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Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 11.djvu/119

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9 th S. XI. FEB. 7, 1903.]


NOTES AND QUERIES.


Ill


opinion, but thought it well worth the consideration of those who had made this subject their specia study."

I cannot say what other suggestion Prof Earle may have met with, but I think the idea of the name being derived from an ancient " aesc-stede," or asking-place, is less easy of acceptation than the theory which I submitted in my former note. Axe is a common name for an English stream or river, and the prepositions apud and atte indicate locality. The form Nax, on which Mr. Darby builds a theory of his own, is merely an in- stance of the epenthetic n, which, as PROF. SKEAT showed thirty-five years ago in these columns, is common in old English (3 rd S. xii. 56). At this reference illustrative passages from his new edition of * Piers Plowman were given, showing that instead of "at the ale" some MSS. have "at the nale" or "at nale," and that instead of "at the oke (oak) " most MSS. have " at the noke " or " atte noke. These instances are exactly analogous to the "atte Nax" of the 'Rotuli Hundredorum,' and to the " at Naxe," which existed up to the time of Henry VIII. (Rev. T. Hugo in Transactions of London and Midd. Arch. Soc., ii. 197). W. F. PRIDEAUX.

If there ever was such a " holy relic " as an axe preserved in this church, which was used in the decapitation of the two, eleven, or eleven thousand virgins, as the number is varyingly claimed to have been, surely its destruction or loss, apart from its question- able existence or the genuineness of its claims if it did exist, would not so lightly have escaped the observation of the historian or the antiquary. But is there one single instance of a London church, or for the matter of that of any church in Christendom unless that of the Holy Cross, identified with St. Helena, in Rome, be considered one the dedication of which included an allusion to any relic identified with the saint to whom it was dedicated 1 I think not. Should not Wheat- ley's 'London,' by the way, be consulted side by side with Cunningham's original work 1 It would not, in that case, have escaped COL. PRIDEAUX'S notice that it is Cunningham, and not Wheatley, who contradicts Stow when he says in his 'Survey' that the church was so called " of the sign of an axe over against the east end thereof." And this is not the only instance of a church stated by Stow to be named after a trade sign, for he tells us that Coney Hope Lane, now Grocers' Hall Court in the Poultry, and a chapel dedicated to St. Mary Coney-Hope at the corner of the lane, were "so called of three conies hanging over a poulterer's stall at the lane's end";


and the mere fact of the church of St. Mary Axe being so frequently mentioned in the 'Rotuli Hundredorum' under the forms of "apud Ax," "atte Ax," "atten Ax," and " atte Nax," is strong evidence that the church received its designation from the sign, and not from the "relic," these various appella- tions making it also evident that the inn or tavern situated here certainly did not derive its sign from its proximity to the church.

If such an axe was ever preserved, surely it would have been by the authorities of St. Ursula, Cologne ; but I believe there is not even any mention of it in connexion with the bones of the very numerous virgins which are or were exposed at that church for the edification of the faithful. But the "axe " as a sign was not uncommon, and was probably derived from the arms of the Company of Wheelwrights, in which appropriate capacity it served as the sign of a famous carriers' inn in Aldermanbury, and judging from the large amount of traffic in connexion with it, the local wheelwright must have done a thriving trade, for here came the carriers from Broughton, Leicestershire, Coventry, Halifax, Leeds, Leicester, Loughborough, while "others who pass through Leicester- shire and divers places of Lancashire were accustomed to lodge at the Axe " (see Taylor's 'Carriers' Cosmographie,' 1637). Also the carriers from Stopford in Cheshire, Wake- field and Manchester, from Nantwich in Cheshire, and Nuneaton in Warwickshire, were constantly on the road, for they left on Mondays and Thursdays, and took ten days in summer and twelve in winter to perform the journey. The wheels of these waggons must have suffered terribly, for the state of the roads was " too dreadful for words," and there appears to have been no limit to the weight that the horses were expected to draw, until an order was made, which appears among the Middlesex Session Rolls, "touching common carriers and their excessive loads" (4 June, 1650), in which the carriers were forbidden to carry more than twenty hundredweight (see the 'Middlesex bunty Records,' vol. iii., 1888). One men- tions these circumstances in connexion with

he sign by way of showing what is so often

demonstrably the fact, that a large number of the London signs of taverns were adopted n recognition of the patronage accorded -hem by workers in some particular trade, and this one suspects was the case in regard

o the origin of the sign of the "Axe" in

St. Mary Axe. Axe Yard, Westminster, was 50 called from "a great messuage or brew- louse " on the west side of King Street, com-