Gianni and I went on another of David Charnick’s walks yesterday (http://charnowalks.co.uk/) – Law and Order EC. As I’d recommended David to Gianni, I hoped she wouldn’t be disappointed. She wasn’t. David is very knowledgeable, but his passion for his subject shines through when he speaks. His tours are really well worth it and I’ll be going on more in the future.
The tour started outside of Liverpool Street Station and covered some of the history of the City of London Police as well as the murders of some City police officers, bombings and ended up at the Old Bailey. This was the first of these tours that David had run, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It was particularly good that it took place on a Saturday – there are still places to eat and drink open in the City but not the vast numbers of people that you get during the week, so it was much more comfortable for walking and listening to a tour guide. It may only have been a small geographic area, but there was a lot to learn on this tour, and anyway, I always find the City fascinating.
One place that I found absolutely charming was the Watch House in Giltspur Street. This watch house (the places the watchmen, the law keepers before we had a police force, used to be based) was built in 1791, destroyed in 1941 and rebuilt in 1962. It was built here partly to watch over the graveyard in the church behind it, St Sepulchre’s, because of the increase in body snatching. The watch house has a bust of essayist Charles Lamb outside. The plaque below this bust says,
“This memorial was moved here in December 1962 from Christchurch Greyfriars, Newgate Street, which stands beside the former site of Charles Lamb’s school Christ’s Hospital.”
Giltspur Street itself has its own history, unrelated to the tour. It was originally known as Knightsriders Street or Knyghtsrider Street (or similar) because back in the 14th and 15th centuries, Knight’s used to ride along here on the way to jousting tournaments in Smithfield, which is just down the road. I’m not absolutely certain why it changed name but I suppose it’s not a stretch to become Giltspur Street – Knights wore spurs, so…
More important facts about Giltspur Street (or Knightriders Street) are that it was here, in 1381, that Richard II met with the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt. The king agreed to meet their demands, but the then Lord Mayor of London, William Walworth, lured one of the main men, Wat Tyler, away and stabbed him. Tyler sought sanctuary in the nearby St Bartholomew’s Church but he was dragged out and beheaded, ending the revolt.
It was William the Conqueror who clearly defined the Law of Sanctuary in 1070, which was only allowed for 40 days, and it wasn’t until 1624 that a law was passed to abolish sanctuary, so I think it must have been quite bad form to actually disregard it. Not that it made a difference to poor old Wat.
One of the streets running off of Giltspur Street is Cock Lane (so-named, because it was where a number of legal brothels were situated back in the day…). At the junction of these two roads is a little statue there called the Golden Boy of Pye Corner, where the Great Fire of London ended. These are all places I shall be investigating further in due course.
At the Smithfield end of Giltspur Street stands St Bartholomew’s Hospital, or Barts as it is more commonly known in London, the oldest hospital in Europe. I’ll be writing more about Barts on Wizzley, so if you are interested, take a look there:
©Susan Shirley 2015