The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1792.
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This place derives its name from having been situated near the great Roman road from Arundel to London; strete signifying in the Saxon language a highway, and ham a dwelling. The Normans, with little attention to its derivation, call this village in Doomsday-book Estraham: in all records of a subsequent date it is written Stretham. In compliance with the universal custom which has prevailed perhaps for the last fifty years, I have spelt it Streatham, though the a seems an unnecessary and improper interpolation (fn. 1).
Streatham lies in the eastern division of Brixton hundred, and is situated on the road from London to Croydon, at the distance of somewhat more than five miles from Westminster-bridge. The parish is bounded by those of Croydon, Mitcham, Wandsworth, Battersea, Clapham, Lambeth, and Camberwell. The greater part of the land is arable, the soil various, but clay is predominant. There are about 380 acres of common. Streatham is assessed the sum of 586 l. 13s. 9d. to the land-tax, which is at the rate of 2s. 3d. in the pound.
In Doomsday-book several manors or estates are recorded as lying within the parish of Streatham; they were held in the Confessor's time by Ulward, Edwin, Harold, the canons of Waltham, Erding, and Estarcher. Ulward's manor was of one carucate, valued at 20s.; and was held at the time of the survey by Haimo the sheriff. Edwin's manor, which was of the same extent, but valued at 25s. was given by the Conqueror to the Bishop of Baieux, and was held under him by Ansgot. Earl Morton became proprietor of the land which had been divided between Earl Harold and the canons of Waltham. It contained two carucates, and at three several periods had been valued at 30s. 15s. and 43s. Richard de Tonebridge obtained of the Conqueror the two other manors; one of which, being valued at 100s. he gave to the monastery of Bec; the other, valued in the Confessor's time at 50s. and at the time of the survey at 60s. was held of him by the same convent. The former of these included the hamlet of Tooting, which, as well as the manor, was called afterwards Tooting Bec. The lands here are sometimes described as the property of the abbey of Bec, and sometimes of the priory of Okebourn, which was the principal cell to that monastery in England (fn. 2). Tanner speaks of a priory of Black Monks settled at Tooting; in support of which authority, a record of the reign of Edward IV. mentions the manor or priory of Tooting (fn. 3). After the suppression of alien priories, the manor of Tooting Bec was granted to John Duke of Bedford, constable of France (fn. 4); and was afterwards leased by the crown to John Arderne, Esq. for a rent of 19 l. per annum, which formed part of the endowment of Eton college (fn. 5). The manor was granted by Edward IV. to Lawrence Booth, Bishop of Durham, for life (fn. 6); and was afterwards, by the same king, settled upon John Tiptoft Earl of Worcester, master, and Sir John Scott and others, wardens, of St. Mary's Guild, in the church of Allhallows-Barking (fn. 7). Upon the suppression of the guild, John Dudley Earl of Warwick bought the manor of Tooting Bec of the crown, at 22 years purchase (fn. 8). It afterwards became the property of the Pakenhams, and was aliened in the year 1600, by Henry Pakenham to Sir Giles Howland (fn. 9). By the intermarriage of Wriothesley Duke of Bedford, with Elizabeth, daughter and sole heir of John Howland, Esq. it came into the Bedford family, and is now the property of the present Duke, who bears the title of Baron Howland of Streatham.
The manor-house, which is situated at the corner of Streathamcommon, on the road to Croydon, is large, but contains nothing remarkable. It was probably rebuilt by Sir Giles Howland, whose arms and those of his wife (fn. 10) are upon two brick turrets, which appear to have formed the grand entrance to the house. Queen Elizabeth's arms, which were formerly in the hall, serve also to ascertain the date, and no doubt gave rise to a tradition, that it was one of her palaces; a tradition so prevalent in Salmon's time (fn. 11), that they showed the Earl of Essex's apartments, and supported it by other circumstantial proofs, yet so destitute of foundation, either from history or record, as to make one very cautious of trusting the village tale upon such occasions. The house appears to have undergone a total change in its external form about the beginning of this century.
It does not appear what became of the other manors mentioned in Doomsday. King John granted a considerable estate at Streatham, which had been the property of Peter Feald, to William de Rivers Earl of Devonshire. This probably was afterwards given to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey.
The dean and chapter of Canterbury have still a manor here, which, though not mentioned in Doomsday-book, is said to have been given to the monks of that cathedral by King "Egelred," in the year 959 (fn. 12).
