The Project Gutenberg EBook of Holborn and Bloomsbury, by Sir Walter Besant and Geraldine Edith Mitton This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Holborn and Bloomsbury The Fascination of London Author: Sir Walter Besant Geraldine Edith Mitton Release Date: May 9, 2007 [EBook #21411] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK HOLBORN AND BLOOMSBURY *** Produced by Susan Skinner and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
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THE STRAND DISTRICT.
By Sir Walter Besant and G. E. Mitton.
By Sir Walter Besant and G. E. Mitton.
HAMPSTEAD AND MARYLEBONE.
By G. E. Mitton. Edited by Sir Walter Besant.
By G. E. Mitton. Edited by Sir Walter Besant.
By G. E. Mitton. Edited by Sir Walter Besant.
HOLBORN AND BLOOMSBURY.
By Sir Walter Besant and G. E. Mitton.
SIR WALTER BESANT
G. E. MITTON
ADAM & CHARLES BLACK
A survey of London, a record of the greatest of all cities, that should preserve her history, her historical and literary associations, her mighty buildings, past and present, a book that should comprise all that Londoners love, all that they ought to know of their heritage from the past—this was the work on which Sir Walter Besant was engaged when he died.
As he himself said of it: "This work fascinates me more than anything else I've ever done. Nothing at all like it has ever been attempted before. I've been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day."
Sir Walter's idea was that two of the volumes of his survey should contain a regular and systematic perambulation of London by different persons, so that the history of each parish should be complete in itself. This was a very original feature in the great scheme, and one in [Pg viii]which he took the keenest interest. Enough has been done of this section to warrant its issue in the form originally intended, but in the meantime it is proposed to select some of the most interesting of the districts and publish them as a series of booklets, attractive alike to the local inhabitant and the student of London, because much of the interest and the history of London lie in these street associations.
The difficulty of finding a general title for the series was very great, for the title desired was one that would express concisely the undying charm of London—that is to say, the continuity of her past history with the present times. In streets and stones, in names and palaces, her history is written for those who can read it, and the object of the series is to bring forward these associations, and to make them plain. The solution of the difficulty was found in the words of the man who loved London and planned the great scheme. The work "fascinated" him, and it was because of these associations that it did so. These links between past and present in themselves largely constitute The Fascination of London.
G. E. M.
The district to be treated in this volume includes a good many parishes—namely, St. Giles-in-the-Fields; St. George, Bloomsbury; St. George the Martyr; St Andrew, Holborn; Hatton Garden, Saffron Hill; besides the two famous Inns of Court, Lincoln's and Gray's, and the remaining buildings of several Inns of Chancery, now diverted from their former uses. Nearly all the district is included in the new Metropolitan Borough of Holborn, which itself differs but little from the Parliamentary borough known as the Holborn Division of Finsbury. Part of St. Andrew's parish lies outside both of these, and is within the Liberties of the City. The transition from Holborn borough to the City will be noted in crossing the boundary. As it is proposed to mention the parishes in passing through them, but not to describe their exact limitations in the body of the book, the boundaries of the parishes are given concisely for reference on p. 100.[Pg 2]
Kingsway, the new street from the Strand to Holborn, cuts through the selected district. It begins in a crescent, with one end near St. Clement's Church, and the other near Wellington Street. From the site of the Olympic Theatre it runs north, crossing High Holborn at Little Queen Street, and continuing northward through Southampton Row. A skeleton outline of its course is given on p. 28. This street runs roughly north and south throughout the district selected, and dividing it east and west is the great highway, which begins as New Oxford Street, becomes High Holborn, and continues as Holborn and Holborn Viaduct.
The tradition that Holborn is so named after a brook—the Old Bourne—which rose on the hill, and flowed in an easterly direction into the Fleet River, cannot be sustained by any evidence or any indications of the bed of a former stream. Stow speaks positively as to the existence of this stream, which, he says, had in his time long been stopped up. Now, the old streams of London have left traces either in the lanes which once formed their bed, as Marylebone Lane and Gardener's Lane, Westminster, or their courses, having been accurately known, have been handed on from one generation to another. We may therefore dismiss the supposed stream of the "Old Bourne" as not proven. On the other hand, there have been[Pg 3] found many springs and wells in various parts of Holborn, as under Furnival's Inn, which may have seemed to Stow proof enough of the tradition. The name of Holborn is probably derived from the bourne or brook in the "Hollow"—i.e., the Fleet River, across which this great roadway ran. The way is marked in Aggas's map of the sixteenth century as a country road between fields, though, strangely enough, it is recorded that it was paved in 1417, a very ancient date. Malcolm in 1803 calls it "an irregular long street, narrow and inconvenient, at the north end of Fleet Market, but winding from Shoe Lane up the hill westward."
Holborn Bars stood a little to the west of Brooke Street, and close by was Middle Row, an island of houses opposite the end of Gray's Inn Road, which formed a great impediment to the traffic. The Bars were the entrance to the City, and here a toll of a penny or twopence was exacted from non-freemen who entered the City with carts or coaches.
The George and Blue Boar stood on the south side of Holborn, opposite Red Lion Street, and it is said that it was here that Charles I.'s letter disclosing his intention to destroy Cromwell and Ireton was intercepted by the latter; but this is very doubtful.
On Holborn Hill was the Black Swan Inn,[Pg 4] which has been described as one of the most ancient and magnificent places for the reception of travellers in London, and which Dr. Stukeley, with fervent imagination, declared dated from the Conquest. Another ancient inn in Holborn was called the Rose. It was from here that the poet Taylor started to join Charles I. in the Isle of Wight, of which journey he says,
which is quoted merely to show that there is a possible rhyme to Holborn.
Pennant says also there was a hospital for the poor in Holborn, and a cell of the House of Clugny in France, but does not indicate their whereabouts. Before the building of the Viaduct in 1869 (see p. 54), there was a steep and toilsome descent up and down the valley of the Fleet. This was sometimes called "the Heavy Hill," as in the verse already quoted, and in consequence of the melancholy processions which frequently passed from Newgate bound Tyburn-wards, "riding in a cart up the Heavy Hill" became a euphemism for being hanged. From Farringdon Street to Fetter Lane was Holborn Hill, and Holborn proper extended from Fetter Lane to Brooke Street.[Pg 5]
In James II.'s reign Oates and Dangerfield suffered the punishment of being whipped at the cart's tail all the way along Holborn.
There were Bridewell Bridge, Fleet Bridge, Fleet Lane Bridge, and Holborn Bridge across the Fleet River. Holborn Bridge was the most northerly of the four. It was a bridge of stone, serving for passengers from the west to the City by way of Newgate. The whole thoroughfare of Oxford Street and Holborn is the result of the diversion of the north highway into the City from the route by Westminster Marshes.
The antiquities of Holborn and its streets north and south are not connected with the trade or with the municipal history of London. On the other hand, the associations of this group of streets are full of interest. If we take the south side of the street, we find ourselves walking past Shoe Lane, St. Andrew's Church, Thavies' Inn, Fetter Lane, Staple Inn, Barnard's Inn, Chancery Lane, Great and Little Turnstiles, Little Queen Street, Drury Lane, and St. Giles's. On the north side we pass Field Lane, Ely Place, Hatton Garden, Brooke Street, Furnival's Inn, Gray's Inn, Red Lion Street, and Tottenham Court Road. All these will be found described in detail further on. Of eminent residents in Holborn itself, Cunningham mentions Gerarde, the author of the "Herbal"; Sir Kenelm Digby; Milton, who[Pg 6] lived for a time in one of the houses on the south side, looking upon Lincoln's Inn Fields; and Dr. Johnson, who lived at the sign of the Golden Anchor, Holborn Bars. There were also the Bishops of Ely, Sir Christopher Hatton, Francis Bacon, Sir Thomas More, Charles Dickens, Fulke Greville, Thomas Chatterton, Lord Russell, Dr. Sacheverell, and many others.
It is necessary now, however, to leave off generalization, and to begin with a detailed account of the parishes which fall within the district; of these, St. Giles-in-the-Fields is the most interesting.
The name of the parish is derived from the hospital which stood on the site of the present parish church, and was dedicated to the Greek saint St. Giles. It was at first known as St. Giles of the Lepers, but when the hospital was demolished became St. Giles-in-the-Fields.
In a plan dated 1600 St. Giles's is shown to consist largely of open fields. The buildings, which before the dissolution had belonged to the hospital, form a group about the site of the church. A few more buildings run along the north side of the present Broad Street. There are one or two at the north end of Drury Lane, and Drury House[Pg 7] is at the south end. Southampton House, in the fields to the north, is marked, but the parish is otherwise open ground. In spite of many edicts to restrain the increase of houses, early in the reign of James I. the meadows began to be built upon, and, though a little checked during the Commonwealth, after the Restoration the building proceeded rapidly, stimulated by the new square at Lincoln's Inn Fields then being carried out by Inigo Jones. To St. Giles's may be attributed the distinction of having originated the Great Plague, which broke out in an alley at the north end of Drury Lane. Several times before this there had been smaller outbreaks, which had resulted in the building of a pest-house. Even after this check the parish continued to increase rapidly, and by the early part of the last century was a byword for all that was squalid and filthy. Its rookeries and slums are thus described in a newspaper cutting of 1845: "All around are poverty and wretchedness; the streets and alleys are rank with the filth of half a century; the windows are half of them broken, or patched with rags and paper, and when whole are begrimed with dirt and smoke; little brokers' shops abound, filled with lumber, the odour of which taints even that tainted atmosphere; the pavement and carriage-way swarm with pigs, poultry, and ragged children.... But in the space called the Dials itself the[Pg 8] scene is far different. There at least rise splendid buildings with stuccoed fronts and richly-ornamented balustrades.... These are the gin-palaces." Naturally, among so much poverty gin-palaces and public-houses abounded. It is curious to note how many of Hogarth's pictures of misery and vice were drawn from St. Giles's. "Noon" has St. Giles's Church in the background, while his "Gin Lane" shows the neighbouring church of St. George, Bloomsbury; the scene of his "Harlot's Progress" is Drury Lane, and the idle apprentice is caught when wanted for murder in a cellar in St. Giles's.
The gallows were in this parish from about 1413 until they were removed to Tyburn, and then the terrible Tyburn procession passed through St. Giles's, and halted at the great gate of the hospital, and later at the public-house called The Bowl, described more fully hereafter. From very early times St. Giles's was notorious for its taverns. The Croche Hose (Crossed Stockings), another tavern, was situated at the corner of the marshlands, and in Edward I.'s reign belonged to the cook of the hospital; the crossed stockings, red and white, were adopted as the sign of the hosiers. Besides these, there were numerous other taverns dating from many years back, including the Swan on the Hop, Holborn; White Hart, north-east of Drury Lane; the Rose, already mentioned. In the[Pg 9] parish also were various houses of entertainment, of which the most notorious was the Hare and Hounds, formerly Beggar in the Bush, which was kept by one Joe Banks in 1844, and was the resort of all classes. This was in Buckridge Street, over which New Oxford Street now runs. In the last sixty years the face of the parish has been greatly changed. The first demolition of a rookery of vice and squalor took place in 1840, when New Oxford Street was driven through Slumland. Dyott (once George) Street, Church Lane, Buckridge and Bainbridge, Charlotte and Plumtree, were among the most notorious streets thus wholly or partially removed.
In 1844 many wretched houses were demolished, and in 1855 Shaftesbury Avenue drove another wedge into the slums to let in light and air. There are poor and wretched courts in St. Giles's yet, but civilization is making its softening influence felt even here, and though cases of Hooliganism in broad daylight still occur, they are less and less frequent.
So much for a brief history of the parish. Its soil was from very early times damp and marshy. To the south of the hospital was a stretch of ground called Marshlands, probably at one time a pond. Great ditches and fosses cut up the ground. The most important of these was Blemund's Ditch, which divided the parish from that of Bloomsbury.[Pg 10] This is supposed to have been an ancient line of fortification. Besides this, a ditch traversed the marshlands above mentioned, another encompassed the croft lying by the north gate of the hospital, and there were several others of less importance.
The Hospital of St. Giles was the earliest foundation of its kind in London, if we except St. James's Hospital. Stow sums it up thus: "St. Giles-in-the-Fields was an hospital for leprous people out of the City of London and shire of Middlesex, founded by Matilde the Queen, wife to Henry I., and suppressed by King Henry VIII." The date of foundation is given by Leland and Malcolm as 1101, though Stow and others give 1117, which was the year before the foundress died. Before this time this part of London had apparently been included in the great estate of Rugmere, which belonged to St. Paul's.
Matilda gave the ground, and endowed the hospital with the magnificent sum of £3 per annum! Her foundation provided for forty lepers, one chaplain, one clerk, and one servant. Henry II. confirmed all privileges and gifts which had accrued to the hospital, and added to them himself. Parton says, "His liberality ranks him as a second founder." During succeeding reigns the hospital grew in wealth and importance. In Henry III.'s reign Pope Alexander issued a confirmatory Bull, but the charity had become a refuge[Pg 11] for decayed hangers-on at Court who were not lepers. This abuse was prohibited by the King's decree. In Edward III.'s reign the first downward step was taken, for he made the hospital a cell to Burton St. Lazar. The brethren apparently rebelled, refusing to admit the visitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and destroying many valuable documents and records belonging to the hospital. Two centuries later King Henry VIII. desired the lands and possessions of St. Giles's, and with him to desire was to acquire.
The hospital was thus shorn of the greater part of its wealth, retaining only the church (not the manor) at Feltham (one of its earliest gifts), the hospital estates at Edmonton, in the City of London, and in the various parishes in the suburbs; and in St. Giles's parish the actual ground it stood on, the Pittance Croft, and a few minor places. But even this remnant came into the possession of the rapacious King two years later, at the dissolution of the monasteries, when Burton St. Lazar itself fell into the tyrant's hands. Henry held these for six years, then granted both to John Dudley, Viscount Lisle, Lord High Admiral. From the time of the dissolution the hospital became a manor.
