The Minories, EC3N
Today the Minories is a fairly mundane street running north to south with Tower Hill at its southern end and Aldgate at the north. I cross the street every day to go to work and I have often wondered where its rather unusual name came from.
On the site where roughly the Royal Mint stood was the house of the Grace of the Blessed Mary, founded in 1293 by Edmund earl of Lancaster for the nuns of the order of St Clare. It was also known as the Abbey of the Minoresses, the name given to nuns of that order, and the current street name is a bastardisation of that. Incidentally, there is a St Clare Street which runs off the modern Minories.
As you would anticipate the first half of the sixteenth century proved troublesome for the community of nuns. In 1515 an infectious disease ravaged the nunnery sending twenty-seven of the sisters to meet their maker rather more quickly than they had anticipated. If this wasn’t bad enough, a serious fire broke out destroying the building. Although the community raised enough funds to rebuild, including a pledge of money from Cardinal Wolsey, the abbey was swept up in Henry VIII’s reformations in 1539.
In 1563, following the dissolution of the abbey, the site was bought by Elizabeth I and sometime thereafter the abbey was demolished. A small church was erected on the site of the chapel (and, perhaps, encompassing, parts of the original) and was known as the Church of the Holy Trinity, Minories. It was rebuilt in 1706 where it stood until 1940 when it was bombed and destroyed. During its history the church had gained some notoriety as a favoured location for clandestine marriages.
Other buildings on the site were converted into storehouses – at least one was used to store munitions – and living accommodation, especially favoured, it seems, by royal musicians.
Administratively, the areas status has been somewhat peculiar. Indeed, up until 1539 it was a papal peculiar, a term given to a religious establishment which was outside of the jurisdiction of the bishop in whose diocese it was situated. In 1686 it became part of the Liberties of the Tower of London which meant that it was outside of the control of the City of London, a status it enjoyed until the Liberty was abolished in 1894. Whether the area fell into the City or the adjacent borough of Tower Hamlets has been a moot point, a matter decided (at least for the time being) in 1994 when the Minories was placed fair and square in the City.
The Minories was also the name of a railway station, opened in 1840, as part of the London and Blackwall Railway – a 3.5 mile cable railway which was operational for passengers until 1926 and for the transport of goods until 1968, when the decline of the London docks saw its demise. Much of the infrastructure of the railway was reused when the Docklands Light Railway was developed, the old Minories station being renamed as Tower Gateway.
Of course, the area was flourishing from Roman times as was evidenced in September 2013 when a well preserved statue of an eagle, considered to be the finest example of Romano-British sculpture found to date, was unearthed on a building site on the street.
Clearly there is more to the street than its current day rather banal look would suggest.