The Romance of Old Bishopsgate
Headquarters of RBS
Thomas Hugo, the nineteenth century historian of Bishopsgate, wrote a history of this thoroughfare prefaced with a quote from his predecessor, John Strype in 1754 -“The fire of London not coming unto these parts, the houses are old timber buildings where nothing is uniform.” While the rest of London had been rebuilt after 1666, Bishopsgate alone retained the character of the city before the fire and in 1857 Thomas Hugo was passionate that this quality not be destroyed – as he wrote in the strangely prescient introduction to his “Walks in the City: No 1. Bishopsgate Ward.”
“This quarter, so hallowed and glorified by olden memories, is unquestionably deserving of a foremost place in our affectionate regard. Our history, our literature and our art are associated with the charmed ground in closest and most indissoluble union. You can scarcely open a single volume illustrative of our national history which does not carry you in imagination to that still picturesque assemblage of edifices where, amid its overhanging Elizabethan gables and stately Caroline facades, its varied masses of pleasantly mingled light and shade, its frequent churches and sonorous bells, the greatest and best of Englishmen have successfully figured among their fellows, and to whose adorning and embellishment the noblest powers have in all ages been devoted. And yet, unhappily, this is the spot where alterations are most commonly made, and with perhaps least regard to the irreparable loss which they necessarily involve. Here, where, for all who are versed in our country’s literature, every stone can speak of its greatness, where the name of every street and lane is classical, where around multitudes of houses fair thoughts and pleasant memories congregate as their natural home and common ground, the demon of transformation rules almost unquestioned, lays its merciless finger on our valued treasures, and leaves them metamorphosed beyond recognition only to work a similar atrocity upon some other precious object. Special attention, therefore, on every account, as well as for beauty, the value, and the excellence of that which still remains, as for the insecurity and uncertainty of its tenure, is most urgently and imperatively demanded.”
John Keats was baptised in St Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate.
The Bishop’s Gate was on the site of one of the gates to the Roman city of Londinium, from which led Ermine St, the main road North. First mentioned in 1210, Bishop’s Gate was rebuilt in 1479 and 1735, before it was removed in 1775. In 1600, Will Kemp undertook his jig from here to Norwich in nine days.
A mitre set into the wall marks the site of the former Bishop’s Gate today.
Crosby Hall, the half-timbered building at the centre of this picture was once Richard III’s palace. Other residents here included Thomas More, Walter Raleigh and Mary Sidney, the poet. Built by wool merchant John Crosby in 1466, it was removed to Cheyne Walk, Chelsea in 1910.
Elizabethan houses in Bishopsgate, 1857.
The Lodge, Half Moon St, Bishopsgate Without, 1857.
Paul Pindar’s House, Bishopsgate photographed by Henry Dixon for the Society for Photographing the Relics of Old London in the eighteen eighties. Paul Pindar was James I’s envoy to Turkey and his house was moved to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1890.
A chef takes a break in White Hart Court.
Houses designed by Inigo Jones built in White Hart Court, Bishopsgate in 1610.
Bishopsgate in the aftermath of the IRA bomb in 1993.
The newly completed Heron Tower boasts Europe’s largest indoor fish tank.
Archive images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute
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