Old and New London: Volume 3. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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WESTMINSTER HALL.—INCIDENTS IN ITS PAST HISTORY.
"—— The Great Hall of Westminster, the field
Where mutual frauds are fought, and no side yield."—Ben Jonson.
Law Students residing in the King's Court—The Hall built by William Rufus—The Poor regaled here by Henry III.—Prince Henry crowned in his Father's Lifetime—Sir John Dymoke, the King's Champion—The Hall rebuilt by Richard II.—Rejoicings for the Victory at Agincourt—Trial of 480 Persons concerned in the Riots on "Evil May-day"—Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham—Anne Boleyn in her Glory—A Touching Episode at the Trial of Sir Thomas More—Bishop Fisher—A Batch of State Trials—The Hall flooded—More Memorable Trials—An Incident in the Trial of Charles I.—Coronation Banquet of Charles II.—Trial of Lord Stafford—A Curious Trial for Murder—The Trial of the "Seven Bishops"—Lords Cromartie, Balmerino, and Kilmarnock—A Curious Attempt to blow up Westminster Hall.
If William the Conqueror erected the Tower of London, at all events it was his son, William Rufus, who was the founder of Westminster Hall; not, it is true, as we now see it; for the Hall has since been rebuilt, as stated above.
The Law Courts, it appears, had been held in the Palace during the reign of William the Conqueror; and it is said that the law students had their residence in the King's Court. But this proving a great annoyance to his son, Westminster Hall was built by William Rufus in 1097. Two years afterwards, on his return from Normandy, that king held his court and kept his Whitsuntide festivities in the new Hall. "The attendants," so runs the story, "marvelling at its great size (270 feet in length and 74 in breadth), observed that it was 'too vast a fabric for such common use.' 'Nay,' said the doomed sovereign, with an insolent pride, 'it is but a bed-chamber to the palace that I will ere long raise up.'" Camden says that the foundations, which were visible in the time of Matthew Paris, stretched from the river to the highway pointing east and west; but the size of the original Hall may be better estimated when we are told that Henry III. entertained here, on New Year's Day, 1236, 6,000 poor men, women, and children.
It was here, in 1170, the young Prince Henry was crowned in his father's lifetime; "and the king upon that day served his son at the table as server, bringing up the boar's head, with trumpets before it. Whereupon that young man, conceiving a pride in his heart, beheld the standers-by with a more stately countenance than he had wont. The Archbishop of York, who sat by him, marking his behaviour, turned unto him and said: 'Be glad, my good son; there is not another prince in the world that hath such a server at his table.' To this the new king answered, as it were disdainfully, thus: 'Why dost marvel at that? my father doing it thinketh it not more than becometh him; he, being born of princely blood only on the mother's side, serveth me that am a king born.'"
In 1377, at the coronation of Richard II. (who was so wearied with the pageant that he was borne from the Abbey exhausted on a litter), history first informs us that Sir John Dymock, as successor of the Marmions who came over to England with the Conqueror, and in right of his wife Margaret de Ludlow, claiming the privilege by virtue of his tenure of the manor of Scrivelsby in Lincolnshire, having chosen the best charger save one in the king's stables, and the best suit of harness save one in the royal armoury, rode in armed to the teeth, and challenged as the King's Champion all opposers of the boymonarch's title to the crown. In 1396 Richard celebrated here his nuptials with his child-queen, Isabella of France.
In the following year, the Hall having become decayed and ruinous, the king built a temporary structure, tiled, and of timber-work, open at the sides, in the midst of the Palace Court, between the Clochard and the Hall gate, for his Parliament to assemble in; this he surrounded with 4,000 archers, "malefactors of the county of Chester," with bended bows ready to shoot in case of need, as in that session he intended to try several captive noblemen—Lord Cobham and the Earls of Arundel and Warwick. "Wherever he lay," we are told, "his person was guarded by 200 Cheshire men." Thirteen bishops were in his train, "besides barons, knights, esquires, and others more than needed;" and 10,000 guests were invited every day, "under his household roof," to a lavishly-spread banquet. Twenty-eight oxen, three hundred sheep, and fowls without number, were daily consumed here on this occasion. We need not wonder then that Richard kept two thousand cooks.
Richard II. rebuilt Westminster Hall in its present form in 1397; and two years later, on the completion of the building, he kept his Christmas in it, with his characteristic magnificence.
Westminster Hall for many centuries was the scene of the state banquets given at the coronations of our monarchs, and also the place wherein the most important state trials have taken place. Besides these, many other curious incidents have taken place here; but space does not allow of our giving more than a cursory glance at a few of these historical events.
It is recorded that it was whilst the Lord Mayor was on his way to Westminster Hall, in November, 1415, in order to be sworn in, that the news of the victory of Agincourt was brought to the citizens and the Court. On the return of the king from France in triumph, soon afterwards, he was received with every outward manifestation of joy; tapestry being hung along the streets, and the conduits being made to run with wine. The Lord Mayor, aldermen, and citizens went in state to Westminster, where they presented the king with two basons of gold, in which was the then large sum of £1,000.
Here, in 1517, Henry VIII. appeared in person, with the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and other noblemen, the Lord Mayor, and the chief citizens, at the trial of 480 men and eleven women, with ropes about their necks, for being concerned in the rising of the 'prentices on Evil May-day, in a riot and assault upon foreigners. However, at the intercession of Cardinal Wolsey and others of rank (while three queens—Katharine, Mary of France, and Margaret of Scotland—"long on their knees begged pardon"), the king frankly forgave them; whereat the prisoners gave a "mighty shout for joy, throwing their halters toward the top of the Hall."
Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, "the infatuated victim of an astrologer's promise to the throne," who in his rashness had affronted Wolsey, and even threatened the king, was tried in this Hall, in 1522; his own relative, the Duke of Norfolk, presiding on the occasion. With his death the hereditary office of High Constable of England was forfeited, and has never been revived.
In 1533, says Stow, Anne Boleyn "came to Westminster Hall, which was richly hanged with cloth of arras, and newlie glazed; and in the middest of the Hall shee was taken out of hir litter, and so led up to the high deske under the cloth of estate, on whose left hand was a cupboard of x. stages high, marveylous rich and beautifull to behold; and within a little season was brought to the Queen with a solemn service, in great standing spice-plates, a voyde of spice, and subtleties, with Ipocrasse and other wines, which shee sent downe to her ladies; and when the ladies had drunke, shee gave hearty thanks to the lords and ladies, and to the Mayor, and other that had given their attendance on hir. . . . . On Whit Sondaie shee came into the Hall, and stood under the cloth of estate, and then came into the King's Chappell, and the monks of Westminster, all in rich coapes, and many Bishops and Abbots in coapes and miters, which went into the middest of the Hall, and there stood a season; then was there a raycloth spreade from the Quene's standing in the Hall, through the Pallace and Sanctuary, which was rayled on both sides, to the high altar."
