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Jarvis, Stephen Eyre. 
A history of Ely Place 




Hncient Sanctuavi^, 




A Guide for Visitors by the 

Rev. Stephen Eyre Jar vis, 

iRector ot St. JBtbelOre^a'a. 




Allen County Public Library 
900 Webster Street 
PC Box 2270 

Fort Wayne, IN 46801-?'^70 




Hncient Sanctuary, 





A Guide for Visitors ev the 

Rev. Stephen Eyre Jarvis. 

IRector ot St* Bt belDre^a's. 




191 T 

Ibietor? of £l\> place. 

9JI MONG the thousands of wayfarers who, each 
^^ morning, hurry along the great highway of 
Holborn on their way to the City, few compara- 
tively of those who may observe the iron gates of 
Ely Place, opposite Negretti and Zambra's, just 
where Charterhouse Street opens out at Holborn 
Circus, are aware of the religious and historical 
interest attached to this hallowed spot of Old London. 
The name of Ely House remained unchanged for 
centuries, and more than six hundred years have 
passed away since the history began of the London 
palace and chapel of the Bishops of Ely. Every 
vestige of the episcopal palace has long since disap- 
peared, and the only relic of antiquity now remaining 
is the beautiful chapel of St. Etheldreda, Queen and 
Virgin, and Foundress of the Abbey of Ely. 

In former times most of the Bishops had seats, in 
or near London, in which they resided during their 
attendance on Parliament. Within the precincts of 
these residences they retained their jurisdiction as 
in their own dioceses. Some of these episcopal 
residences, with their enclosures, were exempt also 
from the ordinary civil jurisdiction, so that taxes 
could not be levied there. Hence they were called 
Liberties. Ely Place, besides being a Liberty, was 
also a Sanctuary, where persons pursued by the law 

for certain offences could not be arrested by the civil 
authorities. Within present memory the Queens 
writs did not run here, and no poHce officer or sheriff 
could follow a prisoner or a debtor who had taken 
sanctuary in the Liberty. To this day Ely Place has 
a kind of local control of its own, and is governed by 
certain Commissioners elected annually by the house- 
holders. U ntil lately they entirely managed the paving, 
drainino-, liohtino-, waterino-, and ouardino-of the Place. 
They have their own day and night watchmen, with 
gold-laced hats, w^io fulfil the functions of police. 
Here still, as in clays of yore, the silence of the night 
is broken by the call, hour by hour, of the watchman, 
from ten o'clock at night until six in the morning. 
One of the oil street lamps, which were the means 
of lio-htino- all London before the introduction of eas, 
was hanging in Ely Place when the Fathers of Charity 
took possession of St. Etheldreda's. Then only was 
this old oil lamp removed from over the presbytery 
door. At the doors of some of the houses until a few 
years ago were seen the iron extinguishers used to put 
out the torches which supplemented the lights of the 
London streets before the introduction of gas lamps, 
and were carried by servants or link-boys before the 
sedan chairs of the gentry. 

Ely Place dates back to the close of the 
thirteenth century. John De Kirkeby, Bishop of 
Ely from 1286 to 1290, left by will to his successors 
in the See a messuaoe with nine cottages, situated in 
the parish of St. Andrew's, Holborn. William of 
Louth ( de Luda ), his successor, who had been 
Archdeacon of Durham and treasurer of the King's 
household, held the See from 1290 to 1298, increased 

,^.,|.: ■.I..V 

Tht High Altar of St. Etheldreda'?, 

the demesne, and bequeathed fresh property to the 
See. It appears that it was during his episcopate 
that the chapel of Ely Place was built on the ground 
left by Bishop De Kirkeby. Such was the opinion of 
Sir Gilbert Scott, the eminent architect, who, judoino- 
from the style of architecture of St. Etheldreda's, 
deemed that the chapel must have been erected 
between 1290 and 1299. This beautiful chapel 
seems to have been coeval with the exquisite 
monument to the Bishop in Ely Cathedral, a work 
clearly by the same hand, and with the tombs of 
Edmund Crouchback, second son of Henry III. and 
Aveline his wife, Countess of Lancaster, at West- 
minster, and of Archbishop Peckham of Canterbury 
— four works of art which may challenge Christendom 
for anything architectural of the kind to surpass them. 
And this chapel bears so much resemblance to them 
in some details as to point to the same architect. 
Certainly as early as 1303 distinct mention is 
made of the Chapel of St. Etheldreda as already in 
existence, and this confirms the opinion of Sir Gil- 
bert Scott, drawn solely from the style of architecture. 
Bishop John de Hotham, at his death in 1336, added 
six messuages, two cellars and forty acres of land, 
which he gave to the prior and convent of Ely to 
say Masses for his soul, and for other objects. 
This Chapter estate, of which the present Saffron 
Hill is the site, appears to have been distinct 
from the episcopal possessions adjoining it. Thus 
the Bishop first, and afterwards the Chapter of Ely, 
entered the pre-existing parish of St. Andrew, and 
possessed themselves of a considerable estate, which, 
in virtue of certain ancient charters to the Church of 

Ely, became independent of any other authority. 
Camden calls Ely Place "a citie habitation of the 
Bishops of Ely, well becoming Bishops to dwell in, 
for which they are beholden to John de Hotham, 
Bishop of Ely under King Edward III." 

Thomas Arundel, who was consecrated in 1373, 
and afterwards became Archbishop of Canterbury, 
expended great portions of his revenue on the palace. 
Moreover, he built the cloisters and Gate-house, in 
the stonework of which his coat-of-arms was to be 
seen in the time of Stowe. During the time also of 
Bishop Arundel, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster 
and father of King Henry IV., took refuge at Ely 
House when his palace of the Savoy had been burnt 
down by rioters. There he remained until his death, 
which occurred in 1399, as Hollingshead relates : " In 
the meantime, a.d. 1399, the Duke of Lancaster 
departed out of this life at the Bishop of Ely's place 
in Holbourne, and lieth buried in the Cathedral 
church of St. Paule, in London, on the north side of 
the high altar, by the Ladie Blanche, his first wife." 

Many sumptuous feasts were given in Ely House. 
In Michaelmas Term, 1464, the serjeants-at-law held 
their banquet there, to which, amongst other dis- 
tinguished persons, the Lord Mayor was invited with 
the Aldermen and Sheriffs. But on the Lord Mayor 
looking for the chief seat of state in the hall, as was 
always the custom in the City when the King was not 
present, Lord Grey of Ruthin, then Lord Treasurer 
of England, was advanced to the place of honour — 
a grievous slight upon the Chief Magistrate of the 
City, who took it so ill that he left the banquet-room, 
carrying in his train the Aldermen, whom his lordship 

consoled with a dinner at his own house instead. As 
an explanation of the above, be it noted that 
Ely Place and its precincts had always claimed 
a privilege of express exemption from the jurisdiction 
of the Lord Mayor of London as an independent 

The next circumstance to be noted in the history 
of Ely Place has reference to an event of great interest 
and importance in the history of England. It 
is remarkable for the dialogue written in connexion 
with it by Shakespeare. The Duke of Gloucester 
is represented as saying to the Bishop of Ely, John 
Morton, on the morning of the execution of Lord 
Hastings at the tower of London, '' My Lord, when 
I was last in Holborn I saw good strawberries in your 
garden there, I do beseech you send for some of them." 
" Marry, and will, my Lord, and with all my heart," 
replies the Bishop. See King Richard III. Act iii. 
Scene 4. Then followed that extraordinary scene 
which took place in a room shown to this day, called 
the Council-room, in the White Tower, in which the 
tyrant bared his withered arm, accused Hastings 
of witchcraft and treason, and condemned that noble- 
man to instant death. Notwithstanding his complais- 
ance. Bishop Morton was taken into custody by the 
Protector on the same day, together with Archbishop 
Rotherham, Lord Stanley and others, who were 
suspected of being opposed to schemes of Richard. 

