The neighbourhood of the Tower: (part 3 of 3)

Old and New London: Volume 2. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

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Walter Thornbury, 'The neighbourhood of the Tower: (part 3 of 3)', in Old and New London: Volume 2( London, 1878), British History Online [accessed 20 July 2024].

Walter Thornbury, 'The neighbourhood of the Tower: (part 3 of 3)', in Old and New London: Volume 2( London, 1878), British History Online, accessed July 20, 2024,

Walter Thornbury. "The neighbourhood of the Tower: (part 3 of 3)". Old and New London: Volume 2. (London, 1878), , British History Online. Web. 20 July 2024.

In this section



The Jewry—Allhallows Church—Terrible Gunpowder Accident near the Church—Famous Men buried at Allhallows—Monumental Brasses—St. Olave's Church—Dr. W. Turner—Sir John Minnes—A Well-known Couplet—Pepys' Wife—"Poor Tom"—Sir J. Radcliffe—Antiquities of the Church—Pepys on Allhallows—St. Dunstan's-in-the-East—Wren's Repairs—The Register Books—Old Roman Tower—The Trinity House and its Corporation—The Present Building—Decorations and Portraits—Famous Masters—A Bit of Old Wall.

Stow describes a Jewish quarter near the Tower. "There was," he says, "a place within the liberties of the Tower called the Jewry, because it was inhabited by Jews, where there happened, 22nd Henry III., a robbery and a murther to be committed by William Fitz Bernard, and Richard his servant; who came to the house of Joce, a Jew, and there slew him and his wife Henna. The said William was taken at St. Saviour's for a certain silver cup, and was hanged. Richard was called for, and was outlawed. One Miles le Espicer, who was with them, was wounded, and fled to a church, and died in it. No attachment was made by the sheriffs, because it happened in the Jewry; and so belonged not to the sheriffs, but to the Constable of the Tower."

The churches near Tower Hill demand a brief notice. That of Allhallows, Barking, and Our Lady, in Tower Street, Stow mentions as having, in the early ages, a "faire chapel" of Our Lady on the north side, founded by Richard I., whose lion heart, as the erroneous tradition went, was buried there, under the high altar. Edward I. gave the chapel a statue of the Virgin. Edward IV. permitted his cousin, John Earl of Worcester, to form a brotherhood there, and gave them the advowson of Streatham and part of a Wiltshire priory for maintenance. Richard III. rebuilt the chapel, and founded a college of priests, consisting of a dean and six canons, and made Edmund Chaderton, a great favourite of his, dean. The college was suppressed and pulled down in the reign of Edward VI. The ground remained a garden plot till the reign of Elizabeth, when merchants' warehouses were built there by Sir William Winter, whose wife was buried in the church.

The church derives its name of Barking from the vicarage having originally belonged to the abbey and convent of Barking, in Essex. The church was much injured in 1649 by an accidental explosion of twenty-seven barrels of gunpowder at a shipchandler's near the churchyard. A Mr. Leyborn, quoted by Strype, gives the following account of this calamity:—

"Over against the wall of Barking churchyard," says Leyborn, "a sad and lamentable accident befell by gunpowder, in this manner. One of the houses in this place was a ship-chandler's, who, upon the 4th of January, 1649, about seven of the clock at night, being busy in his shop about barrelling up of gunpowder, it took fire, and in the twinkling of an eye blew up not only that, but all the houses thereabouts, to the number (towards the street and in back alleys) of fifty or sixty. The number of persons destroyed by this blow could never be known, for the next house but one was the Rose Tavern, a house never at that time of night but full of company; and that day the parish dinner was in that house. And in three or four days after, digging, they continually found heads, arms, legs, and half bodies, miserably torn and scorched, besides many whole bodies, not so much as their clothes singed. In the course of this accident I will instance two, the one a dead, the other a living monument. In the digging, as I said before, they found the mistress of the house of the Rose Tavern, sitting in her bar, and one of the drawers standing by the bar's side with a pot in his hand, only stified with dust and smoke; their bodies being preserved whole by means of great timbers falling cross one upon another: this is one. Another is this: the next morning there was found upon the upper leads of Barking Church a young child lying in a cradle, as newly laid in bed, neither the child nor cradle having the least sign of any fire or other hurt. It was never known whose child it was, so that one of the parish kept it for a memorial; for in the year 1666 I saw the child, grown to be then a proper maiden, and came to the man that had kept her all that time, where he was drinking at a tavern with some other company then present, and he told us she was the child that was so found in the cradle upon the church leads as aforesaid."


