1902 Encyclopedia > London > Tudor Period (1485-1603)

(Part 37)


London History (cont.) - Tudor Period (1485-1603)

Tudor (1485-1603). – It was during this period that the first maps of London were drawn. No presentation of the city earlier than the middle of the 16th century has been discovered, although it seems more than probable that some plans must have been produced at an earlier period. The earliest known view is the drawing of Van den Wyngaerde in the Bodleian Library (dated 1550). The so-called Aggas map is a few years later in date; Braun and Hagenberg’s map was published in 1572-73; and Norden’s maps of London and Westminster are dated 1593. These maps were pasted upon walls, and must have been largely destroyed by ordinary wear and tear. It is curious that the only two existing copies of Agga’s map were published in the reign of James I., although apparently they had not been altered from the earlier edition of Elizabeth’s reign which have been lost. By the help of these maps we are able to obtain a very clear notion of the extent and chief characteristics of Tudor London. Henry VII did little to connect his name with the history of London with the exception of the erection of the exquisite specimen of florid Gothic at Westminster Abbey, which is known by his name. Soon after this kind obtained the throne he borrowed the sum of 3000 marks from the city, and moreover paid it at the appointed time. The citizens were so pleased at this somewhat unexpected occurrence that they willingly lent the king 6000 pounds in 1488, which he required for military preparations against France. In 1497 London was threatened by the rebels favorable to perkin Warbeck, who encamped on Blackheath on the 17th of June. At first there was a panic among the citizens, but subsequently the city was placed in a proper state of defence, and the king himself encamped in St George’s Fields. On June 22 he entirely routed the rebels; and some time afterwards Perkin Warbeck gave himself up, and was conducted in triumph through London to the Tower.

About this time and in several subsequent years the sweating sickness regaed in London. This disease (Sudor Anglicus) was considered peculiar to England. The sanitary condition of the houses at the time must have been most deplorable, and the plague and other diseases were constantly reappearing until the great fire cleared away all the abominable buildings that formed centers of infection.

During the reign of Hnery VII as well as during that of his son London was constantly the scene of gorgeous pageants. In 1512 the greater part of the palace of Westminster was burnt, and Henry VIII. had no suitable residence until 1529, when he obtained Wolsey’s magnificent house called York Place, and named it Whitehall. That much of the present London was at this time in a wild and uncultivated condition is proved by a proclamation of Henry VIII., the object of which was "to preserve the partridges, pheasants, and herons from his palace at Westminster to St Giles’s-in-the-Fields, from thence to Islintong, Hampstead, and Hornsey Park."

As the chief feature of Norman London was the foundation of monasteries, and the chief feature of Plantagenet London was the establishment of friaries, so Tudor London was specially characterized by the suppression of the whole of these religious houses, and also of the almost numberless religious guild and brotherhoods. When we remember that about two-thirds of the area of London was occupied by these establishments and that about a third of the inhabitants were monks, nuns, and friars, it is easy to imagine how great must have been the disorganization caused by this root and branch reform. One of the earliest of the religious houses to be suppressed was the hospital of St Thomas of Acon (or Acre) on the north side of Cheapside, the site of which is now occupied by Mererrs’ Hall. The larger houses soon followed, and the Black, the White, and the Grey Friars, with the Carthusians and many others, were all condemned in November 1538.

Love of show was so marked a characteristic of Henry VIII. that we are not surprised to find him encouraging the citizens in the same expensive taste. On the occasion of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon the city was gorgeously ornamented with rich silks and tapestry, and Goldsmiths’ Row (Cheapside) and part of Cornhill were hung with golden brocades. When on the eve of St John’s Day, 1510, the king in the habit of a yeoman of his own guards saw the famous march of the city watch, he was so delighted that on the following St Peter’s Eve he again attended in Cheapside to see the march, but this time he was accompanied by the queen and the principal nobility. The cost of these two marches in the year was very considerable, and, having been suspended in 1528 on account of the prevalence of the sweating sickness, they were soon afterwards forbidden by the king, and discontinued during the remainder of his reign. Sir John Gresham, mayor in 1548 revived the march of the city watch, which was made more splendid by the addition of three hundred light horsemen raised by the citizens for the king’s service.

The best mode of utilizing the buildings of the suppressed religious house was a difficult question left unsolved by Henry VIII. That king, shortly before his death, founded St Bartholomew’s Hospital, "for the continue relief and help of an hundred sore and diseases," but most of the large buildings were left unoccupied to be filled by his successor. The first parliament of Edward’s reign gave all the lands and possessions of colleges, chantries, &c., to the king, when the different companies of London redeemed those which they had held for the payment of priests’ wages, obits, and lights at the price of 20,000 pounds, and applied the rents arising from them to charitable purposes. In 1550 the citizens purchased the manor of Southwark, and with it they became possessed of the monastery of St Thomas, which was enlarged and prepared for the reception of "poor, sick, and helpless objects." Thus was founded St Thomas’s Hospital, which was moved to lambeth in 1870-71. Shortly before his death Edward founded Christ’s Hospital in the Grey Friars, and gave the old palace of bridewell to the city "for the lodging of poor wayfaring people, the correction of vagabonds and disorderly persons, and for finding them work." On the death of Edward VI Lady Jane Grey was received at the Tower as queen, she having gone there by water from Durham House in the Strand. The citizens, however, soon found out their mistake, and the lord mayor, aldermen, and recorder proclaimed Queen Mary at Cheapside. London was then gay with pageants, but when the queen made known her intention of marrying Philip of Spain the discontent of the country found vent in the rising of Sir Thomas Wyatt, and the city had to prepare itself against attack. Wyatt took possession of Southwark, and expected to have been admitted into London; but finding the gates shut against him and the drawbridge cut down he marched to Kingston, the bridge at which place had been destroyed. This he restored, and then proceeded towards London. In consequence of the break down of some of his guns he imprudently halted at Turnham Green. Had he not done so it is probable that he might have obtained possession of the city. He planted his ordnance on Hay Hill, and then marched by St James’s Palace to Charing Cross. Here he was attacked by Sir John Gage with a thousand men, but he repulsed them and reached Ludgate without further opposition. He was disappointed at the resistance which was made, and after musing a while "upon a stall over against the Bell Savadge Gate" he turned back. His retreat was cut off, and he surrendered to Sir Maurice Berkeley. We have somewhat fully described this historical incident here because it has an important bearing on the history of London, and shows also the small importance of the districts outside the walls at that period.