Two years later Westminster Hall was the scene of another incident in which Anne Boleyn appears to have again played a part. The event is thus touchingly described by Mr. Mackenzie Walcott:—"On May 7th, 1535, the learned Sir Thomas More was arraigned here, bearing the marks of his stern prison-house. As the fallen Chancellor was being led out from the Hall to the Tower, his broken-hearted son burst through the files of soldiery, and, throwing his arms about his father's neck and kissing his lips, implored the armed keepers that they would suffer him to share his parent's fate. Well did he deserve such tokens of filial love; for Sir Thomas, even when proceeding to the Superior Bench of the Chancery, never passed his father, then a Puisne judge of King's Bench, without kneeling down and imploring his blessing. When tidings of his death were brought to the king, while he played at the game of tables, Henry looked moodily upon Anne Boleyn, who stood by his chair, and said, 'Thou art the cause of this man's death!' and leaving his play, shut himself up to mourn alone in his chamber."
That same year witnessed another victim of Henry's caprice doomed to the block in Westminster Hall, in the person of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, who had inflexibly opposed the divorce of the king, and his assumption of spiritual supremacy.
In July, 1535, William Lord Dacre of the North was accused of high treason; he was the only state prisoner in the reign of Henry VIII. who was declared not guilty. Upon the verdict "Not guilty" being returned by his peers, there was in the Hall "the greatest shout and cry of joy that the like no man living may remember that ever he heard."
Here, at the fatal bar, the Protector Somerset, "once all-powerful in the state, and the darling of the people," was brought to trial, in 1551, to be followed shortly afterwards by the Earl of Warwick, the Marquis of Northampton, the Protector's rival, Northumberland, and Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, father of the unhappy Lady Jane Grey. In 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt was arraigned here for high treason.
Another peer of the realm, Lord Stourton, was publicly tried in Westminster Hall, as far back as the year 1556, for the murder of a Mr. Hartgyll and his son in Wiltshire, under very aggravated circumstances. The commission for trying his lordship was directed to the judges and to certain members of the Privy Council. At first Lord Stourton refused to plead, but the chief justice informed him that, if he persisted in his refusal, his high rank should not excuse him from being pressed to death. Upon this he confessed himself guilty, and was hanged at Salisbury, with a silken halter. There is a monument to his memory in Salisbury Cathedral, where some years ago the silken cord with which he was executed was to be seen suspended.
A curious incident occurred in the year 1555, on the occasion of the Lord Mayor presenting the sheriffs to the Barons of the Exchequer. The rain, it appears, fell in such torrents that the Hall was filled with water, and boats were rowed into King Street from the landing-place—a timber stage raised on piles, called the "King's Stairs." This, however, was not the first time that Westminster Hall had been inundated, for in 1236 "wherries were rowed in the midst of the Hall;" and eight years after "men took their horses, because the water ran over all." In 1579, after a flood, "fishes were left upon the floor of the Hall by the subsiding stream."
On the 26th of January, 1571, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, here received his death-warrant for his dangerous attachment to the fallen fortunes of Mary, Queen of Scots; Sir Henry Gates and Sir Thomas Palmer being condemned on a like charge the following day.
In 1589 Philip, Earl of Arundel, an ancestor of the present ducal house of Norfolk, was arraigned in the Hall upon a charge of "conspiring with certain priests of the Order of Jesus to change the religion and succession of these realms." Being asked if he had "anything further to say why sentence of death should not pass upon him, he only said the same words which his father had done before him in the same place, 'God's will be done.'" After languishing for four weary years in a dungeon, "death released him from his durance."
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, and Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, in the year 1600, passed from the bar in Westminster Hall to dungeons in the Tower.
In January, 1606, took place here, "the king being secretly present," the trial of Guido Faux, Sir Everard Digby, Winter, and the other conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, of which we shall speak in a subsequent chapter.
For eighteen days, in 1640, a memorable trial was held here, before both Houses of Parliament—the one as accusers, the other as judges. "Beside the chair of state a dark cabinet, hung with arras, was erected for the King and Queen, who attended throughout that important time. Before the throne were the seats for the Peers, and in front of the woolsacks were nine stages of benches for the Commons. At the other end was the desk for the prisoner, who was brought hither, attended to the 'Bridge' by six barges rowed by fifty pair of oars, and manned by troops; the entries of Whitehall and King Street and Palace Yard being lined with guards." The trial in question was that of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, "who had generously written to his master (Charles I.), to yield him up a sacrifice to save himself from the discontented clamours of the people." There is extant an extremely rare print, by Hollar, of the "True Manner of the Trial and Execution of Thomas, Earl of Strafford," representing the interior of Westminster Hall, which was fitted up for the occasion. This print shows the king, queen, and peers of several degrees all wearing their robes and hats, and the officials, clerks, &c.; the prisoner stands at the bar, attended by the Keeper of the Tower. The eloquent and pathetic defence of the earl is a matter of history. His children stood beside him. Pointing to them, "My lords," said he, "I have now delayed your lordships longer than I should else have done but for the interest of these dear pledges, which a departed saint in heaven has left me. I should be loth"—but here a flood of tears checked his utterance. "What I forfeit for myself, it is nothing; but I confess, that my indiscretion should forfeit for them, it wounds me very deeply. You will be pleased to pardon my infirmity. Something I should have said, but I see I shall not be able, and therefore I leave it. And now, my lords, I thank God that I have been, by His blessing, sufficiently instructed in the extreme vanity of all temporary enjoyments compared to the importance of our eternal duration. And so, my lords, even so with all humility, and with all tranquillity of mind, I submit, clearly and freely, to your judgments: and whether that righteous doom shall be to life or death, I shall repose myself, full of gratitude and confidence, in the arms of the great Author of my existence. Te Deum laudamus."
The men of Surrey marched through London to Westminster to petition for the restoration of episcopacy, and also the king, their own lawful sovereign, to his due honours. They marched down Whitehall with trumpets, pipes, and fiddles, bearing ribbons of white and green, and crying out "For God and King Charles!" and insulting the Puritan soldiery under Colonel Baxter. A fray arose, some of the party attacking the sentinels, whom they knocked down and disarmed, and one of whom they killed at the entrance of Westminster Hall. Lilly the astrologer, it appears, foretold this visit of the men of Surrey.