Allhallows, from its vicinity to the Tower, was the burial-place of several State criminals, and many minor Court officials; the poet Earl of Surrey, Bishop Fisher, and the narrow-brained Laud, were buried there, but have been since removed. The six or seven brasses preserved here are, says an authority, among the best in London. The finest is a Flemish brass, Andrew Evyngar, a salter, and his wife, circa 1535. There is also an injured brass of William Thynne, Clerk of the Green Cloth, Clerk of the Kitchen, and afterwards "Master of the Honourable Household of King Henry VIII., our Sovereign Lord." This worthy man published the first edition of the entire works of Chaucer, in 1532. Strype mentions the monument of Humfry Monmouth, a draper and sheriff, who protected Tindal, and encouraged him in his translation of the Testament, for which he was thrown into the Tower by Sir Thomas More. In his will he appointed Bishop Latimer, Dr. Barnes (the "Hot Gospeller"), and two other reformed preachers, to preach thirty sermons (two a week) at Allhallows, which, he said, would do more good than having masses said for his soul. He also forbad at his funeral the superstitious use of candles, the singing of dirges, and the tolling of bells. In the chancel Strype mentions the monument of Dr. Kettlewell, a famous controversial divine, who wrote "Measures of Christian Obedience," and refused to take the oaths on the accession of William of Orange.


In the pavement of the south aisle, near the chancel, is a large brass, to the memory of John Rulche, who died in 1498. There is another, with small figures of a man and his two wives, with the date 1500. From the mouths of the figures rise labels (as in old caricatures), with pious invocations of "Libera nos," and "Salve nos." Another brass of a nameless knight and his lady is dated 1546; and in the north aisle there is an ecclesiastic and a lady, date probably, says Mr. Godwin, 1437. On a pillar in the south aisle is a brass plate, with doggerel verses to the memory of Armac Aymer, Governor of the Pages of Honour, or Master of the Henchmen, to Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth, having served in the royal household fifty-six years. At the north side of the chancel stands a panelled altar tomb, of carved granite, crowned with strawberry leaves. Under a canopy are two groups of figures—the father and three sons, the mother and four daughters. Strype seems to erroneously connect this tomb with that of Thomas Pilke, who founded a chantry here in 1392 (Richard II.). Pilke's is more likely the canopied one on the opposite side of the church, with a plate of brass, on which is represented the resurrection of Christ.

The earliest legend connected with this very old church is one relating to Edward I. That warlike king had a vision, which commanded him to erect an image of the Virgin at Allhallows Barking, promising him if he did, visited it five times every year, and kept the chapel in repair, he should be victorious over all nations, should be King of England when his father died, and conqueror of Wales and Scotland. To the truth of this vision Edward swore before the Pope, and obtained a dispensation of forty days' penance for all true penitents who should contribute towards the lights, ornaments, and repairs of the chapel, and should pray for the soul of King Richard, whose heart was, as it is said, buried before the high altar. The pilgrims and worshippers of Our Lady of Barking continued numerous till the Reformation came and broke up these empty superstitions.

In 1639 the Puritan House of Commons proceeded against Dr. Layfield, the vicar of Allhallows, who had introduced various Popish innovations. The parishioners complained that he had altered the position of the communion-table, set up various images, had erected a cross over the font, placed the letters I.H.S. in forty-one various places, and also that he had bowed several times during the administration of the sacrament. The vicar, however, contrived to escape punishment. At the Great Fire this interesting church had a narrow escape, the vicarage being burned down. The present brick steeple was built in 1659, when the churchwardens put over the clock, which projects from the front of the church, the figure of an angel sounding a trumpet. In 1675 the succeeding churchwardens removed this figure, and placed it over the altar; but the clergyman being seen to perform genuflexions before it, the churchwardens were indicted, and compelled to burn the image.

