The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1792.
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This parish in all probability received its appellation from one of its proprietors. Osgod Clappa was the name of the Danish lord, at whose daughter's marriage-feast, in Lambeth, Hardicanute died (fn. 1). In Doomsday book, however, this place is called Clopeham.
Clapham lies in the hundred of East Brixton, nearly four miles from Westminster Bridge, and is bounded by the parish of Lambeth on the east; Battersea on the north and west, and Stretham on the south. In Doomsday, it is said to consist of seven plough-lands; it now contains 1120 acres, of which the greater part is pasture. The soil in general is light and gravelly. The parish is assessed the sum of 795 l. 12s. 6d. to the land-tax, which in the year 1791, was at the rate of 1s. 9d. in the pound.
Clapham Common, which contains 202 acres, is partly in this parish, and partly in Battersea, being divided in about an equal proportion. This common owes its present improvements to the good taste and exertions of Christopher Baldwin Esquire (fn. 2), who has resided many years upon the spot, and who is well known to the amateurs of agriculture as a zealous promoter of that science. Thirty years ago, it was little better than a morass, and the roads were almost impassable; its present state (fn. 3) is well known and universally admired. As a proof of the improvement of property upon this spot, and the great request in which it is held, Mr. Baldwin, a few years ago, sold fourteen acres of land near his own house for the sum of 5000l.
Near the road from Clapham to Wandsworth, is a reservoir of fine water, from which the whole village is supplied; the making of it was not one of the least improvements of the place, the well being formerly so small, that a sufficient quantity of water could not, without much difficulty, be procured from day to day.
The manor of Clapham, valued then at 10l., was held of the Confessor by Turburnus. It appears that Geoffrey de Mandeville was in possession of it at the time of the Conqueror's Survey, which mentions a report, of his holding it unjustly, to the prejudice of one Asgar. He and his heirs nevertheless continued for some time in possession of it; and even after its alienation, it was still held of the honor of Mandeville (fn. 4). Faramus de Bolonia became possessed of Clapham in the reign of King Stephen; his daughter and heir, Sibella de Tingria, married Ingram de Fienes, who was slain at the battle of Acon in the Holy Land, A. D. 1190 (fn. 5). A charter of King Richard's is extant (fn. 6), which restores to her this manor, with all its privileges, as it was enjoyed by her husband and her father. William de Fienes died seized thereof, 30 Edward I. (fn. 7). It appears to have been granted soon afterwards to Thomas Romayne, but the Fienes's reserved to themselves a right as mesne lords (fn. 8). Juliana, the widow of Thomas Romayne, died in the reign of Edward II., and left two daughters, between whom her property was divided. Clapham fell to the share of Margaret, who married William de Weston (fn. 9), and was the property of her descendants in the reign of Henry VI. (fn. 10), from which time I have found no record relating to this manor, till 15 Elizabeth, when it was held by William Chelsham (fn. 11). It afterwards belonged to Sir Thomas Cockayne, who alienated it to Philip Okeover, and Richard Crompton (fn. 12). Probably they purchased it in trust for Bartholomew Clerk, who died seized thereof, 31 Elizabeth (fn. 13). Henry Atkins, physician to King James I., purchased the manor for the sum of 6000l. which money is said, by a tradition in that family, to have been the produce of presents bestowed on him by the king after his return from Scotland, whither he had been sent to attend Charles I. then an infant, who lay dangerously ill of a fever. The circumstance, as far as it relates to his journey to Scotland, and its successful event, is mentioned by Baker (fn. 14), who says, that the king amply rewarded him for that service. It has been said also, that he was offered the first baronet's patent, which he modestly refused (fn. 15). His son was afterwards advanced to that dignity. The manor of Clapham descended to his heirs, and is now the property of the Right Honourable Lady Rivers, sister of the late Sir Richard Atkins, Baronet, with whom the title became extinct. Lady Rivers's rental, in consequence of the improvements above-mentioned, has within the last nineteen years been raised from 1335l. to 2031l. per annum clear value, which is an increase of nearly 700l.