In January, 1648–9, Charles himself was brought to judgment in Westminster Hall. None, however, were found to bear witness but those who had usurped the seats of the lawful judges; while the courageous Lady Fairfax protested against the charge being brought "in the name of the people of England." The King entered the hall under the guard of Colonel Hacker and thirty-two officers, and seated himself, covered, in a chair of velvet provided for him, and "with a stern countenance surveyed the commissioners for the mock trial, amidst a total hush." When the Attorney-General rose to recite the charges, the King put out his cane, and touched him on the shoulder, bidding him "be silent:" the gold head fell heavily from the walking-stick to the ground; and his Majesty, who was not free from superstitious foreboding, we are told, picked up the ornament deeply affected, and spoke no more. On this occasion the astrologer Lilly was present, and he records how he "saw the silver top fall from off the King's staff." Exposed to the brutal insolence of his guards, who filled every avenue, and unawed by the approach of death, the royal prisoner sustained to the last, by his dignified demeanour and denial of the authority of the court, the sacred majesty of a king. "On the last day of the trial, January 27, as the king passed, one of the soldiers, touched with respect and sympathy, exclaimed, 'God bless you, sire!' upon which the colonel, with savage insolence, struck the poor man sharply with his cane. 'Methinks, sir,' was King Charles' mild reproof, 'the punishment exceeds the offence.'"
On the 6th of May, 1660, Charles II. was proclaimed king at the gate of Westminster Hall, and just a twelvemonth afterwards the Act for the late king's trial was burned by the common hangman in the Hall while the courts were sitting.
Pepys, in his Diary, under date of April 21, 1661, after describing the scene in the Abbey at the coronation of Charles II., which we have quoted in a previous chapter, gives us the following particulars of the concluding part of the ceremony, which took place here:—"Into the Hall I got, where it was very fine with hangings and scaffolds one upon another, full of brave ladies; and my wife in one little one on the right hand. Here I staid walking up and down, and at last upon one of the side stalls I stood and saw the King come in with all the persons (but the soldiers) that were yesterday in the cavalcade; and a most pleasant sight it was to see them in their several robes. And the King come in with his crowne on, and his sceptre in his hand, under a canopy borne up by six silver staves, carried by Barons of the Cinque Ports, and little bells at every end. And after a long time, he got up to the farther end, and all set themselves down at their several tables; and that was also a brave sight: and the King's first course carried up by Knights of the Bath. And many fine ceremonies there was of the Heralds leading up people before him, and bowing, and my Lord of Albermarle's going to the kitchen and eating a bit of the first dish that was to go to the King's table. But, above all, was these three Lords, Northumberland, and Suffolke, (fn. 1) and the Duke of Ormond, coming before the courses on horseback, and staying so all dinnertime, and at last bringing up (Dymock) the King's Champion, all in armour, on horseback, with his spear and target carried before him. And a Herald proclaims, "That if any dare deny Charles Stewart to be lawful King of England, here was a Champion that would fight with him;' and with these words the Champion flings down his gauntlet, and all this he do three times in his going towards the King's table. To which when he is come, the King drinks to him, and then sends him the cup, which is of gold, and he drinks it off, and then rides back again with the cup in his hand. I went from the table to see the Bishops at dinner, and was infinitely pleased with it. And at the Lords' table I met with William Howe, and he spoke to my Lord for me, and he did give him four rabbits and a pullet, and so Mr. Creed and I got Mr. Minshell to give us some bread, and so we at a stall ate it, as everybody else did what they could get. I took a great deal of pleasure to go up and down and look upon the ladies, and to hear the musique of all sorts, but above all the 24 violins. About six o'clock at night they had dined, and I went up to my wife. And strange it is to think, that these two days have held up fair till all is done, and the King gone out of the Hall, and then it fell a-raining and thundering and lightning as I have not seen it do for some years: which people did take great notice of. God's blessing of the works of these two days, which is a foolery to take too much notice of such things. I observed little disorder in all this, only the King's Footmen had got hold of the canopy, and would keep it from the Barons of the Cinque Ports, which they endeavoured to force from them again, but could not do it till my Lord Duke of Albemarle caused it to be put into Sir R. Pye's hand till to-morrow to be decided. At Mr. Bowyer's; a great deal of company; some I knew, others I did not. Here we stand upon the leads and below till it was late, expecting to see the fireworks, but they were not performed to-night: only the city had a light like a glory round about it with bonfires. At last I went to King Streete, and there sent Crockford to my father's and to my house, to tell them that I could not come home to-night because of the dirt, and a coach could not be had. And so I took my wife and Mrs. Frankleyn to Axe Yard; in which, at the further end, were three great bonfires, and great many gallants, men and women; and they laid hold of us, and would have us drink the King's health on our knees, kneeling upon a faggot; which we all did, they drinking to us one after another, which we thought a strange frolique. . . . Thus did the day end with joy everywhere; and blessed be God I have not heard of any mischance to any body through it all but only to Serjeant Glynne, whose horse fell upon him yesterday, and is like to kill him, which people do please themselves to see how just God is to punish the rogue at such a time as this, he being now one of the King's Serjeants, and rode in the cavalcade with Maynard, to whom people wish the same fortune. There was also this night in King Streete a woman had her eye put out by a boy's flinging a firebrand into the coach. Now, after all this, I can say that, besides the pleasure of the sight of these glorious things, I may now shut my eyes against any other object, nor for the future trouble myself to see things of state and showe, as being sure never to see the like again in this world."
In 1680 Viscount Stafford was condemned, in this Hall, for alleged participation, with four Roman Catholic noblemen, in a plot, the fabrication of the infamous Titus Oates. He defended himself with great composure and resolution, protesting his innocence, to the block; indeed, Lord Stafford's eloquence was proverbial. Rushworth remarks, "I need say little of his eloquence and ability in speech. Both Houses of Parliament in England, and the Star Chamber and the Council Table there, . . . and as much as any his last defence at his trial in Westminster Hall before the King, Queen, Lords, House of Commons, and a multitude of auditors of all sorts, are most full and abundant witnesses thereof."
