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Fenchurch Street

roseAgas Map


Fenchurch Street (often called Fennieabout) runs east-west from the pump on Aldgate High Street to Gracechurch Street in Langbourne Ward, crossing Mark Lane, Mincing Lane, and Rodd Lane along the way. Fenchurch traverses Aldgate Ward and Limestreet Ward. Stow observes that the street is of Ealdgate warde till ye come to Culuar Alley, on the west side of Ironmongers Hall where sometime was a lane which went out of Fenchurchstreete to the midst of Limestreete (Stow 200).

Name and Etymology

Stow lists many possible origins for the name of the street, suggesting that Fenchurch Street took that name of a fenny or moorish ground, so made by means, of this borne which passed through it Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] yet others be of the opinion that it took the name of Foenum, that is, hey solde there, just as Grasse Street tooke the name of grass or hearbes there solde (Stow 200). The eponymous church was St. Gabriel Fenchurch, located on the north side of the street between Rodd Lane and Mincing Lane. The church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, but the street’s name endured. The street is ambiguously labelled on the Agas map, with the name Fenchurch appearing on the street directly below the church building so that the label could refer to either the church or the street. Prockter and Taylor, however, label the street Fenchurch Street (13), as does Richard Blome in his 1720 map of Aldgate Ward with its Division into Parishes (British Library) and Jacob Ilive’s 1739 A Plan of the Ward of Aldgate (rpt. in Hyde 34). Eilert Ekwall offers several other common spellings of the name, including Fancherche and Fanchurche (96).


Ralph Tresswell’s 1612 survey of the area provides a detailed view of Fenchurch’s west side at its intersection with Philpot Lane. The property shown, acquired by John Lute in 1541, came into the possession of the Clothworkers’ Company upon his death in 1585 (Schofield 70). This acquisition added to the Company’s already considerable landholdings (see Billiter Lane), and speaks to the immense wealth and power of this livery company. The Clothworkers eventually came to own almost half of Fenchurch Street and profited from renting properties as dwellings and storefronts. The shops along Fenchurch would have had highly visibile to people entering the city through Aldgate, one of the primary entry points into the city. Archaeological excavations have found evidence of rubbish pits likely associated with the processing of animal carcasses for furs and hides (LAARC Site Record FEU008). These findings suggest that Fenchurch was home to a wealth of commercial activities including production, trading, and waste disposal. From 1556 to 1557, the Clothworkers’ Company invested funds in the revitalization of the neighbourhood, hiring a carpenter named Revell to spearhead the construction project. This rebuilding led to an increased demand for houses on Fenchurch Street, raising their rental value. A house near Billiter Lane that cost fifty-eight shillings (almost three pounds) per annum prior to 1558 cost eight pounds after the renovations (Schofield 74).


Fenchurch Street was home to several famous landmarks, including the King’s Head Tavern, where the then-Princess Elizabeth is said to have partaken in pork and peas after her sister, Mary I, released her from the Tower of London in May of 1554 (Weinreb, Hibbert, Keay, and Keay 288). Fenchurch was also the location of the town residence known as Northumberland House, where the earl of Northumberland would stay when visiting London. The gardens lining these houses were later converted to bowling alleys open to the public. Fenchurch street was also the site of Denmark House, the residence of the first Russian ambassador to England.1 The arrival of the ambassador in 1557 was recorded by Henry Machyn in his diary entry for 27 February of that year:
[a]n ambassador2 came to London from the emperour of Cattay, Moscouie, and Russe lande:3 who was honorably met and receyued at Totham by the merchantes venturers of London, rydyng in veluet coates and chayues of gold, and by them conducted to the barres at Smithfield, and there receiued by the lorde maior of London, with the aldermen and sheriffes: and so by the lorde Maior, aldermen and merchant venturers, conueyed thorough the Citie, vnto maister Dimokes place in Fanchurch strete. 4 (Machyn 1557-02-27)
Fenchurch Street was on the royal processional route through the city, toured by monarchs on the day before their coronations. These events, rich in pageantry and cultural significance, allowed commoners to welcome [their new ruler] with gifts and pageants (Butler). Surviving eyewitness accounts offer evidence of Fenchurch’s residents preparing for a royal visit. Machyn names Fenchurch Street as one of the primary sites where London’s citizens hung decorations to celebrate the upcoming coronation of Mary I: the citizens began to adorn the city against the Queen’s coronation; to hang the streets, and prepare pageants at Fan Church and Grace Church (1553-09-12).5 Then, when she arrived, Mary travelled from the Tower through London riding in a chariot looking gorgeously unto Westminster. By the way at Fenchurch a goodly pageant with four giants and with goodly speeches Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] (1553-09-30).6 That Fenchurch Street was part of the royal processional route is a testament to its importance as a major thoroughfare.

