Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 1

Wilkinson, Robert


Ancient Cathedral Church of St. Paul, London.

Ancient Cathedral Church of St. Paul, London.



AFTER the Romans had quitted this country, and left the inhabitants to the irruptions and spoliage of the Saxons, the latter, more civilized as they became settlers, sought to improve themselves in arts and sciences. They found that civilization induced rational religious principles; therefore the benevolent dictates of the Christian doctrines superseded pagan worship, and its votaries considered that too much honour could not be offered to a religion which informed them of the only way to the mansions of bliss.

We are not, however, to consider but that Christianity flourished among the Britons long before the Saxons had infested the country. Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, as well as her son, were both Christians; and afterwards the kingdom was divided into the ecclesiastical provinces of York, Caerleon, and London, the Archbishops of which had jurisdiction over episcopacies.

The case was then very different among the Saxons. They had driven the Britons into the remote parts of the kingdom, without having profited by any previous intercourse. The consequence resulting from such measures, was the most debased state of barbarism, the concomitant of which was slavery. When the country became too full of inhabitants, it was the custom of that people to sell their youth for slaves in foreign markets to the highest bidders.

A lot of youths were exposed for sale in the Forum at Rome: St. Gregory, called the Great, then Bishop, in passing observed them, and enquiring their country, was answered,


The good pastor, from the symmetry of their limbs and the beauty of their countenances, exclaimed

Quasi Angeli!

and from the benevolent consideration that Christianity should be preached among their countrymen, appointed Augustine, who had received his education from St. Gregory, and was a monk in the Convent of St. Andrew at Rome, to undertake a mission to England, about the year , to convert the English to the Christian faith; some other monks were chosen to be under Augustine's direction, and every mode was adopted to confer authenticity on his sacred embassy.

At this period Brunehaute, a pious woman, was queen of Austrasia and Burgundy. The mission had arrived at Provence, when the missionaries began to entertain great doubts and fears respecting the fierce people they were about to reduce to humanity and religion: they deputed their superior to return to Gregory, with a request that he would recall them. The Pontiff was resolute, and refused; but at the same time dispatched letters to the then courts of France, that they would not only succour the missionaries, but do all in their power to assist their object. Brunehaute instantly commenced her good offices, and used her interest with the other potentates; so that the mission, now increased to persons, landed in the Isle of Thanet, over which, as part of the kingdom of Kent, Ethelbert reigned at that period.

His Queen was Bertha, daughter of Caribert, King of Paris, and cousin-german not only to Childebert, late King of Austrasia, but to Clotaire, King of Soissons, who embraced the Christian faith; the education of Queen Bertha had been therefore truly orthodox, and being herself piously inclined, it had been stipulated at her marriage with King Ethelbert, that not only her religious principles should be uninvaded, but that she should be allowed a minister of her own profession to assist her in her devotions. His name was Lindhard, a venerable prelate, equally exemplary for his learning as his holiness of life; he officiated at the Church of St. Martin, which had been built by the Roman Christians, without the walls of Dorovernum, and by his conversation and practice he had induced many of the courtiers and nobility openly to profess themselves proselytes to his faith. The zeal and benevolence of the Queen also, joined to her uncommon learning, had prepossessed Ethelbert to think very favourably of Christianity; so that Augustine and his followers were very liberally accommodated, and having obtained an audience, so wrought upon the King's mind, that ultimately they obtained every license they wished to proclaim their mission, and Augustine having fixed his residence at Dorovernum, which he called Canterbury, became the Romish Archbishop of that diocese.

