The fabric of the church: Exterior, tower and bells

The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 2. Originally published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1921.

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'The fabric of the church: Exterior, tower and bells', in The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 2, (Oxford, 1921) pp. 106-128. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section


Each century, since the foundation, is more or less represented in the exterior of the church.

Of the twelfth century there only remain portions of two buttresses and of the wall of the south side of the quire and the lower part of the walls of the south chapel (pl. LXV, p. 126). On the north side there is a small portion of the wall of the east bay of the nave which was uncovered in 1914 (see pl. LIV).

Of the thirteenth century there is the clerestory window and an arch of the ground arcade in the same bay of the nave but formerly inside the church (see pl. LIV); also the south-west portal in Smithfield, with a fragment of the west front adjoining (see pl. XXIV b, p. 18).

Of the fourteenth century there are the buttresses and portions of the wall of the Lady Chapel (pl. LXIV, p. 122).

Of the fifteenth century there can be seen small portions of the ends of the square east wall on either side of the present apse and portions of the masonry between the clerestory windows.

To the sixteenth century some of the brickwork on the wall of the east end of the north ambulatory and of the south ambulatory may be attributed, as well as the lower portions of the wall of the prior's house.

Of the seventeenth century there remains the brick tower (see pl. XXI b, p. 14) and the brick wall of the north triforium.

Of the eighteenth century the rough coping of the quire alone remains, as the round-headed east windows were removed in 1885.

The greater part of the exterior is of the nineteenth century. At the west end there is the flint casing of the west front (see pl. LIV), and the west porch (see pl. LV, p. 107); the north transept and the north porch (see pl. LVIII, p. 118); the windows of the north quire aisle; the windows and the flint casing of the Lady Chapel walls between the buttresses (see pl. LXIV, p. 122); the south transept and south porch (see pl. XXI b, p. 14).

Of the present century there are the casing of the greater part of the east wall of the south quire aisle, parts of the south wall, the south chapel (see pl. LXV, p. 126) and the south triforium.

Of the design of the exterior of Rahere's church nothing is really known, though it has been the subject of conjecture: (fn. 1) The seal of the priory used by Rahere in 1137 (Vol. I, pl. XIII, p. 318) represents a church which may or may not be intended for a representation of the church built by him. (fn. 2) Three towers are shown with conical roofs and projecting eaves. The central tower is larger than the others; it is surmounted by a large cross and has two windows. The western tower is shown on this side of the roof, the other two on the farther side of it; which may be intended to convey the idea of three western towers as at Ely, or a central tower at the crossing and two western towers. We know there were one or more turrets, as in 1914 the stones forming the upper portion of one were found on the site of the north transept. This may have been similar to that at Romsey at the north-west corner of the north transept, which was built at the same time as that of St. Bartholomew's. It gave access to the roof as does the present turret at St. Bartholomew's in the same position on the new transept.

The seal represents the south side of a church (fn. 3) with apparently two or more windows and an eastern chapel lower than the rest of the church with one window only and a large cross on the gable. The eastern end is square, not apsidal. The roofs of both buildings are high pitched, hung with large tiles or stones, with overhanging eaves.

A later seal used in 1242 (fn. 4) also shows towers with conical roofs as in the first seal. These towers are built in three stories with windows in each story, and there is also a circular central tower with windows in the upper story. On the reverse of the seal a central tower is again shown; this time it is castellated and carries a crocketed spire surmounted by a cross (Vol. I, pl. XIII, p. 318).

The reader must form his own conclusions as to whether or not these representations of a church on the seals are entirely conventional, bearing in mind that it was customary to depict a building on a seal in the style in vogue at the time, so that the style of architecture on a seal is a more reliable guide to the approximate date when the seal was engraved than to the date when the building it depicts was erected. This custom was followed at St. Bartholomew's to the last, for the seal of the Dominicans, set up here by Queen Mary in 1556, shows a canopy supported by pilasters in the Renaissance style.

However, we have evidence that there was a south-west tower to the façade facing Smithfield, (fn. 5) and it is very probable that there was also a corresponding tower at the north-west corner, for that was the fashion in the twelfth century, as at Southwell, St. Albans, Durham, Ripon, and Tewkesbury. Wyngaerde's map shows small turrets also at the corners of what is probably intended to represent the quire (pl. LVI a, p. 110).

The West Front.

The west wall of the present church was erected in the year 1543 and cased with flint and stone in 1893 (see pl. LIV, p. 106). We have already referred (fn. 6) to the payment made in the former year of £80 from the Augmentation funds by Henry VIII 'for repairs to the late priory', which would have been sufficient for building this wall and filling in the north transept arch; for the work was done in the meanest possible manner. The wall is probably built (fn. 7) on the west wall of the pulpitum and composed of such pieces of the ruins of the nave as the king had not carted away to his works then in progress.

It has now a plain flat gable to correspond with the pitch of the roof, but at first it was battlemented and possibly of a higher pitch; for there is a bricklayer's bill of the year 1720, a year when much money was spent on the church, which includes (fn. 8) 'for taking down and rebuilding of battlement wall at the west end of the church to the level of the beam that lies over the great window £12'. Then or at some previous time the wall had been plastered, for in the year 1836 a committee of the vestry reported (fn. 9) 'that it was necessary for the west front to be stripped of plaster and cemented in compo.'

In the centre of the wall was one large window, divided into four lights by three plain unmoulded mullions, and one similar transome. Below the window was the west door which is shown in the engraving dedicated to Sir Hans Sloane in 1737 (pl. XXI a, p. 14); but there was a porch in the seventeenth century, for in the year 1620 Strype says 'the porch at the west end was rebuilt, and in 1632 it was repaired and beautified'. (fn. 10) In 1715 the vestry 'ordered the churchwarden to pull down the church porch in the great churchyard and rebuild it', (fn. 11) but no porch is shown in the Hans Sloane engraving.

In the year 1864 a square plain porch was built and an oak door set on the south side of it. There was a small two-light window beside the door, shown in the engraving, and a large buttress on the north end of the west face of the wall. When in 1864 an excavation was made to form a dry area round the church, there was found below this buttress the base of the nave pier, which is still left exposed (see pl. XL, p. 45). It shows thirteenth-century work on its west side, though twelfth-century work on the east side.

