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Blog Category: History (17 posts)


Guy Fairbank | 16th December 2020 | Guy the London Guide
Richmond-upon-Thames is one of the best places to live in London. Its riverside walks, fine views, handsome houses and hidden lanes make it an attractive place to live - it’s why some of our best-loved actors choose to call it home. 500 years ago King Henry VII thought so too, and had Richmond Palace built for himself and his young family. It had been a favourite home of royals before that, when it was originally known as Sheen Palace. In fact Edward III died there on 21 June 1377. When Anne of Bohemia, the much-loved wife of Edward’s grandson Richard II died of the plague, Richard had it pulled down. It was later rebuilt by Henry V, then completely rebuilt in 1499 after a disastrous fire. Henry VII renamed it after his earldom in Yorkshire and a settlement was soon emerged around it. Henry too died there on 21 Apr 1509. Henry’s palace was a showpiece of the kingdom. The royal apartments faced the river, and made a handy halfway stop between Westminster and Windsor. The rooftops were dotted with pepper pot chimneys, which not only looked eye-catching but ensured Henry and his courtiers lived in comfortable accommodation. Its layout resembled Hampton Court Palace, with a series of courtyards, with the largest courtyard accessed by the Middle Gate, which was adorned with figures of trumpeters.  Around its perimeter lay a series of brick buildings, which housed court officials. To the east was the privy garden, which had a gallery running alongside it. This was a real novelty and proved a popular place to promenade along during inclement weather.After Henry’s death his son Henry VIII used it infrequently. After all, he did have over 60 palaces to choose from. He gave it to his fourth wife Anne of Cleves as part of her generous divorce settlement. She used furnishings from Thomas Cromwell’s estate to fill it with - ironic, given his downfall was caused by the failure of the marriage.  Later, Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I live...

Guy Fairbank | 12th May 2020 | Guy the London Guide
In the mid 1600s two Frenchmen, the grandly named Médard Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers (1618-1696) and his brother-in-law Pierre Ésprit Radisson (c. 1640-1710), were exploring the vast interior of what is now northern Canada. Working their way inland via the many rivers that flow into Hudson Bay, they came across a wealth of fur, in particular on a rodent with a large paddle-shaped tail and prominent teeth. “Ideal for coats,” they reported, and went to find a backer. Their fellow countrymen in Québec and France showed little interest but the English settlers were far more receptive.  The two intrepid trappers travelled to England and managed to gain an audience with the king, Charles II.  He agreed to finance an expedition into the area north of Lake Superior to search for the famed fur.  Chouart’s and Radisson’s trip proved a complete success: they returned with a large quantity of beaver pelts with the promise of more, along with information on potential trading routes. On May 2nd 1670 Charles II signed a Royal Charter which granted exclusive trading rights of the Hudson Bay watershed to “the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay.”  Thus the oldest trading company in North America was born. Given the land they were had rights to was fifteen times the size of Great Britain, the Company established a series of forts along the Hudson Bay coastline. Some developed into important cities such as Winnipeg and Calgary. With those in place they could begin dealing with the local Cree, but if they assumed this would be straightforward they would be disappointed. It took time to develop a protocol with First Nations people. Business began with the passing around of the ceremonial pipe. If the Cree left the pipe at the fort that indicated they would return the following year. Once the usual exchange of gifts was over they could begin bargaining. Firearms were what the locals wanted and not any old musket....

Guy Fairbank | 04th April 2020 | Guy the London Guide
Currently closed for 3 years, Hammersmith Bridge is one of London’s most attractive crossings. There’s been a bridge connecting Hammersmith and Barnes for nearly 200 years, and ever since the first one was opened in 1827 there have been complaints about its strength. With Hammersmith becoming an important agricultural and industrial part of west London there had been an increasing need to add more river crossings. With this in mind the authorities turned to local engineer William Tierney Clark, who’s best known for the Széchenyi Chain Bridge that spans the Danube in Budapest. Even at the start of the work, when the Duke of Sussex blessed the bridge, there were concerns about the bridge’s capacity to take weight. This came to a climax in 1870 when some 10,000 people gathered on the bridge to witness the annual University Boat Race. Newspapers reported ‘the shameful overcrowding’ as the bridge swayed. There was only one solution: build a stronger, safer structure. This time they turned to Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the go-to engineer most famous for designing London’s sewer system. Work began on the new bridge in 1884 and was completed in 1887, with the Prince of Wales officially opening the bridge on 11 June of that year.  While Bazalgette’s new bridge was being constructed, a temporary bridge was erected alongside it to allow traffic to continue crossing the river between Hammersmith and Barnes. A group of people living in Barnes, concerned about the difficulties they would face to reach Hammersmith while the suspension bridge  was being redeveloped, campaigned for the temporary bridge to be provided, but a letter from a Barnes resident printed in the London Evening Standard on 3 December 1885 gives us an insight into locals’ experiences with this temporary bridge: “Sir, May I inquire, through your journal, how much longer the public is expected to tolerate the miserable and disgraceful condition of the Bridge erected over the...

