The extraordinary story of St. Paul’s Churchyard—the area of London that was a centre of social and intellectual life for more than a millennium.
St. Paul’s Cathedral stands at the heart of London, an enduring symbol of the city. Less well known is the neighbourhood at its base that hummed with life for over a thousand years, becoming a theatre for debate and protest, knowledge and gossip.
For the first time Margaret Willes tells the full story of the area. She explores the dramatic religious debates at Paul’s Cross, the bookshops where Shakespeare came in search of inspiration, and the theatre where boy actors performed plays by leading dramatists. After the Great Fire of 1666, the Churchyard became the centre of the English literary world, its bookshops nestling among establishments offering luxury goods.
This remarkable community came to an abrupt end with the Blitz. First the soaring spire of Old St. Paul’s and then Wren’s splendid Baroque dome had dominated the area, but now the vibrant secular society that had lived in their shadow was no more.