Having previously looked at the Norman fortification (razed by King John in 1213 – see our earlier post here), this time we’re taking a look at the later (medieval) fortification known as Baynard’s Castle.

Baynard's-CastleIn the 1300s, a mansion was constructed about 100 metres east of where the castle had originally stood on a riverfront site which had been reclaimed from the Thames. This was apparently destroyed by fire before being rebuilt in the 1420s and it became the seat of the House of York during the Wars of the Roses. King Edward IV was proclaimed king here in 1461 and King Richard III was offered the crown here in 1483 (a moment famously captured by William Shakespeare).

King Henry VII transformed the fortified mansion into a royal palace at the start of the 16th century – adding a series of towers – and his son, King Henry VIII, gave it to the ill-fated Catherine of Aragon when they married. The Queen subsequently took up residence (Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves also resided here when queen – the latter was the last member of the royal family to use it as a permanent home).

After King Henry VIII’s death, the palace passed into the hands of the Earl of Pembroke (brother-in-law of Queen Catherine Parr, Henry’s surviving Queen) who substantially extended it, adding ranges around a second courtyard. In 1553, both Lady Jane Grey and Queen Mary I were proclaimed queen here. Queen Elizabeth I was another royal visitor to the palace, entertained with a fireworks display when she did.

It was left untouched during the Civil War (the Pembrokes were Parliamentarians) but following the Restoration, it was occupied by the Royalist Earl of Shrewsbury (among his visitors was King Charles II). It wasn’t to be for long however – the palace was largely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, although remnants of the building, including one or two of the towers, continued to be used for various purposes until the site was finally cleared in the 1800s to make way for warehouses.

The site in Queen Victoria Street in Blackfriars (the area is named for the monastery built on the site of the Norman castle) is now occupied by the Brutalist building named Baynard House. The castle is also commemorated in Castle Baynard Street and Castle Baynard Ward.

It was discovered in archaeological excavations in the 197os that the castle’s waterfront wall had been built on top of the Roman riverside city wall.

PICTURE: © Copyright Andrew Abbott

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Magna-Carta-1297_Copright-London-Metropolitan-Archives---CopyThe 13th century’s finest surviving copy of the Magna Carta is taking centre stage at the new City of London Heritage Gallery which opens to the public this Friday. The 1297 document, which bears a superimposed memo reading ‘make it happen’, is being featured as part of the Corporation’s efforts to mark next year’s 800th anniversary of the signing of the landmark document. Other items on display in the new permanent, purpose-built exhibition space at the Guildhall Art Gallery include the medieval Cartae Antiquae, a volume containing transcripts of charters and statues covering laws enacted between 1327 and 1425 – a period which includes the reign of King Richard III, a poster for a World War I recruitment meeting held at the Guildhall in 1914, and a series of paintings depicting the 25 City Aldermen who were in office in the mid-1400s. The gallery, admission to which is free, will in future feature a rotating selection of rare documents from the City of London Corporation’s archives including the purchase deed William Shakespeare signed on buying a home in Blackfriars in 1613. For more, including opening times, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/heritagegallery. For more on events to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta next year, see www.magnacarta800th.com. PICTURE: Copyright London Metropolitan Archives.

Rare depictions of Tudor monarchs will be seen at the National Portrait Gallery in the most complete presentation of their portraiture to date. The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered features the gallery’s oldest portrait – that of King Henry VII – displayed alongside a Book of Hours inscribed by the king to his daughter, six portraits of King Henry VIII along with his rosary (on loan from Chatsworth), portraits of King Edward VI and a page from his diary in which he relates his father’s death, five portraits of Queen Mary I along with her prayer book (on loan from Westminster Cathedral) and several portraits of Queen Elizabeth I displayed alongside her locket ring (on loan from Chequers, the country residence of the PM). There will also be a discussion surrounding the search for a “real” portrait of the ‘nine days queen’, Lady Jane Grey, alongside a portrait of her that dates from the Elizabethan period. With many of the portraits newly examined as part of the gallery’s ‘Making Art in Tudor Britain’ project, visitors to the gallery will also be able to access a specially created app which allowing them to access the new research while looking at the portraits. The display, which will form the core of a larger exhibition in Paris next year, can be seen until 1st March. Admission to the gallery, off Trafalgar Square, is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

An exhibition of rare maps from London, dating from between 1572 and last year, at gallery@oxo on South Bank, is closing on Sunday. Part of the Totally Thames festival, the Mapping London exhibition shows how the landscape along the River Thames as it passes through the capital has changed over the years. It features the first available map of London, which dates from 1572, as well as a 2013 map of underground London, monumental wall maps, and even a map of London that doubles as fan. The free exhibition at Oxo Tower Wharf is being curated by Daniel Crouch, one of the world’s leading map dealers. For more, see www.totallythames.org/events/info/mapping-london.

