The Knollys Rose Ceremony

the rose is fixed to the altar cushion

The Knollys Rose Ceremony commemorates an ancient City custom dating back to 1381. Sir Robert Knollys was a prominent citizen of London and an experienced soldier who assisted King Richard II in putting down the Peasants’ Revolt led by Wat Tyler. He lived with his wife, Lady Constance, in a house on the west side of what is now Seething Lane in the parish of  All Hallows by the Tower.

During one of his absences abroad, fighting alongside John of Gaunt, Lady Constance is reputed to have become annoyed with the chaff dust blowing from threshing ground opposite their house, so she bought the property and had it turned into a rose garden. She also had a footbridge built over the lane, in order to avoid the mud when crossing to the garden,

This was evidently done without the medieval equivalent of planning permission and incurred the wrath of the Lord Mayor of the time, Sir William Walworth. For constructing the bridge and obtaining the garden, Sir Robert and his wife were summoned before the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs, and on the 23rd July 1381 were ordered to pay as rent for their garden one red rose, payable each year on the Feast of St John the Baptist.

The rose payment was no more than a peppercorn rent, a symbolic fine upon Sir Robert, a leading citizen and a successful and respected soldier.  For this payment, permission was given "to make an hautpas of the height of 14 feet" across the lane.  The footbridge has long since disappeared, but the legal requirement for the payment of this annual  quit-rent has become established as one of the City's traditions.

The Ceremony. organised annually by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames. The rose is picked from the Corporation’s garden in Seething Lane, on the site of the property acquired by Sir Robert and Lady Knollys, and carried through the City to Mansion House.

The chief Escort to the Rose, the Master of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, presents the rose to the Lord Mayor on an altar cushion carried by the Verger of All Hallows by the Tower, accompanied by the Vicar and Churchwardens. 

Due to unforeseen circumstances, it was not possible for the ceremony to take place at the Mansion House this year, and we were delighted to be able to welcome the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress to All Hallows for the presentation of the rose.

To see pictures of previous events, go to the Knollys Rose Photo Gallery.