A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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BOOK V. Containing the several Parishes and Liberties in the county of Middlesex, which compose the Suburbs of London and Westminster.
CHAP. I. The out parishes, &c. of Westminster.
The remaining parts of the metropolis to be mentioned are the out parishes, which composing neither city nor corporation are like so many separate country villages in respect of government: these shall be traced in the order in which they lie, beginning in the west, and travelling round the town eastward.
The village called Marybone may now be esteemed a part of this vast town, though it is not yet included in the bills of mortality; as the connection by new buildings is forming very fast. It is not often that the popular corruption of a local name approaches to a meaning, but the name of this parish has been formed into St. Mary la bonne, to resolve it into St. Mary the good: the distinction created is however an odd one by inference, as it seems to refer to some sainted Mary who deserved a different character. The history of this village will be the best guide to its original appellation. It owed its rise to the decay of that of Tyborne (fn. 1); the church belonging to which being left alone by the side of the highway, was robbed of its books, vestments, bells, images, and other decorations. On this the parishioners petitioned the bishop of London for leave to take down their old, and erect a new church elsewhere, which being readily granted, they in the year 1400, erected a new church where they had some time before built a chapel, and that structure being dedicated to the Virgin Mary, received the additional epithet of Borne, from its vicinity to the neighbouring brook or bourn.
The old church, which was an inconsiderable building, was taken down, and a new one erected in the year 1741, of brick in as plain a manner as possible. It has two series of small arched windows on each side, and the only ornaments are a vase at each corner, and a turret at the west end. The advowson of this living is in private hands.
At the south west end of the street called Broad St. Giles's, stands the parish church of St. Giles in the fields; so named to distinguish it from St. Giles's Cripplegate. The place in which it stands was formerly a village of the same name, so early as the year 1222, though it was not made parochial till 1547. The little edifice there for divine worship being taken down in the year 1623, a church of brick was erected in its room; but the ground in its neighbourhood being gradually raised eight feet higher than the floor, it became very damp and unwholesome. Upon this the inhabitants, by consent of parliament, had it rebuilt, the sum of 8000l. being granted for that purpose (fn. 2). The old fabric was taken down in 1730, and the present one finished in three years after. The living is a rectory in the gift of the crown.
This church and steeple are built with Portland stone. The area of the church within the walls is 60 feet wide, and 75 feet in length, exclusive of the recess for the altar. The roof is supported with Ionic pillars of Portland stone, on stone piers, and is vaulted underneath. The outside of the church has a rustic basement, and the windows of the galleries have semicircular heads, over which is a modillion cornice. The steeple is 165 feet high, and consists of a rustic pedestal, supporting a Doric order of pilasters, and over the clock is an octangular tower with three quarter Ionic columns supporting a balustrade with vases, on which stands the spire, which is also octangular and belted.
This church has been characterized as "one of the most simple and elegant of the modern structures: it is raised at a very little expence, has very few ornaments, and little beside the propriety of its parts, and the harmony of the whole, to excite attention, and challenge applause; yet still it pleases, and justly too: the east end is both plain and majestic, and there is nothing in the west to object to, but the smallness of the doors, and the poverty of appearance that must necessarily follow. The steeple is light, airy, and genteel, argues a good deal of genius in the architect, and looks very well both in comparison with the body of the church, and when it is considered as a building by itself, in a distant prospect. Yet after all I have confessed in favour of this edifice, I cannot help arraigning the superstition of situating churches due east and west; for in complaisance to this custom, the building before us has lost a great advantage it might have otherwise enjoyed; I mean, the making the east end the front, and placing it in such a manner as to have ended the vista of what is called Broad St. Giles's; whereas now it is no where to be seen with ease to the eye, or so as justly to comprehend the symmetry and connection of the whole (fn. 3)."
St. Giles's parish contains some of the worst and most ill-built parts of London, so as to become proverbial for the vulgarity of its inhabitants: but as this character belongs only to particular parts, so, by the extension of improvement, it gradually wears away. If some of the worst parts of the town belong to St. Giles's parish, the finest square for extent in all the metropolis is to be found in it, which is called Lincoln's-inn-square, or fields.
This square lies between the south side of High Holborn, and the north side of Portugal-street: it is encompassed on three sides by handsome houses; and on the east by the wall of the terrace in Lincoln's-inn garden. The north side is called Newman's-row, the west side Arch-row, the south side Portugal-row, and the east side Lincoln's-inn wall. This square was originally laid out by the masterly hand of Inigo Jones, and it is said that the sides of it are the exact measure of the base of the greatest Pyramid of Egypt. It was intended to have been built all in a regular stile; but there were not a sufficient number of people of taste, to accomplish so great a work. The house, which was late the duke of Ancaster's, is built on this model; but elevated and improved so as to make it more suitable to the quality of the owner. It has that simple grandeur which characterises all the designs of the celebrated architect.
