History of Greyfriars: The site and buildings

The Grey Friars of London. Originally published by Aberdeen University Press, Aberdeen, 1915.

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'History of Greyfriars: The site and buildings', in The Grey Friars of London, (Aberdeen, 1915) pp. 27-52. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/brit-franciscan-soc/vol6/pp27-52 [accessed 12 April 2024]

3. The Site And Buildings.

The abstracts of deeds given in the Register are disappointing for their brevity. In no case do they give more than a slight indication of the site to which they relate, nor do the originals appear to exist. It is not, therefore, possible to trace exactly the steps in the process by which the Grey Friars acquired the land whereon their church and convent were built. In all there are forty-two documents calendared in the Register, but of these eighteen relate to rents presumably payable on lands or tenements otherwise acquired. By taking the other twenty-four in their chronological order we may extract from them some indication of the original site and its subsequent extensions. The deeds fall into four groups: (1) 1224–1243; (2) 1249–1260; (3) 1278–1292; and (4) 1301–1317; there was a final extension by the gift of Queen Isabella in 1352-1353. Two plots of land are described as situated in the parish of St. Sepulchre, (fn. 1) and three in St. Ewen's parish; the rest as in Stinking Lane, St. Nicholas Lane, and St. Nicholas Shambles parish. Stinking Lane may owe its name to its unsavoury character as the home of the Shambles; or possibly may be a corruption for "Stukandelane," or "Stigandes lane" from the name of an owner; (fn. 2) both these forms occur in 1275. (fn. 3) A variant for Stinking Lane was Fowle Lane, which was later changed to Chicken Lane. St. Nicholas Lane seems to be another name for the street. It is now called King Edward Street. The lands in St. Nicholas parish formed the eastern part of the site. In St. Sepulchre's lay the north-western part along the City Wall, whilst in St. Ewen's parish there was a comparatively small area with a frontage on Newgate Street. The main site comprised the greater part of the irregular area between Stinking Lane on the east, Newgate Street on the south, and the City Wall on the west and north; but the south-east corner, and another patch on the east were never in the possession of the friars, nor did they hold the most westerly part of the Newgate Street frontage; ultimately they alienated the greater part of that frontage, retaining only means of access at three points to their ground and buildings in the rear. Besides the main site, it is probable (for reasons which will appear later) (fn. 4) that the friars had a detached garden on the east side of Stinking Lane. The main site is now occupied by Christchurch and its graveyard, and by the most recently erected buildings of the General Post Office.

John Iwyn's first gift in 1224–1225 was of all his land with the houses thereon in the parish of St. Nicholas Shambles. There is no indication of its extent, but from the expression "houses" it was probably a tolerable sized plot; it may be conjectured to have formed the site on which the Allhallows Chapel and the Vestry were ultimately built. This was ex tended in 1227–1228 by the gift from Joce Fitz Piers of all his land in Stinking Lane; (fn. 5) again there is no indication of size, though it is stated to have been bounded on the north by the Wall. It would be natural to suppose that Joce Fitz Piers' gift adjoined that of John Iwyn; but immediately north of the Vestry there was a plot of ground which the friars do not seem to have ever owned; (fn. 6) if Joce's land abutted on the later Stinking Lane, it was probably to the north of this plot; since it reached the Wall, it must have run back for a good distance, and may have joined on to Iwyn's ground in the rear. In 1238–1239 the City purchased from Peter de Gruncestre his land in St. Ewen's parish at a cost of six marks; (fn. 7) this would have provided an extension to the south, but was apparently only a small plot. In 1242–1243 the City bought two larger plots, both in St. Sepulchre's parish, and both bounded on the north by the Wall; (fn. 8) these two plots cost in all fifty marks, and must have been of considerable size. As they are the only lands of which we hear in St. Sepulchre's they presumably covered the whole of the north-western corner of the site.

On the site as thus secured the original Greyfriars Church and Convent were built. William Joyner, who was Mayor in 1239, is said to have built the Chapel, and to have given two hundred pounds towards the cost of the other buildings. (fn. 9) The acquisitions of 1238–1243 were no doubt a part of the scheme to which Joyner contributed. The site as it then existed must have been very inconveniently shaped, with a narrow (and possibly broken) frontage on Stinking Lane, but running back westwards for a long distance, and with a small extension to the south perhaps as far as Newgate Street. The buildings erected at this time probably stood on the ground given by Iwyn and Fitz Piers. Joyner's chapel ultimately became a great part of the Choir; (fn. 10) probably, therefore, it stood where the All Hallows Chapel, or north aisle of the eventual Choir, was built. Thus in the original, as afterwards in the completed Convent, the church was placed in the south-east corner of the site. The other buildings must have been at the north-west corner of the church, on part of the same ground where the Cloisters were finally built. The remainder of the original site would have run back behind them to the west.

The next purchases in 1251–1252 were of land and houses in Stinking Lane, valued at ten marks, and of land with the trees growing thereon in St. Nicholas parish, valued at two marks. (fn. 11) In the following year came a purchase of land in St. Ewen's parish for five marks. (fn. 12) There was no further addition till 1260–1261, when land in Stinking Lane was acquired at a cost of fifteen and a half marks. (fn. 13) In the same year the Countess of Warwick gave her land and houses adjoining Stinking Lane. (fn. 14) There is no evidence of building at this time, and probably the additions were only preparatory for the future.

