MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY: BULLETIN 148 (DECEMBER 2003)
Imagine for a moment that in the village is a cathedral-like church which was there in the days of parents, grandparents and their forebears. This was a monastery which was the be-all and end-all of almost every family. All had a part to play in a working complex of buildings and farms. Rumours began to circulate that the monastery was to be closed, and gossip tells of the king wishing to pull down everything. Cardinal Wolsey, with the pope’s blessing, closed 21 understaffed monasteries between 1525 and 1529. This precedent ìmade all the forest of religious foundations in England to shake, justly fearing that the King would finish to fell the oaks, seeing the cardinal began to cut the underwoodî.1 In July 1531 an Augustinian priory at Aldgate in London was suppressed. It was similar in size and importance to Merton, with a tower housing a ring of nine bells. It was to be demolished and ìthen was the priory church and steeple proffered to whomsoever would take it down and carry it from the ground, but no man would undertake the offer.
The owner of Aldgate, Sir Thomas Audley, decided to realise the value of the stone, timber, lead, iron etc. and employed his own workmen, who with great labour, beginning at the top, loosed stone from stone, and threw them down, whereby the most part of them were broken, and few remained whole, and those were sold very cheap for all the buildings then made in the city were of brick and timber. At that time any man in the city might have a cart-load of hard stone for paving brought to his door for 6d or 7d with the carriage.