Origin of the ward.
This ward is situated entirely without the wall of the city; and its situation is
indeed indicated by its name, Portsoken, as Stow observes, implying a franchise at the gate. This ward is recorded to have been a guild granted by king
Edgar, between 7 and 800 years ago, to 13 valiant knights; and was then
named Knighten guild: which grant was afterward confirmed by a charter or
deed of Edward the confessor. In the year 1115, the descendants of these
knights came to the chapter house of the priory of the Holy Trinity within
Aldgate, and surrendered up all the lands and soke called Knighten guild to the
brotherhood; offering their charters upon the altar: they entered themselves
among the fraternity; and from that time the prior of the Holy Trinity was
admitted as one of the aldermen of London, until the surrendry of the priory in
the year 1531: since when it has been governed by a temporal alderman elected
by the citizens like the other wards in the city.
Plan of Portsoken ward
This ward is bounded on the east, by the parishes of Spitalfields, Stepney,
and St. George's in the east; on the south by Tower-hill; on the west by
Aldgate ward, from which it is separated by the city wall; and on the north
by Bishopsgate ward. The principal streets within these limits are, Whitechapel
as far as the bars; Houndsditch; and the Minories.
Whitechapel is a fine wide street, and is the principal eastern entrance into
London from the great Essex road. It took its name from the church of St.
Mary, which was originally a chapel of ease to St. Dunstan's Stepney, and
which from its white outside was called the White Chapel. The south side of
this street is used for a hay market three times a week; and is no less a market
for meat, being crouded with the shops of carcase butchers on that side all the
way to some distance beyond the bars. There are several considerable inns on
the north side; and stage coaches to the neighbouring villages ply at all hours of
the day about the bars.
Houndsditch, which extends along the city wall on the outside, from Aldgate to
Bishopsgate, was formerly part of the town ditch, and obtained its name from
its filthy condition and the number of dead dogs cast into it. But this ditch has
long been filled up and built upon on both sides; and has a great number of
courts and alleys opening into it.
The Minories is a wide street extending from Aldgate-street opposite St.
Botolph's church to Little Tower hill; between which and the city wall lay the
town ditch, which like Houndsditch was at length filled up and converted to more
profitable purposes. About the middle of the east side of the Minories, is a
place containing two or three courts called the Little Minories. Here formerly
stood an abbey of nuns of the order of St. Clare, called Minorites, who have left
their name to the neighbourhood.
The derivation of local names where they can be traced with certainty, or
even with probability, prove very entertaining articles of information; such
little anecdotes therefore as the following, which Stow relates of his own knowledge, become interesting when they are to be met with. "Near adjoining,
says he, to this abbey on the south side thereof, was sometime a farme belonging to the said nunrie, at the which farme I myselfe in my youth have
fetched many a half-pennie worth of milke, and never had lesse than three ale
pints for a half-pennie in the summer, nor lesse than one ale quart for a
half pennie in the winter, always hote from the kine as the same was milked
and strained. One Trollop, and afterwardes Goodman, were the farmers
there, and had thirty or forty kine to the paile. Goodmans sonne being
heyre to his fathers purchase, let out the ground first for grazing of horse,
and then for garden plots, and lived like a gentleman thereby (fn. 1) ." This
ground, though now covered with streets which are well inhabited, is still known
by the general name of Goodman's fields: and before the statute for licencing
plays and playhouses (fn. 2) , there was a good theatre here.
At the south end of the Minories, the street opens upon East-Smithfield and
Tower-hill; and between both these plots of ground once stood a religious
foundation called by the several names of the New Abbey, the Abbey of Grace,
and Eastminster. This house was founded by king Edward III. upon the scite
of the pest-ground, already mentioned, under the year 1348 (fn. 3) , and called the
church-yard of the Holy Trinity: and upon the scite of that abbey is built
the king's victualling-office, which stands on the upper part of Little Tower
hill, near the end of King-street. This building contains houses for the
lodging of certain officers, separate apartments for offices, store-rooms,
slaughter-houses for oxen and hogs, a brewhouse, a house for salting and barrelling, &c. provisions: and is managed by seven commissioners, who have each
400l. per annum, and a separate department; under whom are a secretary,
accomptants, clerks, surveyors, and other officers and servants. This is the
office in which all pursers, and others intrusted with the public stores of provisions, or who contract for-them, are to pass their accounts.
St. Botolph's Aldgate.
At the south east corner of Houndsditch, fronting the Minories, stands the
church of St. Botolph Aldgate; an ancient foundation, before the year 1115,
when the rectory of this parish was appropriated to the prior and convent of the
Holy Trinity: at the dissolution of that priory it was seized by the crown,
and given by queen Elizabeth, for a term of years, to Robert Holliwell; and at
the expiration of that term, king James I. granted the said impropriation to
Francis Morrice, from whom it has passed to other private hands.
This church, before the suppression of the Trinity priory, was re-built by the
prior and canons; and luckily escaping the fatal catastrophe of the year 1666,
it stood till the year 1741, when it was taken down, and the present edifice
finished in 1744. It is built with brick, and is a plain, massy, and yet elegant
structure. It consists of a body of a regular shape, and a lofty and well proportioned steeple, formed of a tower, and spire. But its greatest ornament is the
bold rustic at the corners.
Trinity Minories church.
On the spot where the Minorites convent stood in the Little Minories, a
number of houses were built; and a small church was provided for the inhabitants, which was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It is a curacy of inconsiderable value in the gift of the crown; and the building has a neat turret but