Strype's Survey of London


University of Nottingham

The creation of the 1720 edition

If John Stow’s Survey of London is probably the most famous single work ever written about England’s capital, then the enlarged and updated edition of the same book published some 120 years later by the famous ecclesiastical historian John Strype surely stands as one of the most remarkable works of scholarship ever produced about the city, and is regarded even today as a standard and invaluable work of reference for historians of the capital. Just as London’s boundaries and population had vastly expanded in the years between Stow and Strype’s works, so Strype’s edition dwarfs Stow’s original work. In two stout folio volumes, Strype’s monumental composition provides not just an updated account of the City that brings it down to the early eighteenth century, but also vastly extends the work’s range both geographically (to take in the sprawling suburbs of the metropolis) and thematically (to discuss a panoply of new subjects, from the Great Fire and the provision of water and public health to workhouses and the Bank of England). This is combined with a famous collection of ward and parish maps, and a fine set of plates of prominent buildings. The whole is appropriately preceded by the first detailed life of John Stow, with a full-page reproduction of his funeral monument. 1

The Survey of London is a work which has attracted many different editors in its history, and Strype’s own remarkable edition cannot be used effectively without an understanding of its relationship to the original and subsequent texts of this remarkable work.

John Stow’s own Survey of London was first published in 1598. But he did not intend this to be his last word on the subject. In 1603 he published a new edition with many important corrections and additions, and he clearly intended to embark on further elaborations and refinements, prevented only by his death in 1605. Work on a new edition of the Survey began not long after Stow’s death. His first posthumous editor was the incorrigible Anthony Munday — playwright, pageant-writer, polemicist, and (apparently) a spy reporting against both puritans and Catholics. Munday claimed of Stow that, while still alive, ‘much of his good mind he had formerly imparted to me, and some of his best collections lovingly delivered me, prevailing with mee ? to proceed in the perfecting of a Worke so worthy’. 2 Munday’s new edition of the Survey, published in 1618, sought to update Stow’s text in a number of ways. Another edition, published in 1633 after Munday’s death, took things further, including a substantial new section entitled ‘A Returne to London’, which sets out to document a resurgence in London church repair, rebuilding and beautification, undertaking a parish-by-parish survey of the capital’s churches. A further bizarre appendix presents an accumulation of miscellaneous, almost random, material, under the title ‘The Remaines or Remnants of Divers Worthy Things which should have had their Due Place and Honour in this Worke, if Promising Friends had Kept their Words’. 3

The unwieldy sprawl of Munday’s 1633 edition showed that Stow’s work clearly required a more effective editor. Nevertheless, no further editions of Stow were attempted. Instead, the text of the Survey (usually the 1633 edition) was raided by later authors for material that they could insert into their own works on London. This was the case in James Howell’s Londinopolis (1657) and Thomas de Laune’s The Present State of London (1681; 2nd ed 1690). In 1694 a concerted attempt was made by Richard Blome (who had produced a new edition of William Camden’s Britannia in 1673) to complete a new edition of Stow’s Survey ‘with large additions and improvements’. While new maps and much new text were generated, however, the edition itself was never published. 4

In 1702, two of the publishers involved in the abortive 1694 edition of the Survey drew up an agreement to edit the Survey with one of those writers who had initially been approached to provide materials for the 1694 edition. This was John Strype. Strype is best known to us as an ecclesiastical historian, but also enjoyed fame as an accomplished editor of texts and historical documents, including an immensely popular account of Ceylon (and indeed, his ecclesiastical annals and biographies were often essentially compendia of extracts of transcribed documents). His edition of the Survey was apparently completed by November 1707, but Strype and his publishers then found that booksellers would not accept the work because of the simultaneous publication of a much slimmer and cheaper rival -- Edward Hatton’s New View of London -- which used significant amount of materials from Stow (although self-consciously abandoning Stow’s structure and methodology). Like Blome’s edition, Strype’s 1708 Survey was therefore aborted. Nevertheless, the deficiencies of Hatton’s work meant that the demand for a scholarly updating of Stow’s Survey were undiminished, and by the second half of 1716 the edition was back on track, and Strype’s edition of the Survey was finally published in December 1720. The work, in two folio volumes, was priced at a princely six guineas, and somewhere between 500 and 700 copies were published, with 271 subscribers listed in the work itself. 5

