The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
St. Helen's Church.
In a square, on the east side of , stands this church, so denominated from its dedication to St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The patronage of it appears to have been anciently in lay hands; for, in the reign of Henry II., about , Ranulph, with his son Robert, granted it to the dean and canons of , by whom it was sometime after granted to William, son of William, a goldsmith, who, in , founded the priory of St. Helen, and conferred the advowson of the church on the prioress and nuns, in whom it continued till the suppression of their convent in , when it came to the crown. In the year , Edward VI. granted the advowson to Nicholas Ridley, bishop of London, and his successors, which grant was confirmed by queen Mary in ; but it appears to have reverted to the crown afterwards; for, in , queen Elizabeth granted it by lease to Caesar Aldermarie and Thomas Colcel, in trust for the parishioners, for a term of years; which lease being expired, she sold it to Michael and Edward Stanhope, to beheld by them, their heirs, and assigns, in socage. It has, however, been since re-granted to the dean and chapter of .
The plan of the building is irregular; the result of alterations at various times. The body is an oblong square; but contrary to the usual arrangement, it is divided longitudinally by an arcade into aisles; of which, prior to the dissolution, served for the nuns, and the other for the parishioners. At the south side of the church, near the east end, is a transept; and to
|this is added, still more eastward, a small chapel and a vestry room.|
The west front of the church has been covered with rough-cat, and otherwise disfigured by tasteless repairers. It presents, in consequence, but inconsiderable features of the original architectures. The angles were formerly strengthened by double buttresses, of which the northern ones are destroyed, and the whole is divided by a single buttress in the centre into portions, in each of which is a window of lights, under a low pointed arch; the mullions have arched heads, but the sweeps have been destroyed. Beneath each window was formerly a doorway. The northernmost has been walled up; the southern still remains, and is the principal entrance to the church; it is covered with a pentice, and the original workmanship is hid by a frontispiece of carved wood-work, in the taste of the early part of the century; on a pannel above the arch is the following inscription--
The original finish of the elevation is destroyed, and battlements in a bad style have been substituted. Above the centre rises a mean turret, covered with rough-cast, and finished with a vane. The south side of the church contains windows of lights each, the mullions resemble those of the west front, and have equally suffered from the hands of repairers. A single buttress remains between of the windows, and below the from the west is a low doorway, with a semicircular arch, enclosed in a heavy Doric frontispiece; the date on the wood-work the period of its erection. This front, like the western, is covered with rough-cast, and finished with a modern embattled parapet. The north side of the church has windows of the same character and description as those already described. The eastern front of the church has windows, which will be particularised in the description of the interior. Entering the church by the remaining western doorway, a porch, internally covering the entrance, is the object of attention; it is enriched with Corinthian pilasters and a profusion of carving, having in the pediment an inscription--
The southern doorway has internally a similar porch, but of earlier workmanship; the pilasters of the Ionic order; the shells and cherubim, which form the decorations, present very early specimens of Italian architecture in this country. At a small distance northward of the western doorway may be seen the tower, which in more modern times has received the finish of the mean bell turret, noticed in the description of the exterior. The portion which is formed within the church is constructed of wood, in imitation of rustic work, and shows in height successively orders of architecture in pilasters, and each story has an oval window.