The powerful influence of Ethelbert, and the celebrity of the new doctrines, spread


throughout all the provinces of the Heptarchy; and among others, Sebert, King of the East Angles, was desirous that of the missionaries might be selected to inculcate his religious principles among Sebert's subjects. For this purpose Augustine appointed Mellitus, who on his arrival in the kingdom of Essex, fixed his residence and episcopacy at London; and as an encouragement to the new Bishop, King Ethelbert erected a Church on the foundation of a temple to the worship of Diana, and dedicated the new fabric to St. Paul the Apostie, about the year .[*] 

To support Bishop Mellitus in his new dignity, the King bestowed on the Church the manor of Tillingham. At this period Sebert governed this territory as a tributary King to Ethelbert, and he was converted by Mellitus to Christianity; he is said also to have been the founder of .

received no further benefit till Erkenwald, the Bishop, in bestowed on it vast repairs; and not only augmented its privileges from the Pope, but prevailed on the Saxon Kings to grant additional privileges. Indeed, the interest which this devout prelate took in rendering the revenues of his Cathedral equal to the pious purpose for which it was constructed, was so extraordinary, that after his decease every honour was conferred on his remains; he was also canonized, and a stately shrine was erected at the east end of the church, to which his body was translated; but the whole was destroyed by fire, in the year , during the reign of King Edgar, and rebuilt in the same year.

The new Church, which however could not have been a very considerable structure at this period, flourished during the reigns of the Saxon Kings, some of whom declared it

as free in all its rights, as they themselves desired to be at the Day of Judgment.

In this state it continued till the year , when a calamity by fire reduced the Cathedral, and the greater part of the City, to a heap of ruins. The destruction occasioned by this dreadful conflagration, served to inspire Bishop Maurice with the benevolent intention of erecting a more magnificent building than had yet been applied to the purposes of devotion in this kingdom; and to increase his means for this vast undertaking, he obtained of William I, a grant of all the stone-work of a spacious fortification near the river Fleet, called the Palatine Tower, towards finishing his Cathedral. This munificent prelate prosecuted the building with great earnestness during the remainder of his life, but left it in an unfinished state, though he had governed the see for the space of years. He obtained of his Sovereign the grant of the castle of Stortford, in Hertfordshire, with all its appurtenances, to this Cathedral for ever; hence the town obtained the denomination of Bishop's Stortford.

His successor, Richard de Belmeis, prosecuted the work with ardour, and expended the whole revenue of his see upon this fabric, yet left it unfinished.

Henry III. in of his charters to the citizens of London, granted for him and his heirs, that out of the farm of the City of London there should be allowed yearly to the Sheriff of that City, in his account at , the sum of for the Liberty of .

But the Cathedral was not consecrated till , by Roger, surnamed Niger, Bishop of London; and it continued to be an object of admiration till , when, on the , the steeple was fired by lightning, but by timely assistance was imagined to be extinguished; the latent flame, however, again burst forth about at night, and the greater part of the wooden frame was consumed.

This damage having been repaired, the Cathedral continued uninjured till Wednesday, , when it having rained incessantly, a thunder-storm commenced about in the afternoon; and the lightning having struck the steeple within a yard of the top,

a little fire appeared at


like to the light of a torch, which increased so much towards the weather-cock, that it fell down within half a quarter of an hour; and, blown up with a high wind, the fire within an hour burnt the whole steeple down to the very battlements: which also, receiving the timber that fell from the spire, began to burn so vehemently that all the timber took fire, and the iron and bells melted and fell down upon the stairs in the Church in a short space; and the east and west roofs of the Cathedral catching fire, burnt so furiously, that these ends and the north and south were consumed before


o'clock after midnight; when there was not a piece of timber left, nor lead unmolten upon any of the higher and cross roofs and battlements. The side isles were a little scorched, but not ruined; neither did the damage end here: divers houses were pulled down in the Churchyard,

near the north door: a pinnacle at the east end fell and demolished a house—a sad sight. But,

says the writer,

the French here (in London) were not sorry to see it.


