Swan Marker and Swans (Statue)

Above: The unusual statue standing on the pavement, just a few feet from the entrance to the church of St James, Garlickhythe.

The unusual bronze statue is just a short distance from the church of St James, Garlickhythe. It was unveiled on 11 July 2007 and made by Vivien Mallock. The statue shows the figure of the Barge Master and Swan Marker, accompanied by a very realistic figure of a swan.

In earlier times it was only the Vintners, the Dyers and the Crown who were permitted to own swans on the River Thames. Each year all three organisations still take part in an ancient tradition known as ’Swan Upping’. The ceremony extends over several days during July each year and is now conducted on the Thames between Sunbury and Abingdon. In the early part of the 20th century swans found on the Thames in London were also marked. The process then started at Victoria Embankment and the Swan Uppers gradually moved upriver.

The Swan Marker is in charge of the Vintners’ Swan Uppers for the event but he wears the uniform of Barge Master, dating back to the time when the Company owned a ceremonial state barge on the Thames. In the 17th century, many of the City Companies had their own highly decorated barges. They can be seen on Canaletto’s famous painting of the Lord Mayor’s Procession on the Thames. These days the marking of the swans takes place using more modest vessels, including rowing boats and small launches.

The tradition was that swans owned by the Dyers had one ‘nick’ filed into their beaks. Swans owned by the Vintners had two nicks and swans owned by the sovereign had no marking at all. At the annual search for the swans on the Thames, if the male a female swans have a nick, then the cygnets are similarly marked. Where one bird in the pair has a different mark from the other, there is a formula for how to mark their cygnets. The tradition of actually marking each swan with a nick has been replaced these days by adding a ring to the bird’s leg.

So why is the statue situated outside a City church and not somewhere near the Thames? It would certainly be more appropriate to have the statue beside the Thames because not many swans are to be seen beside the busy dual-carriageway of Upper Thames Street. The answer is that the Vintners’ Hall is not far away and, each year, they walk ceremonially to the church of St James, Garlickhythe, where they hold their official service.


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St James, Garlickhythe

Above: View of the church from Upper Thames Street on a misty morning. The dual carriageway carries traffic within feet of the south wall of the church.

This ancient parish church is dedicated to St James the Great. James, the son of Zebedee, was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus, and traditionally considered the first apostle to be martyred. He is called ‘the Great’ to distinguish him from other saints by the same name. The huge cathedral in NW Spain – Santiago de Compostela – is named after him. The church was one of the principal places of pilgrimage in medieval times and is still well-visited even today.

Above: A parish marker for St James Garlickhythe with the scallop shell incorporated into the design.

Many saints had a symbol to represent them and for St James the Great, it was the scallop shell. Quite how this shell came to be associated with St James is not fully understood but his trade before he became a disciple was a fisherman, which may have something to do with it.

In early times there were over 120 parish churches in the City of London. Many were destroyed in the Great Fire (1666) and not rebuilt. Many that were rebuilt were destroyed nearly 300 years later during the Second World War. The name St James was unique in the City. It stands near the lower end of Garlick Hill and its additional name refers to the fact that the area was well-known for importing herbs and also selling them nearby – in particular, garlic which, in early times, was often spelt ‘garlick’.

The church was first mentioned 1196 as ‘St James near Vintry’. It was newly built in 1326 and stood for 300 years before being destroyed in the Great Fire (1666). It was rebuilt 1673-83 by Christopher Wren and it is that church that is still standing today. The steeple was erected 1714-17 – also designed by Christopher Wren.

In May 1941, during the London Blitz, a 500 pound German high explosive bomb crashed through the roof of the church and buried itself below the floor in the south aisle. It did not explode but was removed to Hackney Marshes and detonated. The buildings surrounding the church were destroyed by incendiary bombs and this caused much external damage to the church, including the destruction of its fine overhanging clock.

After the Second World War, the church was repaired in 1953. During repairs, it was found that the woodwork was infested with the death watch beetle which meant that the church was closed until 1963, while it was being restored.

Above: Mounted on the tower is a clock overhanging the doorway into the church. On top of the clock is an effigy of St James.

Considerable work was carried out in 1981 to strengthen the foundations of the building due to the widening of Upper Thames Street on the north side of the road and the resulting increase in heavy traffic.

