Mortlake Riverside and Brewery

Dee Portrait

John Dee (1527-1609) was one of the most influential figures of the Elizabethan age. He studied mathematics and astrology, he spoke several languages and he advised Queen Elizabeth I. He lived with his family by the Thames in Mortlake for many years, travelling from there to Prague and other cities in Europe. Dee had one of the largest libraries in Europe at his house in Mortlake.

In Charlotte Fell Smith's book, John Dee, she describes the house:

It was a rambling place standing west of the church between it and the river. Dee added to it by degrees, purchasing small tenements adjoining so that at length it comprised laboratories for his experiments, libraries and rooms for a busy hive of workers and servants. Mrs Dee occupied a set of rooms of her own.

After Dee's death the house passed through an interesting phase of existence, being adapted by Sir Francis Crane for the Royal Tapestry Works. At the end of the 18th century a large panelled room with red and white roses carved and coloured was still in existence.

Early in the 19th century the house was used as a girls' school.

Nothing of the house exists today, beyond a garden wall that separates the churchyard from a block of flats, appropriately called John Dee House.

Dee arm Dee Plaque

John Dee is believed to be buried in the chancel of St Mary the Virgin, between two servants of the Queen, Edward Myles and Anthony Holt. A lion, as part of his coat of arms (see left) is among various devices on the wooden panelling in the chancel of the church.

The John Dee of Mortlake Society commissioned a plaque (right) to commemorate Dee which can be seen on the south wall of St Mary's. The plaque was designed and carved in Welsh slate by Emily Hoffnung.

Queen Elizabeth I often visited Dee's house. He was also summoned to court, at Richmond, Windsor or elsewhere whenever Elizabeth required his advice.

For more about Dee and his residence in Mortlake see John Dee of Mortlake by Nicholas Dakin, published by the Barnes and Mortlake History Society.