Paternoster Row

Paternoster Row was a street in the City of London that was a centre of the London publishing trade,[1][2] with booksellers operating from the street.[3] Paternoster Row was described as "almost synonymous" with the book trade.[4] It was part of an area also called St. Paul's Churchyard.

The street was devastated by aerial bombardment during the World War II. In 2003, the street was replaced with Paternoster Square, the modern home of the London Stock Exchange, although a City of London Corporation road sign remains in the square near where Paternoster Row once stood.


The street is supposed to have received its name from the fact that, when the monks and clergy of St Paul's Cathedral would go in procession chanting the great litany, they would recite the Lord's Prayer (Pater Noster being its opening line in Latin) in the litany along this part of the route). The prayers said at these processions may have also given the names to nearby Ave Maria Lane and Amen Corner.

An alternative etymology is the early traders, who sold a type of prayer been known as a "pater noster".


The name of the street dates back at least to the 16th century.

Houses in St. Paul's Churchyard were damaged in the Great Fire of London in 1666, burning down the old St. Paul's Cathedral. When the new St. Paul's Cathedral was erected, booksellers returned after a number of years.

Henry (Robert) Gunnell (1724-1794) of Millbank, a senior officer in the House of Commons, bought No. 8 Paternoster Row in 1778 as one of his portfolio of properties and soon after, gave it to his eldest son John Gunnell (1750-1796), a Westminster gentleman. John though seldom stayed at the residence, as he lived mainly at Margate, Kent, and it was instead used as a literary venue by Henry (Robert) and his friends, where among other notable members, Jane Timbury would attend. Her stance as a novelist and poet later inspired Jane Austen in her career. Henry (Robert) Gunnell's wife Anne Rozea (1727-1796) was known for her attendance reciting moving French poetry dressed in an exquisite mantua with ornate jubilee hat. Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782) was also known to have attended on occasions. Henry (Robert) originally bought No. 8 Paternoster Row from Sylvanus Hall (one of his three houses on Paternoster Row), a successful London currier and leather goods craftsman (Guildhall Library) who had earlier worked together with Anne Rozea's store at “Gunnell’s Hat Warehouse” in Covent Garden from the mid 1760s. There he oversaw the manufacture of fashionable hats, cloaks and silk garments and who later married Henry (Robert) and Anne Rozea's daughter Ann Gunnell (1746-1804) at the church of St Paul's, Covent Garden, 2nd Feb. 1769. They lived at Paternoster Row for nine years, until as mentioned, her father bought No. 8 for his son John as part of his inheritance. Ann and Sylvanus moved to a new home at Marylebone. On the 21st Feb. 1776 at the Old Bailey, Jeremiah Pope was indicted for stealing ‘six hundred pounds' weight of lead piping’ from the three properties of Sylvanus Hall in Paternoster Row. Another well known visitor to No. 8 was Thomas Vanhagen, whose famous pastry shop was located nearby inside St Paul’s Churchyard and where many Londoners took their refreshment. Various caricatures of Vanhagen were published over the years. His daughter Charlotte married Robert & Anne’s son Henry Gunnell, 10th Jul. 1779. The Gunnells eventually sold No. 8 Paternoster Row in 1794.

A bust of Aldus Manutius, writer and publisher, can be seen above the fascia of number 13.[5] The bust was placed there in 1820 by Bible publisher Samuel Bagster.[6]

It was reported that Charlotte Brontë and Anne Brontë stayed at the Chapter Coffeehouse on the street when visiting London in 1847. They were in the city to meet their publisher regarding Jane Eyre.[7]

A fire broke out at number 20 Paternoster Row on 6 February 1890. Occupied by music publisher Fredrick Pitman, the first floor was found to be on fire by a police officer at 21:30. The fire alarm was sounded at St. Martin's-le-Grand and fire crews extinguished the flames in half an hour. The floor was badly damaged, with smoke, heat and water impacting the rest of the building.[8]

