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City Walk and Supper

At 6 o’clock on the 6th July 15 Bowyers and their 5 guests gathered at St Nicholas Cole Abbey, a church that was for a long time the meeting place for the Bowyers, and the church in which our great benefactor James Wood is buried. We then drank a toast to James Wood at his memorial plaque in the church and ventured out on our City walk.

The weather threatened rain but remained dry and the convivial Bowyers party was admirably led by Past Master Tony Kench.

Briefly stopping at the site of the short-lived pre-Fire Upholders' Hall on St Peter’s Hill, where the Bowyers probably met between 1651 and 1666, the party moved on to Ludgate Hill. It was here on Ludgate Hill which in the 1300s was known as 'Bowyer Row' that the Company most probably has its origins. This was home to the Bowyers when the first big military longbow orders in London were placed by Edward III in the 1330s and 1340s (prior to the Battle of Crécy in 1346) and was where the Bowyers' Company came into existence between 1356 (the Black Prince's victory at Poitiers) and 1363 (our first known mention in the tax rolls).

The party then moved away from Ludgate Hill and followed the line of the City Wall round to Monkwell Square, by London Wall at Cripplegate, where Bowyers' Hall stood between the mid-1400s and the late 1500s. The Hall showed on old maps as a sizeable building that would have accommodated 20-30 working bowmakers. As demand for longbows steadily declined, the Bowyers moved to smaller premises nearby, which became known as Bowyers Court, leased from the Salters' Company from 1561 till the move to St Peter's Hill in 1651. The City of London has indicated its agreement in principle, to a Blue Plaque marking the approximate site of the 16th century Bowyers' Hall. Its location, described in Stow's 1598 Survey of London, is now occupied by the private modern town houses of Monkwell Square and the proposal is that the plaque will be displayed on a building across the road belonging to the City Corporation.

The last part of the walk took us through the Barbican to the site of Grub Street (now Milton Street), which in the 1500s was where bows were bought and sold conveniently for the nearby Finsbury Fields archery practice grounds, which stretched north to Islington.

Finally, the group enjoyed a wonderful Italian meal at a traditional family-run Italian, Baracca in Whitecross Street. Many thanks to Tony Kench for an enlightening and hugely enjoyable evening.

David Laxton
Master

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