In 1 53 1 a sumptuous banquet was given in the 
great hall of Ely House, when eleven new Serjeants 
were made. This hall is stated to have been a 
spacious room seventy-four feet long, standing east 
and west, lighted with six Gothic windows, and 


furnished in a manner suitable to the hospitality of 
the times. The entertainment lasted five days. On 
one of these days King- Henry the Eighth and Queen 
Catherine with the foreign ambassadors were present. 
Amongst the guests were the judges, the Lord Mayor, 
aldermen, and the principal knights, squires, and 
crentlemen of the City. Stowe gives full details of 
the dinner on that occasion. 

Here also in the cloisters of Ely House it is said 
that King Henry VHI. first met with Cranmer. And 
this brings us to the times of the so-called Reforma- 
tion, when the Catholic faith was overturned in this 
land, and Church property seized by the Crown and 
given to Protestant favourites and adherents. 

In the March of the year 1576 accordingly a new 
era took place in the history of Ely Place, when Sir 
Christopher Hatton, the special favourite of Queen 
Elizabeth and Lord Chancellor of the realm, obtained, 
by the intervention of his mistress, a footing in the City 
domicile of the Bishops of Ely. For Bishop Cox, who 
had taken an active part in drawing up King 
Edward's first Common Pray 67^ Book, was soon required 
by the Queen, under threats and menaces of being- 
unfrocked, to grant a lease to Sir Christopher of the 
Gate- House and other portions of the palace in the 
front courtyard, as well as the keeping of the garden 
and orchard. In 1581 Bishop Cox died, and the See 
being kept vacant for eighteen years afterwards, Sir 
Christopher had already secured firm possession of 
the property when Bishop Heaton in 1599 claimed 
his rights. But the Queen upheld Sir Christopher 
in hisill-gotten gains, and when later on he was dying 
at Ely Palace she went there to visit him. Many years 

The Screen and Organ Loft. 

afterwards it was agreed, after long disputes, that the 
owners of the Hatton property should pay ;!f lOO a 
year to the Bishops of Ely in compensation for what 
they had lost. In the Harleian MSS., in the case 
between the Bishop of Ely and my Lord of Hatton, 
it is stated that "several cellars are possessed by 
others even under those rooms of the house which 
the Bishop hath now left to dwell in, and they are 
intermixed with the cellars which he uses, having 
lights and passages into the cloisters and the most 
private parts of the house. Even half of the vault or 
burying place under the Chapel is made use of as a 
public cellar, or so was very lately, to sell drink in, 
there having been frequently revellings heard during 
divine service." Hatton Garden, Hatton Wall, 
Vine Street and Saffron Hill — names still retained by 
the neiohbourinor streets — mark the old alienated 
episcopal property, and remind us of where the 
beautiful garden lay, sloping down to the south-east 
along the right bank of the Fleet river, then a 
salmon stream fallino^ into the Thames near where 
Blackfriars Bridge now stands. 

The Palace, thus dismantled of its gardens, lost 
one of its special charms, and perhaps the new 
Protestant Bishops, no longer having the same in- 
fluence and social status as that formerly enjoyed by 
the old Catholic Bishops, felt themselves rather out of 
place among the Barons of Parliament, and had little 
need of a London palace of aristocratic proportions. 
So it came to pass, as we gather from Gardiner's 
History of England, that in the March of 1620, 
during the reign of James L, Ely House was let on 
lease to Gondamar, the Spanish Ambassador, and 

A I 


the chapel was again used for Catholic worship. Here 
persecuted English Catholics, as in the other Embassy- 
chapels, were able to hear Mass without incurring legal 
penalties. About this time the persecution of the 
Catholics was at its height. Sixteen priests had been 
hanged, drawn and quartered, and by the year 1622 
there were no less than 400 priests in prison. Gonda- 
mar was doubtless able to afford a refuge to many such 
priests who were being hunted down like wild beasts. 
It is related in the Howell letters that the Countess 
Gondamar, with her maids, used early in the morning 
to sweep and clean the chapel and get all things 
ready for Mass. Along the great highway of Holborn 
passed those dread processions from Fleet Prison to 
Tyburn, in which heroic priests and Catholic laymen 
were dragged on hurdles to execution. In the history 
of one of them we are told that as the proces- 
sion passed Ely House it was joined by the gentle- 
men of the Spanish Embassy. It is recorded in 
Malone's " History of the Stage " that the last Passion 
Play performed in England was acted before Gonda- 
mar during his residence in Ely Place. Later on we 
find the Duke of Richmond occupying the Gate- 
House of Ely Palace, where eventually he died. 
Afterwards the Duchess retired into the Bishop's part 
of the buildings, and we are told that she had the 
Lenten services in the chapel even as well conducted 
as those which were held at Whitehall. Thus the 
chapel was again in the hands of the Protestants. 

From 1638 to 1667 Matthew Wren, uncle of Sir 
Christopher, the great architect, was Bishop of Ely. 
Wren was committed to the Tower for endeavouring 
to restore Catholic practices into his diocese, and he 


remained there for twenty years until 1660 when he 
was released. During the time of his imprisonment 
the o-reatest and best part of Ely House was pulled 
down, the garden built upon, and the house reduced 
to a very dark inconvenient dwelling, retaining 
scarcely any of its former splendour, except as regards 
the ancient hall and chapel. 

In 1642 the place was converted into a prison by 
order of Parliament, and the Serjeant-at-arms was 
appointed keeper, with a charge that the chapel, 
especially the windows, as well as the garden, should 
receive no injury. In the times of trouble that followed 
Ely House was made a hospital for wounded soldiers 
and sailors. Numbers of these who died there were 
carried to be buried in the churchyard of St. Andrew's, 
Holborn. It is recorded that Queen Anne who was a 
great admirer of the celebrated Bishop Ken came to 
Ely House to hear him preach in the Chapel there. 

From this date there is a little of interest to note 
in the history of Ely House until the year 1772, when 
the Bishop obtained an Act of Parliament to sell the 
property to the Crown. After the transfer it was 
purchased by a Mr. Charles Cole, an architect, who 
afterwards built the houses in Ely Place, preserving the 
chapel as a place of worship for the residents on the 
estate. For some years the church was leased to the 
National Societv for Promotino- the Education of the 
Poor. Then, in 1844, it passed into the hands of the 
Welsh Episcopalians. It remained in their hands until 
the whole of the property in Ely Place came to be sold 
under an order of the Court of Chancery, in order to 
finish a law suit between the descendants of the original 
purchasers. The Fathers of Charity heard of the 


proposed sale and sent an agent to bid for the chapel, 
which was knocked down to them for the sum of ^5,400 
— less than the value of the freehold o-round on which 
it stands. Father Lockhart, writing on this subject, 
says : " The day after we had made the purchase the 
clergyman of the Welsh congregation called on me to 
offer a considerable advance on the sum we had paid. 
It seems the Welsh people had got the notion that if 
the price ran up beyond the ^5,000 they were 
prepared to pay, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, the 
great Welsh magnate, would authorize his agent at 
the sale to go on with the bidding. Their agent, 
when he had made his last bid, looked across the 
room to our agent, whom he supposed to be the 
person authorized to act for the Welsh baronet. * I 
suppose/ he said, 'it is all right in your hands?' 
' Certainly,' was the reply of our agent, on whose next 
bid, it was knocked down to him. It was only after 
the sale that they learned that the property had passed 
into Catholic hands. ' Well, sir,' said the Welsh clergy- 
man, when I declined to sell, ' I am sorry we have lost 
the old place, but this I will say, if we were to lose it, I 
am glad it has passed into your hands, for you will 
appreciate its beauty, and, I have no doubt, restore it 
in a way we should never do.'" Owing to the 
restoration of church and crypt, which occupied a 
period of nearly five years, the building was not 
re-opened for Catholic worship until the 23rd of 
June, 1876, on which day the feast of St. Etheldreda, 
its titular patroness, is annually kept in the Roman 