Such an accident to this stately structure was deemed a national concern; and Queen Elizabeth directed her letters to the Lord Mayor, requiring him to take speedy order for its repair, and, to further the work, gave out of her privy purse in gold, and a warrant for loads of timber, to be taken from her woods or elsewhere. The citizens having given a large benevolence, they added fifteenths to be speedily paid for that purpose; all which amounted to The clergy within the Province of Canterbury gave the fortieth part of all such Church livings as were charged with fruits; and the thirtieth part of all their other benefices, those of London excepted; who, besides the thirtieth part of such as paid fruits, gave the part of the rest. The whole of the contributions, with the Queen's donation, amounted to

The zeal exhibited by all ranks to promote this work of benevolence, produced such a good effect, that in the space of years, the timber roofs (the largest of which where framed in Yorkshire, and brought by sea), were entirely finished and covered with lead. Some difference of opinion, however, having arisen, concerning the model of the steeple, that part of the work was unattempted, and was never rebuilt; for, upon raising the roofs, the walls were found to be so much decayed in consequence of the corrosive quality of the coal smoke, that a general repair of the whole building was judged absolutely necessary. This was delayed till the reign of James I. when, in the year , and for years afterwards, the solicitations of Mr. Henry Farley, a private gentlemen, so far prevailed, that the King took into his serious consideration the dilapidated state of the Cathedral, and to prevent its utter ruin, determined to use every means for its repair; and that the countenance which he was about to give, should not want due and solemn form, the following grand possession took place on the :

Messengers of the Chamber—Gentlemen Harbingers—Serjeant Porter—Gentlemen and Esquires, the Prince's servants—Gentlemen and Esquires, the King's servants—Sewers, the King's servants—Quarter Waiters—Gentlemen Ushers, daily Waiters—Clerks of the Signet— Clerks of the Privy Seal—Clerks of the Council—Clerks of the Parliament—Clerks of the Crown—Chaplains, having dignity, as Deans, &c.—Aldermen of London—the Prince's Counsel at Law—the King's Advocate and Remembrancer—King's Attorney and Solicitor —Serjeants at Law—King's Serjeant—Masters of the Chancery—Knights Bachelors— Secretaries of the French and Latin Tongues—Esquires for the Body—Sewers, Carvers, Cup-bearers, in ordinary—Masters of standing Offices, Tents, Revels, Armory, Wardrobe, and Ordnance—Trumpets—Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, in ordinary—Gentlemen of the Bedchamber, in ordinary,—Knights of the Bath—Knights Ambassadors, Lord President, and Deputy—Vice-Admiral and Knight Marshal—Treasurer of and Master of the Jewel House—Baronets—Barons' younger Sons—Viscount's younger Sons—Judges of the Coif—Chief Baron of and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas—Master of the Rolls and Chief Justice of the King's Bench—Chancellor of the Dutchy, and Chancellor and Under-treasurer of the Exchequer—Master of the Wards—Officers of Arms—Knights Privy Councillors—Knights of the Garter—Barons' eldest Sons—Earls' younger Sons—Viscounts' elder Sons Barons of the Parliament—Bishops—Marquisses' younger Sons—Viscounts— Dukes' younger Sons—Marquisses' eldest Sons—Earls—Dukes' eldest Sons—Marquisses— Dukes—Lord Privy Seal—Clarenceux, Norroy—Lord Chancellor, Archbishop of Canterbury —Gentlemen Ushers, Garter, Principal King of Arms—Lord Mayor of London—THE PRINCE—Serjeants at Arms—The Sword of State—THE KING—Master of the Horse,


leading a spare horse—Vice-Chamberlain—Captain of the Guard—the Guard—Footmen and Equerries on each side—Pensioners with their Axes, on each side.

Upon the King's arrival at the Church, he alighted at the west door, and having kneeled at the brazen pillar, and prayed for good success to this pious intention, was received under a canopy, supported by the Dean and Residentiaries; the rest of the prebendaries and dignitaries, with the whole choir, going before. In the choir a suitable Anthem was performed, whence the whole congregation went to the Cross, where Dr. John King, Bishop of London, delivered a learned Sermon, preached from the following text, appointed by His Majesty, Psalm cii. v. , .

