Soper Lane

Soper Lane

Robert Hicks established his mercer’s business on Soper Lane, at the junction with Cheapside, an excellent position.  After his death his wife, Julian, continued the business and eventually Baptist inherited from her.

  • In mediaeval times, of very little significance
  • Housing poor, made up of ‘dive sheds’ (?)
  • Merchants set up their stalls there, close to the main marketplace of St Paul’s Churchyard
  • Became part of the Mayor’s processional route and also the Coronation route and increased in wealth and prestige
  • Soper Lane is the north/south, east/west location where the Lord Mayor’s and the monarch’s processional routes crossed
  • The performance at Soper Lane during the monarchical ceremonies may have been the most significant.

Soper Lane was located in the Cordwainers Street Ward south of Cheapside. According to John Stow (1598) it was home to many of the soap makers and shoemakers of the city.  Local merchants brought moveable stalls to this area to sell their goods near the largest market in the city, St. Paul’s Churchyard.  The market opened at dawn in the winter and six in the morning during the summer, with store owners usually sleeping under their counters to prevent theft (Barker 232).

Soper Lane was not a major road in the city in the medieval period.  During the early modern period the housing on Soper Lane was eventually built up five stories high.  Soper Lane became a major processional route through the city for both the Lord Mayor and the monarch during the time of coronation. This increase in the wealth and prestige of Soper Lane was due to its location in the city and the role this street played in the processional route.  During the coronation of the monarch, the king or queen would spend the previous night sleeping in the Tower.  The processional route began at Tower Street, continue along Mark Lane and then travel west along Fenchurch Street, then headed north along Gracechurch Street, west along Cheapside to  St. Paul’s Churchyard.

Every October 29th, the Lord Mayor would make his traditional walk from the Guildhall (place of civic government) to Westminster to be sworn in as the new mayor of the city (Manley 219).  He would leave the Guildhall along Ironmonger Lane and cross Cheapside along Soper Lane.  The Lord Mayor would proceed to Downgate where he would sail down to Westminster to participate in his coronation.  During both processions, street pageantry was performed.

The performance at Soper Lane during the monarchical ceremonies may have been the most significant.  Here the monarch would pass a sword to the Lord Mayor, who would carry the sword ahead of the procession for the remainder of the ceremony to show the union between the monarch and the people (Manley 220).  The pageant at Soper Lane acted out the ceremony of the monarch being crowned and reiterated the importance that the city of London played in the monarch’s success.  Soper Lane’s main significance, therefore, was its location as an intersecting point between the Lord Mayor’s procession and the procession of the monarch.

Against Soper Lanes End was extended from the one side of the street to the other, a pageant which had three gates all open.  Over the middlemost whereof were erected three several stages, whereon sat eight children as hereafter followeth.  On the uppermost one child, on the middle three, on the lowest ,4 each having the proper name of the blessing that they did represent, written in a table and placed above their heads.  In the forefront of this pageant before the children which did represent the blessings, was a convenient standing cast out for a child to stand, which did expound the said pageant unto the queens majesty, as was done in the other tofore.  Everie of these children were appointed & appareled according unto the blessing which he did represent.  And on the forepart of the said pageant was written in fayre letters the name of the said pageant in this manner following. The eight beatitudes expressed in the v. chapter of the gospel of S. Mathew, applied to our sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth.