Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, a Digital Edition

Plate 1.63: Plan of the Tower Liberties, 1597

Plate: A depiction of a copy of William Hayward (sometimes also spelled Haiward) and John Gascoyne’s 1597 survey of the Tower Liberties, engraved by George Vertue (1684-1756)—likely after his own drawings—in 1742 (Keay 2001, 3). On 21 May 1741, the minutes record that Vertue “brought from His Grace the Duke of Montagu a curious illuminated drawing on a Large Imperial Sheet of paper of the Tower libertys” (SAL Minutes IV.72; Keay 2001, 1). It was ordered that a drawing of that drawing be taken, and Vertue presented the requested drawing on 3 September 1741, at which point, the Society ordered it to be engraved (SAL Minutes IV.85). Vertue delivered the completed engraving a year later (SAL Minutes IV.130).

Object: A copy of William Hayward (sometimes also spelled Haiward) and John Gascoyne’s 1597 survey of the Tower of London, which was undertaken in 1597 at the behest of Sir John Peyton (1544-1630). As Anna Keay explains, the original survey has been missing for more than two centuries, and “[t]he survey of 1597 exists today in four main copies made in the space of forty years,” roughly during the first half of the eighteenth century (Keay 2001, 1). Two copies are in the archives of the Society of Antiquaries: Vertue’s engraving and the unsigned drawing on which it appears to be based. Two additional copies are in the Public Record Office. One copy in the Public Record Office was based on a now-missing copy prepared by Clement Lemprière in 1741; Keay speculates that Vertue likely prepared a drawing of the copy brought from the collection of John Montagu, the second Duke of Montagu (1690-1749) and consulted, in the process, the now-missing Lemprière copy of the survey (3). Vertue’s engravings for Vetusta Monumenta include several other facsimiles of medieval and early modern documents, some of which are based on copies rather than originals (cf. Plates 1.28-1.33).


A True and Exact Draught of the TOWER LIBERTIES, survey’d in the Year 1597 by Gulielmus Haiward and J. Gascoyne.

Top, Left: Queen Elizabeth’s Coat of Arms: HON SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE / SEMPER EADEM [Shame be to him who thinks evil of it / Always the same]

Lower Inset Banner, Left: The DESCRIPTION of the TOWER of LONDON with all the Buildings & the Remains of ye Royal Palace; and the Outermost Limits thereof together with all such Places adjoyning as do confine and abound the said Liberties, made by the Direction of S.r John Peyton K.t

Top, Right: A Note of the Boundaries of ye Liberties of ye Tower as appears in the Leet, Anno 27 Hen. VIII. / The Liberties of the TOWER beginning at the Water Gate next the Ram’s Head in Petty Wales, doth extend straight North to the end of Tower Street, and direct North to the Mud Wall call’d Pikes Garden on this side the Croutched Fryers & so straight East to the Wall of London with ye Nine Gardens above the Postern and the Broken Tower right unto the midst of Hog Lane, and so straight broad South to the Stone Corner, and so on to the Thames, and according to the former Abutting a green Line is drawn about the said Liberties.

Below, Right: The Several Towers.
A. The Middle Tower.
B. The Tower at the Gate.
C. The Bell Tower.
D. Beauchamp Tower.
E. Devilin Tower.
F. Flint Tower.
G. Bowyar Tower.
H. Brick Tower.
I. Martin Tower.
K. Constable Tower.
L. Broad Arrow Tower.
M. Salt Tower.
N. Well Tower.
O. The Tower leading to the Iron Gate.
P. The Tower above ye Iron Gate.
Q. The Cradle Tower.
R. The Lanthorn Tower.
S. The Hall Tower.
T. The Bloody Tower.
V. S.t Thomas’s Tower.
W. Cæsar’s, or White Tower.
X. Cole Harbour.
Y. Wardroab Tower.