Having thus briefly sketched the history of Ely 
Place, let me now add something in the way of a 

Tracery of Side Walls. 


description of its old buildings, gathered from Sir 
Gilbert Scott's valuable paper, '* Ely Place, Hol- 
born." It appears that shortly before the demolition 
of the old palace, plans and sketches were made of it 
in 1772 as it then stood. They had been preserved 
in the family of Bishop Keane, the last Bishop to 
occupy the palace, and were presented by one of that 
family to Sir Gilbert Scott, who in turn gave them 
to the "Society of Antiquaries." Sir Gilbert also 
presented copies of them to Father Lockhart, which 
are still preserved in our archives here. "These 
plans and sketches," says the eminent architect, 
"show the palace as mainly consisting of a cloistered 
quadrangle of two storeys, the lower one being the 
cloister proper, and the upper storey consisting 
mainly of rooms. There are two great buildings 
adjoining it, or nearly so, the one at the south- 
eastern and the other at the north-western part of the 
cloister. The former is on the ground level, or the 
level of the cloister ; the latter on the upper level, 
approached from the north-western corner of the 
cloister by steps, its lower storey forming a crypt. 
There are other apartments south and west of the 
cloister, as well as on the east side of the ground. 
There is a considerable space, and a Gate- House to 
the south, and a larger space towards the north, 
behind which is a building, apparently stables." 
Speaking of the drawings in his possession, Sir 
Gilbert says that they have clearly been to a great 
extent the originals of those given by Grose, who 
adds to them the names of the leading parts, showing 
the hall to be towards the south in the direction of 
the Gate- House, and the chapel towards the north. 


The following description of Ely House repro- 
duced from Grose by Sir Gilbert, will be of interest. 
Speaking of the injuries the palace received in the 
seventeenth century, Grose says : '' Ely House was 
reduced to a very dark and incommodious habitation, 
without any remains of its ancient splendour and 
magnificence, except the Chapel and the ancient 
Hall. This house stands on the north side of 
Holborn, almost opposite to St. Andrew's Church. 
The entrance is through a large gateway, or porter's 
lodge, into a small, paved court ; on the right hand 
are some offices supported by a colonnade, and on 
the left a small garden, separated from the court by a 
brick wall. In the front appears the venerable old 
Hall, originally built with stone : its roof is covered 
with lead. Adjoining to the west end are the chief 
lodging-rooms and other apartments. 

*' The inside of this hall is about 30 feet high, 
32 feet broad, and 72 feet long. The timber of the 
roof forms a semi-dodecagon. It is lighted by six 
Gothic windows, four on the south and two on the 
north side. The floor is paved with tiles. At the 
lower end is an oaken screen, and near the upper end 
there is an ascent of one step, for the high table, 
according to the old English fashion. To the north- 
west of the Hall is a quadrangle cloister, its south 
side measuring 95, and its west 75 feet ; in the centre 
is a small garden. The east side is at present shut 
up, and has been converted into a kind of lumber 
room or cellar. Over these cloisters are lodging- 
rooms and galleries, where are several ancient 
windows, but not above two small pieces of painted 
glass, and these neither beautiful nor curious. 


"Adjoining to the north side of the cloister, in 
a field containing about an acre of ground, stands 
the Chapel. This field is planted with trees, and sur- 
rounded by a wall. On the east side, next the Hall, 
are the kitchens ; here were several other offices, 
which have been taken down within the memory of 
persons now living." 

Grose, continuing, says, ''The chapel is dedi- 
cated to St. Etheldreda, and is a right-angled 
parallelogram, in length 91 and in breadth 39 feet, 
havino- at each anorle an octaoonal buttress, or turret, 
crowned with a conical cap or pinnacle. The east 
window is large and handsome ; on each side of it, 
as well as of those on the north front, are niches w4th 
pedestals for statues. The ornaments seem to have 
been carefully finished, but the whole building is at 
present greatly defaced by time and the weather. 
The inside is still very neat, and seems to have been 
lately repaired. The floor is about 10 to 12 feet 
above the level of the ground, and is supported by 
eight strong chestnut posts running from east to west 
under the centre of the buildino-. This forms a 
soMterrain or crypt, the size of the chapel, having six 
windows on the north, answering to as many niches 
on the south side. i\t present several windows are 
stopped up. The entrance into this place is through 
a small Gothic arch under the east window." 


El? CbapeU 

Of the venerable old episcopal residence of the 
Bishops of Ely, comprising the Palace, with its 
banqueting-hall, the Gate House, the double quad- 
rangle with its cloisters, court-yards and stables, 
nothing now remains but a few broken capitals and 
fragments preserved in the present cloister of St. 
Etheldreda as a memory of the past. The chapel 
alone has withstood for the most part the ravages of 
past ages, and stands now in all its strength as it 
stood six hundred years ago, to connect the present 
with the past. It appears to have been erected by 
Bishop de Luda, some time between 1290 and 1299, 
out of funds left him for the purpose by his predecessor 
William de Kirkeby. This opinion is endorsed by 
Sir Gilbert Scott, judging from the architecture alone. 
In any case we have documentary evidence, showing 
that the chapel was already in existence in 1303. In 
describing the sacred edifice, I shall largely avail 
myself of a valuable paper recently read at St. 
Etheldreda's, at a meeting of the Guild of St. 
Gregory and St. Luke, by a well-known architect, 
Mr. S. Nicholl, A.R.I.B.A. With the help of Mr. 
Nicholl's criticism, we shall be able to understand 
St. Etheldreda's, as it was in the past, as well as 
something of the beauty of its architecture. 

Ancient British Font "—St. Etheldreda's, Ely Place 


This ancient and beautiful structure, says Mr. 
Nicholl, must have stood out as beautiful even in the 
days when there was not an ugly building- in London, 
not a structure which did not delight the eye of the 
artist and craftsmen, a state , of things we can hardlv 
realize now. Even, then it was almost alone of its 
kind ; it is now in London quite peerless. For the 
sake of comparison with other though more sumptuous 
chapels, I will cite the Sainte Chapelle of Paris, 
and the Chapel of St. Stephen .in the Palace of 
Westminster, noting in the first place the dates of 
erection and the dimensions. 

The Sainte Ghapelle of Paris was erected by 
Saint Louis, as a shrine for the Relics of the Passion 
ceded to him by Baldwin IL The first stone was 
laid in 1245 ^^d the chapel was consecrated in 1246. 
The dimensions are about 108 feet in length by 35 in 
width. St. Etheldreda's,, next in date, from its style 
and '.some documentary evidence, appears to have 
been erected between 1290 and 1299, the internal 
dimensions of the upper chapel being 80 feet 5 inches 
by 29 feet 4 inches. St. Stephen's^ Westminster, is 
said to have been erected in pious emulation of the 
work of St. Louis. The foundation. was laid in 1292, 
and the work was continued until 1298, the period of 
the erection of St. Etheldreda's. The crypt of 

St. Stephen's, happily preserved, is of this period. 
The internal dimensions of the upper chapel were 
about 80 feet in length by 32 feet. When first 
erected it had proportions similar to those of St. 
Etheldreda's. Later on, in Edward the Third's time, 
it was gready aggrandized, how exactly it is not 
certain, but Mackenzie, who carefully surveyed the 

A 2 


structure after the fire, found what he considered to 
be evidences of a clerestory above the original and 
then existing walls. This upper portion, whatever it 
may have been, was considered unsafe by Sir C. 
Wren, and was taken down in 1692. 

