Soper Lane was located in the Cordwainers Street Ward just west of Walbrook and south of Cheapside. Soper Lane was home to many of the soap makers and shoemakers of the city (Stow 1:251). The housing in Soper Lane was poor, made up predominantly of dive sheds. Local merchants brought moveable stalls to this area to sell their goods near the largest market in the city, St. Paul’s Churchyard. The market opened at dawn in the winter and six in the morning during the summer, with store owners usually sleeping under their counters to prevent theft (Barker 232). Soper Lane was not a major road in the city in the medieval period. During the early modern period the housing on Soper Lane was eventually built up five stories high. This increase in the wealth and prestige of Soper Lane was due to its location in the city and the role this street played in the processional route. Prior to the development of the mayoral processional route, Soper Lane had very little significance in the make-up of the city.
Soper Lane became a major processional route through the city for both the Lord Mayor and the monarch during the time of coronation. Soper Lane was located between the two main hilltops of London. During the coronation of the monarch, the king or queen would spend the previous night sleeping in the Tower. The monarch would begin the processional route at the east end of the city (Tower Street), continue along Mark Lane and then travel west along Fenchurch Street. The monarch would head north along Gracechurch Street and then west along Cheapside until he or she reached St. Paul’s Churchyard. The monarch would continue to head north along Ludgate and proceed along Fleet Street until he or she reached the west end of the city. The monarch would eventually be crowned at Westminster the following day (Manley 223). Every October 29th, the Lord Mayor would make his traditional walk from the Guildhall (place of civic government) to Westminster to be sworn in as the new mayor of the city (Manley 219). The Lord Mayor would leave the Guildhall along Ironmonger Lane and cross Cheapside along Soper Lane. The Lord Mayor would proceed to Downgate where he would sail down to Westminster to participate in his coronation. The Lord Mayor would return to the city at Paul’s Stairs and head north towards St. Paul’s Churchyard. The Lord Mayor would continue to the Little Conduit and return to St. Paul’s where he would hear a sermon. The Lord Mayor would leave St. Paul’s and return along Cheapside to the Guildhall. From the Guildhall the Lord Mayor would travel along Cheapside towards the east end of the city, following Gracechurch Street and Fenchurch Street to Aldgate. From Aldgate, the Lord Mayor would head west across the Strand and along Cheapside back to the Guildhall. Soper Lane is the north/south, east/west location where the Lord Mayor’s and the monarch’s processional routes crossed (Manley 226).
During both processions, street pageantry was performed. The street pageants may not necessarily have been heard by the parties they were intended for due to the loud and festive atmosphere created by the processions. The performance at Soper Lane during the monarchical ceremonies may have been the most significant. Here the monarch would pass a sword to the Lord Mayor, who would carry the sword ahead of the procession for the remainder of the ceremony to show the union between the monarch and the people (Manley 220). The pageant at Soper Lane acted out the ceremony of the monarch being crowned and reiterated the importance that the city of London played the greatest significance to the monarach’s success. A section of Thomas Middleton’s The Triumphs of Truth was performed at Soper Lane. A section of Thomas Dekker’s The Magnificent Entertainment was also performed at Soper Lane end. Dekker celebrates King James’ family and the presence of an heir to the throne. Dekker also reminds the king that the taxes that he will collect come from the city and the king’s importance to keep peace. Soper Lane’s main significance, therefore, was its location as an intersecting point between the Lord Mayor’s procession and the procession of the monarch.
- Barker, Felix, and Peter Jackson. London: 2000 Years of a City and its People. New York: Macmillan, 1974.
- Manley, Lawrence. Literature and Culture in Early Modern London. Cambridge: Cambridge, UP, 1997.
- Stow, John. A Survey of London. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. Ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. [Also available as a reprint from Elibron Classics (2001). Articles written before 2011 cite from the print edition by volume and page number.]
Last modification: 2016-06-06 16:05:03 -0700 (Mon, 06 Jun 2016) (jtakeda)