Old and New London: Volume 1. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
CHEAPSIDE TRIBUTARIES, NORTH.
Goldsmiths' Hall—Its Early Days—Tailors and Goldsmiths at Loggerheads—The Goldsmiths' Company's Charters and Records—Their Great Annual Feast—They receive Queen Margaret of Anjou in State—A Curious Trial of Skill—Civic and State Duties—The Goldsmiths break up the Image of their Patron Saint—The Goldsmiths' Company's Assays—The Ancient Goldsmiths' Feasts—The Goldsmiths at Work—Goldsmiths' Hall at the Present Day—The Portraits—St. Leonard's Church—St. Vedast—Discovery of a Stone Coffin—Coachmakers' Hall.
In Foster Lane, the first turning out of Cheapside northwards, our first visit must be paid to the Hall of the Goldsmiths, one of the richest, most ancient, and most practical of all the great City companies.
The original site of Goldsmiths' Hall belonged, in the reign of Edward II., to Sir Nicholas de Segrave, a Leicestershire knight, brother of Gilbert de Segrave, Bishop of London. The date of the Goldsmiths' first building is uncertain, but it is first mentioned in their records in 1366 (Edward III.). The second hall is supposed to have been built by Sir Dru Barentyn, in 1407 (Henry IV.). The Livery Hall had a bay window on the side next to Huggin Lane; the roof was surmounted with a lantern and vane; the reredos in the screen was surmounted by a silver-gilt statue of St. Dunstan; and the Flemish tapestry represented the story of the patron saint of goldsmiths. Stow, writing in 1598, expresses doubt at the story that Bartholomew Read, goldsmith and mayor in 1502, gave a feast there to more than 100 persons, as the hall was too small for that purpose.
From 1641 till the Restoration, Goldsmiths' Hall served as the Exchequer of the Commonwealth. All the money obtained from the sequestration of Royalists' estates was here stored, and then disbursed for State purposes. The following is a description of the earlier hall:—
"The buildings," says Herbert, "were of a fine red brick, and surrounded a small square court, paved; the front being ornamented with stone corners, wrought in rustic, and a large arched entrance, which exhibited a high pediment, supported on Doric columns, and open at the top, to give room for a shield of the Company's arms. The livery, or common hall, which was on the east side of the court, was a spacious and lofty apartment, paved with black and white marble, and very elegantly fitted up. The wainscoting was very handsome, and the ceiling and its appendages richly stuccoed—an enormous flower adorning the centre, and the City and Goldsmiths' arms, with various decorations, appearing in its other compartments. A richly-carved screen, with composite pillars, pilasters, &c.; a balustrade, with vases, terminating in branches for lights (between which displayed the banners and flags used on public occasions); and a beaufet of considerable size, with white and gold ornaments, formed part of the embellishments of this splendid room."
"The balustrade of the staircase was elegantly carved, and the walls exhibited numerous reliefs of scrolls, flowers, and instruments of music. The court-room was another richly-wainscoted apartment, and the ceiling very grand, though, perhaps somewhat overloaded with embellishments. The chimney-piece was of statuary marble, and very sumptuous."
The guild of Goldsmiths is of extreme antiquity, having been fined in 1180 (Henry II.) as adulterine, that is, established or carried on without the king's special licence; for in any matter where fines could be extorted, the Norman kings took a paternal interest in the doings of their patient subjects. In 1267 (Henry III.) the goldsmiths seem to have been infected with the pugnacious spirit of the age; for we come upon bands of goldsmiths and tailors fighting in London streets, from some guild jealousy; and 500 snippers of cloth meeting, by appointment, 500 hammerers of metal, and having a comfortable and steady fight. In the latter case many were killed on both sides, and the sheriff at last had to interpose with the City's posse comitatus and with bows, swords, and spears. The ringleaders were finally apprehended, and thirteen of them condemned and executed. In 1278 (Edward I.) many spurious goldsmiths were arrested for frauds in trade, three Englishmen were hung, and more than a dozen unfortunate Jews.
The goldsmiths were incorporated into a permanent company in the prodigal reign of Richard II., and they no doubt drove a good business with that thriftless young Absalom, who, it is said wore golden bells on his sleeves and baldric. For ten marks—not a very tremendous consideration, though it was, no doubt, all he could get—Richard's grandfather, that warlike and chivalrous monarch, Edward III., had already incorporated the Company, and given "the Mystery" of Goldsmiths the privilege of purchasing in mortmain an estate of £20 per annum, for the support of old and sick members; for these early guilds were benefit clubs as well as social companies, and jealous privileged monopolists; and Edward's grant gave the corporation the right to inspect, try, and regulate all gold and silver wares in any part of England, with the power to punish all offenders detected in working adulterated gold and silver. Edward, in all, granted four charters to the Worshipful Company.
