Continuing looking at the alleys which lead off Carter Lane just around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral. This maze of small roads and alleys give you a sense as to how the City was laid out before the Great Fire of London. When the Black Friars monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538, most of the buildings were left to decay, whilst some of those occupying the outer fringes of the grounds were given to people who happened to be in the King’s favour.
One such beneficiary was Sir Thomas Carwardine who on a nod and a wink came away from the royal chamber clutching the title deeds to the priory church and east gatehouse. Having little regard for ancient buildings he promptly pulled down the church and was on the verge of doing the same with the gatehouse, but on seconds thoughts decided to make it his home. Later in the century the refurbished ‘house’ was sold to William Ireland, a City haberdasher, who stepped out of his door one day only to be frightened out of his wits by a bearded gentleman cuddling a skull and spouting forth about ghosts. He was not aware of it at the time but this petrifying fellow was none other than William Shakespeare who, to Ireland’s dismay, was about to become his next door neighbour. Because buses were not too frequent in those days, Shakespeare moved into Ireland Yard in 1612 so as to be conveniently near to Richard Burbage’s new theatre where the great man regularly featured topping the bill.
A short flight of steps on the north side of Ireland Yard lead up to the churchyard of St Ann Blackfriars where a Corporation of London notice board by the steps records that, ‘on this plot of land stood, in the middle ages, part of the provincials hall of the Dominican Priors of Blackfriars with the dormer over. When the priory was dissolved in 1538 the parish church of St Anne Blackfriars was built on this site. The church was destroyed in the great fire of 1666 and not rebuilt. The parish was united with the parish of St Andrew by the Wardrobe. The site was thereafter used as a churchyard alternately with the one in Church Entry. It was closed in 1849.’
‘Brooding quietness; remote and intimate; the City in slumbers’. These are the terms that have been used to describe Wardrobe Place, one of the most exquisitely calm spots in London’s square mile. The courtyard marks the exact site of Sir John Beauchamp’s house, acquired by Edward III in 1359 to store the royal finery on its removal from the Tower. (See Wardrobe Terrace). This is a delightful place, in essence, little changed since rebuilding after the Great Fire destroyed much of the surroundings on the 4th September 1666. In fact almost the entire length of Carter Lane and its byways have so far luckily escaped the developers hammer, but perhaps to mention this is tempting fate. Meanwhile, until the 20th, and soon the 21st, century catches up we can gaze on the surviving post fire houses of about 1710 at numbers 3-5 Wardrobe Place.
From the south east corner a covered passage leads alongside the now defunct Bell public house and joins with Wardrobe Terrace. Wardrobe Terrace and Wardrobe Place are memorials to the Royal Wardrobe, which used to be situated between St Andrew’s Church and Carter Lane.
In 1359 King Edward III acquired the town house of Sir John Beauchamp which stood in the courtyard just to the north of St Andrew’s Church. To here he transferred the collection of ceremonial robes and dresses previously housed in the Tower. During the mid-17th century the collection was in the charge of Sir Edward Montague, Master of the Wardrobe, and wealthy cousin of Samuel Pepys. When the house was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 the Royal Wardrobe was temporarily moved to the Savoy where some 400 years previous, Peter, Earl of Savoy had built his mansion. It was subsequently relocated in Buckingham Street, to the south of the Strand.
The first Church dedicated to St Andrew was built here about the beginning of the 13th century and known as St Andrew next Baynard’s Castle. This stronghold was constructed by Ralph Baynard in the time of William the Conqueror and destroyed, together with the Church, by the Fire of 1666. The Church was rebuilt by Wren in 1693 when the parish of St Anne Blackfriars was incorporated within its boundary. It was the last in Wren’s list of 51 City church scheduled for rebuilding after the Fire. St Andrew’s suffered further devastation in the Second World War and was restored in 1961. Compared with the grandeur of most of Wren’s other churches, St Andrew’s is somewhat plain. Stow sums it up in a few words: ‘a proper church, but few monuments hath it’.
Much of the original source material for Down Your Alley has been derived from Ivor Hoole’s GeoCities website. The site is now defunct and it is believed Ivor is no more. Thankfully much of Ivor’s work has been archived by Ian Visits and Phil Gyford.