Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane. Originally published by Centre for Metropolitan History, London, 1987.
This free content was born digital. All rights reserved.
The church of All Hallows Honey Lane lay surrounded on three sides by churchyard and enclosed by private houses at the N. end of Honey Lane, some 200 ft. (61 m.) to the N. of Cheapside. It was destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt, the parish being united with that of St. Mary le Bow. The site, together with that of the adjoining church of St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street and several houses, was acquired by the City, cleared, and laid out as a market-place, as part of the post-Fire improvements. Honey Lane was widened at the same time. The market closed in 1835 and the Corporation of London built the first City of London School there. After the Second World War the area was comprehensively redeveloped; the present Honey Lane lies some 140 ft. (42.67 m.) to the E. of the original lane. (fn. 1)
Origins and early history
The earliest indications of the existence of the church date from the end of the 12th century. Helias presbyter de Hunilane is mentioned in a deed of 1191 x 1212 and Elias the priest witnessed a grant of land in Honey Lane c. 1200. It had parochial status by 1204 x 1215: quodam managium ... in parochia Omnium Sanctorum de Hunilane. A deed of 1216 x 1222 refers to property in the parish of St. Elfegi de Hunilane, but this is the only occurrence of this apparent alternative dedication. (fn. 2)
The church may have originated as a private chapel associated with a nearby property, though it is not certain which this might have been. It stood upon a cellar which by 1315 was in private ownership and which could perhaps have belonged to the founder and his successors. The earliest known patron of the church was Henry de Wokyndon, in the mid 13th century; he is not otherwise known to have owned property in the parish, but there are relatively few records for this period. In 1315 both the advowson and the cellar under the church belonged to Ralph de Honylane, holder of 11/3 on the S.W. side of the churchyard. The church was closer physically to 11/8-9, however, much the largest property in the parish, which adjoined it to the E. and enclosed the churchyard to the N. (fn. 3) On the other hand, as we shall see, there are arguments which would associate the church and its graveyard more closely with the properties which lay between them and Cheapside than with the land which adjoined to the E.
Excavations in 1954-5 on the site of the former no. 111 Cheapside uncovered a number of burials 'clearly of medieval date'. (fn. 4) Though fragmentary, owing to disturbance, the burials were orderly, oriented east-west, some in chalk-lined graves, with traces of a coffin in one case. They lay to the S. of the site of the church but outside the area used as churchyard in the later Middle Ages, in an area that by the late 13th century was private land, the fee of the Herlicun family (11/6-7). By 1246 there was a seld with shops there. The burials cannot be closely dated (chalk-lined graves occur in London from the mid 11th century onwards), but it seems probable that they are not later than the 12th century, and represent an area of early churchyard subsequently encroached upon by private building. It is not clear whether this early churchyard would have extended as far S. as Cheapside. (fn. 5)
The position of these burials suggests an association between the church and properties on the Cheapside frontage which in the 13th century were in the fee of the Herlicun family. These holdings (11/1-2, 6-7) lay on either side of Honey Lane, which may itself have originated as an entry leading into a large private property and have subsequently developed as the public access to the parish church and cemetery lying towards the rear of that property. This postulated large property may have included all the land behind the Herlicun holdings up to and including the site of the church. No Herlicun interest in that land is on record, but 3, immediately N. of the Herlicun property 2, is known to have been closely associated with the church of All Hallows (see above). The opening up of the church and adjoining land to public or parochial use, presumably in the 11th or 12th century, would have encouraged the tenurial fragmentation of this land. Certainly by the end of the 12th century the tenurial pattern in the immediate neighbourhood of the church was extremely complex (see 3-5), reflecting, among other things, the interests of landlords who also held property in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen and in Milk Street to the W.
