A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603. Originally published by Clarendon, Oxford, 1908.
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§ 2. The Survey of London
The Survey of London is the book of a life. On it the author's peculiar title to same now rests. Yet probably he himself had regarded it as somewhat of a relaxation from his more serious labours on general English history. The range of his research puts Stow outside the class of 'lay chronigraphers that write of nothing but of Mayors and Sherrifs, and the dere yere, and the great frost'. (fn. 1) He has an indisputable right to our regard for the amount of information, which he collected and preserved. Yet when this is admitted, the Annales entitle him to little other distinction than that which belongs to a painstaking seeker after truth, who brought the results of his toil into a chronologically exact narrative, without the power to impress them with any greater vitality. (fn. 2) Had he done no more, he would be no more remembered than are others, who did good work enough in and for their own generation. The Survey stands upon quite other ground. In it Stow built himself a monument for all time, and has left a record instinct with life. It is at once the summary of sixty observant years, and a vivid picture of London as he saw it.
Stow possessed in a peculiar degree the qualities necessary for such a work, and the time at which he wrote was exceptionally favourable. In his day he witnessed the passing of mediaevalism and the birth of the modern capital. His youth was spent in that declining time of charity and other good old customs, when he might behold with his own eyes the lordly munificence and pomp of prelates and nobles. (fn. 3) He had seen the Prior of Trinity ride in civic procession amongst the aldermen. (fn. 4) He could dimly recollect how the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's in their copes and vestments, with garlands of roses on their heads, received a buck at the high altar on the feast of the commemoration of their patron saint. (fn. 5) In his middle age he lamented the greed and violence of professed reformers, and in his last years saw the growth of a new order. He had served his apprenticeship whilst the ancient guild-life still retained its power, but lived to see its bonds broken and a fresh dispensation come into being. He remembered pleasant walks and green fileds where in his lare days there were only streets and houses. He had seen the City spread on every side, till the approaches were blocked by unseemly enclosures, and even within its ancient bounds remarked how open spaces had come to be pestered with small tenements. His own sympathies were with the old ways. He recalled with regret ancient buildings that had perished in the wreck of change or through greed of gain. He had loved them for their beauty, and, as we may suppose, cherished their memory for the sake of what they symbolized. He had grown to manhood before the Reformation, and all that it entailed, was accomplished, and his studies must have strengthened the associations of his youth. Yet he lived to feel in his own old age the warmth of the nation's new life. He was proud of the increased prosperity of his native city, and of the new state with which the wealth of her citizens adorned her. Whatever lurking sympathy he might have felt for the old faith was lost in the deep loyalty of a true Elizabethan, who feared lest seditious religion might be a betraying unto Spanish invasion and tyranny. If thus he wrote down his Survey ofttimes in the spirit of the past, he closed it in confident hope for the long enjoyment of the good estate of this city. (fn. 6)
If Stow was fortunate in the time of his writing he was fortunate also in his own qualities. A long life, a retentive memory, a zeal for accumulating material, and the painstaking capacity for giving it shape, enabled him to turn his opportunity to the best advantage. He disclaims any early interest in history, but his passion for antiquity dated from his youth. Towards the end of his life he told George Buck of how he had talked with old men who remembered Richard III as a comely prince, (fn. 7) and his own history of that time is based admittedly on what he had heard as well as on what he had read. He had a curious faculty for minute observation and for graphic description of small detail. This power he practised most in his autobiographical fragments, whether those which he left in manuscript, or those which are embedded as the most charming passages in the Survey. But indeed the whole book is full with the fruits of the writer's observation.