In the year 1893, when the present porch was built, this west wall was faced with flint and stone and the large window was built up to strengthen the wall (fn. 12) (pl. LIV, p. 106). It has now, in the upper half, a mural arcade of three arches; the two side ones are pierced with narrow lancet windows to light the organ loft. Above the arcading is a circular traceried window set in a narrow band of stone work which extends from side to side. Below the arcading is a wide band of chequer pattern flint and stone work with a wide expanse of plain flint work below. The buttress already mentioned on the left and the porch built in 1864 are both faced with flint and stone in the same way.

The West Porch.

Adjoining this newly faced work and standing in front of the base of the seventeenth-century tower is the new west porch (pl. LV, p. 107). This was built by Sir Aston Webb in 1893. It is in two stories and is built in Portland stone and flint throughout. The lower story is of flint with stone dressings in which is placed an arched stone doorway, with a broad band of chequer work in the upper portion. On the jambs of this doorway are two short cylindrical shafts with finely carved projecting base mouldings; by the side of these and on the jambs the outer orders of the arch die away into the masonry. The hood mould rises from foliated corbels on which is carved the date of the building, '18' on the one and '93' on the other; it ends below the string of the upper story in a broad and heavily foliated finial.

The upper story is divided into seven panels. In the central one is a carved figure of Rahere holding a model of his church in his right hand. On the pedestal below the figure is a shield of the arms of the priory with angels as supporters. The canopy over the head of the figure is cusped, with open tracery above. It is then carried upward as a slender shaft and, penetrating the moulding above and passing through the cornice of the battlement, terminates in a foliated finial in the form of a Greek cross. This upper story forms a boldly battlemented gable in such a way that the other six panels which fill the gable decline from the central one. In two of the panels windows are inserted; the remaining four are blind with hollowed backs decorated with bands of flint and stone. On either side of the outer panels is a square shaft, set at an angle, the base of which penetrates the string running between the two stories; the upper part penetrates the end of the string running immediately above the panels and also the end of the cornice of the battlement, above which it projects and terminates in a moulded conical-shaped cap.

The stone string between the two stories is ornamented with two shields midway between the centre panel and the sides of the porch; on one is the number '11', on the other the number '23'—being the date of the foundation. There is a handsome leaden hopper to the rainwater pipe on the south side.

The Tower and Bells.

As the present tower forms part of the west front of the parish church it may, together with the monastic tower and bells, be conveniently dealt with here.

It has been stated that there is nothing in the present building to show for certain that there ever was a tower over the crossing, (fn. 13) but the massive character of the piers of the crossing puts it beyond doubt that the original intention was to build a central tower, and that this was carried out is shown by the record, previously referred to, (fn. 14) that in the year 1264 'by a flash of lightning a part was struck down of the belfry of St. Bartholomew's, London'; (fn. 15) and that in the year 1409 the pope stated that he understood that the prior had rebuilt the bell tower. There is also in the Hastings MSS., (fn. 16) in the year 1442, a drawing of Sir John Astley's fight with Philip Boyle in Smithfield, in the background of which is shown a church which, though of the usual conventional type, is intended to indicate St. Bartholomew's church or hospital, and it is shown with a central tower (see Vol. I, pl. VIII, p. 218); no reliance, however, can be placed on drawings of this kind. In favour of the opinion that, if carried out, the tower was not rebuilt over the crossing in 1405, is the evidence of the great weakness of the north-east pier, which would have rendered such a proceeding dangerous: also that in Wyngaerd's panorama of London, (fn. 17) c. 1543 (i.e. after the nave had been destroyed but the crossing left), no central tower is shown, whilst a central tower is shown to the church of the hospital; neither is there any reference to the demolition of the tower in the king's grant to Rich. Wyngaerde, however, does show a large tower standing on the north side of the church; and Agas's map (see pl. LVI b, p. 110), which dates from after 1563, also shows what looks like a truncated tower on the north side, but no central tower. This tower on the north side was evidently the parochial steeple, which Stow says was repaired in 1603, and which Strype in his edition of Stow (fn. 18) says was pulled down 'to the very foundations' in 1628, when the present tower was built.

The above evidence, though not conclusive, seems to justify the view that there was in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century a central tower; that it was damaged by lightning in 1264; that it was repaired and remained until towards the end of the fourteenth century, when it was either destroyed by the earthquake of 1382, (fn. 19) or taken down because of the settlement in the north-east pier of the crossing; that it was then not considered safe to rebuild the tower over the crossing, so a bell tower was built, as the pope said, not in its old position, but on the north side of the church, either as a monastic bell tower or as a parochial bell tower to Roger Walden's new parish church. In the former case the whole ring of eleven bells may have been hung there; in the latter case our present five parochial bells only may have been hung there, as already suggested, (fn. 20) the monastic bells being hung perhaps in a tower of the west façade. If two arches of the crossing were rebuilt without the intention of replacing the tower that would be sufficient cause for there being now no signs left of an original tower.

The Augustinian churches of Bristol, Hexham, Oxford, and Waltham all have central towers. Evesham Abbey and Chichester Cathedral both have separate bell towers.

The rebuilding of the present tower at St. Bartholomew's in 1628 was due to the initiative of Sir Henry Martyn, judge of the Admiralty Court, who subscribed £50 to the work (pl. XXI b, p. 14). The Earl of Holland, Earl Bolingbroke, the Earl of Westmorland, Lady Saye and Sele, Sir Heneage Finch, Sir Christopher Hatton, and Sir Henry Wallop were among the subscribers, a full list of whom will be found in the Appendix. (fn. 21) It is built over the east bay of the south aisle of the nave, that is at the south-west corner of the present church, and stands three feet in front of the west wall. It measures on the ground level 19 ft. from north to south and 24 ft. from east to west. It is 74 ft. 6 in. from the present church floor level to the top of the battlements, or 68 ft. from the churchyard level when the tower was built. It is built in brick with a stone string-course below the battlements, and is in four floors with buttresses to the height of the two lower ones.

Internally the ground floor is occupied by the aisle. It opens into the cloister, the nave, the west porch, and the south transept. The first floor is the west bay of the triforium of the nave. The second floor covers the outer wall of the east bay of the clerestory of the nave, the window of which opens into it. The bells are in the floor above from which access is obtained to the roof. The ringing chamber is on the first floor.

