The Order of St John and King Henry VIII

Museum of the Order of St John

In 1540, as part of King Henry VIII’s split from the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, it was decreed that the Order of St John was dissolved in England and its properties were to be seized by the Crown.

The Order’s lands in Clerkenwell, London encompassed ten acres and were populated by a number of buildings and people, including numerous members of the Order of St John. One of these buildings was the grand St John’s Gate, which formed the entryway to the Order lands and was only built as recently as 1504, during the reign of King Henry VIII’s predecessor, his father King Henry VII. Also included was the Priory Church and Crypt, which would have been the main hub of the Order, and had stood in Clerkenwell since the mid-12th century.

Here you can see the warrant issued by King Henry VIII (his distinctive signature is visible in the top left) for the destruction of the Priory Church. As Catholic institutions were not be respected under the newly-Protestant monarch, he instructs that the buildings be sold or used for construction materials. You can also find a transcription of the warrant below.

ALT="a copy of an old manuscript, handwritten in black ink with monogram of King Henry VIII at the top left"

“Henry                                                                                         By the Kyng

We Wooll and com[m]annd that by vertue herof ye p[er]mytt and suffer oure welbelovyd chapplayne Thomas Canner clerke surveyo[r] of oure woork[es] and buylding[es] at o[ur] palaice of Westm[inster]. John Molton. Nycholas Ellis, and John Russell oure masons and carpenter and the deputies of them to perceyve and take for and to oure use to be employde in and aboute oure buylding[es] at o[ure] palaice or elswhere that we shall appoyntt all suche stone of all kynd[es], Tymber, Leade, Iron, Glasse. Marble and all lyke thing[es] being now in or uppon the hole churche Chapell Hes Steple and porches app[er]teynyng to the late hous of saint Jones Jierusalem edifyed and being within the suburbes of o[ure] Citie of London and nowe desolved, any other Com[m]anndeme[n]t by us heretofore made to the contrary not w[i]thstanding, Provyded also that suche stuff there to be taken Downe not mete to be occupied in and aboute oure said building[es], shalbe solde by the said Thomas Canner, John Molton, Nicholas Ellis and Joh[an]n[es] Russell and there deput[ies] for oure Use in and toward[es] the discharging of suche charges as shall growe in taking downe and carrying of the same unto o[ur] palaice aforesaid o[r] elsewhere, and the money growing of any suche sales, to be made by bill Indenture betwixt the keper or officer of the said man[n]er of S[tephen] Jones of the one p[ar]ties, And of the said Thomas Canner, Joh[an]n[es] Molton, Nicholas Ellis, and Joh[an]n[es] Russell or two of theym on thether p[ar]ties, And this bill signed w[i]th our hand shalbe unto you a sufficient warrant and discharge at all tymes for the same, yeeven at oure palaice of Westm[inster] the xijth day of M the xxxviijth yere of oure Reigne”

Transcription courtesy of Peter Eaves

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