The troubles of the Barons War may very likely have caused the postponement of any schemes for rebuilding. At all events there was no further addition to the site till the acquisition in 1278–1279 of a messuage in St. Nicholas Lane. (fn. 15) In 1281–1282 followed two tenements, one in St. Nicholas Lane, the other unspecified; (fn. 16) and a further gift from the Countess of Warwick of land in Stinking Lane. (fn. 17) In 1284–1285 Philip le Tailor gave land in Stinking Lane, bounded on the north by the City Wall. (fn. 18) Shortly afterwards Alice Northawe and Beatrix de Feschamp bestowed on the friars all their rights in two tenements in St. Nicholas Lane, one of them abutting on the Wall; (fn. 19) these deeds may relate to the land acquired from Philip le Tailor. In 1290–1291 Geoffrey de Bocham gave land and houses in St. Nicholas parish valued at fifteen marks, and in the next year Adam de Fulham gave land and houses in St. Nicholas Lane. (fn. 20) This series of additions completed the northeast portion of the site. They were mostly given by citizens and must have included a considerable part of the ground on which the ultimate conventual buildings stood. As we shall see presently a number of citizens were at this same time contributing to the cost of erecting those buildings. (fn. 21)

The number of plots and tenements described as situated in St. Nicholas Lane or in Stinking Lane is somewhat remarkable. The gifts thus far described can have included only a part of the site of the church, and to the north of the church the friars had only two comparatively small frontages on the west side of the Lane, less as it would seem than 150 feet in all. Probably one explanation may be that the description was used to cover land to which the Lane afforded the only means of access. It is possible also that the Lane may have originally curved away to the west; but this would not help much, since the friars did not hold the land at the north end of the Lane against the Wall. There is, however, some reason to suppose that the friars had ground on the east side as well as on the west side of the Lane; if that was so, the difficulty as to the amount of land described as in or adjoining to the Lane disappears. In 1275 complaint was made that the friars had made an encroachment on, and obstructed Stinking Lane; (fn. 22) if they had no land except on the west, this would have been sheer wilfulness; but if the donations between 1250 and 1261 had included land to the east they would have had some excuse. From a plan at St. Bartholomew's Hospital (fn. 23) it appears that there was an arched gateway across the Lane some little distance from the point where it then (in 1617) turned abruptly to the east. On the east side of the Lane there were gardens reaching down from the north as far as the centre of the east front of the church. Part or all of these gardens probably belonged to the friars, for in a grant of part of their site made in 1543 one boundary is described as running through the pale of the Friars Garden to the east front of the church; (fn. 24) the deed is difficult to interpret, but the simplest solution is that this garden was that on the other side of the Lane. The St. Bartholomew's plan thus illustrates both the alleged obstruction of 1275 and the deed of 1543.

After 1292 the friars received no addition to their site till Queen Margaret acquired for them in 1301–1302 land and houses in St. Nicholas parish, valued at sixty marks. (fn. 25) This was no doubt for the main site of the Choir of the church, which she was then preparing to build. A further extension, probably also for the site of the church, was a gift of land and houses received in the same year from Dionisia de Munchensi. In 1303 and 1305–1306 two other tenements were obtained in St. Nicholas parish; these also may have been for the same purpose. (fn. 26)

The site was now practically complete. The only additions were a small strip of land, said to be in St. Anne's parish, in 1313–1314; (fn. 27) and some messuages acquired for the friars by Queen Isabella in 1352–1353, which were in St. Nicholas parish and adjoined the City Wall. (fn. 28) The purpose of these last additions was probably to round off inconvenient corners in the existing site.

The site of the Greyfriars, as completed in 1306, had a considerable frontage on Newgate Street. The greater part of this frontage was only a narrow strip on the south side of the church which was of no particular value to the friars. Some eighty years later the friars parted with almost the whole of the frontage to the City. First in 1368 the Corporation acquired a strip of land on the south side of the church for the support of London Bridge. This strip was 212 feet in length, from the house of Walter Attehyde on the east to the buttress by the south door of the church on the west. In breadth it was 33 feet 2 inches at the east end, but narrowed down to less than half that at the other end. As will be seen from the deed printed below, (fn. 29) careful provision was made for the protection of the friars and the prevention of any injury to the lighting of the church by the erection of too lofty buildings. About the middle of the strip a right of way was reserved leading to the ambulatory between the Choir and the Altars. Nearly thirty years afterwards, in 1397, the friars parted with a further strip between the south-west buttress of the church on the east and the new gateway of the friars on the west. (fn. 30) This strip was 95 feet 2 inches long, (fn. 31) 8 feet 4 inches wide at the east end and only 7 feet 2 inches at the west end. Neither of the strips was wide enough for building, so in 1368 6 feet was taken from the highway, and in 1397 the new houses were built out to align with those formerly erected. The friars on their part had leave to build out their gatehouse at the west end of the latest Bridgehouse Rents to the same line. Between the strip now leased and that formerly leased in 1368 came the entrance to the church, and here the friars seem to have at this time erected a porch, receiving again leave to build out to the line of the new houses; they were further to have a passage 2 feet wide between the latest houses and the south-west buttress, whereby they had access to the west front of the church. Thus the friars had parted with the whole of their Newgate Street frontage, except at the west end, where the gatehouse nearly opposite to St. Ewen's Church formed the principal entrance to the cemetery and conventual buildings. After this there was no further change in the site save that in 1529 the friars leased to the City a small piece of ground to enlarge the house of Nicholas Pynchyn. (fn. 32) Mr. Shepherd (fn. 33) thought this was part of the passage reserved in 1397, but a deed quoted below shows that it must have been at the back of the house, which was one of those in the most easterly part of the Rents to the south of the Choir. (fn. 34)

The long possession by the friars of an extensive frontage on Newgate Street led to the adjoining part of the street being called "Greyfriars". Opposite to the entrance to the Walkingplace the street was unusually wide, being about 50 feet across. Here was one of the markets of the city. Reference to it as a corn market "on the pavement near the Friars" occurs in 1324 and 1344; later it was specially a poultry market, and was in 1440 one of the places where "foreign poulters" were to stand. (fn. 35) In the plan at St. Bartholomew's Hospital part of it is described as the "mele market".

Before leaving this part of our subject it should be pointed out that the donations of land were not made to the friars themselves (who could not legitimately hold property) but were given in trust to the City, except for those pieces which were acquired by Queen Margaret.

We may now turn from the site to the buildings erected on it. Of the original buildings we can say no more than that in 1229 the friars had a grant of an oak from Windsor forest for the building of their house, (fn. 36) and that the chapel was erected about 1240 by William Joyner, who also contributed 200l. to the cost of the other buildings. (fn. 37) To judge from the indications we possess as to the then extent of the site, the original buildings were probably of a modest kind. The chapel as we have seen stood on the site of the future All Hallows Chapel, or north aisle of the Choir of the later church.

