Billiter Square, EC3M

Place Name

Mentioned in 1708 as very small but pleasant and with good buildings, it was named after nearby Billiter Street (called Belseterlane in 1298) – Belleyesterers from the Old French meaning the street of the bell founders. It took its present form in 1591. At the end of the Middle Ages there were over 120 churches in London and in consequence the bell founders’ guild was a prosperous one. Its members were called belzeters, from which the term billiter is a corruption. It was here that they made their bells and tuned them. Gillan Bebbington in London Street Names writes: “Bells tolled not just for Sunday services and weddings as they do now but for all the main hours and devotions of the day, which directed the medieval citizen’s work, leisure and worship, and for the important ‘couvre-feu’, the curfew or lights out. The little bells of beggars, animals and pedlars added to the ceaseless tinkling and pealing of London in the Middle Ages.”



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