Survey of London: Volume 13, St Margaret, Westminster, Part II: Whitehall I. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1930.
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CHAPTER 1: YORK PLACE
Towards the end of the twelth century Richard of Ely (also known as Richard FitzNigel or FitzNeale), Bishop of London, and author of the famous Dialogus de Scaccario, was in occupation of some houses in the town of Westminster. These in 1197, (fn. n1) the year before his death, he granted to his cousin, William of Ely, the King's treasurer. The monks of Westminster were the lords of the fee, and a yearly payment had to be made to them of a taper of 2 pounds of wax. A confirmation of the grant by the monks, in which William was referred to as their dearest and special friend, was obtained before May, 1200, (fn. n2) and a royal confirmation on 20th April in the same year. (fn. n3)
At some time between 1218 and 1221 (fn. n4) William, "formerly treasurer of the Kings of England," (fn. n5) granted "all his houses and the court, together with a certain stable which is not of the same court, in the town of Westminster, held by the grant of the said Bishop Richard, and which are of the fief of Westminster" to the Abbey, "for the souls of Henry, Richard and John, Kings of England, and for the soul of Richard, Bishop of London, and for his own soul." William agreed to pay the monks, "so long as he shall by their leave dwell in the said houses," one pound of frankincense in addition to the two-pounds wax taper.
The next occupant was Hubert de Burgh, (fn. n6) justiciar of England, and afterwards Earl of Kent. It was in or about the year 1223 (fn. n7) that the Abbey granted to Hubert "all their houses and court, with a free chapel to celebrate and hear divine service for himself and his household," together with the stable mentioned in the former grant, "which houses, court, chapel and stable" William of Ely had formerly held. Hubert paid seven score marks of silver for the grant, and his rent was increased to a taper of 3 pounds of wax.
At about the same time, Hubert purchased several other interests in property in the vicinity:—
(i) Ralph, son of William of Ely, sold to Hubert (fn. n8) his houses and grange which he held within the latter's two gates, namely, "those houses … which are adjoining the court and houses of the said Hubert, which belonged to William the treasurer, my late father, on the one side of the way within the gates, and two houses and the grange … which adjoin the stable of the said William my father on the other side of the way within the same gates."
(ii) Roger of Ware, son of Robert of Westminster, and Maud of Ware sold (fn. n9) all their land lying between the property of Odo the goldsmith and the land of Levota the widow.
(iii) Odo the goldsmith sold (fn. n10) all his land lying between that of Roger of Ware and that of Robert the carpenter, stretching between the highway and the Thames.
The prices paid were ten, twelve and ten marks of silver respectively. Whether these were purchases of subsidiary interests in the property acquired from the Abbey or represented additional land is not clear. (fn. n11)
Hubert's tenure of the property was brief. At some time about 1230 (fn. n12) he transferred to trustees (Walter of St. Martin's, minister of the Cross of Christ; Laurence of St. Alban's, rector of the church of Attlebury; and Richard of Wokindon, rector of the church of Anvillers) all his houses which he held of the Abbey of Westminster in the parish of St. Margaret, and all his rents and possessions between the Abbey of Westminster and the City of London, to deal with as best they could for the succour of the Holy Land, and to redeem the vow which, on taking the Cross, he had made to proceed to the Holy Land in his own person, unless he met with some lawful impediment. The trustees sold the property to Walter de Gray, Archbishop of York, and the sale was duly confirmed by Hubert in a document which may be dated 1240–1. (fn. n13) At the same time Hubert gave notice (fn. n14) to all his tenants "between the Abbey of Westminster and the City of London" of his confirmation of the sale.
Matthew Paris asserts, (fn. n15) and his statement has been repeated by Stow (fn. n16) and a host of later writers, that Hubert gave his property to the Black Friars, who in turn disposed of it to the archbishop, but the documents quoted above seem to leave no room for the friars. The sale had been to the archbishop personally, but in 1245 the latter gave the property to the see of York, under the description of "our houses in the street of Westminster, with the rents, gardens, vivaries, and all other appurtenances without any retention, which formerly were of Hubert de Burgh, late justiciar of England." (fn. n17)
The house thus became attached to the see, and under the name of "York Place" formed for nearly three hundred years the London residence of the archbishops. (fn. n18)
Towards the close of the reign of Edward I York Place seems to have been used for royal purposes. An account (fn. n19) of building works and repairs at the archbishop's house in 1298–9 contains references to the King's ante-chamber, the King's lesser chamber, colouring the King's chamber green, mending a window in and doing other works at the King's chamber, making a wardrobe for the King's chaplains, and doing plumbing work in connection with the King's chapel. Moreover, in 1304–5 is an account (fn. n20) in respect of the purchase of timber and other items for making a hall ("aulam") at the Archbishop of York's house for the household of the Queen, as well as for a house over the water made for the Queen's wardrobe. In the following year (fn. n21) are details of expenditure (i) concerning the King's great chamber at the house of the Archbishop of York, and mending and covering other chambers there against the King's coming, and (ii) in connection with the ceiling (or wainscotting) of a new hall ("aulam") and chamber and a chapel in connection with it, at the house of the Archbishop of York, for the King's sons.