The first great period of building was between 1279 and 1290, when most of the land on the north-east was acquired. Here stood the Cloister and conventual buildings. We are told that Walter Potter built the chapter-house, Gregory de Rokesley the dormitory, Bartholomew de Castro the refectory, and Peter de Helyland the infirmary. Potter became alder man in 1269, and died about 1289. Rokesley was mayor from 1274 to 1281, and again in 1284–1285; he died in 1291. Bartholomew de Castro was alderman of Cripplegate from about 1260 to 1272, but was apparently alive as late as 1292. Helyland left a hundred pounds for the infirmary when he died, before 1258. (fn. 38) The combined evidence of the deeds of the site and the names of the donors, makes it clear that the greater part of the buildings (other than the church) were erected about the middle of the reign of Edward I., at the cost of the citizens. Probably they were a more pressing need than the provision of a new church. But the erection of a worthy church was not lost sight of. Henry le Waleys, who was mayor in 1273–1274, 1281 to 1284, and 1298–1299, and died in 1302, is said to have built the nave, and to have given the timber for the altars. (fn. 39) John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond, (fn. 40) who died in 1305, is also mentioned amongst those who contributed to the building of the Nave. So the erection of the church must at least have been in contemplation at the end of the thirteenth century. If Mr. Shepherd's conjecture that the chapel of St. Louis was at the east end of the south aisle of the Nave is accepted, we have further evidence that the erection of the Nave was first taken in hand, and that considerable progress had been made. (fn. 41) The chapel of St. Louis was certainly built in the reign of Edward I., and there does not seem to be any place for it in the Choir. The peculiar work of Queen Margaret, who now comes on the scene as the second foundress, will, therefore, have consisted in the erection or planning of the Choir.

As we have seen, Margaret was acquiring land for the church in 1302. The foundation stone was laid four years later by Sir William Walden in the Queen's name. (fn. 42) In another place it is stated that "the work was completed in twenty-one years, for it was begun in 1327". (fn. 43) There is clearly some error here; perhaps the writer may have meant to write "finished" instead of "begun," for then we should have twenty-one years from 1306 to 1327. (fn. 44) But if so, he can only have referred to the part of the church on which Margaret spent 2,000 marks during her life, and left unfinished at her death in 1318. The whole church was certainly not finished till much later. It was apparently not till the reign of Edward III. that Isabella de Valois, "finding the church which Queen Margaret, her aunt, began, not yet finished, spent about it seven hundred pounds and more". Queen Philippa also contributed to the cost of the church and, in particular, to the roofing. Another important benefactor, Robert Lisle, also probably gave his help early in the reign of Edward III. (fn. 45) As late as January, 1346, the friars were sending to various parts for stone and timber for the fabric of their church and cloister, and the repair of their house. (fn. 46) But the church must have been practically finished not many years later since the west windows were blown in by the great wind on St. Maurice's Day, 1363. (fn. 47) One might possibly form some opinion on the progress of the building from the names of those who gave windows, were it not for the double consideration that some promises may have been made before the building was begun, and others not received till long after it was finished. Still the results, such as they are, are worth stating. There were three windows both in the east end and the west front, and fifteen on either side, making thirty-six in all. The windows at the east end were the gifts of Queen Isabella, of the Drapers Company, and John Cobham, probably the third lord, who died in 1355, and was buried "coram altaribus"; (fn. 48) of these windows we can say no more than that the glass was probably put in before 1350. Of the donors of the seven windows on the south side of the Choir all but two died in or before 1325; of the other two, Richard Bryton or Betoyne was mayor in 1326, and John Charlton was married as early as 1309. The whole of these windows may, therefore, have been presented in the latter part of the reign of Edward II. The dates for the donors of the other windows on the south side cannot all be fixed; but Margaret, Countess of Cornwall, belongs to the reign of Edward II., Henry, Earl of Lancaster, died in 1345, and Albon and Mordon probably date about 1340; on the other hand Robert Laund (who gave the twelfth window) was sheriff in 1376, and died in 1383. We can, therefore, say no more than that the south windows of the Nave were probably put in at various times; but since the Earl of Lancaster's window was the fifteenth (or most westerly), the south aisle of the Nave was probably completed before 1345. The glazing of this window was renewed by William Loveney, probably as a consequence of the re-building of the porch after 1398. The central window in the west front was restored by Edward III. after 1363; the west window in the north aisle was given by Walter Mordon, who died in 1351; the date for the window in the south aisle is uncertain. The seven north windows (fn. 49) of the Choir were all given by persons who died between 1313 and 1336, except for one which was the gift of the Vintners. The eighth, in the Walking-place, was given by Henry Sutton, who was Guardian between 1303 and 1307, and died soon after 1327. Of the windows on the north side of the Nave one, the third from the east, was given by Simon Parys, alderman from 1299 to 1321, who died in 1324; the other six may have been from twenty to thirty years later. From these dates it is fair to assume that the Choir was completed about the end of the reign of Edward II., and that, though considerable progress had been made with the Nave at an earlier date, it was probably not completed till about twenty years afterwards. The glass in the Greyfriars Church seems to have been famous, and is instanced in Piers Plowman, (fn. 50) where the extravagance of painted glass is censured:—
"Lo! how men wryten in fenestres at the freres".

The church was, no doubt, a great and sumptuous building; the writer of the Register says that ignorant persons wondered how the cost could have been met; he himself records contributions amounting to £3,072 in money, in which sum neither the contributions of most of the citizens nor the cost of the windows are included. Queens Margaret and Isabella spent over £2,100 on the Choir alone.

