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claims the first notice, not only on account of its antiquity, but as being, next to Westminster Abbey, the finest ecclesiastical edifice, of Gothic architecture, in the British metropolis. It was originally the Church of the Priory of St. Mary Overy, which is said to have been established here previously to the Conquest; but there is no positive evidence of its existence before 1106, when William Pont D'Arque and William Dauncey, two Norman knights, assisted by Giffard, Bishop of Winchester, endowed it for a certain number of canons regular, and built the Church on the present site. This, with the Priory, was nearly destroyed by fire in the reign of King John, but was shortly afterwards rebuilt by the munificent Peter de Rupibus, Bishop of Winchester. It again suffered from fire in the reign of Richard II; was repaired, in great part probably at the expense of Cardinal Beaufort, as his arms, with those of his bishopric, are placed on a pillar in the south transept; and in 1423 the nuptials of James I of Scotland with Lady Joan Beaufort, niece of the Cardinal, were here solemnized, and the marriage feast was kept with great splendour at his Palace, nearly adjoining. This Priory shared the common fate under Henry VIII, and its yearly revenues were at that time stated to be £656 10s. The buildings were granted to Sir Anthony Brown, who erected a house on the site, afterwards called Montague House, from his son, created Viscount Montague; and this edifice existed until the close of 1828, and has given name to the precinct of the Priory, which is now called Montague Close. Many remains of the conventual buildings may still be seen, forming part of the warehouses, stables, &c. in the neighbourhood; and the entrance is by a pointed arch, adjoining to the Church, in tolerable preservation.
On the Dissolution the Church was fortunately preserved by being granted as a parish Church to the inhabitants of St. Margaret and St. Magdalen, which were united, as before stated. It is built in the form of a cross, its length being nearly 300 feet, its width* 60, its height about 50; the length of the transept 123; and the height of the tower, with its pinnacles, 150 feet.
The western front was formerly of great magnifi
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cence, but has been very tastelessly repaired with brick. The entrance is formed by a handsome pointed arch, with ornamented oaken doors; above this is a very large window, divided into several lights, and on each side is a smaller window, that on the north being concealed by a house erected against it. A heavy low tower terminates each side of this front.
The southern wall, as far as the cross aisle, contains seven windows in the lower story, and six in the upper; this part was faced with brick in 1703, and has lost all the beauty by which it was anciently distinguished, with the exception of a fine porch, which still exhibits, though much mutilated, an interesting specimen of the architecture of the thirteenth century. The North and South Transepts are now in a course of renovation, and, judging from the drawings, of which we have been favoured with a sight, as well as from that portion already completed, we have no doubt that their beauty will equal that of the east end, although the architecture is in the style of a later period. The South Transept is the most advanced; on each side are three elegant windows, between which are buttresses with niches; the end is adorned and strengthened by two massive buttresses, terminated by elegant pinnacles, rising considerably above the roof; and in the centre is a large and magnificent window, the lower part of which is divided into five compartments, while the upper part exhibits a variety of the most beautiful tracery. Above this is a circular ornamental window, and the whole is terminated by a cross.
Beyond this, as far as the eastern extremity of the Choir, was restored by Mr. G. Gwilt, between 1822 and 1825, in the most elegant and correct manner. A Chapel, formerly the parish Church of St. Mary Magdalen, which adjoined to the south side, was taken down; the walls of the Choir rebuilt of flint and Bath stone; the lancet windows, glazed in the form of circles and lozenges, in imitation of some specimens still existing; and the massive flying buttresses were copied from one on the north side of the Church. The East Front is from an original design by Mr. Gwilt, but exactly harmonizes with the restored portions of the building. On each side are square buttresses, adorned with niches, and terminated by a
very graceful pinnacle and low spire. In the centre is a lancet window of three compartments, above which is a handsome circular window; and a beautiful foliated cross on the top of the building forms an elegant and appropriate termination.
The north side of the Choir was restored by Mr. Gwilt in the same elegant manner. The Tower, rising from the intersection of the cross aisles with the body of the Church, is a massive but not heavy structure, in two stories, having handsome windows, an embattled parapet, and at each corner a turret, crowned with a pinnacle. It was repaired in 1825, and contains twelve most melodious bells. From this tower Hollar took his views of London, before and after the Great Fire in 1666.