The church, from an architectural point of view, is well worth a visit. The round massive pillars and sharp-pointed arches of the west end date from the beginning of the thirteenth century, while the eastern portion of the church is Perpendicular and Late Decorated. There is a clerestory, containing seven windows, and the windows of the north and south aisles are of different periods. It is said that many years ago the basement of a wall was found running across the building near the pulpit, showing an earlier and a later structure. The roof and ceiling were constructed in 1814, at a cost of £7,000. The marble font has a carved wooden cover (attributed, of course, to Gibbons), which represents three angels plucking flowers and fruit. On the south side of the building is an old staircase turret, which formerly led to the roof, but is now stopped up. In the porch, on the same side, is a good Tudor doorway.

Dr. Hickes, the great scholar who wrote the "Thesaurus," was vicar of Allhallows for six years (1680–6). Hickes, a Yorkshireman, born in 1642, was chaplain, in 1676, to the Duke of Lauderdale, the mischievous High Commissioner of Scotland, and was sent to Charles's court, with Bishop Burnet, to report the discontent of the Scotch. He was presented to the living of Allhallows by Archbishop Sancroft. At the Restoration of 1688, Dr. Hickes refused to take the oath of allegiance, and afterwards went over to France, to see King James, on the dangerous mission of arranging the consecration of fresh bishops. Hickes was very learned in the fathers and in the old northern languages, and wrote much for Divine right.

Another church of interest in this neighbourhood is St. Olave's, Hart Street, at the corner of Seething Lane. This saint was the warlike King of Norway who helped Ethelred against the Danes. There was a church on this spot at least as long ago as 1319, for we find in that year the prior and brethren of the Holy Cross paying two marks and a half per annum to the rector, and his successors for ever, for any damage that might accrue to them by the building of the priory. The patronage was first vested in the Nevil family, then in that of Lord Windsor; but in 1651 it was bequeathed to the parish by Sir Andrew Riccard, who was Sheriff of London in 1651. Maitland mentions, in the middle aisle, a brass of "a King of Arms, in his coat and crown," date 1427. The most ancient brass now to be found is apparently that to the memory of John Orgene and Ellyne his wife, date 1584. Near this is a fine monument to that first of our English herbalists, Dr. William Turner, who died in 1614. This deep student was a violent Reformer, whom Bishop Gardiner threw into prison. On his release he went to live abroad, and at Basle became the friend of Gesner, the great naturalist. In the reign of Edward VI. he was made Dean of Wells and chaplain to the Protector Somerset, in which former dignity Elizabeth reinstated him.

On the south side of the communion-table there was, according to Strype, a monument to that brave and witty man, Sir John Mennes, or Minnes, vice-admiral to Charles I., and, after the Restoration, Governor of Dover Castle, and Chief Comptroller of the Navy. Born in the year 1598, and holding a place in the Navy Office in the reign of James I., Minnes, after many years of honest and loyal service, died in 1670, at the Navy Office in Seething Lane, where he must have spent half his long-shore life. He is generally spoken of as a brave, honest, generous fellow, and the best of all good company. Some of his poems are contained in a volume entitled "The Muses' Recreation," 1656, and he was the author of a clever scoffing ballad on his brother poet, Sir John Suckling's, foolish vaunts and miserable failure. In "The Muses' Recreation" we find the celebrated lines, so often quoted, and which are almost universally attributed to Butler, whose Hudibrastic manner they so exactly resemble—
"For he that fights and runs away,
May live to fight another day."

