Sectional preface

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 2, West London. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1925.

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'Sectional preface', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 2, West London, (London, 1925), pp. 1-5. British History Online [accessed 13 June 2024].

. "Sectional preface", in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 2, West London, (London, 1925) 1-5. British History Online, accessed June 13, 2024,

. "Sectional preface", An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 2, West London, (London, 1925). 1-5. British History Online. Web. 13 June 2024,

In this section

LONDON, Vol. II (West).


(i) Earthworks, etc., Prehistoric and Later.

The earthworks of W. London are comparatively unimportant. They include mounds in St. Pancras and Wandsworth, a large moated enclosure at Fulham Palace, now mostly obliterated, and some miscellaneous earthworks, of which the "New River" is the most important. This scheme for supplying London with water was initiated by Sir Hugh Middleton and begun in 1608; after some delay the system was completed and the water let into the basin at Clerkenwell in 1613. The "New River," as it was called, starts at Chadwell Springs, between Hertford and Ware, and follows the Lea Valley, entering the County of London in the Borough of Stoke Newington. From thence, to the Head in Rosebery Avenue, Finsbury, the river passes through the district dealt with in the present volume. The reservoirs have been altered and the main round reservoir partly built over in recent years; the channel also only in part follows its original course. The lake in St. James' Park represents in position the artificial "River" begun in 1660, but its form has been completely altered.

(ii) Roman Remains.

The few Roman remains found in W. London owe any significance they possess to their proximity to Londinium and, in consequence, their consideration will be postponed until the larger subject is dealt with in London, Vol. III.

(iii) Ecclesiastical and Secular Architecture. Building Materials: Stone, Brick, etc.

The area embraced by the first volume of London includes the anciently suburban parishes immediately adjoining the city on the W., N.W. and S.W.; the methods and material of construction naturally follow very closely those employed in the city itself and, in consequence, are little governed by the natural and geographical conditions of the surrounding counties. London has no native building-stone, but has always been rich enough to import it—in the Middle Ages from Normandy, Northamptonshire and Surrey, and in later times from Portland and elsewhere. Brick does not seem to have been employed before the 15th century, but the great mass of secular building after the Great Fire (1666) was in this material; previous to this date most of the houses were no doubt of timber, but the expansion of London and the exigencies of modern conditions have reduced the number of timber-structures now surviving in the area to comparatively few.

Ecclesiastical Buildings.

With very few exceptions the mediaeval parish churches of W. London have been partly or wholly rebuilt and the exceptions have been so drastically restored as to be of little architectural interest. Fifteenth-century towers survive at Putney, Fulham, Lambeth and St. Clement Danes, and at Putney there is a small reconstructed chapel with a fan-vault of c. 1530. The one ecclesiastical monument of prime importance in the district, Westminster Abbey, has been dealt with in a separate volume.

The former round nave of the church of the Hospitallers at Clerkenwell, of which there are some remains, was one of a comparatively small class of buildings modelled on the plan of the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. A second example, the church of the Old Temple, formerly existed in the borough of Holborn, but of this there are now no visible remains. The still existing church of the New Temple will be dealt with in the succeeding volume.

Seventeenth and early 18th-century church-building is best represented by the rebuilt St. Paul's, Covent Garden, Inigo Jones' design; by two churches of Sir Christopher Wren, St. Clement Danes and St. James, Piccadilly, and by St. Mary le Strand. Other work of the period includes the nave and tower of Chelsea Old Church.

Private chapels include a 13th-century example at Lambeth Palace, the early 14th-century chapel of the Bishops of Ely in Holborn, the 16th-century chapel of Gray's Inn, the 16th-century chapel of St. James' Palace, the early 17th-century chapel of Lincoln's Inn and the late 17th-century Marlborough Chapel and Chelsea Hospital Chapel; the first two are excellent works of their period, and the chapel of Lincoln's Inn is a remarkable example of Jacobean Gothic. The 14th-century crypt of St. Stephen's Chapel, Westminster, also survives.

Monastic and Collegiate Buildings.

Apart from the abbey of St. Peter, Westminster, the chief monastic houses in the district are the Charterhouse and the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem at Clerkenwell, both retaining considerable remains of their mediaeval buildings. There was also a small Benedictine Nunnery at Kilburn, of which a fragment of a brass is the only survival. The hospital of St. Giles in the Fields and St. Mary Rousevall have left no remains, but it is possible that portions of St. James' Hospital may be incorporated in Henry VIII's Palace, and a wing of the Savoy Hospital (now Savoy Chapel) is still standing. The College of St. Stephen, Westminster, still retains the crypt of its chapel and its cloister, both much restored.

