach on the following Sunday at Paul’s Cross, should open the subject of the succession. The subject and the matter of the sermon were obviously agreed upon beforehand. The sermon is “reported” in More’s Life of Edward V. If his account of it be true then Shaw must have been one of the most brazen liars then living. His text was taken from the Book of Wisdom, and it showed at the outset what line the sermon would take. The words “Bastard slips shall take no deep root.” He said that the late King having promised marriage to the Lady Elizabeth Lucy before she would consent to her own dishonour, and having had a child by her, was already married to her—yet a Catholic Priest knew very well that there is no marriage except that which is celebrated by the Church: that his marriage with Elizabeth Woodville was therefore null and void, and that his children by Elizabeth were illegitimate. Therefore, of course, they could not succeed.

Next, neither the late King, nor his late brother, the Duke of Clarence, nor, consequently, the son of Clarence, had any right to the throne because, as was well known—the allegation may have had some slight foundation in scandals and gossip but could not be known to the citizens,—their mother, the late Duchess of York, was an adulteress, and these two Princes were the children of a certain person about the Duke of York’s Court. “But,” he cried, “in ancestry my Lord Protector, that noble Prince, the Pattern of all Virtuous and Heroic Actions, carried in his Air and in his Mien and in his Soul the perfect Image of his illustrious father the Great Duke of York.”

According to some Gloucester was to have appeared at this point as if by accident, but he did not come. Either he mistook the time, or he was hindered, or his mind misgave him, or news came to Baynard’s Castle, which was no more than five minutes’ distance, that the people were cold and quiet. If this account be true, the coup was missed. It is, however, stated by Fabyan that the Duke of Gloucester, accompanied by Buckingham and other Lords, was present during the sermon which branded his mother as an adulteress. One would willingly believe that Fabyan was wrong. In what follows, one hopes that he was right. For he tells us that Dr. Shaw never ceased to feel the agonies of remorse for this sermon, which helped to bring death upon two innocent boys, and that he died shortly afterwards. Next, the Mayor and Aldermen, the Common Council, and the principal citizens, were summoned to Guildhall to hear the Duke of Buckingham on affairs of State. The City was in silent surprise: most men knew, or feared, what was coming. The Princes in the Tower; sanctuary broken and by order of the Archbishop; Hastings executed; Shaw proclaiming the illegitimacy of the Princes and their father; what but one thing could these actions mean? The citizens assembled, however, in silence: and in silence they stood while Buckingham, in a long oration, endeavoured to bring them round to the point which he desired. If it be reported truly, or only155 in substance, as he delivered it, the speech must be accounted a remarkable effort. Unfortunately, it must be considered as apocryphal, as the speeches in history usually are. As it is reported, however, he attacked the morals of the King, his lewdness and incontinency, which was easy; he asked them to remember the many cruelties of his reign, which was also easy—but Edward was no more revengeful or bloodthirsty than his enemies; he recalled the bloodshed and slaughter through which he had climbed to the throne, the heavy taxes he had imposed—in which he compared favourably with his predecessors; he repeated the calumnies and statements of Dr. Shaw; he showed—which was the most moving argument of all—the miseries of having a child for King. “Vae Regno cujus Rex puer est!” What sufferings had the realm endured through the long minority of Henry VI.! Finally, he called upon them in impassioned terms to proclaim Richard, Duke of Gloucester, lawful King of England. No one replied: the citizens stood in cold silence. The Duke repeated part of his speech: they still remained impassive. The Mayor suggested that perhaps they resented an address from one who did not belong to them: they expected to hear the voice of their Recorder. The Duke therefore ordered their Recorder to speak to them, in accordance with City usage. The Recorder did so, repeating the Duke’s own words. Yet still the citizens remained silent. Buckingham thereupon told them that their voice was not wanted in the matter at all: the succession was already decided upon by the Lords. He had invited their voices as a compliment to the City. They might, however, answer Yea or Nay—would they have the Protector to reign over them? A few hats were thrown up with the cry, King Richard! King Richard! upon which the Duke declared that the citizens were unanimous, and retired. The day after, Richard, being then at Baynard’s Castle and not at Crosby House, as is generally supposed, received the Mayor and Aldermen, and, pretending it to be much against his wish, accepted the proffered crown.

In the dead silence, neither of approval nor of dissent, which greeted the Duke’s speech we may read anxiety, doubt, and even dismay. The history of Henry III., of Richard II., of Henry VI., all cried aloud the dangers that awaited a country whose King was a child. All the rivers of blood, the destruction of noble houses, the loss of France, the national humiliation, the waste of treasure, the ruin of trade, of the last sixty years were caused by the feebleness of a child King, and the dissensions of his guardians. Were all those troubles to be begun again? It would seem so. We have seen a similar hesitation with the Archbishops over the invasion of Sanctuary. Both Princes, if the younger should join his brother in the Tower, would be most certainly murdered; no one could doubt that; yet—yet—what were the lives of these two boys compared with the chance of bringing peace once more to this distracted country? I am, therefore, of opinion that the Archbishops consented to the removal of the younger boy and the violation of Sanctuary156 deliberately, and knowing full well beforehand that the children would be murdered: yet feeling that the evils of a long minority were far worse than the murder of two boys: and that a strong King sitting on the throne, however he got there, was above all things needed by the distracted and bleeding and impoverished country. In the same way I am of opinion that in the City the nomination of Richard was a thing agreed upon by the City—it certainly was agreed upon—deliberately and perhaps unanimously, perhaps also in heaviness of spirit—in order to prevent worse calamities.

After the defeat and death of Buckingham, Richard received a loyal welcome from the City, together with a petition in which the citizens boldly told him that they were resolved no longer to live in thraldom and bondage, “oppressed and injured by extortions and new impositions against the laws of God and man.” Richard received this protest graciously, and passed a statute acknowledging that the exaction of money under the name of a benevolence was unconstitutional. He also pleased the City by forbidding alien merchants to have alien apprentices. In 1484-85, when it was known that Henry Tudor would attempt an invasion, the City presented the King first with the sum of £2400 and afterwards with £2000. Thus assisted, Richard marched out of London and met his enemy at Bosworth Field.

With the death of Richard we may fitly close the history of Mediæval London. The City no longer stands in isolation surrounded by its grey old walls: on the East and North suburbs are rising outside the walls: along the roads stand inns and taverns and houses for half a mile beyond the gates: Westminster is joined to London by a mile of Palaces as well as by the river highway: the old danger that the City might become another Venice—a state in itself—is gone: the other danger, that it would be seized by any King and deprived of its liberties is also gone. London was the chief town of the kingdom: the centre of the Parliament: the centre of intellectual life. Its institutions were by this time fully grown and fully formed.






Let us go back to the fourteenth century; let us walk about London in the reign of Edward III., great Captain and glorious Sovereign. Before we enter the City we will first stand upon the wall and look out upon the country outside. The wall itself, of Roman origin so far as the foundation and the core, has been faced and refaced and repaired over and over again. It is provided still, however, as in Roman times, with round bastions about 250 feet apart. One of these bastions, much rebuilt, overlooks, beyond the ditch, the church and churchyard of St. Giles, Cripplegate; the towers, erected at irregular intervals, belong to a period after the Romans. The wall is twenty-two feet high; the height of the towers is forty feet.


The wall kept out the Danes in six successive sieges, it kept out Earl Godwin in 1052.


The most important repairs which the wall has lately received are those of the Barons in 1215, who, after entering the City by Aldgate, breaking into the Jews’ houses, pillaging them of their valuables, and taking away all their money, used the stones of their houses for the repair of the gates and the wall. In the year 1257 Henry III. caused the wall to be again repaired and strengthened. In 1282 the south-west corner was shifted west in order to enclose the House of the Dominicans lately removed from their old house in Holborn. This new part of the wall rose along the bank of the Fleet. It was built, but very slowly, by the Corporation. Once more, in 1328, the walls were repaired, and again in 1386, when there was a scare about a French invasion, and the citizens in great haste repaired the wall and the gates and cleared out the ditch. The frequency of the repair seems to indicate bad and slovenly work. In 1477 the wall was strengthened in many places. After this, little or nothing seems to have been done for it.

The whole circuit of the wall is 2 miles and 605 feet. It is provided with battlements on the outside and a ledge or standing-place within, two or three feet wide, for the defenders. There may have been also some kind of rail for protection on the inside; the railing, however, sometimes found on old walls still existing, as at Chester, is modern; and we observe that the walls of York, Aigues161 Mortes, Avignon, and other places, are without any railing. Outside the wall lies the ditch, broad and deep, first constructed in the early part of the thirteenth century; the water is kept flowing by means of a culvert in the wall which leads it into the old bed of the Walbrook; it is renewed and kept fresh by certain small streams which fall into it from the Moorfields; it is full of fish, but since nothing can keep the people from throwing things into it, the water is always growing more shallow and the ditch always needs more dredging. The White Tower is built upon the original eastern end of the wall. Just north of the Tower on the east side is a postern of late date giving access to the riverside; and it serves as access to two religious houses, but there are no dwelling-houses there. St. Katherine’s by the Tower, one of the religious houses, stands on the bank of the river. It is quite a small foundation, but from the beginning it has been closely connected with the Queens of England. On the north of St. Katherine’s rises the stately Abbey of Grace, Graces, or Eastminster, not one of the most wealthy monasteries, but an important house, provided with very beautiful buildings (see vol. ii. pt. iii. ch. xxvi.). Between the ditch and the monastery is the open space called Little Tower Hill with its Stone Cross.

From Dugdale’s Monasticon.

The Town Ditch begins just south of Smithfield at the angle. There is no162 ditch along the west wall; probably there never was any, the Fleet River serving here for the moat. There is a Bridge over the ditch for the Grey Friars’ Postern, and another outside Aldersgate.

As we walk along the wall northwards, looking over the battlements, we see, running across the broad stretch of level ground, a roadway. It is not in the least like a modern road, or a Roman road; it is simply a wide grassy track broken up by feet of horses and by ruts! the latter are both broad and deep, for wheels are broad and carts are heavy. Trees stand here and there along the road; dotted about the fields are farm buildings, barns, and gardens. Presently, our view across the fields is blocked by the House of the Sorores Minores, the Sisters of St. Clare. You can see the nuns walking in their cloister garth; the buildings lying among their gardens and their orchards look strangely quiet and peaceful. As for the Sisters, they are reputed to be good and pious; the voice of scandal may be making free with the Mendicant Friars, and with the richly endowed monks; but no word or whisper of scandal has ever been uttered as regards these Franciscan Sisters. The farm beside their house, with the meadows, farm buildings, and farm-yard, rich with cows, sheep, swine, and fowls, belongs to the good Sisters, and is cultivated for them. It is one of the most ancient of the market gardens of London.

We arrive at the first of the City gates—Aldgate, otherwise spelt Algate or Alegate; but, according to Prof. Skeat, ald is Med. Eng. for old. It was not one of the Roman gates, because the Romans would not make a gate opening simply to the outside, and there was no Roman road connected with this part of the wall. It is, however, a sufficiently ancient gate. The gate is double, with two portcullises, but the drawbridge has become practically a permanent bridge; beside the gate is a hermitage. Such hermitages near gates and bridges are not uncommon. The hermit lives on the alms of the passers-by and promises his prayers in return. There are sometimes two or three hermits lodged together in one cell; their piety is occasionally doubtful; but concerning the piety of the Aldgate hermit have I heard nothing. It is not known when this gate was first constructed, certainly before the time of Fitz Stephen; probably after the arrival of the Conqueror. We may, if we please, ascribe its opening to Henry I., connecting it with the tradition which used to make his Queen the builder of Bow Bridge. In the neighbourhood of this gate, many years subsequently to the era we are considering, Roman coins were found sixteen feet deep.

Each of the City gates is granted to a Sergeant-at-Arms, who occupies the chambers over the gateway, and whose duty it is to keep watch at night, being assisted by a watchman (wayte) whom he keeps at his own expense. During the day each gate, according to the City regulations, is kept by two men well armed; sometimes the Bedel is directed to summon the men of the Ward to watch the gate armed, those absent finding substitutes at their own expense. This is done163 as a reminder of their duty. The City Gates, the Gate of London Bridge, and the City Posterns, are let to certain persons from time to time, for the profit, no doubt, arising from the farming of the tolls; Geoffrey Chaucer at this very time has taken a lease of that at Aldgate. The keepers of the City Gates are sworn, among other things, not to allow lepers to pass into the City.

Newgate and Ludgate have been prisons from time immemorial. All the chambers over all the gates are let on the condition that they may be taken over as prisons if they are wanted.

From the Ellesmere MS.

On the north side, just outside the gate, stands one of the churches dedicated to St. Botolph, the saint who protected travellers. The first church built outside the wall must have been erected when times grew somewhat settled,—it would have been little use building up a church which at any time could be destroyed by marauders. Now as Botolph was a Saxon Saint this church must have been built after the Danes had become Christian, but before the Norman Conquest. In St. Botolph’s honour the old town of Icanhoe changed its name to Botolphstown, or Boston.

Beyond the church are certain inns for the convenience of travellers; among them the “Nuns” Inn. By this way come all the travellers and the waggons out164 of Essex, the garden of England. In the broad courtyard of the inns stand for safety the covered waggons laden and piled high, to be driven to market in the morning. About a hundred yards beyond the gate stands Aldgate Bar, corresponding to the later turnpike. There are other bars which mark the bounds of the City liberties, but the distance from each gate is not always the same. Temple Bar, for instance, is a long way beyond Ludgate; Aldersgate Bar is near the north end of Aldersgate Street; Bishopsgate Bar is near the Prior’s Almshouse, Norton Folgate. Along the broad grassy track beyond Aldgate Bar stands a small white chapel, that of St. Mary Matfelon, and there are already a few houses, but not many. Beyond Aldgate and before Bishopsgate the wall runs in a northwesterly direction; on the opposite bank of the ditch there are certain small tenements. At this point the ditch is called Houndsditch, because, it is said, “dead dogs are thrown in here.” But dead dogs are thrown into other ditches as well. People do not carry a dead dog to this part of the wall in order to throw it into the ditch, so that this derivation does not ring true. Houndsditch was probably so named from the kennels standing on the north side—“dog-houses” they are called by the people. The breeding of dogs for the hunt is a very important branch of trade; it can only be carried on in the open country outside the wall of the City. A low wall has been erected on the north side of the ditch to prevent the shooting of rubbish into it, but, apparently, without effect. Beyond the wall the broad stretch of fields belongs to the Priory of the Holy Trinity.

The next gate is Bishopsgate, the most stately of all the London gates. The Bishop after whom it is named is Bishop Erkenwald (cons. 675, d. 693), perhaps because he rebuilt or repaired its predecessor. Not exactly on this spot, but very near to this spot, on the east, stood the Roman gate of which these are the successors. The foundations of this original gate have been found in Camomile Street. There is a row of Almshouses at Bishopsgate Bars for poor bedridden folk, who are provided with a roof at least, while they beg their bread of passers-by.

If we remember that Newgate was also rebuilt some distance south of its original position, we shall find strong confirmation of the theory that London was for a while a deserted City. For it is impossible that the occupation of a City should be continuous if the old position of the gates is forgotten. Nor is it only the site of the gates itself which is concerned; the change of position of a gate means the destruction and the obliteration of the old streets in the City which led to it; also of the roads outside which led to it: it means total oblivion of the former position of houses and streets. All this is meant by the transference of a gate. As for the date of the transference, we have the tradition which makes the good Bishop Erkenwald the builder; we have, close by the gate, the Church of St. Ethelburga, who was the Bishop’s friend. On the other hand, Alfred found the wall in a ruinous condition and strengthened it. Perhaps it was he who built165 the gate. The actual gate before which we are now, in imagination, standing, was erected in 1210, and succeeded that built by either Alfred or Erkenwald. The two stone images of Bishops on the south side of this represent St. Erkenwald and William the Norman; the other two images are those of Alfred and his son-in-law Ethelred, Earl of Mercia.

Outside this gate we observe a second church dedicated to St. Botolph, and opposite the church one of the great inns which are found outside every City gate. This is the “Dolphin.” The broad road outside leads past the poverty-stricken House of St. Mary of Bethlehem, now reduced to two or three Brethren, through an almost continuous line of houses as far as the noble and beneficent foundation of St. Mary Spital, whither the sick folk of London are brought by hundreds to lie in the sweet fresh country air outside the foul smells of the City. The road leads also to Holywell Nunnery on the west, and as far as the little church of St. Leonard Shoreditch, lying among the gardens and the orchards. At the east end of the road is a great field, “Teazle Field,” where they used to cultivate teazles for the clothmakers: at the time we are considering it is the place where the crossbow-men shoot for prizes. In Lollesworth Field, behind St. Mary Spital, there was formerly a Roman cemetery: many evidences of the fact have been found.

Leaving Bishopsgate and walking along the straight line of wall running nearly east and west we look out upon the open moor. It is dotted by ponds and intersected by sluggish streams and ditches; there are kennels belonging to the City Hunt and to rich citizens, and all day long you can hear the barking of dogs. There is a stretch of moorland, waste and uncultivated, covered with rank grass and weeds and reeds and flowers of the marsh, which is an area of irregular shape, roughly speaking, 400 yards from east to west by 300 yards from north to south. Any buildings erected here must stand upon piles driven into the London Clay. There is talk about the construction of a postern opening upon the moor and of causeways across the moor. These would be of great convenience to people wishing to go across to Iselden, or upon pilgrimage to Our Lady of Muswell Hill or Willesden. There is already a causeway leading from Bishopsgate Street without to Fensbury Court, where there was a quadrangular house with a garden and a pond belonging to the Mayor; and here are the kennels for the “Common Hunt.” Houses now become thicker outside the wall; and when we reach Cripplegate we find there is a considerable suburb, with a church called after St. Giles. It was built two hundred years ago in the reign of Henry I., so that, as far back as the twelfth century, there was at least the beginning of a suburb at this place.

As to the first building of Cripplegate there has been a good deal of conjecture. Since the church was founded about the year 1090, it is certain that there must have been, even then, a postern at least for communication between the City and this suburb. And since the name Cripplegate has nothing to do with any cripples166 but means small—“crepul”—gate, the name seems to point to existence of a postern at first. The gate, whoever built it originally, has been already rebuilt; once in 1244 by the Brewers—perhaps they changed it from a postern to a gate—who also constructed rooms above, which serve for the imprisonment of debtors. You may see one at the barred window, holding a string with a cup at the end of it, for the charity of pitiful persons. Put in it a penny for the poor debtors. I think, from the appearance of the gate, that it will have to be repaired again before long.

Here the wall bends suddenly to the south by west, running in that direction for 850 feet. Then it turns sharply to the west and after a little to the south again. Why did it take this sudden bend? There has never been anything in the nature of the ground to necessitate any such turn: there is neither stream, nor lake, nor rock, nor hill, in the way. Outside the wall, when it was first put up, there was moorland at this spot as all along the north, yet there must have been some reason. I have already ventured to offer a suggestion, which I repeat in this place, that this is the site of the Roman amphitheatre.

Just beyond the turn of the wall we come to Aldersgate. There appears to be no tradition concerning the date of this gate. It was one of the first four gates of the City; and it has been enlarged by the addition of a great framework house on the south side, and another on the east side, the latter of which is remarkable for the possession of a very deep well within its walls. Outside the gate is yet another church of St. Botolph. Beyond the church you may observe the modest buildings of a Fraternity. It is an Alien House called the Brotherhood of St. Fabian and St. Sebastian. Beyond the House of this Brotherhood are two or three great houses belonging to nobles. The cluster of religious houses in this neighbourhood may account for the number of houses which very early began to grow up around them. Under the wall is the Hospital of St. Bartholomew; beyond the Hospital is the Priory; beyond the Priory is the House of the Carthusian Friars; and on the west of these are the houses of the Knights Hospitallers and the Clerkenwell Nuns. Standing on the wall we command an excellent view of these buildings: grouped about in picturesque beauty, they stand among trees and gardens; beyond them, close to the City wall, lies the level plain of Smithfield with its trees and ponds, with its Horse Fair and its Cloth Fair, with its race-course and its gibbet, the place of amusements, the place of executions, the place of ordeal.

Beyond Aldersgate the wall runs west for a little, when it turns south again and passes Newgate. This is a goodly and a strong gate, and beside it stands the prison of which, at another time, we will speak at length. As we have said, Newgate, like Bishopsgate, was not built upon the site of the Roman Gate but near it. This is the traditional history of the gate:— 167

“This gate was first erected about the reign of Henry the First or of King Stephen, upon this occasion. The Cathedral Church of St. Paul, being burnt about the year 1086 in the reign of William the Conqueror, Mauritius, then Bishop of London, repaired not the old church, as some have supposed, but began the foundation of a new work, such as men then judged would never have been performed: it was to them so wonderful for heighth, length, and breadth, as also in respect it was raised upon arches or vaults, a kind of workmanship brought in by the Normans, and never known to the artificers of this land before that time. After Mauritius, Richard Beaumore did wonderfully advance the work of the said church, purchasing the large streets and lanes round about, wherein were wont to dwell many lay-people, which grounds he began to compass about with a strong wall of stone and gates. By means of this increase of the church territory, but more by enclosing of ground for so large a cœmitery or churchyard, the high and large street stretching from Aldgate in the east to Ludgate in the west, was in this place so crossed and stopped up, that the carriage through the city westward was forced to pass without the said churchyard wall on the north side, through Paternoster row; and then south, down Ave Marie lane; and again west, through Bowyer row to Ludgate; or else out of Cheap, or Watheling Street to turn south through the old Change; then west through Carter lane, again north up Creed lane and then west to Ludgate. Which passage, by reason of so much turning, was very cumbersome and dangerous both for horse and man. For remedy whereof a new gate was made, and so called, by which men and cattle, with all manner of carriages, might pass more directly (as before) from Aldgate, through west Cheap by St. Paul’s, on the north side: through St. Nicholas Shambles and Newgate market to Newgate, and from thence to any part westward over Holborn bridge, or turning without the gate into Smithfield, and through Iseldon to any part north and by west. This gate hath of long time been a gaol or prison for felons and trespassers, as appeareth by records in the reign of King John and of other kings; amongst the which I find one testifying, that in the year 1218, the 3rd of King Henry the Third, the King writeth unto the Sheriffs of London, commanding them to repair the gaol of Newgate for the safe keeping of his prisoners, promising that the charges laid out should be allowed unto them upon their accompt in the Exchequer.”

Continuing our walk we overlook the Fleet River, which is much choked with filth and rubbish, especially from things thrown into it from the Fleet prison, whose walls it washes and whose refuse it receives. Perhaps after heavy rains it becomes a cleaner stream. Over against it rises the steep slope of Holborn crowned with its ancient church of St. Andrew. The broad road on which it stands is the military road, which branched off from the Roman road, when London Bridge was built. Formerly, and long after the building of the Bridge, the highway between the north and the south ran across the marshes round Westminster, and over Thorney Island itself.


Ludgate—perhaps, we do not know—was built as a postern before the Conquest. It was rebuilt or strongly repaired, in the year 1215, by the Barons when they entered the City and pillaged the Jews, as already mentioned. Ludgate is now—in this fourteenth century—also a prison concerning which more will be said hereafter.

The wall of London at first passed in a direction due south to the river from this gate, which was on the hill just without the Church of St. Martin. Between the wall and the Fleet was a small piece of wet and undesirable ground on which the Dominicans were permitted to settle; it was their precinct, outside the jurisdiction of the City. Presently the Friars were allowed to pull down the City walls beside them. This was in 1276. The King ordered the City to apply some of the murage dues to building a new wall on the banks of the Fleet, so as to include the House of the Dominicans. Three years later the order was renewed, yet the wall remained unfinished. The lack of zeal probably meant a growing disbelief in the importance of the wall, especially that part of it which overlooked the muddy banks and the mouth of the Fleet. The wall, however, was finished in due course.

We have now completed our circuit of the City wall and have seen what was in the immediate neighbourhood of London. Farmhouses and pasture lands in the direction of Stepney and Mile End; beyond them, which we could not see, the low-lying lands and marshes of the river Lea. North of Bishopsgate is a line of houses, three or four stately monasteries, and inns for travellers; north of Moorgate a vast marsh crossed by causeways, given over chiefly to kennels; beyond the moor, the pleasant village of Iselden. At Cripplegate, a suburb populous but composed entirely of craftsmen; outside Aldersgate, stately monasteries, a noble hospital for the sick, a tract of ground, flat, dotted with ponds, with some small clusters of trees upon it, decorated by a gibbet on which hang always the mouldering remains of some poor dead wretches, a gallows-tree on which half a dozen can be comfortably hanged at once. This place is also the site of a great cloth fair held once a year, of a horse fair once a week; and a part is given over to the Jews for their burial-place. On the west, looking out from Ludgate, there is the slope to the Fleet River, with its bridge; the street beyond with its one or two great houses and its shops and taverns beginning to spring up; beyond this street there is the rising slope of the Strand, with its glittering streamlets. And standing on the southern tower of the wall we can look across the river, and see on the other side, the immense marsh that extends from Redriff to Battersea, and the gentle rise of the Surrey Hills beyond. Along that southern marsh there are few houses as yet. Southwark is little more than a High Street. There are one or two houses belonging to Bishop, Abbot, and noble; there are the infamous houses on Bankside; there is the Archbishop’s Palace at Lambeth, but on this side there is little more.

Let us now leave the wall and begin to walk about the streets of the City—we169 are still, it must be remembered, in the fourteenth century. The first and most distinctive feature of every mediæval city, as compared with its modern successor, is the number of its churches and of its monastic foundations. The latter, it is true, are situated outside the very heart of the City—thus, there are no convents in Thames Street. The Dominicans, as we have seen, were at first outside the wall: one religious foundation there was in Cheapside itself, but that was due to the birthplace of a saint; all the rest were placed near the wall, either within or without, one reason being that they were founded late when the inner part of the City was already filled up, and another, that they were founded, for the most part, with slender endowments, so that they were compelled to get land where it was cheapest. But the churches stand in every street; one cannot escape the presence of a church; and the minute size of the parishes proves, among other things, the former density of the population. Take, for instance, that part of Thames Street which extends from St. Peter’s Hill to Little College Street. That is a length of 1600 feet by a breadth averaging 400 feet. This area, which is divided along the upper part by Thames Street, consists almost entirely of warehouses, wharves, and narrow lanes leading to the river stairs; the south of it consists of that curious little collection of inhabited streets, the whole of which was reclaimed from the foreshore; there are a tangle of narrow lanes and noisome courts lying among and between the wharves, which lanes and courts are always foul and stinking, inhabited by the people belonging to the service of the Port. There are actually five parishes in that little district. The first of them, St. Peter’s, contains not quite two acres; the second, St. Mary Somerset, about four acres; the third, St. Michael’s, Queenhithe, about two acres and a half; the fourth, St. James, Garlickhithe, the same; and the fifth, St. Martin Vintry, about three acres and three-quarters. Five parishes in this little slip of land! But if we take the whole slip of land, which we call the riverside—an area of a mile in length by about 400 feet in width, we find that there are no fewer than eighteen parishes in it. All the churches now within the City, together with those which must have been burned or destroyed, are standing in the century we are considering. So frequent are the churches, so scanty the dimensions of the parish, that the most remarkable feature in the architecture and appearance of the City is the church which one sees in every street and from every point of view. These churches have been already rebuilt over and over again. At first they were small wooden structures, like that at Greenstead, Chipping Ongar, with their walls composed of trunks cut in half and placed side by side. A few were of stone, for the name of St. Mary Staining commemorates such a church. After the Conquest a rage for building set in, builders and masons came over from the Continent in numbers, and the period of Norman architecture began. Still, however, the parish churches continued to be small and dark. But the City grew richer: the nobles who lived in the City and the merchants began to rebuild, to decorate, and to beautify170 their churches: they pulled down the old churches, they built them up again larger and lighter, in Early English first and next in Decorated Style. Small the City churches continued and remained, but to some of them were added gateways and arches. Adorned as they were by the pious care of the citizens, for generation after generation, by this fifteenth century they had become beautiful. The citizens had filled the windows with painted glass, they had covered the bare walls with paintings, they had erected tombs for themselves with fine carved work and figures in marble and alabaster, they had covered the carved font with a carved tabernacle, they had glorified the roof with gold and azure, they had given the chancel carved seats, they had adorned the altars, they had given organs, they had endowed the church with singing men and boys, and they had bestowed upon it such collections of plate, furniture, rich robes, candlesticks, and altar cloths, as makes one wonder where the Church found room to stow everything. Everybody knows the Treasury of Notre Dame, of St. Denys, of Aix-la-Chapelle. The cupboards are crammed with ecclesiastical gear and relics and reliquaries. We must realise that the same thing, on a smaller scale, is to be seen, in the fourteenth century, in every parish church of London. We look into church after church. There are treasures in every one, treasures that the priests and the sacristans bring out with pride. And the monuments over the graves of City worthies bring out very strongly, as we stand in the churches and read the names, the fact that the members of the great distributing Companies, largely, if not entirely, belong to families of gentle birth: upon this fact there will be more to say in another place. Another point is that there are few monuments older than this—the fourteenth-century. Thus, taking half a dozen of the churches as we walk about the streets, we find that a monument of the thirteenth century occurs in one or two cases only. What does this mean? That the monuments of all the merchants who died in London and are buried in the City churches have been removed or wantonly destroyed? I think not. It has another meaning. The erection of monuments to the dead belongs to a very primitive stage of civilisation, and it is also found in an advanced stage; in times of continual uncertainty and warfare it does not always exist: nor does the craftsman or the rustic desire a post-mortem memory. The citizens of London before this time have not generally nourished the desire of posthumous honour. They left money for masses, or to beautify the church; or they founded doles for the Mind Day, but not for the erection of a monument. This desire seems to belong to a time when the conditions of life have been smoothed and some of the old miseries have abated. Not that the dangers of fire, famine, or pestilence ever weigh heavily upon the minds of a people actively engaged; or that they are bowed down by the consciousness that war, with a painful death on the field, is always a possibility for them; or that they find life intolerable by reason of its diseases, its chances, its changes, or its brevity. But it is quite certain that they do realise so vividly the world to come, that171 in all their transactions it is acknowledged in words, if not really felt, to be of far greater importance than the world in which they live. Since, after a time of Purgatory, one is going for ever to sit among the Saints, what matters it whether one’s name is preserved or not? When many of the old dangers are abated; when fortune is more stable; when wealth accumulates; when the growth of the City brings dignity, honour, and authority to the citizens,—then it may become natural for the people to erect monuments in memory of the men whose personality in life has been large and full of dignity; and then every man will begin to desire such a monument in memory of those surprising achievements of which he alone is conscious. Every family will begin to desire such a commemoration, if only to swell the family pride, and to make the church itself proclaim the glory of the line. But in the thirteenth century these aspirations were rare. Henry of London Stone, first Mayor and Mayor for five-and-twenty years, was one of those thus honoured.

Let us exchange generalities for a single example.

We are standing at the entrance of a narrow lane leading north from Thames Street. It is the street called Fish Street Hill or Labour in Vain Hill. On the south-east corner stands the very ancient church of St. Mary Somerset. It is placed a little back from Thames Street with part of its churchyard on the south side: it is a large and handsome church; the churchyard is planted with trees and the graves are mounds of grass. We enter the street, which presents a steep incline: down the middle runs a tiny stream, for there has been rain; offal, bones, grease, fish-heads, dirty water, refuse of all kinds float down this stream, which, after a heavy shower, keeps the street comparatively clean and wholesome. There are, however, fortunately, other scavengers besides the rain; they swoop down out of the sky, they alight in the street, they tear the offal with their beaks and claws, they carry it up to the house-tops; these are the kites and crows, who build their nests on the church towers and roofs, and find their food in the refuse thrown out into the streets. Were it not for these birds, London streets would be intolerable.

It is a morning in May: along the street on either side are houses; here is a rich merchant’s house standing behind its wall, and beside it is a little tenement occupied by a craftsman. Looking up the street one can see green trees here and there, from those of St. Mary Somerset on the south to those of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey on the north. Half-way up we come upon a low wall; looking over it we see a churchyard shaded by trees and covered with graves, the grass growing long and rank; on the west side of the churchyard stands the church—it is a very small church called St. Mary Mounthaw, one of the latest of the City churches, and built originally as a chapel for a private family. Its name shows that the parish was a slice of St. Mary Somerset, just as St. Katherine Coleman was carved out of St. Katherine Cree, and All Hallows the Less out of All Hallows the Great. The door is open—if we look in we see a few women kneeling; there is the murmur of a172 chantry priest, for it is morning, singing his daily mass; the church is Early English, the roof is high, with beams crossing and recrossing, they are painted red and gold; springing out from the side of the church are angels with outspread wings; high up in the roof itself above the beams is a sky all blue with silver stars. The walls of the church are decorated with bright-coloured paintings from the life of the Blessed Virgin and her Son; the windows are richly painted; the altar is covered with candlesticks, crosses and furniture in white silk, gold, silver, and latoun. There are two noble monuments, each with its effigy and its chapel of white marble: one effigy wears a Bishop’s mitre; another is the image of an Alderman, who was a benefactor to the church. Dozens of candles stuck on iron sticks are burning, with a few great wax tapers paid for by a bequest; at the door sit two old women, beggars. On the north side of the church, and outside it, is a projecting structure half underground. This is the anchorite’s cell (see vol. ii. pt. ii. ch. v.): on the level of the ground is a small aperture protected by a rusty iron grating without glass and without shutter; by this window everything must be handed in to the occupant. If we look through the bars, we see that within there reigns a dim and terrible twilight, for no gleam of sunshine can penetrate this cold and gloomy den, and even on this bright and sunny morning the air is cold and damp like the air of a crypt. On the other side is a narrow slit in the wall, like the leper’s squint, through which the anchorite can witness the Elevation of the Host; at the end of the cell a raised stone serves for an altar, a crucifix stands upon it, and before it the anchorite spends most of his time day and night, praying. The present occupant has been built up into this cell for many years; he subsists on what is brought him. There is never any fear of his being starved or forgotten: he is well provided for, and the people offer him dainties which he will not touch, for he lives on bread and water: sick or well, he will never leave this cell till they find him lying dead on the floor and carry him out. And when the cell is empty there will be no difficulty in finding a successor to occupy his place and fulfil the same dreary austere life.

Let us leave the church and pass on. The street is very narrow, but not so narrow as some. The houses, which are for the most part two and three stories high, are gabled, and the windows are glazed: many of them, such as those on Labour in Vain Hill, do not contain shops but are what we should call private houses, some are let for lodgings to those who come to town on business; and when the lodger is an armiger or a noble, he hangs his scutcheon out of the window, or fixes it on the wall above the door. Thus, Chaucer’s attention, you will remember—see that famous lawsuit tried but the other day, Scrope v. Grosvenor—was first called to the doubtful heraldry on the Grosvenor shield by seeing the scutcheon hanging out of the window in Friday Street. The houses are not in line, but are placed as the builders choose, fronting in various directions and abutting at different depths on the street. Here is a narrow court leading out of the street, it is so narrow that a man standing173 in the middle can easily touch each side. It contains about a dozen small tenements inhabited by craftsmen, who are all at work in the ground-floor rooms, which are at once workshop, kitchen, and sleeping-room. All about, in the air, one hears the continual noise of work, the sound of hammering, sawing, grating, the ringing of the anvil, the voices of women who quarrel and scold. Now and then rises, all in a moment, without warning, a sudden brawl between two of the working men, at once knives are drawn and in a moment the thing is over, but it leaves a little pool of blood in the middle of the street, and a woman binds up a bleeding arm. We have seen enough of the court. Come back into the street. Here is a gateway and over it a gatehouse, but without battlements or portcullis. Two or three men-at-arms are hanging about the gate, and within is a broad square court in which boys, pages practising tilting, are riding about. There are buildings on all four sides; one of these is a stately hall with a lofty roof and lantern, and the others are noble buildings. This is the town house of a great Baron, who rides with a following of three hundred gentlemen and men-at-arms, and owns manors broad, rich, and numerous. He maintains five hundred people, at least, in his service. Next, there is another gateway and another court with another hall, but not so great. This is the town house of the Bishop of Hereford. There is no tilting or riding in his court: it is, on the other hand, turned into a garden with roses and lilies blossoming in the flower-beds, a fountain sparkling in the sunshine and splashing musically. There is a south aspect, and vines are trained upon the wall; there is a sun-dial, and some seats are placed upon the grass. As for the house, the windows and porches are full of beautiful carved woodwork and shields are carved on the walls. Below the windows are figures in bas-relief representing all the virtues, and the great window of the hall is of painted glass with the family arms of the Bishop, a man of no mean descent, in the centre. Near the Bishop’s house, and like unto it in appearance, but of lesser splendour, is the house of a great merchant, as great men went in the fourteenth century. We will presently enter one of these houses and see how they are furnished. And among the great houses standing side by side, rich and poor together, as it should be, are tenements of the craftsmen, such as we have seen in the narrow court which we have just now passed. In the street itself, dabbling in the water barefooted, are the children, rosy-cheeked, fair-haired, playing, running, and shouting, as they do to this day, and always have done since the beginning of the City.

Shall we next enter the City at Ludgate and walk about its streets from there? Ludgate is half-way up the hill that rises above the valley of the Fleet; passing through it we stand before the west front of St. Paul’s. The noble church must be reserved for another occasion. We walk through the churchyard, and so by the north-east gate of the Precinct find ourselves in Chepe.

This is the greatest market of the City. Hither come the craftsmen, for to174 each craft is assigned its own place in the market. Not only do the trades work together, but they sell their wares together, so that there is no underselling, and everything is offered at a fixed price.

There is a great deal to be said for this custom. It is convenient for the apprentice to live and work in the atmosphere, so to speak, of his own trade, and to see all day long his own industry. It is also convenient for men of the same craft to work together, first, because solitary labour is bad for a man, next, because hours of labour can only be enforced when men work in companies, third, because bad work cannot be successfully palmed off as good where all work is in common, and, last, if any other reason were wanted, because in some trades tools are costly, and by this method can be held and used in common. Out of this working in common spring the fraternities and guilds and, in fulness of time, the companies. There also grows up, what would never have arisen out of solitary labour, the pride and dignity of trade. The dignity of trade will be greatly increased when the City Companies become rich and strong, and when each fraternity can carry on occasions of state its own banners and insignia, and can wear its own distinctive dress.

There were changes in the quarters of trade from time to time owing to causes which we can only guess.

“Men of trades and sellers of wares in this City have oftentimes since changed their places, as they have found their best advantage. For whereas mercers and haberdashers used wholly then to keep their shops in West Cheap; of later time they held them on London Bridge, where partly they do yet remain. The Goldsmiths of Gutheron’s Lane and the Old Exchange are now, for the most part, removed into the south side of West Cheap. The pepperers and grocers of Soper’s Lane are now in Bucklersbury, and other places dispersed. The drapers of Lombard Street and of Cornhill are seated in Candlewick Street and Watheling Street. The skinners from St. Marie Pellipers, or at the Axe, into Budge Row and Walbrook. The stockfish-mongers in Thames Street. Wet-fish-mongers in Knightriders Street and Bridge Street. The ironmongers of Ironmongers’ Lane and Old Jury into Thames Street. The vintners from the Vinetree into divers places. But the brewers for the most part remain near to the friendly water of Thames. The butchers in East Cheap, St. Nicholas Shambles, and the Stockes market. The hosiers, of old time, in Hosier Lane, near unto Smithfield, are since removed into Cordwainer Street, the upper part thereof, by Bow Church, and last of all into Birchovers Lane by Cornhill. The shoemakers and curriers of Cordwainer Street removed, the one to St. Martin’s le Grand, the other to London wall near to Moorgate. The founders remain by themselves in Lothbury. The cooks or pastelars, for the more part, in Thames Street; the other dispersed into divers parts. The poulters of late removed out of the Poultry, betwixt the Stockes and the Great Conduit in Cheap, into Grass Street and St. Nicholas Shambles. Bowyers from Bowyers’ Row by Ludgate into divers parts; and almost worn out with the175 fletchers. The paternoster bead-makers and text-writers are gone out of Paternoster Row, and are called stationers of Paul’s Churchyard. The patten-makers, of St. Margaret Pattens Lane, are clean worn out. Labourers every work-day are to be found in Cheap, about Soper’s Lane end. Horse-coursers and sellers of oxen, sheep, swine, and such like, remain in their old market of Smithfield.”

From an old print.

West Chepe is a broad place covered with movable stalls arranged in prescribed order; and this arrangement marks out the streets. On the north and south are large “selds,” which are warehouses and shops in which the servants have their sleeping-rooms, but there is, as yet, very little order or regularity observed in the erection of the seld. Already many of the stalls, especially on the south side, are shops with houses above them. In the midst of Chepe is the Standard, as important a part of the City as Paul’s Cross, for it is the old Town176 Cross, the Cross that marks the centre of the City, and round the Standard are stalls for fish and vegetables; there are also “stations” for the sale of small things. There are other associations connected with the Standard—it has been used for execution. In the time of the present King’s grandfather, Edward, first of the name, were some who had their right hands struck off for rescuing a prisoner: only the other day we saw two fishmongers beheaded here. Not far from the Standard is Queen Eleanor’s Cross, which is opposite Wood Street.

The “Frame” houses are beginning to be built on the south side of Chepe. They are not, like the palaces of the wealthy merchants and the nobles, built round a court, but are simply developments of the ordinary citizen’s house, decorated and better built. The “frame” is of strong and thick oak, folded in with plaster, and the front, carried up to three or four stories, is covered with carved woodwork; here are shields and the arms of the trade to which the owner belongs, here are effigies and carvings of men and creatures, here are bright paintings in red and blue and gold. We have passed through Chepe and are in the Poultry.

This large house, with its solid gate and its spacious court, is the residence of the Lord Mayor for the year. Observe that the posts outside his gates are gilded, a pretty decoration for the street. Yet it is not in pride that the Chief Magistrate of the City sets up two pillars of gold before his house, it is the City custom thus to mark the house of Mayor, Alderman, or Sheriff. The posts may be painted or they may be gilt. When Proclamations of the King are read they are set up on these posts, and they who read them do so bareheaded, to show their respect for King and Mayor.

Let us not forget to notice the “Room-lands” of which there were many, though now they are greatly reduced in number and in space. There was the broad space round St. Paul’s Cathedral, the place where the Folk Mote assembled. This area was in course of time partly covered with buildings, and with graves and receptacles for bones: another vacant area was that at the north-west corner of the City Wall, where the Franciscans built their House: West Chepe was a Room-land: East Chepe was another: and there were broad spaces designedly left unbuilt upon at Billingsgate, Queenhithe, and Dowgate. The Coal Exchange stands upon the site of the Billingsgate Room-land.

The changes that crept over London during the centuries we are considering were so slow and so imperceptible that the ordinary observer must have thought the world was standing still. Always there had been the Church with its services, always the Friar in the street, always the market and the selds: he did not know, because he had no power of judging, that the City was growing richer, that the standard of comfort had risen immensely, that life was not so rude as it had been, that, perhaps, there was less violence. As much uncertainty there always was, for in the midst of life we are in death, and there were many terrors—the pestilence that177 stalked the streets, invisible, by day and by night, fire, famine, and war. The population of the City did not increase so fast as its wealth; there were more stately houses, more carved work, more gold and silver cups, finer tapestry, finer weapons, but the world, in the eyes of the ordinary citizen, stood still: as things had been, so they were still, so they would be till the end of all things; there was no hope, no thought of a larger and nobler humanity, all his hope lay beyond the world. Let us remember this fact, because it explains a great deal of mediæval history.

West Chepe was the heart of the City: but it was not the Exchange. There was no Exchange. The merchants met in the most convenient place, that is to say, for foreign trade, in Thames Street. They had their houses for the most part in the sloping streets north of Thames Street; here they received the foreign merchants. The lesser sort transacted business at the tavern.

As we continue our walk we discover that there are three or four principal streets in the City. The apparent labyrinth is pierced by parallel thoroughfares and by others at right angles, so that one need not be lost in the winding lanes. The most important is the street—if we may call that a continuous street which is interrupted at so many places—which enters at Newgate. It is here called Flesh-shambles or Newgate Street, but it is interrupted at Blowbladder Street, and it becomes Chepe; it is interrupted by the Poultry, and it goes along Cornhill and Leadenhall Street, and so out at Aldgate. It is crossed by Grasschurch Street and Bishopsgate Street and by a great number of narrow streets. Other streets of less importance are Candlewick Street, East Chepe, Tower Street, Walbrook, Lombard Street, Fenchurch Street, Watling Street, Knightrider Street, besides a great number of narrow lanes, themselves intersected by courts and alleys. Remark, however, that as yet every house of any importance has its garden. The citizen of London clings to his garden, however small it is.

One thinks that, with streets and lanes so narrow, where there is no system of sewage, and everything is thrown into the street, the filth and general uncleanness must have been intolerable. Look around: we are in the midst of narrow lanes, but where is the intolerable filth? Let us consider. There is a great deal of rain which washes the street continually, and these lanes mostly stand on a slope; there is a service, not very effective, but still of some use, carried on by the “rakers,” who pick up things and take them to lay-stalls; there are the scavenger birds of which we have spoken; and, the most important point of any, there is public opinion. All the people have to use these lanes to go up and down about their daily business; the children play in them; the housewives go to early mass and to market; the great lady who, with her maids, lives in the house behind the gates before you has to use this lane. Think you that these people will consent to have their ways defiled and made impassable? Not so. Therefore the streets are kept tolerably clean. I say not, that in August, after a month or two of hot weather, they are so sweet and fresh178 as they should be. But one will find more inconvenience from the people than from the streets. What can one expect? Most of them have but one suit of clothes which they wear all the year round. But seen in this way, by walking from one narrow lane into another, where all the streets are narrow except Cheapside, one cannot get a just idea of the size and the splendour of the ancient City. Let us therefore, since the tide is flowing, take boat at the Iron Gate Stairs between the Tower and St. Katherine’s. This is the end of the town, a gathering of houses round the venerable church and college, a river embankment, ruinous in places, and a low-lying marsh beyond, this is all that one can see of the east of London. Marshes lie on either side of the City, moorland and forest are on the north, and there are marshes on the south. In the Pool are moored the ships, not yet in long lines four deep, but here and there; some of these are lying off the Tower, some are in the port of Billingsgate, and some sailing up the river; all of them have high poops and low bows, and most of them two masts and four square sails. Other vessels there are, vessels of strange build of which we know not the names. We drop across the river, and hoisting sails gently glide with wind and tide up the river as far as Westminster. The Tower looms large above the waters. It is the fortress of London, the Palace and Fortress and Prison of the King, and is guarded with jealous care by moat, outward and inner wall, and barbican against any attack of the citizens within rather than any enemies from without. The King’s Lieutenant never leaves the place; he has his guard of archers and men-at-arms; as well as the prisoners of State in his charge. He has his entrance from the river, and from the east, so that he is quite independent of the City. That little forest of masts belongs to the Port of Billingsgate, one of the ancient ports of the City. The riverside houses between the Tower and Billingsgate are mean and small: the quarter is inhabited by sailors and sailors’ folk, by foreign as well as English sailors. After Billingsgate the houses are higher: some are built out upon piles driven into the mud of the river. Here we pass under London Bridge. On the south bridge gate are stuck on poles the heads of a dozen traitors. Alas! it would be hard to make out the features, so blackened are they by weather and so shrunken and decayed. Yet there are old crones standing about the Surrey side of the bridge for doles from the Bridgemaster and Brethren, who know the name of each, and can tell you his history, and when he suffered, and why. At each end of the bridge stands a church—as if to guard it—St. Magnus on the north and St. Olave on the south—though why should there be two Danish saints to guard an English bridge? In the middle is the chapel—that of an English saint. This bridge, in the imagination of the citizens, is the finest in the world. Admire the number of the arches, and note that no two arches are of the same breadth; look at the houses on the bridge; the way between them is narrow and dark, yet here and there are open spaces, where carts and waggons and pack-horses can wait their turn for passing. Once a house fell from the bridge into the river; once a child fell179 and was rescued by an apprentice who afterwards married her, and many other stories there are. Now we are through the bridge safely, though many boats have been upset and many brave fellows drowned in shooting the arches. There are no great ships above bridge, but there are a good many of the smaller kind laden with cargoes for Queenhithe Port and Market. And now look up. Saw one ever such a forest of spires and towers? Can we make them out? The light and slender steeple behind the bridge is St. Helen’s; the still more beautiful spire is that of Austin Friars; the tall square tower is St. Michael’s, Cornhill; on the right, the tower and low spire belong to St. Peter’s. And so on.

From drawing taken by William Goodman in the year 1599 and now in possession of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors.


The heavy barges, laden to the water’s edge, have come down from Oxfordshire and Wiltshire; observe the swans, the fishing-boats, and the swarm of watermen plying between stairs, for this is the highway of the City. Not Cheapside, or East Cheap, or Thames Street, or the Strand is the highway of the City, but the river. And as on a main road we pass the noble Lord and his retinue, on their war-horses, caparisoned and equipped with shining steel and gilded leather, and after him a band of minstrels or a company of soldiers; or a lady riding on her palfrey followed by her servants and her followers; so on the river we pass the stately barge of some great courtier, the gilded barge of the Mayor, the common wherry, the tilt-boat, the loaded lighter, and the poor old fishing-boat decayed and crazy.

Look at the riverside houses. Yonder great palace, with its watergate and stairs and its embattled walls, is Fishmongers’ Hall. It is a wealthy company, albeit never one beloved of the people, whom they must supply with food for a good fourth part of the year. That other great house is Cold Harbour, of the first building of which no man knows. Many great people have lived in Cold Harbour, which, as you see, is a vast great place of many storeys, and with a multitude of rooms. Within there is a court, invisible from the river, though its stairs may be seen.

Almost next to Cold Harbour is the “Domus Teutonicorum,” the Hall of the Hanseatic Merchants. What you see from the river is the embattled wall on the river side, one side of the Hall, some windows of the dormitories, stone houses built on wooden columns, also the great weighing-beam and the courtyard. The front of this fortress—for it is nothing less—contains three gates, viz. two small gates easily closed, and one great gate, seldom opened. You see that they have their own watergate and stairs. In everything they must be independent of the London folk, with whom they never mix if they can keep separate. The men live here under strict rule and discipline; they may not marry; they stay but a short time as a rule; and when they are recalled by the rulers of the great company they are allowed to marry. Here, from the south side of the river, we get the only good view of the church of St. Paul. ’Tis a noble Church: is there a nobler anywhere? If we consider how it stands upon a hill dominating the City and all around it, of what length it is, of what height, how its spire seeks the sky and draws the clouds, then when181 one realises these things one’s heart glows with pride at the possession of so great and splendid a church. See how it rises far above the houses on its south side! Was it by accident, think you, that the churches between the bank and the Cathedral, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Nicolas Cole Abbey, St. Benedict, and the others, were all provided with short square towers without steeples so as to set off the wondrous height of the Cathedral? Was it by accident that on the west side of the Cathedral rose the spire of Blackfriars, and on the east the lesser spire of St. Augustine’s, making a contrast with the lofty proportions of the great church? In front of us is the ancient port once called Edred’s Hythe after the name of a former Wharfinger or Harbour Master or Port Captain; it was afterwards called Potter’s Hythe and later Queen Hythe, because King John gave it to his mother Queen Eleanor, which name it still retains. The port is square, and open on one side to the river; there are never any storms to wreck the shipping within. It is now filled with ships, chiefly of the smaller kind, because the larger craft cannot pass through the Bridge. For this reason Billingsgate long surpassed Queenhithe in the number and importance of its ships and the magnitude of its trade. However, at Queenhithe they are busy. The cranes wheeze and grunt as they turn round; carriers with bales and sacks upon their backs toil unceasingly. All round the quay runs a kind of open cloister with an upper storey on pillars: this is the warehouse of the Harbour.

Grove and Boulton.


The earliest harbour, whose mouth we passed just now, is an insignificant stream; one cannot understand how it could ever be a harbour for ships. It was182 once, however, a full and deep stream running rapidly down its valley, and sometimes swollen by rains. It drained Moorfields, and half a dozen rivulets joined together to make the brook, but when the ditch was dug round the wall, the brook fell into the ditch, and although a culvert was cut in the wall for the surplus water to pass down the old bed, little flowed through, and the Walbrook was only kept up as a stream by two or three springs in the northern part of the City.

There is a street in Rouen called the rue des Eaux de Robec, which suggests something of the appearance of the Walbrook before the sixteenth century. The street, which is fairly straight, contains a double row of houses, tall and ancient, projecting in three upper storeys, and decayed from former respectability. Such at the present day, were they still standing, would be the houses lining the course of the Walbrook in the fourteenth century. Along one side of the street runs a rapid stream in a deep channel; the water is black, whether from the darkness or the impurity I know not; it is partly bridged over; the bridges have been broadened until they are no longer narrow footways, but platforms on which workmen sit at their trade, and stalls are set out with things for sale. On the other side is the narrow roadway with its pavement of small uneven square blocks; there is no central gutter, because the stream carries everything off. Such was the appearance of the Walbrook. At first foot-bridges crossed it at intervals; then it was confined to a narrow channel; then other uses were made of the stream; then the footways became floors of stone or woodwork, with the stream open between them; then these openings became gradually filled up, and the stream was shut out of sight and forgotten. If you wish to understand how Walbrook appeared in our imaginary walk, go to see the rue des Eaux de Robec in Rouen.

The stately Palace rising straight from the water’s edge with its river-gate and stairs and its lofty face is Baynard’s Castle, so called from its first founder. Within, there are two spacious courts with rooms to accommodate hundreds of followers. It was formerly the House of the Castellain, for the rights and title of Castellain at first went with the possession of the Castle. When Robert FitzWalter in 1275 parted with Baynard’s Castle he reserved, so far as he could, these rights. They were exercised only in time of war, and at such a time it was the duty of the Castellain, mounted and caparisoned, with nineteen knights and his banner borne before him, to proceed to the great Gate of St. Paul’s, where he was met by the Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs, all arrayed in arms, the Mayor holding the City Banner in his hand, the ground of which was bright vermilion, or gules, with a figure thereon of St. Paul in gold—the feet, hands, and head of the Saint being argent.

At the West End of St. Paul’s was a piece of open ground upon which the citizens made muster of arms for the defence of the City under the inspection of the Lord of Baynard’s Castle. At the East End there was another piece of open ground where the citizens assembled for their folkmote and for making parade of183 arms for keeping the King’s peace. Here was Paul’s Cross, and here was the clochier or Campanile, the great bell of which summoned the citizens either to the folkmote or to the muster of arms. The following is the order of the ceremonies:—

From an engraving by Measom.


“And as soon as the said Robert shall see the Mayor, and the Sheriffs, and the Aldermen, coming on foot out of the said church armed, with such banner, the said Robert (or his heirs who owe this service unto the said city) shall then dismount from his horse, and shall salute the Mayor as his companion and his peer, and shall say unto him: ‘Sir Mayor, I am come to do my service that I owe unto the city’; and the Mayor, and the Sheriffs, and the Aldermen shall say: ‘We deliver unto you here, as to our Banneret in fee of this city, this banner of the city, to bear, carry, and govern, to the honour and to the profit of our city, to the best of your power.’ And the said Robert, or his heirs, shall receive the banner in his hand, and shall go on foot as far as the outside of the gate, with the banner in his hand; and the Mayor of the said city, and the Sheriffs, shall follow him to the gate, and shall bring a horse unto the said Robert, of the price of twenty pounds; and the horse shall be saddled with a saddle with the arms of the said Robert thereon, and covered with cendal with the same arms thereon. And they shall take twenty pounds sterling, and shall deliver them unto the chamberlain of the said Robert, for his expenses of that day. And the said Robert shall mount the horse which the said Mayor has presented unto him, with the banner wholly in his hand.