Externally the ground floor and part of the first floor are concealed by the west porch, built in 1893. The earliest view that we have is the Hans Sloane engraving of 1737 (see pl. XXI a, p. 14). (fn. 22) It shows, on the ground floor, a central round-headed doorway in which the present cloister doors appear. In front of this is a small portico with a pediment. Above, on either side, are two small windows which used to open into the chamber of the first floor. Between these, during the restoration of 1864, a doorway was formed, approached by a wooden ladder from the church path. (fn. 23) Higher, but still opening into the same chamber, is a round-headed window divided into three lights by two debased mullions; there is a similar window in the second story. In the third, or bell story, there is a window very similar to the one below, but it is divided into four lights, and is unglazed. There is a stone string above the first, second, and third stories. The tower is surmounted by battlements with an open wooden bell turret on the roof. In the engraving the turret is shown supported by four braces, which have since disappeared. The bell there shown was probably the 'Saints' or Sanctus bell, mentioned several times in the churchwardens' accounts between 1687 and 1701. That bell was unfortunately replaced in the year 1815 by a heavier one on which the clock could strike the quarters. There is a vane shown on the turret, which was replaced in 1816 by a copper one, 9 ft. 6 in. high.

There is a clock immediately above the belfry window, the date of which is unknown, but in 1666 the churchwardens paid £4 2s. for mending it, and 'did take a bond of the clockmaker to make good the clock'.

The Bells in the Tower.

With the exception of the Sanctus bell mentioned above, the bells of the parish church remain as they were at the time of the suppression of the monastery. Mr. H. B. Walters, who contributes the following account of the bells, says that there is only one other church in the whole of England (St. Lawrence, Ipswich) which possesses more than four pre-reformation bells, and that a ring of five medieval bells should have survived in London is most remarkable. (fn. 24)

These five bells bear the following inscriptions:

1. + Sancte Bartholemeo Ora Pro Nobis

2. + Sancta Katerina + Ora Pro Nobis

3. + Sancta Anna + Ora Pro Nobis

4. + Sancte Iohannes Baptiste Ora Pro Nobis

5. + Sancte Petre Ora Pro Nobis

Figure 4:

Ornamental 'stop' on bells

The inscriptions are in black letter 'minuscules', with Gothic capital letters as initials throughout. Each bell bears an initial cross, except the third, where the cross is placed in the middle of the inscription; and the first three bear in addition an ornamental 'stop', consisting of a pair of lozenges placed one above the other, flanked by two smaller lozenges. On the first this stop is at the end of the inscription; on the second, in the middle; and on the third it is in the place of the initial cross. The cross is not the same in each case; on the first, second and fifth it is in the form of a cross fleury in a square frame; on the other two bells it is in the form of a kind of double fleur-de-lis horizontally placed, rising from a stem which divides at the base in two curves. Further, each bell bears after the word Nobis a shield with the trade mark of the founder, a bell dependent from a transverse beam or stock, with the letters T b in the field.

These letters have been by general consent identified as the initials of Thomas Bullisdon, a founder of Aldgate, London, whose date is about 1500–1520. In the Churchwardens' Accounts of St. Mary-atHill (fn. 25) we find that in 1509–1510, 29s. 4d. was given in part payment for the 'grete bell' to one Bullisdon; and there are also items 'for wyn at the son when we comond wt bollisdo' tochyng the bell' and 'for a soper for the arbetryng betwene the parish and Bullisdon for ye bells'. It will be noted that his Christian name is not given; but inasmuch as two or three existing bells in Essex bearing the T. B. trade-mark can be dated on other grounds about 1505–1510, the presumption is that they are the work of Bullisdon, and that his Christian name was Thomas. We may therefore assume that the St. Bartholomew's bells were put up about the year 1510.

This Bullisdon was one of a long line of London bell-founders, working in Aldgate, who can be linked together by the use of certain stamps during a period of nearly 100 years. Among these stamps are the two initial crosses which have already been described. The cross-fleury occurs on a large number of bells usually assigned to Henry Jordan (1450–1465), and the other cross was introduced by a contemporary founder, who also uses the cross-fleury in conjunction with it. This founder may have been John Danyell, who cast the bells of King's College, Cambridge, in 1460, but was more likely a successor, whose name we do not know. The letters used by Bullisdon were also used by these earlier founders.

It is interesting to note that the treble bell is dedicated to the patron saint of the church. It is by no means the rule that medieval bells were thus dedicated, and more often the choice of a saint was determined by the dedication of a chantry or altar in the church. Where the patron saint was honoured, the tenor bell is usually the one chosen, but exceptions as here, are by no means infrequent. (fn. 26)

The dimensions of the five bells are as follows:

Diameter. Height. Circumference of crown. Circumference of waist. Thickness of sound bow.
inches. inches. inches. inches. inches.
1st 22 18½ 39 43 15/8
2nd 24 20 41 46 17/8
3rd 26½ 21½ 43 50 2
4th 29 23 51 57 21/8
5th 31 25 54 61 23/8

Before the Reformation St. Bartholomew's Priory apparently had two rings, a larger one of six, (fn. 27) which was sold to St. Sepulchre's, and this one of five bells. Two rings of bells were not an unknown feature in monastic churches; for instance, Shrewsbury Abbey (fn. 28) had 'five bells in the great steeple and five in the new steeple', described as 'of one accord'. The weights of the five in the new steeple were 11 cwt., 8 cwt., 6 cwt., 5 cwt. and 3 cwt. respectively and these approximate to the five bells at St. Bartholomew's; whilst the five in the great steeple weighed 30 cwt., 25 cwt., 22 cwt., 20 cwt. and 15 cwt. respectively, which may correspond to those sold to St. Sepulchre's. (fn. 29)

North and South Sides of the Church and of the Lady Chapel (in brief).

Of the three western bays of the nave wall nothing exists. Of the next six bays the wall remains up to the graveyard level only. The exterior of the north side of the church therefore now consists only of:

The Eastern bay of the nave uncovered in 1914.

The North transept built in 1893, with a large porch built at the same time.

