The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.515937, -0.097034


This text was copied from Wikipedia on 21 November 2022 at 6:01AM.

St. Martin's Le Grand looking south. The Post Office, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Bull & Mouth Inn, London in 1829. Engraved by G.J. Emblem after Thomas Allom.[1]

St. Martin's Le Grand is a former liberty within the City of London, and is the name of a street north of Newgate Street and Cheapside and south of Aldersgate Street. It forms the southernmost section of the A1 road.

The St Martin's Le Grand area on an 1875 Ordnance Survey map.

College of canons and collegiate church

To the east of the road in medieval times stood a college of secular canons of ancient origin, with a collegiate church dedicated to St Martin of Tours. The institution was situated in the City of London parish of St Leonard, Foster Lane.[2]

According to a somewhat dubious tradition, the college and church dated to the 7th or 8th century and was founded by King Wihtred of Kent.[3][4] It was, more certainly, rebuilt or founded about 1056 by two brothers, Ingelric and Girard, during the reign of Edward the Confessor. Its foundation was confirmed by a charter of William the Conqueror, dating to 1068.[5][6]

The church was responsible for the sounding of the curfew bell in the evenings, which announced the closing of the city's gates. It also had certain rights of sanctuary; these persisted until 1697 and, as such, made the locality a notorious haven for malefactors. One who sought sanctuary here was Miles Forrest, one of the reputed murderers of the Princes in the Tower.[5]

The college was taken over by Westminster Abbey in 1503 as part of the endowment granted for the upkeep of the Henry VII Chapel. This was an arrangement allowing the abbey to appropriate the college's revenues, and did not make the latter a monastery.[7]


As the property of a monastery, the college was dissolved by King Henry VIII and demolished for redevelopment in 1548.

However, the link with Westminster Abbey meant that the precinct was subsequently regarded as part of the borough of Westminster, and as a liberty: a district outside the jurisdiction of the legal officers of the City of London. The inhabitants voted in the Westminster borough elections up to the Reform Act 1832,[8] and the liberty was regarded as an exclave of Middlesex.[9]

This was despite an Act of Parliament of 1815 annexing the liberty to the Aldersgate Ward of the City of London when the site was earmarked for a new General Post Office.[10]

General Post Office

The General Post Office established its headquarters on the site of the monastic precinct in 1829, after the 1815 Act authorised the project. From here mail coaches departed for destinations across the country. Coaches bound for the north went up St Martin's Le Grand through Aldersgate – the first section of the Great North Road (now the A1 route) to York and Edinburgh.[11] It replaced the previous starting point at Hicks Hall in Smithfield Market. The Post Office building, a Neoclassical design by Robert Smirke, was demolished in 1911 and replaced by new premises immediately to the west, on the former site of Christ's Hospital school.[12]

Junction of St Martin's Le Grand and Gresham Street

French Protestant chapel

French Protestant chapel (demolished 1888)

A French Protestant chapel stood on the west side on the corner with Bull and Mouth Street from 1842 until 1888, when it was demolished to make way for new and expanded post office buildings.

Wireless development

Guglielmo Marconi and his assistant George Kemp successfully demonstrated the wireless telegraphy system between two Post Office buildings on 27 July 1896. A transmitter was placed on the roof of the Central Telegraph Office on Newgate Street and a receiver on the roof of the General Post Office South on Carter Lane. The distance between the two buildings was 300 metres (yards). Later that year the Post Office provided funding for Marconi to conduct further experiments on Salisbury Plain.[13] There is a plaque at the transmitter site (now the BT Centre),[14] but no such marker on the building at the receiver site in Carter Lane.

Transport links

The nearest London Underground station is St Paul's, at the southern end of the street.


  1. ^ The Post Office, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Bull & Mouth Inn, London in 1829. Government Art Collection. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  2. ^ Town & City Historical Maps: Map of Medieval London 2019
  3. ^ Walter Besant (1906) Medieval London, Vol II: 234
  4. ^ History of London (1878) by Walter Thornbury
  5. ^ a b Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (1983) The London Encyclopedia: 735
  6. ^ Dictionary of City of London Street Names ISBN 0-7153-4880-9
  7. ^ "British History Onlie, St Martin's Le Grand". Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  8. ^ Stanley, A. P: Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey 1869 p. 398
  9. ^ County Boundary. Returns from Clerks of the Peace of Insulated Parcels of Land in the Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons Vol 21 1825, own page numbers p. 12.
  10. ^ Kempe, A. J: Historical Notices of the Collegiate Church Or Royal Free Chapel and Sanctuary of St. Martin-le-Grand, London 1825 p. 172
  11. ^ Norman Webster (1974) The Great North Road: 17
  12. ^ Davies, Philip (2009). Lost London 1870–1945. Croxley Green: Transatlantic Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-9557949-8-8.
  13. ^ postalheritage (20 July 2009). "Guglielmo Marconi and the Post Office". The British Postal Museum & Archive. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  14. ^ "GPO West Index". Retrieved 12 November 2016.

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′59″N 0°5′49″W / 51.51639°N 0.09694°W / 51.51639; -0.09694

2 Annotations

Bill  •  Link

Martin's (St.) Lane, the street which, since the rebuilding of the City after the Great Fire, has been called St. Martin's-le-Grand.

Martin's (St.) Le Grand, a collegiate church and sanctuary, on the site of the General Post Office (no traces remain), founded or enlarged by Ingelric, Earl of Essex, and Girard, his brother, in 1056, and confirmed by a charter of William the Conqueror in 1068. It stood within the walls of the City of London, but was a liberty by itself, the Mayor and Corporation often endeavouring, but in vain, to interfere with the privileges of the precinct. Criminals on their way to execution from Newgate to Tower Hill passed the south gate of St. Martin's, and often sought, sometimes successfully, to escape from their attendants into the adjoining sanctuary. ... At the dissolution of religious houses the college was levelled to the ground, and a kind of Alsatia established, let to "strangers born," and highly prized from the privileges of sanctuary which the inhabitants, chiefly manufacturers of counterfeit ware, latten and copper articles, beads, etc., continued to enjoy, till the Act 21 James I. c . 28 (1623), declared that all such privilege of sanctuary should thereafter be void. ... When the excavations were making in 1818 for the General Post Office, an early English crypt and the vaults of a still earlier foundation were discovered and destroyed.

The wide street now known as St. Martin's-le-grand extends north from Cheapside and Newgate Street to Aldersgate Street. It occupies the line of the old St. Martin's Lane, but is much wider. The college lay on the east of it, but the sanctuary included the west side of St. Martin's Lane. The General Post Office (the older building) occupies the whole of the east side of St. Martin's-le-Grand to St . Ann's Lane; and the entire west side is occupied by the new portion of the General Post Office, and an open space (1889) upon which the extended premises of the Post Office are to be built.
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


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