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Story Of London

The City Gates in 1598: III


John Stow, who grew up in Elizabethan London, was the earliest of the a long line of antiquarian scholars who have provided us with vivid descriptions of the City at various stages of her development. His Survey of London first appeared in 1598 and was re-issued “Since by the same Author increased, with divers rare notes of Antiquity” in 1603. In our third extract, we move north-west from the aldgate and come to Bishiopsgate. Stow here treats us to a mini-topographical tour of the streets north of the City as he elucidates the alternative routes to the north and east which hd to be followed before the erection of Bishopsgate. He then rehearses the history of the association of the Hansa merchants with the upkeep of the gate and how their proposed new gate was never erected.

Stow's monument in the church of St Andrew Undershaft.The third, and next toward the north, is called Bishopsgate, for that, as may be supposed, the same was first built by some Bishop of London, though now unknown when, or by whom; but true it is, that the first gate was first built for ease of passengers towards he east, and by north, as into Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, etc.; the travellers into which parts, before the building of this gate, were forced, passing out at Aeldgate, to go east until they came to the Mile’s end, and then turning on the left hand to Blethenhall green, now called Bednal green, to Cambridge heath, and so north, or east, and by north, as their journey lay.Bishopsgate.If they took not this way, by the east out of Aeldgate, they must take their way by the north out of Aeldersgate street and Goswel street towards Iseldon, and by a cross of stone on the right hand side, set up or a mark by the north end of Golding lane, to turn eastward through a long street, until this day called Alder street, to another cross standing, where now a smith’s forge is placed by sewer’s-ditch church, and then to turn again north towards Totenham, Endfield, Waltham, Ware, etc.The eldest note that I read of this Bishopsgate, is that William Blund, one of the sheriffs of London, in the year 1210, sold to Serle Mercer, and William Almaine, procurators of wardens of London bridge, all this land, with the garden, in the parish of St. Buttolph without Bishopsgate, between the land of Richard Casiarin, towards the north, and the land of Robert Crispie towards the south. And the highway called Berewards lane on the east, etc.Next I read in a charter, dated the year 1235, that Walter Brune, citizen of London, and Rosia his wife, having founded the priory or new hospital of our Blessed Lade, since called St. Mary Spittle without Bishopsgate, confirmed the same to the honour of God and our Blessed Lady, for canons, regular.Also in the year 1247, Simon Fitzmarie, one of the sheriffs of London, the 29th of Henry III, founded the hospital of St. Mary, called Bethlem without Bishopsgate. Thus much for the antiquity of this gate.The City of London in Stow's time.And now for repairing the same, I find that Henry III. Confirmed to the merchants of the Haunce, that had a house in the city called Guildhalla Theutonicorum, certain liberties and privileges. Edward I also confirmed the same; in the tenth year of whose reign it was found that the said merchants ought of right to repair the said gate called Bishopsgate; whereupon Gerard Marbod, alderman of the Haunce, and other, then remaining in the city of London, for themselves and all other merchants of the said Haunce, granted two hundred and ten marks sterling to the mayor and citizens; and covenanted that they and their successors should from time to time repair the same gate. This gate was again beautifully built in the year 1479, in the reign of Edward IV., by the said Haunce merchants.Moreover, about the year 1551, these Haunce merchants, having prepared stone for that purpose, caused a new gate to be framed, there to have been set up, but then their liberties, through suit of our English merchants, were seized into the king’s hand; and so that work was stayed, and he old gate yet remaineth.