Treasures of London – Prior Bolton’s oriel window…

Prior Bolton’s oriel window (left) seen in the church. PICTURE: Kotomi_ (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

This 500-year-old window is located inside the church of St Bartholomew the Great.

It was constructed on the orders of William Bolton who became prior of St Barts in 1505. Bolton, who was employed by both King Henry VII and King Henry VIII on various building projects including at Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, also brought his love of construction to his role as prior and ordered the construction of a new lodging for himself to be built at the church’s eastern end.

A wooden gallery led from the first floor of the new lodging to the gallery of the church quire, where he had a private chapel. The oriel window, located in the chapel, gave a view of the quire, the high altar and the tomb of Rahere – the founder of the priory, located on the other side of the church (the window also enabled the prior to keep an eye on the monks!).

Bolton had his name recorded on the window in the form of a pictorial pun which shows a barrel or ‘tun’ pieced by a crossbow bolt (ie bolt-tun).

Bolton also had a door put through from the church to his new lodgings – it too can still be seen in the church.

WHERE: Off Little Britain, West Smithfield (nearest tube station is Barbican); WHEN: 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, 1pm to 5pm Sunday (plus services) ; COST: Free (but donations welcomed); WEBSITE: www.greatstbarts.com

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