Newington Butts

The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1792.

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Daniel Lysons, 'Newington Butts', in The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey, (London, 1792) pp. 389-398. British History Online [accessed 30 May 2024].

Daniel Lysons. "Newington Butts", in The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey, (London, 1792) 389-398. British History Online, accessed May 30, 2024,

Lysons, Daniel. "Newington Butts", The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey, (London, 1792). 389-398. British History Online. Web. 30 May 2024,


This place is not mentioned in the Conqueror's Survey, but a church at Walworth is there noticed; whence it seems probable, that at the re-building of that church upon a new site it was surrounded with houses, which obtained the appellation of Neweton, as it is called in all the most ancient records. It was afterwards spelt Newenton, and Newington. There is little doubt but that it received its additional name from the butts placed there for archers to shoot at. The first record, in which it is written Newington Butts, is dated 1558 (fn. 1). In Henry VIII.'s time butts were set up in the fields near London by authority. There are two patents printed at large in Wood's Bowman's Glory; the one of James I. and the other of Charles I. by which those monarchs ordained that the butts, which had been destroyed in consequence of the inclosures, should be restored as they were in the reign of Henry VIII. (fn. 2).

Situation, boundaries, extent, &c.

Newington Butts lies in the eastern division of Brixton hundred, at the distance of about a mile from London Bridge. It is bounded by the parish of Lambeth on the west; by that of St. George, Southwark, on the east and north; and by Camberwell on the south. The parish is of very small extent. The land, which is not covered with houses, consists of little more than three hundred acres, about a third part of which is occupied by market gardeners. The remainder is for the most part pasture; the soil, sand and gravel. The parish is assessed 907l. 1s. 8d. to the land-tax, which is at the rate of 1s. 2d. in the pound.

Manor of Walworth.

The only manor in this parish is that of Walworth, now a hamlet to Newington, and the birth-place probably of the celebrated citizen who bore its name. King Edmund gave this manor to his jester Nithardus, who in the reign of St. Edward, being about to make a pilgrimage to Rome, obtained a licence from that monarch to give it to the church of Canterbury (fn. 3). This manor in Doomsday Book, called Waleorde, is said to have been held in the time of William the Conqueror by Bainardus of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to have been appropriated to the support of the monks.***** It had been valued at 30s. and at 20s. but was then worth 3l. and in 1291 was taxed at 10l. It now belongs to the dean and chapter of Canterbury.

In the reign of Henry III. the Queen's goldsmith held an acre of land in Newington by the service of rendering a gallon of honey to the King (fn. 4).

The church.

It seems probable, as was before observed, that the church belonging to this parish has been removed from Walworth to its present site since the Conquest. Newington church appears to have been originally a very small structure; Sir Hugh Brawne added a north aisle about the year 1600. In the year 1704, several hundred pounds were expended in repairing and ornamenting the church, unfortunately to very little purpose, for in the month of July 1720, the congregation having been very much alarmed by a sudden crack in the wall during the time of divine service, it was found necessary upon a survey, that the whole building, except the tower, should be taken down. The dimensions of the old church being only 43 feet from east to west, and 54 from north and south, it was determined to increase the new structure to 62 and 58. The tower, a low square building of flint and stone, was left standing. The expences of the re-building were estimated at 926l. for which sum a brief was obtained. The new church was opened on the 26th of March 1721. Being found inadequate to the increased number of inhabitants, an act of parliament was obtained during the last session for rebuilding it upon a larger scale. The workmen began to take down the old tower on the 19th of June, and the architect is under a contract to complete the new church by Midsummer 1793. The estimate of the expence amounts to 2,500l. The length of the intended structure is to be 87 feet, the breadth 58 as before. It is to be built of brick, in the modern style, without detached aisles, and to have spacious galleries for the accommodation of a numerous congregation. At the west end is to be a turret and cupola.

Tombs and monuments.

Having examined the church a few days before the workmen began to take it down, I shall speak of the tombs and monuments as they were then situated.

Adam Hayes.

In the chancel were the monuments of James Reading, Esq. who died in 1694, and of Mr. Richard Day, who died in 1784; and flat stones to the memory of William Taswell, who died in 1731, and Nathaniel Hough, D. D. who died in 1737, both rectors of this parish; of James Taswell, who died in 1710; James Tracy, Esq. who died in 1773; and Adam Hayes, Esq. one of Lord Anson's companions in his voyage round the world, who died in 1785.

