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The Canon of John Lydgate Project

The Lives of Ss. Edmund and Fremund: Introduction

The Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds: Buries Markes
Buries Markes, or Bevis Marks, was the townhouse of the abbots of Bury St. Edmunds, in Aldgate Ward, around the corner from the church of St. Mary Axe. It is described by Stow in his Survey of London (1: 146, and notes 2: 293):
Then next is one great house large of roomes, fayre courts and garden plottes, sometimes pertayning to the Bassets, since that to the Abbots of Bury in Suffolke, and therefore called Buries Markes, corruptly Beuis markes, and since the dissolution of the Abbey of Bury to Thomas Henage the father, and to Sir Thomas his son.
On the various occasions when Lydgate was in London, as for the triumphal entry of Henry VI in 1432, this is presumably where he stayed. John Shirley notes in one of his manuscripts that Lydgate's English version of the Latin hymn "Gaude virgo mater Christi" was written while Lydgate lay in his bed in London, again presumably at Buries Markes.

The house was in the parish of St. Mary Axe, built before 1197, suppressed in 1560 and turned into a warehouse. The curious name of the church derived from its possession of an axe said to be one of the three with which St. Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins were beheaded. Ursula, the daughter of a king of England, was travelling on the lower Rhine with 11,000 handmaidens, when they met Attila the Hun, who slaughtered them all with three axes (The London Encyclopedia, p. 761). Lydgate's works include a prayer to St. Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins.

Nothing now remains of the once great house of Buries Markes with its courts and garden plots. "At the dissolution of the monasteries . . . [i]t was given to Sir Thomas Heneage who had it demolished and the street built over the site. Dr Isaac Watts, the hymn-writer, was reader at a nonconformist chapel in the street in 1708-28. Josef Haydn lived at No. 1 in 1794 while writing the last five of the Salomon Symphonies" (The London Encyclopedia, p, 112). There is also a paragraph on the house and the subsequent history of the site in John Schofield, Medieval London Houses (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 1994), p. 161 (Item 20).

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Bury St., London] The picture shows the southern extension of Bury Street, EC3; the street curves and continues off the left side of the picture, ending at Bevis Marks Street. You can also view the eastern portion of an antique map of the City of London with the location of Buries Markes indicated.

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© 1995 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
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Last revised: 30 Jan. 1997

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