Introduction: The life of Stow

A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603. Originally published by Clarendon, Oxford, 1908.

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John Stow, 'Introduction: The life of Stow', A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908), pp. vii-xxviii. British History Online [accessed 25 June 2024].

John Stow. "Introduction: The life of Stow", in A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908) vii-xxviii. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024,

Stow, John. "Introduction: The life of Stow", A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908). vii-xxviii. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024,

In this section


§ I. Life of Stow

John Stow, or Stowe (he spelt his name indifferently in either way), the first painful searcher into the reverend antiquities of London, was himself most fittingly a citizen of long descent, His grandfather, Thomas Stow, citizen and Tallow-Chandler, had died about the end of March, 1527, nearly two years after the birth of his famous grandson, and left his body 'to be buried in the little green churchyard of St. Michael, Cornhill, nigh the wall as may be by my father and mother'. Old Thomas Stow was a man of some substance, and could leave his son and namesake twenty pounds in stuff of household and £6 13s. 4d. in plate. (fn. 1) Thomas Stow, the younger, followed his father's trade; he inherited the great melting-pan with all the instruments belonging thereto, and supplied St. Michael's Church with lamp-oil and candles; (fn. 2) his widow at her death left money to the company of TallowChandlers to follow her corpse. By his wife, Elizabeth, (fn. 3) he had seven children, of whom the eldest was the antiquary; the others were three sons, Thomas, William, and John the younger, and three daughters, Joan, Margaret, and Alice. (fn. 4) John the elder was born in the summer of 1525; he was seventy-eight when he made his will, on 30 August, 1603, and is said to have been in his eightieth year at his death. (fn. 5)

John's godparents were Edmund Trindle, Robert Smith, and Margaret Dickson, who all, as he dutifully records, lay buried at St. Michael, Cornhill. (fn. 6) The second Thomas Stow, who died in 1559, (fn. 7) dwelt at one time in Throgmorton Street, near the modern Drapers' Hall, where John remembered how his father's garden had been encroached on for the making of Thomas Cromwell's pleasure-grounds, and could recollect to have seen more than two hundred persons served well every day at Lord Cromwell's gate with bread, meat, and drink. (fn. 8) Of John Stow's other reminiscences of his youth, the most personal is how he had fetched from the farm in Goodman's Fields many a halfpennyworth of milk hot from the kine. (fn. 9) Of his education he tells us nothing; it must have been tolerable for his time and station; but his description of how in his youth he had yearly seen on the eve of St. Bartholomew the scholars of divers grammar-schools repair unto the churchyard of St. Bartholomew hardly suggests that he took a part in their exercises. (fn. 10)

John Stow left his ancestral calling, and after serving his apprenticeship to one John Bulley, was admitted to the freedom of the Merchant Taylors Company on 25 Nov., 1547. Though he was for nearly thirty years a working tailor, he remained all his time a member of the subordinate Bachelors or Yeoman Company, and was never admitted to the Livery. Consequently he never held any office in the Company, except that he was one of the Whifflers, or escort of Bachelors, at Harper's and Rowe's pageants when they served as mayor in 1561 and 1568. (fn. 11)

Stow established himself in his business at a house by the well within Aldgate, between Leadenhall and Fenchurch Street, where in 1549, he was witness of an execution 'upon the pavement of my door'. (fn. 12) Not much later he must have married, (fn. 13) since some twenty years afterwards he speaks of himself as having three marriageable daughters in service. (fn. 14) He began soon to bear his part in civic life, and mentions that in 1552 he served on a jury against a sessions of gaol delivery. (fn. 15) In his trade he must have prospered fairly, and took his brother Thomas to be his apprentice. His patrimony can have been but small, yet he grew rich enough to spend money freely on the collection of books. Fifteen years would not have been too many for the self-education of a busy if observant man, but from about 1560 onwards he found his chief interest in learning and in the pursuit of our most famous antiquities. His original interest was, he tells us, for divinity, sorency (astrology), and poetry, and he never esteemed history, were it offered never so freely. (fn. 16) So his first publication was an edition in 1561 of The workes of Geffrey Chaucer, newly printed, with divers addicions whiche were never in printe before. Stow never lost his interest in early English poetry, but his attention was soon diverted to other studies. In the course of his collecting he became possessed of a manuscript of a treatise, The Tree of the Commonwealth, written by Edmund Dudley. Of this he made a copy in his own hand, and presented it to the author's grandson Robert, afterwards Earl of Leicester. Dudley suggested that Stow should undertake some historical work on his own account. (fn. 17) The suggestion thus given chimed in with advice from other friendly quarters.

In 1563 there appeared Richard Grafton's Abridgement of the Chronicles of England, followed next year by another edition, 'which being little better was as much or more of all men misliked.' 'On this,' says Stow, 'many citizens and others knowing that I had been a searcher after antiquities moved me for the commodity of my country somewhat to travail in setting forth some other abridgement, or summary, and also to write against and reprove Richard Grafton. To the first at length I granted, but to the other utterly refused. About the same time (fn. 18) it happened that Thomas Marshe, printer, required me to correct the old common abridgement, which was at the first collected of Languet and Cooper's Epitome, (fn. 19) but then much corrupted with oft reprinting, and therefore of Richard Grafton so contemned. (fn. 20) To this request I granted, on condition that some one, which were better learned, might be joined with me, for that it was a study wherein I had never travailed.'

