Welcome to our Penances on the Bridge history section. You can skip to subsequent pages using the links below or simply continue reading to start at the beginning.
The old Bridge was the scene of many penances. In the year 1440, the Bridge Street, (the passage over the Thames and the main street beyond it on each side) was a scene of the public penances of Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, on the serious charge of having practised necromantic rites, in conjunction with others, to procure the death of the King.
After she was convicted, she was sentenced to a severe public penance, and banished for life to the Isle of Man; but she was later imprisoned in the castles of Chester and Kenilworth. One of the alleged accomplices of the Duchess was Thomas Southwell, a priest and canon of St. Stephen's, who died in the Tower on the night before his proposed trial.
Roger Bolynbroke, "a priest and great astronomer," and Margery Jourdemaine, or Gardemaine, whom Stow calls "a witch of Eye, besides Westminster," was implicated with the Duchess in the charge of necromancy, and were both put to death, Bolynbroke being hanged and quartered at Tyburn, and Jourdemaine burnt in Smithfield.
On November 9, the Duchess was sentenced to perform penance at three open places in London. On Monday the 13th she travelled by water from Westminster, landed at the Temple Bridge and walked through Fleet Street, bearing a wax taper weighing two pounds to St. Paul's, which she offered at the high altar.
On the following Wednesday she landed at the Old Swan, and passed through Bridge Street and Gracechurch street to Leadenhall, and at Cree-church near Aldgate, made her second offering. On the ensuing Friday, she was put on shore at Queen Hythe, and proceeded to St. Michael's Church, Cornhill, and completed her penance.
In each of these processions her head was covered by a scarf; her feet were bare; scrolls containing a narrative of her crime were affixed to her white dress; and she was received and attended by the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Companies of London.