Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane. Originally published by Centre for Metropolitan History, London, 1987.
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This account covers the topographical rather than the ecclesiastical and social aspects of the church's history. The church is first recorded in the 12th century. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt afterwards. After the Fire the site of the church and its cemetery came to be glebe of the adjacent parish church of St. Olave. The site can be identified with that piece of St. Olave's parish which the Ordnance Survey map of 1878 shows as projecting into the parish of St. Martin as far as Ironmonger Lane due west of the church of St. Olave. Before the Fire this site lay between the properties discussed under 95/8-12 to the N. and the lane now known as Church Passage to the S.
The church is first recorded in what purports to be a charter of Henry II dateable from the witnesses to between 1175 and 1179. By this charter the king confirmed to St. Bartholomew's Priory numerous gifts including the ecclesia sancti martini de Pomerio, which the priory had by the gift of Ralph Trochet. The text of this charter is known only from a royal inspeximus of 1318, and the surname de Pomerio, commonly used for the church of St. Martin during the 13th century and later, may not have been current during the 1170s. The fact of Ralph's gift of the church to the priory, however, is fairly certain, and his donation (under the name Ralph Triket) is confirmed in an unimpeacheable royal charter of 1253. Ralph Triket held land in and near Bromley, Middlesex, some of which he granted to Holy Trinity Priory in or before 1183-4. In one of his grants he describes himself as 'king's chamberlain', presumably because he held his land for the service of holding a towel for the king at the coronation, as his grand-daughter, Ida Triket (a widow c. 1198), certainly did at a later date. In 1086 this land was probably represented by the estate in Stepney held by Robert son of Roscelin, who, therefore, may also have held the land in London where the parish church of St. Martin is later known to have stood. Ralph Triket was presumably not one of the major officers in Henry II's household, but perhaps gained his title on account of the interest which the principal chamberlains had in the service which he probably owed. Ralph seems to have flourished during the early years of Henry II's reign and was probably dead by 1168, by which date his son Stephen and Stephen's mother Armengarde made a grant of land to Holy Trinity Priory. Ralph's son Robert made a grant to the priory in 1197-8, and Ralph also had another son, Hugh. (fn. 1)
It is not known whether Ralph Triket held any other property in Ironmonger Lane apart from the church, but there is one early association between this area and St. Bartholomew's Priory which suggests that Ralph may have had a closer interest in the land than that of purely absentee landlord. Land on the west side of the lane, almost opposite the church, seems at one time to have been in the possession of Rahere, founder and first prior of St. Bartholomew's who died in 1144 (see 95/3). If Ralph Triket had ever lived in the lane, or had a close knowledge of it, this association could have influenced his donation.
There is an early reference to the church between 1180 and 1189, when Thomas, the priest of St. Martin in iudaismo, witnessed a grant of land in the nearby parish of St. Margaret Lothbury. About 1200 land immediately S. of the church and forming part of the property identifiable as 95/13-15 (q.v.) was said to be iuxta cimiterium sancti Martini. In a mid 13th century St. Paul's rental the parish is named as that of St. Martin de Pomerio in iudaismo, and the surname form de Pomerio (with minor variations in spelling and anglicization) continued to be used into the 17th century, alternating with the name 'St. Martin in Ironmonger Lane.' (fn. 2) The pomerium was presumably an orchard, and the name may reflect the church's location in what was once a relatively sparsely settled area of the city. (fn. 3)
In about 1200 the church of St. Martin stood within a cemetery (cf. above). To the E. this adjoined the cemetery of the church of St. Olave, which is recorded at about the same time and extended a little further to the S. (see 142/1). At some time a public way now represented by Church Passage, was established through these two cemeteries. It is first mentioned in 1330 as the little lane between Ironmonger Lane and Colechurch Street where there were houses belonging to the hospital of St. Thomas of Acre (cf. 95/13-15). (fn. 4)
St. Bartholomew's Priory held the advowson of the church until the Reformation, and a pension of 8s. a year was paid to the infirmarer of the priory. In the mid 13th century the income of the church was said to be scarcely sufficient for the incumbent, but in 1306 it was valued at £4 a year. (fn. 5) By this latter date the church had attracted endowments of income from land in the parish. Thus in 1303-4 it had a rent of 6s. 8d. from 95/4 (q.v.) which it had perhaps acquired in the late 13th century and may have retained until 1548. Under the will of John le Coffrer, enrolled in 1305, the subsequent holder of his capital messuage (see 95/5A) was to maintain a chaplain in the chapel of St. Mary within the cemetery of St. Martin Pomary and was to sustain the chapel against wind and rain. This endowment was regularized c. 1331 as a chantry for John le Coffrer to be celebrated at the altar of St. Mary within the church of St. Martin. The phrasing of le Coffrer's will thus suggests that the chapel in the cemetery was a Lady Chapel very recently added to the church and perhaps largely paid for by le Coffrer himself. Another resident of the parish, William le Furbour, at his death in 1327-8 left rent from 95/4 (q.v.) to support a chantry in the church. These three endowments from adjacent properties appear to have become confused after the mid 14th century, probably on account of the depopulation and falling land values consequent upon the Black Death. In 1352 the parish church was said to possess a shop in 95/5, but had probably lost it by 1358. 95/4-5 then came into the possession of a single landlord who paid a rent to the parish church, presumably for a chantry, until c. 1420, but not afterwards.