Some of the houses however in this square are grand and noble, but they are far from having that beauty which arises from uniformity: two in particular on the south side seem to strain at a proud exaltation above all the buildings in the neighbourhood; and are by no means calculated for asthmatic or gouty inhabitants. The square is now adorned with a fine bason in the middle, well supplied with water; and with grass plats and gravel walks, encompassed with an iron pallisade fixed upon a stone plinth, at a proper distance from the buildings.
As noble a square as this is, it has no suitable carriage way into it on any side; and has no direct street leading into it either from Holborn or the Strand: though two streets into Holborn are half prepared at Great and Little Turnstile, for compleating; and though one might so easily be made in the center between them. The same may be said of the street at the south east corner, where there are no buildings of any consideration to obstruct continuing it from Carey-street into the Strand. The situation of Convent-garden market, with the indifferent state of the buildings between, furnishes a hint for conducting Great Russel street uniformly to the south west corner of Lincoln's-inn fields; instead of the narrow, irregular, dirty avenue through Little Russel-street, Prince's-street, and Duke-street.
On the north side of Hart-street Bloomsbury square, stands the parish church of St. George Bloomsbury; one of the fifty new churches appointed to be built within the bills of mortality. The name of St. George was conferred on it in honour of his late majesty; and it is distinguished from other churches of the same name by the addition of Bloomsbury. It was erected at the public expence and consecrated in January 1731 (fn. 4), its parish being taken out of that of St. Giles's. The rectory is in the king's gift.
This is an irregular 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; 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.
Eastward from the church is situated Bloomsbury-square, on the north side of High Holborn; from which Southampton-street, a spacious street leads into the center of the south side of the square. This square is embellished with many good houses, and the grass plats in the middle are surrounded with neat iron rails. The north side is entirely taken up with Bedford House, which is elegant though low, having but one story, and was the design of Inigo Jones. Beside the body of the house, are two wings, and on each side the proper offices. The square forms a magnificent area before it, and the grand street in front throws the prospect of it open to Holborn. Behind, it has the advantage of most agreeable gardens commanding a full view of the rising hills of Hampstead and Highgate: so that it is hardly possible to conceive a finer situation than Bedfordhouse.
From Bedford house on the same line westward, is Great Russel street Bloomsbury, which is distinguished by that noble building known by the name of Montague house. This palace was built by John duke of Montague, keeper of the wardrobe to king Charles II. and who was in high favour afterward with king William and queen Anne. It is justly esteemed one of the most magnificent buildings in the metropolis; the front is extensive, two large wings for offices join it at right angles, and include a handsome court, inclosed from the street by a high brick wall, in the center of which is a spacious gate under a dome: the inside of this wall is formed into a grand colonade reaching to the wings on either side. The house is adorned with curious paintings of La Fosse, Baptiste, and Rousseau; and has an extensive garden containing near eight acres of ground.
In pursuance of Sir Hans Sloane's will, who died in 1752, and directed that his collection of natural and artificial curiosities, medals, books, and manuscripts, should become the property of the public in consideration of 20,000l. to be paid to his executors; the government immediately raised 100,000l. by lottery for the purchase and establishment of it: and appointed the archbishop of Canterbury, lord Chancellor, the great officers of the crown, secretaries of state, speaker of the house of commons, with others to be chosen by them; trustees for the public (fn. 6). To these were added lord Cadogan, and Hans Stanley, Esq; who married Sir Hans Sloane's daughters; and after their decease, two others to be chosen in their stead by themselves, or the Sloanean family from time to time, to be their perpetual representatives in the trust.
To extend this noble foundation, the late king George II. with the parliament, directed that the royal library of curious manuscripts and very rare printed books, together with the famous Cotton Library (fn. 7), and its appendix, the late major Edwards's fine collection of books, and 7000l. in reversion which he bequeathed to it; should become a part of the proposed Museum: and that Samuel Burrows, and Thomas Hart, Esqrs; the then trustees of it, and their successors, to be nominated by the Cotton family, should be its perpetual representatives in the same manner as those of Sir Hans Sloane.
Nor was this all; the heiress of the late lord Oxford generously offered his grand collection of manuscripts, which is said to have cost above 100,000l. for a tenth part of that sum: the act therefore impowered the abovementioned trustees to purchase and place it in the same repository with the Cotton library; appointing the duke of Portland, and earl of Oxford, and their successors, to be chosen by themselves, or the Portland family, perpetual trustees for it, as before. All these trustees were incorporated by the name of trustees of the British Museum, as a body politic, to provide a plan for its reception, appoint officers, servants, and their several salaries, and make all other necessary statutes, and rules for its order, government, and preservation (fn. 8).
