THE DEATH OF HENRY VIII

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Henry VIII, known as the Hamilton Portrait and once owned by the Duke of Hamilton, this portrait used to be at  Holyroodhouse.  Philip Mould.

The deaths of all three Tudor kings were protracted and wretched.  Whether this was down to Karma, bad luck (or good luck depending on what way you look at it) or just the lamentable medical treatments available at the time,  I know not.  Perhaps a combination of all three.  But I want to concentrate here on the death of Henry VIII.

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‘The Death of Kings’ by Clifford Brewer T.D. F.R.C.S is an interesting read and covers the death of Henry in detail.   The title is self explanatory, the book being a ‘medical history of the Kings and Queens of England’.   I have drawn heavily on the book for the information I quote here concerning Henry VIII, who by strange coincidence died on the 28th January being the date on which his father Henry Tudor was born.

Henry, long since grown corpulent, was becoming a burden to himself and of late lame by reason of a violent ulcer in his leg, the inflammation whereof cast him into a lingering fever, which little by little decayed his spirits.  He at length begun to feel the inevitable necessity of death. Goodwin Annales of England.

Henry’s symptoms are too numerous to detail here and death must have come as somewhat of a relief to him after much suffering.  The actual cause of death is still debated as is did he suffer from syphilis.  Brewer points out there is no proof either way and that although , if he had,  it could explain some of the ‘happenings in his reign’ there are points which contradict this.  For example there is no evidence that his long term mistress Bessie Blount suffered from syphilis which she surely would have contracted from him (neither did  their son Henry Fitzroy ever show signs of congenital syphilis).      The same can be said of Mary Boleyn or any of his wives.

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This is believed to be a bust of Henry as a child.  What a mischievous little chap he was, the little stinker…..

He is recorded as having suffered from a bout of malaria with recurrences throughout his life although these did not seem to incapacitate him too much.  Indeed he seems to have enjoyed  robust health engaging in ‘strenuous exercise and indulged in many jousts and tournaments both on foot and on horse. He did however have two lucky escapes both of which could have been fatal.  One was a jousting accident where his brother-in-law, the Duke  Suffolk’s lance shattered his helm and he was very lucky not to be blinded or even killed’.  Then in 1525 whilst  trying  to vault a very wide ditch using a pole, the pole broke and he was thrown headfirst into the mud where,   unable either to get up or even breath,  his life was  saved by a footman.  .

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Henry in his prime.  Portrait by Joos van Cleve c1530-1535

This jousting injury might account for the belated development of several symptoms.   Henry was to alter in appearance and put on a considerable amount of  weight,  ‘his face become moonlike,  burying his small eyes in a puffy face and accentuating  his small mouth’.  After the execution of Anne Boleyn,  Henry became even more prone to fits of temper and instability.  His  great increase in weight made it difficult for him to take exercise. Henry also developed an ulcer on his leg and  Brewer speculates that this ulcer,  which was very offensive,  ‘and a trial to his attendants‘  could have been either a varicose ulcer or the result of an injury received whilst jousting which damaged the bone leading to osteitis.   This could have led to further complications – amyloid disease in which a waxy  material is laid down in the liver, kidneys and elsewhere.  Not a pretty picture.  Poor Henry.

Henry,  as he got older,  became subject of violent attacks of temper and periods of loss of memory.   On leaving London on one occasion he ordered all the prisoners in Tower to be executed.   His character become more and more unstable and by 1546 Henry had become  grossly overweight,  his legs so swollen,  due to severe oedema,  that he was unable to walk and he was moved from place to place by means of lifting apparatus.

 

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Henry towards the end of his life showing the  abnormality on the side of his nose which might indicate a gamma that had healed with scarring.   Cornelis Metsys line engraving 1545.