Bottom, Right: Boundaries of the Liberties.
AB. The House at ye Water Gate, call’d ye Ram’s Head.
AC. The Place where ye Mud Wall was, call’d Pikes Garden
AD. The City Wall at the NE. of the Nine Gardens.
AE. The Place where the Broken Tower was.
AF. Hog Lane End.
AG. The House call’d the Stone corner House.
AH. The End of Tower Street.
AI. The Stairs without the East End of ye Tower.

On the Image:

The Upper Left Quadrant:
Lord Lumley’s House, sometime belonging to Croutched Fryers
The New Brick Wall
Pikes Garden
The Nine Gardens
Tower Hill
The Posts of the Scaffold
The Cage
Barkin Church
The Houses betwixt the Church Yard and the Hill are S.t Katherines Rents
Tower Street
Labels: AC, AD, AB AH, E, F, D

The Upper Right Quadrant:
At this place stood sometime a broken Tower, which is now built as the rest of the Wall
The Cities Ditch
The Waye from Aldgate
Merchant Taylors Alms Houses
Hog Lane
The place where the Cross stood
East Smith Field
Postern Gate
East Smith Field
The place where the Pound stood
The Cage
The Barns to keep the Carts from S. Ditch
Labels: AE, AF, AG, G, H, I, K

The Bottom Left Quadrant:
Thames Street
Petty Wales
The Bulwark Gate
The Lyon’s Tower
The Lyons Gate
The Lieutenant’s Lodgings
Labels: AB, A, B, C, T, S, V

The Bottom Right Quadrant:
Jewel House
The Hall decay’d
The Queens Lodgings
The Queens Gallery
The Privy Garden
The Iron Gate
The way to the Flemish Church
S.t Katherines
Labels: X, W, Y, L, M, R, Q, N, O, P, AI

Preparatory Drawings: Click here to see the Preparatory Drawings for Plate 1.63.

Commentary by Kelsey Jackson Williams: “Liberties” were geographical areas within the city of London which lay outside the jurisdiction of the city itself. In 1530 there were no less than nineteen, predominantly scattered along the western and eastern edges of the old city, and many of these survived the Reformation, with new ones growing up on the south side of the Thames (House 2006, 22). Both embedded within the wider city and set apart from it by their autonomous powers and privileges, liberties had a poor reputation amongst sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Londoners, being viewed as places of moral as well as jurisdictional transgression. Modern scholarship, having too uncritically accepted such claims earlier in the twentieth century, now views them with skepticism and is beginning to recover the complex legal and social record of the liberties (see especially Kozusko 2006, House 2006, and McSheffrey 2018). To most non-specialists, however, liberties are best known from a later period when the Liberties of the Mint and the Savoy, amongst others, offered refuge to debtors, a practice made famous in numerous contemporary and historical novels of the eighteenth century (Stirk 2001).

Prominent amongst the post-Reformation liberties were those of the Tower of London, exempt from urban control by virtue of their position as part of the Crown Lands. Here, as elsewhere, these anomalous areas proved to be loci for contention and unrest, and on 29 June 1595 a thousand-strong crowd gathered at Tower Hill, leading to a riot which left four persons injured and led to the subsequent execution of five apprentices (Deiter 2008, 93-94).

In its wake, the Privy Council began investigations into the precise boundaries of the Tower Liberties, but it was only with the appointment of the officer and administrator Sir John Peyton (1544-1630) as Lieutenant of the Tower in June 1597 that significant progress was made (Evans 2004). Peyton prepared a series of reports on the boundaries in 1597 and 1598 as part of which he commissioned the draughtsmen William Hayward and John Gascoyne to prepare the present plan (Deiter 2008, 83; Keay 2001, 9-11). Of the two, Hayward was already an established cartographer, having produced a “description” and map of the Norfolk marshes as early as 1591 alongside a number of other projects over the following decade (Skempton et al. 2002, 308-09).

The survey produced by Hayward and Gascoyne reflects the priorities of Peyton and his superiors. A vertical series of cartouches on the right hand side emphasize the legal and physical structure of the liberties, quoting a historical record of their boundaries from the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Henry VIII and identifying both the specific locations of the boundary points themselves and the several towers which defined the visual appearance of the Elizabethan Tower of London. Mapping the boundaries given in the Henrician document onto 1597 London proved, however, to be a less than straightforward task. The “Mud Wall call’d Pikes Garden” of 1535/36 had been replaced with a “New Brick Wall,” the “Broken Tower” of the earlier description was entirely absent, and similar changes could be seen across the landscape of the area.

