Book 2, Ch. 26: Queenhithe Ward

Pages 666-667

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

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Queenhithe ward.

Queenhithe.; Foundaries of the ward.

Hythe is the Saxon name for a small harbour, and Queenhithe has long been a harbour for large boats, barges, and even ships, which anciently anchored at that place, as they do now at Billingsgate; the drawbridge of London bridge being drawn up for their passage through. Queenhithe was the principal key for lading and unlading in the heart of the city, and obtained that name in the reign of Henry III. from the customs collected there being enjoyed by the queens of England. Hither vast numbers of these vessels came laden with corn, as the west country barges do now with malt and meal, this being the great meal market of the city. From this wharf the ward in which it lies is named; and it is bounded on the east by Dowgate ward; on the north by Bread-street ward and Cordwainers ward; on the west by Baynard's Castle ward; and on the south by the river Thames.

Figure 26:

Plan of Queenhithe and Vintry wards

This ward begins on the north east, at the east corner of the Swedish church, which formerly was the church of Trinity the Less (fn. 1); and running westward takes in the south side of Great Trinity lane, and Old Fish-street, to Lamberthill. From this which is the north boundary line, several lanes run southward to Thames-street, which crosses the ward from east to west; and from Thames-street again several other lanes run down to the respective wharfs along the river side.

Painter Stainers hall.

On the west side of Little Trinity-lane stands the hall of the company of Painter Stainers, which is adorned with a handsome screen, arches, pillars, &c. of the Corinthian order, painted in imitation of porphyry, with gilt capitals. The pannels of wainscot, and the ceilings, are embellished with great variety of historical and other paintings exquisitely performed; amongst which are the portraits of king Charles II. and his queen Catharine, by Houseman: and in the court room are several fine pictures, chiefly of such as have served offices; and in the front of this room stands the bust of Mr. Thomas Evans, a benefactor to the company.

Blacksmiths hall. St. Nicholas Cold-abbey.

The company of Blacksmiths have a neat hall situated on Lambert hill.

On the south side of Old Fish-street, at the corner of Labour-in-vain hill, stands the parish church of St. Nicholas Cold Abbey; the reason of which adjunct to the name of the saint it is dedicated to is not clear, unless, like the old palace of Cold Herbergh (fn. 2), it is derived from its situation.

It is known that there was a church in the same place before the year 1383: but the last structure being consumed in the great conflagration in 1666, the present church was built in its place, and the parish of St. Nicholas Olave united to it. The advowson of this rectory was antiently in the dean and chapter of St. Martin le Grand; but upon the grant of that collegiate church to the abbot and canons of Westminster, it devolved to that convent, in which it continued till the dissolution of the monastery. Queen Elizabeth, in the year 1560, granted the patronage thereof to Thomas Reeve and George Evelyn, who conveying it to others, it came at last to the family of the Hackers: one whereof was colonel Francis Hacker, who being executed as a regicide on the Restoration, the advowson reverted back to the crown, where it still continues. The patronage of St. Nicholas Olave being in the dean and chapter of St. Paul's, they present in turn with the lord chancellor to the united livings.

This edifice consists of a plain body well enlightened by a single range of windows decently ornamented. It is 63 feet long, 43 broad; 36 feet high to the roof, and 135 to the top of the spire. The tower is plain, but strengthened with rustic at the corners; and the spire, which is of the massy kind, has a gallery and many openings.

St. Mary Somerset.

On the north side of Thames-street, facing Broken wharf, stands the parishchurch of St. Mary Somerset, or as Stow conjectures it, St. Mary Summers-hithe, from some small port or wharf so called from the owner. This church was founded before the year 1335. The present structure, built since the fire of London, is enlightened by a range of lofty arched windows; and the wall terminates with a balustrade. The tower is square, well proportioned, and high; crowned with a vase at each corner, supported on a very ornamented pedestal. It is in the gift of a lay patron, and being united to St. Mary Mounthaw, which is in the gift of the bishop of Hereford, they present alternately to the living.

St. Michael Queenhithe.

Over against Queenhithe, on the north side of Thames-street, is situated the parish church of St. Michael Queenhithe. This church, about the year 1181, was denominated St. Michael de Cornhithe; which may lead us to another origin of the name by which we at present call that wharf, and this church from its situation near it. The quantities of corn brought thither down the Thames might occasion the original name; and Queenhithe be an easy corruption from it, owing to the application of the customs collected there; as mentioned at the beginning of the chapter.

The old church being consumed by the dreadful fire in 1666, the present structure was erected in its room. It consists of a well proportioned body, enlightened by two series of windows, the first a range of tall arched ones, and over these a range of large port-hole windows, above which are cherubims heads, and underneath festoons, that adorn the lower part, and fall between the tops of the under series. The tower is plain but well proportioned, and is terminated by a spire crowned with a vane in the form of a little ship.

Swedish church.

This church has all along been in the gift of the dean and chapter of St. Paul's, and is subject to the archdeacon. On its being rebuilt, the parish of the Trinity was united to it, the patronage of which is in the dean and chapter of Canterbury. On the spot where the church of Trinity the Less stood, is now built a Lutheran chapel known by the name of the Swedish church; founded by letters patent granted by king Charles II.


  • 1. So called to distinguish it from the priory of the Holy Trinity at Aldgate.
  • 2. Vid. p. 613.