In the earliest charters the head of the hospital is styled Chaplain, but not Master. The first Master mentioned is in 1212, and after this the[Pg 12] title was regularly used. The government was vested in the Master or Warden and other officers, together with a certain number of sound brethren and sisters—and in certain cases lepers themselves—who formed a chapter. "They assembled in chapter, had a common seal, held courts as lords of the manor." There were also guardians or custodians, who did not reside in the precincts of the hospital, and these seem to have been chosen from the most eminent citizens; they formed no part of the original scheme.
 "Some Account of the Hospital and Parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields," 1822, by John Parton.
The sisters appear to have been nurses, for there is no mention made of any leprous sister. The chapel of the hospital appears from King[Pg 13] Henry II.'s charter to have been built on the site of some older parochial church. The Bull of Pope Alexander mentions that the hospital wall enclosed eight acres. Within this triangular space, which is at present roughly bounded by the High Street, Charing Cross Road, and Shaftesbury Avenue, was one central building or mansion for the lepers, several subordinate buildings, the chapel, and the gate-house. Whether the number of lepers was reduced when the hospital possessions were curtailed we are not told. After the hospital buildings fell into the hands of Lord Dudley they underwent many changes. The principal building he converted into a mansion for his own use; this was the manor-house. It stood between the present Denmark Street and Lloyd's Court, and its site is occupied by a manufactory. After two years Lord Dudley obtained from the King license to transfer all his newly-gained estates to Sir Wymonde Carew, but there seems reason to suppose that Lord Dudley remained in possession of the manor-house until his attainder in the reign of Queen Mary, because the manor then reverted to the Crown, and was regranted. Clinch gets out of this difficulty by supposing Lord Dudley to have parted with his estates and retained the manor, but in the deed of license for exchange all his "mansion place and capital house, late the house of the dissolved[Pg 14] hospital of St. Giles in the Fields," is especially mentioned. It is possible that Sir Wymonde leased it again to the Dudley family.
Among the many subsequent holders of the manor we find the name of Sir Walter Cope, who bought the Manor of Kensington in 1612, and through whose only child, Isabel, it passed by marriage to Sir Henry Rich, created Earl of Holland. The Manor of St. Giles was in the possession of the Crown again in Charles II.'s reign, when Alice Leigh, created by him Duchess of Dudley, lived in the manor-house. This Duchess made many gifts to the church, among which was a rectory-house.
The Church of St. Giles at present standing is certainly the third, if not the fourth, which has been upon the same site. As mentioned above, there is reason to believe from Henry II.'s charter that a sacred building of some sort stood here before the leper chapel. The chapel had a chapter-house attached, and seems to have been a well-cared-for building. There were several chantry chapels and a high altar dedicated to St. Giles. St. Giles's in the earlier charters is spoken of as a village, not a parish, but there is little doubt that after the establishment of the hospital its chapel was used as a parish church by the villagers. There was probably a wall screening off the lepers. The first church of which any[Pg 15] illustration is preserved has a curious tower, capped by a round dome. The view of this church, dated 1560, is taken after the dissolution of the hospital, when it had become entirely parochial. In 1617 the quaint old tower was taken down, and replaced by another, but only six years after the whole church was rebuilt. A view of this in 1718 gives a very long battlemented body in two stories, with a square tower surmounted by an open belfry and vane. It possessed remarkably fine stained-glass windows and a handsome screen presented by the Duchess of Dudley.
This second church did not last very long, for in Queen Anne's reign the parishioners petitioned that it should be rebuilt as one of the fifty new churches, being then in a state of decay. The present church, which is very solid, and has dignity of outline, was the work of Flitcroft, and was opened April 14, 1734. The steeple is 160 feet high, with a rustic pedestal, a Doric story, an octagonal tower, and spire. The basement is of rusticated Portland stone, of which the church is built, and quoins of the same material decorate the windows and angles within. It follows the lines of the period, with hardly any chancel, wide galleries on three sides standing on piers, from which columns rise to the elliptical ceiling. The part of the roof over the galleries[Pg 16] is bayed at right angles to the curve of the central part. Monuments hang on the walls and columns, and occupy every available space. By far the most striking of these is the full-length figure of a woman in repose which is set on a broad window-seat. This is the monument of Lady Frances Kniveton, daughter of Alice Leigh, Duchess of Dudley. The daughter's tomb remains a memorial of her mother's benefactions to the parish. The monument of Andrew Marvell, a plain black marble slab, is on the north wall. Marvell was buried in the church "under the pews in the south side," but the present monument was not erected until 1764, eighty-six years after his death, owing to the opposition of the incumbent of the church. The inscription on it slightly varies from that intended for the original monument. Besides a handsome brass cross on the chancel floor to the Rector, Canon Nisbett, a tomb in form of a Roman altar, designed by Inigo Jones, and commemorating George Chapman, the translator of Homer, and a touching monument in the lobby to "John Belayse," put up by his two daughters, there is nothing further worth seeing.
The graveyard which surrounds the church is supposed to have been the ancient interment-ground of the hospital. The first mention of it in the parish books is in 1628, when three cottages were pulled down to increase its size. It was[Pg 17] enlarged again in 1666. Part of the old hospital wall enclosing it remained until 1630, when it fell down, and after the lapse of some time a new wall was built. In St. Giles's Churchyard were buried Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Shirley, Roger L'Estrange, Andrew Marvell, and Richard Pendrell, who assisted in Charles II.'s escape; his altar-tomb is easily seen near the east end of the church. By 1718 the graveyard had risen 8 feet, so that the church stood in a pit or well. The further burial-ground at St. Pancras was taken in 1805, and after that burials at St. Giles's were not very frequent. Pennant was one of the first to draw attention to the disgraceful overcrowding of the old graveyard. There seem to have been several gates into the churchyard with the right of private entry, one of which was used by the Duchess of Dudley. The most remarkable gate, however, was at the principal entrance to the churchyard, and was known as the Resurrection Gate, from an alto-relievo of the Last Day. This was erected about 1687, and was of red and brown brick. The composition of the relievo is said to have been borrowed, with alterations, from Michael Angelo's work on the same subject. In 1765 the north wall of the churchyard was taken down, and replaced by the present railing and coping. In 1800 the gate was removed, and replaced by the present Tuscan[Pg 18] gate, in which the sculpture has been refixed. This stood at first on the site of the old one on the north of the churchyard, but was removed to the west side, where it at present stands in an unnoticeable and obscure position. It was probably placed there in the idea that the new road, Charing Cross Road, would run past.
Denmark Street "fronts St. Giles Church and falls into Hog Lane, a fair broad street, with good houses well inhabited by gentry" (Strype).
This description is no longer applicable. Denmark Place was once Dudley Court, and the house here with a garden was given by the Duchess of Dudley as a rectory for the parish. The Court or Row was built on the site of the house previous to 1722.
Broad Street is one of the most ancient streets in the parish, and there were a few houses standing on the north side when the rest of the district was open ground. It was the main route westward for many centuries, until New Oxford Street was made.
The procession from Newgate to Tyburn used to pass along Broad Street, and halt at the great gate of the hospital, in order that the condemned man might take his last draught of ale on earth. An enterprising publican set up a tavern near here in 1623, and called it the Bowl. He provided the ale free, and no doubt made much[Pg 19] profit by the patronage he received thereby. The exact site of the tavern was in Bowl Yard, which ran into Broad Street near where Endell Street now is. Among Cruikshank's well-known drawings is a series illustrating Jack Sheppard's progress to the gallows.
The parish almshouses were built in the wide part of Broad Street on ground granted by Lord Southampton, but were removed as an impediment to traffic in 1783 to the Coal Yard, near the north of Drury Lane. A row of little alleys—Salutation, Lamb's, Crown, and Cock—formerly extended southward over the present workhouse site. There are still one or two small entries both north and south. The immense yard of a well-known brewery fills up a large part of the south side, and a large iron and hardware manufactory on the north gives a certain manufacturing aspect to the street. The Holborn Municipal Baths are in a fine new building on the south side.
About High Street, which joins Broad Street at its west end, there is surely less to say than of any other High Street in London. In 1413 the gallows were set up at the corner where it meets Tottenham Court Road. But even previously to this executions had taken place at Tyburn, and soon Tyburn became the recognised place of execution. Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, is the most notable name among the victims who[Pg 20] suffered at St. Giles. He was hung in chains and roasted to death over a slow fire at this spot as a Lollard.
After they had been removed from the end of Broad Street, to make way for the almshouses, the parish pound and cage stood on the site of the gallows until 1765. There was here also a large circular stone, where the charity boys were whipped to make them remember the parish bounds.
The space to the north of the High and Broad Streets was previously a notorious rookery. Dyott Street, which still exists, though cut in half, had a most unenviable reputation. The Maidenhead Inn, which stood at the south-east corner of this, was a favourite resort for mealmen and country waggoners. There was in this street also a tavern called the Turk's Head, where Haggart Hoggarty planned the murder of Mr. Steele on Hounslow Heath in 1802. Walford mentions also Rat's Castle, a rendezvous for all the riff-raff of the neighbourhood. Dyott Street was named after an influential parishioner of Charles II.'s time, who had a house here. It was later called George Street, but has reverted to the original name.
South of Great Russell Street there were formerly Bannister's Alley and Eagle and Child Yard running northwards. From the former of[Pg 21] these continued Church Lane, to which Maynard Lane ran parallel. Bainbridge, Buckridge, and Church Streets ran east and westward. Of these Bainbridge remains, a long, narrow alley bounded by the brewery wall. Mayhew says that here "were found some of the most intricate and dangerous places in this low locality."
The part of the parish lying to the north, including Bedford Square, must be for the present left (see p. 98), while we turn southwards.
New Compton Street is within the former precincts of the hospital. When first made it was called Stiddolph Street, after Sir Richard Stiddolph, and the later name was taken from that of Sir Frances Compton. Strype says, "All this part was very meanly built ... and greatly inhabited by French, and of the poorer sort," a character it retains to this day.
Shaftesbury Avenue, opened in 1885, has obliterated Monmouth Street, named after the Duke of Monmouth, whose house was in Soho Square (see The Strand, this series). Monmouth Street was notorious for its old-clothes shops, and is the subject of one of the "Sketches by Boz." Further back still it was called Le Lane, and is under that name mentioned among the hospital possessions.
The north end of Shaftesbury Avenue is in the adjoining parish of St. George's, Bloomsbury,[Pg 22] but must for sequence' sake be described here. A French Protestant chapel, consecrated 1845, which is the lineal descendant of the French Church of the Savoy, stands on the west side. Near at hand is a French girls' school. Further north is a Baptist chapel, with two noticeable pointed towers and a central wheel window. Bedford Chapel formerly stood on the north side of this. In the lower half of the Avenue there are several buildings of interest. The first of these, on the east side, is for the medical and surgical relief of all foreigners who speak French. Below this is a chapel belonging to the Baptists, and further southward a working lads' home, established in 1843, for homeless lads at work in London. In connection with it are various homes in the country, both for boys and girls, and two training ships, the Arethusa and Chichester.
All the ground to the south of Shaftesbury Avenue was anciently, if not actually a pond, at all events very marshy ground, and was called Meershelands, or Marshlands. It was subsequently known as Cock and Pye Fields, from the Cock and Pye public-house, which is supposed to have been situated at the spot where Little St. Andrew Street, West Street, and Castle Street now meet. The date at which this name first appeared is uncertain; it is met with in the parish books after 1666. In the reign of William III. a[Pg 23] Mr. Neale took the ground, and transformed the great ditch which crossed it into a sewer, preparatory to the building of Seven Dials. The name of this notorious place has been connected with degradation and misery, but at first it was considered rather an architectural wonder. Evelyn, in his diary, October 5, 1694, says: "I went to see the building beginning near St. Giles, where seven streets make a star from a Doric pillar placed in the middle of a circular area, said to be built by Mr. Neale." Gay also refers to the central column in his "Trivia." The column had really only six dial faces, two streets converging toward one. In the open space on which it stood was a pillory, and the culprits who stood here were often most brutally stoned. One John Waller, charged with perjury, was killed in this manner in 1732.
In 1773 the column was taken down in a search for imaginary treasure. It was set up again in 1822 on Weybridge Green as a memorial to the Duchess of York, who died 1820. The dial was not replaced, and was used as a stepping-stone at the Ship Inn at Weybridge; it still lies on one side of the Green. The streets of Seven Dials attained a very unenviable reputation, and were the haunt of all that was vicious and bad. Terrible accounts of the overcrowding and consequent immorality come down to us from the newspaper[Pg 24] echoes of the earlier part of the nineteenth century. The opening up of the new thoroughfares of New Oxford Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, and Charing Cross Road, have done much, but the neighbourhood is still a slum. The seven streets remain in their starlike shape, by name Great and Little White Lion Street, Great and Little St. Andrew Street, Great and Little Earl Street, and Queen Street.
Short's Gardens was in 1623 really a garden, and a little later than that date was acquired by a man named Dudley Short.
Betterton Street was until comparatively recently called Brownlow, from Sir John Brownlow of Belton, who had a house here in Charles II.'s time. The street is now, to use a favourite expression of Stow's, "better built than inhabited," for the row of brick houses of no very squalid type are inhabited by the very poor.
Endell Street was built in 1844, at the time of the erection of the workhouse. In it are the National Schools, a Protestant Swiss chapel, and an entrance to the public baths and wash-houses, to the south of which rise the towers of the workhouse. Christ Church is hemmed in by the workhouse, having an outlet only on the street. The church was consecrated in 1845. In Short's Gardens is the Lying-in Hospital, the oldest institution of the kind in England. On the west[Pg 25] side, between Castle Street and Short's Gardens, the remains of an ancient bath were discovered at what was once No. 3, Belton Street, now 23 and 25, Endell Street. Tradition wildly asserts that this was used by Queen Anne. Fragments of it still remain in the room used for iron lumber, for the premises are in the occupation of an iron merchant, but the water has long since ceased to flow.
