Places of interest


Pix & notes: Blackfriars

Lady Elizabeth Russell lived in Blackfriars, as you know by now if you’ve been reading this blog. If you just tuned in, here’s Lady Russell, part one and Lady Russell, part two. Those posts are largely based on Chris Laoutaris’s biography of that august personage. A central theme for that book is Lady Russell’s successful obstructing of Shakespeare and Co.’s efforts to establish an indoor theater in “her parish,” so he goes to great lengths to reconstruct the district and figure out who lived where, when. I don’t concern myself with the Shakespeare conflict, but since Lady Russell’s a recurring character in my Francis Bacon mystery series, I want to know how to move my people around in that space. Besides, I love poring over old maps and house plans.

In the beginning

Baynard’s Castle, kiped from the Londonist, who don’t cite their source either.

In the Middle Ages, there were three castles on the north side of the Thames between St. Paul’s Cathedral and Whitefriars, a Carmelite priory just east of the Inner Temple, which was a redoubt of lawyers even then.

Baynard’s Castle survived through Elizabethan times, during which it was the property of the Earl of Pembroke. It was demolished by the great fire of 1666. Montifiquet Castle was pulled down in 1276 to make room for Dominican friars, who wore black capes. BHO (British History Online) is silent about the third Norman fortification. I’m not sure where it could have been squeezed in. Bridewell Palace wasn’t there yet, but its place was occupied by an inn.

King Edward I and Queen Eleanor lavishly supported the black friars, whose monastery rose up beside the Fleet River, which didn’t stink in those halcyon days. Henry VIII dissolved that monastery along with all the rest, sending the friars packing. Edward VI sold the hall and prior’s lodgings to Sir Francis Bryan, a courtier, afterwards granting Sir Francis Cawarden, Master of the Revels, the whole house and precincts. By that time, Bridewell had been built across the Fleet, which was growing stinkier by the year, what with London’s burgeoning population and booming industries.

Lady Russell’s habitation

Blackfriars in Lady Russell’s time, as recreated by Chris Laoutaris

Elizabeth Russell’s house and gardens are at the top left, at the corner of Carter Lane and Water Lane. Carter Lane is still there, which helps orient on new maps.

Her neighbors, working clockwise, were Richard Field with his printing press and a nice-sized garden, followed by William de Lawne in the square tower at the top right. The big dashed-line areas on the right are “Part of William More’s mansion and gardens.” Sir William acquired the whole kit and kaboodle from Thomas Cawarden in 1559. His personal chunk of the liberty may have continued off the page toward the east.

St. Anne’s Church, which for Elizabeth’s time was a cramped upstairs chamber, comes next. Coming around the bottom of the dial, we find the mansion of George Carey, Lord Hunsdon, one of Shakespeare’s patrons; Shakespeare’s Blackfriars theatre, comprising seven upper rooms formerly belonging to Wm De Lawne; Farrant’s theatre; and the strangely articulated residence of William Brooke, Lord Cobham. At the far left edge, abutting the west side of Lady Russell’s house, we find two more pieces of William de Lawne’s establishment and one more house at the top right corner inhabited by Peter Buram.

These places must have been pretty nice inside, with lots of oak paneling and diamond-paned windows, though it’s hard to envision the floorplans. We must remember that there are two and three stories in these structures, with floors that don’t always line up. There were other smaller establishments tucked in here and there too, over time, perhaps, like a goldsmith’s shop and other upscale trades.There must have been a lot of jostling among the great and lesser folks alike.

I continue to refuse to try to cram the stuff about Shakespeare into one of my posts… maybe someday I’ll set a book in the conflict, but until then, I can’t face it!

Blackfriars in the middle

Anthony Van Dyck self portrait

The middle being the centuries between my periods of novelistic interest. I skip swiftly past them.

Bridges were built over the Thames at Blackfriars, the first in 1760. They had to fill in the Fleet Ditch, as it was called by then. They kept trying to rename these bridges, but the people continued to call them Blackfriars, century after century.

Artists enjoyed the district, including Anthony Van Dyck, inventor of the micro-beard, who enjoyed Charles I’s patronage as well.

“The king’s printing-office for proclamations, &c., used to be in Printing-house Square, but was removed in 1770; and we must not forget that where a Norman fortress once rose to oppress the weak, to guard the spoils of robbers, and to protect the oppressor, the Times printing-office now stands, to diffuse its ceaseless floods of knowledge, to spread its resistless ægis over the poor and the oppressed, and ever to use its vast power to extend liberty and crush injustice, whatever shape the Proteus assumes, whether it sits upon a throne or lurks in a swindler’s office.”