We now come to consider the appearance of London during the reign of the last of the Tudors. At no other period were so many great men associated with its history; the latter years of Elizabeth’s reign are specially interesting to us because it was then that Shakespeare lived in London, and introduced its streets and people into his plays. In those days the frequent visitation of plagues made men fear the gathering together of multitudes. This dread of pestilence, united with a puritanic hatred of plays, made the citizens to all they could do discountenance theatrical entertainments. The queen acknowledged the validity of the first reason, but she repudiated the religious objection provided ordinary care was taken to allow "such plays only as were fitted to yield honest recreation and no example of evil." On April 11,1582, the lords of the council wrote to the lord mayor to the effect that, as "her Majesty sometimes took delight in those pastimes, it had been thought not unfit, having regard to the season of the year and the clearance of the city from infection, to allow of certain companies of players in London, partly that they might thereby attain more dexterity and perfection the better to content her Majesty" (Analytical Index to the Remembrancia). When theatres were established the lord mayor took care that they should not be built within the city. The "Theatre" and the "Curtain" were situated at Shoreditch; the "Globe," the "Rose," and the "Hope" on the Bankside; and the Blackfriars theater, although within the walls, was without the city jurisdiction.

In 1561 St Paul’s steeple and roof were destroyed by lightning, and the spire was never replaced. This circumstances allows us to test the date of certain views; thus Wyngarde’s map has the spire but Aggas’s map is without it. In 1566 the first stone was laid of the "Burse," which owed its origin to Sir Thomas Gresham, and in 1571 Queen Elziabeth changed its name to the Royal Exchange, "so to be called from thenceforth and no otherwise."

A proclamation was issued in 1580 prohibiting the erection within 3 miles of the city gates of any new houses or tenements "where no former house hath been known to have been." In a subsequent proclamation the queen commanded that only one family should live in one house, that empty houses erected within seven years were not to be left, and that unfinished buildings on new foundations were to be pulled down. In spite of thee restrictions London continued to grow. In 1568 a conduit was constructed at Dowgate for the purpose of obtaining water from the Thames, and in 1580 Peter Moris, and ingenious Dutchman, brought his scheme for raising the Thames water high enough to supply the upper parts of the city under the notice of the lord mayor and aldermen, and in order to show its feasibility he threw a jet of water over the steeple of St Magnus’s Church (see p. 825) The maps show us much that remains somewhat the same as it was, but also much that has greatly altered. St Giles’s was literally a village in the fields; Piccadilly was "the waye to Redinge," Oxford Street "the way to Uxbridge," Covent Garden an open field or garden, and Leicester Fields lammas land. Moorfields was drained and laid out in walks in Elizabeth’s reign. At Spitalfields crowds used to congregate on Easter Monday and Tuesday to hear the Spital sermons preached from the pulpit cross. The ground was originally a Roman cemetery, and about the year 1576 bricks were largely made from the clavey earth, the recollection of which is kept alive in the name of Brick Lane. Citizens went to Holborn and Bloomsbury for change of air, and houses were there prepared for the reception of children, invalids, and convalescents. In the north were sprinkled the outying villages of Islington Hoxton, and Clerkenwell. The Strand was filled with noble mansions washed by the waters of the Thames, but the street, it street it could be called, was little used by pedestrians. Londoners frequented the river, which was their great highway. The banks were crowded with stairs for boats, and the waterment of that day answered to the chairmen of a later date and the cabmen of today. When Shakespeare and his companions went to act at the Globe Theater they did not cross London Bridge, but took boat at Blackfriars Stairs, and were landed opposite at the Paris Garden Stairs on the Bankside. The Bankside was of old a favorite place for entertainments, but two only- the bull baiting and the bear baiting- were in existence when Agga’s map was first planned. On Norden’s map, however, we find the gardens of Paris garden, the bearhouse, and the playhouse.

The settled character of the later years of Elizabeth’s reign appears to have caused a considerable change in the habits of the people. Many of the chief citizens followed the example of the courtiers, and built for themselves country residence in Middlesex, Essex, and Surrey; thus we learn from Norden that Alderman Roe lived at Muswelll Hill, and we know that Sir Thomas Gresham built a fine house and planned a beautiful park at Osterdey.

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