vol II date / index
St. Homobonus, A. D. 1197. St. Didacus, A. D. 1463. St. Stanislas Kostka, A. D. 1568. St. Mitrius. St. Brice, A. D. 444. St. Constant, of Logherne, A. D. 777. St. Chillen, or Killian, of Ireland.
This saint is in the church of England calendar and the almanacs, for what reason is unknown. He was born at Tours, became a monk under St. Martin, and succeeded him in the see of that city.
ST. JOHN'S, CLERKENWELL.
The church of St. John, Clerkenwell, having been closed for reparation since the first Sunday in July, was opened for divine service on the 13th of November, 1825, by the Rev. W. E. L. Faulkner, M. A. rector of the parish. The exterior of the present edifice is altogether unseemly. It is frequently called St. John's chapel, and has more the air of a meeting for dissenting worship, than a structure of the establishment; if it had not a sort of steeple with a bell, it might be mistaken for a theatre; but the interior is in every respect befitting its ecclesiastical use. It has spacious galleries, is well pewed below, and thoroughly lighted, with a very commodious vestry. In these respects it is creditable to the inhabitants who have now so judiciously fitted it up, that it will not require more than usual cleaning for many years. Still it is to be regretted, that a structure, essentially, gothic, should have been accommodated to modern architecture. The deviation seems to have taken place on its appropriation to the use of the parish of St. John, about a century preceding the reparation it has now undergone.
St. John's parish is distinct from the parish of St. James, although, as regards their poor, they are under one management; and the parish of St. James has, in other respects, an ascendancy, which formerly was the cause of open dissention. This difference originated on the setting out of the parish, the boundaries whereof are described by an entry in the vestry-book, which states in what way the church became parochial. Before referring to it, a glance may be taken of the annexed engraving. It is from an original drawing of a south view of the church in the year 1508, and preserved in the Cotton collection. It is especially curious, because it shows the old square tower, on the site whereof the present church stands, with the great bell tower above, which is rapturously described by Stowe, as will be mentioned presently. The building with two windows between three buttresses, surmounted by pinnacles, was anciently the library.
Church of St. John, Clerkenwell, in 1508.
ENTRY IN THE VESTRY BOOK.
The History of the Parish of St. John, Clerkenwell.
On friday the twenty seventh Day of December in the year of our Lord Christ one thousand seven hundred twenty and three, and in the tenth Year of the Reign of George by the Grace of God, king of Great Britain, &c. being St. John's Day, this Church was consecrated and dedicated to the Service of Almighty God by the Right Reverend Father in God Edmund [Gibson] by Divine Permission Lord Bishop of London, by the Name of the Church of St. John Clerkenwell in the County of Middlesex.
This Church is what was the Choir of the antient Church of the Knights Hospitallers, or the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem in England, which Order began at Jerusalem about the Year of our Lord Christ 1099, taking its rise and name from an Hospital built for the reception of Christian Strangers and Pilgrims, who came to perform their Devotion at the Place of our Lord's Sepulchre, and from a Church adjoining dedicated to St. John Baptist.
In the 11th Century the Christians in the Holy Land were very much harassed by the Turks, till some Merchants from Amalfi in Italy visited the parts about Syria and Egypt, and so far recommended themselves to the Inhabitants by the many rare and pretious commodities they brought thither, that the Calif of Egypt gave them a part of Jerusalem to live in, where they built a Cloister and transplanted thither from Italy an Abbot with some Benedictine Monks, who entertained all Christian Pilgrims and travellers: soon after a Cloister was erected for Women, and these being too small, the Hospital or Alms-House just mentioned was founded for the reception of both sick and well, under the direction of an Overseer maintained chiefly by Alms from Amalfi and other parts of Italy: shortly after, the Church was built, and dedicated to St. John Baptist; tradition informing, that his Father Zachary had often travelled that way, from whence those of this Foundation took the Name of Joannitæ, and continued an Order of Hospitalers or Alms-men some few Years.
In the year 1099, when the Christian Princes, under the command of Godfrey of Bologne, Duke of Lorrain besieged Jerusalem, Gerard the then overseer, with the rest of the Hospitalers by a sudden and unexpected Sally upon the rear of the Turks, contributed greatly to the overthrow of the infidels, and the recovery of the Holy-Land. Godfrey made public acknowledgments of this signal piece of Service, and being created King of Jerusalem gave the Hospitalers large presents, and put the defence of many Towns into their hands. From this time their Order commenced that of Knighthood, Gerard being their first Grand Master. The Order was confirmed by Pope Honorius the second, and by the then Patriarch of Jerusalem. The members of it were called indifferently the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. It was their Vow and Profession to exercise hospitality, to resist the Barbarians that should offer any injury to Pilgrims on the High Ways, and to maintain the Christian religion by force of Arms in their Country. They soon greatly increased in Fame and Riches and spread into many nations: the services they did to Christian Princes procured them every where great respect, Wealth and Privileges, insomuch that tho' at first they professed voluntary poverty, they were afterwards at once in Possession of 19000 Manors in Christendom.
