Book 2, Ch. 16: Coleman Street Ward

Pages 593-597

A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.

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Coleman-street ward.


Coleman-street ward obtains its name from the principal street in it, which might formerly have been distinguished as the peculiar residence of dealers in coals; or from some person of the name of Coleman, who as the builder, chief owner or inhabitant, communicated his name to it. The ward is bounded on the north by Cripplegate-ward, Upper Moorfields, and Bishopsgate-ward; on the east by Bishopsgate-ward, Broad-street-ward, and Cheapward; on the south by Cheap-ward; and on the west by Bassishaw-ward. Its extent from east to west is, from the grate by Lothbury church, to the south side of Ironmonger-lane; but no farther than the south east corner of Basinghallstreet on the north side of Cateaton-street; and in the other direction it extends south from Moorgate to the garden belonging to Grocers-hall in the Poultry.

Principal streets.

The principal streets in this ward are, Coleman-street; the north part of the Old-Jewry; Lothbury, from Coleman-street to St. Margaret's church on the north side, and on the south to about twenty-seven feet beyond Princes-street; Cateaton-street, from Basinghall-street to Coleman-street, and the south side from Ironmonger-lane: all which are divided into six precincts.

Bethlehem hospital.

At the north east extremity of this ward, and on the south side of Moorfields on London-wall, is situated Bethlehem Hospital; more generally known by the name of Bedlam. This Hospital, as observed before under Bishopsgate-ward (fn. 1), was founded for lunatics, near the north-east corner of the Lower-Moorfields, in Bishopsgate parish. But that becoming ruinous, and unable to answer the ends of the charity, the lord-mayor, aldermen, and common-council, granted the governors the piece of ground on which this hospital now stands; whose foundation was laid in April, 1675 (fn. 2). It is a magnificent building, 540 feet long, and 40 feet broad, beside the two wings, which have not been built above 42 years. The middle and ends, which project a little, are adorned with pilasters, entablatures, foliages, &c. and, rising above the rest of the building, have each a flat roof, with an handsome balustrade of stone; and in the center an elegant turret, adorned with a clock, a gilt ball and a fane. The wings are not inferior to the rest of the building; and are set apart for incurables. The whole is built of brick and stone; and inclosed by a handsome wall, 680 feet long, built of the same materials. In the center of this wall, which goes in with a grand semicircular sweep, is a large pair of fine iron gates: on the piers, upon which those gates are hung, are two images or statues in a reclining posture, one representing raving, the other melancholy, madness. The expression of these figures, which are the workmanship of Mr. Cibber, who carved the emblematical figures on the monument (fn. 3), has been much admired. This wall incloses a range of gardens neatly adorned with walks of broad stone, grass plats and trees, wherein those of the lunatics, who are well enough to be suffered to go about, are allowed to walk and enjoy the benefit of fresh air.

There are about two hundred cells, or rooms for patients, which are furnished with beds, when the patient is found capable of using one; or with clean straw every day when the patient is mischievous.

The hospitals of Bethlehem and Bridewell being made one corporation, they have the same president, governors, clerk, treasurer, physician, surgeon and apothecary; yet each hospital has its proper steward and inferior officers, and a particular committee is chosen out of the governors for each. Out of that appointed for Bethlehem, there are six who meet every Saturday, to examine the stewards account, to view the provisions, receive and discharge patients, and to direct other affairs belonging to this hospital.

What are called the lower quarters of Moorfields, which lie along the front of Bethlehem hospital, are included in this ward. These quarters are defined by broad gravel walks, planted with trees on each side; and being railed round and covered with grass, they form agreeable ranges for the neighbouring inhabitants to walk in. That particularly which crosses the middle, parallel with the hospital, is distinguished by the name of the City Mall.

At the west end of this hospital formerly stood Moorgate; and on the west side of Moorfields, commonly called Pavement-row, there is an Independent meeting-house.