The Bridges of Blackfriars

Blackfriars Bridge over the Thames, early nineteenth century

 A later incarnation was a two-level bridge with carriages below and pedestrians above. The expense was huge and the outcry loud.

“The Quarterly Review, of April, 1872, contains the following bitter criticisms of the new double bridge:—”With Blackfriars Bridge,” says the writer, “we find the public thoroughly well pleased, though the design is really a wonder of depravity. Polished granite columns of amazing thickness, with carved capitals of stupendous weight, all made to give shop-room for an apple-woman, or a convenient platform for a suicide. The parapet is a fiddlefaddle of pretty cast-iron arcading, out of scale with the columns, incongruous with the capitals, and quite unsuited for a work that should be simply grand in its usefulness; and at each corner of the bridge is a huge block of masonry, àpropos of nothing, a well-known evidence of desperate imbecility.””

Whew! Was the architect the first to jump off his bridge, after reading that ungentle review?


Here’s a bridge over the meandering Fleet, much more than a ditch, at least by Texas standards. Water courses have highly localized names. Ditch might mean, “slow-moving and full of garbage,” in that variety of English. It connects Blackfriars on the right with whatever is on the left… Bridewell or its replacement, presumably. This drawing is Old Blackfriars Bridge. “From the work usually known as ‘James’s Views,’ published May 9, 1825.” Source: Old Manchester, Plate 38. 


Blackfriars Bridge today. Nice, huh?


Blackfriars then and now

Blackfriars on the Agas map, 1561. I think I got those yellow lines right. That’s the Fleet River angling northward to the left of our district of interest.
Part of Blackfriars on John Rocque’s 1746 map of london. See the word DITCH? That’s our friend the Fleet.
Blackfriars today. That white road running up the middle is Farringdon Road, built over the Fleet River in the mid-nineteenth century.
Somewhere in there. The whole area was bombed to smithereens, but property lines are amazingly persistent.
St. Ann’s church yard. These are persistent too, especially now that working people have to smoke outside.


British History Online, Blackfriars: 

Laoutaris, Chris. 2015. Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle that Gave Birth to the Globe. London: Penguin Books.


Pix & Notes: Baddesley Clinton

I visited Baddesley Clinton (in 2009, my first research-only trip to England. It’s one of mybaddesley_clinton favorite stately homes, the one I would live in if I had a different life to live and wanted to spend it in the English countryside (which I love, but not that much.)

This is one of the places where I had to hoof it fleetly to catch the train back to Stratford-upon-Avon, where I was staying. This because I eccentrically refuse to drive a car whilst in England. Partly because of the wrong-side-of-the-road thing, partly because I like to rubber-neck, and partly because it seems rude to pollute other people’s countries by burning additional fossil fuels. Eccentric; I said it already!

bad_clint6I must have taken the train from Stratford to Lapworth and then walked 1.5 miles, which isn’t very far. So this isn’t the place I’m remembering, whence I had to walk as fast as I was able for about 3 miles. They do tend to run together over time.

The train lets you off at a station-less stop. You hike along a narrow two-lane road with high hedges on either side cutting off the view. Peugeots zoom past you at a hair-raising speed. You see no other pedestrians or cyclists. You reach the entrance to the stately property and gratefully turn onto a narrow lane, free of Peugeots, lined with graceful rows of ancient trees between whose trunks you admire the rolling greenery dotted with sheep or cows. Then at last you come around a corner and enjoy an artfully crafted first glimpse of the historical building you’ve walked so far to see.

A whirlwind history

(From the booklet.) A Saxon called Baeddi first cleared this site in the Forest of Arden. Then along came the de Clintons in the thirteenth century, undoubtedly Normans. They sensibly dug the moat. If you owned anything worth capturing, like a daughter with a dowry or a hall full of plate, you needed a defensible dwelling. Not to mention all the handy fish.

John Brome, a lawyer from Warwick, acquired the manor in 1438. That’s the guy that attracted my interest. They don’t say which Inn of Court he belonged to, but it could have been any of them. Gray’s is known to have existed from at least 1370. This is just the sort of house my legal gentlemen would reside in between court terms, if I ever let them leave London, which I don’t, because Francis Bacon rarely left. He stuck close to the royal court, which followed the monarch, usually to the palaces up and down the Thames. One of these books, though, they’re all heading out some rural county. Then they’ll stay in house modeled on Bad Clint, moat and all.