Drury Lane has been in great part described in The Strand, which see, p. 97. The Coal Yard at the north-east end, where Nell Gwynne was born, is now Goldsmith Street. Pit Place, on the west of Great Wild Street, derives its name from the cockpit or theatre, the original of the Drury Lane Theatre, which stood here. The cockpit was built previous to 1617, for in that year an incensed mob destroyed it, and tore all the dresses. It was afterwards known as the Phœnix Theatre. At one time it seems to have been used as a school, though this may very well have been at the same time as it fulfilled its legitimate functions. Betterton and Kynaston both made their first public appearance here. The actual date of the theatre's demolition is not known. Parton judges it to have been at the time of the building of Wild, then Weld, Street. Its performances are described, 1642, as having degenerated into an inferior kind, and having been attended by inferior audiences.[Pg 26]
At the north-east end of Drury Lane is the site of the ancient hostelry, the White Hart. Here also was a stone cross, known as Aldewych Cross, for the lane was anciently the Via de Aldewych, and is one of the oldest roads in the parish; Saxon Ald = old, and Wych = a village, a name to be preserved in the new Crescent. It is difficult to understand, looking down Drury Lane to-day from Holborn, that this most mean and unlovely street was once a place of aristocratic resort—of gardens, great houses, and orchards. Here was Craven House, here was Clare House; here lived the Earl of Stirling, the Marquis of Argyll, and the Earl of Anglesey. Here lived for a time Nell Gwynne. Pepys says:
"Saw pretty Nelly standing at her lodgings door in Drury Lane in her smock-sleeves and bodice, looking upon one. She seemed a mighty pretty creature."
The Lane fell into disrepute early in the eighteenth century. The"saints of Drury Lane," the "drabs of Drury Lane," the starving poets of Drury Lane, are freely ridiculed by the poets of that time.
The boundary of St. Giles's parish runs down[Pg 27] Drury Lane between Long Acre and Great Queen Street. Of the last of these Strype says: "It is a street graced with a goodly row of large uniform houses on the south side, but on the north side is indifferent." The street was begun in the early years of the seventeenth century, but the building spread over a long time, so that we find the "goodly row of houses" on the south side to have been built by Webb, a pupil of Inigo Jones, about 1646. A number of celebrated people lived in Great Queen Street. The first Lord Herbert of Cherbury had a house on the south side at the corner of Great Wild Street; here he died in 1648. Sir Thomas Fairfax, the Parliamentary General, lived here; also Sir Heneage Finch, created Earl of Nottingham; Sir Godfrey Kneller, when he moved from Covent Garden; Thomas Worlidge, the portrait-painter, and afterwards, in the same house, Hoole, the translator of Dante and Ariosto; Sir Robert Strange, the engraver; John Opie, the artist; Wolcott, better known as Peter Pindar, who was buried at St. Paul's, Covent Garden. Sheridan is also said to have lived here, and it would be conveniently near Drury Lane Theatre, which was under his management from 1776.[Pg 28]
On the south side of the street are the Freemasons' Hall, built originally in 1775, and the Freemasons' Tavern, erected subsequently. Both[Pg 29] have been rebuilt, and the hall, having been recently repainted, looks at the time of writing startlingly new. Near it are two of the original old houses, all that are left with the pilasters and carved capitals which are so sure a sign of Inigo Jones's influence.
On the north side of the street is the Novelty Theatre.
Great and Little Wild Streets are called respectively Old and New Weld Streets by Strype. Weld House stood on the site of the present Wild Court, and was during the reign of James II. occupied by the Spanish Embassy. In Great Wild Street Benjamin Franklin worked as a journeyman printer.
Kemble and Sardinia were formerly Prince's and Duke's Streets. The latter contains some very old houses, and a chapel used by the Roman Catholics. This is said to be the oldest foundation now in the hands of the Roman Catholics in London. It was built in 1648, and was the object of virulent attack during the Gordon Riots; the exterior is singularly plain. Sardinia Street communicates with Lincoln's Inn Fields by a heavy and quaint archway.
Even in Strype's time Little Queen Street was "a place pestered with coaches," a reputation which, curiously enough, it still retains, the heavy traffic of the King's Cross omnibuses passing[Pg 30] through it. Trinity Church is in a late decorative style, with ornamental pinnacles, flying buttresses, and two deeply-recessed porches. Within it is a very plain, roomlike structure. The church is on the site of a house in which lived the Lambs, and where Mary Lamb in a fit of insanity murdered her mother. The Holborn Restaurant forms part of the side of this street; this is a very gorgeous building, and within is a very palace of modern luxury. It stands on the site formerly occupied by the Holborn Casino or Dancing Saloon.
Little Queen Street will be wiped out by the broad new thoroughfare from the Strand to Holborn to be called Kingsway (see plan).
Gate Street was formerly Little Princes Street. The present name is derived from the gate or carriage-entrance to Lincoln's Inn Fields.
In Strype's map half of Whetstone Park is called by its present title, and the western half is Phillips Rents. He mentions it as "once famous for its infamous and vicious inhabitants."
Great and Little Turnstile were so named from the turning stiles which in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries stood at their north ends to prevent the cattle straying from Lincoln's Inn Fields. The Holborn Music-hall in Little Turnstile was originally a Nonconformist chapel. After[Pg 31] 1840 it served as a hall, lectures, etc., being given by free-thinkers, and in 1857 was adapted to its present purpose.
Lincoln's Inn Fields.—All the ground on which the present square is built formed part of Fickett's Field, which was anciently the jousting-place of the Knights Templars. A curious petition of the reign of Edward III. shows us that then it was a favourite recreation-ground or promenade for clerks, apprentices, students, as well as the citizens. In this petition a complaint is made that one Roger Leget had laid caltrappes or engines of iron in a trench, to the danger of those who walked in the fields. Inigo Jones was entrusted by King James I. to form a square of houses which should be worthy of so fine a situation. Before this time it appears that there had been one or two irregular buildings. Inigo Jones conceived the curious idea of giving his square the exact size of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, and it is accordingly the largest square in London. But when he had completed the west side only, the unsettled state of the country hindered further progress, and for many years the land lay waste, and was unenclosed save by wooden posts and rails; during this period it was the daily and nightly haunt of all the beggars, rogues, pickpockets, wrestlers, and vile vagrants in London. Gay thus speaks of it:[Pg 32]
At this time three fields are mentioned as being included in the square—namely, Purse Field, Fickett's Field, and Cap Field. In 1657 the inhabitants made an agreement with Lincoln's Inn, to whom some of the rights of the Templars seem to have descended (Parton), as to the completion of the square. But even after the two further sides had been added, the centre seems to have been left in a disorderly and pestilent state, and it was not until 1735 that the place was properly laid out. In Strype's map of 1720 the sides are marked Newman's Row North, the Arch Row West, Portugal Row South, and the wall of Lincoln's Inn completes the fourth side. Strype speaks of the first two as being of large houses, generally taken by the nobility and gentry. The historical event of prominence connected with the centre of the square is the execution of William, Lord Russell, which took place here in 1683, on accusation of high treason and com[Pg 33]plicity in the Rye House Plot. He was beheaded in Lincoln's Inn Fields, lest the mob should rise and rescue him were he conveyed to the more public Tower Hill. In spite of his defiance of lawful authority, Russell's name has always been regarded as that of a patriot. He and Algernon Sydney are remembered as single-minded and high-souled men.
Many other executions were held in those fields, notably those of Babington and his accomplices in 1586, fourteen in all. They were"hanged, bowelled, and quartered, on a stage or scaffold of timber strongly made for that purpose, even in the place where they used to meet and conferre of their traitorous purposes." At present the centre of the square forms a charming garden, open free to the public, with fine plane-trees shading grass plots not too severely trimmed, and flocks of opal-hued pigeons add a touch of bird-life. It is true the grass is railed in, but the railings are not obtrusive, and do not interfere with the pleasure of those who sit on the seats or walk under the trees. Here is assuredly one of the places where we can most feel the fascination of London as we contrast the present with the past.
On the north side is the Inns of Court Hotel, a massive pile faced with stone, and with a portico of polished granite columns. This is on the site[Pg 34] of an ancient hostelry in Holborn, the George and Blue Boar, a famous coaching inn (see p. 3).
The Soane Museum is further westward, and is differentiated from two similarly built neighbours by a slightly projecting frontage. It was the former residence of Sir John Soane, who left his collection to the nation. There are many valuable pictures, as well as curious and interesting objects. The museum is open free to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday.
On the west side of the square, near Queen Street, stands a very solid mansion, known first as Powis, then as Newcastle House. The footway in Great Queen Street runs under an arcade on the north side of this house, which was built by the first Marquis of Powis, created Duke of Powis by James II., whom he followed into exile, and bought in 1705 by Holles, Duke of Newcastle, whose nephew, who led the Pelham Administration under George II., inherited it. Further south on the same side is Lindsey House, a large building with pilasters; this was built by Robert Bertie, Earl of Lindsey, and was later called Ancaster House. It was described by Hatton as a handsome building, with six spacious brick piers before it, surmounted by vases and with ironwork between. Only two of these vases remain. The fleurs-de-lis on the house over the Sardinia Street[Pg 35] entry were put up in compliment to Queen Henrietta Maria, who was the daughter of Henry IV. of France. The third great house on this side was Portsmouth House, over Portsmouth Place.
The remainder of the houses have the same general character of stuccoed and pilastered uniformity, broken here and there by uncovered brick surfaces or frontages of stone. They are almost uninterruptedly occupied by solicitors. This is the oldest side of the square, being that built by Inigo Jones.
At the south corner of the square there is a quaint red-brick, gable-ended house, with a bit of rusticated woodwork. This is all part of the same block as the Old Curiosity Shop, supposed to be that described by Dickens.
On the south side rises the Royal College of Surgeons. The central part is carried up a story and an entresol higher than the wings, and, like the wings, is capped by a balustrade. The legend, "Ædes Collegii Chirurgorum Anglici—Diplomate Regio Corporate A.D. MDCCC," runs across the frontage. A massive colonnade of six Ionic columns gives solidity to the basement. The museum of this college has absorbed the site of the old Duke's Theatre. Its nucleus was John Hunter's collection, purchased by the college, and first opened in 1813.[Pg 36]
This side of the square is outside our present district. (See The Strand, in the same series.)
The origin of the Company of Barber-Surgeons is very ancient, for the two guilds, Barbers and Surgeons, were incorporated in 1540; but in 1745 they separated, and the Surgeons continued as a body alone. However, they came to grief in 1790, and the charter establishing the Royal College of Surgeons of London was granted in 1800; in 1845 the title was changed to that of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The present building, however, dates only from 1835, and is the work of Sir C. Barry. It has since been enlarged and altered.
With this the ancient parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields ends, but our district includes Lincoln's Inn, and beyond it the parish of St. Andrew, Holborn, into which we pass.
The old brick gateway in Chancery Lane is familiar to most Londoners. It ranks with the stone gateway of the Hospitallers in Clerkenwell, with the tower of St. James's Palace, and with the gate of Lambeth Palace, as one of the three or four relics of the Gothic style left in London. Even Gothic churches are scarce, while specimens[Pg 37] of the domestic style are still scarcer. It need hardly be said that this tower has been constantly threatened, by "restorers" on the one hand, as well as by open destroyers on the other. It was built while Cardinal Wolsey was Chancellor, and was still new when Sir Thomas More sat in the hall as his successor. The windows have been altered, and the groining of the archway has been changed for a flat roof. It is said that the bricks of which the gate is built were made in the Coney Garth, which much later remained an open field, but is now New Square. A pillar, said to have been designed by Inigo Jones, stood in New Square, or, as it was called from a lessee at the beginning of the eighteenth century, Searle's Court. This ground and the site of the Law Courts formed part of Fickett's Field, the tilting-place of the Templars. Over the arch of the gate are carved three shields of arms. In the centre are the fleurs-de-lis and lions of Henry VIII., crowned within the garter. On the north side are the arms of Sir Thomas Lovell, who was a bencher of the Inn, and who rebuilt the gate in 1518. At the other side is the shield of Lacy. It was Henry Lacy, third Earl of Lincoln, who died in 1311, by whom the lawyers are said to have been first established here. It is certain that soon after his death the house and gardens, which before his time had belonged in part to the[Pg 38] Blackfriars, and which he had obtained on their removal to the corner of the City since called after them, were in the occupation of a society of students of the law. An adjoining house and grounds belonged to the Bishops of Chichester: Bishop's Court and Chichester's Rents are still local names. Richard Sampson, Bishop in 1537, made over the estate to Suliard, a bencher of the Inn, and his son in 1580 granted it to the lawyers. The gate is at 76, Chancery Lane, formerly New Street, and later Chancellor's Lane. In Old Square, the first court we enter, are situated the ancient hall and the chapel, the south side being occupied by chambers, some of them ancient. The turret in the corner, and one at the south-western corner, behind the hall, are very like those at St. James's Palace, and probably date very soon after the gate. Here at No. 13 Thurloe, Oliver Cromwell's Secretary of State, concealed a large collection of letters, which were discovered long after and have been published. The hall is low, and cannot be praised for any external architectural features of interest. The brickwork, which is older by twelve years than that of the gate, is concealed under a coat of stucco. There are three Gothic windows on each side, and the dimensions are about 70 feet by 32 feet high. The interior is not much more imposing, but the screen, in richly-carved oak,[Pg 39] set up in 1565, is handsome, and there is a picture by Hogarth of St. Paul before Felix.