The drawn-out process by which Strype’s edition emerged can help to explain some of the peculiarities of the text as it was finally published. Strype clearly had access to the text and other materials of Blome’s abortive 1694 edition. He scrupulously indicates all Blome’s additions to the original Survey with the marginal note ‘R.B.’ —but this means that some of these sections stop abruptly in 1694. The maps in Strype’s edition are also essentially taken from Blome’s 1694 edition, although with some minor alterations made in 1707 (although, unlike the text, Blome’s name is unceremoniously removed from the maps). Strype also does not seem to have altered the main body of the text that he completed for the 1708 edition, so that changes occurring between 1708 and 1720 are often missed. The written account of the city therefore essentially describes London as it was in 1708. 6 Even the list of stage coaches and carriers is dated 1707. Strype did, however, add a number of new and supplementary sections to the work.

The earlier history of the Survey under the editorship of Stow and Munday can also explain some other gaps and anomalies in the coverage of Strype’s edition. For example, the entries for different London parishes provide plentiful information on Jacobean church-building, because Strype has taken the separate, consolidated account of early Stuart church-building--which Munday appended to the 1633 edition--and redistributed this material within the overall entries on each individual parish. But Strype’s edition contains virtually no reference to any church-building or decoration in London parishes during the Laudian campaign of the 1630s and surprisingly little on the later seventeenth century. There had, of course, been no shortage of such building, but there had been no Munday around to record it, and Strype made no use of parochial documents to investigate these matters further. 7

Other anomalies of the edition’s coverage can be explained by the practicalities of the gathering of material. The chance enthusiasm of certain clergy and parish officials, for example, seems to explain why some parishes, such as St James Clerkenwell and St Botolph Aldgate, are far more fully documented than others, especially for the later seventeenth century. 8 It is also not surprising to find that Strype’s own parish of Low Leyton receives more attention than its suburban location might otherwise have afforded it, as does the parish of Hackney, where he held a lectureship. While Strype does not seem to have consulted parish records such as churchwardens’ accounts (so that his accounts of parochial donors are dependent on the tables and monuments visible in churches when he and his assistant ‘I.W.’ visited them), nevertheless the support of Bishop Compton of London meant that Strype had access to diocesan materials of a type which neither Stow nor Munday had available. Strype relied heavily on the recent 1693 episcopal visitation returns to update the perambulation portion of the Survey, while information from an earlier visitation of 1636 helped to fill in gaps about the pre-Fire character of certain parishes.

Some omissions in the edition also reflect simple time constraints. As late as October 1719, it was noted that information on nine livery companies was still missing, and in the final version three livery companies are bereft of a brief history, with only their coat of arms provided (II.v.247). Yet by July 1720 Strype was still supplying new material for the appendices, much to the consternation of the booksellers who begged him to ‘put a stop to the great Enlargements which we perceive are like to be made in the second Appendix for We have Exceeded by 80 sheets of Our first Computation already’. 9

While we may note its many omissions, however, it is just as important to emphasize the enormous amounts of new material which Strype introduced to the Survey. It should also be recognized that Strype did not merely add new material by describing recent events and institutions, but also drew on medieval and Tudor sources to expand significantly the coverage of the period before Stow wrote his first edition. For example, Strype’s account of the parish of St Martin in the Fields, Westminster is enriched by his use of Burghley’s papers for an account of an enclosure riot in 1592 ( 10


Strype and the 1720 Survey

If it is important for the reader of Strype’s edition to understand how the work stands within the series of continuations of Stow’s original work, it is equally important to appreciate how John Strype’s own preoccupations played a vital role in shaping the 1720 edition.

Strype’s experience as an editor clearly led him to take a keen interest in identifying Stow’s original text. He explains in his preface that he wished to return to the uncorrupted Stow because ‘since the Author’s Death there having crept in a great number of Errors, as it happens in After-Editions’. Contemporaries had increasingly tended to conflate the versions of the Survey produced by Stow and Munday. Strype therefore made it a priority to disentangle the publishing history of the Survey by introducing a system of marginal annotations, so that Stow’s original text could be identified. This partly reflected Strype’s conviction that Munday was greatly inferior to Stow as a scholar, but also his esteem for Stow himself. Not the least notable addition to the Survey that Strype introduced was the ‘Life of Stow’ which prefaces the whole work, along with a full-page reproduction of Stow’s funeral monument. Strype’s ‘Life of Stow’ marks a significant moment in the rehabilitation of Stow’s reputation. Strype presents him as a paragon of honest and intuitive scholarship, compassionate to the poor, and specifically refutes charges that he was overly credulous or unscholarly in his working methods. He makes no attempt to hide Stow’s Catholic sympathies, but explains them in terms of a response to the sacrilege of the early Reformation, and offers a rounded, realistic and above all sympathetic account of his trials and tribulations.