Five bays of the quire, of which the ground story is in a sunk area which formed part of the Walden Chapel. The wall contains windows, and buttresses inserted in 1865 to support this quire wall. The triforium above is faced with brickwork of the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, with five windows, and formed the parochial schoolroom until 1889. The clerestory above dates from about 1405, but the tracery of the windows was inserted in 1865. East of the five bays of the quire is the brick stair turret of the early seventeenth century which gave access to the schoolmaster's house.

East of this is the large window of the north ambulatory and the apse built in 1886.

East of this again is the Lady Chapel of four bays each with a window and a buttress, but of the western buttress only the base remains. Portions of the wall date from 1335; the tracery of the windows dates from 1897.

The east end of the Lady Chapel dates from the same time, with the exception of about one square yard of wall, and the bases of a central and north-east buttress.

The south side of the Lady Chapel is similar to the north side, with the exception of an entrance door to the crypt in the second bay, and one to the Lady Chapel in the fourth bay. The buttresses, with the exception of the upper part of that of the fourth bay, which has been rebuilt, date from 1335; all between the buttresses is a restoration of 1897.

The east end of the south aisle of the quire consists below of sixteenth-century brickwork by Prior Bolton, with a window of the year 1865.

In the first bay of the quire wall is Prior Bolton's door, inserted in a red brick wall of the same date, but now faced with flint work; in the corner is a fourteenth-century latrine from Dr. Mirfield's chamber. The next two bays are occupied by Rahere's South Chapel; the lower part of the walls only are of his time; the upper part was built in 1914 to form a choir vestry. The fourth and fifth bays contain remains of twelfth - century buttresses; the walls were covered with rough bricks; a consequence of the fire of 1830. The triforium above is a restoration of 1891. The clerestory is similar to that on the north side.

The south transept and porch are by Sir Aston Webb in the latter year.

The bay of the nave is occupied on the ground level by the cloister and above by the seventeenth-century brick tower. Any remains there may be of the rest of the south wall of the nave are hidden by the 'Coach and Horses' public-house and by stables.

A detailed description of the exterior follows below.

North Wall of the Nave (in detail).

The easternmost bay of the nave, i.e. the westernmost bay of the monastic quire, is still standing. It was exposed to view when the house, No. 9 Cloth Fair, which had covered it for 320 years, was taken down in 1914 (pl. LIV, p. 106). The wall consists of an arch of the ground arcade and an arch of the triforium above, both dating from the twelfth century and both filled in with rubble and stones from the nave. The outer wall of the aisle and its vault, and of the triforium and its roof, were pulled down with the transept and nave at the time of the suppression: the clerestory remains intact, though greatly weather-worn. The ground arcade is six feet below the churchyard level. The thirteenth-century rib of the vault of the aisle, which protruded through the floor of the twelfth-century triforium, is visible. (fn. 30) In the clerestory the thirteenth-century window, which has already been described, (fn. 31) still remains, though the central mullions and jambs have perished and disappeared as to half their thickness. On the level of the upper part of this window, on its eastern side, is the small thirteenth-century window described previously. (fn. 32)

The North Transept.

This extended northward probably to the middle of the road-way. As it was entirely destroyed at the time of the suppression, the north arch of the crossing had to be walled up at that time and a window inserted in the filling. This wall, with the arch of the crossing and its supporting piers, formed the outside wall of the church at this point for a period of 350 years (plan, pl. LXII, p. 120). (fn. 33)

This patched ruin which served for a north wall until 1893, when the present shallow transept and porch were built, was only partly visible until then, because a small house, No. 9½ Cloth Fair, abutted on to the western pier of the transept arch; a shop and smithy, No. 10 Cloth Fair, obscured the lower part of the centre, and a third house, No. 11, obscured the eastern side.

A narrow passage—5 ft. wide—with Nos. 9½ and 10 Cloth Fair on the left side and with No. 9 on the right, gave access to the church after the suppression by a small narrow door (fig. 5, p. 128). No. 9 had thrown out a projecting window into this passage which at that point reduced the width to 4 ft.

The doorway itself only measured 3 ft. 10 in. It still remains inside the church and is referred to in Lord Holland's Rental of the year 1616 as the 'New Door'. Apparently it had a porch of some kind, for in the year 1713 the Vestry ordered 'the porch to be pulled down and rebuilt' (fn. 34) When the church floor was lowered, in the year 1865, this doorway was lowered to the church floor level and approached by a flight of nine steps, at the top of which was a gate (fig. 5, p. 128).

The shop, No. 10 Cloth Fair, was on the north side of No. 9½ and projected in that direction some 15 ft. beyond the front of No. 9. The shop front, being at the corner, looked down the Fair to Smithfield, as well as facing the Fair on the north side (pl. LXXXVIII b, p. 238). Next to the shop window eastward was the entrance to the blacksmith's forge, which extended past the back of No. 9½ to the arcading under the north transept arch, (fn. 35) at that time the external wall of the church. This house occupied part of the site of the north transept. It was purchased of Mr. F. G. Debenham in the year 1884 by the churchwardens and overseers of the parish for the sum of £1,120 (fn. 36) and conveyed to the rector and others for the restoration in 1887. (fn. 37)

No. 11 Cloth Fair stood upon a portion of the eastern side of the transept. Between it and No. 10 there was another narrow passage, only 5 ft. wide, at the end of which a flight of nineteen steps (fn. 38) led up to the west end of the north triforium and so through a door (fn. 39) into the boys' school. In the year 1865 the approach to the school was removed to the east end of the triforium to enable the arch at the west end of the north ambulatory of the quire to be opened. (fn. 40)

Although the site of No. 11 Cloth Fair was not required for the new transept the house projected so close to the church that the transept could not be built without acquiring the rights of light. This was therefore done in 1892, (fn. 41) and subsequently, the house being pulled down, the site was bought by the Corporation, together with such portion of the site of No. 10 as was not required for the new transept, and both were thrown into the public footway. (fn. 42)

The new transept (which is the work of Sir Aston Webb) was built in the year 1893, as already mentioned. It is in flint and stone in three stories. The ground story corresponds with the ground arcade of the church and projects 5 ft. to form a recess for the altar within. It has in front one short two-light window with cuspings.

The middle story corresponds with the triforium. The lower half is of flint and stone checker work; the upper is of plain split flints and does not project. It has two narrow one-light windows which light the triforium passage of the transept within. Both these stories are covered, as to their northern half, by the porch.

The third story corresponds with the clerestory and terminates in a gable on its north side. It has three lancet windows, with cuspings in the heads, and heavy hood mouldings which rise from floreated corbels. The centre window is longer than the others. The coping of the gable terminates at the apex in a Greek cross. Between the coping and the heads of the windows is a flat mural arcade declining on either side from the centre. It is built in Portland stone with a filling of split flints, and a similar but narrower band of arcading extends across the wall below the eaves.

The North Porch.

The porch, which projects 13 ft. 6 in., is in two stories (pl. LVIII). The portal is a slightly pointed arch, recessed into three orders, of which the two inner members spring from shafts on the jamb; the plinths of the shafts die into the main plinth of the doorway. The style of architecture generally follows that already described inside the transept. The hood moulding, or label of the arch, is carried through the string-course above and then expands laterally and overlaps the base of a canopied niche.

The upper story of the porch is faced with stone and flint in a chequer pattern: within is a chamber with a fireplace. The north face terminates in a gable and has, at the angles, low octagonal turrets which, with the sides and gable, are battlemented. There are two square-headed windows in the face of the wall on either side of the canopied niche just referred to. The niche contains a figure of St. Bartholomew with the right hand raised in benediction, whilst in the left is the flaying knife. On a scroll is the promise spoken to Rahere in his vision, 'This spiritual house Almighty God shall ynhabite and hallowe yt'. (fn. 43)

A slender shaft is carried from the rectangular hood mould of the canopy through the coping and battlement of the gable and terminates in a foliated cross for a finial.

Adjoining the west side of the transept is an octagonal turret containing a newel stair giving access to the transept roof. It has battlements, immediately below which are square-headed windows. On the east side of the turret is a slender stone octagonal chimney rising from the room over the porch, which forms a distinctive feature.

The North Side of the Quire.

The wall of the clerestory, though rough, is probably that of the early fifteenth century; the tracery of the four windows, as already seen, was inserted in 1887, the old work having entirely disappeared. The parapet above is of brick (pl. LXII, p. 120).

The triforium is faced with old brickwork of the sixteenth or early seventeenth century, in tiers alternately of all 'headers' or all 'stretchers'. In the two western bays are windows of three lights of Tudor character which lighted the schools. The next bay eastward is similar, but the window is narrower and has two lights only. Each bay has its own small hipped roof covered with tiles: between the second and third bays was a brick chimney-stack, with the flue from the schoolroom, since removed. Beyond, and adjoining the third bay, is the gabled house, known as the schoolhouse, with a stair turret built in brick of the same period. It is built over the fourth and fifth bays of the triforium and consists of a first, a second, and a gable story; the last obscures the easternmost window of the clerestory. The roof of the gable is hipped back in the same way as that over the triforium.

Of the exterior of the twelfth-century north wall of the quire nothing remains; it was probably quite plain with pilaster buttresses, as on the south wall. At the eastern end St. Bartholomew's Chapel projected some 18 ft. northwards. The eastern apse of the chapel, a portion of the foundation of which can still be seen, extended under the site of what is now the turret stair to the school-house.

In the fourteenth century Roger Walden built his parish chapel against the north wall of the church. It probably occupied three bays in length; (fn. 44) of its breadth we have at present no record. Excavations made on the southern portion of the site in 1911 revealed nothing. East of this chapel was, we assume, the chapel of St. Anne, (fn. 45) possibly on the site of the twelfth-century chapel of St. Bartholomew. The latter, we have already suggested, (fn. 46) was rebuilt to the east, and further excavations may discover some foundations of which no traces were found in 1911.

In the fifteenth century, if our theory is correct, (fn. 47) the bell tower was built somewhere on the north side of the quire, but no foundations have been found.

In the sixteenth century, some time between the first year of Queen Elizabeth (1558) and the time when Stow wrote (1598), the Walden chapel was demolished; (fn. 48) the floor was levelled up and the site of the chapel was built upon. On the southern portion, against the church, were erected ten tenements or sheds; (fn. 49) on the northern portion were built the Cloth Fair houses, Nos. 12–16, or the backs of them, which overhung the narrow passage (only 3 ft. 6 in. wide) which gave access to the back doors on the one side and to the sheds against the church on the other (pl. LIX, p. 119).

In the seventeenth or early eighteenth century these sheds were taken down and the site used as a burial-ground, at first for the Quakers and later for the poor. In the years 1704–1706 the parish registers record burials in 'the Quakers' ground Cloth Fair'; in 1722 the Vestry ordered 'that the wall about the little churchyard adjoining to the Revd. Mr. Chas. Smith's house be repaired'; (fn. 50) Mr. Smith was then living in the school-house. In 1788 the Vestry ordered the wall of the little churchyard to be repaired and railings placed on the top, (fn. 51) and again to be 'repaired' in 1842; (fn. 52) and further, Wilkinson, in his plan of the parish, in 1821 marks this site as 'The poor's churchyard' (pl. LVII, p. III). It was the retaining wall of this graveyard that was used as a support for the overhanging stories of the Cloth Fair houses; its average distance from the church wall was only 8 ft. When the houses were rebuilt in 1893 their overhanging of the public footway was not allowed to be perpetuated, though a claim thereto was set up by one of the builders. In 1791 an attempt was made to close this alley, (fn. 53) but it was not accomplished until 1916, after the Corporation had bought the houses in Cloth Fair.

In the nineteenth century, in the year 1864, in order to make a dry area round the church, the burial-ground was removed, and in the following year the arches of Walden's chapel were opened out into the church and the wall of the church was supported by buttresses. The present small robing-room, 10 ft. by 9 ft., was erected at the eastern end at the same time. Beyond the entrance to the turret stair to the old school-house is the large window, the tracery of which was inserted in 1865 (already referred to). The wall here is faced with brick; below the window it consists of a rough filling without a plinth at the base. All this suggests that the twelfth-century window had been altered into a large opening leading into a chapel such as we should expect the refounded St. Bartholomew's chapel to have been. Beyond the window is a buttress, also faced with brick, between which and the Lady Chapel is the narrow arched opening to the church referred to in the description of the east ambulatory (fn. 54) (pl. XXXIV p. 28).