Henry IV., Henry V., and Edward IV. both granted and confirmed the liberties of the Company. The Goldsmiths' records commence 5th Edward III., and furnish much curious information. In this reign all who were of Goldsmiths' Hall were required to have shops in Chepe, and to sell no silver or gold vessels except in Chepe or in the King's Exchange. The first charter complains loudly of counterfeit metal, of false bracelets, lockets, rings, and jewels, made and exported; and also of vessels of tin made and subtly silvered over.
The Company began humbly enough, and in their first year of incorporation (1335) fourteen apprentices only were bound, the fees for admission being 2s., and the pensions given to twelve persons come to only £1 16s. In 1343 the number of apprentices in the year rose to seventy-four; and in 1344 there were payments for licensing foreign workmen and non-freemen.
During the Middle Ages these City companies were very attentive to religious observances, and the Wardens' accounts show constant entries referring to such ceremonies. Their great annual feast was on St. Dunstan's Day (St. Dunstan being the patron saint of goldsmiths), and the books of expenses show the cost of masses sung for the Company by the chaplain, payments for ringing the bells at St. Paul's, for drinking obits at the Company's standard at St. Paul's, for lights kept burning at St. James's Hospital, and for chantries maintained at the churches of St. John Zachary (the Goldsmiths' parish church), St. Peter-le-Chepe, St. Matthew, Friday Street, St. Vedast, Foster Lane, and others.
About the reign of Henry VI. the records grow more interesting, and reflect more strongly the social life of the times they note. In 1443 we find the Company received a special letter from Henry VI., desiring them, as a craft which had at all times "notably acquitted themselves," more especially at the king's return from his coronation in Paris, to meet his queen, Margaret of Anjou, on her arrival, in company with the Mayor, aldermen, and the other London crafts. On this occasion the goldsmiths wore "bawderykes of gold, short jagged scarlet hoods," and each past Warden or renter had his follower clothed in white, with a black hood and black felt hat. In this reign John Chest, a goldsmith of Chepe, for slanderous words against the Company, was condemned to come to Goldsmiths' Hall, and on his knees ask all the Company forgiveness for what he had myssayde; and was also forbidden to wear the livery of the Company for a whole month. Later still, in this reign, a goldsmith named German Lyas, for selling a tablet of adulterated gold, was compelled to give to the fraternity a gilt cup, weighing twenty-four ounces, and to implore pardon on his knees. In 1458 (Henry VI.), a goldsmith was fined for giving a false return of broken gold to a servant of the Earl of Wiltshire, who had brought it to be sold.
In the fourth year of King Edward IV. a very curious trial of skill between the jealous English goldsmiths and their foreign rivals took place at the "Pope's Head" tavern (now Pope's Head Alley), Cornhill. The contending craftsmen had to engrave four puncheons of steel (the breadth of a penny sterling) with cat's heads and naked figures in high relief and low relief; Oliver Davy, the Englishman, won, and White Johnson, the Alicant goldsmith, lost his wager of a crown and a dinner to the Company. In this reign there were 137 native goldsmiths in London, and 41 foreigners—total, 178. The foreigners lived chiefly in Westminster, Southwark, St. Clement's Lane, Abchurch Lane, Brick Lane, and Bearbinder Lane.
In 1511 (Henry VIII.) the Company agreed to send twelve men to attend the City Night-watch, on the vigils of St. John Baptist, and St. Peter and Paul. The men were to be cleanly harnessed, to carry bows and arrows, and to be arrayed in jackets of white, with the City arms. In 1540 the Company sent six of their body to fetch in the new Queen, Anne of Cleves, "the Flemish mare," as her disappointed bridegroom called her. The six goldsmiths must have looked very gallant in their black velvet coats, gold chains, and velvet caps with brooches of gold; and their servants in plain russet coats. Sir Martin Bowes was the great goldsmith in this reign; he is the man whom Stow accused, when Lord Mayor, of rooting up all the gravestones and monuments in the Grey Friars, and selling them for £50. He left almshouses at Woolwich, and two houses in Lombard Street, to the Company.
