A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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This ward is denominated from the eastern gate of the city, and is defined on the east by the city wall which parts it from Portsoken ward; it is bounded on the south by Tower-street ward; and on the west and north by Langbourn, Limestreet, and Bishopsgate wards.
Its principal streets all branch from the spot where the gate stood, which was one of the four original gates of the city. These are, Aldgate High street from the gate to the stone pump, where it parts into two streets; Leadenhall street to the right, and Fenchurch street to the left: from the gate along the city wall northward, Shoe-maker-row leads to Bevis Marks, and so to Camomile-street; and from the gate southward along the wall, Poor-Jury lane leads into Crutched-friars. This street derives its name from a religious house of crouched or crossed friars which stood there; the prior of which being caught in bed with a whore at noon day on a Friday by the visitors under Cromwell, in the reign of Henry VIII. the foundation was dissolved. The eastern sides of St. Mary Axe, and of the north corners of Lime-street, and Mark-lane, limit the extent of the ward westward; southward it reaches to Tower-hill.
In Crutched-friars stands the navy-office, a plain building the appearance of which gives the spectator no idea of its importance; though it has the merit of being extreamly convenient. Here all affairs relating to the royal navy are managed by seven commissioners under the lords of the Admiralty.
On the north side of Fenchurch-street stands Ironmonger's-hall, a handsome modern building fronted with stone, and erected in the year 1748. The lower story is wrought in rustic; the center part of the building projects a little, and in this part is a large arched entrance and two windows, with two others on each side. The superstructure over this rustic story has a light rustic at the corners, to keep up a correspondence with the rest of the building; but the part which projects in this story is ornamented with four Ionic pilasters coupled, but with a large inter-columniation; and with a very noble Venetian window in the center, and a circular window over it. In each space between the pilasters is a smaller window with an angular pediment, over each of which are circular windows: but the side parts have arched windows, with square ones over them. The central part is crowned with a pediment supported by these pilasters; and in its plane are carved the arms of the company with handsome decorations, in relievo. The rest of the front is terminated by a balustrade crowned with vases.
At the north east corner of St. Mary Axe, stands Fletcher's-hall, a small, neat, convenient building, belonging to the company of Fletchers or Arrow makers, from the French word fléche, an arrow. Though arrows have been near three centuries out of use in England, and notwithstanding this is a company only by prescription and not by charter, it still subsists consisting almost entirely of other professions.
Behind the houses at the upper end of Fenchurch buildings and nearly opposite to St. Catharine Cree church, stood a hall belonging to the company of Bricklayers; but this hall has lately been converted into a Jewish synagogue.
On the north side from Aldgate formerly stood the priory of Holy Trinity, founded by queen Maud, wife to king Henry I. in the year 1108, for canons regular of the order of St. Augustin, with great endowments: amongst which the said king granted the port of Aldgate, and the soke thereunto belonging, &c. In order to establish this foundation, the four parishes of St. Mary Magdalen, St. Michael, St. Catharine, and the Blessed Trinity, were united in the one parish of the priory of the Holy Trinity called Christ-church. The priory was built on a piece of ground upward of three hundred feet long, in the parish of St. Catharine, toward Aldgate, near the parochial chapel of St. Michael, whose remains are still to be seen under a house at the S. E. corner of Leadenhallstreet. This priory, in process of time, became a very large church, rich in lands and ornaments, and surpassed all the priories in the city of London, or shire of Middlesex; the prior whereof was an alderman of London, of Portsoken ward.
This priory was dissolved in 1531; for king Henry VIII. desirous of rewarding Sir Thomas Audley, speaker of the parliament against cardinal Wolsey, sent for the prior, and persuaded him to surrender the priory into his hands. The canons were sent to other houses of the same order; and king Henry gave the priory, with the appurtenances, to Sir Thomas Audley, afterward lord Chancellor. Audley built a noble mansion of this priory, and his only daughter being married to Thomas Duke of Norfolk, this estate descended to the duke, and was called the Duke's-Place. The name has continued to this day; though there is nothing to be found on that great track of ground to give us any idea of its former grandeur, except the arch of the gateway at the S. W. end of the premises, almost facing the N. end of Creed-lane. But that duke of Norfolk losing his head on Tower-hill, this mansion descended to Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk, eldest son to the duke, by Audley's daughter; who by indenture of bargain and sale, dated 21 July, 34 Elizabeth, sold it to the mayor, commonalty, and citizens of London, to have and to hold to them and their successors.