Despite these changes, the immediate vicinity of the Tower remained noticeably undeveloped in 1597. To the northwest can be seen Tower Hill, with the “Posts of the Scaffold” clearly marked, while to the northeast East Smithfield was wasteland crisscrossed with several paths and distinguished only by “The place where the Cross stood.” To the west, a more populated area was dominated by Petty Wales running north to south and Thames and Tower Streets intersecting with it on an east-west axis. These were overshadowed by the eleventh-century church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, here referred to as “Barkin Church” in allusions to its by-name of “All Hallows Barking.” The concern with legal and geographical boundaries is again indicated by the note that “The Houses betwixt the Church Yard and the Hill are S.t Katherines Rents.” To the east can be seen a further row of houses, just on the boundary of the Liberties, and the beginning of Hog Lane, while the southern section of the draught is dominated by the Tower Wharf and the Thames, populated by boatmen and river craft.

The Tower itself is depicted in considerable detail with the Lieutenant’s Lodgings, the Jewel House, the Queen’s Lodgings, the Queen’s Gallery, the Privy Garden, and other landmarks clearly marked. Three pyramids of shot can be seen in the courtyard to the northeast of the White Tower, attesting to its continued use as an arsenal, and a small garden is depicted by the Lieutenant’s Lodgings. Some indication is also given of Peyton’s concern, attested elsewhere, regarding the ruinous fabric of many of the Tower’s buildings through the note “decay’d” subjoined to the roofless great hall which had been erected by Henry III (Thurley 1995, 41).

Taken as a whole, this map of the Tower Liberties provides important evidence not only for the physical appearance of this corner of Elizabethan London, but also for its position at a nexus of political and legal concerns which had recently reached boiling point with the riots of 1595.

Although gradually declining in importance from the eighteenth century onwards, the liberty survived and its bounds were still triennially perambulated as late as the 1870s in a theatrical ceremony which involved the chaplain of St. Peter's ceremonially repeating "cursed be he who removeth his neighbour's landmark" (Thornbury n.d., 2.96). Its jurisdictional status was finally abolished by a decree of 30 April 1894 following on from the Liberties Act 1850 (London Gazette 1894, 2769-2770).

Works Cited:

Deiter, Kristen. 2008. The Tower of London in English Renaissance Drama: Icon of Opposition. New York and London: Routledge.

Evans, Helen M. E. 2004 “Peyton, Sir John (1544-1630).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Keay, Anna. 2001. The Elizabethan Tower of London: The Haiward and Gascoyne Plan of 1597. London: London Topographical Society with Historic Royal Palaces.

Kozusko, Matt. 2006. "Taking Liberties." Early Theatre 9: 37-60.

London Gazette. 1665-present.

McSheffrey, Shannon. 2018. “Liberties of London: Social Networks, Sexual Disorder, and Independent Jurisdiction in the Late Medieval English Metropolis.” In Crossing Borders: Boundaries and Margins in Medieval and Early Modern Britain: Essays in Honour of Cynthia J. Neville, edited by Sara Butler and K. J. Kesselring, 216-36. Leiden: Brill.

Skempton, A. W., M.M. Chrimes, R.C. Cox, P.S.M. Cross-Rudkin, and E.C. Ruddock, eds. 2002. A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 1: 1500-1830. London: Thomas Telford.

Stirk, Nigel. 2001. “Fugitive Meanings: The Literary Construction of a London Debtors' Sanctuary in the Eighteenth Century.” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 24: 175-188.

Thornbury, Walter. n.d. Old and New London: Its History, its People, and its Places. 6 vols. London: Cassell & Company Limited.

Thurley, Simon. 1995. “Royal Lodgings at the Tower of London, 1216-1327.” Architectural History 38: 36-57.

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