A curious case, connected at once with the Peerage and the Court, arose towards the close of the reign of Charles II., when two persons, Thatcher and Waller, footmen to Lord Cornwallis, assaulted and murdered one Robert Clerk, in the parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster, "within 200 feet of the Palace of Whitehall." The footmen were found not guilty, on the ground that they were "waiting upon their lord," and Lord Cornwallis himself was put upon trial for the same offence, as principal. The trial is thus minutely narrated in "Reports of several Special Cases adjudged in the Courts of King's Bench and Common Pleas at Westminster," published in 1729; and, on account of the curious nature of its details, we here print it:—
"The Lord C. having been indicted for the murder of Robert Clerk mentioned in the case next preceding, the king for his trial constituted Heneage, Lord Finch, then High Chancellor of England, to be Lord High Steward, hac vice tantum. The trial was upon the 30th day of June, after Trinity Term, in the 28th year of the king. The proceedings were such as are described by Lord Coke in his Book of Pleas of the Crown, chap. 'Treason, of the Trial of Peers,' as to the summons of the Peers' Triers, the certiorari to the Lord Chief Justice for the indictment, and precept to the Constable of the Tower of London, and other formalities there mentioned. The Steward was attended from his house on the day of the trial quite to Westminster by the judges in their coaches. Sir Edward Walker, then Garter King-at-Arms, going before him in his coat with the serjeants-at-arms: when he was at the great door of the Hall he tarried till the judges were alighted out of their coaches, and then, the chief justices first, and the rest according to their seniority, passed by him, and advanced into the Court, which was a large tribunal erected for this purpose (the whole structure extended almost from the stairs leading to the Courts of King's Bench and Chancery to the Court of Common Pleas, but the Court itself was not so large by much). The cloth of state was placed aloft in the middle of both sides of it, but a little behind were built two small boxes. On the right were the King, the Queen, the Duke and Dutchess; the others were filled with persons of honour. The Peers' Triers were seated on both sides the chair of state, but at the distance of about five paces from it, and a step lower, on benches covered with green cloth, with which the whole Court was likewise covered. At the Peers' feet sat the judges, some on one side and some on the other, their seats being of the same height with the floor of the Court. In the middle was a place cut for the Clerk of the Crown of the King's Bench, and for his deputy, in the lower part. The King's Council—viz., his senior serjeant, attorney, and sollicitor—were placed. The prisoner was at the bar behind them, but raised about six feet, and directly over against the chair of state.
"After the Court was thus disposed, Chernoke, Serjeant-at-Arms, made proclamation three times, and command was made that all persons, except the Lords the Triers, and other peers of the realm, and the privy councellors and the judges, should be uncovered. Then the Clerk of the Crown read the indictment, and arraigned the prisoner, who pleaded 'Not guilty,' and put himself upon his peers, who were thirty-six, the greatest part of them of the most noble, of the greatest estate, and the wisest of the realm. Before any evidence was given, the Lord Steward made an elegant speech to the triers, and exhorted the prisoner to be of good courage and without fear, and to summon all the faculties of his soul to his assistance.* Then the evidence was first opened by the Sollicitor-General, seconded by the Attorney, and concluded by Serjeant Maynard; the prisoner all the while behaving himself with humility, modesty, and prudence. After the evidence was concluded, the Lords went to consider and consult together in the Court of Wards, as I believe, and during their absence bisket and wine were distributed in the Court. After two hours or more, the lords returned, and the Lord Treasurer, in the name of his fellows, prayed the advice of the Lord Steward and the judges on this point, whether a person's presence at and abetting of a manslaughter committed by another made him guilty, as it was in the case of murder. To which the judges speaking—viz., those of the same side for themselves, and not all together—all agreed that the law was the same in case of manslaughter as of murder. Then the Lords went back, and in half an hour returned to give their verdict. And being seated in their places, the Lord Steward spoke first to the youngest lord, in this manner, 'My Lord A., is my Lord C. guilty, or not?' and so to every one, ascending from the youngest to the first; and each answered, in his order, 'Guilty,' or 'Not guilty, upon my honour.' And six of them pronounced him guilty of manslaughter, and the rest not guilty. This being recorded, the Lord Steward broke the white rod (which was held before him during the whole trial) over his head, and then the Court broke up."
Here, on the 15th of June, 1688, took place the trial of the "Seven Bishops" who had refused to accept King James's "Indulgence in Matters of Religion." They were: the Primate, Sancroft; Lloyd, of St. Asaph; Trelawney, of Bristol; White, of Peterborough; Turner, of Ely; Ken, of Bath and Wells; and Lake, of Chichester. The bishops, who had already undergone imprisonment in the Tower, were, as every reader of history knows, acquitted by their judges—an event which told the king that the days of his dynasty were numbered.
In 1699 Edward, Earl of Warwick, was publicly tried and convicted here of the manslaughter of Richard Coote, in a coffee-house in the Strand. Standing beside him, in the self-same dock, was a memorable criminal, Lord Mohun, who a few years previously had been charged with the murder of Mountford the actor, but acquitted. Again he escaped, on this occasion, but a little while after he fell mortally wounded by the Duke of Hamilton, in a duel fatal to both.
Passing over the trial of Dr. Sacheverell, we come to the year 1716, when were held the trials of Viscount Kenmure and the Earl of Derwentwater, who soon after died headless on the scaffold; the Earl of Carnwath and the Lords Widdrington and Nairn, each sentenced to a year's imprisonment, with forfeited titles and estates; and Nithsdale, who soon after owed his romantic escape to the affection of his wife, disguising him in a woman's dress and riding-hood, and herself remaining a prisoner in his gloomy cell in the Tower.
In 1746 sentence of death for high treason was here passed upon the Lords Cromartie, Balmerino, and Kilmarnock; to be followed within a few months by a like sentence being passed on the venerable Lord Lovat, who, on leaving the Hall, called out to his judges, "Good day, my lords; you and I shall never meet again in the same place." The notorious Lawrence Shirley, Earl Ferrers, was arraigned here, in 1760, for the murder of his steward, found guilty, and sentenced to be executed at Tyburn.