Literary References

Five years after Mary’s entry, Richard Mulcaster describes an identical scene in The Queen’s Majesty’s Passage, this time with Elizabeth I riding triumphantly through the streets. Mulcaster served in Elizabeth’s first parliament as representative of Carlisle. He received forty shillings in payment for the account of the pageant (Barker). He records the wonder upon seeing her
[pass] from the Towre tyll she came to Fanchurche, the people on eche syde ioyoussye beholding the viewe of so gracious a Ladie their quene, and her grace no lesse gladlye notyng and obseruying the same. Here unto Fanchurch was erected a scaffold richely furnished, wheron stode a noyes of instrumentes, and a child in costly apparel, which was appointed to welcome the quenes maiestie in ye hole cities behalfe. (Mulcaster)
Engraving of the triumphal arch at Fenchurch Street by Stephen Harrison. Image courtesy of the Folger Digital Image Collection.
Engraving of the triumphal arch at Fenchurch Street by Stephen Harrison. Image courtesy of the Folger Digital Image Collection.
As Thomas Dekker records in The Magnificent Entertainment, Fenchurch was the site of the first triumphal arch through which King James I passed when he visited in 1604: from thence stept presently into his Citie of London, which for the time might worthily borrow the name of his Court Royall: His passage alongst that Court, offering it selfe for more State through seuen Gates, of which the first was erected at Fanchurch (Dekker sig. B4r). This gate refers to one of seven Arches of Triumph conceived and designed by Stephen Harrison in collaboration with Thomas Dekker and Ben Jonson (Bergeron 445; Chalfant 74). Carved atop Fenchurch’s arch was London itself, populated with a series of allegorical figures attesting to the city’s many virtues (see reproduction of Harrison’s Londinium arch in Chalfant 75; see also the page image in Harrison). Harrison underscored the rich opulence in his design with a series of Latin phrases, carved just above the entrance, paying tribute to both the splendour of the Lord and the British king—in that order. The first phrase is a quotation from the first-century poet Martial: Par domus haec coelo sed minor est domino 7 (75), followed by a phrase of reading Camera Regia,8 written in a lesse and different character (Mardock 32). James Mardock notes in Our Scene is Londonthat while the praise of both city and king are evident, the order and appearance of the two phrases—as well as their proximity to the royal reader’s eye—suggests a hierarchy with the royal domino greater than the civic domus (Mardock 32). Gilbert Dugdale marvels at the workmanship and painstaking detail of this arch in A Time Triumphant, writing such a show of Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] glorie as I neuer saw the like Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] The Cittie of London very rarely artificially made, where no church, nor house of note but your eye might easily find out (Dugdale sig. B2r).
The few dramatic references to Fenchurch Street occur in city comedies, often providing information about the origins of a character rather than overtly participating in the action of the play. For example, the second title of Thomas Heywood’s 1607 comedy The Fair Maid of the Exchange is The Pleasant Humours of the Cripple of Fanchurch, but the play contains no further reference to the street . The subtitle provides the central male character with depth by establishing him as a disadvantaged character living (or growing up) in an affluent neighbourhood. A more sustained mapping of Fenchurch Street occurs in William Haughton’s 1598 Englishmen for my Money. This city comedy calls upon the audience’s knowledge of the streets and features of the city. As Jean Howard observes of this play, [t]he acme of the play’s geographical localism Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] occurs in IV.i, a scene whose humor hinges on the gap in knowledge between those who have an intimate familiarity with London’s streets and those who do not (40). Darryll Grantley argues that a comic and nationalist capital is created by the confusion of the play’s three foreign suitors—Alvaro, Delion, and Vandalle—when they get lost in London on their way to Crutched Friars (75), leading to an exchange between the foreign suitor Delion and the Englishman Heigham:
What be name dis st., and wish be de way to Croshe-friars? 9
Marry, this is Fenchurch St. and the best way to Crutched Friars is to follow your nose.
Vanshe st.! How shance me come to Vanshe st.? 10
(Haughton 4.1.92-96)
The play invites sympathy for, or disapproval of, the characters through the differing degrees to which characters share the London habitation of the playgoers. To the playgoer in 1598, the foreigners’ inability to locate or even pronounce London streets would have functioned as a hilarious marker of their unsuitability as husbands for London maids (Jenstad 112). Likewise, Alan Stewart suggests that the strangers’ deeply flawed English is an irresolvable barrier to marriage, and that any union between English and other languages is figured as unhealthy and dangerous (71). The inherent nationalism couched in this exchange arises from the spectators’ satisfaction—at the expense of the intruder—in having a sound grasp of London’s geography and thus being a true Londoner. This geographical confusion cedes a competitive advantage to the English suitors, who use their intimate knowledge (and as the play would argue, ownership) of the land to win the race and obtain the affection of the female characters (Grantley 75).

