Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1957.
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CHAPTER I - The Manor and Liberty of Norton Folgate
The western part of the area discussed in this volume, north of Artillery Passage, consisted until 1900 of two liberties, the northern being Norton Folgate and the southern the Old Artillery Ground. The latter had its origin as part of the precinct of the Priory of St. Mary Spital, but the former had a more obscure history associated with a distinct Manor of Norton Folgate which may have antedated the priory.
Until its absorption into the Borough of Stepney in 1900 Norton Folgate, or part of it, was an enclave outside the normal parochial administrative system. The history and origin of both the manor and the liberty, whose boundaries were not coterminous, are exceedingly obscure, but the fragmentary evidence available suggests that from the eleventh to the nineteenth century the manor was connected with the canons or the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's, and that the liberty derived from the privileged position of the Priory of St. Mary Spital, whose main precinct buildings lay within its boundaries. Only that part of the Manor and Liberty of Norton Folgate east of Bishopsgate Street fell within the Borough of Stepney and comes within the scope of this volume, but the early history of the entire area is described here.
The first certain evidence of the existence of the manor is contained in the court rolls for the years 1439 to 1519 in the Chapter Library of St. Paul's Cathedral. (fn. 1) In these the name of the manor is always given as Norton Folyot or Foly or a variant of this. The courts held in the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV are usually described as those of a canon residentiary of St. Paul's but sometimes as those of the dean. The courts held in 1442, 1444 and 1445 are described as those of John Bernyngham, canon residentiary, who at that period was prebendary of Mapesbury. (fn. 2) Those held from 1487 to 1494 are said to be of William Worsley ’prebendary of the prebend of Nortonfoly and Dean of St. Paul's’. There appears to be no other evidence of the existence of a prebend of Norton Folgate. The only prebend that William Worsley is known to have held together with the deanery is that of Willesden. (fn. 2)
It has been suggested (fn. 3) that Norton Folgate can be identified with the nine acres which the canons of St. Paul's held at Bishopsgate (ad portam Episcopi) in the time of Domesday Survey and had held similarly in the time of King Edward. (fn. 4) The nine acres carried ten cottars and were worth 18s. 6d. yearly to the canons. They were held as part of the canons' Manor of Hockestone or Hoxton. (fn. n1) The area of the Liberty of Norton Folgate (fn. 6) at the time of its abolition in 1900 was 8–37 acres. (fn. n2)
Although there is no mention of Norton Folgate among the corporate possessions of the Dean and Chapter down to at least 1320, (fn. 7) there are indications that the Dean or Chapter may in fact have had an interest in Norton Folgate before the period of the surviving court rolls. Four references to payments due to them from the Priory and Convent of St. Mary Spital, whose precinct probably occupied the whole of that part of the Manor of Norton Folgate east of Bishopsgate Street, may refer to Norton Folgate. In 1349 land in Hackney, Shoreditch and Stepney was licensed to be surrendered to the priory, of whom it was held: the priory held the land of a tenant-in-chief of the King, but it is mentioned that a yearly rent of 6s. was owed out of the property to the Dean of St. Paul's. (fn. 8) In 1393 the priory owed £86 10s. 6d. to the Dean and Chapter on the Feast of St. James (25 July). There is also a receipt dated 30 September 1396, by the Dean and Chapter for sixteen pounds of incense received from the priory for censing the high altar of St. Paul's. (fn. 9) An account dated 1422 of the rents received by the Dean and Chapter makes no mention of Norton Folgate: there is, however, mention of 7s. 6d. received from the priory for land listed under the ’Pitancia de Shordych’. (fn. 10) Part of the manor was subsequently regarded as forming part of the parish of St. Leonard Shoreditch.
In the court rolls of 1439–1519 the prior of St. Mary Spital was throughout listed among the suitors of the leet and the prior and convent were sometimes presented for offences. The precise limits of the manor do not appear from the court rolls but they extended west of Bishopsgate Street and were not identical with the priory precinct which was confined to the east side of the street.