And as soon as he shall be mounted he shall tell the Mayor to cause a Marshal to be chosen forthwith, of the host of the city of London. As soon as the Marshal is chosen, the said Robert shall cause the Mayor and his burgesses of the city to be commanded to have the communal bell of the said city rung; and all the community shall go to follow the banner of Saint Paul and the banner of the said Robert; the which banner of Saint Paul the self-same Robert shall carry in his own hand as far as Alegate. And when they are come to Alegate, the said Robert and the Mayor shall deliver the said banner of Saint Paul, to be borne onward from Alegate, unto such person as the said Robert and the Mayor shall agree upon, if so be that they have to make their exit out of the city. And then ought the Mayor to dismount. and the said Robert, and of each Ward two of the wisest men behind them, to provide how the city may best be guarded. And counsel to this effect shall be taken in the Priory of the Trinity, by the side of Alegate.

And before every city or castle that the said host of London besieges, if it remains one whole year about the siege, the said Robert ought to have for each siege, from the commonalty of London, one hundred shillings for his trouble, and no more.

And further, the said Robert and his heirs possess a great honour, which he holds as a great franchise in the said city, [and] which the Mayor of the city and the citizens of the same place are bound to do unto him as of right; that is to say, that when the Mayor wishes to hold his Great Council, he ought to invite the said Robert, or his heirs, to be present at his council and at the council of the city; and the said Robert ought to be sworn of the council of the city against all persons, save the King of England or his heirs. And when the said Robert comes to the Hustings in the Guildhall of the city, then ought the Mayor, or the person holding his place, to rise before him, and to place him near unto him; and so long as he is in the said Guildhall, all the judgments ought to be given by his mouth, according to the record of the Recorders of the Guildhall; and as to all the waifs that come so long as he is there, he ought to give them unto the bailiffs of the city, or unto such person as he shall please, by counsel of the Mayor of the said city.” (Riley, Liber Custumarum.)

Yonder is the mouth of the Fleet: as this stream is now, so was the Walbrook of old. On its western bank stands the Palace of Bridewell over against the House of the Blackfriars with its splendid group of buildings and its tall flèche. And now is London left behind us; there is no more trade along the banks of the river save a little at Westminster. These stairs upon the bank, and these carved and painted barges belong to the Palaces of the Bishops, Abbots, and great Lords. We pass Essex House, Arundel House, Somerset House, Burleigh House, the Savoy, Bedford House, Durham House, York House, all with gardens, terraces, and spacious courts. And so we come to the King’s Stairs, Westminster. Here is the King’s Palace, a crowded, busy, noisy place, and beyond is the Abbey of St. Peter, rich and famous. A noble church it is; but it is not so noble, nor is it yet so famous as the Church of St. Paul. Coronations, marriages, funerals, and tombs of kings do ennoble a great church, but there are other kinds of nobility. St. Paul’s is the centre, the heart of a City, which is the centre, the heart of the nation. As the people to the King, so is St. Paul’s Cathedral to Westminster Abbey Church.



The limits of the Port of London, never defined until the reign of Charles II., seem to have been always understood as reaching from the North Foreland to London Bridge. Queenhithe, which, early in the thirteenth century, employed thirty-eight men as carriers, was the oldest landing-place and port. Its present appearance is, save for the warehouses round it, nearly the same as it has always been, substituting the small vessels then in use for the barges and lighters which now lie in that muddy port. Billingsgate was another landing-place at which the King’s Customs were collected. As trade increased it was found necessary to provide increased accommodation, and the following places were appointed, but long afterwards, for the general lading and discharging places for all kinds of goods to be landed and shipped between sunrise and sunset. (Strype.)

Billingsgate was appointed only for fish, corn, salt, stones, victuals, and fruit. The Bridge House for corn and other provisions. The Steel Yard for merchant strangers of that Guild.

“By far the most important results of the Norman Conquest, as far as English Industry and Commerce were concerned, lay in the new communications which were opened up with other parts of the Continent.” (W. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry.) These words strike a keynote. It was necessary for the growth and development of the national spirit that the insular isolation of Britain should be swept away. No doubt the close connection of the country with the richest provinces of France for four hundred years brought with it many serious evils, but the stimulus it gave to trade proved of incalculable advantage. And the isolation of England was swept away just at the right moment, when everywhere in western Europe there were springing into wealth and power and independence186 cities, which had been the private property of barons, or the mere ruins of what had once been busy and populous places. The first essential to trade is some kind of security that an agreement will be kept and a debt will be paid. This security was then impossible unless in a fair, regularly and lawfully held, with its own court; or in a town when the municipality defended the foreign merchant.

The opening of Europe to England had its other side in the opening of England to Europe. A large number of merchants from Rouen and Caen came over both before and after the Norman Conquest to carry on their trade in London. Flemish weavers came over and sought protection from the Queen, a Flemish Princess. Builders in stone came over in great numbers; most of the Churches throughout the country which were of wood were rebuilt in stone. And in addition to these, there were the foreigners who did not wish to settle, but came and went, bringing their wares with them, carrying away the exports, and while they were in Port, living according to their own rules in their own houses.

Of what kind was the Shipping of London, its growth, and its extent? What were the most important lines of trade? These questions are difficult to answer completely. First, we must remember that a merchant ship was also a man o’ war. The great Flanders Fleet of Venice was provided with a company of thirty-six archers for every galley, and the sailors were all fighting men. Next, the shipping of London meant its foreign trade, and this was continually rising and falling. Attempts were made by King Alfred to create a navy; and Sir John Philpot, when he set off to encounter the pirate, was able to lay his hand upon ships enough to carry a thousand men. When the Bastard of Falconbridge attacked the City there were no ships in the Port able to meet him; this, however, was at the close of a long Civil War which greatly damaged the trade of London.

The sailor has always been a creature distinct from his fellow-man. It would seem, from such scanty notice as we can get, that the London craftsman had never any great love for the sea; the sailor came from Dover, Sandwich, Hythe, Dartmouth, and other places, but not from London. In later years a riverside population grew up from the Tower as far as the Isle of Dogs, and eventually these people were connected with shipping. Among them was a whole multitude of sailors, together with those who lived by working among and for the ships in the Pool. There are glimpses of this invisible population within the walls of the City, especially below the Bridge and near the Tower. To this day the courts and lanes in which they lived remain. They are narrow, dark, and noisome. Only the lowest craftsmen could live in such courts; they contained drinking places for the sailors, native and foreign, sleeping dens for them, fighting places for them, but not decent living houses. In such a narrow street, where the houses were built of wood and closely packed with people, broke out the Great Fire of London. Chaucer’s sailor was a Dartmouth man. There were187 plenty like him standing about on the quay and drinking in the taverns. Your true seafaring man never does anything while he is on shore except stand about on the quays, lean against a post, or carouse in a tavern. Many a fight took place along these quays and in these narrow courts: fights between Genoese and Venetian; between Englishman and Frenchman; between Englishman and Fleming; fights with knife and dagger; fights which began with a duello and ended in a mêlée, all begun, carried on, and ended in a few minutes, leaving a man dying and half a dozen wounded; fights between a man of Dover and a man of Yarmouth; fights over the reckoning at the tavern; fights over Doll and Moll and Poll. Always the riverside of London has been a place remarkable for its life, and vividness, its riot and noise, the cheerful cry of battle, the inspiriting song of the tippler, and the dulcet voice of love.

Every sailor was a fighting man. Until the reign of Henry IV. it was easy to turn a merchant ship into a man o’ war by placing in her the little “castles” from which the bowmen could work. Henry IV. seems to have begun the practice of building ships exclusively for fighting; his son had three very large ships called the Trinity, the Grace de Dieu, and The Holy Ghost; his navy consisted in all of three great vessels, six “nefs,” six “barges,” ten “balingers.” It is not easy to distinguish between the different kinds of ships. The “nef” was a ship of the largest size until the construction of the three great vessels; the “barge” was a large vessel, as is known by the fact that the City possessed one called the Paul of London, for river defence. You may, if you please, learn how the City barge was equipped and rigged and fitted out for sea from the pages of Riley’s Memorials. The terms used, the nautical terms of the time, are translated in footnotes, moreover they are mostly unintelligible. The list is perhaps too technical for these pages. There were also the “balingers,” the “craiez,” the “cogge,” the “katte,” the “galley,” and others.

As soon as riverside land became valuable and ships grew in size the building of ships was carried on, of necessity, outside the walls. When the Shipwrights’ Company was incorporated, in the reign of James I., they built their Hall at Ratcliffe Cross, in the centre of their industry. Shipbuilding yards were placed all along the north bank of the Thames as far east as Northfleet. Until thirty or forty years ago the industry was one of the most important of those belonging to London. There might be occasionally, though its continuance could not be relied upon, peace on land, but there was never peace at sea. From the time when the Count of the Saxon Shore set up his forts from Porchester to Bradwell, and sent out his fleets to sweep the narrow seas, the pirates continued without cessation; they came out of the Low Country ports, from Calais, from Dieppe, from St. Malo; they came down from Scotland; they even came out of English ports to destroy the English trade. They were attacked and dispersed,188 but they collected again. If France and England were at open war, as was very often the case, the pirates pretended to be in the service of the King most convenient for the moment. They were called the Rovers of the Sea; there was the instance of that Scottish pirate Mercer, who, as we have seen, was attacked and killed by Philpot, most gallant of Lord Mayors; there was Eustace the Monk, whose life and exploits have been written by Thomas Wright; there was William de Marish, who from the safe retreat of Lundy carried on piracy for a time with impunity; there was Savery de Maloleone, the French pirate; there was John of Newport, who murdered the crews of the ships which he took—he held possession of the Isle of Wight; there were pirates of Lynn, Wells, Yarmouth, and Dartmouth. The Cinque Ports were nests of pirates; the mouth of the Rhine, the harbour of Calais, and that of St. Malo were filled with pirates. The English coasts were ravaged by them; Portsmouth, Rye, Southampton, Sandwich, the Isle of Wight, Scarborough, the coast of Norfolk suffered from descents, from sieges, and from capture, by these Rovers. Letters of license were granted. Henry III. granted license to Adam Robertwolt and William le Sauvage to attack and to pillage the King’s enemies where they could, on condition of giving him half the plunder. In the following reign a merchant, having been plundered, received from the King license to carry on reprisals up to the amount which he had lost, but no more; and there is one instance in which English ships despatched north for the defence of Berwick plundered the coast of England on their way! In the twelfth century the same danger attended men who sailed abroad as in the ninth. But in the ninth century every merchant who voyaged three times over the wide seas in his own ship was “of thane right-worthy.” This distinction the master mariner and merchant lost in later years. Yet this kind of reward was still remembered very unexpectedly, when, in the year 1780, James Cook, who had voyaged three times across the wide seas, received after his death the coat of arms which made his family “of thane right-worthy.” During the later Saxon reigns there was a large merchant navy, together with a regular royal navy. This navy was called out once a year for training. Unfortunately for Harold this annual training was over, and the men had gone home when William sailed. Harold’s son seized the ships and sailed for Ireland, whence he carried on depredations for some years on the west coast. England was for a while without a navy, so the pirates began again, and the merchant service suffered.

The history of the next four hundred years, as regards the shipping and the foreign trade of London, is one either of a weak police, or a strong police in the Channel. The merchants of London never ceased to struggle in order to get the foreign trade into their own hands, but, during all this time, with only partial success: we have seen that the men of Rouen, the men of the Emperor, the Venetians, the Genoese, the Florentines, the Lombards, the people of the Hanseatic League, and189 the Flemings all came to London and carried on their trade themselves. Perhaps the worst time for the London merchant service was the fourteenth century. Yet England still boasted the sovereignty of the sea, and the device of Edward III.’ s gold noble still proudly claimed that supremacy—

“For four things our Noble showeth unto me
King, ship, and sword, and Power of the Sea.”

“Our enemies,” said Capgrave, “laugh at us. They say,‘Take the ship off your gold noble and impress a sheep instead.’” The origin of England’s claim to the sovereignty of the sea, which was constantly advanced even in times of national degradation, was, I believe, a survival from the time when the Roman Fleet, which was maintained for the police of the narrow seas, made and sustained an Emperor, first Carausius, and then Allectus—this fleet had its headquarters sometimes at Southampton, sometimes at Dover, and sometimes at Boulogne, and was undoubtedly sovereign of the sea. The Fleet which King John—under whom the Channel was safe—placed upon the sea was the successor and the heir of the Fleet of Admiral Carausius. The first merchant ship whose name is preserved is the Little Edward. She was lying off Margate in the year 1315, when she was attacked and carried off by the French. Her owner and commander was one John Brand: she was bound for Antwerp: her cargo of wool belonged to three merchants of the Hanse. The ship—probably not a very large vessel—was valued at £40 and the cargo at £120. In the same year a great galley or dromond of Genoa, laden with corn and other provisions for London, was attacked and taken by French pirates. She was estimated to be worth—cargo and ship—£5716: 12s., or about £100,000 of our money. The incorporation of the Merchant Adventurer gave a stimulus to foreign trade in English vessels. London Merchants established themselves on the shores of the Baltic, in Sweden, in the Netherlands, and in the Levant. In the north they encountered the hostility of the Hansard: there was fighting continually: on one occasion all the English merchants at Bergen were massacred. In the Channel, during this century, piracy revived, and became again a great and pressing evil. But that the English ships were not deterred by the dangers innumerable which threatened them is proved by the fact that, in 1438, all the Genoese merchants in London were arrested in a body, put into prison and fined 6000 marks, because the ship belonging to one Sturmyer, a merchant of Bristol, had been seized in the Levant on an alleged charge of breaking the regulations of trade. If a Bristol merchant traded so far, the London merchants, one may be quite certain, penetrated to the same waters. There were also pilgrimages over the seas, and especially during the fifteenth century, to the shrine of St. Iago de Compostella, the tomb of the Apostle James himself. In the year 1434 two vessels sailed from London carrying eighty and sixty pilgrims respectively. And in the reign of Edward IV. no English merchants were allowed to ship goods in foreign190 ships unless there were no English ships ready for them. At the same time the tonnage of ships had so greatly increased that Canynges of Bristol owned a great ship of 900 tons.

The ships, lying off the quays of Billingsgate and Queenhithe, were the great galleys of Gascony laden with casks of wine, the woad ships of Picardy, the scuts of Flanders, the whelk-boats of Essex, the great vessels of Almaine and Norway, the fleets that came every year sweeping over the seas from Genoa to Southampton and London, the ships which carried on the trade of the Hanse merchants, the fishing-boats and trawlers, the sea-coal boats called “kattes,” the barges and lighters which carried their cargoes up and down the river, the coasting boats which brought stores for building, and which, when not lying off the quays, were moored in the river below London Bridge. And always, all day long, there was the uproar of the sailors and of those who loaded and unloaded; and the din of the markets; and everywhere the serjeants’ men went in and out among the throng, seeing that trade regulations were complied with, that every sack lay open, that foreigners dealt not in retail, that foreigners cleared their goods in a certain time, that there was no underselling. And high above the uproar arose, from every ship of every country as she reached the Port and dropped her anchor, the sailors’ Hymn of Praise to the Virgin that their voyage was safely concluded. This Hymn was the same for all the countries of Western Europe. It adds to the picturesque aspect of the Mediæval Port that when the ships came up the river, when they rounded the point of Deptford and Rotherhithe, the Genoese or Venetian galley, galliot, galleasse—sweeping up against the tide with their banks of oars, the heavy Bordeaux ship laden with wine, sailing up with wind and tide, the craft whose names convey no meaning to us, from each as it arrived in the Pool was heard the same hymn sung by all the ship’s company together, in the midst of the noise of loading and unloading, the dropping or the weighing of anchor, or the casting off of other ships, with the sailors’ chanteys in their own language. It was by special permission that the sailors in Greek ships were allowed to sing their “Kyriele” instead of the Hymn to the Virgin, when the ship dropped anchor below the Bridge.

The Rules of Trade, as set forth in the Liber Albus, are many and stringent. I append the more important. The Ordinances bear date 13 Ed. I.

1. Corn Dealers. Corn brought to London by land is to be taken in bulk to the Market within Newgate before the Friars Minors or at Gras chirche (Gracechurch Street). That “none” of it is to be sold before the hour of Prime, i.e. 6 A.M. to 7 A.M. And that corn brought by water shall be offered to the common people by retail during a whole day.

2. On Forestalling. It is forbidden to meet dealers coming with their wares by land or water before they have put up their wares for sale.

3. No one to sell anything dutiable until he has paid the duty.

4. No freeman of the City to enter into partnership with a stranger (i.e. one who is not a freeman).

5. Bakers are to make loaves of two sizes, viz. two for a penny, and four for a penny. Bread shall be sold in the market only. Every baker to have his own stamp by which his bread may be known. The191 baker of brown bread not to make white bread and the converse. A baker shall not buy corn to sell it again. A baker shall not sell his flour to cooks for making pastry. Once a month every baker’s bread shall be examined.

If a baker be found to be selling bread under weight he is to be placed on a hurdle with the faulty loaf hanging from his neck and dragged through the “great streets where there may be most people assembled and through the great streets which are the most dirty.” For a second offence he is to be dragged in like manner and set in pillory. For a third offence he is to be dragged, set in pillory, his oven pulled down and himself forbidden to carry on that trade any longer.

A baker is not allowed to give the regratess (i.e. the woman who retails bread from house to house) the “handsel money” of sixpence on Monday or the “curtesy-money” of threepence on Friday: but, instead, he is to give her thirteen loaves as twelve.

6. Of Brewers and Taverners. No measures to be used except the gallon, pottle, and quart. These are to be stamped by the Alderman. The tun of the brewster (brewing was conducted principally by women) to contain 150 gallons. And since the measures (which were made of wood) do sometimes shrink from dryness, they are to be examined four times a year.

7. No stranger to sell by retail in the City unless he has been received into the freedom and enrolled at Guildhall.

No stranger to keep an Inn or to let lodgings in the City.

If a stranger, however, obtain the freedom of the City he may keep an Inn in any part of the City except the river-side.

8. All citizens to be in scot and lot. Scot is the payment of contributions and taxes, Lot, the assessment of it in due proportions.

9. No pigs to be allowed in the streets and lanes. If any man find a pig in the street he may kill it and keep it.

10. Markets to be held only in places assigned. Retailers of provisions not to buy before Prime.

11. None but freemen to receive apprentices. No time of apprenticeship to be less than seven years. And an apprentice who has served his time must take up his freedom and be enrolled before he carries on his trade.

12. The Mayor, Sheriffs, Aldermen, or their serjeants, clerks, and bedels, shall not keep a baker’s oven, or a tavern, or any trade of low repute.

13. Carts carrying firewood, timber, or charcoal, not to stand in the City except on Cornhill.

14. No one to go into Southwark for the purchase of corn, beasts, or other merchandise whereby a market might be established.

15. Lepers not to go about the streets or to sleep in the City. They are to have their common “attorney” or procter who shall go round the Churches on Sunday morning to collect alms for them.

16. Sellers of fish not to throw their water into the streets but to carry it to the Thames.

17. Schools for fencing and buckler play not to be kept within the City.

18. Foreign butchers (i.e. butchers who have not the freedom of the City) to bring into the City the hides and pelts of the oxen and sheep: to be allowed to sell their meat until high noon (Riley interprets this to mean from one to three o’clock).

19. All the lanes leading from Thames Street to the river to be kept clear so that persons on horseback may ride up and down.

20. No tavern to be kept open after curfew.

21. Boatmen to have their boats moored by sunset.

22. Woolfels to be sold in open market.

23. Regulations as to the making of furs.

24. Merchants bringing goods to the City to be allowed to proceed without molestation.

25. Labourers, i.e. carpenters, masons, plasterers, tilers, etc., are to be paid according to the orders of the Mayor and Aldermen.

26. Fishmongers not to buy fish before the hour of Prime.


No market was to be held on London Bridge, especially by Fripperers, or dealers in old clothes. No market was to be made in Southwark.

Barbers were not to expose blood in their windows, but were ordered to throw it into the river. They were also forbidden to carry on their trade on Sundays. Bowyers were forbidden to send bows for sale to Cornhill or to any other place in the City. What does this mean?

Goldsmiths were to have a private mark on every piece. Smiths were to have their private mark on every sword or knife. Hostelers were those who lodged and fed the servants and horses of their guests. Herbergeours gave them lodging only. Strangers were not lodged in taverns. Strangers and foreigners were not, as a rule, permitted to let lodgings. A stranger could only be admitted for a day and a night. After that, the hosteler had to be responsible for any offences a guest might commit. Hostelers were forbidden to sell food and drink to any but their guests. They were not allowed to brew or to make bread.

The “articles” of the ward motes overlapped in some particulars the Trade Regulations. I take a few clauses. Strangers could only be received for a night and a day unless the host became responsible for them. No open fireplace was to be placed near partitions, or boards, or in any upper room. All persons were to give their assistance to the Officers of the Ward in arresting disorderly or rebellious persons. Residents in great houses to keep a ladder or two for the use of their neighbours. From Whit Sunday to St. Bartholomew’s a barrel full of water to be kept before every house. The roof of every house to be of tile, stone, or lead. Crooks and cords to be provided to pull down houses in case of fire. No refuse to be thrown into the street. No pigs or cows allowed within the houses. Stalls not to be more than 2½ feet in width before the house. Pent-houses to be so high that persons can ride and walk below them.

Before every Ward Mote there is to be an Inquisition into the observance of these ordinances and a few other points.

Viz.: If there is any huckster in the Ward.

If any swine or cows are reared within the Ward.

If any leper is resident within the Ward.

If any purprestures (i.e. encroachments) have been made in the streets.

If any baker of “tourte,” or “trete” bread (i.e. the coarse brown bread) make fine bread.

If an officer of the Ward has extorted money on any pretence.

If any bargain of usury has been made in the Ward since the last Ward Mote.

The rule about pigs was constantly repeated and as often disregarded. At one time in the thirteenth century four men were appointed to find and kill all pigs wandering about the streets. St. Anthony’s Hospital was an exception. This House was privileged to let its pigs go free in the City provided that they had bells193 hanging from their necks and that they were pigs bestowed upon the Hospital out of charity. (See vol. ii. pt. iii. ch. viii.) Later on, however, it was forbidden to keep pigs, cows, or oxen in the City at all.

The fuel used in the houses largely consisted of charcoal, which was brought into the City from the forests in the north and south of London in carts. It was ordered, temp. Richard II., that both charcoal and firewood should be sold at 10d. a quarter between Michaelmas and Easter, and at 8d. between Easter and Michaelmas. This price seems very high in comparison with that of other commodities. It is not known when coals began to be used. The name of Sea Coal Lane, near the Fleet River, was so called from coal being there stored in the reign of Henry III., if not much earlier. Coal paid custom at Billingsgate. The market for wood was not Wood Street (? Woad Street) but at Smithfield and at Cornhill. The carters sold “talwood, fagot, and busche”—words which explain themselves. Fern, reeds and stubble were also used as fuel.

The sense in which a London craftsman was a “freeman” was, happily for the growth of real freedom, extremely restricted. He must be apprenticed, and during his term of seven years he was the servant, or perhaps the adopted son of the man to whom he was bound; he must belong to a Guild; he must obey the laws of that Guild; these were minute and careful: they made a man work during stated hours and no longer; they regulated the price of his work; they would not allow him to work on Church festivals; they would not let him go to law with another of the same Guild; they sent him to church regularly; if he disgraced his moral character in any way they turned him out of his trade and sent him out of the City. In other words, he could not exercise his freedom in living idly or mischievously. The system was admirable on paper, and in fact seems to have worked well. Above all, it taught the lesson which we have since forgotten, that a workman does not belong to himself alone, but to the community. That was the meaning of fixed hours, fixed prices, fixed holidays.

“As regards wages, carpenters and that class of workman mostly received, between Michaelmas and Martimas (11th Nov.) 4d. per day, or else 1½d. ‘and their table,’ at the option of the employer; between Martimas and the Purification (2nd Feb.), 3d., or 1d. and their table; between the Purification and Easter, 4d., or 1½d. and their table; and between Easter and Michaelmas, 5d., or 2d. and their table. Saturdays and Vigils were to be paid for as whole days, the men only working till the evening, and on Sundays and Feast-days they were ‘to take nothing,’ the meaning being, no doubt, that on those days they did not work at all. Their servants, or under-workmen, and the makers of clay walls, were to receive, between Michaelmas and Easter, 2d., and between Easter and Michaelmas, 3d., for all demands. Should any person pay a workman beyond these rates, he was to pay to the City a fine of 40s., and the workman to be subjected to forty days’ imprisonment. About seventy years later, the wages of certain of these artisans had apparently increased, Masons, Carpenters, Plasterers, and Sawyers receiving sixpence during the long days, and fivepence in winter, but without being permitted to charge for the repair of their implements. The wages of Tilers, however, had not made so great an advance, being at the rate of 5½d. and 4½d. according to the length of the days, and the wages of their boys (garsons) 3½d. and 3d.194 ‘Master Daubers’ also were to be content with fivepence and fourpence, according to the length of the days, their boys receiving at the same rate as those of Tilers.”—Riley, Liber Albus, pp. xxxvi.-xxxvii.

London made within its own walls almost everything that it wanted (see p. 195). The subdivision of trade in a hundred branches was inevitable as the town grew larger and its demands more imperious. For instance, in the branch of arms and armour, there were wanted the bowyer who made bows, the fletcher who made arrows, the bokelsmyth who made buckles, the bracers who made armour for the arms, the gorgoaricer who made gorgets, the tabourer who made drums, the heaulmere who made helmets, the maker of haketons—a quilted jacket worn under armour and sometimes used for armour—of gambesons—another lighter kind of jacket—of pikes, swords, spears, and cross-bow bolts. Again, in the matter of clothing, each kind of garment had its own maker. The wympler made wymples, or those handkerchiefs for the neck worn by nuns and elderly ladies; the capletmonger made and sold caps; the callere made cowls or coifs; the chaloner made chalons or corselets; the bureller worked in coarse cloth; the white tawyer in white leather; the names of the quilter, the pinner, and the plumer, explain their branches. Many of the trades were extremely offensive to the neighbours, and complaints were made from time to time. Not even a mediæval Londoner, for instance, could enjoy the neighbourhood of tallow-melting or of soap-making; nor could the people at any time endure the sight and stink of the blood and offal from the Shambles pouring down the narrow lanes into the river. Therefore order was taken on these subjects. It must, however, be remembered that the City of London, now a warehouse and a distributing centre, was formerly a great hive of industries. Wherever one walked there arose the busy hum and mingled sounds of work: the melodious anvil rang out from a court; the cry of the prentices sounded in Chepe; the song of those who retailed wares was heard about the street; the women who sold fish cried aloud; the man who carried water also cried his wares; and so did the baker who took round the loaves. In the broad streets, Chepe and Cornhill and Bishopsgate Street, the knights and men-at-arms rode slowly along; perhaps a great noble entered the City with five hundred followers all wearing his livery; broad-wheeled waggons heavily rumbled; the Queen was carried along in her cumbrous but richly decorated carriage or her horse litter; the Mayor rode down the street accompanied by the Sheriffs and the Aldermen on the way to a City Function; a trumpeter, a drummer, and a piper preceded a little procession in which the principal figure was a man tied on a hurdle with a whetstone round his neck to show that he was a liar and a cheat; thus was the attention of the people called to the culprit, and they were invited to assist at his pillory, and were admonished of the punishment meted out to offenders. And all the time from every shop and stall and seld the voice of the prentice was uplifted crying, “Buy! buy! buy! What d’ye lack? what d’ye lack?” Above all, and all day long, was heard the ringing of the bells in the hundred and fifty churches and195 chapels of the City. They sounded all together for early mass, and all together for angelus; at other times for the various services in the Religious Houses: even at midnight they sounded, when the monks were summoned from their warm beds to Matins. It was a noisy, bustling city full of life and animation; the people were always ready to fight, always dreading fire, famine, and plague, yet always hopeful; and the City was always young as befits a city continually at work.

The Trade of London covers the exports and the imports, the industries and the productions, the wants and the luxuries, the superfluities and the extravagances, of the City. There was no great change in these respects during the whole period from the Norman Conquest to the accession of the Tudors. That is to say, the Court of Edward IV. was in all essentials the same as the court of Richard II. A dignitary of the Church in the year 1480 was more magnificent than, but not otherwise different from, one in the year 1280. The rank and state of a Mayor of the later period were much like those of a Mayor in the former period. There had been some development in art; there had been some changes in arms, armour, and warfare: we will try to enumerate the callings, trades, and industries of Mediæval London. It will be matter of surprise to learn how many there were; how many have disappeared; and how many have been merged in other trades. It was not machinery alone that turned man into a machine and made him spend his whole life on one little piece of work, always beginning, always ending, always repeated. In the Appendix will be found a categorical list of trades. I do not advance the list as complete, but it contains nearly all the trades mentioned in the authorities for the time.

This list shows, what I have already stated, that nearly everything wanted for the daily use of the people was made within the walls of the City; here wool was made fit for use, flax was spun, cloth was woven, weapons were hammered out and shaped, bow and arrow, lance, pike, and sword; armour was made, became breastplate and cuirasses; skins were converted into leather, leather into saddles; tiles and bricks were made; the skins and furs were made fit for use; the gold and silver cups, mazers and chalices were made in the City; the people of London made blankets of shalloon, they also made the quilts and pillows; beautiful things with silk, glass vessels, and dainty things for women; in fine—everything that could be made in the City was made. This fact not only limits the imports from foreign and native markets, but shows how self-sufficient a mediæval city could be. This self-sufficiency is further illustrated by the law (3 Ed. IV. c. 4), which prohibited the importation—a measure of Protection—of a great number of goods on the ground that the English artificers cannot compete against foreign-made wares.

Here is a list of things made:— 196

“Woollen Caps, Woollen Cloth, Laces, Corses, Ribbands, Fringes of Silk and Thread, Laces of Thread, Silk twined, Silk in any wise embroidered, Laces of Gold, Tyres of silk or gold, Saddles, Stirrups, or any Harness pertaining to Saddlery, Spurs, Bosses of Bridles, Aundirons, Gridirons, any Manner of Locks, Pinsons, Fire-tongs, Dripping Pans, Dice, Tennis Balls, Points, Purses, Gloves, Girdles, Harness for Girdles of Iron, Latten Steel, Tin or of Alkemine, anything wrought of any Tawed Leather, any Tawed Furrs, Buscans, Shoes, Galoches, or Corks, Knives, Daggers, Wood-knives, Bodkins, Sheers for Taylors, Scissors, Razors, Sheaths, Playing Cards, Pins, Pattens, Pack Needles, or any Painted Ware, Forcers, Caskets, Rings of Copper or of Latten Gilt, or Chaffing Dishes, Hanging Candlesticks, Chaffing Balls, Sacring Bells, Rings for Curtains, Ladles, Scimmers, Counterfeit Basons, Ewers, Hats, Brushes, Cards for Wool, Blanch Iron Thread commonly called White Wire.” (W. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry.) (See also Appendix II.)

The following notes on the regulations of trade are by Riley:—

“The business of the Winedrawers (Wyndrawers) seems to have been limited to the loading, carriage, and unloading, of tuns and pipes of wine from the Quay cellars to other parts of the City. Their charges were restricted by enactment to certain prices, according to the distance; ten pence being the largest sum allowed for the carriage of a tun of wine to any part within the walls, and eight pence for a pipe.”

“The business of a Brewer was acknowledgedly one held in low estimation; indeed ‘Breweress’ rather should be the term, as, in the times now under consideration, the business was almost wholly in the hands of females, and so continued to be till the close of the fifteenth century, if not later; at which period Fleet Street was tenanted almost wholly by breweresses or alewives, and makers of felt caps. The brewers of ale generally, if not always, sold it also by retail to the public, as well as wholesale, to such dealers as were not brewers themselves, but privileged to sell it. Indeed, at some periods, as already noticed, we meet with prohibitory enactments, forbidding any person but brewers and hostelers to be sellers of ale.

The ale-tavern or ale-house seems to have been a distinct establishment from the wine-tavern; the keeper of which, though the fact does not appear [Liber Albus], was probably prohibited from selling ale. For the present, it is proposed to call the reader’s attention exclusively to the brewing and sale of ale.

Immediately a brewing was finished, it was the duty of the brewer or breweress to send for the Ale-conner of the Ward in order to taste the ale. Upon so doing, the Ale-conner, in case he did not find the ale equal to the Assize, or, in other words, not so good as it ought to be, with the assent of his Alderman set a lower price upon it, which, upon sale thereof, was not to be exceeded. Fine, imprisonment, and even punishment by pillory, were the result of reiterated breaches of the Assize. The gallon, pottle, and quart of the brewer and taverner were to be duly impressed with the seal of the Alderman of the Ward; the tun also, or vat, of the brewery (containing 150 gallons) was similarly sealed. The pottles and quarts, there is reason to believe, were sometimes made of wood, as we find them spoken of as being made when green, and as shrinking from dryness on getting cold. Consumers, private probably as well as taverners, sent their vessel to the brewery; and, by public enactment, there it was to stand the rest of the day and through the night, for the purpose of giving the ale time to work, another proof of its newness when consumed. The next morning on being taken away by the customer, the vessel was to be ‘full of good and clear ale.’

No brewer or breweress, or regrator or regratress of ale, was to keep his or her doors open after Curfew rung, under heavy penalties. Brewers, as well as hostelers, were ordered to retail their ale by full and lawful measure, and not to sell it by the hanap, or metal drinking-mug of the establishment.”

“The best ale, which was no better than sweet-wort, was probably so thin that it might be drunk in ‘potations pottle deep’ without disturbing the equilibrium of the drinker. Fermented liquors were drunk too in these days as new as possible; and there can be little doubt that the ale was used the moment it197 was made. This, combined with its possible thinness and its lusciousness, would additionally tend to prevent it from producing inebriety; and it is doubtful whether the Londoners then deserved the character for drunkenness which FitzStephen had seemed inclined to give them little better than a century before. The fact, however, that the smallest ale-measure here noticed is a quart would certainly seem, it must be admitted, to militate somewhat against a belief in their comparative sobriety. The extensive consumption, too, of wine, which, at one period, was little more than twice as dear as ale, may have exercised some influence in this respect. Wine at this low price would be no better than, if indeed as good as, the vin ordinaire of the present day; and consequently, though largely drunk, there would be but little chance of its causing inebriety.”

“Pastelers were a class of tradesmen who made pies, and probably other kinds of pastry as well. By one enactment we find them ordered to make pies for one halfpenny; the materials probably being found by those who employed them. Pie-bakers (pybakeres), there seems reason to believe, united the trade of baking pies for their customers with the keeping of tables for guests on their own account; as already noticed, like their brethren, the cooks, they are occasionally spoken of as retailing ale. In one instance, we find an order made that no cook shall charge more than one penny for putting a capon or a rabbit in a crust; the materials for the pastry, with the exception perhaps of the flour, being evidently found by the customer employing him.

The wholesale markets for corn, malt, and salt, brought to London by water, were at Billingsgate, and Queen Hythe. Sometimes in the reign of Edward III. and Richard II., we find it enacted, that the commodities brought to these quays shall remain three days on sale to the public, before the dealers shall be allowed to buy; at other times, the period is limited to a single day. Corn coming to Queen Hythe, temp. Edward II., the property of a stranger, or non-freeman, was not to be put up for sale before prime rung at St. Paul’s, six in the morning. Temp. Richard II., certain bells seem to have been rung to announce to the dealers when the sale of corn at Queen Hythe, Graschirche, and Billingsgate was about to commence. Corn and malt were also sold at Smithfield in the times, apparently, of Edward I., and his successor. In the two following reigns, however, we find it frequently enacted, that persons bringing corn and malt for sale in carts or on horses from the Eastern parts, namely, from the counties of Cambridge, Bedford, Huntingdon, and from Ware, shall take their stand on the Pavement at Graschirche; and those coming from the West, ‘as from Barnet,’ shall expose their wares for sale on the Pavement before the Friars Minors, at Newgate. As they were not allowed to sell by sample, these extensive pavements would be particularly convenient for the deposit and exposure of their sacks. Besides supplying the City to a considerable extent with bread, Stratford, in Essex, was evidently a great repository for corn and flour: which, temp. Edward III., was brought to the City by carts, several times in the week probably, as they paid 3d. per week for Pavage.

Sellers and buyers of corn seem to have been watched at all times with the greatest jealousy and suspicion; out of numerous regulations made at various periods in reference to them, the following may deserve notice:—Vendors of corn were forbidden to sell it by sample, or to put it in any place out of public view. No monger or regrator of corn, fish, or poultry, was to make purchase thereof, before the hour of prime. Good corn was not to be mixed with bad, ‘in deceit of the people,’ under pain of forfeiture. No one was to buy corn, malt, or salt, and leave it in the hands of the original seller for the purpose of selling it as his agent at a profit. No freeman of the City, a regrator of corn, was to stand on the Pavements of Graschirche and Newgate between the foreign sellers, but each class of dealers was to have its separate stand. No retailer was to buy corn or malt for resale except on market days.”

“Fishmongers, selling fish in large quantities to their customers, were to sell by the basket; such basket to be capable of containing one bushel of oats, and, if found deficient, to be burnt in open market. Each basket was also to contain only one kind of sea-fish; and the fishmongers were warned not to colour (douber) their baskets; or, in other words, not to put good fish on the top and inferior beneath. Fish arriving by water at night was not to be moved from the boat till sunrise; but in case the night was rainy,198 it might be landed on the Quay, under charge of the ‘Serjeant of the Street,’ till the proper time for sale. Herrings, mackerel, and other fish brought by cart, were not to be bought for resale before the hour of noon. Fish brought by land in baskets, when purchased by the keeper of a shop, was not to be taken into the shop, but to be exposed publicly for sale in front of it; the case of a freeman excepted, who might warehouse it for the night, on condition of selling it, without subtraction, in open market next day.

Though, as already stated, fish was occasionally sold at places lower down the river, dealers in the City were at times forbidden to forestall sea-fish or freshwater fish, ‘for the purpose of sending it to any great lord or to a house of religion, or of regrating it,’ until the purveyors for the King had made their purchases for their master’s use. At another period, a regulation was made that no fishmonger should buy fish brought to the City ‘before the good people have bought what they need.’ Very similar, too, in spirit were the following enactments, belonging to various periods in the century under notice:—No fish was to be bought till the vessel was moored. Citizens of London might buy at the boat at the same price as the dealers. Fishmongers were not to buy fresh fish till after mass sung (probably at sunrise) at the Chapel on London Bridge, or at the Church of St. Martin; and not to buy salt fish till after prime; though, by a regulation, temp. Edward I., this last article applied only to salt fish in which strangers had a share, that belonging to citizens being allowed to be sold at sunrise, like the fresh. Freemen of the City, too, were permitted to stand with the fishmongers at their stalls, and to be partners with them in the sale of their wares. No apprentice was to enter a vessel for the purpose of buying fish; and no porter, unless he was called.

We find it also enacted, that no one shall sell fish upon the Quay by retail; and that no one shall carry about cooked whelks for sale, under pain of being amerced and losing his whelks. Fish coming by land, and arriving after dinner, was allowed to be warehoused, whether belonging to a freeman or not, and sold in the market on the morrow. No seller of stockfish was allowed to enter a vessel for the purchase of fish: his trade was wholly distinct from that of the ordinary fishmonger.”

“The great cattle-market, of course, was Smithfield (Smooth field), which is mentioned as a ‘campus,’ a plain, or open space; and ordinances are met with, of an early date, for keeping it clean. Among other animals sold at Smithfield, lean swine are mentioned, probably for fattening in town or in its close vicinity. From the frequent mention of pigs, it would seem probable that pork was more extensively consumed than any other kind of butchers’ meat. Temp. Edward III., lambs are mentioned as being brought by boat to St. Botolph’s Wharf, near the Tower. The great meat-markets were held at the Flesh-Shambles of St. Nicholas, near Newgate, and at the stalls under the covered place or market-house (domus) known as ‘Le Stokkes,’ afterwards Stocks Market. At some periods, if not constantly, the meat-markets were open on Sundays. Temp. Richard II., a regulation was made that all butchers, keeping shops, should close them at dark, and not sell their meat by candle-light; a rule which seems, at times, to have applied to all other trades as well. On the same occasion, too, it was ordered that no one should go out of the City for the purchase of lambs, and that no lambs should be sold at a higher price than six pence.

In the reign of Edward III., orders were issued that the offals of St. Nicholas Flesh-Shambles should be buried in spots appointed for the purpose; and at a later period, in the same reign, we find proclamation made that the butchers of St. Nicholas shall no longer carry the offals and filth of the market down to the Thames; a mandate also being issued that large cattle shall in future be slaughtered without the City.

In the early part of the reign of Edward I., it was ordered that strange or foreign butchers should sell till none (our noon) by retail, and, after that, by wholesale, until Vespers rung at St. Paul’s; at which time they must have finished the sale of their meat, without carrying anything away to salt or store, under penalty of forfeiting the same. In the reign of Edward III., the time for the foreign butchers closing market had been prolonged to Curfew at St Martin’s le Grand. Foreign butchers were also strictly forbidden to bring any carcase to market without the hide or woolfel belonging thereto. Among other ordinances, which seem to have applied equally to free butchers and foreign, it was provided that they should not sell hides or woolfels till after prime, or six in the morning; that they should not sell a woolfel while the animal was alive; and an injunction is to be met with more than once, that butchers, neither199 themselves nor by their wives, should sell suet, tallow, or lard, for the purpose of being taken beyond sea. Candles were made in these days of tallow or wax, as now.”

“The persons whose business it was to receive guests for profit, appear to have been divided into two classes, ‘Hostelers’ and the ‘Herbergeours.’ The line of distinction between these two classes is not very evident, but it seems not improbable that it consisted in the fact that the former lodged and fed the servants and horses of their guests, while the latter did not. At all events, hostelers are mentioned as supplying hay and corn for horses, but herbergeours never.”

Temp. Edward I., Barbers were forbidden to expose blood in their windows, but were ordered to carry it privily to the Thames,—one of the comparatively few ordinances of these times to the detriment of that now much ill-used stream. Temp. Henry IV., an enactment is found, to the effect that Barbers shall not follow their calling, or keep their shops open on Sundays. At the close of Edward the Third’s reign, Bowyers were forbidden to send bows to Cornhill, or to any other place within the City, for sale. In the early part of the same reign, Spurriers were ordered to sell spurs at the rate of 6d. and 8d. the pair, the very best not to exceed 12d. In the same reign, it was also enacted that every Goldsmith should put his mark on plate of his manufacture; all Smiths, too, who made swords, and knives, were to have their private mark. Temp. Edward I., the prices to be charged and materials were regulated on the following terms: for putting on a common horse-shoe with six nails, 1½d.; with eight nails, 2d.; and for removing the same, 1/2d.; for putting a shoe on a courser, 2½d.; for putting a shoe on a charger, 3d.; and for removing a shoe from either, 1d.

Carriage or cartage might at any time be seized by the serjeants and grooms (garsons) of the City dignitaries and officials from the ‘Traventers,’ or persons who kept carts and horses for hire. The carts, however, that carried away the filth of the City are mentioned as being especially exempted; an enactment that has very much the semblance of making a virtue of necessity. The serjeants and grooms were especially directed, not to molest the carts and horses of the poor persons who brought victuals and other wares to the City for sale, and not ‘for their own private gain,’ to spare those of persons who kept them for hire,—a rather strong hint as to the prevalence of bribery, which in all probability was anything but uncalled for. Carts used in the City for the carriage of sand, gravel, or potter’s clay, contained one full quarter and no more.” (Riley, Introduction to Liber Albus.)

To these trade regulations should be appended a most formidable document (38 Ed. III.) issued against usurers. The preamble will sufficiently expose the view held of usury at that time.

“Whereas heretofore the City of London has sustained great mischiefs, scandals, and damages, and in time to come might sustain the same, by reason of certain persons who, neither for fear of God nor for shame of the world, cease, but rather do daily exert themselves, to maintain the false and abominable contract of usury, under cover and colour of good and lawful trading; which kind of contract, the more subtly to deceive the people, they call ‘exchange’ or ‘chevisance’; whereas it might more truly be called ‘wickedness,’ seeing that it ruins the honour and the soul of the agent, and sweeps away the goods and property of him who appears to be accommodated, and destroys all manner of right and lawful traffic, whereby, as well throughout all the land as the said City, they ought principally to be upheld and maintained. Wherefore, etc.”


Mints were anciently established in every important town, the work of coinage being entrusted to private persons named moneyers.

In the reign of Edward I. there were mints in London, Canterbury, Kingston-on-Hull, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Bristol, and Exeter, a system which produced endless disorders and complaints as to light weight and bad money. It was not until the reign of Elizabeth that all the mints were reduced to one, and that in the Tower of London. Gold coins were introduced by Henry III., but they were not liked, and, as it was optional to take them, they were not in common use until the reign of Edward III., who originated the noble, the half noble, and the quarter noble.

When the King or Queen communicated, and on Twelfth Day, an offering was made of a coin called a Besant, which was afterwards redeemed by the King’s Chamberlain. The Besant was a circular piece of hammered gold engraved on one side with the Trinity and on the other with the Virgin Mary. Those worked for James I. were different. The representation of the King showed him kneeling before an altar, with four crowns before him, and the legend Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus quæ tribuit mihi? On the other side was a lamb lying beside a cross with the words Cor contritum et humiliatum non despiciet Deus.

On all occasions of state, such as a Coronation, a marriage, a baptism, a funeral, or the installation of a Knight of the Garter, it was customary for the King to offer a Besant. The custom is said to have fallen into disuse when a certain Dean of Windsor refused to allow the Besant to be redeemed with money. The moneyer to whom was entrusted the engraving of the Besant was named after the coin. Thus we find in the reign of Henry II. that the moneyers, as officers especially dependent on the King, were assessed separately. The Moneyers of London paid a tallage ad filiam maritandam. They were five in number, Achard, who paid six shillings, Lefwine Besant, who paid five marks, Aylwin Finch, who paid two marks, and two others.

Let us next ask what were the goods which London merchants had to offer for exchange and for exportation?

Henry of Huntingdon, writing in the reign of Henry II., says that England possessed mines of copper, iron, lead, and silver, the last metal in very small quantities. “Silver, however, is received from the neighbouring ports of Germany, with which an extensive commerce is carried on by the Rhine in the abundant product of fish and meat, as well as of fine wool and fat cattle which Britain supplies.... Britain also furnishes large quantities of very excellent jet of a black and brilliant hue.” One observes that he does not include slaves among the exports. That trade had therefore disappeared. The statement of this Chronicle stands good for four hundred years. The staple exports of England continued to be wool, hides, iron, and tin. Sometimes grain was also exported. England,201 for many centuries, was the greatest wool-producing country of Europe. The chief reason appears to have been the comparative peace enjoyed by the island at a time when the rest of Western Europe was continually devastated by wars of all kinds, namely, civil wars, foreign wars, wars between barons, wars between towns. The Englishman was the only farmer who could keep his sheep. Therefore it happened that the German Ocean was always covered with light ships sailing to and fro laden with wool. Flanders was the manufacturing country which received the wool; when there was a break in the friendly relations of England and Flanders half the Flemish people were thrown out of work. England sent abroad money by means of wool: the tribute to the Pope was paid in sacks of wool sent to Bruges and there sold. In the year 1343 the Deans of York, Lichfield, and Salisbury, and the Archdeacon of Canterbury, who were all non-resident Italians, received their stipends in wool. Even the taxes were calculated by sacks of wool.

Many efforts were made to make England a manufacturing country, but for a long time in vain. Henry I. established the cloth fair at St. Bartholomew’s. Edward III. brought weavers from Flanders and settled them at Norwich. One has only to stand before the Guildhalls of Bruges and Ghent, or in the splendid Hall of the Drapiers of Ypres, to understand how great an industry was this of the cloth manufacture, which the English people were so slow in learning.

Up to the fifteenth century the English ships went up to Bruges by canal. When in the sixteenth century Maximilian dammed the canal at Sluys, the English vessels then went to Antwerp.

The chief town of the wool trade was called the Staple. It was changed from time to time: Bruges, St. Omer, Calais, Antwerp, were all in succession Staples. When Antwerp was sacked in 1567 and 1585, London took its place.

The imports may be classified under the division of the countries whence they came. Thus, from Spain the port of London received figs, raisins, bastard wine, dates, liquorice, Seville oil, grain, Castile soap, wax, iron, wool, wadmoles, skins of goats and kids, saffron, and quicksilver. But these goods were not received from Spain direct, but through Bruges, the great Flemish emporium, where the English bought the Spanish merchandise. Portugal exported wine, wax, grain, figs, raisins, honey, cordovan, dates, salt, hides. Prussia exported beer, bacon, wax, osmunds, copper, steel, bowstaves, peltry, pitch, tar, boards, flax, Cologne thread, fustian, canvas, cards, buckram, etc. The Genoese brought over cloth of gold, silk, pepper, woad, oil, woodashes, cotton, alum, and gold. The Venetians brought all kinds of spices and groceries, sweet wines, apes, and other foreign articles, and many articles of luxury.


“The grete galleys of Venees and Fflorence
Be wel ladene with thynges of complacence:
Alle spicerye and of grocers ware.
With swete wynes, alle manere of chaffare
Apes and japes and marmasettes taylede
Trifles, trifles that littelle have availidde
And thynges with which they fetely blere oure eye
With thynges not enduring that we bye
Ffor moche of thys chaffare that is wastable
Might be fore borne for diere and dissevable.”
(Libelle of English Polycie.)

From Brabant and Zealand came madder, woad, garlick, onions, and salt fish. In the markets of Brabant were exposed for sale the wares of France, Burgundy, and Hainault, brought overland in carts.

From Ireland came wool, hides, salt fish, such as salmon, haddock, herring; limes, skins of martens, otters, rabbits, kids, etc. Scotland exported direct, without passing through London, wool and hides.

From Brittany came wine, what wine? It must have been wine of the Loire country shipped from St. Malo; salt and canvas. Iceland sent stockfish and took corn, cloth, ale, and wine.

Thorold Rogers has compiled a list of English towns which produced and exported. London is not in that list. London made nothing except for its own use; it imported all the things which we have enumerated above, but it made nothing for export. This is a remarkable fact. It proves that the City was quite early regarded as a centre of distribution.

It will be observed in this list that in matters of necessity London could do without foreign assistance altogether. The houses were built of English oak and English stone; bread, butter, cheese, meat, game, fish, ale, cider, perry, mead, salt, honey, could be made or obtained; cloth, woollen stuffs of all kinds, linen, fur, fuel, all these necessary things were provided at home. Even wine—of a kind—was made of English grapes. The poorer classes had nothing to do with foreign imports. Except for woad—and some of this was grown at home—the manufactures and industries of the country could get along very well without foreign help. The swords of Toledo and Damascus were very beautiful, but an English cutlass made out of Sussex iron by an English artificer was more serviceable in battle. The imports were either luxuries for the wealthy classes, such as wine, preserved fruit, cloth of gold, buckram, fur, etc., or they were things wanted to supplement and make cheaper home products, as wax, honey, leather, salt fish, onions, garlic, etc. For this reason the imports were not as a rule equal to the exports, and the balance of trade was in favour of London. Compare the craftsman of Edward III. with him of Victoria. The former drank brews of various kinds but all home made, the latter drinks tea, coffee, cocoa, sometimes German beer, whisky, brandy, rum, geneva, and perhaps wine, all imported. The former ate bread, bacon, mutton, beef, cheese, eggs, fish, which were all produced at home.203 Half of the food stuffs of the latter come from abroad. The former made everything that was wanted for the house; the latter imports everything, doors, window-frames, coffins, matches, in fact everything that can be got cheaper from abroad than at home. Cheapness has its dangers; we no longer value what it costs no effort to procure; fine wheaten bread lies unheeded in our gutters; the sense of conquest and possession is lost; the struggle is no longer for the simple needs of life but for the luxuries.

From MS. 28162 in British Museum.

Mention has been frequently made of Fairs. There is nothing now in existence which in the least resembles one of the great Fairs of this time. The shops, which were sheds or stalls or booths covered with canvas, were ranged side by side in streets, called after the kind of goods sold in them. Thus, there was the “Spicery,” the “Portery,” the “Drapery.” The Fair lasted for two or three weeks. It was a fair for exchange as well as for sale; the wholesale merchants frequented the Fair, exchanging silks for wool or skins; and the retailers spread out their wares to catch the people. Everything was offered for sale, while the Fair, which always contained a certain element of feasting, was amply provided with taverns, eating and drinking shops, musicians, dancers, tumblers, and jugglers. When the necessity for the Fair gradually ceased, the entertainments remained. Yet down to the204 ’ fifties, in the nineteenth century, among the booths there were always some which kept up the semblance of serious trade; between the toy-stalls and the gingerbread were booths of cheap books and booths of hosiery and clothing.

Let us go on to consider the conduct of the trade of London Port. And, first, as regards the English merchants. When trade begins, all the regulations of trade for its security, such as the enforcement of debts, the due carrying out of contracts and agreements, must begin at the same time. Hence there was created in every trading town an organised Chamber of Commerce, anciently called the Merchant Gild. Of this organisation I will speak in another place (see vol. ii. pt. i. ch. ix.). This Chamber or association of traders assumed, as possessed by Royal Charter, executive powers, it passed laws, regulated trade in every branch, ordered prices, received foreign merchants and cargoes from abroad, appointed the time of market, and punished offenders. The Gild may have exercised all these functions not only in a prehistoric but also in a non-historic manner. For in London we have no Merchant Gild ever spoken of.

Among the foreign traders are mentioned in the Liber Albus the Cologne merchants, the Hanse merchants, and merchants of Lorraine, Bavaria, Lemberg, Flanders, Antwerp, Bruges, Louvain, Perugia, Lucca, Lombardy, Tuscany, Spain, Portugal, Catalonia, Navarre, Provence, Aquitaine, Quercy, Gascony, Bordeaux, Genoa, and the Italian Societies of Frescobaldi and Morori. Liberties are also mentioned as being granted to the Merchants of Douay, Malines, and St. Omer; also to numerous cities and corporations in England; and allocations were granted to the citizens of Dublin and Cork.

All these merchants occupied their own houses, in which they were expected to live by themselves, not associating more than was necessary with the citizens, who, as far down as the nineteenth century, were wont to hustle and abuse any foreigner who ventured unprotected into the streets. The men of Germany had the Domus Teutonicorum, the Steelyard, where is now Cannon Street Terminus: the men of Bordeaux had the “Vintry”: the Flemings their own house near the Vintry. The history of the trade of London for five hundred years is largely composed of the jealousies and quarrels between the foreign merchants and the merchants of London.