fairbankguy | 20th May 2018 | Guy the London Guide
In southeast London lie the remains of what was once a favourite palace of a young King Henry VIII, his father and grandfather. Eltham Palace dates back to the 1300s, when it was given to Edward II. In the 1470s Edward IV had a grand hall built - it was where he spent his last Christmas in 1482 - but by the 1600s this moated manor had gone out of fashion. It took a member of the textile magnates, the Courtaulds, to transform it into a place of luxury, with all the latest designs and gadgetry. For the last 20 years English Heritage have looked after it, and on a sunny spring day it is a glorious site. Eltham Palace is very much a palace of two halves. On one wing stands the still impressive 15th century hall, while to the south is the 1930s wing, designed by architects Seely and Paget. The palace was bought by Stephen Courtauld and his Romanian-born wife Virginia, who wanted to create a house that would entertain the bright, beautiful and talented of 1930s society - even royalty. Courtauld also used his millions to follow his passions for collecting art, sailing his yacht Virginia and developing the British film industry. You step foot first into the round entrance hall, which has been used in countless films and TV series (most recently, in The Crown). It features impressive intarsia inlay and a round rug that demands to be walked upon (you’re not supposed to). Leading off the hall you’ll come upon the elegant Italianate dining room, the boudoir and library, while two staircases take you to the bedrooms of Stephen and Virginia, as well as her nephews Peter and Paul, whose shared bathroom was the only one with a shower (that dispensed cold water). It was also where the Courtaulds’ pet lemur Mah-Jongg slept in its special cage. Go past the Art Deco delights and you’re in the magnificent medieval hall, with its stunning hammerbeam roof. Once 2,000 people were entertained here, while later a young Prince Henry Tudor was brought up her...

fairbankguy | 09th February 2018 | Guy the London Guide
It was in 1518 that King Henry VIII granted his physician Thomas Linacre the right to establish an institution that would grant licences to those with qualifications in 'physic' to practise their art. Initially this was in London and its surroundings but 5 years later their remit was extended by Act of Parliament to the whole of England. 500 years ago its membership numbered just 12; today that figure is 15,000. The Royal College of Physicians has had 5 addresses in that time. For many years they  were in Amen Corner and Warwick Lane in the City (a plaque marks their original home) but since 1964  they’ve been in Regent’s Park, surrounded by the cream stucco buildings of John Nash. Their Grade 1 listed headquarters was designed by the controversial modernist architect Sir Denis Lasdun, famous for his work on the National Theatre. Though its exterior cream tiles and dark brick may clash with their Regency neighbours, inside Lasdun created an airy and functional space, inspired by anatomy. Around the central atrium distinguished physicians look down on today’s doctors, while many cabinets show a fascinating collection of historical medical instruments and artefacts. Some are not for the squeamish. A 17th father and son by the name of Pujean left a chest of some particularly painful pieces: a corkscrew-type mechanism for removing bullet holes from the battlefield; a trepanation saw for relieving head pain; instruments for performing lithotomy  - an excruciating operation a 25 year-old Samuel Pepys experienced and survived. Other fascinating objects include an impressive display of 17th and 18th century apothecary jars, made in Lambeth, which contained everything from simple concoctions to ground-up foxes’ lungs. A rare survival is a set of anatomical tables from Padua. They contain real human veins, nerves and arteries and were used as teaching aids. There are only 2 surviving sets, the other is with the Royal College of Surge...