The required helper was found in William Baldwyn, (fn. 21) parson of St. Michael at Paul's Gate. But Baldwyn died before he had set hand to the work, and Stow at Marshe's request went on alone until a successor could be obtained. 'After I had once begun I could not rest till the same was fully ended. Then I, of mine own mind, went to Grafton's house, and shewed him my book, requiring him not to be offended with my doing, for I meant not to give any such occasion.' Grafton professed gratitude for a long catalogue of his own errors, and they parted in good friendship. But when Stow's Summarie of Englyshe Chronicles appeared, with the licence of the Stationers and authority of the Archbishop, (fn. 22) Grafton began to chafe and think how to put his rival out of credit. Leaving his own Abridgement, he drew out of Stow's Summary 'a book in sexto decimo, which he entitled, A Manuell of Ye Chronicles of England from ye creacion of ye World tyll anno 1565'. In an address to the Stationers Grafton begged that they 'will take such order that there be no briefe abridgementes or chronicles hereafter imprinted'. To his readers he expressed a hope that 'none will show themselves ungentle nor so unfriendly as to abuse me or this my little labour and goodwill, as of late I was abused by one who counterfeited my volume, and hath made my travail to pass under his name.' Stow, nothing daunted, made and dedicated to the Lord Mayor (fn. 23) in the beginning of 1566 an abridgement of his Summary. At this his opponent marvellously stormed, and moved the Company of Stationers to threaten Marshe the printer. The Stationers asked Stow to attend at their Hall and meet Grafton. But though he oft came thither, Grafton always made excuses, until finally the Master and Wardens told Stow that they were sorry they had so troubled him at all.

Such is Stow's own account of the inception of his historical work. (fn. 24) He and his rival continued to belabour one another merrily. Grafton sneered at the 'memories of superstitious foundations, fables, and lies foolishly stowed together.' Stow was as good in the dedication of his edition of 1567 to the Mayor,'that through the thundering noise of empty tonnes] and unfruitful grafts of Momus' offspring, it be not overthrown'. (fn. 25) Grafton tried to evade the assault by producing a larger work in 1568, a Chronicle at large and mere Historye of the Affayres of Englande. It was but a monstrous compilation, and Stow accused him roundly of using others' work without acknowledgement, and of counterfeiting Stow's own list of authorities without having consulted them. Of his edition of his Summaryin 1570 Stow writes thus: 'This my latest Summary was by me begun after Whitsuntide, 1569, and finished in print by Michaelmas next following, but not commonly published till Christmas, and therefore entitled in anno 1570, being first viewed by wise and learned worshipful personages, then dedicate and given to the right honourable my lord of Leicester, so to the whole common weal. I have not heard the same to be misliked of any, but for that I wrote against the printers of Bede's Chronicle at Louvain (whereof I make none account), till now one whole year after by the foresaid Richard Grafton, a man that of all others hithertowards hath deserved least commendation for his travail in many things—as his own conscience (if he had any) can well testify. But to speak of that his Abridgementhe hath but picked feathers from other birds next in his reach.' (fn. 26) Editions of Grafton's Abridgementcarrying on the warfare had appeared in 1570 and 1572. Stow had the last word in his Summaryof 1573, for his opponent was dead, though neither then nor afterwards forgotten.

Some of Stow's criticisms of Grafton appear trifling enough. We should find no great cause for censure in the omission of all mention of Kings Didantius, Detonus, and Gurguinus, (fn. 27) nor I suppose would Stow himself have done thirty years later, when study had ripened his knowledge and judgement. On one point, moreover, he did Grafton positive injustice, when he cast doubts on his rival's account of the Chronicle of John Hardyng. (fn. 28) Grafton had exposed himself to criticism by printing in 1543 two editions of Hardyng's Chronicle, which differed considerably the one from the other. Stow had seen another version which, as he said, 'doth almost altogether differ from that which under his name was imprinted by Grafton': thus hinting pretty plainly that Grafton had been guilty of deliberate falsification. The truth was that Hardyng himself had repeatedly rewritten his work to please the taste of different patrons. (fn. 29) Still the honours of the quarrel rest with Stow, whose merits as a chronicler were superior to those of Grafton. At the same time his own account reveals him as a self-taught man, who was perhaps too jealous of a reputation that wanted to be established. The persistence of his grievance may perhaps be explained by the fact that the controversy had helped to aggravate other troubles, which during this time embittered Stow's life.