The church attracted other endowments. A parishioner who died in 1328 left the money from the sale of one of his properties (95/2), should that come about, for the endowment of a chantry there. Henry atte Roche, who probably lived near the church within the precinct of St. Thomas of Acre, at his death in 1348-9 left rent in St. Ethelburga's parish for the endowment of his chantry. In 1532 Robert Brocket left rent in Houndsditch to augment this chantry and to maintain his own obit. The chantry of Brocket and atte Roche was the only one being celebrated in the church in 1548. (fn. 6)
The chantry certificate of 1548 mentions two other properties belonging to the church. One was a shop in Ironmonger Lane given by William Wylehale and producing an annual income of 6s. 8d. towards the maintenance of five candles. The rent was seized by the Crown, and in 1550 was due from Henry Sympson. By 1569 the rent was said to be due from Thomas Sympson and by 1603 was said to be due from John Marsh, although it was in arrears and had not been paid for 41 years. Neither Henry nor Thomas Sympson are otherwise known to have held property in Ironmonger Lane, but a John Mershe held 95/4 on lease from 1548 onwards so that it is possible, but not certain, that the 6s. 8d. rent is identical with that which had been due from 95/4 in the 14th century. The other property noted in 1548 was a chapel annexed to the church 'for the ease of poor people', which had been let to Ambrose Barker for 13s. 4d. rent. This chapel was part of the house on the S. side of the church which had belonged to the hospital of St. Thomas of Acre and was at that time occupied by Ambrose Barker (see 95/13). The landlord perhaps paid 13s. 4d. quit-rent to the parish for the chapel. Under a royal grant of 1540 Barker was allowed to hold this and other houses rent-free for life and this effectively extinguished the 13s. 4d. rent. The freehold title to the house, and presumably also to the chapel, was acquired by the Mercers' Company in 1542 (see 95/13). The chapel may have been at first floor level, and in 1562 was said to be 'sailing over the alley gate' and to be 'fastened to' the messuage belonging to the Mercers' Company (95/13). At this time the ownership of the chapel was in dispute between the company and the parishioners, who were said to have broken up a pale of boards there. A representative group of mercers was appointed to settle the matter with the parish. The chapel was then either demolished or taken back into the parish church since there is no later reference to it in the company's records. (fn. 7)
There is very little other evidence for the structure and setting of the church, which throughout its history seems to have been a small and relatively plain building. There is a reference in 1410 to the Lady Chapel as an intended place of burial. Thomas Macchyng, who died in 1429-30, wished to be buried in the cemetery and left 10s. to make a new seat called a pewe in the church. Richard Parker, a rector who died in 1443, wished to be buried in the choir, and another rector, James Beeke who made his will in 1456, also wished to be buried in the choir. Joan Hudgrey, who died in 1483, wished to be buried next to her husband before the image of our Lady of Piety in the church, and in his will dated 1524 William Statham, mercer, wished to be buried before the same image in the middle of the church. Sir Ralph Verney, mercer, in 1478 wished to be buried in the tomb which stood beneath the sepulchre between the choir and the Lady Chapel, and Thomas Crispe, mercer, in 1531 wished to be buried before the choir door as near his wife as possible. Thomas Hill, girdler, in 1454 wished to be buried in the cemetery of the church next to the north door there (the reference seems to be to the door of the church rather than that of the churchyard). Not one of these tombs, some of them of wealthy citizens, survived long enough or was sufficiently impressive to be thought worthy of note by Stow. (fn. 8)
In 1550 the parishioners attempted to build next to their church, perhaps with the intent of increasing their income after the recent loss of the parish chantry lands. They were unsuccessful and were ordered to fill in a pit they had dug on the city's ground by the church. In the following year their petition to be allowed to build on the common soil next to the church door was rejected. (fn. 9) In 1611, however, a similar petition was successful and the parishioners obtained a lease from the city of a piece of void ground on the N. side of the church steeple for a term of 50 years at 6s. 8d. rent. A shop with a room over it stood on this site in 1655 when the lease was renewed for a term of 61 years (including the time to come on the former lease) at the old rent and for a fine of £20. (fn. 10)
During the 17th century the appearance of the church seems to have been much improved. In 1627 much of the N. wall was rebuilt at the cost of the parish, and it included a 'fair window' built at the cost of John and Humphrey Slany (who probably lived in 95/10). The window displayed the arms of the donors and the date 1627. At about this time a 'fair screen' at the entrance into the church was erected at the cost of Hamlet Clarke (resident of 95/4E) and Ralph Latham (who probably lived in 95/3A). Some notable monuments were also erected, including one to Ralph Pickering, who died in 1618 (resident of 95/5M), and one to Hamlet Clarke's widow Eleanor, who died in 1626. (fn. 11)
The parsonage house, which according to Strype was burned along with the church in 1666, probably lay within the churchyard, although on the eve of the Fire the rector, Thomas Nest, appears to have inhabited a house on the opposite side of the street (95/5G). In 1673 the site of the parsonage was let by the parson of St. Olave's parish to several parishioners who built a dwelling house there. This was probably the house shown on Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1676 as occupying the N.W. corner of the land which can be identified as the site of the church and churchyard. Just S. of this, on the corner of Church Passage, the same map shows a small structure on a N.S. alignment. This was a building measuring 25 ft. (7.62 m.) by 13 ft. (3.96 m.) which a group of parishioners were erecting in 1674 when, on a complaint from the holder of the property on the S. side of the passage, it was decided that the building should be of one storey only and nowhere more than 16 ft. (4.88 m.) high so as to allow a 'better aspect of the church and steeple' (presumably St. Olave in Old Jewry). A house had apparently occupied the same site before the Fire when it had projected at an upper level over Church Passage. (fn. 12)