The manor-house is situated near the old church, and is now a ladies' boarding-school, in the occupation of Mrs. Miller. Some coats of arms which were in one of the rooms, having been destroyed a few years ago, it cannot be ascertained by whom it was built; but I should suppose, both from the external appearance, and from the pannels and chimney-pieces of the rooms, that it is of as early a date as the reign of Queen Elizabeth; an octagonal tower, the base of which forms a bay window in a large room, now used as the school, rises somewhat higher than the rest of the house, and terminating in a dome, makes a very singular appearance.
William de Breuse died seized of two knights' fees in Clapham, 19 Edward I. (fn. 16). These lands probably formed the estate, which, in the last century, belonged to Sir Dennis Gauden. The mansion-house of this estate, which was pulled down about thirty years since, was a very magnificent edifice. Some of the rooms were wainscotted with japan, and a spacious gallery occupied the whole length of the house, both above and below stairs. Aubrey (fn. 17) says, it was built by Sir Dennis Gauden, for his brother the bishop of Exeter, who wrote a treatise on Artificial Beauty, and who was said by some to have been the author of King Charles's celebrated work called EIKΩN BAΣIΛIKH (fn. 18). The bishop died in 1662. The house at Clapham was afterwards the residence of Sir Dennis himself, who had a very valuable library here, and other collections, particularly engraved portraits, models of ships, "matters of all sorts relating to the city of London, and draughts to illustrate them, and frontispieces of all the gravers in Europe (fn. 19)." Sir Dennis died in 1688, and was buried at Clapham, July 1 (fn. 20). The house and estate were purchased afterwards by Mr. Hewer, a commissioner of the navy; and bequeathed by him to his relation, a son of the Rev. Samuel Edgley, then vicar of Wandsworth, who took the name of Hewer, and was the last of that family settled there. His widow occupied the estate some time after his death, and it is now divided between several proprietors. The rental was nearly as large as that of the manerial estate.
About the beginning of this century, several Roman antiquities were found in some fields belonging to Mr. Hewer, by some labourers, who were digging for gravel (fn. 21).
The church of Clapham being much decayed, an act of parliament for the rebuilding it was procured 14 Geo. III. The new structure, which is built of greystock bricks, was begun in the year 1774, and opened in June 1776, having been consecrated a few days before, and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The building cost about 11,000l.; it is situated on the north-east corner of the common, close to the village. Like most modern churches, it has neither aisles, nor chancel. The communion table is within a recess at the east end. There are spacious galleries on the north, south, and west sides; the pews are all of foreign oak. The whole structure has a pleasing appearance, and is devoid of all unnecessary ornament. The length of the church is about 100 feet, the breadth 66; at the west end is a small dome and turret.
The old church stood on an eminence near the Kingston road. It was dedicated to the Trinity. The south aisle, which still remains, is built of brick, and does not exhibit the appearance of very remote antiquity. There is no mention of a church at Clapham in Doomsdaybook, which, though it is not a proof that none then existed, is a strong presumption to that effect, as the churches in the county of Surrey are generally specified in that record. It is certain, however, that there was a church in the twelfth century, and that the advowson thereof was given to the priory of Merton (fn. 22).
In the remaining aisle of the old church, are some very sumptuous monuments, to the memory of Sir Richard Atkins, Bart. who died in 1689; and of his family. On a tomb of white marble, are recumbent figures of Sir Richard and his Lady; he is represented in armour, with a flowing peruke; she is habited in a long veil, which hangs down behind: the tomb is surrounded with iron palisades, and decorated with the arms of the Atkins family, and its alliances (fn. 23). Adjoining this tomb, on the east wall, is the monument of their three children, Henry, who died in 1677, aged 24; Rebecca, who died in 1661, aged 9; and Annabella, who died in 1670, aged 19. Under an arch supported by columns of white marble, of the Corinthian order, are their effigies as large as life. The son is represented sitting, in a Roman dress, with a flowing peruke. The daughters are standing, dressed in gowns, with full sleeves puckered; and plain stomachers.