In the north aisle was the monument of Sir Hugh Brawne, Knt. who died in 1614, and the tomb of Mrs. Sarah Crawford, who died in 1766, and Mrs. Martha Crawford, who died in 1786.

George Powell.

Against the pillars of the nave were the monuments of Thomas Inwen, Esq. who died in 1743, and Mr. Richard Boulton, who died in 1750. On the floor, flat stones to the memory of Margaret wife of William Allen, Esq. of Antigua; and Mr. George Powell, who died in 1704. The Editor of Aubrey's Antiquities of Surrey says, that the latter was called King of the Gipsies, and that he died in very flourishing circumstances.

Capt. Waghorn.

Serjeant Davy.

In the south aisle was a tablet to the memory of Capt. Waghorn, a naval officer, who escaped from the Royal George at the time of the fatal catastrophe which happened to that ship. He died in 1787. At the west end was the tomb of William Davy, Esq. serjeant at law, whose professional abilities are well remembered; he died in 1786. Under the belfry was the tomb of Mr. William Dale, furgeon, who died in 1718.

Churchyard. Monument of William Allen.

The church-yard was enlarged by act of parliament 29 Geo. II. The most conspicuous monument there is that of William Allen, who was killed by the soldiers in St. George's Fields in the year 1768. The inscription asserts that he was "inhumanly murdered on the 10th of May by Scottish detachments from the army." There are also some verses and texts of scripture, which seem to be applied with a very unjustifiable spirit of rancour, as an excuse for which it must be admitted that the monument was erected during the height of party rage, and in the first transports of resentment by parents who had lost an only son. The account of the riots which took place in St. George's Fields in 1768, and the circumstances of this transaction are detailed in many of the publications of that time. It appears that Allen was illegally killed, whether he was concerned in the riots or not, as he was shot apart from the mob at a time when he might, if necessary, have been apprehended and brought to justice. The acquittal of the soldier who was tried for his murder, made a great clamour at the time, though it appears that the weight of evidence preponderated much in his favour, and proved to the satisfaction of the jury that he was not the person who fired the gun.

Various tombs.

The church-yard contains also, among others, the tombs of the following persons:—Mrs. Emblem Richardson, governess of a boarding-school, who died in 1743; William White, Gent. of the Inner Temple, who died in 1769; Capt. John Diddear, who died in 1773; Benjamin, son of Timothy Bennet, M. D. who died in 1773; Barnabas Mayor, fellow and one of the directors of the society of artists of Great Britain, who died in 1774; James Abernithy, Esq. who died in 1781; the Reverend James Hassel, rector of North Rungton, Norfolk, who died in 1781; Leversidge Brandon, who died in 1785; Mary, relict of Captain Peter Guerin, who died in 1785; Sibella, wife of Benjamin Batley, Esq. who died in 1787; Elizabeth, wife of Captain Magnus Henderson, who died in 1790; Clarissa, wife of Captain Robert Rayne, in the military service of the East-India Company, who died in 1791; and John Robson, Esq. who died the same year.


The church of Newington Butts, which is dedicated to St. Mary, is in the peculiar jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The advowson of the rectory belonged to that see till the time of Archbishop Cranmer, who gave it to Henry VIII. (fn. 5) It was granted by him (fn. 6), and confirmed by Edward VI. (fn. 7) to Nicholas, Bishop of Worcester and his successors, to whom it still belongs. In King John's reign the rectory was valued at eight marks (fn. 8); in 1291 at twenty-two marks (fn. 9). It was presented to the commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of ecclesiastical benefices, that the rectory of Newington Butts was worth about IIIl. per annum, and that Mr. Thomas Wadsworth the rector, who officiated there and received the profits, was placed there by the Lord Protector (fn. 10). In the King's books the rectory is valued at 16l. per annum.

The parsonage-house, which is built of wood, appears to be very ancient; it is surrounded by a moat, which has four bridges.

Rectors. Tobias Crispe.

Tobias Crispe, presented by the lessees under the Bishop of Worcester in 1627, enjoyed this living only a few months; being removed on account of a simoniacal contract (fn. 11). He was author of some volumes of sermons, to one of which his portrait is prefixed.

Thomas Wadsworth.

Thomas Wadsworth above-mentioned wrote several tracts, which were collected after his death, and published with his portrait, under the title of Wadsworth's Remains.

Nicholas Lloyd.