There appears to have been some adjustment to the boundaries of the parish in the early 13th century. The original parish may only have comprised the area of those properties which surrounded Honey Lane and the churchyard, i.e. 11/1-7, and been subsequently enlarged. Deeds and documents relating to 11/8-9, 9B, 10 and possibly 11, suggest that they may once have been in the parish of St. Mary le Bow, but all were certainly in All Hallows Honey Lane by the 14th century. There is no such evidence for 11/12 but it seems probable that its history was similar to that of its western neighbours. To the E. of 11/12 lay several properties in the parish of St. Mary le Bow (104/35-43). The transfer of properties cannot be precisely dated: in 1191 x 1212 11/8-9 was referred to as in the parish of St. Mary le Bow, but in a deed probably not much later in date 11/10 was said to be in the parish of All Hallows Honey Lane. Deeds of 1223-4 and as late as 1299 describe 11/8-9 as in St. Mary le Bow, but these may simply be copying the terms of the first grant in the series. A deed of c. 1204 relating to 9B appears under the rubric 'St. Mary le Bow' in the 15th-century cartulary of St. Giles Holborn. (fn. 6)
Although parish boundary adjustments on this scale were rare in the later Middle Ages in London, there is other evidence for some reorganisation in the later 12th century. Charters of the 1160s refer to the parish of St. Mary Coneyhope at the eastern end of Cheapside. By 1182 this presumably small, and therefore unviable, parish had been suppressed and absorbed by the neighbouring parishes of St. Mary Colechurch and St. Mildred Poultry, and St. Mary Coneyhope became a chapel within St. Mildred's parish. With the small parish of All Hallows Honey Lane, in a busy and populous part of Cheapside, a different solution appears to have been adopted in order to ensure an adequate income for a priest with the cure of souls. The properties apparently transferred from the large parish of St. Mary le Bow by the early 13th century (11/8-12) would probably have occupied an area greater than that of the original parish of All Hallows (perhaps 11/1-7). The Cheapside frontages of those properties (8-12) were more directly accessible from the church of St. Mary le Bow than from that of All Hallows, and this may explain their original parochial allegiance. Later, as the rear parts of the properties came to be built on and occupied, particularly in 8 adjoining the churchyard of All Hallows, a transfer to the parish of All Hallows would have seemed appropriate. Certainly there would have been no scope for enlarging the parish towards the W., where the church of St. Mary Magdalen almost adjoined that of All Hallows. Even after this enlargement the parish of All Hallows, at about 1 acre (0.4 hectare) in extent, was one of the smallest in the city. There was a suggestion in 1658 that the parish should be united with St. Mary le Bow, but this was dropped and the two remained separate until after the Great Fire. (fn. 7)
The advowson, together with the cellar under the church, belonged in the early 14th century to Ralph de Honylane, who by his will proved in 1315 left both for sale. His executors granted them to Simon Crepping, probably before 1325; in 1329 he sold them to John de Oxenford, citizen and vintner, holder of 11/8-9. Cellar and advowson descended with 11/8-9, and subsequently with 11/8, until 1446, when Thomas Knolles left the cellar, together with 11/8A to his son Robert, and the advowson, together with 11/8B, to the Grocers' Company. Simon Strete reiterated or confirmed this bequest in 1460. The Grocers' Company retained the advowson and the property until the Great Fire. (fn. 8)
Valuation and endowments
In the mid 13th century the value of the church was estimated at one mark (13s. 4d.) in 1535 the benefice was valued at £19. 3s. 6 1/2d. (fn. 9)
Although the parish was small, it attracted many endowments. In a will made in 1276 Henry Abel or de Edelmeton left a rent of £4 from his house in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street to a chaplain to celebrate in All Hallows Honey Lane church for the souls of himself and his ancestors. Before his death, in or before 1279, however, he appears to have transferred this endowment to the charnel chapel of St. Paul's. In 1281 an arbitration by the archdeacon of London gave the rent to the chaplain of the charnel chapel, but by 1326, and thereafter, the church of All Hallows Honey Lane had made good its claim to the £4 rent. The parish continued to receive the rent until the Reformation, by which time the chantry seems to have been amalgamated with those of Thomas Trompington and John Downe, but no chaplain was being found in 1548. (fn. 10)
In 1396 the executors of John Fourneys, late citizen and draper, were licensed to found a perpetual chantry for him at the altar of St. Mary in the church of All Hallows Honey Lane, endowing it with a property in the same parish (11/3) and 6 messuages and a garden in Beech Lane in the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate. Thomas Trumpyngton, haberdasher, left a tenement in the parish of St. James Garlickhithe to support a chantry for himself, Robert Turk, and others, by his will of 1426, proved in 1428. In one of several wills, dated 1430 and proved 1439, Alexander Sprot, vintner, regranted to the church the rent left by Henry de Edelmeton and the properties left by John Fourneys, probably for added security against claims that mortmain restrictions had not been observed. The property 11/12 was conveyed to the church in the late 15th century, possibly at the desire of John Worsop, who held it in 1459-60 and whose widow was one of a number of persons holding it, probably in trust, in 1477 (see 11/12). John Norman, citizen and draper (d. 1467-8), asked to be buried in the church within the chapel where he was wont to sit, and left £4. 3s. 4d. for masses, £66. 13s. 4d. (100 marks) for a chaplain to pray for 10 years, and a rent of 13s. 4d. to maintain the rood light. The rent was subsequently paid by the Drapers' Company out of their income from 11/5 and 8C. (fn. 11)