Of Ely Place, the chapel alone is left to us. 
Westminster Hall stands with its noble roof, but St. 
Stephen's was so damaged by the fire that the upper 
chapel was cleared away, leaving us but the crypt and 
cloisters. It is here we may note that the three 
chapels I have cited were two-storied structures, not 
with sunken crypts, but with superstructures sufficient 
to raise the upper chapel well above the ground line. 
The use of the crypt of the Sainte Chapelle and of 
St. Stephen's was for worship, and, in that of Paris, 
the canons were interred. The use of St. Ethel- 
dreda's undercroft is doubtful. There was access to 
it from the cloister, which, was on the lower level, 
although it seems to have been blocked ofT when the 
plan was taken. The doorway shown in the north 
side, which might have served for externs, was 
probably made after the desecration, and there was a 
staircase leading upwards from the undercroft to the 
north-west entrance of the upper chapel. In the 
Harleian MSS. it is stated that even half of the 
vault or burying-place under the chapel is made use 
of as a public cellar, or was so very lately, to sell 
drink in, there having frequently been revelling heard 
during divine service. This was the state of things 
in the early seventeenth century. When the floor of 
the undercroft was lowered to its present level, 
skeletons were found buried there. 

The undercroft measures 78 feet 10 inches by 


2 5 feet. It is a plain quadrangle in plan, divided 
down the centre by a raw of wooden pillars, the lower 
portions of which were removed at the recent 
restoration, and stone pillars substituted. The lighting 
is by windows of two lights with trefoiled heads. 
The only structural evidence of usage is that in the 
south wall, both the east and west ends, where there 
are double aumbries of good dimensions and designs. 
I may here note that aumbries for the service of the 
altar are generally in the north side, opposite the 
sedilia. There are no traces of sedilia or of piscinae 
in the undercroft, although there is considerable 
thickening of the wall beneath the sedilia of the upper 
chapel, showing the clear intention from the com- 
mencement of the work to provide for them. I have 
already alluded to the entrances, and to the staircase 
in the north-west angle. There are two such stair- 
cases in the Paris Chapel. 

The access to the upper chapel was by stairs 
from the cloister which led up to the south doorway, 
which is still the entrance. Access was also obtained 
from the apartments which were formed over the 
cloister, by the same doorway. Opposite to the south 
doorway there is a doorway in the north wall of the 
same dimensions, indicating, perhaps, a processional 
path across the west end of the chapel, or an entrance 
for externs. The present internal appearance of the 
roof, intended as a restoration, is, of course, modern. 
I need not further allude to it, except to note that in 
one of the views of 1772 the greater portion of the roof 
appeals to have been flattened, only a small portion 
of the east end retaining the pitch of the gable. 

" At this point," says Mr. Bernard Whelan, the 

restorer of the ehurch, "it may be fitting for the pur- 
poses of the present Edition to break off these extracts 
from the Address of Mr. S. Nicholl- A.R.LB.A. As 
what is said about the internal appearance of the exist- 
ing roof of Saint Etheldreda s has been repeated in the 
several previous editions of this little work, it may be 
just to readers- that the opinion just expressed be 
retained in order that it may be contradicted : ' The 
present internal appearance of the roof intended as a 
restoration, is, of course,' ;^(9/ ' modern.' Doctor John- 
son had the grace to confess to ' sheer ignorance ' ; 
Mr. S. Nicholl can have the opportunity of following 
his good example. Never had the restorer of a dis- 
mantled building more precise indications of its original 
design than in the roof of Saint Etheldreda's. When 
recovered from the Welsh Episcopalians the chapel 
had a coved or segmental plaster ceiling ; this was 
quickly removed amid inconceivable filth, living and 
dead. The lath and plaster had been hung from the 
old coupled rafters : these were all in their places : they 
were of chestnut : they were eight inches by six inches, 
laid flatways, so that the greater thickness should be 
seen from below : a few of them were decayed : they 
were replaced in oak, as chestnut was not obtainable : 
many of the rafters were leaning towards one smother 
and had to be made straight ; this was because the 
somewhat primitive principle of the construction of the 
ancient roof had been destroyed, in order to get the 
snug-looking plaster ceiling. That was done by 
cuttmg aweiy the tie beams which supported the king 
post : this went up to the apex and carried the tidge 
pole which ran irom end to end of the building, 
supporting the topmost ends of the rafters : all these 

Entrance to the Church, South Doorway, 


perversely removed features were carefully replaced. 
Immediately beneath the wall plate which received 
the lower end of the rafters was found the rotting 
wood of the tie beams, chopped off flush with the 
wall : these beams proved to have been sixteen inches 
by twelve, again laid flatways : for these restored 
features Canadian oak was used as no other timber of 
sufficient scantling- was available. There was no 
guiding principle of design in the placing of the tie 
beams : they range with no feature of the stonework 
below : the whole roof is a framework of simple con- 
struction and of sufficiently noble dimensions made 
to protect walls of elaborate and original architecture : 
all ornament stops at the wall plate : it is a roof 
such as may be found above the groining in thirteenth 
century cathedrals of the highest rank : externally 
it provides the lofty line of ridge : while internally 
it is content with the dignity of solidity and usefulness. 
There is no continuity of design between the stone 
and the timber work ; in a building of the end of the 
thirteenth century this is a puzzle and a thing unique : 
superimposition is the only bond between roof and 
walls ; this fact may have deceived the critic when he 
imagined that 'the internal appearance of the roof, 
is, of course, modern.' The strange quality of Saint 
Etheldreda's is that it is a reversion to a principle of 
construction much earlier than its own period ; there 
is no counterpoise : it is purely static : there is no 
concentration of thrust on particular points ; hence 
the walls of the crypt are an even eight and those 
of the upper church an even six feet thick : on the 
summit of these are laid wall plates to carry a roof 
of evenly distributed weight : just below these were 

A ^ 


inserted, in haphazard fashion, horizontal tie beams 
merely as a matter of sound, though primitive, car- 
pentry : the absence of buttresses throughout is, some- 
what paradoxically, the outward and convincing mani- 
festation of this static theory of construction. Apart 
from all the details — in themselves sufficiently unusual 
— the originality of Saint Etheldreda's rests upon the 
fact that, on the verge of the fourteenth century, it was 
deliberately designed on a structural principle not later 
than the Romanesque. The grouping of the windows 
of the upper church with the intervening crocketed 
gablets was a novelty of well articulated design : the 
tracery and its cuspings are each sui gene^Hs : the pro- 
files of the mouldings have a bold delicacy, while the 
thick walls, displayed in the deep reveals, give them 
the desirable enhancement of plain surfaces. There 
is elsewhere no work by the architect of Saint 
Etheldreda's — not even at Ely." 

The windows are, fortunately, ample, so that 
though two of the side windows are blocked, and the 
great west window dimmed by adjacent buildings, there 
is little, if any, sense of gloominess. A remarkable 
and beautiful feature of the interior of St. Etheldreda's 
is the series of brackets and statues between the side 
windows. A similar arrangement exists in St. Louis's 
Chapel, the statues being of the twelve Apostles, each 
statue holding one of the consecrated crosses. The 
sedilia in St. Etheldreda's have long been destroyed, 
but a fragment of one of the divisions remains to 
mark the position ; and I have given to the Fathers 
at St. Etheldreda's a copy of a sketch made by Mr. 
Walt'ers of their remains as they existed before the 
restoration of the chapel, when a portion of their 


canopy had to be removed to make way for the 
present entrance from the house adjoining. With 
regard to the great east and west windows, I would 
call attention particularly to the lowness of the cill 
behind the altar, which is so marked as to have been 
used as an argument in favour of the absurd theory 
that the building was the hall and not the chapel. 