In the year 1000, strangers from France, Normandy, Rome, Flanders, Liège, and the Emperor’s men, were permitted to trade at Billingsgate. In the twelfth century a fleet, carrying wine as its principal cargo from Germany, arrived at London once a year. It lay off the bank two ebbs and one flood. This means that the vessels came up the river with the flood, and lay off during the following ebb and one tide afterwards. During this time the men were not permitted to land, nor to sell their cargo. The King’s officers came on board and purchased what was wanted for the King’s use—gems, plate, tapestry, as well as wine. After this the205 traders were allowed to sell to merchants, but not to go to the open market nor to sell by retail. When they carried their wares on shore the Sheriff examined them, and they had to pay scavage, i.e. “showage.” They could sell for the space of forty days, after which they had to go away. But one suspects that the law was not administered with great strictness. Some things they were forbidden to buy, as lamb skins: and they were not to buy more than three live pigs!

In 1217, a convention was made between the merchants of London, Amiens, and other towns. Those of the convention were permitted to load and to unload, to warehouse in the City, and to sell to citizens, not to foreigners. In return they were to pay fifty marks a year to the Sheriffs. One of them might keep a hostel for a year, but not longer. They were not to take provisions out of the City. These foreigners contributed £100 towards the construction of a conduit from Tyburn into the City. Before this time, in 1194, Richard I. had granted to Cologne merchants the right to attend all Fairs “saving the franchise of the City of London.”

The expansion of trade and the creation of industries in England owed a great deal to the spirit of enterprise made possible, or even engendered, by the new municipal life of the towns. All over the country the towns asked for and obtained charters after the fashion of London. There are everywhere, up to the end of the thirteenth century, signs of activity and of prosperity: churches were rebuilt; bridges were thrown over rivers; walls were repaired; gates, wharves, aqueducts were constructed; new trading-ports arose such as Lynn, Sandwich, Southampton, for instance; new manufactures were started at Norwich, Worcester, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, Reading, and elsewhere; there are no complaints of poverty and misery; there is no Piers Plowman for London; the merchants are seen to be buying country estates; and whereas in the twelfth century England exported little besides her wool, in the fifteenth century there are entries of industry and manufactures everywhere. And for all these, London was the recipient and the distributor.

The Hanseatic League was in existence as far back as the eighth century. The members began to trade with London apparently very soon after that date, and were esteemed as merchants who introduced wares very useful and otherwise difficult to procure. In the reign of Ethelred, A.D. 979, the “men of the Emperor” were accounted worthy of “good laws.” They settled by the river-side, where they obtained a house near Dowgate. Either before or after their settlement the “men of Cologne” settled next to them. After disputes between the two Houses they were amalgamated and formed the Gildhalla Teutonicorum. Their merchandise consisted mainly of wheat, rye and other grain, cables, masts, pitch, tar, flax, hemp, linen cloth, wainscots, wax, steel, and other “profitable merchandize.” (Stow).

Not only the citizens of London but the country people looked on the aliens206 with hate. No royal proclamation was of avail to protect them against this hatred. Partly, no doubt, they were hated because they were foreigners; but mainly, it is certain, because they were monopolists and could charge what they pleased. Thus when Wat Tyler and his merry men held possession of the City they murdered all the foreign merchants, especially the Flemings, dragging them even from the altars. Chaucer says (Nonnes Prestes Tale):—

“Certes, he Jacke Strawe and his meynee
Ne made never shoutes half so shrille,
When that they wolden any Fleming kille,
As thilke day was made upon the fox.”

The Hanseatic League was most powerful: to it belonged all the important towns of North Germany, it had ships numbering hundreds, and controlled the whole trade of the Baltic, that is to say, of Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, and Germany, and exercised in England for its own purposes the influence which everywhere belongs to the purse. The members advanced money to the King on large interest; they got him out of his difficulties, for a consideration. Thus Edward III., in return for money advanced, let the Black Prince’s tin mines in Cornwall to the Germans; and, for the same consideration, he gave them a number of farms for a thousand years. One need not here follow the Gildhalla Teutonicorum and its various charters and privileges. It is sufficient to note that the continual wars of the English—civil wars, as in the reign of Stephen, Henry III., Edward II., Richard II., Henry VI., Edward IV. and Richard III.; foreign wars with Scotland and France; the repression of rebellion as in Ireland and in Wales—checked the growth of commercial enterprise and made it impossible for the English merchant to contend against the League. Yet when the Merchant Adventurers began, early in the fifteenth century, they attacked the Hanseatic trade in Norway and in Denmark and in Flanders. There was fierce resistance; in Bergen the English merchants were murdered; on the open sea the “Rovers” or pirates attacked and destroyed the English ships; the Hanseatics pillaged the English coasts. The English power at sea was unable to put down these acts of piracy or war. The King was obliged to invite the arbitration of Charles, Duke of Burgundy, who accorded to the English merchants the substantial benefit of trading in the Baltic, but restored to the League all their former privileges and more. This arbitration was called the Treaty of Utrecht. It remained in force till the final expulsion of the League a hundred years later.

The Gildhalla Teutonicorum or Steelyard covered a large area in the most crowded part of London. Its river front extended from Cousin Lane—a narrow lane close to Dowgate Dock on the west—to Allhallows Lane on the east; and from the river to Thames Street. This area contained about 110,000 square feet. It was surrounded by a strong wall; the chief building was a large hall called the Guildhall in which the merchants and their clerks took common meals; the north207 front looking on Thames Street possessed three arched gates, of which for greater security the two side gates were walled up. Above the three gates were the following inscriptions:—

(1) “Haec domus est laeta semper bonitate reputa:
Hic pax, hic requies, hic gaudia semper honesta.”

(2) “Aurum blanditiae frater est natusque doloris:
Qui caret hoc moeret, qui tenet hoc metuit.”

(3) “Qui bonis parere recusat, quasi vilato fumo in flammas cecidit.”

Grove and Boulton


Another strong building was the residence of the Master overlooking the river. Between the two houses was the garden planted with fruit-trees and vines. Here later the merchants sold Rhenish wine. The quay, which extended along the river front, was provided with a large crane, and all the goods were landed on this quay. The life led by the residents was monastic in its character. They were unmarried; no women were allowed within the walls; cleanliness was strictly enforced; every man was bound to have a complete suit of armour; they were not allowed to fence or to play tennis with Englishmen, in order to avoid any occasion for a brawl; and at a certain hour the gates were closed. Disputes arose between208 the company of Merchant Adventurers and the Hanseatic merchants. In 1552, in the reign of Edward VI., the monopoly of the Hanseatic League was taken from them. The following is the entry made by King Edward VI. in the resolution of the Privy Council:—

“Feb. 23. A decree was made by the board, that, upon knowledge and information of their charters (those of the Stiliard), they had found: First, that they were no sufficient corporation; Secondarily, that, when they had forfeited their liberties, King Edward IV. did restore them on this condition, that they should colour no strangers’ goods (i.e. that they should pass no goods of other foreigners through the Customs as if they were their own), which (yet) they had done. Also, that, whereas in the beginning they shipped not past eighty cloths, after 100, after 1,000, after that 6,000, now in their names was shipped 14,000 cloths in one year, and but 1,100 of all other strangers. For these considerations sentence was given that they had forfeited their liberties, and were in like case with other strangers.”

They continued to trade like other foreign merchants until the year 1599, when Elizabeth ordered them to depart; yet many remained and became merged in the general population of London. At the time of the Great Fire the buildings were entirely destroyed; but the site still belonged to the merchants, who obtained a charter from Charles II. “granting permission to erect a church for themselves on a spot where one had formerly stood.” What was that church? It was not Allhallows the Great, which was rebuilt out of the coal dues. Nor Allhallows the Less, which was never rebuilt. Perhaps there was a chapel within their walls which these pious merchants desired to restore; but they never carried out that laudable intention. It was resolved in 1599 that the House should be taken from them and converted into an office for the Queen’s Navy. Yet in 1666 we find that the site still belongs to them. The two statements are difficult to reconcile.

But there were other foreign merchants besides the Hansards. The men of Genoa had privileges. Bordeaux sent fleets containing wine; Rochelle sent wine; Lorraine sent also an annual fleet containing wine; there were ships from Genoa and Venice. Whatever they brought, they carried away wool. England paid her Peter’s Pence in wool; she paid for everything that she bought of these merchants in wool.

As regards the trading fleets, consider the “Flanders Fleet” of Venice. This splendidly organised merchant service consisted of a large number of galleys, each manned by 180 oarsmen not apparently slaves, but Sclavonians who had their own fraternity at Southampton: each ship had also on board thirty archers well equipped for purposes of defence. This fleet, which was first sent out in 1307, “visited Syracuse, Majorca, the coasts of Spain and Portugal, and proceeded thence to England and to the low countries.” They did not always call at London, but always at Southampton,209 which was their chief port in England. There still remains at the church of North Stoneham a stone marking the burial-place of certain Sclavonian oarsmen who died while at Southampton. “Sepultura de la Schola de Sclavoni” (Cunningham). Arrived at the Downs the fleet broke up and repaired to London, Rye, Winchelsea, Sandwich, and other places.

The Italian Quarter in London was near the Tower. These Italians, men of Pisa, Lucca, Genoa, and Venice, were called “Galleys men” because they came up the river in galleys, and the quay where they landed their wines and other merchandise was Galley Quay. Stow says:—

“In this lane of old time dwelt divers strangers, born of Genoa and those parts; these were commonly called galley men, as men that came up in the galleys brought up wines and other merchandise, which they landed in Thames St. at a place called Galley key: they had a certain coin of silver amongst themselves, which were halfpence of Genoa and were called Galley halfpence: these halfpence were forbidden in the 13th of Henry IV., and again by Parliament in the 4th of Henry V. It was, that if any person bring into this realm halfpence, suskinges, or dodkins, he should be punished as a thief: and he that taketh or payeth such money shall lose a hundred shillings, whereof the king shall have the one half, and he that will sue the other half. Notwithstanding in my youth, I have seen them pass current, but with some difficulty, for that the English halfpence were then, though not so broad, somewhat thicker and stronger.” (Survey, Book II.)

In the year 1353 Edward III. sent a Royal Injunction to the Mayor and Sheriffs concerning two Genoese, named Francisco of Genoa, and Panimo Guilliemi servant of Francisco de Spinola of Genoa. These foreigners had opened a wine-shop consisting of two cellars, in one of which was stored red and white wine, and in the other sweet wine (of Sicily, Crete, Cyprus, Gaza, etc.). The City officers, fearing that these foreigners would mix the wine, which was supposed to be extremely prejudicial to health, made them shut their shop, and the Mayor took the oath of the two men that they would not mix the sweet and the white wine, before he suffered them to continue in their trade.

The Flemings were always in closer commercial relation with London than any other nation. They were the greatest buyers of wool; they came over here to settle first when William the Conqueror’s Queen protected them; next, on the invitation of Edward III. The Weald of Kent was full of wealthy Flemings in the fifteenth century; it is probable that Caxton in his boyhood spoke Flemish as well as English, because he was born in the Weald; and though these men remained among us for many generations they did not become English. They were considered hard in their money dealings; it was against their honour and good name that the famous “Stews” were peopled with Flemish women; and when Jack Straw’s rebels held the City, one of the first things they did was to murder the Flemings.

There is another point of view from which we may consider the foreign element of London, that of the so-called Caursini. The origin of the name is210 generally assumed to be the town of Cahors. But why the Italians of London should be called natives of Cahors is not easy to understand. When merchants of Cahors are mentioned it is never in connection with the great financial operations conducted by the Italians, nor have the Caursini, mentioned in contemporary documents, any connection at all with the city of Cahors. Another, and perhaps a more likely derivation, is from an Italian family called Caursini. It should be noted also that Matthew Paris in the curious specimen of a deed or agreement between these merchants and a certain Religious House calls them “of the City of ...” not mentioning Cahors. In another place he distinctly calls them Transalpines.

The Italians came to London in the reign of King John, not as traders, but as agents for the collection of the Papal revenue, especially that part of it which was contributed, very much against their will, by the Religious Houses. They came chiefly from Sienna, Lucca, and Florence. They were members of trading companies, apparently of the joint stock kind, of which all the substantial citizens of the flourishing towns of Lombardy were members and shareholders, or fellow adventurers.

Their work as Papal agents was very soon supplemented by financial operations on their own account. They became in communication with the monasteries, not only on account of the Pope’s exactions, but also in connection with the sale of wool, which constituted the chief wealth of the Religious. They were able to give a higher price than could be obtained from other merchants. They could advance money for the building which was continually going on in the monasteries. When a House had to send representatives to Rome the Caursini gave them letters of credit which enabled them to bribe the officers of the Papal courts.

But—a fact of far greater importance—their resources, which seemed practically inexhaustible, enabled them to supply money to the English Kings for nearly two hundred years.

They lent money at high rates of interest; but, as usury was forbidden by the Church, and a thing hateful and in bad repute, they disguised the real nature of their transactions. The actual money advanced was repaid without any interest; but the lender was paid by various arrangements called by different names, but all meaning the same thing, though of course there was no affectation of not understanding the true nature of the transaction. The Italians were regarded, especially by ecclesiastics, with detestation. Matthew Paris says of them:— 211

“In these days prevailed the horrible nuisance of the Caursines, to such a degree that there was hardly any one in all England, especially among the bishops, who was not caught in their net. Even the King himself was held indebted to them in an incalculable sum of money. For they circumvented the needy in their necessities, cloaking their usury under the show of trade, and pretending not to know that whatever is added to the principal is usury, under whatever name it may be called. For it is manifest that their loans lie not in the path of charity, inasmuch as they do not hold out a helping hand to the poor to relieve them, but to deceive them; not to aid others in their starvation, but to gratify their own covetousness.” (Giles’s translation.)

He gives also a specimen of their ordinary form of agreement:—

To all who shall see the present writings—the Prior and Convent of .... Health in the Lord.... Be it known to you that we have received on loan, at London, for the purpose of usefully settling matters concerning us and our church, from such an one, and such an one, for themselves and their partners, citizens and merchants of the city of ..., 104 marks of good and lawful money sterling, each mark being computed at 13 shillings and 4 pence sterling. For which 104 marks, we, in our own name and in the name of our church, do declare that we are quit, and do protest that we are fully paid, altogether renouncing any exception of the money not being reckoned, and paid, and handed over to us, and also the exception that the said money has not been converted to our own uses and to the uses of our church. And the aforesaid one hundred and four marks sterling, in the manner and to the number aforesaid, to be reckoned to the said merchants, or to one of them, or to their certain emissary, who shall bring with him these present letters, on the feast of St. Peter ad Vincula, namely, the first day of the month of August, at the New Temple, London, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation one thousand two hundred and thirty-five, we promise by lawful covenant, and bind ourselves, in our own name and in that of our church, that we will pay and discharge in full. Adding moreover this condition, that if the aforesaid money shall not be paid and discharged at the place and term aforesaid, as has been said, we promise from that time, at the term always before completed, and bind ourselves by the same covenant, to give and render to the aforesaid merchants, or their certain emissary, every two months, for every ten marks, one mark of the said money, in recompense for losses, which losses and expenses these merchants might incur or receive therefrom, so that the losses and expenses and principal may effectually be claimed, as they have been stated above, and the expenses of one merchant, with one horse and one servant, wherever the merchant shall be, until the full payment of all the aforesaid. And the expenses incurred and to be incurred, for recovering the same money, we will render and restore to the same merchants, or one of them, or their certain emissary. Which recompense for losses, interest, and expenses, we promise the said merchants in no wise shall be reckoned towards the principal of the said debt; and not to keep back the said debt under pretence of the above-mentioned recompense, against the will of the aforesaid merchants, beyond the term aforesaid. For all which articles aforesaid, firmly and wholly to be fulfilled, and inviolably to be observed, we bind ourselves and our church, and our successors, and all our212 goods and those of our church, movable and immovable, ecclesiastical and temporal, in possession and hereafter to be in possession, wherever they shall be found, to the said merchants and their heirs, until the full payment of all the aforesaid; which goods we hereby recognise that we possess from them by a precarious tenure. And we consent on all the aforesaid to be convened in all places, and before any tribunal, and do renounce, for all the aforesaid for ourselves and our successors, all the aid of law, both canon and civil, the privilege both of clerkship and of court, the letter of Saint Adrian, every custom and statute, all letters, indulgences, and privileges obtained, or to be hereafter obtained from the Apostolic See for the King of England and all the people of his kingdom, the constitution De duabus dietis, the benefit of full repayment, the benefit of appeal and of recusation, the inhibitory letters of the King of England, and all other exception, real and personal, which might be objected against this instrument or deed. All these things we promise faithfully shall be observed. In testimony of which matter we have thought it right to affix our seals to this present writing. Done on the fifth day of Elphege, in the year of grace MCCXXXV.”—(Matthew Paris, Giles’s translation, pp. 2-4.)

The rate of interest, it will be seen, was 60 per cent per annum.

In that same year—1235—the Bishop of London “perceiving that the Caursines openly multiplied their usury without shame and led a most filthy life, harassing the Religious with various injuries and amassing heaps of riches from the numbers who were forced to submit to their yoke,” arose and admonished them to desist from their practices and to do penance for their misdeeds. But what is a Bishop of London compared with the Pope of Rome? The Caursini laughed at the Bishop; they appealed to Rome; they procured an order that the Bishop, then old and ill, should repair to Rome with his complaints. The Bishop, therefore, said no more.

In the year 1251, proceedings were taken against some of them. They have the air of being a concession to popular prejudice, and also as a means of raising money for the King.

Again, to quote Matthew Paris:—

“The Transalpine usurers whom we call Caursins were so multiplied and became so rich that they built noble palaces for themselves at London, and determined to take up a permanent abode there, like the native-born citizens; and the prelates did not dare to murmur, as they, the Caursins, asserted that they were the agents of the Pope; nor did the citizens dare to express their discontent, as these men were protected by the favour of certain nobles, whose money, as was reported, they put out to amass interest after the fashion of the Roman Court. However, about this time, by the wish and instrumentality of the King, heavy accusations were made against them in the civil213 courts, and were brought to trial before a judge, and whilst some one in London sat as judge on the part of the King, who accused them, they were charged with being schismatics, heretics, and guilty of treason against the King, because, although they professed themselves Christians, they had most evidently polluted the kingdom of England with their base trade of usury; at which the most Christian King complained that he was deeply wounded in conscience, as he had sworn to preserve uninjured the holy institutes of the Church. As the Caursins could not deny the charge, some of them were seized and committed to prison, and others concealed themselves in out-of-the-way places. At this proceeding the Jews were rejoiced, as they had now participators in their state of slavery. At length, however, by the payment of a large sum of money, these Caursins, the rivals of the Jews, were allowed to be at peace for a time. One of them had told me, the writer of this work, of these matters, and declared on his oath, that if they had not built these costly houses at London, scarcely one of them would have remained in England.”

From the Ellesmere MS. of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

The methods of repayment by the King were various. The creditors received a bill upon the Exchequer or the Keeper of the Wardrobe; an assignment of a branch of the revenue—thus 27 Ed. I., the whole revenues of Ireland were assigned to the Frescobaldi of Florence in payment of a loan of £11,000; or the proceeds of a subsidy were given—thus 8 Ed. I., the proceeds of a fifteenth were assigned to the Italian merchants; or they took over the customs; or they received an addition to the principal large communal privileges; or they received offices of dignity and profit: they collected the customs; they took charge of the Mint; they were ambassadors. In the year 1294 there were twelve Florentines holding the title of ambassadors from throne states of Europe.

Among the companies which lent money to English kings in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were the Muzzi of Florence, the Company of Jacopo Brabazen of Sienna, the Bardi of Florence, the Ammanati of Pistoia, the Circuli Nerci and the Circuli Bianche of Florence, the Company of the Sons of Beccori of Lucca, the Palci of Florence, the Riccardi of Lucca, the Spini of Florence, the Company of Bestre of Lucca, the Scali of Florence and the Peruzzi of Florence, besides the Frescobaldi of Florence already mentioned. (See Appendix III.)

Enormous sums were advanced by these companies and repaid, during these two centuries. In 1254 Henry III. was called upon by the Pope to pay the sum of 130,541 marks sterling for expenses connected with the business of Sicily. Between214 the years 1295 and 1309 the Frescobaldi received of Edward I. and Edward II. the sum of £100,000. On the accession of Edward II. he had to pay, on account of his father’s debts, the sum of £118,000 and on his own account £28,000.

If, however, the Italians made immense profits out of the English kings retribution fell upon them, because the English King caused their ruin. Giovanni Villani tells the story:—

“At the period of the war between the kings of France and England, the companies of the Bardi and Peruzzi, of Florence, were the King of England’s merchants. All his revenues and wools came into their hands, and they furnished from them all his expenses. But the expenses so much exceeded the revenues that the King of England, when he returned home from the war, found himself indebted for principal, assignments, and rewards, to the Bardi more than 100,000 marks sterling, and to the Peruzzi more than 135,000 marks. Of these sums a considerable portion consisted in assignments which the King had made to them in times passed: but they were rash enough, whether from covet of gain or led on by the hope of recovering the entire debt, to give them up, and entrust all their own property and that of others in their keeping, to this one prince. And observe, that a large part of the money they had lent was not their own capital, but had been borrowed by them or received on trust from fellow-citizens and strangers. And great danger thence accrued both to them and to the city of Florence. For not being able to answer the calls of their creditors in England and Florence, and elsewhere, where they trafficked, they lost their credit on all sides, and became bankrupts; and especially the Peruzzi. Yet they avoided complete ruin by their possessions in the city and territory of Florence, and by the great power and rank which they held in the republic. This failure, and the expenses of the state in Lombardy, greatly reduced the wealth and condition of the merchants and traders of Florence, and of the whole community. For the Bardi and Peruzzi had held so large a share of the commerce of Christendom, that upon their fall every other merchant was suspected and distrusted. Our city of Florence, in consequence, received a shock, such as had not been experienced before for many years. But, to add to the reverses of these companies, the King of France caused them and other Florentines throughout his dominions to be pillaged of all their merchandise and property, both on account of the bankruptcy and because we had been obliged to borrow money of his subjects, to expend on our affairs in Lombardy and Lucca: and this caused the ruin of many other smaller companies of Florence, as we shall afterwards make mention.” (Archæologia, XXVII.-XXVIII. pp. 259-260.)

The power of the Caursini thus received a check from which it never recovered. Italian merchants, however, continued to reside in London, and to trade there. A curious story is told by Thomas of Walsingham, and repeated by Stow, of a Genoese merchant resident in the City. He is said to have proposed that if the215 King would erect a castle at Southampton, he would make that place the principal Port in the Kingdom, and the resort of foreign merchants from all parts. Some of the merchants of London, however, apprehensive of their own interests, caused the unfortunate Genoese to be murdered—for which crime one of them, John Kirby, was executed.

One more story, of a later period, illustrates the still lingering hatred of the Italians. I give the story in the words of Stow:—

“In the moneth of Maye, an Italians servaunte walkyng throughe Cheape of London, wyth a dagger hangyng at hys gyrdle, a Merchauntes servaunt that before tyme had bin in Italy and there blamed for wearing of the like weapon, chalenged the straunger, howe hee durst be so bolde to beare weapon, consydering he was out of hys Countrey, knowyng that in hys Countrey no straunger was suffered to wear the like. To the which question such answere was made by the straunger, that the Mercer toke from him hys dagger and brake it upon his heade, whereupon the stranger complayned to the Maior, who on the morrow sent for the yong man to the Guilde Hall: wherfore after his aunswere made unto the complaynt, by agreemente of a full Courte of Aldermen, he was sent to ward, and after the Court was finished, the Maior and Sherifes walking homewarde thoroughe Cheape, were there mette by suche a number of Mercers servauntes and other, that they mighte not passe, for ought they coulde speake or doe, till they hadde delivered the young manne that before was by them sente to prison. And the same daye in the afternoone sodainely was assembled a multitude of lewde and pore people of the City, which without heade or guide ranne unto certaine Italians houses, and especially to the Florentines, Lukesses and Venetians, and there toke and spoyled what they found, and dyd great hurt in sundry places, but moste in foure houses standing in Breadstreete warde, whereof three stoode in Saint Bartholmewes Parishe the little, and one in the Parish of Saint Benits Finke. The Maior, Aldermen and worshipful Commoners of the Citie, with all theyr diligence resisted them what they coulde, and sente diverse of them to Newegate: and fynallye, not without shedding of bloude and mayming of diverse Citizens, the rumour was appeased. The yong manne beginner of all thys businesse, tooke Sanctuarie at Westminster, and not long after the Duke of Buckingham with other noble menne were sente from the kyng into the Cytie, who there charged the Maior by Vertue of a Commission, that inquirie shoulde bee made of thys ryot, and so called an Dyer determyner at the Guilde Hall, where satte for Judges the Maior, as the kyngs Lieuetenaunte, the Duke of Buckingham on hys ryghte hande, the chiefe Justice on the lefte hande, and manye other men of name, where whyle they were enpanelyng theyr inquestes, the other Commons of the Citie manye of them secretly putte them in armour, and ment to have roong the common bell, so to have raysed the whole force of the Citie, and to so have delivered such persons as before for the robberie were committed to ward. But this matter was discretely handled by the counsel and labour of some discrete Commoners, which appeased their neighbours in such wise, that all this furie was quenched: but when worde was brought to the Duke of Buckingham, that the commonaltie were in harnesse, he with the other Lordes tooke leaue of the Maior and departed, and so ceased the inquirie for that day. Upon the morrow the Maior commaunded the common Counsell with the Wardens of fellowships to appeare at the Guild Hall, where by the Recorder in the King’s name and the Maior’s, was commaunded every Warden, that in the afternoone eyther of them should assemble his whole fellowship at their common Halles, and there to give straight commaundement, that every man see the king’s peace kept within the Citie. After which time the Citizens were brought to such quietnesse, that after that day, the enquirie was duly perused, and iij persons for the said ryot put in execution and hanged at Tyborne, whereof ij were Sanctuarie men of Saint Martins le graunde, the other a shipman, for robbing of Anthony Mowricine and other Lumbardes.” (Stow’s Chronicle.)



The popular imagination has always presented the City of London as paved with gold; the popular tradition has always delighted to present the rise of the humble village boy from the poor apprentice to the rich merchant, Alderman, and Mayor. In London itself this tradition did not exist, because it was known to be absurd. The honours open to the young craftsman were those obtained by valour on the field of battle. I do not think, however, that the traditional rise of the humble village boy is more than two hundred years old. It began at a time when the ancient connection of the City and the country had been severed, for reasons which are treated in another place. There has always been a perennial stream of immigration into the City; this is proved by the ancient jealousy with which the people regarded the intrusion into their trades of “foreigners,” meaning not only Flemings, French, and people generally of other nations, but men from the country, who were not freemen or members of any company. This stream consisted almost entirely of sons of the country gentry, because the humbler kind could only get away from their villages by running away. As regards the former, their choice of a profession was limited; they might attach themselves to the service of some great noble—how many younger sons were thrown upon the world when Warwick fell? how many when Wolsey was disgraced? They might follow the King on his wars—thus rose Owen Tudor, whose own father was a simple gentleman, if he was so much, in the service of the Bishop of Chester. They might obtain some place at Court or in one of the King’s houses. Thus, in the sixteenth century, on a feud arising between the Forsters and the Fenwicks of Northumberland, one of the Forsters found it expedient to change his native air, which had become dangerous. He fled south; he made the acquaintance of Henry Carey, who was keeper of Hunsdon House, then a royal Palace, and was appointed Yeoman—i.e. Head or Chief of one of the Departments; his son became a Judge; his grandson Lord Chief Justice. Again, he might enter a monastery—one of Owen Tudor’s sons entered the Benedictine House of Westminster. He might remain in his own country as bailiff or steward; he might become a lawyer—it would be interesting to learn how the Inns of Court were recruited; or, lastly, he might go up to London and be apprenticed to one of the great companies.


I have long been of opinion that the last line was far more common than is generally understood. Until recently, however, I have not been able to establish my theory that the connection between the country and the City was close, continuous, and widespread; that the younger sons were sent up to the City as they are now sent into the Army, for a career considered both honourable and profitable. If this theory can be maintained, it is quite obvious that the importance of London in the eyes of the country must have been very much greater than is generally understood: its political weight must have been much more than has hitherto been allowed, and its dignity and the dignity of its chief offices must be in a corresponding degree enhanced. It was not by men who had been humble village boys that great offices in the City were filled, but by men of gentility and of good connections. This theory, if it is well founded, will also show why London has never created an hereditary aristocracy of her own; why, in a word, London never became a Venice or a Genoa. The leaders among the citizens always, according to my view, were connected with brothers and cousins over the whole of the country; and when the great nobles rode up to their town houses with their following of hundreds, all gentlemen, they entered a City containing their own people, their own cousins, living in Palaces equal to their own; apparelled in the robes of authority and with the gold chains of power and of dignity.

Thus, I find groups of families from this or that county—the Fitzwarrens of Devon and Somerset with their cousins the Whittingtons of Somerset and Gloucester; the Chicheles, Northampton; the Brembres, Philpots, and Sevenokes from Kent; the Greshams, Bacons, Boleyns, and Banhams from Norfolk; and this indicates not only that many country families were connected with the City, but that there were groups of families, cousins near or far, which habitually sent up their boys to London. But more direct proofs are necessary to establish what, I feel certain, was the case, that this connection was widespread and even general; that a younger son of a gentle family, from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century at least, regarded trade in the City as a desirable and honourable profession. I do not think that this was the case after the middle of the seventeenth century. One of the latest instances, indeed, of the country gentleman’s son being sent up to town and made an apprentice is that of Gibbon’s grandfather.

There are, however, many other facts which point in the same direction:—

1. The separation of the distributing and wholesale companies from the crafts of the working Companies; the position of authority and power held by the former; the jealousy with which apprentices were admitted into their bodies; the honours bestowed upon their members by the sovereign; the responsible offices entrusted to them—one, for instance, was made Mayor of Bordeaux, another the representative of the King in the Low Countries. These dignities were not open to mechanics and persons whose fingers were218 “blue.”

2. The rapid increase in the fee required of the apprentice. It was at first a few shillings. Then for shillings they read pounds. Next they required a property qualification, upon which, however, they did not long insist. In the time of James I. the fee had risen to £20; it was afterwards raised to £100 and even to £500. What craftsman—what village boy—what mechanic—could raise, think you, a fee of even £10—which means in our money perhaps £300?

3. The practice in the craft companies of admitting two kinds of apprentices—those who would be received into the trade as master, and those as journeyman. In the latter case the boy was sometimes made to swear that he would not attempt to set up as a master on his own account; he could not, as a rule, hope to do so, for the same reason that keeps a journeyman in his place to this day: the want of capital and credit. However, the distinction between master and journeyman was sharply drawn and jealously maintained. Yet the master must know his trade, otherwise he could not superintend it. It is true that there were small masters who worked with their own hands.

4. In Remembrancia (1579-1664) there are notes on 119 Mayors, Aldermen, Sheriffs, and City Officers. Of these the largest number are sons of country gentlemen. Thus we have:

From the Country
Sons of Gentlemen 59
Born in London
Sons of City Merchants 16
From the Country
Apparently of poor parents 5
Parentage not stated 39

5. Another point is the very significant fact that the admiration of the people was not bestowed, as we might expect, on the rich and successful merchant, but upon the fighting man. The hero of the London apprentice was not the Lord Mayor, nor one of the Aldermen, nor the poor lad who became the rich trader, nor the merchant who owned ships and lent money to kings; his hero was the London youth who went forth to fight, and came home a knight.

I have before me a certain book of the year 1590, called The Nine Worthies of London. You would expect to find Thomas à Becket, Whittington, Chichele, Caxton, Gresham, among these worthies. You would expect to find that stout old radical, William Longbeard, among them. You would be quite wrong. Not one of these worthies was remembered. Thomas à Becket, the protecting saint of London—their own saint—a member, almost, of the Mercers’ Company, was completely forgotten. None of the others did the people care to remember. They remembered,219 as I have said, only those who had gone out to fight. One London ’prentice had the honour of fighting for a whole hour with the Dauphin of France; another was knighted on the field by Edward the Black Prince, and came home to marry his master’s daughter—her name was Doll; a third slew a wild boar in Poland; and so on.

There is additional proof that the greater number—by far the greater number—of the citizens constituting the principal companies, together with many of those representing the former kind of apprentice, were gentlefolk—armigeri—belonging to what we should call county families.

From the Ellesmere M.S. of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

In the Edition, or the Continuator, of Stow, published by “A. M.—H. D., and others,” in the year 1633, the arms of all the Mayors of London from Henry Fitz Aylwin to that year are given. With the arms is added a note of the origin and parentage of the Mayors, one by one.

Let me take the latter first. What do we find when we analyse these returns? I divide the analysis into three heads. First, that of the Mayors whose parents lived in the country, where they were born; next, those who were born in London; thirdly, those who were born in other towns.

There are 203 Mayors thus accounted for in 210 years. Re-elections and obscurity of birth account for the missing seven years:—


1. Of those who were born in the country there are 156
2. Of those who were born in London there are 34
3. Of those who came from other towns there are 13.

Out of 203 citizens who achieved the position of Mayor, 156 came from the country. These figures are very remarkable. Actually 77 per cent of the citizens who rose to the highest honours were born in the country. If the same proportion was observed among all the masters, there were 77 per cent of those who were the merchant adventurers, wholesale dealers, importers, exporters, and what we should now call the heads of firms, capitalists, and employers of labour, in the City, who were immigrants born in the country. I would not, however, insist on the latter proportion, for the simple reason that the country lad has generally shown more ability than the son of the wealthy townsman, and this, not because he was born and bred in the country, but because the son of the Alderman is prone to believe that wealth comes of its own accord, not understanding his father’s early struggles, while the country lad understands that Fortune helps those who help themselves. If we make a large deduction on this ground, we may fairly admit that fully 50 per cent of the merchants came from the country.

Look a little more closely into the accompaniments of this fact. What is meant by coming from the country? A village of the fourteenth century contained the Lord of the Manor, the Priest, and the tenantry, hinds, or cultivators of the soil, with such craftsmen as were necessary for agriculture. Now it was absolutely impossible for one of the latter class to find the apprentice fee for a great company or even the journeyman apprentice fees for a craft company. If he could, none of the great companies would admit the son of a hind. And in the craft companies there was always the greatest unwillingness among the craftsmen of London to admit outsiders at all. The Priest, after the fourteenth century, was presumably childless, the old custom of marriage or concubinage being gradually repressed. The Lord of the Manor remained. He knew that the City offered the chance of fortune and rank; he knew that his neighbours, his cousins, his friends, had sent their boys up to the City; he could learn from them how to find a master for his boy, what fees he would pay, how to get him introductions, a company, and a career.

But since a very small number of those yearly apprenticed could rise to the City offices, we may assume that for every Mayor there were hundreds of apprentices, and we may conclude with absolute certainty that it was not an uncommon thing, but a well-recognised and widely-spread practice, for country lads to be sent to London, and that these country lads were sons of country gentlemen. And this properly understood, we understand also why London never for a moment thought of separating herself from the country, and why London, in the truest sense of the word, was always the very heart of England.

If it be asked why these young fellows were always welcomed in London,221 the answer is ready. First, they came to their relations as the two sons of John Chichele came to their cousins, as Whittington came to his. Next, the great City had then, as it has now, the custom of devouring her children; it must always be recruited with fresh blood; in his energy and strength, stimulated by his poverty and his resolution and his ambition, the country lad easily rises above the Londoner of the second generation, and in his turn produces boys who lack their father’s stimulus, even when they inherit their father’s strength; they cannot compete with the boy from the country.

From an illumination of the fifteenth century.

In London at this day, in every great town, in every little town, even, the222 same rapid rise, the same decline and fall, of the middle class goes on perpetually. The successful man has died; the sons throw away or lose what their fathers gained. Look for them in the third generation; they are gone; they are lost in the huge flood of the unknown, the unfortunate, the incapable, the obscure. Perhaps after many generations one may again emerge; he will be ignorant of the past, he will begin a family anew—I please myself when I look down the City lists with thinking that Robert Besaunt, Sheriff in 1195, was perhaps my own ancestor: a theory for which there is no proof at all; the very tradition of that descent, if it is a descent, has long been lost. What has become of the three-and-twenty generations between him and me? I know not; for six hundred years they have been unknown outside the village, outside the town, where they were born, and the nameless mounds that covered their bones have long since been levelled with the grass around, like those of the descendants of Orgar the Proud, Henry of London Stone, the Bukerels, the Hardels, the Haverels, and the Buccointes.

There is, however, another point. With the parentage and origin of the Mayors, there are presented, in this edition (see p. 219) of Stow, the arms of every Mayor. The earlier shields, such as that of Fitz Aylwin, we need not regard as authentic. After the thirteenth century, however, there could be no tampering with things heraldic. All the Mayors bore arms. Of course we know that in many cases there could be no doubt about the family arms. Such names suggest themselves as Whittington, Bullen, Chalton, Fielding, Cooke, Jocelyn, Hampton, Colet, Clopton, Percival, Capel, Bradbury, and Gresham. Some of them have on their shields the distinctive signs which mark the younger son. I am indebted to my friend Mr. Loftie for information on this point.

Thus, in 1631, Whitmore carries a mullet and a crescent—he was therefore the second son of a third son. Gore was a third son; Hacket was a second son; Jocelyn was a third son; Gamage was a third son; Mosely, the son of a third son; Anderson, son of a sixth son. All these, therefore, without doubt belonged to country families. In some cases, the arms were late, and were probably granted by the Heralds’ College. Among these are the arms of Cow, Warner, Hardy, Warren, Donne, and Cotes. Others given in the same book are ancient, as those of Calthorpe, Duckett, and Gore. In those days, we must remember, there was the greatest jealousy over the right to bear arms. The Heralds’ Visitations continued into the seventeenth century. A man could no more assume a coat of arms than he could—or can now—assume a peerage.

I claim, therefore, to have proved the social position and consideration of the merchants and wholesale traders and adventurers of London. The aristocracy of the City were brothers and cousins to the gentry—perhaps the lesser landed gentry of the country. Let that fact be borne in mind all through our History until the223 last century, when, as we have seen, a great change fell upon the City, which ceased for a long time to have any connection with the country, or to receive any lads from the country houses and the country gentry.

Then we naturally ask the question, “Does trade detract from honour?” We have seen that the gentry kept London continually supplied with new blood; this fact is in itself a sufficient answer. Let us consult a few authorities on this point. The first is Camden. He is speaking of the De la Poles:—

“William de la Pole, a merchant and mayor of Hull, was made a Baron of the Exchequer. His son, Michael de la Pole, became Earl of Suffolk, Knight of the Garter, and Lord Chancellor. His being a merchant,” says Camden, “did not detract from his honour, for who knows not that even our noblemen’s sons have been merchants? Nor will I deny that he was nobly descended, though a merchant. Whence it follows that mercatura non derogat nobilitati—trade is no abatement of honour.”

The Baron de Pollnitz testifies to the social position of English merchants:—

“In England the nobility intermarry with traders’ daughters as they do in France; however, a great distinction should be made betwixt the one and the other. In England, merchants are sometimes sprung of the greatest houses in the kingdom, and it has often happened that younger branches of noble families, who have been brought up to trade, by the right of succession, have become peers; and frequently it falls out that when a lord espouses a merchant’s daughter, she may be his cousin, or at least a lady of good family. Whereas in France, it is always the daughter of a Roturier.”

Defoe, who always stood up for the honour of trade, says, “Trading is so far from being inconsistent with a gentleman that in England trade makes a gentleman; for, after a generation or two, the tradesman’s children come to be as good gentlemen, statesmen, parliament men, judges, bishops, and noblemen as those of the highest birth and the most ancient families.” Swift says, “The power which used to follow land has gone over to money.” Johnson says, “An English merchant is a new species of gentleman.” Harrison says, “Citizens often change with gentlemen as gentlemen do with them.”

If, however, the country gentry sent their sons up to London, there to be apprenticed, there to become wholesale merchants and adventurers, the common proposition is equally true that the successful merchant or his children retired from London into the country, and carried on a cadet branch of the old house or founded a line of new gentry. This practice was in use as far back as the twelfth century, when the family of Gervase, the London merchant, became country gentry of Essex. The practice has been continued, estates have changed hands over and over again, the new purchasers being London merchants, or even, in these latter days, London tradesmen. In the second generation they are224 received into county society; in the third their origin is forgotten, or no longer talked about.

It would be a work of great interest to follow the family history of those who left London, and became owners of manors, parks, and country houses. But it would carry me too far, nor could I attempt it, even had I the time necessary, because the genealogies of the people are so full of errors, intentional and otherwise, that there would be no certainty as to the result. One would willingly learn, if one could, who are the modern representatives of Gervase of Cornhill, Ansgar the Staller, Leofwin the Portreeve, Orgar the Proud, the Haverels, the Bukerels, the Farringdons, the Whittingtons, the Philpots, the Greshams, and the later merchants. The descendants of some of the City houses can, however, be traced. An imperfect list has been compiled for my use, as follows:—

Sir William de la Pole, already mentioned, Knight of the Garter.

Alderman Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, Mayor 1457, ancestor of Queen Elizabeth, Lord Nelson, and the Earl of Kimberley.

Alderman Loke, ancestor of John Locke, Lord Chancellor King, and the Earl of Lovelace.

Sir Stephen Broun, grocer, twice Mayor, 1438, 1448, ancestor of Lord Montague.

Robert Pakington and Alderman Barnham, ancestors of Earl Stanhope and Sir J. S. Pakington.

Alderman Sir Baptist Hicks, ancestor of the Earl of Gainsborough, the Marquis of Sligo, Admiral Lord Howe, Lord Byron, and Lord Raglan.

Sir William Holles, ancestor of the Earl of Clare.

Sir Edward Osborne, Mayor 1582, ancestor of the Duke of Leeds.

Thomas Legge, citizen and skinner of London, was twice Mayor thereof; he married Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, which shows that even in those times the first nobility thought it no dishonour to intermarry with merchants. This Thomas Legge was direct ancestor of the Earl of Dartmouth.

Sir Richard Rich, ancestor of the Rich family, Earls of Warwick and Holland.

Sir Josiah Child, ancestor of the Duke of Bedford, Earl Russell, and the Duke of Beaufort.

Alderman Sir John Barnard, ancestor of Lord Palmerston.

Sir John Coventry, Mayor 1425, ancestor of the Earl of Coventry.

Sir Thomas Leigh, Mayor 1558, ancestor of Lord Leigh, the Earl of Chatham, William Pitt, and Viscount Millman.

Alderman Bond, ancestor of the Dukes of Marlborough, Leeds, and Berwick.

Sir Michael Dormer, Mayor 1541, ancestor of Lord Dormer.

Alderman Sir Rowland Hill, ancestor of Lord Chancellor Cowper and William Cowper the poet.

Sir Ralph Warren, Mayor 1536, ancestor of Oliver Cromwell and John Hampden.

Sir William Capell, Mayor 1503, ancestor of the Earl of Essex.

Alderman Thompson, ancestor of the Marquis of Bradford.

Alderman Heathcote, ancestor of Lord Abeland.

Alderman Coke, Alderman FitzWilliam, ancestors of the Marquess of Salisbury, Lord Chancellor Bacon, and the Marquess of Worcester.

Lionel Cranfield, created Earl of Middlesex.

Alderman Bathurst, ancestor of Lord Chancellor Bathurst.

Alderman Herne, ancestor of the Earl of Clarendon.

Alderman Rythis, ancestor of General Lord Coke.

Alderman Bardham, ancestor of Sir Robert Walpole and Horace Walpole. 225

Alderman Beckford, ancestor of the Dukes of Hamilton and Newcastle.

Alderman Wall, ancestor of the Duke of Somerset.

Alderman Shorter, ancestor of the Marquis of Hertford.

John Coventry, Mayor 1425, ancestor of the Earl of Coventry.

E. de Bouverie, ancestor of Pleydell Bouverie.

Sir Robert Ducie, Mayor 1631, ancestor of Lord Ducie.

Paul Banning, Sheriff 1593, ancestor of Lord Banning.

Hugh Irwin, ancestor of Viscount Irwin.

Sir William Craven, Mayor 1610, ancestor of Earl Craven.

William Ward, goldsmith, ancestor of Lord Dudley and Ward.



The mediæval regulations as to the cleanliness and order of the town leave nothing to desire, for they were minute, precise, and continually repeated. If they were passed by the London County Council of to-day they could not be clearer or more satisfactory.

Thus (A.D. 1282) it was ordered that every trade in the City should present to the Mayor a list of those practising that trade; by which means the Mayor and Aldermen would have accessible a Directory of the City: those not on the list had no right to remain in the City. Aldermen, also, were to learn who were staying at the hostels, and what was their business in the City. Curfew was rung at eight every night at St. Martin le Grand, St. Laurence, and All Hallows Barking. At a later period it was rung at St. Paul’s and St. Mary le Bow. At curfew the gates were to be closed; and taverns and brewers were to shut up; and no one was to walk about the streets. In every ward six men were to watch all night: the sergeants of Queenhithe and Billingsgate were to see that all boats were moored at night: no one was to cross the river after dark: and each sergeant was to have his boat kept in readiness with a crew of four men, to guard the river. No one was to walk about the streets at night.

In 1297 a similar proclamation was made. In the same year it was ordered, in addition, that everybody was to keep the front before his own house clean; that low pentices were to be removed; and that no pig-sties were to be allowed in the streets. By this time four pig-killers had been appointed, but it is evident that little had been done to enforce the law.

In 1304 a capture of rioters had been effected. Nine men were returned to prison as common “roreres” and night-walkers.

In 1309 the condition of the streets called for another ordinance. No man was to throw ordure or refuse into the streets; it was to be carted down to the river, there to be placed in boats provided for the purpose, or to be carried out of the town to the lay-stalls beyond the walls. The fine for the first offence was 40d., for the second and subsequent offences, half a mark.

In 1311 there was renewed activity in sending to prison “roreres,” street walkers, male and female, vagabonds, beggars, dicers, and gamblers.


In 1312 it was ordered that the gates should not only be closed at curfew, but that chains should be drawn across them on either side, and that they should be guarded by twelve, or at least eight, men every night, and sixteen, or at least twelve, men every day. The warders were ordered to have a watch on the top of the gate to warn them of the approach of armed men, and to put up the chains and to lower the portcullis if armed men attempted to enter.

In the year 1321, when trouble first began between King Edward II. and his nobles, the Mayor and Aldermen were summoned before the King’s Council at Westminster, and asked whether they would be “willing to preserve the King’s City of London to the use of him and his heirs as being the heritage of them, the Mayor and citizens, and at their own peril.”

They replied that they would so preserve the City, and they drew up in writing the method which they proposed to adopt:—

“The manner in which the safe-keeping of the City ought to be performed—

“That is to say: that the Mayor and Aldermen shall be properly armed, in manner as pertains to them and all their household. And that every Alderman shall cause to assemble in his Ward, in such place as he shall think best, the most proved and most wise men of his Ward; and that they, to prevent perils that may arise to the City—the which may God forbid—shall survey all the hostels of the Ward, in which they understand any strangers or suspected persons to be lodged; and that they shall enjoin such manner of hostelers and herbergeours, that they shall not harbour or receive any persons whomsoever, if they will not be answerable for their deeds and their trespasses, if in any way they offend.

“And that every Alderman, in his own Ward, shall cause all those of the Ward to be assessed to arms; that so they may be armed according as their condition demands, for maintaining the peace of our Lord the King, and saving and preserving the same in the said City.

“And that all the Gates of the City shall be well guarded by day and by night; that is to say, every gate by day, by 12 men, strong and vigorous, and well instructed, and well armed; so as to overlook those entering and going forth, if perchance any one be suspected of coming to do mischief to the City; and by night, by 24 men: so that those who keep ward by day, come at sunrise, and remain until sunset; and those who keep watch at night, come at sunset, and remain until sunrise. And that the bedels of the Wards of those who are summoned to keep ward shall be there ready with the names of those upon whom they have made summons, before the Aldermen of their Wards.

“And that every Alderman shall come there at the hour aforesaid, to see that those who are summoned to keep ward are strong and powerful men, and well and sufficiently armed.

“And that every night all the great gates shall be closed at sunset by the228 Warders thereunto assigned; that is to say, by two of the loyal and most powerful men of all the Ward, and sworn thereunto; and that the wickets of the gates shall be kept open until curfew rung out at St. Martin le Grand; and that then, all the wickets shall be closed, for all the night through, that so no one enter until Prime rung at St. Thomas of Acon: and then all the wickets shall be opened until sunrise, at which time the great gates shall be first opened.

“And that above the gates, and upon the walls between the gates of the City, there shall be placed sufficient people for watch and ward, that so no men-at-arms or other persons approach the walls or the gates, for doing mischief to the City. And if any one shall approach there in manner aforesaid, then the horn is to be sounded, that the nearest guards may be warned to come to such spot in defence of the City.

“And that those who are assigned to a certain guard, shall not, for any noise, for any cry, or for any affray, elsewhere in the City, in any manner depart from their guard; unless by the Mayor or by the Aldermen they be commanded so to do.

“And that every night there shall be ordained 200 men, well armed, or more, according as need demands, to go throughout the City to keep the peace, and to aid those who keep watch at the gates, if need be.

“And that no ship or boat shall moor or lie to at night, elsewhere than in the hythes of Billyngesgate and Queen Hythe, from sunset, namely, to sunrise. And that two good and strong boats shall be provided on the Thames at night, with armed men, on the one side of London Bridge, towards the West, and two boats on the other side, towards the East; so as to guard the water by night, and watch that no one may enter this part of the City to do mischief; and, if they see peril, to warn the people of those Wards which are keeping guard upon the water.”

In 1334 another proclamation was made to the same effect as those of 1282, 1297, 1309, 1312, and 1334. In this case an additional prohibition was made. No one was to wear a “false face,” meaning a mask.

In 1353 the old proclamation is issued with additions. Hostelers shall not allow their guests to go around with arms or armour; strangers were not to carry weapons of any kind; every citizen was to aid the officers of the City in keeping order; no one was to harbour criminals; no one was to make “covin, confederacy, or alliance.”

In 1356 the bad roads just outside the Gates were taken into consideration, and a toll was ordered; for every cart, one penny, for every horse, one farthing.

In 1357 the King called the attention of the Mayor to the disgusting condition of the river banks, and ordered them to be cleansed. In consequence a Proclamation was made that no one was to throw refuse into the streets or on the river banks.

In 1367 it was ordered that lay-stalls should not be placed near the water beside229 the Tower. A lay-stall was a large shallow depression, generally a pond, into which ordure and filth of all kinds were thrown.

In 1371 the King himself ordered that there should be no killing of cattle, sheep, and pigs at the shambles, but that the abattoirs of the City should be at Stratford le Bow on one side of the town, and at Knightsbridge at the other. I am not aware that any record exists to show obedience to this order. But in the same year the Mayor established a tax at Smithfield of one penny for a horse, a halfpenny for an ox, a penny for eight sheep, and a penny for four pigs, the tax to be paid both by the vendor and the purchaser, and the proceeds to be devoted to cleansing Smithfield.

VIEW of the RUINS of Part of the late CHURCH of ST. LEONARD, and the Steeple of St. Vedast Foster Lane
VIEW of the CRYPT on the site of the late COLLEGE of St. MARTIN le GRAND,
From Londina Illustrata.


In 1372 another Royal Proclamation was issued against the defilement of the bank. This kind of proclamation always proved futile, because no one could enforce it.

In 1379 another order of the Common Council was made about keeping the streets clean. This time the Corporation seems to have recognised the absurdity of prohibiting what they could not prevent. They no longer forbid the citizens the throwing of “ordure, filth, rubbish and shavings” into the kennels, but they say that they must not throw those things into the kennels except in the time of rain so that they will be washed away, and they give the Officers of the Wards power to use loam, sand, and gravel carts for the purpose of carrying off the refuse and cleaning the kennels.

The result of many centuries’ conversion of the streets into sewers was of course the saturation of the soil with poisonous matter, which powerfully assisted the spread of plague.

These are the principal regulations as to the cleaning of the streets during a hundred years, all of the same tenor, thirteen proclamations and orders—that is to say, one in every eight years—and no effect produced.

I have made one or two notes from Riley’s Memorials on other points connected with the government of the City. Thus, in 1288 it was ordered that the course of Walbrook was to be kept clean. In 1374 a lease was granted of the Moor to a certain person coupled with the duty of keeping the Walbrook reasonably clean. Along the Walbrook every house had its latrine built out over the bed of the stream, and for each, at one time, a rent of 12d. was paid yearly. The now greatly narrowed bed of the stream was constantly becoming choked with the accumulation of filth of all kinds thrown into it: the slender stream was not strong enough as of old, before the wall was built, to carry things down to its mouth.

There were public latrines along the river bank—sometimes built out on quays, sometimes on piers, roofed. The Master of the Temple was bound to keep up one on the “Temple bridge,” i.e. the Temple pier, to which access was the right of the public. We hear also of a public latrine without the postern where now Moor Lane begins. It was condemned as a nuisance, A.D. 1415, and was removed. Another public latrine was at Bishopsgate just without the gate, probably built over the ditch. The City gates continued, down to the time of their removal, to have lay-stalls and heaps of filth and rubbish lying piled without them. Probably there was a public latrine outside every gate. That of Bishopsgate was also condemned, and another constructed just within the walls over the much-enduring bed of the Walbrook. In other places, the cesspool added its contamination to whatever part of the soil escaped the contamination of the street. The first construction of the cesspool was in the reign of Henry III. We shall find, presently, certain wise laws as to its isolation.


There were men in every ward appointed to be “sweepers of litter,” and they were sometimes called “rakers.”

Scavagers were officers who took custom upon the Scavage (showage) of imported goods. They also discharged various other duties, one of which was to see that precautions were taken in case of fire. Later, they kept pavements in repair and looked after streets and lanes, so that they gradually became what we now call scavengers, giving the name of an honourable occupation to a menial office. On this word Professor Skeat sends me the following remarks:—

“Another London word is scavenger; the solution of which, without the Liber Albus, would have been hopeless. It arose in a way we could never have suspected, and could never have anticipated; and it shows the futility of guessing. To begin with, the old sense was quite different, and the old form was not scavenger, but scavager. The man whom we now call a scavenger was formerly called a raker; Langland tells us that, amongst the company in the tavern of which I have already spoken, there was ‘a raker of Cheapside,’ i.e. one who had to rake the filth together and keep the street clean. The inspection of streets came to be included among the duties of a scavager, but this was not so at first. Originally, his business was scavage; and scavage meant the inspection of imported goods, which had to be submitted or shown to the scavagers, or inspectors. As to the word scavage itself, it is a Norman coinage meaning ‘show-age’ or exhibition, coined in an extraordinary fashion by adding the French suffix -age (as seen in porter-age, or broker-age), to the Middle-English word schaw-en, which we now pronounce as show. And the net result is, that, once upon a time, a scavenger was one who was busied about the ‘inspection’ of imported goods; which is quite a recondite point of history. And it is clear to me, though the fact has never been made out before, that—when we come to consider that Chaucer was controller of the City Customs, that it was his special duty to inspect the imports of wool, and that wool was one of the commodities on which there was a duty of twelve-pence for every ‘cark’ or load—it is clear to me (as I said before) that Geoffrey Chaucer the poet was, by occupation, neither more nor less than a scavenger.”

Complaints were made in 1298 that the people took the stones from the wall and the timber from the gates, so that both wall and gates were falling into ruin.

In 1302 one Thomas Bat, being haled before the Mayor on a charge of neglecting to put tiles instead of thatch on his houses, offered to indemnify the City in case of any fire happening by reason of his thatch. The offer was accepted on the understanding that the thatch was to be removed by a certain time. The naïveté of Mr. Bat in offering, and the City in accepting, an indemnity in case of fire is truly remarkable. What would Mr. Bat have done, how far would his personal estate have gone, if a quarter of the City had been burned down by reason of his thatch?


