28.05.23 Liveryman Dave Connor

Not so much a pub crawl … more a relaxed Coachmakers’ Medieval City walk

Following our interesting and enjoyable stroll through the past, held in 2022, this year saw our gathered Coachmaker party ready to walk at the Barbican on Saturday 22nd April.

On the one hand, this is a Grade 1 listed 1960s concrete marvel, built on a site bombed to smithereens during WW2 some 20 years previously. On the other, it is a prime example of ‘brutalist’ architecture which swiftly became home to 2,000 or so City lawyers, journalists other professionals, and their families, who quickly became its biggest fans, despite its eccentric plumbing.

We departed and headed to our first stop, Charterhouse. At this point our splendid guide, Simon Whitehouse, whom we have met before, told us of its rich history and why Henry VIII was so angered by the stubborn Carthusian monks who preferred martyrdom to giving in to corpulent tyrants.

We next strolled over to what was once the world’s greatest meat market, Smithfield. The cleansing aroma of vinegar, used to clean blood from the cobbles, was faintly discernible in the air around the soon-to-be new home of the Museum of London. Coincidentally, in the 19th century this was a site where wives were swapped, bought and sold unlawfully, divorce being something of a lengthy and frowned upon palaver. It is recorded that in July 1815 one wife was sold for 50 guineas and a horse. It was, of course, illegal, but the custom continued into the late 1880s.

This is the hilliest part of the City which provided an aerobic benefit bonus as we moved on to St Bartholomew’s Church, the oldest in London. It celebrates its 900th anniversary this year and inside, on loan from the artist, is an extraordinary statue called Exquisite Pain. It depicts the eponymous Saint being flayed alive, in his hand the instrument of his torture. Not a knife but a scalpel, a reference to the great hospital over the road.

The party learned that the commonly used wording ‘hung, drawn, and quartered’ is factually incorrect. Victims were first drawn, as in had their innards plucked out, then they were hung whilst still alive, after which they were taken down, still alive, and hacked into four parts. And we complain about parking tickets!

The life and times of William Shakespeare, that great chronicler or fiction writer, depending on your view, also featured in our walk, as the modern replica of the Globe Theatre hove into view and was our final focus before we enjoyed a restorative luncheon at the Founders Arms overlooking St Pauls and Blackfriars.

Same time next year?