In 1545 the church's gross revenue from lands and rents was £31. 10s., producing a net income of £5. 4s. 4d. after the payment of 2 chantry priests and obit and quit-rent charges. In 1548 only one priest was being maintained and the net income was £14. 2s., according to the Chantry Certificate. (fn. 12)
Several rectors and chantry priests left money and books to the church, including Robert Emme, chaplain (will 1450), Robert Oppy, rector (will 1463), and Henry Hoddys, rector (will 1476). Hoddys was a doctor of theology and it is clear that the Grocers' Company, patrons since 1446, had a custom of appointing learned incumbents, at least until 1540. In the mid 16th century it was said that the company appointed graduates from Oxford and Cambridge alternately. Certainly, over this period, the incumbents included graduates of both universities, apparently in strict alternation. (fn. 13) Dr. Forman, rector from 1525 to his death in 1528 and president of Queens' College, Cambridge, over the same period, was a well-known early reformer with an interest in Lutheran books and doctrines. His sermons appear to have been famous, and his curate at All Hallows, Thomas Gerrard, was even more active in the dissemination of heresy. In 1537 Gerrard himself was appointed to the living, but in 1540, at the time of the Six Articles and following an attack on his doctrine by Gardiner, he was burnt at Smithfield with other Protestants. Heresy appears to have lingered in the parish, for in 1543 'Sir William' of Honey Lane and Reede, lately curate, were examined 'for abuses and enormities of religion'. (fn. 14)
The church structure
Archaeologically no trace of the church survives. It was burnt in the Great Fire and not rebuilt, its site and that of neighbouring properties and the church of St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street being cleared and laid out as a market place. In 1835 the City of London School was built there, and the site was excavated to a depth of over 15 ft. (4.57 m.) before concrete foundations were laid. Tiles, the pavement, and vaults of a church described as 'Anglo-Norman' were found. A rough pencil sketch made at about the same time, and entitled 'part of old church discovered in Honey Lane', shows the remains of masonry walls including three pointed arches over what appear to be blocked openings. Two 'Norman' capitals, 'supposed to have belonged to the church of All Hallows' were also found, and in another account of the discoveries there is a reference to a capital of a 'Saxon' column 'adorned with twisted serpents'. These remains could have belonged to either of the two churches beneath the site of the school, or even to one of the houses nearby. At the very least they indicate that there was a stone structure there, perhaps the church of All Hallows, which was enriched with sculptural decoration, probably of 12th-century date. Other discoveries there included decorated knives, with which was associated a small hoard of pennies, dateable to 997 x 1003. (fn. 15)
The site was redeveloped after bombing in the Second World War. Nevertheless it is possible to reconstruct an impression of the church and its fittings from evidence in wills and the burial register, and using mid 16th century depositions in a suit concerning the ownership of the cellar under the church. It is not known whether there had been any medieval rebuilding or enlargement of the church; given that the structure described in the 1550s was apparently very simple, it is possible that it was the original church, altered little if at all.
In the mid 16th century the church appears to have been a simple rectangular building, measuring about 60ft. (18.29 m.) in length by 23 ft. (7.01 m.) in width. The church occupied the ground floor of the structure and the cellar below was owned separately, at least from the early 14th to the early 17th century. There was door on the S. side of the church near the W. end (opposite Honey Lane) and a chancel door, also on the S. side, near to 11/8A1. A 'little church door' mentioned in the 16th-century burial register may be a third door but its location is not certain. Burials took place in the church, presumably between the floor of the church, part of which was paved with stone and part boarded, and the ceiling of the cellar. A vault near the chancel is also mentioned. Despite its narrowness part of the church was referred to as the 'south aisle'; several burials took place there in the 16th century and it may be the same as the 'burial aisle' also mentioned in the register. (fn. 16)
Medieval wills mention the chapel of St. Mary (1380) and 'the chapel where I (John Norman) am wont to sit to hear divine service' (1468), as places where parishioners wished to be buried. Robert Oppy, rector (d. 1463-4) wished to be buried in the south part of 'my church' before the door (hostium) of the chapel. (fn. 17)
Apart from the high altar in the church there were in 1545 altars to Our Lady and to St. Thomas the Martyr. The first may have been in the chapel of St. Mary mentioned in 1380; John Fourneys's chantry was founded at the altar of St. Mary in 1396 and the chantry of St. Mary was mentioned in 1476. The altar of St. Thomas probably served the fraternity of St. Thomas the Martyr mentioned in 1403. The rood light was maintained by a bequest from John Norman (d. 1467-8), and in 1476 the rector, Henry Hoddys, left £6. 13s. 4d. (10 marks) to repair the image of All Saints in the church. (fn. 18)