On Friday 20 September 1991 a large crane, in use on the south side of Upper Thames Street, fell across the dual carriageway and onto the roof of the church. Part of it was torn off along with part of the south wall in which was a 12 feet (3.6 m) diameter rose window. The falling masonry also badly damaged a large chandelier and many of the original pews, dating from the 17th century.


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Cordwainer (Statue)

Above: The bronze statue is situated on the pavement in Watling Street.

The word cordwainer has almost dropped out of the English language – along with the names of several other tradesmen. How many people say ‘I popped into the baker’s today to buy a loaf’? The chances are that there is no baker near where you live and that your loaf of bread came from a supermarket. Do people still talk about fishmongers, ironmongers, drapers, dairymen, men’s outfitters or women’s clothing shops these days? It’s not very likely that any of those words are used anymore.

So, what about the statue? It shows a cordwainer at work – essentially a man who worked making shoes or boots. Shoemaking was the trade of making new shoes as distinct from cobblers who repaired old shoes. Some of the finest leather, in the medieval world, came from Córdoba, in Spain. The place name gave rise to the word ‘cordwainer’ in English who was a person who worked in leather – shoes and boots in particular.

Until it was bombed during the Second World War, the Cordwainers’ Hall stood on the north side of Cannon Street, at the western end. The site is now part of a large garden beside the SE corner of St Paul’s Cathedral. Beside the pavement at that point is a City Plaque recording the site of the Cordwainers’ Hall. The company no longer have a hall today.

About 2004 the unusual bronze statue was unveiled on the pavement of  Watling Street. The figure is seated and has his back to the north wall of the church of St Mary Aldermary. The statue is only a short distance from where the Cordwainers’ Hall used to stand. It was made by the Brighton-based sculptor Alma Boyes who was given a commission in 2002 to produce a monument to mark the centenary of the founding of the Cordwainers’ Club. The statue was cast at the Morris Singer Foundry, in Hampshire.

It is a fitting reminder of this once important craft that was carried out in the heart of the City of London and which gave its name to one of the City wards.


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Vintry and Cordwainer Overview

This overview relates to two City Wards – Vintry and Cordwainer. Their original outlines are shown with red dotted lines on the Google map, with which most people are familiar these days. The boundary of the City of London is shown with a red solid line.

An enlarged map of the two wards will reveal that Queen Street runs north from Southwark Bridge. Similarly, King Street runs north from Queen Street. These two streets were cut through the medieval street plan just after the Great Fire of London (of 1666).

Looking at the map, it will be seen that Cannon Street is the approximate boundary between the two wards. Originally, Cannon Street only extended west to the junction with the street called Walbrook. The street was extended westwards 1853-54 to join onto St Paul’s Churchyard which means that the western part of Cannon Street is a relatively recent boundary.

Queen Victoria Street was cut through the medieval street plan in 1861. Nearby King William Street was cut through the City in the 1820s.

From all this street building over the centuries, the original medieval streets in the two wards have been somewhat disrupted.

Vintry Ward

This is another riverside ward. It was named in early times because of the Vintners who imported wine from France in the days of the Normans. Much of the wine came from the famous Bordeau region. It was first mentioned in 1285 by its present name.

By 1320 it is estimated that Vintry was the second richest ward in the City, Dowgate being the richest.

The ward once contained four parish churches – St James, Garlickhithe; St Martin Vintry; St Michael Paternoster Royal; and St Thomas Apostle. Today only two of the four churches remain – St James, Garlickhithe and St Michael Paternoster Royal.

There were once no less than six company halls in the ward – Cutlers’ Hall, Fruiterers’ Hall (in Worcester House), Glaziers’ Hall, Plumbers’ Hall, Vintners’ Hall and Watermen’s Hall. Only the Vintners now have a hall in the ward.

Southwark Bridge crosses the Thames from Southwark and enters the ward via a road that joins onto Upper Thames Street.

Cordwainer Ward

The ward was first mentioned by its present name about 1285 as ‘Ward of Cordewanerstrate’ and derives its name from the trade of shoemaking. Shoemaking was the trade of making new shoes as distinct from cobblers who repaired old shoes. Some of the finest leather, in the medieval world, came from Córdoba, in Spain. The place name gave rise to the word ‘cordwainer’ in English as a person who works in leather – shoes in particular.