The main framework of the Survey was based on a perambulation of the several wards of the City, which Stow accomplished with scrupulous care and verified from his ample collections. The compass of Elizabethan London was small, not extending very far beyond the walls or bars, and with the whole of that small compass a single man could easily be familiar. So there is scarcely a ward to the history of which Stow could not contribute something from his own knowledge or memory. Now it is the recollection of some old custom of his youth. Here he calls to mind the beauty of the perished bell-tower at Clerkenwell, (fn. 8) or describes, perhaps not too accurately, the decoration of the old Blackwell Hall. (fn. 9) Here he tells of an inscription which owed its preservation to his care, (fn. 10) and elsewhere of antiquities and remains discovered in the course of excavations, which he had witnessed. (fn. 11) But his chance memories, though frequent and interesting, are of less value than his deliberate record of what he sought for. Every church was visited, and all noteworthy monuments carefully described; though, as he told Manningham, (fn. 12) he omitted many new monuments, 'because those men have been the defacers of the monuments of others, and so worthy to be deprived of that memory whereof they those men have been the defacers of the monuments of others, and so worthy to be deprived of that memory whereof they have injuriously robbed others.' Often in the Survey he laments such irreverent defacement, or the greedy spoliation of ancient tombs; and sometimes he had to supply gaps from written records, where such were available. He did not scorn to question the oldest inhabitant on the history of a forgotton or nameless grave, or to cross-examine the host and his ostler for the story of Gerard the giant. (fn. 13)
In the same spirit of eager inquiry he had thought to obtain from the chief City Companies what might sound to their worship and commendation, that so he might write of them more at large. But when he met with a rather surly rebuff from the Vintners, he was somewhat discouraged any further to travail. (fn. 14) Perhaps also he began to find his material outgrow his space, and felt the less inclined to pursue such a wide inquiry. To the records of his own Company he no doubt had access, and of its early history he gives some account, though with less detail than might have been expected. (fn. 15)
Of the City Records Stow made far more abundant use, and the score of occasions on which he cites them specifically do not at all represent the extent of his indebtedness. Some of these Records, to wit the Liber Custumarum, and possibly others also, were at this time in private hands, (fn. 16) and readily accessible to Stow. But Stow as the 'fee'd Chronicler' of the Corporation was no doubt given free permission to consult the records which were still at the Guildhall. He had made some use of the Liber Horne, and still more of the Liber Dunthorne, and he refers occasionally by name, and very often in fact, to the Letter-books. (fn. 17) Once, at all events, he refers to the City Journals. (fn. 18) Probably also he owed his extensive knowledge of wills in part to the Husting Rolls, though copies of important wills were often preserved elsewhere, as in the muniments of interested parishes.
Stow is said to have received assistance from Robert Bowyer, (fn. 19) the Keeper of the Records; but Bowyer did not become keeper till 1604, though he was apparently in official service at an earlier date. It is clear from his frequent and accurate citations, especially from the Patent Rolls and Inquisitions post mortem, that Stow obtained abundant extracts from the records in the Tower. (fn. 20) This he might have done through Bowyer, or through Michael Heneage, who was keeper from 1578 to 1600, or Thomas Talbot, who was Heneage's clerk; Heneage and Talbot were both members of the Society of Antiquaries. However, the letter from his daughter, and his own statements, show that Stow himself made searches at the Tower. (fn. 21)
Other minor records were not neglected. Stow refers once to the Church-book of his own parish of St. Andrew Undershaft, (fn. 22) and in another place to that of St. Mildred, Poultry; (fn. 23) it is evident also that he had consulted the Church-books of St. Stephen, Coleman Street, and St. Stephen, Walbrook. (fn. 24) Probably much of his information as to chantries and charities was derived from such sources.
Stow's work on records was surprisingly good, but was necessarily imperfect. In other directions his services to posterity were even more precious. With the break-up of the Monasteries their muniments were in danger of destruction. What was saved from the wreck we owe to the care of Stow and others like him. Several of the most important Cartularies for London history were in his possession. Such were the invaluable Register of Holy Trinity, Aldgate; the Cartularies of the Nuns' Priory and the Hospital of St. John at Clerkenwell; the Liber Papie or Register of St. Augustine Papey; and the Liber S. Bartholomei, a history of St. Bartholomew's Priory (fn. 25) If he did not himself possess, he had access also to, cartularies of St. Mary Overy, (fn. 26) of the College of St. Martin-le-Grand, (fn. 27) and of Colchester Abbey. (fn. 28) The Dunmow Chronicle of Nicholas de Bromfield is preserved only in his transcript. (fn. 29) He appears also to have owned the original Liber S. Mariae Eborum, which Francis Thynne copied as An Anominalle Chronicle of 1381, our most valuable account of the Peasants' Revolt in London. (fn. 30) No doubt the large collections of Thynne and other friends like Glover, Fleetwood, and Camden were at his service. The report of Grindal's chaplains on their search of Stow's study in 1569 proves that he had even thus early accumulated a great mass of material. The letters of his friends show the repute in which 'Stow's Storehouse', and especially his Fundationes Ecclesiarum, was held. (fn. 31) Not the least of his treasures were his transcripts of Leland's Collections, to which reference has already been made. (fn. 32)
