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What do we know about St Mary in Gysma and her connection with London….?

 

In my continuous roamings for information, pure chance led me to this https://www.british-history.ac.uk/court-husting-wills/vol2/pp105-123#p43 reference:-

“….Benyngton (Simon de), draper.—To be buried in S. John’s Chapel, to the south of the chancel of the church of S. Laurence in Old Jewry, near Idonia his late wife. To Idonia his present wife he leaves lands and tenements in the parishes of S. Laurence aforesaid and S. Mary de Aldermanbury for life; remainder to the church of S. Laurence for the maintenance of chantries therein for the good of his soul, the souls of his wives, of Roger his father and Cecilia his mother, John de Abyndon, and others. In default of the vicar and parishioners of S. Laurence aforesaid providing the chantry priest, the aforesaid lands, tenements, and rents are to go to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the City of London for the time being, for the maintenance of a chantry in Guildhall Chapel. To the Master and Brethren of the house or hospital of S. Thomas de Acon, near the Conduit of London, a certain quitrent for the maintenance of a chantry in the church of S. Thomas aforesaid, at the altar of S. Mary in gysma,  for the good of his soul, the souls of John de Abyndon, late draper, Idonia, wife of the same, John their son, and others; similar remainder to the foregoing in case of default. Dated London, 14 October, 42 Edward III. [A.D. 1368]….”

In his book The Black Death in London, Barney Sloane says “….the altar of St Mary in Gysma (in childbirth), probably situated in the Lady Chapel in the priory of St Thomas Acon….” Was the priory at the hospital in Cheapside? Or elsewhere. If elsewhere, the only one I can find from that time was in Kilkenny, which I somehow doubt would have caught the attention of Simon Benyngton, mercer of London.

I’d never heard of St Mary in Gysma before. It means St Mary in Childbirth, and at that time, with the pestilence recurring it’s likely many women died in childbed, and their babies with them. I decided I ‘d like to bring this information into my wip, so the search was on for more information. But first I had to find out about the apparently very English Knights of  St Thomas of Acon, for this altar was located in their church.

from Rocque’s Map of 1746

This section from Rocque’s Map has been taken from here, together with the passages:

“….Look to the southern end, and to the right of Ironmonger Lane is a block of building and the abbreviation “Cha” for Chapel – this is the area where Thomas a Becket was born and also the site of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon….

“….The hospital was built on land purchased from the Becket family. The name Acon is the anglicised version of Acre (now part of Israel), and dates from the Third Crusade between 1189 and 1191, and possibly originates from an order of monks / knights formed during the Crusade and the siege of Acre….”

“…In Rocque’s map, you can see that the Mercers’ Hall is also shown where the hospital was located….

“….The Mercers’ Company represented the interest of merchants who traded in materials such as wool, linens and silks and it was the Mercers who became patrons of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon, and used the hospital’s chapel as a ceremonial meeting site from when the chapel was built in the 13th century in 1248….”

from A Map of Tudor London, England’s Greatest City in 1520
by Town & City Historical Maps
This statue was found buried at Mercers’ Hall, which stands on the site of
the Church St Thomas of Acon in Cheapside

Well, after floundering around for some precise information about who, what, where,why and when, I finally reached this British History online piece , which commences:-

“….This entry concerns the house where Thomas Becket, the martyred archbishop of Canterbury, was born; the hospital of St. Thomas of Acre, which was established on the site of the house and was then extended over several neighbouring properties; the hall and chapel of the Mercers’ Company, which were first set up within the church of the hospital; the rebuilding of the hall and chapel in the early 16th century; and the site of the dissolved hospital, part of which after the Great Fire came to be occupied by the third hall and chapel of the Mercers’ Company….

“….On the street frontage the property corresponded to nos. 85-6 Cheapside in 1858….”

If you read the above article, you will find the following, which concerns the chapel to which Simon Benyngton referred in his 1368 will:-

“….The choir, which was presumably between the high altar and the nave, is first mentioned in 1372. There are several references to the Lady Chapel, presumably to the E. of the choir, where the altar of St. Mary in childbirth (in gisina), mentioned in 1368, was probably located. 20

20 Cal Wills ii, pp. 149, 548; MC, Reg of Writings i, ff. 13, 80; PRO, PROB11/24, f. 22r-v.

There is much much more information in the article, but my concern is the late 14th century, and so my requirements are limited to that period only.

St Mary Colechurch, which was not rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666

I tell you now that Google Search insisted on asking me if I meant “St Mary in Gym”. Well, I can’t quite see Our Lady working out, even if Google can!

Anyway, unless someone out there knows better, I will have my fictitious character (who has suffered miscarriages) go to the Lady Chapel of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon in Cheapside, to pray at the altar of St Mary in Gysma.

If that’s wrong, please let me know.

Oh, and if your Middle English is up to it:-

 

London: 2000 years of history (channel 5)

Who let Dan Jones out? At least, as in his last outing, he is accompanied both by a historian (Suzannah Lipscomb) and an engineer (Rob Bell), narrating and illustrating almost two millennia of the city’s past.