The ward lies to the north of the Ward of Vintry. Its only principal streets were Watling Street and Budge Row. Watling Street, which still exists, is unlikely to have any connection with the famous Watling Street, a Roman road that ran across England – from Chester to Dover. That road did not run through the City of London but followed a line to the south, probably crossing the Thames at a point near today’s Westminster Bridge. Budge Row was the continuation of the City street called Watling Street. Budge Row ran almost SE from the eastern end of Watling Street to join Cannon Street at the junction with the street called Walbrook.

By 1368 Cordwainer was, with the Ward of Cheap, the wealthiest ward in the City.

In earlier times ward had three parishes churches – St Antholin; St Mary Aldermary; and St Mary le Bow. St Antholin was taken down by the Victorians in order to construct Queen Victoria Street. The other two churches remain to this day.

At one time the Cutlers’ Hall stood in this ward. It later moved to a site just west of St Paul’s Cathedral where it still stands.


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Innholders’ Hall

Above: The hall standing on the south side of College Street. Dowgate Hill is in the distance on the far left.

Innholders were quite simply the owners of an inn. In Norman times most pilgrims and anyone else who needed to travel relied on monasteries for a place to stay for the night. Inns started to assume their role during the 13th century – in order to serve the growing numbers of pilgrims and traders –when monasteries could no longer meet such needs. In addition to liquid refreshment, they offered bed and board for travellers, along with their horses, which distinguished them from taverns and alehouses.

The Innholders’ Company is number 32 of the 110 Livery Companies of London. Tracing its origin to the early 1300s, the Company became known as the Guild of Innholders in 1473 and they received their first charter from Henry VIII in 1514.

The Company plays an active role in the continuing development of the hospitality industry through their scholarship programme and the Master Innholders and maintains a significant programme of charitable support within the hospitality industry.

The site for their hall was purchased 1616 by the Innholders. That building was destroyed in the Great Fire (1666). After the fire, the hall was rebuilt 1668-74 to designs of Christopher Wren and Edward Jarman.

Above: The coat of arms above the entrance doorway in College Street.

The 17th-century hall was badly damaged in the bombing of the Second World War and was fully restored between 1947 and 1952. The hall stands at Nos 29-30 College Street, between this street and the north side of Upper Thames Street. It is only a short distance west of Dowgate Hill. See the blog for the Tallow Chandlers’ Hall (posted on 24 November 2017) for a labelled map of Dowgate Hill.

A Brief Explanation of Inns, Taverns and Ale Houses

While on the subject of inns, there is a difference between inns, pubs, taverns and ale-houses. Starting with ale-houses, these were common from the Middle Ages. Most households brewed ale, some brewed more than they could drink and some brewed better ale than others. The households sold their ale from their houses. Richard II decreed that those selling beer had to advertise it via ale-stakes which eventually became pub signs. At a later date, commercial ‘houses’ were created and many remained in use until the early 20th century.

Inns were larger institutions where travellers could stay overnight and be fed whilst their horses were stabled. Chaucer’s pilgrims started their journey in an inn. Although more classy and usually more expensive, with communal sleeping areas for most guests, an inn was a cut above an ale-house. Noblemen or noblewomen could eat or sleep in their own rooms thus avoiding the dormitory misery of their fellow guests. The heyday of inns was from 1663 when Turnpike Acts made roads more navigable and the mid-19th century when railways allowed people to complete their travel in one day.

Taverns have been present in Britain since Roman times when they were called Taberna. Selling wine as opposed to ale, often to those who had travelled and stayed in towns, taverns were frequented by the upper classes whereas working people (mostly men) would be drinking at the ale-house. Taverns were most popular between the Middle Ages and late-18th century, their popularity declining as wine became more easily available.

Today we use the term public house or ‘pub’ to describe all three establishments although class has always been an important element in determining where one drank. Until the last few decades, this was maintained through separate public bars and saloons in the same building.


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Dyers’ Hall

Above: The Dyers’ Hall, on the west side of Dowgate Hill.

Most people know what dyers do. Not only were there professionals experimenting with dyeing cloth and wool but many private individuals used to try their hand at dyeing and they still do. The generation of housewives after the Second World War often bought dye cubes to change the colour of a skirt or top. Those who are interested in the craft practice the art more as a hobby than anything else.

