THE Church of St. Magnus the Martyr
Situated in Lower Thames Street is the Church of St. Magnus the Martyr where John Rylie worshipped, and where he was buried in accordance with his will. Even in his day, it was old, the first church to be built here was of Saxon or Danish origin. This is the Church of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers due to its proximity to the river and Billingsgate, London's landing port and market for fish since at least Saxon times.
Over the years the Church became wealthy through many bequests, which included tenements on London Bridge. In 1234 it was enlarged, and in 1598, John Stow in his survey of London, described it as "a fair parish church in which have been buried many men of good worship whose monuments are for the mos t part effaced". Miles Coverdale who made an English translation of the Bible in 1532 was Rector for a short time, and is buried there.
The church was repaired between 1623 and 1629 but consumed by the Great Fire of 1666. In fact being close to the source of the fire it was one of the first destroyed. It was then rebuilt by Wren in a very different style, this took place between 1671 and 1687 at a cost of £9,879.
In 1886 the population of the parish was only 837. In the century that followed the numbers continued to decrease, until today the church mainly caters for city workers and visitors. It is beautifully maintained and well worth a visit.
The Life and Times of John Rylie
|Until 1738 old London Bridge was the only bridge linking
London and the south; it was tile crossing for pilgrims on the way
to Canterbury and the countless travellers to and from Dover. The
value of the bridge for commerce and defence can be imagined. The
premises of John Rylie were surely in a busy situation! |
It was built between 1176 and 1209, and described as being "926 feet long, 60 feet high, and 40 feet broad". It stood about 2OO feet east of the present bridge, just by the Church of St.Magnus the Martyr, and consisted of twenty arches with a drawbridge in the centre for the passage of larger vessels.
Considered in early times to be one of the wonders of the world, it was in reality a crowded and undesirable structure. having on it many buildings, including "a Chapel and Crypt; Nonsuch House, a wooden building imported from Holland, with towers and spires; and (interestingly) some shops where pins were displayed". These shops on the bridge were considered good for bargains, and also sold needles, gloves, prints, hats, and house- hold wares.
In fact it was covered with houses on both sides like a continuous street, with gaps at intervals, and "chairposts" for foot passengers to retreat to. By one of the archways 'of the bridge stood the cage and stocks. The cage, in use from early in the 16th. century, was considered great fun, as was the custom of decorating the Southern gate with human heads stuck on pikes. Sir Thomas More, Sir William Wallace and Jack Cade were among the victims. A foreigner who visited England in 1598 counted more than thirty heads.
The Northern gate had been removed earlier, probably before John Rylie's time. It was at this end that the Great Fire raged, destroying the Signe of the Cradle, but it was checked on the bridge at one of the gaps and a large part of it was saved. By its own weight of stone and great age it was constantly in need of repair, giving rise to the proverbial expression, and song "London Bridge is falling down". The old bridge, did, in fact, survive until 1841 when a new bridge was opened.