In 1623 ninety-five people perished when the floor of a temporary chapel in the Blackfriars district collapsed. Two of our antiquaries, John Strype and Walter Thornbury, have left us vivid descriptions of the event. These differ in both the detail and, particularly, in the style. For these reasons it is informative to compare them. Here is how John Strype, writing in 1752, describes the tragedy. Strype was Church of England minister and his approach is very different from that of the journalist Thornbury. It is also much longer, and will be given in three parts. Here is the third part, which includes a full list of the names of those who perished in the disaster.
But whatsoever thou be, Protestant or Papist, that doth see this mournful Object, judge not, lest thou be judged. Neither think thou, that those eighteen Men upon whom the Tower of Siloam fell, or those persons whose Blood Pilate mingled with their Sacrifice, were more grievous Sinners than all the rest of the Children of Israel; or that these who perished thus together, were more notorious Offenders than all the rest of their Brethren and Religion. For assure thy self, that except thou repent, thou also shalt perish.
And this Repentance of thine must not be propter scandalum mundi , i.e. for the scandal and offence of the World. For so did Saul repent, when out of a foolish and State-spoiling pity, he had spared Agag, the cursed Tyrant of Amalecke; and but of a fair, yet foul pretence, had spared the fairest of the Cattle for Sacrifice: For being rebuked by the Prophet Samuel, he doth repent, and desires him to honour him in the sight of the Elders, and to turn unto him, and he would turn unto the Lord his God.
Neither must it be propter pœnam peccati, i. e. for their punishment, that is due unto Sin. For so did Ahab repent, when he was reproved by Elias for killing of Naboth, and detaining of his Vineyard; he rent his cloths, and girded himself in sackcloth, as the Text hath it. But after that the fright and terror of God’s most terrible Sentence was worn out of his Mind, and the Custom of Sin began to prevail again, he sold himself to commit such abominations, the like whereof were never committed in Israel.
But our Repentance must be propter reatum peccati, i.e. for the guilt of Sin; as Sin is the breach of the Law, and a transgression of God’s Commandment. Quæ sic dolet commissa, ut non doleat committenda. Which Repentance doth grieve for Sins committed, as though it meant to commit no more; and mourn for Offences past, as though it did mean to pass over no more.
We must take Repentance as Job did, in Dust and Ashes. Being Dust, we must take it in Dust; and being Ashes, we must take it in Ashes. Our Transgressions in this Kingdom, and in this City, have been most grievous; therefore our Contrition should be eminent and exemplar. Our Pride hath made us, with Lucifer, to superbire et superire, look over our selves, not into our selves; and to esteem our selves like unto God, when we are scarce Men.
Neither is this Pride simplex peccatum , a single and simple Sin, but it draws after it Excess and Riot, as it were with a Cart-rope: Unto which Luxury of ours, neither Persian nor Roman were equal. After which follow Fornication and Adulteries, which are so frequent in this Place, that in vain may we speak of the Bordellas of Rome, or the Stews of Venice, since the Suburbs of this sinful City, are as bad as the Suburraes of Rome and Venice.
Moreover, our Drunkenness is such, that although our Eyes look red, and our Hearts are as fat as Brawn with drinking of Wine, yet, we rise up early to drink strong Drink. Which when it hath inflamed our Blood and Spirits, we are ready, with Lot, to fall unto all Pollution and Uncleanness.
And last of all, we are so uncharitable, so stony-hearted and close-fisted, that we may be fitly compared unto lumps of Clay, tempered with Blood; although we are Statues of Flint, without the Blood or Life and Charity.