In the chancel, near the monument of Lord Bayning, mentioned by one of Stow's commentators as then hung with coat of arms and streamers, is a monument to the wife of Samuel Pepys, the Secretary to the Navy, who wrote the delightful stultifying "Diary" which we have so often quoted. Who that has read it can forget the portrait of that buxom beauty who was so jealous of pretty Mrs. Knipp, the actress; or how Pepys took her, Jan. 10,1660, to the great wedding of a Dutch merchant, at Goring House, where there was "great state, cost, and a noble company ? But among all the beauties there," says the uxorious husband, "my wife was thought the greatest." Does he not record how she took to wearing black patches, and how she began to study dancing and limning ? Mrs. Pepys was the daughter of a French Huguenot gentleman, who had been gentleman carver to Queen Henrietta, and was dismissed for striking one of the queen's friars, who had rebuked him for not attending mass. Mrs. Pepys had been brought up in a Ursuline convent in France, and this fact was probably remembered when the Titus Oates party endeavoured to connect poor Pepys with the (supposed) murder of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey. In this same church was also buried Thomas Pepys, brother of the diary-keeper, whose funeral Pepys records with a curious mixture of grief, thrift, and want of feeling. The entry notes some curious customs of the period:—

"18th March, 1664. Up betimes, and walked to my brother's, where a great while putting things in order against anon; and so to Wotton, my shoemaker, and there got a pair of shoes blacked on the soles against anon for me; so to my brother's. To church, and, with the grave-maker, chose a place for my brother to lie in, just under my mother's pew. But to see how a man's tombes are at the mercy of such a fellow, that for sixpence he would, as his own words were, 'I will justle them together but I will make room for him,' speaking of the fulness of the middle aisle, where he was to lie; and that he would, for my father's sake, do my brother, that is dead, all the civility he can; which was to disturb other corps that are not quite rotten, to make room for him; and methought his manner of speaking it was very remarkable, as of a thing that now was in his power to do a man a courtesy or not. I dressed myself, and so did my servant Besse; and so to my brother's again; whither, though invited, as the custom is, at one or two o'clock, they come not till four or five. But, at last, one after another they come, many more than I bid; and my reckoning that I bid was 120, but I believe there was nearer 150. Their service was six biscuits apiece, and what they pleased of burnt claret. My cousin, Joyce Norton, kept the wine and cakes above, and did give out to them that served, who had white gloves given them. But, above all, I am beholden to Mrs. Holden, who was most kind, and did take mighty pains, not only in getting the house and everything else ready, but this day in going up and down to see the house filled and served, in order to mine and their great content, I think; the men sitting by themselves in some rooms, and the women by themselves in others, very close, but yet room enough. Anon to church, walking out into the street to the conduit, and so across the street; and had a very good company along with the corps. And being come to the grave as above, Dr. Pierson, the minister of the parish, did read the service for buriall; and so I saw my poor brother laid into the grave; and so all broke up; and I and my wife, and Madam Turner and her family, to her brother's, and by-andby fell to a barrell of oysters, cake, and cheese, of Mr. Honiwood's, with him, in his chamber and below, being too merry for so late a sad work. But, Lord! to see how the world makes nothing of the memory of a man an hour after he is dead! And, indeed, I must blame myself, for though at the sight of him dead, and dying, I had real grief for a while, while he was in my sight, yet, presently after, and ever since, I have had very little grief indeed for him."

Last of all of the Pepys family, to Allhallows came the rich Secretary of the Navy, that pleasant bon vivant and musician, who was interred, June 4, 1703, in a vault of his own making, by the side of his wife and brother. The burial service was read at nine at night, by Dr. Hickes, author of the "Thesaurus."

Under the organ gallery, at the west end of the church, is a sculptured marble figure, set up by the Turkey Company, to Sir Andrew Riccard, the great benefactor of the parish, and a potent man after the Restoration, being chairman of both the East India Company and the Turkey Company. At the foot of the statue, which formerly stood in one of the aisles, is the following inscription:—

"Sacred be the statue here raised by gratitude and respect to eternize the memory of Sir Andrew Riccard, knight, a citizen, and opulent merchant of London; whose active piety, inflexible integrity, and extensive abilities, alike distinguished and exalted him in the opinion of the wise and good. Adverse to his wish, he was frequently chosen chairman of the Honourable East India Company, and filled, with equal credit, for eighteen successive years, the same eminent station in the Turkey Company. Among many instances of his love to God and liberal spirit towards man, one, as it demands peculiar praise, deserves to be distinctly recorded. He nobly left the perpetual advowson of this parish in trust to five of its senior inhabitants. He died 6th Sept., in the year of our Lord, 1672, of his age, 68.
"Manet post funera virtus."