Mr. Spilsbury, the librarian, seems to have proved conclusively that the chapel, which stands at right angles to the old hall, was a new building when it was consecrated in 1623. There is no direct evidence that it was designed by Inigo Jones; on the other hand, there is a record in existence which testifies that the Society intended to employ him. John Clarke was the builder. There was an older chapel in a ruinous condition, which there is reason to believe had been that of the Bishops, as it was dedicated to St. Richard of Chichester. Mr. Spilsbury quotes one of the Harleian manuscripts, written in or about 1700, in which Inigo is named as the architect, and Vertue's engraving of 1751 also mentions him. The chapel is elevated on an open crypt, which was intended for a cloister. Butler's "Hudibras" speaks of the lawyers as waiting for customers between "the pillar-rows of Lincoln's Inn." There were three bays, divided by buttresses, each of which was surmounted by a stone vase, a picturesque but incongruous arrangement, which was altered in the early days of the Gothic revival, being the first of a series of "restorations" to which the chapel has been subjected. A more serious offence against taste was the erection of a fourth bay at the west end, by[Pg 40] which the old proportions are lost. It looks worst on the outside, however, and the fine old windows of glass stained in England, apparently after a Flemish design, are calculated to disarm criticism. Mr. Spilsbury attributes them to Bernard and Abraham van Linge, but the glass was made by Hall, of Fetter Lane. The monuments commemorate, among others, Spencer Perceval, murdered in 1812, and a daughter of Lord Brougham, who died in 1839, and was buried in the crypt. The office of chaplain was in existence as early as the reign of Henry VI. The preachership was instituted in 1581, and among those who held the office were John Donne, afterwards Dean of St. Paul's, who preached the first sermon when the chapel was new. Herring, another preacher, was made Archbishop of York in 1743, and of Canterbury in 1747. Another Archbishop of York, William Thomson, was preacher here, and was promoted in 1862. The greatest of the list was, perhaps, Reginald Heber, though he was only here for a year before he was appointed Bishop of Calcutta.
The garden extends along the east side of Lincoln's Inn Fields, the New Square occupying the south portion, the new hall and library the middle part, and the west part of Stone Buildings facing the northern part. A terrace divides them, and there is a gate into the Fields, the[Pg 41] roadway leading north to Great Turnstile and Holborn. North of the Old Buildings and the chapel is Stone Buildings, in a handsome classical style, with a wing which looks into Chancery Lane near its Holborn end, and is half concealed by low shop-fronts. The history of the Stone Buildings is connected with that of the new hall and the library. Hardwick, one of the last of the school which might be connected with Chambers, the Adams, Payne, and other architects of the English Renaissance, was employed to complete Stone Buildings, begun by Sir Robert Taylor, before the end of the eighteenth century. Hardwick was at work in 1843, and his initials and a date, "P. H., 1843," are on the south gable of the hall. The new Houses of Parliament had just set the fashion for an attempt to revive the Tudor style, and Hardwick added to it the strong feeling for proportion which he had imbibed with his classical training. This gable is exceedingly satisfactory, the architect having given it a dignity wanting in most modern Gothic. It is of brick, with diagonal fretwork in darker bricks, as in the gate tower. The library had been removed to the Stone Buildings in 1787 from a small room south of the old hall, and, more accommodation being required, Hardwick designed a library to adjoin the new hall. The two looked very well, the hall being of six bays, with a great bow-[Pg 42]window at the north end. The interior is embellished with heraldry in stained glass, carved oak, metal work, and fresco painting. At the north end, over the daïs, is Mr. G. F. Watts' great picture, "The School of Legislation." The hall is 120 feet long, 45 feet wide, and 62 feet high. The roof of oak is an excellent imitation of an open timber roof of the fifteenth century, and is carved and gilt. The windows were filled with heraldry by Willement, and show us the arms of the legal luminaries who have adorned Lincoln's Inn, many of whom are also represented by busts and painted portraits. The hall is connected with an ample kitchen, and a series of butteries, pantries, and sculleries of suitable size.
Adjoining the hall, the library and a reading-room, which as first built were calculated to enhance the dignity of the hall, were soon found to be too small. Sir Gilbert Scott was called in to add to them. The delicate proportions of Hardwick suffered in the process, the younger architect having evidently thought more of the details, as was the fashion of his school. The additions were carried out in 1873, and the library is now 130 feet long, but shuts out a large part of the view northward through the gardens. It is believed that Ben Jonson worked here as a bricklayer, and we are told by Fuller that he had a trowel in his hand and a book in his pocket. Aubrey says his[Pg 43] mother had married a bricklayer, and that he was sent to Cambridge by a bencher who heard him repeating Homer as he worked. Of actual members of eminence, Lincoln's Inn numbers almost as many as the Inner Temple. Sir Thomas More among these comes first, but his father, who was a Judge, should be named with him. The handsome Lord Keeper Egerton, ancestor of so many eminent holders of the Bridgwater title, belonged to Lincoln's Inn during the reign of Elizabeth. The second Lord Protector, Richard Cromwell, was a student here in 1647, and Lenthall, his contemporary, was Reader. A little later Sir Matthew Hale, whose father had also been a member, was of this inn, and became Chief Justice in 1671. The first Earl of Mansfield was a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, and four or five Lords Chancellor in a row, including Bathurst, Campbell, St. Leonards, and Brougham.
From the antiquarian or the picturesque point of view Lincoln's Inn is not so fascinating as the two Temples. It looks rather frowning from Chancery Lane, where it rises against the western sky. The old hall and the chapel are rather curious than beautiful, and cannot compare with Middle Temple Hall or the Church of the Knights. The fine buildings which overlook the gardens and trees of Lincoln's Inn Fields owe much to their open situation. The Stone Build[Pg 44]ings where they look on the green turf of the garden are really magnificent, but they stand back from the public gaze, and are but seldom seen by the casual visitor.
Strype says the Lane "received the name of Chancellor's Lane in the time of Edward I. The way was so foul and miry that John le Breton, Custos of London, and the Bishop of Chichester, kept bars with staples across it to prevent carts from passing. The roadway was repaired in the reign of Edward III., and acquired its present name under his successor, Richard II."
About half of the Lane falls within the district, being in the parish of St. Andrew, Holborn. In it at the present time there is nothing worthy of remark, except the gateway of Lincoln's Inn, mentioned elsewhere. Offices, flats, and chambers in the solid modern style rise above shops. Near the north end is the Chancery Lane Safe Deposit. On the opposite side the old buildings of Lincoln's Inn frown defiance. Chancery Lane has for long been the chief connection between the Strand and Holborn, but will soon be superseded by Kingsway further west.[Pg 45]
Near the north end are Southampton Buildings, rigidly modern, containing the Birkbeck Bank and Chambers. They are built on the site once covered by Southampton House, which came to William, Lord Russell, by his marriage with the daughter and heiress of the last Lord Southampton. It is difficult to realize now the scene thus described by J. Wykeham Archer: "It was in passing this house, the scene of his domestic happiness, on his way to the scaffold in Lincoln's Inn Fields, that the fortitude of the martyr for a moment forsook him; but, overmastering his emotion, he said, 'The bitterness of death is now past.'"
Cursitor Street was in the eighteenth century noted for its sponging-houses, and many a reference is made to it in contemporary literature. We are now in the Liberties of the Rolls, a parish in itself.
The Cursitors' Office was built by Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, and adjoined the site of a palace of the Bishop of Chichester; and this adjoined the Domus Conversorum, or House of Converts, wherein the rolls of Chancery were kept, now replaced by the magnificent building of the new Record Office. Southward is Serjeants' Inn—the building still stands; also Clifford's Inn, once pertaining to the Inner Temple. The hall of Clifford's Inn was converted into a court[Pg 46] for the adjustment of boundaries after the Fire of London.
On the west side of Chancery Lane, a few doors above Fleet Street, Izaak Walton kept a draper's shop. These details about the southern part of Chancery Lane are mentioned for the sake of continuity, for they do not come within the Holborn District.
Chancery Lane was the birthplace of Lord Strafford, the residence of Chief Justice Hyde, of the Lord Keeper Guildford, and of Jacob Tonson.
Passing on into Holborn and turning eastward, we soon perceive a row of quaint Elizabethan gabled houses (see Frontispiece), with overhanging upper stories and timber framework. The contrast with the modern terra-cotta buildings on the north side of the street is striking. The old houses are part of Staple Inn, now belonging to the Prudential Assurance Company, whose red terra-cotta it is that forms such a contrast across the way. It was bought by the company in 1884, and restored a few years later by the removal of the plaster which had concealed the picturesque beams. Still within St. Andrew's parish, we here arrive at the City boundaries. The numbering of Holborn proper, included in the City, begins a door or two above the old timbered entrance, which leads to the first court[Pg 47]yard of Staple Inn. The courtyard is a real backwater out of the rushing traffic. The uneven cobble-stones, the whispering plane-trees, the worn red brick, and the flat sashed windows, of a bygone date all combine to make a picture of old London seldom to be found nowadays. Dr. Johnson wrote parts of"Rasselas" while a resident here.
The way is a thoroughfare to Southampton Buildings, and continuing onward we pass another part of the old building with a quaint clock and small garden. Near at hand are the new buildings of the Patent Office and the Birkbeck Bank and Chambers, already mentioned, an enormous mass of masonry. The Inn contains a fine hall, thus mentioned in 1631:
"Staple Inn was the Inne or Hostell of the Merchants of the Staple (as the tradition is), wherewith until I can learne better matter, concerning the antiquity and foundation thereof, I must rest satisfied. But for latter matters I cannot chuse but make report, and much to the prayse and commendation of the Gentlemen of this House, that they have bestowed great costs in new-building a fayre Hall of brick, and two parts of the outward Courtyards, besides other lodging in the garden and elsewhere, and have thereby made it the fayrest Inne of Chauncery in this Universitie."[Pg 48]
The whole of this district abounds in these one-time Inns of Chancery, formerly attached to the Inns of Court; but those that remain are all now diverted to other uses, and some have vanished, leaving only a name.
Further on there is Furnival Street, lately Castle Street, and so marked in Strype's map. The Castle Public-house still recalls the older name. Tradesmen of every kind occupy the buildings, besides which there is a Baptist mission-house. The buildings on the east side are of the old-fashioned style, dark brick with flat sashed windows.
Furnival Street lies within the City. The street takes its name from Furnival's Inn, rebuilt in the early part of the nineteenth century. This stood on the north side of Holborn, and was without the City. There is, perhaps, less to say about it than about any of the other old Inns. It was originally the town-house of the Lords Furnival. It was an Inn of Chancery in Henry IV.'s reign, and was sold to Lincoln's Inn in the reign of Elizabeth. Its most interesting associations are that Sir Thomas More was Reader for three years, and that Charles Dickens had chambers here previous to 1837, while "Pickwick" was running in parts. It was rebuilt in great part in Charles I.'s reign, and entirely rebuilt about 1818. With the exception of the hall, it was used as an hotel.[Pg 49] The Prudential Assurance Company's palatial building now completely covers the site.
In Holborn, opposite to the end of Gray's Inn Road, formerly stood Middle Row, an island of houses which formed a great obstruction to traffic. This was removed in 1867.
The next opening on the south side is Dyers' Buildings, with name reminiscent of some former almshouses of the Dyers' Company. Then a small entry, with "Mercer's School" above, leads into Barnard's Inn, now the School of the Mercers' Company. The first court is smaller than that of Staple Inn, and lacks the whispering planes, yet it is redolent of old London. On the south side is the little hall, the smallest of all those of the London Inns; it is now used as a dining-hall. In the windows is some ancient stained glass, contemporary with the building—that is to say, about 470 years old.
The exterior of this hall, with its steeply-pitched roof, is a favourite subject for artists. Beyond it are concrete courts, walls of glazed white brick, and cleanly substantial buildings, which speak of the modern appreciation of sanitation. A tablet on the wall records in admirably concise fashion the history of the Mercers' School and its various peregrinations until it found a home here in 1894. Before being bought by the Mercers' Company, the Inn had been let as[Pg 50] residential chambers. It was also an Inn of Chancery, and belonged to Gray's Inn. It was formerly called Mackworth's Inn, being the property of Dr. John Mackworth, Dean of Lincoln. It was next occupied by a man named Barnard, when it was converted into an Inn of Chancery.
The further court is bounded on the east side by one of the few very old buildings left in London. This was formerly the White Horse Inn, but is now also part of the Mercers' School buildings.
Timbs quotes from Lord Eldon's "Anecdote Book," 1776, in which Lord Eldon says he came to the White Horse Inn when he left school, and here met his brother, Lord Stowell, who took him to see the play at Drury Lane, where "Lowe played Jobson in the farce, and Miss Pope played Nell. When we came out of the house it rained hard. There were then few hackney coaches, and we both got into one sedan-chair. Turning out of Fleet Street into Fetter Lane there was a sort of contest between our chairmen and some persons who were coming up Fleet Street.... In the struggle the sedan-chair was overset, with us in it."
The white boundary wall of the Mercers' School replaces the old wall of the noted Swan Distillery (now rebuilt). This distillery was an object of[Pg 51] attack in the Gordon Riots, partly, perhaps, because of its stores, and partly because its owner was a Roman Catholic. It was looted, and the liquor ran down in the streets, where men and women drank themselves mad. Dickens has thus described the riot scene in "Barnaby Rudge":
"The gutters of the street and every crack and fissure in the stones ran with scorching spirit, which being dammed up by busy hands overflowed the road and pavement, and formed a great pool into which the people dropped down dead by dozens. They lay in heaps all round this fearful pond, husbands and wives, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, women with children in their arms and babies at their breasts, and drank until they died. While some stooped their lips to the brink and never raised their heads again, others sprang up from their fiery draught, and danced half in a mad triumph, and half in the agony of suffocation, until they fell and steeped their corpses in the liquor that had killed them."
Both the Holborn and Fleet Street ends of Fetter Lane were for more than two centuries places of execution. Some have derived the name from the fetters of criminals, and others from "fewtors," disorderly and idle persons, a corruption of "defaytors," or defaulters; while the most probable derivation is that from the "fetters" or rests on the breastplates of the knights who jousted in Fickett's Field adjoining.