Stow's literary pursuits may have put him out of sympathy with his commercial kinsfolk. Whatever the reason, his associations with his family had been long unhappy. It is possible that there may have been some religious difference, for John was inclined to favour old beliefs, whilst his mother appears to have been Protestant. Strype (fn. 31) says that John Stow in 1544 was in great danger by reason of a false accusation brought against him by a priest; (fn. 32) the nature of the charge is not known, but it was possibly on a matter of religion. At all events there was an old family discord, for Thomas Stow must have had some sort of excuse for alleging that during twenty years John had never asked his mother's blessing. (fn. 33) Whatever the reason, old Mistress Stow, soon after her husband's death in 1559, went to live with her son Thomas, who had quarrelled with John over money matters and by an unwise marriage further strained their relations. Elizabeth Stow was a timid and anxious peacemaker between her children, fearful of giving offence, and governed by whoever was at hand. One day in the summer of 1568 she came on a visit to John, with whom over 'the best ale and bread and a cold leg of mutton', she talked too freely on family matters. When the poor soul got home, Thomas and his wife would never let her rest till she had told them all. When it came out that John lamented that Thomas was matched with an harlot, they forced her to change her will and leave her eldest son out of it altogether. Friends of the family intervened, and Thomas, pretending to yield, put John back, but only for five pounds, where all the other children got ten. 'Thus,' says John with a quaint humour, 'was I condemned and paid five pounds for naming Thomas his wife an harlot, privily only to one body, who knew the same as well as I; but if he could so punish all men that will more openly say so much he would soon be richer than any lord Mayor of London.' (fn. 34) Thomas himself had often said the like and worse in public, and not long after turned his wife out of doors. Not all the neighbours could get him to relent, and when in the evening the poor woman at last stole in, at ten of the clock at night, Thomas, 'being bare-legged, searched and found her, and fell again a beating of her, so that my mother, being sick on a pallet, was fain to creep up, and felt all about the chamber for Thomas his hosen and shoes, and crept down the stairs with them as well as she could, and prayed him to put them on lest he should catch cold. And so my mother stood in her smock more than an hour, entreating him for the Lord's sake to be more quiet.' The poor mother fared like most interveners in matrimonial broils; for after a while Thomas and his wife went off comfortably to bed, but the old woman caught such a cold that she never rose again. When the parson (fn. 35) was called in he, 'though but a stranger new come from the country,' exhorted Mistress Stow to change her unjust will, but was put off by Thomas. Next Master Rolfe, a priest and son-in-law, persuaded with her ofttimes, but was told to hold his peace, 'for her son's wife was always in one corner or another listening, and she would have a life ten times worse than death if Thomas or his wife should know.' Then John in despair sent his own wife with a pot of cream and strawberries as a peace offering, but only got abuse in return. At last, however, with some trouble, the affair was patched up over a pint of ale. The will remained unaltered, so when John got his chance he urged his mother to restore him to his share. To have five pounds put out of the will was, he said, but, a small, matter as compared with other things. 'Consider, it must needs offend me much to pay five pounds for one word.' If she would not consent for love of her husband or of himself, John bade her remember: 'I wax old and decay in my occupation and have a great charge of children, and a wife that can neither get nor save.' The poor old woman, who had but late been rejoicing that her children which were dead were alive, pleaded feebly, that if the Lord would suffer her to go abroad again she would undo all: 'so that Thomas and his wife shall not know. That wicked woman, woe worth her, will be my death.' Other relatives and friends tried their influence in vain. The dread of Thomas prevailed. Elizabeth Stow died at Michaelmas, leaving her will unaltered, most of her property to Thomas, only five pounds to her eldest son, and larger legacies to the other children. The day after the funeral the two brothers and Master Rolfe went to the Maiden's Head in Leadenhall, (fn. 36) where they had a pint of wine with Henry Johnson, (fn. 37) an old friend of the family, who prayed Thomas to be good to his brother John.

At this point John Stow's tale breaks off abruptly. (fn. 38) Apart from its extraordinary interest as an unstudied, if somewhat sordid, record of middle-class life in the reign of Elizabeth, it is of the greatest value, for the light which it throws on other incidents in Stow's career, and for its explanation of some allusions in his writings.

It was probably in the following year that Stow had occasion to address a petition to the alderman of his ward by reason of the annoyance done to him by one William Ditcher and his wife. (fn. 39) It appears that Ditcher, believing that Stow had reported him to the Wardmote for setting his frames in the street, came railing at Stow's door with the most slanderous speech that man or devil could devise. Incited by Thomas Stow, Ditcher soon went to worse conduct, throwing stones at John's apprentice, abusing his wife, calling him in derision of his trade a prick-louse knave, and to crown his offence 'adding moreover that the said John hathe made a cronicle of lyes'. Finally, he had told the parson and the deputy of the ward that, 'there cometh none but rogues and rascalls, the vilest in the land, to the house of the said John, which rogues have him from alehouse to alehouse, every day and night till two of the clock in the morning.'

Whether Stow got any remedy against the scurrilous Ditcher does not appear, for the matter is known only by his draft of the petition. But he had soon to meet a more dangerous accusation. Early in January, 1569, great offence was given to the English Government by the circulation in the City of a manifesto published by the Spanish ambassador on behalf of the Duke of Alva. In this matter Stow was implicated, and on 17 February he was called before the Lord Mayor. In the record of his examination, where he is described as 'John Stowe, merchaunt, a collector of cronycles,' he admitted that he had been lent two copies of the bill in English, whereof he made a copy for himself, and had read it to some neighbours, but never gave copy out of it. The charge was also investigated before the Master and Wardens of Stow's own company, though without attaching any further blame to him. (fn. 40)

It was no doubt in connexion with this business of Alva's proclamation that Stow was reported to the Queen's Council for having many dangerous books of superstition in his possession. In consequence direction was given to Bishop Grindal of London to have Stow's house searched. On 24 February Grindal wrote to Cecil enclosing 'a catalogue of Stowe the Taylour his unlawfulle bookes,' together with a report from his chaplains, dated 21 February, on which day the search was made. The chief part of this report was as follows: 'He hath a great store of folishe fabulous bokes of olde prynte as of Sir Degory Tryamore, &c. He hath also a great sorte of old written English Chronicles both in parchement and in paper, som long, som shorte. He hath besides, as it were, miscellanea of diverse sortes both touching phisicke, surgerye, and herbes, with medicines of experience, and also touching old phantasticall popishe bokes prynted in the olde tyme, with many such also written in olde Englisshe on parchement. All which we have pretermytted to take any inventarye of. We have only taken a note of such bokes as have been lately putt forth in the realme or beyonde the Seas for defence of papistrye: with a note of som of his own devises and writinges touching such matter as he hath gathered for Chronicles, whereaboute he seemeth to have bestowed much travaile. His bokes declare him to be a great favourer of papistrye.'