Some entries are very remarkable. In 1308 a “supervisor” of barbers was appointed. Why of barbers? In another place it is hinted that barbers allowed their shops to become places of assignation; and in another place they were ordered not to ply their trade on Sundays. Furriers are not to scour their furs in Cheapside. Turners who made the wooden measures are ordered to make no measures but those of the gallon, the potell (or half gallon), and the quart, and not to make any of the false measures called chopins and “gylles.” But why were the chopin and the gill false measures? White tawyers and megusers were not to flay horses in the City: were there, then, no knackers’ yards?

The paving of the City did not become general until the fourteenth century. Even then, in 1372, we find “the Pavement” before the Friars Minors in Newgate Street mentioned as if it were a distinguishing feature of that street. Perhaps the explanation is that the roadway itself was paved for the convenience of the poultry market there. Paving was required of every householder before his own house, but the middle of the street was paved by means of the tax called Pavage. By means of this tax, every cart that entered the gates paid a penny. But a cart carrying sand or clay paid 3d. a week, and a cart carrying corn and flour paid the same: a cart laden with firewood paid 1/4d., and a cart with charcoal paid 1d. But carts and horses carrying provisions for private consumption paid nothing.

In 1334 certain foreign merchants were exempted from the toll or tax of Pavage except before their own hostels. Riley thinks that the pavement for the Poultry Market in Newgate Street, and other open spaces used as markets, consisted of “rough layers of stones.” But the paviors formed a separate craft, and their pay was regulated at so much a toise (7½ feet) in length. This indicates some skill and knowledge, which certainly would not be wanted for “rough layers of stones.”

The dangers of the night were always present in the minds of the sober citizens. When the streets were without light—which was the case practically, in spite of regulations and ordinances, till the eighteenth century—and without a patrol, the way of the robbers and murderers was easy. The danger varied; sometimes, especially in time of foreign war, the streets were comparatively quiet; sometimes, especially when the soldiers returned, they were filled with violence, brawls, and robberies. A strong Alderman in a Ward suppressed disorders: indeed, it is most certain that it was easy to find out the character of every man in the Ward; a weak Alderman encouraged evil-doers: and it was always easy for a malefactor to get across the river in a boat and find safety in those parts of Southwark where the City had no jurisdiction. The worst time ever known in London for this kind of disorder was certainly towards the end of the twelfth century, unless, perhaps, it was a hundred years later, when King Edward suppressed the Mayor for twelve years.


As for the craftsman, on Saturdays work was knocked off at Vespers, that is, at 4 P.M. The shops stood open on the ground floor with wide windows, glazed at the top or not at all. The selds, of which we hear so much, were places for storage and warehousing first, and shops next. Thus North and South Shields are the north and south selds. One of the streets, as Broad Street, for example, had two kennels or gutters, the others only one. Many laws were passed about pigs, which were allowed to be kept within the house, one supposes in the garden or back-yard, but not in the streets.

The lawlessness that was continually breaking out in the streets is abundantly illustrated in the pages of Riley. Thus, there was the quarrel between the saddlers and the painters in 1327. It began with “contumelious” words between William de Karleton, saddler, and William de Stokwell, a painter: their friends arranged for the dispute between them to be settled by arbitration of six persons on either side, and a “day of love,” i.e. of reconciliation, was appointed to be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Unfortunately the painter went about making mischief and got together all the painters, joiners, loriners, and gilders in the City, so that they agreed to stand by each other, and in case of dispute or offence to close their selds until the case was adjusted. This was naturally followed by a fight in the streets, in which many were killed or wounded. The case was brought before the Mayor and Aldermen, by whom a Committee of Arbitration, consisting of six Aldermen, was appointed. The Aldermen heard the case on both sides, and chose six men of each trade, by whom articles of agreement were arrived at and a day of love was named.

The water supply of the City was in its early history abundant. There were wells, springs, and streams everywhere. Through the wall of the City flowed the Walbrook, fed by one spring at least within the City. This stream received half-a-dozen affluents before it reached the wall. Outside there were the springs of Clerkenwell, the Holy Well, Sadler’s Well, and others falling into the River of Wells or Fleet River: in the Strand there were small streams flowing down to the Thames from what is now the site of Covent Garden. And within the City there were many wells of pure water: in Broad Street, at Aldgate, at St. Antholin’s Church, at St. Paul’s Churchyard, at the Grey Friars, at Aldersgate, at many private houses; the number of these wells can never be discovered, because the Fire of London choked them, and they were built over and forgotten. When Furnival’s Inn was destroyed quite recently, old wells were found below the foundations. There was also the Thames water, which at certain periods of the ebb tide was tolerably pure, if it was taken some distance from the bank.

When the Walbrook became an open sewer, and the Fleet River defiled with every kind of refuse, it was necessary to obtain a supply of water from outside. In the reign of Henry III. (1236) a conduit of stone was erected at Marylebone for the reception of water from the Tyburn. (See p. 24.)


There were nine conduits or bosses set up in different parts of the City, but all on the western side of Walbrook. Three of these conduits were in Chepe, one opposite Honey Lane, another where Chepe becomes the Poultry, and a third, the Little Conduit, at the west end of Chepe, just east of the present statue of Sir Robert Peel. Another conduit stood in Snow Hill. It was repaired and restored in 1577 by one Lamb, who connected it with a spring on the site of the drinking fountain before the Foundling Hospital. The City on the east of Walbrook was supplied by wells, especially by a well opposite the future site of the Royal Exchange. The great conduit of Cornhill called the Standard was not set up until 1581. An earlier conduit, however, was that at Aldgate, which brought water from Hackney. The New River water was brought into the New River Head in the year 1613.

When there was no well within reach and no “boss,” water was carried about by men. Those who lived on the banks of the river used the river water for their workshops and other purposes. Southwark was supplied partly from a great pond in St. Mary Overies open to any high tide, partly from springs, and partly from streams. In the City itself there were many springs, especially in the lanes ascending from Thames Street. But water had to be fetched. Therefore, the breweries were all placed on the river bank; and also as many of the industries requiring water as could find place there. As every gallon of water had to be paid for or carried by a servant, it is obvious that personal cleanliness could only be regarded in houses where money was plentiful or the service sufficient. We must not, however, conclude that the mediæval citizen went always unwashed; there were “stews,” or places for hot baths—which became notorious places of resort; and in great houses and castles the visitor was always conducted to the bath-room on arrival. The craftsmen, one supposes, were in the fourteenth century exactly like the craftsmen of the eighteenth century in this respect, that is to say, they did not often bathe.

The scarcity of water affected the house even more than the people in it. Where was the water for the continual scrubbing of floors and stairs on which the modern housekeeper insists? There was none. The ground floors were of hard clay: and, as we have seen, they were covered with rushes, which were not too often changed: the bedrooms were strewn with flowers in the summer, and with sweet herbs of all kinds in the winter: but all the rooms, as one would expect where there was little washing and little ventilation, were pestered with vermin.

Wilkinson (Londina Illustrata, vol. i.) gives an account of the City conduits:— 235

“In addition to the Great and Little Conduits in West-Cheap, the other public reservoirs of London consisted of the following. The Tun upon Cornhill, furnished with a cistern in 1401; the Standard in West-Cheap, supplied with water 1431; the Conduit in Aldermanbury, and the Standard in Fleet-Street, made and finished by the executors of Sir William Eastfield in 1471; the Cisterns erected at the Standard in Fleet-Street, Fleet-Bridge, and without Cripplegate, in 1478; the Conduit in Grass-Street, made in 1491; the Conduit at Holborn Cross, erected about 1491, and rebuilt by William Lambe, in 1577, whence it was called Lambe’s Conduit; the Little Conduit at the Stocks Market, built about 1500; the Conduit at Bishopsgate, about 1513; the Conduit at London Wall against Coleman-Street, about 1528; the Conduit without Aldgate, supplied with water from Hackney, about 1535; the Conduit in Lothbury and Coleman-Street, near the Church, about 1546; the Conduit of Thames water at Dowgate, in 1568.” “Of the fore-mentioned conduits of fresh water that serve the city,” adds Richard Blome, in reference to their state after the Great Fire, “the greater part of them do still continue where first erected; but some, by reason of the great quantity of ground they took up, standing in the midst of the City, were a great hindrance, not only to foot-passengers, but to porters, coaches, and cars; and were therefore thought fit to be taken down and to be removed to places more convenient and not of that resort of people; so that the water is still the same. The Conduits taken away and removed with their cisterns are the Great Conduit at the east end of Cheapside; the Great Conduit called the Tun in Cornhill; the Standard in Cheapside; the Little Conduit at the west end of Cheapside; the Conduit in Fleet Street; the Great Conduit in Grass-Church Street; the Conduit without Aldgate; the Conduit at Dowgate.”5 The final disuse of these aqueducts took place about 1701. The Conduit at the Stocks Market after its re-erection appears to have been celebrated principally for the fine statue placed over it by Sir Robert Viner, the whole of which was removed for the building of the present Mansion House in 1739.

The accounts of the “Masters” of the Great Conduit in Chepe for the year 1350 (see Riley, Memorials of London, pp. 264, 265) touch on many points of interest. They show that the conduit was maintained and kept in repair by a rate levied on the houses of Chepe and the Poultry, and that this rate varied from 5s. to 6s. 8d.; that the whole line of the pipes was examined, which examination led to the repair of the fountain head at Tyburn, also to bringing a branch pipe to the King’s Mews at Charing Cross, mending the pipe between the Mews and the Windmill, Haymarket, withdrawing the fountain-head twice a quarter, and mending the pipe at Fleet Bridge, etc. The pay of the workmen was 8d. a day with a penny for drink, called none chenche, i.e. non-quencher, whence our word nuncheon or luncheon. The conduit as well as that at the other end of Chepe was provided with “tankards,” i.e. vessels shaped like a cone, narrow at the top, holding three gallons and provided with a stopper and a handle by which they could be carried. The men who took the water from the conduit to the houses were called Cobbs, or Water-leaders.

In the matter of crowding we must not exaggerate. The City was crowded236 even in the time of Henry V., but not nearly so crowded as it became later on. There were still fair gardens in it, extensive gardens, with fruit trees and lawns and flowers, all over the City, especially on the northern and eastern sides, where land was of less value than elsewhere. Every Monastic House had its garden, St. Paul’s Churchyard was on its south side a great garden, the Companies’ Halls had their gardens, the churchyards were spots of greenery, and there were whole streets whose houses looked out upon broad stretches of open garden ground. I have mentioned the way in which the great nobles’ and merchants’ houses stood about in the narrow streets among the tenements and workmen’s houses. These town houses were in the City until the nobles began to build palaces along the river for the sake of the open air and the pleasantness. Many of the town houses had been deserted, sold, and pulled down before the end of the sixteenth century.

In the main thoroughfares it was at some time or other found necessary to rank the houses, the stalls, and the selds, in line along both sides of the street; the earliest representation of Cheapside shows such a line. But with the bye-streets this was by no means the case. Their raison d’être was the passage from one main artery to another. How did the merchandise get itself carried out of Thames Street and from the Quays? By means of the narrow ways from Thames Street north. Observe that these were for the most part straight, because the easiest way to carry a burden up a short hill is to take it with a run; the porters ran straight up the hill to Eastcheap and walked thence to London Bridge, Cheapside, the markets of London, and the high roads, north, south, east, and west. In other parts of the City the bye-streets were not always, or even generally, straight. Was it that the lane was formed by the proverbial cows following each other? Not at all. There was no cow, in other words, the cow was not consulted in forming the lane. It was for this reason. The craftsmen gathered together, each according to his own trade and with his fellows for convenience of production, price, and common furnaces and appliances; it was necessary that there should be a lane of communication from the place of work to the place of sale; the workmen, however, set up their houses, without much regard to this lane of communication, beside each other (see also p. 251), opposite to each other, at right angles, anyhow, and the lane wound its way through and among these houses; at first there were gardens behind the houses, but, when the ground became more valuable, courts and narrow streets were thrust through these gardens—Ogilby’s map of 1677 (see London in the Time of the Stuarts) shows in parts the very process of building through the gardens. We must again remind ourselves that in the early centuries there were no attempts to make the streets straight, except for those which were wanted for the main thoroughfares, and for convenience of carriage. Even as late as the seventeenth century, and after the fire, there were streets where the houses projected right across the roadway. In Mark Lane one house projected twelve feet. I have in some places thought that indica237tions of the former projections may still be discovered, but cannot insist upon the theory in any single instance. Most of them, certainly, were either entirely removed or greatly reduced, and the houses were set in line after the Great Fire. Illustrations of the way in which a street wound and turned among houses, built without regard to line, may be found in many old villages; especially in Bunyan’s village of Elstow, where many of the houses are quite irregular, and the road (wider than a London bye-street) follows the houses rather than the reverse. In this way, especially, the lanes or narrow streets round the old Palace of Westminster and beside the river gradually made themselves.

I have already mentioned the houses of nobles, ecclesiastics, and merchants, which stood among these narrow lanes. Many of these had to be large enough to accommodate the immense following of the noble lord to whom they belonged—perhaps five hundred men or more; yet, since the standard of accommodation was by no means so high as our own, the number of rooms wanted would not after all be so very great. If the men-at-arms lay side by side on straw or rushes, each wrapped in the coarse blanket called hop-harlot with a log for a pillow, thirty or forty could sleep in a single room of moderate size, just as in a man-o’ -war the sailors are allowed fourteen inches in width for a hammock.

Such, then, was the appearance of London in the fifteenth century; always and everywhere picturesque, whether for the courts of its stately palaces, or the topheavy gabled houses, or the carvings, paintings, and gilding of the exterior, or the tumble-down courts and lanes, or the many old churches, or the magnificence of the religious houses, or the trade and shipping on the river, or the people themselves. Of the old City houses there now remain but a portion of one, namely, Crosby Hall, and the front of another, Sir Paul Pindar’s house, which is in the South Kensington Museum.

If we consider the ancient names of streets and places in London, we find that while a great many have been lost or changed out of recognition, there still remain many which are the same to-day as they were six hundred years ago and more, I have drawn up a list of those streets which are mentioned in the books most useful for this purpose—the Memorials, the Calendar of Wills, the Liber Custumarum, and the Report of the Commission. (See Appendix IV.) The names may be divided into classes. Thus, the natural features of the City, while they were yet dimly marked and still visible, are indicated by such names as Cornhill (unless that is the name of the old family of Corenhell), Ludgate Hill, Tower Hill, Lambeth Hill, Bread Street Hill, Addle Hill. These names remind us of the time when the low cliff overhanging the river was gradually cut away till it became a short and steep hill running along the north side of Thames Street. The name River of Wells given to the Fleet commemorated the number of springs or wells which bubbled up in and round the place called Clerkenwell, so named after238 one of them. Walbrook is only remembered in the City by the street which covers the stream. Next, the ancient holders of City property are still remembered by many surviving names. Among the wards there is Bassieshaw, which takes its name from the family of Basing. Cornhill, as stated above, may refer to the hill or it may be the name of the family of Corenhell; Farringdon Ward retains the name of the Farringdons; Portsoken Ward marks the estate whose rents were formerly reserved for the defensive purposes of the City; Baynard’s Castle preserves the name of the first recorded owner of property in this place; Orgar (St. Martin’s Orgar), Billing, Gresham, Guthrum, i.e. Gutter Lane, Philpot, and others, preserve the names of old families.


Thirdly, many trades are localised by the names of streets or places. Thus there are Milk Street, Ironmonger Lane, Wood Street, Honey Lane, Bread Street, Old Fish Street, Garlick Hithe, Silver Street, Paternoster Row, Budge Row.

The great houses, which formerly stood along the river between Blackfriars and Westminster, have given their names to the streets running north and south of the Strand.

Some of the streets preserve the memory of churches long since destroyed and not rebuilt, or of Monastic Houses, such as Pancras Lane, Size Lane (where239 was the church of St. Osyth), Great St. Thomas Apostle, Trinity Lane, Botolph Lane (where stood the fourth church of St. Botolph at the River Gate of the City), Austin Friars, Black Friars, Crutched Friars, Minories, St. Helen’s, St. Martin le Grand, St. Mary Axe, Mincing Lane, College Street, Rood Lane, Laurence Pounteney.

The names of the Gates are preserved in the streets which run through them: Aldgate, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Dowgate, Ludgate, Moorgate, Newgate. Other names indicate ancient sites which would otherwise have been forgotten: London Wall, Fore Street, Galley Wharf, Fleet, Thames, Walbrook, Lombard Street, Old Bailey, Playhouse Yard, Jewry.

A great many of the names are the ancient Saxon names still unchanged, while others remain in altered forms. Thus we have the names of Watling, Portsoken, Cripplegate, Hithe, in Queenhithe and Garlickhithe, Coleman Street, Chepe, Size Lane, Aldermanbury, Addle Street, Lambeth Hill.

The old Bars or Boundaries of the City jurisdiction are now all gone and, with the exception of Temple Bar, are clean forgotten. Queen Hithe preserves the memory of Queen Eleanor its owner. The site of Paul’s Cross is carefully laid down; Bucklersbury stands on the site of the family estate of the Bukerels. Outside the City wall in the vast wilderness of streets there are a few, as at Westminster, Southwark, Whitechapel, Clerkenwell, and the part which has contained the town houses of families of position for two hundred years, where there are histories and persons commemorated in the names of streets, but, as a general rule, the names have neither any significance worthy of note, nor any historical character, and there is not any reason at all why they should be painted up at the corners of the streets.



The Kings of England had many palaces, both within and without the City. Their principal palace from King Cnut to King Henry VIII. was the “King’s House” of Westminster. Within the City itself was first and foremost the Citadel, Castle, Palace, and Prison, called the Tower of London. Baynard’s Castle was held successively by the Baynards, who lost it in 1111, by a son of Gilbert, Earl of Clare, and his heirs until 1213, when the then holder, Robert FitzWalter, being on the side of the Barons, the King seized and destroyed the place. Afterwards, however, he permitted the owner to restore it. This was done imperfectly, for when the Dominicans removed from their quarters in Holborn to the place now called Blackfriars, they built their church and part of their house with the stones of Baynard’s Castle and the Tower of Montfichet.

In 1428 Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, built a house by the riverside to the east of the old castle, and apparently named it after the former Baynard’s Castle, just as at the present day we call a modern structure in Regent’s Park by the old and venerable name of St. Katherine’s by the Tower.

A smaller Tower stood beside the first Baynard’s Castle, also on or without the wall, called Montfichet. Both places were intended by the Normans as strongholds, from which the City could be kept down, if necessary. On the building of the Dominican House, the Mayor of London, Gregory Rokesley, gave permission for the use of some of the stones by the Friars. The best of them had already been taken for the repair of St. Paul’s.

A third Tower was built at the confluence of the Fleet and the Thames, by order of the King, upon the portion of wall south of Ludgate Hill. This tower is described by Stow as having been “large and magnificent and such as was fit for the reception of a king; and where Edward I. intended some time at his pleasure to lye.” He granted to the citizens a three years’ toll on goods brought into the City for sale, in order that they might build the wall so as to enclose the Dominicans’ house, and put up this tower at the angle. It stood until 1502, when John Shaw, Mayor, commanded it to be taken down.

On the west bank of the Fleet, opposite to this Tower, was another, after241wards called Bridewell. Stow’s account of its early history has an air of uncertainty:—

“I read, that in the year 1087, the 20th of William the First, the City of London, with the Church of S. Paul being burned, Mauritius then Bishop of London, afterwards began the Foundation of a New Church, whereunto King William (saith mine Author) gave the choice Stones of this Castle, standing near to the Bank of the River of Thames, at the West End of the City. After this Mauritius, Richard his Successor purchased the Streets above Paul’s Church, compassing the same with a Wall of Stone, and Gates. King Henry the First gave to this Richard, so much of the Moat or Wall of the Castle, on the Thames side to the South, as should be needful to make the said Wall of the Churchyard, and so much more as should suffice to make a way without the Wall on the North side, etc.

From MS. in British Museum. Reg. 14 C. 7.

This Tower or Castle being thus destroyed, stood, as it may seem, in Place where now standeth the House called Bridewell. For notwithstanding the Destruction of the said Castle or Tower the House remained large, so that the Kings of this Realm long after were lodged there, and kept their Courts. For in the Ninth Year of Henry the Third, the Courts of Law and Justice were kept in the King’s House, wheresoever he was Lodged, and not elsewhere.

More (as Matthew Paris hath) about the Year 1210, King John, in the Twelfth Year of his Reign, summoned a Parliament at S. Brides in London; where he exacted of the Clergy, and Religious Persons, the sum of One Hundred Thousand Pounds: And besides all this, the White Monks were compelled to cancel their Privileges, and to pay 40,000l. to the King, etc. This House of S. Brides (of later Time) being left, and not used by the Kings, fell to Ruin; insomuch242 that the very Platform thereof remained (for great part) waste, and, as it were, but a Lay-stall of Filth and Rubbish, only a fair Well remained there. A great part whereof, namely on the West, as hath been said, was given to the Bishop of Salisbury; the other Part toward the East remained waste, until King Henry the Eighth builded a stately and beautiful House thereupon, giving it to Name Bridewell, of the Parish and Well there. This House he purposely builded for the Entertainment of the Emperor Charles the Fifth; who in the Year 1522 came into this City, as I have showed in my Summary, Annals, and large Chronicles.” (Stow, vol. i. p. 63.)

The Tower Royal, whose name is still preserved in the City, was one of the King’s houses; Stephen is said to have lodged there; the Princess of Wales, mother of Richard II., fled here during Wat Tyler’s rebellion. The King’s Wardrobe, a name also surviving, was a house of the King. And in Bucklersbury there was another house, Serne’s Tower, also called the King’s House. On the south side of London, besides Greenwich and Eltham, was the Palace of Kennington.

As for the site of the last-named palace, if you walk along the Kennington Road from Bridge Street, Westminster, you presently come to a place where four roads meet, Upper Kennington Lane on the left, and Lower Kennington Lane on the right; the road goes on to the Horns Tavern and Kennington Park. On the right-hand side stood the palace. In the year 1636 a plan of the house and grounds was executed; but by that time the mediæval character of the place was quite forgotten. It was a square house, probably Elizabethan.

Of this last once magnificent palace not a stone remains and not a memory or tradition; it is entirely forgotten. The reason of this strange oblivion is very simple. When it was pulled down, which was some time before 1667, for then, Camden says, there was not a stone remaining, there were no houses within half a mile in every direction. Even a hundred and fifty years later there were no cottages or houses near the spot. The moat, however, remained, and a long stone barn.

In this house Harold Harefoot crowned himself. In this house his half-brother Hardacnut drank himself to death.

Forty years after this event, when Domesday Book was compiled, the place was in the possession of a London citizen, Theodric by name and a goldsmith by trade. It was still a royal manor, because the goldsmith held it of Edward the Confessor. It was then valued at three pounds a year.

We next hear of Kennington in 1189, when King Richard granted it on lease, or for life, to Sir Robert Percy with the title of Lord of the Manor. Henry III. came here on several occasions; here he held his Lambeth Parliament.243 He kept his Christmas here in 1231. Great was the feasting and boundless the hospitality of this Christmas, at which the King lavished the treasures of the State.

From Froissart’s Chronicles.

Edward I. was here occasionally. During his reign it was the residence of John, Earl of Surrey, and of his son, John Plantagenet, Earl of Warren and Surrey. Edward III. made the manor part of the Duchy of Cornwall. After the death of the Black Prince the princess lived here with the young Prince Richard. I do not find that Henry IV. was fond of a house which would certainly be haunted—especially the room in which he was to sleep—by the sorrowful shade of his murdered cousin. Nor did Henry V. come here during his short reign. Henry VI. however, made use of Kennington Palace, so did Henry VII.; and the last of the Queens, whose name can be connected with the palace, was Catherine of Arragon.

The name that we especially associate with Kennington Palace is that of Richard II. When the Black Prince died, in 1376, Richard remained at244 Kennington under the care of his mother and the tutorship of Sir Guiscard d’Angle, “that accomplished knight.”

In the year of his accession, 1377, occurred the great riot of London, which arose out of Wyclyf’s trial in St. Paul’s and the quarrel between the Bishop of London and John of Gaunt. The latter, after the dismissal of Wyclyf, repaired to the house of John de Ypres, close beside the river, where he was sitting at dinner, when one of his following ran hastily to warn him that the people were flocking together with intent to murder him if they could. The Duke therefore hastily ran down to the nearest stairs, took a boat across the river, and fled as quickly as possible to Kennington Palace, where he took shelter with the young Prince Richard and his guardians.

One more reminiscence of Kennington Palace. The last occasion on which Richard lodged there was when he brought home his little bride Isabel, the Queen of eight years. They brought her from Dover, resting on the way at Canterbury and Rochester. At Blackheath they were met by the Mayor and Aldermen, attired with great magnificence of costume to do honour to the bride. After reverences due, they fell into their place and rode on with the procession. When they arrived at Newington, the King thanked the Mayor and permitted him to leave the procession and return home. He himself, with his company, rode by the cross-country lane from Newington to Kennington Palace. I observe that this proves the existence of a path or lane where is now Upper Kennington Lane. At this palace the little Queen rested a night, and next day was carried in another procession to the Tower. The knights rode before, and the French ladies came after. It is pretty to read how Isabel, with her long fair hair falling over her shoulders, and her sweet childish face, sat up and smiled upon the people, playing and pretending to be queen, which she had been practising ever since her betrothal. Needless to say that all hearts were ravished. The good people of London were ever ready to welcome one princess after another, and to lose their hearts to them, whether it was Isabel of France, or Katherine her sister, or Anne Boleyn, or Queen Charlotte, or the fair Princess of Denmark. So great a press was there that many were actually squeezed to death at London Bridge, where the houses only left twelve feet in breadth. Isabel’s queenship proved a pretence; before she was old enough to be Queen, indeed, her husband was in confinement; before she understood that he was a captive, he was murdered, and the splendid extravagant reign was over.

London was, in very truth, a city of Palaces. There were, in London itself, more palaces than in Venice and Florence and Verona and Genoa all together.

The Fitz Alans, Earls of Arundel, had their town house in Botolph Lane, Billingsgate, down to the end of the sixteenth century. The street is, and always has been, narrow, and, from its proximity to the fish-market, is, and always has been,245 unsavoury. The Earls of Northumberland had town houses successively in Crutched Friars, Fenchurch Street, and Aldersgate Street. The Earls of Worcester lived in Worcester Lane, on the river-bank; the Duke of Buckingham on College Hill—observe how the nobles, like the merchants, built their houses in the most busy part of the town. The Beaumonts and the Huntingdons lived beside Paul’s Wharf; the Lords of Berkeley had a house near Blackfriars; Doctors’ Commons was the town house of the Blounts, Lords Mountjoy. Close to Paul’s Wharf stood the mansion once occupied by the widow of Richard, Duke of York, mother of Edward IV., Clarence, and Richard III. Edward the Black Prince lived on Fish Street Hill, and the house was afterwards turned into an inn. The De la Poles had a house in Lombard Street. The De Veres, Earls of Oxford, lived first in St. Mary Axe, and afterwards in Oxford Court, St. Swithin’s Lane; Cromwell, Earl of Essex, had a house in Throgmorton Street. The Barons FitzWalter had a house where now stands Grocers’ Hall, Poultry. In Aldersgate Street were houses of the Earl of Westmoreland, the Earl of Northumberland, and the Earl of Thanet, Lord Percy, and the Marquis of Dorchester. Suffolk Lane marks the site of the “Manor of the Rose,” belonging successively to the Suffolks and the Buckinghams; Lovell’s Court, Paternoster Row, marks the site of the Lovells’ mansion; between Amen Corner and Ludgate Street stood Abergavenny House, where lived in the reign of Edward II. the Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany, grandson of Henry III. Afterwards it became the house of John Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, who married Lady Margaret, daughter of Edward III. It passed to the Nevilles, Earls of Abergavenny, and from them to the Stationers’ Company. Warwick Lane runs over Warwick House. The Sidneys, Earls of Leicester, lived in the Old Bailey. The Staffords, Dukes of Buckingham, lived in Milk Street. (See Appendix V.)

We must add to this list the houses more or less connected with the sovereigns. Such as the King’s Ward Mote, the Tower Royal, the Erber, Cold Harbour, Baynard’s Castle, Crosby House, Bridewell, the Savoy, the great nobles’ houses along the riverside, which came later; the Halls of the City Companies; the town houses of Bishops and Abbots, especially those on the south side; the town houses of the country gentry, such as those of Pont de l’Arche in the reign of Henry I., or of Sir John Fastolf in the fifteenth century; the houses in the City used for trade and official business such as Blackwell and Guildhall; and the houses of the great City merchants such as those of Philpot, Whittington, and Picard, and we have a list not to be equalled by that of any other area of the same size.

Of the architecture of London churches before the Fire we need not speak—one or two, especially St. Helen’s, St. Ethelburga, St. Bartholomew the Great, and St. Mary Overies, survive to show us what they were; that is to say, it is246 impossible in most cases to know at what period a church, long since destroyed, was built, repaired, or rebuilt. The general opinion is that these ancient churches were not remarkable, as a rule, for beauty or splendour. Outside each lay its churchyard, a narrow enclosure continually being encroached upon as land grew dear. Before the Fire a great many of the churches were hidden from the streets by the houses which had been built upon part of the churchyards. The present condition of St. Ethelburga is an example of this; other examples occur in the houses which stand on the north side of St. Mary le Bow, on the north side of St. Alphege, and all round St. Katherine Colman. The swallowing up of churchyards is shown by the miserable fragments remaining of those belonging to St. Peter, Thames Street, St. John the Baptist, St. Olave, Silver Street, St. Osyth, St. Martin Outwich, while the restoration lately completed of St. Martin, Ludgate Hill, proved that the so-called Stationers’ Garden on the north side of the church had once been the burial-ground. And there are many other instances. The architecture of the Monastic Houses belongs to all contemporary buildings of the kind. That which may still be studied at Westminster consisted of a noble church, as splendid, as stately, and as rich as the brothers could afford or could effect by the help of their friends. Beside the church was the cloister, which was the actual living-place of the brethren. There they walked, sat, worked, and talked. Within the cloister was the garth, the open space which was sometimes turned into a garden, and sometimes served as a burying-ground; monks were also buried beneath the stones of the cloister. The open carved work in later times was glazed; the hard stones—seats and floor—were covered with cloth and carpet; there were desks for those who studied. On one side of the cloister was the Chapter House, where the monks assembled every morning. On the other side was the Abbot’s House. On the fourth side was the Refectory, a hall which the Brethren loved to make stately, like the church; not for purposes of gluttony, but of hospitality, and because they were jealous of the fair fame of the House. Besides these buildings were the library, the Scriptorum, the Calefactory, the Dormitories, the kitchen and cellar, the Misericorde, the Infirmary, and the gardens. All these things belong to every Monastic House. In London there was so great a number of them, that we passed House after House as we walked along the wall, and saw spire after spire, tower after tower; they circled London as with a chain of fortresses to keep out the hosts of hell. We come next to the great noble’s town house, and the rich merchant’s house. We have already regarded the appearance of such a house. It was entered by a gate of architectural beauty, without a portcullis or a ditch, for there was no fortified house in the City except the Tower; though many of the houses were so strongly built, and protected by gates so massive, that any sudden outbreak of the mob could be kept back; thus the house of the Hanseatic merchants247 possessed gates massive enough to keep out the mob until relief arrived, or the foreign merchants could make good their retreat upon the river. You may learn the appearance of such a house from that of Hampton Court or any old College of Oxford or Cambridge. It consisted of at least two square Courts and a Hall between; a guard-room over the gate; a stable; a place for arms; a kitchen with buttery, cellar, storehouses, and a garden. Round the courts ran buildings two storeys high; the rooms were long and low and only used as sleeping-rooms.


One will find the houses more unclean than the streets. What can one expect? The floors are strewn thick with rushes, and it is costly to change them; they lie, therefore, thick with accumulations of refuse—bones, grease, and every abomination. Rushes are warm even after they are dirty, and warmth comes before cleanliness. Yet if we were to go into those houses where the better sort of citizens live, we should find sweet herbs and fragrant branches and strong perfumes scattered about to counteract the close and evil-smelling atmosphere of the sleeping-rooms.

Let us consider the construction and the furniture of a London citizen’s house. Not, that is, such a house as Crosby Hall, which was a palace, or that of the Earl of Warwick, which was a barrack as well as a Palace, but the house of the substantial merchant, one of the better sort, say the house of a retail trader, and the house of a craftsman.

Among the treasures collected by Riley may be found the specifications for building a new house. It is evidently a house meant for a man of position, one William de Hanington, a pelterer, i.e. a skinner or furrier: a member of a most wealthy and flourishing trade at a time when men and women of every consideration wore furs for half the year. Whatever the position of this pelterer, the house248 designed for him was evidently, though the dimensions are not given, large and commodious. Here are the exact words:—

“Simon de Canterbury, carpenter, came before the Mayor, etc.... and acknowledged that he would make at his own proper charges down to the locks, for William de Hanigtone, pelterer, before the Feast of Easter then ensuing, a Hall and a room with a Chimney, and one larder between the same hall and room: and one sollar over the room and larder: also, an oriole at the end of the Hall beyond the high bench: and one step with an oriole, from the ground to the door of the Hall aforesaid, outside of the Hall: and two enclosures as cellars, opposite to each other, beneath the Hall: and one enclosure for a sewer, with two pipes leading to the said sewer and one stable between the said Hall and the old kitchen and twelve feet in width with a sollar above and stable, and a garret above the sollar aforesaid: and at one end of such sollar there is to be a kitchen, with a chimney: and there is to be an oriole between the said Hall and the old chamber 8 feet in width.”

According to Riley, the first oriole is an oriel window such as is commonly found in a Hall, the second oriole is a porch, and the third is a small chamber. Without this explanation the document would be unintelligible.

From MS. in British Museum. Harl. 2278.

The house was to contain a large hall with, no doubt, a fire under the lantern in the middle of the hall; also a sitting-room with a chimney near the hall, but with a larder between. In the larder was, one supposes, the entrance to the cellars. The “old chamber” with the “oriole” beside provided two bedrooms; the solar or upper chamber over the larder and sitting-room was another bedroom; the solar and garret over the stable gave two more bedrooms; there was the “old kitchen” and there was the new kitchen. In all, five bedrooms, two sitting-rooms, and two kitchens, with cellars and other things. The buttery or larder always stood, for convenience, next to the hall. Sometimes it was called a Spence, and the servant who attended to it was called the Spenser or Despencer, which shows the origin of a very common surname found everywhere, from the House of Lords to the village pothouse. The room with a chimney next to the larder was sometimes called the “berser” or the “ladies’ bower”: some houses had a “parlour” or room where visitors of distinction might be received. Such was the house of a substantial citizen. As for the house of the retailer, there are many pictures which leave us in little doubt as to the appearance of these houses. Thus, as good an illustration as I know of the mediæval street with its shops is given by Lacroix (see Science and Literature in the Middle Ages, p. 161). The street is quite narrow: there is no gutter running down the middle, but perhaps this was an oversight of the limner. The pictures represent four shops, viz., that of a barber, an apothecary, a tailor, and a furrier. The houses are detached, not standing side by side in a line, but each according to the will of the builder: they are built of wood and plaster, and are gabled, with tiled roofs. There is a room—the solar or sollar—above the shop and a garret in the roof. The barber’s shop has a sign: it is a pole projecting into the street horizontally, hung with brass or latoun basins, which indicate an important part of the barber’s calling. The shops are all open to the street, and the goods are249 displayed upon a counter. (See Appendix VI.) A pent-house, or pentice, projecting from the front of the house, protects the goods on the counter; hangings on either side shelter them further from wind and rain and sun; and there is a curtain suspended from the pentice for still further protection. This illustration represents a French town. In London it was necessary to ensure a greater amount of protection against cold, and rain, and hail, and snow. Consequently the upper half of the window was covered in and glazed, while the lower half in very cold weather was closed by means of a shutter. In summer the shutter disappears, and the window is always open. This arrangement was probably what Chaucer calls a “shot” window. Mr. Baring-Gould (Old Country Life) gives plans and drawings of two ancient country houses. The first of these shows the houses built round a small court, into which all the windows of the house looked. A gateway, over which was a room, led into the hall, a room of 20 feet by 15 feet. Beyond the hall was the ladies’ bower. Above the bower were bedrooms. The kitchen, buttery, and dairy took up two other sides of the court. In front of the house were the yard, the barn, and the stables. The court was no more than 18 feet square. We have, therefore, the court as the leading feature of a mediæval house; it survives in colleges and in some almshouses to this day. The dimensions of the court marked the splendour or the humility of the house. The rich merchant when he began to250 build laid down his court with a view to the proportions of his hall; we may be quite sure that Whittington sat in a hall which proclaimed his wealth; the great hall of Crosby House was not the only noble hall belonging to a City merchant.


The following details and specifications are found in the MSS. belonging to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s, and printed in an abridged form in the 9th Report of the Royal Historical Commission, p. 20:—

“Agreement between Master Walter Cook and Sir Henry Jolypas, clerks, and John More, tymbermongere, and John Gerard, carpenter, citizens of London, for the erection of three shops in Friday Street, with one cellar below. The three shops are to have three ‘stalles’ and three ‘entreclos’ on the ground floor. On the first floor each house is to have ‘une sale, une spence, et une cusyne,’ and in each ‘sale’ there are to be ‘benches et speres.’ The second floor in each house is to be divided into ‘une principal chambre, une drawying chamber, et une forein,’ and was to have ‘une seylingpece.’ Each house is to have two ‘esteires.’ The height from the ground to the ‘gistes del primer flore’ is to be ten feet and a half, and the ‘punchons’ of the first floor are to be nine feet up to the ‘gistes’ above, and the ‘punchons’ of the second floor eight feet up the ‘resoner.’ Each house is to have a gable towards the street on the east, according to a ‘patron’ made on parchment. The ‘huisses’ and ‘fenestres’ are to be made of ‘Estricchebord.’ Dated, August 20, 11 Henry IV.”

It is generally stated that access to the upper chamber of a mediæval house was by stairs on the outside. I venture to think that this statement requires explanation. The houses of London at first consisted of nothing more than a room below and a smaller room above, and in the upper room—oh! so tiny—were a bed and a251 cradle, and the cushions or pillows of which the Londoner was so fond. I have seen one or two old houses in which a ladder from the room below served for access to the room above, and this arrangement, I believe, was that commonly adopted. But early in the fourteenth century we find houses of two or three storeys, each of which in some cases formed the freehold of different persons; in fact, it was an early kind of “flat.” It is observed that communication to these upper storeys could not be made through the lower rooms and must have been by an external staircase. (See also below, p. 252.) We find this arrangement in the modern flat; and in Edinburgh in the old flats. There were quarrels among the occupants of these “flats.” King Edward II. passed an ordinance directing each owner to keep his own part in due repair.

Riley quotes a case in which a widow claimed Free Bench in a tenement belonging to her late husband in the parish of St. Nicholas Flesh Shambles. The sheriffs gave her a wing (alam) or perhaps the principal room (aulam) with a chamber, a cellar, and the right of easement in the kitchen, stable, common drain, and courtyard; the rest of the house remained in possession of the heirs and next-of-kin of the deceased.

The chief source of information on the houses of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is Fitz-Aylwin’s Assize, of which an abridgment will be found in Appendix VII. The regulations were drawn up in consequence of a fire in 1212, which destroyed a part of Southwark and a part of London Bridge. The following by Riley (Introduction to Liber Albus, p. xxx) is an explanation or commentary chiefly on that Assize:—

“The party-walls of the houses were of freestone, three feet thick and sixteen feet high, from which the roof (whether covered with tiles or thatch) ran up to a point, with the gable towards the street. Along this wall rain-gutters were laid, to carry off the water, either on to the ground of the party to whom the house belonged or into the high road. Kennels for its reception are not mentioned in the Assize, but they were very general, about 100 years later. If arches were left in the walls, for ‘almeria’ or ‘aumbries’ (cupboards or larders), they were to be one foot in depth, and no more. The framework rising from the top of the party-wall was of course of wood, and the gable facing the street, as well as the one opposite to it, seems to have been in general made of the same material, plastered over probably by the ‘daubers,’ and perhaps whitewashed. The upper room was generally known as the ‘solar,’ and is also called in Fitz-Alwyne’s Assize the ‘domus,’ or ‘house’: its usual height in comparison with the room below does not appear from the present work; but from a deed bearing date 1217 or 1218, it appears that the corbels or joists for supporting the upper floor were inserted at a height of eight feet from the ground. Apart from the main room or rooms on the ground floor in the houses of the citizens was the ‘necessary chamber’; in reference to which it was enacted by the Assize, that if the pit was walled with stone, the mouth of it was to be two and a half feet from the neighbour’s land; but in case it was not faced with stone, the distance was to be three and a half feet. The same regulation too held good, at a somewhat later period, in reference to sinks for receiving refuse or dirty water.

At the time of the promulgation of Fitz-Alwyne’s Assize, it is evident that the houses in London consisted of but one storey over the ground floor and no more. At what period more storeys were first added does not appear; but in the early part of the fourteenth century we find houses in London of two252 or three storeys mentioned; each of which storeys, as also the cellar beneath, occasionally formed the freehold of different individuals: a state of things which caused such multiplied disputes between the owners, that the King (Edward the Second) was at length obliged to interfere by mandate, directing each owner to keep his own part in due repair. The upper storeys in houses of this description were entered probably by stairs on the outside.

Cellars are not mentioned in the Assize, but we find them noticed, and that too as places used for business, as early as the first half of the reign of Henry the Third. It is incidentally mentioned, also, that steps led to these cellars from the street; indeed, they seem to have seriously encroached upon the footway at times, for at later periods they are the subject of frequent enactment. By Fitz-Alwyne’s Assize, contrary to the spirit of equity that has prevailed in more recent times, a person when building had full liberty to obstruct a neighbour’s ancient lights, unless, indeed, some writing could be produced by that neighbour showing a right on his side to the contrary.

From MS. in British Museum. Harl. 2278.

The Assize, as already noticed, makes no provision for the materials to be used for roofing; within a century and a half later, however, we find reiterated enactments that the houses of the citizens shall be covered with lead, tiles, or stone. Stalls, too, are not mentioned in the Assize; but these had become common in the latter part of the following century. These stalls were projections—of wooden framework, no doubt—from the gable facing the street, and were used as shops for the exposure of various articles for sale. By civic enactment we find it ordered that these stalls shall not be more than two and a half feet in depth, movable and flexible, according to the discretion of the Alderman of the Ward, and according as the streets or lanes are wide or narrow. The pentices, or pent-houses, which are so frequently mentioned in the City ordinances, must have been projections on a larger scale, as the citizens are reminded that they are to be made at least nine feet in height, ‘so as to allow of people riding beneath’; a provision, from which it is evident that they must have extended beyond the portion of the street reserved as a footpath. In favour of the landlords, it was also enacted that penthouses, once fastened by iron nails or wooden pegs to the timber framework of the house—be the occupier a tenant for life, for years, or quarterly,—should be deemed not removable, but fixtures, part and parcel of the freehold.

Windows are mentioned in the Assize. Glass, however, was used only by the most opulent in those days, and the windows of the citizens, temp. Richard the First, were evidently mere apertures, open in the day, crossed perhaps with iron stanchions, and covered, no doubt, by wooden shutters at night. In the reign of Henry the Third, however, glass, packed in the Karke, is enumerated among the regular imports into this country, from Flanders, most probably. Glaziers (Verrers) are mentioned as an established Mystery, in the time of Edward the Third, and in the account given of a riot which took place, about forty years later, at Barking, in Essex, and the vicinity, the offenders are represented, even in those253 suburban districts, as arming themselves with doors and windows, ‘by way of shield’; glass windows of lattice-work, in all probability, being meant.

There is no mention of, or most remote allusion to, chimneys in Fitz-Alwyne’s Assize; and at that period, if they existed at all in this country, they were to be found only in the abodes of the most wealthy; the smoke in the houses of the middle and lower classes having to find its way out at the doors and windows as it best might. By the close, however, of the following century, the use of chimneys had become, probably, comparatively common; for, by way of prevention against fire, we find it enacted that chimneys shall be faced with plaster, tiles, or stone; and part of the oath taken by the Scavagers of the City on entering office is to the effect that they will see ‘that all chimneys, ovens, and rere-dosses, are made of stone, and sufficiently protected against the peril of fire.’ In the same prudent spirit too it was enacted that no reredos of an oven or furnace, where bread or ale was made, or meat was cooked, should be placed near wooden partition, lath-work, or boards; and, in case of contravention thereof, the Scavager was to remove the same, exacting four pence from the offender for his trouble.

By way of further precaution against fire it was also ordered, that occupiers of large houses should keep one or two ladders for the succour of their neighbours on an emergency; and that they should keep, in summer, i.e. between the Feasts of Whitsuntide and of Saint Bartholomew, in consequence of the excessive drought, a barrel or large earthen vessel full of water before the house, for the purpose of quenching fire; unless, indeed, the house should happen to have ‘a fountain’ of its own. For the more speedy removal also of burning houses, each Ward was enjoined to provide a strong iron hook, with a wooden handle, two chains, and two strong cords; these to be left in possession of the Bedel of the Ward, who was also to be provided with a good horn, ‘loudly sounding.’ Nothing could more strongly bespeak the frail nature of the London houses, even to the days of Edward the Third, than the above enactments as to the barrel of water and the Bedel’s hook.

The mention of conflagrations naturally leads to some enquiry about fuel. Charcoal (carbones) is frequently mentioned: it was prepared in the country, and the suburbs, perhaps, as well, for it is spoken of as being brought into the City by cart; by enactment, temp. Richard the Second, it is ordered that charcoal shall be sold at the rate, between Michaelmas and Easter, of ten pence, and between Easter and Michaelmas, of eight pence per quarter, the price of it, as also of firewood, being assessed by the Mayor and Aldermen. Seacoal (carbo marinus) too was in common use so early as the time of Edward the Second, and perhaps much earlier, being sold in sacks, and measured by the quarter under the inspection of Meters appointed by the Mayor. Seacoal Lane, in the vicinity of the Fleet River, or Ditch, is mentioned under that name, we learn from other authorities, so early as 1253, the reign of Henry the Third; it had its name from the seacoal being brought thither by water, and there stored. The different kinds of wood used for fuel seem to have been distinguished under the names of ‘talwode,’ ‘faget,’ and ‘busche,’ tallwood, faggots, and (probably) brushwood. Carts with wood and charcoal on sale stood at Smithfield and on Cornhill, and seacoal is mentioned as paying custom at Billingsgate. Ferns, too, reeds, and stubble were sometimes used as fuel.

To revert, however, to the structure of houses. Bricks, as distinguished from tiles, are not mentioned throughout the book, or indeed in any other English work of so early a date; and there is strong reason to believe that the ‘teule’ or ‘tile’ was used indifferently for tile or brick. At all events, there can be no doubt that, like those of Roman times, the bricks then in use were much thinner than at the present day; and supposing the tiles to be flat, there would be nothing to distinguish them from bricks. Repeated injunctions by the civic authorities are to be met with, that the teules shall be ‘well burnt, of the ancient scantling, and well leaded;’ the latter provision, however, it is apprehended, could only apply to such teules as were used for genuine tiles. The ‘Tilers’ so often mentioned, in all probability performed the duties of the modern bricklayers as well. Lime was sold, sometimes by the sack, containing one bushel, and sometimes by the basket, holding half a quarter. Temp. Edward the Third, a sack of burnt lime cost one penny, and tiles were sold at the rate of from five to eight shillings the thousand.”

“Tenements are mentioned, about the time probably of Edward the Second, as renting in the City254 above the sum of forty shillings, and below. The fact has been already noticed that in some cases houses of two and three storeys were divided into distinct separate freeholds. In one instance a case is met with, perhaps a not uncommon one, of a widow claiming her Free-bench in a tenement that had belonged to her late husband (in the parish of St. Nicholas Flesh-Shambles), and the Sheriffs putting her in possession of a wing of the building, the principal chamber and the cellar beneath that chamber, with a right of easement in the kitchen, stable, common drain and courtyard; the rest remaining in possession of the heirs and next of kin of the deceased; an arrangement certainly by no means conducive to a state of domestic tranquillity, but bespeaking the existence of considerable mansions, and that too in that most uninviting locality—the near neighbourhood of ‘Stynkyng Lane’ and the Convent of the Friars Minors.

It sometimes happened that a house was situate in two Wards; in such case it was provided that the owner should be assessed in the Ward in which he went to bed, slept, and put on his clothes. Of course such an enactment as this could only apply to a house with more than one room, on the floor where the sleeping-room was situate, and probably of more than ordinary magnitude.

The ‘shopae,’ or shops, were probably mere open rooms on the ground floors, with wide windows, closed with shutters, but destitute of stanchions, perhaps; these rooms being enlarged, no doubt, in some instances, by the extra space afforded by the projecting and movable stalls already mentioned: of their plan or structure, in the present volume, no further particulars are given. ‘Seldæ,’ selds, or shealds, are occasionally mentioned as places for the stowage or sale of goods; the selda of Winchester, for example, belonging probably to the Soke or exclusive jurisdiction of the Bishop of that diocese; and the selda in Friday Street, to which place, in the latter part of the reign of Edward the Third, the sale of hides was wholly restricted. These seldæ seem to have been sheds, on a large scale, used as warehouses, and belonged probably only to public Guilds, or men of considerable opulence; there is some evidence also that cranes and balances for the ascertaining of Customs and Pesage were kept beneath them.

Before quitting this subject, a few words in reference to the relation of landlord and tenant within the City, will, perhaps, be not altogether inappropriate. By an ordinance, of the time probably of Edward the Second, or Edward the Third, it was enacted that every tenant at will within the franchise of the City, whose yearly rent was below forty shillings, should give the landlord (at any time, it is presumed) at least one quarter’s notice; but in case the yearly rent exceeded forty shillings, the notice was to be given a full half-year before leaving. In case of neglect on part of the tenant to give the proper notice, he was to pay the landlord a quarter or half-year’s rent, beyond the rent due at the time of leaving, as the case might be; or else to find a sufficient tenant for those periods. Conversely, the landlord was bound to give similar notice to his tenant; but in case the landlord sold the house, the tenant having no ‘specialty by deed,’ the purchaser was at liberty to eject him at his pleasure. On seizure of the tenant’s goods and chattels, at the suit of any other person, the landlord was deemed a preference creditor for two years’ rent in arrear, but no more; the landlord’s oath being taken for proof that so much rent was due.” (See Appendices VI. and VII.)



The furniture of a mediæval house was scanty in the living-rooms, ample in the sleeping-rooms. The hall, which was the dining-room, the public room, and the room where all business matters were transacted, was provided with permanent benches running along the sides: at one end was a dais, on which, in great houses, was sometimes a table dormant, i.e. a permanent table, placed across the hall. Other tables were on trestles laid for each meal, and removed after the meal. At the middle of the “dormant” or the high table was the principal chair or bench with arms, and a cushion: the other guests sat on the bench with their backs to the wall or without backs at all. The lower tables were always boards laid upon trestles: in the middle of the hall was the fire, sometimes in an iron frame: the smoke ascended and went out through the lantern in the roof. Pieces of tapestry, worked to represent coats of arms, or figures of birds and beasts, or painted with pictures of some historical event, hung round the hall: arms and armour were hung more for use and to be in readiness than for show—in fact, the great hall was the armoury of the house. Rushes were thickly strewn over the floor; over the head of the master was a cupboard loaded with gold and silver plate; bankers or dorsers, e.g. cushions, were used to mitigate the hardness of the bench. The furniture of the “parlour” was equally simple. It consisted of a worsted hanging, a cupboard, a table on trestles, a chafing dish to heat the room, a candlestick for four candles, andirons, tongs, a bench and a chair, coffers and strong boxes, table covers, gilt and silver broches, it was provided with a chimney. Candle and torch holders stood against the wall; a “perche” or arrangement of hooks and pegs for hanging arms, cloaks, and other things was set up in every room. The falcons and hawks were placed on these perches. In the bedroom, where comfort was studied, the principal article of furniture was, of course, the bed; and upon this useful piece of furniture was lavished all the expense and adornment that the possessor could afford. Sometimes a canopy stretched over the whole bed: it was decorated with the family arms, or with religious emblems; at the back of the bed were also painted the family arms; the heavy curtains were not intended for ornament but for use, because in these rooms, in which the windows were always ill-fitting, it was necessary to draw256 the curtains in order to keep off draughts; and, besides, as a nightdress seems to have been unusual and most people slept in the costume of Eden, it was all the more necessary to guard against cold. The bedstead was always made of wood, and was sometimes beautifully carved and gilded; the bed itself was commonly a mattress of straw, on which, in the better sort of house, the feather bed was laid. Chaucer says:—

“Of downe of pure dovis white
I wol yeve him a fether bed,
Rayed with gold and right well cled,
In firm black satin d’outre mere,
And many a pilowe and every bere
Of cloth of Raines to slepe on soft.”

The furniture of the bed was much the same as at present; it was provided with a great and a small pillow, also with pillow covers—“pillow beres”: with sheets, blankets, and coverlet of Turtaine—a common cloth like burel. Servants, however, slept on straw with a rough mat below and a coarse coverlet above. Sometimes there was a truckle bed under the great bed for the use of a maidservant or a child. At the foot of the bed was the “hutch” or strong box for the keeping of money, plate, and other valuables. There were other coffers kept in the chambers of great houses for securities, title-deeds, and documents of all kinds. We must remember that there were no banks; every man kept his own property, money, valuables, papers, everything—in his house and generally in his bedroom. There were no insurance companies, so that the fickleness of Dame Fortune was constantly illustrated in the most startling manner.

The illuminated MSS. of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries represent the rooms of castles and palaces. They show the rich bed with the embroidered coverlet, the cushioned chair, the fireplace and chimney, the bench which was probably the box or hutch, the gold and silver plate on a sideboard, the mats before the fire; in a word, a very luxurious and well-furnished chamber. As for the furniture of the hall, it is enumerated in a vocabulary of the fifteenth century quoted by Wright (Domestic Manners). It contained “a board, a trestle, a banker or dorser (cushion), a natte (tablecloth), a table dormant, a basin, a laver, a hearth, a torch, a yule block, andiron, tongs, a pair of bellows, wood for the fire, a long settle, a chair, a bench, a stool, a cushion and a screen.” For the parlour the furniture should consist of “a hanging of worsted, red and green, a cupboard of ash boards, a table and a pair of trestles, a branch of latten with four lights, a pair of andirons, a pair of tongs, a form to sit upon, and a chair.” In rooms of the ruder class, where there were no hangings, the wall was decorated with paintings.

As regards the furniture in houses of the middle class, Riley (Memorials of London) furnishes an inventory of the furniture of a house in which lived an unfortunate couple named Le Bever.