Nicholas Lloyd, instituted in 1673 (fn. 12), was author of a historical, geographical, and poetical dictionary. He died in 1680, leaving behind him several unpublished MSS. consisting principally of commentaries and translations (fn. 13).

Edward Stillingfleet.

Edward Stillingfleet, presented to this rectory by his father the Bishop of Worcester in 1698, kept it only a few months, having made an exchange with Dr. Taswell for some preserment in Norfolk. Mr. Stillingfleet was bred to the study of physic, and was professor of that science in Gresham College (fn. 14).

William Taswell.

William Taswell, who succeeded Mr. Stillingfleet, has inserted in the parish register much useful information concerning the glebe land, tithes, and other emoluments of the church, and some notes relating to his predecessors and the state of the parish. He is supposed to have been the author of an anonymous pamphlet, written to contradict the exaggerated account of a cure performed at Newington, by Roger Grant, an oculist, on a boy born blind. In Grant's narrative Dr. Taswell is falsely said to have been present at the operation, and his name was without his authority or knowledge subjoined to a certificate of the case.

The present rector of Newington is the Right Reverend Samuel Horsley, Bishop of St. David's, well known for his many learned writings in defence of the doctrines of the Church of England.

Parish register.

The parish register begins in 1561, but is very imperfect till about the year 1670, from which time it appears to have been accurately kept.

Comparative state of population.

Average of Baptisms. Average of Burials.
1680—1689 158 221
1780—1789 204 332

The increase of population does not appear so great, by the above comparative average, as it has really been; a circumstance which is to be attributed to the number of diffenters in this parish. Doctor Taswell calculated the houses at only 660 in the beginning of the century; they are now about 1800 in number. The presbyterian diffenters have a meeting-house here, but no burial ground.


In 1625, four hundred and five persons died of the plague here in the months of July and August.

At the beginning of one of the register books is the following licence to eat flesh, which is of a more limited nature than any which I have observed elsewhere:

Licence to eat flesh.

"I James Fludd, Doctor in Divinity, and Parson of the church of St. Marie Newington in Surrey, do give license unto Mrs. Ann Jones of Newington, the wyfe of Evan Jones, Gentleman, being notoriously sicke, to eate flesh this time of Lent, during the time of sickness onlye, according to lawe in that case provided; videlicet, in the 5th of Eliz. chap. 5. and 1 Jacob. chap. 29. provided alwaies that duringe the time of her sicknesse she eate no beise, veale, porke, mutton, or bacon. In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seal. Dated the 8th of March 1619."

Instances of longevity.

The following instances of longevity occur in the parish register.

"Edward Allen, aged 107 years and upwards, buried Jan. 20, 1685.

"Sarah Wood, aged 101, Mary Ralf, aged 100, buried April 5th, 1701.

Christopher Coward, aged 102, buried Dec. 16, 1703. Widow Jeweller, aged 106, buried Aug. 30, 1706."


Mr. Simmons, in the year 1611, left to the poor of this parish, a farm at West Tilbury, which now produces 18l. 16s. 8d. per annum. Mr. Humphrey Williams gave some houses in Kent-street, for the maintenance of four poor widows; they now produce 22l. 10 s. per annum. Mr. Henry Smith gave 10l. per annum to the poor; the estate out of which this benefaction is paid, having been lately advantageously exchanged with the Duke of Dorset, it is expected to be considerably augmented. Mr. Robert Hidson, in 1675, left Il. per annum to two blind widows. Mrs. Atkinson left the interest of 1,600l. South-Sea stock, which amounts to 48l. 3s. 6d. to be divided between six old maids. Four pounds per annum have been left to the poor by Mr. Marshal, Mr. Canon, and Mr. Mason. A few other legacies have been bequeathed by various persons, particularly 40l. by John Hacket, with this singular condition, that his bones should not be removed till the day of judgment; and 50l. by Thomas Barge, to clothe and educate children.

Parish estates.

Besides these benefactions, the parish is also possessed of some estates of considerable value, particularly Walworth common, which was inclosed by act of parliament, and is worth about 300l. per annum; and the Elephant and Castle, and King and Queen inns, both of which were purchased by the parish, and produce 110l. per annum.

Drapers' Alms-houses.

The Drapers' alms-houses, founded by Mr. John Walter in 1651, are situated in this parish, which has the privilege of appointing six of its own parishioners. They receive five shillings each monthly, and half a chaldron of coals, to which the parish officers add a weekly pension, as they see fit. The remainder are appointed by the Drapers' company. The statutes of these alms-houses are printed at large in Aubrey's Antiquities of Surrey (fn. 15).