For this Cause, repent, O England, repent, O London! repent Protestants, repent Papists, for your Transgressions and Offences! Repent, repent; for by these wonderful Signs and Tokens, it doth apear most clearly, that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
A Note of such Persons as were slain by the fall of the Room wherein they were, in the Black Friers, at Father Drury’s Sermon, Octob. the 26th, 1623.
|List of Persons Slain|
|Master Drurie the Priest.||Mr. Redyate the Priest.||Lady Webbe.||Lady Blackstone’s Daughter.|
|Thomas Webbe, her Man.||William Robinson, Taylor.||Robert Smith, Master Hick’s Man the Apothecary.||Mr. Davison’s Daughter.|
|Anthony Hall his Man.||Ann Hobdin, }||Mary Hobdin, } Lodging in Mr. Davison’s House.||John Galloway, Vintner.|
|Mr. Pierson, }||His Wife, } In Robin Hood Court, in Shooe lane.||Two Sons. }||Mrs. Vudall. }|
|Abigal her Maid. }||Two more in her House. }||John Netlan, a Taylor.||Nathaniel Coales.|
|John Halifaxe.||Mrs. Rugbie in Holborn.||John Worral’s Son in Holborne.||Mr. Becket, a Cornish Man.|
|Thomas Mersit,||his Wife,||and his Son||and Maid. In Mountague Close.|
|Mrs. Summel, and Mary her Maid. In Black Friers.||Andrew White’s Daughter, in Holborn.||Mr. Staker, Taylor, in Salisbury Court.||Elizab. Sommers, in Gray’s Inn lane.|
|Mr. Westwood.||Judeth Bellowes.||A Man of Sir Lues Pemberton’s.||Elizabeth Moore, Widdow.|
|John James.||Morris Beucresse, Apothecary.||Davie Vaughan.||Anne Field.|
|Mr. Ployden.||Robert Heisime.||One Medalfe.||Mr. Maufeild.|
|Mr. Simons.||Dorothy Simons.||Thomas Simons, a Boy.||Robert Pauerkes.|
|Anne Davison.||Anthony Hall.||Mrs. Morton and her Maid.||Francis Downes.|
|Edmond Shey.||Josua Perry.||John Tullye.||Robert Drury.|
|Thomas Draper.||John Staiggs.||Thomas Elis.||Michael Butler, in Woodstreet.|
|Edmund Rivals.||Edmund Welsh.||Bartholomew Bauin.||Davie, an Irish Man.|
|Richard Price.||Thomas Wood.||Christopher Hobbs.||Elizabeth Astime.|
|John Butler.||Clarentia, a Maid.||Jane Turner.||Mrs. Milbourne.|
|Frithwith Anne.||Mrs. Elton.||Mrs. Walsteed.||Margaret Barrom.|
|Henry Becket.||Sarah Watson.||John Bethoms.||Mr. Harris.|
|Mrs. Tompson.||Richard Fitguist.||George Ceaustour.||Mr. Grimes.|
|One Barbaret,||One Huckle,||Walter Ward,||Rigaret.|
|These lastfour inquired for.||John Brabant, a Painter in Little Britain.||A Man-servant of Mr. Bucket’s, a Painter in Aldersgate street.]|
One that was saved in this dreadful downfal of the House at Black Friers, was John Gee, M.A. who when all about him were slain, and he involved and covered with heaps of Rubbish, and dead Carcasses, by wonderful Providence escaped without Hurt. This Man went thither, not so much out of Zeal to the Popish Religion (which he had now left) as out of Curiosity to hear Father Drury preach. Upon this his singular Deliverance, he wrote a Book, entituled, The Foot out of the Snare: Wherein he detected sundry late Practices and Impostures of the Priests and Jesuits then in London, and other Places in England. And said he penned the said Writing, as a Monument of his Thankfulness.
Yet some others that escaped, were so zealous, that they repined at their Deliverance, and pretended to be sorry they had not been among the Slain. And the Reason they gave was, because since that Accident, after every Mass, (whereof there were great Numbers then said) the Priest or Clerk started up presently upon the Benediction, and called aloud to the People to say three Pater-nosters, and three Ave Marias, for those that died at Black Friers. So that they thought it could not otherwise choose, but their Souls must soon be in Heaven.
One of these was one Parker, a long Trader and Factor with Papists here in England. This man was appointed the Week after, to carry this sad News over Seas, to Doway; where he was likewise to receive Priestly Orders, to supply the room of three Priests here destroyed; but on his first setting forwards, at London Bridge, he was drowned, with a Kinswoman of his, bound for Brussels, there to take on her the Habit of a Nun.
Read the other parts of Strype’s account.