But the architects of this period considered the 
windows as paintings, just as appropriate as in a 
sunnier clime is the great wall painting of the Sistine 
Chapel. St. Etheldreda's is not a solitary example. 
The small chapel of St. John, at Northampton, has 
its east window^ similarly placed. The cill of the 
altar-end window of Gilston Parish Church is only four 
feet above the floor level. In the apsidal windows of 
the Paris Chapel the lower panels were of clear glass, 
so that when the king presented the relics to the view 
of the people, they could be seen from the outside in 
the court. 

There are a few relics of the old days in the chapel 
and precincts which are worthy of notice. Among 
them a holy water stoup which has been let into 
the wall near the crypt door, a large capitol of early 
EnMish desiofn will be found in the centre of the 
quadrangfe, and other loose stones, many of which 
probably formed part of the sedilia, have been placed 
in the cloister. Also the very ancient bowl apparently 
of granite, which now serves as a holy water stoup at 
the entrance of the church. It is of much earlier date 
than any portion of the existing structure, and was found 
buried in the centre of the undercroft. It is far too 
small to have been a baptismal font of its period. As 
it has been lined with lead since the restoration, we 


cannot say whether it is pierced for a drain or not ; 
if not pierced, it might have originally served its 
present purpose ; if pierced, it might have been a 
piscina. Sir Gilbert Scott, being asked his opinion of 
this ancient relic, replied, " You may call the bowl 
British or Roman, for it is older than the Saxon 
period ; " from which it is thought that it may have 
belonged to an ancient British Church, and as a 
sacred vessel no longer in use, it was buried according 
to Catholic custom, in order that it might not be 
desecrated to common uses. Father Lockhart, 
writing on this subject, makes the following con- 
jecture : — " Here, then stood not improbably the 
earliest Christian Church of London on this very spot, 
which was then a wild and wooded hill, outside the 
walls of the Roman City, like the British Church of 
St. Martin, just outside the walls of Canterbury. If 
so, it may have been here that the British Bishop of 
London, who afterwards attended the Council of 
Aries, received the news of the martyrdom of St. 
Alban, at Verulam on the outbreak of the persecution 
of Dioclesian, a.d. 303." In the porch there is a 
well-carved escutcheon of the Royal Arms of 
England, which in its day evidenced the Royal 
supremacy. It is of the date of Charles I. When 
the Fathers of Charity took possession of the chapel 
it was found hanging over the Communion-table, 
which took the place of the ancient altar. Of course 
it was taken down, but being a beautiful piece of 
oak carving, it was placed outside the church on the 
wall facing the south entrance. Under it is the 
following inscription, placed there by Father Lock- 
hart, the first Rector of St. Etheldreda's : "This 

Shrine of St. Elheldreda. 


emblem of the Royal supremacy was removed from 
the Church of St. Etheldreda when it was restored 
to the Roman obedience." In the centre of the 
cloister there is a carved capital of early form, of the 
origin of which I feel rather doubtful. It is credited 
as havino- belonoed to the cloisters. 

Havino- culled the above remarks, with a few 
exceptions suggested to me by the narrative, from 
Mr. Nicholl's excellent paper, although not always so 
exactly as to warrant my using inverted" commas, I now 
turn to consider the more modern aspect of St. 
Etheldreda's, as we see it since its restoration to 
Catholic worship, and now converted into a parish 

In the crypt Mass is said daily, in wintertime, the 
Blessed Sacrament being also reserved there, as well 
as in the upper church. The crypt is a favourite resort 
for numbers of Catholics from far and near. Some 
declare that they can say their prayers here better 
than anywhere they know. It is very unlike any 
other place of worship in London. You may kneel 
there and not hear a sound of the Holborn traffic. 
The walls are eight feet thick. The light admitted 
through the deep embrasures of the windows is 
tempered by the stained glass, which looks as if it 
were as old as the church, with its sea-^reen tints 
and medallions of saints, contemporaries of St. 
Etheldreda the Saxon Princess. The little lancet 
windows are painted mostly in grezaille, lighted up 
with enough of ruby, gold and blue to save them 
from monotony. Overhead are massive beams and 
rafters of oak wood, black with age. A centre 
row of dwarf pillars supports the struttings of the roof, 


on which rests the floor of the upper church. The 
crypt is divided into two aisles. At the end of each 
is a stone altar. The Confessionals occupy the deep 
embrasures of the windows on the north side, beino- 
separated off by heavy cedar screens. Against a pillar 
in the sanctuary, between the two altars, is a striking- 
figure of St. Bridget, brought hither when the old 
chapel in Baldwin's Gardens, was pulled down. On 
either side of the Sanctuary are the statues of Our 
Blessed Lady and St. Joseph. One of the altars is 
dedicated to the Sacred Heart, the confraternity of 
which has been erected at St. Etheldreda's. The 
canopy over the statue of Our Lord was recently erected 
in memory of Father Richard Bone, who succeeded 
Father Lockhart as Rector of the church, and died in 
1898. There is also a good organ in the crypt, and 
the evening services of the Confraternities of the Sacred 
Heart and of St. Joseph are held there. The first 
Mass on the restoration of this place to Catholic wor- 
ship was said in the crypt by His Eminence Cardinal 
Manning, June 23rd, 1876. 

Entering the upper church by the south door, 
the graceful proportions of the architecture completely 
satisfy the eye of the soul and fill it with delight. 
The first object that attracts attention is the beautiful 
Gothic screen at the west end of the church, the work 
of Mr. Bentley. The screen lightly sustains a choir 
gallery, where a new organ was recently built by 
Mr. Lewis, of Brixton. Both the screen and ororan 
are the gift of Mr. Edward Bellasis, Lancaster 
Herald, of the College of Arms. Along the west side 
of the screen are emblazoned the shields of the 
donor's family ; on the east side there are the arms 

of the reigning Pontift, the arms of England, of 
Cardinal Vaughan, of the first Bishops of the Sees of 
London and Ely, as also the arms of Father Lockhart, 
the restorer of the church, and of Rosmini, the Founder 
of the Institute of Charity. The eastern window is 
said to be one of the most beautiful in England, and is 
larger than any in London. The glass of the window 
is very fine, with its gem-like mosaic character, its 
canopies and enrichments. The upper part of the 
tracery is filled with imagery of angels with their 
instruments of music clustered round the figure of 
the Archangel Michael, who is hurling the great red 
dragon from his place of pride. The principal figure 
filling the central space over the altar is that of Our 
Lord, crowned and robed as our High Priest and 
King, His right hand raised in the act of blessing. To 
the right hand of Our Lord stands His Blessed Viroin 
Mother, on the left St. Joseph. The two outer lights 
of the window on either side are occupied by figures 
of St. Etheldreda and St, Bridget. This window 
is the gift of His Grace the Duke of Norfolk, in 
memory of his sister Etheldreda. The selection of 
the figures in the window is to commemorate the 
two well-beloved old Catholic Chapels of the Missions 
of the Holy Family in Saffron Hill, and of St. 
Bridget in Baldwin's Gardens, and which are now 
united in the parish of Ely Place. The stained glass 
window was the work of Messrs. Saunders & Co. 
Before we quit the eastern window, we must glance 
at the altar and the exquisite spire of its throne, all in 
alabaster. Beneath the altar is a gilded and jewelled 
reliquary, containing many relics of saints, but 
especially a portion of the incorrupt hand of St. 