Subsequent History

Samuel Pepys describes Fenchurch as one of the streets most severely affected by the Great Plague of 1665. His diary entry on 10 June 1665 records his great trouble, to hear that the Plague is come into the City Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] but where should it begin but in my good friend and neighbour’s, Dr. Burnett, in Fenchurch Street; which, in both points, troubles me mightily (1665-06-10). Later, on 6 August, one Mr. Battersby in Fenchurch asked Pepys [d]o you see Dan Rawlinson’s door all shut up? Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] one of his men is now dead from the plague and his wife’s sick(1665-08-06). Rawlinson, of whom Pepys speaks fondly elsewhere in his diary, owned the Mitre Tavern in Fenchurch (Wheatley 35).
In modern London, Fenchurch Street follows the path of early modern Fenchurch Street from Aldgate Street to Gracechurch Street. Fenchurch gives its name to Fenchurch Street Station, the first station to be located within the City of London (History of Fenchurch Street Station).


  1. I.e., Osip Nepeya. (KL)
  2. I.e., Osip Nepeya. (KL)
  3. I.e., Ivan IV the Terrible. (KL)
  4. Missing characters in passage supplied by Bailey, Miller, and Moore. (NK)
  5. Missing characters supplied by Bailey, Miller, and Moore. (NK)
  6. Missing characters supplied by Bailey, Miller, and Moore (NK)
  7. This house is on a par with the heavens, but less than its master (NK)
  8. The King’s Chamber (NK)
  9. Delion, a Frenchman, means to say, What be the name of this street, and which be the way to Crutched Friars? (NK)
  10. Delion means Fenchurch Street! How chance me come to Fenchurch Street? (NK)


Cite this page

MLA citation

Kaufman, Noam. Fenchurch Street. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 6.6, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 30 Jun. 2021,

Chicago citation

Kaufman, Noam. Fenchurch Street. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 6.6. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed June 30, 2021.

APA citation

Kaufman, N. 2021. Fenchurch Street. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 6.6). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Kaufman, Noam
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Fenchurch Street
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 6.6
PY  - 2021
DA  - 2021/06/30
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

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