The arcade, which makes the church lengthwise into portions, displays at least different styles of architecture; it contains in
|all arches, the from the west end rest on clustered columns; the archivolts show, in their curves, a medium between the acutely-pointed arches which compose the remainder of the arcade, and the flat-pointed ones of the windows; they were probably erected in the century. The easternmost arches are of different altitudes; they are very acutely pointed: the archivolts are only adorned with the simplest mouldings, and rest upon square pillars: to the internal jambs of the pillars of the highest arch are attached octangular columns, which support an architrave of the same form, the arch occupying a considerable portion of the elevation, but not equal in height to the others already described. The extreme eastern arch only differs from the last in respect of altitude, being considerably lower, and the architrave resting on a circular and an octangular column. These arches are probably the only remains of the earliest erection of the church (in ). The northern aisle is lighted at the east end by a window of lights, circumscribed by a finely proportioned pointed arch; the tracery is entirely destroyed; but from the circumstance of the modern glazier having retained in its original situation the ornamental stained glass, which occupied the arched heads of the lights, the design of the tracery might without difficulty be supplied. The form of the arch and the tracery show that this window was the workmanship of the century, a period when the pointed style was in the highest state of perfection. The east end of the other aisle has a window of lights; the arch is of the low pointed form, like the generality of those before described, and, with the rest of the windows in this church, has been despoiled of its tracery; this window is over the altar. The transept is separated from the body of the church by a handsome low pointed arch of a very considerable span. On the east side is also a pointed arch springing from clustered columns, and opening into the chapel; the remainder of this side of the transept and the south and western walls are plain, without windows or any ornament. The south wall had originally a large window, with tasteful mullions and tracery, which had been at a preceding period walled up, and was in completely destroyed by some tasteless repairers.|
The small chapel eastward of the transept is separated from it by the arch just noticed, and from the church by a similar arch. It is lighted by a window of lights in its eastern wall, which once resembled that which graced the end of the north aisle; in common with the other windows its tracery has been destroyed. Near the southernmost jamb is a small niche for a light, or statue. From the style of architecture of this chapel and the adjoining transept, it may be satisfactorily concluded that these portions
|were erected in the century; when perfect, they exhibited beautiful specimens of the pointed style.|
At the south side of the chapel is a doorway leading into the vestry, which was probably used for the same purpose in old times; above the arch is a bracket supporting a small sitting bronze statue, of a female in the act of reading from a book which rests on her knee, and is supported by her right hand; it is said to represent the patron saint of the church, and it is reported a large sum of money has been offered for it; the drapery is good, but the statue more probably represents a sybil: how it came to its present situation cannot be ascertained. The roof of the church is composed of flat arched beams resting on corbels, to which are attached shields. The spaces between the beams, which were originally brown oak, is now plastered; and, together with the beams, most tastefully whitewashed, the compartments over the altar excepted, which are painted with clouds and an angelic choir. A portion of the roof of the northern aisle differs from the remainder; it marks what was once a chapel. Whatever the original roof may have been (and from the style of the window it was no doubt more tastefully ornamented than the other portions), it now consists of modern plastering, without any ornament: the roof of the transept and its attached chapel are similarly covered.
Although the church for not remarkable for either magnitude or appearance it will be gathered from the preceding description that it contains specimens of almost every variation of the pointed style, from the commencement of the century to the last declension of its arch, when it yielded to the newly-imported architecture of Italy, of the earliest specimens of which is also to be seen in the wood-work of this building. The church is divided by a screen, which crosses it at the pillar from the west end, making a small nave. This screen is now partially surmounted by a gallery and organ; the remainder of the church eastward of this screen is pewed, and appropriated to the use of the parishioners. On the south side is the pulpit, a piece of carving of the early part of the century, with a large sounding-board.
