The amazing web site of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Shakespeare's London. Cheapside.



This is part of the web site of Shakespeare's sonnets


LONDON before the Great Fire


A view of Cheapside circa 1639




The signs on poles in front of the houses probably relate to merchants who used the lower floors as shops. They show the three nuns, the swan, the star (twice), the white lion, the half moon (twice), the hat or cardinal's cap, the black lion, the cross, etc. (not all on this page). The sign of the mermaid, an inn, is accompanied with a large garland, or bush, which was a common sign for an Inn of the period. Hence the Shakespearian phrase 'Good wine needs no bush'. The bush is more apparent in the final eastern section of the print, (see below), hanging next to the nag's head inn sign.





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For a more detailed view of each part of the street, click on one of the parts above for whichever section you wish to magnify.


The print shows the visit of Mary de Medici, daughter of the grand duke of Tuscany, in 1639. She was the mother of the English Queen, the wife of Charles I. She stayed in England for about two years but was generally hated by the populace as a scheming political intriguer and, being a Catholic, was suspected of desires to overthrow English Protestantism. The houses would have been mostly constructed of wood and wattle daub. They have the typical overhanging construction of the Elizabethan period, made possible by the use of oak beams. A house front of a similar style and date is kept at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Further details of the buildings are given with each individual enlargement.


The print is from Histoire de L'entree de La Reine Mere dans La Grande Bretagne, by P. de la Serre. 1639.

Re-printed in London in 1775 by W. Bowyer and J. Nichols.




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