Towards the end of January 1547 he begun to suffer from periods of partial unconsciousness alternating with periods of alertness.  He was probably passing into a uraemia coma.  Realising he was dying he sent for  Cranmer but by he time he arrived he had lost the ability to speak.  Grasping Cranmer’s hand in his,  he pressed it when asked if he  repented his sins.    This was taken as Henry’s repentance and he ‘died in grace’ ‘  – ummm I don’t think it quite works like that!  .  However, his huge and offensive body was transferred, with some difficulty,  into his coffin.  He was then taken to Windsor to be laid to rest beside Jane Seymour.  However that is not the end of the story for it is said that his coffin burst a leak and the church was filled with a ‘most obnoxious odour’.  And so Henry passed ignobly from this life and  into history and the short reign of his son Edward Vl commenced.    As it transpired Edward’s death was to be perhaps  even more awful that that of his father.   But that dear reader is another story.

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HENRY VIII’S COFFIN IN THE VAULT HE SHARES WITH JANE SEYMOUR AND CHARLES Ist. ST GEORGE’S CHAPEL, WINDSOR.

CROSSRAIL – A PORTAL INTO MEDIEVAL LONDON

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No doubt archaeologist thought that all their Christmases’  had arrived at once when they first heard the breaking news of the building of Crossrail,  Europe’s largest infrastructure which will be called the Elizabeth Line and will open in phases from late 2018 and the exceptional opportunities the excavations would bring. However, did they ever imagine in their wildest dreams the wealth of artefacts that would be unearthed ranging from bison bones, 68000 years old, found at Royal Oak, near Paddington, through the mediaeval period to Roman finds, including a burial site beneath the area that once covered Liverpool Street station. Since the work began in 2009 archaeologists have unearthed tens of thousands of items from 40 sites spanning 55 million years of London’s history and pre-history (1) The new railway will run from east to west through some of London’s most historical areas. It has been described as a ‘layer cake of history hidden beneath the city streets’.

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LIVERPOOL STREET STATION

Some of the most interesting finds were discovered beneath Liverpool Street station which stands right in the heart of what was once mediaeval London. Of particular interest was the south-east corner where the ticket office once stood for this had been built over the Bedlam burial grounds later known as Bethlem hospital which had been in use since 1247 to 1815. 80 archaeologist worked on this site retrieving thousands of objects.   A total of 4000 burials was uncovered including a plague pit containing 30 victims from the great plague of 1665. One of the most poignant finds was a necklace that was found on the skeleton of a baby.

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Modern restringing of the beads found on the baby’s skeleton.  The beads are amber, white amber, cornelian, glass and bone.

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Plague victim from the mass pit aged 17 to 25 probably male. 

IMG_6770.PNGGrave Marker for Mary Godfree, a victim of the Great Plague who died 2 September 1665.

Charterhouse Square and Faringdon

A large ditch was excavated to the south of Charterhouse Square. It may be the remains of Faggeswell Brook which flowed into the Fleet River.   The ditch formed the southern boundary of the cemetery and Charterhouse Monastery,  founded in 1371 and suppressed in 1538.  Included in the items found,  which had been dumped in the ditch to fill it in between 1580 and 1640 , were leather shoes, parts  of a horse harness dating from the late 1500s, pottery and floor tiles dated to 1300 probably from the monastery.  The remains of a cemetary  were discovered containing the remains of victims of the black death date in from 1348/9.   Twenty five skeletons were discovered buried in three layers.

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TWO MEN IN THEIR 40S BURIED HOLDING HANDS FROM ONE OF THE LAYERS OF THE CHARTERHOUSE BURIAL SITE.

Worcester house Stepney Green

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Reconstruction of moated Worcester house built around 1450

Worcester house a 15th century moated manor house built about 1450 probably on the site of an earlier house was previously known as King John’s Palace. Rubbish thrown into the moat gives an insight into the lives of those who lived there. Among the many artefacts found were leather shoes, the remains  of a horse harness dating from the late 1500s, dress pins, a wooden ball which was probably used as a ‘jack’ in a game of bowls or skittles. Henry VIII is known to have loved bowls but banned poor people from playing it.

IMG_6775.JPGWooden ball used for playing bowls

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16th century leather shoe

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TUDOR DRESS PIN

However this is not the end of the story for this old manor house for when the archaeologist had finished over four tonnes of bricks were donated to English Heritage for restoring England’s Tudor buildings. I have merely touched upon a few of the wealth of wonderful finds from the Crossrail archaeology here.   Anyone wishing to delve deeper can find some excellent links to informative websites covering these remarkable finds.

1) Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail Jackie Kelly p18

 

THE DEATH OF HENRY VII

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Henry VII on his deathbed – Wriothesley’s Heraldic Collection Vol I Book of Funerals

And so, on 21 April 1509, Henry Tudor finally expired.  He had been ill, obviously, for some time and perhaps his death was something of a relief to him. I’m sure it was for the rest of the country who probably breathed a collective sigh of relief. He had managed to keep his bony posterior on the throne for 24 years since that diabolical day at Bosworth when an anointed king was slaughtered.  It does nothing for Henry’s  reputation that he allowed the dead king’s body to be horrendously  abused  as well as the ignoble and deplorable  act of having his reign  predated from the day before the battle. But no doubt there were some that lamented his passing especially his mother Margaret Beaufort, a  most highly acquisitive woman and probably one of the most greediest.     She adored him and the pair must hardly have been able to believe their luck that he had survived the battle unscathed, probably due to the fact that he took no active part in it.

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Unknown artist’s impression of Tudor being crowned in the aftermath of Bosworth.

It must have seemed surreal to him as he wandered through the dead kings apartments at Westminster that had now, overnight, become his.

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Bust of Henry VII: National Portrait Gallery.

He had some worrying times with bothersome pretenders to the throne popping up with annoying regularity as well as various uprisings. Whether he was plagued by his conscience we do not  know although Margaret was prone to bursts of weeping at times when she should have been happy which must have been very tedious  for those around her.

However moving on from that , what actually did see Henry off?     His health seems to have gone into a decline when he reached his 30s.   His eyes began to trouble him and he tried various eye lotions and eye  baths  made of fennel water,  rosewater and celandine ” to make bright the sight” but to no avail.  His teeth were a source of trouble with Polydore Vergil describing him as having ‘teeth few, poor and blackish’ (1).  His eye problems must have caused him dismay as he liked nothing more than to pour over his account books to see where the pennies were going and how much he was amassing. He was predeceased by his wife, whom it is said he was fond of, and four children including his oldest son and  heir,  Arthur,  but fortunately for him,  if not the country and the Roman Catholic Church he had a surviving spare – Henry Jnr.

 

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Death mask of Henry VII Westminster Abbey

In his interesting book, The Death of Kings, Clifford Brewer writes   “Henry had developed a chronic cough which was particularly severe in springtime.  The  condition became progressively more severe and associated with loss of weight and a general wasting . In 1507 and 1508  Henry’s spring cough become more troublesome.  He  is described as having become troubled with a tissic,  or cough,  he also suffered from mild gout.  In his Life of Henry the VII , Bacon writes

‘ in the two and 20th year of his reign in 1507 he began to be troubled with a gout but the defluxation  taking also unto his breast wasted his lungs so that thrice in a year in a kind of return and especially in the spring he had great fits and labours of the tissick’.   This suggests that Henry suffered from chronic fibroid phthisis ( chronic tuberculosis infection)  which became more and more active with  resultant wasting and debility.  This  is found in several of the members of the Tudor line.  Henry made a great effort to attend divine service on Easter Day 1509 but he was exhausted and retired to his palace at Richmond where he died on 21 April  from chronic pulmonary tuberculosis (2)”

According to Holinshed Chronicle

“….he was so wasted with his long malady that nature could no longer  sustain his life and so he departed out of this world the two and 20th of April’.

Thomas Penn in his biography of Henry, The Winter King, describes Henry as ‘unable to eat and struggling for breath,  Henry’s mind was fixated on the hereafter.  On Easter Sunday 8th April,  emaciated and in intense pain he staggered into his privy closet, where he dropped to his knees and crawled  to receive the sacrament… later as Henry lay amid mounds of pillows,  cushions and bolsters,  throat rattling,  gasping for breath,  he mumbled again and again that  ‘ if it please God to send him life they should find him a very changed man’.  Henry  made an exemplary  death,  eyes fixed intensely on the crucifix held out before him,  lifting his head up feebly  towards it,  reaching out and enfolding in his thin arms,  kissing it fervently,  beating it repeatedly upon his chest.   Fisher said that Henry’s promises took a very specific form.  If he lived, Henry promised a true reformation of all them that were officers and ministers of his laws (3)’.  However,  as they say , man makes plans and the gods laugh and Henry did not survive to bring about the changes he  was so eager on his death bed to make.  He had left it too late.