The manor of Leigham's or Legham's Court belonged to Bermondsey Abbey, and was granted, after the suppression of that monastery, to Henry Dowse (fn. 13), Clerk; William Dowse appears to have alienated it about the year 1564 to John Southcott, Esq. afterwards one of the Justices of the Common Pleas (fn. 14). About the year 1610, it came into the possession of Sir Matthew Carew, Knt. and LL. D. who two years afterwards appears to have alienated it to John Howland, Esq. from whom it descended to Walter Howland, alias Roberts, son of Thomas Roberts, Esq. and grandson of Sir Matthew Howland. George Duke of St. Albans married Jane sole heir of Sir Walter Roberts, whereby he became possessed of this manor, which was purchased of the late Duke's trustees by the Right Hon. Edward Lord Thurlow, who is the present proprietor.
The lord of this manor has a court-leet, and view of franc-plege: the lands therein descend to the youngest son. The tenants are subject to the payment of pannage, or 1d. to the lord for every swine, and to another customary payment called rump-pence, being one penny to be paid by every person who has cattle to the value of 30s.
The manor of Balgham, or, as it is now called, Balham, though now in Streatham parish, seems to be mentioned in Doomsdaybook as an appendage to Clapham. It had been held of Earl Harold by Anschil. At the time of the survey it was in the possession of Godfrey Orlatele, who is there reported not to have had lawful seizure thereof. At three several periods it had been valued at 6 l. 20s. and 40s. Sibyl de Tingria confirmed to the monks of Bec a hide of land in Balgham belonging to the manor of Clapham, which had been given them by her ancestors (fn. 15). Nigel de Mandeville, in the year 1103, gave two hides of land in Balgham to Bermondsey Abbey (fn. 16). The farm of Balams in Streatham continued in the crown some time after the dissolution of monasteries, and was leased by Queen Elizabeth to Edward Williams (fn. 17). William Smith, Gent. who died 16 Car. I. was seized of a messuage called Balams in Streatham, which he had lately purchased of Nathaniel Bostock (fn. 18). The manor has belonged to the family of Du Cane since the year 1701, and is now the property of Peter Du Cane, jun. Esq.
On the side of the small common between Streatham and Tooting, is a villa which belonged to the late Henry Thrale, Esq. and is now the residence of Gabriel Piozzi, Esq. who married his widow. The house, which is pleasant and commodious, has been much improved by Mr. Piozzi. In the library is a very valuable set of portraits, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds for Mr. Thrale. Besides the master and mistress of the house, they consist, of Lord Sandys, Lord Westcote, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, Edmund Burke, David Garrick, Arthur Murphy, Oliver Goldsmith, Dr. Burney, Sir Robert Chambers, and Baretti, who spent many social hours in the room where their portraits now hang. It is well known to those who have read any of the various writers of Johnson's life, that he spent much of his time beneath this hospitable roof. The little events which happened, and the peculiarities which distinguished this eminent and worthy character during his residence here, are admirably pourtrayed by Mrs. Piozzi in her anecdotes of the last 20 years of his life. The kitchengardens belonging to this villa are remarkably spacious, and surrounded by brick-walls fourteen feet in height, built for the reception of forcing-frames, and producing a great abundance of fine fruit. Adjoining the house is an inclosure of about 100 acres, surrounded with a shrubbery and gravel walk of nearly two miles in circumference.
The church, which stands in the centre of the village, is dedicated to St. Leonard, and consists of a nave and chancel. The north-side is built of flints, and retains some traces of the architecture of the fourteenth century. The south-wall was rebuilt with brick, and a gallery added on that side about 16 years ago. At the west-end is a square tower supporting a taper spire, which, though of no great height, yet, being situated upon a high spot of ground, forms a conspicuous object for several miles.
Upon an altar-tomb in the north-wall, under a rich Gothic canopy, lies the mutilated figure of an armed knight, having a pointed helmet, mail gorget, and plated cuirasses. The canopy is ornamented with quatrefoils, but the pinnacles and some of the other parts are imperfect. It seems probable, from the situation, that it is the founder's tomb, and its form ascertains it to be of the 14th century (fn. 21). It has been absurdly called the tomb of John of Gaunt (fn. 22), who it is well known was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.