The church is said to have been 300 feet long, 89 feet wide, and 64 feet in height from the ground to the roof. (fn. 51) Recent excavations on the south side of Christchurch, Newgate, revealed the bases of three mediæval buttresses which showed that the present church stands on the site of the six eastern bays of the original Choir. (fn. 52) The actual length from the east end of Christchurch to the west wall of the churchyard is 296 feet. This would allow of fifteen bays corresponding with the six of the Choir; the seventh is covered by the present tower, the eighth, or Walking-place, by Christchurch passage, and the seven bays of the Nave by the present churchyard. The most easterly bay seems to have been slightly wider than the others. (fn. 53) The width of the church does not agree quite so closely with the 89 feet of the Register, being 83 feet 1½ inches between the existing walls; but if allowance be made for outside measurement the difference is not material. Though the site can be traced so closely, and though Wren seems to have built his walls and columns on the actual sites of the mediæval ones, nothing is left of the Greyfriars Church except the bases of the buttresses referred to above, and another buried fragment at the north-west corner of the present church. A rough piece of the west wall was destroyed in the recent erection of the new General Post Office. In the church to the west of the altar rails is some fine old pavement of reddish-brown and grey marble, set in diagonal squares, which may have come from Queen Margaret's Church, or may be part of the pavement renewed in 1516.

In spite of the small remains we can restore with some certitude the ground-plan of the church, aided by the elaborate details of the burials given in the Register. The tombs are described under the heads of the Choir, the various Chapels, the Ambulatory or Walking-place, the Altars and the Nave. They were clearly arranged for the most part with great regularity in rows, there being two rows to each bay. So we find that the All Hallows Chapel occupied the three eastern bays of the north aisle of the Choir, and the Chapel of St. Mary the four western bays. The Chapels of the Apostles (fn. 54) and St. Francis corresponded in the south aisle. There were no tombs at the west end of the All Hallows Chapel, and here seems to have been a passage from the Choir to the Vestry, (fn. 55) with a door in the north wall of the Church. The altars in the Chapels of St. Mary and St. Francis seem to have been placed on one side and enclosed with screens, so as to form passages between these screens and those separating the Choir, and thus give access to the eastern chapels. The "ostia capellarum" (fn. 56) referred to below were probably side-doors in these passages leading to the inner Chapels of St. Mary and St. Francis. (fn. 57) Of the arrangement of the Choir itself we can also obtain some indication. The high altar probably stood away from the eastern wall, about the middle of the first bay; for the heart of Archbishop Peccham was buried in the sacrarium behind the great altar. (fn. 58) In the arch of the third bay on the north was the tomb of Robert, Lord Lisle; in a line with his tomb, in the centre of the Choir, lay the Countess of Norfolk; and at her head in medio chori ubi legitur Epistola Gregory Rokesley; this fixes the position of the lectern. (fn. 59) The next row of tombs lay at the end of the stalls, which thus came half-way up the fourth bay. (fn. 60) At the west end of the choir were three tombs, on the north John Lamborn "under the rope of the lamp," John Claron at the entry of the Choir, and Edward Burnell before the Guardian's stall. (fn. 61) So the stalls returned against the screen wall, and the Guardian, as was usual, occupied the first return stall on the south. The stalls were renewed about 1380 at the cost of 350 marks by the Countess of Norfolk.

Immediately west of the Choir the eighth bay was occupied by the Walking-place between the Choir and the Altars. This space between the Choir and Nave was a regular feature in friars' churches. At its north end was a door leading into the Cloister, which was reached by steps. (fn. 62) The south door led out through the churchyard to Newgate Street. It will be remembered that the friars, when they parted with a piece of their frontage in 1368, reserved a passage way at this point; (fn. 63) it is still in use as Christchurch Passage. In the English List the Ambulatory is described as "the Belfry or Walking-place"; (fn. 64) in the list of windows the eighth is described as sub campanile. (fn. 65) The Belfry was apparently supported on four large piers; for on 5th March, 1676, it was "ordered that forthwith workmen shall be set to at work to clear the foundations of all the pillars in the upper church [or choir], and the four great pillars in the passage to the Hospital". (fn. 66) Mr. Shepherd suggested that the Belfry may have taken the form of an octagonal or hexagonal steeple perched as at Lynn and Richmond on two arches spanning the central alley of the Church. This suggestion seems likely to be correct, since the representation of the Belfry in the maps of Ralph Agas and William Faithorne implies that it was a light pointed structure. (fn. 67) In these maps the representation of the steeple, though somewhat rude, is quite clear. The St. Bartholomew's plan curiously shows no steeple at all; the character of the drawing would no doubt have made its inclusion difficult.

The easternmost bay of the Nave was occupied by the Altars; the Altars of the Holy Cross and St. Mary on the north, and the Altar of Jesus, with the Common Altar (fn. 68) on the south. In the midst over the door into the Walkingplace was the rood. (fn. 69) Between each pair of altars was a raised tomb, and on the north of the Jesus Altar was another raised tomb; (fn. 70) so it is probable that the altars were separated by screens. A screen divided the Altars from the Nave.

The Nave proper occupied the six western bays. At the east end of the south aisle there was an altar, which may, as Mr. Shepherd suggested, have been the Altar of St. Louis, the accounts for the erection of which are printed in this volume. (fn. 71) In the centre of the west end was the principal doorway, and in the south-west corner another door leading out to the porch built in 1398 between the two blocks of houses on the Newgate Street frontage. It is not certain whether there was a clerestory, for no clerestory windows are mentioned in the Register when describing the donors of the windows. Nevertheless a clerestory is shown in the plan preserved at St. Bartholomew's Hospital; it is possible as Mr. Shepherd suggested "that one was added later, somewhat as it was at Norwich". (fn. 72) The St. Bartholomew's plan which combines a plan with a pictorial representation of the buildings, is not entirely to be trusted on architectural details as we have seen in the case of the Belfry; but as a plan it is drawn with extraordinary accuracy, (fn. 73) and its authority must not be lightly rejected; it shows lofty central windows both at east and west with smaller side windows. (fn. 74)