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Richmond Palace, Wyngarde c1558-62

And so Henry Tudor shuffled off this mortal coil. The King is dead, long live the King and so began the reign of his son Henry VIII and that dear reader is another story.

1. The Death of Kings p110 Clifford Brewer.

2. Ibid pp110.111

3. Winter King Thomas Penn p339.

ANNE MOWBRAY DUCHESS OF NORFOLK. CHILD BRIDE OF RICHARD OF SHREWSBURY – ONE OF THE PRINCES IN THE TOWER – HER REBURIAL IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY.

St Erasmus in Bishop Islip's Chapel, Westminster Abbey exhibited 1796 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

St Erasmus in Bishops Islip’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey by Joseph Mallord William Turner c.1796.  The  original chapel of St Erasmus, built by Elizabeth Wydeville,  was the site of Anne Mowbray’s first burial and after recovery of her coffin she was reburied in the rebuilt Chapel.  

Anne Mowbray, Duchess of Norfolk, was born in Framlingham Castle, Suffolk on Thursday 10 December 1472.  John Paston wrote ‘On Thursday by 10 of the clock before noon my young lady was christened and named Anne’ (1).  Anne died, just 8 years later and a few weeks short of her 9th birthday at Greenwich Palace,one of  her mother-in-law’s,  Elizabeth Wydeville,  favourite homes,  on the 19 November 1481, where presumably she was being raised.   Anne was the sole heiress of John de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, who died suddenly on the 14 January 1476 when Anne was three years old.  This left her as one of the most sought after heiresses of the time and ‘ten days later it was known that Edward lV was seeking her as a bride for his younger son, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York’(2).   Agreement was eventually reached between King Edward and Anne’s mother, Elizabeth Mowbray nee Talbot, the Duchess of Norfolk,   with the Duchess agreeing ‘to forego a great part of her jointure and dower lands in favour of her daughter and little son-in-law, Richard, Duke of York.  This act settled also settled the Norfolk lands and titles on the Duke of York and his heirs should Anne Mowbray predeceased him leaving no heirs’ (3) which is precisely what transpired.  Nothing has survived of Elizabeth Mowbray’s personal thoughts on this.   The children were eventually married on the 15 January 1478 in St Stephens Chapel, Westminster, with the bridegroom’s uncle-in-law, Richard Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III,  leading her by the hand.  Anne is perhaps best known for being the child bride of one of the ‘princes’ in the Tower.

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Framlingham Castle, Suffolk.  Home to the Mowbrays and where Anne Mowbray was born Thursday 10 December 1472.  

Her father-in-law sent three barges to escort her body back to Westminster, where she lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber before being buried in the Chapel of St Erasmus in Westminster Abbey which had been built recently by Elizabeth Wydeville, the funeral costs amounting to £215.16s.10d.  This chapel was pulled down in 1502 to make way for a new Lady Chapel built by Henry Vll.  When the chapel was demolished Anne’s coffin was removed to  the Convent of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate, where her mother,  Elizabeth Mowbray, in the interim,  had retired to.   It was believed that Anne had been reburied, along with others in the new chapel, dedicated to St Erasmus by Abbot Islip,  who had managed to rescue the Tabernacle from the old chapel and set it up in the new chapel,  which is now known as the Chapel of our Lady of the Pew.

It is intriguing to remember that Anne’s mother, Elizabeth Mowbray nee Talbot was the sister to Eleanor Butler nee Talbot.   So ironically Anne’s aunt, Eleanor, was her father-in-law’s true wife, the irony of which surely would not have been wasted on King Edward unless he was suffering from selective amnesia!  Her mother’s privy thoughts on this matter, assuming Eleanor had told her of her secret marriage to Edward,  are unrecorded as are her thoughts on the ‘unjust and unacceptable'(4)  division of the Mowbray inheritance.  The explanation of this rather unsavoury treatment of the Mowbray inheritance is rather complex and I wont go into it here suffice to say anyone interested in finding out more should read Anne Crawford’s article, The Mowbray Inheritance (5) which covers the matter more than adequately.

