Here's A Central London Museum You May Never Have Been To

By London Historians Last edited 82 months ago

Last Updated 12 September 2017

Here's A Central London Museum You May Never Have Been To

St John’s Gate was built in the first years of the 16th century by Thomas Docwra as part of St John’s Priory, the English headquarters of the Knights of St John, aka the Hospitallers.

The arms of Thomas Docwra

The Priory itself only survived a few more decades until it was surpressed by Henry VIII, but the gate survives, although much amended by Victorian architects.

While the small museum itself is a treasure trove of St John regalia, weaponry, paintings and so on, the trick is to turn up at 11am or 2.30pm on Tuesdays, Fridays or Saturdays to take the guided tour which is also free (a suggested donation of £5 is appreciated). This gives you wider access to the upstairs parts of St John’s Gate and also a tour of St John’s church up the road.

The Chapter Hall

Treat of the day for me was to sit in the Council Chamber. This room was, for a time in the 18th century, the HQ of the Gentleman’s Magazine where Samuel Johnson was sat down and cajoled into knuckling down to meet his copy deadline.

The Council Chamber, sometime HQ of Gentleman’s Magazine

Earlier, William Hogarth's father Richard ran a coffee house here, where only Latin was allowed to be spoken. Unsurprisingly, it didn't catch on and went bust along with Hogarth who ended up in a debtor's prison.

St John Clerkenwell. The Crypt.

The highlight of the church nearby is the old crypt which has a rather macabre monument of  William Weston, who was the last Prior before Henry VIII dissolved the Order in England.

Funerary monument of William Weston

This article originally appeared on London Historians. You can become a London Historians member here.

St John Clerkenwell. Altar in the Crypt.