The completion of the church practically closed the great age of building at the Greyfriars. Such work as was done later was rather of the nature of improvements or repairs than of addition. At the same time the rebuilding about the end of the fourteenth century was so extensive that it may have very much altered the character and plan of the Convent. First, soon after 1370, the Schools or Studies, which were not very sumptuous and were too small for the numbers who used them, were rebuilt on a larger scale. (fn. 75) The new Studies were probably on the east side of the Great Cloister; whether the old Studies, (fn. 76) which were built by Bonde "King of Heralds" (probably in the reign of Edward I.) had been on the same site does not appear. It was perhaps as a complement that Thomas Wynchelsey moved Whittington to rebuild the Library in 1420–1421. (fn. 77) The Library occupied the north side of the Great Cloister. The south walk seems to have been built or rebuilt about the same time. (fn. 78) Thus it was only between 1370 and 1420 that the Great Cloister assumed its final form. If, as may possibly have been the case, the old Studies and Library had been in some other position, the Cloister will have been a creation of this rebuilding. The reconstruction between 1370 and 1420 was not confined to the Great Cloister. It was after 1398 that the friars added the south-west porch to the church, and the Gate-house in Newgate Street was erected about the same time. (fn. 79) There was also much repair to the older buildings. In 1420 the ceiling of the Choir was restored at a cost of two hundred marks, and painted at a further cost of fifty marks. (fn. 80) In 1424 the wall of the lavatory adjoining the Vestry was rebuilt, and other improvements effected in the barber's shop and the west walk of the Cloister. All these improvements were due to the energy of Winchelsey, who was likewise the chief contributor to some very necessary repairs in the Cloister under the Refectory. (fn. 81) Altogether it is clear that the reconstruction of the conventual buildings at this time was much more extensive than the Register would at first sight seem to imply. There is no record of any further alterations, save that in 1516 the marble paving of the Church seems to have been renewed.

We may now turn to describe as far as possible the conventual buildings other than the church. The most important were grouped about the Great Cloister, which lay to the north of the nave of the church, but was separated from it by a narrow yard less than twenty feet wide. Though called the Great Cloister it was really a quadrangle of moderate dimensions. It was distinctly longer from north to south than from east to west, the north and south sides were about 105 feet long, the east and west sides perhaps as much as 120 feet. At the northwest corner the buildings reached nearly to the City Wall.

There is some difficulty in determining for certain the position of all the buildings which surrounded the Great Cloister. The grant of February, 1543, (fn. 82) implies that the Chapterhouse and Great Dormitory were on the west side; the former at the south end and the latter on an upper floor extending as it would seem the whole length of the building. But the "Repertory Book" (fn. 83) at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, under date 1st October, 1546, speaks of "the Fratrie above the west side of the Cloister, 140 feet long, all paved, and containing settles and nine tables of wainscot". Most probably the grant (which is very obscurely worded) was in error, and the Great Hall or principal Fratry was on the west side of the Cloister. This will then be the building which was converted into the Great Hall of the Hospital. It was much injured in the fire of 1666, and though repaired for a time was finally pulled down in 1680. The Hall which was then erected was 130 feet long and 34 feet wide. Its south end was built on the old north wall of the church, and allowing for the entrance, the Hall thus extended to the north-west corner of the Cloister.

The north side of the Great Cloister was occupied by Whittington's Library, which escaped destruction in the Fire and survived in a somewhat mutilated condition till 1827. It is said to have been 129 feet long and 31 feet broad; (fn. 84) this shows that its east end was flush with the east wall of the east side of the Cloister, as its west end was at the north-west inner corner of the Cloister. The "Repertory Book" records that there were twenty-eight desks and settles in the Library, "and also there be certain old books upon the said desks". (fn. 85)

On the east side of the Cloister the "Repertory Book" places the Chapter-house, which was 60 feet long and 27 feet wide. According to the same authority there were little rooms above in the Dortor. The Chapter-house would not have occupied much more than half of this side. Probably the Studies occupied part of the remainder, for the cell of the Master of the Study is described as "in medio ambulatorii," (fn. 86) and there would not have been any room for it in the other walks of the Cloister. The fact that the old Grammar School of the Hospital was in this position lends some confirmation, for the ancient buildings of the friars would naturally be adapted to similar uses. Moreover the cell of the Master of the Study is mentioned in conjunction with the "ostium barbariae". The barber's shop would probably be close to the lavatory, which in its turn is described as "juxta vestibulum". (fn. 87) So it is reasonable to suppose that the barber's shop was somewhere in the south part of the East Cloister, and that the lavatory was in the low building on the north of the yard adjoining the chapel of St. Mary. (fn. 88) In the lavatory was the "lavacrum" of copper lined with lead, which was specified in the grant to Christ's Hospital. (fn. 89)

The buildings on the south side of the Cloister were so close to the church that they were probably of no great height; the upper floor seems to have included the Little Dormitory. The grant of 1543 speaks of the hollow angle where the Great and Little Dormitories met; the Little Dormitory must therefore have been in a building at right angles and was probably on the south side of the Cloister, the upper floor of which was adapted as the ward for the "mayden children" of Christ's Hospital. (fn. 90) The new buildings erected after 1666 covered the site both of the south side of the Cloister, and of the yard between the Cloister and the church, the original building not having been more than 20 feet wide. (fn. 91) Some remains of the mediæval arches were preserved till recently in the modern buildings on the south side; they belonged apparently to the fifteenth century and indicate that there were ten bays. There were the same number of bays in Whittington's Library. It is possible that both the north and south walks were rebuilt at the same time. The plan drawn in 1617 and now preserved at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, shows ten bays in the north and south walks, but twelve each in the east and west; this would agree with the greater length of the two latter. But the Register (fn. 92) implies that there were ten "fenestrae" on all four sides of the Great Cloister, and the ancient plan at Christ's Hospital (fn. 93) agrees. However, old views of the west side indicate that then it had eleven bays, and this number fits the dimensions which can be fixed independently.