To one of the walls of the church is affixed part of a sculptured figure in armour, representing Sir John Radcliffe, one of the Sussex family, who died in the year of our Lord, 1568 (Elizabeth). Stow describes this figure as recumbent on an altar-tomb, with a figure of his wife kneeling beside it. A figure something resembling that of his wife is still preserved in the church. Under the north gallery is a full-sized figure in armour kneeling beneath a canopy, inscribed to Peter Chapponius, and dated 1582. There is also a brass plate at the east end of the north aisle commemorating Mr. Thomas Morley, Clerk of the Household of Queen Katherine of Arragon; and Strype mentions one to Philip van Wyllender, musician, and one of the Privy Chamber to Henry VIII. and Edward VI. The Baynings' monument, before mentioned, presents their painted and well-sculptured effigies under alcoves. Beneath the figure of Paul Bayning, who died in 1616, are some lame and doggrel verses, the concluding lines of which are:—
"The happy sum and end of their affaires,
Provided well both for their soules and heires."

The registers of St. Olave's, which are well preserved and perfect from the year 1563 to the present time, contain a long list of names with the fatal letter P. (Plague) appended. The first entry of this kind is July 24, 1665—"Mary, daughter of William Ramsay, one of the Drapers' almsmen." Singularly enough, there was at the time of Mr. Godwin's writing, in 1839, a tradition in the parish that the Plague first broke out in this parish in the Drapers' Almshouses, Cooper's Row, which were founded by Sir John Milborn in the year 1535.

The ancient portions of this interesting church are the large east window (with stained glass of the year 1823), the sharp-pointed window at the end of the north aisle, the west window, and the columns and arches of the nave. The other windows are flatter at the top, and the ceilings of the aisles are studded with small stars. The corbels on the north side are formed of angels, holding shields. There was formerly a gallery on the south side of the church, for the august officers of the Navy Office. Here Samuel Pepys must have often dozed solemnly. This gallery was approached by a small quaint staircase on the outside of the church, as seen by an old engraving, published in 1726, by West and Toms. The churchyard gate is adorned with five skulls, in the true pagan churchwarden taste of the last century.

Pepys frequently mentions this church, where all the dresses he was so proud of—even his new lace band, the effect of which made him resolve to make lace bands his chief expense—were displayed to the admiring world of Seething Lane. He and Sir John Minnes were attendants here; and it is specially mentioned on June 6, 1666, when Pepys says:—"To our church, it being the Common Fastday, and it was just before sermon; but, Lord! how all the people in the church stare upon me, to see me whisper 'the news of the victory over the Dutch' to Sir John Minnes and my Lady Pen! Anon I saw people stirring and whispering below; and by-and-by comes up the sexton from my Lady Ford, to tell me the news which I had brought, being now sent into the church by Sir W. Batten, in writing, and passed from pew to pew." This battle was Monk's decisive victory over De Ruyter. And again, January 30, 1665–6. This day, the day after Pepys had discoursed of the vanity and vices of the court to Mr. Evelyn, who had proposed a hospital for sailors, and whom he found " a most worthy person," the chronicler writes:—"Home, finding the town keeping the day solemnly, it being the day of the king's murther; and they being at church, I presently into the church. This is the first time I have been in the church since I left London for the Plague; and it frighted me indeed to go through the church, more than I thought it could have done, to see so many graves lie so high upon the churchyard where people have been buried of the plague. I was much troubled at it, and do not think to go through it again a good while."

