Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse. This Elizabethan gatehouse was unknown one-hundred years ago. It wasn’t until 1917 when a bomb from a German zeppelin landed nearby, the blast shattering the elegant dilapidated Georgian façade that this late 16th century frontage was revealed.
[T]he church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great founded in 1123 as an Augustinian priory is one of the earliest in London. When the nave was demolished during the dissolution of the monasteries this gatehouse was built atop the entrance to the south side where the entrance one was situated using some of the demolished building for its construction.
The ancient interior of St. Bartholomew’s-the-Great
Its simple design of two storeys with an overhanging jetty has the shield of its original owners just below the first floor windows. Listed by English Heritage as Grade II as a rare surviving example retaining its original Elizabethan timber frame.
It has survived the Great Fire of London protected by the substantial walls of the neighbouring Priory. Nearby a little street Cloth Fair also missed the conflagration having the same protection, number 41 still survives to this day.
Fully restored in 1932 the building remained unscathed from the Blitz, becoming a Montessori school between 1948 and 1979. Run by the rector’s wife it had 8 pupils.
The Gatehouse before the German zeppelin raid
A popular myth is that catholic Queen Mary sat in this house eating chicken and drinking red wine whilst watching protestant martyrs being burnt at the stake. Whilst most of London’s martyrs met their untimely end here (it is said the outside walls of the surrounding buildings had a patina of human fat) the Queen, bless here, had died some 40 years previously.
Scottish readers and visitors should note that their nationalistic hero William Wallace, aka Braveheart, met his grisly end being hung, drawn and quartered 100 yards from this quaint house. Before Mel Gibson’s film the little plaque commemorating this event lay unnoticed, now flowers are always to be found here.
Evans and Witt London’s oldest stationers pictured in the early picture are still in business supplying stationery supplies to the meat trade, they have moved around the corner to Long Lane. As a footnote the entrance was used in Four Wedding and a Funeral don’t ask me whose wedding it was.
My thanks to Stefan Dickers from the Bishopsgate Institute for permission to reproduce the archive pictures of ©St. Bartholomew’s Gatehouse and the interior of ©St. Bartholomew’s Church.