Post-Reformation collegiate buildings are all of the 17th or early 18th centuries and include Charles II's great foundation of Chelsea Hospital, the Bluecoat and Greycoat Schools at Westminster, and Sutton's foundation at the Charterhouse.

Another type of collegiate building is represented by the Inns of Court and Chancery. Of these, Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn and Staple Inn are included in the present volume.

Secular Buildings.

The secular buildings of W. London are of particular importance; they include the royal palaces of Westminster, St. James, Whitehall, and Kensington, the episcopal palaces of Lambeth and Fulham, and large houses such as Holland House, Kensington, and Lindsey House, Chelsea, besides the collegiate establishments mentioned in the previous paragraph.

The earliest of these buildings is the great hall at Westminster, substantially that of William Rufus, remodelled and re-roofed by Richard II. It is probably the largest ancient building roofed with timber in one span in the world. Lambeth Palace has work of the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 17th centuries, and Fulham Palace is largely of early 16th-century date. The great hall at the Charterhouse and the Wash House Court adjoining are also works of the 16th century. St. James' Palace is mainly of the time of Henry VIII, and, though much altered, retains its gatehouse and chapel. Other Tudor gatehouses survive at Lambeth Palace, St. John's, Clerkenwell, and Lincoln's Inn. At Whitehall are remains of the buildings of Wolsey and Henry VIII. The late 15th-century hall of Lincoln's Inn is the first of a new series of secular halls that extended through the 16th century, and of which those of Staple Inn (1581) and Gray's Inn (c. 1556) are included in the present volume. Later halls include Inigo Jones' Palladian Banqueting House at Whitehall and Archbishop Juxon's hall at Lambeth. Purely domestic work of Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, of which so many examples formerly existed in the Strand, is now poorly represented except by the great mansion of Holland House (1605), Canonbury House, Islington, and some interesting fragments of Bolingbroke House, Battersea. Of the last quarter of the 17th and the early years of the 18th century there are numerous examples, of which Kensington Palace; Lindsey House, Chelsea; Newcastle House, Lincoln's Inn Fields; Roehampton House, Putney; and Harrington House, Craig's Court, are the most important. The chambers surrounding the new squares at Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn are also of this period. Of smaller domestic work of the same type the best examples are Queen Anne's Gate, Westminster, parts of Cheyne Walk and Cheyne Row, Chelsea.


Altars: There is a small altar-slab with five consecration crosses at St. Pancras, and a larger slab without crosses at St. Clement Danes.

Bells: There is one mediaeval bell, that belonging to the Rolls Chapel.

Brasses: The brasses in the district are mostly of little interest except the quadrangular Flemish plate to Margaret Hornbolt, c. 1529, at Fulham, with a bust in a shroud, a 16th-century figure of a woman in a heraldic mantle at Lambeth, and an armed figure, of 1420, at Wandsworth. The head of a 15th-century brass of a nun, from Kilburn Priory, is preserved at St. Mary, Kilburn, and there are interesting palimpsest brasses at Islington.

Communion Tables: The Jacobean table in the Charterhouse chapel is a noteworthy example. There are late 17th-century communion tables at Lambeth, and St. James', Piccadilly. The latter church has also elaborate communion rails of the same date and of marble and cast bronze.

Fireplaces: The earliest fireplaces of importance are those in the Palace of St. James, dating from c. 1540. Enriched Elizabethan and Jacobean fireplaces and overmantels are still to be seen at the Charterhouse, Finsbury; Holland House, Kensington; and Canonbury House, and there are less important examples at St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell, and Lincoln's Inn. The late 17th-century work at Kensington Palace includes a curious overmantel with a wind-dial, and there is an elaborate overmantel of the same period at New River Head, Finsbury. Small fireplaces of the Queen Anne type are numerous throughout the district.

Fonts: The most important fonts are the 17th-century marble series of Renaissance design at St. Margaret Westminster; St. James Piccadilly; Fulham, Hammersmith, St. Clement Danes, and St. Martin in the Fields; of these the finest is that at St. James', which is enriched with elaborate carving. The fonts at Chelsea and St. Martin's are dated 1673 and 1689, respectively, and that at St. Margaret's is by Nicholas Stone.