This Order flourished with great pomp and splendour in this Nation: their Prior was reckoned the first Baron in England; their Establishment here was very early, for about a Year after their first Institution and Jerusalem, viz. An. Dom. 1100, Jordan Briset Baron, and Muriel his wife, founded a Priory in this place for the Knights of this Order, and built a Church, which was dedicated to the Honour of St. John Baptist, in the Year 1185, being then consecrated by Heraclius Patriarch of Jerusalem. Both Church and House were burnt in 1381, by the Essex Rebels, but were afterwards rebuilt and continued in the possession of the Knights Hospitallers till the 32nd Year of Henry the 8th (which was years after the general Dissolution of Religious Houses in this Kingdom,) when by a particular Act of Parliament the Priory was suppressed, and the House, Church, and all the Lands of the Knights Hospitallers were vested in the Crown, with all Privileges, &c. thereto belonging, other than the right of Sanctuary, which Right is by this Act discharged, but with an express saving of the Privileges common to Churches and Church Yards applied and used to God's service. In this Act of Parliament the Hospital, House, Church, &c. are mentioned, not as a part of, or within the Parish of St. James, Clerkenwell, but as situate and being near to the City of London, in the County of Middlesex, and so the same are mentioned in the grant from the Crown and subsequent writings.
The Hospital or Priory Church, and House of St. John were preserved from Spoil and down-pulling so long as Henry the 8th lived; but in the third Year of King Edward the 6th the Body and side Isles with the great Bell tower, (a most curious piece of workmanship, graven, gilt, and enamelled,) were pulled down; but the Choir, (which remained,) was closed up in the reign of Queen Mary, who restored the Order and incorporated a Priory and several Brethren, and granted to them this Church, House, and many Lands; but the Order being again dissolved by Queen Elizabeth, the Church and Priory remained in the Crown till the 9th day of May, in the 5h year of King James the first, when by Letters Patent of that date the King granted the same to Ralph Freeman and his heirs, in free and common Soccage by the name of the City or House of the late Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England, in the County of Middlesex, and all the City, Circuit, and Precinct of the same House, having therein one great Mansion House, one great Chapel, &c., containing by estimation 5 acres. From Freeman the said Church or Chapel, and part of the great house and gardens, came in the 10th Year of King James the first Ld. Wm. Cecil Lord Burghley, Son and Heir apparent of Thomas Earl of Exeter, by whose daughter the Lady Diana, it passed in marriage in the 5th Year of King Charles the 1st to Thomas, Lord Bruce, afterwards Earl of Elgin, whose son Robert was created Earl of Ailesbury, in which Family this Church or Chapel, (from thence called Ailesbury Chapel,) continued till the Year 1706, and being then sold by them, was afterwards, viz. in the Year 1721, purchased by Mr. Simon Michell, with intent to accomodate the Inhabitants of a new Street by him then partly built, called Red Lion Street, and the neighbouring inhabitants with a convenient place for Divine Worship. He afterwards enlarged the said Chapel, or what was used as such, being the middle Isle only by restoring thereto the North isle, (which had been made part of a dwelling-house,) and also the South Isle, (the upper part of which had been converted into a Library, and the lower part separated by a wall from what was left to the Chapel,) and having likewise entirely new built the west front, and new roofed the whole, and furnished the Chapel with convenient Galleries and Pews, he proposed it thus rebuilt and beautified to the Commissioners appointed in pursuance of Acts of Parliament for building 50 New Churches in and about London, as proper to be by them converted into a Parochial Church for such an adjoining District, as they should think fit to appoint for a Parish to the same.
This proposal being accepted and an agreement made by the Commissioners with Mr. Simon Michell, he and Mr. Hutten (his trustee) by bargain and sale enrolled in Chancery, bearing date the 29th day of August 1723, conveyed the Chapel, and the ground extending from the East end thereof to St. John's Street, (on the front part whereof next to St. John's Street, stood 2 houses,) to the said Commissioners, who by Deed bearing date the 11th day of December 1723 and afterwards enrolled in Chancery, did, pursuant to their Power, granted by the said Acts of Parliament, declare and appoint the Chapel to be from and for ever after the Enrollment of that Deed and the consecration of the Chapel, a Parish Church by such Name as should be given thereto in the act of Consecration; and by the same Deed the said Commissioners did pursuant to the said Acts of Parliament set out and appoint a Parish for the said Church, and ascertained the Bonds and Limits of such new parish to be as followeth:—
The entry in the vestry-book, hitherto given verbatim, proceeds to set out the parish bounds in words, and a copy of the act of consecration.