By the 1550s there was a gallery, reached by stairs, and the church had several pews and a font. Stow found no monuments there worthy of note in his Survey. Churchwardens' accounts, beginning in 1618, give further information about the structure and fittings of the church. There were two or more bells (1619-20, 1621-22), hung probably in a belfry with a steeple (1624-5, 1629-30). The roof had both tiles and leads (1623). The pews, and the desks in the gallery, appear to have been upholstered in green say, and there were mats and hassocks in the chancel (1619-20, 1625-7). A pulpit and reader's seat were made or repaired in 1628-9. In 1641 the outside of the church was rough cast and replastered, and the inside painted and whitened. 489 sq. ft. (45.43 sq. m.) and 170 quarrels of glass were taken down and set up again during this refurbishment, and a new white marble font was bought in 1644. In addition to church repairs the churchwardens maintained a gate in Honey Lane, perhaps to the churchyard, paved the way to the church, and kept a lantern 'at Honey Lane end'. (fn. 19)
The cellar underneath the church was not vaulted but had a timber ceiling laid on stone corbels and further supported by a row of timber pillars. The cellar was said to be the same size and shape as the church, and measured 57 ft. 6 in. (17.53m.) in length and 17 ft. 4 in. (5.28 m.) in width internally. Access to it was through a trapdoor and steps from the churchyard near the S. door of the church, and through a doorway into the cellars of 11/8A1. Evidently the cellar was only partly below ground level on the N. side, where there were 3 windows. The fabric of the cellar at least, and probably of the whole building, was stone; the two doorways of the cellar had stone jambs and appeared to several of the 16th-century viewers and deponents to be of the same age as the church. (fn. 20)
Although the cellar is recorded in numerous deeds of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries as a piece of private property, and had for many years been used by the occupant of 11/8A1, in 1553 the churchwardens of the parish entered a plea of disseisin in the Husting against the Mercers' Company (owners of 11/8A1) for possession of the cellar. The plea was followed by writs of error, and the case was subsequently transferred to Chancery and not settled until arbitration was accepted in November 1560. Throughout the pleading, which is recorded in the Mercers' Company Register of Writings volume 2, the entire body of evidence adduced appears to have consisted of depositions made by old inhabitants of the parish and a number of sworn viewers. The Mercers' Company did not produce any of the documentary evidence of title which they must have possessed. An important question in the case was whether the door between the cellars of 11/8A1 and the church cellar was ancient or had been made by William Weston, occupant of 11/8A1 in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Most of the viewers and deponents thought the door was ancient, and several mentioned the fact that the trapdoor from the churchyard to the cellar could only be opened and closed from inside. Three ancient inhabitants, however, claimed to remember the cellar being used by other parishioners, and the making of a door c. 1507-12; the documentary evidence for the descent of the cellar would suggest that they were wrong. (fn. 21)
The arbitration which took place in January 1561 awarded the cellar to the parishioners, but stipulated that they should lease it to the Mercers for 50 years at £1. 6s. 8d. rent, the lease to be perpetually renewable. This lease was made shortly afterwards. The tenant of 11/8A1 probably continued to use the cellar for storing firewood, coal, and salt, as had been the case earlier. In the later 16th century it became increasingly difficult to find places for burial in the church (the locations of burials were recorded with some precision) and in 1611 the parish bought out the Mercers' interest in the cellar, paying £40 and promising £1. 6s. 8d. yearly for 15 years, 'to the intent therewith to furnish the parish of more convenient place of burial for any of the inhabitants'. The first burial took place in the cellar (referred to as the 'cloister' in the burial register) on 16 March 1613. Thereafter most burials were in the 'cloister', though there were still a few in the chancel, the chapel, the S. aisle, and the churchyard. (fn. 22)
The church was surrounded to N., W., and S. by its churchyard, which also gave access to 11/4 and 11/5, and later 11/8B and 11/8C. Several medieval parishioners specified burial in the churchyard, one in 1403 between the cross and the tenement occupied by Alexander Davy (part of 11/8), one in 1423 under the marble stone under which her husband lay, one in 1485 before the west door. (fn. 23) In 1523/4 11/4, which belonged to the parish of St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street and adjoined the E. end of that church, was pulled down, and the chancel of the church subsequently extended over its site, in what must have been a major rebuilding. The two churches thus lay almost end to end. (fn. 24) Later 16th century burials in the churchyard whose location is indicated were mostly to the S. of All Hallows church, but the area to the N. of the church was still referred to as the churchyard. The register also records several burials in St. Paul's churchyard and in the New Churchyard (near Bethlehem Hospital). After the Great Fire the combined area of church and yard for which the City paid compensation, on acquiring it for Honey Lane market, was 3609 sq. ft. (335.28 sq. m.). The site of the former St. Pancras church became a burying-ground for the united ecclesiastical parishes of All Hallows, St. Pancras, and St. Mary le Bow. (fn. 25)