Relics of Medieval London in Carter Lane

Carter Lane in the City of London, so called because it was the major thoroughfare for horse-carts in the Middle Ages, limns the southern face of Ludgate Hill, between St Paul’s and the Thames. Although the buildings are from a much later date, the course of the narrow Medieval road remains unchanged.

A side street sloping down toward the river is called Addle Hill. “Addle” refers to the horse piss that would necessarily run off from Carter Lane down this hill.  A number of other little streets served a similar purpose. One would assume they were not the best real estate in Medieval London, and yet, at the height of his wealth and fame, William Shakespeare made his last London home at the bottom of Burgon Street. It was a stone’s throw from the Blackfriars Theatre, the indoor winter playhouse of his troupe, the King’s Men. A piece of stonemasonry behind an iron fence nearby in Ireland Yard is all that remains of the former Blackfriars monastery in which the theater was housed.

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Burgon Street, looking south from Carter Lane toward the Cockpit Tavern

Almost all of the half-timbered buildings in the City were destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666, but Shakespeare’s cellar is apparently still used by the Cockpit Tavern, a Victorian-era pub that occupies the site of his house. A glimpse of pre-Fire lath and plaster work can be found on the wall of Carter Court, an alleyway off Carter Lane.

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