Esoteric London

No. 735: Whitechapel Road, E1

Posted in Crime and Punishment, Funereal, London Labour by esotericlondon on December 21, 2012

Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Whitechapel Road, London, E1. Photo © Roger Dean 2012

Old and New London: Volume 5 – Edward Walford, 1878:

The following ‘Legend of Kilburn’ we condense from Mr. John Timbs’ Romance of London:—’There is a curious traditionary relation connected with Kilburn Priory, which, however, is not traceable to any authentic source. The legend states that, at a place called St. John’s Wood, near Kilburn, there was a stone of a dark red colour, showing the stain of the blood of Sir Gervaise de Morton, or de Mortoune, which flowed upon it some centuries ago. The story runs that Stephen de Morton, being enamoured of his brother’s wife, frequently insulted her by the open avowal of his passion, which at length she threatened to make known to her husband; and that, to prevent this being done, Stephen resolved to waylay his brother and kill him. This he effected by seizing him in a narrow lane and stabbing him in the back; whereupon he fell upon a projecting rock and dyed it with his blood. In his expiring moments Sir Gervaise, recognising his brother in the assassin, upbraided him with his cruelty, adding, ‘This stone shall be thy death-bed.’ Stephen returned to Kilburn, and his brother’s wife still refusing to listen to his criminal proposals, he confined her in a dungeon, and strove to forget his many crimes by a dissolute enjoyment of his wealth and power. Oppressed, however, by a troubled conscience, he determined upon submitting to a religious penance; and so, ordering his brother’s remains to be removed to Kilburn, he gave directions for their reinterment in a handsome mausoleum, erected with stone brought from the quarry hard by where the murderous deed was committed. The identical stone on which his murdered brother had breathed his last thus came too for his tomb, and the legend adds that as soon as the eye of the murderer rested upon it blood began to issue from it. Struck with horror at the sight, the murderer hastened to the Bishop of London, and making a full confession of his guilt, he demised his property to the Priory at Kilburn, in the hope thereby of making atonement. But all in vain; for in spite of having thus endeavoured to compensate his guilt by a deed of charity and mortification, he was seized upon by such feelings of remorse and grier as quickly hurried him to his grave.’

[ The bells in the above photograph were awaiting restoration and retuning at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The church in Kilburn from which they had come had also purchased three ‘preloved bells’ which had to be tuned so that the six worked perfectly together. To find out more about this process book yourself on to one of the very popular tours of the foundry, details can be found on the website by clicking here. R.D.]