Improvement of Fore-street.

Opposite the west end of Bethlehem hospital is Fore-street, which is one of those improved by virtue of the late acts of parliament. This street runs in a direct line to Cripplegate church; and from a narrow dirty lane, of irregular and mean buildings, is become an open spacious street, filled with good houses. The city wall from Moorgate to Cripplegate is removed; the two posterns, that faced Basinghall-street and Aldermanbury, have been taken down, and the passages into Fore-street widened, and lined with good and substantial houses. Among the various buildings which gave way to this improvement was Loriners-hall, situated upon London-wall, between Moorgate and Basinghall-street. The company have been since accommodated in Coachmakers-hall.

Armourers and Brasiers hall.

Near the north east corner of Coleman-street, stands the hall of the company of Armourers and Brasiers; which is a plain brick building neatly decorated within.

Founders hall.

On the north side of Lothbury, between Coleman-street and St. Margaret's church, is Founders-hall, in a court denominated from it. This hall, which is a convenient building, not only serves the company it belongs to, but is used as a place of worship by a Presbyterian congregation.

St. Stephen Coleman street.

On the west side of Coleman-street, opposite to Kings-arms-yard, is the church dedicated to Stephen the proto-martyr, and distinguished by the name of St. Stephen Coleman-street. This church is of very early foundation; its patronage being in the dean and chapter of St. Paul's between the years 1171 and 1181: who granted this chapel, as then called, as an appendage to St. Olave Jewry, to the prior and convent of Butley. In their gift it continued till the suppression of that convent; when it fell to the crown: the rectory and parish church, and the advowson of the vicarage, were granted by queen Elizabeth to one Thomas Paskins, and others; and again in 1590, to William Daniel, serjeant at law, (afterward Sir William Daniel, one of the justices of the commonpleas) and other parishioners of Coleman-street parish, to hold this impropriate rectory in fee-farm of the crown: and the parishioners have continued patrons of this vicarage ever since.

This church sharing the common fate in the dreadful fire of London in 1666, the present structure was erected in its stead about four years after. It is a neat, and solid building, strengthened with rustic at the corners, and enlightened by one series of large windows, with a handsome cornice, and one of the broadest ceilings and roofs that can be seen, without pillars to support it. The steeple is a square tower, crowned with a square lanthorn, and inclosing the bell, to call the parishioners to worship. The front of the church is adorned with a cornice, two pine-apples, and the figure of a cock, handsomely carved.

St. Margaret Lothbury

On the north side of Lothbury, facing Princes street, stands the parochial church of St. Margaret, upon the water-course of Wallbrook. The antiquity of its foundation may be collected from the presentation of John de Haslingfield to this rectory, by the abbess and convent of Barking in Essex, in the year 1303, in whom the advowson continued, till the convent being suppressed, it fell to the crown, and still remains in the gift of the lord chancellor.

The church was rebuilt in the year 1440, at which time Robert Lange, lordmayor, contributed handsomely to the vaulting over the water-course of Wallbrook, running close to the church. This building was burnt down in 1666; after which desolation the present church was erected, neat and plain, of fine stone, 66 feet long, 54 broad, 36 high to the roof, and 140 feet to the top of the steeple. The body is well enlightened with a row of lofty windows; over which the wall is terminated by a balustrade; and the principal door is ornamented with Corinthian columns, which support an angular pediment. The tower has large windows in the uppermost stage, and is terminated a little above by a plain cornice, upon which is raised a small dome, that supports a slender spire.

St. Olave Jewry.