In 1546 (same reign) the Company sent twentyfour men, by royal order, to the king's army. They were to be "honest, comely, and well-harnessed persons—four of them bowmen, and twelve billmen. They were arrayed in blue and red (after my Lord Norfolk's fashion), hats and hose red and blue, and with doublets of white fustian." This same year, the greedy despot Henry having discovered some slight inaccuracy in the assay, contrived to extort from the poor abject goldsmiths a mighty fine of 3,000 marks. The year this English Ahab died, the Goldsmiths resolved, in compliment to the Reformation, to break up the image of their patron saint, and also a great standing cup with an image of the same saint upon the top. Among the Company's plate there still exists a goodly cup given by Sir Martin Bowes, and which is said to be the same from which Queen Elizabeth drank at her coronation.
The government of the Company has been seen to have been vested in an alderman in the reign of Henry II., and in four wardens as early as 28 Edward I. The wardens were divided, at a later period, into a prime warden (always an alderman of London), a second warden, and two renter wardens. The clerk, under the name of "clerkcomptroller," is not mentioned till 1494; but a similar officer must have been established much earlier. Four auditors and two porters are named in the reign of Henry VI. The assayer, or as he is now called, assay warden (to whom were afterwards joined two assistants), is peculiar to the Goldsmiths.
The Company's assay of the coin, or trial of the pix, a curious proceeding of great solemnity, now takes place every year. "It is," says Herbert, in his "City Companies," "an investigation or inquiry into the purity and weight of the money coined, before the Lords of the Council, and is aided by the professional knowledge of a jury of the Goldsmiths' Company; and in a writ directed to the barons for that purpose (9 and 10 Edward I.) is spoken of as a well-known custom.
"The Wardens of the Goldsmiths' Company are summoned by precept from the Lord Chancellor to form a jury, of which their assay master is always one. This jury are sworn, receive a charge from the Lord Chancellor; then retire into the Courtroom of the Duchy of Lancaster, where the pix (a small box, from the ancient name of which this ceremony is denominated), and which contains the coins to be examined, is delivered to them by the officers of the Mint. The indenture or authority under which the Mint Master has acted being read, the pix is opened, and the coins to be assayed being taken out, are inclosed in paper parcels, each under the seals of the Wardens, Master, and Comptrollers. From every 15 lbs. of silver, which are technically called 'journies,' two pieces at the least are taken at hazard for this trial; and each parcel being opened, and the contents being found correct with the indorsement, the coins are mixed together in wooden bowls, and afterwards weighed. From the whole of these moneys so mingled, the jury take a certain number of each species of coin, to the amount of 1 lb. weight, for the assay by fire; and the indented trial pieces of gold and silver, of the dates specified in the indenture, being produced by the proper officer, a sufficient quantity is cut from either of them for the purpose of comparing with it the pound weight of gold or silver by the usual methods of assay. The perfection or imperfection of these are certified by the jury, who deliver their verdict in writing to the Lord Chancellor, to be deposited amongst the papers of the Privy Council. If found accurate, the Mint Master receives his certificate, or, as it is called, quietus" (a legal word used by Shakespeare in Hamlet's great soliloquy). "The assaying of the precious metals, anciently called the 'touch,' with the marking or stamping, and the proving of the coin, at what is called the 'trial of the pix,' were privileges conferred on the Goldsmiths' Company by the statute 28 Edward I. They had for the former purpose an assay office more than 500 years ago, which is mentioned in their books. Their still retaining the same privilege makes the part of Goldsmiths' Hall, where this business is carried on, a busy scene during the hours of assaying. In the old statute all manner of vessels of gold and silver are expected to be of good and true alloy, namely, 'gold of a certain touch,' and silver of the sterling alloy; and no vessel is to depart out of the hands of the workman until it is assayed by the workers of the Goldsmiths' craft.
"The Hall mark shows where manufactured, as the Leopard's head for London. Duty mark is the head of the Sovereign, showing the duty is paid. Date mark is a letter of the alphabet, which varies every year; thus, the Goldsmiths' Company have used, from 1716 to 1755, Roman capital letters; 1756 to 1775, small Roman letters; 1776 to 1795, old English letters; 1796 to 1815, Roman capital letters, from A to U, omitting J; 1816 to 1835 small Roman letters a to u, omitting j; from 1836, old English letters. There are two qualities of gold and silver. The inferior is mostly in use. The quality marks for silver are Britannia, or the head of the reigning monarch; for gold, the lion passant, 22 or 18, which denotes that fine gold is 24-carat; 18 only 75 per cent. gold; sometimes rings are marked 22. The manufacturer's mark is the initials of the maker.