Some time before the priory of Holy Trinity was dissolved, the inhabitants within its boundaries, who had been deprived of their parish churches, to make way for that religious foundation, finding it very inconvenient to be confined to the conventual church, obtained leave, under certain conditions, to build a chapel in the church-yard of the priory, for their own conveniency; which escaping the fate of the religious houses became the only place, after the conventual church was pulled down, for the inhabitants within that district to repair to for divine service. This, however creating some dislike, the inhabitants of Duke's-place applied to the archbishop of Canterbury for his assistance; who having obtained the king's warrant, under the broad seal, for proceeding in their pious intention, prevailed with the lord-mayor, court of aldermen, and common-council, to build them a church of the stones of the conventual church, which still remained on the premises. This was compleated, consecrated, and dedicated to St. James, on the second of January 1622, and the parish is a precinct from the ward of Aldgate. It begins south at Aldgate, and extends northward to Bevis-marks, taking in all the streets, alleys, and courts, within that compass; the parish of St. Catharine Cree church and St. Mary Axe bounding it on the West. The church having escaped the dreadful fire in 1666, still remains in its original form; the body is well enlightened, and the tower, which is composed of four stages, is terminated by a very singular kind of turret in the form of a canopy. This church is a curacy, the patronage of which being in the lord-mayor and commonalty of London, the parish claims a right of exemption from the bishop of London's jurisdiction, in matters ecclesiastical.
At the south east corner of St. Mary-axe, and at the west extremity of this ward, on the north side of Leadenhall-street, is the parochial church of St. Andrew Undershaft. This church obtained the name of Undershaft from a maypole, which was annually raised in the street near it on May-day, and which was called a shaft (fn. 1). The present church was begun to be built about the year 1520, principally at the charge of Stephen Jennings, merchant taylor, who was lord-mayor of London in 1508; as appears by his arms carved over the pillars on the north side. But he dying in 1524, it was finished by William Fitz Williams, who was sheriff in 1506 in the year 1532 (fn. 2). This building which escaped the great fire is a plain gothic structure, with a well enlightened body, and a square tower terminated by battlements, with pinnacles at the corners; within which rises a turret that contains the bell. It is a rectory in the patronage of the bishop of London.
At the S. E. angle of Cree-church lane in Leadenhall-street, stands the church of St. Catharine Cree; so called from its being dedicated to St. Catharine, an Egyptian virgin, and distinguished from other churches of the name, by the addition of Cree or Christ, from its vicinity to the conventual church of the Holy Trinity, which was originally called Christ's church.
King Henry VIII. in his grant of the priory of Holy Trinity to Sir Thomas Audley, (afterward lord Audley) gave this church also to Sir Thomas; the prior and canons of Christ-church having been originally and always patrons thereof. By the will of lord Audley, this church fell to the master and fellows of Magdalen college, in Cambridge, and their successors, whom he enjoined to serve the cure for ever: they leased out the impropriation to the parishioners for ninety years; but a dispute arising between the college and the parish, at the expiration of the lease, in 1725, about a renewal; a lease was granted to Jerome Knapp, haberdasher of London. In order to settle the difference, it was agreed, that 150l. per ann. should be raised by the parishioners in lieu of tythes, &c. out of which the officiating curate should be paid 50l. per ann. for the first ten years, beside surplice fees, &c. and after that term 70l. beside the fees; which agreement was confirmed by act of parliament (fn. 3).
The present edifice was erected in the year 1629; and is built with stone, in a mixed gothic style. It has rounded battlements on the top, and a square tower with the same kind of battlements; this tower is crowned with a square turret, over which is a dome, and from its summit rises the weather cock. It was consecrated by Dr. Laud then bishop of London, January 16th, 1630, with many superstitious rites (fn. 4), which afterward became one of the articles of his impeachment. This church escaped the great fire in 1666.
In Magpie alley Fenchurch-street, stands the parish church of St. Catharine Coleman; so denominated from its dedication to St. Catharine, a virgin of Alexandria, and celebrated for her great knowledge in philosophy, and as being a martyr for the christian faith. It received the addition of Coleman from a great yard or garden, called at that time Coleman-haw, in the parish of the Trinity, afterward Christ church. It is a rectory of ancient foundation, as far back as the year 1346, and the church escaped the fire of London: but the raising of the streets having sunk the old church, it was taken down in the year 1734. The present church was erected at the expence of the parish, under the sanction of parliament (fn. 5); and has a lofty body, well enlightened with two rows of windows: the steeple is a plain tower, crowned with battlements; and care has been taken to raise the floor so much above the level of the street, as to leave no room to apprehend this edifice will ever again fall under the disadvantage of being buried by the adjacent ground.
This church was antiently in the patronage of the dean of St. Martin le grand, London, and so continued till that religious house, with its appurtenances, was annexed to the abbey of Westminster: at whose dissolution it fell to the crown, and the advowson was given by Queen Mary to the bishop of London and his successors in that see for ever.
Great numbers of Jews inhabiting in and about Duke's place, and other parts of this ward; there are four synagogues in it. One at the north end of Burystreet by London wall; another in Magpie-alley close by the church of St. Catharine Coleman; the third in Duke's place; and the fourth in Bricklayer's hall, as mentioned above.