Why Is There a Random Memorial on Cloak Lane in the City?
Along Cloak Lane in the City you’ll spot an odd, out-of-place memorial.
First up, the name. It sounds a bit exciting and mysterious doesn’t it? Cloak Lane.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it probably comes from cloaca – open sewer – which would have run along the street into the (now subterranean) Walbrook River.
On the Medieval map (c.1270) from layersoflondon.org above you can see the blue line of the former River Walbrook and beside it – close to the red dot – are the words St John Upon the Walbrook.
Cloak Lane today (again from layersoflondon.org)
St John the Baptist Church is first mentioned in the 12th century and was one of the many churches that didn’t survive the Great Fire of London.
It wasn’t rebuilt after 1666 and lay in ruins, the congregation merging with the nearby St Antholin, rebuilt by Christopher Wren and then eventually demolished in 1875.
St Antholin depicted c.1829 from Wikimedia Commons
But back to Cloak Lane. Today the street is throughly modern, but this odd memorial stands out.
It’s a reminder of the former churchyard St John the Baptist. Seen below on the John Rocque’s map of 1746.
Image from layersoflondon.org
Dating from 1884, its inscription gives us the answer;
to the memory of the dead
Interred in the ancient church & churchyard of St John the Baptist upon Walbrook during four centuries.
The formation of the District Railway having necessitated the destruction of the greater part of the
So after the catastrophe of the Great Fire, more destruction came with the railway and in 1879 lines were dug connecting today’s tube stations of Mansion House and Cannon Street.
If you were wondering what happened to the physical remains of everyone that was buried here, the monument has further answers;
All the human remains contained therein were carefully collected and reinterred in a
beneath this monument
Looking East you can see the entrance to Cannon Street, with the huge x-shaped girder that holds up the glass offices above the station. Its design (by Peter Foggo Architects) means it doesn’t need any central columns for support.
If you’re thinking that the lack of columns and avoidance of digging below parts of Cannon Street Station might be a clue. You’re right. There are substantial remains of a public Roman building. But no one’s exactly sure what it was!
So, as ever with London, there’s a always a story behind things!
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You mention the church of St Antholin and its demolition in 1875. The church’s spire survived in fact and is now situated in the midst of a small housing estate near where I live in Forest Hill, SE London! More on that story here: https://www.foresthillsociety.com/2018/03/st-antholins-spire.html
Oh my goodness, how fantastic is that? Hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit soon and I will include that in the blog, thanks so much Martin!
Hi ya, you mentioned a Tudor map of 1270. Really? The first Tudor king didnt become king until 1485 with the last Tudor being Elizabeth I who died in 1603. Sorry to be a pedant. The rest is, as always fantastic.
Correct, should say Medieval, will amend now. Layers of London also have a Tudor map which I’ve used multiple times is why I wrote that! Thanks for flagging Martyn!
Did anyone notice the different ways the name street was spelled on the medieval map ? Strate and strete. Were these two different medieval ways of spelling street ? Or was one way Roman and the other way perhaps Saxon ? Or does it mean straight ? Please could someone shed some light on this, as I am quite curious, and could it point to the age of the street ?
I’m not an expert Adrian, but until relatively recently – mid 18th century – spelling was a bit of a minefield with no standardisation. If you look to Chaucer’s poetry and even Shakespeare’s own name they use different spellings. So yes, the names could refer to older derivations and show gradual corruption over time but often it’s also a lack of ‘rules’