In the "British Chronologist," under date July 14th, 1736, we read that—"When the courts were sitting in Westminster Hall, between one and two in the afternoon, a large bundle of brown paper was laid near the Chancery Court, with several crackers and parcels of gunpowder enclosed, which burst, and terrified the people that were attending the Courts of Chancery and King's Bench: and the explosion threw out several printed bills, which gave notice that, this being the last day of Term, the five following libels would be burnt in Westminster Hall, between the hours of 12 and 2—viz., the Gin Act, the Mortmain Act, the Westminster Bridge Act, the Smuggler's Act, and the Act for borrowing £600,000 on the sinking fund. One of these printed bills being carried to the Court of King's Bench, the grand jury presented it as a wicked, false, and scandalous libel; and a proclamation was issued on the 17th for discovering the persons concerned in this wicked and audacious outrage, and a reward of £200 was offered for taking the author, printer, and publisher of the said false, malicious, and treasonable libel." Under date of December 7th of the same year we read that Mr. Nixon, a "Nonjuring" clergyman, was tried at the King's Bench before Lord Hardwicke, for a misdemeanour in making and publishing the above libel. He was found guilty, condemned to pay 200 marks, to suffer five years' imprisonment, and to be brought before the courts at Westminster, with a parchment round his head declaring his offence.
In April, 1776, Elizabeth Chudleigh was tried here for having married Evelyn Pierrepoint, Duke of Kingston, during the lifetime of her husband, Captain Hervey, Earl of Bristol. "Her beauty and her tears, however," says Mr. Mackenzie Walcott, "with the plea of the privilege of peerage, so wrought upon her judges, that they avoided the enactment of the penalty of her crime—the branding of her right hand upon the block. She was found guilty, advised 'not to do it again,' and discharged on payment of the fees." The whole scene, by the caprice of a morbid fashion, was converted into the semblance of a gala-day. Soldiers were posted at the gates, to regulate the entrance of the crowds that pressed in; and even ladies in full Courtdress attended to witness so rare a circumstance." Horace Walpole records the incidents of this trial day by day, in his letters to Sir Horace Mann. We shall have more to say of this notorious Duchess-Countess when we come to Knightsbridge.
In February, 1788, was commenced the trial of Warren Hastings before the House of Commons, in Westminster Hall. This trial, it is well known, lasted nearly as long as the siege of Troy, having lingered out through seven years, and having ended in his just acquittal, in September, 1795. An acute criminal said that if it had been held instead in the court where he himself was tried, it would have been over in less than ten days.
The agitation produced by Burke's speech at this memorable trial was such that the whole audience appeared to have felt one convulsive emotion; and when it was over, it was some time before Mr. Fox could obtain a hearing. Amidst the assemblage of concurring praises which this speech excited, none was more remarkable than the tribute of Mr. Hastings himself. "For half an hour," said that gentleman, "I looked up at the orator in a reverie of wonder; and during that space I actually felt myself the most culpable man on earth." Had the sentiment concluded here, our readers would not believe that it was in the language or manner of Mr. Hastings. "But," continued he, "I recurred to my own bosom, and there found a consciousness which consoled me under all I heard and all I suffered."
Lord Thurlow presided on this occasion, as Lord High Chancellor. During the progress of the trial, Fox, struck by the solemnity of Lord Thurlow's appearance, remarked to a friend, "I wonder whether any one ever was so wise as Thurlow looks."
The interior of the Hall on one memorable occasion is thus sketched by Lady Brownlow, in her "Reminiscences of a Septuagenarian:"—"My sister and I were taken one day by my grandmother to see Lord Melville's trial, in the early part of 1806. . . . It was a striking sight, and made a great impression on me. The Lord Chancellor (Erskine), the judges, the peers, all in their robes, the House of Commons, and the Speaker; at the bar, Lord Melville, who was seated, surrounded by the counsel for and against him; and in a sort of box near, the members of the House of Commons, who were the managers of the trial. Amongst them were Sheridan, Whitbread, and Fox, whom I saw then for the first and only time. His form, features, and bushy eyebrows I knew well, from prints and caricatures, but his complexion struck me as very peculiar, and, as I said when I returned home, it was the colour that yellow crape would have if stretched over black. He was then, probably, ill, for he died some weeks after—I think, before the termination of the trial."
Mrs. Somerville was present at the coronation banquet of George IV. in Westminster Hall, on the 19th of July, 1821, and has described the scene in her "Life." Another writer who was present at the ceremony has given a description of the scene in the London Magazine, from which we learn that after the return of the King and his gorgeous cortège from the Abbey, and everything being in readiness in the Hall, "the doors at the end of the Hall were opened, the clarions and trumpets sounding bravely at the time, and the Duke of Wellington, as Lord High Constable, the Marquis of Anglesey, as Lord High Steward, and Lord Howard of Effingham, as Deputy Earl Marshal, entered upon the floor on horseback. The Marquis of Anglesey's horse was a beautiful cream-coloured Arabian; Lord Howard's was a dun; and the Duke's a white steed. After a short pause, they rode gracefully up to the royal table, followed by the gentlemen with the first course. When the dishes were placed on the board, the bearers first retired, with their faces towards the king; and then the noble horsemen retreated, by backing their steeds down the Hall and out at the archway. Their noiseless steps on the blue cloth conveyed the idea that the horses had been shod with felt, according to Lear's invention. The Duke of Wellington's white charger 'walked away with himself' in the aptest manner; but the Marquis of Anglesey had great difficulty in persuading his Arabian to retire tailwise. The company could hardly be restrained from applauding, although it was evident that a shout would have settled the mind of this steed in a second, and have made him resolute against completing his unpleasant retreat. The pages soothed him before and behind; but he shook his head and tail, and paused occasionally, as if he had considerable doubts upon the subject.
"Before the dishes were uncovered, the Lord Great Chamberlain presented the bason and ewer, to bathe his Majesty's hands; and the Lord of the Manor of Heydon attended with a rich towel. The dishes were then bared; and his Majesty was helped, by the carvers, to some soup. He tasted it! This was a source of endless wonder to a lady near me.
"At the end of this course, the gates of the Hall were again thrown open, and a noble flourish of trumpets announced to all eager hearts that the Champion was about to enter. He advanced under the gateway, on a fine piebald charger (an ill colour), and clad in complete steel. The plumes on his head were tri-coloured, and extremely magnificent; and he bore in his hand the loose steel gauntlet, ready for the challenge. The Duke of Wellington was on his right hand; the Marquis of Anglesey on his left. When he had come within the limits of the Hall, he was about to throw down his glove at once, so eager was he for the fray; but the Herald distinctly said, 'Wait till I have read the Challenge,' and read it accordingly—the Champion husbanding his valour for a few minutes:—
"'If any person, of what degree soever, high or low, shall deny or gainsay our Sovereign Lord King George the Fourth of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, son and next heir to our Sovereign Lord King George the Third, the last King deceased, to be right heir to the Imperial Crown of this United Kingdom, or that he ought not to enjoy the same, here is his Champion, who saith that he lieth, and is a false traitor; being ready in person to combat with him, and in this quarrel will adventure his life against him on what day soever he shall be appointed.'
