Aldersgate: churches, parks, and brothels

Aldersgate Street

Postman's Park
Postman’s Park from Aldersgate Street

Back to the London Wall gates; so far we’ve looked at Aldate, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, and Moorgate, and and today is the turn of Aldersgate, which gave its name to a street and a ward. Depending on who you believe, the gate’s name comes either from Aldrich, a Saxon, who built it, or from the alder trees that once grew around it.

The ward, which straddled the line of the London Wall, was divided into Aldersgate-Within and Aldersgate-Without, and the church of St Botolph’s-without-Aldersgate is a church of medieval origin, which survived the Great Fire of London and was rebuilt in the 18th century.

The church’s graveyard was built over to create a park, known as Postman’s Park, wherein lies the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, a memorial to ordinary people who died while saving the lives of others and who might otherwise be forgotten.

Continuing the church theme, there is a plaque on Aldersgate Street that marks the site of the Moravian meeting room where John Wesley said his heart was “strangely warmed” and he was converted following a reading of Martin Luther. It also followed a less than successful trip to the United States when he was presumably in particular need of spiritual reassurance.

EAS_3866From religion to sex: Aldersgate Street was once, in part, called Pickax Street and delineated the northern extremity of the ward; according to English Heritage’s Survey of London the name was perhaps derived from Pickt Hatch, an Elizabethan name for an area of brothels said to be in this part of London”. It is mentioned by William Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor and by Ben Jonson in The Alchemist.

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