In the first episode, we were taken through the walled city of “Londinium” being built and rebuilt after Boudicca’s revolt. Whilst Bell showed us the Kent stone from which the original Tower was built, we were told about the Ampitheatre and the remains, near Spitalfields, that include the “Lamb Street Teenager” and the slaves that helped to build the city, strategically located on the Thames. Some archaeology has resulted from the building of Crossrail.
As Roman Britain ended and the Anglo-Saxons arrived, their original city (“Londonwych”) was on a smaller scale. Viking raids followed and Alfred moved the city inside the Roman walls as “Londonburgh”, as broken glass and pottery found near Covent Garden testifies, with the previous entity further east now being known as Aldwych. Although the Vikings took the city, Ethelred II reconquered it and destroyed London Bridge as well.
The programme finished with William I’s coronation on Christmas Day 1066, followed by his rebuilding of the Tower with Norman stone, not to be confused with this historian, with the domes later added by Henry VIII.

The second episode showed us Westminster Abbey, later to be rebuilt at great expense by  Henry III, in a smaller city then separate from London, where every coronation since Harold II has taken place, followed by Westminster Hall, where Wallace, Fawkes and Charles I were all sentenced to death. Half of the evolving city’s population fell victim to the Black Death, after which Richard Whittington, younger son of a Gloucestershire knight, really did serve as Mayor three or four times under Richard II and Henry IV. The population then increased exponentially to the days of the wealthy Cardinal Wolsey, who built Whitehall Palace before falling from Henry VIII’s favour, so Henry and his successors occupied it from 1530 until the fire of 1698. This part ended with Elizabeth I knighting Drake aboard the Golden Hind.

Week three covered the Great Fire, which the trio had previously examined in much greater detail, although they did mention Pepys’ description, the probable origin in a Monument Lane bakery, the timber-framed buildings of the old city and the easterly wind that spread the fire. Although we can see the new St. Paul’s today, Wren’s original plan for the area was even more radical, featuring a Glasgow-style grid of streets. London then expanded to the west for merchants and their imports via the Thames, whilst the poor stayed in the east where gin was popular. In the nineteenth century, industrialisation caused the city’s population to rise rapidly, although smog became a factor.
London Bridge became the city’s first rail terminus, in 1836, before Euston was built and Paddington was soon added to serve Brunel’s Great Western lines. The steep hills of Hampstead were overcome through a man-made valley, as Bell showed by visiting the abandoned Highgate station, allowing London to expand to the north. Poor water hygiene caused a cholera outbreak, which Bazalgette’s civil engineering solved with pumping stations, sewers and the reclaiming of land. Heavy traffic then necessitated the strengthening of the ancient bridges. The reclaimed land (Embankment) and Great Fire site (Monument) are both remembered on the Underground map.

The series concluded by pointing out that road congestion was quite possibly worse in 1860 than it is now, as trains were banned from running within two miles of the epicentre at street level. The solution was to run them underground, with the Metropolitan line being started first by “cut and cover” and the Northern line, authentically bored, to follow. Residents moved out of the first engineered areas to the east, leaving Shoreditch and Whitechapel overcrowded with twice the mortality level of London as a whole. By 1890, the capital had five million residents and Charles Booth’s “poverty map” highlighted a quarter of these, with the worst cases in the East End, where “Jack the Ripper” preyed on some of them. From the maps, living conditions were addressed and the worst slums demolished. Following Edward VII’s accession in January 1901, recognisable modern buildings such as Admiralty Arch, the MI5 building and the War Office arose. Visitors could stay in hotels such as the Savoy and shop at Selfridges as we can do today. Suffragettes were active before the First World War, during which they suspended their activities and many worked in armaments manufacture, for instance at the Royal Ordnance factory known as the Woolwich Arsenal.
Air warfare came to London with Zeppelin bombs in 1915. In the remainder of the conflict, there were thirty raids killing forty thousand people, including thirty children at Poplar in 1917. Armistice Day was followed by the “Spanish ‘flu”, which was generally three times as deadly as the war itself, with some 20,000 deaths in London alone. In the following years, houses were built along the expanded Metropolitan Lane, taking in towns such as Pinner and Harrow, and advertised in a “Metroland” magazine to raise the population to 8.6 million. The Blitz brought the Second World War to London a year after the start but, importantly, after the corrugated tin structures known as Anderson shelters were made available. It happened on fifty-seven consecutive nights in the first instance and a total of two million homes were damaged or destroyed. Replacing these and housing Commonwealth immigration from 1948 was hampered by the Green Belt so that London could no longer expand outwards, only upwards. As freight expanded, containers could no longer fit into the Thames so the docks were less busy from the sixties, in favour of more coastal ports. However, Docklands regeneration was initiated in the eighties as the City was pushed eastwards to Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. In a further effort to relieve congestion, the great Crossrail project opens later this year with twenty six miles of new tunnels, forty-two metres below ground, providing a unique archaeological opportunity to view London’s past.

In conclusion, it is possible to enjoy a history programme with Dan Jones, so long as he has at least two colleagues and cannot simply indulge his prejudices against particular figures. The second half of the series was more a social and economic history, which is a further restraint.

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