"The Company are allowed 1 per cent., and the fees for stamping are paid into the Inland Revenue Office. At Goldsmiths' Hall, in the years 1850 to 1863 inclusive, there were assayed and marked 85 22-carat watch-cases, 316,347 18-carat, 493 15-carat, 1550 12-carat, 448 9-carat, making a total of 318,923 cases, weighing 467,250 ounces 6 dwts. 18 grains. The Goldsmiths' Company append a note to this return, stating that they have no knowledge of the value of the cases assayed, except of the intrinsic value, as indicated by the weight and quality of the gold given in the return. The silver watch-cases assayed at the same establishment in the fourteen years, 1,139,704, the total weight being 2,302,192 ounces 19 dwts. In the year 1857 the largest number of cases were assayed out of the fourteen. The precise number in that year was 106,860, this being more than 10,000 above any year in the period named. In a subsequent year the number was only 77,608. A similar note with regard to value is appended to the return of silver cases as to the gold. "There has been a complaint lately that the inferior jewellery is often tampered with after receiving the Hall mark.
An old book, probably Elizabethan, the "Touchstone for Goldsmith's Wares," observes, "That goldsmiths in the City and liberties, as to their particular trade, are under the Goldsmiths' Company's control, whether members or not, and ought to be of their own company, though, from mistake or design, many of them are free of others. For the wardens, being by their charters and the statutes appointed to survey, assay, and mark the silver-work, are to be chosen from members, such choice must sometimes fall upon them that are either of other trades, or not skilled in their curious art of making assays of gold and silver, and consequently unable to make a true report of the goodness thereof; or else the necessary attendance thereon is too great a burden for the wardens. Therefore they (the wardens) have appointed an assay master, called by them their deputy warden, allowing him a considerable yearly salary, and who takes an oath for the due performance of his office. They have large steel puncheons and marks of different sizes, with the leopard's-head, crowned; the lion, and a certain letter, which letter they change alphabetically every year, in order to know the year any particular work was assayed or marked, as well as the markers. These marks," he adds, "are every year new made, for the use of fresh wardens; and although the assaying is referred to the assay master, yet the touch-wardens look to the striking of the marks." To acquaint the public the better with this business of the assay, the writer of the "Touchstone" has prefixed a frontispiece to his work, intended to represent the interior of an assay office (we should suppose that of the old Goldsmiths' Hall), and makes reference by numbers to the various objects shown—as, 1. The refining furnace; 2. The test, with silver refining in it; 3. The fining bellows; 4. The man blowing or working them; 5. The test-mould; 6. A wind-hole to melt silver in, with bellows; 7. A pair of organ bellows; 8. A man melting, or boiling, or nealing silver at them; 9. A block, with a large anvil placed thereon; 10. Three men forging plate; 11. The fining and other goldsmith's tools; 12. The assay furnace; 13. The assay master making assays; 14. This man putting the assays into the fire; 15. The warden marking the plate on the anvil; 16. His officer holding his plate for the marks; and 17. Three goldsmiths' small workers at work. In the office are stated to be a sworn weigher to weigh and make entry of all silver-work brought in, and who re-weighs it to the owners when worked, reserving the ancient allowance for so doing, which is 4 grains out of every 1 lb. marked, for a re-assay yearly of all the silver works they have passed the preceding year. There are also, he says, a table, or tables, in columns, one whereof is of hardened lead, and the other of vellum or parchment (the lead columns having the worker's initials struck in them, and the other the owner's names); and the seeing that these marks are right, and plainly impressed on the gold and silver work, is one of the warden's peculiar duties. The manner of marking the assay is thus:—The assay master puts a small quantity of the silver upon trial in the fire, and then, taking it out again, he, with his exact scales that will turn with the weight of the hundredth part of a grain, computes and reports the goodness or badness of the gold and silver.
The allowance of four grains to the pound, Malcolm states to have been continued till after 1725; for gold watch-cases, from one to four, one shilling; and all above, threepence each; and in proportion for other articles of the same metal. "The assay office," he adds, "seems, however, to have been a losing concern with the Company, their receipts for six years, to 1725, being £1,615 13s. 11½d., and the payments, £2,074 3s. 8d."
The ancient goldsmiths seem to have wisely blended pleasure with profit, and to have feasted right royally: one of their dinner bills runs thus:—
With "butchery," "fishmongery," and "miscellaneous articles," the total amount of the feast was £26 17s. 7d.