Fishmongers' alms-houses.

A part of the Fishmongers' alms-houses is also in this parish; but they have no other connection with it.

Hospital of St. Catherine.

There was formerly an hospital of our Lady and St. Catherine, at Newington, which continued till Feburary 1551, when their proctor, William Cleybrooke, had a licence to beg (fn. 16).

Great flood.

In the year 1755, on the 30th of September, there was so great a flood at Newington, that the people could not pass from the church on foot, but were obliged to be conveyed in boats "to the pinfolds near St. George's in Southwark (fn. 17)."


In the beginning of the last century there was a theatre in this parish, at which the Lord Admiral's and the Lord Chamberlain's servants performed (fn. 18).


  • 1. Regist. Lamb. Pole, fol. 77. b.
  • 2. Among other privileges granted to the archers by these patents, it was ordained, that if any one was killed by an arrow near the public butts, the person who shot the arrow should not be liable to punishment. It may be thought, perhaps, by the lovers of archery, not uninteresting to mention, that the practice of that art as a recreation has never been laid aside for any length of time since the long-bow was used in the field of battle. The following particulars relating to its revival at various times, are taken from a scarce pamphlet, entituled "A Remembrance of the worthy Show and Shooting by the Duke of Shoreditch and his Associates the worshipful Citizens of London on Tuesday Sept. 17, 1583; set forth according to the Truth thereof, to the everlasting Honour of the Game of Shooting in the Long-bow." (London 1682.) Henry VIII. made several matches for archers at Windsor, at one of which he named one Barlo their duke, who living at Shoreditch, thence obtained the title of Duke of Shoreditch. This sham title being kept up, one of his successors, attended by several other mock nobles, such as the Earl of Pancras, the Marquisses of Islington, Clerkenwell, Hoxton, &c. presided at the grand display, which is the chief subject of the pamphlet; and which took place in Hoxton fields. The number of archers who shot was 3,000, the whole procession consisted of 4,100 persons besides 300 pages and henchmen, who all marched through the city with various pageants and devices. The dress of the archers is described as being very splendid: some wore black velvet jerkins with satin doublets; but most of them were dressed in satin and taffeta, with taffeta hats; 942 were ornamented with chains of gold, the rest had large green scarves, or ribbons of various colours, but for the most part green. They shot at the distance of seven score and eight yards, and afterwards partook of a grand entertainment at the Bishop of London's house, which he lent them for that purpose. About the same time there was a grand display of archery in St. Martin's-fields, at the setting up of her Majesty's Stake. Charles I. granted a licence to Benjamin Awsten, to set up butts for archers to shoot at, and to take a penny for eight shots of every archer that was willing to pay for the same, for the space of fourteen years. (Pat. 11 Car. I. pt. 11. July 11.) In 1661 there was "a "glorious show," as it is called in the pamphlet abovementioned, by 400 archers in Hyde Park, before his Majesty; another in Moorfields in 1676, and at Hampton-court in 1681; when the archers shot at the distance of eight score yards, for a prize of plate valued at 30l. The more modern history of archery is well known.
  • 3. Cartulary of the see of Canterbury in the Bodleian Library, p. 36, 37. King Ethelred's Confirmation of the Grant, A° 1006, p. 32.
  • 4. N° 313, Harleian MSS. Brit. Mus. f. 20.
  • 5. Regist. Lamb. Sancroft, f. 39l. b. 392. a.
  • 6. Grants by Henry VIII. Augmentationoffice.
  • 7. Grants by Edw. VI. Ibid.
  • 8. Harleian MSS. Brit. Mus. N° 313, f. 20.
  • 9. See note, p. 10.
  • 10. Parliamentary Surveys, Lamb. MSS. Library.
  • 11. Reg. Abbot, pt. 2. f. 358. b. & pt. 3. f. 183.
  • 12. Reg. Sheldon, f. 315. a.
  • 13. Aubrey's Antiquities of Surrey, vol. v. p. 139—142.
  • 14. Ward's Lives of the Professors of Gresham College, vol. ii. p. 282.
  • 15. Vol. v. p. 142—154.
  • 16. Tanner's Notitia Monast. p. 516.
  • 17. Stow's Chron.
  • 18. Malone's History of the Stage, prefixed to his edition of Shakspeare, p. 294.