An interesting Moravian Chapel has an entry on the east side of Fetter Lane. This has memories of Baxter, Wesley, and Whitefield. It was bought by the Moravians in 1738, and was[Pg 52] then associated with the name of Count Zinzendorf. It was attacked and dismantled in the riots. Dryden is supposed to have lived in Fetter Lane, but Hutton, in "Literary Landmarks," says the only evidence of such occupation was a curious stone, existing as late as 1885, in the wall of No. 16, over Fleur-de-Lys Court, stating:
Born 1631—Died 1700.
But he adds there is no record when or by whom the stone was placed. Otway is said to have lived opposite, and quarrelled with his illustrious neighbour in verse. In any case, Fleur-de-Lys Court lies outside the boundaries of the parish we are now considering. It may, however, be mentioned that the woman Elizabeth Brownrigg, who so foully tortured her apprentices, committed her atrocities in this court. Praise God Barebones was at one time a resident in the Lane, and in the same house his brother, Damned Barebones. The house was afterwards bought by the Royal Society, of which Sir Isaac Newton was then President, and the Royal Society meetings were held here until 1782.
Returning to Holborn, from whence we have deviated, we come across Bartlett's Buildings,[Pg 53] described by Strype as a very handsome, spacious place very well inhabited.
Thavie's Inn bears the name of the vanished Inn of Chancery. Here was originally the house of an armourer called John Thavie, who, by will dated 1348, devised it with three shops for the repair and maintenance of St. Andrew's Church. It was bought for an Inn of Chancery by Lincoln's Inn in the reign of Edward III. It is curious how persistently the old names have adhered to these places. It was sold by Lincoln's Inn in 1771, and afterwards burnt down. The houses here are chiefly inhabited by jewellers, opticians, and earthenware merchants. There are a couple of private hotels.
In St. Andrew's Street are the Rectory and Court-house, rebuilt from the designs of S. S. Teulon in yellow brick. The buildings form a quadrangle, with a wall and one side of the church enclosing a small garden. In the Court-house is a handsome oak overmantle, black with age, which was brought here from the old Court-house in St. Andrew's Court, pulled down in the construction of St. Andrew's Street and Holborn Viaduct in 1869.
Holborn Circus was formed in connection with the approaches to the Viaduct. In the centre there is an equestrian statue of the Prince Consort in bronze, by C. Bacon. This was presented by[Pg 54] an anonymous donor, and the Corporation voted £2,000 for erecting a suitable pedestal for it. The whole was put up in 1874, two years after the completion of the Circus. On the north and south sides are bas-reliefs, and on the east and west statues of draped female figures seated.
Holborn Viaduct was finished in 1869. It is 1,400 feet in length, and is carried by a series of arches over the streets in the valleys below. The main arch is over Farringdon Road, the bed of the Fleet or Holbourne Stream, and is supported by polished granite columns of immense solidity. At the four corners of this there are four buildings enclosing staircases communicating with the lower level, and in niches are respectively statues of Sir William Walworth, Sir Hugh Myddleton, Sir Thomas Gresham, and Sir Henry Fitz-Alwyn, with dates of birth and death. On the parapets of the Viaduct are four erect draped female figures, representative of Fine Art, Science, Agriculture, and Commerce. Holborn Viaduct is a favourite locality for bicycle shops.
The City Temple (Congregational) and St. Andrew's Church are near neighbours, and conspicuous objects on the Viaduct just above Shoe Lane. The City Temple is a very solid mass of masonry with a cupola and a frontage of two stories in two orders of columns.[Pg 55]
The parish of St. Andrew was formerly of much greater extent than at present, embracing not only Hatton Garden, Saffron Hill, but also St. George the Martyr, these are now separate parishes.
The original Church of St. Andrew was of great antiquity. Malcolm, who gives a very full account of it in "Londinium Redivivum," says that it was given "very many centuries past" to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's, and the Abbot and Convent of St. Saviour, Bermondsey, by Gladerinus, a priest, on condition that the Abbot and Convent paid the Dean and the Chapter 12s. per annum. We also hear that there was a grammar-school attached to it, one of Henry VI.'s foundations, and that there had been previously an alien priory, a cell to the House of Cluny, suppressed by Henry V. The church continued in a flourishing condition. Various chantries were bestowed upon it from time to time, and in the will of the Rector, date 1447, it is stated that there were four altars within the church. In Henry VIII.'s time the principals of the four inns or houses in the parish paid a mark apiece to the church, apparently for the maintenance of a chantry priest. In Elizabeth's reign the tombs were despoiled: the churchwardens sold the brasses that had so far escaped destruction, and proceeded to demolish[Pg 56] the monuments, until an order from the Queen put a stop to this vandalism.
In 1665 Stillingfleet (Bishop of Worcester) was made Rector. The church was rebuilt by Wren in 1686 "in a neat, plain manner." The ancient tower remained, and was recased in 1704. The building is large, light, and airy, and is in the florid, handsome style we are accustomed to associate with Wren. At the west end is a fine late-pointed arch, communicating with the tower, in which there is a similar window. This arch was blocked up and hidden by Wren, but was re-opened by the late Rector, the Rev. Henry Blunt, who also thoroughly restored and renovated the building some thirty years ago.
The most interesting of the interior fittings is a porphyry altar, placed by Sacheverell, who was Rector from 1713 to 1724, and who is buried beneath it. A marble font, at which Disraeli was baptized at the age of twelve, is also interesting, and the pulpit of richly-carved wood, attributed to Grinling Gibbons, is very handsome. On the west wall is a marble slab, in memory of William Marsden, M.D., founder of the Royal Free and Cancer Hospitals. It was put up by the Cordwainers' Company in 1901.
In the tower are many monuments of antiquity, but none to recall the memory of anyone notable. The church stood in a very commanding situation[Pg 57] until the building of the Viaduct, which passes on a higher level, giving the paved yard in front the appearance of having been sunk.
On this side of the church there is a large bas-relief of the Last Judgment, without date. This was a favourite subject in the seventeenth century, and similar specimens, though not so fine, and differing in treatment, still exist elsewhere (see p. 17).
Malcolm mentions a house next the White Hart, with land behind it, worth 5s. per annum, called "Church Acre," and in the reign of Henry VII. the priest was fined 4d. for driving across the churchyard to the Rectory. In the twenty-fifth year of Elizabeth's reign there was a great heap of skulls and bones that lay "unseemly and offensive" at the east end of the church. The register records the burial here, on August 28, 1770, of"William Chatterton," presumably Thomas Chatterton, as the date accords. A later hand has added the words "the poet."
Wriothesley, Henry VIII.'s Chancellor, was buried in St. Andrew's churchyard. Timbs says that this church has been called the "Poets' Church," for, besides the above, John Webster, dramatic poet, is said to have been parish clerk here, though the register does not confirm it. Robert Savage was christened here January 18, 1696.[Pg 58]
There is also a monument to Emery, the comedian, and Neale, another poet, was buried in the churchyard. But these records combined make but poor claim to such a proud title. The ground on which Chatterton was buried has now utterly vanished, having been covered first by the Farringdon Market, and later by great warehouses.
When the Holborn Viaduct was built, a large piece of the churchyard was cut off, and the human remains thus disinterred were reburied in the City cemetery at Ilford, Essex.
The earliest mention of Shoe Lane is in a writ of Edward II., when it is denominated "Scolane in the ward without Ludgate." In the seventeenth century we read of a noted cockpit which was established here.
Gunpowder Alley, which ran out of this Lane, was the residence of Lovelace, the poet, and of Lilly, the astrologer. The former died here of absolute want in 1658. His well-known lines,
have made his fame more enduring than that of many men of greater poetical merit. In Shoe Lane lived also Florio, the compiler of our first Italian Dictionary. Coger's Hall in Shoe Lane attained some celebrity in the latter half of the eighteenth century. It was established for the purpose of debate, and, among others, O'Connell,[Pg 59] Wilkes, and Curran, met here to discuss the political questions of the day. On the west side of Shoe Lane was Bangor Court, reminiscent of the Palace or Inn of the Bishops of Bangor. This was a very picturesque old house, if the prints still existing are to be trusted, and parts of it survived even so late as 1828. It was mentioned in the Patent Rolls so early as Edward III.'s reign. Another old gabled house, called Oldbourne Hall, was on the east side of the street, but this, even in Stow's time, had fallen from its high estate and descended to the degradation of division into tenements.
Opposite St. Andrew's Church was formerly Scrope's Inn. According to Stow,
"This house was sometime letten out to sergeants-at-the-law, as appeareth, and was found by inquisition taken in the Guildhall of London, before William Purchase, mayor, and escheator for the king, Henry VII., in the 14th of his reign, after the death of John Lord Scrope, that he died deceased in his demesne of fee, by the feoffment of Guy Fairfax, knight, one of the king's justices, made in the 9th of the same king, unto the said John Scrope, knight, Lord Scrope of Bolton, and Robert Wingfield, esquire, of one house or tenement late called Sergeants' Inn, situate against the Church of St. Andrew in Oldbourne, in the city of London, with two gardens and two messuages to the same tenement belonging to the said city, to hold in burgage, valued by the year in all reprises ten shillings" (Thomas's edit. Stow, p. 144).
This, as may be judged from the above, was not a regular Inn of Chancery, but appertained to Serjeants' Inn.[Pg 60]
Crossing Holborn Circus to the north side, we come into the Liberty of Saffron Hill, Hatton Garden, and Ely Rents. This Liberty, is coterminous with the parish of St. Peter, Saffron Hill. Hatton Garden derives its name from the family of Hatton, who for many years held possession of house and grounds in the vicinity of Ely Place, having settled upon the Bishops of Ely like parasites, and grown rich by extortion from their unwilling hosts. The district was separated from St. Andrew's in 1832, and became an independent ecclesiastical parish seven years later. As the Liberty of Saffron Hill, Hatton Garden, and Ely Rents, it has a very ancient history. It was cut in two by a recent Boundary Commission, and put half in Holborn and half in Finsbury Borough Councils.
Ely Place was built in 1773 on the site of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely. The earliest notice of the See in connection with this spot is in the thirteenth century, when Kirkby, who died in office in 1290, bequeathed to his official successors a messuage and nine cottages in Holborn. A succeeding Bishop, probably William de Luda, built a chapel dedicated to St. Ethelreda, and Hotham, who died in 1336, added a garden, orchard, and vineyard. Thomas Arundel restored the chapel, and built a large gate-house facing Holborn. The episcopal dwelling steadily rose[Pg 61] in magnificence and size. It boasted noble residents besides the Bishops, for John of Gaunt died here in 1399, having probably been hospitably taken in after the burning of his own palace at the Savoy. The strawberries of Ely Garden were famous, and Shakespeare makes reference to them, thus following closely Holinshed. But in the reign of Queen Elizabeth a blight fell on the Bishops. It began with the envious desires of Sir Christopher Hatton, who, by reason of his dancing and courtly tricks, had won the susceptible Queen's fancy and been made Lord Chancellor. He settled down on Ely Place, taking the gate-house as his residence, excepting the two rooms reserved as cells and the lodge. He held also part of the garden on a lease of twenty-one years, and the nominal rent he had to pay was a red rose, ten loads of hay, and £10 per annum. The Bishop had the right of passing through the gate-house, of walking in his own garden, and of gathering twenty bushels of roses yearly. Hatton spent much money (borrowed from the Queen) in improving and beautifying the estate, which pleased him so well that he farther petitioned the Queen to grant him the whole property. The poor, ill-used Bishop protested, but was sternly repressed, and the only concession he could obtain was the right to buy back the estate if he could at any time repay[Pg 62] Hatton the sums which had been spent on it. But Hatton did not remain unpunished. The Queen, a hard creditor, demanded the immense sums which she had lent to him, and it is said he died of a broken heart, crushed at being unable to repay them. His nephew Newport, who took the name of Hatton, was, however, allowed to succeed him. The widow of this second Hatton married Sir Edward Coke, the ceremony being performed in St. Andrew's Church. The Bishops' and the Hattons' rights of property seem to have been somewhat involved, for after the death of this widow the Bishops returned, and in the beginning of the eighteenth century the Hatton property was saddled with an annual rent-charge of £100 payable to the See; and, in 1772, when, on the death of the last Hatton heir, the property fell to the Crown, the See was paid £200 per annum, and given a house in Dover Street, Piccadilly, in lieu of Ely Place. Malcolm says: "When a more convenient Excise Office was lately wanted, the ground on which Ely House stood was thought of for it, but its situation was objected to. When an intention was formed of removing the Fleet Prison, Ely House was judged proper on account of the quantity of ground about it, but the neighbouring inhabitants in Hatton Garden petitioned against the prison being built there. A scheme is now[Pg 63] (1773) said to be in agitation for converting it into a Stamp Office, that business being at present carried on in chambers in Lincoln's Inn." So much for the history and ownership of a place which played a considerable part in London history. The fabric itself must have been very magnificent. There was a venerable hall 74 feet long, with six Gothic windows. At Ely House were held magnificent feasts by the Serjeants-at-Law, one of which continued for five days, and was honoured on the first day by the presence of Henry VIII. and Katherine of Aragon. Stow's account of this festival is perhaps worth quoting:
"It were tedious to set down the preparation of fish, flesh, and other victuals spent in this feast, and would seem almost incredible, and, as to me it seemeth, wanted little of a feast at a coronation; nevertheless, a little I will touch, for declaration of the charge of prices. There were brought to the slaughter-house twenty-four great beefs at twenty-six shillings and eightpence the piece from the shambles, one carcass of an ox at twenty-four shillings, one hundred fat muttons two shillings and tenpence the piece, fifty-two great veals at four shillings and eightpence the piece, thirty-four porks three shillings and eightpence the piece, ninety-one pigs sixpence the piece, capons of geese, of one poulterer (for they had three), ten dozens at twenty-pence the piece, capons of Kent nine dozens and six at twelvepence the piece, capons coarse nineteen dozen at sixpence the piece, cocks of grose seven dozen and nine at eightpence the piece, cocks coarse fourteen dozen and eight at threepence the piece, pullets, the best, twopence halfpenny, other pullets twopence, pigeons thirty-seven dozen at tenpence the dozen, swans fourteen dozen, larks three hundred and forty dozen at fivepence the dozen, &c. Edward Nevill was seneschal or steward, Thomas Ratcliffe, comptroller, Thomas Wildon, clerk of the Kitchen" (Thomas's edit. Stow, pp. 144, 145).
