Antique print of St Mary-le-Bow an historic church rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666 by Sir Christopher Wren in the City of London on the main east–west thoroughfare, Cheapside. According to tradition a true Cockney must be born within earshot of the sound of Bow Bells (which refers to this church’s bells rather than St Mary and Holy Trinity, Bow Road, in Bow, an outlying village until the 19th century). This copper-plate engraved print is from the 1720 edition of Stow’s Survey.
John Stow was born in about 1525 in the City parish of St Michael, Cornhill, then at the heart of London’s metropolis. His father, Thomas Stow, was a tallow chandler. Thomas Stow is recorded as paying rent of 6s 8d per year for the family dwelling, and as a youth Stow would fetch milk every morning from a farm on the land nearby to the east owned by the Minoresses of the Convent of St. Clare. Stow did not take up his father’s trade of tallow chandlery, instead becoming an apprentice, and in 1547 a freeman, of the Merchant Taylors’ Company, by which stage he had set up business in premises close to Aldgate Well, close to Leadenhall Street and Fenchurch Street. In about 1560 he started upon his major work, the Survey of London. About 10 years later he moved to the parish of St Andrew Undershaft in the Ward of Lime Street, where he lived in comfortable surroundings until his death in 1605. The work for which Stow is best known is his Survey of London (original spelling: A Survay of London), published in 1598, which is of unique value for its detailed account of the buildings, social conditions and customs of London in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. He published a second revised edition in 1603. Following his death, a third edition, with additions by Anthony Munday appeared in 1618; a fourth by Munday and Dyson in 1633; a fifth with interpolated amendments by John Strype in 1720; and a sixth by the same editor in 1754. In the century following Stow’s death, however, the London described and recorded in Stow’s Survey was dramatically changed. Metropolitan growth, the Fire of 1666 and the rebuilding of the City made an updating of the Survey necessary. This task was undertaken by John Strype (1643-1737), who published an enlarged version of Stow’s Survey in 1720, further updated in 1754-1756.