The Dyers’ Guild existed in the twelfth century and received a Royal Charter in 1471. It originated as a trade association in the art of dyeing but the Company is now mainly a charitable institution.

Each year the company participates in the ceremony of Swan Upping along the River Thames. Throughout the history of London over the last 1,000 years, only the Dyers’ Company, The Vintners’ Company and the Sovereign have been allowed to own swans on the Thames. Each year the Dyers and the Vintners take part in the ritual of Swan Upping when swans are marked with one nick cut into the beak for the Dyers, two nicks cut into the beak for the Vintners and no nick for any of the royal swans. The nicks in the beaks have no been replaced by adding rings to the legs of the birds to establish ownership.

In education, the Dyers’ Company is associated with several schools including Archbishop Tenison’s School, at Lambeth and St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School, beside New Kent Road, in Southwark.

Above: The Dyers’ coat of arms over the main entrance gate. The spots on the leopards indicate the colours of the dye. The arms include three bags of madder. Madder dye plants make one of the most light-fast of natural dyes which has been in use for thousands of years. Alizarin is the main chemical compound in this important natural dye and produces a red colour.

The first hall of the Dyers was built in 1483 in Anchor Lane, off Upper Thames Street, in the Ward of Vintry. They occupied that site until 1545 when they moved to a new site in Dowgate Ward, near London Bridge. They built a hall on the new site which was near the east corner of Angel Passage with Upper Thames Street.

In 1657 the company obtained land in Dowgate Hill where their hall now stands. The site had formerly been occupied by a college for priests, called Jesus Commons. The Dyers’ Hall, in Angel Passage, was destroyed in the Great Fire (1666) and later rebuilt but in 1681 the hall was again destroyed by fire. For many years the Dyers were without a hall.

In 1770 the Dyers gave up their site in Angel Passage and built a new hall on their Dowgate Hill site. The present hall was built 1839-40. It stands on the west side of Dowgate Hill, on the corner with College Street. See the blog for the Tallow Chandlers’ Hall (posted on 24 November 2017) for a labelled map of Dowgate Hill.


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Skinners’ Hall

Above: Looking at the western side of Dowgate Hill. On the left is part of the Dyers’ Hall. The light coloured building, with its four elegant lamp-posts, is the Skinners’ Hall and the red-brick building (on the right) is the Tallow Chandlers.

The Skinners – as you might expect – was originally an association of those engaged in the trade of skins and furs. Such skins were worn by the wealthy for warmth but also to show their status. There were other guilds that were associated with leather – as in belts and items of clothing. There were also guilds working with leather for shoes. In a world where man-made materials for clothing did not exist, all the natural parts of an animal that were not eaten were eagerly sought after and put to good use.

The property in, Dowgate Hill, appears to have been in the possession of the Skinners since the time of Henry III which would be around 1262. The building was also known as Copped Hall. The name implies that the building had a flat or truncated roof, perhaps damaged by fire or in a storm. In 1325 Copped Hall in Dowgate Hill was owned by Ralph Cobham. The Skinners had lost possession of it and it was described as having ‘a ladies parlour, a kitchen and ‘pastrie’, a butter-house and a storehouse’ as well as five shops. At a later date, Cobham left it to the king who reinstated the Skinners in the property.

Above: The large coat of arms, made of Coade Stone, which is high up on the front of the building.

The Great Fire (1666) destroyed all the City around Dowgate Hill and the hall was another casualty. A new hall was built 1668-69 which is still in use. Over the following centuries, some changes were made. In 1791 a new front was added to the hall and decades later some of the fittings and decorations in the hall were altered 1847-48. According to Weinreb, the coat of arms and supports on the outside of the hall is Coade Stone – a man-made artificial stone, formed in a mould, which would have been made the factory as Lambeth between the years 1770 and 1833.

The hall stands on the west side of Dowgate Hill. See the blog for the Tallow Chandlers’ Hall (posted on 24 November 2017) for a labelled map of Dowgate Hill. The entrance doorway of the hall leads through a passageway into a courtyard, in the typical Tudor style. Of the three halls facing onto Dowgate Hill, the Skinners’ Hall is about two or three times the size of the halls of the Tallow Chandlers or the Dyers. The Skinners’ Hall is on the northern and western side of the Dyers, with part of their hall being beside the north side of College Street. The most westerly rooms are beside the church of St Michael Paternoster Royal.


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