There was above this window and narrow opening, up to the year 1886, a small two-storied projecting building, erected probably when the Lady Chapel was changed from a dwelling-house to a factory; for it was entered from the Lady Chapel and not from the school-house (pl. LXI, p. 120). The angle of the building projected slightly beyond the outer wall of the ambulatory below, and was corbelled back, terminating in a wooden pendant (pl. LXXXVIa, p. 215). The window of the upper room faced east, that of the lower room faced north; (fn. 55) both rooms were taken down in 1886 for the completion of the apse.

The East End of the Quire.

Of the east end of the quire nothing is left of Rahere's work excepting the block of masonry on the floor at the north-west corner of the Lady Chapel, but there is evidence that it was apsidal. It must have been altered in appearance when the fourteenth-century Lady Chapel was built because of the greater height and width of that chapel. Rahere, too, may have built eastern turrets, as we have already suggested; (fn. 56) these would have been taken down when the chapel was rebuilt and not re-erected; but of this there is no record. The appearance must have been entirely changed again when the apsidal end of the church was taken down and replaced by a straight wall with two large windows. All that remains visible externally of the fifteenth-century square east wall are small portions of the north and south ends on either side of the new apse. They can be seen above the lower roofs and beneath the string that runs under the clerestory windows of the apse. Internally the south-east angle of the wall can be seen in the south triforium within the triforium roof. (fn. 57) There is the corresponding angle on the north side, but it is not accessible.

The present apse, rebuilt in the year 1886, consists of five bays, in each of which is a clerestory window with double traceried lights set in a stone wall faced with split flints (pl. LXIV). Above is a battlemented cornice at each end of which rises an octagonal battlemented stone turret with a conical stone cap terminating in a stone cross. Each face of the turrets forms a panel with tracery in the head. (fn. 58)

Exterior of the Lady Chapel.

Of the appearance of the exterior of Rahere's Lady Chapel we know nothing. The excavations of the year 1911 show that it was rectangular like the present one, with indications, as we have said, (fn. 59) of an apsidal end, but much smaller both in length and breadth, for it only measured (externally) about 27 ft. by 18 ft. as compared with 64 ft. by 29 ft. of the later chapel.

The exterior of the fourteenth-century chapel must have been very much as we see it to-day, excepting that there probably were turrets at the north-east and south-east corners. (fn. 60)

On the north side the western buttress, and at the east end the central buttress only are lost. And this in spite of the fact that between the time of the suppression in 1539 and of the restoration in 1897 the character of the exterior was so much transformed that it was difficult to recognize the building as part of the church. The traceried windows were replaced by common ones of a domestic character; the walls and buttresses were thickly plastered; houses were built against the north and east walls and an additional story was placed on the top of the old walls for the factory (pl. L, p. 78).

Against the north wall westward three almshouses were built about the year 1632 (pl. LXII, p. 120). (fn. 61) The westernmost, which stood in the angle between the Lady Chapel and quire aisle, fell in the year 1763 and was not rebuilt, but the site was subsequently used as a burialground for the poor.

Adjoining the almshouses eastward was an old cottage already referred to (pl. XC, p. 240), (fn. 62) known as '2 Back Court'. This house occupied the third bay; whilst the closet of an adjoining house was built against the wall of the fourth or easternmost bay.

When the restoration of the Lady Chapel was undertaken in 1896 the site of the third almshouse was considered to be church property, but that of the two remaining almshouses—though they had been twice rebuilt at the parish's expense—had to be purchased (fn. 63) at a cost of £150 from the trustees under the City of London Parochial Charities' Act of 1883, by order of the Charity Commissioners.

As it was desirable to have complete access round the whole of the Lady Chapel building, a narrow strip of land outside the easternmost bay was purchased in the year 1896 of the trustees of Sir Daniel Gooch. Besides giving access from the north to the east side of the building, this purchase, which was facilitated in every way by the trustees, gave possession of the original north-west buttress of the church, which, unlike the other buttresses, had never been covered with cement. It also enabled a sunken area to be formed, which, covered with pavement lights, opened up two original windows of the crypt, and it enabled the closet referred to to be removed from the chapel wall

When these properties were acquired in 1896 the almshouses were demolished, since the Charity Commissioners had decreed their disuse as such, and the earth was removed down to the church level, exposing the lower part of the wall, in which the original flint and stone work remains, together with the base of the westernmost buttress. The site of the third almshouse in the angle adjoining had already been excavated in the year 1865 in the process of forming a dry area outside the church.

The walls of the chapel above the present ground level were then restored and tracery inserted in the windows. The top story of the fringe factory having been removed, the parapet of the portion projecting over the east aisle of the church was replaced in stone, but over the remaining length the parapet had to be rendered in brick as funds had run short.

As the owner of No. 2 Back Court was not a willing seller at this time, the old tenement building had to remain. It fell in 1904, and in 1906 the site was purchased as already stated. (fn. 64) This enabled the window in the third bay of the chapel to be opened out, (fn. 65) the tracery of which had been inserted from the other side in 1896. The removal of the house also disclosed the eastern half of the second buttress and the westernmost window in the crypt.

As now seen, the north wall of the Lady Chapel is of flint and stone with a broad frieze of chequer pattern of the same materials. Of the four windows, the eastern one has a single light, but the others have three, with tracery and hood mouldings rising from corbels, still uncarved. In the westernmost bay is the small window already described. (fn. 66)

There are four buttresses: of the first the base only remains; all above-ground was taken down in 1823 when the almshouses were rebuilt; the second has lost its two upper divisions and its western side is a restoration, the original work having been hacked off, apparently for the building or rebuilding of the almshouses. (fn. 67) The third and fourth buttresses are original throughout.

The east end of the Lady Chapel was also originally faced with flint, as shown by the small portion of the face on the east wall which still remains, and also by the faces of the two buttresses which are in line with the east front of the chapel, and by the wall of the crypt now below the ground level. There were also originally three buttresses against this east wall, the bases of two only of which now remain.

The present open space (29 ft. by 19 ft.) which formed the eastern part of 'Our Lady's Green' (fn. 68) was built upon probably for the first time by John James, the letter-founder, in the year 1772. (fn. 69) The building was incorporated with that of the Lady Chapel, with which it was purchased in 1885 and demolished in 1896. A monastic well, walled with stone 3 ft. wide, 20 ft. deep from the street level, was found here in 1921.