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Anne’s mother, Elizabeth Mowbray nee Talbot.  Her portait from the donor windows in Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk.

Anne, the nature of her final illness eludes us, would no doubt have gently receded and become forgotten in the mists of time had not her coffin been discovered by workmen on the 11 December 1964  and she was propelled into front page news leading to her descendant, an outraged Lord Mowbray, protesting in the strongest possible terms about the treatment of her remains.  This quickly led to the matter being swiftly resolved, and Anne’s remains, surrounded by white roses, were once again laid in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, as they had been nearly 500 years previously.  Anne was reburied in the Chapel of St Erasmus, with erroneous and histrionic reports stating that she had been interred ‘as near as possible’ to the remains of her young husband, Richard, whose purported remains lay in the infamous urn in the Henry Vll Chapel.  Later Lawrence Tanner, Keeper of the Muniments and Librarian of Westminster Abbey (and in a position to know) was to debunk this myth writing that he, himself, had suggested that Anne’s remains be reinterred ‘very near to the probable site of her original burial place’ which was what duly happened(6).

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Anne’s lead coffin with latin inscription, with her ‘masses of brown hair’.

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Anne Mowbray’s hair. @Eleanor the Secret Queen John Ashdown-Hill

So what happened from the time of the discovery of Anne’s lead coffin to her reburial in the Abbey?  The story is taken up by Bernard Barrell, a former member of the Metroplitan Police, who was now an ‘unofficial police contact’ whenever a coffin was unearthed in the area.  According to Mr Barrell, in December 1964 workmen using a digging machine opened up a deep void in the ground revealing a brick vault filled with rubble, wherein they found a small lead coffin.  A police constable being called to the scene the coffin was transferred to Leman street Police station.  When Mr Barrel was called to the police station he was able to identify where the coffin had been discovered as the site of the former convent and was medieval in date.  After satisfying the Coroners office that the burial was medieval and of archaeological interest he was instructed that if  he was ‘unable to dispose of the coffin to a bona fide claimant’ within 24 hours it would be buried in a common grave in the City of London Cemetery, Manor Park.  In the nick of time Mr Barrell noticed a plate attached the upper surface of the coffin which had been damaged when removed from the ground and stood upright.  On cleaning the plate with a wet cloth, Mr Barrell revealed a medieval ‘black letter’ text in Latin which was difficult to decipher however he could make out two words ‘Filia Rex‘ (Son of the king).  Realising this was no ordinary burial but that of someone of high station a medieval latin scholar was summoned to the station who deciphered the whole text. The coffin was then taken by police van to the museum of London, where the remains were examined, the coffin concerved and repaired (7).

Lawrence Tanner then takes the story over.

‘I saw the body a few days after the coffin had been opened and a very distressing sight it was and after again, after it had been cleaned and beautifully laid out in its lead coffin.  She had masses of brown hair’.  Tanner as already explained, suggested that a grave be made as near to where she was previously buried.  And ‘There on a summer evening, after having laid in state covered by the Abbey Pall in the Jerusalem Chamber, the body of the child duchess was laid to rest.  It was a deeply moving and impressive little service in the presence of a representative of the Queen, Lady and Lord Mowbray, Segrave and Stourton (representing Anne’s family),  the Home secretary, the Director of the London Museum and one or two others (8)

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Anne’s lead coffin surrounded by white flowers and candles, lying in state in  the Jerusalem Chamber, on the Westminster Pall.

And so, on the 31 May 1965,  Anne was reburied in an honourable place, with tenderness, love and care.  It has been said that her coffin,  at the Minories,  had been forgotten and the intention was for her to be reburied when the new chapel was completed.  But I’m unconvinced.  Although as far as I can ascertain it was never mentioned in Elizabeth Talbot’s will, only that she be buried near to Anne Montgomery,   I believe that the widowed Duchess of Norfolk, then living in retirement at the convent, requested that Anne, her little daughter be returned to her,  finally,  with the intention  that when her time came,  she would be buried near to her  daughter.  John Ashdown-Hill has written that ‘The remains of Elizabeth Talbot,  Duchess of Norfolk, must have been lying quite close to those of her daughter…they were apparently not noticed

The epitaph on the coffin may be translated as

Here lies Anne, Duchess of York, daughter and heiress of John,late Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal, Earl of Nottingham and Warenne, Marshal of England, Lord of Mowbray, Segrave and Gower.  Late wife of Richard Duke of York, second son of the most illustrious Prince Edward the Fourth, King of England and France, and Lord of Ireland, who died at Greenwich on the 19th day of November in the year of Our Lord 1481 and the 21st year of the said Lord King”.