The house consisted of the lower room which was the shop, and a257 “solar” or upper chamber, which was approached by a stair at the back of the house: there was a back place or kitchen behind the shop. All day long Hugh le Bever stood in his stall; his goods were all ranged on a bench at the open window; above them was a pent-house to keep off the rain; in very cold weather he could cover the upper part of the window with a shutter; Alice, his wife, helped him in his serving when she was not engaged in the household work. One morning the shop was not opened as usual. Fearing that something was wrong, the neighbours sent for the Alderman, who broke open the door and found Alice lying dead on the floor and beside her, her husband Hugh. They took him to the Mayor; he was taken to prison at Newgate; refused the law of England and would not plead; so he was put back in prison to live on bread and water till he died. And his goods were sold. They were as follows:—

“One mattress, value 4s.; 6 blankets and one serge, 13s. 6d.; one green carpet, 2s.; one torn coverlet, with shields of cendale, 4s.; one coat, and one surcoat of worstede, 40d.; one robe of perset, furred, 20s.; one robe of medley, furred, one mark; one old fur, almost consumed by moths, 6d.; one robe of scarlet, furred, 16s.; one robe of perset, 7s.; one surcoat, with a hood of ray, 2s. 6d.; one coat, with a hood of perset, 18d.; one surcoat and one coat of ray, 6s. 1d.; one green hood of cendale with edging, 6d.; 7 linen sheets, 5s.; one table-cloth, 2s.; 3 table-cloths, 18d.; one camise and one savenape (apron), 4d.; one canvas, 8d.; 3 feather-beds, 8s.; 5 cushions, 6d.; one haketone, 12d.; 3 brass pots, 12s.; one brass pot, 6s.; 2 pairs of brass pots, 2s. 6d.; one brass pot, broken, 2s. 6d.; one candlestick of latone, and one plate, with one small brass plate, 2s.; 2 pieces of lead, 6d.; one grate, 3d.; 2 aundirons, 18d.; 2 basins with one washing vessel, 5s.; one iron herce, 12d.; one tripod, 2d.; one iron headpiece, 12d.; one iron spit, 3d.; one frying pan, 1d.; one tonour (a funnel), 1d.; one small canvas bag, 1d.; 7 savenapes, 5d.; one old linen sheet, 1d.; 2 pillows, 3d.; one cap, 1d.; one counter, 4s.; 2 coffers, 8d.; 2 curtains, 8d.; a remnant of cloth, 1d.; 6 chests, 10s. 10d.; one folding table, 12d.; 2 chairs, 8d.; one aumbrey, 6d.; 2 anceres (tubs), 2s.: Also firewood, sold for 3s.; one mazer cup, 6s.; 6 casks of wine, 6 marks, the value of each cask being one mark. Total £12: 18: 4.

The same John also received, of the goods of the said Hugh, from Richard de Pulham, one cup called ‘note,’ with a foot and cover of silver, value 30s.; 6 silver spoons, 6s. Also, of John de Whytsand, one surcoat, and one woman’s coat, value 8s., which were pledged to the said Hugh by Paul le Botiller, for one mark. Total 44s.” (Memorials of London, p. 199.)

Thus of what we call furniture there were two chairs and a folding table only, a carpet, an aumbrey or an armoire, and certain coffers and chests. Yet this couple had a plentiful supply of mattresses, feather beds, pillows, sheets, and blankets; they had apparently a large quantity of kitchen apparatus; they had fur clothes in abundance; they had six casks of wine in the house; they had silver cups and silver spoons. The list shows very clearly how a house of the middle sort was furnished. One thing will be noted: as there were but two chairs it is certain that the trader of London did not entertain his friends. Society, with the craftsman, has at all times been conducted during summer in the street, during winter in the tavern; the Church also offered to the women even larger opportunities for social intercourse than they could enjoy at the open door in the intervals of household work.

The platters and spoons were of wood—“treene.” When people grew richer258 they used pewter plates; when they were richer still, silver. The table linen and napkins were hempen first, and in better households, flaxen. A ball of thread was called a “bottom of thread.” Hence the name of Bottom the weaver.

In accounts and inventories of ecclesiastical, as well as domestic, furniture, we are constantly meeting with material called latoun. On this compound metal, Skeat has the following note: “The word latten is still in use in Devon and the North of England for plate tin, but, as Halliwell remarks, that is not the sense of latoun in our older writers. It was a kind of mixed metal, somewhat resembling brass both in its nature and colour, but still more like pinchbeck. It was used for helmets, lavers, spoons, sepulchral memorials, and other articles. Todd remarks that the escutcheons on the tomb of the Black Prince are of laton over-gilt, in accordance with the Prince’s instructions. He adds, ‘In our old Church Inventories a cross of laton frequently occurs.’” The description of the metal given in Batman upon Bartholomew is as follows: “Laton is called Auricalcum, and hath that name, for, though it be brasse or copper, yet it shineth as gold without, as Isidore saith: for brass is calco in Greek. Also laton is hard as brasse or copper: for by medling of copper, of tinne, and of auripigment (orpiment) and with other mettal, it is brought in the fire to the colour of gold, as Isidore saith. Also it hath colour and likenesse of gold, but not the value.”

In Mediæval inventories of furniture frequent mention is made of a mazer. This, which was the common and favourite form of drinking cup, was a bowl made of maple wood chiefly of the spotted variety called bird’s eye. The part chosen for the hollowing of the cup was the bole of the tree, or the part where several branches met. Great houses and monasteries contained a great many mazers. Canterbury had 182 in the year 1328; Battle, in 1437, had 32; Durham, in 1446, had 49; Westminster, in 1540, had 40.

The characteristics of the mazer were, that round the bowl ran a band of silver or silver gilt, at the bottom of the bowl was the “Print,” a medallion of silver or gold, with figures of saints or other devices upon it; there was a “foot,” generally of silver; and there was a cover of maple wood with a rim of silver or silver gilt. Not many examples of the mazer survive considering the great number of them formerly in use.

The vocabulary of Alexander Neckham called Liber de Utensilibus enumerates the various necessaries for the furniture of a kitchen. From this vocabulary and that of John de Garlande, three hundred years later, Thomas Wright has compiled a list of kitchen furniture (Domestic Manners), which is as follows:—

“A brandreth, or iron tripod, for supporting the caldron over the fire: a caldron, a dressing-board and dressing-knife, a bras-pot, a posnet, a frying-pan, a grid-iron or, as it is sometimes called, a roasting-iron, a spit, a gobard, a mier, a flesh-hook, a scummer, a ladle, a pot-stick, a slice for turning meat in the frying-pan, a pot-hook, a mortar and pestle, a pepper-quern, a platter, a saucer.”



The wealth of the great nobles and the cost of keeping up the households which enriched the City when they were in residence is set forth in some detail by Stow. Thus he says that Hugh Spencer the elder, when he was banished from the realm, was found to possess 59 manors, 28,000 sheep, 1000 oxen and steers, 1200 kine with their calves, 40 mares with their colts, 100 drawing horses, 2000 hogs, 300 bullocks, 40 tuns of wine, 600 bacons, 80 carcases of Martimas beef, 600 muttons in larder, 10 tuns of cider, £10,000 in ready money, armour, plate, jewels, 36 sacks of wool, and a library of books.

In the reign of Henry VI., the Earl of Salisbury was lodged in the Erber with 500 men on horseback; the Duke of York resided at Baynard’s Castle with 400 men; the Dukes of Exeter and Somerset had 800 men; the Earl of Northumberland with the Lord Egremont and Lord Clifford had 1500 men; Richard Nevill, Earl of Warwick, had 600 men, and so on. We may take it that in every great house when it was occupied there would be 500 knights and men, and their horses and their grooms, and the cooks, bakers, brewers, valets, footmen, stable boys, blacksmiths, armourers, makers and menders of all kinds, who made up a little colony by themselves, among the London craftsmen who lived around them. The victualling of these huge barracks was a source of very great profit to the City. We remember that curious little episode when Thomas of Woodstock quarrelled with Nicholas Brembre the Mayor, and punished the citizens by withdrawing—he and his men and as many of his friends as would go with him—out of the City. To lose at one blow the maintenance of many thousand men was ruin. Imagine the consternation at Fishmongers’ Hall, Bakers’ Hall, Butchers’ Hall, among the Vintners, the Brewers, the Cooks, the Poulterers! This unexpected act threw into confusion the whole machinery of supply! Nor was it only the loss of the profit on food and drink, but on the things always wanted for the service of such a host, on the making and the mending, the repairs and the replacements! There was weeping and consternation even among the Mercers, the Grocers, and the Goldsmiths. The whole trade of London suffered. On this occasion a subscription was raised among the leading merchants for the purpose of bribing the nobles to260 come back. It is the only instance on record of a strike among consumers against providers. Had it been long continued there would have been an end of London trade. But when members of a body fall out among themselves, they very quickly perceive the advantage of reconciliation before it comes to starvation.

From Strutt’s Manners and Customs.

The Knights and men in each all wore his livery and badge. Sometimes the livery and badge meant nothing more than the chief’s coat of arms in silver sewn on the sleeve of the left arm. Sometimes it meant also jackets of the same colour, as in the case of Warwick’s men, who all wore red jackets. Later, the badge was discontinued, and the followers wore the same coloured coat or jacket, a custom which survives in the cap and jacket of the jockey.

Every noble carried about with him his Treasury Chest; one of the kin261g’s chests is still preserved in the Chapel of the Pyx. The expenditure was profuse, and, from a modern point of view, certainly pauperising. In the Earl of Warwick’s town house, any one who had an acquaintance in the house was allowed to enter freely, and to carry away as much meat as he could stick on a dagger.


Richard Redman, Bishop of Ely (1500), gave food to the poor wherever he went, and on his departure from a town gave every poor man sixpence at least. Nicholas, Lord Bishop of Ely, gave every day bread and drink and warm meat to 200 persons. The Earl of Derby fed 60 aged persons twice a day, all comers thrice a week, and on Good Friday 2700. Robert Winchesley, in the thirteenth century, fed thousands every day in time of dearth. Henry in 1236 ordered 6000 poor persons to be fed at Westminster on Circumcision Day; and so on, other instances being recorded by the careful Stow.

There is a very simple explanation of this profuseness, which seems to us so wasteful and so mischievous. There were no bank investments, no companies, no stocks or shares; a nobleman’s estates brought him in every year so much money; it belonged to his rank to maintain as great a state as his means would allow; to accumulate money was not considered either noble or princely; to accumulate262 manors—yes—and to spend the rents as they came in every year with a lavish hand, was considered the part of a courteous and noble lord. Henry III., Edward II., and Richard II. are instances where the association of lavish expenditure with true princeliness was carried to a disease. This, however, is a characteristic trait of the mediæval noble. The bourgeois, the merchant, the trader, might save and spare and accumulate. It was his métier. The noble must exhibit his wealth by a splendid dress, a splendid following, a splendid table, and a splendid generosity. No doubt had Hugh Spencer the elder been longer spared to an admiring country he would have added many more manors to his long list; but he would not have added much, if anything, to the ready money in the long narrow chest which was carried between two horses as he went with his riding from town to castle.

From MS. Lambeth, 265.

Stories of the banquets and gifts of the great citizens show a command of ready money which the most princely of the nobles never possessed, though probably few of the citizens could compare, as far as wealth went, with the first among the nobles.

The magnificence of the banquet at which Whittington made a gift to the King, astonished both the King and his bride; probably there was not, in all England and France together, another man who could have provided such a banquet. Among the great nobles, with a vast territory and many thousands of vassals, there was not certainly, outside the City of London, any one who could command the rich and263 splendid things which were ready to the hand of a great merchant. Even the fires were fed with cedar and perfumed wood. When Katherine spoke of it, the Mayor proposed to feed the flames with something still more costly and valuable, and, in fact, he threw into the fire the King’s own bonds, to the amount of £60,000. Among the bonds were some, to the amount of 10,000 marks, due to the Mercers’ Company; one of 1500 marks, due to the Chamber of London; one of 2000 marks, belonging to the Grocers; and all Whittington’s private loans and advances. It is probable that in burning these bonds the Mayor acted by previous agreement of the City; but if not—if he took on himself the loans due to the Companies—he made a most splendid and princely gift. The sum of £60,000 advanced by one man would, even in these days, be considered enormous; in those days it can hardly be reckoned as less than a million and a quarter of our present money.

Or again, we may take Whittington’s will. He gave a library, and a house for it, to the Grey Friars; he founded a College of Priests and an almshouse; he rebuilt his Parish Church; he rebuilt Newgate Prison, because most of the prisoners there died “by reason of the fœtid and corrupt atmosphere.”

And we may illustrate the wealth of London by the rich benefactions made by the Mayors about the same time. Sevenoke, who founded the grammar school in his native place of that name; Chichele, Mayor, and his brother the Sheriff, who rebuilt, with their greater brother, the Archbishop, the Church of their native place at Higham Ferrers and endowed it with a school, an almshouse, and a College of Priests; the Sheriff also left a large sum of money to feast every year 2400 householders of the City on his “mind” day. There was Sir John Rainwell, who gave lands and houses to discharge the tax called the Fifteenth for three parishes—with what gratitude should we regard the memory of a man who would pay our rates for us! There was Wells, who brought water from Tyburn, and Estfield, who made a conduit of water from Highbury to Cripplegate.

And we may remember the ridings, the pageants, the processions in which the City showed its wealth to Kings and Princes; the loans which it granted to the King; and the taxes which it paid without a murmur, until one King, at least, deemed its treasures inexhaustible. All these things show that there was a vast amount of money and lavish generosity in the mediæval City.



In this chapter I propose to put together a miscellaneous collection bearing upon the manners and customs of mediæval London.

1. Letters from the Corporation.

It is not easy to arrange them in any kind of order. I begin, however, with certain letters, which illustrate the City Government and show that there was already some organised plan of communication between London and the chief centres in the country, by which the Corporation was kept informed as to matters concerning its interest in those cities and especially with regard to runaways and rogues.

These letters, copies of those written 1330-1370 by order of the Mayor and Corporation, have been recently published. They may be divided into classes.

The first class, of which there are one or two, illustrates the manner in which London, the parent of so many municipalities—twenty-seven at least can be proved to be the children of London—was looked to for guidance in difficult and doubtful procedure. Thus in 1357 the Mayor of Oxford writes to know the manner of holding Pleas of Land in the Hustings of London. The charter of Oxford expressly instructs the burghers or citizens that in cases of dispute they should refer to London. And the charters, not only of Oxford, but of Exeter, Gloucester, etc., conferred on the burgesses the same privileges and customs as those enjoyed by the citizens of London. This fact makes the early charters of London far more valuable than if they stood alone. We see London as the fountain of liberties, the exemplar, the free City, to which all the lesser cities looked as an example and a model.

The next class is that of letters demanding the return of tolls and taxes levied on merchants in contempt of the Charter.

Now, the most important of the early charters, after that short and comprehensive document, the Charter of William, was that of Henry I. (see vol. ii. pt. i. ch. ii.). In this there occurs the invaluable concession which placed the London merchants above the reach of the barons, that they were to be265 “quit and free, they and their goods, throughout England and the ports of the sea of and from all toll and passage and listage, and all other customs.... And if any shall take toll or custom of any citizen of London, the citizens of London shall take of the borough or town where toll and custom was so taken as much as the man of London gave for toll, and as he received damage thereby.”

In other words, when the Lord of the Manor could enforce upon other traders a tax for murage, pavage, pontage, stallage, and other tolls, customs, and taxes, the London merchant alone could be called upon for none of these charges, or, if any, then only those which belonged to the general usages of trade. Many of these letters, then, are letters demanding the return of tolls and taxes levied upon merchants in contempt of the Charter. The first letter was invariably courteous, asking “for love’s sake,” and calling upon the offender to act “in such manner as they could wish their own folk to be treated in like case, or weightier.” If the first letter produced no reply they sent another called an alias, because it sometimes called upon them to remark that they should answer the letter, otherwise.... If this failed they sent a third called pluries, because several letters had now been sent without reply, and the time was come for reprisals, which would certainly be taken upon such of their own folk as might be living in London.


Another class of letters is concerned with piracies and outrages committed at sea.

Thus in 1364 the Mayor and Aldermen demand of Baudwyn de la Heuse, Admiral of France, compensation from the towns of Rouen, Harfleur, Caen, and Bayeux, for an outrage in which certain Norman sailors called “billecoks claybakes” had captured and pillaged a ship laden with tin. Again, there was the case of Thomas de Ware, citizen of London, who loaded a ship with wine, oil, pewter vessels, spurs, etc., to the tune of £231: 0: 10 and sent it across to Bruges. While sailing on “La Sheelde” the ship was attacked and pillaged by four Flemish ships. Would the city of Bruges make compensation, or would they prefer reprisals?

It is sometimes asserted that all the carrying trade for centuries was in the hands of foreigners, and especially of the Hanseatic merchants. This is not266 wholly true, for there were many ships belonging to the London merchant, the Merchant Adventurer; it is undoubtedly true that the Hanseatic Merchants at one time threatened to absorb the whole of the carrying trade, but they never quite succeeded. There were the English ships, a very large fleet which sailed every year to Bordeaux and back, bringing with them some fifteen thousand tuns of wine. They went forth together, and they came home together, for fear of the pirates who swarmed in the Channel and in the North Sea. Now and then the Hanseatics put forth their strength and drove the English vessels off the seas, but they went back again. In 1348 a pirate named Vitaliani seized Bruges, a city containing English as well as German Merchants, and looted it. We remember how Mayor Sir John Philpot manned a fleet, put himself on board, and destroyed the ships of Mercer the Scottish pirate. In 1440 the Bastard Falconbridge received the thanks of the City for his services against pirates. In consequence of the losses sustained at the hands of the Breton pirates, Edward III. granted to the towns of Dartmouth, Plymouth, and Fowey, the right to carry on war with Brittany. The people of Brittany, says the poet,

“Are the greatest rovers and the greatest thieves
That have been on the sea many a year.”

The Mayor and Aldermen also collected debts. Debt-collecting forms another class of letters. They wrote, for instance, to the Mayor and Bailiffs of Gloucester informing them that one John de St. Alban, pinner, owes Walter Wyredrawer, citizen of London, 41s. Will they get the money and send it up to London?

A great many letters refer to runaway apprentices. It must not be imagined that the condition of the prentice was always satisfactory, or that his conduct was always good. Very often he ran away, sometimes taking his master’s property with him; sometimes he complained that his master would not teach him his craft; sometimes his master sent him to prison for idleness or roguery; sometimes, when his articles were out, his master refused to get him his freedom; he then petitioned the Lord Mayor’s Court.

The letters always show that the City knew where the runaway prentice, or where any other kind of rogue that they wanted, was to be found. How were they traced? In country districts there was no resting-place or hiding-place found for persons escaping with stolen property. They could not sell it in the country; nor could they live on it; they were obliged, therefore, to take refuge in towns; all the towns were small, so the runaways could not hide or skulk in obscure corners, they had to declare themselves, their names, their quality. That this was the case is shown by these letters, many of which demand restitution for a citizen unjustly detained and deprived of his wares on suspicion of being a rogue.

Thus, Roger Bountayn, Citizen of London, was arrested at Chepstow as a suspicious person. For some unknown reason, for he was clearly a respectable267 citizen, he was unable to give an account of himself. Perhaps he stammered. So he was clapped into prison, and they took from him all he had; viz. 10s. 6d. in money, two chains and a ring of silver, worth 5s., and a robe trimmed with white budge (rabbit fur) worth 7s. 6d. I suppose that he communicated by means of some Lawyer or Merchant with the Mayor, who presently entreated the Bailiffs of Chepstow to make restitution “for love’s sake.”

For the same sweet reason, the Mayor and Bailiffs of Oxford were entreated to send to John English the goods, viz. a horse, half a sack of wool, and four nobles in money, taken by them from William Ware, the runaway apprentice of the said John English. Sometimes the Mayor and Corporation wrote an account of an injury which reveals, or seems to reveal, a great deal.

What possibilities, for instance, there are in the story of John de Walhouse! He was a citizen of London; and, being moved, one hopes, by piety and not by a morbid desire of change and travel, was resolved on going a pilgrimage. He might have gone to the Black Virgin of Willesden, in which case he could have taken his wife Lucy, and so might have done the job in one day. Or he might have gone to Our Lady of Walsingham, which would have taken a fortnight or three weeks. He could have taken his wife there, too. Nothing would do, however, but that he must go to Rome, a long journey of two thousand miles, too far for tender woman to endure. So he left her at home, in charge of all he had; perhaps, but this is not explained, in charge of the shop, if there were a shop. What happened in his absence? The Tempter came; he must have come, otherwise Lucy would not have behaved as she did. He came in the shape, form, and appearance of a young man of attractive manners. He flattered poor Lucy, who was but weak; he made love to her; he persuaded her to fly with him; and, as there was property in the house, they took the property with them—robes of fur, harness, mazers, all kinds of things. They loaded a pack-horse or two with these things and they travelled northwards. When the pilgrim returned, proud of his staff and cockleshells, bearing perhaps some priceless relic which a good friar had let him have for a mere trifle, burning to tell his wife about all his adventures, he found the house closed. Where was Lucy? The neighbours only knew that one morning, when they arose at break of day, the house was closed. Lucy must have gone through the gates of the City as soon as they were opened. While he stood agape with looks of distraction, one whispered in his ear, “Master, I know where they are—he and she—and your goods. They are at Lynn.” So the Mayor wrote the letter calling for restitution, and one knows nothing more, but fears the worst.

It was to Lynn that another sinner, John Aleyn, repaired, taking with him the goods of his mistress Alice. Again, there was the injury done to Peter Grubbe, who chartered a ship and sent her to Winchelsea to bring home a cargo of free268 wood. Observe that the Sussex forests were not then destroyed, and that the woods on the north of London were not sufficient to provide the City with fuel. The Captain loaded his ship, but then steered for Dunkirk, where he sold the cargo on his own account. Will the Echevins of Dunkirk, asks the Mayor of London, act honourably in the matter, and make Peter disgorge? It would be a pity to proceed to reprisals.

One more case. It is that of John de Hilton, citizen and pewterer. He thought himself quite safe when he went away to St. Ives’ Fair with his string of pack-horses and his load of pewter. For he had confided the care of his property to his servant Agnes, whom he trusted, as a woman of blameless life. Alas! Agnes had deceived her worthy master. She was a married woman who pretended to be single, and her husband was a great rogue. As soon as the master went away the husband concerted with his wife, and they carried off between them property left behind to the extent of £30: 14s. There were no banks in those days, nor were there any “running cashes” at the goldsmiths’ . What a man had he carried about, or kept in some safe place, unknown to the world. Agnes took with her £10 in gold, £6 in silver, silver pieces valued at 26s. 8d., fourteen silver spoons, 20s., one piece of cloth, 100s., one long furred robe, 33s. 4d., one short robe, 26s., one stone called “peletote,” 16s., rings of gold, 20s., and naperie, 20s.; the fugitives were traced to the City of Dublin. The Mayor of London writes to the Mayor of Dublin asking for the recovery of the goods, and the bringing of the two to justice.

Another class of letter was the Letter Patent, or the Letter Recommendatory. Two friars are going to Rome on business, they bear with them the Mayor’s Letter Recommendatory; a merchant is going to a country fair, he takes with him Letters Patent with the Mayor’s seal, stating that he is a good and true man and entitled to the privileges of the City. The unfortunate John de Radclive, born in St. Botolph’s Without Bishopsgate, asks for and obtains a letter from the Mayor, stating that his left ear, deficient by one half, was not, as many would think, struck off by the hangman as the concluding ceremony of procession and pillory, but was actually bitten off by a horse.

These extracts may conclude with a case which illustrates the custom of London as to testamentary disposition. It was that the testator could bequeath one-third of his estate as he wished, but that one-third must go to his heirs, sons, or brothers, and one-third to his widow. If, however, it could be shown that the heirs had received the part or the whole in advance, they would have nothing. These shares were called the “reasonable part.” The custom continued in London until 11 George I., i.e. 1725. In the case before us, the Mayor and Aldermen inform the Burgomasters and Echevins of Bruges, that Agatha, widow of Geoffrey de Wantynche, lately resident in Bruges, had brought over the property269 of her husband, or such of it as was portable, and had satisfied her husband’s two brothers Peter Brown and John Brown of Wantynche, brethren and heirs of the deceased, as to the “reasonable part” of the property. To this testimony they are asked to give credence “for love’s sake.”

From Froissart’s Chronicles.

Concerning the position of women in Mediæval London. The ladies of the Palace and the Castle certainly managed to obtain as much pleasure out of life as their modern descendants. The young maidens, who were, in a way, apprentices of the grande dame, learned how a household was to be managed; they sat at the spinning-wheel; they carded wool; they heckled flax; they embroidered very270 beautifully. As for amusements, they had plenty, for they danced, they sang, and danced as they sang; they played games, of which they possessed and knew an immense number; they listened to the reading of romances and to minstrels; they either heard music or they played music; they went to mass every morning; they told stories and asked riddles; they played chess and draughts; they rode; they went hunting; they went hawking; and they kept pets—larks, magpies, falcons, jays, parrots, squirrels, cats. In the spring and summer they passed a great deal of time in the garden—the literature of the period is full of the garden.

The ladies in the garden danced; they looked on at dancing; they played the mandoline and sang songs; the young knights sat with them and played and sang with them; they plucked the fruit; they played with their pets; they picked the flowers and made garlands—for themselves and the young gallants. The wife and daughters of a merchant had a garden, which they used in exactly the same way as the ladies of the Castle. A summer-house and a fountain were necessary accompaniments to every garden.

“Amiddes the garden so moche delectable
There was an herber fayre and quadrante,
To paradyse right well comparable,
Set all about with floures fragraunt:
And in the myddle there was resplendyshaunte
A dulcet spring and marvaylous fountaine
Of golde and asure made all certaine.”

The great ladies had their bevy of maids in attendance, who sat at the spinning-wheel and embroidered. They made all kinds of fine things for themselves; they had their hawks and hounds; they practised music; they understood how to distil certain things. In the City, the merchant’s wife had her servants who made things, but not so much as in the country because there were shops where one could buy. Many of them, however, were skilled in the properties of herbs; they understood midwifery—it is remarkable that in the whole of Riley’s Memorials the midwife is never mentioned. Was every married woman, then, a practitioner among her friends? Or were there sages femmes? The amusements of the better sort in the City were, one imagines, principally the gossip and daily chat among friends, particularly after the morning mass. The women dined with their husbands in the Companies’ Halls; they held banquets in their own halls; they had dancers and mummers to amuse them; they had their children to bring up; and they paid great attention to their dress.

If we descend a step we find ourselves among the retailers and the craftsmen. The retailers or shopkeepers included many women—regratresses: there were alewives—brewsters—who made and brewed and sold their own beer; there were fish-wives—from time immemorial there have been fish-wives—there were “broiderers” and dressmakers of all kinds in immense numbers; there were weaver271women—websters; women who baked—baksters; those who spun—spinsters; there were domestic servants; and there were many thousands of matrons who took care of the house, brought up the children, brewed the ale, bought and dressed the food, made and mended the clothes.

A married woman could rent a house, or carry on business in a shop or a craft on her own account; if her husband had nothing to do with the business she was to be charged as a femme sole. She could be sued for debt and she could be cast into prison, her husband being untouched.

From MS. in British Museum. Add. 20,698.

The women who worked for their livelihood were cheated and defrauded, as they are now, for they had no companies or guilds, and no associations; they were paid in kind. Edward IV., for instance, passed an ordinance that the carders should pay their women servants in coin and should give them full weight of wool. Some of the women, as has happened since, occasionally got drunk; some played dishonest tricks, as that woman who was set in stocks for putting pitch into the beer measure, thereby lessening the quantity of the quart; or that fish-wife who sold stinking fish and stood in the stocks while her fish was burnt under her nose—a terrible punishment; there were scolds among them; there were in fact as many kinds of women as there are at present.

In a poem called “The most Pleasant Song of Lady Bessy,” by Humphrey Brereton, are the following lines which illustrate the education of noble ladies. “Lady Bessy” is Elizabeth of York, and she thus speaks:—

“Good father Stanley, hearken unto me,
What my father King Edward, that King royal
Did for my sister, my Lady Wells, and me.
He sent for a scrivener to lusty London,
He was the best in that City,
He taught us both to write and read full soon
If it please you full soon you shall see.
Lauded be God! I had such speed
That I can write as well as he,
And also indite and full well read;
And that—Lord—soon shall you see,
Both English and alsoe French
And also Spanish if you had need,
The earle said, You are a proper wench.”
(Antiquary, XV.)

One little anecdote I must give to show the spirit that was then in the women of England. In the year 1404 the French effected a landing at Dartmouth, the landsmen turned against them armed; they were joined by their wives, who fought beside their husbands and drove off the invaders.

Another anecdote to show the small consideration held for women. In the year 1379 Sir John Arundel’s squadron, then at sea in the Channel, was overtaken by a storm. There were on board the ships sixty women, some of whom had gone with the sailors of their own accord, and others who had been forcibly carried off. To lighten the ship, every one of these wretched women was thrown into the sea and drowned.

The model bourgeoise is set forth in “How the Good Wyf taugte hir Dougter” (published by the E. E. Text Society in The Babees Book) beginning

“The good wife taught hir daughter
Ful manye a time and ofte
A ful good woman to be:
And saide ‘Daughter to me dere,
Sum good thou must lere (learn)
If were thou wolt thee (thrive).”

The sum of her teaching is as follows: It is the aim of every woman to become a wife, she must therefore carefully consider her actions. In the first place, she must go to church every day and love God.

“Go to Church whanne thou may
Look thou spare for no reyn:
For thou farest best that ilke day
Whanne thou hast God y-seyn.
He must need weel thrive
That liveth weel all his life
My leef child.”

She must pay the church, dues; she must help the poor; in church she must pray, beads in hand, neither chattering nor laughing; she must be “of fair bearing and of good tongue.” If any man makes her an offer of marriage, she is to receive him courteously, whoever he may be, and must show the case to her friends, and she must not sit with him in any place where a scandal might arise. When she marries a man she must love him above all earthly things; she must answer him meekly; she must be fair of speech, mild of mood, true in word and deed, of good conscience. She must be of seemly semblance; she must not be loud in laughter. In the street she must not brandish her head or shake her shoulders; she must not swear; she273 must not gaze about in the streets; she must not visit the tavern; she must take “measurably” of the good ale; and must not get drunk. She must not go to see wrestlings or cock-throwing like a strumpet—the ways of the class, one observes, remain unchanged—they went to public shows then just as they go to the Music Halls now. Again, if a strange man speaks to her in the street she is to greet him and pass on; above all things she must not stand and talk with him lest he tempt her with gifts. She is to govern her household wisely and set everybody to work early; if need be, she will work herself; she will see that when work is done things are put away; on pay day she must administer the wages. She is not to envy her neighbour’s fine attire, but to behave in a friendly spirit towards her neighbours.

“It behoveth thee so for to do
And to do to them as thou woldist be doon to.”

She must not ruin her husband with extravagance, nor must she borrow. She must not spare the rod if her children “been rebel.” As soon as her daughters are born she will begin to collect things for them against their marriage—this leads us to think that the wife was expected to contribute part at least of the furniture of the house: or was it a dot that was gathered and stored up for the girl?

That is enough; the good mother supposes the life of a housewife, able to work herself if need be, i.e. work of making and sewing, embroidering, brewing, cooking, and all kinds of household work; obedient to church and husband; a fond mother, a good manager. There is not a single word said of books or of learning, of reading or of writing—was the bourgeoise not taught to read and write? I do not know. But I imagine, remembering the custom later on, that the woman was taught to read, but that she seldom had any occasion to use that accomplishment. Nothing, again, is said of any amusements, we are not in the gardens of the Castle, we are in a City street, the house is one of a cluster, each house facing a different way, perhaps, gabled, the storeys projecting one above the other, we look out across the narrow street upon another house like this. At the back is a small garden, the doors are all open and the housewives come out and talk to each other about the prices of everything, which have gone up horribly within the memory of people still young; within, the maids and the daughters work and whisper. The rod hangs upon the wall for those who talk and do not work.

“Now have I thee taught, daughter, as my modir dide me
Think thereon nyght and day, forgete that it not be:
Have mesure and lownes, as I have thee taught,
And what man thee wedde schal, him dare care nought.
Better were a child unbore
Than untaught of wise lore
Mi leve child.”

We learn, from the frequent practice of bequeathing a dowry, that it was customary to endow a girl with a marriage portion. Thus in 1341 Richard atte274 Gate leaves his daughter Agnes ten pounds of silver for her marriage; in 1342 Nicholas Crane, fishmonger, leaves Amina his niece £20 sterling for her marriage portion, a robe valued at 20s., and divers household stuffs. In 1340 Lucy Wycombe leaves her daughter Johanna certain rents in Eastcheap, certain household goods, and a letter patent of the King worth £100, all for her dowry. In 1344 Philip Swift leaves an annuity to hand out of his estate to Juliana his daughter for her marriage. If a girl, the daughter of a citizen, was left an orphan, the right of giving her in marriage belonged to the Mayor and Commonalty.

It was held to be greatly meritorious for a widow to make a solemn vow of chastity in honour of her deceased husband. Such an act had to be first allowed by the Bishop before whom the widow was led, and after the celebration of mass she made her vow in these words:—

“I ... M. or N. heretofore the wife of M. or N. vow to God and to our Holy Lady Saint Mary and to all Saints in the presence of our Reverend Father in God M. or N. by the grace of God Bishop of M. or N. that I will be chaste henceforth during my life.”

And the Bishop, after receiving her vow, put a ring upon her finger and clad her in a mantle which she was to wear during the rest of her life.

I must now touch upon a subject which belongs to every great town in all times, namely, the existence of the disorderly woman. There is little direct information on the subject, but indirectly much may be inferred. Thus in 1281 women of the town were ordered to wear hoods lined with common lambskin or rabbitskin and not with richer furs. In 1351 such women were ordered to wear abroad a hood made of ray only, and without lining of any kind, i.e. they were not to set off their faces by beautiful hoods, and thus try to make themselves attractive. In the year 1382 they were again enjoined to wear hoods of ray only. In the year 1393 they were admonished to keep within the quarters assigned to them on Bankside, and in Cock Lane, Smithfield, and they were ordered not on any account to presume to be seen in any tavern, street, or public place outside these limits. These repeated ordinances clearly point to a considerable number of such women, and to their intrusion into respectable places.

John of Northampton, Mayor and Reformer, took upon himself the duty of the Bishop, and cleansed the City of the disorderly women, ordering any woman guilty of unchaste deeds to be carried through the City on a cart and placed in stocks, with her hair cut off.

In the year 1385 there is a suggestive case. It is that of Elizabeth, wife of Henry Moring, who, under the cover of the craft of brodery, which she pretended to follow, took in one Johanna and other girls as apprentices, but instead of teaching them that craft she incited them to follow a lewd life, and let them out on hire to friars and chaplains and other men.

From the painting by A. Chevallier Tayler, by permission of the Artist.


From time to time there were attempts to get rid of the scandal, especially among the followers of the court and camp. The women were driven away, but they came back again; they were punished in the most cruel manner; they were made hideous by slitting their noses and even cutting off their lips, yet more women came.

Everything, in a word, points to the fact that in spite of all ordinances and provisions, London was then, as now, greatly frequented by the disorderly woman. She was musician, singer, dancer, and tumbler; tambourine in hand, she haunted the taverns; she followed the army in multitudes; she arrayed herself in gorgeous clothing to entice the young priest and the friar; she would not be restrained within certain quarters; she lived in the Palace; she belonged to the Court; when her beauty faded, unless she died, as often happened, she became servant to those who succeeded her; or she became an alewife; or she procured and enticed girls to take her place and follow in her steps. History is almost silent about her; yet we can make out so much. Her appointed places were Bankside and Cock Lane: near the former place there lay, until quite recently, a narrow patch of green without any tombs or tombstones—it is now a timber yard. It was the graveyard of the “Single Women.” They existed—they still exist,—because there was then—as there is now—a whole army of single men. Then there were thousands of priests, monks, and friars, thousands of men-at-arms following in the livery of this Lord and that Lord; now there are thousands of men, no longer ecclesiastics and soldiers, but of every profession and every trade, who remain unmarried into middle life, for whom the “single” woman still exists. Now, as formerly, the only way to abolish the courtesan is to teach the young men restraint.

The maintenance of houses for the reception of prostitutes was always strictly forbidden within the walls of the City. The licensed houses of Bankside were kept up until the reign of Henry VII., then they were closed: but the old traditions clung to the place, and the women, if they were banished, quickly returned. Ordinances for the management of the houses and regulations for the prevention of disorder were issued by Henry II., by Edward III., by Richard II., and by Henry VI. The following is the information upon the subject given by Stow:—

“Next on this bank was sometime the Bordello, or Stewes, a place so called of certain stew-houses privileged there, for the repair of incontinent men to the like women: of the which privilege I have read thus:

In a Parliament holden at Westminster, the eighth of Henry the Second, it was ordained by the Commons, and confirmed by the King and Lords, that divers constitutions for ever should be kept within that lordship or franchise, according to the old customs that had been there used time out of mind.

I have also seen divers patents of confirmation, namely, one dated 1345, the nineteenth of Edward the Third. Also, I find that in the fourth of Richard the276 Second these stew-houses, belonging to William Walworth, then Mayor of London, were farmed by ‘Froes’ of Flanders, and spoiled by Wat Tyler and other rebels of Kent: notwithstanding, I find that ordinances for the same place and houses were again confirmed in the reign of Henry the Sixth to be continued as before. Also, Robert Fabian writeth, that in the year 1506 the twenty-first of Henry the Seventh, the said stew-houses in Southwarke were for a season inhibited, and the doors closed up, but it was not long (saith he) ere the houses there were set open again, as many as were permitted for (as it was said) whereas before were eighteen houses, from thenceforth were appointed to be used but twelve only. These allowed stew-houses had signs on their fronts, towards the Thames, not hanged out, but painted on the walls, as a Boar’s Head, the Cross Keys, the Gun, the Castle, the Crane, the Cardinal’s Hat, the Bell, the Swan, etc. I have heard of ancient men, of good credit, report, that these single women were forbidden the rites of the Church so long as they continued that sinful life, and were excluded from Christian burial, if they were not reconciled before their death. And therefore there was a plot of ground called the Single Woman’s Churchyard, appointed for them far from the parish Church.

G. W. Wilson and Co.


In the year of Christ 1546, the thirty-seventh of Henry the Eighth, this row of stews in Southwarke was put down by the King’s commandment, which was proclaimed by sound of trumpet, no more to be privileged, and used as a common277 brothel, but the inhabitants of the same to keep good and honest rule as in other places of this realm, etc.”

From “Vie de St. Thomas” (a French MS. 1230-1260).

To turn to another subject. In the account of the early days of St. Thomas à Becket we get a glimpse of the London merchant’s home which, like Fitzstephen’s description of London, goes not far enough. The future Archbishop, Martyr, and Saint was born where the present Mercers’ Chapel stands in Cheapside. His father, Gilbert, was of knightly family, a native of Thierceville, a little town near the Abbey of Bec in Normandy. He appears to have migrated to Rouen while still young; there he married Roesia, daughter of a burgher of Caen. The young couple came over to London about the year 1116 and here prospered. It has been suggested that Gilbert of Rouen and Roesia of Caen were Thomas’s grandparents and that his father, Gilbert, was born in London and that his mother’s name was Matilda. It seems difficult to understand how a simple burgher from Rouen should in two or three years become a leading citizen in London, even, according to his biographer, vice-comes, i.e. portreeve. He was a man at one time of large property; he founded a chapel in St. Paul’s Churchyard, where he was himself buried; and for many years the newly elected Mayor paid a visit on his election to the tomb of Gilbert. To say that Gilbert came over in the wake of the Conqueror is absurd, because he must then have been of age, which would make him seventy, at least, when Thomas was born. Yet he was a leading citizen of London during the years of his boyhood, and this fact is impossible to explain on the assumption that Gilbert came over in 1116. If, however, his father, the elder Gilbert, came over in 1066 or278 thereabouts, being then, perhaps, twenty years of age, a son of his, born say in 1086, might very well be the father of Thomas, born in 1118. (See also p. 8).

The City of London in any case claimed the saint as her own son:

“Me quae te peperi, ne cesses, Thoma, tueri.”

Gilbert claimed kinship with the Norman Theobald; among his friends was one Rechin de l’Aigle of Pevensey, a noble of Norman birth, who lodged with Gilbert when he came to London.

The visions which came to the mother before the birth of her child are pleasing in their simplicity. We are told that she saw her child standing before her at the door of Canterbury Cathedral; that twelve bright stars dropped into her lap; and that she dreamed that she was giving birth to the Cathedral itself. There is the pretty story of the baby’s coverlet. Roesia (or Matilda) found fault with the nurse for not laying a coverlet over him in his cradle. “Why,” said the nurse, “he has already got a beautiful red silk coverlet.” She took it up and unfolded it. The coverlet proved too big for the room; it was too big for the hall; it was too big for the street; it was too big for Smithfield.

The mother placed Thomas under the special protection of the Virgin, who saved him from a fever—when she came to him in a vision and gave him the keys of Heaven. She also saved him by a miracle when he fell into the stream and was nearly drawn into the mill-wheel.

It was the mother’s godly custom to put the child into a scale and to weigh him against bread, meat, clothes, and money which she gave to the poor. She died when the boy was twenty-one. If only the good and pious soul could have lived to see her boy a glorified Saint! He was sent to school at Merton Priory—not one of the City schools. From Merton he was sent to Paris. On his return he found that his father had suffered losses, having had his house burned over his head three times. He then, with the intention of becoming a merchant, entered into the counting-house of one Osbern Huitdeniers “of great name and repute.” Two Normans, however, named Baldwin the Archdeacon and Eustace of Boulogne, who lodged with Gilbert when they were in London, remarked the intelligence of the young man, Gilbert’s son, and introduced him to Theobald. The rest of the story belongs to history.

Here is a glimpse of City manners. To Thomas, son of Hugh atte Bow, citizen and mercer, was left the sum of £300 on the death of his father. This sum was deposited with Robert de Brinkeleye, mercer, to be kept and judiciously employed for the profit of the boy. Robert had the use of this sum for thirteen years. He paid yearly for the use of the money “according to the custom of the City” 4s. for every pound, or £60 a year, which is 20 per cent. This makes £780, so that when Thomas came of age he would have had, but for deductions, the sum of £1080, equivalent to about £15,000 of our money. But Robert,279 also according to the custom of the City, sent in a bill for 2s. in the pound per annum for the said £300 for his trouble in the guardianship of the boy. That amounted to £390. Further, he charged for the board of Thomas 2s. a week or 104 shillings yearly, which amounted to £67: 12s. For the clothes of Thomas he charged 40 shillings a year or £26 in all. Also, for teaching, 2 marks yearly for ten years, making 20 marks or £13: 6: 8. Also, for learning to ride and for work and residence at Oxford £13 more. It was not, therefore, uncommon for the son of a London merchant to study at Oxford. In all, the guardian’s charges amounted to £509: 18: 8, so that Thomas’s inheritance came to £570: 1: 4. This little history shows that the cost of maintenance of a boy at that time was no more than 3½d. a day; that education could be had for £1: 6: 8 a year, and that for the use of money 20 per cent was considered a fair charge.

The cost of keeping a girl, perhaps not an heiress, in the case of a certain Alice, was reckoned at 8d. a week, and the cost of her clothes at 13s. 4d. a year.

We may now consider the expenses of London members of Parliament. In the year 1389 Parliament was held at Cambridge and was attended by four representatives of the City, viz. Adam Bamme, Henry Vanner, William Tonge, and John Clenhond. They rode down together, taking with them or sending before them two pipes of red wine. They hired a house at Cambridge, but were compelled to take one nearly ruinous; the woodwork was rotten, the roof leaky, the plaster broken. A thorough repair of the house was carried out; the rubbish with which it was filled was carted away, fine stools and forms were made; tablecloths, cushions, and wall-hangings of striped worsted were bought; eating, drinking, and cooking utensils were procured; fuel, consisting of firewood, charcoal, turf and sedge, was laid in; and the bills for the whole attendance were sent in to the Corporation and by them paid. They show that the journey to Cambridge and back of the party, with their servants and “harness,” cost £7: 16: 8; the distance we know is 57 miles or 114 miles there and back; but the number of servants we do not know; and we cannot get at the items. But this was what the City had to pay for its members of Parliament. The total may be reckoned, money being worth then fifteen times its present value, at least, at about £1500, which is an enormous bill.

£. s. d.
Rent, Repairs, and Furniture 6 9 0
Utensils, Tablecloths, and Cushions 6 16 8
Fuel 5 13 0
Horses, their keep and litter, also straw for Servants’ Beds 12 15 7
Journey to Cambridge and back 7 16 8
Wine 9 2 0
Vestments for Servants’ Livery 22 5 0
Food, Ale, Candles, and Lavender 23 5 9
Wages to Butler, Cook, etc. 7 13 4
£101 17 0


The language used in London was most certainly always English. The better class undoubtedly understood that kind of French which Chaucer called the French of Stratford-atte-Bow. For the nunnery of St. Leonard, Bow, was an ancient Benedictine Foundation, where Anglo-French was taught by the nuns.

The people never spoke any other language than English. The proceedings at the Court of Hustings were in English, so were those of the Folk mote and the Ward mote; the sermons were in English; the miracle plays were in English: the Early English Text Society has unearthed and published a vast mass of Early English, not Anglo-Norman, work, consisting of popular songs, satirical verses, paraphrases of Scripture, rules of Anchorites and monks, and translations.

At Oxford the students translated into French and English alternately, “ne illa lingua Gallica penitus sit omissa.” Chaucer knew Anglo-French, but wrote in English, and he wrote for the better class, not the common people. Gower wrote first in French, then in Latin, and lastly in English. In the year 1362, Parliament was opened by a speech in English: about the same time the Courts of Law were ordered to be held in English.

The custom of the Anglo-Saxon of the present day, who, wherever he is found, imposes his language upon the markets in place of the language of any other trader, no doubt prevailed on the quays and at the port of London then, where the polyglot Babel of the foreign sailors had to be reduced to the common English for the transaction of business.

Skeat has the following remarks on Chaucer’s “French of Stratford-atte-Bow”:—

“There is nothing to show that Chaucer here speaks slightingly of the French spoken by the Prioress, though this view is commonly adopted by newspaper-writers who know only this one line of Chaucer, and cannot forbear to use it in jest. Even Tyrwhitt and Wright have thoughtlessly given currency to this idea: and it is worth remarking that Tyrwhitt’s conclusion as to Chaucer thinking but meanly of Anglo-French was derived (as he tells us) from a remark in the Prologue to the Testament of Love, which Chaucer did not write. But Chaucer merely states a fact, viz., that the Prioress spoke the usual Anglo-French of the English Court, of the English law-courts, and of the English ecclesiastics of the higher rank. The poet, however, had been himself in France, and knew precisely the difference between the two dialects: but he had no special reason for thinking more highly of the Parisian than of the Anglo-French. He merely states that the French which she spoke so ‘fetisly’ was, naturally, such as was spoken in England. She had never travelled, and was therefore quite satisfied with the French which she had learnt at home. The language of the King of England was quite as good, in the esteem of Chaucer’s hearers, as that of the King of France; in fact, King Edward called himself king of France as well as of England, and King John, was, at one time, merely his prisoner.281 Warton’s note on the line is quite sane. He shows that Queen Philippa wrote business letters in French (doubtless Anglo-French) with ‘great propriety.’ What Mr. Wright means by saying that ‘it was similar to that used at a later period in the courts of law’ is somewhat puzzling. It was, of course, not similar to, but the very same language as was used at the very same period in the courts of law. In fact, he and Tyrwhitt have unconsciously given us the view entertained, not by Chaucer, but by unthinking readers of the present age: a view which is not expressed and was probably not intended. At the modern Stratford we may find Parisian French inefficiently taught: but at the ancient Stratford, the very important Anglo-French was taught efficiently enough.”

Lydgate’s poem called “London Lickpenny,” because the City drinks and absorbs the visitor’s money, contains the most lively picture of the streets of London in the fifteenth century. The title, as Skeat has pointed out, was wrongly conjectured (by Halliwell) to mean “London Lackpenny”:—

“To London once my steps I bent,
Where truth in no wise should be faint:
To Westminster I forthwith went
To a man of law to make complaint.
I said—‘For Mary’s love, that holy saint,
Pity the poor that would proceed!’
But, for lack of money, I could not speed.
And, as I thrust the crowd among,
By froward chance my hood was gone!
Yet for all that I stayed not long
Till to the King’s Bench I was come.
Before the judge I kneeled anon,
And prayed him, for God’s sake, to take heed!
But, for lack of money, I might not speed.”

Whether he wanted money for the payment of fees, or whether it was necessary to bribe the judge, he does not explain. Let us charitably take the former view:—


“Unto the Common Pleas I did go,
Where sat one with a silken hood;
I did him reverence (I ought to do so)
And told my case as well as I could,
How my goods were defrauded me by falsehood.
I got not a word of his mouth for my meed,
And, for lack of money, I might not speed.
In Westminster Hall, neither rich nor poor
Would do for me aught, although I should die;
Which seeing, I gat me out of the door,
When Flemings began on me for to cry,
‘Master, what will you copen6 or buy?
Fine felt hats, or spectacles to read?
Lay down your silver, and here you may speed.’
Then to Westminster-gate I presently went,
When the sun was at high prime;
Cooks, to me they took good entent,
And proffered me bread, with ale and wine;
Ribs of beef, both fat and fine.
A fair cloth they began to spread;
But, wanting money, I might not speed.
Then unto London I did me hie,
Of all the land it bears the price.
‘Hot pease-cods!’ one began to cry,
‘Strawberries ripe!’ and ‘cherries on the rice!’ (bough)
One bad me come near and buy some spice;
Pepper and saffron they did me bede (offer);
But, for lack of money, I might not speed.
Then went I forth by London stone,
All the length of Canwick7 Street;
Drapers much cloth me offered anon;
Then met I one, cried ‘Hot sheep’s feet!’
One, ‘mackerel!’ One did ‘rushes’ repeat.
One offered a hood, to cover my head;
But, for lack of money, I might not be sped.
Then I hied me to East-Cheap,
One cries ‘ribs of beef,’ and many a pie;
Pewter-pots they clattered in a heap;
There was harp and pipe, and minstrelsy.
‘Yea, ’faith,’ and ‘nay, ’faith,’ some did cry.
Some sang of Jenkyn and Gill for meed;
But, for lack of money, I might not speed.
Then into Cornhill anon I strode,
Where was much stolen gear among;
I saw where hung my own lost hood,
That I had lost among the throng;
To buy my own hood, I thought it wrong.
I knew it as well as I did my creed;
But, for lack of money, I might not speed.
The taverner took me by the sleeve,
‘Sir,’ saith he, ‘now my wine assay’;
I answered ‘that cannot much me grieve,
A penny can do no more than it may.’
I drank a pint, and for it did pay;
Yet sore a-hungered from thence I yede (went),
And, wanting money, I could not speed.”

He ends by saying how he at last went to Billingsgate and there tried to persuade a bargeman to row him across the river for nothing. But the bargeman declined to take any less than twopence, saying that he was not yet come to the time of life when he wished to practise active benevolence by the bestowal of alms. At last the poet got safely into Kent, and made up his mind to have no more to do with lawyers. The whole concludes with a pious wish for the welfare of London and of all honest lawyers:—

“Save London, and send true lawyers their meed!
For who-so lacks money, with them shall not speed!”


The moral of the ballad is obvious. If you wish to go to law, you should go to London; and if you wish to go to London, you should first of all fill your purse.

We want to get at the mind of the people. We have seen that the women at least did not read, and of book-learning the London craftsman had none. But they must have had ideas, subjects of conversation, current beliefs,—what were they? Towards the end of the fourteenth and throughout the fifteenth century, there can be no doubt that there was everywhere a spirit of restlessness and questioning. The wandering preachers, Wyclyf’s Preachers, made the people compare the true religious life with the example of the religious life held out for them by the prelates and abbots with their splendid retinues and their pride, by the monks with their sloth, and by the friars with their greed and their licentiousness. Those who defend the Church at this time are unwilling to admit either the pride of the former or the license of the latter. Let us, therefore, be content to mark what was said and taught, whether it was true or not, and to remember that these things were openly said and taught, and were believed by the people. One remembers what was said by a woman of London when a fire broke out at Willesden and the image of the Virgin was partly burned? “How can she help me,” asked this shrewd questioner, “if she cannot help herself?” During this period of slow awakening the people learned anew the lesson that religion was not a thing of rule and purchase, and that the profession of religion demanded a corresponding life of purity. To put on the Franciscan habit, and to profess the Franciscan Rule, was not, it was discovered, in itself an act, or a proof, or an illustration of religion. The perception by the people of the great rule—the scholars had long since understood—prepared the way for the expression of free thought in the sixteenth century.

Equally interesting it is to mark the revolt in the minds of the people against their rulers—and the mingling of the revolt against the Church with the revolt against the nobles:—

“John the Miller hath yground small, small,
The King’s son of heaven shall pay for all,
Beware ere ye be wo!
Know your friend from your foe,
Haveth ynough and saith (say ye) ‘ho’ ! (stop!)
And do well and better and fleeth sinne,
And seeketh peace and holde therein!
And so biddeth John Trueman and all his fellows.”
“John Ball, Saint Mary Priest,
Greeteth well all manner of men,
And biddeth them in name of the Trinitie,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Stand manlike together in truth,
And helpe truth, and truth shall help you.
Now reigneth pride in price,
Couetise is holden wise,
Lechery without shame,
Gluttonie without blame.
Enuie raigneth without reason, 284
And sloth is taken in great season,
God do boot, for now is time, Amen.”

And again (Percy Society):—

“Jack Trewman doeth you to understand
That falsenesse and guile hath raigned too long:
And truth hath been set under a locke,
And falsenesse raigneth in every flocke,
No man may come truth to,
But he sing, si dedero:
Speake, spend and speed, quoth John of Bathon, and therefore,
Sinne fareth as wilde flood,
True love is away that is so good,
And clarkes for wealth wirketh them wo—
God doe boote for now is time, Amen.”

“My good friends”—these were the words of John Ball of Canterbury, as reported by Froissart—and there were others who preached the same doctrine—“things cannot go on well in England, nor ever will, until everything shall be in common; when there shall neither be vassal nor lord and all distinctions levelled; when the lords shall be no more masters than ourselves. Are we not all descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve?” He then goes on to contrast the lot of the lords with that of the people. “We are called slaves, and if we do not perform our services we are beaten, and we have not any sovereign to whom we can complain, or who wishes to hear us and to do us justice.”

As regards the ideas of the people on Government, we must remember that in London the old Saxon freedom was never lost. Londoners chose their Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs, and appointed their own Judges. Every freeman of the City of London, therefore, felt that he had part in the government of the City. As we have seen in the history of the City, there were dissensions and factions from time to time, but the one great principle that London was free to elect its own magistrates and to preserve its own form of government was never departed from.

It was, therefore, not an imposed government, but a popular government of their own. There was never any question about obeying the government of London, there was never any popular rising against the government of London. It was natural and it was proper that the Aldermen should be the rulers, and if any one had the temerity to strike an Alderman or refuse to obey his ruling, it was just and proper to the people themselves for that man to have his hand struck off; and in the same way it was understood by everybody that in defence of the King, their “Overlord,” it might be necessary to go forth and fight. Therefore it was incumbent for every one to learn the use of arms and to be possessed of certain weapons. In the inventories which we find of house furniture of the fourteenth century, there are always armour and arms. The craftsman, therefore, was a soldier, a freeman, 285and an elector. Further, for the advantage of his own trade, he understood that it was important for him to combine and associate himself into a guild or company. He understood that he must be loyal to this company, that he must obey its officers, and that he must put in good work.

