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.

Memorial Cloak Lane

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.

Memorial Cloak Lane - Layers of London

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.

Memorial Cloak Lane - Layers of London

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.

Memorial Cloak Lane - St Antholin Wikimedia

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.

Memorial Cloak Lane

It’s a reminder of the former churchyard St John the Baptist. Seen below on the John Rocque’s map of 1746.

Memorial Cloak Lane - John Rocque Layers of London

Dating from 1884, its inscription gives us the answer;

SACRED
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
CHURCHYARD

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
VAULT
beneath this monument
AD 1884

Memorial Cloak Lane

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.

Memorial Cloak Lane

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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6 Comments

  • Martin Bull

    Reply

    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

    February 24, 2021 at 10:37 am
  • Martyn Agate

    Reply

    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.
    Martyn

    February 24, 2021 at 2:41 pm
  • Adrian Butters

    Reply

    Hi
    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 ?

    February 24, 2021 at 10:20 pm

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