The wood-work of the church is of various degrees of antiquity. Against the northern wall is a series of seats, which are now appropriated to the poor of the parish; they were formerly the seats of the nuns, and are very simple in their ornaments, being merely separated by sweeping elbows, and are without canopies. On the same side of the church, but nearer to the eastern end, are several pews, which show the workmanship of the early part of the century. The altar-screen is adorned with Corinthian columns and antae, sustaining an entablature and cornice. In the spaces are tablets containing the usual inscriptions. Upon the centre of the cornice are scrolls disposed pedimentally at the
|sides of the royal arms, probably of Charles I., and which are supported by angels, recumbent upon the scrolls, their wings overshadowing the altar, upon acroteria at the sides are the lion and unicorn seated. The porticoes have already been mentioned, and in addition to them against of the pillars in the nave is the poor box, supported on a terminal pillar, representing a beggar soliciting alms. Besides these particulars, in consequence of a laudable attention to the monuments and other remnants of antiquity, in the more recent repairs, various other subjects remain which are worthy of notice. On the north side of the church, the Nun's Grate is still existing; its general appearance is that of an altar tomb, but more lofty; the dado of the square pedestal is adorned with upright open niches, and the canopy, which is a low pointed arch, has its soffit richly pannelled; the whole is surmounted by an entablature, the frieze richly sculptured, but so filled up with whitewash as to render the design incapable of being made out; at the ends of the cornice are shields having arms, and the upper member of the cornice has a row of strawberry leaves set upright upon it. The aperture which contained the actual grate is now walled up; and the whole is almost concealed by Gresham's monument, and the pews before described. In front of this interesting antiquarian relic, and resting on the ledger of its pedestal is a handsome piece of architecture set up to sustain the lord mayor's sword; it consists of twisted Corinthian columns, supporting an entablature highly enriched, and an attic pannel; the shafts of the columns are set off with a wreath of foliage running round them. On the frieze are the following arms, ar. a cross, raguly, and a dexter canton, the arms of sir John Lawrence, lord mayor in . In the attic is the city arms, and the whole structure is crowned with those of Charles II. supported by gilt angels, and surmounted with the royal crown. In the windows of the church are many shields of arms in stained glass. In that above the communion table are coats placed in their present position in , viz. the city arms; , the Grocers company; , a chevron, between rams frippant ar. armed and hoofed or, sir John Crosbie; , Barry nebulle, and ar. a chief of the last;, the Leathersellers Company; , a merchant's mark; h, a fesse coticed ar.; , No. and impaled together. The whole of these coats of arms, excepting those of the Leathersellers' company, which are more modern, are enclosed in ornamental quaterfoils.|
|The east window of the north aisle has shields held|
|by angels; they are the workmanship of the century, and shew how low the art had fallen after the dissolution of monasteries, in which it was fostered and brought to perfection. The arms are those of the city, the mercers' company, sir Nicholas Rainton, lord mayor, , viz. a chevron double cotised between cinquefoils, ar. and sir Thomas Gresham, a chevron , between mullets pierced sa.|
The monuments in what was the chapel of the Holy Ghost, on the south side of the choir; it is an altar tomb of freestone, sustaining the effigies of sir John and his wife, Anneys or Agnes. He is in plaited armour, with a mantle gathered upon his right shoulder, and over it a collar of rondeaux, his hair cropt and plaited, and under his head a helmet,
| the crest gone; he has a dagger on his right side; at his feet a dog looking up to him; his lady is in a mantle, and very close bodied gown, in which her feet are folded up, with long sleeves down to her wrists; round her neck a collar of roses; her cap is close fitted to her ears, and the hair tucked up under it; under her head is a cushion sustained by angels, and at her feet lie little dogs. The inscription has long since been destroyed. The quaterfoils round the sides of the tomb contain the arms of Crosbie. On this tomb was formerly the following inscription:--
The next is the magnificent monument of sir William Pickering, who died at Pickering House, in London, in , aged ; it is situated under the north-east arch of the choir. For splendor of decoration no monument in London, out of , can compare with it. It consists of an altar tomb, pannelled into compartments, sustaining on the ledger Corinthian columns, and arches at the head and foot of the tomb, which jointly support a splendid canopy, formed of arches, resting on the entablature above the columns by way of impost; the soffits of the arches are filled with sunk pannels, containing roses and fleurs-de-lis alternately. The canopy is surrounded by an ornamented circle, sustained by chimerae, and enclosing the arms of the knight, viz. , a chevron, between fleur-de-lis, or. Within this canopy, upon the altar tomb, lies extended the effigy of the knight, the size of life, bareheaded, in complete armour, with trunk breeches; his head rests on a rolled mat, and a ruff surrounds his neck. The countenance is open, and full of animation; the nose Roman; and the whole bespeaks a very handsome man, worthy to be the favourite of the discriminating Elizabeth; at the feet of the statue is a fleur-de-lis.
