The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:
Open location in Google Maps: 51.512880, -0.106789
wisteria53 • Link
There is a decorative tiled wall on what was once Whitefriars Street ("White Fryers" on the map below - near the circled number 1), with an overview of printing/press local history. This is still a public right of way between two joined up modern buildings (which front onto Fleet Street and Temple Street) and worth having a look at if you're in the area.
Whitefriars, a precinct or liberty, between Fleet Street and the Thames, the Temple walls and Water Lane. Here was the White Friars' Church, called "Fratres Beatae Mariae de Monte Carmeli," first founded by Sir Richard Gray in 1241. Among the benefactors were King Edward I., who gave the ground; Hugh Courtenay, Earl of Devon, who rebuilt the church; and Robert Marshall, Bishop of Hereford, who built the choir, presbytery, and steeple. The church was surrendered at the Reformation, and in place thereof were "many fair houses built, lodgings for noblemen and others." The hall was used as the first Whitefriars Theatre (1609). The privileges of sanctuary, continued to this precinct after the Dissolution, were confirmed and enlarged in 1608 by royal charter. Fraudulent debtors, gamblers, prostitutes, and other outcasts of society made it a favourite retreat. Here they formed a community of their own, adopted the language of pickpockets, openly resisted the execution of every legal process, and extending their cant terms to the place they lived in, new-named their precinct by the wellknown appellation of Alsatia, after the province which formed a debateable land between Germany and France.
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.
British History Online describes the ribald story of Whitefriars at
The highlights to me are Walter Scott's description of the slums of Whitefriars. He lived from 1771 – 1832, so he was using his imagination when he wrote "The Fortunes of Nigel":
"The wailing of children, ... the scolding of their mothers, the miserable exhibition of ragged linen hung from the windows to dry, spoke the wants and distresses of the wretched inhabitants; while the sounds of complaint were mocked and overwhelmed by the riotous shouts, oaths, profane songs, and boisterous laughter that issued from the alehouses and taverns, which, as the signs indicated, were equal in number to all the other houses; and that the full character of the place might be evident, several faded, tinseled, and painted females looked boldly at the strangers from their open lattices, or more modestly seemed busied with the cracked flower-pots, filled with mignonette and rosemary, which were disposed in front of the windows, to the great risk of the passengers."
Thomas Shadwell’s play, “The Squire of Alsatia” (Alsatia being the nickname for Whitefriars) premiered on 3 May, 1688. It ends with a dignified protest, which doubtless proved effective with the audience, against the privileges of places that harbored such scoundrels.
"Was ever,” Shadwell asks, "such impudence suffered in a Government? Ireland conquered; Wales subdued; Scotland united. But there are some few spots of ground in London, just in the face of the Government, unconquered yet, that hold in rebellion still. Mèthinks 'tis strange that places so near the king's palace should be no part of his dominions. 'Tis a shame in the society of law to countenance such practices. Should any place be shut against the king's writ or posse comitatus?"
William III must have agreed with Shadwell, for at the end of his reign the privilege of sanctuary was taken from Whitefriars, and the dogs were at last let in on the rats for whom they had been so long waiting.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.