A supper bill which occurs in the 11th of Henry VIII. only amounts to £5 18s. 6d., and it enumerates the following among the provisions:—Bread, two bushels of meal, a kilderkin and a firkin of good ale, 12 capons, four dozen of chickens, four dishes of Surrey (sotterey) butter, 11 lbs. of suet, six marrow bones, a quarter of a sheep, 50 eggs, six dishes of sweet butter, 60 oranges, gooseberries, strawberries, 56lbs. of cherries, 17 lbs. 10 oz. of sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and mace, saffron, rice flour, "raisins, currants," dates, white salt, bay salt, red vinegar, white vinegar, verjuice, the hire of pewter vessels, and various other articles.
In City pageants the Goldsmiths always held a conspicuous place. The following is an account of their pageant in jovial Lord Mayor Vyner's time (Charles II.):—
"First pageant. A large triumphal chariot of gold, richly set with divers inestimable and various coloured jewels, of dazzling splendour, adorned with sundry curious figures, fictitious stories, and delightful landscapes; one ascent of seats up to a throne, whereon a person of majestic aspect sitteth, the representer of Justice, hieroglyphically attired, in a long red robe, and on it a golden mantle fringed with silver; on her head a long dishevelled hair of flaxen colour, curiously curled, on which is a coronet of silver; in her left hand she advanceth a touchstone (the tryer of Truth and discoverer of Falsehood); in her right hand she holdeth up a golden balance, with silver scales, equi-ponderent, to weigh justly and impartially; her arms dependent on the heads of two leopards, which emblematically intimate courage and constancy. This chariot is drawn by two golden unicorns, in excellent carving work, with equal magnitude, to the left; on whose backs are mounted two raven-black negroes, attired according to the dress of India; on their heads, wreaths of divers coloured feathers; in their right hands they hold golden cups; in their left hands, two displayed banners, the one of the king's, the other of the Company's arms, all which represent the crest and the supporters of the ancient, famous, and worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.
"Trade pageant. On a very large pageant is a very rich seat of state, containing the representer of the Patron to the Goldsmiths' Company, Saint Dunstan, attired in a dress properly expressing his prelatical dignity, in a robe of fine white lawn, over which he weareth a cope or vest of costly bright cloth of gold, down to the ground; on his reverend grey head, a golden mitre, set with topaz, ruby, emerald, amethyst, and sapphire. In his left hand he holdeth a golden crozier, and in his right hand he useth a pair of goldsmith's tongs. Beneath these steps of ascension to his chair, in opposition to St. Dunstan, is properly painted a goldsmith's forge and furnace, with fire and gold in it, a workman blowing with the bellows. On his right and left hand, there is a large press of gold and silver plate, representing a shop of trade; and further in front, are several artificers at work on anvils with hammers, beating out plate fit for the forgery and formation of several vessels in gold and silver. There are likewise in the shop several wedges or ingots of gold and silver, and a step below St. Dunstan sitteth an assay-master, with his glass frame and balance, for trial of gold and silver, according to the standard. In another place there is also disgrossing, drawing, and flatting of gold and silver wire. There are also finers melting, smelting, fining, and parting gold and silver, both by fire and water; and in a march before this orfery, are divers miners in canvas breeches, red waistcoats, and red caps, bearing spades, pickaxes, twibills, and crows, for to sink shafts, and make adits. The Devil, also, appearing to St. Dunstan, is catched by the nose at a proper qu, which is given in his speech. When the speech is spoken, the great anvil is set forth, with a silversmith holding on it a plate of massive silver, and three other workmen at work, keeping excellent time in their orderly strokes upon the anvil."
The Goldsmiths in the Middle Ages seem to have been fond of dress. In a great procession of the London crafts to meet Richard II.'s fair young queen, Anne of Bohemia, all the mysteries of the City wore red and black liveries. The Goldsmiths had on the red of their dresses bars of silver-work and silver trefoils, and each of the seven score Goldsmiths, on the black part, wore fine knots of gold and silk, and on their worshipful heads red hats, powdered with silver trefoils. In Edward IV.'s reign, the Company's taste changed. The Liverymen wore violet and scarlet gowns like the Goldsmiths' sworn friends, the Fishmongers; while, under Henry VII., they wore violet gowns and black hoods. In Henry VIII.'s reign the hoods of the mutable Company went back again to violet and scarlet.
In 1456 (Henry VI.) the London citizens seem to have been rather severe with their apprentices; for we find William Hede, a goldsmith, accusing his apprentice of beating his mistress. The apprentice was brought to the kitchen of the Goldsmith's Hall, and there stripped naked, and beaten by his master till blood came. This punishment was inflicted in the presence of several people. The apprentice then asked his master's forgiveness on his knees.