The list of objectionable books contains thirty-eight items, and, besides religious works, includes Thomas Stapleton's translation of Bede; a manuscript of the Flores Historiarum; (fn. 41) 'much rude matter gathered for a summary of a cronacle'; and 'A brief collection of matters of Cronicles sins Anno Domini 1563, entered in an old wryten boke of Cronicles bound in borde, wryten as it seemeth with his owne hand'. (fn. 42) An entry of Fundationes Ecclesiarum, Monasteriorum, &c., has been erased. The popish books include Thomas Heskyn's Parliament of Christ, Richard Shacklock's Hatchet of Heresy, (fn. 43) Five Homilies made by Leonard Pollard, (fn. 44)The manere of the List of Saints, together with other works of such writers as Roger Edgeworth, Richard Smith, Miles Haggerd, and John Rastell. Although these last discoveries of Grindal's chaplains must have lent some colour to the charge of popish inclinations, it does not appear that Cecil or the Council thought the business serious enough to require any further notice. (fn. 45)

It is likely enough that Thomas Stow was the informant against his brother in this matter of Alva's manifesto. From the story of their quarrel it is clear that Thomas was an ignorant man, believing that John practised magic, but sharp enough to see what handle he might find in his brother's strange tastes. (fn. 46) At all events it was Thomas Stow who set in motion another affair next year. In 1570 John Stow was brought before the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on a charge in seventeen articles made by one that had been his servant after he had defrauded him of his goods, and supported by witnesses of sullied reputation. Stow successfully confounded his accusers before the Archbishop; but when he would have prosecuted them he was answered that there was no remedy against them. (fn. 47)

It is plainly with reference to this incident that Stow in his Annales under 1556, when describing the punishment of a false witness, writes as follows: 'The like Justice I once wished to the like accuser of his master and elder brother, but it was answered that in such case could be no remedy, though the accuser himself were in the same fact found the principal offender. Where through it followeth the accuser never shewed sign of shame, but terribly curseth, and blasphemously sweareth he never committed any such act, though the same be registered before the honourable the Queen's Majesty's High Commissioners. And what horrible slanders, by libelling and otherwise with threats of murther, he dayly bruiteth against me, the knower of all secrets, God I mean, knoweth. (fn. 48)

After the lapse of more than twenty years Stow could not forget or forgive the prime authors of his troubles. He never lost the chance of exposing a fable of Grafton's (fn. 49) or of pointing the moral of his brother's iniquity. Against the account of William FitzOsbert he set a note in the first edition of the Survey: 'A false accuser of his elder brother, in the end was hanged. God amend or shortly send such an end to such false brethren.' (fn. 50) In the original manuscript there appears the significant addition: 'Such a brother have I, God make him penitent.' How late and long the quarrel continued is shown also by a characteristic note preserved amongst some private memoranda in Stow's collections. (fn. 51) '1599. The last of July, at the qwenes armes taverne by leden hall, in contempte of me the auctor of this boke called the Survey of London, one Smithe, dwellinge at Sopars lane ende, in the company of T. Stowe and othar suche lyke, sayde he marvayled that mention was not made in the saide Survay of qwike sylvar roninge out of the grownde at the buildinge of his howse. More that the auctor set not downe that the parson of Christes Churche lyeth every night with the lord maiors wyfe; and suche lyke Knavish talke he had to pleasure my bad brother, for he is one of his minstrells.'

Stow's bitterness may seem excessive. But his obvious anxiety when Thomas, triumphing and swearing, got possession of his book of alchemy, (fn. 52) shows how real was the danger that Stow incurred through the suspicion of popish inclinations, and occult practices. His experiences no doubt taught him that the study of history was likely to prove both safer and more profitable than divinity, poetry, or astrology. Apart from this the chief result of his troubles had been to establish his literary reputation and personal worth. It is probable that he owed his triumph over his enemies in some degree to the favour of Archbishop Parker, whose notice he had attracted some years earlier. Under Parker's direction he assisted in the publication of the Flores Historiarum in 1567, of the Chronicles of Matthew Paris in 1571, and of Walsingham in 1574; 'all of which,' writes Stow in his Annales, 'the archbishop received of my hands.' (fn. 53) His labours soon brought him the acquaintance and friendship of all the leading antiquaries of the day. Such were William Lambarde, 'his loving friend,' (fn. 54) whose Perambulation of Kent was the model for the Survey; Henry Savile, who, even in 1575, addressed him as 'good old friend'; Camden, at this time usher of Westminster School; John Dee, the celebrated astrologer; Robert Glover, the Somerset herald; William Fleetwood the Recorder, who was, like Stow, a Merchant Taylor; together with men of scholarly tastes and good position, like William Claxton of Wynyard in Durham, his familiar correspondent during nearly twenty years. It is noteworthy that Stow's friends included several writers of Roman Catholic inclinations as Thomas Martyn, and Henry Ferrers. (fn. 55) From these and others Stow received counsel in his literary labours and rendered help in return. To Hakluyt he supplied notes on Cabot's voyages from his manuscript (now lost) of Fabyan's Chronicle. (fn. 56) To David Powel he furnished material for The Historie of Cambria. (fn. 57) Thomas Speght, the editor of Chaucer, he assisted with notes from his own rich collections of ancient poesy. (fn. 58)

When the old Society of Antiquaries was formed, about 1572, under Parker's patronage, it was natural that Stow should become a member. He certainly belonged to it before February, 1590, and contributed to its discussions a note on the origin of sterling money. (fn. 59) Amongst his colleagues were Walter Cope, Joseph Holland, William Patten, Francis Tate, and Francis Thynne, (fn. 60) all of whom he counted amongst his friends, and Lord William Howard of Naworth, with whom he had at least some acquaintance. (fn. 61)

