John Stow Memorial Service
Jill Finch reports on another City tradition – the John Stow Memorial Service
Footprints guides will be fully conversant with the 16th Century Survey of London compiled by John Stow, and well thumbed copies are probably on many bookshelves. His descriptions and anecdotes are fascinating, as are the detailed account of the buildings, social conditions and customs of London in the 16th Century. Historians, guides, anyone with any interest in the City of London owes John Stow a huge debt for the invaluable information he left behind and which is still incredibly useful more than 300 years after his death. With this in mind a service to commemorate t his life and work is held every three years in the church of St Andrew Undershaft in St Mary Axe. The service this year was held on 2nd April and was jointly sponsored by LAMAS (the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society) and the Merchant Taylors’ Company (Stow’s own Livery Company).
Following a reading by the John Price (Master of the Merchant Taylors’ Company) and a sermon by the Reverend William Taylor (Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate) the congregation moved to the Stow monument on the north wall of the church to see Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf place a new quill pen in the hand of his effigy.
We were then privileged to hear Professor Caroline Barron (Emerita Professor of the History of London, Royal Holloway, University of London) ask and answer the question “Why should we remember John Stow?” Professor Barron talked about Stow’s early life and his work as a historian and the times he lived in – John Stow was a local boy, born in Cornhill, apprenticed to a tailor he joined the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, married and later lived in Lime Street. Born in 1525 he lived through the reigns of four Tudor monarchs and saw the reformation of the church of England and the dissolution of the monasteries. He particularly mourned the disappearance of people’s identities when tombs and memorials were torn from churches. Stow made it part of his life’s work to make note of as many names as possible as he conducted his survey of the City of London and make sure that Londoners, as well as the City itself, lived on between the pages of his book. We have many reasons to be grateful to Stow – long may he be remembered.
Jill’s next walk for Footprints of London is called Print and Press – Exploring Fleet Street on 24th April