Discovering Tudor London: A Journey Back in Time, by Natalie Grueninger

Second paragraph of Part III (on All Hallows in the Tower):

Before long, the early wooden structure was replaced by a stone church, which was enlarged and altered over the centuries. The church’s tower was rebuilt in 1659, following a devastating fire, an, along with some sections of the church’s outer walls, was all that survived the blitz of 1940-41. Interestingly, it was from the top of the tower that Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire consume London in 1666, noting in his diary for 5 September, ‘I up to the top of Barkeing steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw; everywhere great fires … the fire being spread as far as I could see it’.

I still aspire to take some time off one of these years and do some writing about my Tudor ancestor, but it’s receding a bit into the distance right now. In the meantime I still have plenty of books on the period to read. I’m also of course fascinated by London as a place, even though I haven’t actually been since November.

This is a nice little guide book to the sites in London with strong Tudor associations. The longest section looks at ten houses and palaces where substantial parts of the fabric survive from Tudor times or earlier, of which I think I have been to three – Eltham Palace, the Tower of London and Westminster Hall. Of the rest, I am now particularly keen to visit the Guildhall and Hampton Court. The next section looks at thirteen churches, where I think the only one I have been to is Westminster Abbey, though in general they have been much more messed around with since. And the final section runs through the museums in London with substantial Tudor content, starting of course with the British Museum and the Museum of London, but also looking at the Museum of the Order of St John and the Garden Museum which were not previously on my list.

It’s a breezy gazetteer, which assumes that the reader already has a decent framework knowledge of the Tudor period (as I like to think I do). I would have preferred, however, to have a geographical structure rather than a thematic one; I felt that we jumped around the map rather a lot. But these things are difficult to organise – certainly I scratched my head a lot when planning how to present the Hansche ceilings.

This was the non-fiction book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves; you can get it here. Next on that pile is Hallelujah: The Story of a Musical Genius & the City That Brought His Masterpiece, by Jonathan Bardon.