‘The site of the ancient sanctuary of Whitefriars, the “Alsatia” of James I, is marked out by the huge gasometer of the City Gas Works, seen just above…’, says Mr Bradshaw.
The Whitefriars, or Carmelites, belonged to The Order of our Lady of Mount Carmel which originated in Palestine in the 12C. The Order was driven out in 1230, during the Crusades, and fled to Europe, some arriving in England in 1240. In 1241 Sir Richard Grey of Codnor established a Priory for the Order in London. The Priory was eventually ‘surrendered’ in November 1538. Henry VIII gave the Chapter House to his doctor, to be a residence, and Edward VI pulled down the Church to build private mansions. The refectory became the Whitefriars Theatre – about which little is known after c.1616 – presumably it deteriorated and was pulled down. Freshfields is now on the site of the Priory, some of whose cellars can be seen from Magpie Alley. Am I fanciful in thinking the entrance to Freshfields looks like a church? The Priory is also remembered in street names in this area (Excellent post by London Details.)
After the dissolution of the Priory the area eventually became derelict – lawless and outside jurisdiction – a sanctuary, Alsatia. The right of sanctuary was finally abolished in 1723. (Fulsome blog here.)
‘The Temple Gardens, wherein the roses were plucked that served for the emblems of the York and Lancaster wars, are next observed. The roses have ceased to bloom but the gardens have been celebrated of late years for the most extensive show of choice varieties of the chrysanthemum…’, says Mr Bradshaw. No chrysanthemums now, but many interesting flowers in this quiet garden alongside the Thames.
‘The elegant new Library in the Gothic style, of the Middle Temple, and Somerset House, with its fine balustrated terrace, next claims our attention.’