• A Crafts Council touring exhibition showcasing the work of 12 contemporary artisans and design studios – each of which uses objects as a means of storytelling – has opened at Pitzhanger Manor House and Gallery in Ealing – its first stop – this week. Crafting Narrative: Storytelling through objects and making explores the potential of objects to reflect on history, culture, society and technology through a combination of new and commissioned works, film text and photography. Works include Hilda Hellström’s The Materiality of a Natural Disaster which consists of food vessels made of soil from a field belonging to the last resident inside the Japanese Daiichi nuclear plant exclusion zone, Onkar Kular and Noam Toran’s archive of objects belonging to the fictional Lövy-Singh clan – an East London family of mixed Jewish and Sikh descent, and Hefin Jones’ The Welsh Space Campaign which features objects such as astronaut boots in the form of traditional Welsh clogs in an attempt to show how Wales has the capacity to explore space. The free exhibition is at the manor until 19th October. For more, see www.pitzhanger.org.uk.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

The-MinoriesLocated close to Tower Hill in the eastern part of the City, this pub – and indeed the street in which it sits (at number 64-73) – takes its name from a former nunnery that was once located here.

Known as the Minoresses, the nuns – who belonged to the Order of St Clare (also known as the Poor Clares) – lived in a nunnery here. The institution was founded by in 1293 by Edmund, the brother to King Edward I (reigned 1272-1307), and the earl of Lancaster, Leicester, and Derby, to house nuns who had been brought to England from Spain by the earl’s wife, Blanche of Artois, the widow of King Henry I of Navarre.

As with the case of the Black Friars, the name came to be used to refer to the district in which the now long-gone nunnery once stood (it was dissolved in the Great Dissolution and later used as a residence by the likes of Henry, Duke of Suffolk and father of Lady Jane Grey) and lives on in the name of the street and the pub.

The pub, which has undergone a paint job since our picture was taken, is located under a railway bridge (and may have once been part of the former Minories Railway Station which closed in 1873. For more, see www.minories-london.co.uk.

Where is it? #12

November 25, 2011

The latest in the series in which we ask you to identify where in London this picture was taken and what it’s of. If you reckon you know the answer, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

And the answer is…this is part of the decorative facade of the Middlesex Guildhall which stands opposite the Houses of Parliament in Parliament Square. The building, which dates from 1912-13 and stands on the former site of the Westminster Abbey Sanctuary Tower and Old Belfry (where fugitives from the law could seek sanctuary), is now home to the Supreme Court and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Designed by architect James Gibson, it is the latest in a series of buildings which stood on the site which have served as courthouses and the headquarters of the Middlesex County Council (the first Middlesex Guildhall was built here in 1889). Described by Nikolaus Pevsner as “art nouveau Gothic”, it features a series of medieval-looking decorative friezes and sculptures by Henry Charles Fehr.

The image pictured above shows one of the friezes – this one of the Duke of Northumberland offering the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey the Crown (known as the “Nine Days Queen”, she was later imprisoned and eventually executed on 12th February, 1554). Others show King John handing the Magna Carta to the English barons and the granting of the charter of Westminster Abbey.

It was refurbished for use of the Supreme Court in 2007 and the court has occupied it since its creation in 2009.

Interestingly, according to Ed Glinert of The London Compendium, it was here that courts martial were held of those suspected of giving aid to the enemy during World War I.

Sitting on the bank of the Thames at Old Isleworth in the city’s west stands The London Apprentice public house.