"At the conclusion of this 'awful challenge,' as a gentleman near me termed it, the Champion hurled down his gauntlet, which fell with a solemn clash upon the floor. It rang in most hearts! He then struck his wrist against his steeled side, as though to show how indifferent he was to the consequence of his challenge. This certainly had a very pleasing and gallant effect. The Herald, in a few seconds, took up the glove, delivered it to the Squire, who kissed it, and handed it to the Champion. In the middle of the Hall the same ceremony was performed; and at the foot of the royal platform it was a third time gone through. The King then drank his health, and, methinks, with real pleasure, for the Champion had right gallantly conducted himself. His Majesty then sent the cup to him; and he, taking it, drank to the King, but in so low a tone that I could only catch the meaning by the tumultuous shouts of the people. The noise seemed to awaken the courage of his horse; but he mastered his steed admirably. The ceremony of backing out of the Hall was then again performed, and successfully, with the exception of the Marquis of Anglesey's Arabian, whose doubts were not yet satisfied, and he was literally shown out by the pages.
"In Hall's Account of the Coronation of Henry VIII. and Katharine of Arragon, there is a very quaint and interesting account of the challenge, which, as I think it will aptly illustrate this part of my letter, and serve to amuse you, I shall take leave to copy:—
"'The seconde course beyng served, in at the Haule doore entered a Knyhte armed at al poyntes, his bases rich tissue embroudered, a great plume and a sumpteous of oistriche fethers on his helmet, sittyng on a great courser trapped in tissue and embroudered with tharmes of England and of Fraunce, and an herauld of armes before hym. And passyng through the Haule, presented hymself with humble reverence before the Kynge's Majestie, to whom Garter Kynge of Heraulds cried and said with a loude voyce, 'Sir Knyhte, from whence come you, and what is your pretence?' This Knyhtes name was Sir Robert Dimmoke, Champion to the Kynge by tenour of his enheritaunce, who answered the said Kynge of armes in effecte after this manner: 'Sir, the place that I come from is not materiall, nor the cause of my repaire hyther is not concernyng any matter of any place or countrey, but onely this.' And therewithal commanded his herauld to make an O yes. Then said the Knyhte to the Kynge of armes, 'Now shal ye hear the cause of my comynge and pretence.' Then he commanded his own herauld by proclamacion to saye: 'If there be any persone, of what estate or degree soever he be, that will saie or prove that King Henry the Eight is not the rightful enheritor and Kynge of this realm, I, Sir Robert Dimmoke, here his Champion, offre my glove, to fight in his querell with any persone to thutterance.'
"The Champions appear to have been more familiar in the olden time, and to have discoursed more freely with those about them; but perhaps the less that is said the better amongst fightingmen; so I shall not differ with our present Sir Knight on account of his solemn taciturnity. The same old writer from whom I have given you the above description speaks curiously of the pageants which were had to enliven the procession of Anne Boleyn from the Tower to Westminster. The Three Graces, he tells us, took their stand on Cornhill, and the Cardinal Virtues in Fleet Street; a fountain of Helicon ran Rhenish wine; and the conduit in Cheap, with a laudable courtesy, spouted claret. But I must not lose myself amongst books.
"On the Champion retiring, the second course was served up as before; the marquis's horse becoming more and more unmannerly. It was not amiss that his duties were over."
The health of the King having been duly proposed and drunk with great acclamations, the national air of "God save the King" was sung; and his Majesty shortly afterwards retired, amidst the joyous clamours of the company assembled to witness the ceremony.
The banquet in Westminster Hall at the coronation of George IV., we need hardly state, was of
the most magnificent description; and as it may
interest some of our readers to learn something
of the nature of the viands and the quantity of the
wines provided—and, we may add, consumed, for
when the persons who took part in the coronation
ceremonies had retired, the visitors in the galleries,
who had been so long confined without victuals,
finished what remained—we append the
BILL OF FARE.
Sufficient for a siege the bill of fare;
Denuded of their tribes, earth, sea, and air
Must all contribute to the banquet's zest.
Hot Dishes.—160 tureens of soup, 80 of turtle, 40 of rice, and 40 vermicelli; 160 dishes of fish, comprising 80 of turbot, 40 of trout, 40 of salmon; 160 hot joints, including 80 of venison, 40 of roast beef, with three barons, 40 of mutton and veal; 160 dishes of vegetables, including potatoes, peas, and cauliflowers; 480 sauce-boats, 240 of lobsters, 120 butter, 120 mint.
Cold Dishes.—80 dishes of braized ham; 80 savory pies; 80 dishes of daubed geese, two in each; 80 dishes of savory cakes; 80 pieces of beef braized; 80 dishes of capons braized, two in each; 1,190 side-dishes of various sorts; 320 dishes of mounted pastry; 320 dishes of small pastry; 400 dishes of jellies and creams; 160 dishes of shell-fish, 80 of lobster, and 80 of crayfish; 161 dishes of cold roast fowls; 80 dishes of cold house-lamb.
Total Quantities.—7,442 lbs. of beef; 7,133 lbs. of veal; 2,474 lbs. of mutton; 20 quarters of house-lamb; 20 legs of house-lamb; 5 saddles of lamb; 55 quarters of grass-lamb; 160 lambs' sweetbreads; 389 cow-heels; 400 calves' feet; 250 lbs. of suet; 160 geese; 720 pullets and capons; 1,610 chickens; 520 fowls for stock (hens); 1,730 lbs. of bacon; 550 lbs. of lard; 912 lbs. of butter; 84 hundred of eggs.
All these are independent of the eggs, butter, flour, and
necessary articles in the pastry and confectionery departments—such as sugar, isinglass, fruits, &c.
The choicest wines brought from fair Gallia's strand;
Burgundian nectar, sparkling Malvoisie,
The source of wit and gay hilarity.
The quantities ordered for the banquet were:—Champagne, 100 dozen; Burgundy, 20 dozen; claret, upwards of 200 dozen; hock, 50 dozen; Moselle, 50 dozen; Madeira, 50 dozen; sherry and port, about 350 dozen; iced punch, 100 gallons. The champagne, hock, and Moselle were iced before they went to table; and the whole of the wines were spoken of as being excellent by the thousands who had an opportunity of tasting them.