The register of St. Olave's shows that in this parish, from July 4 to December 5, 1665, there were buried 326 people. On the 31st of January Pepys notices his hope that the churchyard of St. Olave's will be covered with lime; and on February 4, when he slinks to church reluctantly, to hear the vicar, who had been the first to fly and the last to return, preach, he is much cheered at finding snow covering the dreaded graves.

St. Dunstan's-in-the-East, another church of this district, Stow describes as "a fair, large church, of an ancient building, and within a large churchyard;" and speaks of the parish as full of rich merchants, Salters and Ironmongers. Newcourt's list of St. Dunstan rectors commences in 1312, and Stow records the burial of John Kennington, parson in 1372, the earliest date he gives in connection with the church. Strype mentions as a "remarkable passage" concerning this building, that in the Middle Ages, according to Archbishop Chichley's register, Lord l'Estrange and his wife did public penance from St. Paul's to this church, "because they gave a cause of murder in this same church, and polluted it." The old churchwarden's books, which begin in the fifteenth century, specify sums paid for playing "at organs" and "blowing of the organs," and money spent in garlands, and by priests in drinking, on St. Dunstan's Eve.

The church being seriously damaged in the Great Fire, Wren was employed to repair it. The lofty spire mentioned by Newcourt had gone, and Wren erected the present curious one, supported on four arched ribs—an idea taken from the church of St. Nicholas, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a fine Gothic building of the fifteenth century.

Mr. Godwin complains that though this church was one of Wren's best works in the Pointed style, yet still that the mouldings of the tower are too Italian, the clock-case out of character, and the sunk panels on the pinnacles very shallow and tame. Another critic calls the old St. Dunstan's a molehill compared to the Newcastle "Mountain," the latter tower being twenty feet less in width, much higher, and with two storeys more. Nevertheless, Wren was proud of this church; and being told one morning that a hurricane had damaged many London spires, he remarked, "Not St. Dunstan's, I am quite sure." There is a vulgar tradition about the shape of this steeple, which cannot be given here.

In digging the foundations for the present church the workmen found immense walls of chalk and rubble stretching in all directions, especially northwards, where the monks are supposed to have dwelt. Opposite there was a bricked-up porch, which had been used as a bonehouse. The old Purbeck marble floor was worn away several inches by the monks' sandals, and there were in the same porch some side benches of stone, and a curious window with four columns. Glazed tiles of the old church-floor were found two feet below the pavement, and at the east end fragments of a large mullioned window.

In the interior Wren washed his hands of the Gothic, using Doric and Corinthian columns, and circular-headed windows with key-stones. In 1810 the church became ruinous, the roof of the nave thrusting out the wall seven inches. Mr. Laing then prepared plans for a new church, which was begun in 1817, and opened in 1821. This modern Gothic building cost about £36,000. The eastend window is of the florid Perpendicular style, and is said to be an exact copy of the one discovered in pulling down the old building. The roof of the centre aisle is remarkable for some elegant fan-groining, and the side aisles have flat panelled ceilings in the corrupt Gothic style of fifty years ago.

The register-books of St. Dunstan's, which date back as far as 1558, escaped the Great Fire, and are in a fine state of preservation. The church contains many tablets of the seventeenth century, and one large monument on the south side of the church to Sir William Russel, a charitable London alderman, who died in 1705. The worthy man, in flowing Queen Anne wig, shoes, and buckles, lies on his left side, regretting the thirteen shillings he left the sexton of St. Dunstan's for ever, to keep his monument clean. Strype mentions the tomb of Alderman James, who, before the Reformation, left large sums to this church for his funeral, and for chanting priests. At his interment ten men of the brotherhood of Jesus, in this church, were to carry six-pound torches of wax, and six shillings and eightpence was given to every priest and clerk for singing dirge and mass of requiem, till "his month's mind were finished."

