A Marvellous Mulberry Monastery Walk

As part of Morus Londinium

This walk takes in mulberry trees, young and old, on the sites of former monasteries in the Square Mile. The walk highlights the historical association of mulberries with monasteries and the Church, pre-dating James I and his silk project by over 400 years, and revealing other roots of London's precious mulberry heritage – this time with the “right” mulberry, grown for its delicious fruit.

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Before we start, you'll need to know how to spot a mulberry! They come in all shapes and sizes, but are often identified by spreading branches, large, heart-shaped leaves, a gnarly trunk, and (in summer!) fruit that looks like a long blackberry.

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Pictures and text by Peter Coles. The map was created by The Conservation Foundation as part of the Morus Londinium project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Some pictures sourced from Wikimedia.

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1. North exit of Blackfriars station

A Dominican monastery was founded in 1221 in nearby Chancery Lane. The monks were called Black Friars because of the colour of their habits. The monastery was broken up in the Dissolution (1536-41). The Fleet River flows under Farringdon Road and comes out under Blackfriars Bridge. See the mosaic above the door of the Black Friar pub, London's only Art Nouveau pub, showing monks fishing in the river.
In 1311 Parliament was held here and in 1529 Katherine of Aragon appeared before a court in the divorce case brought by Henry VIII.

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2. Amen Court

From Blackfriars, walk up Ludgate Hill and turn left into Ave Maria Lane. Amen Court is a private road on the left, leading into Amen Corner. A mature black mulberry can be seen through the iron gate.
On Corpus Christi feast day, clergy from St Pauls used to proceed from Paternoster Row chanting the Lord’s Prayer in Latin (Pater Noster). They would get to the final Amen as they turned back towards St Paul’s, hence Amen Corner. They would then chant Hail Mary! (Ave Maria). The wall at the far end of Amen Court marks the western London wall. On the other side was Newgate Prison.

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3. St Paul's Churchyard

Walking back along Ave Maria Lane, turn left into St Pauls churchyard and carry on towards the north-east gate. On your right, on the lawn, is a young Morus alba pendula weeping white mulberry. Note the shape of the leaves, not heart-shaped like black mulberries. They are also thin, glossy and smooth. Photos from the 1980s show two large black mulberry trees by the South Transept, on the opposite side of the cathedral, but today two large Sweetgum trees are growing there.

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4. Bartholomew Close

Take the north east gate and walk towards Little Britain, past the ruins of Christchurch Greyfriars, a Wren church built after the Great Fire destroyed the original Franciscan abbey that dated back to 1225. In Postman's Park, opposite, there is a Native Black Poplar, one of only 5000 left in Britain. Carry on up Little Britain to St. Bartholomew-the-Great Priory church, the oldest church in London, founded by Rahere in 1123 as an Augustinian priory. Follow the church round along Cloth Fair, where Raucous Fairs and jousting tournaments were held in medieval times, turning right into Bartholomew Close. There is a mature black mulberry behind the railings outside the Lady Chapel. Bartholomew Close was the site of a medieval mulberry garden, possibly part of the Prior's Infirmary Garden.

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5. Charterhouse

Walk back to Cloth Fair, turning right next to No 43, where the poet Sir John Betjeman lived. Cross in front of Smithfield market, over Long Lane and turn right into Charterhouse Street. On the left is the Charterhouse, a Carthusian monastery founded in 1350, now an alms house. Three black mulberries can be seen peeping over the wall near the Lodge entrance. There are two more fine black mulberries inside, in Preachers Court, said to be cuttings from Milton's (17th century) black mulberry at Christ's College, Cambridge, planted in 1840. Charterhouse can be visited by appointment.

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6. Dr Johnson's House & the Cheshire Cheese

Walk back along Charterhouse Street, crossing over into Smithfield market. Turn right into West Smithfield. Follow the road down and cross over Farringdon Road, noting the steep incline of the banks of the Fleet river below. Having crossed Farringdon Road, take a peek into the first staircase leading up to Holborn Viaduct to see a large mural showing the Fleet River as it may have looked. Walk up Plum Street and turn left into Shoe Lane. After 100 m, turn right up Wine Office Court into Gough Square (see Dr Johnson's house at the far end). Carry on past Boswell's cat, bearing left and take the left fork into Hind Court, past the old Cheshire Cheese pub (rebuilt 1667) where young Poets including W.B. Yeats started the Rhymers' Club and met in the 1890s, then into Fleet Street. Cross over and turn right towards Mitre Court.

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7. Inner Temple Gardens

Enter the Inner Temple by the Mitre Court entrance and walk straight down to King's Bench Walk. At lunchtime on weekdays you can enter Inner Temple Gardens by a staircase (on your right). Walk round the Paper Buildings on your left to find a splendid Black mulberry. If the garden is closed you can still see the tree from Kings Bench walk, through the railings and Wisteria.

Charles Lamb and Thackeray lived in the Inner Temple. If you have time, visit Temple church. The round West end was a copy of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was King John's London headquarters, (1214-5). From here he issued two charters leading up to Magna Carta, which he signed in June 1215 at Runnymede. This has been the foundation of civil rights ever since.

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8. Fountain Court

Walk back up Kings Bench Walk, turning left past Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar in the late 12th century. Carry on through Pump Court into the Middle Temple and Fountain Court. Two mature black mulberries are leaning over by the Fountain, planted in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Charles Dickens used Fountain Court as a setting in Martin Chuzzlewit and Barnaby Rudge.

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