Of ale, 100 barrels were ordered for the use of the kitchen. The porcelain consisted of 6,794 dinner plates, 1,406 soupplates, 1,499 dessert-plates, and 288 large pitchers for ale and beer. There were 240 yards of damask table-cloths for the Hall, and about 1,000 yards more laid on the tables in the other suites of rooms. The cutlery included 16,000 knives and forks, and 612 pairs of carvers.
Respecting the origin of the office of the King's Champion in England during the Saxon period we have no authentic account; but Sir William Dugdale asserts, both in his "Baronage of England" and his "History of Warwickshire," that William the Conqueror, to reward the services of those followers who aided him in subduing the kingdom, bestowed on them sundry manors and lands in various counties, subject to many curious feudal services. Among the most distinguished of the Conqueror's followers was Robert de Marmyon, on whom the Norman king, among other gifts, conferred the castle of Tamworth, in Warwickshire, to hold by knight's service, and also the manor of Scrivelsby, near Horncastle, in the north of Lincolnshire, to hold per baroniam; and his peculiar service and duty was to perform the office of Champion to the Kings of England on the days of their coronation. From this time the Marmyons of Scrivelsby became barons of the realm per tenuram, and they continued to flourish among the greater nobles for several generations, with much lustre and renown, intermarrying at each descent with the heiress of some of the most powerful barons of the age. But about the twentieth year of Edward I., Philip de Marmyon, fifth from the companion of the Conqueror, died, leaving only female issue; and thus the great inheritance of the family came to be divided; the Castle of Tamworth falling to the Frevilles, and the manor of Scrivelsby to the Ludlows, by the marriage of whose daughter and heiress, Margaret, with Sir John Dymoke, Knight, it came into that ancient and honourable name. From that period to the present, a lapse of nearly five hundred years, the office has been executed by the Dymoke family at the several coronations of the kings and queens of England.
A capital story—we fear almost too good to be true—is told respecting the Champion at the coronation of William and Mary, in 1689. It will be found in the "Gazetteer" for August, 1784, nearly a century afterwards, and is therefore open to some suspicion. It runs as follows:—
"The Champion of England (Dymoke), dressed in armour of complete and glittering steel, his horse richly caparisoned, and his beaver finely capped with plumes of feathers, entered Westminster Hall, according to ancient custom, while the king and queen were at dinner. And, at his giving the usual challenge to any one that disputed their majesties' right to the crown of England, . . . . after he had flung down his gauntlet on the pavement, an old woman, who entered the Hall on crutches, . . . . took it up, and made off with great celerity, leaving her own glove with a challenge in it to meet her the next day, at an appointed hour, in Hyde Park. This occasioned some mirth at the lower end of the Hall, and it was remarked that every one was too well engaged to pursue her. A person in the same dress appeared the next day at the place appointed, though it was generally supposed to be a good swordsman in that disguise. However, the Champion of England politely declined any contest of that nature with one of the fair sex, and never made his appearance."
Westminster Hall has a connection, though only a momentary one, with the alchemist and astrologer, Count Cagliostro. His pretensions having been exposed by a Frenchman in the Courier de l'Europe, then published in London, he was recognised and denounced before his face in this Hall, in 1785, as Joseph Balsamo, the swindler of Palermo. Such a disgrace, so publicly cast upon him, was not to be borne: it was "the last pound that broke the camel's back." The "count" and his "countess" at once packed up their traps, and left England, to prosecute their fraudulent career in Belgium, France, and Italy.
Westminster Hall has also its literary reminiscences, some of them small and trivial, yet not the less worth recording here on that account. Charles Dickens has told us how, on finding that his first contribution had been accepted and printed in the Monthly Magazine, he bought a copy in the Strand, and "walked with it into Westminster Hall, and turned in there for half an hour, because his eyes were so dimmed with joy and pride that they could not bear the street, and were not fit to be seen there."
It may be interesting to some of our readers to learn that when, in 1820, the roof of the famous old Hall was thoroughly repaired and completed towards the north, forty loads of oak, the remains of old men-of-war, which were broken up in Portsmouth Dockyard, were employed as materials. It may be added that the Hall was nearly involved in the destruction of the Houses of Parliament, for it was only by the utmost exertions that the flames, which at one time nearly burst through the south windows at the upper end, were checked in that direction. A few minutes more, and no human efforts could have rescued the Hall from the general conflagration, because, had the roof once caught fire, the flames would have swept through that forest of timber with uncontrollable fury.
In 1843, and again in the following year, Westminster Hall was used for the exhibition of a collection of works of art which had been made for the purpose of assisting the Commissioners on the Fine Arts in the selection of the persons to be employed in the decoration of portions of the new Houses of Parliament. The works, amounting to about 200 in number, comprised specimens in models for sculpture, frescoes, cartoons, drawings, &c.
The Hall has since been used at different times for the presentation of prizes to volunteer corps, and for exhibitions, and other purposes too numerous to be particularised here.
A new doorway on the east side of Westminster Hall leads into St. Stephen's Cloisters. These were restored when the Palace was rebuilt. The existing fabric was the work of John Chambers, the last Dean of St. Stephen's, who lived to see his Chapel and Cloister both seized upon by the Crown. Late as they are in date, these cloisters are remarkable for the absence of Italian details. The lower tier is vaulted throughout; the vaulting being richest on the west side. The windows occupy the entire space between the buttresses. A newly-built staircase leads from the Lower to the Upper Cloister, and the whole now serves as the private entrance of the members of the House of Commons.
In the south-east corner of the Hall, a flight of steps leads to the beautiful little chapel of St. Stephen's, originally the crypt of the ancient building. This chapel, of which a view is given on page 505, has undergone a thorough restoration, and is a perfect gem of florid Gothic architecture. Its walls and groined ceiling are literally one blaze of gold and colours; the flooring is paved with highly-polished encaustic tiles of a rich pattern, and its windows are filled with stained glass. The ornamentation of this edifice is in the best style of the fourteenth century, and the bosses are remarkably large and fine, containing representations of the martyrdom of saints.
In 1854, the body of an ecclesiastic, presumed to have been of some eminence from the position in which the corpse was found, was discovered by the workmen employed in removing part of the north wall of the crypt, necessary to the restoration of the edifice.
The remarkable feature in this discovery consists in the circumstance of the body having been literally built into the masonry of the wall, without coffin or any enclosure except the linen shroud in which it was wrapped; and by this it would appear to have been there deposited at the erection of the edifice; but whether translated to this situation or originally so buried, cannot be conjectured. Lying diagonally across the body from the left shoulder to the outer side of the right foot was an elaborately-carved wooden crozier. The remains were afterwards placed in an elm coffin and reinterred near the place where they were discovered.
