Golden-Boy-of-Pye-CornerWe’ve mentioned this memorial before but it’s worth a revisit. While last week’s entry looked at a plaque marking the site of the start of the Great Fire of London in September, 1666, this week we’re taking a (second) look at one of the sites where it was stopped.

Positioned high on a building on the corner of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane in Smithfield, this small wooden gilt 17th century statue, by an unknown maker, was once located on front of the pub, The Fortune of War, which stood on the site until it was demolished in 1910 (it was apparently used by body-snatchers as a place to display stolen corpses for surgeons from the nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital to take their pick from).

The statue marks one of the locations on the city fringes where the fire was ‘stayed’ through the demolition of buildings. It bears an inscription which reads “This Boy is in Memmory put up for the late Fire of London Occasion’d by the Sin of Gluttony 1666”.

Well below it is an explanatory note below explains that the boy was made deliberately fat (the statue was apparently originally known as ‘The Fat Boy’ although to the modern eye it doesn’t look particularly so) in reference to the rather odd claim the fire was started in Pudding Lane as a result of the sin of gluttony and not by Papists as had been originally claimed on The Monument.

It has been said that the statue – which is believed to have once had wings and which is the reason why the building it is upon carries a Grade II heritage listing – was merely a shop sign and originally had nothing to do with the Great Fire, which may well be the case, but that said it is known that the fire stopped here (sparing St Bart’s further up Giltspur Street).

PICTURE: David Adams

William-Wallace-memorialHe was captured in Scotland but it was actually at Smithfield in London that the Scottish leader, Sir William Wallace, was put to death on 23rd August, 1305.

Erected in 1956 by “Scots and friends at home and abroad”, a plaque located on the wall of St Bartholomew’s Hospital overlooking the former execution ground commemorates the “Scottish patriot” Wallace, saying that from the year 1296 “fought dauntlessly in defence of his country’s liberty and independence in the face of fearful odds and great hardship”. It goes on to note that he was “eventually betrayed”, captured and executed “near this spot”.

Elsewhere the memorial reads: “His example, heroism and devotion inspired those who came after him to win victory from defeat and his memory remains for all time a source of pride, honour and inspiration to his countrymen”.

Having co-led the Scottish to victory against the army of King Edward I at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, Wallace was later knighted for his efforts and subsequently served as a Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland.

Following his defeat at English hands in the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, he escaped and continued to evade capture until he was apprehended near Glasgow in August 1305. Brought to London where he was put on trial in Westminster Hall. Summarily found guilty of treason, he was stripped naked and dragged to Smithfield and it was there that he suffered the horrible death of being hung, drawn and quartered.

And while the 1995 movie, Braveheart, had Wallace crying out “Freedom” as he died, his last words are actually not recorded. His tarred head was subsequently displayed on a pike atop London Bridge while his limbs were sent to towns including Stirling in Scotland.