Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
St. Michael's Church, Aldgate.
This handsome Gothic structure, which is situate between the east end of and Streets, under the houses fronting the pump at , is still remaining entire, exhibiting a most beautiful specimen of ancient architecture. It measures north by south feet in length, and east by west feet in breadth, and from the floor to the vertex of the arch feet inches in height; but as the capitals of the pillars at present appear only feet above the floor, the altitude of the arches at might have amounted to eighteen feet.
This Church, by handsome intersected pillars, which support beautiful stone arches, is divided into aisles, the entry into which was by a door in the east side, in which were likewise small windows, as were also in the ends thereof; and adjoining to the Church, on the west, are the remains of a square stone building, but for what use the same was originally employed cannot now be ascertained, though probably it was either a steeple, a vestry-room, or parsonage-house. The walls are of square pieces of chalk, in the manner of Rochester Castle, and the arches of stone, exhibiting as skilful masonry as any thing in this age of refinement.
It is evident that this and many other at present subterraneous buildings were never so intended at their foundation, but have become such from the vast rise of the ground surrounding them, in consequence of the destructive fires that so frequently happened in the early ages, burying in the ruins nearly that part of the city which escaped destruction by the devouring flames.
An ancient historian relates, that "London, in the year , became a great sufferer by fire, and in the dreadful conflagration many of its inhabitants perished. Nor was it well recovered of this before it was again visited with a similar misfortune, by which a great number of its then remaining buildings were destroyed."
Anno . A very great fire happened in the City, which began in the house of Ailward, near London Stone, and consumed all the way east to , and west to St. Erkenwald's shrine in , both which it destroyed, together with , which was then constructed of wood.
It is reasonable to conjecture, that the accumulation of ruins these extensive fires occasioned left the distressed inhabitants little choice in their determination; and as it would have caused infinite trouble and inconvenience to have cleared and removed the same, they wisely preferred sacrificing a few (to them) useless buildings, raised and levelled the ground, and began a foundation for new dwellings on the site of the roofs of some of their remaining habitations. The amazing descent to the banks of the Thames from several parts of the City confirms the opinion that most of the buildings denominated crypts, oratories, or undercrofts, were, in their pristine states, level in their foundations with the dwelling-places of their original builders. What greatly adds to the probability is the circumstance of our being informed that near () and , new houses being to be built, in the year , in a place where was a large garden plot inclosed from the street by a high brick wall, upon taking down the said wall and digging for cellarage, another wall of stone was found directly under the brick wall with an arched gateway of stone, and gates of timber to be closed in the midst towards the street. The timber of the gates was consumed, but the hinges of iron were then remaining on their staples on both sides: moreover, in that wall were square windows with bars of iron on each side this gate. The wall was above fathoms deep under ground, supposed to be the remains of those great fires before mentioned. Again, we learn, on the east side of opening into , on that site, after the fire of , Sir Thomas Cullum built houses, and that a short time previous to , the cellar of of the houses giving way, there was discovered an arched room, feet square and feet deep, with several arched doors round it stopped up with earth.
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.