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 Battle of Wingham’

One of the Stories in “Nefarious deeds of the Holkehurste Gang” concerns an violent altercation between the Hawkhurst Gang, led then by Arthur Gray, and the Wingham Gang. The events I dramatised happened in April 1746 in Wingham – a small Village between Canterbury and Sandwich, and was so violent an affray that the Supervisor of Customs at Canterbury, himself a man used to such things, said that he hadn’t seen anything like it before.

Historic Map of Wingham

Historic Map of Wingham

It all started off in Sandwich the previous night. A large group of smugglers had gathered , under the auspices of both Gangs, and agreed terms to unload two cutters with 20 ton of tea on to, it has been said, 350 waiting horses. The trouble started when one of the cutters was captured in the channel, and 9 1/2 ton was lost. (this boat was taken back to Margate).

Now the men had an agreement that no-one would leave until they all were ready, but, as the final horse was loaded, the Wingham men took off with the 11 1/2 tons of tea, leaving those loyal to Hawkhurst with nothing. Unsurprisingly, Gray’s men were none too impressed at this, and very quickly got organised. 92 men armed with pistols and broadswords descended on Wingham the following morning, and a fight started. This fight covered the whole of the village, and it was so bad that Villagers not part of the Gangs stood on the roads outside, warning travellers away from the place lest they be dragged into it.

Each captured man was made to give up their horse, with the goods on it, and had to sit down, like a captured prisoner of war. In the end, forty fully laden horses were captured by the Hawkhurst men, and the gang was demolished by the end of it. Indeed, it was reckoned that they were too fearful to turn the Hawkhurst men to the Customs. Despite this, only 7 men were wounded, two gravely.

Wingham Today

Wingham Today

Indeed, in terms of organisation and ruthlessness, the Hawkhurst men were so far ahead of the other Gangs in the area , even the name ‘Eastcountrymen’ (as they were often referred to) was spoken with respect and deference across the south east. Events like this merely served to enhance that reputation.

Ritchie Perrin – a Brief Life .

Staymaker cover

One of the Main Characters in Staymaker was a man by the name of Ritchard Perrin.  Chichester born and bred, he was a carpenter by trade. Some Carpenters were highly prized and skilled artisans, others were no more than labourers. Carpenters fell roughly into three distinct classes – firstly Master Carpenters, effetively the building contractors of the day, responsible for planning and organising the building – even down to designing the building. These often became very wealthy, and built houses for people to rent.

The second group was the small master craftsmen and their apprentices. These undertook smaller projects and commissions. The thrid, and far more populous group were the journeymen and labourers. These were the common, often unskilled men bringing the repuatation of the trade down.

From the fact that Perrin was fairly well off when his career ended , I presume him to be in the second group. We know he was well off because after his recovery from the “attack of Palsy” that robbed him of the use of an arm (a death knell for a tradesmen like himself) he had money enough to invest in the Chichester gang’s runs, and in turn keep up his own lifestyle.

He acted as the gang’s main buyer, going across to Guersey or France to select and pay for the tea and other goods, before accompanying them on the journey back to the mainland. For the run to Christchurch bay in 1747, he was accompanied by The Chichester Gang’s leader, John Dymer . (Matthew Hunter is completely fictitious!) . Both men escaped in the rowing boats along with most of the crew on that run. This was when he really started working with the Hawkhurst men as well. For the Poole raid, he sat back and held the horses alongside the young Thomas Lillywhite, but was inolved enough in their other activities to be gazetted along with them.

When the gangg broke up, he had little to fall back on baring the wealth that he had accumulated. this soon failed, and he was arrested and tried and executed in 1750 alongside Fairall and Kingsmill. The old Bailey account does insinuate that he went to his end far more pious and contrite that the other two men however.

Jacob Pring – Poacher turned Gamekeeper

Staymaker cover


One of the major characters in “Staymaker” is Jacob Pring. What he does broadly follows what his historical counterpart did. Piecing together his life through sources was interesting, and indeed his life beyond 1750 even more.

What is known was that he lived in Beckenham, and was the gang’s main middleman – responsible for selling the goods on (either directly to buyers or through the unofficial market in Stockwell). He had a very trusted position – he handled the profit side of the business, and was trusted not to rip anyone off.  Some commentators call him a fence. I refuse to use the word because the goods he sold were not stolen from anyone, just brought in to the country in a way that avoided duty. Pring never saw himself as a fence.