That excellent man and delightful writer, Fuller, mentions St. Dunstan's-in-the-East when talking of his singular gift of memory. It is said that Fuller could "repeat five hundred strange words after twice hearing them, and could make use of a sermon verbatim, if he once heard it." Still further, it is said that he undertook, in passing from Temple Bar to the extremity of Cheapside, to tell, at his return, every sign as it stood in order on both sides of the way (repeating them either backwards or forwards), and that he performed the task exactly. This is pretty well, considering that in that day every shop had its sign. That many, however, of the reports respecting his extraordinary memory were false or exaggerated, may be gathered from an amusing anecdote recorded by himself. "None alive," says he, "ever heard me pretend to the art of memory, who in my book ('Holy State') have decried it as a trick, no art; and, indeed, is more of fancy than memory. I confess, some years since, when I came out of the pulpit of St. Dunstan's East, one (who since wrote a book thereof) told me in the vestry before credible people, that he, in Sidney College, had taught me the art of memory. I returned unto him, That it was not so, for I could not remember that I had ever seen him before! which, I conceive, was a real refutation."


At the lower end of a street now no longer existing, named the Vineyard, in the neighbourhood of the Tower, there used to be the basis of a Roman tower, about eight feet high, supporting a building of three storeys, in the wall of which was fixed a large stone, with the following inscription:—

"Glory be to God on high, who was graciously pleased to preserve the lives of all the people in this house, twelve in number, when the ould wall of the bulwark fell down three stories high, and so broad as three carts might enter a breast, and yet without any harm to anie of their persones. The Lord sanctify this his great providence unto them. Amen and Amen.

"It was Tuesday, the 23rd September, 1651."

One of the most interesting places on Tower Hill, next to the Mint (on whose site, by-the-bye, once stood a tobacco warehouse), is Trinity House, a corporation for the increase and encouragement of navigation, the examination of pilots, the regulation of lighthouses and buoys, and, indeed, all naval matters not under the express jurisdiction of the Admiralty.

The old Trinity House stood in Water Lane, Lower Thames Street, a little north-west of the Custom House; the spot is now Trinity Chambers. Hatton, in 1708, describes the second house, built after the Great Fire, as "a stately building of brick and stone (adorned with ten bustos), built anno 1671." Pepys, who lived close by, mentions going to see Tower Street on fire, from Trinity House on one side to the "Dolphin" Tavern on the other. This ancient and useful guild was founded by Sir Thomas Spert, Comptroller of the Navy to Henry VIII., and commander of the Great Eastern of that age, the Harry Grace de Dieu, a huge gilt four-master, in which Henry VIII. sailed to Calais, on his way to the Field of the Cloth of Gold. It was incorporated in 1529, by the name of "The Master, Wardens, and Assistants of the Guild, or Fraternity, or Brotherhood of the Most Glorious and Undividable Trinity, and of St. Clement, in the parish of Deptford Strond, in the county of Kent," and the mother house, pulled down in 1787, was situated at Deptford. In 1680 its first lighthouse was erected, all lighthouses which had previously existed on the English coast having been built by private individuals, under a patent from the Crown. It was not till the year 1854 that the private rights in light-dues were abolished, and the exclusive right of lighting and buoying the coast given over to the Trinity House Board. They also bind and enroll apprentices to the sea; examine the mathematical boys of Christ's Hospital; examine mathematical masters for the navy; and place and alter all the buoys, beacons, and sea-marks along the English coast. By an Act passed in the 8th Elizabeth, they also survey the channel of the Thames and other ports. To them once belonged the power of ballasting all ships going out of the Thames, the ballast to be taken from the more dangerous shelves, and where the river needed deepening; and, at request of masters, they could also certify to goods "damnified" by evil stowing. They gave licences to poor, aged, and maimed mariners to row "upon the river of Thames" without licence from the Watermen's Company. They could prevent foreigners serving on board our ships without licence; they heard and determined complaints by officers and men in the merchant service; and, lastly, they could punish seamen for mutiny and desertion.


The Trinity House bye-laws of the reign of James II. contain some curious regulations. Every master homeward bound, for instance, was to unshot his guns at Gravesend, on penalty of twenty nobles.