In 1598 Stow described ’Norton fall gate’ as ’a liberty so called, belonging to the Deane of Powles’. (fn. 11)
A parliamentary survey of the property of the Dean and Chapter in 1649 (fn. 12) included ’the Manor of Norton Folgate alias Norton Follye of St. Faiths under Paules London in the parish of St. Leonard Shoreditch’, with its court leet and court baron. The connexion with St. Faith's, a peculiar of the Dean and Chapter whose parish church of St. Faith the Virgin was demolished in about 1256 and whose parishioners were subsequently accommodated in the crypt of the cathedral, (fn. 13) was mentioned by Newcourt in 1708 (fn. 14) when he included the ’Precinct of Norton Folgate near Shoreditch (which the Inhabitants say is in the Parish of St. Faith under St. Paul's)’ among the peculiars of the Dean and Chapter. The same connexion with St. Faith's was made in the New Remarks of London by the Company of Parish Clerks in 1732. (fn. 15) The liberty was similarly referred to as ’Norton Folgate and Faith under St. Paul’ in private deeds of the first half of the eighteenth century. (fn. 16)
In 1656 the inhabitants claimed to have belonged to the late Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's, thus becoming a distinct jurisdiction ’endowed with ample privileges conferred before the Conquest’ (fn. 17) A grant in 1666 of the office of bailiwick of the liberties and franchises of the Dean and Chapter included the Manor of Norton Folgate alias Norton Folly. (fn. 18)
The manor is not mentioned in many of the late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century manorial records of the Dean and Chapter, (fn. n3) but for the years 1720–63 the court rolls of the Dean and Chapter for the Manor of Norton Folgate survive in the Guildhall Library. (fn. 20) They contain little beyond presentments for trivial offences. The last court known to be held was in 1832, (fn. 21) but the limits of the manor were still sufficiently known to be detailed in the Middlesex ’Calculations for County Rate’ of 1864. (fn. 22) A report by the Dean and Chapter manorial steward to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1876 on the manors formerly belonging to the Dean and Chapter does not mention Norton Folgate. (fn. 23)
The Parochial Allegiance of the Manor and Liberty
The relationship of the manor and liberty to the neighbouring parish of St. Botolph without Bishopsgate is as obscure as the history of the manor. The precinct of the Priory of St. Mary Spital, lying within the manor, had formed part of the parish of St. Botolph and in the early thirteenth century was relieved of all dues owed to the parish in return for a yearly payment of 10s. (see page 21). In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the inhabitants of Norton Folgate were included in the parochial registers of St. Botolph. (fn. 24) After the Dissolution property within the former precinct was often described as being within the parish of St. Botolph; in Stephen Vaughan's will of 1549 his possessions are so described. (fn. 25) In 1559 a messuage within the priory precinct is described as being within the parish of St. Botolph. (fn. 26)
The Old Artillery Ground Liberty, immediately south of Norton Folgate and also at one time part of the priory precinct, was frequently regarded as forming part of St. Botolph parish. In 1711 the suggestion of the rector and parishioners of St. Botolph that both these liberties should be regularly united to them was seriously considered. They regarded Norton Folgate as having been hitherto an extra-parochial place outside their parish. (fn. 27) Since 1693 Norton Folgate had, together with the Old Artillery Ground, been provided with a place of Anglican worship by Sir George Wheler's Chapel which stood just outside the liberty, in the hamlet (later parish) of Spitalfields (see page 100). The union with St. Botolph did not take place and the liberty continued to be served by the chapel. Nevertheless in the eighteenth century the perambulation of the boundaries of Norton Folgate was made by the parishioners of both St. Botolph Bishopsgate and of St. Leonard Shoreditch. In 1824 the Vestry Clerk of St. Botolph Bishopsgate commented that although Norton Folgate, like the Old Artillery Ground, maintained its own poor and was ’not in any degree subject to the jurisdiction of St. Botolph's', it and the Old Artillery Ground ’are included in the perambulation by the parishioners of Bishopsgate but for what purpose I have in vain endeavoured to obtain a satisfactory reason’. (fn. 28) It may perhaps be surmised that this ambiguous relationship with the parish of St. Botolph sprang from the thirteenth-century composition between the priory and the parish mentioned above.
