Simon the Anchorite (DNB00)


SIMON the Anchorite (fl. 1512–1529), was author of a quaint little treatise of devotion, illustrated with woodcuts and printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1514, second edition 1530. The book consists of prayers and meditations upon our Saviour's life and death, and is entitled ‘The Fruyte of Redemcyon.’ It concludes as follows: ‘O all ye servantes of God … of your charitie praye for the Anker of London wall wretched Symon, that … hath compyled this mater in englysshe for your ghostly conforte that understande no latyn.’ Both editions are in the British Museum.

An account-book of the churchwardens of Allhallows on London Wall, covering the period (with several breaks) between 1456 and 1536, mentions Simon as one of a succession of anchorites or ‘ankers’ who occupied an apartment in the church, probably on the site of the present vestry, which is a semicircular chamber built on and forming part of the old London Wall. Simon and his predecessors enjoyed a great reputation for sanctity, and the offerings and gifts which they received must have been considerable. The anchorites appear throughout these accounts as liberal donors both to the regular expenses and the extraordinary necessities of the church of Allhallows. Simon's name first appears in the account for 1512, when he held ‘in redy money for the chorche, 25s.’ In the following year the churchwardens ‘receyved of the ankyr Syr Symon of the gaynes of a stande of ale whiche he gave to the cherche iiijs vjd. ob’ [i.e. 4s. 6½d.].

In a list of moneys lent by principal parishioners ‘Master Anker’ comes first with 32s. and is followed by ‘master parson,’ who lends 40s. The relations of the ‘Anker’ with the regular clergy and the parish at large were most amicable, and doubtless of mutual benefit. In 1529 Simon gave 32s. towards the new aisle then being built in the church. An inventory of the church goods records the gift by the ‘Anker’ of a great pax with three images of silver and a chalice given by ‘Sr. Symon Anker’ in 1522. The volume breaks off before the mention of Simon's death.

[The account-book of the parish of Allhallows, London Wall, edited by the present writer for the London and Middlesex Archæological Society.]

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