It is interesting to go a little farther inot the history of this ancient church.
While Henry VIII. reigned, "the rebels of Essex and Kent," in 1381, set fire to the house, causing it to burn for the space of seven days together, and not suffering any to quench it: afterwards the church, and houses thereto appertaining, were new built, and the church finished by Thomas Docwray, lord prior there about the year 1504, as appears by the inscription over the gate-house, mentioned by Stow as remaining in his time, and which still remains. The church was employed as a storehouse for the king's "toyles and tents for hunting and for the wars," &c. Stow, who says this, speaking of its destruction in [t]he third year of king Edward VI., adds, that the church for the most part, to wit, the body and side isles with the great bell tower was undermined and blown up with gunpowder, and the stone thereof employed in building the lord protector's (Somerset) house in the Strand. The great bell tower he calls "a most curious piece of workmanship, graven, gilt, and inameled to the great beautifying of the city, and passing all other that I have sceene." He adds that the part of the quire which remained, with some side chapels, was closed up at the west end by cardinal Pole, in the reign of queen Mary, and the other was repaired, and sir Thomas Tresham Knight, made the lord prior there with the restitution of some lands. At the suppression, the priory was valued "to dispend in lands, 3385l. 19s. 8d. yearly; sir William Weston being then lord prior, died on the 7th of May, 1540." The king granted "great yeerely pensions" to the knights; and to the lord prior, during his life, 1000l. "but he never received a penny." He died of a broken heart on Ascension-day in the same year, the very day the house was suppressed. An account of the exhumation of his body on the 27th of April, 1788, on taking down the old church of St. James, Clerkenwell, with interesting particulars respecting him, may be seen in the "Gentleman's Magazine" for that year. Mr. Bartholomew of Red Lion-street, Clerkenwell, a lover, and as far as he is permitted by the other inhabitants, a preserver of the antiquities of his parish of St. John, is in possession of a portion of prior Weston's cere-cloth.
The only vestiges of the antiquity and extent of this church are in Jerusalem-court, which runs from St. John's-square into St. John's-street, and is bounded on the left by houses or dwellings constructed within the remaining part of the south wall: they are now, (in November, 1825,) undergoing reparation by new facing, but portions of the old church buttresses remain, though they are much mutilated, and their shafts buried to the extent of many feet below the pavement. There is not a single inscription or monument of any age remaining. The only remarkable stone in the churchyard is a memoritur of the late "Mrs. Sarah Newman of No. 63, Cow-cross-street, St. Sepulchre," who died a few years ago, and is rendered "remarkable" by an amplification of the ever-recurring epitaph, "Affliction sore" &c. She is made to say—
Pain was my portion,
Physic was my food,
Groans was my devotion,
Drugs did me no good;
Christ was my physician,
Knew what way was best,
To ease me of my pain,
He took my soul to rest.
A mural inscription in the church, represents "Simon Michell Esq. a member of the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn, descended from a family of that name in Somersetshire. He died August 30, 1750, aged 74." He was a barrister, and member of parliament for Boston. Red Lion-street, built by him, is the best class of houses erected in his time in Clerkenwell, which, among the "lower orders," is called "Jack Adams's parish," for a reason that, if it can be authentically communicated, will be hereafter inserted.
The old gateway of St. John's priory remains in the state wherein it is seen monthly on the title-page of the "Gentleman's Magazine." The east turret and the great rooms over the gateway, are used as a tavern called "The old St. John of Jerusalem," occupied and kept by Mr. William Flint, who formerly carried on the business of a printer in the Old Bailey. The lower part of the west turret is the watchhouse of St. John's parish. On entering the gateway from the south, the fixed iron shaft of the top hinge, whereon the ancient gate swung, is about level with the elbow of a person of ordinary stature: from this, the height to which the ground has been raised above the old level may be imagined. The gateway itself has been lately repaired at the parish expense, chiefly at the instance of Mr. Bartholomew, who took great pains to ascertain and properly colour the arms of Prior Docwray on the crown of the arch, and the remaining ornaments, some of which had been hidden in the watchhouse. An ancient door in the watchhouse bricked up, and boarded over by the wainscotting, retains an old carved oak-facing at the top; through Mr. Bartholomew's persistance it was not destroyed, and he has caused a small flap with hinges to be inserted in the wainscot for the purpose of disclosing this carving, from time to time, to curious inquirers. He is one of the few inhabitants of Clerkenwell, who take an interest in maintaining the reputation of this suburb for its former grandeur.
The rental of St. John's parish in the year 1782, was 12,658l. In 1825, it amounted to 21,724l., not so much from additional building, as from increase in the value of property.
St. John's-gate will be always remembered in connection with the "Gentleman's Magazine," which was first printed there by Edmund Cave.
Bay. Laurus poetica.
Dedicated to St. Homobonus.