In the same wall, higher in the chancel, is another Gothic canopy with a flat arch: beneath this is a marble slab fixed sideways in the wall, which has evidently been displaced. The inscription, which is nearly covered with wainscot, records the death of Margaret wife of Henry Cantlowe, and daughter of Nicholas Aylwin, who died in 1486. It is printed in Aubrey, who says, that it was taken from the ground. In the pew belonging to the Thrale family are the following inscriptions, upon tablets of white marble, to the memory of Mr. Thrale, and Mrs. Salusbury, mother to Mrs. Piozzi. They were both written by Dr. Johnson.
"Hic conditur quod reliquum est Henrici Thrale, qui res seu civiles, five domesticas, ita egit, ut vitam illi longiorem multi optarent: ita sacras, ut quam brevem esset habiturus præscire videretur. Simplex, apertus, sibique semper similis, nihil ostentavit aut arte fictum aut curâ elaboratum. In Senatu, Regi, patriæque fideliter studuit, vulgi obstrepentis contemptor animosus; domi inter mille mercaturæ negotia, literarum elegantias minimè neglexit. Amicis quocunque modo laborantibus, consiliis, auctoritate, muneribus adfuit. Inter familiares, comites, convivas, hospites, tam facili fuit morum suavitate ut omnium animos ad se alliceret, tam felici sermonis libertate, ut nulli adulatus, omnibus placeret. Natus 1728, obiit 1781. Consortes tumuli habet Radulphum patrem, strenuum prudentemque virum et Henricum filium unicum, quem spei parentium mors inopina decennem præripuit. Ita domus felix et opulenta, quam erexit avus, auxitque pater, cum nepote decidit. Abi Lector! et vicibus rerum humanarum perspectis, æternitatem cogita!"
"Juxta sepulta est Hestera Maria, Thomæ Cotton de Comber"mere Baronetti Cestriensis filia, Johannis Salusbury, Armigeri Flin"tiensis, uxor; formâ felix, felix ingenio, omnibus jucunda, suorum amantissima, linguis artibusque ita exculta ut loquenti numquam deessent sermonis nitor; sententiarum flosculi, sapientiæ gravitas, leporum gratia: modum servandi adeo perita ut domestica inter negotia literis oblectaretur; literarum inter delicias rem familiarem sedulò curaret. Multis illi multos annos precantibus, diro Carcinomatis veneno contabuit, nexibusque vitæ paulatim resolutis, "e terris, meliora sperans, emigravit. Nata 1707, nupta 1739, obiit 1773.
In the chancel are also the monuments of Thomas Hobbes, Esq.
(no date); his wife Susanna, who died in 1623, and his second wife
Margaret Lady Chiborne, daughter of Sir George Younge, of York,
who died in 1628; John Massingberd, who died in 1653; Sir Matthew Howland, Knt. gentleman pensioner to King James and King
Charles, who died in 1648; (this tablet is mutilated, but the inscription
is preserved in Aubrey;) Edmund Tilney, Esq. of Letherhead, master
of the revels to Queen Elizabeth and King James (no date, the inscription records his alliances with the family of Howard, Duke of Norfolk);
Cecilia, wife of Robert Goodwin, Esq. of the county of Sussex, who
died in 1664; Walter Howland, alias Roberts, Esq. of Brixtoncausey, who died in 1692; and Rebecca, wife of William Lynne,
who died in 1653. Her epitaph was written by her husband, who,
after dwelling upon her several virtues, exclaims in the concluding
"Should I ten thousand years enjoy my life,
I cou'd not praise enough so good a wife."
On the south wall is a monument to a woman of equal excellence—Elizabeth, wife of Major General Hamilton, "who was married near 47 years, and never did one thing to displease her husband." She died in 1746.
On the north-wall are the monuments of Robert Livesay (fn. 23), Esq. who died in 1608; John Howland, Esq. who died in 1686; and Major Henniker, Esq. who died in 1789. On the south-wall that of Priscilla Lavaysiere, a native of France, who left that kingdom during the perfecutions of Lewis XIV. She died in 1748. In the middle of the church are the tombs of Elizabeth, wife of Mr. John Fry, of the county of Devon, who died in 1770; and Elias Durnford, Esq. who died in 1774. Under the gallery are those of the Honourable John Piers, one of his Majesty's Council in Barbadoes, who died in 1688, and his grandson John Piers, Esq. who died in 1761; William Hambly, Esq. of the county of Cornwall, who died in 1718, and Peter Hambly, Esq. who died in 1723. Towards the west-end are those of the Reverend Philip Morgan, rector of Wasing in Berkshire, who died in 1774; and Amelia, wife of James Strachan, Esq. who died in 1788.