This blaze was followed later the same year on 5 October by 'an alarming fire'. At 00:30 a fire was discovered at W. Hawtin and Sons, based in numbers 24 and 25. The wholesale stationers' warehouse was badly damaged by the blaze.[9]

On 21 November 1894, police raided an alleged gambling club which was based on the first floor of 59 Paternoster Row. The club known both as the 'City Billiard Club' and the 'Junior Gresham Club' had been there barely three weeks at the time of the raid. Forty-five arrests were made, including club owner Albert Cohen.[10]

On 4 November 1939, a large-scale civil defence exercise was held in the City of London. One of the simulated seats of fire was in Paternoster Row.[11]

Trübner & Co. was one of the publishing companies on Paternoster Row.

Destruction during World War II

The street was devastated by aerial bombardment during the Blitz of World War II, suffering particularly heavy damage in the night raid of 29–30 December 1940, later characterised as the Second Great Fire of London, during which an estimated 5 million books were lost in the fires caused by tens of thousands of incendiary bombs.[12]

After the raid a letter was written to The Times describing:

'...a passage leading through "Simpkins" [which] has a mantle of stone which has survived the melancholy ruins around it. On this stone is the Latin inscription that seems to embody all that we are fighting for :- VERBUM DOMINI MANET IN AETERNUM' [The word of God remains forever].[13]

Another correspondent with the newspaper, Ernest W. Larby, described his experience of 25 years working on Paternoster Row:[14]

…had he [Lord Quickswood] worked for 25 years, as I did, in Paternoster Row, he would not have quite so much enthusiasm for those narrow ways into whose buildings the sun never penetrated… What these dirty, narrow ways of the greatest city in the world really stood for from the people's viewpoint are things we had better bury.

Ernest W. Larby

The ruins of Paternoster Row were visited by Wendell Willkie in January 1941. He said, "I thought that the burning of Paternoster Row, the street where the books are published, was rather symbolic. They [the Germans] have destroyed the place where the truth is told".[15]

Printers and booksellers based in Paternoster Row

Note: Before about 1762, premises in London had signs rather than numbers.

  • C. Davis (1740)[48]
  • Hawes, Clarke and Collins (1771)[49]
  • Oxford University Press – Bible warehouse destroyed by fire in 1822,[3] rebuilt c. 1880
  • Sampson Low (after 1887)
  • H. Woodfall & Co.
  • Marshall Brothers Ltd., Keswick House, Paternoster Row, London
  • Thomas Nelson[50]
  • Sherwood, Neely, and Jones (1817)[24]
  • R. Fenner (1817)[24]
  • Kent and Co. (1859)[51]
  • Hurst & Blackett
  • Jackson & Walford
  • Hutchinson & Co.

Others based in Paternoster Row

  • No. 34 – Boys Brigade London HQ
  • No. 60 – Friendly Female Society, "for indigent widows and single women of good character, entirely under the management of ladies."[33]
  • The Siege of Paternoster Row was an anonymous 1826 booklet in verse, attacking the reliability of bankers.[52]
  • The Paternoster Gang are a trio of Victorian detectives aligned with the Doctor in the television series Doctor Who, so named because they are based in Paternoster Row.
  • In the episode "Young England" of the 2016 television series Victoria, a stalker of Queen Victoria indicates that he lives on Paternoster Row. (Coincidentally, the actress playing Victoria in the series, Jenna Coleman, had appeared in several episodes of Doctor Who that featured the aforementioned Paternoster Gang.)