The Goldsmiths' searches for bad and defective work were arbitrary enough, and made with great formality. "The wardens," say the ordinances, "every quarter, once, or oftener, if need be, shall search in London, Southwark, and Westminster, that all the goldsmiths there dwelling work true gold and silver, according to the Act of Parliament, and shall also make due search for their weights."
The manner of making this search, as elsewhere detailed, seems to have resembled that of our modern inquest, or annoyance juries; the Company's beadle, in full costume and with his insignia of office, marching first; the wardens, in livery, with their hoods; the Company's clerk, two renter wardens, two brokers, porters, and other attendants, also dressed, following. Their mode of proceeding is given in the following account, entitled "The Manner and Order for Searches at Bartholomew Fayre and Our Ladye Fayre" (Henry VIII.):—
"Md. The Bedell for the time beyng shall walke uppon Seynt Barthyllmewes Eve all alonge Chepe, for to see what plaate ys in eury mannys deske and gyrdyll. And so the sayd wardeyns for to goo into Lumberd Streate, or into other places there, where yt shall please theym. And also the clerk of the Fellyshyppe shall wayt uppon the seyd wardeyns for to wryte eury prcell of sylur stuffe then distrayned by the sayd wardeyns.
"Also the sayd wardeyns been accustomed to goo into Barth'u Fayre, uppon the evyn or daye, at theyr pleasure, in theyre lyuerey gownes and hoodys, as they will appoint, and two of the livery, ancient men, with them; the renters, the clerk, and the bedell, in their livery, with them; and the brokers to wait upon my masters the wardens, to see every hardware men show, for deceitful things, beads, gawds of beads, and other stuff; and then they to drink when they have done, where they please.
"Also the said wardens be accustomed at our Lady day, the Nativity, to walk and see the fair at Southwark, in like manner with their company, as is aforesaid, and to search there likewise."
Another order enjoins the two second wardens "to ride into Stourbrydge fair, with what officers they liked, and do the same."
Amongst other charges against the trade at this date, it is said "that dayly divers straungers and other gentils" complained and found themselves aggrieved, that they came to the shops of goldsmiths within the City of London, and without the City, and to their booths and fairs, markets, and other places, and there bought of them old plate new refreshed in gilding and burnishing; it appearing to all "such straungers and other gentils" that such old plate, so by them bought, was new, sufficient, and able; whereby all such were deceived, to the grete "dysslaunder and jeopardy of all the seyd crafte of goldsmythis."
In consequence of these complaints, it was ordained (15 Henry VII.) by all the said fellowship, that no goldsmith, within or without the City, should thenceforth put to sale such description of plate, in any of the places mentioned, without it had the mark of the "Lybardishede crowned." All plate put to sale contrary to these orders the wardens were empowered to break. They also had the power, at their discretion, to fine offenders for this and any other frauds in manufacturing. If any goldsmith attempted to prevent the wardens from breaking bad work, they could seize such work, and declare it forfeited, according to the Act of Parliament, appropriating the one half (as thereby directed) to the king, and the other to the wardens breaking and making the seizure.
The present Goldsmiths' Hall was the design of Philip Hardwick, R.A. (1832–5), and boasts itself the most magnificent of the City halls. The old hall had been taken down in 1829, and the new hall was built without trenching on the funds set apart for charity. The style is Italian, of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The building is 180 feet in front and 100 feet deep. The west or chief façade has six attached Corinthian columns, the whole height of the front supporting a rich Corinthian entablature and bold cornice; and the other three fronts are adorned with pilasters, which also terminate the angles. Some of the blocks in the column shafts weigh from ten to twelve tons each. The windows of the principal story, the echinus moulding of which is handsome, have bold and enriched pediments, and the centre windows are honoured by massive balustrade balconies. In the centre, above the first floor, are the Company's arms, festal emblems, rich garlands, and trophies. The entrance door is a rich specimen of cast work. Altogether, though rather jammed up behind the Post-office, this building is worthy of the powerful and wealthy company who make it their domicile. The modern Renaissance style, it must be allowed, though less picturesque than the Gothic, is lighter, more stately, and more adapted for certain purposes.