Certainly, around the time that William Galley and Daniel Chater were being murdered, he defected. Whether this was because he knew the net was tightening or, as I have written, he was sick of the murderous ways of the gang, and Thomas Kingsmill in particular, I do not know.  What is certain is that midway through 1748, he voluntarily turned King’s Evidence in return for a complete Pardon. His first task, to prove he was genuine, was the capture of John “Smoaker” Mills . The story in the Novel, of luring Mills on a pretext from Bristol to Beckenham is true, as is Pring’s subsequent ride to Horsham to fetch both customs officers and troops to complete the capture. Following this, he informed on a number of other major figures, and on the Gang’s ways of working etc.

Not content with this, Pring indeed worked out of the customs house in Woolwich thereafter. (His involvement in Ferial and Perrin’s later arrest is pure fiction however). We know that in 1753, he was responsible for the recapture of a transported smuggler (again, known to Pring for a decade) called Peter Ticknor. Ticknor was arrested originally in Lydd in 1747; charged and found guilty of going armed for smuggling. Pring and a fellow customs man called Baldwin re-arrested Ticknor in February 1753, having found out that he had returned from transportation before his sentence was ended. Ticknor got the death sentence after Pring gave evidence against him. Pring, then, certainly relished his new role as gamekeeper, and was not afraid to go up against smugglers known to him before his defection.

The other fact we know is that sometime after this arrest, Pring left the customs service to become one of the “Bow Street Runners”, London’s first professional Police service. This was set up in 1749 by Henry Fielding, and improved by his brother John in 1754.

So, there he is, Poacher turned Gamekeeper indeed.


“Smuggling in Kent and Sussex” Mary Waugh

“Smuggling in the British Isles” Richard Platt

“Honest Thieves – the Violent heyday of English Smuggling” – F F Nichols

Staymaker is available from Amazon for Kindle.

Scamming , Corruption and Public Office in 18th Century London

Mansion House London. The home and office of the Lord Mayor of London, The first stone was laid in 1739 but it was not until 1752 that Lord Mayor Sir Crispin Gascoigne was able to take up residence there. Work was completed in 1758. It is still in use today.


Now, some of the money raised to build this about £15,000 in six years in the 1740’s was raised in a rather elaborate scam by the Corporation of London. Yes, politicians raising money by using perfectly legal scams. Shocking isn’t it! Never happen today of course, nope. OUR politicians are honest, trustworthy and Chris Hune er, reliable.

It all started in 1742 when Robert Grosvenor was nominated and elected to the office of Sheriff. Being a religious dissenter however, he refused to take the Anglican rite and sacrament prior to taking office. The Corporation took him before Court of the Kings Bench where his claim for exemption was refused, thus he turned down the post.

The Corporation then went and passed a byelaw, supposedly to prevent this thing happening again, because it was considered bad show to turn down public appointments, not to mention all that fuss with new nominations and elections. The byelaw meant that refusing to ACCEPT a nomination resulted in a £400 fine, and refusal to accept a post after election, a £600 pound one.

Now, here is the clever bit. (This even outdoes Vetnari, ).  The SCAM . Remember the minor point about having to take the Anglican sacrament and rite prior to taking office?  Yes, that bit. the teensy tiny detail which most dissenters serious about their non-conformist status would refuse to do? Right. So, for the next 12 years, the Corporation tried to make sure that only good solid Anglicans were chosen. And Chris Hune found the points down the back of the sofa, honest Guv.

What they in fact did was target Dissenters and Non-Conformists deliberately in order to fine them. We know this because these fines raised £15,000 in six years, which helped them out of the cash black hole that building Mansion House was causing, that is a lot of fines, and a lot of pissed off non-conformists. That, I think you will agree, is one hell of a money raising scam.

This went on until in 1754, George Streatfield and Alexander Sheafe were both Nominated and elected as Sheriffs. Both refused to serve, (the whole not being a hypocrite thing again), and both refused to pay the fine, and both taken to the Sheriffs Court, where they were ordered to pay the fines. Backed by The Dissenters (Generally pissed of at being bled financially to near death by their deliberate targeting), they appealed to the Court of Hustings … which decided that screwing Dissenters was perfectly acceptable. So, in 1762 (8 years later) they got heard by a special commission of five judges who  came to the conclusion that fleecing non-conformists in this way was wrong, and the fines should not be paid.

So, the Corporation went higher, up to the House of Lords in 1767, and a final decision found in favour of the Non-conformists. Cue Hurrah’s and Applause. No more fines! no more scam. No more civic building funds paid for by scamming non-Anglicans.

Of course the upshot was that for the next 45 years, Non-Conformists were exempt from Public office (two acts in 1812 and 1813 changed that).

So, Next time you are passing Mansion House, pause a while, and remember that it was finished off out of the profits of a well though out and executed scam.

Mansion HOuse

(Source – “London in the Eighteenth Century” Chapter X . Sir Walter Beasant,  1901