Medieval Times in London

Medieval Times in London

In Medieval Times in London, we will be looking at the periods between 1066 and 1300, which is commonly known as the High Middle Ages and 1300 to 1485 which is known as the Late Middle Ages.

This particular page on London’s Medieval Times is going to be rewritten very soon, which should I hope, make it easier and more enjoyable for you to navigate around, as more medieval topics are added.

Although there are not many buildings left from Medieval Times in London, the layout of the city is very much the same now as it was then. There are still areas with narrow warren like alleyways (the logo at the top of this page is one such area) and lanes following the same routes as they did all those centuries ago.

There were many construction projects being undertaken in the City of London during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The great Priory Churches were being built.

Out of thirteen built north of the river only St. Bartholomew the Great remains. It was founded by Rahere after St. Bartholomew the Apostle appeared to him in a vision.

Then there is of course Temple Church, which was founded by the Order of the Knights Templar and is still in use today.

The history of the city is fascinating. From it’s invasion by French forces in King John’s reign and their occupation of London, making it their seat of government. Through the second invasion during the peasants revolt. The plagues to the Great Fire.

Yes, Medieval Times in London, were difficult times to be alive. The Battle of Hastings 1066 is usually accepted as the beginning of that period, when Harold Godwinson was defeated and killed by the Norman invaders led by William Duke of Normandy.

Tower of London from River

  • ABOVE:TOWER OF LONDON SHOWING THE WHITE TOWER.

Several timber forts were constructed in London and along the riverfront, not only to defend against seaborne attacks, but also to defend against the Anglo Saxon citizenry and to keep them in check.

Medieval Times in London, saw much construction work taking place.William Duke of Normandy began construction of the Tower of London complex as we know it today, by starting work on the magnificent White Tower.

He also started work on Baynard’s Castle (which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London) and Montfichet’s Castle.(It was demolished by King John in 1213, the materials being used in the construction of the Blackfriars Monastery)

Westminster Hall

  • ABOVE: WESTMINSTER HALL IN THE EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY

King William II known as William Rufus, the son of Wlliam Duke of Normandy, commenced work on Westminster Hall, which was the beginning of the Palace of Westminster, the main Royal residence throughout Medieval Times in London.

It has survived two major fires. The fire of 1834 and the firestorm which engulfed much of London during World War II.

  • ABOVE THE FIRST WESTMINSTER BRIDGE BY CANALLETO IN 1746.

The First stone London Bridge was built during the Medieval Times in London. Started in 1176 and completed in 1209. It was built on the site of several previous wooden bridges and lasted for 600 years. Apart from Putney and Kingston was the only bridge across the River Thames until 1739, when despite widespread opposition, a bridge was built at Westminster, 1739 – 1750.

  • MEDIEVAL TIMES IN LONDON:THE REIGN OF KING JOHN.(CURIA REGIS).

St. Bride’s Church in Fleet Street, was used during the Medieval Times in London as the location for the Curia Regis (royal council or king’s court), which was a Council of Tenants-in-Chief and Ecclesiastics who assembled to help and advise the King on legislative matters and was the forerunner of Parliament as we know it today. The first one was held at St. Bride’s in the year 1205. These tenants-in-chief had been the main beneficiaries of the Norman Conquest of England.

When William the Duke of Normandy invaded England in 1066, he brought with him the feudal system, by which he granted land to his military supporters, who had helped him to defeat King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. In exchange for this land, these new landowners, called Tenants-in-Chief (or Barons), had to swear an oath of allegiance to him.

This allegiance, most importantly, was to include the provision of armed men on horseback for military service (knights).

In order to provide these knights, the Barons divided their lands up into smaller units called manors, which were then passed on to the men, who in return made an oath to serve the King as knights, if and when he needed them.

St. Bride’s was again used in 1210 by King John, as the location for the Council of Tenants-in-Chief and Ecclesiastics, thereby showing the esteem in which St.Bride’s was held.

  • MEDIEVAL TIMES IN LONDON:MAY 1216, THE LAST TIME LONDON WAS INVADED AND OCCUPIED BY FOREIGN FORCES.

The following year (May 1216) would witness the last occasion that London was occupied by foreign forces. This happened during the course of the First Barons’ War, when the future King Louis VIII of France, marched his troops through the streets of London to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

There, he was proclaimed, but not crowned, King of England. Inside the cathedral and throughout the city streets, he was celebrated as the new ruler, both by rebel barons and citizens alike, who were delighted to be free of the tyrannical King John.

  • MEDIEVAL TIMES IN LONDON: THE REASON BEHIND THE OCCUPATION.

The previous year in January 1215, at the Temple Church, a little further along Fleet Street from St. Bride’s Church, at what is now Temple Bar, Sir William Marshall served as a negotiator during a meeting between King John and the Tenants-in-Chief (Barons).