fairbankguy | 14th January 2018 | Guy the London Guide
Thanks to London Transport Museum’s Hidden London programme, a number of lost Tube stations and forgotten tunnels are occasionally open to the public. One such gem is Clapham South’s deep-level shelter. Descending 180 steps and 36m down you get to an engineering marvel: a series of tunnels built during World War Two to protect London’s citizens during the Blitz. At the height of the Luftwaffe’s bombing raids the Government commissioned 8 shelters, capable of holding some 64,000 citizens and well away from any potential raid. They employed miners to hand dig 2x 30m vertical shafts down. Then the miners created 2 horizontal shafts, each one over 400m in length. These were named after British naval commanders, from Anson (Lord Admiral 1697 - 1762) to Parry (Arctic explorer 1790 - 1855). Conditions were pretty primitive. Those seeking refuge had to bring their own bedding and provisions but there was free medical care available and a canteen selling food. London Transport wasn’t subject to rationing, so jam tarts and sandwiches were available and proved very popular, though they complained about the exorbitant price for tea (2d). Quarters were cramped, smelly and smokey but safe. The shelters became available after the Blitz eased off but when the V-1 and V-2 rockets began to hit London they came back into use. After the War the tunnels’ use was changed to offer cheap if basic accommodation. When some West Indian immigrants arrived on the Empire Windrush in 1948, they ended up staying underground. Fortunately they soon found accommodation and work, many appropriately with London Underground, and no one stayed more than a month. Later on the shelter was used for the Festival of Britain in 1951. For 3s a night you could stay a night, then catch the F1 bus direct to the festival. Up until the late 1990s it was used for storing archives and now it’s occasionally open to the public. Register with the London Transport Mu...

fairbankguy | 01st May 2017 | Guy the London Guide
Under an undistinguished office block in Lower Thames Street, opposite the Custom House and below St Dunstan-in-the-East lies a hidden gem of Roman London: a Roman house and bathhouse. It lies some way back from the river but in its heyday this building complex would have overlooked the River Thames from its hillside location. It may have been a ‘mansio’, which offered comfortable accommodation to officials - a bit like the nearby Premier Inn! When you venture down there’s a surprising amount to see. What survives are the north and east wings of the L-shaped house but there’s no trace of the west wing. The east side was kept warm with underfloor heating (most welcome during those cold and damp British winters), which is well preserved. The house is believed to have been built in the late 2nd century AD. In the following century a bathhouse was added in the courtyard. Bathers entered it from the north side, where there were two small rooms either side - a tepidarium (warm room) and caldarium (hot room) - before they finished cooling off in the frigidarium (cold room). It seems the northern wing was abandoned before the rest of the building complex. A hoard of over 270 coins, dated to after 395AD, was found in the furnace wall, which suggests it was still in use well into the 400s. A mid-5th century Saxon brooch was also unearthed, which may have been dropped by an early tourist. Between April and November you can also visit this underground bathhouse on Saturdays, which is run by the Museum of London. For more Roman ruins in the City of London, check out the amphitheatre under the Guildhall Art Gallery or trace parts of the city wall around Barbican or Tower Hill.    ...

fairbankguy | 08th April 2017 | Guy the London Guide
When the Romans arrived in Britain in AD43 they looked for a place to found a settlement along the Thames. A patch of high ground to the north, between two rivers, was the ideal spot - and so the city of Londinium was founded. Those rivers were the Fleet and Walbrook, two sources of drinking water. Today you can still follow the courses of those lost rivers: the Fleet flows into the Thames at Blackfriars, while the Walbrook begins around Finsbury Circus and ends up going down Dowgate, by Cannon Street.The Walbrook may originally have acted as a sort of boundary. Whatever its purpose was, this waterlogged valley has preserved some remarkable finds unearthed by archaeologists from the Museum of London. Recently some went on show at the Museum. Digs took place at Copthall Court and Angel Court, to the east of Moorgate, as well as the National Safe Deposit Company and Bucklersbury House, close to the Mansion House.   Among the artefacts they found were some Roman tools, including a bradawl and stamp, the latter with the mark ‘MPBR’, which stands for M(ETALLA) P(ROVINCIAE) BR(ITANNIAE). Items with a stamp are quite common, but the tool used to make such market are rare. Other implements were also marked with the owner’s name; Agathangelus operated throughout Gaul for some 50 years in the 1st century AD. Some tools also indicated the various skills and occupations of these early citizens, such as a coopers’ croze, used for making the groove in which the barrelhead was inserted. Excavations at the new Bloomberg building, situated on the Walbrook, have also yielded some amazing finds, including the first known reference to London.  ...