Etheldreda. This relic has a history. About a 
century ago, in pulling- down an old farmhouse in 
Sussex, on the estate of the Duke of Norfolk, the 
workmen came upon a hollow place behind a wall 
which led to a small cell, evidently a priest's hiding- 
place in the days of persecution. In a niche in the 
wall of the cell they discovered a quantity of things 
which had evidently belonged to a priest. Among 
them was found, carefully wrapped around with 
linen cloths, what seemed to be a model of a beau- 
tiful female hand carved in ivory. Around the 
wrist was a cuff in silver gilt, and on it an inscription 
in characters of the ninth century — ReliquicE S, 
Etheldredce RegincB et Virgmis. These relics were 
taken to the Duke of Norfolk, who made them a 
present to his agent, Mr. Harting. When his daughter 
took the veil as a nun in the Dominican Convent, 
at Stone, in Staffordshire, Mr. Harding presented the 
relic to the convent. When St. Etheldreda's Church 
was restored to Catholic worship. Bishop Ullathorne, 
of Birminoham, in whose diocese the convent is 
situated, detached with his own hands a portion 
of the relic, which was duly attested and sealed 
with the episcopal seal. Father Lockhart went to 
Stone to receive it, and it was then placed in the 
reliquary here under the high altar, where it is still 

The shrine of Saint Etheldreda will be found on 
the north side of the Sanctuary. 

An altar of oak, carved and painted, is set beneath 
the statue of the vSaint. She stands, clothed in 
garments showing her double dignity of Queen and 
Abbess, and holding in her hand her miraculous staff ; 


Foundress of Ely, there rests on her left arm, the 
model of her religious house. 

The west window, the tracery of which is also 
very beautiful, is even larger than that at the east 
end of the church. The stained glass is by John 
Hardman, and represents the martyrs who suffered 
under the tyranny of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth. 
The Carthusian Fathers of Parkminster and Mr. 
Middlemore have been generous contributors. Fore- 
most among the martyrs are the figures of Blessed 
John Fisher and Blessed Thomas More filling the 
centre light. Our Lady Queen of Martyrs at the foot 
of the Cross supporting the dead body of her 
crucified Son is represented immediately above them. 
On either side are depicted the Carthusian 
martyrs from the Charterhouse, in our near neigh- 
bourhood, who were executed at Tyburn, as also 
their brethren of the York Charterhouse, executed in 
that city, the former being the first victims of Henry 
VIII. The window yet remains incomplete from want 
of funds. The complete design is in the hands of 
Messrs. Hardman of Birmingham: Coming now to the 
side windows, all of which are filled in with stained glass, 
in part the work of Mr. Worrall, five of them were the 
gift of Mr. Edward Bellasis, one was presented by Mr. 
Edwin de Lisle, and another by the Rev. G. Dunn, 
as may be seen from the inscriptions under each of 
the windows. The subjects of the eight side windows 
may be summarised as follows : — ist. The creation 
and fall of the angels. 2nd. The creation, fall and 
banishment of Adam and Eve. 3rd. The sacrifice of 
Abel, the death of Abel, flio^ht of Cain, the flood, and 
Noah's sacrifice. 4th. The Tower of Babel, call of 


Abraham, his offering to Melchisedeck, and sacrifice 
of Isaac. 5th. Jacob's ladder, the sale of Joseph, 
the Paschal Lamb in Egypt, and passage of the Red 
Sea. 6th. The law given on Mount Sinai, the 
Manna, Brazen Serpent, and the crossing of the 
Jordan. 7th. The promise to David, the Temple of 
Solomon, the Captivity and the Return. 8th. The 
Birth of Our Lord and the Christian Sacrifice of 
Calvary and of the Altar seen in vision by the 

In the sanctuary, near the south entrance, there 
is a beautiful brass commemorative tablet dedicated 
to the memory of Father Lockhart, by whom this 
beautiful monument of antiquity was acquired. The 
inscription runs thus : — 

311 flDemoriaiiL 

William Lockhart, B.A. Oxon., Priest of the 
Order of Charity, founded by Rosmini, Rector of this 
Mission, a man of great kindliness of judgment, and 
loyalty to truth. Friend and disciple of Manning and 
Newman, he preceded both in the great act of their 
lives. By his instrumentality this ancient chapel of 
the Bishops of Ely, wherein later in times of persecu- 
tion, as a Catholic embassy chapel, the Holy Mass 
found for a while an inviolable sanctuary, was in 
(a.d.) 1876 restored to the old religion of an undivided 
Christendom. Born 22 August, 1819 ; died May, 

On whose Soul Sweet Jesus have Mercy. 


St ietbel5ret)a.^ 

St. Etheldreda or Audrey was born in the middle 
of the seventh century, about the year 630, at Exning 
in Suffolk, a villaore which is now almost a suburb of 
Newmarket. She was a daughter of Anna, the 
Christian king of East Anglia. In a green shady 
meadow just outside the village, surrounded by giant 
elms, are still to be seen the five springs and the clear 
purling brook in which the future Queen and Saint 
was baptised by St. Felix, the First Bishop of Dun- 
wich. When she grew up she was, with much reluct- 
ance on her part, married to Tonbert, a prince of East 
Anglia, who bestowed upon her the Isle of Elge, or 
Ely, as her dowry. However, the pious princess, who 
was greatly honoured and reverenced by her husband 
for her singular sanctity, obtained from him after the 
marriage his formal consent to her taking a vow of 
virginity during their union. Two years later, in 654, 
her father Anna was killed in battle with Penda, the 
powerful King of Mercia. A year later her husband 
Tonbert died, and the widowed princess retired to her 
demesne at Ely, evidently intending to devote the 
remainder of her life solely to religion. Her pious 
mother, St. Hereswyda, had already retired to the 
convent of Chelles, near Paris. Her three sisters also, 
St. Sexburga, St. Ethelburga, and St. Withburga, all at 
different periods withdrew from the world, and even- 
tually, like their mother St. Hereswyda and St. Ethel- 

* In compiling this sketch of St. Etheldreda"s life the author has availed 
himself greatly of Dean Stubb's " Historical Memorials of Ely Cathedral," 1897. 


dreda, were recognised by the Church amongst the 
number of Her canonised Saints. Etheldreda's widow- 
hood lasted five years. Then her father's ancient 
enemy, Penda, the Mercian king, was conquered and 
slain at Wynwred, near Leeds, by Oswy, of North- 
umberland, and the supremacy of the great heathen 
kingdom of central England was thus broken. With 
the ruin of Mercia the two Christian kingdoms of 
Northumbria and East Anglia drew together. The 
union was cemented by the marriage of the scions 
of the two royal houses. Oswy's son Ecgfrid 
was married to St. Etheldreda, Anna's daughter, 
and our Saint again prevailed with her second 
husband, even as she had done before with Tonbert ; 
so that during the whole of his life also she still 
preserved that virginal integrity which had always 
been so dear to her. In 670 Ecgfrid came to the 
throne, and seems then to have wanted to withdraw 
from the pledge he had given St. Etheldreda. He 
therefore consulted St. Wilfrid, Archbishop of York, 
hoping to prevail upon him to use his influence with 
our Saint to get her to meet his wishes. St. Wilfrid 
gave him no support, but rather helped to confirm 
the resolutions of the Queen, until finally he 
obtained from the King the promise that he would 
abandon his design, and allow Etheldreda to 
retire into a convent. Now, in order to understand 
the conduct of the Queen in this matter, we must 
remember that her freedom in these marriages 
was very doubtful, and that freedom is essential 
for the validity of the marriage contract. More- 
over, according to the law of the Catholic Church, 
even supposing freedom to have existed, a vow 

The Cloister. 