Just as this was done, and while the trustees were at a loss where to purchase or build a proper repository; another kind and generous offer was made by the two noble heiresses of the Montague family, of the house of that name, and gardens in Great Russel-street, Bloomsbury: for this they gave no more than 10,000l. and laid out between 20 and 30,000l. on necessary repairs, alterations, and conveniences, for the reception of all the collections united. The remaining sum, much lessened since by additional buildings, and unavoidable losses through the fall of stocks, being all that was left to pay salaries, taxes, and other current expences of the house; the trustees were obliged to apply to parliament for assistance, which it is to be wished may be continued for the support of such an honour and advantage not only to the English nation, but to all foreigners that please to make use of it. For by this public repository, opportunity is given to the learned of every country to consult and copy whatever may be for their purpose, out of the books, manuscripts, rolls, deeds, and charters, preserved there: by which means a great deal of property has been, and may be ascertained by their being produced and admitted as authentic evidence in the courts of record. The lovers of natural history are also permitted to draw or make models of any subject they desire without fee or reward. Such is the utility of this grand magazine of universal learning; but this is not all, for it is designed also for the entertainment of all proper persons by inspection, and that also gratis: the rules for describing the persons and obtaining leave for seeing it are given to all that ask for them by the porter at the gate.
To accommodate the company that come to view the museum, six officers are appointed, two to each of the three departments, into which the whole is divided; viz. an under librarian, and his assistant librarian: whose business is, beside what relates to the department it self, such as putting and keeping every article of it in order, making catalogues, &c. to shew and explain it to all proper inquirers. Over these there is a principal librarian whose office is to superintend the whole.
The first department is in the lower story, into which you enter, through the hall; where, at the bottom of the great stair case, are a great many antiques, and some modern curiosities. This class consists of twelve rooms, of printed books; the first receives the donations; among which is to be distinguished a valuable gift of his present majesty, being above 30,000 treatises bound in 2000 volumes, printed in the last century, between 1640 and 1680.—The second is the late Major Edwards's library mentioned before—and in the third is the late Dr. Birch's library, which he bequeathed to the house.
The six adjoining apartments contain Sir Hans Sloane's library, where the books are classed according to their subjects—e.g.—physic and surgery—travels and natural history—arts and philosophy in all their branches—history ancient and modern—philology—divinity in all its parts—law and politics. Out of this you go into the Royal Library which takes up the three last rooms, and consists of most rare books collected by the kings of England from Henry VII. and other eminent and learned men. The number of books in this department amounts to above 90,000.
The second department is on the grand floor above stairs: it contains more than a million of articles of natural history, in five rooms; viz.—Fish, reptiles,—quadrupeds, birds—corals, sponges, insects, trees, fruits, 300 volumes of dried plants in folio, beside others of a less size—shells fossil and recent, all forts of uncommon, common, and precious stones, of agate, jasper, &c. minerals and ores, with a great number of miscellanies. This department has been enriched by the curious collection of fossils presented by Gustavus Btander, Esq; and of polypuses by Mr. Ellis.
The third department contains the manuscripts of the Royal, Cotton, Harleian, and Sloanean libraries, in number, including the late Dr. Birch's, bequeathed by him, very near 15,000 volumes, beside above 15,000 ancient charters and rolls in one room; 25,000 coins and medals in another, and in a third, a great many cameos, intaglios, Egyptian and Etruscan antiquities, most of which were presented by Thomas Hollis, Smart Lethuillier, and Wortley Montague, Esqrs. In this room also are many curious articles from all parts of the world, including those brought home by Commodore Biron, Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, &c. from the lately discovered southern countries. To these the parliament has lately added the superb collection of Sir William Hamilton, consisting of antiques buried in the Sepulchres in Magna Græcia at least 3000 years ago; amongst which are great numbers of vases, urns, lamps, armour, lares, bronzes, instruments, utensils, locks, keys, &c. precious stones, marbles, cameos, gold ornaments, superstitious gems, &c. in number more than 3300, beside 6000 medals, for which the government gave 8000l.
Such are the contents of the British Museum, the wonder of all that behold it; and confessed, all things considered, to be superior to any other Museum in the world (fn. 9).
On the west side of Queen's-square near Great Ormond-street, stands the church of St. George Queen's-square, which was erected in 1706, by private subscription, as a chapel of ease to St. Andrew's Holborn. The persons who built it intended to reimburse themselves by the sale of pews; but the commissioners for erecting fifty new churches resolving to make this one of them, purchased it, caused a certain district to be appointed for its parish, and had it consecrated in the year 1723: it was dedicated to St. George, in compliment to Sir Streynsham Master, one of the founders of it, who had been governor of Fort St. George in the East-Indies.
