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Hidden London: Memorial to John Heminge and Henry Condell by Charles John Allen in St Mary Aldermanbury Garden.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

In the quiet garden of the remains of the former church of St. Mary Aldermanbury in the City of London is a bust of William Shakespeare as part of a memorial to his fellow actors Henry Condell and John Hemmings who were key figures in the printing of the playwright’s First Folio of works. Both actors are buried in the church.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The church of St. Mary Aldermanbury was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and then rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. Unfortunately it was gutted during the Blitz in 1940, leaving only the walls intact. Rather unusually, in 1966 the remains of the church were shipped to Fulton, Missouri, USA. The church now stands as a memorial to Winston Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech made at Westminster College, Fulton, in 1946.

The site of the church and churchyard were acquired by the City of London in 1970 and laid out as a public garden.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Although the names of Henry Condell and John Heminge are now largely forgotten, they played a pivotal role in making sure that many of Shakespeare’s plays were not lost. John Heminge and Henry Condell were actors in the King’s Men, the playing company for which William Shakespeare wrote. Both men had shares in the Globe theatre and were mentioned in Shakespeare’s will, with Richard Burbage, each being bequeathed 26 shillings and eightpence to buy mourning rings. There is evidence that Heminge was resposible for some of the financial deals of the King’s Men and served as trustee for Shakespeare when the latter purchased a house in Blackfriars in 1613.

Both men settled and raised families in the St Mary Aldermanbury parish and both men were buried in the parish church. Condell in 1627 and Heminges in 1630.

The memorial gives more information of their work on the folio.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean


The First Folio

Mr William Shakespeare’s comedies, histories & tragedies, published according to the true originall copies, London 1623

We have but collected them and done an office to the dead . . . Without ambition either of selfe profit or fame, onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a friend & fellowe alive as was our Shakespeare.

John Heminge
Henry Condell

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

To the memory of John Heminge and Henry Condell, fellow actors and personal friends of Shakespeare. They lived many years in this parish and are buried here.
To their disinterested affection the world owes all that it calls Shakespeare. They alone collected his dramatic writings regardless of pecuniary loss and without the hope of any profit gave them to the world. They thus merited the gratitude of mankind.

Given to the nation by Charles Clement Walker Esqr., Lilleshall Old Hall, Shropshire.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The fame of Shakespeare rests on his incomparable dramas,. There is no evidence that he ever intended to publish them and his premature death in 1616 made this the interest of no one else. Heminge and Condell had been co-partners with him in the Globe Theatre Southwark, and from the accumulated plays there of thirty five years with great labour selected them. No men then living were so competent having acted with him in them for many years and well knowing his manuscripts they were published in 1623 in folio thus giving away their private rights therein. What they did was priceless. For the whole of his manuscripts with almost all those of the dramas of the period have perished.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

John Heminge lived in this parish upwards of forty two years and in which he was married. He had fourteen children, thirteen of whom were baptized, four buried, and one married here. He was buried here October 12 1630. His wife was also buried here.
Henry Condell lived in this parish upwards of thirty years. He had nine children, eight of whom were baptized here and six buried. He was buried here December 29 1627. His wife was also buried here.
“Let all the ends thou aim’st at be thy country’s thy God’s and truth’s”
Henry VIII Act 3 Scene 2.

The design of the monument and the inscriptions are by Mr Charles Clement Walker who also paid for the monument. Charles John Allen was the British sculptor who created the memorial which was unveiled in 1895.

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