Stow's editorial work for Parker brought him into association with Reyne Wolfe, the printer, and when Wolfe died in 1573, Stow purchased many of his collections. At the time of his death Wolfe had been preparing a Universal History. His design was carried out on a less ambitious scale under the direction of Raphael Holinshed, to whom Stow lent 'divers rare monuments, ancient writers, and necessary register-books'. To the second edition of Holinshed's Chronicles, which appeared in 1587, Stow made other contributions, though at a later time he complained that its printing and reprinting without warrant or well-liking had prevented his own intended work. On such a larger history he had long been busy. (fn. 62) In 1580 he had produced The Chronicles of England from Brute unto the present year of Christ. This work was written in civic from, the names of the Mayor and Sheriffs being placed at the head of each year. The Chronicles were thus only an expansion of the Summary; but this from was abandoned, when the work appeared twelve years later in a more extensive shape as the Annales of England. The Annales were but a part of what Stow intended, for his laborious collection had by then grown into a large volume, which he would have published as 'The History of this Island', had he not been compelled to condescend to the wishes of his printer, who preferred a less ambitious undertaking. (fn. 63) When the Annales appeared for the last time in 1605 just before the author's death, the 'farre larger volume', though ready for the press, still awaited a printer; it appears to have perished, though some part of it may have been embodied in the Successions of the History of England published under Stow's name in 1638. (fn. 64)

'The History of this Island' was not the only larger work on which Stow laboured in vain. Grindal's chaplains found in Stow's study a collection of Fundationes Ecclesiarum, (fn. 65) to which, during many years, he appears to have made great additions. Camden wrote to him for the loan of his Fundationes for four counties, and William Claxton in his latest letter to Stow begged that he might have a copy with the newest augmentations, that so he might preserve it to the collector's never-dying fame. (fn. 66) Claxton's fears for the fate of his friend's labours were in part realized. Whether Stow sent him the desired copy or not, the whole original seems now to have perished. Yet part of one or the other passed into the hands of Ralph Starkey, the archivist, who, according to Hearne, possessed some of Stow's manuscripts 'amongst which his Monasticon, out of which Mr. Dodsworth collected several things'. (fn. 67) Roger Dodsworth's voluminous collections were, after his death in 1654, entrusted to Dugdale, whose celebrated Monasticon Anglicanum was thus in part the outcome of Stow's industry.

In the midst of such labours Stow nevertheless found time to produce repeated editions of his Summary and its Abridgment, and towards the end of a long and busy life set himself to compile his Survey of London, which first appeared in 1598, to be followed after five years by a second, much increased, edition. But of this, his most valuable work, more hereafter.

For the troubles of his middle life Stow may have found some compensation in a peaceful and honoured end. His character had mellowed with age, and he was, perhaps, a little more chary of expressing himself too freely. But for that matter, the order which Elizabeth and her ministers had established in Church and State suited his convictions, and his open dislike for sectarians could do him no harm. His sentiments are shown in his description of Whitgift as a man born for the benefit of his country and the good of his Church. Literary work had, moreover, brought him at the last, not only the friendship of learned men, but a well-deserved reputation with his fellow citizens.

Though still proud to call himself 'Merchant-Taylor,' he had left his trade, (fn. 68) and probably at the same time changed his residence to a housein St. Andrew's parish in Lime Street Ward, near the Leadenhall. (fn. 69) This must have been not long after 1570, since some years previously to 1579 he had been instrumental at a Wardmote inquest in proving the title of his new ward to certain tenements afterwards in that year wrongfully withdrawn. (fn. 70) In 1584–5 John Stow appears to have been employed as a surveyor of alehouses, (fn. 71) and in the latter year was one of the collectors in Lime Street Ward of the charges for a muster of four thousand men by the City for the Queen's service. These are two of the few occasions on which he took any active part in civic affairs. He had, as we have seen, never taken up his livery, and as he tells us, wa snever a feastfollower. (fn. 72) But his peculiar knowledge was made use of in the service of his Company, who from at least the beginning of 1579 paid 'John Stowe, a loving brother of this mistery for divers good considerations them specially moving' a yearly pension or fee of four pounds. (fn. 73) This pension was no doubt a practical recognition of his literary merit; but once, in 1603, he appears as in receipt of a fee of ten shillings for 'great pains by him taken in searching for such as have been mayors, sheriffs, and aldermen of the said company.' (fn. 74) During a controversy between the Lieutenant of the Tower and the City in 1595, Stow is referred to as the 'Fee'd Chronicler' of the Corporation, and is stated to have lately set out the boundaries of the Liberty of Cree Church. (fn. 75) On 24 Feb., 1601, Stow was one of the persons appointed by the Court of Aldermen to treat with Mr. Tate of the Temple touching the procuring of Liber Custumarum and Liber Antiquorum Regum. (fn. 76)

Stow's labours may perhaps have thus earned him something more than a barren reputation; but, as in the case of many others before and since, his zeal for learning was at the expense of his own advantage. After Stow's death one, who had known him, refused to take up his work, and 'thanked God that he was not yet mad to waste his time, spend 200l. a year, trouble himself and all his friends only to gain assurance of endless reproach.' (fn. 77) It is too much to assume from this, as some have done, that Stow had spent such an amount yearly on the purchase of books, or even on the pursuit of his studies. Nevertheless it is certain that his substance was consumed to the neglect of his ordinary means of maintenance. studies. Nevertheless it is certain that his sumaintenance. consumed to the neglect of his ordinary means mainstance. Of his Summary in 1598 he writes: (fn. 78) 'It hath cost me many a weary mile's travel, many a hard earned penny and pound, and many a cold winter night's study.' So also in two petitions, which he made, apparently to the City, about 1590, he relates how 'for thirty years past he hath set forth divers somaries and set a good example to posterity. And forasmoche as the travayle to many places for serchynge of sondry records, whereby the varietie of things may come to lyght, cannot but be chargeable to the sayde John more than his habilitie can afforde, &c.' (fn. 79) Edmund Howes, in his edition of the Annales, says that Stow 'could never ride, but travelled on foot unto divers chief places of the land to search records'. These and other like references show that Stow in his latter days was in straitened circumstances. But his merits were not, as tradition dating from his own time has alleged, disregarded. Robert Dowe, a former master of the Merchant Taylors Company, established in 1592 pensions for some of his poor brethen, and provided specially that one of four pounds should be paid to Stow. In 1600 on Dowe's motion the company increased their own pension to six pounds'soe as with the iiil. he receaveth out of this howse (as one of the almesmen of the said Mr. Robert Dowe) he is on the whole to receave yerely duringe his life a pencion out of and from this companye amounting to the sum of tenn pounds per annum.' When in 1602 Dowe revised his charities he provided specially that one pension should still be paid to Stow, who was not then a working tailor, yet 'notwithstanding in his begynnyng was of the handy crft and now for many years hath spent great labour and study in writing of Chronicles and other memorable matters for the good of all posterity.' (fn. 80)