Norton Folgate was more commonly regarded as having some connexion with the parish of St. Leonard Shoreditch. There is a reference to Norton Folgate as being in that parish among the Middlesex Sessions Rolls of 1602. (fn. 29) As has been seen, the parliamentary survey of 1649 included the manor in Shoreditch parish. In 1656 the inhabitants of the liberty claimed that Shoreditch parish had lately encroached on their privileges by quartering soldiers on them and taxing them for scavengers' and highway rates. The Middlesex magistrates decided that Norton Folgate had customarily been assessed for highway rates with Shoreditch. (fn. 17) Similarly, all the manor and liberty was included with Shoreditch parish in the late seventeenth-century hearth tax returns. (fn. 30) The part of the manor lying west of Bishopsgate was in particular regarded as forming part of Shoreditch parish. In 1732 the Parish Clerks said that although part of the liberty was extra-parochial ’yet the whole is not; for part of Long Alley, Hog Lane [both west of Bishopsgate Street] and Blossom Street [east of Bishopsgate Street], pay towards the maintenance of the poor of St. Leonard Shoreditch in which Parish they stand, but as to watch and ward they pay to this Liberty’. (fn. 31) An Act of 1759 (fn. 32) for the lighting and cleansing of part of Norton Folgate mainly east of Bishopsgate Street stated that this section of the liberty and manor was extra-parochial and that the remainder was part of Shoreditch parish. This distinction was later regarded as a distinction between the liberty, being the extra-parochial part mainly east of Bishopsgate Street, and the manor which included also the part in Shoreditch parish mainly though not entirely west of Bishopsgate Street. The Middlesex ’Calculations for County Rate’ of 1864 include under St. Leonard Shoreditch a list of streets and places ’within the Manor but not in the Liberty of Norton Folgate, consequently such streets and places are in St. Leonard's Shoreditch’. All are west of Bishopsgate Street except the northern parts of Blossom Street and Elder Street. The ’streets and places’ within the liberty are listed separately and contain all the remainder of the manor east of Bishopsgate Street and also an area west of Bishopsgate and south of Worship Street. (fn. 22) By 1896, at an inquiry into Shoreditch charities it was stated that the portion of the manor and liberty noted by the Parish Clerks in 1732 as paying towards Shoreditch poor rate ’has now for many years formed part of that parish for all purposes, the remainder of the Liberty continuing to be extra-parochial’. (fn. 33) In his map of 1799 Horwood had included within the Norton Folgate boundary only the part designated in 1732 as wholly extra-parochial and in 1864 as part of the liberty as well as manor.
The uncertainty about the parochial allegiance of the manor, and in particular the distinction between the part subject in some or all respects to Shoreditch and the part in practice extra-parochial, is probably the reason for the varying position of the northern boundary of the liberty east of Bishopsgate Street on maps of the area. This is sometimes (fn. n4) shown running a little south of the line of the present Fleur-de-lis Street, and along the former Cross Keys Court, before turning north round the site of ’Porter's Close’, and in later maps (fn. n5) as running further south, on a line with Hog Lane (later Worship Street, on the west side of Bishopsgate Street); this is also the boundary of the extra-parochial liberty as distinct from the major indicated in the ’Calculations for County Rate’ of 1864. (In 1900 the boundary of the new Borough of Stepney was placed further north at the west end of Fleur-de-lis Street.) The maps and plans made in about 1711–12 for the Commissioners for Building Fifty New Churches seem to show the boundary in both positions. (fn. 34) In the Parish Clerks' Remarks of 1732 the liberty is said to reach as far north as Hog Lane on the west of Bishopsgate Street and ’the Silk-Dyers inclusive’ on the east, but it is not known where this was situated. (fn. 15)
An Act of 1778 for the paving of Norton Folgate (fn. 35) indicates that the northern boundary of the extra-parochial part of the liberty and manor was then regarded as being in the more southerly of the two positions, as six houses in Blossom Street and Magpie Alley (on the line of the later west end of Fleur-de-lis Street), included within the liberty by the more northerly placing of the boundary, were stated to be in the parish of Shoreditch but were included with the extra-parochial area for the purposes of that Act only.
