Lime Street’s Brief Moment of Catholicism

Posted by Ian McDiarmid, City of London Tour Guide on Thursday, November 5, 2020

Lime Street’s Brief Moment of Catholicism

Lime Street does not have much of historical interest today. It is dominated by two pieces of well-known modern architecture: the Lloyd’s Building, designed by Richard Rogers, and the Willis Building by Foster and Partners. Otherwise, it is undistinguished. In the late seventeenth century, however, this small City lane briefly became the site of religious controversy.


Here in 1686 for the first time since the reign of Queen Mary a Catholic place of worship was opened in England. The new chapel faced two big problems: Catholic worship was illegal; and most Londoners were rabidly hostile.


James II had ascended peacefully to the throne in 1685, in spite of earlier attempts to exclude him because of his Catholicism. Early in his reign he had issued dispensations, preventing Catholics from being persecuted under the Test Acts, requiring them to take an oath of loyalty to the Anglican church, and from being fined and pursued in the courts for recusancy - the failure to attend Anglican services.


This ‘dispensing’ power, claimed by the king, was controversial. Many argued that in putting statutes aside and shielding his co-religionists from punishment James was acting illegally. His next step to set up a Catholic chapel in the City was seen as even more of an assault on English liberty and the Protestant religion. It was furthermore interpreted, quite rightly, as an attempt to establish a precedent, whereby further Catholic places of worship could be opened. The position of Lime Street in the heart of the capital may well have added to its attractions for the king.


James wanted to get round the ban on Catholic worship by a loophole. Catholic diplomats were allowed to have their own chapels where they and their servants could practice in private the official religion of the state they were representing. James II persuaded James Stamford, the envoy of the Elector Palatine, to take on the lease of a property in Lime Street and convert it into a chapel.


The king was bending the rules. Diplomats’ private chapels were up to this point exclusively in Westminster, near the royal palaces of Whitehall and St James’s. They were also small. The building in Lime Street was clearly much larger than required for the religious practices of James Stamford’s family and servants. And finally, Stamford himself was English; not a foreign diplomat.

The Elector himself would later deny that he knew anything about the chapel, and furthermore that it was constructed against his wishes.


In late March 1686 the lord mayor, Sir Robert Geffrye tried to halt work on the chapel on the grounds that it was illegal. The fact that Geffrye was a Tory is one indication of how James II was alienating the political constituency that had been the bedrock of support for the crown in the later years of Charles II and which had helped assure his own accession.


The chapel opened in April, with a hostile crowd following the priests on their way to Lime Street. The local constables and trained bands came to restore order, but their efforts on this and the following Sundays when trouble flared again, were half-hearted. The chapel was demolished by a mob after the flight of James II in 1688.


Tags: stuart london  17th century  james ii  religion 
comments powered by Disqus
 

Tags

"online bookings' cpd #earthrise 17th 1830s 18thcentury 1930s 20th 50th a abbey adele afternoon afternoon tea age ages alastair ancient and animals annie anniversary apps architecture arsenal art arts attack autumn awards baker bank bankside barbican barrier bathhouses battersea bazalgette bear beasts becket bells bexley bishopsgate black blackfriars blitz bloomsbury bombers book books borough bowie breakfast brewery brick bridge britain british bronze bronze age brunch buckingham burger burlesque buses cab cabaret cake canal canary captain carl carol caroline carols cathedral cemetery cenotaph century chapman charles charlton cheap cheapside cheese childhood chips chiswick chocolate christmas church city city of london clapham clerkenwell cocktails coffee coffeehouses common company concert corporate covent covent garden covid-19 cream crime cross crown cruise crystal danson david davy day december deptford dick dickens dinner dinosaurs do dock dockland museum dragons dreamtime druitt earth east eat eating eats ecommerce edward edwardians edwin egypt elizabethan end engineering ernst event events exhibition exhibitions facebook fairytale fall family fantastic farringdon fashion february festival film finance fire first fiscus florence folklore food for francis free friars gallery galliard garden george georgian georgians german germany gibb gift globe grade great greenhithe greenwich group guided guides gun half hall halsk handel harle harry potter hats havering havering hoard hawksmoor hazel heroes hidden highbury hill hilton history holloway homes hot hotel house housing how humphry i ian ianmcd ice ice cream icelandic ii iii in india inigo isaac islington italian iv jack jack the ripper jack's james jenny jewels john johns jones joseph katharines kelly kenneth kew gardens kids kidstours killer kim king kings kingston lambeth lane lewis lights limestone literature liverpool locations londinium london london bridge london's londoners londonhistory lunch lutyens macaulay magnus management maritime market markets martyr mary matilda maufe mayfair mcdiarmid measure medical medieval memorial middle military millennium mock-tudor modern modernist montague month monument moorgate mosaic murder murderers museum museum of london docklands music musicals mystery n7 national gallery national history museum ned new newcomen news newton nhs nichols night nightingale nurse of old street oliver open opera paddington palace palaces pancakes pandemic panoramic park parties path pauls people philip photo photograhy photography photos pizza places plague plantation plays plumstead podcast poetry pokemon polly poor pop poplar port prince priory private tours pub public pubs purbeck qe2 queen queenhithe quirky recording regency reid religion rembrandt renaissance restoration ripper river road rob roman romans roundhouse royal saga saints salute saxon school. science sculpture scupture seacole second serial servants sewers shakespeare shoreditch siemens sir slave slavery small smartphone smith smithfield smithfields soap soho somme south southbank southwark spitalfields spy squirrels ss st statue stories stow street stuart stuarts studios subscription suffragettes sugar summer susan sydenham tate taxi tea ten term terror thames thamesmeade the theatre thiepval things things to do thrifty thriftytheatre to tour tours tower trade travel truman tudor tudors tumblety twelfth twentieth twist und underground update v&a ve victims victoria victorian victorian london victorians viking virtual vouchers wales walk walking walks wall war water werner west wharf wheeler whitechapel wilde wildlife willelm william windrush wine winter women wood woodland woolwich world wyatt york zachary 1666 1888 2019 2020

LONDON GUIDED WALKS:

LEARN MORE:

CONNECT WITH US:

USEFUL LINKS:

Site by Hazel  |  Photographs by Hazel or Ian