In addition to the pension from his Company, Stow is said to have had an annuity of 8l. from Camden in return for his transcripts for Leland. Ralph Bropke, the herald who is our authoruity for this alleges that Camden had plagiarized Leland in his Britannia, and that Stow lamented the wrong done to Leland both by Camden and Harrison. (fn. 81) It is probable that Brooke had no better justification than Stow's published censure of Harrison in the Survey (fn. 82) Camden no doubt had free access to any collections of Stow's But the transcripts from Leland were in Stow's possession as late as 1598. (fn. 83) It may be that Camden's annuity was paid in anticipation of a promised bequest.

However, there can be no doubt that, in spite of all help from friends, Stow in his old age found his diminished means too small. He was compelled to seek openly for charity, and James I granted him Letters Patent, first on 8 May, 1603, and again in February and October, 1604, giving him licence to ask and take benevolence. (fn. 84) It is in reference to this that William Warner in lines prefixed to his Albion's England in 1606 wrote:—:

Add Stow's late antiquarian pen,
That annal'd for ungrateful men,
Next chronicler omit it not,
His licenc't basons little got;
Lived poorly where he trophies gave,
Lies poorly there in noteless grave.

Ben Jonson has left a note: 'John Stow had monstrous observations in his Chronicle, and was of his craft a tailor. He and I walking alone, he asked two cripples what they would have to take him to their order'. (fn. 85) Thus could Stow turn a merry jest at his poverty; and yet, as he told Manningham the Diarist, on 17 Dec., 1602, he 'made no gains by his travail'. (fn. 86) Certainly he had not the means to meet his great charges, and spent for the benefit of posterity what he might have kept for his own need. Yet the tradition of his poverty has been a little exaggerated, and those of his own time were not, according to their customs, negligent of his merits. Warner, in his haste to point a moral, was premature; for Stow's widow was rich enough to provide a handsome monument, where her husband lay in no noteless grave. Stow himself was not ungrateful for the help given to him, and in 1592 presented his Annales to the Merchant Taylors 'as a small monument given to this corporation by him in token of his thankfulness to this company'.

Stow continued working to the end. The Annales, 'encreased and continued until this present yeare 1605,' were reissued within a few days of his death. Two years previously he wrote in the Survey: 'I have been divers times minded to add certain chapters to this book, but being, by the good pleasure of God, visited with sickness, such as my feet (which have borne me many a mile) have of late refused, once in four or five months to convey me from my bed to my study, and therefore could not do as I would.' (fn. 87)

Howes, in his edition of Stow's Annales, writes of him thus: 'He was tall of stature, lean of body and face, his eyes small and chrystaline, of a pleasant and cheerful countenance; his sight and memory very good; very sober, mild, and courteous to any that required his instructions; and retained the true use of all his senses unto the day of his death, being of an excellent memory. He always protested never to have written anything either for malice, fear, or favour, nor to seek his own particular gain or vainglory; and that his only pains and care was to write truth.… He was very careless of scoffers, backbiters, and detractors. He lived peacefully, and died of the stone collicke, being four score yeare of age, and was buried the 8th of April, 1605, in his parish church of St. Andrew's, Undershaft; whose mural monument near unto his grave was there set up at the charges of his wife Elizabeth.'

The monument, of Derbyshire marble and alabaster, was piously restored by the Merchant Taylors Company in 1905, the three hundredth anniversary of Stow's death. It represents him sitting in his study writing in a book upon his desk, with other books about him. Above it is the motto 'Aut scribenda agere, aut legenda scribere' (fn. 88) The inscription is as follows:
Memoriae Sacrum.

Resurrectionem in Christo pie expectat Joannes Stowe, ciuis Londiniensis. Qui in antiquis monumentis eruendis, accuratissima diligentia usus Angliae Annales, & ciuitatis Londini Synopsin bene de sua, bene de postera aetate meritus, luculenter scripsit: Vitaeque stadio pie decurso, obiit Aetatis anno 80, die 5 Aprilis 1605.

Elizabetha coniux, ut perpetuum sui amoris testimonium dolens.

It is pathetic that Stow, after complaining so bitterly of the defacers of tombs who thrust out the ancient dead to make room for others, should in his turn have suffered the like desecration. Maitland (fn. 89) relates that Stow's grave was 'spoiled of his injured remains by certain men in the year 1732, who removed his corpse to make way for another'.