To sum up: both the manor and the liberty lay astride Bishopsgate Street, but the liberty appears to have been smaller than the manor and may have been wholly contained within it. Only the liberty was extra-parochial, and since the greater part of it lay on the east side of Bishopsgate Street on the site of the precinct of St. Mary Spital, its peculiar administrative position may be inferred to have derived from the privileges of the priory. (fn. n6)
The Government of the Liberty
As in other liberties and immune places in London, the inhabitants of Norton Folgate were not always wholly law-abiding. A considerable amount of disorderliness and numerous trivial offences are recorded in the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century court rolls; indulgence in the inflammatory game of ’closh’ (fn. n7) appears to have been one of the most popular pastimes, and the presentment in 1519 of the owner of a ruined building from which thieves could prey upon travellers along Bishopsgate Street (fn. 1) suggests that the advantages for criminals of a ’liberty’ may have been appreciated. That this was so in 1604, when much of the liberty was occupied by the disused or adapted buildings of St. Mary Spital Priory, is asserted by Middleton who calls ’Spital and Shoreditch the only Cole-harbour and sanctuary for wenches and soldiers’. (fn. 36) In 1661 Norton Folgate was thought to be the centre of a plot of Fifth Monarchy men. (fn. 37) In 1676 the former priory precinct was suspected of housing another dissident wanted for treasonable practices, ’Macquaire alias Jackson,’, who ’tho' a minister goes like a very à la mode Frenchman’. (fn. 38) In part of the former precinct at least, however, many of the inhabitants were persons of rank, though sometimes non-conforming to the established order in Church and State (see page 49).
The form of government of the liberty in the early eighteenth century is not very clear. In 1732 the Parish Clerks said that ’All the Affairs of the Liberty are managed by the Ancients, who are in the Nature of a Vestry’. (fn. 15) The self-governing institutions of the liberty were of earlier date than this, however: a silver-headed staff of the liberty dated 1672 survives in Stepney Central Library and a dole-box or poor-box of 1600 survived in 1905. (fn. 6) A minute book of the liberty commencing in 1729 records the meeting of a committee held in February 1743/4 at the workhouse of the liberty to order its better regulation. (fn. 39)
The government of the part of Norton Folgate included in this volume was after 1759 chiefly in the hands of trustees appointed under an Act of that year for the better lighting, cleansing and watching of the extra-parochial part of the manor and liberty. (fn. 32) The trustees were empowered to raise a rate and to contract for the installation of an unspecified number of ’Glass Lamps’ to be lit for at least nine months of the year. This Act was repealed in 1810 by another (fn. 40) which required the trustees to light the streets all the year round, and also charged them with the supervision of the workhouse (see page 92). In December 1812 the trustees under this Act decided to negotiate with ’the Directors of the Gas Light and Coke Company’ for the lighthing of the liberty with gas and in May 1813 a contract was signed. (fn. 41) The liberty was thus among the earliest parts of London to have its streets lit by gas.