The account for 1298–9 mentions other details of York Place, such as the water stairs ("in emendacione pontis ad aquam"), the pantry, the steward's chamber, the arbour and the lodge within it ("circa emendacionem cuiusdam logie in erbar'," "pro erbar' reparand'," "ad torchiand' & plastand' perietes illius logie in erbar'," "in spinis empt' ad claudend' quandam sepem ante portam erbar'.") (fn. n22) It also gives particulars of the expenses in connection with the raising of a wall between the archbishop's court and the houses of "Drokenesford." (fn. n23) The latter were at Endif (see p. 13), which adjoined York Place on the south.
Other references to York Place are not infrequent, but are mostly unimportant. The following is a selection:—
In 1302 John le Blund, who had been elected mayor, was admitted and sworn before the King's Council in the chamber of the Archbishop of York, and in 1305, after his election for the fifth time, he was "presented for the mayoralty to the lord the King at the hostel of the Archbishop of York." (fn. n24)
In 1353 John of Thoresby, the archbishop, who was also chancellor, being about to proceed "to the parts of his archbishopric by the King's order," delivered up the great seal "in his house in the town of Westminster," to the keeper of the Chancery Rolls, to be kept until his return. (fn. n25)
After Archbishop le Scrope (Saint Richard Scrope) had in 1405 paid the penalty of his ill-advised insurrection against Henry IV, an order was issued for his goods "within his inn at Westminster" to be assigned to the expenses of the Royal household. (fn. n26)
In 1467 Edward IV was aiming to make himself independent of the support of the great family of the Nevilles. Archbishop George Neville, brother of Warwick the kingmaker, had been chancellor since 1460. On 8th June, 1467, the King went in person "to the inn of the Archbishop of York … without the Bars of Westminster," (fn. n27) where the latter was lying ill, and took from him the great seal.
We are told that Thomas Rotherham or Scot, who was archbishop from 1480 (fn. n28) to 1500, did a great amount of rebuilding in his various manors, and among others "at his inn near Westminster. (fn. n29)
In 1514 Thomas Wolsey (created cardinal in the following year) was translated from Lincoln to York. There is extant a series of accounts (fn. n30) "concernyng bildyngs at Yorke place" for the years 1514–16, which shows that "reparacions and workemanshypp … in my lord of Yorkes Place" were being extensively carried out during those years. Among other buildings mentioned are the hall, the chapel, "the grete gate towards the strete," "the grete bakery gate into the Gardyn," "a breke wall from the brode gate ayenst the Grene unto the grete gatehouse of my lords place," the chapel garden, the counting-house, the bake-house, the kitchen, the buttery, the wine-cellar, the fish-house, the scullery and the wardrobe.
Concerning Wolsey's splendid manner of living at York Place many interesting details are given by Cavendish, (fn. n31) who relates how the King was wont to resort thither, and how banquets "set with masks and mummeries" were provided. He records one incident in which the King arrived, by water, masked, with other masquers, giving themselves out to be strangers coming "as ambassadors from some foreign prince," and the story has been utilised by Shakespeare (fn. n32) in that scene in Henry VIII which is set in "the presence chamber in York Place." An instance of this form of entertainment occurred on 3rd October, 1518. In the earlier part of the day the general peace had been proclaimed at St. Paul's, and in the evening the company repaired to York Place, "where they sat down to a most sumptuous supper, the like of which was never given either by Cleopatra or Caligula." (fn. n33) Then entered twelve lords and twelve ladies disguised, "the fyrst was the kyng him selfe and the French quene," attended by twelve knights, also disguised, bearing torches. "All these maskers daunced at one tyme, & after they had daunced, they put of their viziers, & then they were all knowen. … Then the kyng and his company were banketed & had high chere, & then they departed every man to hys lodgynge.' (fn. n34)
A few years after Wolsey becoming archbishop he took steps to enlarge York Place on both sides. On 10th November, 1519, he obtained a grant (fn. n35) in frank almoigne of what was afterwards called Scotland Yard. It is described as "a parcel of land, formerly belonging to the King of Scotland … as it lies between the inn of the Lord Archbishop of York on the south, and the chapel of the Blessed Mary of Runcevall on the north, and the water of Thames on the east, and the highway which leads from Charyngcrosse to Westminster on the west." A few months later (4th March, 1519–20) he acquired from William Lytton the latter's interest in five tenements and gardens in King Street, adjoining York Place on the south. (fn. n36) Lytton had in 1511 obtained a lease of these from the Abbey of Westminster, and the indenture (fn. n37) drawn up on the occasion describes the property as containing in width on the west side from north to south, from "lez barres" there to the ground in the tenure of Thomas a Legh, 108 feet 11 inches; in length from the highway on the west to the Thames on the east 357 feet 9 inches; in the middle from the stone wall of the Archbishop of York's inn on the north to the ground of Thomas a Legh on the south 54 feet; and in width north to south from the corner of the archbishop's wall to Thomas a Legh's ground, 90 feet.