The block at the north-west corner (west of the Library, and north of the Fratry) was in the time of Christ's Hospital occupied by the Buttery and other offices. Here a staircase led up to a landing-place attached to the Hall. "With this landing-place the Kitchen, which was over the Buttery, communicated; a peculiar building surrounded by a thick old wall." (fn. 94) The "Repertory Book" speaks of "one low room, one other, two more, one on the left hand and the other on the right of the entry going up to the Fratry, the common buttery and the common kitchen, two little chambers on the south and north of the kitchen, and a parcel of void ground on the north side of the kitchen. Then one great hall 72 feet long and 24 feet wide, with a chimney." There was certainly a Hall at right angles to the Great Cloister, extending westwards, nearly on the lines of the Library, to the north-east corner of the Little Cloister. It may possibly have been the Fratry of the Infirmary. The Kitchens and Buttery would have been in a convenient position both for it and for the Fratry on the west of the Great Cloister. Underneath this Hall was a narrow covered way, leading from the Great to the Little Cloister which, in Christ's Hospital days, was called The Creek; behind it on the north were various conventual offices. (fn. 95) Partly on its foundations and partly on the site of the City Wall the last Great Hall of the Hospital was erected in 1829.

The Little Cloister must have been a very small place; the inside measurements, as shown on the St. Bartholomew's Hospital plan, being 45 feet from east to west, and about 50 feet from north to south. I have no ancient note of the buildings which surrounded it. But probably the Infirmary was on the north side, for this was the position of the Sick Ward of Christ's Hospital. The Sick Ward was rebuilt in 1732 over extensive arched vaults forming three sides of a quadrangle. (fn. 96) Presumably this was on the old foundations of the Little Cloister. Since the hospice, which William Albon built, was near the Infirmary, (fn. 97) Canon Pearce is probably right in suggesting that the dolehouse and guest-house were also in the Little Cloister.

I have only attempted to describe the character and position of those buildings as to which we have some definite information. But there were no doubt other buildings, both to the east of the Great Cloister and in the south-west part of the precincts. The Gate-house opposite St. Ewen's Church in Newgate Street was a considerable building, which included the dwelling leased to William and Elizabeth in 1440. (fn. 98) The St. Bartholomew's plan shows a large gateway, with a small door for foot passengers on the east side. At right angles to the Gate-house, on the north-west, the same plan shows the tenement which Anne Lythego or Lego occupied before 1544. (fn. 99) The plan also shows other buildings in the space to the south of the Little Cloister, and west of the church; but there is nothing to identify them, and we cannot be certain that the plan, though based on older material, represents exactly what existed at the time of the Surrender in 1538. But it would seem probable that somewhere in this quarter was the Prior's lodging which, in the reign of Queen Mary, was leased with two gardens to John Christopherson, (fn. 100) the Romanist bishop of Chichester who, when he died in 1558, was buried in the church; the description given of Dr. Vaughan's lodging seems to refer to this building. (fn. 101) Though there must have been a good deal more building than it is possible to show on the plan, there was also a considerable amount of open ground. The friars had certainly a garden in the north-east corner, (fn. 102) and the open space to the west of the church long retained the name of "The Greyfriars"; the latter represents the Cemetery of the friars to which reference is made in the deeds of 1397–1398. (fn. 103) There were certainly also gardens on the south of the church, (fn. 104) though in the sixteenth century they seem to have been leased. (fn. 105) The enclosure of the Great Cloister was specially distinguished as "The Garden," a name which it retained long after it had become a paved quadrangle for the Hospital.

An interesting topic calls for treatment here by reason of the detailed account given in the Register. This is the provision made for an adequate water-supply for the Convent. The original water-supply was secured in the reign of Henry III., when William le Tailour gave the first water-head, and the King, Salekin de Basing, Henry Frowyk, and Henry de Basing contributed to the cost of the aqueduct. These names would of themselves indicate a date about 1250, though Frowyk is presumably the man who was sheriff in 1275 and died in 1286. The fact that the original source of the statement appears in Thomas of Eccleston's History (fn. 106) shows that the date was earlier than 1258. This evidence agrees with the grant by Henry III. of fourteen and a half marks to the Friars Minors of London for their aqueduct, in 1255–1256. (fn. 107) About fifty years afterwards Geoffrey of the Chamber built the house at the second water-head, repaired the old one, and remedied all defects throughout. In this work he was aided by three other citizens, Alan Gille, Henry Darcy, and John Triple. Darcy was an executor of the will of John Triple, who died in 1325. (fn. 108) The extension can therefore be assigned confidently to the early years of the fourteenth century. When the buildings of Greyfriars were transferred to Christ's Hospital the watersupply was naturally included, and part of the system at all events remained in use till shortly after 1739, when the older of the two conduits was abandoned. A plan made in 1676 (fn. 109) helps the understanding of the description of the water-course given in the text below, though the course of the pipes seems to have been a little altered. As described in the text the pipe was taken along the north side of Newgate Street to the Gate of the City, and then followed the line of Snow Hill, bending northwards to the cross-road formed by Holborn and Cow Lane; here was the house of John Muchcheth standing at the corner of these two streets. Then the pipe turned sharply to the west, was carried under the Holbourn and so along the street to Leather Lane, (fn. 110) where it turned north and was carried along the west side of the lane to the end, where it now enters the Clerkenwell Road. At this point the open fields were reached, and the pipe was then taken on a course at first west and then a little north of west to the original conduit, which was situated in the corner block of the present Chapel Street and Lamb's Conduit Street. From this first conduit the later extension ran in the same north-westerly direction for a quarter of a mile to the second conduit, which was in later times known as the Chimney or Devil's Conduit; it was discovered in 1893 by Dr. Philip Norman, in the garden of 20 Queen's Square, Bloomsbury. (fn. 111) The tank, which was much below the present level, was reached by modern steps, continued by further steps in the ancient portion. In the mediæval building (which was judged to be at least as old as the fourteenth century) an arched passage led to the tank, which was in a chamber 12' × 11' with a barrelled vault, the arch running from north to south. The tank and chamber were destroyed in 1911–1912; up to that time it contained a considerable depth of water, though the entrance-pipe was blocked; the water percolated under the masonry, thus showing how wet the nature of the ground was. At the time of the destruction further remains were found; the original building, which was of ragstone, had clearly an upper part above ground; to judge from the depth of made earth in the modern garden, the "little stone house" must have stood well up, so as to be easily seen from a distance, as stated below. (fn. 112) The Register describes the fountain-head as brought "a short distance from the house of the head about fifteen paces beside the way which is the division of the parishes of St. Giles and St. Andrew". At the west end of the garden of 20 Queen's Square were the parish marks of St. George the Martyr, and St. George Bloomsbury, which were cut off respectively from St. Giles-in-the-Fields, and St. Andrew Holborn two hundred years ago. Other references by Strype and Maitland conclusively identify the Queen's Square tank with the Devil's Conduit, which supplied Christ's Hospital. (fn. 113)