From Romaunt of the Rose in British Museum. Harl. MS. 4425.

The rebellion of Wat Tyler was encouraged by the people of London, according to Froissart, who repeats what he heard and clearly echoes the rumours prevalent at the Court. The Londoners, he says, invited the country people to assemble and to march upon London, where they promised them a good reception and such a welcome that there should soon be not a slave left in all England—but there were none in London. The people came up from all parts of the Kingdom; they came in companies of a dozen or a hundred. Froissart says they knew not what they wanted; it is, however, quite certain that they wanted to realise the dream of their preachers; they wanted, what people always want, justice; they wanted to see the life of religion instead of the profession of religion, and they knew very well what the life of religion meant; they wanted a more equitable division of the world’s goods. The great rebellion of Wat Tyler, if it was really encouraged, welcomed, or invited by the common people of London, which I doubt, further than that there were certainly some who had imbibed the ideas of John Ball, shows us what the common people thought.


As for the extent of their knowledge and its limitations, London was a place of foreign trade, and the centre of internal trade. It was therefore filled with people carrying on the trade of distribution, collection, import, and export. In other words, it was constantly receiving and sending forth men to foreign countries across the sea and to all parts of the realm of England to carry on their trade. The boys went down to the quays to talk with the sailors and the stevedores: they learned to distinguish the Genoese and the Venetian galleys, the ships of the Hanseatic League, the ships from Lisbon and the ships from Bordeaux, they heard where these places were, and what they sent to London. The voyagers themselves in the taverns told their travellers’ tales. All that trade could teach the people was learned by them in the fourteenth century as well as in the nineteenth. I suppose that they would not be able to draw a mappa mundi with much approach to accuracy, but they knew where places were.

Their knowledge of geography and of peoples was widened also by their pilgrimages and by the stories told by pilgrims on their return. As to science, each man had the mastery of his craft: that was enough for him. As to history, the people of London remembered; no doubt they mixed up a good many events, but they remembered at least their own liberties. Of books they had none and could not read; of songs satirical, historical, commemorative, they had, of their own, a good many which are still surviving.

It will be understood from the foregoing what were the rough ideas of the people as to religion and social economy; how their knowledge of the world was considerable; how their trades taught them a certain amount of science; and how their popular songs extended and deepened and strengthened the popular ideas.

In the chapter on Sports and Recreations these matters are fully dealt with, but there are a few minor notes which do not exactly belong to these things and come more properly here under the heading of Manners. On festive occasions the people wore garlands, the Master and Wardens of a Company wore garlands on their great days, at banquets they wore garlands, ladies wore garlands, young ecclesiastics wore garlands. When any one rode abroad—not to battle—he hung little bells on the bridles and harness of his horse. Wyclyf speaks of a priest “in pompe and pride, coveitise and envye, with fatte hors, and bridelis ryngynge be (by) the weye and himself in costly clothes and pelure (fur).”

In every wealthy household the falcon was as much of a domestic pet as the dog. The peregrine especially was easy to tame, “mult cortois et vaillan et de bon manniere”—very tame, bold, and of good manners.

The clerk and the notary and the scrivener carried about with them a case containing paper, pens, ink, and other necessaries for writing, so that they could be called into a house or shop for the purpose of writing down anything. The writing-case was called a Penner.


I have already said that every man was bound to keep ready for use arms or armour according to his degree. We must always bear in mind that the Londoner was a soldier first, whatever his calling; he was liable to be called out for the defence of the City, or even, on occasion, to march out into the country. Therefore every man had to learn, and to practise, the use of arms, such as shooting with the long-bow, how to handle a pike, and how to use a sword. Thus in the inventory of the furniture belonging to Hugh le Bever, whose case is quoted elsewhere, we find a haketon—i.e. a jacket of quilted leather sometimes worn under armour, sometimes used as armour. In the reign of Henry II., every one who held a knight’s fee was bound to have a habergeon or under coat of mail, a helmet, a shield, and a lance. A free-holder of sixteen marks must have the same; one of ten marks must provide a small habergeon, and a capeline of iron and a lance; while the ordinary burgher must at least have a capeline and a lance.

Besides the wholesale merchants and the shopkeepers there were the “stationers.” In every public place, wherever there was a church, or a cross, or a conduit there were put up “stations” or stalls. Thus in the year 1370 there were eleven stations round the High Cross of Chepe, let to as many women, at the annual rent of 13s. 4d. In that year the whole number were convicted of using false measures. The modern word stationer is derived from the practice of selling paper, pens, etc., at such stations.

Among the Fraternities of London must not be forgotten that called the Company of the Pui, “in honour of God, our Lady Saint Mary, and all saints both male and female; and in honour of our Lord the King and all the Barons of this country.” It has been suggested that the Fraternity was named after our Lady of Le Puy in Auvergne, an image of the Black Virgin which worked miracles. There were many societies of the Pui in France: this of London drew up for its own use and guidance a set of Rules which are still existing and have been published in the Liber Custumarum. It was, in fact, an early specimen of a club founded for purposes of peace, joyousness, harmony, and friendship. It was open to everybody, that is, to everybody whom the governing body chose to admit. There were no distinctions of nationality. There was an entrance fee and a subscription. The society was governed by a committee of twelve members, elected for life, and by a “Prince,” who was elected every year. As no Fraternity could exist without religion, a Chaplain was maintained for the purpose of singing mass every day and for all the members, living or dead. The great day of the Society was the first Sunday after Trinity, when a meeting was held in a Hall newly strewn with rushes and decked with branches. On this day the Prince for the year was invested. The old Prince, with the crown of office on his head and a gilt cup full of wine in his hands, marched down the room singing. Then he gave the newly chosen Prince the crown, offered him the cup, and hung up his arms over the Presidential chair.


This done, the meeting proceeded with the business of the day, which, like the famous annual Festival at Toulouse, chiefly consisted in choosing and rewarding the best song. The competitors sat in a row on a seat covered with cloth of gold; the judges were the newly elected Prince and the outgoing Prince, assisted by fifteen jurymen: the competitors sang the songs to music of their own composition. When the prize was adjudged the successful competitor was duly crowned.

Then dinner was served, and after dinner they all rode in procession through the City, the two Princes heading the cavalcade, followed by the poetic champion of the day. At the house of the new Prince they all dismounted, and the brethren executed a dance in the street. The day after this great feast, mass was sung at St. Helen’s for the souls of the brotherhood. It is a pleasant glimpse of the sunnier side of the City life. The merchants unite once a year at least—English, French, and Germans, all alike, in friendliness; they sing, they feast, they dance, they go to Church, and they encourage each other, all together, in the practice of concord and harmony, brotherly help and brotherly love.

The postage or carriage of letters was by no means neglected, and grew into a regular system by slow degrees. Edward IV. stationed men every twenty miles, whose duty it was to carry despatches as fast as they could gallop for this distance, and to hand them on to the next man. Edward I. had messengers, who took charge of the despatches of the Officers of State, the Constables of Castles, and the Sheriffs of Counties. The messenger was paid at the rate of a shilling a day. Some tenants held their land on the condition of carrying the lord’s letters. There was a regular mail sent off by the Venetians from London to Venice every month. It included the letters of the merchants of both cities. Private gentlemen also sent their servants to carry letters. In this way the Paston correspondence was carried on. If this correspondence be taken as an average example of the letter-writing of the time, there must have been great need of an organised postal system. The internal trade was managed in the summer by means of long strings of pack-horses; in the winter there was very little travelling and no traffic. Probably messengers were sent about at least on the King’s service, which could not be stopped, all the winter, but the state of the roads forbade any but the most necessary travelling. Yet they were not so bad in the fourteenth century as they were in the seventeenth, three hundred years later.

Here are a few notes:—

It was customary after the arrest of criminals and disorderly persons, at the dragging of a man on a hurdle, or at the putting of a man in pillory, to precede the prisoner and his guards with music—trumpets, pipe, and tabor. The object, of course, was to call general attention to the culprit, and to increase the shame of his punishment.


Lovers gave and exchanged a true-love-knot; some of these knots had four loops, for which reason the herb paris, which had four leaves set against each other, was known as True Love.

A great feast was continued for three days, during which the company continued to eat, drink, sing, dance, and look on at games.

It was a common practice with friends to take oaths of fraternity and friendship one with another; sometimes even to die for each other if the occasion should demand this proof of friendship.

Of reconstruction of the past there is no end, because something new, which was also old, is continually turning up. See, for instance, the cart covered with a black cloth on which is a white cross, slowly passing down the street. The horse carries a bell which tolls mournfully, the cart is led by a man in the livery of the Carthusian Brothers; it contains the body of one who has died a violent death, killed in a brawl by some rioter unknown, killed in a mad fight over a woman—who knows? They will take the cart to Pardon Churchyard where lie buried so many victims of the Black Death; the poor wretch will be laid, at least, in sacred soil. Or there is the procession of the sanctuary-man who has abjured the Kingdom; he is bare-headed and bare-footed; he carries a wooden cross; he is led to the Bridge Gate by the serjeants of his Ward; he has three days in which to reach Dover and to get across the seas. And after? History knows no more. Here is a crowd gathered round the woman set up in the shameful thew. Why is she set there? For tampering with her measures and defrauding her customers. The interests of beer are concerned. The crowd is justly indignant, words of reproach and contumely greet the culprit; she hides her face in terror and in shame. It seems a light thing to stand up for an hour or two before the people. It is anything but light, it is grievous, it is a lifelong disgrace; women have been known to fall down dead in such a case, overwhelmed and heartbroken with the public exposure.

Here comes one, a City officer, clad in a tunic ornamented with death’s heads. The grinning skulls proclaim his office. He is the Death Crier. In his hand he carries a bell, which he rings as he walks along the streets; at night he carries a lantern; he might walk through the streets at any time of the day or night, for he announces the death of some great man. “Good people,” he cries, “of your charity pray for the soul of our dear brother ——, who departed this life at such or such an hour.” As he passes, perhaps in the dead of night, his voice awakens those who sleep. They arise, they open their windows, they put out their heads, and murmur a prayer. When the King died, it was the custom for the Death Crier to march through the streets escorted by the Guild of Allhallows carrying crosses.

Other duties were imposed upon the officers in order to find work enough 290for them to do. There was one, it seems, for every ward. They inspected taverns and reported to the Alderman on their conduct and management, they also watched for, and reported, houses of ill-fame, and places which harboured disorderly persons.

Chaucer, in describing the Miller, speaks of the “goliardeys.” The goliardus was a professional diner-out; one who earned his dinner by telling tales, reciting verses, and making jests for the amusement of the company. The profession is one branch of the many devoted to making a sad world merry. The mime, the tumbler, the dancing girl, the juggler, the Tom Fool, the singer, the musician, and the diner-out are all members of this honourable and creditable profession.

Professor Skeat has kindly sent me the following notes on Mediæval manners and customs, taken from a Lecture delivered before the University Extension Conference in 1898. In one or two places they mention matters already recited by myself. The greater part of the notes, however, will be found to supplement my own. But the field of Mediæval manners is absolutely inexhaustible. I would recommend the reader to look through the learned Professor’s Notes to Chaucer and Piers Plowman for an illustration of the axiom.

It was usual, he remarks, for tradesmen’s apprentices to stand at the shop-doors, touting for custom by means of incessant shouting. At the door of the cook, who provided meat and drink for the hungry wayfarer, was heard the cry—“Hote pies, hote,” i.e. hot pies, all hot. Or else—“gode grys and gees,” i.e. good roast pigs, good roast geese. Or—“gowe, dyne, gowe,” i.e. let’s go and dine. At the door of the taverner was heard the cry—“whyte wyn of Gascoigne,” i.e. white wine of Alsace, red wine of Gascony. Or else—“wyn of the Ryne,” i.e. wine of the Rhine; or “wyn of Rochel,” i.e. wine of Rochelle; and these wines were especially warranted to assist the digestion, as being the correct drink to take after dining off roast meat.

One common use of bread was to feed horses and dogs with. I have often seen a horse eat a loaf of bread in Switzerland, but never in London; so I suppose it is not now in use here. One common name for a horse was Bayard, and hence a horse-loaf was sometimes called a Bayard’s bun. In the same way, I may here note that there was once a place in London called Bayard’s water, i.e. a watering-place for horses. It is now called Bayswater.

It deserves to be mentioned that there was a kind of ale particularly known by the name of London Ale. As early as the time of Henry III., London had established a special reputation for its ale, which was considered by good judges of drink as being of the first quality. There is a particular allusion to it in Chaucer’s description of the Cook. The Cook, it seems, was a good judge of liquor, hence it is said of him—“well could he know a draught of London ale.” One of the most noticeable and obvious characteristics of Old London was 291the use of tradesmen’s signs. At the present day, we seldom see signs hung out before any houses except inns and taverns; but it was formerly usual for nearly every trade to exhibit a sign, and their great multitude added considerably to the picturesque effect of nearly every street. They were extremely conspicuous, being intended, of course, for advertisements, and varied greatly. Sometimes they were stuck up on posts, but these were in the way of the passengers; so it was more usual to hang them out above the door, supported by poles or ornamental iron-work; or, if the street was unusually narrow, they were slung across the road. It is capable of proof that it is from this custom that the phrase to hang out originated. “Where do you hang out” is now a colloquial phrase for “where do you live”; but the fuller expression “where do you hang out your sign” could once have been asked in all seriousness, and would have been understood in the same sense. Examples are given in the New English Dictionary and in the Century Dictionary. There are still a few survivals of the old custom. Thus it was common for a dealer in woollen articles to hang out the Golden Fleece; and the Golden Fleece may still be seen before shops of this description. Another sign is well known as the barber’s pole. These signs were so numerous, so cumbersome, and in a high wind so dangerous, that they sometimes had to be suppressed; and we meet with enactments that attempted to regulate their size. The most objectionable were the ale-stakes of taverns. An ale-stake was a horizontal pole, projecting far in front of a tavern, sometimes bearing a sign, and almost invariably ornamented with a bunch of leaves suspended from its extremity. This bunch was called a bush, and gave rise to the proverb that “good wine needs no bush,” i.e. no advertisement. We find the following ordinance in the Liber Albus:—

“Whereas the ale-stakes, projecting in front of taverns in East Cheap, and elsewhere in the said City, extend too far over the King’s highways, to the impeding of riders and others, and by reason of their excessive weight to the great deterioration of the houses in which they are fixed, it is enjoined that no one in future shall have a stake, bearing either his sign or leaves (i.e. or a bush) extending over the King’s highway, of greater length than seven feet at most.” Seven feet is rather a large allowance, and affords some notion of the lengths to which these ale-stakes had grown.

There is one famous passage in Langland which reminds us of Shakespeare’s description of the Boar’s Head tavern in East Cheap, where Sir John Falstaff was wont to “take his ease in his inn.” It is a description of the company assembled in a large tavern in Cheapside or thereabouts; a company of a very miscellaneous sort. The chief person there is called Sir Glutton, who seems to have been just such another as Sir John Falstaff. This Sir Glutton was on his way to church on a certain Friday, in order to make confession; but he just 292called in at the tavern as he went along. For it so happened that Beton the brewster was standing at the tavern-door, and took occasion to mention that she had some especially good ale for immediate consumption. “But have you,” said he, “any hot spices to put in it?” “Yes,” said she, “there’s pepper, and peony-seeds, and a pound of garlic, and a farthing’s worth of fennel-seed, especially reserved for Fridays.” That was just too much for him. In went Sir Glutton; and, it is remarked, “great oaths went with him.” We are then introduced to the company, which included Ciss the sempstress, Wat the gamekeeper and his wife, who was already drunk, Tom the tinker and two of his boys, Hick the horse-dealer, Hugh the needle-seller, Clarice of Cock Lane, and the clerk of the church—which probably alludes to St. Peter’s Cornhill—a certain Sir Piers, a Flemish woman named Parnel (once a common female name), a hay-ward or hedge-warden, a hermit, the hangman of Tyburn, Daw the diker, i.e. hedger and ditcher, and a dozen rascals more, made up of porters and pick-pockets and drawers of teeth. Then there were a minstrel and a rat-catcher, and Rose the seller of dishes; Godfrey who sold garlic, and a Welshman named Griffin; and, to conclude all, a heap of upholsterers or dealers in ready-made furniture.

Then the whole company looked on while Hick the horsedealer and Clement the cobbler played at a kind of game called the New Fair; which was really a kind of bartering by handicap, and constituted a mild form of gambling. The idea was simple enough, though it led to a large amount of dispute and wrangling before it could be satisfactorily settled. First of all, Clement the cobbler took off his cloak and laid it on a table or chair. Then Hick took off his hood, and laid it beside the cloak. Then the whole business was to appraise the relative worth of the articles, which they wholly failed to do, till they appointed an umpire, viz. Robin the rope-maker. Robin’s decision was very advantageous to the taverner. It was clear that the cloak was worth more than the hood; so that some compensation was due to Clement, who accepted the hood in exchange. So he was allowed to fill up his cup at Hick’s expense. And it was further provided that, if either of the parties was dissatisfied with the award, he was to be fined in a gallon of ale; out of which gallon he was to drink the health of Sir Glutton, who had been so good as to preside over the matter in dispute.

And so things went on, till every one grew more or less uproarious; and we are not surprised to hear that when Sir Glutton at last rose up, late in the evening, too late to go to church, he had already consumed about a gallon, and a gill over; and, in crossing the floor, he went no straighter than a blind man’s dog, which is sometimes in front and sometimes behind. He had much difficulty in finding the door, and finally stumbled over the threshold, unable to rise; and at last, Clement and others had to carry him home. Then, with all the trouble in the world, his wife and his maid got him safely into bed, and there he slept all Saturday and all 293Sunday, waking up at last on the Sunday evening. And as soon as ever he unclosed his eyes, the first word that he said was, “Where stands the bowl?” It is some satisfaction to know that his wife administered to him a severe rebuke, and that he was thoroughly ashamed of himself, and promised to observe Friday, thenceforward, as a day of abstinence and church-going. From this it would appear that the manner of life as conducted inside a tavern was not very different from what it is now. One of the most curious points in Langland’s description of this company is his inclusion of “the hangman of Tyburn.” Perhaps it is not generally known that there were, in fact, two Tyburns. The more celebrated one is that which took its name from the bourn or stream that was formerly called Tybourn. The exact spot where the gallows stood was not always precisely the same, but one position of it is denoted by a mark near the junction of Edgware Road with Oxford Street, not far from the Marble Arch. But there was another place of execution in Southwark, close to the St. Thomas-a-Waterings mentioned by Chaucer in his famous Prologue; and this place was expressly called Tyburn of Kent, to prevent mistakes.

In one passage, Langland alludes to what was then known as “the benefit of clergy.” This is a phrase which I strongly suspect has frequently been misunderstood; at any rate, to the modern ear, it is extremely misleading. It sounds as if it meant that the attendance of a clergyman might benefit the condemned criminal; but it means nothing of the kind. The word clergy had formerly two distinct meanings; or, strictly speaking, there were two distinct words which came to be sounded alike. One of these, referring to the clerical order, is still in common use; the other, meaning “clerkship, scholarship, or learning,” is practically obsolete. In old law, it meant “ability to read”; and at a time when such ability was uncommon, it was permissible, in the case of some misdeeds, that the criminal should claim his privilege of scholarship, if it was his first offence. If he could prove his ability to read, he could claim exemption from capital punishment. The person who examined the criminal—perhaps we may call him “the examiner”—usually selected one of the Latin psalms as the subject; very often it was the fifty-first psalm beginning with the words Miserere mei, Deus; or sometimes he pointed to the fifth verse of the sixteenth psalm, Dominus pars hereditatis mee. It is to be suspected that some of the thieves carefully learned these Latin verses by heart before they stole a purse: a practice of which we never hear at the present day. Langland’s praise of the benefits of a good education is surely remarkable, and such as we are by no means accustomed to. “Well may the child bless the man who set him to learn books. Familiarity with literature has often saved a man, body and soul. Dominus pars hereditatis mee is a pleasant verse; it has been known to save from Tyburn some twenty strong thieves. When ignorant thieves are made to dangle, just see how the learned ones are saved!”



London has always been a City renowned for the great plenty and excellence of its food. In the twelfth century Fitz Stephen vaunts the cook-shops. He says, “There is also in London on the bank of the river, amongst the wine shops which are kept in shops and cellars, a public eating house. There are to be found, according to the season, every day, dishes of meat, roast, fried, and boiled, great and small fish, coarser meats for the poor, more delicate for the rich, of game, fowls, and small birds.” These cook-shops were principally stationed in Thames Street and East Chepe.

The Londoner had two meals a day. For the nobility, dinner at eleven and supper at five. For the merchants, dinner at twelve, supper at six. Cookery books in manuscript have come down to us from the fourteenth century, and a great many menus of feasts have been preserved. So it is quite easy to understand how the King and the great lords lived, but it is not so easy to understand the ordinary fare of the well-to-do citizen and the craftsman. Before presenting the menu let us speak of certain dinner customs. The tables were movable; they were laid on trestles; they were covered with white cloths. Before every man was a wooden platter or a “roundel.” The roundel was a circular wooden platter, one side of which was covered with a black ground on which were inscribed certain verses in gilt letters within a circle formed by a broad band of white and a narrow band of gold. In the inner circle was a figure of some kind, and generally each roundel was one of a series representing a group of figures. Thus in Archæologia, vol. xxxiv., may be found the figures and verses of nine such roundels out of a set of twelve. They belong to the time of Elizabeth or James I.; that is to say, later than that we are now considering. Each figure represents some calling or trade. Thus, there are the Courtier, the Divine, the Soldier, the Lawyer, the Merchant, the Gentleman, the Bachelor, the Wife, the Widow, nine in all. Three are lost. It is suggested that these platters were used for fruit. But surely fruit would speedily have stained the figures. May they not have been intended for bread, which would not spoil a trencher? But it is possible also that they were only used for ornaments.


For the King or for any great lord there was the taster, to prevent the danger of poison; and the fool or jester sat or stood near the King and made him laugh—a feat, at times, of considerable difficulty.

As for the provisions at the banquet, here are two menus, both of the fourteenth century; they belong to great feasts, the kind of feast which would last for perhaps three days:—

First Course
Browet farsed, and charlet, for pottage.
Baked mallard. Teals. Small birds. Almond milk served with them.
Capon roasted with the syrup.
Roasted veal. Pig roasted “endored, and served with the yoke on his neck over gilt.” Herons.
A leche. A tart of flesh.

Second Course
Browet of Almayne and Viaunde rial, for pottage.
Mallard. Roasted rabbits. Pheasant. Venison.
Jelly. A leche. Urchynnes (hedgehogs).
Pome de orynge.

Third Course
Boar in egurdouce, and Mawmené, for pottage.
Cranes. Kid. Curlew. Partridge. (All roasted.)
A leche. A custarde.
A peacock endored and roasted and served with the skin.
Cockagris. Flaumpoyntes. Daryoles.
Pears in syrup.

First Course.—Brawn with mustard; cabbages in pottage; swan standard; cony, roasted; great custards.

Second Course.—Venison, in broth, with white mottrews; cony standard; partridges, with cocks, roasted; leche lombard; doucettes, with little parneux.

Third Course.—Pears in syrop; great birds with little ones together; fritters; payn puff, with a cold bake-meat.

[A few notes are necessary to elucidate the above menu:—Browet was a soup or broth made from boiled meat; Cockagris was a peculiar dish consisting of an old cock and a pig cooked together; Doucettes were sweet dishes; Flaumpoyntes were ornamented tarts; and to endore anything was to glaze it with yolk of egg.—Ed.]

It will be remarked that there is no mention here of plain beef or mutton. These did not belong to a feast. They are, however, mentioned in plainer bills of fare. The endeavour of the cook was to serve made dishes highly seasoned and spiced. Wright, for instance, explains some of the receipts by which it will be seen that our forefathers were luxurious in their food, if not gross. Everything also points to the fact that they were very large eaters. The open-air life led by the better class, the riding and exercise, the very scanty use of vegetables,—all these contributed to make them ready for the trencher.

At every course of a great banquet the cook sent up a “subtlety”—which was296 a composition in pastry, the last survival of which was the ornamental castle in sponge cake which used to occupy the middle of the table at a dinner party. These “subtleties” were sometimes elaborate and artistic groups with figures of animals—such as a boar, hart, or sheep. In John Russell’s Boke of Nurture are presented several “subteltis.” Thus at his “Dinner of Flesche” for the first course—

“And then a Sotelte.
Maydon Mary that holy Virgyne;
And Gabrille gretynge her with an Ave.”

For the second course—

“A sotelte folowynge in fere,
The course for to fullfylle
An angell goodly can appere,
And syngynge with a mery chere
Unto iij shepherdes uppon an hille.”

And for the third course—

“Soteltes fulle soleym:
That Lady that conseuyd by the Holy Ghost
Hym that destroyed the fendes boost
Presented pleasantly by the Kinges of Coleyn.”8

Chaucer alludes to the extravagances of “soteltes” in the Parson’s Tale:—“Pryde of the table apereth eeke ful ofte: for certes, riche men bene cleped in feestes and poure folk ben putte away and rebuked. Also in excesse of dyverse metes and drynkes: and namely suche manere bake metes and dish metes: brennenge of wilde fyr and peynted and castellated with papir and scurblable wast: so that it is abusive for to thinke.”

From MS. in British Museum. Royal E4.

The people of mediæval times loved everything to be sweet, as is shown above in their pouring a sweet sauce over their birds, and honey over their meat; they also sweetened their wine. Each course, which consisted of three or more dishes for an ordinary dinner, was a dinner in itself, containing fish, flesh, fowl, and sweets. For instance, at a certain dinner there were two courses only, but of eight or nine dishes to each course; thus we have in the first course, lamprey, codling, shoulder of mutton, chicken, wild goose, wood dove, worts (vegetable) and “tortous” in paste. In the second we have eels, sea horse, lamb, mallard, quail, goldfinch, and “pynnondde”; but there was an interval between each course. As we shall see immediately, table manners were carefully taught and insisted upon. One curious regulation was that cooks were forbidden to go out of the City in order to meet victuals coming in, so that they might get them more cheaply than in the open market. The Mayor also took account of the deceitful ways of certain pastelers or piebakers, who dared to put giblets and rabbits into their pies, and to sell beef pies for venison pies. And the sale of meat that was putrid was punished by pillory, while the meat itself was burned under the offender’s nose. The great297 City merchant fed as well as the King, and sometimes entertained the King quite royally. The humbler man, the well-to-do burgher, and even the craftsman, there is every reason to believe, fared well and plentifully: they lived on beef and mutton, meat pies, pork, capons, wild birds, and sea fish. The wild birds were brought up in great quantities from the counties of Essex and Suffolk; there was a plentiful supply of fish; from all the country round along every track that they called a highway, down the rivers—the Thames, the Brent, the Wandle, the Fleet, the Lea, the Ravensbourne, came boats and barges laden with farm produce. The City was well supplied; and there was seldom any dearth. As for the food of the middle classes—the better sort—was not the Company at the Tabard chiefly composed of the middle class? Among them was the Cook. What did he cook for them?

“A cook they hadde with them for the nones,
To boil the chicken and the marrow bones,
And poudre marchant tart, and galingale
Well could he know a draught of London ale.
He could roast and seethe and broil and fry,
Maken mortrewes and well bake a pie.

For blank manger that made he with the best.”

“‘Blank manger’ is a compound of capon minced, with rice, milk, sugar and almonds. ‘Poudre marchant tart’ is a sharp kind of flavouring powder stewed with meat. Galingale is the root of the sweet cyprus, now no longer used. It is said to have an aromatic smell and a hot, biting taste.

Of ‘mortrewes’ there were two kinds, ‘mortrewes de char’ and ‘mortrewes of fysshe.’ The first was a kind of soup in which chicken, fresh pork, bread crumbs, yolks of eggs, and saffron formed the chief ingredients. The second kind was a soup containing the roe (or milt) and liver of fish, bread, pepper, and ale. The ingredients were first brazed in a mortar, whence their name.” (Skeat, Notes to Canterbury Tales.)

For a mixed company which contained—all together—craftsmen, retailers, merchants, sailors, ecclesiastics, squires, and knights, the kind of food here indicated is generous, at least.

If, however, we study the list of creatures killed for one of the huge feasts in which the people took delight we arrive at a clearer understanding of the kind of food that could be bought by those who could afford it. Of animals we find wild bulls (!), oxen, sheep, calves, swine, kids, stags, bucks, and does. Of birds there are plover, quail, “rees” (query, ruffs and reeves?), peacock, mallard, swan, teal, crane, chicken, pigeon, bittern, heron, pheasant, partridge, woodcock, curlew, egrette. Of fish, pike, bream, porpoise, seal. Jellies, tarts, custards, and sugared spices sweetened the magnificent feast. In the account of another meal which took place on a fast day, we find the following:—Of fish: ling, cod, salmon, fresh and298 salted, white herring, red herring, sturgeon, eel, salt and fresh, whelk, pike, tench, carp, bream, lamprey, fresh and salt, conger, roach, seal, and porpoise. And in other menus we find entries of magpie, rook, jackdaw, thrush, starling, linnet, sparrow, heathcock, cormorant, sheldrake, wildfowl, lark. The crane plays a considerable part in mediæval feasting. On one occasion when ambassadors arrived from France, the City gave them, among other things, twelve cranes and twelve pheasants. At the enthronisation feast of the Archbishop of York (6 Ed. IV.) there were provided 204 cranes, 204 bitterns, and 400 heron-shaws. At a feast of Richard II. we find the following as the second course:—

Cranes lived in damp and marshy places, as did also egrettes, a kind of heron; the country was covered with such places; so that they were doubtless common. Since 204 cranes could have been trapped or caught or shot with bow or with sling, for a single feast, they must have been quite common.

In a word, the people trapped, killed, and devoured all birds great and small. Hares and rabbits, of course, were served at table; and perhaps, no less daintily, the squirrel and hedgehog.

Of vegetables and herbs there was a considerable variety, such as garlic, sage, parsley, ditany, wild thyme, onions, leeks, beans, peas, etc. The table, generally laid on trestles, was spread with a white cloth, the cleanliness of which was a matter of pride. The dinner scenes presented in MSS. of the time show a service of a very simple character. The Royal or noble party are seated upon what appears to be a bench without a back. Minstrels made music during the feast, especially between the courses; jugglers, acrobats, or dancers performed after dinner. The principal ornament of the table was the nef, a silver vessel in the form of a ship which stood before the King or lord, and contained the salt and the King’s towel. The meat, carved by a carver at a side table, was laid upon thick slices of bread which received the gravy. Each guest brought his own knife. Before and after dinner every one washed their hands. The ale and wine went round in horns and drinking cups. Every guest had his napkin, the conduct of which is carefully laid down in the Babees Book. The floor was spread with rushes, which were by no means too clean or fresh. The old custom of laying straw in coaches and omnibuses may remind us of such a carpet. When the guest had done with the bones, he threw them on the floor for the dogs, if they chose; he did the same with the uneaten scraps. As for forks there were none. Edward I., it is recorded, possessed one. Gaveston luxuriously ate pears with the help of a fork299— he had four. The Duke of Burgundy at the same time had one. During dinner the minstrels played in the gallery. It has been stated that bread was used for plates. The word “trencher” is derived from this custom. It was not the best bread that was so used, but a second quality baked for the purpose. The loaf was first pared to get rid of the crusts, and then cut into “tranchoirs” or “trenchers,” i.e. into thick slices. The parings went into the alms dish. Thus (Boke of Curtasye, edited by F. J. Furnivall) the Almoner said grace—

“The aumener by this hathe sayde grace,
And the almes dysshe hathe sett in place,
Therein the carver a lofe schalle sette,
To serve God fyrst withouten lette:
These othere lofes he parys aboute,
Lays hit myd dysshe, withouten doute.”

They were dainty in the matter of bread. The commoner kinds were known as “tourte,” “his,” or “trete” and white. The finer kinds were “simnel,” “painman,” or “payn de main,” i.e. panis domini, from the figure of our Lord stamped upon it; and manchet. The finer kinds were not allowed to be made in Lent. The kinds called “pouffe” and “Fraunceise” seem to have been the same as the “simnel” and the manchet. The bread of the working classes was of oats, of rye, of beans and bran, or of beans and acorns.

Among river fish and fish of ponds or stews, carp was extremely scarce. Dame Juliana Berners, in her Book of St. Alban’s, says, “And of the carp that it is a deyntous fyssche, but there ben but fewe in Englande.” It is said to have been naturalised by one Leonard Mascal in Sussex about the year 1514.

“Hops and turkeys, carp and beer,
Came into England all in a year.”

This is not true so far as the hop is concerned, for it seems to have been introduced by Edward I. Wine was made in England down to the fifteenth century. The Vale of Gloucester produced the finest wine, which was said to be in no way inferior to the wine of Gascony. Richard II. planted vines at Windsor, and made a large quantity of wine, some of which was sold, and the rest used by the Court. The reason why this industry fell into disuse was the discovery that wine could be imported from Bordeaux cheaper and better than it could be made at home.

London has always been well supplied with taverns and drinking-places; its people have never taken kindly to ways of temperance. We must, however, distinguish between an inn and a tavern. At first the inn—hostel, hostelry—was a lodging-house only; it received the traveller and gave him a room, but not much else; and, as we have seen, after one day and night the hosteller must become responsible for his guest unless he could get special license from the authorities. The visitor was not allowed to carry a sword or any weapon, or to wear armour in300 the City boundaries; and he must not go about the streets after curfew; also he must buy his food, bread and beer, and meat and wine, from the dealer, and not from the hosteller.

When the inn became a house that supplied food and drink to the guest I know not, yet in Stow’s time it would seem that it did so. The point to remember, however, is that the inn was not a tavern or an eating-house.

Of taverns Stow mentions some, as the “Pope’s Head” and the “Cardinal’s Hat” in Cornhill Ward; certain “tippling” houses in Mountgodard Street, and others. The ale-house and the tavern which proclaimed their trade by the “ale-stake” had often the extra adornment of a garland or hoop. The garland was decorated with ribbons, and was attached to the “ale-stake” with the “bush” of ivy leaves, which dangled from the pole before every tavern. We have seen what is said in Liber Albus as to the regulation length of the pole. The signs of the taverns were not at first different from other trade signs; there were the Swan, the Bull, the Dog, the Boar’s Head, and so forth. But this practice of hanging out a garland in addition to the old sign caused the names of tavern signs to undergo change: thus, the Swan became the Swan on the Hoop; the Star became the Star on the Hoop. Riley enumerates many of these signs: thus Hugh atte Cocke, Thomas atte Red Door, Walter atte Gote, John atte Belle, the Catfethele (Cat and Fiddle), the Lion atte Dore, Le Sonner, Le Mone, and others.

For drink, the common and national drink was ale, of which the people consumed immense quantities. It seems to have been served out to any member of the household in any reasonable quantity whenever he asked for it. Of course there were no hot drinks such as tea and coffee, although herbs were often infused with hot water for medicine. The principal wines were red wine from Bordeaux, white wine from Bordeaux, also from the Rhine, strong wine from Spain, Portugal, Tuscany, Sicily, Cyprus, Gaza. There were also cider, perry, mead, and strong ale—anything but water, and many drinks were compounded. Thus the people made “Claré,” “Bragot,” “Hippocras,” the receipts for which are given in Skeat’s Chaucer.9 Thus to make claré, “Take a galoun of honi, and skome (skim) it wel, and loke whanne it is isoden (boiled), that ther be a galoun; thanne take viii galouns of red wyn, than take a pound of pouder canel (cinnamon) and half a pounde of pouder gynger and a quarter of a pounde of pouder pepper, and medle (mix) alle these thynges togeder and (with) the wyn; and do hym in a clene barelle, and stoppe it fast, and rolle it well ofte sithes, as men don verious 3 dayes.”

In the fifteenth century home-brewed beer cost 1½d. a gallon. Since beer is now 16d. a gallon, the inference would be that money then could buy thirteen times as much as at present. But this inference, as I shall show presently, would not be sound. Wine cost 8d. or 12d. a gallon. Good wine can hardly be had now under301 15s. a gallon or 30s. a dozen. It would not, however, be fair to conclude that money then would buy twenty times as much as it does now.

From Strutt’s Manners and Customs.

In considering the food of the people we must be reminded that a large part of every year consisted of those days on which neither meat, eggs, butter, nor milk could be eaten, and only one meal a day was to be taken; and of those days on which meat was forbidden. There were one hundred and ten days in the year, nearly one in three, on which a strict churchman would not eat meat, and of these there were more than sixty days on which he was allowed only one meal a day, and that without meat, butter, eggs, or milk. It is not to be supposed that the great mass of the people obeyed so rigid a rule: the work of the world, at least in the case of everything that demands activity of brain or strength of arm, would come to an end.302 Such a rule is only for a company of monks; but it is very certain that Lent and Fridays were observed with the greatest strictness so far as concerned abstinence from meat. No butchers’ stalls were opened; no cooks’ shops served meat to their customers. Dispensations and indulgences were granted, but the broad fact remains that in Lent and on Fridays no meat could be bought or sold, and none was used. Fish was thus a very important constituent in the food-supply; and the price of fish, which the Companies for the most part regulated by themselves for their own profit, was continually the subject of complaint and even of riots. Leprosy, it was commonly held, was caused by eating salted fish after it had become putrid or tainted.

The following sorts of fish were salted: cod, salmon, conger, ling, brake, sturgeon, herring, pilchard, sprats, and eels; while perch, tench, bream, grayling, eels, and trout were caught for food. Carp and pike were considered delicacies. The great houses had fish-ponds or stews. Sea fish were baked in pies to enable them to be carried inland. (See also London in the Time of the Tudors, pp. 127, 152.)

There were many markets for food in London. The names of most of them have been preserved by the name of the street. Of the instances in the case of the streets running out of Chepe we have already spoken. Certain commodities are still associated with certain localities; fish has always been sold at Billingsgate, cattle and horses at Smithfield, and butchers’ meat in Newgate Street. The great market on the south side of Chepe was given up to mercers, tailors, drapers, armourers, saddlers—all trades unconnected with food.

The food of the country people, according to Piers Plowman, consisted almost entirely of vegetable produce. “I have no money,” says Piers, “to buy pullets, geese, or pigs.” He had two green cheeses, a few curds and cream, an oat-cake and two loaves of beans and bran for the children. He says that he has no salt bacon, but he has parsley, leeks, and cabbages. The peasants ate, besides, peascods, beans, leeks, onions, chervils, and such fruit as grew wild; but they had no meat, or fish, wheaten or barley bread, no wine or beer.

This was in the country, where life was truly grievous. In the town, according to the same authority, there was a very different scene. Here, among the crowd of craftsmen of all kinds, cooks and their valets cried out all day, “Hot pies, hot! Good pigs and geese! Come and dine! come and dine!” While the taverner bawled, “White wine of Alsace! Red wine of Gascony! Wine of the Rhine! Wine of Rochelle!”

And he paints a tavern scene at which Clement the cobbler sells his cloak, and Hick the hackney man his hood, and they spend the money in drink. 303

“Cis the shoemaker sat on the bench, Wat the warrener and his wife also, Tim the tinker and two of his prentices, Hick the hackney man, and Hugh the needle-seller, Clarice of Cock Lane, and the clerk of the church, Daw the ditcher, and a dozen others, Sir Piers of Pridie and Pernel of Flanders, a fiddle-player, a ratter, a sweeper of Cheap, a rope-maker, a riding-man, and Rose the dish-maker, Godfrey of Garlickhithe, and Griffin the Welshman, and many old-clothesmen.”

In 1412 Henry instructed the Mayor to obtain a return of the land and tenements held in the City and suburbs for purposes of taxation. The return professed to be incomplete, but the details (see Sharpe’s London and the Kingdom) are instructive. The gross rental of London was set down at £4120; that of the Mayor and Corporation at £150: 9: 11. The Bridge Estate was worth £148: 15: 3. Private property in the City showed that Robert Chichele, the Mayor, owned houses returning £42: 19: 2, and Whittington owned houses returning £25. Of course this rental in no way represents the whole property of either. Attempts have been made to use old rentals in order to ascertain the comparative value of money. It is, however, an absolute impossibility to estimate in this, or in any other way, the true value of money at any date. It is almost waste of time to attempt any comparison with the present day unless we know—which we can never learn—the standards of comfort and the way of life in every rank and every class. For instance, as we have seen, a noble lord, who owned hundreds of manors, kept up a great state with a huge following who lived upon him. He neither saved money nor tried to save money; his estates produced an income regular and large; he spent all; what was over was given in charity or to the Church; he emptied his coffers as fast as they were replenished. The merchant, who lived in luxury, had to save because his way of life was precarious. The retailer for the same reason—the uncertainty of trade—was compelled, by the ordinary rules of prudence, to live within his income. The craftsman, on the other hand, was like the noble lord in one respect—that he never saw or felt the necessity of saving money; he was always, as he is still, removed from starvation by one week’s wages. The position, the wages of the craftsman can only, therefore, be understood if we know how he was accustomed to live and how he wished to live, the amount of meat, bread, and beer he consumed.

Then, again, the prices which are quoted are always those of regulation. When provisions began to be dear the Mayor and Aldermen made laws as to the market price. They returned again and again to this method. When, as sometimes happened, the high prices were caused by the greed of traders, or by any kind of combination, this method answered very well. For instance, there were continual complaints of the fishmongers’ exorbitant charges,—perhaps they were not really exorbitant,—but at any rate regulations were passed, accordingly, ordering the price of fish. These regulations answered roughly for a little while, and were then forgotten and disregarded. What was the use of ordering the fishmonger to sell his “best” smelts at a penny the hundred, if the supply were limited and the demand excessive? The right of the Mayor and Aldermen to regulate the price at304 which anything was to be sold was never questioned; but, like many other mediæval rights, it could never be enforced for lack of a police. In the year 1300, for instance, without any apparent pressure of scarcity, the Mayor issued regulations as to the price of all provisions, but those for birds alone are preserved.

Again, it helps one very little or not at all in the estimate of money and its value, to know the market price of things, unless we know also whether the said commodities were at the time necessaries or luxuries, whether they were abundant or scarce. Thus a pheasant was to be sold at fourpence. Who bought pheasants? Were they scarce or plentiful? Again, the following table drawn up by Dugdale is often quoted to show the purchasing power of money in the year 1300:—

A quarter of Wheat 4s.
A quarter of Ground Malt 3s. 4d.
A quarter of Pease 2s. 4d.
A Bull 7s. 6d.
A Cow 6s.
A Fat Mutton 1s.
An Ewe Sheep 0s. 8d.
A Capon 0s. 2d.
A Cock or Hen 0s. 1½d.

We know that a quarter of wheat costs at the present moment so much, and we may, if we please, compare modern prices with mediæval prices of wheat, but that helps us little, because we all eat wheaten bread now, and formerly the common people did not. The value of money must depend, not on prices alone, but, as I have said, also on the standard of living, on wages, on hours of work, on the cost of things, on plenty and scarcity, on taxation, and on many other considerations.

Thus, in the year 1314, corn being scarce, and provisions dear, the King, with the consent of his Parliament, fixed the price of provisions. Comparing the King’s prices of 1314 with the Lord Mayor’s of 1300, it is plain that scarcity had raised the price considerably. “If any person,” says the Proclamation, “will not sell the saleable things for the price appointed as hereinbefore set forth, then the said saleable thing shall remain forfeited to us. And we will that the aforesaid ordinances from this time be firmly and inviolably observed in our said City.” So that the Parliament of the year 1314 actually believed that they could fix the prices of provisions so that they should remain fixed! That an attempt was made seriously to carry out this law is apparent from a Brief of two years after, in which the King says, referring to the unlucky law of 1314,305 “Because we have understood that such a Proclamation, which at that time we believed would be to the Profit of the People of our Realm, redounds to their greater damage than profit, we command you that in the said several places ye cause publicly to be proclaimed that Oxen, Cows, Sheep, Hogs, Geese, Capons, Hens, Chickens, Young Pigeons and Eggs, be sold for a reasonable price as was accustomed to be done before the said former Proclamation.”

The knowledge of what was commonly paid for rent is some help towards understanding the value of money, but not much. There must be left over and above the rent, for the tenant, enough for him and his family to live upon. We are also helped by the endowments of Chantries. A Chantry priest was expected to live upon an endowment varying generally from £5 to £7 a year. The priest was an able-bodied man, raised above the lowest class—to which he often belonged by birth—and he looked for a certain standard of comfort. He had to live, say, on six pounds a year, which is about 2s. 4d. a week, or 4d. a day. It may also be noted that a young woman of the better sort was supposed to cost 8d. a week for her board. Comparing this allowance with the prices ordered by the Mayor at any time within two hundred years, it will be found that a man could live very well on 4d. a day. This would go a long way when a whole sheep cost a shilling, and a quarter of wheat 4s. If we suppose that a craftsman lived at two-thirds the cost of a priest, and that he had a wife and four children, we obtain the following estimate:—

The craftsman per annum £4 0 0
His wife 2 0 0
His four children 4 0 0
£10 0 0

He would, therefore, want a wage of four shillings a week or 8d. a day. Now the wages given to the workmen at St. Stephen’s Chapel in 1358 are preserved in the Account Rolls of Edward III. Some of them, enough for our purpose, are extracted in Britton and Bayley’s History of Westminster Palace (p. 174). The wages varied. Eighteenpence a day was paid to Master Edmund Canon, stone-cutter, one shilling a day to Hugh the painter, 10d. a day to C. Pokerick, 8d. a day to W. Lincoln and W. Somervile, 6d. a day to W. Heston, 4½d., and even 4d., a day to J. York and W. Cambridge.

The craftsman, therefore, who had a family to keep was paid from 4d. to 8d. a day. His standard of living must have been considerably lower than that of the priest, who obtained the same allowance in money, but had no family to bring up.

In a word, if we assume, what we have no right to assume, that a clergyman of the present day has the same standard of living as the priest of the fourteenth century, and, when unmarried, lives in the same style, that is to say, without giving away money in charity, without buying books, without having a club, without travelling, living quite plainly, he could manage on about £80 a year compared with the priest’s £6 or £7, so that money in the fourteenth century was worth about twelve times what it would purchase at the present day. But that theory breaks down when we consider that a sheep could be bought for a shilling, and a cock or hen for 1½d.,306 because at the present day a sheep cannot be bought for twelve shillings, and a cock or hen for eighteenpence. So that it comes to what I said above, that it is perfectly impossible to ascertain the value of money in the fourteenth or any other century compared with this, unless we know a great quantity of things which we can never ascertain.

Into the subject of dress we cannot venture, if only for the reason that the fashions changed then as now, and nearly as often. Some attempt was made at sumptuary laws, but without effect, for the simple reason that every woman will always, in every age, despite any laws to the contrary, dress herself as well as her means allows, and that with men splendour of dress was then accepted as a proof of success and wealth. Their fashions were on the whole far more beautiful than those of modern days, and not more absurd.



As regards the sports and pastimes of the City, there is cockfighting on Shrove Tuesday, with hockey. Every Friday in Lent there are tournaments with “disarmed” lances; when Easter has made the river a little less inclement there will be water sports, tilting in boats, etc.; in the summer the young men leap, dance, shoot, wrestle, cast the stone, practise their shields, play at quarter-staff, single-stick, football and bucklers; the maidens play their timbrels and dance as long as they can see. In spring boars, bulls, badgers, and even horses are baited; when the water is frozen over the young men slide and skate on bones, particularly on the marshy ground at Moorfields and behind Bankside; many of the citizens keep hawks and hounds, “for they have liberty of hunting in Middlesex, Hertfordshire, all Chiltern, and in Kent to the water of Cray.” Fitz Stephen’s description of London in the reign of Henry II. tells us this and much else; it is repeated by Stow, who says that with the exception of the tilting on horseback these sports were continued to his day. He then enumerates the sports and pastimes belonging to every successive season of the year:—

“First in the feast of Christmas, there was in the King’s house, wheresoever he was lodged, a lord of misrule or master of merry disports, and the like had ye in the house of every nobleman of honour or good worship, were he spiritual or temporal. Amongst the which the Mayor of London, and either of the sheriffs, had their several lords of misrule, ever contending, without quarrel or offence, who should make the rarest pastimes to delight the beholders. These lords beginning their rule on Allhallon Eve, continued the same till the morrow after the Feast of the Purification, commonly called Candlemas Day. In all which space there was fine and subtle disguisings, masks, and mummeries, with playing at cards for counters nails, and points, in every house, more for pastime than for gain.

Against the feast of Christmas every man’s house, as also the parish churches, were decked with holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green. The conduits and standards in the streets were likewise garnished; amongst the which I read, in the year 1444, that by tempest of thunder and lightning, on the first of February at night, Paule’s Steeple was fired, but with great labour quenched; and towards the morning of Candlemas Day at the Leadenhall in Cornhill, a standard of tree was being set up in the midst of the pavement, fast in the ground, nailed full of holm and ivy, for disport of Christmas to the people, was torn up and cast down by the malignant spirit (as was thought) and the308 stones of the pavement all about were cast in the streets, and into divers houses, so that the people were sore aghast of the great tempests.

In the week before Easter had ye great shows made for the fetching in of a twisted tree, or with, as they termed it, out of the woods into the King’s house; and the like into every man’s house of honour or worship.

In the month of May, namely, on May-day in the morning, every man, except impediment, would walk into the sweet meadows and green woods, there to rejoice their spirits with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers, and with the harmony of birds, praising God in their kind; and for example hereof Edward Hall hath noted, that King Henry VIII., as in the 3rd of his reign and divers other years, so namely in the 7th of his reign, on May-day in the morning, with Queen Katherine his wife, accompanied by many lords and ladies, rode a-maying from Greenwich to the high ground of Shooter’s Hill, where, as they passed by the way, they espied a company of tall yeomen, clothed all in green, with green hoods, and bows and arrows, to the number of two hundred; one being their chieftain, was called Robin Hood, who required the King and his company to stay and see his men shoot; whereunto the King granting, Robin Hood whistled, and all the two hundred archers shot off, loosing all at once; and when he whistled again they likewise shot again; their arrows whistled by craft of the head, so that the noise was strange and loud, which greatly delighted the King, Queen, and their company. Moreover, this Robin Hood desired the King and Queen, with their retinue, to enter the greenwood, where, in harbours made of boughs and decked with flowers, they were set and served plentifully with venison and wine by Robin Hood and his men, to their great contentment, and had other pageants and pastimes, as ye may read in my said author.

I find also, that in the month of May, the citizens of London of all estates, lightly in every parish, or sometimes two or three parishes joining together, had their several mayings, and did fetch in maypoles, with divers warlike shows, with good archers, morris dancers, and other devices, for pastime all the day long; and toward the evening they had stage plays and bonfires in the streets.” (Stow’s Survey.)

Stow mentions the Lord of Misrule, but he hardly assigns sufficient importance to this functionary. The great event of the Christmas holidays were the masques, mummings, and frolics prepared and played by the Lord of Misrule, or the Master of the Revels, not only at Court, but in every great house in the country. During his tenure of office the Lord of Misrule was treated with all the deference and state that belonged to the King. He had his Lord Keeper, Treasurer, and body-guard; his chaplains preached before him, bowing low as they entered the pulpit; his Master of Requests received petitions for him; he conferred knighthood; had his favourites, and was permitted to spend his money freely. At every one of the Inns of Court they had at Christmas a Lord of Misrule.

The Lord of Misrule in the year 1551 was one George Ferrers, who gave great satisfaction not only to the King, but also to the City. For that year his style was “Master of the King’s Pastimes.” Stow says:—

“Mr. Ferrers being lord of the merrie disportes all the twelve days, so pleasantly and wisely behaved himself, that the King had great delight in his pastimes. On Monday the 4th of January, he came by water to London, and landed at the Tower wharf, entered the Tower, and then rode through Tower street, where he was received by Serjeant Vawce, Lord of Misrule to John Mainard, one of the Sheriffs of London, and so was conducted through the City, with a great company of young lords and gentlemen, to the house309 of Sir Geo. Barne, Lord Mayor, where he with the chief of his company dined, and afterwards had a great banket, and at his departure the Lord Mayor gave him a standing cup with a cover of silver gilt, of the value of ten pounds, for a reward; he also set a hogshead of wine and a barrell of beer at his gate for his train that followed him; the rest of his gentlemen and servants dined at other Aldermen’s houses and with the Sheriffs, and so departed to the Tower wharfe again, and to the Court by water, to the great commendation of the Mayor and Aldermen, and highly accepted of the King and Counsaille.” (Archæeologia, vol. xviii.)

Some of the bills and charges for the masques and plays presented by Ferrers remain to show the kind of entertainment provided. There were, for instance, four challengers and twenty horses properly apparelled. The Lord of Misrule was attended by his heir, his other sons, his base sons, counsellors, pages of honour, gentlemen ushers, serjeants-at-arms, a provost marshal, heralds, trumpeters, and an orator, a jailer, a footman, jugglers, Irishmen, and fools. The masque was the Triumph of Mars and Venus; there were jousts and tournaments; there were mock courts of justice, with a pillory, stocks, and sham executions. The whole show was magnificently mounted, as appears from the following bill for dressing the Lord of Misrule himself:—

“For Christmas day and that week, the Lord of Misrule himself had a robe of white bawdekyn, containing nine yards at 16s. a yard, garded with a great embroidered gard of cloth of gold, wrought in knots, fourteen yards, at 13s. 4d. a yard, having a fur of red feathers, with a cape of chamblet thrum. A coat of flat silver fine with works, five yards at 50 shillings, with an embroidered gard of leaves of gold and silk coloured, containing fifteen yards at 20 shillings. A cap of maintenance of red feathers and chamblett thrum, very rich, with a plume of feathers. A pair of hosen, the breeches made of a garde of cloth of gold imbroidered in paynes, nine yards of gardind at 13s. 4d. lined with silver sarsnet, one ell at 8 shillings. A pair of buskins of white bawdekyn, one yard, at 16 shillings. A pair of pantacles of brydges [? Bruges] sattin, 3s. 4d. A girdle of yellow sarsnet, 16d. The cost £51: 17: 4.” (Archæeologia, vol. xviii.)

But there are other details not yet mentioned. The year’s sports very properly began with the New Year’s gifts.

“These giftes the husband gives his wife and father eke the child,
And master on his men bestows the like with favour mild;
And good beginning of the year they wish and wish again,
According to the ancient guise of heathen people vain.
Then eight days no man doth require his debts of any man,
Their tables do they furnish forth with all the meat they can.”

On the day before Ascension there was the annual beating of the bounds, a custom still observed, but without the old ceremony of beating each other for the better preservation of the memory of the ancient boundaries. At Whitsuntide there was feasting with Whitsun ale. Stow has told us how May-day was kept. But he writes as an old man, coldly; the full meaning of May-day he has forgotten. Remember what it meant for the young Londoner. It fell on what is now the 12th of May, a time when, except at very rare springs, the biting east wind is over, and spring has really begun. The leaves and blossoms are out at last,310 after struggling against the cold winds since the middle of March; the days have lengthened; it is now light till nine o’clock, and twilight all the night through. There is no more huddling around the fire, perhaps without candles, going off to bed as soon as is possible, rising before the break of day, sitting all day long in a workshop darkened by the lowering of the shutters as well as by the dreary grey skies of winter, working with frozen fingers, living on salt meat for six months except for the fast days and the forty days of Lent, when for a change there was salted fish. Spring had come at last, and in this northern clime the City, like the gardens and the fields, sprang into new life and returned to the joy of living.