Attached to a pillar near the monument is a tablet, with the ensuing inscription:--
Northward of this monument is that of sir Thomas Gresham; it consists only of a large altar tomb of rich Sienna marble, covered with a ledger of black marble: on which is the following inscription:
The dado is richly ornamented with various mouldings appertaining to Italian architecture, in a more chaste style than the usual works of the period, and the arms of the deceased; but no statue or bust marks the grave of this truly eminent and public spirited merchant. The is his proper monument, and his executors, no doubt, thought so, when they set up this modest but no doubt expensive monument. Against the east wall of the transept is a splendid monument of the age of James I. with the following inscriptions, in square black tablets:
On the other pannel as follows:
It consists of an altar tomb, on which are the recumbent figures of sir John Spencer and his wife, in the habit of the times, the size of life; at their feet is another lady of smaller size, in the attitude of praying. This monument stands contrary to the usual practice, the heads of the effigies being to the south, and the feet to the north. The praying lady, who of course looks towards the east, in consequence of the uncommon situation of the monument, turns her back on the principal figures. The introduction of the intercessory effigy on this monument, shows that
the protestant religion had even then not entirely obliterated the memory of the rational, and, at all events, harmless tribute to the dead, which the people had been accustomed to pay before the reformation. This monument is covered with a sumptuous arched canopy, ornamented with pyramids, &c. which, with the effigies, are now reduced to an uniform white. Near this is a singular altar tomb, to the memory of sir Julius Caesar, who, feeling the |
has moulded his epitaph in the form of a deed, to which he has affixed his broad seal, and also its enrolment in a court, however, superior to that in which he had been accustomed to preside.
In addition to those already enumerated, are altar tombs in the nave, of considerable age; but the inscription on is gone, which is now indecorously made use of to support a fire-place; a is insulated, and composed of various marble; it is situated beneath the organ gallery. There is also another altar tomb of white marble attached to the south wall, to the memory of dame Abigail, wife of sir John Lawrence, alderman, died .
The front of this tomb is carved in imitation of drapery. There are several brasses on the floor of the church, particularly a man and his wife in the chapel of the Holy Ghost, near sir John Crosbie's monument.
Upon the several brass monuments Cromwell's commissioners have been active in erasing the Orate; the praying lady happily escaped their pious hands. On the floor of the north aisle is a slab on which the effigy of the deceased, and the inscriptions are cut on the stone in the manner of a brass: such memorials are rather uncommon. The mural monuments are so numerous, that it is impossible to enumerate all of them. On the north wall of the choir is which cannot be passed over; it is to the memory of Captain Bond, and represents an encampment. In the fore ground is a large open tent, within which the subject of the monument is sitting in a thoughtful posture, at a table; at the side of the tent, a pageholds his horse; and in the front are sentinels, with blunderbusses, in large boots and slouched hats. The whole is inclosed in a frontispiece, consisting of composite columns, sustaining an entablature and pediment, the cornice broken to admit the arms. Below the sculpture is a tablet, with the following inscription:--
From the above we learn that all this military sculpture is for a captain of the trained bands. The monument, however, is invaluable, as displaying to perfection the costume of the day, which is that worn by the military at the time of the civil wars.
There is also a monument in the nave, representing the deceased with his wife, kneeling in the act of prayer at an altar, and sons and daughters behind them, in the same pious attitude, in the costume of the times. It is to the memory of John Robinson, alderman, who died .
The whole of the monuments are in excellent preservation, and, as such, reflect great credit on the parish. They may be said to form a complete gallery of sculpture, of the period comprehending the reign of Elizabeth, and the monarchs of the Stuart family, and would be highly interesting to any historical painter who wished to copy from original subjects, instead of taking his costume at -hand, a practice which too many are guilty of. Such monuments as these are truly valuable, and their preservation is a subject of greater importance than the erection of the modern, unmeaning, and uninstructive shapes of marble which fill up the cathedral.
The only modern monument worthy of notice is that of Francis Bancroft; it is however only remarkable for its dimensions; it is intended to represent a mausoleum in the form of a cruciform temple; but the designer has only produced a heavy mass of rusticated stone-work, without any feature to recommend it.
The length of this church is feet; the breadth , the height , and that of the tower feet.
In the vestry, which is situated on the south side of the church near the communion-table, is an old helmet and a survey of the parish made in .
 For this information I am indebted to the same gentleman who communicated other particulars relative to destroyed churches in London.