made to God by either party to enter religion 
suffices to dissolve the contract, provided only 
the marriage has not as yet been fully consum- 
mated. Such appears to have been precisely the 
case with St. Etheldreda. Add to this also the 
formal consent of her husband allowing our Saint to 
vow to God her virginity : a consent which having once 
been given by him could not lawfully be withdrawn 
after she had made her vow. So, being released from 
her marriage, which had never been consummated, 
she set out at once to Coldingham, there to take the 
veil at the hands of St. Wilfrid. But soon Ecgfrid 
seems to have repented of letting Etheldreda go so 
easily, for he gathered together a band of followers to 
take his Queen from the convent by force. By the 
counsel of Ebba the abbess there, who was the King's 
aunt, Etheldreda fled southwards to find refuge in 
her old home at Ely. There she arrived, after 
encountering many perils, and after many miracles 
had been wTOught in her favour. Concerning this 
journey, it is related in the Liber Eliensis that the 
'' Queen, going forth secredy with two handmaids 
of God. Sewenna and Seware. came to a lofty hill 
situated not far from the monastery, which she 
ascended. But God, who commands the winds and 
the waves and they obey Him, does not forsake those 
that put their trust in Him, and so by His command, 
as we believe, the sea leaving its natural channel, and 
pouring out its waters abundantly, surrounded the 
hill on which the holy virgins had taken refuge ; and, 
so we are told by the inhabitants of the place, for 
seven whole days, while they continued in prayer, 
and without food or drink, the tide protected them. 


and what is most wonderful, forgetting its accustomed 
ebb, it tarried there as long as the King remained. 
And so the handmaiden of Christ, secure in her rocky 
eminence, escaped the wrath of the King, and 
suffered no hurt from him." After the departure of 
the king, Etheldreda, with her two companions, 
Sewenna and Seware, proceeded on their journey. 
She crossed the Humber at Wintringham, and left 
instructions for the building of a church at Alftham, 
where it was afterwards erected. From Alftham, the 
pilgrims continued their flight on foot through byeways 
and lanes. The chronicler relates that one day, 
"tired with the long jburney and overcome with the 
heat, the Queen lies down by the wayside to rest, and 
she sleeps, watched by her two faithful handmaidens. 
And lo ! when she awakes from her sleep she finds 
that her pilgrim's staff, which she had fixed in the 
ground by her side dead and dry, had put forth 
branches clothed with green bark, and bearing 
leaves." ''This staff," says the monk Thomas, her 
historian, "became an ash tree, and is the greatest of 
all the trees in that province ; and the place where it 
grew is to this day called Responsatio EtheldredcE ; 
and there is now built a church in honour of the 
Blessed Virgin to the praise of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, who is venerated in His Saints." A description 
of these miracles may still to this day be seen on 
the corbels that support the dome of Alan de 
Walsingham's fourteenth century octagon. 

Arrived at Ely, the Queen, in 673, founded there 
her celebrated Abbey, and afterwards also a monastery 
of monks in the neighbourhood, both of which she 
governed. At that time it was not unusual for both 


a monastery and a convent to be governed by the same 
authority. Thus there was St. Bridget at Kildare, while 
in Normandy there was the Abbess at Chelles, where 
St. Etheldreda's mother had taken refuge, and there was 
also the celebrated St. Hilda ; and all these governed 
both monks and nuns. It was natural, therefore, that 
Etheldreda's foundation at Ely should be on the same 
model, i.e., with a house for the monks and one for 
the nuns, both being under the rule of the Abbess. 

The life of St. Etheldreda as Abbess was a short 
one. In the sixth year of her rule at Ely she was 
attacked by the plague, and after three days' illness 
died on the 23rd of June, 679, "being taken to the 
Lord in the midst of her people," as Ven. Bede her 
historian, says, "and just as she had herself ordered, 
she was buried not elsewhere than amono- them in a 
wooden coffin." Sixteen years later her sister, St. 
Sexburga, the widowed Queen of Kent, who had 
succeeded her as Abbess, removed her body, which 
was found to be marvellously protected from corrup- 
tion, from the grave, and placed it in a white marble 
sarcophagus. St. Bede says that "the coffin in which 
she was at first buried was a means of cure to some 
who were afflicted in their eyes, who, when they had 
put their heads to the same coffin and prayed, 
presently were relieved of the discomfort of pain, or 
dimness in their eyes. They washed, therefore, the 
body of the virgin, and having put on it new garments, 
took it into the church, and placed it in that sarco- 
phagus which had been brought, where even to this 
day it is held in great veneration. Indeed, in a 
wonderful manner the sarcophagus was found fitted 
for the body of the virgin, just as if it had been 


specially prepared for it ; and the place for the head, 
worked as a separate part, appeared most aptly- 
shaped to the measure of the head." (Bede, Hist. 
EccL, iv. 19.) This first translation of St. Audrey 
took place on the 17th October, 695, when the marble 
shrine with its sacred relics found its resting-place by 
the Hio-h Altar of the Convent Church. 

About the year 1080 the foundations of the new 
church at Ely, which, during the next four centuries, 
gradually grew into the Cathedral, as we know it 
to-day, were laid by Abbot Simon. It was so far 
completed in 1106 that the second translation of St. 
Audrey was effected with great pomp and ceremony, 
Herbert of Losinga, the Bishop of Norwich, preaching 
on the occasion on the life, death and miracles of the 
Saint. A third time the shrine was moved, when 
Hugo de Northwold's splendid Presbytery was added 
to Abbot Simon's choir. Into this noble presbytery, 
on the 15th October, 1252, in the presence of King 
Henry II. and his son, and many of the leading 
nobles and prelates of the kingdom, the shrine of St. 
Etheldreda and of the three other Abbesses, and the 
shrine of St. Alban were removed a few feet eastward 
from their position in the Norman choir, and the 
whole church completed as we have it to-day was 
re-dedicated in honour of St. Etheldreda, St. Mary, 
and St. Peter. There it remained until the time of 
the so-called Reformation, when all relics, shrines, 
imaoes, etc., were ordered to be demolished and 


dispersed. It has already been told how a hand of 
the Saint, still incorrupt, escaped the general destruc- 
tion, and is now preserved in the Dominican Convent 
at Stone, and how a portion of it reposes in the 

Original North Doorway. 


reliquary under the high altar of St. Etheldreda's, 
Ely Place, Holborn. 


St, ]etbelbrc5a'0 parteb. 

The Catholic parish of St. Etheldreda's, Ely 
Place, covers a considerable area, being situated 
partly in the City, partly in Holborn, and partly in 
Clerkenwell. It extends east and west from Newgate 
Street to Gray's Inn Road, to the south along the 
Thames from Paul's Pier to the Temple Gardens, and 
is bounded to the north by the Clerkenwell Road as 
far as the railway bridge. This parish includes some 
of the most poverty-stricken districts in all London, 
and we find, according to the report of Mr. Booth, 
that the distress is orreater in this neio^hbourhood than 
even at the East-end. There are a number of courts, 
alleys, and slums of the worst kind hidden away in 
the vicinity of the Central Meat Market and at the 
back of Farringdon Street Railway Station, not to 
speak of the district covered by Leather Lane and its 
adjacent courts, as also Shoe Lane and Saffron Hill. 
The latter is known to all readers of Dickens as the 
home of the ''Artful Dodger" and '' Fagin the Jew." 
And although the thieves' kitchens and certain 
doubtful pawnbroking establishments, where silk 
handkerchiefs supplied by the pocket-picking gentry 


might be purchased cheap, have long since dis- 
appeared, yet there remain a number of poor 
tenements that have not yet been pulled down, in 
spite of what has recently been done to clear out our 
poor people. Still, there are thousands of poor Irish 
in this neighbourhood belonging to the districts of 
Ely Place, Back Hill, and Lincoln's Inn Fields. 
And but a few years ago, before the wholesale pulling 
down of entire streets, courts, and alleys had begun, 
there w^ere between three and four thousand of these 
people in our own district alone. But now their 
numbers are greatly reduced owing to the causes 
above assigned, so that we now put down our poor 
Catholic population at less than six hundred souls. 

