Lemuel Gulliver, the ‘hero’ of Jonathan Swift’s 1726 book, Gulliver’s Travels, wasn’t a native Londoner but moved to the city for work and lived in several different locations before embarking on his famous voyage to the land of Lilliput.

lemuel-gulliverAccording to the book, the Nottinghamshire-born Gulliver studied at Emanuel College (sic) in Cambridge before he was apprenticed to London surgeon known as James Bates after which he spent a couple of years studying in the Dutch town of Leiden (spelt Leydon in the book).

Returning to England briefly, he spent the next few years voyaging to the “Levant” before returning to London where he “took part of a small house in Old Jewry” (Old Jewry lies in the City of London runs between Poultry and Gresham Street) and married Mary Burton, daughter of a Newgate Street hosier.

His master Bates dying, however, a couple of years later and with a failing business, he took up the position of surgeon on two different ships and it was when he eventually returned to London that he moved to Fetter Lane – which runs north from Fleet Street – and then from there to Wapping where hoping to retire from the sea and “get business (presumably he meant medical cases) among the sailors”.

But it was not to be and so, in 1699, Mr Gulliver set off on the voyage accounted in the famous book.

The name Fetter Lane, incidentally, has nothing to do with fetters (ie chains) – see our earlier post for more. And it’s also worth noting that the author, Jonathan Swift, also visited and lived in London at various times of his career – we’ll take a more in depth look at his experiences in a later post.

PICTURE: Lemuel Gulliver, depicted in a first edition of Gulliver’s Travels/Wikipedia.

We recently ran a piece on the building of the first stone London Bridge (see our earlier post here) and so we thought it timely to take a look at the life of the builder, priest and ‘architect’ Peter de Colechurch.

Not a lot is known about the life of de Colechurch – although we do know he took his name from the fact he the chaplain of St Mary Colechurch, a church which once stood at the junction of Poultry and Old Jewry (and was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666).

The stone London Bridge wasn’t his first attempt at bridge-building – in 1163 he had supervised the rebuilding of the wooden London Bridge after a fire some 30 years before.

His role in building the subsequent stone bridge remains a little unclear but he was known to have been in charge of the building works themselves and also headed the fundraising and it is believed he headed a guild responsible for the upkeep of the bridge known as the Fraternity of the Brethren of London Bridge.

His seal depicts a priest celebrating mass at an altar with the Latin Sigillum Petri Sacerdotis Pontis Londoniarum (Seal of Peter Priest of London Bridge).

The chapel on the bridge was dedicated to St Thomas á Becket and it’s suggested that he and de Colechurch would have known each other – Becket had been christened at St Mary Colechurch in 1118.

Sadly, de Colechurch did not live to see the stone London Bridge completed – he died in 1205 and was buried under the floor of the chapel on the bridge.

Some bones in a small casket were disinterred in from the chapel undercroft in 1832 – now in the Museum of London, these were rumoured to be those of de Colechurch although after analysis the bones were found to be part of a human arm bone, a cow bone and goose bones. (Other accounts suggest most of Peter’s bones were tossed into the Thames and a small number sold at auction).

The reason for the name of this church, founded in 1136, may seem obvious – it was associated with London’s Jewish community, thanks to its location on the edge of the area in which they lived (this area was centred on the street just to the south still known as Old Jewry).

What is perhaps more amazing may be the fact that the name stuck despite the expulsion of all Jews from London in 1291, the name was still used to distinguish it from other churches.

The church – named in honor of St Lawrence, a Roman era martyr who was slow grilled over a fire – was among those consumed in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren afterwards. This new church had the honor of being reopened by King Charles II in 1677 – it was badly damaged in the Blitz before being rebuilt by Cecil Brown to Wren’s original design.

Located just off Guildhall Yard – home of the City’s authorities – St Lawrence Jewry is the official church of the Corporation of London and as such hosts a number of special services for the Lord Mayor and Aldermen during the year. Some 11 livery companies have links with the church – among them are those of tallow chandlers, loriners, girders, haberdashers and actuaries.

Worth noting on the inside is the painting of the martyrdom of St Lawrence – this survived the Blitz along with the tower and outer walls – and the many beautiful stained glass windows, painstakingly restored after World War II. There’s also a pond, complete with fish, outside the main entrance.

WHERE: Guildhall Yard (nearest Tube stations are St Paul’s, Bank and, a little further off, Moorgate and Mansion House). WHEN: 8am to 6pm Monday to FridayCOST: Free; WEBSITE: www.stlawrencejewry.org.uk.