fairbankguy | 25th February 2017 | Guy the London Guide
One of the oldest documents the Corporation hold is a slip of parchment that's over  950 years old It is the Charter of King William I to the City of London and it is the oldest document in the Corporation’s archives. After defeating Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William marched on London. He never conquered the City - that’s why he’s never referred to as ‘William the Conqueror’ there. Instead he came to an agreement with the City that he would uphold the rights and privileges of all Londoners if they would acknowledge him as sovereign - which they did. Apart from its amazing survival, what makes this document so remarkable is that was written in Old English, not in William’s Norman French.  The seal is another important relic. The wording is as follows: ‘William, king, greets William bishop and Geoffrey portreeve all the burghers within London, French and English friendlily and I inform you that I will that ye-two be all of the laws worthy which ye-two were on Edward the king’s day and I will that each child be his father’s inheritance-taker after his father’s day and I will not suffer that any man to you any wrong offer. God you keep.’   In 2010 the William Charter was inscribed on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register.    ...

fairbankguy | 09th October 2016 | Guy the London Guide
  Chiswick may be more famous for its eponymous Palladian house, Arts and Crafts Bedford Park and Fuller's Brewery but it’s also the site of the first recorded V2 rocket attack during the Second World War. On the evening of 8 September 1944, a rocket exploded in the middle of Staveley Road, Chiswick, outside number 5. Staveley Road lies just south of Chiswick House, the elegant mansion built in the 1720s for the 2nd Earl of Burlington by William Kent, and comprises a series of smart family houses constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. The explosion created a crater 9m in diameter and 2.5m deep. Three people were killed, including a 3 year-old girl, Rosemary Clarke. She died in her cot and was probably suffocated by the blast. Next door at number 3, Ada Harrison, aged 68 was also killed. She and her husband ran a handful of sweet shops and newsagents. The final casualty was Sapper Bernard Browning, whose family lived in nearby Elmwood Road. He was on leave and was on the way to Chiswick Station to visit his girlfriend, when he was caught in the blast. Though he was buried in the family plot his headstone is white, signifying a war grave as he died in active service. The V2 rocket had been launched by the Wehrmacht from the Netherlands and took just 7 minutes to reach its destination. Measuring nearly 14m long and carrying a 1 tonne warhead, more than 3,000 of these ballistic missiles were fired. The highest number of casualties took place on 25 November 1944, when 160 people were killed in New Cross, South East London. A memorial to this tragic event was unveiled by the mayor of Hounslow in 2004, with a similar memorial being unveiled in Wassemar, a suburb of The Hague, where the V2 was launched.   ...

fairbankguy | 17th May 2016 | Guy the London Guide
  Tower Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world, and behind its iconic structure lies an amazing story. In the late 19th century London had grown to a city of 6 million, with a third of them living in the East End. To cross the river was a real problem - it still is - with the building of a foot tunnel by the Tower of London wholly inadequate. To solve the problem a competition was launched to design a bridge that had a clearance of 9 metres, so masted ships could pass beneath it and reach the Pool of London . The winners were Sir Horace Jones (who happened to be on the selection committee) and Sir John Wolfe Barry, son of Sir Charles. Their ingenious design is made from steel, with brick and Portland stone covering the metalwork. The solid piers took 4 years to build and involved employing divers, who were sent down to level the river bed. The work was hazardous and 5 workers lost their lives, but compared to other huge projects at that time fatalities were very light. The steel components were made in Glasgow and shipped down in 5 ton segments, so the gas-powered lifts could manage the weight. Scotsmen were also responsible for its construction too, using their experience and expertise from building the recent Forth Railway Bridge. Tower Bridge finally opened in 1894 at a cost of £1.1m. The bridge is a mix of brilliant engineering: part suspension, part cantilever and part box girder. It works on a bascule system (French for see-saw), using steam-driven hydraulics to raise or lower the roadway.  Nowadays electricity is used. The whole system takes just 90 seconds to open. In its first year Tower Bridge was lifted 6,100 times and even today it’s used over 1,000 times a year. When it opened the walkway above the road proved popular with all sorts of people, including pickpockets and ‘women who should know better’, so it was decided to close it. The walkway reopened only recently, with a new £900,000 glass floor -...

