No. 125: Leonard Street, EC2
Leonard Street, London, EC2. Photo © Roger Dean 2010
Unknown London – Walter George Bell, 1919:
“I want,” I said, “the head of the Duke of Suffolk.”
It was not an ordinary request for one complete stranger to make of another, calling casually at his house. A maniac might have delivered such a message. The recipient betrayed no token of surprise. He would get the keys, he said. We walked together to the Church of the Holy Trinity, Minories, and crossing amidst the traffic I turned towards Tower Hill to seek a glimpse among the trees of what is assuredly the most tragic spot in all England – those few square yards of blood-soaked ground upon which the scaffold and the block stood. On the scaffold raised there Suffolk met his death, and many victims of the devious ways and ends of statecraft, the guilty and the guiltless, before and since his time.
Tall ware-houses obstructed my view. Holy Trinity is but a few paces distant from America Square, but perhaps is not that easy to find without a guide. It is a plain, drab structure, with stucco laid upon its west front, and nothing to bespeak antiquity, though still its northern wall contains the ancient masonry of the buildings of the nuns of St Olave, whose chapel this was. The church had then the high old-fashioned pews.
My companion unlocked a little cupboard and produced the relic which this City church for so many centuries had sheltered. It was boxed (that seems the most appropriate word) in glass – the head of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk.
[According to Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner in London: The City Churches, Holy Trinity Minories was destroyed in 1940; but it ceased to operate as a church as long ago as 1899, the building being used as a parish room until its destruction. Walter George Bell in Unknown London states that at the time of writing (1919) the Duke’s head had found a new resting place in a cupboard at St Botolph Aldgate. R.D.]