With the works of the great mediaeval historians, as William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon, Roger Hoveden, Matthew Paris, the Flores Historiarum, Knighton, and Walsingham Stow was familiar, and of most if not of all he possessed valuable manuscripts. He used also many minor authorities, (fn. 33) and more than one document of interest exists only in his transcript. (fn. 34) But for his own peculiar purpose in the Survey the old Chronicles of London were of greater value, and of them he made constant use. His own Summary and Chronicles were, so to say, in form, and to a great extent in matter, the direct descendants of the ancient civic histories, Stow himself possessed or used at least three of the copies of the Chronicles of London which still survive, and made some notes in them all. Two of these have been printed, viz. the Short English Chronicle from Lambeth MS. 306 in Dr. Gairdner's Three Fifteenth Century Chronicles, and the more valuable and important copy in Cotton MS. Vitellius A. xvi, which is included in my own volume of Chronicles of London. The third is contained in Harley Roll C. 8, which is no doubt one of the 'old Registers' which Stow searched for information on the portreeves and early governors of the City. (fn. 35) But these were not the only copies with which he was acquainted, as appears from various references in his printed works, (fn. 36) and from fragments and transcripts preserved amongst his Collections. (fn. 37) It is clear, moreover, that Stow had used the longer original of the Vitellius Chronicle, (fn. 38) whether at first hand, or through the medium of a lost work of Fabyan. Of Fabyan himself Stow has left an interesting note: (fn. 39) 'He wrote a Chronicle of London, England and of France, beginning at the creation, and endynge in the third of Henry the 8, which both I have in writen hand.' (fn. 40) The second edition of Fabyan's Chronicle, which appeared in 1532, included continuations to 1509. But for these it is unlikely that Fabyan was in any sense responsible, and it is certain that his original work ended with 1485. But both in his Survey and in his Annales Stow several times quotes 'Ro. Fabian', or 'Fabian's manuscript', as his authority for incidents between 1485 and 1512. (fn. 41) These citations agree with nothing in the printed continuations, and where they correspond with passages in the Vitellius Chronicle are sometimes fuller. A possible solution is that Fabyan had himself composed a continuation of his original work, which was superior to those supplied in the printed editions. Of this manuscript continuation all trace has now perished, except for Stow's record and occasional quotations. The gap between the end of Fabyan's manuscript and the beginning of Stow's own life was not long. For the greater part of the reign of Henry VIII he was dependent chiefly on Hall's Chronicle, supplemented by the London Annals in Harley MS. 540. But for the last sixty years of his history he writes from his own knowledge, at first of memory, and afterwards of record set down systematically year by year for his Summary and Annales. (fn. 42) Between Feb., 1561 and July, 1567 at all events he kept some sort of Diary. (fn. 43) The greater part of this was made use of for the Annales, but some matters it would clearly have been unwise to print. This Diary ends just before the beginning of his troubles. The search of his library by Grindal may have warned him to keep no more any such dangerous document.
Stow himself tells us that the idea of his Survey was suggested by Lambarde's Perambulation of Kent, which first appeared in 1574. He writes modestly that at the desire and persuasion of friends he handled the argument after plain manner rather than leave it unperformed. From the Letters Patent of James I it appears that Stow had spent eight years on the preparation of his Survey, and since the first edition was published in 1598 he must have been long past sixty years of age when he began his work. As already pointed out, a careful perambulation of the several wards of the City furnished the main framework of the book. To this particular account there was prefixed a more general narrative dealing with the origins, the growth, and social life of the City. For that part which deals with Roman Antiquities Stow was probably indebted to the assistance of Camden. (fn. 44)For the subsequent chapters on Walls, Rivers, Gates, and Towers, on Customs, Sports, and Pastimes, and on the Honour of Citizens he found a convenient text in William Fitz-Stephen's De scription of London, (fn. 45) which he printed accordingly as an appendix to the Survey. (fn. 46)
From the state of the original manuscript (fn. 47) we may conjecture that Stow first set out in a fair hand the result of his perambulation. This he then proceeded to complete with additions and interpolations drawn from his own large storehouse, and written on the margins, or between the lines, or on slips pasted in, at such length as often to double the original contents of the page. The draft thus prepared differs a good deal from the printed work as well in matter as in the arrangement, which was finally altered for the better. (fn. 48) On the other hand, Stow seems to have found his copy too extensive, and therefore cut out various matters which he had dealt with elsewhere or thought superfluous. But no sooner was the work printed than he began after his accustomed manner to enlarge and improve it. In the preface to his second edition he declares with justice that he had added many rare notes of antiquity. (fn. 49) Amongst the longest of these additions may be noted the extract