Cow Cross, Finsbury, London, Middlesex

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 3180 8181

Archaeology & History

Site of Cow Cross on 1896 map

Site of Cow Cross on 1896 map

Not far from the long lost Fag Well could once be seen this old stone monument.  Although not illustrated on the first Ordnance Survey maps of the inner city, it is highlighted on the 1896 edition (as shown here), just where Cow Cross Street meets Charterhouse Street—right by the boundary line—and is marked as ‘Site of Cow Cross’.

The cross gained its named from the cattle market that was held here from very early times, on the boundary of the lands of the Knights Hospitallers in the 12th century.  Cattle itself–both horses and cows—were actually slaughtered at the market by the cross: a practice that has thankfully stopped (in public at least).  Despite the place-name being referenced in many early accounts, actual descriptions of the cross are few and far between due to it being destroyed at quite an early date.  When John Stow came to write his history of London in 1603, he told that it was no longer standing.  Whether the cross replaced an earlier standing stone, we simply do not know…

References:

  1. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, Allen & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Middlesex, Cambridge University Press 1942.
  2. Temple, Phillip (ed.), Survey of London – volume 46, LCC: London 2008.
  3. Vallance, Aymer, Old Crosses and Lychgates, Batsford: London 1920.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Cow Cross

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Cow Cross 51.519838, -0.101834 Cow Cross

Fag Well, Finsbury, London

Healing Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 315 817

Also Known as:

  1. Fagge’s Well

Archaeology & History

First described in local church records from around 1190 AD (Webb 1921) as Fageswelle; then again a few years later in early crime records of the region (Hardy & Page, 1892) as Fackeswell, there were a number of other references to this lost water source, which could once be found near the Skinners Well and the more famous Clerks Well, Finsbury.  Gover, Mawer & Stenton (1942) believed the site owed its title to some long-forgotten local name, though could give no specifics. (i.e., they didn’t know!)  The old dialect word ‘fag’, relating to old grass is as good a meaning as any!

The site was described by John Stow in his Survey of London, 1603, saying it was “near unto Smithfield by Charterhouse, lately dammed up.”  In Mr Foord’s (1910) excellent work on the subject, he told that,

“In 1197 certain lands are described as lying between the garden of the Hospitallers and Smithfield Bar, “super rivulum de Fackeswell,” and other lands as between that brook and ‘Chikennelane’… This fixes the position of Faggeswell Brook as approximately at the boundary of the City.”

Further information about this site would be much appreciated.  The grid-reference for this site is an approximation.

References:

  1. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  2. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, Allen & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Middlesex, Cambridge University Press 1942.
  3. Hardy, W.J. & Page, W. (eds), A Calendar of Feet of Fines for London and Middlesex, 1197-1569 – volume 1, Hardy & Page: London 1892.
  4. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.
  5. Webb, E.A. (ed.), The Records of St. Bartholomew’s Priory, and of the Church and Parish of St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield – volume 1, Humphrey Milford: Oxford 1921.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Fag Well

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Fag Well 51.519319, -0.105411 Fag Well

Skinners Well, Finsbury, London

Healing Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 313 822

Archaeology & History

Like oh so many of the healthy old springs and streams in that dreadful metropolis, the blood and natural health of Skinner’s Well was killed long ago by the self-righteous arrogance of Industrialists.  Even its precise whereabouts seems to have been forgotten… So we thank the written words of antiquarians to keep its memory alive.

Mentioned as far back as 1197 AD in early fine records of the region (Hardy & Page, 1892) as Skinnereswell — and thereafter in various local history records from 1200, 1244, 1385 and constantly from thereon — the place-name authorities Gover, Mawer & Stenton (1942) told that the prefix ‘skinner’, “clearly derive from personal names,” from “the occupational name skinner, of Scandinavian origin.”  But this isn’t to everyone’s etymological fancy! When A.S. Foord (1910) sought for information on this healing spring, he found the same 1197 account, in which

“Skinners’ Well is there described as lying in the valley between the Nun’s Priory and the Holeburn, in which was a large fish-pond… Strype, in his continuation of Stow’s Survey (1720) say, ‘Skinners’ Well is almost quite lost, and so it was in Stow’s time. But I am certainly informed by a knowing parishioner that it lies to the west of the church (of St. James, Clerkenwell), enclosed within certain houses there.’  The parish would fain recover the well again, but cannot tell where the pipes lie. But Dr Rogers, who formerly lived in an house there, showed Mr Edmund Howard…marks in a wall in the close where, as he affirmed, the pipes lay, that it might be known after his death.”

Mr Sunderland (1915) thought Skinners Well a probable holy well, “because Mystery Plays were were performed yearly around it by the Skinners of London.” Citing as evidence the earlier words of John Stow in his Survey of London, 1603, which he narrated:

“In the year 1390…I read, the parish clerks of London, on the 18th July, played interludes at Skinners Well, near unto Clerkes’ Well, which play continued for three days together; the king, queen and nobles being present.  Also in the year 1409…they played a play at the Skinners Well, which lasted eight days, and was of matter from the creation of the world.  There were to see the same the most part of the nobles and gentles in England, etc.”

Whether this “matter from the creation of the world” was a tale of a Biblical nature, or more related to indigenous creation myths of the waters and lands around Skinners Well, we have no way of knowing.

References:

  1. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  2. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, Allen & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Middlesex, Cambridge University Press 1942.
  3. Hardy, W.J. & Page, W. (eds), A Calendar of Feet of Fines for London and Middlesex, 1197-1569 – volume 1, Hardy & Page: London 1892.
  4. MacLagan, David, Creation Myths, Thames & Hudson: London 1977.
  5. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Skinners Well

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Skinners Well 51.523962, -0.108148 Skinners Well