The original or White Conduit was found in August, 1907, underneath a workshop in the rear of No. 13 Chapel Street. (fn. 114) It is a chamber 9' × 6', with the entrance at the south, and a tank in the south-west corner. The walls are built of stone, probably obtained from Highgate, with an arched roof constructed of chalk, to which fact may be due the later name of the White Conduit. The tank would have served the purpose of a settling-chamber, before the water was passed through the pipes. In the Register it is stated that the friars obtained their principal supply from the older water-head; and also that there was much loss through waste. Probably there was always trouble; in 1661 the Court of Christ's Hospital were informed that the pipe was so defective that the house had little or no water. The whole distance from the farther Conduit to the Greyfriars was about a mile and a quarter, and the fall in that distance seems only to have been 24 feet, so that frequent clogging of the supply is not to be wondered at. The Christ's Hospital plan shows a number of cesperils (or suspirals), vents to avoid the danger of the pipe being burst by pressure; they probably also served as settling-tanks and as inspection-chambers for examination and repair of the pipes. These seem to be the "spurgella," of which three are mentioned in the account preserved in the Register; the first at Holborn Bridge, the second at the north end of Leather Lane, and the third at Basing's mill. The Christ's Hospital plan shows cesperils at the first and third of these points; the second was then off the line of the aqueduct.

The later history of Greyfriars can only be summarised here. After the Surrender various tenements within the Convent were granted for use as private dwellings, (fn. 115) whilst the church was shut up, and used as a store-house for goods taken in prizes from the French. (fn. 116) However, in January, 1547, the king granted to the City of London the church, the buildings called "le Fratrye," "le Librarye," "le Dorter," and "le Chapterhouse," and the ground called "le Great Cloyster," and "le Little Cloyster". (fn. 117) The church was to be known as Christ Church, and to be the parish church of a new parish formed by the union of St. Nicholas and St. Ewen, with so much of St. Sepulchre as lay within the walls. The church was reopened accordingly on 30th January, 1547; but in September of the same year not only were all the tombs pulled up, but all the altars, together with the stalls and walls of the Choir, taken away and sold. (fn. 118) It is said that the Choir was made smaller; perhaps part of it was converted to other uses. As a Parish Church the church continued in use till its destruction by the Great Fire in 1666, after which the existing Christ Church was built by Sir Christopher Wren on the site of the ancient Choir. The conventual buildings were granted to the City in 1547 to be adapted for the use of orphan children under the name of Christ's Hospital, and the first children were admitted five years later. The Cloister suffered so severely in the Great Fire that all but the north side was not long afterwards rebuilt. Most of the buildings then erected, together with Whittington's Library, were pulled down in the early part of the last century. But Christ's Hospital continued here till the removal of the school to the country in 1902. The part of the site within the Walls, comprising all that had belonged to the Grey Friars, was absorbed in the General Post Office, the most recent buildings of which cover the ground on which the Convent once stood, the site of the church being alone reserved to religious uses.


