Manciple Street, SE1

Place Name

Manciples were quartermasters or storekeepers of food at an institution such as a college, monastery, or court of law. They were also in charge of catering more generally, including food preparation. In this case the street is named like nearby Tabard Street, Pardoner Street, Becket Street, and Pilgrimage Street, after Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which follows a group of largely less-than-devout pilgrims making their way from London to Canterbury Cathedral to pay homage to Thomas a Becket. Each of them is to tell a story to their fellow travellers. In Chaucer’s poem, the Manciple, a purchasing agent for a law court, tells a fable about Phoebus Apollo and his pet crow, which is both a myth explaining the crow’s black feathers, and a moralistic injunction against gossip. Phoebus’s wife takes a lover, the crow which obviously can speak, reveals their secret, and in a rage the jealous husband kills his wife. In his grief afterwards, he regrets his act and blames the crow, cursing it with black feathers and an unmelodious voice. The Manciple ends by saying it is best to hold one’s tongue, and not to say anything malicious even if it is true.  This is a much redeveloped area, with the previous pre-Second World War layout being totally lost. This largely follows an old footpath which connected St Stephen’s Square, Wickham Place and Fox’s Buildings.

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