Glass: The best example of painted glass is the magnificent Flemish crucifixion in the E. window of St. Margaret's, Westminster; it is said to have been given by the town of Dort to Henry VII. Another fine example of foreign work is the Jesse Tree in St. George's, Hanover Square; it is of early to mid 16th-century date and was formerly in a church at Mechlin. A third example of foreign glass, of inferior workmanship, is in the church of St. John the Evangelist, Westminster. Of later glass the best is the series of figures dated 1623, (one signed Bernard Van Ling), in the Chapel of Lincoln's Inn. There is also much late heraldic glass in the Inn as well as at Gray's Inn, Staple Inn, Lambeth and Fulham Palaces. There is a panel of doubtful date and little importance at Lambeth Church.

Monuments: There is a 14th-century armed effigy with a mutilated canopy at Streatham, and a very fine canopied tomb, with three effigies to John Holand, Earl of Exeter, 1447, at St. Katherine, Regent's Park. In the Record Office (formerly in the Rolls Chapel) is a purely Italian monument in stone and terra-cotta, by Torrigiani, to Dr. J. Yong (1516).

Later monumental art is best represented by monuments with effigies to Marie Howard (1600) in St. Margaret's, Westminster; to Lord Dacre (1594) in Chelsea Old Church; to Edward Lord Bruce (1610), formerly in the Rolls Chapel; and to Thomas Sutton (1611) in the Chapel of the Charterhouse. This and a small tablet in the same Chapel are by Nicholas Stone.

Paintings: Except for painted ceilings there are few examples of this form of decoration in the district. Marlborough House, however, has large wallpaintings of the victories of the Duke of Marlborough, by Laguerre, and there are painted decorations attributed to Francis Clein at Holland House. Painted ceilings survive at St. James' Palace, Whitehall, Norfolk House, Roehampton House, Great Russell Street and elsewhere.

Plaster-work: There are several notable examples of plaster ceilings in the district; those at Charterhouse, Holland House, Canonbury House and Bolingbroke House belong to the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods and there are good ceilings of later character at Whitehall, New River Head and Chelsea Hospital.

Plate: The church-plate of the district is very largely of 17th-century date, but there are a few pieces of the 16th century. These include the following cups: St. Margaret's, Westminster, of 1551 and of unusual form; Gray's Inn Chapel, of 1583, and Kensington, of 1599. There are also two flagons, of 1583, at St. Margaret's, Westminster, and patens at the same church and Gray's Inn Chapel, of 1586 and 1583, respectively. A few pieces of secular plate now belong to churches in the district and these include a rosewater dish, perhaps of 1537, at Kensington, and a handsome standing-cup, of 1629, at Hampstead. The 17th-century church-plate includes the large and handsome set at St. James' Palace, some pieces of which are of gold; an enriched alms-dish and other pieces at St. James', Piccadilly, a repoussé alms-dish at St. Margaret's, Westminster, and a good set at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. There is a remarkable Portuguese chalice at Lambeth Palace, given in 1690 to the Cistercian Abbey of Alcobaça, and, at St. John's, Clerkenwell, an early 16th-century S. French or Spanish chalice and a 15th or early 16th-century Italian processional cross, both belonging to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

Pulpits: There are pulpits of the first half of the 17th century, at St. Katherine, Regent's Park, and at Streatham Parish Church. Late 17th-century examples are to be found at Chelsea Old Church, Chelsea Hospital, St. Clement Danes, St. Anne's Soho, St. Mark's and the Parish Church, Hammersmith, and at St. Dionis, Fulham; the two last came from city churches.

Reredoses: Late 17th-century oak reredoses of interest remain at St. James', Piccadilly, and St. Clement Danes.

Screens: The only ecclesiastical screen-work in the district is that in the chapel of the Charterhouse, dating from early in the 17th century, and that in the chapel at Lambeth Palace, of slightly later date. Of secular screens there survives a remarkably fine series in the halls of Gray's Inn (c. 1556), the Charterhouse (1571), Staple Inn (1581), and Lincoln's Inn (early 17th-century).

Staircases: There is a large newel staircase of the 15th century in the Lollards' Tower at Lambeth Palace. The Charterhouse, Canonbury House, and Holland House have late 16th and early 17th-century staircases of considerable interest and there are later 17th-century and early 18th-century examples of distinction at Kensington Palace, Marlborough House and Roehampton House. Less important work of the same period is represented by numerous examples, of which mention may be made of those at Russell House, Streatham, Queen Anne's Gate, Cheyne Row and Walk, Chelsea, Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn and various houses at Hampstead and Highgate. A staircase at Kensington Palace and two at Marlborough House have wrought-iron balustrades; the former is the work of Jean Tijou.

Stalls: The stalls of St. Katherine's by the Tower, now in the new chapel in Regent's Park, are remarkably fine specimens of late 14th-century carving.