Aubrey has preserved the epitaphs of the following persons, which are either destroyed or covered with pews. John Eslifield, rector of Streatham, (no date) (fn. 24); William Mowsarth (fn. 25), rector of this church and Mickleham, who died in 1513; Roger Norton, sub-dean of the King's chapel, and rector of Streatham, who died in 1527; Michael Rabet, rector, who died in 1630; Thomas Holt, rector, who died in 1710; Anne, wife of Gabriel Livesey, Esq. who died in 1518; Cecilia, wife of George Lee, Esq. of Lincoln's-inn, who died in 1664; and Elizabeth, wife of Mark Wiseman, Gent. who died in 1643.
In the church-yard are the tombs of Godfrey Lee, proctor in Doctors Commons, who died in 1720; Edward Theobald Gent. who died in 1738; William Jones, Esq. of Tooting Bec, who died in 1753; John Jones, Esq. who died in 1762; the Reverend James Jackson, M. A. master of an academy, who died in 1766; William Hardy, Esq. who died in 1779; Ann, relict of the Reverend Pierson Lloyd, LL.D. who died in 1787; Mary, wife of Henry Bodicoate, merchant, who died in 1789; and Elizabeth, wife of John Painter, Esq. who died in 1791. Aubrey mentions also that of John Baker of Gray's-Inn, Gent. who died in 1703.
The church of Streatham lies in the diocese of Winchester, and in the deanery of Southwark. The benefice is a rectory, the patronage of which has been always attached to the manor of Tooting Bec, and is now vested in his Grace the Duke of Bedford. In 1291 it was taxed at six marks and 40d. The Prior of Okebourn received a pension of 20s. from it; the Prior of Bec 4 l.; and the Prior of Garsteyne 4s. The rectory is valued in the King's books at 18 l. 13s. 9d. per annum.
The celebrated Dr. Benjamin Hoadly, Bishop of Bangor, so well known for the controversy which from him took the name of Bangorian, was instituted to this rectory in the year 1710 on the presentation of Mrs. Howland; who gave it him without any previous acquaintance, because she admired his political principles (fn. 26). Dr. Hoadly dedicated a volume of Sermons to his patroness. He left Streatham, which was his most beloved retirement, upon his promotion to the see of Salisbury in 1723 (fn. 27).
The population of this place appears to have increased in a proportion of two to one, during each century. The burials considerably exceed the baptisms, especially during the last ten years, a circumstance which is to be accounted for from the great number of strangers who are interred here. The present number of houses is 265.
In the year 1545 there was a very great mortality at this place, the number of burials being 51; which exceeded the average of that period in a much greater proportion than in either of the great plague years in the last century. In 1603 there were 36 burials; in 1625, 34; in 1645, 40.
"Wriothesley Marquis of Tavistock, was married to Madam Elizabeth Howland, junr, of this parish, in the chapel at Streathamhouse, in the presence of the grandfathers and grandmothers, and other nobility, by the Right Reverend Father in God Gilbert Lord Bishop of Sarum, May 23, 1695."
"John, son of Wriothesley and Elizabeth, Duke and Duchess of Bedford, baptised Oct. 20, and born Sept. 30, 1710." This John succeeded his elder brother Wriothesley as Duke of Bedford in the year 1732, and became a character of considerable eminence in the political world. In 1744 he was appointed one of the Lords of the Admiralty, and in 1748 succeeded the Earl of Chesterfield as one of his Majesty's principal secretaries of state. He was sent as ambassador plenipotentiary to the court of France in 1762, where he negotiated the peace which was finally ratified in the ensuing year. The Duke died Jan. 14th, 1771, and was buried at Cheneys in Buckinghamshire.