 These are probably the arms of sir Ralph Astry, lord mayor in 1493. In such case the chief should be gules and charged with three bezants; the former colour has probably faded in this instance as it has done in other shields in the present church. The arms of sir John Crosbie are spoken of by Stow, as remaining in his time in the church, in stone, timber, and glass. The first and last still remain, in his tomb, and in the window here described; some of the shields upon the corbels, sustaining the beams of the roof, if cleansed from the white wash, would no doubt shew them in wood also.
 The annexed engraving exhibits the form of this ancient church, and the situation of the principal monuments. The Nun's GateSir J. Crosby's tombPlan of St. Helen's Church. 1West porch 2East porch 3Crosby's monument 4Pickering's monument 5Spencer's tomb 6Caesar's monument 7Lady Lawrence's monument 8Bond's monument 9Robinson's monument 10Bancroft's monument 11Pulpit 12Vestry 13Altar 14Gresham's monument 15Nun's grates 17Font 18(this ought to be 16) Cloisters under Leatherseller's hall, destroyed in 1798. are very numerous. The first in point of antiquity, is that of sir John Crosbie and his lady,Sir John Crosbie, the builder of Crosbie hall, was sheriff in 1470; he was made a knight by Edward IV. 1471, on occasion of his meeting that prince with the citizens, on his coming to London, on May 21, in the latter year. By his will dated March 6, 1471, proved February 6, 1475, after bequeathing considerable sums to the nuns of St. Helens, Holiwell, Stratford, and Sion, to the Austin and Crutched friars, the friars minors, preachers, and Carmelites, the hospitals of St. Mary without Bishopsgate, Bedlam, St. Thomas Southwark, Elsing, and St. Bartholomew, the Minoresses, and the Charterhouse, and to the gaols in London and Southwark, for their prayers, and relief; and after instituting a solemn obit anniversary, or twelve months mind, at which the Grocers company were to assist, he gave to the repairs of St. Helen's church 500 marks, among poor house-keepers in Bishopsgate-ward 30l., to the repair of Hanworth church, Middlesex, 40l., of Bishopsgate and London Wall, 100l., towards making a new tower of stone, at the south-east of London-bridge, if the same was began by the mayor and aldermen within ten years after his decease, 100l., to the repair of Rochester bridge. 10l., to every parish in London, liberally. To the Grocers' company, two silver gilt pots to be used in the common hall. To his daughter Joan 200 marks, to his wife 2,000l. as her dower, besides all her clothes and furniture, and his lease under the prioress of St. Helen for life. Stow, describing the monument, says, the lady represented on it was Anne.--In sir John Crosby's will, it appears to have been his first wife Agnes, but who either of his wives were has not been discovered. His daughter Joan was probably married to Talbot,--Gough's Sepul. Mon. ii. 243-6.
 Sir William Pickering served four prince; Henry VIIIth, in the field; Edward VI. as ambassador to France; Queen Mary in Germany, and finally Queen Elizabeth He is said to have aspired to the possession of the person of the latter. Strype says that he was the finest gentleman of the age for his worth in learning, arts, and warfare.-Stow's Annals, ii. 357. Pennant, 615.
 He was one of the lord mayor's officers, and having, in a course of ears, amassed a very considerable sum of money, by the most mercenary and illegal practices in his office, left the principal part of it in trust to the Draper's company, to found and maintain an almshouse, for twenty-four almsmen, a chapel, and a school, and to keep this monument, which he erected in his life-time, in good and substantial repair; within which he is emboweled, embalmed, and in a chest, or box, made with a lid, to fall down, with a pair of hinges, without any fastening; and apiece of square in the lid, just over his face. It is a very plain monument, almost square, and has a door for the sexton to go in and clear it from dust and cobwebs; but the keys of the iron rails about the monument, and of the vault door, are kept by the clerk of the Drapers' company. The minister has twenty shillings for preaching a sermon, once a year, in commemoration of Mr. Bancroft's charities; on which occasion, the almsmen and scholars attend at church, and are, by the will of the founder, entertained with a good dinner, at some neighbouring public-house. The sexton has forty-shillings a year for keeping the monument clear of dust.