The pub’s licence dates back to at least 1731 and it has been associated with the likes of such luminaries as King Henry VIII (it’s suggested he met Catherine Howard here – she was later imprisoned in nearby Syon House), King Charles I and King Charles II (the latter apparently cavorted with his mistress, actress Nell Gwynne, here), as well as the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey and Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.

Others whose names come up in reference to the pub include the ever-present author Charles Dickens (this is said to have been one his favorite pubs) and notorious highwayman Dick Turpin.

While there remain some doubts over its origins, the name of the pub – which stands opposite the small isle known as the Isleworth Ait – is said to stem from the fact that it was here that London apprentices, having faithfully served their masters, came to while away the hours in their downtime. They are said to have entertained themselves by playing about in decorated barges on the river.

There is said to be a tunnel, now blocked, which links the pub with the nearby All Saint’s Church – the story goes that this was used by smugglers to get their contraband into the pub’s cellars.

For more information or to pay a visit, see www.thelondonapprentice.co.uk.

Happy St David’s Day!

March 1, 2011

It’s St David’s Day, Wales’ national day of celebration, so you may have noticed the Welsh flag flying in a few places you wouldn’t normally see it – including at 10 Downing Street. In keeping with the theme of all things Welsh, we’re taking a look at a couple of Welsh-related sites in London…

St Benet, Paul’s Wharf – Known as London’s “Welsh church”, the current St Benet’s was rebuilt to the designs of Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666 although a church has stood on this site for 900 years. Services have been held at the church (pictured right) in Welsh since 1879 after Queen Victoria granted Welsh Anglicans the right to worship in their own language there. Known formally at St Benet’s Metropolitan Welsh Church, the premises, located just off Queen Victoria Street in the City, has also been the church of the College of Arms since 1555. Among other historic titbits is the suggestion that both Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey – the “nine day Queen” – may have received the last rites here before going on to their executions at the Tower of London, that 17th century architect Inigo Jones was buried here, and that King Charles II had a special door built for himself in the side of the building and a private room where he could take part in services. See www.stbenetwelshchurch.org.uk

The London Welsh Centre – Located in Gray’s Inn Road, the centre’s origins go back to the founding of the Young Wales Association in 1920, created to provide a focus for young Welsh people in London. The organisation, which initially didn’t have a permanent home, held meetings in several locations before moving to the current premises in the 1930s. Today the premises is used by the London Welsh Centre and is the base for three choirs – the London Welsh Chorale, The London Welsh Gwalia Male Choir and The London Welsh Male Voice Choir. It also provides Welsh language classes and hosts concerts and other cultural events. See www.londonwelsh.org.

Memorial to Welsh poet Iolo Morganwg – A memorial plaque to this Welsh poet and antiquarian stands on Primrose Hill on the site where the first meeting of the Gorsedd of Bards of the Isle of Britain, convened by Morganwg, was held in 1792. The plaque was unveiled in 2009. Follow this link for more information.

Do you know of any other Welsh-related sites in London? Let us know…

Nestled on Tower Hill, somewhat overshadowed by the monumental memorial to the merchant naval casualities of World War I and II nearby, lay a series of plaques commemorating more than 125 people who were executed there.

The plaques, which stand on the site of the former scaffold, list the names of some of the most prominent who died there including Simon of Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was beheaded by an angry mob during the Peasant’s Revolt in 1381, John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester, and former chancellor Sir Thomas More – both of whom were executed in 1535 on the orders of King Henry VIII, and Thomas Cromwell, another chancellor who fell foul of King Henry VIII and was executed in 1540.

Later executions include William Laud, another Archbishop of Canterbury who was executed in 1645, James, Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of King Charles II who was executed in 1685, and Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, who became the last man to be executed there in 1747 (and the last man in England to be beheaded) after his capture following the Battle of Culloden in Scotland.

An inscription at the site reads that the memorial was created to “commemorate the tragic history and in many cases the martyrdom of those who for the sake of their faith, country or ideals staked their lives and lost”.

It’s worth noting that contrary to popular belief only 10 people were ever executed on Tower Green inside the Tower of London including two of King Henry VIII’s queens – Anne Boelyn (1536) and Catherine Howard (1542) – as well as the tragically young Lady Jane Grey, queen for only nine days before she was beheaded in 1554, and three Black Watch soldiers who were shot in 1743 after being charged with mutiny.