What use Wolsey made of these additions to York Place it is not possible to say. The next we hear of building operations is in May, 1528, when Fox, writing to Gardiner, says that Wolsey was at Durham Place, in the Strand, "the hall of York Place, with other edifices there, being now in building, my lord's Grace intending most sumptuously and gorgeously to repair and furnish the same." (fn. n38)
It is possible that these works had not been finished when Wolsey was forced to leave York Place. On 19th October, 1529, he was deprived of the great seal, and was told that the King wished him to retire to Esher. On 22nd October he executed a deed acknowledging that he had incurred a praemunire ańd asking the King, as part recompense of his offences, to take into his hands all his temporal possessions. He then made ready to set out and a day or two later (fn. n39) "called all officers in every office in his house before him, to take account of all such stuff as they had in charge. And in his gallery there was set divers tables, whereupon a great number of rich stuff of silk, in whole pieces, of all colours, as velvet, satin, damask, caffa, taffeta, grograine, sarcenet, and of other not in my remembrance; also there lay a thousand pieces of fine holland cloth … Furthermore there was also all the walls of the gallery hanged with cloths of gold and tissue of divers makings, and cloths of silver likewise on both sides; and rich cloths of baudkin of divers colours. There hung also the richest suits of copes of his own provision, which he caused to be made for his colleges of Oxford and Ipswich, that ever I saw in England. Then had he two chambers adjoining to the gallery, the one called the gilt-chamber, and the other called, most commonly, the council-chamber, wherein were set in each two broad and long tables upon tressels, whereupon was set such a number of plate of all sorts, as were almost incredible. In the gilt-chamber was set out upon the tables nothing but all gilt plate; and a cupboard standing under a window was garnished wholly with plate of clean gold, whereof some was set with pearl and rich stones. And in the council-chamber was set all white plate and parcel-gilt; and under the tables in both the chambers, were set baskets with old plate, which was not esteemed but for broken plate and old … and books counting the value and weight of every parcel laid by them ready to be seen. … Thus everything being brought into good order and furnished, he gave the charge of the delivery thereof unto the king, unto every officer within his office, of such stuff as they had before in charge … Then all things being ordered … my lord prepared him to depart by water … with all his gentlemen and yeomen, which was no small number, and took his barge at his privy-stairs, and so went by water unto Putney where all his horses awaited his coming." (fn. n40)
The King had set his heart on obtaining York Place, but there were difficulties in the way, owing to the fact that it was not Wolsey's private property, but belonged to the see of York. These, however, were overcome, and William Shelley, the judge, was sent to inform Wolsey "that the King's pleasure was to have his house at Westmr … intending to make of that house a palace royal … 'Master Shelley,' quoth he, 'ye shall make report to the king's highness, that I am his obedient subject and faithful chaplain and beadman, whose royal commandment and request I will in no wise disobey, but most gladly fulfil and accomplish his princely will and pleasure in all things, and in especial in this matter, inasmuch as ye, the fathers of the laws, say that I may lawfully do it. Therefore I charge your conscience and discharge the mine. Howbeit, I pray you, show his Majesty from me that I most humbly desire his Highness to call to his most gracious remembrance, that there is both heaven and hell.'" (fn. n41)
Things now moved rapidly, and in Hilary term of 1530 a recovery was suffered (fn. n42) against Wolsey of "one messuage, two gardens and three acres of land, with the appurtenances in the town of Westminster." The "fine" was 1000 marks of silver. (fn. n43) The deed leading the uses of the recovery was dated 7th February, 1529–30, and described the premises as above, "which same messuage, gardens and land are commonly called York Place, to hold to the use and behoof of the Lord the King, his heirs and assignees for ever."