During the Civil War the house was used both as a hospital and a prison. Great part of it was demolished during the imprisonment of Bishop Wren by the Commonwealth, and some of the surrounding streets were built on the site of the garden. Vine Street, Hatton Garden, Saffron Hill, of which the lower end was once Field Lane, carry their origin in their names. Evelyn, writing June 7, 1659, says that he came to see the"foundations now laying for a long streete and buildings on Hatton Garden, designed for a little towne, lately an ample garden." The chapel, dedicated to St. Ethelreda, now alone remains. It was for a time held by a Welsh Episcopalian congregation, but in 1874 was obtained by Roman Catholics, the Welsh congregation passing on to St. Benet's, on St. Benet's Hill in Thames Street. The chapel stands back from the street, and is faced by a stone wall and arched porch surmounted by a cross. This stonework is all modern. An entrance immediately facing the porch leads into the crypt, which is picturesque with old stone walls and heavily-timbered roof. This is by far the older part of the building, the chapel above being a rebuilding on the same foundation. The crypt probably dates back from the first foundation of De Luda, and the chapel from the restoration of Arundel. When the Roman Catholics came into possession, the late[Pg 65] Sir Gilbert Scott was employed in a thorough restoration, during which a heavy stone bowl, about the size of a small font, was dug up. It is of granite, and is supposed to be of considerably more ancient date than the fabric itself, being pre-Saxon. From the size, it is improbable it was used as a font, being more likely a holy-water stoup, for which purpose it is now employed. Having been placed on a fitting shaft, it stands outside the entrance to the church, on the south side, in the cloister, which is probably on the site of the ancient cloister. There is a simple Early English porch, beautifully proportioned with mouldings of the period. Within the church corresponds in shape with the crypt; two magnificent windows east and west are worthy of a much larger building. Those on each side are of recent date, having been reconstructed from a filled-in window on the south side of the chancel. The reliquary contains a great treasure—a portion of the hand of St. Ethelreda, which member, having been taken from the chapel, after many wanderings, fell into the possession of a convent of nuns, who refused to give it up. Finally judgment was given to the effect that the nuns should retain a portion, while the part of a finger was granted to the church, which was accordingly done. It was this saint who gave rise to our word "tawdry." She was popularly[Pg 66] known as St. Awdrey, and strings of beads sold in her name at fairs, etc., came to be made of any worthless glass or rubbish, and were called tawdry. The crypt is used as a regular church, and is filled with seats; service is held here as well as above.
The timber beams in the roof are now (1903) undergoing thorough restoration, and the outer walls of the chapel are being repointed.
From this quaint relic of past times, rich with the indefinable attraction which nothing but a history of centuries can give, we pass out into Ely Place. This is a quiet cul-de-sac composed almost wholly of the offices of business men, solicitors, etc. At the north end, beyond the chapel, the old houses are down, and new ones will be erected in their place. At the end a small watchman's lodge stands on the spot where stood the Bishops' Gateway, in which the parasite, Sir Christopher Hatton, first fastened on his host.
Hatton Garden is a wide thoroughfare with some modern offices and many older houses, with bracketed doorways and carved woodwork. It has long been associated with the diamond merchant's trade, and now diamond merchants occupy quite half of the offices. It is also the centre of the gold and silver trade. The City Orthopædic Hospital is on the east side.[Pg 67]
In Charles Street is the Bleeding Heart public-house, which derives its name from an old religious sign, the Pierced Heart of the Virgin. This is close to Bleeding Heart Yard, referred to in "Little Dorrit," and easily recalled by any reader of Dickens.
In Cross Street there is an old charity school, with stuccoed figures of a charity boy and girl on the frontage. The Caledonian School was formerly in this street; it was removed to its present situation in 1828. Whiston, friend of Sir Isaac Newton, lived here, and here Edward Irving first displayed his powers of preaching.
Kirkby Street recalls what has already been said about the first Bishop of Ely, who purchased land whereon his successors should build a palace. It is a broad street, and in times past was a place of residence for well-to-do people.
The lower part of Saffron Hill was known at first as Field Lane, and is described by Strype as "narrow and mean, full of Butchers and Tripe Dressers, because the Ditch runs at the back of their Slaughter houses, and carries away the filth." He also says that Saffron Hill is a place of small account, "both as to buildings and inhabitants, and pestered with small and ordinary alleys and courts taken up by the meaner sort of people, especially to the east side into the Town. The[Pg 68] Ditch separates the parish from St. John, Clerkenwell, and over this Ditch most of the alleys have a small boarded bridge."
We can easily picture it, the courts swarming with thieves and rogues who slipped from justice by this back-way, which made the place a kind of warren with endless ramifications and outlets. All this district is strongly associated with the stories of Dickens, who mentions Saffron Hill in "Oliver Twist," not much to its credit. In later times Italian organ-grinders and ice-cream vendors had a special predilection for the place, and did not add to its reputation. Curiously enough, the resident population of the neighbourhood are now almost wholly British, with very few Italians, as the majority of the foreigners have gone to join the colony just outside the Liberty, in Eyre Street Hill, Skinner's Street, etc. Within quite recent times the clergyman of the parish dare only go to visit these parishioners accompanied by two policemen in plain clothes. Now the lower half is a hive of industry, and is lined by great business houses. Further north, on the east side, the dwellings are still poor and squalid, but on one side a great part of the street has been demolished to make way for a Board school, built in a way immeasurably superior to the usual Board school style. Opposite is the Church of St. Peter, which is an early work of Sir Charles Barry. This is in[Pg 69] light stone, in the Perpendicular style, and has two western towers. It was built at the time of the separation of the district, about 1832.
In Hatton Wall an old yard bore the name of Hat in Tun, which was interesting as showing the derivation of the word. Strype mentions in this street a very old inn, called the Bull Inn. The part of Hatton Wall to the west of Hatton Garden was known as Vine Street, and here there was "a steep descent into the Ditch, where there is a bridge that leadeth to Clerkenwell Green" (Strype). In Hatton Yard Mr. Fogg, Dickens' magistrate, presided over a police-court.
Leather Lane is called by Strype "Lither" Lane. Even in his day he reviles it as of no reputation, and this character it retains. It is one of the open street markets of London, lined with barrows and coster stalls, and abounding in low public-houses. The White Hart, the King's Head, and the Nag's Head, are mentioned by Strype, and these names survive amid innumerable others. At the south end a house with overhanging stories remains; this curtails the already narrow space across the Lane.
On the west of Leather Lane, Baldwin's Buildings and Portpool Lane open out. The former consists largely of workmen's model dwellings, comfortable and convenient within, but with the peculiarly depressing exteriors of the utilitarian[Pg 70] style. Further north these give way to warehouses, breweries, and manufactories. East of its southern end in Holborn were two old inns, the Old Bell and Black Bull. The former was a coaching inn of great celebrity in its day, and picturesque wooden balconies surrounded its inner courtyard. It has now been transformed into a modern public-house. It was the last of the old galleried inns of London. The Black Bull was also of considerable age. Its courtyard has been converted into dwellings.
Brooke Street takes its name from Brooke Market, established here by Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, but demolished a hundred years ago. It was in Brooke Street, in a house on the west side, that poor Chatterton committed suicide. St. Alban's Church is an unpretentious building at the north end. An inscription over the north door tells us that it was erected to be free for ever to the poor by one of the humble stewards of God's mercies, with date 1860. Within we learn that this benefactor was the first Baron Addington. The church is well known for its ritualistic services.
Portpool Lane, marked in Strype's plan Perpoole, is the reminiscence of an ancient manor of that name. The part of Clerkenwell Road bounding this district to the north was formerly called by the appropriate name of Liquorpond Street.[Pg 71] In it there is a Roman Catholic Church of St. Peter, built in 1863. The interior is very ornate. Just here, where Back Hill and Ray Street meet, was Hockley Hole, a famous place of entertainment for bull and bear baiting, and other cruel sports that delighted the brutal taste of the eighteenth century. One of the proprietors, named Christopher Preston, fell into his own bear-pit, and was devoured, a form of sport that doubtless did not appeal to him. Hockley Hole was noted for a particular breed of bull-dogs. The actual site of the sports is in the adjoining parish, but the name occurring here justifies some comment. Hockley in the Hole is referred to by Ben Jonson, Steele, Fielding, and others. It was abolished soon after 1728.
It was in a sponging-house in Eyre Street that Morland, the painter, died. In the part of Gray's Inn Road to the north of Clerkenwell Road formerly stood Stafford's Almshouses, founded in 1652.
At present Rosebery Avenue, driven through slumland, justifies its pleasant-sounding name, being a wide, sweeping, tree-lined road. Workmen's model dwellings rise on either side.
The northern part of Gray's Inn Road falls within the parish of St. Pancras. The part which lies to the north of Theobald's Road was formerly called Gray's Inn Lane. In 1879-80 the east side[Pg 72] was pulled down, and the line of houses set back in the rebuilding. These consists of uninteresting buildings, with small shops on the ground-floor. On the west there are the worn bricks of Gray's Inn. At the corner of Clerkenwell Road is the Holborn Town-Hall, an imposing, well-built edifice of brick and stone, with square clock-tower, surmounted by a smaller octagonal tower and dome. The date is 1878.
Gray's Inn Road is familiar to all readers of Dickens and Fielding, from frequent references in their novels. John Hampden took lodgings here in 1640, in order to be near Pym, at a time when the struggle between the King and Parliament in regard to the question of ship money was at its sharpest. James Shirley, the dramatic poet of the seventeenth century, is also said to have lived here, but was probably in Gray's Inn itself.
An archway on the north side of Holborn, nearly opposite Chancery Lane, admits us to Gray's Inn. It is not the original entrance, which was round the corner in Portpool Lane, now called Gray's Inn Road. The Lords Grey of Wilton obtained[Pg 73] the Manor of Portpool at some remote period from the Canon of St. Paul's, who held it; we have no direct evidence as to whether the Canon had a house on the spot, but there are some traces of a chapel and a chaplain. In 1315 Lord Grey gave some land in trust to the Canons of St. Bartholomew to endow the chaplain in his mansion of Portpool. From its situation near London, the ready access both to the City and the country, with the fine views northward towards Hampstead and Highgate, this must have been a more desirable place of residence than even the neighbouring manor of the Bishop of Ely. It consisted in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries of a gate-house which faced eastward, the chapel close to it on the left, and various other buildings, some of them apparently forming separate houses, with spacious gardens and a windmill. Here the Lords Grey lived for a couple of centuries in great state, apparently letting or lending the smaller houses to tenants or retainers—it would seem not unlikely to lawyers or students of the law, possibly their own men of business. This is no mere theory or guesswork. There has been too much conjecture about the early history of Gray's Inn, and the sober-minded topographer is warned off at the outset by a number of inconsistent assertions as to the early existence here of a school of law. Dugdale tells us that the manor was[Pg 74] granted to the Priory of Shene in the reign of Henry VII., and after the dissolution it was rented by a society of students of the law. A fictitious list of Readers goes back to the reign of Edward III., but will not bear critical examination. The lawyers paid a rent of £6 13s. 4d. to Henry VIII., and this charge passed into private hands by grant of Charles II. The lawyers bought it from the heir of the first grantee, and since 1733 have enjoyed the Inn rent-free. The opening into Holborn was made on the purchase by the society, in 1594, of the Hart on the Hoop, which then belonged to Fulwood, whose name is commemorated by Fulwood's Rents, now nearly wiped out by a station of the Central London Railway.
The chief entrance is by the archway in Holborn. In 1867 the old brick arch was beplastered, obliterating a reminiscence of Dickens, who makes David Copperfield and Dora lodge over it. A narrow road leads into South Square, the north side of which is formed by the hall and library. The houses round the east and south sides are of uniform design, with handsome doorways. The hall has been much "restored," but was originally built in the reign of Queen Mary. It has a modern Gothic porch, carved with the griffin, which forms the coat armour of the Inn.
The interior of the hall has been renovated,[Pg 75] having been much injured in 1828, when the exterior was covered with stucco. The brick front is again visible, and the panelling and roof within are of carved oak. There are coats of arms in the windows, and on the walls hang portraits of Charles I., Charles II., James II., and the two Bacons—father and son—Sir Nicholas and Viscount St. Albans, who are the chief legal luminaries of the "ancient and honourable society." The library, modern, adjoins on the east, and contains a collection of important records and printed books on law.
Passing through an arch at the western end of the hall, we enter Gray's Inn Square, formerly Chapel Court. The chapel is close to the library on the north side, and opens into Gray's Inn Square. This court was probably open on the north side to the fields before the reign of Charles II. Some of the buildings surrounding it are in a good Queen Anne style, and some have the cross-mullioned windows of a still earlier period. The exterior of the chapel is covered with stucco. The interior, which is very small—there being only seating for a congregation of about one hundred—was carefully examined three years ago, when a proposal was made to build a new chapel. The Gothic windows, walled up by the library to the south, came to light, and there seems some probability that the building is mainly[Pg 76] that of Lord Grey's chantry of 1315. Some improvements and repairs to the interior have saved the little chapel for the present. There are no monuments visible, but four Archbishops of Canterbury who were connected with the Inn are commemorated in the east window. They were Whitgift (1583-1604), Juxon (1660-1663), Wake (1715-1737), Laud (1633-1645), and in the centre Becket, whose only claim to be in such a goodly company appears to be that a window "gloriously painted," with the figure of St. Thomas of London, was destroyed by Edward Hall, the Reader, in 1539, according to the King's injunctions. A subsequent window, showing our Lord on the Mount, had long disappeared, and some heraldry was all the east end of the chapel could boast.