A correspondent of the Globe newspaper, at the time of the discovery suggested that the body was that of William Lyndwoode, Bishop of St. David's and Keeper of the Privy Seal, who founded a chantry in the Chapel of St. Stephen by deed, and died in 1446; as on reference to the patent-roll of 32 Henry III., M. 4, there will be found an entry of a licence, dated 19th of July, from the King to "Robert Pyke, clerk, and Adrian Grenebough, executors of William Lyndwoode, lately Bishop of St. David's and Keeper of the Privy Seal, for the foundation of a perpetual chantry in the Under-Chapel of St. Stephen, within the King's Palace of Westminster, for two perpetual chaplains, or at least for one perpetual chaplain, to celebrate divine service daily in the aforesaid Chapel, or one of them in the Under-Chapel (St. Mary's), and the other at the Chapel of St. Mary de la Pewe, situated near the King's said Chapel of St. Stephen, for the healthful estate of the King and his consort Margaret, Queen of England, and their souls when they shall die; and also for the soul of the aforesaid bishop whose body lies buried in the said Under-Chapel," &c.
Close by Westminster Hall was a noted coffeehouse, known to ears polite and not polite alike by the name of "Hell"—very much (it has been wittily remarked) "as the 'Devil' Tavern adjoined the Temple."
It is comically recorded in the Somerset House Gazette:—"First day of Term opens with a furious hurricane; . . a dozen country attorneys breakfast in 'Hell.'" There was apparently another coffee-house hard by, called the "Bell," much frequented by those who attended the Law Courts; for in the same work we read: "Juries swallow their claret in the afternoon at the 'Bell' at Westminster, as they swallowed their oaths in the morning; and get drunk by eight."
One cannot help reading with a smile a statement made in Smith's "Antiquities of Westminster," that in the year 1550 the king "had
taken into his own hands the house called 'Hell,'
of the annual value of £4; the house called 'Purgatory,' of the annual value of £1 6s. 8d., and
also five other houses adjoining the Exchequer,
for the purpose of depositing and preserving the
records and rolls of that court." In explanation
of this statement we may be pardoned for quoting
Strype (Book vi.), who says that under Westminster
Hall are certain subterraneous apartments, which
are called the one "Paradise" and the other "Hell,"
which were given by the King to Sir Andrew
Dudley, brother of the great Duke of Northumberland. A range of houses of red brick, extending
from west to east, opposite the end of Henry VII.'s
Chapel, at the same time was called "Heaven."
Both the "Heaven" and the "Hell" here mentioned
would seem to have been public-houses in the
time of James I., and were probably frequented by
low company, lawyers' clerks, &c. At all events,
Ben Jonson, in the Alchemist, introduces "Doll
Common" as personating the Queen of Fairies, and
forbidding "Dapper" the lawyer's clerk, who is persuaded to believe himself her nephew, to break
his fast in "Heaven" or "Hell," as not worthy of
so distinguished a guest. Butler, moreover, in his
"Hudibras" speaks of—
"False Heaven at the end of th' Hall."
It is stated, too, in an anonymous note on "Hudibras," that at the Restoration the body of Oliver Cromwell was dug up, and his head set up at one end of Westminster Hall, "near which place there is a house of entertainment commonly known by the name of 'Heaven.'" And it may be added that in the "History of Independency" there is mention made of a "victualling-house" in Westminster called "Hell."
Not far from this place was long preserved the ducking-stool, or cucking-stool, employed by the good burgesses of Westminster for the punishment of scolds. The punishment is thus described in the Mirror, in the year 1830:—"The angry lady was strapped in a chair, fastened by an iron pin to one end of a long pole, suspended in the middle by a lofty trestle, which, being placed on the shore of the Thames, allowed the terrified culprit to be immersed in the river; when the lady's temper was supposed to be cooled by a few plunges, she was exposed, dripping and humbled, to the laugh of her neighbours."
Close to the Houses of Parliament stood another public-house, which appears to have enjoyed some little reputation in the last century. A writer in an early number of the Spectator, after observing that "all dependents run in some measure into the measures and behaviour of those whom they serve," thus humorously narrates his visit to the house in question:—"Falling in the other day at a victualling-house near the House of Peers, I heard the maid come down and tell the landlady at the bar that my lord bishop swore he would throw her out at window if she did not bring up more mild beer, and that my lord duke would have a double mug of purl. My surprise was increased in hearing loud and rustic voices speak and answer to each other upon the public affairs by the names of the most illustrious of our nobility; till of a sudden one came running in, and cried the House was rising. Down came all the company together, and away: the ale-house was immediately filled with clamour, and scoring one mug to the marquis of such a place, oil and vinegar to such an earl, three quarts to my new lord for wetting his title, and so forth. It is a thing too notorious to mention the crowds of servants, and their insolence, near the courts of justice, and the stairs towards the supreme assembly, where there is an universal mockery of all order, such riotous clamour and licentious confusion, that one would think the whole nation lived in jest, and there were no such thing as rule and distinction among us."
Cotton House, we learn from Strype, "in the passage out of Westminster Hall into the Old Palace Yard (between the Abbey and the Houses of Parliament), a little below the stairs going up to St. Stephen's Chapel, now the Parliament House, on the left hand, is the house belonging to the ancient and noble family of the Cottons, wherein is kept a most inestimable library of manuscript volumes, found both at home and abroad."
To the south of St. Stephen's Chapel probably stood the Chapel of our Lady de la Pieu, on the site of what was known afterwards as Cotton's Garden. This garden belonged to the town house of Sir Robert Cotton, the founder of the Cottonian Library, and its site is at the present day covered by the House of Lords and the Peers' Court. The Chapel is supposed to have derived its name from the wells (les puits) hard by, one of which was in the Speaker's Court-yard, and another near the river, at the east end of New Palace Yard, where the Star Chamber stood, and another was in the south cloister of St. Stephen's Chapel. In this chapel knelt Richard II., with a retinue of two hundred persons, before he went out to meet Wat Tyler, at Smithfield, in June, 1381. The Chapel, along with Our Lady's altar, was burnt down in 1452, by the carelessness of a Westminster scholar, who had been sent to put out the lights. The Chapel was rebuilt by Anthony Widville, Earl Rivers, who by his will bequeathed his heart to be buried there, and left an endowment for a priest to offer mass in it for the repose of his soul. The date when this chapel was pulled down is not known.