The hall and staircase are much admired, and are not without grandeur. They were in 1871 entirely lined with costly marbles of different sorts and colours, and the result is very splendid. The staircase branches right and left, and ascends to a domed gallery. Leaving that respectable Cerberus dozy but watchful in his bee-hive chair in the vestibule, we ascend the steps. On the square pedestals which ornament the balustrade of the first flight of stairs stand four graceful marble statuettes of the seasons, by Nixon. Spring is looking at a bird's-nest; Summer, wreathed with flowers, leads a lamb; Autumn carries sheaves of corn; and Winter presses his robe close against the wind. Between the double scagliola columns of the gallery are a group of statues; the bust of the sailor king, William IV., by Chantrey, is in a niche above. A door on the top of the staircase opens to the Livery hall; the room for the Court of Assistants is on the right of the northernmost corridor. The great banqueting-hall, 80 by 40 feet, and 35 feet high, has a range of Corinthian columns on either side. The five lofty, arched windows are filled with the armorial bearings of eminent goldsmiths of past times; and at the north end is a spacious alcove for the display of plate, which is lighted from above. On the side of the room is a large mirror, with busts of George III. and his worthy son, George IV. Between the columns are portraits of Queen Adelaide, by Sir Martin Archer Shee, and William IV. and Queen Victoria, by the Court painter, Sir George Hayter. The court-room has an elaborate stucco ceiling, with a glass chandelier, which tinkles when the scarlet mail-carts rush off one after another. In this room, beneath glass, is preserved the interesting little altar of Diana, found in digging the foundations of the new hall. Though greatly corroded, it has been of fine workmanship, and the outlines are full of grace. There are also some pictures of great merit and interest. First among them is Janssen's fine portrait of Sir Hugh Myddleton. He is dressed in black, and rests his hand upon a shell. This great benefactor of London left a share in his water-works to the Goldsmiths' Company, which is now worth more than £1,000 a year. Another portrait is that of Sir Thomas Vyner, that jovial Lord Mayor, who dragged Charles II. back for a second bottle. A third is a portrait (after Holbein) of Sir Martin Bowes, Lord Mayor in 1545 (Henry VIII.); and there is also a large picture (attributed to Giulio Romano, the only painter Shakespeare mentions in his plays). In the foreground is St. Dunstan, in rich robes and crozier in hand, while behind, the saint takes the Devil by the nose, much to the approval of flocks of angels above. The great white marble mantelpiece came from Canons, the seat of the Duke of Chandos; and the two large terminal busts are attributed to Roubiliac. The sumptuous drawing-room, adorned with crimson satin, white and gold, has immense mirrors, and a stucco ceiling, wrought with fruit, flowers, birds, and animals, with coats of arms blazoned on the four corners. The court dining-room displays on the marble chimney-piece two boys holding a wreath encircling the portrait of Richard II., by whom the Goldsmiths were first incorporated. In the livery tea-room is a conversation piece, by Hudson (Reynolds' master), containing portraits of six Lord Mayors, all Goldsmiths. The Company's plate, as one might suppose, is very magnificent, and comprises a chandelier of chased gold, weighing 1,000 ounces; two superb old gold plates, having on them the arms of France quartered with those of England; and, last of all, there is the gold cup (attributed to Cellini) out of which Queen Elizabeth is said to have drank at her coronation, and which was bequeathed to the Company by Sir Martin Bowes. At the Great Exhibition of 1851 this spirited Company awarded £1,000 to the best artist in gold and silver plate, and at the same time resolved to spend £5,000 on plate of British manufacture.
From the Report of the Charity Commissioners it appears that the Goldsmiths' charitable funds, exclusive of gifts by Sir Martin Bowes, amount to £2,013 per annum.
Foster Lane was in old times chiefly inhabited by working goldsmiths.
"Dark Entry, Foster Lane," says Strype, "gives a passage into St. Martin's-le-Grand. On the north side of this entry was seated the parish church of St. Leonard, Foster Lane, which being consumed in the Fire of London, is not rebuilt, but the parish united to Christ Church; and the place where it stood is inclosed within a wall, and serveth as a burial-place for the inhabitants of the parish."
On the west side of Foster Lane stood the small parish church of St. Leonard's. This church, says Stow, was repaired and enlarged about the year 1631. A very fair window at the upper end of the chancel (1533) cost £500.
In this church were some curious monumental
inscriptions. One of them, to the memory of
Robert Trappis, goldsmith, bearing the date 1526,
contained this epitaph:—
"When the bels be merrily rung,
And the masse devoutly sung,
And the meate merrily eaten,
Then shall Robert Trappis, his wife and
children be forgotten."
On a stone, at the entering into the choir, was
inscribed in Latin, "Under this marble rests the
body of Humfred Barret, son of John Barret,
gentleman, who died A.D. 1501." On a fair stone,
in the chancel, nameless, was written:—
"Live to Dye.
"All flesh is grass, and needs must fade
To earth again, whereof 'twas made."