The gardens open by a handsome gate of wrought iron into Field Court, which is westward of Gray's Inn Square. Here Bacon planted the trees, and enjoyed the view northward, then all open, from a summer-house which was only removed about 1754. Bacon lived in Coney Court, destroyed by fire in 1678, which looked on the garden.
Among the names of eminent men which occur to the memory in Gray's Inn, we must mention a tradition which makes Chief Justice Gascoigne a student here. More real is Thomas Cromwell,[Pg 77] the terrible Vicar-General of Henry VIII. Sir Thomas Gresham was a member of the Inn, as was his contemporary Camden, the antiquary. Lord Burghley and his second son, Robert, Earl of Salisbury, were both members, it is said, but certainly Burghley. The list of casual inhabitants is almost inexhaustible, being swelled by the heroes of many novels, actually or entirely fictitious. Shakespeare was said to have played in the hall. Bradshaw, who presided at the trial of Charles I., was a bencher; and so was Holt, the Chief Justice of William III. More eminent than either, perhaps, was Sir Samuel Romilly, whose sad death in 1818 caused universal regret. Pepys mentions the walks, and observed the fashionable beauties after church one Sunday in May, 1662. Sir Roger de Coverley is placed on the terrace by Addison, and both Dryden, Shadwell, and other old dramatists speak of the gardens. It was at Gray's Inn Gate—the old gate into Portpool Lane—that Jacob Tonson, the great bookseller and publisher of the eighteenth century, had his shop.
The district northward of Gray's Inn needs very little comment. Great St. James Street is picturesque, with eighteenth-century doorways and carved brackets; the tenants of the houses are nearly all solicitors. Little St. James Street is insignificant and diversified by mews. In Strype's[Pg 78] plan the rectangle formed by these two streets is marked"Bowling Green"; in one corner is "the Cockpitt."
Bedford Row is a very quiet, broad thoroughfare lined by eighteenth-century houses of considerable height and size, which for the most part still retain their noble staircases and well-proportioned rooms. Nearly every house is cut up into chambers. Abernethy, the great surgeon, formerly lived in this street, and Addington, Viscount Sidmouth, was born here; Bishop Warburton, the learned theologian and writer of the eighteenth century, and Elizabeth, daughter of Oliver Cromwell, are also said to have been among the residents. Ralph, the author of "Publick Buildings," admired it prodigiously, naming it one of the finest streets in London.
Red Lion Square took its name from a very well-known tavern in Holborn, one of the largest and most notable of the old inns. There is a modern successor, a Red Lion public-house, at the corner of Red Lion Street. To the ancient inn the bodies of the regicides were brought the night before they were dragged on hurdles to be exposed at Tyburn. This gave rise to a tradition, which still haunts the spot, that some of these men, including Cromwell, were buried in the Square, and that dummy bodies were substituted to undergo the ignominy at Tyburn.[Pg 79]
There was for many years in the centre of the Square an obelisk with the inscription, "Obtusum Obtusioris Ingenii Monumentum Quid me respicis viator? Vade." And an attempt has been made to read the mysterious inscription as a Cromwellian epitaph. Pennant says that in his time the obelisk had recently vanished, which gives the date of destruction about 1780.
The Square was built about 1698, and is curiously laid out, with streets running diagonally from the corners as well as rectangularly from the sides. It had formerly a watch-house at each corner, as well as the obelisk in the centre. It is at present lined by brick houses of uniform aspect and unequal heights, with here and there a conspicuously modern building. The centre is laid out as a public garden, and forms a green and pleasant oasis in a very poor district.
St. John the Evangelist's Church, of red brick, designed by Pearson, stands at the south-west corner. It was built 1876-1878, and is very conspicuous, with two pointed towers and a handsome, deeply-recessed east window. Next door is the clergy house. There are in the Square various associations and societies, including the Mendicity Society, Indigent Blind Visiting Society, St. Paul's Hospital, and others. Milton had a house which overlooked Red Lion Fields, the site of the Square, and Jonas Hanway, traveller and philanthropist,[Pg 80] also a voluminous writer, but who will be best remembered as the first man in England to carry an umbrella, died here in 1786. Sharon Turner, historian, came here after his marriage in 1795, and Lord Chief Justice Raymond, who held his high office in the reign of the first and second Georges, lived in the Square. But a later association will, perhaps, be more interesting to most people: for about three years previously to 1859 Sir E. Burne-Jones and William Morris lived in rooms at No. 17, before either was married.
Of the surrounding streets, those at the south-east and north-east angles are the most quaint. An old house with red tiles stands at each corner, and the remaining houses, though not so picturesque, are of ancient date. The streets are mere flagged passages lined by open stalls and little shops.
Kingsgate Street is so named because it had a gate at the end through which the King used to pass to Newmarket. It is mentioned by Pepys, who under date March 8, 1669, records that the King's coach was upset here, throwing out Charles himself, the Dukes of York and Monmouth, and Prince Rupert, who were "all dirt, but no hurt." Near the end of this street in Holborn was the Vine Inn, important as having kept alive the only reference in Domesday Book to this district, "a vineyard in Holborn" belonging to the Crown.[Pg 81]
Part of Theobald's Road was once King's Way; it was the direct route to King James I.'s hunting-lodge, Theobald's, in Hertfordshire. It was in this part, at what is now 22, Theobald's Road, that Benjamin Disraeli is supposed to have been born; but many other places in the neighbourhood also claim to be his birthplace, though not with so much authority. There was a cockpit in this Road in the eighteenth century.
We are now in the diminutive parish of St. George the Martyr, carved out of that of St. Andrew's, Holborn, and originally including Red Lion Square and the streets adjacent.
Gloucester Street was named after Queen Anne's sickly little son, the only one of her seventeen children who survived infancy. Robert Nelson, author of "Fasts and Festivals," was at one time a resident. The street is narrow and dirty, lined by old brick houses; here and there is a carved doorway with brackets, showing that, like most streets in the vicinity, it was better built than now inhabited, and it is probable that where sickly children now sprawl on doorsteps stately ladies in hoops and silken skirts once stepped forth. St. George's National Schools are here, and a public-house with the odd name of Hole in the Wall, a name adopted by Mr. Morrison in his recent novel about Wapping.
Queen Square was built in Queen Anne's reign,[Pg 82] and named in her honour, but it is a statue of Queen Charlotte that stands beneath the plane-trees in the centre.
When it was first built, much eulogy was bestowed upon it, because of the beautiful view to the Hampstead and Highgate Hills, for which reason the north side was left open; it is still open, but the prospect it commands is only the further side of Guilford Street. The Square is a favourite place for charitable institutions. On the east side was, until 1902, a College for Working Men and Women, designed to aid by evening classes the studies of those who are busy all day.
The Hospital for Paralysis and Epilepsy is on the same side. This was instituted in 1859, but the present building was in 1885 opened by the Prince of Wales, and is a memorial to the Duke of Albany, and a very splendid memorial it is. The building, which occupies a very large space along the side of the Square, is ornately built of red brick and terra-cotta, with handsome balconies and a porch of the latter material. There are four wards for men and five for women, with two small surgical wards; also two contributing wards for patients who can afford to pay something toward their expenses.
Almost exactly opposite, across the Square, is a new red-brick building. This is the Alexandra[Pg 83] Hospital, for children with hip disease, and sometimes a wan little face peeps out of the windows.
On the south side is the Italian Hospital, lately rebuilt on a fine scale. There are other institutions and societies in the Square, such as the Royal Female School of Art, but none that call for any special comment.
Among the eminent inhabitants of the Square were Dr. Stukeley, the antiquary, appointed Rector of the church, 1747—he lived here from the following year until his death in 1765; Dr. Askew; and John Campbell, author, and friend of Johnson, who used to give Sunday evening"conversation parties," where the great Doctor met "shoals of Scotchmen."
The Church of St. George the Martyr stands on the west side of the Square, facing the open space at the south end. It was founded in 1706 by private subscription as a chapel of ease to St. Andrew, and was named in honour of one of the founders, who had been Governor of Fort George, on the coast of Coromandel. "The Martyr" was added to distinguish it from the other St. George in the vicinity. It was accepted as one of the fifty new churches by the Commissioners in Queen Anne's reign, was consecrated in 1723, and had a district assigned to it. It was entirely rearranged and restored in 1868, and has lately been repainted. It is a most peculiar-[Pg 84]looking church, with a spire cased in zinc. Small figures of angels embellish some points of vantage, and the symbols of the four Evangelists appear in niches. The windows are round-headed, with tracery of a peculiarly ugly type; but the interior is better than the exterior, and has lately been repaired and redecorated throughout.
Powis House originally stood where Powis Place, Great Ormond Street, now is. This was built by the second Marquis or Duke of Powis, even before he had sold his Lincoln's Inn Fields house to the Duke of Newcastle, for he was living here in 1708. The second Duke was, like his father, a Jacobite, and had suffered much for his loyalty to the cause, having endured imprisonment in the Tower, but he was eventually restored to his position and estates. The house was burnt down in 1714, when the Duc d'Aumont, French Ambassador, was tenant, and it was believed that the fire was the work of an incendiary. The French King, Louis XIV., caused it to be rebuilt at his own cost, though insurance could have been claimed. In 1777 this later building was taken down.
Lord Chancellor Thurlow lived in this street at No. 46, and it was from this house, now the Working Men's College, that the Great Seal was stolen and never recovered.
Dr. Mead, a well-known physician, had a house[Pg 85] here, afterwards occupied by the Hospital for Sick Children.
The Working Men's College began at the instigation of a barrister in 1848, and was fathered by the Rev. F. D. Maurice, who was Principal until his death. It grew rapidly, and in 1856 became affiliated to London University. The adjacent house was bought, in 1870 additional buildings were erected, and four years later the institution received a charter of incorporation. Maurice was succeeded in the principalship by Thomas Hughes, and Hughes by Lord Avebury, then Sir John Lubbock.
The Hospital for Sick Children is a red-brick building designed by Sir C. Barry. Within, the wards are lined by glazed tiles, and the floors are of parquet. Each ward is named after some member of the Royal Family—Helena, Alice, etc. The children are received at any age, and the beds are well filled. Everything, it is needless to say, is in the beautifully bright and cleanly style which is associated with the modern hospital. The chapel is particularly beautiful; it is the gift of Mr. W. H. Barry, a brother of the architect, and the walls are adorned with frescoes above inlaid blocks of veined alabaster.
The Homœopathic Hospital, which is on the same side of the street nearer to the Square, is another large and noticeable building. This is[Pg 86] the only hospital of the kind in London. The present building occupies the site of three old houses, one of which was the residence of Zachary Macaulay, father of the historian. There are in all seven wards, two for men, three for women, one for girls, and one for children. The children's ward is as pretty as any private nursery could be. The hospital is absolutely free, and the out-patient department exceptionally large.
In Great Ormond Street there are also one or two Benefit Societies, Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows for the North London District, and many sets of chambers. This district seems particularly favourable to the growth of charitable institutions.
Lamb's Conduit Street is called after one Lamb, who built a conduit here in 1577. This was a notable work in the days when the water-supply was a very serious problem. Thus, a very curious name is accounted for in a matter-of-fact way. In Queen Anne's time the fields around here formed a favourite promenade for the citizens when the day's work was done.
The parish of St. George, Bloomsbury, which lies westward of St. George the Martyr, is considerably larger than its neighbour. The derivation of this name is generally supposed to be a corruption of Blemund's Fee, from one William de Blemund, who was Lord of the Manor in Henry VI.'s reign. Stow[Pg 87] and others have written the word "Loomsbury," or"Lomesbury," but this seems to be due to careless orthography, and not to indicate any ancient rendering.
The earliest holder of the manor of whom we have any record is the De Blemund mentioned above. There are intermediate links missing at a later date, but with the possession of the Southampton family in the very beginning of the seventeenth century the history becomes clear again. In 1668 the manor passed into the hands of the Bedfords by marriage with the heiress of the Southamptons. This family also held St. Giles's, which, it will be remembered, was originally also part of the Prebendary of St. Paul's.
The Royal Mews was established at Bloomsbury (Lomesbury) from very early times to 1537, when it was burnt down and the mews removed to the site of the present National Gallery (see The Strand, same series).
The parish is largely composed of squares, containing three large and two small ones, from which nearly all the streets radiate. The British Museum forms an imposing block in the centre. This is on the site of Montague House, built for the first Baron Montague, and burnt to the ground in 1686. It was rebuilt again in great magnificence, with painted ceilings, according to the taste of the time, and Lord Montague, then Duke of[Pg 88] Montague, died in it in 1709. The house and gardens occupied seven acres. The son and heir of the first Duke built for himself a mansion at Whitehall (see Westminster, same series, p. 83), and Montague House was taken down in 1845, when the present buildings of the Museum were raised in its stead.