We do not rely to any extent on lady visitors 
amongst our Catholic poor, who expect to see the 
priest himself often at their homes. They would 
rather resent the kind advice freely offered by zealous 
visiting ladies anxious to improve their moral 
condition, and to see that they discharged their 
religious duties and came to church regularly. But 
they look for and appreciate the visits of the priest, 
and are always glad to see him, though he may have 
nothing to give except a kind word. When he calls, 
sittinor down amongst them he at once makes himself 
at home, listens to all they have to say, and makes 
enquiries about them. He knows each of them by 
name and all about them, for he fully possesses their 
confidence. He generally wants to know if there are 
any new arrivals of Catholics in the same court or in 
the house ; for in each house there are always several 
families. It is not an uncommon thing for a family 
to occupy only one room, and that, too, a small one. 


But the poor have generally two small rooms for 
which they pay five or six shillings per week. We 
sometimes witness heartrending scenes of poverty 
and misery ; little children only half-clad, dirty, and 
neglected, huddled together in a small dark room, 
fireless and miserable, and looking thin and wan and 
emaciated from want. This happens particularly in 
homes where intemperance prevails. Some of these 
people live in a state of chronic poverty, and it is 
difficult to know how to help them. But drink has 
generally something to do with that. Such people 
never stay very long in any place ; they are constantly 
shifting ; they get evicted, their things are put into 
the streets, but they manage to borrow enough to get 
a room somewhere near, and get along somehow for 
a time. Certainly the poor are exceedingly generous 
to one another in times of distress like this. They 
will give lodging and food to an outcast w^hom they 
happen to know^ and will make a collection amongst 
themselves out of their poverty to help one another to 
pay the expenses of a funeral, if the deceased happened 
not to be in a club, or insured in the '' Prudential." 
Some of our young women are flower-girls or fruit- 
sellers. They may be seen with their baskets at 
Regent Circus, Tottenham Court Road, near the 
General Post Office, or at the Royal Exchange, 
busily engaged in making up flowers for the button- 
holes of smart young men. They are most of them 
very good, and sometimes bring flowers for the church 
for the adornment of the altars. Their fathers and 
brothers, some of them, are hawkers of cheap fruit, 
and they generally do very well. One of the best 
ways of helping these people is to stock them with a 


barrow, or basket of fruit. A few of the very poorest 
gain a miserable living by hawking penny toys and 
novelties, which I have seen them making by them- 
selves at home. Others are newsvendors or porters 
in the Meat Market, or employed in factories and 
warehouses, while a few who are more fortunate 
exercise a craft, or keep a small shop. 

We have a Girls' Guild for our young women 
called the Guild of St. Etheldreda, having for its 
object to bring together of an evening, several times a 
week, for purposes of recreation, the work girls of the 
parish after their day's toil. They have the use of a 
room in the Saffron Hill School where they meet 
together, bringing with them generally their sewing, 
which gives them light occupation, while they converse 
pleasantly together. Sometimes they are entertained 
with a little music, or an interesting book is read to 
them, or they get up recitations and songs. This 
Guild is under the charge of one of the nuns, who 
sits with them of an evening and endeavours to amuse 
them. I may mention here that the Sisters of 
Providence have a flourishing upper school for young 
ladies living in the neighbourhood. Their Convent is 
at 28 Ely Place, opposite the Church. 

Our schools of course are the special object of our 
care and solicitude. They are situated in Saffron Hill 
where we have over two hundred and fifty children. 

Our schools under the Board of Education for 
many years never failed to earn the highest Go- 
vernment grants. When the Education Acts of 1902 
and 1903 was passed they came of course under the 
control of the London County Council. Under the 
present arrangement the school is maintained out of 



^ r 




the public rates to v.hlch ratepayers of all religious 
denominations contribute in proportion to their num- 
bers. But we Catholics unjustly enough have not only 
to contribute the school buildings at our own expense, 
we have to maintain them also. Moreover as a con- 
dition of their being taken over at all, we have had to 
undertake very extensive and expensive alterations of 
our school buildings to meet the requirements of the 
Council. Our schools therefore always have been and 
probably always will be a heavy expense to us, and 
hence the need of voluntary subscriptions. To find 
the necessary funds we have recourse to various ex- 
pedients. First of all w^e have an annual November 
concert at the Holborn Town Hall, w^hlch Is generally 
considered a great success. The proceeds go to the 
schools. Then we have a school collector, who 
collects at the church one Sunday In the month. 
This work of collecting for the schools, was carried 
on for fifty-five years by Mr. Cornelius Donovan, 
whose death in November 1910 was a great loss to 
us. He was a verv o-enlal old man of the workinof 
class. Everybody in the neighbourhood knew him 
and loved him. All recognised his pleasant face, his 
courteous invitation, the rattle of his money-box, and 
his innocent chaff and humbug. Few who knew the 
man could get away from that box without dropping 
something Into it when Donovan pleaded for the 
children. It Is estimated that during the past fifty 
years this working-man collected uDt less than ;/^2000, 
or 480,000 pennies. May he rest in peace. Then, 
besides the collecting-box, we ourselves are constantly 
asking our friends to help us, and nearly all that is 
given us for our own disposal goes to the schools, 


which are a perpetual drain upon our resources. 
The children of the schools get an annual outing to the 
country, and this involves an annual expense which 
has to be met by voluntary contributions to the school 
funds. Owing to subscriptions sent in by or through 
us to the '* fresh air fund," we are enabled to send from 
seventy to ninety of them for a fortnight every year 
to the country. Lastly, I must not forget to say, with 
very great gratitude, that the Robin Society for years 
past, as I hope it will always continue to do for the 
future, provides the school children, and any poor waifs 
and strays from the gutters we can bring in, with an 
excellent tea at Christmas-time in our own school-rooms 
at Saffron Hill. God grant that our schools for which 
we have made so many and so heavy sacrifices may be 
preserved to us in the future ! 

But the centre of attraction in the parish is, 
•of course, the Church, where our people gather on 
Sundays and week-days for their religious devotions. 
And certainly there is many a congregation in the 
West-end that might envy our poor people their 
beautiful old church of St. Etheldreda's, Ely Place, 
which for centuries has been one of the sights of 
old London. The church is frequented by Catholic 
visitors staying at the neighbouring hotels, as well as 
by others attracted by the solemnity and decorum 
with which the services are carried out. There is an 
excellent choir of men and boys, the music is of 
a high class and the singing exceptionally good, St. 
Etheldreda's choir beino- well known as one of the 
leading ones of London. 

Solemn High Mass is sung here every Sunday 
morning, and Vespers are chanted in the evening. 


On week-days two Masses are said every morning. 
Particulars of the hours of the services will be found 
in the annexed horary. The Presbytery is at No. 
14 Ely Place, adjoining the church, and there are 
two resident priests to look after the parish and 
the works of charity connected with it. 



St. Etbelbreba'8 Catholic (Tburcb 

£1? ipiace, 1l)oIboin Circus 

(The Gates of Ely Place face the Circus). 

flDoining Ser\>ice6 

Week Days 

Holy Mass 


7.15, 8. 


Holy Mass 


7, 8, 9, 10. 


Holy Mass 


8, 10. 

High Mass, 

II. 15. 

Wednesday and Friday. Benediction 
at 1. 15 p.m. 

N.B. — Priests wishing to say Mass at 
St. Etheldreda's are requested to 
give notice the day before at the 
Presbytery adjoining the Church, 
that arrangements may be made 
for their convenience. 

Evcniiuj Services 

Sundays Week Days PIolidays 


Sermon and 


at 7. 

Sermon and 
on Tuesdays 
and Fridays 


Sermon and 


at 8. 

at 8. 

Catechism and Benediction on Sunday 
afternoons at 3.30. 

Baptisms at 4 o'clock. 

N.B. — Confessions in English, French, 
and Italian, are heard in the Crypt 
on Saturdays from 6.30 to 9.30 p.m. 
Also during the Masses and on 
special application at the Presbytery 
during the morning and afternoon 
On the eve of the great festivals, 
Confessions are heard from 7 in the 





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Jift/ielrcdcL, w c. 


OCT 95