Our cruise ship the Marco Polo returned to Tilbury on Tuesday 29th July. After we disembarked we took a train to London, where we had arranged accommodation to stay for several days, while we took in some of the sites, and did some family history research at the National Archives.
One of the places I wanted to visit was St Paul’s Cathedral. The present St Paul’s is the fifth cathedral to have stood on the site since 604AD.
My Baxter ancestors had lived close by St Paul’s for several generations. For nearly fifty years, their parish church had been St Faith’s- under-St Paul’s.
To begin our London adventure we had taken a train to St Paul’s Station, which is adjacent to the cathedral.
We entered the cathedral by the main entrance to join a tour. A visit to this magnificent church was a very moving experience for us. However, we were very disappointed not to be able to take photographs inside. We did visit the bookshop to purchase postcards and books to complement our outside photos.
The most important area of St Paul’s Cathedral, as far as our family is concerned, is what is known today as the OBE Chapel, but was formerly known as St Faith’s-under -St Paul’s.
St Faiths was originally in Castle Baynard Ward, and was one of the ancient churches of London..
The original church was at the eastern end of Paternoster Row, a street adjacent to St Paul’s. In 1256, St Faith’s was pulled down for the expansion of St Paul’s. The church was not rebuilt, but the parishioners were given space to worship in the actual crypt under St Paul’s Cathedral, hence the name St Faith’s-Under-St Paul’s. It was destroyed along with St Paul’s in the Great Fire of London.
When the new St Paul’s was built to Christopher Wren’s design between 1675 and 1711, the new chapel of St Faith’-under-St Paul’s was built in the east end of the crypt. This is where the children of James and Elizabeth Baxter (nee Dixon) were baptised between 1767 and 1784.
In 1960 this chapel became the spiritual home of the Order of the British Empire, and award holders of the OBE, and members of their family, may still be baptised and married here.
Another church which stood close by St Paul’s was St Augustine’s Watling Street. It was here that James Baxter had married Elizabeth Dixon by banns on 29 August 1766.
This church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 too, but was rebuilt facing Watling Street in the 1680s.Its distinctive tower was constructed in the 1690s and it is thought to have been designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor.
The church was destroyed in 1940 in a World War II bombing. It was not rebuilt, but the tower was reconstructed as part of a new choir school for St Paul’s Cathedral.
There has been considerable recent development on the northern side of St Paul’s, including what would have been Paternoster Row and Ivy Lane, where the Baxter family lived in the 18th Century. We judged it would have been about where Paternoster Square is now. What really surprized me was the entrance to the square- Temple Bar.
In a former blog I wrote about a coloured print that hangs on my office wall called ‘The York Mail Leaving Temple Bar’. This ornate arch designed by Christopher Wren had stood on a section of the roadway where Fleet Street (City of London) became the Strand (Westminster).
In Medieval times the authority of the City of London Corporation reached beyond the ancient city walls in several places and these were known as the ‘Liberties of London’. To regulate trade in the city, barriers were erected on the major roads wherever the true boundaries were a substantial distance from the old gate house,. Temple Bar was one such place.
A Wikipedia entry from the Internet gives an interesting history of this London icon, a summary of which I have included below.
“ The first record of the bar was in 1293, and was probably a simple barrier such as a chain between some posts. More substantial structures with arches soon followed. By the late Middle Ages a wooden archway (with a prison above) stood on the spot.
Although it was spared in the Great Fire of London, it was decided in the rebuilding of the city, a new structure should be erected. Christopher Wren was commissioned to design this arch. This he did, and between 1669 and 1672 the beautiful Portland stone arch was erected.
Some two hundred years later the City of London Corporation, eager to widen the roadway, had it taken down. It was soon purchased by the wealthy brewer, Henry Meux and was re-erected as the gateway into his estate, Theobald Park, in Hertfortshire.
In 1984, a hundred years on, it was repurchased by the City, from the Meux Trust for £1, and brought back to London and incorporated into the Paternoster Row area and now marks the entrance to the Square.”
What a fitting home for Wren’s beautiful arch, beside perhaps his greatest achievement, St Paul’s Cathedral.
The other entrance to Paternoster Square is the Newgate Street entrance. This was originally the other end of Ivy Lane, where my Baxter family lived.
Just along Newgate Street and around the corner was the ‘Old Bailey’ where my ancestor, Thomas George Baxter had first faced the Court in 1832.
We retraced our steps along Newgate Street and crossed the road at the King Edward Street intersection, to the ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars. This was the church in which my ancestor George Baxter married Mary Brayne Kington on 13 Aug 1809.
Another extract from Wikipedia- The original church was constructed between 1306 and 1348, as the church of a Franciscan monastery. This church ranked as the second largest in Medieval London.
The church was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was rebuilt, although not as large, to the design of Christopher Wren..
Over the next 300 years significant modifications were made. The church was destroyed in a World War II blitz on 29 December 1940.
The Tower survived, and today is used as offices, but the ruined nave and other sections of the church were not rebuilt, and now is a beautiful park in the middle of a busy thoroughfare.
We continued our walk up King Edward Street a short distance to an area known as Little Britain. This where my ancestors, George and Mary Brayne Baxter were living when their eldest children were baptised.
We then crossed King Edward Street in front of the old Post Office, and entered an ancient gate with a plaque announcing it was part of Greyfriars. This led us into a beautiful park, which is now known as Postman Park.
This area was originally the burial grounds of St Botolph’s, St Leonard Foster and Christ Church Greyfrairs. Even today you can see the odd monument tucked away in the corner, or a row of headstones hidden amongst the foliage against a wall.
This is also the site of the George Frederic Watts Memorials to the Heroic Self Sacrifice of the Ordinary people. There are several wall- tile memorials in a covered area and is an interesting place to visit. You can find the history of the place on several websites on the Internet, as well as many photos.
On the other side of the park we found St Botolph’s Church, which was facing Aldersgate Street. This was the church where most of the children of George and Mary Bayne Baxter were baptised between 1810 and 1822.
The Medieval church was a Gothic building and although it escaped the Great Fire of London, by the 18th Century was deemed unsafe and was demolished about 1788. Under the supervision of Nathaniel Wright a new brick church was built on the foundations of the old church, with a low square bell tower at the west end.
After a quick visit to this church, which we could only view from the outside, we made our way back to Cheapside and headed down towards London Bridge.