Thou wilt arise and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to have mercy thereon, for the appointed time is come. For thy servants delight in the stones thereof, and have pity on the dust thereof.

After the service His Majesty and his attendants repaired to the Bishop's palace, when it was agreed to issue a proclamation, under the great seal, empowering several principal personages, or any of them, to enquire into the true state of the decays, with the cause thereof, and to consider of the necessary repairs, and the means of raising money for carrying them into execution. Besides which, it was concluded that a general benevolence throughout the kingdom should be attempted; and the King began the subscription by a handsome donation. The Bishop subscribed and proposed to do the same annually whilst he continued Bishop. His successor, Dr. Mountaine, was equally assiduous, and disbursed vast sums of money for the purchase of Portland stone.

However, the work went on slowly, and the stone purchased by Bishop Mountaine lying useless, was borrowed by the Duke of Buckingham, for building the water-gate at York House, which is now standing at the bottom of , Strand.

In this deplorable state did remain till , when the munificent Laud arrived at the prelacy. He procured another commission from King Charles I. by which it was expressed,


. That all money brought in for the repair, should be paid into the Chamber of London.—


. That William Laud, then Bishop of London, offered to allow


l. per annum

, out of the revenue of that bishopric during his continuance therein.—


. That a register-book of all subscriptions for contributions thereto, should be made, as in King James's time.—


. That the Judges of the Prerogative Court, and all officials throughout the several bishoprics in England and Wales, upon the decease of any person intestate, should be excited to remember this Church, out of what was proper to be given for pious uses.—


. And lastly, there should be Letters Patents issued out, for the receiving of public contributions from all people throughout the whole kingdom.

By these means, the sums, raised from to , amounted to ; out of which no more than was laid out; for in , to the astonishment of the whole world, the flames of civil dissension broke out; and by the votes of both Houses of Parliament, Bishops, Deans, and Chapters were abolished, by which the very foundation of the celebrated Cathedral was destroyed. At the commencement of the ensuing year the fanatic Lord Mayor, Isaac Pennington, caused the cross to be destroyed. The houses and revenues belonging to the Dean and Chapter were seized by order of Parliament; and ultimately the Church itself was violated, the stalls in the choir taken away, the pavement torn up, the monuments defaced and demolished, saw-pits formed in the Church for the disposal of the timber intended for its repair, and the body of the Church converted into horse-quarters for the Parliament soldiers!

So that,

says Sir William Dugdale,

what the Lord Brooke, passing by water, upon the Thames,

March 13

, A. D.


, with


other Lords, said concerning this famous Cathedral, viz. 'That he hoped that


of them would live to see no


stone left upon another of that building,' may, I now fear, come to pass: for, by taking away the inner scaffolds, which supported the arched vaults, in order to their late intended repair, the whole roof of the south cross is already tumbled down; and the rest, in several places of the Church, often falling out. Out of a sad contemplation, therefore, that so glorious a structure, there raised, enriched, and beautified by the piety of our deceased ancestors, should be utterly destroyed, and become a woeful spectacle of ruin, I have adventured, though much unworthy for such undertaking, to give some representation, as well to the present age as future times, of what it hath been.

The great fire in destroyed its ancient beauties, and out of its ashes has arisen the present noble fabric, of the most stately monuments of modern architecture in the world.


[*] Camden, in his Britannia, informs us that Augustine, contrary to the advice and express orders of Pope Gregory, had previously transferred the metropolitical see from London to Canterbury.