St. Vedast, otherwise St. Foster, was a French saint, Bishop of Arras and Cambray in the reign of Clovis, who, according to the Rev. Alban Butler, performed many miracles on the blind and lame. Alaric had a great veneration for this saint.
In 1831, some workmen digging a drain discovered, ten or twelve feet below the level of Cheapside, and opposite No. 17, a curious stone coffin, now preserved in a vault, under a small brick grave, on the north side of St. Vedast's; whether Roman or Anglo-Saxon, it consists of a block of freestone, seven feet long and fifteen inches thick, hollowed out to receive a body, with a deeper cavity for the head and shoulders. When found, it contained a skeleton, and was covered with a flat stone. Several other stone coffins were found at the same time.
The interior of St. Foster is a melancholy instance of Louis Quatorze ornamentation. The church is divided by a range of Tuscan columns, and the ceiling is enriched with dusty wreaths of stucco flowers and fruit. The altar-piece consists of four Corinthian columns, carved in oak, and garnished with cherubim, palm-branches, &c. In the centre, above the entablature, is a group of well-executed winged figures, and beneath is a sculptured pelican. In 1838 Mr. Godwin spoke highly of the transparent blinds of this church, painted with various Scriptural subjects, as a substitute for stained glass.
"St. Vedast Church, in Foster Lane," says Maitland, "is on the east side, in the Ward of Farringdon Within, dedicated to St. Vedast, Bishop of Arras, in the province of Artois. The first time I find it mentioned in history is, that Walter de London was presented thereto in 1308. The patronage of the church was anciently in the Prior and Convent of Canterbury, till the year 1352, when, coming to the archbishop of that see, it has been in him and his successors ever since; and is one of the thirteen peculiars in this city belonging to that archiepiscopal city. This church was not entirely destroyed by the fire in 1666, but nothing left standing but the walls; the crazy steeple continued standing till the year 1694, when it was taken down and beautifully rebuilt at the charge of the united parishes. To this parish that of St. Michael Quern is united."
Among the odd monumental inscriptions in this
church are the following:—
"Lord, of thy infinite grace and Pittee
Have mercy on me Agnes, somtym the wyf
Of William Milborne, Chamberlain of this citte,
Which toke my passage fro this wretched lyf,
The year of gras one thousand fyf hundryd and fyf,
The xii. day of July; no longer was my spase,
It plesy'd then my Lord to call me to his Grase;
Now ye that are living, and see this picture,
Pray for me here, whyle ye have tyme and spase,
That God of his goodnes wold me assure,
In his everlasting mansion to have a plase.
Obiit Anno 1505."
"Here lyeth interred the body of Christopher Wase, late citizen and goldsmith of London, aged 66 yeeres, and dyed the 22nd September, 1605; who had to wife Anne, the daughter of William Prettyman, and had by her three sons and three daughters.
"Reader, stay, and thou shalt know
What he is, that here doth sleepe;
Lodged amidst the Stones below,
Stones that oft are seen to weepe.
Gentle was his Birth and Breed,
His carriage gentle, much contenting;
His word accorded with his Deed,
Sweete his nature, soone relenting.
From above he seem'd protected,
Father dead before his Birth.
An orphane only, but neglected.
Yet his Branches spread on Earth,
Earth that must his Bones containe,
Sleeping, till Christ's Trumpe shall wake them,
Joyning them to Soule againe,
And to Blisse eternal take them.
It is not this rude and little Heap of Stones,
Can hold the Fame, although' t containes the Bones;
Light be the Earth, and hallowed for thy sake,
Resting in Peace, Peace that thou so oft didst make."
Coachmakers' Hall, Noble Street, Foster Lane originally built by the Scriveners' Company, was afterwards sold to the Coachmakers. Here the "Protestant Association" held its meetings, and here originated the dreadful riots of the year 1780. The Protestant Association was formed in February, 1778, in consequence of a bill brought into the House of Commons to repeal certain penalties and liabilities imposed upon Roman Catholics. When the bill was passed, a petition was framed for its repeal; and here, in this very hall (May 29, 1780), the following resolution was proposed and carried:—
"That the whole body of the Protestant Association do attend in St. George's Fields, on Friday next, at ten of the clock in the morning, to accompany Lord George Gordon to the House of Commons, on the delivery of the Protestant petition." His lordship, who was present on this occasion, remarked that "if less than 20,000 of his fellow-citizens attended him on that day, he would not present their petition."
Upwards of 50,000 "true Protestants" promptly answered the summons of the Association, and the Gordon riots commenced, to the six days' terror of the metropolis.