A Narrative History of London
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Tudor London
By David Nash Ford

The first monarch of the Tudor dynasty had a great impact on London architecture in the form of 'Henry VII's Chapel,' the addition he made to the eastern end of Westminster Abbey. The antiquarian, John Leland, considered it to be a 'Wonder of the World'. It is certainly a triumph of renaissance architecture. Henry VII planned it as a shrine-chapel for the body of his half-uncle, the pious King Henry VI. But the Pope would not canonize him and the place became Henry VII's own mausoleum. His main residence was Baynard's Castle which he rebuilt in a more palatial style than its predecessor. He was the last

Baynard's Castle stood first on the river-bank close to the Fleet Tower and the western extremity of the city wall. The great house which afterwards bore this name was on the bank, but a little more to the east. The name survived in Baynard's Castle Ward and Wharf. There was no house in the City more interesting than this. More
monarch to have a permanent residence within the city walls. He also rebuilt the Palace of Sheen, when it burnt to the ground in 1498, and had it renamed as Richmond Palace. He died there in 1509.

His son, Henry VIII, was another great palatial builder. He expanded York House, the London residence of the Archbishop of York, to become the Palace of Whitehall, joining Westminster with Charing Cross. He also erected Bridewell Palace (the name derives from an ancient holy well), south of Fleet Street just west of the city, when the Royal apartments at Whitehall were wrecked by fire. New lodgings at Bridewell were needed to house the retinue of the Emperor Charles V when he visited London in 1522. Charles himself stayed with the Blackfriars next door. Henry also built St. James' Palace and the now lost Palace of Nonsuch. He confiscated Hampton Court from Cardinal Wolsey and added much of what we see there today. However, Henry's favourite residence was Greenwich Palace, where he had been born; and it thus became the scene of many important historical episodes during his reign.

Like the Archbishops of York at Whitehall, the prelates from Canterbury had a London home across the river at Lambeth Palace. The complex was originally established in 1197 and a medieval chapel crypt survives where the hearings for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn's divorce were heard. Most of the present building is Tudor including the Gatehouse and Great Hall. Its Lollards Tower was where the heretical followers of John Wycliff were imprisoned.

In social and economic, as well as architectural terms, the Reformation was to be the defining event of the Tudor period in the capital. At the start of Henry VIII's reign, London was filled with splendid religious buildings, the treasures of previous centuries. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, vast numbers of these were destroyed or adapted to secular use and the damage was still widely visible in Elizabeth I's time. Most of the monastic orders and friars quickly submitted to the will of the King and lost their great and long-established buildings. However, the Carthusian Church of Charterhouse, in Smithfield, was more reluctant than most to surrender. Its Prior was dragged through the streets on a hurdle and hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. His severed arm was nailed to the Priory Gate as a warning to the rest of the community, but they held out for three years before the execution of fifteen of their number persuaded them to leave. The buildings were incorporated into a great town house for one of the King's Royal Courtiers.

Much of the plunder of the church was used to the advantage of private citizens in this way, and conversions continued into the reign of Edward VI. In 1547, the Duke of Somerset used stone from Clerkenwell Priory and St. Paul's Charnel House to build himself a magnificent Renaissance Palace on the Strand. The Strand Inn and the Church of the Nativity, as well as the houses of the Bishops of Chester and Worcester, were torn down to make way for this new Somerset House. The losses of the church presented great opportunities for the City Livery Companies too and they claimed many fine buildings for themselves from those left redundant.

More benevolent foundations were established by King Henry VIII himself. He claimed to be the (re-)founder of the medical hospital of St. Bartholomew, which still survives today; as do large parts of the adjoining priory and church of the same name. Similarly, he claimed to have refounded St. Thomas's Hospital, also still extant, though it was moved, in the 19th century, from the Southwark side of London Bridge to Lambeth. The refoundation of the Bethlehem Hospital for the mentally ill (Bedlam), outside Bishopgate, was also laid at Henry's door.

These changes meant that the poor of the city were no longer able to gain help from the monasteries. In the final years of Elizabeth I's reign, the first realistic Poor Law Act was introduced. Until then, the poor had largely been oppressed. The fall of the monastic way of life also left a void in the city's education system, such as it was. King Edward VI gave Bridewell Palace to the city as a boys' training house for industry (and also a penitentiary). Similarly, Christ's Hospital School for the education of poor children, was created from the Greyfriars' buildings at Newgate. However, it was largely the efforts of the rising merchants which helped the situation by their establishing new educational foundations. Many well-known public schools, founded through the generosity of city merchants, date from this time, including: Charterhouse, St. Paul's, the City of London School, the Merchant Taylors' and Mercers' Schools. Though the Inns of Chancery were in decline, the Inns of Court continued their educational role in the city and their great halls are a magnificent survival from the Tudor age. The Old Hall at Lincoln's Inn dates from 1490, Gray's Inn from 1556 (though much restored in 1951) and Middle Temple from 1573. Shakespeare performed several of his plays in them.

Queen Mary, in 1554, when Sir Thomas Wyat marched on the city but was unable to enter the Ludgate because it had been closed against him. The second was led by the Earl of Essex against Elizabeth I in 1601, but neither held much chance of success as the Londoners were not willing to support them.

The accession of Queen Mary was delayed a little by the proclamation, at Baynard's Castle, of Lady Jane Grey, who reigned for nine days. The mayor was absent from this ceremony and the people are said to have been unenthusiastic. In contrast, on July 11th 1553, the mayor and the Recorder and crowds of aldermen attended Mary's proclamation

A reconstructed Globe Theatre stands on the Southbank near the site of the original Globe. If you are lucky, you can attend a performance at this open air venue in the summer. Click to visit Shakespeare's Globe for information. You can book tickets over by phone (020 7401 9919) using a credit card.
as Queen. This lady was a staunch catholic, like her Spanish mother, and her time on the throne was not a happy period for Londoners, many of whom had embraced the Protestantism of Mary's brother's reign. In only four years she had some 200 Protestant martyrs burnt at Smithfield for not renouncing their faith.

Elizabeth I's accession to the throne eventually brought more relaxed times to the people of London. It was the heyday of the English theatre, and Londoners flocked to Southwark as the entertainment capital of the city. Here were the Hope, the Swan, the Rose and the Globe: great theatres all. The latter two were the work places of William Shakespeare who spent most of his life in this area of London. Less official performances were executed at the many galleried inns in the nearby streets. There were also more base entertainments available such as bear baiting or cock-fighting. Then, of course, there were the brothels. Southwark was famous for its ladies of the night who worked from the stews on the Bishop of Winchester lands. The Bishop regulated the industry and made himself a tidy profit.

After the attempted invasion of Britain by the Spanish Armada in 1588, when the loyal Londoners raised a large band of men to help defeat the invaders, England became more politically stable. There was a marked increase in prosperity and the population of London grew accordingly. The core of the city was built around the lands seized from the church and we begin to see the richer citizens moving out to country estates to the west of the city along the Thames where many of the old bishops' palaces were rebuilt for use by the nobility. The detailed maps, by Van den Wyngaerde, Braun and Hogenberg, as well as Ralph Agas, give a much clearer picture of the layout of the city than we have from previous times.

Next: Stuart London

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