Brome’s heir was a daughter, who married Sir Edward Ferrers. He remodeled the place, leaving it in more or less the shape we find it today. The house remained in the Ferrers family until 1980, when they were able to leave it to the National Trust with a sufficient endowment to take care of it. Thoughtful people! There’s an Edward Ferrers in Wikipedia in my period of interest (c.1573–1639.) He gets a mention because he was a Member of Parliament. He can’t be a Bad Clint Ferrers, though, because his father was from Fiddlington in Devonshire.

The Quartet

Marmion Edward Ferrers

We skip merrily past the intervening generations to the late nineteenth century. In 1867, Marmion Edward Ferrers married Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen, a name you could not make up. Shortly after, Rebecca’s aunt, Lady Georgiana Chatterton and her husband Edward Heneage Dering moved in too. The four friends devoted themselves to the arts and religion. That latter may have been mentioned to discourage the sorts of thoughts I know you were all thinking when you first heard about that foursome. Two Eds, a Dulcibella, and a Lady Chatterton? Which religion did they say they were practicing?


Rebecca Dulcibella Ferrers
Rebecca Dulcibella’s self-portrait
Lady Chatterton

Rebecca and Ed Dering married after their other spouses died. I smell trouble, but the National Trust doesn’t indulge in such unsavory fantasies. Besides, Lady C, the oldest of the group, died in 1876 and Marmion in 1884 — a long time to wait between murders with a marital motive.

Rev. Joseph Kelly moved in to keep things kosher, Catholic-style, saying mass every Sunday in the private chapel. Edward and Rebecca married after Kelly left in 1885. Well, they pretty much had to, didn’t they?

Edward died in 1882; Rebecca held on until 1923. The house passed to Marmion’s nephew’s son, a Ferrers, who was forced to start selling off the furnishings to keep the house afloat. After a period of struggle, trying to figure out how best to preserve this lovely historic building, the family managed to hand it off to the National Trust.

Rebecca was an accomplished painter. Now that I’ve spent so much time on these folks, I have to show you the portraits she painted, which was not my intention at all when I first started this post!

Edward Dering
Lady Chatterton’s lover, Edward Dering

Floor plans should be mandatory

Even the National Trust booklet is better than average, with a handy floor plan right inside the front cover! Without a floor plan in the book, I have to stand in a corner trying to sketch the layout in my notebook, rigorously refusing to look up at the inevitable, helpful volunteers who stand around accosting visitors, eager to share their scanty knowledge of the worthies who last lived in the house. I have nothing against either the worthies or the volunteers, but that’s not what I’m there for. I need a hat that says, “Please don’t bother me; I’m trying to think.” A t-shirt won’t do, since in England, I’m probably wearing a raincoat.


I feel like this is turned around… You walk in through the entrance hall and work your way to the left, not the right. The rooms toward the right — the darkened ones — aren’t open to the public, dash it all!

There’s plenty of space for two artistic, religious couples, both for sleeping and for spreading out to separate corners to read, write, and paint. Lady Chatterton and Edward Deering wrote novels, by the way; romances, which achieved some critical acclaim, but never the commercial success they hoped for. They’re on the shelves in the library, which is the room that most attracted me. A really nice place to work. Or loll about reading romances.

The house on the whole felt comfortable to me. Nice-sized rooms, neither big enough to be drafty nor small enough to feel cramped, lots of leaded windows set into deep stone walls, and the long landing and gallery upstairs so you could get to your room without passing through all the intervening ones — a floor plan I particularly dislike. 


Interior pix were scanned from the booklet. Now I remember the place, I realize I would rather live in Eastbury House in Barking, and not just because I’m a city girl at heart. But Bad Clint is the model for my characters who live in their country manors most of the time, like Benjamin Whitt. We never go there in the books, but I like to know what my people are up to even when I’m not with them. Nosy, huh? They think so. (Shhh.)

Also, I wouldn’t like living in a house with a moat, not without moat people to tend it and plenty of carp to eat the algae. Then the Labrador would be in there all the time, chasing the fish. A great big mess! But it’s fun to take pictures of moated houses.

The great hall, in another of Rebecca’s paintings. Really not big enough for the roasting of oxen and feasting with many retainers. Definitely a quieter, more lawyerly, hall.
The kitchen, as it was in the early 1900s.


A bedroom, with a fireplace bigger than the bed. In Victorian times, when fuel was more scarce, it might only rarely have been lit.
And the lovely library. I could work here, no problemo.


The inner courtyard and main entrance


In case you take your boat across the moat



The gardens


A tree covered in deliriously fragrant eglantine
They have a moat AND a lily pond.







Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire. 1998. The National Trust.





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