Strype clearly admired Stow as a fellow scholar and editor. But for all his editorial scruples, his concern to follow Stow’s method, and the practical pressures that significantly shaped the content of the book, Strype’s edition of the Survey is not entirely lacking in evidence of Strype’s own religious and intellectual preoccupations. 11

The son of a Dutch immigrant silk merchant, John Strype grew up in a family with strong non-conformist links. This was particularly true of the family of his mother, Hester van Strype, who is known to have sheltered non-conformist ministers in her London house during the 1665 plague. After the death of his father, the young Strype also came under the influence of his brother-in-law John Johnson, a dedicated Presbyterian minister. It was Johnson who in 1663 arranged for Strype to transfer from Jesus College, Cambridge to the more amenable Catherine Hall, where John Lightfoot (who had earlier supported Presbyterianism at the Westminster Assembly) was master. Despite this background, however, Strype ultimately decided to position himself firmly within the ranks of the established church — a decision which alienated him from most of his close-knit family for many years. 12 The influence of some of this background may be glimpsed in his treatment of the stranger communities in the pages of the Survey. While condemning the naturalization of alien merchants, Strype still does his best to defend the rights of the stranger communities to be exempted from the requirements of religious conformity. In part, he does this by emphasizing, not their shared membership of an international Protestant community (as puritans had traditionally done) but rather the degree to which their behaviour echoes that of the established church. Thus he notes how French Protestants at St Anne Soho use the English liturgy in French translation, with episcopally-ordained ministers officiating and sometimes wearing Anglican garb (II.v.294-305;

Strype was closely involved in the religious politics of his day. He served as minister at Low Leyton, just outside London, from 1668 until his death, and it was from here that he supported Henry Compton, bishop of London, even when the latter was suspended by James II in 1686. Strype was also involved in clandestine publications criticizing James’ religious policies. Thereafter, Strype’s strong support for the Glorious Revolution led to his formal institution as rural dean of Barking by the grateful Bishop Compton, and he was additionally rewarded with a lectureship at the nearby parish of Hackney. In the years that followed, Strype’s position as dean of Barking extended beyond a merely pastoral one, as he also participated in electioneering for the Essex Church-Tory party. 13

Strype’s religious sentiments — fiercely anti-Jacobite and anti-Catholic, disapproving of Dissenters, and passionately committed to the established church — can also be seen to have found outlets in sections of the Survey. Thus, while Strype follows Stow in including Fitzstephen’s encomium of Thomas Becket at the end of the medieval account of London, he adds a stinging editorial addition that this was written by ‘a Monk, the Pope’s sworn Creature ? in the very Depth of Popery’ (II.Appendix, p.15). It is also notable that, while later eighteenth-century editors of the Survey felt obliged to denounce the anti-Catholic inscriptions on the Great Fire Monument, Strype was comfortable merely to report these additions to the Monument without comment. 14

The Survey also bears witness to Strype’s profound concern with the moral life of the City, encapsulated in his enthusiasm for such contemporary organizations as the Society for the Reformation of Manners. He introduces a new section to the Survey that is specifically concerned with ‘the late Endeavours used in the City for the restraining of Vice’, which describes ‘in what State Religion and Good Manners stand here at present’, partly by an approving overview of the various Societies (II.v.30-52). Like Munday and Stow, Strype gives an account of charities and almshouses, but this is no mere catalogue of good works — this is clearly a topic that excites Strype’s particular interest. He gives a meticulous account of the workhouse in Bishopgate Street, with case studies of its successes (I.i.197-202). This concern with the instruments of social control and moral reform is very much of its time, and conspicuously different from the world of Stow and Munday, where the very fact of the founder’s charity claimed most attention.