At the east end of the Church are the Bishop's Chapel, and that of Our Lady, both of which are in a dilapidated state, and are condemned to be pulled down, to form the approaches to the new London Bridge. On the north side is the Chapel of St. John, now used as a vestry.
On entering the Church, the Nave, having seven lofty pointed arches on each side, springing from massive pillars, and the vaulted and groined Roof, adorned with various devices and armorial bearings, produce a fine effect. A part of the Nave is now taken into the Choir, the entrance to which is by folding and glazed doors, under the Organ gallery. The first objects which attract attention are the four beautiful arches supporting the Tower; the vaulting of the roof is elegantly and elaborately finished, and before each window of the upper story is an open screen of three pointed arches, the effect of which is highly ornamental. On removing the clumsy altar piece which formerly stood at the east end, a magnificent Screen was discovered; and although it has been much defaced, and the canopies which crowned its numerous niches chipped off, it still exhibits many traces of its former beauty; it is supposed to have been erected by Bishop Fox, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, as his favourite device, a pelican, is still observable. Above this Screen is a beautiful lancet window of three arches; and the whole Choir, as restored by Mr. Gwilt, affords a fine specimen of the architecture in use in the thirteenth century.
This Church contains a great number of monuments; one of the oldest, and the most interesting, is
which is situated in the north aisle of the Nave, and consists of an altar tomb, the lower part of which has seven niches; on each side is a buttress, supporting an elegant canopy of three arches, with pinnacles, beneath which lies the effigy of the poet *, in a long robe, with a garland of roses on his head, and a collar of SS round his neck. His feet rest on a lion; and his head is supported by his works, in three vo
John Gower was born in the early part of the fourteenth century, and was educated for the profession of the law. He was one of the earliest English poets; and his talents recommended him to Richard II, at whose desire he wrote bis principal work, which consists of three distinct parts, the " Speculum Meditantis," being a moral poem, in French rhymes, on the conjugal duties; the "Vox Clamantis," an account of the insurrection under Wat Tyler and others, written in Latin elegiac verse; and the "Confessio Amantis," an English moral and metaphysical poem on love; the last only has been printed, and was a very early product of the press this country, being printed by Caxton in 1483. Its language is tolerably perspicuous, its versification harmonious, and it is enlivened by a variety of stories, adduced as moral examples. His pupil Chaucer distinguishes him by the honourable appellation of the "moral Gower;" and Warton, in his History of English Poetry, speaks of him in these terms: "He has much good sense, solid reflection, and useful observation. But he is serious and didactic on all occasions. He preserves the tone of the scholar and the moralist on the most lively topics." He contributed largely to the rebuilding of this church; and died at an advanced age in 1402, having previously lost his sight,
lumes, labelled "Vox Clamantis," "Speculum Meditantis," "Confessio Amantis." His arms and crest are placed near his feet; above are paintings of three female figures, representing Mercy, Pity, and Charity, holding scrolls, on each of which is inscribed a short distich, in old French. Several other inscriptions are placed on various parts of the tomb, and immediately beneath the effigy is a Latin one, thus translated:
"Here lieth John Gower, Esq. a celebrated English poet, also a benefactor to this sacred edifice, in the time of Edward III and Richard II."
By a tablet placed near the head we learn that this tomb was restored and painted at the expense of the parish in 1798, and it is to be hoped that the same good taste will induce the parishioners to beautify it in 1830.
Near the altar is a handsome monument of black and white marble, to the memory of Richard Humble, alderman of London, who died in 1616, and is represented on the tomb, with his two wives and children, kneeling under an arch: the following lines are inscribed beneath; and deserve preservation on account of their quaint beauty:
"Like to the damask rose you see,
Even so is man, whose thread is spun,
The gourd consumes, and man he dies."
In the body of the Church are many other monuments and inscriptions deserving notice, among which is a slab to the memory of Thomas Cure, Esq. the founder of the Hospital which bears his name; and a monument to John Trehearne, "gentleman porter to King James I," the inscription on which, addressed to the deceased, informs him that
"In thy king's court good place to thee was given,
In the north transept is one, adorned with pillars,