Until 1778 the paving of the streets of the liberty was probably the responsibility of each individual frontager. In 1773 it was said that ’we still see in Norton Folgate [High Street], between the improved streets of Bishopsgate and Shorditch, a relic of the old inconvenient method of paving the metropolis: which at least serves by contrast to shew the superior elegance of the new plan’. The survival of the personal obligation to pave was due to the fact that the inhabitants of the liberty were outside the City's jurisdiction and although they had refused to be included in an Act of 1768 for paving the parish of Shoreditch, they were never- theless ’too poor as a body to pave their own streets’ (fn. 42)
In 1775 it was reported to the trustees under the Local Act of 1759 that the Committee of Sewers for the City of London would allow the sewers of the liberty to communicate with the new sewer to be dug by the City in Bishopsgate Street only when ’the High Street of this Liberty be agreed to be paved in the modern way’. The trustees under the Act of 1759 therefore resolved to apply for an Act empowering them to make new sewers and pave the liberty ’on the modern New Way’, (fn. 43) and in 1778 another Local Act was passed ’for paving and repairing the Streets … within such part of the Liberty of Norton Folgate as is extra-parochial; and certain parts of Magpiealley [later Fleur-de-lis Street] and Blossom Street in the parish of St. Leonard Shoreditch’. (fn. 35)
This Act nominated fifty Commissioners and authorized them to pave the streets, which were said to be very ill-paved and obstructed, and to raise a rate not exceeding Is. 8d. in the pound; provision was also made for the naming and numbering of streets and houses. The Act does not mention the Act of 1759 or the trustees appointed by it, and each body kept separate minute books. In practice, however, the separate identity of the two bodies was probably more apparent than real in so small an area as Norton Folgate.
By June 1779 Norton Folgate High Street had been paved and the Commissioners resolved that the other parts of the liberty should be paved that year. (fn. 44) In September proposals from workmen were received. (fn. n8) In 1781 the Commissioners resolved that the ’footway pavement’ of Spital Square should be paved with ’Yorkshire Elland Ege’ and ’the Horseway’ with ’best Aberdeen Grannett’. (fn. 46)
In the early eighteenth century the drainage of the liberty was considered to be within the jurisdiction of the Commissioners of Sewers for the Tower Hamlets, whose minute book for 1712–19 contains orders given to the Norton Folgate collectors. In 1717 a joint committee of the Tower Hamlets and Holborn and Finsbury Commissioners decided that the Tower Hamlets Commission included Norton Folgate. (fn. 47) The Tower Hamlets rate books do not, however, include Norton Folgate, for which the first surviving rate books, dating from 1779 or 1812, were made, like those of Shoreditch, under the jurisdiction of the Holborn and Finsbury Commissioners.
The imperfect drainage of the liberty in the first half of the eighteenth century is indicated in a pamphlet published in 1805 by Stevens Totton, a mercer, who was born at No. 6 Spital Square in about 1724 and later lived at No. 10. (fn. 48) Totton could remember when ’every Person in Spital Square’ was ’greatly inconvenienced by the Springs in the Liberty, insomuch that in his late Father's house there, the Water from these Springs used to be three or four feet deep in the Cellars; and the Servants used to be obliged to punt themselves along in a washing-tub, from the Cellar stairs to the Beer Barrels, to draw Beer daily for the Use of the Family…. That was then the Method which the Chief of the Inhabitants in the Liberty also pursued, to get at any Thing in their Cellars; at the same Time living in the Stench of Bilge Water, which rendered their Situations not only obnoxious, but very prejudicial to their Healths.’ (fn. 49)
Totton claimed to have been approached in 1766 by inhabitants of St. Botolph Bishopsgate and to have been responsible for the construction of a ’bold deep sewer’ in Bishopsgate Street south of Spital Square, shaped ’in an Arch reversed’ so that it cleaned itself with the scour of its water. It appears, however, that this was not constructed for some years. In 1768 Totton published a paper recommending to the inhabitants of Bishopsgate parish and of the liberty the construction of a sewer in Bishopsgate Street and also the paving of Norton Folgate High Street. This recalled that the parishioners had applied to the inhabitants of the liberty to join with them in procuring an Act of Parliament and that it was agreed that a sewer should be dug eleven or twelve feet deep at its northern end, where it joined Norton Folgate, and twenty feet deep at its southern end, the extra depth necessary to drain the liberty being paid by its inhabitants. Totton estimated that the expense to the parish would be less than £2,000, requiring a rate of only 3d. in the pound but that the expense to the liberty would be nearly £3,000, requiring a rate of 1s. 4d. in the pound.
At about this time Totton was, according to his own account, ’appointed Secretary to the Gentlemen of the Liberty’ and was ’paid like a Porter’, receiving £60 for his attention to the matter in the years 1766–71.
In 1771 little progress had evidently been made, and the parish and liberty were advised ’ not to stir, pending the City's then Application to Parliament for a general Act to enlarge their Prowers as to the Sewers in the City and Suburbs’. (fn. 48)
In 1775 the trustees under the Act of 1759 (fn. 32) for the lighting, cleansing and watching of Norton Folgate declared their conviction ’of the Utility of New Sewers throughout the said Liberty’, and resolved to accept the offer of the Committee of Sewers for the City of London ’who are willing to Dig their New intended Sewer in Bishopsgate Street, of such a Competent Depth so as the Liberty may on any future application to them be relieved thereby Upon paying for the Extra Digging’. Mr. Tillard, the chief landowner in the liberty, was asked if he would pay for the extra digging ’as it would be of such great Benefit to his Estates in General in this Liberty’, and agreed to ’pay the whole of the said Expenses’. The City would allow the liberty to make a communication with the new sewer only when Norton Folgate High Street had been paved ’in the modern way’. The City further proposed that it should pave, Cleanse and light the High Street on payment of a rate of 2s. in the pound by the inhabitants of the street. The liberty trustees considered this ’in no way reasonable’ and decided themselves to apply to Parliament for power to pave, and make new sewers in the liberty. (fn. 43) The resultant Act of 1778 (fn. 35) constituted Commissioners to pave, but not to make sewers in, the liberty.
According to Totton sewage water ran on each side of the surface of Norton Folgate High Street until 1777, but the agreement with the City was evidently put into effect and in that year a deep sewer was dug in Bishopsgate Street. The expense of digging the extra depth was paif for by the liberty, presumably in the person of Mr. Tillard. (fn. 48)
The courts of the manor from 1720 to 1743 were held at the watch-house situated in the middle of Norton Folgate High Street: this was probably also the meeting-place of the ’Ancients’ mentioned by the Parish Clerks in 1732. In 1743 the watch-house was pulled down and the courts of the manor were henceforward held in a building on the north side of White Lion Street (later No. 1 Folgate Street) leased by the overseers and inhabitants of ’the manor or liberty’ in 1744 (see page 77). This building was also used for meetings of the trustees under the Act of 1810.
The large measure of identity between the various bodies concerned in the self-government of so small an area led to uncertainty about the division of functions. On 20 January 1780 a meeting of trustees under the Act of 1759 resolved to wait upon the manorial steward ’to know if the Trustees of the 3 Rates have a power by their act (or the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's) to fine the Constable for non-attendance upon his Duty’. The Steward replied ’that the complaint must come to him from the foreman of the Leet Jury …. And that he wou'd then proceed with the Constable as the Act directs in such cases’. (fn. 50) On 20 January 1875 the overseers and trustees of the liberty were asked by solicitors who were the appropriate persons to receive and administer a legacy left by Mr. William Cluff to ’the Rector Churchwardens and Overseers of the Liberty of Norton Folgate’. The clerk to the overseers and trustees replied that there was no rector, or church-wardens, of the liberty, but ’there are annually appointed two Overseers of the poor of the Liberty of Norton Folgate who together with a number of Trustees of the Liberty appointed under a local Act have for very many years made the poor rates and otherwise had the management of the Liberty in parochial matters … and gifts to the poor have from time to time been made to the Overseers of the Liberty who now distribute these Charities and I infer that they are the proper persons to have charge of Mr. Cluff's gift either in conjunction with the Trustees of the Liberty of whom they are (ex officio) members or without’. (fn. 51)
In 1855 the liberty became part of the Whitechapel District Board of Works. In 1897 the chapel District Board of Works. In 1897 the trustees contemplated agitating, together with the Old Artillery Ground Liberty, for inclusion in the City, but did not do so. (fn. 52) In 1900 the liberty became merged in the Borough of Stepney and the last meeting of the trustees took place on 24 October of that year. (fn. 53)