  • 1. See pp. 147–148 below.
  • 2. See p. 31 below.
  • 3. Hundred Rolls, i., 404.
  • 4. See p. 31 and p. 223 below.
  • 5. See p. 147 below.
  • 6. See p. 223 below and plan.
  • 7. See p. 147 below.
  • 8. See pp. 147–148 below.
  • 9. See p. 157 below.
  • 10. See p. 157 below.
  • 11. See p. 149 below.
  • 12. See p. 149 below.
  • 13. See p. 149 below.
  • 14. See p. 150 below.
  • 15. See p. 151 below.
  • 16. See p. 151 below.
  • 17. See p. 151 below.
  • 18. See p. 152 below.
  • 19. See p. 153 below.
  • 20. See p. 153 below.
  • 21. See p. 158 below.
  • 22. See Hundred Rolls, i., 404, 429: "venella que vocatur Stukandelane obturata per fratres minores";—"fratres minores fecerunt purpresturam de quadam venella obturata per eosdem, que vocatur Stigandeslane". Another complaint at the same time was "via regia obturata a porta Newgate per murum civitatis usque ad vicum Sancti Nicolai per fratres minores"; this would seem to indicate that there had once been a road somewhere between Newgate Street and the Wall.
  • 23. See p. 52 below.
  • 24. See p. 224 below.
  • 25. See p. 154 below.
  • 26. See p. 155 below.
  • 27. Perhaps adjoining the garden on the east of Stinking Lane.
  • 28. See p. 157 below.
  • 29. See pp. 171–173.
  • 30. See pp. 173–176.
  • 31. The houses on the north side of Newgate Street still belong to the Bridge House from the point where the south-west buttress stood for 95 feet towards the west.
  • 32. See p. 176 below.
  • 33. Archæological Journal, lix., 257.
  • 34. See pp. 176 and 212 below. Pynchyn also leased from the friars one of the gardens on the south side of the Choir.
  • 35. Letter-Books, E., p. 197, F., p. 101, K., p. 249.
  • 36. Cal. Close Rolls, 1227–31, p. 169.
  • 37. See p. 157 below.
  • 38. De Adventu, 27.
  • 39. See p. 158 below.
  • 40. See p. 163 below. I assume that it means the husband of Beatrix of England, who was buried in the Choir. The Earl of Brittany's Inn was close to the Greyfriars.
  • 41. The eastern part of the Nave (including the Altars) must, of course, have been built before the bell tower could be erected.
  • 42. See p. 163.
  • 43. See p. 165.
  • 44. On the other hand, twenty-one years from 1327 would about carry us to the time when the whole church was finished. Mr. Shepherd apparently thought that the Nave and Altars, to which Waleys and Sutton contributed, was pulled down. But the text of the Register seems to imply that their work was permanent.
  • 45. See pp. 164, 165.
  • 46. Cal. Pat. Rolls, Edward III., vii., 27.
  • 47. See p. 167. Cf. Nicolas, London Chronicle, p. 65.
  • 48. See p. 165.
  • 49. In the list below the windows on the north are numbered from west to east.
  • 50. Passus C., xvii., 41.
  • 51. See p. 169.
  • 52. Archæological Journal, lix., 247; London and Middlesex Archæological Society Trans., v., 421.
  • 53. See the measured drawing, ap. Trans. London and Middlesex Archæological Association, iv., 421.
  • 54. Called "capella noviciorum" on p. 73 below.
  • 55. The position of the Vestry is conjectural; but there was a door "versus vestibulum" just west of Lord Lisle's tomb (p. 72), and the St. Bartholomew's plan shows a building on the north of the All Hallows Chapel. Moreover, Richard Hastings, Lord Welles, who lay in this chapel, had directed in his will that he should be buried in the Vestry Chapel. See p. 77 below.
  • 56. See pp. 73, 81, and 88 below.
  • 57. Cf. "hostium parve capelle" on p. 94 below.
  • 58. See p. 70 below.
  • 59. See p. 73. At Rokesley's head (to the west) was the tomb of William Fitzwarren, described in Harley MS. 6033 as "under the lampe".
  • 60. See pp. 73, 74.
  • 61. See p. 75.
  • 62. See p. 128 below.
  • 63. See p. 33 above.
  • 64. Harley MS. 6033. See p. 11 above.
  • 65. See pp. 166, 168 below.
  • 66. Churchwardens of Christchurch's books quoted ap. Arch. Journal, lix., 252, Christ's Hospital occupied the Cloister to the north.
  • 67. Arch. Journal, lix., 252. Agas' map probably represents the condition before 1561; Faithorne's map was published in 1658.
  • 68. Also called the Altar of St. Michael, see p. 105 below.
  • 69. See p. III below.
  • 70. See pp. 105 and 107 below.
  • 71. See pp. 202–203 below.
  • 72. Arch. Journal, lix., 254.
  • 73. See p. 52 below.
  • 74. I have only summarised the results, which Mr. Shepherd explained at much more length ap. Arch. Journal, lix., 248–253.
  • 75. See p. 161 below.
  • 76. See p. 158 below.
  • 77. See p. 170 below.
  • 78. See p. 145 below.
  • 79. See pp. 174 and 176 below.
  • 80. See p. 169 below.
  • 81. See pp. 161 and 171 below.
  • 82. See pp. 222–225 below.
  • 83. For the information as to its contents I am indebted to Dr. Norman Moore, who kindly let me see the proofs of his forthcoming History of St. Bartholomew's Hospital.
  • 84. Trollope, History of Christ's Hospital, pp. 10, 105 (with illustration); Transactions of London and Middlesex Archæological Association, iv., 423.
  • 85. See also the reference in the Letters Patent on p. 230 below.
  • 86. See p. 171 below.
  • 87. See p. 171 below.
  • 88. The St. Bartholomew's Hospital plan shows a low covered building here.
  • 89. See p. 224 below.
  • 90. Trollope, History of Christ's Hospital, pp. 104, 105.
  • 91. Trans. London and Middlesex, etc., iv., 420, where this plan is reproduced.
  • 92. See pp. 128–133 below.
  • 93. Pearce, Annals of Christ's Hospital, p. 300; it is not drawn accurately to scale.
  • 94. Trollope, u.s., p. 351.
  • 95. The Letters Patent (see p. 229 below) refer to "Aulam nostram et Cellarium nostrum subtus eandem".
  • 96. Trollope, p. 351; Pearce, pp. 56–58.
  • 97. See p. 161 below.
  • 98. See p. 207 below.
  • 99. See pp. 226, 228 below.
  • 100. John Howes MS., p. 68.
  • 101. See pp. 227, 228 below.
  • 102. See p. 223 below.
  • 103. See pp. 175 and 205 below.
  • 104. In 1436 the houses at the corner of Stinking Lane and Newgate Street are described as bounded on the west by the tenements of London Bridge, on the north by the stone wall of the garden of the Friars Minors, and on the east by the little lane by which one goes from the Shambles to the said friars' garden (Cal. Pat. Rolls, Henry VI., ii., 598).
  • 105. See p. 212 below.
  • 106. De Adventu, p. 27. See p. 159 below.
  • 107. Liberate Roll, 40 Henry III., m. 13, P.R.O. The Dominicans had twenty pounds for their aqueduct in 1259–1260. Lib. Roll, 44 Henry III., m. 12.
  • 108. See p. 166 below.
  • 109. Reproduced in Archæologia, lxi., 353.
  • 110. In 1676 it continued along Holborn as far as Gray's Inn Road (the change was probably made in 1671, see Archæologia, lxi., 353–354). It rejoined the old line at the point where it took a more northerly direction; from here to the first conduit is a little over a furlong, so this is approximately the position of Thomas Basing's mill.
  • 111. Archæologia, lvi., 251–266.
  • 112. On p. 160.
  • 113. Strype, Survey, Book IV., p. 75; Maitland, Hist. London, ii., 1316, ed. 1756.
  • 114. See Archæologia, lxi., 347–356. An article by Dr. Philip Norman and Mr. E. A. Mann, giving a detailed description with plans and sections.
  • 115. See pp. 225–229 below.
  • 116. Stow, Survey of London, i., 318; Monumenta Franciscana, ii., 206.
  • 117. See extracts from the Letters Patent on pp. 229–231 below.
  • 118. Monumenta Franciscana, ii., 215.