fairbankguy | 05th March 2016 | Guy the London Guide
    In an anonymous-looking warehouse in Hackney you’ll find the Museum of London Archaeology Archives. And behind the brick and steel building in N1 I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a tour, led by two enthusiastic volunteers. Here are all manner of finds, from masses of bones to shards of pottery and large items deemed to big to store, are safely stored in buff-coloured boxes, clearly labelled. When anything is found at a dig they are deemed either ‘registered’ - of significant interest or man-made - or ‘general’, for items like broken shards or fragments of bone. Whenever a developer wants to build a new structure they have to let the archaeologists survey and excavate the area - and pay for it. The City is enjoying a building boom at the moment and MOLA have never been busy but this has not always been the case: the archives for recession-hit 1990 looked very thin compared to other years. Sadly I wasn’t allowed to take any photos but I did see some fascinating objects. First up was a brick, but no ordinary brick, because it was found in Pudding Lane. It was there, on 2 September 1666 that the Great Fire of London broke out. Several nearby buildings stored tar for repairing ships and this was extremely flammable. It was wonderful to touch this piece of charred clay, scorched black from 17th century flames. Bone has been a common tool for Man for millennia, and we saw artefacts from Roman and Saxon times, including a comb that was used for nits. There were glass bottles found from the Olympic site in Stratford, medieval tiles from Westminster and - my favourite - a medieval ‘Guy’ jug, made from earthenware and given a green glaze. It was in perfect condition. We saw archaeological reports, drawings  and photos from sites and even visitors’ books, complete with comments (“don’t build!”, “do!”). Our last stop took us to the Glass and Ceramic Store, which houses complete pieces, including the archive fr...

fairbankguy | 03rd February 2016 | Guy the London Guide
The Trial of the Pyx is an ancient ceremony that dates back to the 13th century. Its purpose is to check that all UK coinage produced at The Royal Mint is of sufficient weight and composition. The name ‘pyx’ refers to the boxes in which the coins are carried and comes form the Pyx chamber in Westminster Abbey, where important artefacts were housed. We believe there was some quality control in early medieval times but it was in the reign of Henry II (1154-89) that regular tests took place By the mid-13th century the Trial had begun to take the form we know today. Early trials were first held in Westminster until 1580, when Elizabeth I decreed that: “My friends the Wardens of the Mystery of Goldsmiths of the City of London” should take over responsibility - and it has done so to this day. In practical terms this made sense, since the Assay Office, who issue the leopard’s head hallmark that you’ll see on any London sterling silver, was sited next door. The Trial is presided over by the senior judge on the Royal Courts of Justice, who is known as the Queen’s Remembrancer.  It is the oldest judicial position in the country and the present holder is Barbara Fontaine, who is the first female to hold that office. She begins proceedings by giving a short speech about the role, before the jury, comprising Wardens and selected liverymen of the Goldsmiths’ Company, along with the head of the Assay Office.  The benchmark against which coins are to be tested for “form and fineness” is known as the Trial Plate and include modern-day gold, silver and cupro-nickel metal plates. We saw the counting and weighing of the coins, which represented each batch of each denomination minted. Each set of coins, numbering 50, were in sealed packets. In front of each juryman and woman were 2 bowls, one wooden and one copper. Each member then counted the set, placed one coin in the copper bowl for assaying and the rest in the wooden b...

fairbankguy | 02nd January 2016 | Guy the London Guide
    Across the river on the Southwark side, opposite Cannon Street Station, you can see a small Tudor-like ship. This is the Golden Hinde II, a full-sized replica of Sir Francis Drake’s famous ship that circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580 and made Drake and Queen Elizabeth I very rich. In December 1577 Drake set out from Plymouth with 5 ships, which included the Pelican; however this was changed to the Golden Hinde, in honour of Sir Christopher Hatton, one of the patrons of the voyage. His coat of arms featured a female red deer - a ‘hinde’. This epic voyage brought Drake into the Pacific, where he managed to plunder Spanish ships and settlements. He hugged the American coast for a considerable way and some historians believe he may have sailed as far as Vancouver Island - even beyond. When he arrived back in England he was knighted on deck by Elizabeth I, who no doubt was pleased with her share of the spoils, which paid off the national debt and made Drake a hugely wealthy man. The Golden Hinde became a museum at its home in Deptford but it gradually fell into disrepair and was broken up. All that survives is a chair in the Bodleian Library , Oxford and a table in Middle Temple Hall, in London, both made from timbers. This replica was the dream of American businessmen Art Blum and Albert Eldridge was built in Appeldore, Devon and launched in 1973. Since then it has sailed over 140,000 miles and has featured in several TV programmes, including BBC TV’s Henry V: The Hollow Crown. This square-rigged galleon measures 102 ft long, with its main mast reaching to a height of 92 ft and a displacement of 300 tons. There was room for 55-60 men and boys, which would have made the ship incredibly crowded. You can visit the ship on a self-guided tour and it’s fascinating clambering aboard and exploring the cramped quarters, the hold which stored all the provisions and seeing Drake’s cabin. Sailing on this small...

