For most of us the name William Wallace would have been meaningless before Mel Gibson made it a household name with his outstanding performance in Braveheart. Actually I have always been interested in the history of Scotland but I was never aware that there was a memorial to William Wallace in London. It is located on the south side of Smithfield Market in the City of London. It is near the site where in 1305 he was hung, drawn and quartered. This was the punishment for those found guilty of treason who were not of noble blood.
I was expecting perhaps a little more than the large plaque on the wall giving the details of his life and death but it was gut wrenching all the same. With the shrieks from the movie resounding in my ears I was very aware that this was a place where one of Scotland’s great heroes gave up his life. Somehow it almost felt like a holy place.
While you are in the area take the time to visit the two St. Bartholomew Churches, the Great and the Less. To enter St. Bartholomew the Great you pass through the gatehouse. This is a wonderful timber frame building that is one of the oldest surviving in London.
St. Bartholomew the Great was originally part of the Augustinian Priory founded in 1123 by Raheen one of Henry I courtiers. St. Bartholomew Hospital grew out of the priory’s care for the sick in the area. The grave of Raheen in located in the church in a beautiful tomb. The church had a pervasive smell of incense, from the funeral, which had, just finished I’m sure, but it certainly added to the atmosphere.
St. Bartholomew the Less is a hospital church. It has 2 surviving 15th century arches but the main reason to visit here is the 14th century brass memorial plaques on the floor. They are under a carpet that you must move and they are of William and Alice Markeby.
To get here take the circle line to Barbican stop. Come out of the station and turn right then turn right again. Walk down Long Lane until you see Cloth Fair, this is a very scenic street with some nice old half-timber houses. Cloth Fair will take you along the side of St. Bartholomew the Great right up to Smithfield Market.