The square this church stands in has been observed to be an area of a peculiar kind, being left open on the north side for the sake of the beautiful landscape before it, terminated by the hills of Hampstead and Highgate: this open exposure renders the square remarkably airy and agreeable to the inhabitants of the other three sides; and though the distant beauties have occasioned the decoration of the area to be overlooked, a walk round it is as pleasant as any of the public gardens, none of which can boast so fine a prospect.
On the west side of Red Lyon-street is a neat small square of the same name; which is much longer than it is broad, and has convenient streets entering it in the middle of the north, east, and south sides, with other streets and foot passages at the corners. This square is well built round; the area is inclosed with iron rails having a stone watch house at each corner, and a plain obelisk in the center.
After all it has but a dull aspect, and a late writer is very severe in his censure of it. "I never, says he, go into it without thinking of my latter end. The rough sod that heaves with many a mouldering heap, the dreary length of the sides, with the four watch-houses, like so many family vaults at the corners; and the naked obelisk that springs from amidst the rank grass, like the sad monument of a disconsolate widow for the loss of her first husband; form all together a memento mori, more powerful to me than a death's head and cross marrow-bones: and were but a parson's bull to be seen bellowing at the gate, the idea of a country church-yard in my mind would be compleat (fn. 10)."
A little to the west of Queen's-square, at the end of Southampton Row, is a fine large brick house built by the late lord Baltimore, but now in the possession of the duke of Bolton. This house enjoys all the prospect above described; but was either built without a plan, or has had very whimsical owners; for the door has been shifted to different parts of the house until it is lost to all outward appearance; being now carried into the stable yard.
Near the north west end of Great Ormond-street is situated Powis-house, built at the French king's expence, as has been mentioned in its proper place (fn. 11). It obtained its name from having been the residence of the Powis family; it was long inhabited by the lord chancellor Hardwicke, and is now in the occupation of the Spanish ambassador. This house, which stands back from the street, is fronted with stone in a majestic stile; eight lofty Corinthian pilasters reach to the entablature over the first story, which supports the Attic story: in the center between the two inner pilasters is a plain door. The Attic story has been justly censured as out of proportion; and it is added that the house stands greatly in need of wings to render it compleat (fn. 12).
In Lamb's-conduit-fields fronting the north end of Red Lyon-street, Holborn, stands the hospital for exposed and deserted children; commonly called the Foundling-hospital (fn. 13). This building consists of two large wings connected by a chapel in the center; one wing being for the boys and the other for the girls. They are directly opposite to each other, and are built in a plain but regular, substantial, and convenient manner, of brick, with handsome piazzas. It is well suited to the purpose, and as fine as hospitals should be. On the farthest end is placed the chapel, which is joined to the wings by an arch on each side, and is very elegant within. Before the hospital is a large piece of ground, on each side whereof is a colonade of great length, which extends toward the gates, that are double, with a massy pier between, so that coaches may pass and repass at the same time. These colonades are now inclosed, and contain ranges of workshops where the children are taught to spin, weave, and exercise other handicrafts. The large area between the gates and the hospital is adorned with grass plats, gravel walks, and lamps erected upon handsome posts: beside which there are two convenient gardens.
In erecting these buildings, particular care was taken to render them neat and substantial, without any costly decorations; but the first wing of the hospital was scarcely inhabited, when several eminent masters in painting, carving, and other of the polite arts, were pleased to contribute many elegant ornaments, which are preserved as monuments of the abilities and charitable benefactions of the respective artists.
The altar piece in the chapel has a painting over it, finely executed by an Italian artist; representing the wise men making their offerings to the infant Jesus. The organ originally presented by Mr. Handel was rendered subservient to the institution by that gentleman performing a sacred oratorio on it at certain times for the benefit of the charity. A new organ has lately been placed instead of the old one; which is generally played on by one of the children, who, having the misfortune to lose his sight, has been educated to music.
From three years old to six, the boys are taught to read; and at proper intervals employed in such a manner as may contribute to their health, and induce a habit of activity, hardiness and labour; and from that time their work is to be such bodily labour as is most suitable to their age and strength, and is most likely to fit them for agriculture, or the sea service; many of them are employed in the gardens belonging to the hospital, where by their labour they supply the house with vegetables, and being instructed in gardening, are kept in readiness for such persons as may be inclined to take them into their service.
From six years of age, the girls are employed in common needle-work, knitting and spinning, and in the kitchen, laundry, and houshold work, in order to make them useful servants for such proper persons as may apply for them, except so many as may be necessary to be employed in the hospital; it being intended to have no other female servants in the house, but persons brought up in it when they are of proper age (fn. 14).