The east wall of the Lady Chapel, as now seen, is faced with flint with a band of chequer pattern in the upper half, through the centre of which a flat stone cross rises and is carried into the gable. Below the cross is a plain band of stone. The gable, which is depressed, has a broad stone cornice, from the apex of which springs a foliated Greek cross. There are no windows; but in the crypt wall, below the present ground level, there is a crypt window on the south side of the base of the central buttress and on the north side of the buttress a doorway, with a hood moulding, now built up in stone with a small light.

The south side of the Lady Chapel suffered more than the north side after the suppression; for either then or later the wall between the buttresses was removed almost entirely, and square-headed domestic windows were inserted (see p. 82). The second buttress was taken down to the ground level within four feet of its base, (fn. 70) but this probably occurred later, for it will be seen on reference to the elevation drawing of 1885 (fn. 71) that the windows are so disposed as to allow or a buttress in the position that this second buttress would have occupied (pl. LXIII, p. 120; pl. L a, p. 78). It will be seen from this drawing also that the gable front of the house No. 2 Red Lion Passage, just referred to, (fn. 72) is so thoroughly incorporated with the front of the buildings occupying the Lady Chapel as to suggest that they are of one period, and as the turrets at the east corners of the chapel, referred to in Lord Holland's Rental, have disappeared, it is probable that Sir Percival Hart's house was very considerably altered when the dwelling-house, in the eighteenth century, was converted into business premises by raising the upper story. (fn. 73)

At the restoration in 1896–1897 the domestic encroachments of brick and stucco were removed entirely, together with the plaster facing of the buttresses. The second buttress was rebuilt on the old base, the walls were restored, and traceried windows were inserted. At the eastern end the crypt wall had been uncovered in 1895, at the time when the crypt was restored. (fn. 74) The present approach to it is 6 ft. below the present church floor level. This was necessitated by the fact that when the new schools were built in the year 1889 it was deemed desirable by the rector at that time, the Rev. Sir Borradaile Savory, to build a basement for a men and boys' club (which he did at his own cost), and there was no other approach available than the one chosen in front of the crypt.

The south side of the quire of the church has fared as badly as the north side, though not as regards its eastern end until a somewhat later date, for Bolton's additions, with the walls of the transept, remained, more or less altered or damaged, until the disastrous fire of 1830, which seems to have swept away all the buildings on the south side, as well as the roof of the triforium. The church itself was so much damaged that the south wall had to be shored up, (fn. 75) and breaches were made in the ruined walls of the transept, which had to be fenced round for safety. There is no view extant of the exterior to show the condition before the fire, but Knight (fn. 76) has a view twelve years later, when the site of the chapter-house and the prior's house was lying waste. The triforium wall and the roof were destroyed, and were replaced, as already described, (fn. 77) by a temporary lean-to roof which lasted until 1891 when a new outer wall and roof were built, with a small external turret and a newel stair in the angle of the quire and transept to give access to the triforium from the church.

In 1846, four years after Knight's drawing was made, the devastated land was covered by a row of small houses, called Cockerill's Buildings after their builder, (fn. 78) and by two small dwellings, called Pope's Cottages also after their builder, backing on to the quire wall.

In 1911 Mr. Abbiss' school building and Pope's Cottages were secured for the church, so that in 1913 it was possible to free the south side of the church from all secular buildings. The wall was then put into a safe condition and a quire vestry erected on the ruins of the south chapel.

In the small portion of the south quire wall which faces east is the east window of the south aisle dating from 1864. It replaced the entrance made by Rector Abbiss when he closed that through Bolton's door to make room for his school-house in 1849. Below the window are remains of Bolton's brickwork. At the corner of this and the south wall is a flint and stone buttress erected in 1913–1914, as the wall required strengthening at this point. In the wall between this corner and the south chapel is Bolton's door, which led from the church into the prior's house. The wall was built of narrow red bricks, but, being only a thin interior wall, it had to be refaced in flint and stone when the school-house was taken away; a small panel, however, has been left on either side at the foot of the wall, the one to show the original brick face, the other to show the plastered face as left by Bolton. The sill of Bolton's door is on a level with the floor of the prior's house, a part of the east wall of which has been left running south at right angles to the church wall. In it are the stone jambs of a doorway with a Purbeck marble slab as a threshold, in which still remain the rivets which fastened a brass when it was used as a tombstone. This doorway probably dates from the time when Sir Percival Hart used this portion of the prior's house for a kitchen. (fn. 79) At the lower level and against the chapel wall a small portion of the brick vault of the prior's cellars has been left; also the latrine which was connected with Dr. Mirfield's chamber in the triforium built in 1362 (pl. LXV). (fn. 80)

The remains of the walls of the south chapel have been left as found, showing the two apses and a straight west wall. Upon these has been erected the choir vestry, referred to above, the walls of which, as already said, are but little more than half the thickness of those of Rahere's building. (fn. 81) It is built in flint and Portland stone, with a broad band of chequer work as used in other parts of the building. The door is placed in the eastern apse, where the old wall had been destroyed to allow coals to be shot when the chapel was used as a boiler-house. On the north-east side of the chapel and above the latrine is a buttress erected in 1914 to take the thrust of the arch in the triforium, which gives support to the new sanctuary arch built in 1895. This support was rendered necessary by the demolition of the school-house.

Westward of the south chapel and up to the ancient sacristy door the quire wall is badly dilapidated. It was patched with brick and cement in 1830 in consequence of the fire. Here and there some of the original wall is visible. By the chapel is a small fragment of a Norman pilaster buttress; and near the sacristy door, which is still in a very rough state, there is another and similar buttress, on which still remains a shattered portion of a Norman moulded string similar to those to be seen at Waltham Abbey. These and many other stones are red from the effects of the fire. This latter buttress does not coincide with the arch of the vault in the aisle, the thrust of which it was intended to take, but is a little to the east of it, thereby furnishing additional evidence of some alteration in the plan when Prior Thomas took up the work at this point.