Then all went out into the fields on May-day Eve. They passed over the marshy and muddy plain of Moorfields till they came to the little village of Iseldon or Iselden, where the great forest began. There grew the whitethorn and the blackthorn, the broom and the gorse blossomed, there the wild crab was covered with a garment of pink and white, and the wild rose was all glorious to behold; the people came home bearing boughs of those sweet blossoms, singing and dancing as they went; with them marched the lusty fellow with pipe and tabor, with them ran barking and fighting, for pure joy, all the dogs of the parish. Then they set up their Maypole adorned with ribbons and garlands, and they danced around it, singing, hand in hand, right hand with left hand, and left hand with right, covered with chaplets of wild rose and wild apple blossom. As at Christmas they celebrated the close of the old year and the beginning of the new, so now they celebrated the end of the winter and the birth of the spring. They had Tom Fools, mummers, hobby horses, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Little John; they had bonfires; and they had feasting and drinking. ’Twas the most joyous festival of all the year.

On the feast of St. Bartholomew were held athletic sports with races, archery, and wrestling. At Holyrood they went nutting in the woods; at Martinmas they feasted—I know not why. Then in the long summer days they celebrated the eves of festivals and the festivals themselves by a kind of open-house hospitality. Then burned bonfires in the streets—this was partly with a view to keep off infection; and certainly in their narrow streets it was necessary to renew the air as much as possible. Then the wealthier sort spread tables before their doors and furnished them on the vigils with bread and drink, and on the festival days with meat and drink, to which they would invite all passers-by, “praising God for His benefits bestowed upon them.” There were feasts of reconciliation and amity for those who had quarrelled. The feast of reconciliation was a ceremony observed down to the last century.

A kind of Flower Feast was held on the vigil of St. John the Baptist, and on the days of St. Peter and St. Paul the Apostles. Then every man’s door was311 decorated with “green birch, long fennel, St. John’s wort, orpin, white leten, and such like.” Garlands of flowers were hung up among the leaves, with small lamps of glass containing enough oil to last all through the night; there were branches of wrought iron hung out over the street thus decorated, and some houses had hundreds of lamps hung up all over them. Picture to yourself a street in Old London, narrow, with lofty gabled houses projecting in each storey, so that at the top one might almost shake hands across. Even in the soft and limpid twilight of a June evening it is generally almost dark in the streets thus deprived of the sky; but to-night it is lighter than at noontide. There are rows on rows, one row above the others of bright lamps, red and blue and green, gleaming among green branches and white flowers; there are people dancing and pledging each other, there is music—nay, not pipe and tabor only, but harp and rebeck, flute and silver bells, drum and syrinx. And of course the lads and maidens are dancing with all the spirit they possess.

From fourteenth-century MS. Bibliothèque Nat. de Paris.

Dancing was a passion with everybody. From the Queen to the milkmaid all the women danced; from the King to the craftsman all the young men danced. They danced in the streets whenever it was possible, which was one of the reasons why May-day was so joyous a festival. The more courtly people had dances dignified and stately, such as the Danse au Virlet, in which each performer sang a verse, and then they all danced round singing the same verse in chorus; the Pas de Brabant, where every man knelt to his partner; the Danse au chapelet, where every man kissed his partner; they danced together singing minstrels312’ songs; they danced in the garden, they danced in the meadow, they went out at night to dance with tapers in their hands; they danced to beautiful music played by an orchestra. But for the humbler folk the street was the ball-room, and the pipe and tabor the music; while the dance was the simple Hey, or a round with capers of surprising agility, or the interlacing of hands and the dancing round a maypole.

The wrestling match filled much the same place in the civic mind as the football match of the present day. It was not a sport so much as a battle, and occasionally, as in the case of London v. Westminster, it caused serious riots and disturbances. The usual prize at a wrestling match was a ram, or a ram and a ring. Sometimes there were more valuable prizes, as in the old poem, “A mery Geste of Robin Hood,” quoted by Strutt,10 in which a white bull, a courser with saddle and bridle, a pair of gloves, a gold ring, and a pipe of wine, were prizes. In Chaucer’s Prologue we read, “At wrastling he wolde have alwey the ram.” And Matthew Paris mentions a wrestling match at Westminster, A.D. 1222, at which a ram was the prize.

Then there was the valuable right of hunting in the forest of Middlesex. The country was nearly covered with a vast forest, opened up here and there by the clearings of charcoal-burners, woodcutters, and licensed huntsmen. The forest of Middlesex extended on the east side far into Essex. It was filled with fallow deer, red deer, wild swine, and wild boar. Of vermin there were wolves still, wild cats, foxes, badgers, and the smaller creatures. The rabbit warren or the coney garth was found on every estate, partly for food and partly for the fur. Two thousand rabbits were supplied in one year for the table of a rich Norfolk squire. Hares and pheasants were bred in the coney garth. The crane, the bittern, the great bustard, together with wild ducks and smaller birds innumerable, were also found—by the marshes along the river side or in the forests. It is noted that in London even the craftsmen feasted freely on hares and rabbits.

Music was even a more favourite form of recreation than dancing. To learn the use of some instrument was part of every gentleman’s education. The details of the education of the lower class are scanty, but there is a treasury of manners and customs in Chaucer, from which it is certain that all classes learned and practised music of some kind. For instance. Of the Squire, he is said to have been singing or fluting all the day.

Of the Nun the poet says—

“Ful wel sche sange the service devyne
Entuned in hire nose ful semely.”


From the Ellesmere MS.


Of the Mendicant Friar—

“And certainly he had a merry note
Wel couthe he synge and playe on a rote
Somwhat he lipsede for his wantonnesse,
To make his Englische swete upon his Tunge.
And in his harping when that he had sunge
His eyghen twynkeled in his hed aright,
As du the sterris in the frosty night.”

Of the Miller—

“A baggepipe well could he blowe and sowne.”

Of the Pardoner—

“Ful loude he sang ‘Come hider love to me.’”

Of the Scholar—

“And al above ther lay a gay sautrye (psaltery)
On which he made a-nightes melody
So swetely that all the chamber rang,
And Angelus et Virginem he sang.”

Of the Carpenter’s wife—

“But of her song it was so loude and yerne (brisk)
As eny swalwe chitering on a berne.”

And so on,—they could all sing and play. It was a disgrace for any not to play some kind of instrument.

A bas-relief on a capital in a Norman church of the eleventh century represents a concert in which the performers are playing on different instruments. There was the violin, the violoncello, the guitar, the harp, the syrinx or Pandora pipes, a zither, great bells and little bells, and an unintelligible instrument. The list does not include the flute, pipe, or whistle of various kinds, the bagpipe, the lute, the trumpet, the horn, the water organ, the wind organ, the cymbals, the drum, the psaltery, the three-stringed organistrum, the hurdy-gurdy, the pipe and tabor, the rebeck, and others. Of course many of them are but varieties. The instruments dear to the common people were the fiddle and the pipe and tabor, at the music of which the bear capered, the bull was baited, the prentices and maidens danced, and the tumblers performed; at the tap of the tabor, and the call of the pipe, everybody turned out to see what was going on. In every tavern there was music of a more pretentious kind; there sat the harper, there the mandoline was touched by those who sat in the place to drink; then to flute and viol the dancing girl gave her performance; then the story-teller sang his long tale to the sound of the lute in a low monotone, while the music rambled up and down, in the same way as a Welsh singer sings while the air itself rolls round and round about his words. In every church there was the organ, sometimes only a hand organ; sometimes a great and glorious organ, the thunders of which awed the trembling soul while its soft notes uplifted and cheered the worshipper. There was long opposition to the introduction of the organ; and it was not until the thirteenth century that the voice of opposition was hushed315 altogether; once the organ found admission the difficulty was to make it splendid enough. Winchester boasted as early as the year 951 an organ divided into parts, each with its own bellows, its own keyboard, and its own organist. At Milan Cathedral the organ pipes were made of silver; at Venice they were made of gold. The best organs of western Europe were made after the model of an organ presented by Constantine Copronymus to King Pepin.

From Willemin, Monuments inédits, etc.

Another form of recreation in the City life was the garden. The poetry of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is full of the garden. In Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale Emelie goes into the garden to make a chaplet:—

“And in the garden at the sonne uppriste
Sche walketh up and doun, and as hir liste,
Sche gadereth floures, party white and redde,
To make a sotil gerland for here hedde,
And as an angel hevenly sche song.”

Every house of importance in London had its garden. Of these gardens some traces yet remain. The Drapers’ Garden until recently covered a large area, and316 there is still a little left; other Companies retain some portion of their old gardens; apart from the churchyards, now converted into gardens, there are still even in some crowded parts of the City one or two private gardens left. The garden afforded a safe and pleasant place of recreation for the ladies of the house. It seems as if, with the noise, the dirt, the crowds, the violence, there was no place for ladies in the streets of Mediæval London; they were escorted to and from church, and for the rest of the day there was the house or the garden “ful of leves and of floures.”

“And craft of mannes hand so curiously
Arrayed had the gardeyn of such pris,
As if it were the verray paradise.”

Here the ladies kept their singing birds, of which they were extremely fond.

From MS. in British Museum. Harl. 1892.

Then, for recreation in the daily life, we have the morning mass, the several services of the Church, the work of the shop for the craftsman, the house for his wife; in summer evenings ramblings in the fields, rowing on the river, dancing in the streets, athletics of all kinds, for the young; for the men the tavern with its songs and drink; for the women, talk in the street at the house doors in the summer; in the evening, work and music and singing and talk before the fire. In addition to the festivals and the rejoicings on stated days there was the procession of the watch, the miracle play within the church or without, the Royal pageants and the City ridings. The procession of the watches has been given in London in the Time of the Tudors, p. 362.317

From the Ellesmere MS.


What part, if any, had cards in the houses of Mediæval London? The origin of card-playing need not concern us here. Probably the theory that cards first appeared at Viterbo, whither they were brought from the East, is true; that they spread over Italy, Germany, France, and Spain is quite certain. In the year 1393 occurs the well-known and often-quoted passage in the account of the Treasurer of France, Charles Poupart. “Givin to Grinfonneur, painter, for three packs of cards, gilt and coloured, and variously ornamented, for the amusement of the King, fifty-six livres.” From this passage it has been argued that cards were invented for the solace of the mad King Charles VI. But if they were a new invention the entry would not have been made with such simplicity, and, in fact, we now know that cards had before this date been brought into France. Whatever was known or practised in France speedily crossed over to England. Yet it is remarkable that Chaucer makes no mention of card-playing. In the year 1463 it was practised. This is proved by a clause in an Act of 1463, by which the importation of cards, among other wares of foreign manufacture, was forbidden. In one of the Paston Letters, dated Dec. 24, 1484, Margery Paston tells her husband that in a certain great lady’s house there were at Christmas “no disguisings, nor harpings, nor luting, nor singing, nor none loud disputes; but playing at the tables, chess and cards.” It may therefore be assumed that card-playing was known in London during the fifteenth century; that it was not an amusement or a form of gambling belonging to the common sort, but that it belonged to the wealthier class. This is what we should expect from the cost of the early cards with their gold and their hand-painted faces and backs. Of gambling with dice a great deal is said, and it would appear the lower classes as well as the upper classes were greatly addicted to dice and games of pure chance. Every tavern had its gaming table; the keeper advanced money to those who lost: there were then as now gamesters acharnés who gambled away all that they had and more. In the satirical drawings of the time they are represented as having stripped themselves of everything, including every shred of clothing. The lower classes of London have always been, and are still, incurably addicted to the pursuit of fortune, blind and incapable of favouritism. Laying on the odds and backing his fancy takes the place with the young Londoner of the old-fashioned dice.

For games we have the rhyme:—“The men and maids do merry make, at Stoolball and at Barley-break.” The games played by boys were “Hoop and hide,” “Hide and seek,” “Harry Racket,” “Fillip the toad,” “Hoos and Blind,” “Hoodwink Play,” “Loggats,” “Slide Sheriff or Shove groat.”

“To wrestle, play at stooleballe, or to runne;
To pitch the Barre, or to shoote off a gun;
To play at Luggats, nine holes, or Tenpinnes:
To try it out at Football by the shinnes.”

Fitz Stephen says that on Shrove Tuesday the boys brought cocks to school and made them fight—the Master received from every boy a “Cockpenny.” The custom was kept up in some parts of England, I believe in the town of Lancaster, until well into the eighteenth century.


With all these aids to rest and recreation it will be seen that London was a City full of joy and cheerfulness. But there was a great deal more than this. No City on the Continent, not even Antwerp, Bruges, or Paris, surpassed London in the splendour and magnificence of her Pageants and Ridings. They were the public processions and rejoicings at coronations whether of the King or his consort, those after great victories, those when the King rode in state through London, those in which foreign sovereigns were received, and the Ridings of the Mayor and Aldermen. Let us consider what was meant by such a Pageant in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, the period to which this chapter belongs. They were rare events, naturally—a coronation does not happen often in one generation,—so rare were they that the principal Pageants can all be enumerated in a few lines. Thus:—

A.D.1205Receptionof Otho, nephew to King John.
1216Louis the Dauphin.
1236Henry III.
1243Beatrice, Countess of Provence.
1274Queen Margaret.
1307Queen Isabella.
1328Queen Philippa.
1357King John of France.
1363King John of France, King David of Scotland, and the King of Cyprus.
1377King Richard II.
1382Queen Anne.
1392Reconciliation of King Richard II. and the City.
1396CoronationofQueen Isabella.
1399Henry IV.
1399Reception of Emmanuel, Emperor of Constantinople.
1413CoronationofHenry V.
1415Return of Henry V. after Agincourt.
1416Reception of the Emperor Sigismund.
1421Return of Henry V. and Queen Katherine.
1422Receptionofinfant King Henry VI.
1432Henry VI.
1445Margaret of Anjou.
1461CoronationofEdward IV.
1465Queen Elizabeth Grey.
1483Reception of Edward V.
1483Coronation of Richard III.

Thus in 278 years there were twenty-seven Pageants and Receptions, an average of one in every ten years. It is certain that at every coronation there was some kind of pageant or procession, but there seems no record of those of Kings Edward II. and III. The first of which a detailed account has come down to us is the reception of Henry III. on his marriage in 1286. It is by Matthew Paris:—320

“There were assembled at the King’s nuptial festivities such a host of nobles of both sexes, such numbers of religious men, such crowds of the populace, and such a variety of actors, that London, with its capacious bosom, could scarcely contain them. The whole City was ornamented with flags and banners, chaplets and hangings, candles and lamps, and with wonderful devices and extraordinary representations, and all the roads were cleansed from mud and dirt, sticks and everything offensive. The citizens, too, went out to meet the King and Queen dressed in their ornaments, and vied with each other trying the speed of their horses. On the same day when they left the City for Westminster, to perform the duties of butler to the King (which office belonged to them by right of old, at the coronation), they proceeded thither dressed in silk garments, with mantles worked in gold, and with costly changes of raiment, mounted on valuable horses, glittering with new bits and saddles, and riding in troops arranged in order. They carried with them three hundred and sixty gold and silver cups, preceded by the King’s trumpeters and with horns sounding, so that such a wonderful novelty struck all who beheld it with astonishment. The Archbishop of Canterbury, by the right especially belonging to him, performed the duty of crowning with the usual solemnities, the Bishop of London assisting him as a dean, the other bishops taking their stations according to their rank. In the same way all the abbats, at the head of whom, as was his right, was the abbat of St. Alban’s (for as the Protomartyr of England, B. Alban, was the chief of all the martyrs of England, so also was his abbat the chief of all the abbats in rank and dignity), as the authentic privilege of that church set forth. The nobles, too, performed the duties, which, by ancient right and custom, pertained to them at the coronations of kings. In like manner some of the inhabitants of certain cities discharged certain duties which belonged to them by right of their ancestors. The Earl of Chester carried the sword of St. Edward, which was called ‘Curtein,’ before the King, as a sign that he was earl of the palace, and had by right the power of restraining the King if he should commit an error. The Earl was attended by the Constable of Chester, and kept the people away with a wand when they pressed forward in a disorderly way. The Grand Marshal of England, the Earl of Pembroke, carried a wand before the King, and cleared the way before him both in the church and in the banquet-hall, and arranged the banquet and the guests at table. The wardens of the Cinque Ports carried the pall over the King, supported by four spears, but the claim to this duty was not altogether undisputed. The Earl of Leicester supplied the King with water in basins to wash before his meal; the Earl Warrenne performed the duty of King’s cupbearer, supplying the place of the Earl of Arundel, because the latter was a youth and not as yet made a belted knight. Master Michael Belet was butler ex officio: the Earl of Hereford performed the duties of marshal of the King’s household, and William Beauchamp held the station as almoner. The Justiciary of321 the Forests arranged the drinking cups on the table at the King’s right hand, although he met with some opposition, which however fell to the ground. The citizens of London passed the wine about in all directions, in costly cups, and those of Winchester superintended the cooking of the feast; the rest, according to the ancient statutes, filled their separate stations, or made their claim to do so. And in order that the nuptial festivities might not be clouded by any disputes, saving the right of any one, many things were put up with for the time which they left for decision at a more favourable opportunity. The office of Chancellor of England, and all the offices connected with the King, are ordained and assized in the Exchequer. Therefore the Chancellor, the Chamberlain, the Marshal, and the Constable, by right of their office, took their seats there, as also did the barons according to the date of their creation, in the City of London, whereby they each knew his own place. The ceremony was splendid, with the gay dresses of the clergy and knights who were present. The Abbat of Westminster sprinkled the holy water, and the Treasurer, acting the part of sub-dean, carried the paten. Why should I describe all those persons who reverently ministered in the church to God as was their duty? Why describe the abundance of meats and dishes on the table? the quantity of venison, the variety of fish, the joyous sounds of the glee-men, and the gaiety of the waiters? Whatever the world could afford to create pleasure and magnificence was there brought together from every quarter.” (Giles’s trans. pp. 8, 9.)

From Strutt’s Manners and Customs.


It must have been a wealthy city which could thus furnish for a coronation banquet three hundred and sixty wealthy citizens, who could afford to dress in silk with gold-embroidered mantles, and to ride stately horses richly caparisoned, and to carry every man a gold or silver cup, and to decorate and light up their houses with flags and banners, chaplets and hangings, candles and lamps. The magnificent dress of the citizen at all these pageants strikes one with astonishment. They welcomed Queen Margaret in 1300 to the number of 600 in a livery of red and white, each with the cognisance of his Mystery embroidered on his sleeve. They followed King Henry IV. in 1399 with a train of 6000 horse—all of London and clothed in their proper livery. When Henry V. came home after Agincourt, the Mayor and Aldermen met him clothed in “orient grained scarlet,” with 400 citizens in murrey, well mounted, with collars and chains of gold; with them went a multitude of the city clergy in sumptuous copes with rich crosses and massy censers.

From Froissart’s Chronicles.

The Lord Mayor’s Show began with the presentation of the Mayor elect to the King or his justiciary. The new Mayor had to ride to Westminster; of course he rode in state with the Sheriffs, Aldermen, and officers of the city. It was in 1452 that John Norman, then Mayor, is said to have changed the custom of riding by land to going by barge. For this purpose he presented the City with a beautiful barge; the Companies followed his example, and provided themselves with barges; of course it was no new thing for a wealthy citizen or a nobleman to have his barge; the Thames was always, until quite recent times, the chief highway of the City—witness the line of palaces which lay along its north bank from Baynard’s Castle to the King’s House of Westminster. The innovation of Norman was to present the City with its barge of state: there is reason to believe that before his time some of the journeys to Westminster had been made by water. Some notes of the cost of323 such a procession have been preserved. For instance, in the year 1401, on the Riding of John Walcote, Mayor, there is the following entry in the books of the Grocers’ Company:—

£ s d
Itm. Meres Averes paie po le chevache du John Walcote mayr, po vi mynstrelles po. lo. sabire XL
Itm. po. lo. cheprous and po. lo. pessure VIIj
It. po. lo. dyner & po vyn po. le chaucer XXI
Itm. po. un cluvue po. le bidge IIIj
From MS. in British Museum. Harl. 1319.

The wealth and state of the City itself were confided to the care of the Mayor and Aldermen, who lost no opportunity, whether by a Riding, or a Pageant, or a Feast, of exhibiting the wealth of the City by the liveries and splendour of dress worn by the citizens. Thus, Stow gives some particulars on the subject, which help to show us the real wealth of the citizens:—


“1236. The 20th of Henry III., the Mayor, Aldermen, Sheriffs, and citizens of London, rode out to meet the King and his new wife Queen Eleanor, daughter to Reymond Beringarius of Aragon, Earl of Provence and Narbone. The citizens were clothed in long garments, embroidered about with gold, and silk in divers colours, their horses finely trapped, to the number of three hundred and sixty, every man bearing a gold or silver cup in his hand, the King’s trumpets before them sounding, etc. as ye may read in my Annales.

1300. The 29th of Edward I., the said King took to wife Margaret, sister to Philip le Beau, King of France: they were married at Canterbury. The Queen was conveyed to London, against whom the citizens to the number of six hundred rode in one livery of white and red, with the cognisances of their mysteries embroidered upon their sleeves; they received her four miles out of London, and so conveyed her to Westminster.

1415. The 3rd of Henry V., the said King arriving at Dover, the Mayor of London, with the Aldermen and craftsmen riding in red, with hoods red and white, met with the King on the Black hith, coming from Eltham with his prisoners out of France.

1432. The 10th of Henry VI., he being crowned in France, returning into England, came to Eltham towards London, and the Mayor of London, John Welles, the Aldermen, with the commonality, rode against him on horseback, the Mayor in crimson velvet, a great velvet hat furred, a girdle of gold about his middle, and a bawdrike of gold about his neck trilling down behind him, his three henxeme, on three great coursers following him, in one suit of red, all spangled in silver, then the Aldermen in gowns of scarlet, with sanguine hoods, and all the commonality of the city clothed in white gowns and scarlet hoods, with divers cognisances embroidered on their sleeves, etc.

1485. The 1st of Henry VII., the Mayor, Aldermen, Sheriffs, and commonality, all clothed in violet (as in a mourning colour), met the King at Shireditch, and conveyed him to Bowles Church, where he offered his banners.

Thus much for liveries of citizens in ancient times, both in triumphs and otherwise, may suffice, whereby, may be observed, that the coverture of men’s heads was then hoods, for neither cap nor hat is spoken of, except that John Welles, Mayor of London, to wear a hat in time of triumph, but differing from the hats lately taken in use, and now commonly worn for noblemen’s liveries. I read that Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, in the reign of Edward II., gave at Christmas in liveries, to such as served him, a hundred and fifty-nine broadcloths, allowing to every garment furs to fur their hoods: more near our time, thereby remaineth the counterfeits and pictures of Aldermen and others that lived in the reigns of Henry VI. and Edward IV., namely, Alderman Darby, dwelling in Fenchurch Street, over against the parish church of St. Diones, left his picture, as of an Alderman, in a gown of scarlet on his back, a hood on his head, etc. as is in that house (and elsewhere) to be seen. For a further monument of those late times, men may behold the glass windows of the Mayor’s Court in the Guildhall above the stairs; the Mayor is there pictured sitting in habit, party-coloured, and a hood on his head, his sword-bearer before him with a hat or cap of maintenance; the common clerk and other officers bareheaded, their hoods on their shoulders: and therefore, I take it, that the use of square bonnets worn by noblemen, gentlemen, citizens, and others, took beginning in the realm by Henry VII., and in his time, and of further antiquity, I can see no counterfeit or other proof of use. Henry VIII. (towards his latter reign) wore a flat round cap of scarlet or of velvet, with a bruch or jewel and a feather: divers gentlemen, courtiers, and others did the like. The youthful citizens also took them to the new fashion of flat caps knitted of woollen yarn black, but so light that they were obliged to tie them under their chins, for else the wind would be master over them. The use of these flat round caps so far increased (being of less price than the French bonnet) that in short time the young Aldermen took the wearing of them: Sir John White wore it in his Mayoralty, and was the first that left example to his followers; but now the Spanish felt, or the like counterfeit, is most commonly, of all men both spiritual and temporal, taken to use, so that the French bonnet or square cap, and also the round cap, have for the most part given place to the Spanish felt; but yet in London amongst the graver sort (I mean the liveries of companies) remaineth a memory of the hoods of old time worn by their predecessors; these hoods were worn, the roundlets upon their heads, the skirts to hang behind in their necks to keep them warm, the tippet to lie on their shoulder, or to wind about their necks; these hoods were of old time made in colours according to their gowns, which were of two colours, as red and blue, or red and purple, murrey, or as it pleased their masters and wardens to appoint to the companies: but now of late time they have used their gowns to be all of one colour, and those of the saddest, but their hoods being made the one half of the same cloth their gowns be of, the other half remaineth red as of old time.”

The age was, above all, martial, therefore battle real or battle mimic was the sport which mostly moved the people. The tournament was nominally a mimic battle, yet it so closely resembled a real battle, and so often ended in wounds or death, that it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between a tournament and a duel. At the Tilt Yard at Whitehall, in Tothill Fields, at Smithfield and in Cheapside, tournaments were held. Among the most famous tournaments were the following:—325

That of 1329 in Cheapside when the scaffolding erected for the Queen and her ladies fell, fortunately without injury to the Queen.

From Froissart’s Chronicles.


Those of 1357, 1362, and 1374. The last was especially splendid: it was held in honour of Alice Perrers, the “Lady of the Sun,” and continued for seven days.

The magnificent tournament, held by Richard II. in 1390, which was also continued for several days, and was attended by sixty combatants. The famous encounter of Scottish with English knights in 1393. That of French and English knights at Smithfield in 1409. The challenge of a knight of Aragon who was defeated by Robert Carey. The challenge, 1442, of another knight of Aragon, Sir Philip le Beaufe, who was defeated by John Ansley.

The challenge, 1467, of the Bastard of Burgundy. These challenges were more than joustings; they were duels to the death. The Burgundian knight challenged Lord Scales, brother of the Queen. They fought for three days. On the first they fought on foot without result. On the second they fought on horseback, when the Burgundian’s horse fell with him. On the third they fought with poleaxes until the point of Lord Scales’ axe entered his antagonist’s helmet, so that he could have thrown him to the ground and killed him. But the King threw down his warder and discontinued the combat. In 1501 there was a tournament in the Tower. In 1540 there was a five days’ tournament at Westminster. In 1571, 1581, and 1599, there were tournaments, but not on the same scale as formerly.

In 1610 the last tournament was held in the Tilt Yard, Westminster, in honour of Henry, Prince of Wales.



§ I. The Libraries of London

The Libraries in London were few in number, and, according to modern ideas, scanty as to the works they contained. Every monastery had its library: St. Paul’s Cathedral had its library; there were books of devotion belonging to every church, and, indeed, to every house; but of private libraries there were very few. The famous Duke Humphrey had a great collection of books, which he gave to the University of Oxford in two donations, one of two hundred and sixty-four volumes, the other of two hundred and sixty-five. The Duke of Bedford at the same time bought the collection of Charles the Fifth of France, and brought the books over to England. Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, had another great library. The finest libraries in London were those of the Franciscans, whose Library was built for them by Whittington, and the Dominicans, who in their best days were remarkable for their pursuit of learning.

From MS. in British Museum. Harl. 2278.

The catalogue of the books presented by Guy Beauchamp to the monks of Bordesley shows what was the lighter reading of the brethren. It is as follows:—

“A tus iceux, qe ceste lettre verront, ou orrount, Guy de Beauchamp, Comte de Warr. Saluz, en Deu. Saluz nous aveir baylè en la garde le Abbé e le Covent de Bordesleye, lessé à demorer a touz jours touz les Romaunces de sonz nomes: ceo est assaveyr, un volum, qe est appelé Tresor. Un volum, en le quel est le premer livre de Lancelot, e un volum del Romaunce de Aygnes. Un Sauter de Romaunce. Un volum des Evangelies, e de Vie des Seine. Un volum, qe p’le des quatre principals Gestes de Charles, e de dooun, e de Meyace e de Girard de Vienne et de Emery de Nerbonne. Un volum del Romaunce Emmonnd de Ageland, e deu Roy Charles dooun de Nauntoyle. E le Romaunce de Gwyoun de Nauntoyl. E un volum del Romaunce Titus et Vespasien. E un volum del Romaunce Josep ab Arimathie e deu Seint Grael. E un volum, qe p’le coment Adam fust eniesté hors de paradys, e le Genesie. E un volum en le quel sount contenuz touns des Romaunces, ceo est assaveir, Vitas patrum ay commencement: e pus un Conte de Auteypt; e la Vision Seint Poll: et pus les Vies des xii Seins.328 E le Romaunce de Willame de Loungespe. E Autorites des Seins humes. E le Mirour de Alme. Un volum ne le quel sount contenuz la Vie Seint Pére e seint Pol, e des autres liv. E un volum qe est appelé l’Apocalips. E un livere de Phisik, e de Surgie. Un volum del Romaunce de Gwy, e de la Reyhne tut enterement. Un volum del Romaunce de Troies. Un volum del Romaunce de Willame de Orenges e de Teband de Arabie. Un volum del Romaunce de Amase e de Idoine. Un volum del Romaunce Girard de Viene. Un volum del Romaunce deu Brut, e del Roy Costentine. Un volum de le enseignment Aristotle enveiez au Roy Alisaundre. Un volum en le quel sount contenuz les Eufaunces Nostre Seygneur, coment il fust mené en Egipt. E la vie Seint Edwd. E la Visioun Seint Pol. La Vengeaunce n’re Seygneur par Vespasien a Titus, e la Vie Seint Nicolas, qe fust nez en patras. E la Vie Seint Eustace. E la Vie Seint Cudlac. E la Passioun n’re Seygneur. E la Meditacioun Seint Bernard de n’re Dame Seint Marie, e del Passioun sour deuz fiz Jesu Creist n’re Seignt. E la Vie Seint Eufrasie. E la Vie Seint Radegounde. E la Vie Seint Juliane. Un Volum, en lequel est aprise de Enfants et lumiere à Lays. Un volum del Romaunce d’a Alisaundre, ove peintures. Un petit rouge livere, en le quel sount contenuz mons diverses choses. Un volum del Romaunce des Mareschans, e de Ferebras329 e de Alisaundre. Les queus livres nous grauntous par nos hryrs e pur nos assignes qil demorront en la dit Abbeye, etc.”

The more serious part of these libraries may be gathered from the Glastonbury List, which contains the following classical authors:—

While the list of Forty Books, collected by Abbot John de Taunton and given to the Library in 1271, is instructive:—

The disposition and arrangement of a mediæval library has been treated by Mr. Willis Clarke in his Rede Lecture for 1894. The books were at first kept in the cloister, but since our climate would very speedily destroy books lying in the open air, there were aumbries, or presses, constructed for them. In course of time the cloister was flagged, and the readers were provided with “carrels,” i.e. small wooden pews, or cupboards, closed except in the front, which was open to330 the light. Each carrel contained a desk on which to lay the books. The next step was the construction of the library. That built by Whittington for the Franciscans was a noble hall, 129 feet long and 31 feet broad. It contained twenty-eight desks and twenty-eight double settles of wainscot. Certain books remained always on the desks for reference, and others were brought out from time to time, and both sorts were chained. In some cases an upright bookcase had an open shelf in front on which books could be read, but they were all chained in their places. This caused the books to be ranged with their backs towards the wall. In some cases when books were embossed on the side, they were not placed side by side but flat on the shelf. The chaining of books in all monastic libraries was the constant rule. Since every monastery had its scriptorium, it is reasonable to believe that copies of books were continually being renewed, when the scribes were not occupied in renewing the books wanted for service in the chapel. In every monastery, also, there were illuminators and painters. Lastly, to show that the much-abused friars made good use of the libraries they possessed, there is a List of Scholars given in Steven’s Monasticon,11 from which it appears that eighty names of learned scholars and writers may be found among the Dominicans, as many as one hundred and twenty-two among the Franciscans, and one hundred and thirty-seven among the Carmelites.

A good deal of information remains concerning the library of St. Paul’s. It contained, among other treasures, eleven MSS. of the Gospels, beautifully written, and bound with silver covers richly enamelled; there were also five Psalters, eight Antiphonals, twenty books of Homilies, seventeen Missals, Manuals, Graduals, Treposia, Organ books, Epistle books, Gospel books, Collectaria and Capitularia, Pontificals, Benedictionals. There were Bibles and portions of Scripture with glosses. And there was the Chronicle of Ralph de Diceto. There was another library in the precinct of St. Paul’s, and that was founded by Walter Sherington; in it were books on medicine, chronicles, grammars, the Fathers, classical authors, and books on law.

§ II. London and Literature

The connection of Mediæval London with literature and learning must be considered first in the light of Ecclesiastical History and next from the secular point of view.

How far were monastic institutions in general, and those of London in particular, homes of learning and literature? The question can be answered by inference from what we know of other monasteries, not in London, and by the examples of scholars and writers who sprang from those Houses. In the first place, by far the greater number of scholars and writers, for eight hundred years,331 worked in the Religious Houses. If we run through a list, however imperfect, we shall see that, especially in the writing of histories, monks and later friars are conspicuous. Such a list is instructive and suggestive.


For instance, Bede was a monk of Durham; Egbert, Archbishop of York, was a monk of Hexham; Alcuin, of York; John Scotus or Erigena was a monk; Eadmer, who wrote the life of Anselm, was a monk of Canterbury; the Saxon Chronicle was carried on by monks; Astern, another monk of Canterbury, wrote the lives of St. Dunstan and St. Alphege; Lucian, monk of Eberburgh, wrote an account of Chester; Colman, monk of Worcester, wrote the life of Bishop Wulstan of that see; Turgot, monk of Jarrow, wrote the history of the Monastery332 of Durham; the famous Ordericus Vitalis was a monk of St. Evroult, Normandy; the great historian, William of Malmesbury, belonged to the monastery of that town; Geoffrey of Monmouth was a monk in the monastery of the town he is called after; Henry of Huntingdon, another well-known historian, was a monk at Romsey; Ailred of Rievaulx was a Cistercian; Hilarius, who wrote the miracle plays, was an English monk; Walter of Evesham was a monk of that place; Layamon was a priest; Roger Bacon was a Grey Friar—as was also Duns Scotus; Roger of Wendover was a monk of St. Albans; of the same monastery was Matthew Paris; Bartholomew Cotton was a monk of Norwich; Matthew of Westminster was a Benedictine, probably of St. Peter’s; Ralph, or Ranulf, Higden was a monk of St. Werburgh’s; Robert of Brunen was a canon of the Gilbertine Order; Nigel Wireker, author of “Brunellus,” was precentor in the Benedictine Monastery of Canterbury; John of Salisbury, author of De Nugis Curialum was a monk in La Celle, in the French diocese of Troyes; Thomas of Ely, who wrote a Chronicle, was a monk of Ely; Jocelin of Brakelonde was a monk of Bury St. Edmunds; William Newburgh was an Augustinian monk; Roger of Hoveden was at one time under vows, since he was employed to go from one Abbey to another, as a kind of visitor or receiver; Benedict, author of a Chronicle, was Abbot of Peterborough; Ralph de Diceto was Dean of St. Paul’s; Alexander Neckham was Abbot of Cirencester; Gervase, the herdman, was a monk of Canterbury; Robert Holcot, theologian, was a Dominican. This long list, which might be enlarged, is sufficient to prove that the pursuit of learning was encouraged, and held in honour in the monasteries. A few of the names quoted above are those of scholars, most of them are the names of chroniclers, and many of contemporary chroniclers. Now the practice followed in one House was observed in every other House obedient to the same Rule. If at St. Albans we find one monk after another writing contemporary history, it is reasonable to suppose that at Westminster and at Holy Trinity Priory, and at Bermondsey, other monks were employing their time in similar pursuits. We do not, in other words, hear of many learned men coming from the London Houses, but since it is certain that at other Houses of the same Rule there were scholars and writers; since it is certain, for instance, that the Dominicans produced fiery champions for the true faith; since, further, it is certain that some of the greatest men of learning were Franciscans, it seems childish to doubt that the same studies, the same incentives to study, were found in the London Houses. Further, out of the great mass of learned doctors, monks, and friars who preached, wrote, and disputed at Oxford, Cambridge, and elsewhere, since only one or two names have survived, there should be little cause for surprise if, for any given House, not one single man should survive of all those who adorned the Rule and advanced its name for learning during the long centuries of its existence.333 We must remember that although the monks and friars were savagely attacked for pride, luxury, and incontinence, their enemies seldom ventured to attack them for lack of interest in learning or zeal for study. If it is true that the learned and studious life had become discouraged, or had been allowed to die out, which I cannot believe, there would have been this additional crime alleged against them.

Stanley mildly laments that he can find no mention of any great scholar among the Benedictines of St. Peter’s. The same lament may, with equal justice, be made over the Houses of Bermondsey, the Holy Trinity, the Cistercians of Eastminster, and any other London House. Nay, a similar lament may be made over many a college of Oxford and Cambridge in the present century, where, with every possible encouragement to learning, so few great scholars can be found belonging to any single College. I imagine that these desks, these closed cabins, in the north cloister, of which we read, where the monks sat and studied, were never empty, generation after generation; there must always have been some to whom the quiet of the cloister was a special gift of Heaven enabling them to study; and there must always have been also the majority, who had no gift for scholarship. To them was assigned the practical management of the House, or some other work, to save them from vacuity. In truth, for such men as these, the atmosphere of the House was distinctly prejudicial to study, cut up as the day was by service, by forms, and rules.

And lastly, as regards the monastic learning, we must not forget the masses of papers and parchments destroyed in the Dissolution of the Houses and the Dispersion of the Libraries; we do not know, we can have no conception, what treasures were destroyed and scattered. Bale says, “To destroye all without consideracyon is, and will be unto Englande for ever, a most horrible infamy among the grave seniors of other nacyons. I know a merchante that boughte the contentes of two noble lybraryes for XL shyllyngs pryce, a shame it is to be spoken. Thys stuffe hath he occupy in the stede of paper by the space of more than these X yeares.”

For eight hundred years the monks of St. Peter’s, Westminster, had worked in their cloister. What had they done? Where were the Chronicles, the scholastic disputations, the treatises they had compiled? They were never taken out of the library; they never saw the light at all; they were burned when the House perished. In common candour, let us acknowledge that in all these generations of monks some must have done good work.

As regards the literature of the people, we are not without specimens of their songs, though these do not date, for the greater part, before the fifteenth century. Yet London was always a City for music, song, and dancing. Probably the songs that have been preserved for us had older forms. There are the religious songs, as that in the Annunciation, beginning:


“Tyrle, Tyrle, so merylye the shepperdes began to blow.” There are the moral songs lamenting the vices of the age:—

“Every man in hys degre
Cane say yf he avysed be
Ther was more trust in sum care
Than is now in many on.
Thys warld ys now al changed new
So many men bene found ontrew
That in trewth lyven but few
Feythfull to tryst upon.”

And the drinking song:—

“Brynge us in good ale, and brynge us in good ale;
For our Blessed Lady’s sake brynge us in good ale;
Brynge us in no brown brede, for that is made of branne,
Nor brynge us in no whyt brede, for therein is no gaine,
But brynge us in good ale.
Brynge us in no befe, for ther is many bonys,
But brynge us in good ale, for that goeth downe at onys,
And brynge us in good ale.”

And there were the songs sung in dancing:—

“Skip it, and trip it, nimbly, nimbly,
Tickle it, tickle it, lustily:
Strike up the tabour for the wenches’ favour
Tickle it, tickle it, lustily.
Let us be seen upon Hygate Greene,
To dance for the honour of Holloway:
Since we are come hither let us spare for no leather
To dance for the honour of Holloway.”

And there is the old song of the folk—the oldest that has come down to us. The pipe plays the air, the tabor beats an accompaniment, the singers march down the street wearing garlands and carrying green branches, to welcome the coming of spring:—

“Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu
Groweth sed and bloweth med,
And springth the wde nu (wood anew).
Sing cuccu.
Awe bleteth after lomb,
Llouth after calve cu,
Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth,
Murie sing cuccu.
Cuccu, cuccu, wel singeth thu cuccu
Ne swik thu naver nu;
Sing cuccu, cuccu nu, sing cuccu,
Sing cuccu, sing cuccu, nu.”
(Harley MS. British Museum, 978.)

There is another side to the connection of London with literature. It was in London that modern English poetry began. Geoffrey Chaucer was born in335 London, the descendant of a long line of Londoners; Gower lived much in London; Occleve was a Londoner; Lydgate knew London well, and lived much in the City. If we were permitted to choose poets to grace the mediæval life of London, we could not select four about whom the City could more fitly pride herself than this illustrious company.

From MS. in British Museum. Harl. 2278.

Just as colleges increased and multiplied at Oxford and Cambridge for students in Divinity and Arts, so they increased in London, that great University for Lawyers. There were Inns of Court and Chancery Inns, and an Inn of Serjeants. Here lived the students of law, “of their own private maintenance as being altogether fed either by their places or their practice, or otherwise by their proper revenue, or exhibition of parents or friend: for that the younger sort were either gentlemen or the sons of gentlemen or of other more wealthy persons. There were six of such colleges. Four of them were Inns of Court, viz. the Inner and Middle Temple, Lincoln’s Inn, and Gray’s Inn. Nine were houses of Chancery, viz. Clifford’s Inn, Dane’s Inn, Furnival’s Inn, Barnard’s Inn, Staple Inn, Clement’s Inn, New Inn, Chester’s Inn, and one other whose site is unknown. There was a Serjeants’ Inn in Fleet Street, another in Chancery Lane, and a third called Scroop’s Inn over against St. Andrew’s Church, Holborn. The Serjeants’ Inns were only for Judges and Serjeants. The difference between the Houses of Court and the Houses of Chancery was that the former were set apart for students and graduates of Law only, while the latter received the officers, attorneys, solicitors, and clerks who followed the Court of King’s Bench or Common Pleas. Some young students, however, entered a House of Chancery first, and then, after having performed the exercises of that House, removed to an Inn of Court, where they studied for seven years: frequented “readings, meetings, boltings, and other learned exercises,” including small pleadings before a mock Court, and then, but only by the general consent of the Benchers, who have always been extremely336 jealous of admission, were called to the upper Bar, with permission to practise in the Courts, and in their chambers. After fourteen or fifteen years at the least, the barrister might hope to be elected a Bencher. From the Benchers were chosen Readers for each House; from the Benchers also were elected the Serjeants, and from the Serjeants the Judges.

This observance dates from the time when ecclesiastics ceased to be judges, and when the legal machinery of the country was framed and ordered. The origin of the Serjeants is the small body of servants—“serjeants”—of the King, who were learned at law and were kept in the pay of the King to plead his cases. Some of these serjeants were Italian canonists. There was a great body of ecclesiastical lawyers. The temporal lawyer grew gradually. He was an attorney, that is, he represented some one, or he was a pleader who was allowed to speak on behalf of a client. It was in the reign of Henry III. that ecclesiastics ceased to be judges. One supposes that the ecclesiastical lawyer, the canonist, continued to exist and to find plenty of employment. (See Appendix VIII.)

§ III. The Physician

From the Ellesmere MS.

The advance of medicine, as of all the sciences, was slow indeed during the centuries under consideration. In earlier times monks were the only physicians: their modes of cure were principally prayer, holy water, relics, and pilgrimages; but they knew the use of herbs. It was forbidden to ecclesiastics to use fire or knife, in other words, to practise surgery, but they treated wounds. They set broken limbs, and on occasion they let blood. They set up everywhere houses or hospitals for lepers, and in all the greater monastic foundations there were rooms for cupping and blood-letting. At the medical school of Monte Cassino, the relics of St. Matthew were relied upon far more than the teaching of the professors. Sisterhoods or associations of matrons and elderly women studied and practised obstetrics. Abelard exhorted nuns to learn and practise surgery. Certain Orders undertook different branches of medical work. The Johannists and the brotherhood of St. Mary gave their attention to epidemics and plagues; the brethren of St. Lazarus treated leprosy, smallpox, and fever; the brothers of St. Anthony and the Holy Ghost studied “St. Anthony’s Fire”—dysentery; the Knights Templars studied ophthalmia; the Knights Hospitallers maintained companies of women as nurses.


From a MS. in Trinity College, Cambridge.
From a MS. in Trinity College, Cambridge.

It was because the physician was at first an ecclesiastic that surgery was separated from medicine. When the physician was a professional person living by the profession, he pretended to hold surgery in contempt, and refused to operate at all. Lanfranc, however, insisted that medicine and surgery ought to go together. When Henry V. invaded France in 1415, he took with him thirteen surgeons, viz. Thomas Morstede and twelve assistants. On his second expedition he asked the City of London to send him volunteers as assistants. None were forthcoming, and Thomas Morstede was empowered to impress as many assistants as he might require. By this time the blood-letting and the surgery were entrusted to the barbers, who were forbidden to advertise this part of their work by placing a cup full of blood in the window. For the people for whom a physician was not338 attainable, there were bone-setters and herbalists, the latter of whom, if not the former, are still with us.

From MS. Add. in British Museum. 10,302.

If the physician of the ninth century believed in relics and holy water, his successor of the fourteenth century placed his reliance mainly on astrology. He was a learned man; he had read all the authors enumerated by Chaucer; he had also read all that was necessary to make an astrologer. This branch of medical science was of the highest importance. “A Physician”—see Skeat’s Notes to the Canterbury Tales, ...—“must take heed and advyse hym of a certain thing, that faileth not, nor deceyveth, the which thing the Astronomer of Egypt taught, that by conjunction of the Moone with sterres fortunate cummeth dreadful sickness to good end: and with contrary Planets falleth the contrary, that is, to evill ende.” The physician therefore treated his patient with reference to fortunate hours. This was “magik naturel” as opposed to magic forbidden. Also when he framed images of wax for his patient, making them at a fortunate moment. He also understood what were considered the four elementary qualities—hot, moist, cold, dry,—the mixture of these qualities determined the nature of a man. The physician, it will be observed, did not keep or sell his own drugs; for that purpose he went to the apothecaries, who were distinguished from the physicians chiefly by their339 ignorance as to the astrological part of medicine they knew—that is, the power and use of the drugs they imported, collected, and sold, but they did not know the proper moment of administering them. The physician observed diet very carefully; he was dressed in a manner which proclaimed the high opinion he entertained of his importance, and he believed in aurum potabile, gold that could be administered as a medicine.

In another place (Knight’s Tale), Chaucer describes in general terms the medical treatment of the time:—

“Al were they sore y-hurt, and namely oon,
That with a spere was thirled his brest boon.
To othere woundes, and to broken armes,
Some hadden salves and some hadden charmes
Fermacies of herbes, and eek save
They dronken.”

Save (salvia) is sage, still taken by country people in the form of tea. It was greatly esteemed formerly. Hence the proverb of the school of Salerno, “Cui moriatur homo dum salvia crescit in horto?” And still in another place (The Nonne Preestes Tale), Chaucer enumerates some herbs in common use:—

“A day or two ye shul have digestyves
Of wormes, er ye take your laxatyves,
Of lauriol, centaure, and fumetere,
Or elles of ellebor, that groweth there,
Of catapuce, or of gaytres beryis,
Of erbe yve, growing in our yerd, that mery is:
Pekke hem up right as they growe, and ete hem in.”

On this passage Skeat explains that the “gaytres beryes” were probably the berries of the Greek thorn, Rhamnus catharticus, which in Swedish is the goat berries tree = (A.S.) treow and goat = (A.S.) gate. The catapuce is the caper spurge. Skeat also quotes a passage from Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy on the merits of these herbs. “Wormwood, centaury, pennyroyal, are likewise magnified and much prescribed, especially in hypochondrian melancholy, and because the spleen and blood are often misaffected in melancholy. I may not omit endive, succory, dandelion, and fumitory, which cleanse the blood.”

It was the property of every wort or herb to heal a man or to harm him. I have added a few to the list given above. Every herbalist or wise woman knew them and their properties.

Betony dispels nightmare, cures sudden giddiness, and prevents drunkenness
Cress cures baldness and scurf
Wood lettuce cures dimness of vision
White poppy sleeplessness
Smear wort fevers
Asterion falling sickness 340
Everfern } headache and liver
Churmel }
Water lily dysentery
Leek wort bite of adder
Savine swollen feet
Wood dock stiff joints
Five leaf} sickness and sores
Madder  }
Way-bread worms

In the country house the ladies were all herbalists: in the towns, the herbalist kept a shop for the sale of her roots and flowers and leaves, and was the General Practitioner for the craftsmen and their households.

‘Recuyell of the Hist. of Troye,’ ‘Dictes and Sayings,’
c. 1471p. 1477




“London at that time was built of wood, consequently there was continual danger of fire.” This is a commonplace among historians. Let us examine into the statement. There were two great fires in London between the ninth and the seventeenth centuries, i.e. in 800 years—two fires, which swept the town almost from end to end, namely that of 1135 and that of 1666: between these two fires there were several others of considerable magnitude, one of which burned down the greater part of Southwark, then no more than a causeway and an embankment; and another the houses on the Bridge, and another which made a large gap among the streets; but there were only these two fires which devoured any considerable part of the City. Yet there was constant danger, we are told.


But was London built of wood? When we speak of a wooden house we begin to think of a frame-house with thin deal planks nailed across, as in the backwoods of Canada. But such was not the way of our ancestors. They erected a frame of massive oaken beams, square and strong; between the beams they filled up the spaces with plaster, thick and incombustible; there was but one fire in the house of the ordinary citizen, and that was on a thick hearthstone; the hot ashes every night were swept up and placed within a couvre-feu. The Curfew or Couvre-feu was an instrument used in the days when the fire was made upon the flat hearth. It was a bell-shaped vessel with a portion cut off. When it was desired to extinguish the fire, or to preserve some fire in the embers until the next day, the ashes and wood were all raked together at the back of the hearth and the Curfew placed over them; the part cut out enabled the vessel to stand against the wall, so that no air could reach the fire. The specimen from which Grose drew this engraving was in the Antiquarian Repository; it was ten inches high, sixteen inches broad, and nine inches deep. It was of copper riveted together, for solder would have melted in the heat. Now such a house as that described above was nearly as safe as a house342 built with bricks, unless there was some other point of weakness in it. The often-repeated edict which ordered the building of every house to be of stone to a certain height was certainly never enforced; like the rest of the mediæval ordinances, it could not be enforced for want of a Police. The weak point of the house was often the roof: sometimes wood of a lighter and cheaper kind was used for the support of the roof, and sometimes—against the Laws—the material was even thatch, though generally of tiles. Moreover, one suspects that in the poor quarters, those south of Thames Street, where the narrow lanes still contain a population of working people, the framework was not of oak, but of a more inflammable kind of wood. The danger was not so much from the houses themselves as from the stores containing oil, tallow, and similarly combustible goods, and from the furnaces and smithies standing about among the houses. Whatever the danger might have been, the fact remains that during a thousand years there were only two great fires, and but a few others which could be called considerable. And the chief reason why the wooden City was not burned a hundred times was that a framework of oak does not readily catch fire. All classes, moreover, were deeply sensible of the danger: in every house, great or small, before going to bed, the householder carefully raked together the embers and covered them with a pot, so that they should not be blown about and should retain their fire till the morning.

When, by acts of carelessness, drunkenness, or other mishap, fires did occur, they understood how to stop the spreading of the flames by pulling down the adjoining houses with hooks and grappling-irons. There were also laws passed from time to time—with the curious mediæval faith in the efficacy of laws without police to enforce them—ordering various preventive measures, and one especially, namely, that partition walls were to be of stone up to a certain height. But it is certain that in the poorer parts the law could not be enforced; moreover, above this height it was allowable to build in wood; and, in addition, the thatched roof, though constantly threatened and ordered to be removed, still remained in obscure places.

But it was from plague, of various kinds, that London had more to fear than from fire. There was hardly a generation which neither witnessed nor remembered some visitation of plague. And it was almost always of one type. The outbreak of the sixth century, which overran the whole of the Roman Empire, and spared England, perhaps did so because at the time there was scarcely any communication between the Island and the Continent.

The plagues of London followed each other at irregular intervals. Occasionally, as in the thirteenth century, the City remained a long time without any unusual mortality. At other times, as in the fifteenth century, plague or pestilence of some kind was continually in the City. The following are the dates of the plagues recorded of London, not including the doubtful one of 430:—There were plagues in343 952, 1094, 1111, 1349, 1361, 1367, 1369, 1407, 1478, 1485, 1499, 1506, 1517 to 1521 (during which years the plague was never entirely absent), 1528, 1543, 1551, 1603, 1625, and 1665. That is to say, in seven hundred years there were about twenty outbreaks of pestilence, an average of one for every thirty-five years, although, as stated above, and as can be observed in the list, there were long periods—one of 238 years—without any plague at all.

The great pestilence of the fourteenth century, most fearful, most deadly, most incurable, called the “Black Death,” the “Great Mortality,” which desolated three continents, came to us from the East. It is conjectured that the disease was in some way caused by certain strange disturbances of the earth in China, where there were droughts, famines, thunderstorms, torrents of rain, earthquakes, and inundations. In China there was a plague of some kind which carried off, it is said, millions of the people. It was reported that a thick, stinking mist advanced from the East, and covered one part of Europe, namely Italy (Hecker’s Epidemics of the Middle Ages). There were many earthquakes. There was one in January 1348, felt in Greece and Italy, in which castles, churches, houses were overthrown, and villages were swallowed up; the same earthquake was felt in other countries: in Carinthia thirty villages were overthrown. These earthquakes continued to recur until the year 1360, being felt over the whole of western and northern Europe. Fireballs were observed in the heavens, filling the people with terror. There were torrents, floods of rain, with the failure of the harvest, so that famine set in. All these things preceded the plague.

It broke out in Constantinople, whither it had been brought by the lines of trade from China, India, and Persia, in the year 1347. In the same year it appeared at Cyprus, Sicily, Marseilles, and some of the seaports in Italy. Sardinia, Corsica, Majorca were visited in succession. In January 1348 it appeared at Avignon and the South of France. In Florence it appeared in April of the same year. In England it first appeared in the town of Dorchester, whence it spread, but not rapidly, till it reached London in the autumn. It is quite impossible to over-estimate the mortality caused by this fearful plague, the worst, certainly, that ever afflicted the human race. The figures, indeed, as given by Hecker, may be mostly disregarded. For instance, in one line he tells us that India was depopulated, and in another that twenty-three millions perished in all the East. It would take many times twenty-three millions to depopulate India. Italy is said to have lost half its population; in the city of Padua two-thirds of the population died. In France there were places in which only two or three people remained alive out of a whole village. And so on, one might go on for pages to show the wholesale slaughter caused by the scourge. In England it lasted until August 1349, a period of ten months. There was a plentiful harvest, but there were no labourers to reap the corn; there was abundance of cattle, but the plague seized344 them, and they wandered about without herdsmen until they died. As for London, the disease was beyond the skill of physicians. Very few of those who were attacked recovered; the symptoms were the well-known ones belonging to this virulent disease; we have but a scanty record of London during this most terrible time; we can see, later on, by the history of another plague, how the life of the City was affected by such an event; we shall note the dislocation of the machinery, the stoppage of work and trade, the destitution of the poor, the madness of some, the repentance and contrition of some, the despair of some, the callous fatalism of some, the reckless profligacy of some. (See London in the Time of the Stuarts.) It was no use to fly into the country; the poor country folk were lying dead in every village, and almost in every field; one might as well sit down in the house overlooking the City lanes, and watch the carrying away of the dead, and wait one’s own time. The City churchyards became too crowded to allow any more burials. Then other cemeteries were opened outside the walls. The Bishop of London bought a piece of ground, called No Man’s Land, north-east of Smithfield, enclosed it with a brick wall, and gave it to the City for a burial-ground. It was called Pardon Churchyard, and lay beyond what is now the north wall of the Charterhouse. After the plague ceased, Pardon Churchyard became the burial-place of suicides and executed criminals. Their bodies were carried thither in a cart belonging to the Hospital or House of St. John; it was covered with black cloth which had a white cross in front, and was provided with a bell which rang with its jolting. The plague still continuing, Sir Walter Manny bought another piece of ground, adjacent to the Pardon Churchyard, thirteen acres in extent. This he enclosed, and gave to the City as an additional burial-place. He further erected a chapel upon it. This chapel stood somewhere in the middle of Charterhouse Square. On the burial-ground, and with ten acres more of ground, Sir Walter Manny afterwards built the House of the Carthusians. Fifty thousand people who died of the plague were buried in this ground. The fact was recorded on a stone pillar which stood in the place (see also vol. ii. pt. iii. ch. iv.):—

“Anno Domini 1349, regnante magnâ pestilentiâ consecratum fuit hoc coemiterium in quo et infra septa presentis monasterii sepulta fuerunt mortuorum corpora plus quam quinquaginta millia præter alia multa abhinc usque ad presens: quorum animabus propitietur Deus. Amen.”