Needless to say, this preoccupation with the need to maintain social order means that Strype makes little space in his edition of the Survey for the discussion of sports and pastimes. As a diligent editor he reproduces Stow’s account of ‘the customary Sports used in the City’, but rather than supplementing this with an updated account of such pursuits, Strype rather oddly chooses to append a bloodcurdling account of ‘some of their customary Punishments in former Times, of Shame or Pain, or both, for divers Sorts of Crimes and Misdemeanours: Such were Pillorizing, Carting, Riding, Whipping.’ (I.i.257-8). The association of the two topics in Strype’s mind seems clear. It is hardly surprising that virtually the only allusion that Strype makes to theatrical drama in the capital focuses on the City’s attempts under Elizabeth to regulate potentially dissolute players and the ‘lewd Matters of plays’ (II.v.244-6).

Strype’s edition also breathes the spirit of its age in its provision of statistical information. Strype’s modish fascination with political arithmetic shines through in page upon page of statistics and tables charting matters such as the volume of livery company charity, amounts spent yearly on the diet of the poor, numbers received into and discharged from the capital’s workhouses, and a lengthy account of fire insurance rates, complete with charts to calculate premiums. Similarly, the state of contemporary London’s wealth and income, and its role at the centre of overseas trade, are celebrated, along with lengthy discussions of trading companies and the Bank of England (e.g. II.v.256-73, 404-8, 445-7).

Strype’s edition of the Survey of London is, then, a remarkable compendium of information about the capital. For all of its omissions, the anomalous chronological range of some sections, and the idiosyncrasy of others, its editor still manages to muster a huge amount of material gathered from an extraordinary range of sources. The two hefty volumes may lack the immediate personal touch and focus of Stow’s own Survey, but this is not because Strype himself was simply a dispassionate observer of events. As we have seen, he had his own agenda and beliefs as well. The unwieldiness of the Survey partly reflects the task that Strype set himself — to preserve Stow’s original text and the essential structure of Stow’s work, but also to integrate the additions of Munday, Blome and Strype himself within the same framework. What it gains in comprehensiveness, it loses in coherence. Not the least bewildering aspects of the book is the cacophony of editorial voices. The authorial ‘I’ can be found reporting events witnessed in the 1540s, conversations in the 1620s, or visiting Westminster Hall in the 1650s in order to see the standards seized at the Battle of Worcester (I.ii.66; I.iii.16; The Survey of Strype’s edition has a multiple personality, switching with little warning from nostalgic Elizabethan antiquary to triumphalist Jacobean pageant-writer to diligent post-Restoration recorder of events and back again. Instead of a perambulation where Stow takes the reader by the hand through London’s streets, it is now a huge boisterous party — with Munday, Blome, Strype and others all coming along, interrupting one another, hailing the new and the old using the same authorial ‘I’ — an ‘I’ that is sometimes nostalgic and regretful, sometimes enthusiastic and forward-looking.

It emphatically does not conform to our modern sense of a scholarly edition of a celebrated work. Nevertheless, Strype’s sprawling edition creates an altogether richer melange of materials. Rather than being frozen in the past, the Survey of London lives in Strype’s present, speaking of new developments as well as recording old ones. Moreover, as a repository of the knowledge, ideas and manuscript discoveries of this most indefatigable of antiquaries, Strype’s Survey of London still represents a treasure trove for the historian of London.



  1. Much of the following text is adapted from J.F. Merritt, ‘The reshaping of Stow’s Survey’, in J.F. Merritt (ed.), Imagining Early Modern London. Perceptions and Portrayals of the City from Stow to Strype, 1598-1720 (Cambridge, 2001), pp. 52-88.
  2. Munday, Survey (1618), ‘The Epistle Dedicatory’, sig. 2.
  3. For a fuller discussion see Merritt, ‘Reshaping’, pp. 54-67.
  4. Ibid., pp. 67-73.
  5. John J. Morrison, ‘Strype’s Stow: the 1720 Edition of ‘A Survey of London’’, London Journal 3 (1977), pp. 42-7, 54 n.68.
  6. Ibid., pp. 41, 47.
  7. Merritt, ‘Reshaping’, p. 86.
  8. Ibid., p. 84 n.114.
  9. Ibid., pp. 85-6; Morrison, ‘Strype’s Stow’, p. 47.
  10. See also J.F. Merritt, The Social World of Early Modern Westminster (Manchester, 2005), pp. 202-5.
  11. For a fuller discussion see Merritt, ‘Reshaping’, pp. 76-84.
  12. John J. Morrison, ‘John Strype: historian of the English Reformation’, PhD thesis, University of Syracuse (1976), pp. 21-8, 37.
  13. Ibid., pp. 33, 67, 70-3, 284, 287-97.
  14. I.ii.181; Survey (1754), I.ii.501-2.