  1. Philomena Jones, Anne Mowbray, Richard lll Crown and People p.86
  2. Ibid p.86
  3. Ibid p.88
  4. Anne Crawford The Mowbray Inheritance, Richard lll Crown and people p.81
  5. ibid p.81
  6. Lawrence Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary p192
  7. Charles W Spurgeon The Poetry of Westminster Abbey p.207, 208, 209
  8. Lawrence Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary, p192.
  9. John Ashdown-Hill The Secret Queen Eleanor Talbot The Woman Who Put Richard lll on the Throne p.248

 

OLD LONDON BRIDGE – A MEDIEVAL WONDER!

London from Southwark, c.1630. Old London Bridge is in the right foreground and old St Paul's Cathedral on the skyline to the left. This is one of the few remaining pictures showing the city before the Great Fire. Oil on panel, Dutch School not signed or

London from Southwark, c.1630. Old London Bridge is in the right foreground and Old St Paul’s Cathedral on the skyline to the left.

Old London Bridge

Antiquated, in a run down state, and at 600 years old, the old bridge had reached its self by date and was demolished in 1832. Of course it was inevitable but at the same time, a place so steeped in history, surely a tragic loss. This bridge had seen some of the most monumentous occasions in London’s history and there could have been few Londoners who had not crossed over at some time in their lives. It was the site of pageants, jousts, battles and even coronation processions.  It consisted of 19 arches of varying widths with piers supported on great starlings and crossing just over 900 feet of water. The Southwark end was protected by the Great Stonegate which had a portcullis which could be closed and barred.  At the seventh arch from the southern end was a functional drawbridge before the Drawbridge Gate, where a toll keeper collected tolls from passengers on the bridge and from ships which required the drawbridge to be raised.  It was upon Drawbridge Gate that the heads of traitors were displayed. 

There had been many manifestations of the bridge prior to this particular one, among them a  wooden one which had been brought down by a tornado in 1091, but it is this particular one most people think of when Old London Bridge is mentioned. Designed by Peter de Colechurch, a priest, chaplain and architect, building work begun in 1176 and was commissioned by Henry II who was suffering pangs of guilt since the murder of his old friend Thomas Becket. To this end one of the first buildings on the bridge was a chapel dedicated to Thomas  – The Chapel of St Thomas the Martyr on the Bridge – and was the starting point for pilgrimages to Thomas’ shrine at Canterbury. This chapel was completed in 1209 and was in use until 1548 when it was dissolved and begun a new life as a dwelling place,  surveyers being instructed by the Common Council that  the chapel upon the same bridge ‘be defaced and be translated into a dwellyng-house with as moche spede as they convenyentlye may’. The upper story was demolished in 1747 when it continued in use as a warehouse until final demolition in 1832.

London Bridge over the River Thames as it appeared in 1209 before houses were built with St Thomas’ Chapel in the centre. Getty Images)
1209 South side of the crypt. The crypt was the burial place of Peter de Colechurch Getty Images

Peter de Colechurch died 4 years before the completion of the bridge and was buried in the crypt of St Thomas’ chapel (1).  Sadly nothing is known of what became of his bones after the demolition and it may be they were simply tossed aside or even  into the Thames itself.  

BATTLES, SQUIRMISHES AND PUNCH UPS

The earlier bridges had regularly been the focal points for invasions by various marauding Vikings but things remained more or less peaceful for our bridge until the arrival of Wat Tyler and his Kentishmen in 1381.  However, as we know, things did not go to plan for him.  Things seem to have been relatively peaceful for some time after although a ‘great’ joust took place in 1395 between David Earl of Crawford of Scotland and Lord Wells of England, the outcome of which Lord Wells found himself ‘borne out of his saddle’ at the third course.  Presumably they all went home then.  

However, Jack Cade and more Kentishmen arrived in 1450.  In the year 1471, The Bastard of Falconbridge besieged the bridge, burnt the gate and all the houses of which there were 13 at that time.  

Sir Thomas Wyatt in 1553, with even more Kentishmen – what is it with Kentishmen? – marched from Deptford towards London only to find out the bridge gates had been shut. As they say man makes plans and the gods laugh..

GREAT FIRE OF 1212

On the night of 10 July 1212, and only 4 years after the completion of the bridge,  a fire occurred in Southwark on the south side of the bridge. Pretty soon the bridge was heaving with ‘a great magnitude of  people‘ who had either gone there to watch or to try to help.  By a tragic mischance the wind blew and the northern end of the bridge became engulfed in fire.   The fire that was raging in Southwark then  spread onto the southern approach of the Bridge and the people were trapped.  Ships came in a rescue attempt but to no avail as they were sunk by the sheer number of panicked people attempting to board them.  Stowe tells us over 3000 people perished on that awful night from a combination of fire and shipwreck (2).

HENRY Vs FUNERAL CORTEGE

Henry V died on the 31 August 1422 in Vincennes in France not quite seven years after his great victory at Agincourt.   His funeral cortege snaked its slow way from Dover to Westminster Abbey passing over the Bridge.  His effigy lay on top of his coffin on a chariot drawn by four horses.  It can be imagined the grief stricken crowds and sombre silence as the warrior king was taken to his final resting place.  His heir was but a babe of 9 months.   Its well known how that story panned out and I’ll not go into it here.  Suffice to say that day must be counted as among the saddest  in the Bridge’s long history.  

QUEEN ELIZABETH WOODVILLE’S CORONATION PROCESSION 24 MAY 1465

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Queen Eizabeth Wydeville Royal Window Canterbury Cathedral.

Edward IV’s consort, Elizabeth Wydeville’s or Woodville, as she is more commonly known,  Coronation Procession entered London via the bridge at Bridge Foot accompanied by an assemble of dignitaries  (who had met her at Shooters Hill) and  been instructed to appear  ‘in suche apparel as is according to youre astate and honour’ (3)  One can only hope that someone remembered to remove  the heads of traitors from the Drawbridge Gate where they were displayed.  As it transpired the marriage of Edward and Elizabeth turned out to be a bigamous one, he already being married to another, Eleanor Butler nee Talbot.   This bigamous Wydeville marriage   was to become the tragic rock that the House of York tragically foundered upon but this story is  covered fully elsewhere and I shall not go into it here.  Returning to that day the procession must have been a sight to behold.  Accounts  of the costs incurred that day are extant today so we do know, among other things,  that a room was hired overlooking Bridge Foot from a shoemaker called Peter Johnson and from there a choir sung to the queen – costing the sizeable sum of 6s 8d.  An enormous amount of work was undertaken to get the bridge decorated after which the workmen headed to the Crown, an alehouse at the Southern approach to the bridge where the costs of their food and drink, paid for by their employer, amounted to £2 6s 10d.  Among the other expenses incurred that day include :- 

one ounce of saffron for dying the flax to make the hair for the angels and maidens 10d

900 peacock feathers for making the angels wings 21d

3 pounds of flax bought and used in the likeness of hair for the angels and maidens 9d

For the cleansing done at the drawbridge at the approach of the queen 3s 4d

For the carriage of forty five loads of sand sprinkled on the bridge against the approach of the queen, for each load 4d 15s.

IMG_6761

A close up of a view of Bridge Foot 1616.   The Crown Alehouse can be seen directly to the right of the gateway.  Claes Jansz Visscher 1586-1652 (4)

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1) A Survey of London 1598 John Stowe p42

2) ibid p43

3) The entry of Queen Elizabeth Woodville over London Bridge 24 May 1465 Anne E Sutton & Livia Visser-Fuchs.  This is a very detailed article , which I have drawn heavily from here, covering everything anyone would need to know about the procession.  

4) Thanks to the Know Your London blog for drawing my attention to the closeup of the engraving.  

 

 

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