John Strype, Clergyman, Historian & Biographer


Following on from my wee post yesterday  , today I look at John Strype, who wrote the Survey I am relying on so much. So, who was he?

John was born the son of a Huguenot immigrant on November 1st 1643. His father, John Van Stryp (who anglicanised his name to Strype)  fled religious persecution in Brabant, and set up in Petticoat lane as a merchant (yes, Strype Street in Shoreditch is named after our lad. He was educated at St Paul’s School, and Jesus college and Catharine hall at Cambridge, gaining an MA . He went on to become perpetual curate of Theydon Bois, and curate and lecturer of Leyton.

Alongside his duties within the Parish, he maintained a firm interest in History, particularly that of the Protestant  Reformation. Through contacts, he was able to access documents which he transcribed, using them as the basis for many of his works.  His first published work was in 1694 – The Memorials of Thomas Cramner , Archbishop of Canterbury .  

This was followed four years later by the Life of the learned Sir Thomas Smith ; in 1701 he wrote Life and Acts of John Aylmer, Lord Bishop of London . Four more biographical works were written: Life of the learned Sir John Cheke with his Treatise on Superstition (1705);  Life and Acts of Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury (1710);  Life and Acts of Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury (1711) and Life and Acts of John Whitgift,  Archbishop of Canterbury (1718) . One of the biggest of his works was Annals of the Reformation in England a four volume history which had a final edition published in 1738 . All these books have been great sources for Historians since those times.  (He had other written works, sermons and collections thereof also Published)

But, what interests me most (because of its descriptions of the city’s layout is “A survey of the cities of London and Westminster (1720) . This really wasn’t an original work by Strype, he merely updated an earlier work written in 1598 by John Stowe . Since Stowe’s work was published, Tudor London had been built on, expanded, filled in, burned down, and rebuilt and expanded and filled in. This meant that Stowe’s survey was in dire need of an update. responding to this need, Strype commenced the project.

The survey is contained within two volumes, and from the title page, Strype remains humble, stating that all he is doing is updating Stowes work.  It is an invaluable source for anyone interested in London History, and contains some maps and illustrations alongside the written survey. It is the detail that brings the areas to life more than anything.

The online version I have linked to was produced by: The Stuart London Project, Humanities Research Institute, The University of Sheffield.

Oh, Strype Died in 1738, aged Ninety-four, while living with his widowed granddaughter, in case you are interested.


Research and stuff

I have spent much of this evening on research for the WIP . It is set in 1713 in London, and more Crime thriller than the biographical fiction of Staymaker .

So, I have spent much of the evening pouring over two fabulous references – both available online. The first is John Stripe’s survey of London  which provides detail of the various wards and places in London in the early 18th Century. The second is John Roques‘ Map dated 1746 . Both are contemporary sources.

The action, which is based in part on real historical characters, has to take place in real locations, and each location has to be easily travelled between  on foot – as this was the style most of London’s poor travelled. So, this distance defines where the action takes place. This also defines other information – for example different wharves took different goods and so  give the back story of a couple of Characters is based on a wharf’s distance from Cripplegate.

No cars, no tube and no phones means that the action has to take place over a smaller distance – or a longer time frame.  I need to bring the London of 1713 alive, just as I did with the Hawkhurst of 1748. To do that, I need to get the locations bang on as much as I need the background hubbub of the city to be painted in. The devil is indeed in the detail.

The Crimea – then and now

It may surprise some people to know that the end of the month marks the 160th anniversary of the Crimean war.  Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole and the Charge of the light Brigade. Well, so what? Well, for one thing, tensions in the area are escalating again, and we are facing a re-run – and scarily the root causes of this tension is damn near identical to the kick off in March 1854.


So, for the previous couple of centuries, Russia was expanding its empire Southwards with the main purpose of gaining a toehold on ports in warmer waters such as the Black sea – so it could both trade and run a navy all year (It’s northern ports had a tendency to freeze much of the year) . This reached a pinnacle when Russia conquered both the Cossacks and the Tartars, thus gaining control of the Ukraine – and the Crimea into the bargain, with its main port, Sevastopol so crucial to Russian needs (both then and now) .

So, With the Ukraine in Russian hands,  it’s role as a buffer state between the Ottoman empire and the Russian Empire was no more, making a conflict of sorts inevitable.  Now, bring the French into this mess. You see, Europe at the time was divided into a number of powerful empires, Russia, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Prussian all head their main Power bases in Europe, whereas France, Spain. Portugal and Britain depended on overseas empires.

The French, Napoleon III, seeking to keep in with Catholic money sought to keep Catholic rights over the Christian sites in the Holy land (Part of the Muslim Ottoman Empire.) as well as being the defacto protector of Christians in the empire as a whole. Trouble was, the Russians were, thanks to treaties a century earlier, already in control of Christians and sites for the Orthodox Church. Well, Napoleon was pretty upset, and sent its technologically advanced warship , Charlemagne , to cruise the Black sea . The threat was taken in by the Ottomans, who immediately gave the control over to France.

Not surprisingly, this pissed the Russians off, and alongside a diplomatic offensive, invaded the states along the Danube, thus raising the tension. Britain and France sent fleets out to the Dardanelles, hoping to make the Russians back off. Britain, despite Tzar Nicolas trying to court British support.  To British and French eyes, a strong Ottoman Empire held the Russians from expanding eastwards, thus protecting their Asian interests.

War was the inevitable conclusion from all these tensions,  and at its conclusion, Sevastopol ended up given to the Russians as a concession on the treaties that followed, however they were not allowed to develop any naval presence there, this was reversed after the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 and Sevastopol began to be the home of the Russian Black sea fleet.

So, can we fast forward to 2014 now, and the state of play with the world powers. Russia to begin with. Despite a couple of rebrands, Russia still maintains much of its empire of those times – and has had a friendly agreement in place to keep its bases in Sevastapol.  Europe, however has seen the old order ripped up and thrown away, Britain and France have lost pretty much all of their empires, Austro-hungary, Prussia and the Ottoman empire have long been consigned to the History books. America has replaced Europe as a main power since world war 2. Enter a new European power – the EU . This has been expanding in influence, membership and scope for years, and several former members of the Russian Empire are long-standing Members. Now, Ukraine is seeking to become a member of this empire, extending European influence eastwards further. Russia had no such issues with Poland joining , it has little strategic value. So, why is Ukraine’s potential membership causing this new tension?

Well, Ukraine takes the Crimea with it – the home of the Black sea fleet. that little power-base in the Black Sea that it fought so hard to keep 160 yrs earlier will fall under the influence of a different power. That, to Putin is unthinkable. And, despite stopthewar trying to couch this in terms of America, the States actually has little to do with this. If you look at the situation from the Russian view, and with the knowledge of the history, Russia has little choice but try to keep hold of the Crimea – it is of as much vital strategic importance now as it was then. It is an issue between the EU and Russia, two old enemies, fighting over a vital stretch of land.

So, the next few days and months are going to be vital, not just  for the Crimeans & Ukrainians, but Europe as a whole. This is a real test of European unity, and Britain needs to be at the forefront of this, just as it was in 1856.