Chichester Rents

From: the Map of Early Modern London website:

“Chancery Lane was built sometime around 1160 by the Knights Templar on land they owned. It ran north-south between Fleet Street at the south end to Holborn in the North, and was originally called New Street. The current name dates from the time of Ralph Neville, who was Bishop of Chichester and Lord Chancellor of England. The area around the street came into his possession when “in 1227 Henry III gave him land for a palace in this lane: hence Bishop’s Court and Chichester Rents, small turnings out of Chancery Lane”. Thus, Chancery Lane is a variation of Chancellor Lane—Stow calls it Chancelar Lane in several places—and refers to the Chancellor’s palace, located there.”

From: Walter Thornbury, ‘Fleet Street: Northern tributaries – Chancery Lane’, in Old and New London: Volume 1 (London, 1878):

“Chichester Rents, a sorry place now, preserves a memory of the site of the town-house of the Bishops of Chichester. It was originally built in a garden belonging to one John Herberton, granted the bishops by Henry III., who excepted it out of the charter of the Jew converts’ house, now the Rolls Chapel.”

Adrian Prockter runs the Know Your London Group. He writes:

“In medieval times all the Bishops (including the two Archbishops) in England and Wales acquired land in and around the City of London and kept a London residence so that when they came to London they had somewhere to stay. Some of these properties were very large because when we say ‘the Bishop stayed in his London residence’ we actually mean him, his close advisers and priests and a whole retinue of servants to work in the house while he was staying there. Not only did Bishops have London houses but many of the Abbots and Priors of religious houses throughout the land did the same.

The Bishop of Chichester is the subject of our study…(There is) an alleyway…called Chichester Rents followed by Bishop’s Court. This is where their London house once stood. The name Chichester Rents is likely to have derived from rents having been charged on the land after the Bishops had left but it was still identified as having once been under their ownership.

The Bishops of Chichester acquired the site in 1226-27 as a London residence. It stood on land now occupied by the two alleyways. Unusually their land was in two parts. The large house was on the west side of Chancery Lane but their large garden was on the east side. Why the two parts of the property were on different sides of the road-way has not been explained but the Bishops were significant landowners just within the boundary of the City of London.

From 1422 the house was let to apprentices of Common Law (at Lincoln’s Inn). Over the following years the Bishops of Chichester seem to have used various houses in the City of London and in Westminster, of which six locations are recorded. In 1508 they had a house in Tothill Street, Westminster. In 1553 they had a house in the parish of ‘St Andrew by Paul’s Wharf’ – better known today as the parish of St Andrew by the Wardrobe (a short distance SW of St Paul’s Cathedral).”

Ian Mansfield writes on his blog:

“…What is today a branch of Pret on the corner used to be the Old Ship Tavern and Chop House, the model for Sol’s Arms pub in Charles Dicken’s book Bleak House. The coffee shop on the other side (see image) used to be the Three Tuns pub…”

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