Besides the effigy on Stow's tomb there is an engraved portrait, which is found in some copies of the 1603 edition of the Survey. Manningham (fn. 90) writes that in Dec., 1602 Stow told him 'that a modell of his picture was found in the Recorder Fleetwood's study, with this inscription, or circumscription, Johannes Stowe, Antiquarius Angliae, which now is cutt in brasse, and prefixed in print to his Survay of London'. He sayth of it as Pilat sayd: 'What I have written, I have written'; and thinkes himself worthie of that title for his paynes, for he hath no gaines by his travaile'. The engraved copies are dated 'Aetatis suae 77, 1603', (fn. 91)

Of Stow's three daughters two survived him and are mentioned in his will. Julyan, apparently the elder, had married a well-to-do neighbour, Mr. Peter Towers, by whom she had a large family; three of them died during the great sickness of 1603, when their grandfather made his will; one alone seems to have lived beyond early manhood. The second was Joan Foster, whose husband lived at Warwick, whence she wrote to ask her father's antiquarian help for her very friend and neighbour Oliver Brooke. (fn. 92) Of his widow Elizabeth I have found no later mention; but she lived long enough to set up his tomb after 1606. The care with which Stow begged the overseer of his will to take so much pains that his poor wife be not overpressed to take any wrong, suggests that she was one and the same with the wife who forty years before could neither get nor save. (fn. 93)