from the Lancaster accounts, (fn. 50) the whole section 'Of Charitable Alms', the expansion of the Chapter on Honour of Citizens (fn. 51), the account of the Devil's appearance at St. Michael, Cornhill, (fn. 52)the notes on Jews in England, (fn. 53) and on Tournaments at Smithfield; (fn. 54) and finally the unperfected notes on City government, a subject which he did not touch in his first edition, because he had hope that another minded such a labour. (fn. 55) But of more real moment than these long insertions, are the numberless small corrections and additions, of which it is impossible to give any general description. It is curious that the references to foundations of Chantries are nearly all inserted for the first time in the second edition. (fn. 56) Several new passages are inserted from the Vitellius Chronicle of London; and the Cartulary of St. Mary Overy would appear to have been for the first time consulted during the interval. (fn. 57) Other additions relate to events of later date than 1598, such as the bequests of Alice Smith to the Skinners, the foundation of Plat's School in 1601, and the damage done to Cheap Cross in 1599 and 1600. (fn. 58)Apart from the addition of new matter the text of the Survey was carefully revised. Of this the best instance is to be found in the rearrangement of the material relating to Cheapside, which in the first edition was spread over Cheap, Farringdon Within, and Cordwainer Street Wards, but in 1603 was more conveniently brought together in the account of the first-named. (fn. 59) The first edition, moreover, seems not to have escaped criticism. So a note on the Skinners Company was put in 'to stop the tongues of unthankful men, such as use to ask: Why have ye not noted this, or that? and give no thanks for what is done'. (fn. 60)A contrary reason may explain the disappearance of Stow's account of his rebuff by the Vintners. (fn. 61) There is also a cha acteristic touch in the note 'that being informed of the Writhsleys to be buried there, I have since found them and others to be buried at St. Giles, Cripplegate, where I mind to leave them.' (fn. 62)Certainly Stow improved his book in its second edition; it was substantially larger, and the changes were on the whole for the better. Nevertheless both the original draft and the first edition contain peculiar matter which we should have been sorry to lose.
Thomas Hearne called Stow 'an honest and knowing man', but 'an indifferent scholar'. (fn. 63) The criticism is not altogether unjust, for Stow suffered from the limitations which no selftaught man can escape entirely. His knowledge of Latin and French was imperfect, and he was disposed sometimes to evade rather than solve his difficulties. It is not surprising that he should occasionally be at fault in his most positive. interpretations. In the first compilation of such a work a certain proportion of error was inevitable, whether through inaccuracy of transcription for which Stow was personally responsible, or in mistakes of the printer over dates. What is really remarkable about the Survey is that a man with little advantages of education, working on new ground from sources still for the most part in manuscript, was able to discover and bring into order so vast a mass of material. After all possible deductions the Survey justifies Stow's rule in the preface to his Summarie for 1565:—'In hystories the chief thyng that is to be desired is the truth.' His main narrative is substantially accurate, the state of his original manuscript, and the variations presented by the printed editions bear witness to the pains which he took to verify his facts. (fn. 64) The range of his information is indeed remarkable. It appears not only in the text of his published works, but also in the vast mass of his manuscript Collections, of which the surviving remnant, considerable enough, can have formed but a small part. (fn. 65)
In the Survey Stow's chief task of research was to find illustrations for what he had heard or seen, and criticism or discrimination was of less importance. The charm and value of the work consist in its personal note. We are not so much concerned that Stow should have had a fine scorn for fables of other folks' telling, especially if that other chanced to be R.G., (fn. 66) as that he could tell a merry tale on his own account. It is well that he should disbelieve in giants, (fn. 67) but better that he could repeat with simple faith his father's story of how the Devil appeared at St. Michael, Cornhill, and add his own testimony on the holes where the claws had entered three or four inches deep in the stone. (fn. 68) But even greater credulity in himself, and more harsh censure of it in others, could be forgiven for the sake of his zeal for truth and just dealing. He loved to praise famous men, and rejoiced in the history of their good deeds. The care with which he set down particulars of charities seems to have been inspired by a sense of the public interest, for he is not less careful to censure the too frequent instances of neglect and misappropriation. (fn. 69) He comments so often on the failure of executors in the discharge of their duties, (fn. 70) that one begins to suspect the memory of some personal grievance. But his censure never seems malicious. He speaks out openly against abuses of civic government, and the promotion of unfitting persons, (fn. 71) but he glosses over the shortcomings which lost John Cowper his term of mayoralty, (fn. 72) and does not repeat the scandal caused by Sir Thomas Lodge, who was 'braky and professe to be banqweroute' during his year of office. (fn. 73) In other matters his own predilections could not be suppressed. He did not like change, objected to find his former walks pestered with filthy tenements, commended archery, thought no harm of bull-baiting, (fn. 74) scorned bowling-alleys, and passed theatres by.