See also


  1. "Victorian London - Districts - Streets - Paternoster Row". Victorian London. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
  2. Raven, James (2007). The Business of Books: Booksellers and the English Book Trade 1450-1850. London and New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-30012261-9. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
  3. Thornbury, Walter (1878). "Paternoster Row". Old and New London. Volume 1. London, United Kingdom. pp. 274–281. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  4. A Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to London and Its Environs: With Two Large Section Plans of Central London…. Ward, Lock & Company, Limited. 1919.
  5. "Aldus In The City". The Times (48522). 1940-01-25. p. 4.
  6. "Aldus in the City". The Times (48524). 1940-01-27. p. 4.
  7. "News in Brief – Charlotte Bronte in London". The Times (41152). 1916-04-27. p. 9.
  8. "Fire". The Times (32929). 1890-02-07. p. 7.
  9. "Paternoster-row, City". The Times (33135). 1890-10-06. p. 6.
  10. "Raid on City "Club"". The Times (34428). 1894-11-22. p. 11.
  11. ""Great Fire" Of London". The Times (48455). 1939-11-06. p. 3.
  12. "London Blitz — 29th December 1940 | Iconic Photos". Retrieved 2016-11-19.
  13. "Verbum Domini". The Times (48839). 1941-02-01. p. 5.
  14. "Sir,-It is with some diffidence that I com-". The Times (49395). 1942-11-17. p. 5.
  15. "Ministers Greet Mr. Willkie". The Times (48835). 1941-01-28. p. 4.
  16. A Dictionary of Printers and Printing.
  17. "(unknown)". Notes and Queries: 240. 1870.
  18. {{Cite web |url= |title=Discovery in Haste: English Medical Dictionaries and Lexicographers 1547 to 1796 |author-first=Roderick |author-last=McConchie |date=2019-05-20 |publisher={{Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG[[ |access-date=2019-08-12}}
  19. Payne, William (1695) [1693-03-21]. Written at London, England. A Practical Discourse of Repentance, Rectifying the Mistakes about it, especially such as lead either to Despair or Presumption. Perswading and Directing to the True Practice of it, and Demonstrating the Invalidity of a Death-Bed Repentance (2nd ed.). The Princes Arms, St. Pauls Church Yard: Samuel Smith; Benjamin Walford. OCLC 51617518. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  20. An Impartial Hand (1740). An Essay on the Management of the Present War with Spain. T. Cooper.
  21. Payne, William (1708) [1693-03-21]. A Practical Discourse of Repentance, Rectifying the Mistakes about it, especially such as lead either to Despair or Presumption. Perswading and Directing to the True Practice of it, and Demonstrating the Invalidity of a Death-Bed Repentance (corrected and reset 2nd ed.). London, England: Richard Burrough and John Baker at the Sun and Moon (near the Royal Exchange), Cornhill; William Taylor at the Ship, St. Paul's Church-Yard. OCLC 1086876590. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  22. London Topographical Record. 3. London Topographical Society. 1906. p. 159.
  23. Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Churchill, Awnsham" . Dictionary of National Biography. 10. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  24. Smith, Sydney; Jeffrey, Francis Jeffrey; Empson, William; Napier, Macvey; Lewis, George Cornewall; Reeve, Henry; Elliot, Arthur Ralph Douglas; Cox, Harold (1817). The Edinburgh Review: Or Critical Journal. 28. A. Constable.
  25. The British Metropolis in 1851
  26. Glasse, Hannah; Wilson, Maria (1800). The Complete Confectioner; or, Housekeeper's Guide: To a simple and speedy method of understanding the whole ART OF CONFECTIONARY. London, United Kingdom: West and Hughes. […] Printed by J. W. Myers, No. 2, Paternoster-row, London, for West and Hughes, No. 40, Paternoster-row. […]
  27. "(unknown)". The Athenæum: Journal of Literature, Science, the Fine Arts, Music and the Drama. 3056: 846. 1838.
  28. Various editions published during this period, including Morris, F. O. (1857) [1851]. A History of British Birds (six volumes).