  • 1. Strype, Survey, i, p. i, and ii. 146, an accurate copy of the will from 'Tunstal, ff. 89–90', proved April 4, 1527.
  • 2. Accounts of the Churchwardens, ed. W. H. Overall, pp. 62, 67, 116.
  • 3. Not Margaret, as stated by Strype (Survey i. 2), who copied the will incorrectly. See p. xliv below.
  • 4. See Notes on Stow family on pp. xliv-xlviii.
  • 5. See p. xxvii.
  • 6. See i. 197, ii. 306.
  • 7. See p. xlvi below.
  • 8. i. 89 and 179. Thomas Cromwell's building in Throgmorton Street was done in 1531–2. John Stow was only six years old. But see i. 292, and ii. 337 for another memory of the same time.
  • 9. i. 126.
  • 10. i. 74.
  • 11. Clode, Early History of the Merchant Taylors Company, ii. 299, 267.
  • 12. i. 144 below.
  • 13. On Stow's wife or wives, see p. xlviii.
  • 14. See p. lxii below.
  • 15. i. 350 below.
  • 16. See p. xlix below. In 1558 he had copied out a collection of Lydgate's poems, now Additional M.S. 29729 in the British Museum.
  • 17. Cf. dedication to 1604 edition of Summary. Stow varies in his dates as to when he began to write on history; in the Summary for 1573 he says, 'It is now eight years since, &c.'; in that for 1587, 23 years; in that for 1598, 36 years; and in that for 1604, 45 years. See p. lxxxi.
  • 18. The subsequent reference to William Baldwin shows that Marshe's proposal must have been made in the summer of 1563, after the appearance of the first edition of Grafton's Abridgement, but before the second edition of 1564.
  • 19. A Chronicle of the World, begun by Thomas Languet (d. 1545), was completed by Thomas Cooper, afterwards bishop of Winchester, and published in 1549. It was often, as Stow says, reprinted, e.g. in 1559 by T. Marshe under the editorship of Robert Crowley (see ii. 339 below). Similar was A breviat Cronicle contaynynge all the kinges, &c., first published by John Mitchell or Mychell, of Canterbury, in 1551, of which a later edition, published at London by Tottell in 1561, was long regarded as the first edition of Stow's Summary.
  • 20. In the Preface to his Abridgement Grafton writes: 'Unto which travayle I was the rather provoked for that I saw used and occupied in every common person's hands a certayne booke bearyng lyke title, wherein was lytle truth and lesse good order.'
  • 21. No doubt William Baldwin, the chief contributor to the Mirror for Magistrates, and author of Beware the Cat (see ii. 275 below). His cure and the date of his death were otherwise unrecorded. The identification is helped by a note in Stow's Memoranda (cf. Three Fifteenth Century Chronicles, p. 126), where he relates that when the Romish bishops were taken from the Tower for fear of the plague in Sept. 1563, certain 'prechers prechyd, as it was thought of many wysse men, verie sedyssyowsly, as Baldwyn at Powll's Cross, wyshyng a galows set up in Smythefyld, and ye old byshops and other papestis to be hangyd thereon. Hymselfe dyed of ye plague the next weke after.' William Baldwin's writings show him to have been a violent Protestant. Thomas Marshe was printer of Baldwin's works from 1559 onwards.
  • 22. See pp. li and lxxxii below.
  • 23. So he states on p. lii below. But the copy in the British Museum, which appears to be perfect, has no dedication.
  • 24. See pp. xlviii to liii below.
  • 25. See p. lxxvii below.
  • 26. Harley MS. 367, f. I. See p. xlviii below.
  • 27. See p. 1 below.
  • 28. Epistle to the Reader in Summaryfor 1573.
  • 29. Hearne relates that a fine copy, which had belonged to Stow, had passed through Sir Simonds D'Ewes to the Harleian Library (Collections, iii. I). This, which is now Harley MS.661, is one of the most valuable of Hardyng's later versions.
  • 30. As seems to be shown by the drift of his comments, cautious enough, in his Memoranda, cf. p. x above. He had many friends of Catholic inclinations. But he also seems to have been on good terms with Foxe the Martyrologist.
  • 31. Survey, i, p. iii.
  • 32. Perhaps the same as the man referred to by Wriothesly, Chronicle, ii. 153.
  • 33. See p. lv below.
  • 34. However, in October, 1570, the Master and Wardens of the Merchant Taylors Company intervened to pacify a controversy between Thomas Stow and Thomas Holmes, 'both brethren of this mystery, as well for and concerning undesent and unseemly words spoken uttered and reported by the wife of the said Holmes againste the wyfe of the said Stowe.' Holmes's wife had to apologize, and he to pay 20s. to Thomas Stow 'in satisfaction of all lawe and other charges incurred by him.' Clode, Memorials of the Merchant Taylors Company, 183–4, Early History, i. 210.
  • 35. Richard Mathew, presented 4 July, 1567 (Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 483)
  • 36. Elizabeth Stow's will provided ten shillings for her children and friends to drink withal after her funeral. See p. xlv below.
  • 37. He was conductor of the choir at St. Michael's at a stipend of 3l. (Churchwardens' Accounts, p. 235).
  • 38. See the full narrative on pp. liii to lx below.
  • 39. See pp. lx to lxii below.
  • 40. See the depositions at both examinations given in full in Clode's Early History of the Merchant Taylors Company, ii. 299–302. It is remarkable that Stow never refers to this business of Alva's proclamation in any of his printed works.
  • 41. Probably Cotton MS. Nero D. v. See p. xcii below.
  • 42. These are Stow's Memoranda, which are contained in Lambeth MS. 306, and have been printed by Dr. Gairdner in Three Fifteenth Century Chronicles, pp. 115–47. See further p. xxxvi below.
  • 43. I suppose the translation of Hosius, De Heresibus, printed at Antwerp in 1565, as A most excellent treatise of the begynnyng of heresyes in our tyme.
  • 44. Dedicated to Bonner and printed at London, 1556.
  • 45. Grindal's letter to Cecil and his chaplains' report, with the list of suspected books, are printed from Lansdowne MS. II in Arber's Transcript of the Stationers' Registers, i. 181. See also Strype, Survey, i, pp. iv and xxi, and Life of Grindal, pp. 184, 516. The Register of the Privy Council for this year has unfortunately perished.
  • 46. See p. lvi below.
  • 47. Strype, Survey, i, p. iv.
  • 48. See also a similar entry under this year in the 1587 edition of the Summary Abridged. It was not contained in the 1573 edition, and is omitted in that for 1604.
  • 49. See vol. i. 118, 349.
  • 50. See vol. i. 254, and ii. 249 below. In the second edition the last half of this note was omitted. The omission may perhaps be explained by the recent death of Thomas Stow in October, 1602. On the other hand, the reference on ii. 76 is an insertion.
  • 51. Ap. Harley MS. 540, f. 82vo.
  • 52. See p. lvi below.
  • 53. p. 1150, ed. 1605.
  • 54. See vol. ii, p. 253.
  • 55. See Letters to Stow on pp. lxxi, lxxii.
  • 56. See notes in Chronicles of London, pp. 328–30, 337–8.
  • 57. Powel's Preface. See p. lxxxvii below.
  • 58. Speght in his Preface acknowledges his debt to Stow, 'whose library hath helped many writers.'
  • 59. Hearne, Curious Discourses, ii. 318; see ii. 278 below. In Ashmole MS. 763 f. 195 in the Bodleian Library there is a summons to Stow to attend a meeting of the Society at Garter House on 2 Nov. 1599. On the back of the summons Stow has written some notes on the subject for discussion, 'of the antiquities, etymologie and priviledges of Parishes in England.'
  • 60. Curious Discourses. For the history of the Society see Archaeologia, vol. i, and for a list of the members in 1590, Stow MS. 1045 in the British Museum. See also i. 22, 83, 114, ii. 23, and pp. xxiii, xxxiii below.
  • 61. See p. lxx below.
  • 62. Annales, ed. 1605, p. 1438, and Summarie for1604, p. 458.
  • 63. See p. lxxix below.
  • 64. See p. lxxxvi below.
  • 65. See p. xvii above.
  • 66. See p. lxxiii' below.
  • 67. Hearne, Collections, iii. 108, 143, Oxford Hist. Soc.
  • 68. The only reference to his trade which I have found in Stow's books is his note on the prices of cloth in the margin of i. 86 below.
  • 69. For letters addressed to him there see pp. lxviii to lxxii below.
  • 70. See i. 161–2. He had moved at least as early as 1575; perhaps to one of Woodroffe's houses to which he refers on i. 151.
  • 71. See p. lxiii.
  • 72. See vol. ii. 191.
  • 73. Clode, Memorials, 535; Early History, ii. 302.
  • 74. id. i. 264.
  • 75. Strype, Survey, i. 67b. Some memoranda, apparently prepared for the use of the corporation, concerning these claims at the Tower and at St. Martins are given in Harley MS. 540, f. 122.
  • 76. Munimenta Gildhallae, II, p. xviii. See further p. xxxii below.
  • 77. Howes, Epistle Dedicatorie to Abridgment (1607), reprinted at end of Annales in 1631.
  • 78. p. 460 in the margin.
  • 79. For these petitions see p. lxvi below.
  • 80. Clode, Early History, ii. 303–4.
  • 81. A Second Discovery of Errors, p. 47, edited by Anstis in 1723. Brooke himself published A Discoverie of Errours, attacking the Britannia which appeared in 1594. He refers repeatedly to Stow as 'Camden's familier.
  • 82. See vol. i. 348, and ii. 353–4.
  • 83. This is shown by the fact that a part of the original MS. of the Survey is bound up with the transcripts of Leland. See p. xcii below.
  • 84. Cal. State Papers, 1603–10, p. 84. See also p. lxvii below; and Strype, Survey, i, pp. xii, xiii.
  • 85. Conversations with Drummond, p. 36; Shakespeare Society.
  • 86. Diary, p. 103; Camden Society.
  • 87. Vol. ii. 187–8.
  • 88. By a stonemason's error 'STVT' appears instead of AVT. Mr. Philip, Norman informs me that previous to the last restoration the word 'avt' could be read either 'avt' or 'stvt', the original and correct lettering not having been obliterated. The iron railing now in front of the monument was copied from one which appears in prints of the eighteenth century.
  • 89. History of London, ii. 1062.
  • 90. Diary, p. 103.
  • 91. This portrait, given as a frontispiece to this volume, was first reproduced in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1837.
  • 92. See pp. lxx, lxxi below.
  • 93. See pp. xlv and lviii.