Stow's pronounced opinions on such matters were reflected inevitably in the Survey. Of the London of contemporary satirists and dramatists we find little trace. It is only through his repeated complaints of the dicing-houses, and filthy tenements, which destroyed the pleasant walks of his youth, that we get any hint at the cozenage, gambling, and immorality which defamed the suburbs of Elizabethan London. To the lurid picture drawn by Greene and Nash, Dekker and Rowlands, Stow's sober narrative may, however, supply a needed corrective. More surprising to readers of to-day must be the almost complete absence in the Survey of any reference to the adventurous and intellectual activities of the age. 'Sir Francis Drake, that famous mariner', is mentioned once. But there is not a word of Shakespeare, nor of any other of the great writers of the time, not even of his own acquaintance Ben Jonson. It may be replied that Stow was not concerned with social life; but in point of fact he is ready enough to digress on any subject that interested him. As a matter of topography alone such famous, or notorious, haunts as The Bull in Bishopsgate, The Mitre, or The Mermaid deserved at least a passing notice. But theatrical references were struck out deliberately in the edition of 1603, save for a general implied censure on stage-plays. Perhaps a like intention accounts for the exclusion of other topics to which the writer was not attracted. Stow's attitude was not, however, due to any recluse-like absorption in books. We get a few glimpses of him as a sociable companion, ready to discuss business in a friendly way over a quart of ale or pint of wine, interested in old sports, in the fun on the frozen Thames, and the timehonoured wrestling at Bartholomew Fair. New-fangled customs and amusements he did not love, and he either censured them openly, or left them unnoticed, like those tombs of the lately dead, which thrust out monuments hallowed by antiquity.
Such an attitude was perhaps natural to the conservative mind of an old man, who found himself in 'the most scoffing, carping, respectlesse, and unthankeful age that ever was'. (fn. 75) It certainly hurt nobody. Yet once in a way there comes out a touch of spite in his humorous satisfaction at the misfortunes which befell the builders of high houses to overlook others, and especially a neighbour of his own in Leadenhall, who made him a high tower, but being in short time tormented with gout could not climb and take pleasure thereof. (fn. 76) But we may accept the protest which has come down to us through Howes, that he never wrote anything either for malice, fear, or favour, nor to seek his own particular gain or vain-glory, and that his only pains and care was to write Truth.
The text of the Survey as given in the edition of 1603 is the only full and authoritative version. Strange as it may appear, it has never been accurately reprinted. The very interest of the book encouraged later writers to continue and expand it. No long time after Stow's death Anthony Munday took up his friend's work, and in 1618 produced an edition, 'continued, corrected, and much enlarged with many rare and worthie notes.' It is true that in bulk Munday's additions were considerable, but, as Strype remarks, they consist very largely of copies of monumental inscriptions from churches and extracts from the Summarie and Annales. However, like Stow before him, Munday had no sooner completed his labours than he set to work once more. In 1633, four months after Munday's death, there appeared another edition 'completely finished by the study of A. M., H. D., and others'. (fn. 77) Perhaps the most prominent addition on this occasion was the insertion of coats of arms of all the Mayors and the City Companies. But, besides further notes on churches, there was a large if somewhat undigested mass of new matter, copies of Acts and Statutes of Parliament and the Common Council, notes on the origin of the City Companies, and the like. Strype censures Munday for him deviations from the author's edition and sense; unhappily he had not the wisdom to take warning from another's error.
In 1694 there was a design to reprint the Survey with large additions and improvements. (fn. 78) A little later John Strype began to work on the Survey, and after long labour produced in 1720 a so-called edition in two large folio volumes. Hearne, on hearing of the project in 1707, wrote well: 'Stow should have been simply reprinted as a venerable original, and the additions given in a different character'. (fn. 79) Strype judged otherwise, and though he preserved for the most part the original text, he embedded it in such a mass of new, if valuable, matter as often to conceal its identity and obscure its meaning. A similar criticism applies to the version of 1734, edited by John Mottley under the pseudonym of Robert Seymour, and to the 'Sixth Edition' of 1754, printed under Strype's name but with additions 'by careful hands', bringing the survey and history down to that date.
The text of 1603 was first reprinted by W. J. Thoms in 1842. Thoms added notes of some antiquarian interest, together with the chief variations of the text of 1598. But he modernized the orthography and omitted some of the marginal notes. His text is moreover not free from typographical errors, which did not appear in the original. The example of Thoms' edition has been followed in subsequent reprints. Thus it comes to pass that the present edition, for the first time after three hundred years, makes Stow's true work generally accessible in the form in which he wrote it.