  29. John Erskine Clarke (1871). Chatterbox, ed. by J.E. Clarke. pp. title page, 412.
  30. Church of England Temperance Tracts, no. 19, 1876
  31. The Secret History of the Court of England from the Commencement of 1750 to the Reign of William the Fourth. W. Brittain. 1840. p. frontispiece.
  32. The London catalogue of periodicals, newspapers and transactions of various societies with a list of metropolitan printing societies and clubs. Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans. 1856. p. 3, of wrapper.
  33. Feltham, John (1825). The picture of London, enlarged and improved (23rd ed.). Longman, Hust, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green. p. iv.
  34. Practical CARPENTRY, JOINERY and CABINET MAKING. Thomas Kelly. 1840-07-01.
  35. The World's Paper Trade Review, 1904-05-13, p. 38
  36. Plain truth: or, an impartial account of the proceedings at Paris during the last nine months. Containing, Among other interesting Anecdotes, a particular statement of the memorable tenth of August, and third of September. By an eye witness. 1792.
  37. (unknown). The Examiner. John Hunt. 1857-05-23. p. 336.
  38. Fox, William; Raikes, the Younger, Robert (1831). Ivimey, Joseph (ed.). Memoir of W. Fox, Esq., founder of the Sunday-School Society: comprising the history of the origin … of that … institution, with correspondence … between W. Fox, Esq. and R. Raikes, etc. George Wightman. (See also: Sunday School Society)
  39. De Morgan, Augustus (1837). Elements of algebra, preliminary to the differential calculus. p. 255.
  40. Attenborough, John (1975). A Living Memory.
  41. Gill, Eric; Skelton, Christopher (1988). An Essay on Typography. Art and Design Series (illustrated and revised ed.). David R. Godine Publisher. ISBN 0-87923950-6. ISBN 978-0-87923950-3.
  42. Hamilton, William Rowan (1866-01-01). Written at Dublin. Hamilton, William Edwin (ed.). Elements of Quaternions. University Press, Michael Henry Gill, Dublin (printer) (1 ed.). London, UK: Longmans, Green & Co. Retrieved 2016-01-17. (, )
  43. Hamilton, William Rowan (1899) [1866-01-01]. Hamilton, William Edwin; Joly, Charles Jasper (eds.). Elements of Quaternions. I (2 ed.). London, UK: Longmans, Green & Co. Retrieved 2019-08-03.
  44. Yonge, Charles Duke (1902). Gradus Ad Parnassum. London, New York and Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co. p. title.
  45. Wheatley, Henry Benjamin (2011) [1891]. "Paternoster Row". London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions. Cambridge University Press. pp. 37–39. ISBN 978-1-108-02808-0.
  46. Wheatley, Henry Benjamin (1893). Literary Blunders - A Chapter in the History of Human Error. The Book Lover's Library. Eliot Stock. Retrieved 2019-06-03.
  47. Richmondshire Churches, H. B. McCall, Eliot Stock, London, 1910
  48. Grey, Zachary (1740). A Vindication of the Government, Doctrine, and Worship, of the Church of England: Established in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. Paternoster Row, London: C. Davis.
  49. Stevens, George Alexander (1771). The Choice Spirit's Chaplet: Or, a Poesy from Parnassus. Being a Select Collection of Songs, from the Most Approved Authors; Many of Them Written and the Whole Compiled by George Alexander Stevens, Esq. London: John Dunn, sold by Hawes, Clarke, and Collins. p. Front page.
  50. The Editors of The Gazetteer for Scotland, ed. (2019) [2016-11-19]. "Thomas Bonnar: 1810 - 1873". The Gazetteer for Scotland. (See also: Thomas Bonnar, the Younger)
  51. The Literary and Educational Year Book for 1859. 1859. pp. 136-.
  52. Master, Trimmer (1826-08-12). "The siege of Paternoster Row: a moral satire, unfolding in heroic metre, certain secrets concerning literary trading … funds … the exchequer … and … other subjects". G. Richards. Retrieved 2019-08-12.
  53. Fry, Herbert (1880). "Paternoster Row". London in 1880. London: David Bogue.

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