(Sir William Marshall was known by his contemporaries, and is still referred to as the greatest knight who ever lived. He never lost in a tournament, he fought in several battles and he was the epitome of chivalry)

  • MEDIEVAL TIMES IN LONDON:THE REIGN OF KING JOHN.(CURIA REGIS).

St. Bride’s Church in Fleet Street, was used during the Medieval Times in London as the location for the Curia Regis (royal council or king’s court), which was a Council of Tenants-in-Chief and Ecclesiastics who assembled to help and advise the King on legislative matters and was the forerunner of Parliament as we know it today. The first one was held at St. Bride’s in the year 1205. These tenants-in-chief had been the main beneficiaries of the Norman Conquest of England.

When William the Duke of Normandy invaded England in 1066, he brought with him the feudal system, by which he granted land to his military supporters, who had helped him to defeat King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. In exchange for this land, these new landowners, called Tenants-in-Chief (or Barons), had to swear an oath of allegiance to him.

This allegiance, most importantly, was to include the provision of armed men on horseback for military service (knights).

In order to provide these knights, the Barons divided their lands up into smaller units called manors, which were then passed on to the men, who in return made an oath to serve the King as knights, if and when he needed them.

St. Bride’s was again used in 1210 by King John, as the location for the Council of Tenants-in-Chief and Ecclesiastics, thereby showing the esteem in which St.Bride’s was held.

  • MEDIEVAL TIMES IN LONDON:THE DEATH OF KING JOHN. END OF THE WAR. LONDON RECLAIMED.

With the death of King John on 18th October 1216, the main reason for the war died also. The chief barons who had remained loyal to King John in the First Barons’ War, called for a king’s council, at which they elected Sir William Marshall to be protector of King John’s nine year old son Henry (the future King Henry III) and regent of the Kingdom.

The young boy could not be crowned in occupied London, so the barons and the Bishop of Winchester on the 28th October 1216, brought the future king to Gloucester Abbey.

There, using a band of gold which had been fashioned out of a necklace, young Henry was crowned King Henry III of England, in front of a small attendance, presided over by the Papal Legate.

The Magna Carta was revised and reissued in King Henry’s name and signed by Sir William Marshall, the young king’s regent on 12th November 1216.

Sir William was highly respected by everyone and by asking the rebel barons not to blame the young king for his father’s faults, he was slowly able to persuade most of them (most of whom had decided they had more to lose with Louis as king anyway) not to deprive the boy of his birthright.

The opposing sides continued with the civil war for nearly a year and as Sir William Marshall was preparing to besiege London, Louis suffered two major defeats at sea, making it practically impossible for him to continue with the war.

On 11th September 1217, Louis gave up his claim to the English throne and signed the treaty of Lambeth. Giving up his English dominions, he and his forces left London and returned home. Medieval Times in London saw the return of an English king.

The effigies of Sir William Marshall and two of his sons, are among the effigies which are recumbent on the floor of London’s Temple Church today, a reminder of those Medieval Times in London.

The death of Wat Tyler

  • ABOVE: WAT TYLER ABOUT TO BE STABBED.

In 1381, London was again invaded, this time by Englishmen. A group of peasants led by Wat Tyler, executed the Lord Chancellor, Archbishop Simon Sudbury and the Lord Treasurer, when they stormed the Tower of London in what was termed the Peasants’ Revolt.

After setting fire to many buildings and looting the city, king Richard II agreed to meet the peasants leader, Wat Tyler at Smithfield, close to both the Priory church of St. Bartholomew the Great and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. The Lord Mayor, William Walworth, stabbed Wat Tyler in front of the young King Richard II. Tyler was rushed into St.Bartholomew’s Hospital, but before he could be helped the King’s men rushed in and killed him.

London from Medieval Times has been made up of two cities. The old city referred to as the square mile is the London founded by the Romans and is the centre of trade and commerce. The other city became the centre of government and is named after Westminster Abbey. The two of them inevitably became joined over time and became effectively united by about 1600, but still remaining two seperate cities.

Medieval Times in London was made up of lanes, courts and alleyways, much of which is still evident today. The street plan, despite widespread destruction of its’ buildings by fire and by bombings, and also by indescriminate development, still maintains much of its’ medieval layout.

In those days there was much squalor. The population grew very rapidly. At the beginning of the twelfth century, it stood at little more than 15,000 – 20,000, by the start of the fourteenth century it had reached 80,000.

By the time London was destroyed by the Great Fire of London, the population was estimated to be between 400,000 – 500,000.

With the growth in population, came the immense problem of overcrowding. Although buildings were being erected outside of the city, most of the people were still living within the constraints of the city walls.

The streets were an overcrowded warren of narrow alleyways, with houses built with the most combustible materials imaginable. The living conditions encouraged rats and the disease they carried.

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