fairbankguy | 20th November 2015 | Guy the London Guide
  In 1915 a young army chaplain, Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton (1885-1972) opened the Everyman’s Club at Talbot House, in the small Belgian town of Poperinge. The club was situated close to Ypres but was a world away from the horrors of the front line. Instead, soldiers found an oasis of peace and tranquillity, where they could, for a short time, forget about the war. Talbot House was named in memory of Lt. Gilbert Talbot, the brother of Padre Neville Talbot. Soldiers called it Toc H, the army signallers’ code for TH. Formally owned by a brewer who had fled the war, it needed complete refurnishing. Gifts, including 2 pianos, hundreds of books - even soft furnishings - were donated by people in England. If a soldier wished to borrow a book they had to leave their cap badge as a deposit - a sure-fire way of ensuring the book would be returned. Talbot House welcomed all soldiers; indeed, above the entrance was a sign saying: ‘All rank abandon, ye who enter here’. A private could chat to a general, a sergeant pray with a major. Upstairs, the attic was converted to a chapel and was called the ‘Upper Room’. The altar was made from a carpenter’s bench found in the garden, the candlesticks from old bedposts.  Several services were held a day and it is thought by the end of the war attendances had totalled 100,000. After the war Clayton became vicar of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, a post he held for 40 years. He’s buried there.   ...

fairbankguy | 15th August 2015 | Guy the London Guide
College Hill, a narrow lane parallel to Queen Street is one you’ve may never gone down. At the bottom of it stands St Michael Paternoster Royal. A Wren church, it was one of the last to be built after the Great Fire. It’s named after the paternosters, the ‘Our Father’ chants the priests used to utter, and the town of La Reole, in Bordeaux, which had connections with the wine trade. Now the church is the headquarters of the Mission of Seafarers but its claim to fame really lies in one of the burials, for it was here that Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor of London was buried in 1423. His house once stood next door. What we know of Dick Whittington and what the pantomime tells us is very different. He was born in fact in 1354, the younger son of a Gloucestershire knight, who went to London to become an apprentice to the Mercers’ Company, dealing in fine fabrics. He did very well and made a massive fortune. So much so, in fact, that he lent money to Richard II, helped build the Guildhall and bought Leadenhall Market for the Corporation. At a famous feast he ceremoniously burned a debt of £60,000 owed by Henry V on a pyre of sandalwood. Whittington became a City alderman and, when the incumbent Lord Mayor Adam Bamme died in office in 1397, the king chose him to succeed. He was subsequently re-elected and became mayor again in 1407 and 1419, so he ended up being Lord Mayor 4 times under 3 kings. He married an Alice Fitzwarren but there were no children from the marriage. When he died in 1423 he used his great wealth to benefit the City.  He built almshouses for the poor people, which are still going strong but are now in East Grinstead. His Whittington Charity, set up to help disadvantaged Londoners still functions and is run by the Mercers’ Company. Fortunately his public lavatory, known as Whittington’s Longhouse, has long gone! As for the cat, we’ll never know but it may have referred to a ‘catte’, which wa...

fairbankguy | 21st July 2015 | Guy the London Guide
  Crossrail is Europe’s largest construction project. As work continues archaeologists from the Museum of London have had the chance to investigate Bethel Burial Ground, near Liverpool Street Station. From 1569 and for another 170 years some 20,000 corpses were buried, mainly from the working and middle classes. During that time London’s population quadrupled to half a million. Archaeologists have made some fascinating discoveries as they dug up 3,000 bodies. They haven't identified any of the corpses but volunteers have trawled through some of the parish records of the 124 churches. Many of the deceased were not Londoners but came from as far as Cornwall, Scotland, Europe - and the Caribbean and Africa, all trying to seek their fortune in this boom city.  Osteoarchaeologists have had a chance to study the bones: they found repetitive sprain injuries (from weaving) and ground-down teeth, thanks to the newly acquired taste for tobacco that was smoked from clay pipes. There was evidence of violence, no doubt caused by the high antics of a youthful population.  If they weren’t stabbed then there was the chance of catching the French pox (syphilis), from visiting the prostitutes in Southwark. As for children, infant mortality was very high - some 50%. Rickets was a frequent killer. And researchers have found more surprises: African citizens lived in the City and not all were slaves. They came to London for work and money, and many found employment as servants. In the parish records they were often classed as ‘strangers’ as the clerks did not know how to categorise them. In 1597 at St Botolph’s without Aldgate, a Mary Phyllis, the 20 year-old daughter of a basket maker was baptised as a ‘blackmore’.  London archaeologists continue to surprise and excite us.     ...