Our field trip to (early modern) London
Verity Rudge, one our students, gives her impressions of a two day field trip to London, part of the Early Modern London strand of the Chorographies module studied on the MA.
On arriving in London our first destination was the Clerkenwell area, where we navigated the modern streets using the Agas Map. It was using the Agas that we discovered the current location of the well that gave Clerkenwell its name: it’s inside a building, but you can see it through the windows. In the process of locating the well we also visited St John’s Gate which was originally part of a monastery and is now a museum documenting the history of the Knights of Saint John (we also saw the 16th century church of St John and the Norman crypt beneath it where there are memorials for the original knights and also for those who have more recently died in service for St John Ambulance).
In the afternoon we made our way to the London Metropolitan Archives where we were given a tour and, more importantly, we got to handle some maps and manuscripts! One of the sources that we got to view was a hand painted map of London and then compare it to the original black and white version. We were also allowed to handle the Treswell manuscript which is a beautiful leather bound book that contains amazingly detailed, hand-coloured illustrations of house plans. When we were eventually pried away from the Treswell manuscript – it is just too pretty – we continued our tour of (Early Modern) London.
Our first stop the next morning was a visit to St Andrew Undershaft (right by the Gherkin) which is the church that was attended by Lord Mayor Hugh Hamersley, Hans Holbein the Younger and John Stow. It is due to Stow that this is such a place of interest for the course as we had studied his Survey of London prior to the trip and his memorial is found within the church. The church is no longer open to the public and therefore it was a privilege to be shown round by a warden of the neighbouring church St Helen Bishopsgate.
Once we had seen the memorial and Dr Tracey Hill had said hello to her beloved Stow, we then set off for our final destination of the trip.
Guildhall Library is where most of the livery companies keep their archives and it is for this reason that it is such an important place to visit when studying Early Modern London. Here we were able to handle pamphlets, books and manuscripts: what more could you ask for? In one of these manuscripts we were even able to find and admire Thomas Dekker’s actual signature! But after too short a time – an hour and a half is just not enough – we had to leave. I’ll never view London in the same light.