"— Russel, buried April 14, 1772. N. B. This person was always known under the guise or habit of a woman, and answered to the name of Elizabeth, as registered in this parish Nov. 21, 1669, but at death proved to be a man." In speaking of this extraordinary person, whose history I have taken some pains to inquire into, it will be necessary, in order to avoid confusion among the relative pronouns, to make constant use of the masculine gender, however oddly it may be sometimes combined. The various adventures of his life, had they been collected by a contemporary, would have formed a volume as entertaining as those of the celebrated Bampfylde Moore Carew, whom he accompanied in many of his rambles, and from whom probably he first took the hint of disguising his sex to answer some temporary purpose. Upon examining the parish register, I find that John Russel had three daughters, and two sons; William, born in 1668, and Thomas, in 1672; there is little doubt therefore that the person here recorded was one of the two; and that when he assumed the female dress, he assumed also the name of his sister Elizabeth, who probably either died in her infancy, or settled in some remote part of the country; under this name, in the year 1770 he applied for a certificate of his baptism. He attached himself at an early period of life to the gypsies, and being of a rambling disposition visited most parts of the continent as a stroller or vagabond. When advanced in years he settled at Chipsted in Kent, where he kept a large shop. Sometimes he travelled the country with goods, in the character of a married woman, having changed his maiden name for that of his husband who carried the pack, and to his death was his reputed widow, being known by the familiar appellation of Bet Page. In the course of his travels he attached himself much to itinerant physicians, learned their nostrums, and practised their art. His long experience gained him the character of a most infallible doctress, to which profession he added that of an astrologer, and practised both with great profit; yet such was his extravagance, that he died worth six shillings only. It was a common custom with him to spend whatever he had in his pocket at an alehouse, where he usually treated his companions. About twelve months before his death he came to reside at his native place. His extraordinary age procured him the notice of many of the most respectable families in the neighbourhood, particularly that of Mr. Thrale, in whose kitchen he was frequently entertained. Dr. Johnson, who found him a shrewd sensible person, with a good memory, was very fond of conversing with him. His faculties indeed were so little impaired by age, that a few days before he died, he had planned another ramble, in which his landlord's son was to have accompanied him. His death was very sudden: the surprise of the neighbours may be well imagined, upon finding that the person, who, as long as the memory of any one then living could reach, had been always esteemed and reputed to be a woman, was discovered to be a man; and the wonder was the greater as he had lived much among women, and had frequently been his landlady's bed-fellow when an unexpected lodger came to the house. Among other precautions, to prevent the discovery of his sex, he constantly wore a cloth tied under his chin; and his neighbours not having the penetration of Sir Hugh Evans, who spied Falstaff's beard through his muffler, the motive was unsuspected. After his death a large pair of nippers was found in his pocket, with which, it is supposed, he endeavoured to remove by degrees all tokens of manhood from his face. It may be observed, that supposing him to be the younger son of John Russell, he would have been 100 years of age; if we suppose him to have been the elder, his age would have been 104. He himself used to aver that he was 108. He had a mixture of the habits and employments of both sexes; for though he would drink hard with men, whose company indeed he chiefly affected, yet he was an excellent sempstress, and celebrated for making a good shirt. There was a wildness and eccentricity in his general conduct which frequently bordered on insanity; and, at least, we may fairly conclude, to use a favourite expression of Anthony Wood the Oxford biographer, that he had "a rambling head and a crazy pate."
A school was founded in this parish about the beginning of the present century by Mrs. Elizabeth Howland, mother of the Duchess of Bedford, who gave 20 l. per annum for clothing and educating ten children.
John Crost, in the year 1584, left 20 s. per annum to the poor; Mrs. Anne Livesaye, in 1618, 3 l.; Mr. Gabriel Livesaye, in 1620, the rent of a house which is now let for 8 l. to be distributed among the poor at Christmas and Easter; Sir Giles and Sir John Howland left 10 l. per annum, which after deducting 1 l. 6s. 8d. for a sermon, was to be distributed in bread, a certain portion every Sunday; Mrs. Elizabeth Howland 3 l. 15s. to be distributed annually to poor widows on St. Thomas's day; and the Reverend Thomas Holt, a former rector, the sum of 20 l. to remain in the overseers' hands, for ready money for the present supply of the poor till the taxes were gathered. This parish receives also about 9 l. per annum out of Mr. Smith's charity; and 15 l. 4s. being a benefaction of Mrs. Dorothy Appleby, in the year 1681; of which, five pounds were appropriated to put out a child apprentice.
A mineral water of a cathartic quality was discovered in this parish in the year 1660, which is still held in considerable esteem. There are no accommodations for persons who come to drink it on the spot, yet the well is much resorted to by those who cannot afford a more expensive journey; and the water is sent in considerable quantities to some of the hospitals in London.