On the south wall, is the tomb of Bartholomew Clerke, dean of the arches, and lord of the manor of Clapham, who died in 1589: under a recess are figures of himself, his wife, and son kneeling; and above, are the arms of Clerke, and Haselrigge (fn. 24).
On the same wall, is a marble tablet to the memory of Dr. Martin
Lister, with the following inscription:
"Near this place is buried the body of
Doctor of Physic, a member of the
Royal Society, and one of
"Queen Anne's Physicians.
Who departed this life,
the second day of
Dr. Lister is well known to the learned world as a naturalist, particularly by his book on shells, intitled Synopsis Conchylium; the drawings were made and the plates engraved by himself and his daughters. He published also a Journey to Paris, in which he displays a considerable portion of vanity and self-importance. This tour was burlesqued by the facetious Dr. King, in a pamphlet called "A journey to London."
This probably was the first wife of Dr. Lister: if so, I presume he married again, from comparing the arms upon the two tablets (fn. 25).
Affixed to the south wall also is a small brass plate, taken from the middle aisle, to the memory of William Tablar, who died in 1401; and an inscription for Mr. William Glanvill, a merchant of Exeter, who died on his road to London in 1647.
Against the north wall, is the monument of William Hewer, Esquire, commissioner of the navy, who died in 1715; it contains a long eulogium in Latin, and is ornamented with a medallion of him, and his arms (fn. 26).
The monuments of the following persons, were destroyed when the church was pulled down, viz. Samuel Rush, who died in 1710; Thomas Day, Esquire, who died the same year; and Mr. William Brooke, who died in 1712. The inscriptions are preserved in Aubrey. The tomb of Sir Lawrence Bromfelde, Knight, who died in 1668, is now in the church-yard. On the outside of the south wall of the aisle, are tablets to the memory of John Lewis, Esq. commander of the Valentine East Indiaman, who died in 1790; and of Katherine, the wife of the Rev. Moses Porter, the late lecturer, who died in 1788.
The church-yard was enlarged in the year 1768; the principal tombs therein, are those of Mr. Francis Bridges, who died in 1642; William Beake, Esq. who died in 1667; George Langham, Esq. who died in 1683; Dame Rebecca Dixie, daughter of Sir Richard Atkins, Bart. who died in 1714; Samuel Rush, Esq. who died in 1724; and Samuel Rush, Esq. who died in 1783; William Lethieulier, Esq. who died in 1728; Edmund Tooke, Esq. who died in 1729; and Nicholas Brady, L L. D. son of Dr. Brady, the rector, who died in 1768; Michael Mitford, Esq. who died in 1707; John Lewis Lourbier, Esq. who died in 1767; John Thompson, Esq. who died in 1665; Honoria, wife of John Gould, Esq. who died in 1661; Joseph Shallet, Consul at Barcelona, who died in 1713; and John Richards, Esq. who died in 1785; the Rev. John Goodwin, rector, who died in 1753; Engelbert Hake, Esq. who died in 1777; Sir Henry Cheere, Bart. who died in 1781; Calverley Bewicke, Esq. who died in 1774; Thomas Greame, Esq. who died in 1773; and Lucy, wife of John Thornton, Esq. who died in 1785.
Clapham is a rectory in the diocese of Winchester, and the deanery of Southwark. The advowson formerly belonged to Merton Abbey. It does not appear by whom it was granted: in all probability it was given them by Faramus de Bolonia, who bestowed Carshalton upon them, and was lord of both manors. After the suppression of monasteries, it was granted to Henry Arundell (fn. 27); probably he was lord of the manor at that time, as the advowson appears to have been united to it ever since (fn. 28); the patronage being now vested in Lady Rivers, excepting the next presentation, which was purchased by the late John Thornton, Esquire. The rectory was taxed in 1291 (fn. 29) at 40 marks, out of which it paid 20s. annually to the prior of Merton. It is rated in the king's book at 8l. A terrier of Clapham without date, is in the registry at Winchester.