[*] Jones's MSS. This person was a witness of the catastrophe. In some curious manuscript notes, collected by Mr. Martin Masters, of monastic remains, the following remarkable circumstance is mentioned: Hopton, in his 'Concordancie enlarged,' printed 1635, p. 227, sayeth that Ann. 1561, April 6th. Paules steple was fired, which unto this present yeare 1675 is 114 yeares. For the truth of the occasion of the firing of it, I shall give this relation upon my owne knowledge. Anno 1622, I was put an apprentis upon London Bridge unto a wholesale tradesman, who was a Common Counselman of the Bridge Ward; after that I had served him 2 or 3 yeares the Deputie of the same Warde, one afternoone, desired my master to bear him company to see an ancient citizenne, about 100 yeares of age or upwards, that lay bed-rid and cumbered in mind; he had related the truth of the occasion of the fiering of Paules steeple, whose relation unto them (as I did heere them relate it at severall times unto severall people), was, 'That hee being a servant unto a workman that belonged unto the Deane and Chapter ''of St. Paules, was sent by his master to make search for some plase where the raine came in at the spiere; he ''having a candle with him, snuffing it, the snuff fell into some crack in the timber-worke; he not minding of it, he 'came downe again, and went about his other occasions; and shortly after, when there was neither tempest or ''lightning, the steeple fiered.' This doe I very well remember, having several times repeated it.' Per me Martin Masters, aged 69 yearez, 1675.

View all images in this book
 Title Page
 Howell's View of London
 View of the Fire of London
 City Wall
 The Conduits of Cheapside and Cornhill
 Plan of the Fire in Bishopsgate Street, Cornhill, and Leadenhall Street: November 7th, 1765
Frost Fair on the River Thames
 Part of the Strand: St. Clement's Danes
 Ancient Structure in Ship Yard: Temple Bar
 St. Paul's Cross and Cathedral: With King James I and his Court at a Sermon
 Ancient Cathedral Church of St. Paul, London
 Paul's Cross (and Preaching There)
Elsinge Spital, Sion College, and the Church of St. Alphage, London Wall
 Elsinge's Hospital; or, as it is otherwise denominated, Elsynge Spittle
 Sion College
 The Priory and Church of St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield
 The Church of St. Bartholomew the Less: Giltspure Street, West Smithfield, in the Ward of Farringdon Without
Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate Street
The Priory and Church of St. Helen, Bishopsgate Street
 Monument of Sir Andrew Judde, Knight: In the Church of St. Helen, Bishopsgate Within
St. Michael's Church: Cornhill
The Parish Church of St. Paul, Shadwell: In the County of Middlesex
 The Parish Church of St. Peter upon Cornhill: In Cornhill Ward
Extracts from the Vestry Books of the Church of St. Peter upon Cornhill
 St. Saviour's Church
 St. Saviour's Church, Southwark
 Winchester Palace, Southwark
 Chapels at the Eastern End of the Church of St. Saviour, Southwark
 Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem
 An Account of Bermondsey, its Manor, Priory, and Abbey
 Priory of the Holy Trinity: In the Ward of Aldgate
 St. Martin-le-Grand College, and St. Vedast, Foster Lane
 Guildhall Chapel
 A short Account of Lazar Houses in and near London
 Knightsbridge Chapel
 Lambe's Chapel and Alms-Houses: Monkwell Street, Cripplegate
 The late Mr. Skelton's Meeting House, Erected Near the Site of the Globe Theatre, Maid Lane, Southwark
 Zoar Street, Gravel Lane, Meeting House and School
 Oratory, Under the Antient Mansion, or Inn, of the Priors of Lewes in Sussex
 Whitehall: Plate I
 Whitehall: Plate II
 Whitehall: Plate III
 St. James's Palace
 Fawkeshall, or Copped Hall, Surrey
 Toten-Hall, Tottenham Court Road
 King John's Palace
 Clarendon House, called also Albemarle House
 Somerset House
 Suffolk House
 York House
 Durham, Salisbury, and Worcester Houses
 Sir Paul Pindar's House
 Montagu House: Great Russel Street, Bloomsbury
 The British Museum
 Bedford House, Bloomsbury Square
 Peterborough House, afterward Grosvenor House, Millbank, Westminster
 Craven House, Drury Lane
 Ancient Mansion called Monteagle House: Montague Close, Southwark
 Oldbourne Hall, Shoe Lane: In the Parish of St. Andrew, Holborn