The Museum has rather a curious history. Like many of our national institutions, it was the result of chance, and not of a detailed scheme. In 1753 Sir Hans Sloane, whose name is associated so strongly with Chelsea, died, and left a splendid collection comprising "books, drawings, manuscripts, prints, medals, seals, cameos, precious stones, rare vessels, mathematical instruments, and pictures," which had cost him something like £50,000. By his will Parliament was to have the first refusal of this collection for £20,000. Though it was in the reign of the needy George II., the sum was voted, and by the same Act was bought the Harleian collection of MSS. to add to it; to this was added the Cottonian Library of MSS., and the nation had a ready-made collection. The money to pay for the Sloane and Harleian collections was raised by an easy method of which modern morals do not approve—that is to say, by lottery. Many suggestions were made as to the housing of this national collection. Buckingham House, now Buckingham[Pg 89] Palace, was spoken of, also the old Palace Yard; of course, the modern Houses of Parliament were not then built. Eventually Montague House was bought, and the Museum was opened to the public in 1757. However, it had not ceased growing. George III. presented some antiquities, which necessitated the opening of a new department; to these were added the Hamilton and Townley antiquities by purchase, and in 1816 the Elgin Marbles were taken in temporarily. On the death of George III., George IV. presented his splendid library, known as the King's Library, to the Museum, not from any motive of generosity, but because he did not in the least appreciate it. Greville, in his Journal (1823), says: "The King had even a design of selling the library collected by the late King, but this he was obliged to abandon, for the Ministers and the Royal Family must have interposed to oppose so scandalous a transaction. It was therefore presented to the British Museum."
It then became necessary to pull down Montague House and build a Museum worthy of the treasures to be enshrined. Sir Robert Smirke was the architect, and the present massive edifice is from his designs. The buildings cost more than £800,000.
As this is no guide-book, no attempt is made to classify the departments of the Museum or to[Pg 90] indicate its riches. These may be found by experiment, or read in the official guides to be bought on the spot.
On the east is Montague Street, running into Russell Square.
Southampton House, the ancient manor-house, celebrated for the famous lime-trees surrounding it, stood on the ground now occupied by Bedford Place. Noorthouck describes it as "elegant though low, having but one storey." It is commonly supposed to have been the work of Inigo Jones. When the property came into the Bedford family, it was occasionally called Russell House, after their family name. Maitland says that, when he wrote, one of the Parliamentary forts, two batteries, and a breastwork, remained in the garden. The house was demolished in 1800, and Russell Square was begun soon after. A double row of the lime-trees belonging to Bedford House had extended over the site of this Square. All this ground had previously been known as Southampton Fields, or Long Fields, and was the resort of low classes of the people, who here fought their pitched battles, generally on Sundays. It was known during the period of Monmouth's Rebellion as the Field of the Forty Footsteps, owing to the tradition that two brothers killed each other here in a duel, while the lady who was the cause of the conflict looked on. Subsequently no grass grew[Pg 91] on the spots where the brothers had planted their feet.
Southey, in his "Commonplace Book," thus narrates his own visit to the spot:
"We sought for near half an hour in vain. We could find no steps at all within a quarter of a mile, no, nor half a mile, of Montague House. We were almost out of hope, when an honest man, who was at work, directed us to the next ground, adjoining to a pond. There we found what we sought, about three-quarters of a mile north of Montague House, and 500 yards east of Tottenham Court Road. The steps are of the size of a large human foot, about three inches deep, and lie nearly from north-east to south-west. We counted only seventy-six; but we were not exact in counting. The place where one or both the brothers are supposed to have fallen is still bare of grass. The labourer also showed us where (the tradition is) the wretched woman sat to see the combat." Southey adds his full confidence in the tradition of the indestructibility of the steps, even after ploughing up, and of the conclusions to be drawn from the circumstance (Notes and Queries, No. 12).
A long-forgotten novel, called "Coming Out; or, The Field of the Forty Footsteps," was founded on this legend, as was also a melodrama.
Russell Square is very little inferior to Lincoln's Inn Fields in size, and at the time of its building had a magnificent situation, with an uninterrupted prospect right up to the hills of Hampstead and Highgate, and the only house then standing was on the east side; it belonged to the profligate Lord Baltimore, and was later occupied by the Duke of Bolton. The new Russell Hotel, at the corner of Guilford Street, and Pitman's School[Pg 92] of Shorthand, in the south-eastern corner, are the only two buildings to note. A bronze statue of Francis, Duke of Bedford, executed by Westmacott, stands on the south side of the Square; this faces a similar statue of Fox in Bloomsbury Square.
The Square seems to have been peculiarly attractive to men high up in the profession of the law. Sir Samuel Romilly, the great law reformer, lived here until his sad death in 1818; he committed suicide in grief at the loss of his wife. In the same year his neighbour Charles Abbot, afterwards first Baron Tenterden, was made Lord Chief Justice. He was buried at the Foundling Hospital by his own request. In 1793 Alexander Wedderburn (first Baron Loughborough and first Earl of Rosslyn), also a resident in the Square, was appointed Lord Chancellor. After this he probably moved to the official residence in Bedford Square.
Frederick D. Maurice was at No. 5 from 1856 to 1862. Sir Thomas Lawrence lived for twenty years at No. 65, and while he was executing the portrait of Platoff, the Russian General, the Cossacks, mounted on small white horses, stood on guard in the Square before his door.
Bloomsbury Square was at first called Southampton Square, and the sides were known by different names—Seymour Row, Vernon Street, and Allington Row. The north side was occupied[Pg 93] by Bedford House. It is considerably older than its large neighbour on the north, and is mentioned by Evelyn in his Diary, on February 9, 1665. In Queen Anne's reign it was a most fashionable locality. The houses suffered greatly during the Gordon Riots, especially Lord Mansfield's house, in the north-east corner, which was completely ruined internally, and in which a most valuable library was destroyed, while Lord and Lady Mansfield made their escape from the mob by a back-door. Pope refers to the Square as a fashionable place of resort. Among the names of famous residents we have Sir Richard Steele, Richard Baxter, the Nonconformist divine, Dr. Akenside, and Sir Hans Sloane. The elder D'Israeli, who compiled "Curiosities of Literature," lived in No. 6; he came here in 1818, when his famous son was a boy of fourteen.
The College of Preceptors stands on the south side. The Pharmaceutical Society, established in 1841, first took a house in the Square in that year. It was incorporated by royal charter two years later, and in 1857 the two adjacent houses in Great Russell Street were added to the premises, which include a library and museum. There is also at No. 30 the Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland.
In Southampton Street Colley Cibber, the dramatist and actor, was born.[Pg 94]
Silver Street, which is connected with Southampton Street by a covered entry, is described by Strype as "indifferent well built and inhabited"—a character it apparently keeps up to this day.
Bloomsbury Market Strype describes as "a long place with two market-houses, the one for flesh and the other for fish, but of small account by reason the market is of so little use and so ill served with provisions, insomuch that the inhabitants deal elsewhere." In Parton's time it was still extant, "exhibiting little of that bustle and business which distinguishes similar establishments." Though it was cleared away in 1847, its site is marked by Market Street, which with Silver and Bloomsbury Streets forms a cross.
Southampton Row is a very long street, extending from Russell Square to High Holborn. It includes what was formerly King Street and Upper King Street, which together reached from High Holborn to Bloomsbury Place. Gray, the poet, lodged in this Row in 1759.
The Church of St. George is in Hart Street. St. George's parish was formed from St. Giles's on account of the great increase of buildings in this district. In 1710 the proposal for a new church was first mooted, and in 1724 the parishes were officially separated. The church stands on a piece of ground formerly known as Plough Yard.[Pg 95] It is the work of Hawkesmoor, Wren's pupil, and was consecrated in 1730. It cannot be better described than in the words of Noorthouck: "This is an irregular and oddly constructed church; the portico stands on the south side, of the Corinthian order, and makes a good figure in the street, but has no affinity to the church, which is very heavy, and would be better suited with a Tuscan portico. The steeple at the west is a very extraordinary structure; on a round pedestal at the top of a pyramid is placed a colossal statue of the late King [George I.], and at the corners near the base are alternately placed the lion and unicorn, the British supporters, with festoons between. These animals, being very large, are injudiciously placed over columns very small, which make them appear monsters." The lions and unicorns have now been removed. This steeple has been described by Horace Walpole as a masterpiece of absurdity. Within, the walls rise right up to the roof with no break, and give an impression of great spaciousness. There is a small chapel on either side, that on the east, of an apselike shape, being used as a baptistery. The western one contains a ponderous monument erected in memory of one of their officials by the East India Company. There are other monuments in the church, but none of any general interest. The Communion-table is enclosed by a wooden canopy with fluted columns,[Pg 96] said to be of Italian origin, and to have been brought from old Montague House.
In Little Russell Street are the parochial schools. These were established in 1705 in Museum Street, and were removed in 1880 to the present building. They were founded by Dr. Carter for the maintenance, clothing, and education of twenty-five girls, and the clothing and education of eighty boys. The intentions of the founder are still carried out, as recorded on a stone slab on the front of the building, which is a neat brick edifice, with a group of a woman and child in stone in a niche high up, and an appropriate verse from Proverbs below.
Allusion has already been made to New Oxford Street. It extends from Tottenham Court Road to Bury Street, and is lined by fine shops and large buildings, chiefly in the ornamental stuccoed style. The Royal Arcade—"a glass-roofed arcade of shops extending along the rear of four or five of the houses, and having an entrance from the street at each end"—was opened about 1852, but did not answer the expectations formed of it, and was pulled down (Walford).
At the corner of Museum Street, once Peter Street, is Mudie's famous library. The founder, who died in 1890, began a lending library in King Street in 1840, and in 1852 removed to the present quarters. In 1864 the concern was turned into a[Pg 97] limited liability company. The distribution of books now reaches almost incredible figures.
Great Russell Street Strype describes as being very handsome and very well inhabited. Thanet House, the town residence of the Thanets in the seventeenth century, stood on the north side. Sir Christopher Wren built a house for himself in this street. Among the inhabitants and lodgers have been Shelley and Hazlitt, J. P. Kemble, Speaker Onslow, Pugin the elder, Charles Mathews the elder, and, in later years, Sir E. Burne-Jones.
At the west end Great Russell Street runs into Tottenham Court Road, a portion of which lies in the parish of St. Giles. Toten Hall itself, from which the name is taken, stood at the south end of the Hampstead Road, and an account of it belongs to the parish of St. Pancras. There is little to remark upon in that part of the Road we can now claim. At the south end is Meux's well-known brewery, bought by the family of that name in 1809. In 1814 an immense vat burst here, which flooded the immediate neighbourhood in a deluge of liquor. The Horseshoe Hotel can claim fairly ancient descent; it has been in existence as a tavern from 1623. It was called the Horseshoe from the shape of its first dining-room. A Consumption Hospital stands midway between North and South Crescent.
Bedford Square also falls within St. Giles's[Pg 98] parish, but it belongs by character and date to Bloomsbury. The Square was erected about the very end of the eighteenth century. Dobie says that "Bedford Square arose from a cow-yard to its present magnificent form ... with its avenues and neighbouring streets ... chiefly erected since 1778," while it appears in a map of 1799 as "St. Giles's Runs." The official residence of the Lord Chancellor was on the east side. Lord Loughborough lived there, and subsequently Lord Eldon, who had to escape with his wife into the British Museum gardens when the mob made an attack on his house during the Corn Law riots.
The streets running north and south are all of the same prosperous, substantial character. About Chenies Street large modern red-brick mansions have arisen.
Woburn Square is a quiet place, with fine trees growing in its pleasant garden. In it is Christ Church, the work of Vulliamy, date 1833. It is of Gothic architecture, and is prettily finished with buttresses and pinnacles, in spite of the ugly material used—namely, white brick. It was at first designed to call the Square Rothesay Square, but it was eventually named Woburn, after the seat of the Duke of Bedford.
Great Coram Street was, of course, named after the genial founder of the Foundling Hospital[Pg 99]. In it is the Russell Institution, built at the beginning of the century as an assembly-room, and later used as institute and club. It was frequently visited by Dickens, Leech, and Thackeray, the last named of whom came here in 1837, and remained until 1843, when the house had to be given up owing to the incurable nature of his wife's mental malady. He wrote here many papers and articles, including the famous "Yellow-plush Papers," which appeared in Fraser's Magazine; but his novels belong to a later period.
We have now wandered over a district rich in association, containing some of the oldest domestic architecture existing in London, but which, taken as a whole, is chiefly of a date belonging to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries—a date when ladies wore powder and patches, when sedan-chairs were more common than hackney cabs, and when the voice of the link-boy was heard in the streets.[Pg 100]
This parish is bounded on the south by Castle Street; east by part of Drury Lane, Broad Street, and Dyott Street, thence by a line cutting diagonally across the south-east corner of Bedford Square, across Keppel Street and Torrington Mews, and touching Byng Place at the north-west corner of Torrington Square; on the north by a line cutting across from this point westward, and striking Tottenham Court Road just above Alfred Mews; on the westward by Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross Road to Cambridge Circus, thence by West Street to the corner of Castle Street, and so the circuit is complete.
Bounded on the south by Theobald's Road, on the east by Lamb's Conduit Street (both included in the parish), on the north by Guilford Street, and on the west by Southampton Row (which are not so included).[Pg 101]
Bounded on the east by Farringdon Street from Charterhouse Street to No. 66, which is just beyond Farringdon Avenue; on the north by Holborn and High Holborn from the Viaduct Bridge to Brownlow Street; on the west by a line drawn from the upper end of Brownlow Street across High Holborn, cutting through No. 292, and through part of Lincoln's Inn (taking in Stone Buildings, and as far as a few yards south of Henry VIII.'s gateway); on the south by a line from Lincoln's Inn across Chancery Lane, along Cursitor Street, cutting across Fetter Lane, down Dean Street to Robin Hood Court, across Shoe Lane to Farringdon Street.
Bounded on the south by Broad Street and High Holborn to Kingsgate Street; on the east by Kingsgate Street, and a line behind the east side of Southampton Row (including it), coming out at No. 54, Guilford Street; on the north by a line across the north side of Russell Square and along Keppel Street; on the west from thence by a diagonal line, which cuts off the south-east corner of Bedford Square to Dyott Street, and so to Broad Street.[Pg 102]
Bounded on the west by Leather Lane; on the south by Holborn and Charterhouse Street to Farringdon Road; on the east by Farringdon Road; and on the north by Back Hill.[Pg 103]
BILLING AND SONS, LTD., PRINTERS, GUILDFORD