The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4

Allen, Thomas


Ely House.



The bishop of Ely, whose see must formerly have been much more lucrative than at present, had of the most extensive episcopal domains in London, situated where Ely-place now stands. Ely-inn, as the mansion was called, and afterwards Ely-house, was built in consequence of a will of bishop John de Kirksley, who died in , and left a messuage and cottages in to his successors. The next bishop of Ely, William de Luda, purchased several houses and some lands, which he also left to the bishops of that see. Extensive gardens were laid out, and such attention paid to horticulture by the resident bishops, that they were celebrated for the choice fruit they produced. Shakspeare alludes to this circumstance, in the play of Richard III., when he makes Glo'ster thus address the prelate, John Morton:--

My lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn,

I saw good strawberries in your garden there,

I do beseech you send for some of them.

The estate was afterwards much increased by various purchases, so that in the reign of queen Elizabeth, it contained upwards of acres of buildings and gardens, which were inclosed by a lofty wall. So large an estate tempted the cupidity of sir Christopher Hatton, who prevailed on the queen to ask for a part of it to be added to his own premises at Hatton-house. Cox, bishop of Ely, at refused, when the queen produced a compliance by the following laconic, but unlady-like epistle:--

Proud prelate,

You know what you were before I made you what you are now; if you do not immediately comply with my request, I will unfrock you by G—. ELIZABETH.



He must have been a proud prelate indeed, and an imprudent too, who would brook the queen's wishes after such a threat. The bishop, therefore, mortgaged to the queen, for the sum of a considerable portion of the estate, including the gate-house of the palace, with the exception of rooms and several acres of land, reserving to himself and his successors,

free access through the gate-house, walking in the garden, and the right to gather


bushel of roses yearly.

According to Pennant, John, duke of Lancaster, usually styled John of Gaunt, resided in this palace, and died here in . Probably it was lent him by Hoodham, bishop of Ely, on the destruction of his palace of the Savoy by fire.

Ely-house, though curtailed of its fair proportion by Elizabeth, and afterwards dilapidated by the long parliament, continued to be the residence of the prelates of that see for the extended period of years, during which time there were bishops, of whom died within its walls. In , an act of parliament was passed which authorised the bishop to dispose of the house to the crown on terms that were agreed upon.

Ely-house, in the days of its splendour, and when kings and. princes banquetted within its lofty halls, was a very magnificent building. The entrance was through a large gateway into a paved court, bounded on the left by a small garden, from which it was separated by a low wall; and on the right, by some offices, supported by a colonnade. At the extremity stood the venerable hall, which was originally built of stone. To the north-west of the hall was a quadrangular cloister, and adjoining that a field containing about an acre of ground, in which was a chapel dedicated to St. Etheldreda, but when erected does not appear.

The hall was feet in length, feet wide, and feet high. The roof, which was of strong timber, formed a demi-dodecagon. The floor was paved with tiles, which at the upper end of the room was as usual raised; at the lower end was an oaken screen. The hall was lighted by gothic windows. of which were on the south and on the north side. Allusion has been previously made to a grand entertainment given here, in the middle of the century by the sergeants at law, who do not appear to have had a suitable place in which they could accommodate a large party, as such feasts were frequent at Elyhouse. still more splendid was given by the sergeants in , which commenced on Friday, the , and continued until the Saturday following. Henry VIII., his queen, Catherine of Arragon, the foreign ambassadors, the lord mayor, the judges, the barons of the exchequer, knights and squires, the aldermen, masters in chancery, sergeants and their ladies, worshipful citizens, and the crafts of London, were among the guests.

Although the bishops of Ely lent their hall to these scenes of


revelry, yet they appear to have employed their own revenues to a better purpose, that of feeding the poor; and it is recorded of West, who was bishop of this see in , that he daily fed people at his gate: nor was episcopal benevolence confined to the bishops of Ely, for Richard de Berry, who was bishop of Durham in the reign of Edward III had quarters of wheat made into bread every week, which with


dishes and the

fragments of his house,

he gave to the poor.

On the sale of this estate in , the site was purchased by Charles Cole, esq. an architect and builder, and of the surveyors of the crown. He built Ely place, of which he was proprietor, and to which the ancient chapel serves as a place of worship. The east front of this chapel recedes from the line of houses, and has neat iron railings before it, within which a flight of steps leading to the plain entrances to the chapel. Above the doors i a very fine window of mullions with cinquefoil arches, and above them are numerous circles filled with roses and several quaterfoils. The west window differs in having a principal circle filled with roses and quaterfoils. The interor is neatly fitted up, though in a different style to the period of the architecture. The altar is at the east end, and around the remaining sides are galleries with a neat organ. The pulpit and desks are grouped in the centre aisle. The windows at the sides are of pointed architecture, and are united to each other by a handsome canopy with trefoil head, the sides being enriched with crockets, and the summit with a rich finial. The cornice and ceiling are modern.


[] Vide ante vol. i. p. 117.

[] Vide ante vol i. p. 214.

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 Title Page
CHAPTER I: Site, local divisions, and government of the City of Westminster; history of the Abbey; Coronation Ceremonies; and lists of the Abbots and Deans
CHAPTER II: Westminster Abbey, and Description of the Tombs and Monuments
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of St. Margaret's Parish
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of St. John's Parish, Westminster
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Westminster
CHAPTER VI: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. James, Westminster
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Anne, Westminster
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary-le-strand
CHAPTER X: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. Clement Danes
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of the parish of st. George, Hanover Square
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of the Precinct of the Savoy
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of the Inns of Court
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of the Precincts of the Charter-house and Ely Place, and the Liberty of the Rolls
 CHAPTER XV: Historical Notices of the Borough of Southwark
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of the parish of St. John, Southwark
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. George's, Southwark
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of St. Saviour's Parish
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of the parist of Christ-church in the County of Surrey
 CHAPTER XXII: A List of the Principal Books, &c that have been published in Illustration of the Antiquities, History, Topography, and other subjects treated of in this Work
 Addenda et Corrigienda