The corporation consists of a master, deputymaster, thirty-one elder brethren, and an unlimited number of humbler members. In Pennant's time it consisted of a master, four wardens, eight assistants, and eighteen elder brethren, and they seem to have been known as "the Thirty-one Brethren." The elder brothers are generally selected from old commanders in the navy and merchant service; and now and then a compliment is paid to a prince or a nobleman who could not, perhaps, steer a collier to Newcastle. The revenue of the corporation, about £300,000 a year, arises from tonnage, ballastage, beaconage, and licensing pilots; and this sum, after defraying the expenses of lighthouses, and paying off the portion of the debt incurred by the purchase of all existing private rights in lighthouses, is chiefly expended in maintaining poor disabled seamen and their widows and orphans, by pensions in the corporation hospital at Deptford Strand, which the master and brethren visit in their state yacht, in grand procession, on Trinity Monday.

The powers of the Trinity House in old times are fully described by Strype. They decided on maritime cases referred to them by the Admiralty judges; they examined and gave certificates to masters of the navy; they examined pilots for the royal navy and for the merchant service. Bumboats with fruit, wine, and strong waters were not permitted by them to board vessels. Every mariner who swore, cursed, or blasphemed on board ship, was by their rules to pay one shilling to the ship's poor-box. Every mariner who got drunk was fined one shilling. No mariner, unless sick, could absent himself from prayers without forfeiting sixpence.

The previous building is shortly dismissed by Pennant with the remark that it was unworthy of the greatness of its design. The present Trinity House was built in 1793–5, by Samuel Wyatt. It is of the Ionic order. On its principal front are sculptured the arms of the corporation (a cross between four ships under sail), medallions of George III. and Queen Charlotte, genii with nautical instruments, the four principal lighthouses on the coast, &c.

The interior contains busts of Vincent, Nelson, Howe, and Duncan; William Pitt, and Captain J. Cotton, by Chantrey; George III., by Turnerelli, &c. The Court-room is decorated with impersonations of the Thames, Medway, Severn, and Humber; and among the pictures is a fine painting, twenty feet long, by Gainsborough, of the elder brethren of Trinity House. In the Boardroom are portraits of James I. and II., Elizabeth, Anne of Denmark, Earl Craven, Sir Francis Drake, Sir J. Leake, and General Monk; King William IV., the Prince Consort, and the Duke of Wellington, three of the past masters; and George III., Queen Charlotte, and Queen Adelaide.

Of one of the portraits Pennant gives a pleasant biography. "The most remarkable picture," says the London historian, "is that of Sir John Leake, with his lank grey locks, and a loose night-gown, with a mien very little indicative of his high courage and active spirit. He was the greatest commander of his time, and engaged in most actions of note during the reigns of King William and Queen Anne. To him was committed the desperate but successful attempt of breaking the boom, previous to the relief of Londonderry. He distinguished himself greatly at the battle of La Hogue; assisted at the taking of Gibraltar; and afterwards, as Commanderin-Chief, reduced Barcelona, took Carthagena, and brought Sardinia and Minorca to submit to Charles, rival to Philip for the crown of Spain. He was made a Lord of the Admiralty, but declined the offer of being the head of the commission; at the accession of George I., averse to the new family, he retired, but with the approving pension of £600 a year. He lived privately at Greenwich, where he died in 1720, and was buried in a manner suitable to his merits, in the church at Stepney."

The museum contains a flag taken from the Spanish Armada by Sir Francis Drake, a model of the Royal William, 150 years old, and two colossal globes, given by Sir Thomas Allan, admiral to Charles II.; pen-and-ink views of sea-fights (the same period), and models of lighthouses, floating lights, and lifeboats.

The office of the master of the corporation, at various times, has been held by princes and statesmen. From 1816, when Lord Liverpool occupied the office of master, it was held in succession by the Marquis Camden, the Duke of Clarence (afterwards William IV.), Marquis Camden again, the Duke of Wellington, the Prince Consort, and Viscount Palmerston. The present master is the Duke of Edinburgh.

Behind the houses in Trinity Square, in George Street, Tower Hill, stands one of the four remaining portions of the old London wall. We have already mentioned it in our chapter on Roman London.