The south wall at the triforium level west of the chapel was built in 1891 in place of that destroyed in 1830. The portion above the chapel was restored in 1913–1914 when the school-house was removed. The exterior of the clerestory is, like that on the north side, early fifteenth-century work with tracery of 1864.

Nothing of the original south transept remains above ground, but the jambs of the door in the south wall remain below the churchyard level, much scorched by the fire of 1830. They can only be seen from the basement windows of the adjoining warehouse.

The rebuilding of the transept has already been recorded; (fn. 82) externally it is built of stone faced with split flints (pl. XXIb, p. 14). Its south front is of two stories only. The wall of the ground story projects 6ft. farther than that of the story above, and from the centre the porch projects a further 3 ft. The arch of the doorway of the porch is slightly pointed and has a hood moulding which rises from foliated corbels. The gable above it is ornamented with flint and stone chequer work. In the wall, on either side of the porch, is an oblong square-headed window with two cusped lights. The upper story of the transept has three long windows which were described when dealing with the interior. (fn. 83) The wall of flint is relieved with a plain band of stone below and a band of chequer work at the springing of the window arches. This work is repeated in the gable as in that of the porch. On the top of the west wall a brick chimney appears. The explanation of this is that at some time, probably when the vaulting of the cloister fell in 1834, (fn. 84) the owners of the rooms over, in rebuilding, encroached some 3 ft. or more over the church wall, then in ruins, and thereon built a fireplace and chimney. When, in 1891, the new bay of the transept was built, possession could not be recovered of the full thickness of the church wall; the inner wall of the transept, therefore, had to be carried up only 12 in. in thickness until clear of the springing of the roof of the encroaching tenement when, by means of a small girder, the remainder of the wall was carried up of the proper thickness. This involved encircling the chimney as we now see it. (fn. 85)

Figure 5:

Northern Entrance from Cloth Fair, 1865. (See p. 117.)


  • 1. See Cassell's Almanack, October 1893.
  • 2. See later, p. 318.
  • 3. Parker, Lecture, 13 July 1863; and Archaeologia, xix, 49, by R. Powell.
  • 4. See later, p. 319.
  • 5. See above, p. 67.
  • 6. Vol. I, p. 262.
  • 7. Above, p. 45.
  • 8. Belfry cupboard.
  • 9. V. M. Bk. vii, 157.
  • 10. Strype, Stow, i, Bk. III, 238 a.
  • 11. V. M. Bk. ii, 52.
  • 12. £800 of the Charity Commissioners' Grant was intended for this purpose.
  • 13. Report on State of Church, by J. Hayter Lewis and Wm. Slater, 1863, p. 6.
  • 14. Referred to, Vol. I, p. 133.
  • 15. Riley, Chronicles, p. 13.
  • 16. See Vol. I, p. 218.
  • 17. Bodl. Lib. Sutherland Coll.
  • 18. Strype, Stow, i, Bk. III, 238 b.
  • 19. Vol. I, p. 179.
  • 20. Above, p. 97.
  • 21. App. II, p. 535, from Reg. 2, p. 1, Parish Safe. The tower was repaired in 1720, 1750, and 1771. See V. M. Bk. ii, 216; iii, 296, 426.
  • 22. p. 108 above.
  • 23. Withers, Diary, p. 14. The room in first story used as a temporary vestry. Fragments of mouldings found in wall when making the doorway.
  • 24. St. Paul's Eccles. Soc. VI, pt. ii, 109; Walters, London Church Bells.
  • 25. Published by the Early English Text Society (Vols. 125, 128).
  • 26. See Walters, Church Bells of England, p. 264.
  • 27. According to Stow, p. 141.
  • 28. Owen and Blakeway, Hist. of Shrewsbury, ii, 63.
  • 29. These were run out at the Great Fire in 1666 and recast.
  • 30. See above, p. 62.
  • 31. Ib. pp. 10, 61.
  • 32. Ib., p. 106.
  • 33. See above, p. 50.
  • 34. V. M. Bk. ii, 52.
  • 35. See also above, p. 47.
  • 36. Parish Safe, Deed 64.
  • 37. Ib., Deed 65.
  • 38. These are shown in the plan in Wilkinson, Londina Illustrata.
  • 39. Now used for entrance to robing-room.
  • 40. Withers, Diary, p. 59.
  • 41. Parish Safe, Deeds 69, 70, 71.
  • 42. Below, p. 420.
  • 43. From the Middle English version.
  • 44. Above, pp. 30, 99.
  • 45. Above, p. 99.
  • 46. Above, p. 99.
  • 47. Above, p. 111.
  • 48. Above, p. 93.
  • 49. Below, p. 202.
  • 50. V. M. Bk. ii, 259.
  • 51. Ib. iii, 542. See view in Morley, Barth. Fair, 96.
  • 52. V. M. Bk. vii, 226.
  • 53. Trustee Minutes, 14 Oct. 1791.
  • 54. Above, p. 26.
  • 55. See elevation drawing, p. 119.
  • 56. Above, p. 28.
  • 57. Above, p. 35.
  • 58. The stone coping over the elliptical arch in the sanctuary shown in the drawing was not carried out.
  • 59. Above, p. 87.
  • 60. Above, p. 79.
  • 61. Later, p. 244.
  • 62. Above, p. 83.
  • 63. Deed 79, 6 Aug. 1896, Parish Safe.
  • 64. Above, p. 83.
  • 65. Later, p. 428.
  • 66. Above, p. 84.
  • 67. Chwardens' a/c, 'cutting away abutment which projected from back front of church, 18s.'
  • 68. Above, p. 240.
  • 69. The building was known as No. 2 Red Lion Passage.
  • 70. The base was found in 1897 and a new buttress built upon it.
  • 71. Above, p. 119.
  • 72. Above, p. 124.
  • 73. Above, p. 79.
  • 74. Above, p. 88.
  • 75. Belfry cupboard, Receipted Accounts for 1830.
  • 76. Knight, London, ii, 42.
  • 77. Above, p. 36.
  • 78. Later, p. 379.
  • 79. See above, p. 77.
  • 80. See Vol. I, p. 173
  • 81. Above, p. 95.
  • 82. Above, p. 55.
  • 83. Above, p. 53.
  • 84. M. Walcott, St. Barth. Priory Church (1864).
  • 85. Later, p. 417.