These were not the only cemeteries consecrated for the reception of the victims. On the north-east of the Tower there lay a piece of ground, perhaps cultivated, perhaps waste, which was bought by a priest named Corey, and given by him to the City, calling it the Churchyard of the Holy Trinity. One, Robert Elsing, gave five pounds towards enclosing it and building a chapel upon it; other citizens also assisted, and when the plague was over, King Edward III., mindful of a recent escape in a tempest through the miraculous interposition of the Virgin Mary345 herself, built here a monastery, and called the House King Edward’s Free Chapel of the Blessed Virgin of Grace—in memoriam Gratiarum. The site is long since built over. But I suppose there must have been the memory of that plague associated with the House. Indeed, though the plague went away, it came again in 1361, again in 1367, in 1369, and in 1407.

These illustrations may indicate something of the impression made upon the people by this terrible visitation, for such dangers, such bereavements, incline the better class of mind to reflection and to meditation. It is not impossible that the spread of Wyclyf’s opinions among the citizens of London may have been partly due to the shock of these successive plagues—the quickening shock which caused those who were able to think to ask if outward forms were really all that made religion.

The immediate effect of the Black Death on the Continent took many forms. Many thousands were terrified into repentance of sins; many thousands died of sheer terror; rich men and noble dames gave their gold to monasteries; when the gates were closed to keep out infection they actually threw their offerings over the walls. Many strange things were done under the influence of this terror; the strangest of all was the Brotherhood of the Flagellants, which sprang directly from the terror caused by the Black Death. It originated in Hungary, and it spread over the whole of Europe except England, where it appeared, as will be seen immediately, once only. The Flagellants marched in procession through the cities with singers at their head; they were clad in sombre garments; they wore a kind of mask, or hood, over their eyes; their heads were bent; they had red crosses on back and breast and hood; and in their hands every man carried a triple scourge tied in knots with points of iron. They sang a hymn as they marched, and at a given signal they stripped to the waist and scourged each other. It was a wonderful mania, and lasted for nearly a quarter of a century. These Flagellants fanned into a flame the most fanatical prejudices; they caused a persecution of the Jews equalled only by that when the hordes of the First Crusade poured across Europe on their way to massacre on the plains of Asia Minor. It seems wonderful that any Jews escaped, for they were murdered, they were burned, and they were banished. In Mayence alone 12,000 were put to death. Wherever the Flagellants came, a persecution of the Jews followed. And—which has always been observed in the persecution of this race—the more fanatical were their enemies, the more resolute the Jews became. At Eslingen the whole Jewish community burned themselves in their synagogue: an act equalled only by the tragedy of Masada and the tragedy of York. In England at this time we had no Jews. The Flagellants, therefore, when they arrived here, which was not till the year 1368, could do no great harm. They were Dutch, and a company of a hundred and twenty. They came over, uninvited, with the laudable intention of making London repent. This they tried to effect by marching as I346 have described above, every man lustily scourging the man next to him—they must have marched in single file. It would seem, however, as if London was not in the least moved by the appearance of the blood streaming from the backs and shoulders of the Brotherhood. The insular hatred of foreigners probably made the citizens resent this uncalled-for interference with their wickedness. So the Flagellants went home again. But the hymn they sang has been preserved. It may be found in Hecker’s book, and it is all, like a Salvation Army hymn, based upon the fear of Hell fire:—

“Ye that repent your sins draw nigh,
From the burning hell we fly,
From Satan’s wicked company,
Where he leads
With pitch he feeds.
If we be wise we then shall flee.
Maria! Queen! we trust in thee
To move thy Son to sympathy.
Glad news I bring thee, sinful mortal,
In heaven Saint Peter keeps the portal,
Apply to him with suppliant mien,
He bringeth thee before thy Queen.
Benignant Michael, blessed Saint,
Guardian of souls, receive our plaint,
Through the Almighty Maker’s death
Preserve us from the Hell beneath.”

The growing frequency of these terrible visitations of plague in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries shows the insalubrity of the City. That every day quantities of offal were thrown into the river, and that a stream of blood from the shambles rolled daily down open gutters, mattered very little: London was too small as yet, even with a hundred thousand people, to do much harm to her noble river. The swans still delighted to float and swim about London Bridge; salmon came up to be caught in mid-stream; and even the town ditch, which also received a good deal of the refuse, continued to be full of good fish. There were scavengers—not only the rain, the frost, the sun, the wind, and the kites, but men appointed to do for the householder then what they do now: to remove the refuse. These men were appointed for every ward. Their oath, given by Stow, seems from its language to belong to the sixteenth century, but it may be older:

“Ye shal swear that ye shal wel and diligently observe that the Pavements in every ward be wel and rightfully repaired: and not haunted by the Noyance of the Neighbours: and that the ways, Streets, and Lanes be kept clene from Donge and other filth, for the Honesty of the City. And that all the chimnies, Reredoses, and Furnaces be made of stone, for defence of Fire; and if ye know of any such ye shal show it to the Alderman; that he may make due Redress therefor. And this ye shal not leve. So help you God and by this Book.”

It is not what is thrown into a great tidal river from a town that corrupts the town, nor is it what is thrown upon a lay-stall there to lie for a few days until it is taken away; it is what sinks into the earth and slowly spreads around, corrupting all347 the springs and wells, and causing exhalations in times of heat and moisture. The greatest difficulty of cities has always been the disposal of waste matter, solid and liquid. For nearly two thousand years the lower part of the City, the most densely populated part, was dotted with latrines and cesspools; the whole soil of the City was soaked and permeated and corrupted with the pestiferous stuff; the ground gave off a poisoned breath; when the plague came, this poison encouraged it, helped it along, spread it, and strengthened it. We have had no plague for more than two hundred years. Perhaps the reason has been that the Fire of London in 1666 not only baked and calcined the ground with its heat for many feet deep, burning up the dead bodies which rested three or four feet below the surface, with the coffins, bones, and deadly poisonous soil of the churchyards, but also choking up the City wells—which were never again opened—and burning the whole of the soil, decayed with the impurities of two thousand years.

The fire baked the earth, and cleansed it, and destroyed its exhalations for many feet below the surface; when the folk came back again they found, though they knew it not, the ground cleaner than it had been for two thousand years; as clean as when the solitary elk stood upon the edge of the cliff and looked out upon the broad lagoon of the river at high tide. The people began at once to restore, as much as they could, the old state of things: the cesspools came back and remained for a hundred and fifty years, but not the wells; in the two hundred years that have passed, it has been impossible to restore completely the mischievous conditions due to two thousand years of filth.

There was another horrible method of poisoning the ground, and therefore the air, namely the practice of burying in tiny churchyards, crowded with the dreadful dead, not yet restored to the dust and ashes from whence they came. The fire, as I have said, restored the churchyards to their pristine purity of soil. The people, in this respect as well, for they learned nothing, did their best to restore the old conditions. As the population increased, they nearly succeeded; the revelations of Dr. Walker in 1843 made the world shudder at the enormities daily committed. This, too, we have altered; the crowded, stinking churchyard is now a tiny spot of green with a tree in it and a bench and a border of flowers. Only we may note that while we have cleaned out and filled up cesspools, and stopped the burial of the dead in our midst, and ceased to drink well water, we have arranged for the introduction into the soil of a new and perhaps equally fatal poison: the earth is now black and reeking with gas. It is, perhaps, a scientifically interesting point to learn how long it will be before the atmosphere, charged with gas, which all our millions breathe, will encourage or develop another pestilence. And it will be a much more costly business to burn down all London once more in the twentieth than it was in the seventeenth century in order to purge and purify the soil again.

The next great danger always hanging over the City was that of famine. The348 uncertain character of our climate, the occurrence of long rains, untimely frost, summer with no warmth or sunshine, blight and murrain, the ravages of war, and especially of civil war, the devastation caused by plague and pestilence, the difficulty of importing grain from abroad: all these causes conspired to make famine an ever-present danger. Terrible famines are reported to have happened in the third and fourth centuries; there were pestilences which accompanied times of great scarcity. In the year 1086 there was a famine, in 1150 there was a great dearth in London, another in 1195, another in 1257. The worst famine ever experienced by London was that of the year 1315-16 (see p. 51). It came after a succession of wet seasons and bad harvests, and nothing in the history of famines can be worse than the horrors of those two years: people lay out in the open streets and on the highways dying of starvation, they and their children; men fought for food everywhere; there were stories of mothers devouring their own offspring; the prisoners in the gaols murdered and devoured each other. Another terrible famine occurred in the year 1338; London, however, felt it little, because the Mayor imported grain from Prussia: outside London the people were making bread out of ivy berries and fern roots.



From MS. in British Museum. Harl. 4375.

In Saxon London we have to consider the amazing ferocity of the punishments, and the severity of the penance ordered (though evaded), but in this era we may be surprised at the comparative mildness of the mediæval punishments. Criminals were hanged, it is true, with greater frequency than at present. They were also sometimes sentenced to have their right hands lopped off, but the Alderman was generally present, and ready to pardon the offenders on submission; chiefly we read of pillory and stocks; if a second or third offence, pillory with banishment from the City. The stocks were also a favourite form of punishment, being a kind of pillory; they were for the most part movable stocks—just two beams laid alongside each350 other with holes for the feet; sometimes there was a ducking stool; sometimes a rogue was clapped in prison—a noisome, stinking place, full of fever; in extreme cases, he was put on penance, that is bread and water, until he died. Of burning there were few examples until the reign of Henry V. Margaret Jourdain, the witch, who assisted Eleanor Cobham, was burned. Murder, burglary, and highway robbery were punished by hanging. Runaway labourers were branded; sacrilege or rape was punished by hanging; child-stealing—a common offence,—scolding, and other offences of women, were punished by the stocks. The punishment of women by drowning was practised in very early times by the ancient Germans and Anglo-Saxons. It was continued down to the middle of the fifteenth century, when it was finally, but not formally, abolished. But women were drowned on the Continent in the eighteenth century. Among the Anglo-Saxons, women who were convicted of theft were thrown over a cliff into the sea, or submerged in any piece of water—stones being tied round the neck. The London places of execution were the Thames and the pools of St. Giles, Smithfield, St. Thomas Watering, and Tyburn. Sometimes the criminal was sewn up in a sack with a snake, a dog, an ape—but where did they get that ape?—and a cock. In the tenth century a woman was thrown from London Bridge into the Thames. In the year 1200 a woman of Southfleet was drowned for stealing cloth, and in the year 1244 one, Ann of Lodbury, was drowned in St. Giles’ Pool.

In the reign of Henry III. the penalty of drowning began to be changed for that of hanging. One woman, Ivella de Balsham, in that reign was pardoned because, although hanged on Monday at the ninth hour, she was found living on Tuesday at sunrise. It was thought a great innovation when women were first hanged at Paris, and when it was begun, in the reign of Charles VII., a great concourse of people, especially of women, flocked together to witness it. “La dite femme pendue toute deschevelee revestue d’une longue robe ceinte d’une corde sur les deux jambes jointe ensemble au dessous de genoux.”

In Burgundy they suffocated the adulterous woman in mud. At Hastings and Winchelsea they had no other form of capital punishment. Burying alive was sometimes, but seldom, practised. On one occasion a party of English soldiers, at the siege of Meaux by Henry V., were cut off, and they were all killed except one man, who escaped by flight. The King caused him to be buried alive with his dead companions. At Sandwich there was a place called Thieves’ Down, where criminals were formerly buried alive.

Treason has always, in every country, been punished by death; no crime, indeed, has ever affected men’s minds with so much horror and indignation. The English method is well known. The criminal was first hanged by the neck, but not until he was dead; in many cases he was only allowed to swing to and fro once or twice, and was then taken down, before he was insensible, to undergo the more351 terrible part of his punishment. He was stripped naked, and lines were marked, or pricked, over his body as a guide to the hangman’s knife. The first cut of the knife deprived him of his manhood; the next slashed open his body; his bowels were then taken out and burned before his eyes—if the poor wretch had any longer eyes to see; his heart was torn out; he was then dismembered and his head taken off; head, limbs, and trunk were set up in different places. In one case on record, a pardon arrived just in time when the men had already been hanged, cut down, stripped naked, and pricked all over for the hangman’s knife, and were lying in a row waiting for the last agonies. The hangman refused to give them back their clothes, and they walked home as they were.

The debtors’ prison for citizens and freemen of the City was Ludgate. Thither were sent those debtors sentenced to prison by the Mayor, Aldermen, Sheriffs, or Chamberlain. It appears that they were to stay in prison until they paid their debts. Ludgate was assigned by charity to the poor freemen of the City; it was thought that they would be more happy by themselves than with “strangers” in Newgate. At one time, however, the debtors made a bad use of this clemency by conspiring together to invent charges against innocent men—they accused Aldermen, for instance, of treason and other things. Instead of taking measures to prevent these practices by the punishment of the malefactors, King Henry V. was advised to abolish the prison altogether, and to remove the prisoners to Newgate. There so many of them died that in the same year the survivors were all taken back again to their old quarters. The fact that they were prisoners for life appears in the ordinance for abolishing the prison. It says that the prisoners ought to dwell in quiet, pray for their benefactors, live upon the alms of the people, and, in increase of their merits, by benign sufferance, in such imprisonment pass all their lives, if God should provide no other remedy for them.

Of punishments Holinshed gives what we may assume to be a complete account. There was no torture; the country neither broke on the wheel nor with the bar. For high treason the offender, if a commoner, was hanged, drawn, and quartered, as we have seen; if a nobleman, he was beheaded; for felony, manslaughter, piracy, murder, and rape, hanging was the penalty. In heinous cases the body was hanged in chains. A very large number of crimes came under the head of felony, which was a capital offence. Thus it was felony to carry horses or mares into Scotland; it was felony to steal hawks’ eggs; it was felony to practise sorcery, witchcraft, or the digging up of crosses. For poisoning—a crime held in the deepest abhorrence,—a woman was to be burned alive; a man was to be boiled alive—either in water, oil, or lead. There was one case recorded of boiling alive in water, but none that I know of boiling in lead. Boiling in oil was conducted by tying the wretched criminal to a pole and slowly lowering him, feet first, into the awful caldron. Perjury was punished by pillory, and by branding on the forehead352 with the letter P. Those who uttered seditious words had their ears cut off; sheep-stealers had their hands struck off; heretics were burned alive; disorderly women were put in pillory or stocks, and stood in streets; they were also carted and ducked. The Knight Marshal had the power of dragging a malefactor, man or woman, behind his boat across the river between Lambeth and Westminster. Rogues and vagabonds were stocked and whipped; scolds were ducked; pirates and robbers were hanged at low water on the bank, and suffered to hang there till three tides had flowed over them. Holinshed mentions as well a very strange custom—one wonders if it was ever really practised. If any man living beside a river wall or sea wall should suffer the wall to decay, he was apprehended, condemned, and staked in the breach, to form part of the foundation of the new wall to be erected thereon. Harrison corroborates the statement.

Here are some of the crimes for which pillory was ordered as a punishment. Adulteration of wine, pretending to be one of the King’s purveyors, short measure, pretending to be a summoner of the Archbishop, selling putrid fish, forging letters and seals, pretending to be a collector for the Hospital of Bethlehem, stealing a Baselard,12 stealing a leg of mutton, forging title-deeds, slandering the Sheriff, selling bad pigeons, insulting the Recorder, raising price of wheat, spreading false reports, putting iron in a loaf to make it weigh heavy, bringing false accusations, procuring, using false dice, selling counterfeit goods or bad goods of any kind, short weight, magic, fortune-telling.

The City of London, except when the Mayor sat on a Justiciary at the Gaol Delivery of Newgate, had not to deal with capital offences. It was in excess of his powers when a certain Mayor caused two rioters, who had insulted and assaulted him, to be beheaded. The King was out of England, and the Mayor reported the case to him for his approval, which was very cordially granted.

The offences punished by the City authorities were chiefly of the petty cheateries enumerated above.

Aldersgate was let as a place of residence to the Common Serjeant; Cripplegate, on the other hand, was let to John Watlyng, the serjeant and common crier, on the condition of keeping there all the prisoners who might be sent by the Mayor and Aldermen.

The case of Thomas de Albertis is curious and unsatisfactory. He was a man of repute, and apparently of some wealth, living in the parish of St. Swithin. The accusation against him was as follows: In the year 1415 Thomas sent one, Michael Petyn, an alien and broker, to the shop of William Bury, mercer in Soper Lane (now Queen Street), on the pretence that the French King, then a prisoner, wanted a certain cloth of gold. William Bury showed the cloth of gold, of which Michael agreed to buy four pieces at £150, “and,” he said,353 “if you will send the goods to Thomas de Albertis, he will pay for them on delivery.” William Bury sent the goods by a servant, who was accompanied by Michael. When they arrived at Thomas de Albertis’ house they were received by the butler, who said that his master was out—this being part of the conspiracy,—so the servant left the cloth of gold, and Michael, as had been arranged, went to take sanctuary at the House of the Minoresses outside Aldgate, while Thomas returned and took possession of the cloth without paying for it. Thomas was tried by a jury, half Englishmen, half aliens—which shows that he was an alien,—and found guilty. They sentenced him to three appearances in the pillory. But on the intercession of certain reputable merchants, the punishment was commuted into a fine of £20.

The story on the face of it is quite inconsistent with truth. First, what was Michael Petyn to get out of it? And next, how should a man of position lend himself to a conspiracy certain to be exposed? But the story shows that there were ingenious rogues in the London of the fifteenth century.

The minute laws which regulated everything betray the absence of police for the enforcement of those laws; a town which possessed a police would never venture to pass rules which the most efficient police could never enforce. Thus, to take some of the regulations almost at random, it will be seen that there could not possibly be any method of enforcing them. Serjeants and other officers were not allowed to take Christmas gifts. So, in the same way, in the early days of the railway, guards and porters were forbidden to take tips; yet, see what has come of that rule. It was forbidden to go about the streets mumming, or disguised, or acting at Christmas; the people were to make merry at home. But one could not make merry at home; there must be a company gathered together. Besides, what was Christmas without its mummers? Also at Christmas time every house was to hang out a lantern—and who was to go about the streets to enforce this rule? Then, as we have seen, the prices of things were regulated over and over again without the least regard to the ordinary rules of supply and demand. It was also ordered, with blind confidence in the power of law, that no man or woman of vicious life should live in the city; women of loose life were to be known by their hoods, which were to be of ray, or striped cloth—it was so perfectly certain that every woman who had lost her virtue would hasten to proclaim the fact publicly. Taverns were to be shut at curfew; nobody was to walk in the streets after dark; nobody was to carry arms at night; boys were not to ask for money for hocking, football or cock-throwing. All such laws are little more than an expression of opinion. They were repeated over and over again; offenders, no doubt, retired for a time—a week or two. Then they came out again. For not even an effective police can make a city virtuous, honest, and sober. Nothing will do this except public opinion—the opinion of the whole people; and the City of London was as far from that public opinion formerly as it is now.


Occasionally the law made itself felt in unexpected strength. Thus, when John Gedeney, draper, refused to be Alderman, they shut up his shop and confiscated his chattels until he changed his mind. And there was the case of the priest who bought a man’s wife. The Mayor could not punish him, because the Bishop alone had the power of punishing a priest, but he could, and did, order that no one in the City should employ him in any spiritual office whatever. And as regards the observance of prices according to regulations, there was one case, at least, in which women were sent to prison for refusing to sell at the ordered price. The arm of the law, moreover, proved long enough to catch William Blakeney, shuttlemaker, after six long years, during which he had enjoyed a pleasant and profitable time as a Pilgrim. He dressed for the part with bare feet and long hair and a Pilgrim’s staff. According to his own account, he had been to Jerusalem, Rome, Venice, and Seville; and the good people were never tired of listening to his adventures and experiences; they were never tired, in addition, of giving him food and drink. But he was found at last, and he was paraded about the streets in a cart, with a whetstone round his neck, to show that he was a liar, and was then put in pillory. A more serious offence was that of William Pykemyle. He pretended to be a messenger of the King. In this disguise he called upon the Countess of Bedford, and upon the Countess of Norfolk, carrying the command of the King that these ladies should join the Court at Leeds Castle in Kent. In return for this gracious royal command, William received rich rewards. This man was found out, tried, and sentenced first to pillory, then to prison during the King’s pleasure, and then to banishment from the City.

In connection with the ridings “about London” in carts and on horseback, with the face to the animal’s tail, with music to invite attention, with pillory for greater publicity, with the offence written on a placard hung upon the criminal’s neck, sometimes with the actual matter of offence tied round his neck, as in the case of that chain of putrid smelts forming a necklace for the vendor, were the attentions of the people confined to jeers and derision and hooting? When one stood in the pillory were things thrown? I am inclined to think that the pelting was always possible, but uncommon, because it is mentioned occasionally as having happened. Had it been customary, it would not have been mentioned. Thus, in November 1553, a certain profligate priest, or parson, Rector of St. Nicolas Cole Abbey, sold his wife to a butcher. It was a time when all priests who regarded their safety made haste to put away their wives; that was pardonable, but to make money by the sad necessity was not well thought of. Therefore Parson Chicken—that was his nickname—was carried round London in a cart. A second time this worthy priest was taken round “for assisting an old acquaintance in a ditch”—I do not understand the nature of the offence. On this occasion it is noted that the popular indignation showed itself in the hurling of rotten eggs at the man’s head, and the emptying of vessels upon him from the windows as he passed.355 Another case is that of Perkin Warbeck. He sat in stocks for a whole day before Westminster Hall, and also in Cheapside. He received, we learn, numberless scorns, reproaches, and gibes, but nothing is said of any personal ill-usage.

E. Gardner’s Collection.

The description of the prison on Cornhill, called the Tun, which was of the kind elsewhere called a Clink, and consisted of one strong room above and one below, gives Stow an opportunity of enlarging upon punishments and offenders. Thus to the Tun were committed night walkers and persons suspected or proved of incontinence. In the Mayoralty of John of Northampton in 1383, the citizens, taking into their own hands the rights belonging to the Bishop, imprisoned a number of unchaste women in the Tun, and then bringing them out to be seen by all the people, cut off their hair and carried them about the City with trumpets and pipes. And they used the men who were guilty of the like offence in the same way. This public shame seems to have been felt as the greatest ignominy possible. There is, indeed, a case on record in which three persons, notorious ringleaders of false inquests (i.e. persons who take money to be put in the jury and run to be made foremen in certain cases), who were led about the City with papers on their heads and their faces to the horse’s tail, actually died of shame.


“And now,” says Stow, “for the punishments of priests in my youth: one note and no more. John Atwod, draper, dwelling in the parish of St. Michael upon Cornehill, directly against the church, having a proper woman to his wife, such an one as seemed the holiest among a thousand, had also a lusty chantry priest, of the said parish church, repairing to his house: with the which priest the said Atwod would sometimes after supper play a game at tables for a pint of ale: it chanced on a time, having haste of work, and his game proving long, he left his wife to play it out, and went down to his shop, but returning to fetch a pressing iron, he found such play to his misliking, that he forced the priest to leap out at a window over the penthouse into the street, and so to run to his lodging in the churchyard. Atwod and his wife were soon reconciled, so that he would not suffer her to be called in question: but the priest being apprehended and committed, I saw his punishment to be thus:—He was on three market days conveyed through the high street and markets of the city with a paper on his head wherein was written his trespass. The first day he rode in a cart, the second on a horse, his face to the horse’s tail, the third led betwixt twain, and every day rung with basons, and proclamations made of his fact at every turning of the street, as also before John Atwod’s stall, and the church door of his service where he lost his chantry of twenty nobles a year, and was banished the city for ever.”

From What to See in England, Gordon Home.

So much is said about the scolding wife, the shrew, the brawling woman, that one would incline to think either that women have changed, or that some special conditions of the time tended to produce this variety of woman. Everywhere it was found necessary to punish her by the cucking-stool, which was a punishment belonging to the law of the land; the woman was tied in it and dipped, head over ears, and the punishment was carried on in some parts of the country as late as the last century. There was, however, another and a more ignominious form of punishment, if possible, than the cucking-stool. This was the “brank,” or “the branks,” or the “pare of branks,” consisting of a light iron frame, which was fitted on the head with an iron tongue, to be placed in the mouth; there were many varieties of this, but the principle was the same. The woman fitted with this headgear was either marched up and down the streets, or carried about in a cart, or placed on a stage in a kind of pillory. It has been suggested that probably the woman, who became so violent that this punishment was thought necessary, was suffering from some kind of excited brain; it is also possible that domestic misfortunes may have ruined a woman’s temper, a bodily pain, or excessive work.357 When life is easy, and there are no vexations or sufferings, there are few scolds. In the year 1640, or thereabouts, one, John Willis, deposed that he had seen a scold driven through the streets of Newcastle with a brank upon her head. In this town there used also to parade a drunkard walking in a cask which came down to his knees. At Worcester, Ludlow, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Oxford, Shrewsbury, Walsall, Lichfield, Walton-on-Thames, and many other places, there are also branks preserved, I believe, to this day. At Bolton-le-Moor the brank was used for the punishment of women of bad character.

Let us from the annals of mediæval crime extract a few illustrations of mediæval punishment.

Since the greatest possible offence that can be committed against the State is treason, I begin with the most remarkable case of high treason that can be found in our history. It occurred in the year 1295.

The traitor was one Thomas Turberville, knight. He was taken prisoner by the French at the siege of Rheims. While a prisoner, he was induced to engage himself to convey information to the French as to what was going on in England. Probably poverty—perhaps revenge—made him consent to this shameful undertaking. He gave two sons as hostages to the Provost of Paris, and came over to England pretending that he had escaped. He was favourably received by the King, and such confidence was reposed in him as might be expected for an honourable and gallant soldier, who had done good service.

In consequence of this confidence he was able to convey to the French information which enabled them to effect a landing at Hythe, Dover, and other parts of the kingdom. Then he went into Wales on this service, and engaged the Welsh to rise at the same time as the Scots. He sent his letters by a secret messenger, who contrived to travel without suspicion as belonging to the train or following of Ambassador or Cardinal. On one occasion, however, the messenger betrayed him, and instead of carrying the letters to Paris, took them straight to the King, before whom he laid open the whole villainy of Sir Thomas Turberville. The principal letter left no doubt possible. It was that of a self-confessed, double-dyed villain. It was as follows:—


“To the noble Baron and Lord Provost of Paris, sweet Sire, at the Wood of Viciens, his liege man at his hands, greeting. Dear Sire, know that I am come to the Court of the King of England, sound and hearty; and I found the King at London, and he asked much news of me, of which I told him the best that I knew: and know, that I found the land of Wales in peace, wherefore I did not dare to deliver unto Morgan the thing which you well wot of. And know that the King has fully granted peace and truce; but be you careful and well advised to take no truce, if the same be not to your great advantage: and know that if you make no truce, great advantage will accrue unto you, and this you may say to the high Lord. And know that I found Sir John Fitz Thomas at the King’s Court, for the purpose of treating of peace between him and the Earl of Nichole as to the Earldom of Ulvester: but I do not yet know how the business will turn out, as this letter was written the day after that the Cardinals had been answered: wherefore I dare not touch at all upon the business that concerns you. And know that there is little watch kept on the sea-coast towards the South: and know that the Isle of Wycht is without garrison: and know that the King is sending into Almaine two bishops, and two barons, to speak to, and to counsel with, the King of Almaine as to this war. And know that the King is sending into Gascoigne twenty ships laden with wheat and oats, and with other provisions, and a large sum of money: and Sir Edmund, the King’s brother, will go thither, and the Earl of Nichole, Sir Hugh le Despenser, the Earl of Warwyk, and many other good folks: and this you may tell to the high Lord. And know that we think we have enough to do against those of Scotland: and if those of Scotland rise against the King of England, the Welsh will rise also. And this I have well contrived, and Morgan has fully covenanted with me to that effect. Wherefore I counsel you forthwith to send great persons into Scotland: for if you can enter therein, you will have gained it forever. And if you will that I should go thither, send word to the King of Scotland, that he find for me and all my people at their charges honourably: but be you well advised whether you will that I should go thither or not: for I think that I shall act more for your advantage by waiting at the King’s Court, to espy and learn by enquiry such news as may be for you: for all that I can learn by enquiry I will let you know. And send to me Perot, who was my keeper in the prison where I was: for to him I shall say such things as I shall know from henceforth: and by him I will send you the matters that I fully ascertain. And for the sake of God, I pray you that you will remember and be advised of the promises that you made me on behalf of the high Lord, that is to say, one hundred livres of land to me and my heirs. And for the sake of God I pray you on behalf of my children, that they may have no want so long as they are in your keeping, in meat or in drink, or other sustenance. And for the sake of God I pray you that you be advised how I may be paid here: for I have nothing, as I have lost all, as well on this side as on the other: and nothing have I from you, except your great loyalty, in which I greatly trust. Confide fearlessly in the bearer of this letter, and show him courtesy. And know that I am in great fear and in great dread: for some folks entertain suspicion against me, because I have said that I have escaped from prison. Inform me as to your wishes in all things. Unto God (I commend you) and may he have you in his keeping.”

The traitor was arrested and taken to the Tower of London. A week later he expiated his crime as follows:—


“He came from the Tower, mounted on a poor hack, in a coat of ray, and shod with white shoes, his head being covered with a hood, and his feet tied beneath the horse’s belly, and his hands tied before him; and around him were riding six torturers attired in the form of the devil, one of whom held his rein, and the hangman his halter, for the horse which bore him had them both upon it; and in such manner was he led from the Tower through London to Westminster, and was condemned on the dais in the great hall there; and Sir Roger Brabazun pronounced judgment upon him, that he should be drawn and hanged, and that he should hang so long as anything should be left whole of him; and he was drawn on a fresh ox-hide from Westminster to the Conduit of London, and then back to the gallows; and there is he hung by a chain of iron, and will hang, so long as anything of him remain.”

Understand what was meant by all these details. They were partly to make him undergo the greatest humiliations possible; partly to teach the people what was meant by high treason. First, he had been a noble knight, therefore he must ride—but on a wretched hack. Next, he had been a gallant soldier, therefore he must wear a helmet—but it was a monk’s hood. Thirdly, as a soldier, he must have a coat of mail—but it was of the poorest and commonest striped cloth, such as used to mark the trade of a prostitute. Fourthly, instead of a soldier’s boots, he wore the white shoes of a scullion. Fifthly, so that no one could doubt what would be his fate after death, the devils had already got him; and since he was to be drawn to his place of hanging, let the journey be as long as possible, viz. from Westminster to the middle of Cheapside, and then by Newgate to the gallows at the elms at Smithfield; and since the ordinary hurdle as used for murderers and housebreakers is far too good for him, therefore let him be drawn on the gory and bleeding hide freshly stripped from the carcase. And finally, let him hang as long as anything remains of him to hang—for all the world to see, and for all the world to execrate.

Another memorable punishment was that of Sir Robert Tresilian, Lord Chief Justice of Richard II., who was hanged with Sir Nicholas Brembre and others. The method of his punishment illustrates the curious mixture of barbarity and of pity which characterised the time. His judges were anxious to inflict upon him the greatest possible amount of ignominy, and at the same time not to destroy his soul. He was therefore drawn on a hurdle all the way from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and with some humanity they allowed him to rest at the end of each furlong, in order that he might confess with the friar who accompanied him. When, however, he arrived at Tyburn, he refused absolutely to go up the ladder which led to the gallows. Then they proceeded to beat him with clubs—remember this man had been Lord Chief Justice,—and he finally consented to climb the ladder. When he stood upon360 the scaffold he turned to the hangman and said, “You cannot hang me as long as I have got anything on.” Thereupon they took off his clothes and found in his pockets certain charms with which he had provided himself against a violent death. Having thus removed the charms, they proceeded to hang him naked, and he was left hanging for the next twenty-four hours.

The prisons of London were those of the Tower (for persons accused of high treason), Newgate, Ludgate, and the Fleet. The chambers over the Gates of the City were, as we have seen, also used as prisons; and the gate in Westminster leading from the Abbey to Tothill Fields. There were also places of confinement of a temporary kind, such as the Tun in Cornhill. Every liberty, again, had its own prison—as, for instance, St. Katherine by the Tower,—and its own Court. Every monastery, also, had its own prison for offending brethren. The ordinary prison consisted of two rooms, one below the other, constructed of stone, with very strong and thick woodwork. This was protected by being everywhere covered with strong square-headed nails; the windows had iron gratings; the heavy doors were studded with nails; the lower room, which was the kitchen as well as the living-room, and a sleeping-room when the prison was crowded, had a great fireplace, the chimney being strongly barred above to prevent escape that way; there was outside a very small courtyard for air and exercise. The Fleet prison, which was outside the wall, was surrounded by a narrow fosse forming a branch of the Fleet river. The arrangement of the room above, and the room below, was, of course, modified when it became necessary to enlarge prisons, and to provide for the separate accommodation of women.

When we speak of Crime and Punishment we are forced to speak of Vagrants and Rogues. Below the busy and honest life of industry, hidden away in the holes and corners of the labyrinthine City, was the life of the rogues, the vagrants, the masterless men. If anything were wanted to prove the ever-present existence of this population, one need only read the Proclamations and Acts passed from time to time. Every outbreak of foreign or civil war added to the number of those who, once being taken from their work, would never return to it, and so became tramps, highway robbers, common thieves. The nomad instinct provides another contingent of those who cannot or will not work; the criminal whom no one will employ furnishes a third contingent; the prodigal son, who yearns and longs for the life of unrestraint with women, drink, feasting, and singing, furnishes another contingent. All these people found a harbour with congenial society in the Plantagenet times, as they do now in and about the City of London. If they were not within the walls they were not far without—in Clerkenwell, in Southwark, and in Westminster. The laws for the repression of vagrancy and robbery were sound and strong. If they could have been enforced, vagrants and highway robbers would have disappeared. For the Saxon system of frank-pledge provided that the hundred—or the tything361— should be responsible for every crime committed within its borders; further, if a man entertained a guest for more than two nights, he became liable for that guest. Yet without the goodwill of the people what is the use of laws? Who could enforce these laws? Robin Hood, Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley were popular heroes. As for vagrants, it was notorious that thousands were driven to vagrancy to escape starvation, through the tyrannous exactions of the overlord, or through the hard forest laws.

Another cause of vagrancy was that which remains in force to this day—the encouragement of beggars by giving them alms. There were places dotted all over the country, not monasteries only but castles and houses, where there were endowments and doles on certain days of the year; these days, of course, were perfectly well known to the tramp. The Statute of Winchester (A.D. 1285) makes it plain that the sympathies of the people were with the tramp and highway robber. It was enacted in this statute that there were to be stationed six men at every gate of the City; that the gate was to be closed from sunset to sunrise; and that the watch should arrest every suspicious person. This statute was to be enforced in every town, but in London it was further ordered that after Curfew tolled at St. Martin-le-Grand no man should go about the City streets armed; nor should he go about the streets at all unless “he be a great man or other lawful person of good repute, or their certain messenger”; and whereas “offenders do commonly meet and talk in taverns,” it was enacted that every tavern should be closed at curfew, under penalties, the last and chief of which was to be “forejudged” of his trade.

Again, who was to enforce these laws? What police were there to arrest night walkers? Who was to ascertain whether a tavern was closed or not? Accordingly, after the weak rule and troubled time of Edward II., we find his son in 1328 making a Proclamation against the granting of Charters of Pardon for Robberies, Manslaughters, Felonies, etc. Again, two years later, it is ordered that if suspicious persons pass by they may be arrested, either by day or by night, and delivered up to the Sheriff, who will judge if they be “Roberdes men, wastours, or Draghlacthe” (draw latches). The three Proclamations—23 Edward III., 25 Edward IV., and 2 Richard II.—concerning labour and vagrancy forbade absolutely the giving of alms to sturdy beggars. But proclamations availed nothing: the peasants left their villages and wandered about the roads; the men-at-arms wandered with them; the cripples, the blind, the maimed, the mutilated, wandered from town to town; the leper walked along with his “clack dish”; the strolling minstrel walked with them; and they were all rogues and thieves and murderers together. Sometimes they were set in the stocks; how could that have any effect upon a tramp? Shame he had none; trade he had none; employer he had none; vagrancy ran through his veins; there was no other life possible for him. Prison was the only cure for vagrancy; and that, imprisonment for life. Imprison362ment, however, generally shortened life very quickly. A case is mentioned by Jusserand (Wayfaring Life, p. 366) in which two men and one woman were imprisoned as vagrants without being charged with any robbery. It was at a place called Thorlestan; one of the men died in prison; the other man lost one foot; the woman lost two feet by putrefaction. The prison, in fact, was a foul and noisome place, not paved, not cleaned, in which fever always lingered. In the fourteenth century there is mentioned for the first time the influx of people from the country into London. In the year 1359 the following Proclamation was issued:—

“Forasmuch as many men and women, and others, of divers Counties, who might work, to the help of the common people, have betaken themselves out of their own country to the City of London, and do go about begging there, so as to have their own ease and repose, not wishing to labour or work for their sustenance, to the great damage of such the common people; and also, do waste divers alms, which would otherwise be given to many poor folks, such as lepers, blind, halt, and persons oppressed with old age and divers other maladies, to the destruction of the support of the same: We do therefore command on behalf of our Lord the King, whom may God preserve and bless, that all those who go about begging in the said city, and who are able to labour and work, for the profit of the common people, shall quit the said city between now and Monday next ensuing, and if any such shall be found begging after the day aforesaid, the same shall be taken and put in the stocks on Cornhulle, for half a day the first time: and the second time he shall be taken he shall remain in the stocks one whole day: and the third time he shall be taken, and shall remain in prison for 40 days, and then forswear the said city for ever. And every constable, and the bedel of every ward of the said city, shall be empowered to arrest such manner of folks, and to put them in the stocks in manner aforesaid.”

In the Vision of Piers Plowman there is a powerful contrast between the honest labourer and the beggar. In the description of the latter there is a touch which opens up a wide field of wickedness. “They observe,” he says, “no law, nor marry women with whom they have been connected. They beget bastards who are beggars by nature, and either break the back or some other bone of their little ones, and go begging with them on false pretences ever after. There are more misshapen children among such beggars than among any other men that walk on the earth.”

From Romaunt of the Rose in British Museum. Harl. MS. 4425.

This chapter belongs to the period which ends with the last of the Plantagenets. Yet the legislation of the next century, which was conducted on much the same lines as that of Richard II., and designed to meet the same evils, may be considered here as showing the condition of the City as regards beggars and rogues and persons without a trade. We have seen that Order after Order, Statute after Statute, Proclamation after Proclamation, was passed for the suppression of the rogue,363 who, nevertheless, continually multiplied and thrived. They tried other methods. They ordered sixteen Beadles of the four hospitals—Christ’s, Bartholomew’s, St. Thomas’s, and Bridewell—to divide the City between them, taking six wards for the party of four, and to arrest all the beggars of the City: the impotent and the aged, the sick, the lame, the blind they were to take to St. Bartholomew’s or St. Thomas’s; the children were to be taken to Christ’s Hospital; the sturdy beggars and vagabonds were to be taken to Bridewell, where they would receive “Payment”—it need not be explained what was the nature of the remuneration. It is not stated that success attended this measure, but the imagination pictures the sturdy beggar marching out of Bishopsgate, and Newgate, and Ludgate, with all possible speed, and with the air of an honest craftsman, while the impotent and the rest of them betook themselves to Southwark. At every gate of the City was planted one of the Beadles. It seems an odd service to exact of an Hospital officer to watch those who entered and those who went out; and every Beadle was to inquire of the collectors in every Ward for the houses which harboured vagrants; and these vagrants and sturdy beggars who should be set to work should be attended by a Beadle. Strange as it may appear, this method produced no visible decrease in the number of beggars and vagabonds, maimed soldiers, and masterless men, by whom364 the City was infested. They then made trial of a City Police. At first it was a beginning only. They appointed two City Marshals for the clearance of disorderly persons, whom they had authority to banish. One supposes that they did banish them, but it is certain that they came back again. Yet, for a time, the City Marshals succeeded; the chief haunts of rogues at this time were the new streets about Clerkenwell and Islington. On one occasion, a great and unexpected search being made in these places, several hundreds were arrested and taken to Bridewell, where they were all flogged and set to work. Yet a few years later the proclamations against masterless men were out again, with more vigorous search and more arrests and more floggings.

This view of low life in London may be concluded with Stow’s account of Mr. Wotton, though in reality he adorned the next century:—

“Among the rest they found out one Wotton, a Gentleman born, and sometime a Merchant of good Credit, but falling by Time into Decay: this Man kept an Alehouse at Smarts-key near Billingsgate: and after, for some Misdemeanour, put down, he reared up a new Trade of Life. And in the same house he procured all the Cutpurses about the City to repair to his House. There was a School-house set up, to learn young Boys to cut Purses: two Devices were hung up, the one was a Pocket the other was a Purse. The Pocket had in it certain Counters, and was hung about with Hawks Bells, and over the top did hang a little Sacring Bell. The Purse had silver in it. And he that could take out a Counter without any Noise, was allowed to be a public Foyster. And he that could take a piece of silver out of the Purse without Noise of any of the Bells, was adjudged a judicial Nypper, according to their Terms of Art. A Foyster was a Pickpocket, a Nypper was a Pickpurse or Cutpurse. In this Wotton’s House were written in a Table divers Poesies, and among the rest this was one.

Si spie, Sporte: si non spie, tunc Steal.
Another this—
Si spie, si non spie, Foyste, Nyppe, Lyfte
shave, and spare not.

Note, that Foyst is to cut a pocket: Nyppe is to cut a purse: Lyfte is to rob a shop, or a Gentleman’s Chamber: Shave is to filch a Cloak, a Sword, a Silver Spoon, or such-like, that is negligently looked into: to which add one phrase more in those times used among this sort, Mylken Ken, which is, to commit a robbery or Burglary in the Night in a Dwelling house.”

The Coroner’s Rolls from 1272-1278 have been preserved, and are published by Riley in his Memorials. They form a curious collection of cases. Let us go through these inquests of the thirteenth century. The exact dates do not concern us.

John Fuatard and John le Clerk were playing a game called “tiles”—probably rounded like quoits—on a certain Sunday morning in the churchyard of St. Mary Overies, the latter being Clerk in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. By accident, John le Clerk, in throwing his tile, struck the other so violent a blow on the head that it killed him on the spot. Having done this, John le Clerk ran away to the Church, and was no more seen, at all events, till after the inquest. Goods and chattels the Clerk had none. The neighbours of the deceased were attached, i.e. bound over to give evidence if called upon.

Henry de Flegge, taking his horse to water in the Dock of Castle Baynard365 Ward, was carried out into the river by the animal, and fell off his back and so was drowned. The nearest people to the place where the body was found were attached.

In the Tower Ward—“Ward of William de Hadestock”—and in the Parish of Barking Church, one, Gervase de Noreys, was found lying dead. It was ascertained that the deceased was quarrelling with one William Lyndeseye, and that the said William, drawing a knife, gave Gervase two wounds, one in the left breast, and one in the back, of which wounds he immediately died. William thereupon fled to the Church, where he remained. The goods of William were seized, but they amounted to nothing more than a tabard (short coat), one hatchet, a bow with three arrows, and one shirt, the whole valued at 16 pence.

On the Wednesday following, William acknowledged the crime before the Chamberlain and Sheriffs, and “abjured the realm.” They gave him three days to get to Dover, where he was to take boat across the Channel.

Henry Green, a water carrier, went down to the river to fill his tankard. The water carrier, sometimes called a cobb, carried a vessel—perhaps two vessels at a time—called tankards.

Henry Green, then, went down to the riverside with his tankard; he stepped into a boat; he filled the tankard and would have gone back to the quay, but the weight of the tankard caused the boat to move backwards, and Henry Green fell in and was drowned.

The Coroner learned the facts, examined the body, which showed no sign of violence, and appraised the boat and the tankard at 5s. 6d. The valuing of things at an inquest was for deodand, or the King’s perquisite. It would then appear that the owner of the boat lost it. Yet he was not to blame. The theory of the deodand was that the value of the instrument, or cause of the death, was to be given to the King, by him to be offered to God, if he so chose.

Another man, name unknown, was found drowned in the fosse of the Tower. The evidence stated that he was seen to take off the “coat of russet which he wore,” and in a naked state entered the water and sank to the bottom.

In the Ward of Henry de Coventre (Vintry Ward), Adam Seliot, a servant of Ponce de More of St. James Garlickhythe, was trying to climb a pear tree in the garden, when a branch broke and he fell to the ground, by which fall his “whole body was almost burst asunder.” The pear tree was valued at 5s. for the deodand.

In the Parish of St. Brigid and the Ward of Anketil de Auvergne (Farringdon Ward Without) an inquest was held on the body of John le Hancrete. The witness said:—


“That the said John came from a certain feast that had been held in the City of London to the house of William before-named, being very drunk, that is to say, on the Monday before, at the hour of Vespers, where he had hired his bed by the day; and that then, intending to lie down upon it, he took a lighted candle for the purpose of making his bed; which done, he left the candle burning, and fell asleep thereon. And the candle being thus left without any one to look after it, the flame of it caught the straw of the bed upon which the said John was lying; and accordingly, he, as well as the bed and the straw aforesaid, was burnt, through the flame of the candle so communicating, at about the hour of midnight. And so, languishing from the effects thereof, he lived until the Tuesday following, at the hour of Matins, on which day and hour he died from the burning aforesaid. Being asked if they hold any one suspected of the death of the said John, they say they do not. And the body was viewed; upon which no wound or hurt appeared, save only the burning aforesaid.”

Roger Canny, on a certain cold night in December, was going home. He had been drinking till curfew at the tavern of Robert Box. He was very drunk when he started: presently he fell down in the street, and so lay out in the frost and died of the cold. It was stated that he had epilepsy, or a “falling sickness,” but the “falling” was probably due to the beer and not to the epilepsy.

The inquest on Richard de Parys, chaloner (maker of chalons or blankets), was of a much more complicated nature. Let us quote Riley’s words:—

The witnesses “say that on the preceding Sunday, after curfew rung, it happened that one Richard Moys, going along the King’s highway, came to the door of John le Chaloner, next to the house of Agnes de Essexe, near Fancherche; in which house lodged Robert de Munceny and Arnulph, his son, with his household; and so, trying to make entrance therein, he knocked, shouted, and made a noise. On seeing which, four of the household aforesaid, who were standing at the hostel of the knights before-mentioned, and of whose names they are ignorant, being moved thereat, requested him to cease making his noise, and go away; and as he refused to do so, they cried out that he must leave forthwith; whereupon, hearing the outcry aforesaid, Robert and Arnulph, and all of Robert’s household, came out, that is to say, John de Munceny, son of Robert, John Fauntilun, Robert de la Rokele, Henry de Ginges, John Curtoys, John de Hakone, John le Wyte, Hugh de Hoddone, Hachard de Garbodesham, and Robert de le Lo, some with swords, and some with other arms. And all of them, save only the said Robert, who stood at the door of his hostel, followed the said Richard, who fled to the house of Alice le Official; in which house many persons were seated drinking, with the door open, among whom were Richard de Parys, now dead, and one Henry Page; and Richard Moys concealed himself between two wooden vessels there. And the said Arnulph, on entering, met at the door the said Richard de Parys, who cried out, ‘Who are these people?’ whereupon Arnulph struck him with his drawn sword, already stupefied as he was at the sight of the sword. Then rushing into the house, he gave him a wound in the back, between the ribs of the body, two inches367 in breadth, and penetrating to the intestines; and another small wound under the left breast. From which wounds he languished, and survived until the Thursday following, on which day, at the hour of Matins, he died. And immediately after perpetrating this felony, Arnulph went forth and joined his accomplices, and they went together to his hostel, John and Hachard excepted, who took to flight; and there they remained in his house. Being asked if they hold anyone else suspected of that death, either in deed or in abetting the same; they say all the persons aforesaid, except the said Robert de Munceny, who was standing at the door of the hostel where he lodged, while this was going on, the said Hachard and John included, who fled immediately after the felony was committed, were present when the same was committed. No person, however, wounded him, save only the said Arnulph; nor do they hold the said Robert suspected of abetting him. And all of them were taken and imprisoned, except those who took to flight. None of them had any goods or chattels, except the said Robert de Munceny and Arnulph, his son; who had six horses, three beds, one falcon, and three greyhounds, which are appraised at 20 marks in the whole. And the body was viewed, etc.

From MS. in British Museum. Harl. 4374.

And the two neighbours nearest to the spot where the said Richard de Parys lay dead, were attached, by sureties; and the two neighbours nearest to the spot368 where he was wounded; and the two neighbours nearest to the hostel from which they went forth. And Agnes de Essexe was attached, in whose house the said malefactors were lodged, and Alice, her maid-servant. And all the persons were attached, who were in the house where he was wounded.”

Matilda, wife of Henry le Coffeur, came to a tragic end like Roger Canny, through the effects of drink. She was going home very drunk and she fell and broke her right arm. They carried her to her own home and she languished for three days, when she died. Probably there was something else broken as well as the arm.

The next is a case of murder with several points of interest.

Symon de Winton kept a tavern in Ironmonger Lane. His body was found in a coal-cellar in Easter 1278.

The facts were these. The said Symon had a servant named Roger de Westminster. On December 7, 1277, the master and his man had a violent quarrel. They carried on the quarrel the whole of the next day. Now they slept in the same room. On the following morning, Roger opened the tavern as usual, set out the benches and sold wine, as if nothing had happened:—


“And as the said Symon had not been seen by the neighbours all that day, they asked Roger what had become of his master; whereupon he made answer that he had gone to Westminster, to recover some debts that were owing to him there; and on the second day and third he gave the same answer. At twilight, however, on the third day, he departed by the outer door, locking it with the key, and carrying off with him a silver cup, a robe, and some bedclothes, which had belonged to the same Symon. Afterwards he returned, and threw the key in the house of one Hamon Cook, a near neighbour, telling him that he was going to seek the said Symon, his master, and asking him to give him the key, in case he should come back. And from that day the house remained closed and empty until the Eve of Our Lord’s Circumcision (January 1) following; upon which day John Doget, a taverner, taking with him Gilbert de Colecestre, went to the house aforesaid to recover a debt which the said Symon owed to him for wines. But when he found the door closed and locked, he inquired after the key of the neighbours who were standing about; upon hearing of which, the said Hamon gave him up the key forthwith. Upon entering the tavern with Gilbert aforesaid, he found there one tun full of wine, and another half full, which he himself had sold to Symon for 50 shillings; and this he at once ordered to be taken out by porters, namely, Henry Wyting, William le Waleys, Ralph le Yreis, Hugh Noteman, and Stephen de Eyminge, and put in a cart belonging to Henry Wyting aforesaid, and taken to his own house, for the debt so due to him; together with some small tables, canvas cloths, gallons, and wooden potels, two shillings in value. This being done, the said John Doget shut the door of the house, carrying away with him the key thereof; from which time the house was empty, no one having entered it until the Tuesday before Palm Sunday. Upon which day, Master Robert aforesaid, to whom the house belonged, came and broke open the door for want of a key, and so entering it, immediately enfoffed Michael le Oynter thereof; which Michael, on the Saturday in Easter week, went there alone, to examine all the offices belonging thereto, and see which of them required to be cleansed of filth and dust. But when he came to the narrow and dark place aforesaid, he there found the headless body; upon seeing which, he sent word to the said Chamberlain and Sheriffs.

Being asked if any one else dwelt in the house, save and except those two persons, or if any one else had been seen or heard in that house with them on the night the felony was committed, or if any other person had had frequent or especial access to the house by day or night, from which mischief might have arisen, they say, not beyond the usual resort that all persons have to a tavern. Being asked if the said Roger had any well-known or especial (friend) in the City, or without, to whose house he was wont to resort, they say they understand that he had not, seeing that he was a stranger, and had been in the service of this Symon hardly a fortnight. Being asked therefore whither he had taken the goods he had carried off, they say that, seeing that the house was near to the Jewry, they believe that he took them to the Jewry; but to whose house they know not. Being asked what became of the head so cut off, they say they know not, nor can they ascertain anything as to the same. They say also that the said Roger escaped by stealth, and has not since been seen. Chattels he had none.”

In the Church of St. Stephen Walbrook, William le Clerke ascended the belfry to look for a pigeon’s nest. As he was climbing from beam to beam his feet failed him and he fell, being instantly killed. The beam was appraised at fourpence.

In West Chepe, the body of William le Pannere, pelterer, was discovered near the Conduit. It was found that he had been just weakened by being blooded so that he fell on his way home and expired on the spot.

In Broad Street Ward—the “Ward of William Bukerel”—one Matthew de Hekham was lying dead in the house of Richard le Clerk in Lothbury. The story is curious:—

“Who say that on the Sunday next after the Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle (September 21), the said Matthew was going from Bradestrete towards the Jewry, and when he had reached midway between the lane called ‘Isemongere Lane,’ and the Guildhall of London, there met him certain Jews, Abraham de Derkynge, Isaac de Canterbury, and Cresse, son of Isaac de Lynton. And upon so meeting him, Abraham before-named, of malice aforethought, took the said Matthew by the shoulder, and threw him in the mud; and upon his attempting to rise, Isaac before-mentioned struck the said Matthew with a certain anelace [a knife or dagger] of his below the right shoulder-blade, in the loins, inflicting upon him a wound one370 inch in breadth and six inches deep. After which, the said Matthew pursued them, as well as he was able, from the spot before-mentioned to the wall of St. Laurence Jewry, where, being too much weakened through excessive loss of blood, he could follow them no farther; but rising from the ground, he went to the house of Richard before-named, where he was found. And so, after languishing from the Sunday before-named to the Friday next before the Feast above-mentioned, he died at daybreak on that day. Being asked if they hold any other person or persons suspected, they say no one, except the said Isaac, who gave him the wound from which he died: and that the aforesaid Abraham and Cresse were consenting to the felony. Being asked as to the chattels of the felons, they say that they know nothing of them. And the body was viewed, upon which appeared the wound aforesaid, and that most horrible.”

Nothing is said as to the trial of Abraham, Isaac, and Cresse.

It was reported that one Gilbert Clope was lying dead on a quay near th