London – City of London – Museum of London (Lead and Glass from Merton Priory)

This might not look the most exciting of exhibits at the Museum of London, but there’s a lot of heritage in it. It’s a combined lump of smashed glass and window lead from Merton Priory, which would have been caused during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It’s not known how old the glass and lead is, but it’s probably from the mid to late fifteenth century.

Normally, this would have been carried away by those demolishing the building, but somehow it was overlooked and it was only discovered during excavations of the site between 1986 and 1990. It was quite a fall for the wealthy priory, which in 1437 had held a ceremony in honour of King Henry VI. The site is now a Sainsbury’s supermarket, which isn’t ideal (other than for shoppers) although the foundations of the chapter house remain. Not much else is left, materials were mostly taken to Nonsuch Palace, which in turn was demolished in 1682 to pay off gambling debts. But, at least some of the lead has survived, perhaps not in such a glamorous format as its design intended, but still here as a reminder that the priory once existed.