Marylebone and the church by the stream

Following on from Monday’s post about Grotto Passage in Marylebone, and with a diversion for St Patrick’s Day, let’s go back to Marylebone and its name.

Marylebone takes its name from St Mary’s, an old local parish church of the area, which replaced the original church of St John of Tyburn. In the 14th century, violent criminals haunted parts of Marylebone and the local parishioners at the church became so distressed at the fact that their little church was continually broken into, robbed,and vandalized, that they petitioned the Bishop of London, Robert de Braybroke, to let them move their church to a safer area.

The new church of St Mary’s, less than a mile away from the old site, and located near the Tyburn river (from teoburna, or boundary stream), was known as St Mary by the bourne, or St Mary-le-Bourne, which eventually became Marylebone.

The original church no longer exists but there is a ‘Garden of Peace’ on its site, with plaques commemorating many famous resident of, and visitors to, the area. Among these was Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley, who founded the modern Methodist church; there is a monument erected there to mark the site of his original gravestone.

George Stubbs, the 17th-century artists known for his paintings of horses, and Edmond Hoyle, card expert and author of books on card games – hence the expression ‘according to Hoyle’ – were both buried in the old churchyard. Others mentioned on a plaque are Sir Edmund Douce (Cupbearer to 2 Queens) and James Figg (Pugilist).

From funerals to weddings and baptisms: Lord Byron was baptized there, and Lord Nelson, who worshipped in the church, had his only child – daughter Horatia – baptized there.

William Hogarth portrayed the interior of the church in the marriage scene from his famous series ‘A Rake’s Progress’ and the old church also saw the weddings of Francis Bacon, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Elizabeth Barrett, who lived in nearby Wimpole Street with her family from 1838 until she eloped with fellow poet Robert Browning.

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