John Arthor, presented by Charles I. in 1642, was appointed by Cromwell, as one of the assistants to the Committee for displacing insufficient ministers (fn. 30).
John Gurgany, who succeeded him, had been a sufferer for the royal cause. He published the life of John Gregory, prefixed to his works, and died in 1675 (fn. 31).
Nicholas Brady, who was instituted to Clapham in 1706, is best known as a versisier of the Psalms, in conjunction with Tate. He was a native of Ireland, and a lineal descendant of the first Protestant bishop of Meath. During the troubles of that kingdom, in 1690, he rendered a signal piece of service to his native town of Bandon, by preserving it thrice from being burnt, through his interest with James's general (fn. 32). The same year he came over to England, and having quited the preferment he enjoyed in his own country, remained here till his death, which happened in 1726, at which time he held also the living of Richmond. He published three volumes of Sermons, and a translation of the Æneid of Virgil. The writer of a MS. life of Dr. Brady, communicated by his grandson to the editors of the Biographia, says, this work will be a lasting monument of his skill in poetry (fn. 33). He proved, however, a false prophet, for it has long since been sunk into total oblivion: to use Dr. Johnson's expression (fn. 34), "it was dragged forth into the world, but lived not long enough to cry."
Dr. Brady was succeeded by Anthony Blackwall, Master of the Grammar School at Market Bosworth, well known by his differtations upon the Sacred Classics. He published also an edition of Theognis, and a Latin Grammar. This living was given him when he was far advanced in age, by a gentleman who had been his pupil, probably one of the Atkins family. A story is told of him, that, upon being questioned upon this occasion, somewhat abruptly, as to his literary attainments by a chaplain, who was much his junior, he replied with some indignation, "Boy, I have forgot more than ever you knew (fn. 35)." Blackwall resigned the rectory in 1729, and died the ensuing year at Market Bosworth.
A chantry was founded in the church of Clapham, in the reign of Edward II. by Thomas Romayne (fn. 36), and endowed with six marks annual rent, issuing out of certain houses in London. The archbishops of Canterbury were the patrons. The only person that I find presented to this chantry, is John Clerk of Toucester in 1347 (fn. 37).
The population of this parish appears to have increased in a much more rapid degree than any other whose history I have examined. The inhabitants were accurately numbered in July 1788, when they amounted to 2477. The present number of houses is 384, of which eight are not inhabited; about forty new houses having been built since 1788, the present number of inhabitants must be calculated at nearly 2700.
In 1603 there were twenty persons buried, most of whom died of the plague. Edward Cowchman the rector, his wife, his three children, and a maid servant, fell victims to that distemper, within a few days. In 1665, the number of burials was twenty-eight, which had been exceeded in some of the former years, especially in 1661, when there were thirty-six entries.
Dr. Lister gave 5l. per annum to this parish in 1690; Thomas Vaughan, Esq. in the same year gave 11l. Mr. James Lance in 1773 gave 9l.; which, with Mr. Henry Smith's, and some other annual benefactions, amount in the whole to nearly 40l. per ann. some of them having been much improved. Bread and clothes for the poor, are the principal objects of these charities.
A school was erected in Clapham, for the education of poor children, in 1648, which, being in a ruinous state, was taken down and rebuilt by subscription in 1781; it does not appear to have had any endowment.
Before I conclude the account of this parish, I should mention that it was the residence of that eminent citizen Sir John Barnard, who spent the latter part of his days, in honourable retirement, at his house at Clapham, and died there in 1764 (fn. 38).