About the middle of the west side of the Old Jewry is situated the parish church of St. Olave Jewry; which is of very old foundation, and was originally called St. Olave's Upwell, from its dedication to the saint of that name, and probably from a well under the east end, wherein a pump is at this time placed: but that gave way to the name of Jewry, owing to this neighbourhood becoming the principal residence of the Jews. This parish was antiently a rectory, in the gift of the dean and chapter of St. Paul's, till about the year 1181; when it was transferred by them, with the chapel of St. Stephen, Coleman-street, to the prior and convent of Butley, in Suffolk, and became a vicarage. At the suppression of that convent the impropriation fell to the crown, in which it still remains. When the old church was burned down in 1666, the parish of St. Martin Ironmonger-lane was annexed to it; the patronage of which is also in the crown.

The present church of St. Olave Jewry which is built partly with brick, and partly with stone, is 78 feet long, 24 broad, 36 feet to the roof high, and 88 feet to the top of the tower and pinnacles, which are all of stone. The door is of the Doric order, well proportioned, and covered with an arched pediment. The tower is very plain; and on the upper part of it rises a cornice supported by scrolls; and upon this a plain attic course. On the pillars at the corners are placed the pinnacles upon balls; a very ill judged fancy, for however firmly they may be fixed, the support seems precarious, and therefore disgusts the eye: the points of these pinnacles are also terminated with balls. It is a well enlightened body. The floor is paved with purbeck, and the walls wainscotted. The pulpit is enriched with carvings of cherubims, the altar piece is adorned with the king's arms, and the communion table is set upon an anabathrum of black and white marble. In this church are three famous pieces of painting, 1. Of queen Elizabeth, lying on a fine couch with her regalia, under an arched canopy, on which are placed her arms. 2. Of king Charles I. 3. The figure of Time, with wings displayed, a scythe in his right hand, and an hour glass in his left: at his foot is a Cupid dormant, and under him a skeleton eight feet long.

Old Excise office.

On the same side of the Old Jewry, between this church and the Poultry, is the large brick building antiently the house of Sir John Frederic, and afterward occupied by the commissioners of the Excise as the principal office. On the late removal of the Excise office to the new building in Broad street (fn. 4), Mess. Adam, the schemers of the Adelphi buildings, are said to have formed a plan for improving the spot on which this old house stands: but the execution of any such plan remains for time to produce.

Old Jewry Meeting house.

At the north east corner of the Old Jewry stood the first synagogue of the Jews in England; but this being destroyed in one of the cruel persecutions of that people in the reign of Henry III. (fn. 5) the ground was given to an order of begging friars named De Pænitentia Jesu, or Fratres de Sacca, from their wearing sackcloth. This order being suppressed by the council of Lyons, Robert Fitzwalter obtained of Edward I. in 1305, the grant of their chapel, adjoining to his house, now Grocers hall. The ground on which this convent stood is now occupied by private houses, at the back of which is a celebrated Presbyterian meeting house, which is generally supplied by some of the most eminent ministers of that persuasion.


  • 1. Vid. p. 555, ante..
  • 2. An ingenious Frenchman M. Grosley, who was in England a few years ago, and published a narrative of his tour, tells us a humourous incident relating to the building of this hospital, to illustrate his character of the English people; which will at least shew that as thrist leads to wealth, œconomy is not inconsistent with generosity. He was informed that when money was raising for this building, the agents called upon an old gentleman; and the door of the house not being quite shut, they overheard him scolding his maid for throwing away a match she had used to light a fire, without considering that the other end being dipped in sulphur, it might be used again. After entertaining themselves by listening to this dispute, they knocked, and presenting themselves to him, explained the nature of their errand: upon which he went to a closet. and bringing them 400 guineas told the sum into their bag. The collectors, astonished at a generosity so little expected, could not help testifying their surprize, by telling him what they had overheard. "Gentlemen, said he, your surprize is occasioned by a thing of very little consequence. I keep house, and save and spend money in my own way: the one furnishes me with the means of doing the other; and both equally gratify my inclinations. With regard to benefactions and donations, always expect most from prudent people, who keep their accounts." Vol. I. p. 224.
  • 3. Vid. p. 562, ante.
  • 4. Vid. p. 555, ante.
  • 5. Vid. p. 53. ante.