Cheapside is one of the most historical Boroughs of London, currently the modern financial centre of London, which forms part of the A40. The History of this particular borough of London Cheapside was the medieval market place for anyone wanting to sell their items. Cheap meaning Market coming from the Saxon word Chepe[i]. The streets feeding off the Markets road were mainly named after the produce and craft that what’s created, practice and sold down those streets such as Bread Street, Milk street, Honey Lane.
Streets like Milk street and Honey lane are on the other side of Cheapside street, which I did not explore and observe on my walk.
I started my walk on the Left side of the road, at the Entrance to Bow Lane, turning left down bow lane. The thing that caught my attention on the right, too starting here was St Mary Le Bow church. Built around the eleventh to the twelfth, though the only thing that has remained of the church from this period is the crypt of St Mary Le Bow, plus a few fragments of the wall (Brooke,1975).[ii] . Having been the headquarters for the Archbishop of Canterbury, it had three collapses until being completed burned down in the great fire of London in 1666, having then to be rebuilt by Christopher Wren, who was best known for the design of St Pauls Cathedral.[iii]
What amazes me about this lane is was walking down is that the tight fit and the quietness of the street is as if I had not just walked off the main road, where many people were walking fast, in tie and suit, with their phones to their ears, walking with purpose, not taking in the part of the city they are in, not realising what is around them.
A soon as I reach the end of the Church, there was a little alley way between the edge of the church and the Bow wine vaults bar, turning right, walking until I come out on a little square, the front of Mary Le Bow church doors open, of to the left of the church is a sight that I personally do not see every day in London. A man was outside Shoe shining shoes, ‘Bow Bells Shoe Shine. £4.50’ . This little church yard opened on to the main road, there was an essence of serenity about the place.
With the modern world continuing opposite the church with costa, people sat in the court yard on the little bench provided eating their lunch drinking their coffees and teas, facing the church or facing the statue of Captain John Smith (1580-1651). in the middle of the Square. It reads ‘first among the invaders of the Settlement at Jamestown Virginia from which began the overseas expansion of the English Speaking People’(Plaque on the Statue outside St Mary Le Bow church). Yes, he story was the inspiration for Disney’s Pocahontas, yet the story didn’t go like the movie. After 1607 Smith led the new settlement of Jamestown, where he was supposedly captured by the Chief Powhatan, and rescued from death by the Chiefs daughter, Pocahontas. (She supposedly got more and more beautiful each time Smith told the story).[iv] Man historians have trouble believing that Pocahontas saved him. What is known is that Chief Powhatan let him walk.[v]
Being back on the main road I turn left, walking and swerving through the busy suits on their lunch break, when I come across my next street, Bread Street. Turning left down this side road this is one long street that runs from the busy main road of Cheap side to Queen Victoria Street. Nothing on this street says, that this was the street for the making and the selling of bread, now with big glass building, a H&M ON my right, the familiar grey black walls of the back of the Costas. In 1302 the bakers of London were ordered to not sell bread out of their homes but in market places. [vi] According to the 1754 map, there was supposed to be a road on my left, called star court, which seems to the fit the location of the supposed Compter (type of small prison) that was on Bread street, later moved to Wood Street[vii]. Now there is not road, clearly built over, as time went on.
Crossing in the middle of Bread street in Watling Street, which diverted my attention. Stopping at the intersection, on my right I saw the St Paul’s Cathedral. Below is a picture I took, of the view of the cathedral.
I didn’t continue down bread street and decided to turn left and walk down the cobbled stoned, narrowed road, seeing wine bars, coffee shops, food restaurants, until to my left I came across a statue of ‘The Cordwainer’(Picture below, I took on my walk). Cordwainers were shoe makers, highly skilled for using the finest goatskin leather from Cordoba Spain.[viii]
What was amazing about walking around this area is the history it still holds. Most of the street names in Cheap side haven’t changed since the 12th century, even if the look of the area has. It was all about finding the history that lays deep in the modernisation of the hustle and bustle that is London.
[ii] Brooke, Christopher N L and Gillian Keir. London, 800-1216: The Shaping of a City. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.
[vii] John Noorthouck, ‘Book 2, Ch. 9: Bread Street Ward’, in A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark (London, 1773), pp. 558-560. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/new-history-london/pp558-560 [accessed 3 November 2016].