Old and New London: Volume 5. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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KILBURN AND ST. JOHN'S WOOD.
Shall you prolong the midnight ball
With costly supper at Vaux Hall,
And yet prohibit earlier suppers
At Kilburn, Sadler's Wells, or Kuper's?
Are these less innocent in fact,
Or only made so by the act?"
Rural Aspect of Kilburn in Former Times—Maida Vale—Derivation of the Name of Kilburn—The Old Road to Kilburn—Godwin, the Hermit of Kilburn—The Priory—Extracts from the Inventory of the Priory—The Sisterhood of St. Peter's—St. Augustine's Church—Kilburn Wells and Tea-gardens—The "Bell" Tavern—A Legend of Kilburn—The Roman Catholic Chapel—George Brurmmell's liking for Plum Cake—Oliver Goldsmith's Suburban Quarters—Lausanne Cottage—St. John's Wood—Babington the Conspirator—Sir Edwin Landseer—Thomas Landseer—George Osbaldiston and other Residents in St. John's Wood—Lord's Cricket Ground—The "Eyre Arms" Tavern—Charitable Institutions—Roman Catholic Chapel of Our Lady—St. Mark's Church—St. John's Wood Chapel and Burial-ground—Richard Brothers and Joanna Southcott.
Such has been the growth of London in this north-westerly direction, within the last half-century, as we have shown in our chapter on Paddington, and such the progress of bricks and mortar in swallowing up all that was once green and sylvan in this quiet suburb of the metropolis, that the "village of Kilburn," which within the last fifty years was still famous for its tea-gardens and its mineral spring, has almost become completely absorbed into that vast and "still increasing" City, and in a very short space of time all its old landmarks will have been swept away. Kilburn, or Kilbourne, as the name was sometimes written, is said to be "a hamlet in the parish of Hampstead, and Holborn division of the hundred of Ossulston." This, however, is not quite correct, as only one side of the hamlet is in the parish of Hampstead, the remaining part (or that to the south-west of the Edgware Road) lying in the parish of Willesden. In old books on the suburbs, the place is spoken of as being "about two miles from London, on the road to Edgware." Time was, probably in the reign of "bluff King Hal," when the little rural village numbered only some twenty or so of houses, all nestling round a small chapel and priory, the memory of which is still kept up in "Abbey Road" and "Priory Road." Now, however, the block of houses known collectively as Kilburn has invaded no less than four parishes—Hampstead and Willesden, to which, as we have shown, it legitimately belongs, and also Marylebone and Paddington. The district, including the locality now known as St. John's Wood, lies mainly on the north side of the Harrow Road, and stretches away from Kensal Green to Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, and may be said to be divided into two parts by the broad thoroughfare of Maida Vale, as that part of the Edgware Road is called which passes through it. Maida Vale, we may add, is so called after the famous battle of Maida, which was fought in 1806.
Like Tybourne and Mary-le-Bourne, so Kilbourne also took its name from the little "bourne," or brook, of which we have already spoken as rising on the southern slope of the Hampstead uplands. It found its way from the slope of West End, Hampstead, towards Bayswater, and thence passing under the Uxbridge Road, fed the Serpentine in Hyde Park. The brook, however, has long since disappeared from view, having been arched over, and made to do duty as a sewer.
The road to Kilburn in the days of the Regency, writes the Rev. J. Richardson in his "Recollections," was "such a road as now is to be seen only twenty miles out of town." Any one going a mile northward from the end of Oxford Street, found himself among fields, farm-houses, and such-like rural scenes.
It would seem that the land here, as part of "Padyngton," appertained to the manor of Knightsbridge, which, as we have seen, in its turn was subject to the Abbey at Westminster. We read, therefore, that it was not without the consent of the "chapter and council" that one Godwin, or Goodwyne, a hermit at Kilburn, gave his hermitage to three nuns—"the holy virgins of St. John the Baptist, at Kilburn, to pray for the repose of King Edward, the founder of the Abbey, and for the souls of all their brethren and benefactors." On this occasion the Abbot of Westminster not only confirmed the grant, but augmented it with lands at "Cnightbriga," or "Knyghtsbrigg" (Knightsbridge), and a rent of thirty shillings. The exact spot on which the priory stood is now known only by tradition. Lambert, in his "History and Survey of London and its Environs," in 1805, remarks:—"There are now no remains of this building; but the site of it is very distinguishable in the Abbey Field, near the tea-drinking house called Kilburn Wells." This, it would appear, must have been as nearly as possible at the top of what is now St. George's Terrace, close to the station of the London and North-Western Railway, on its northern side; for when the railway was widened, about the year 1850, the labourers came here upon its foundations, and discovered, not only coins, but tessellated tiles, several curious keys of a Gothic pattern, and the clapper of a bell, together with human bones, denoting the presence of a small cemetery.
This priory was the successor of the hermitage
founded here by Godwin. The spot which he
chose for his hermitage or cell was on the banks of
the little "bourne" already mentioned, and it came
to be called indifferently Keeleburne, or Coldburne,
or Caleburn, in an age when few could spell or
read, and fewer still could write. To this little
cell might perhaps have been applied the lines of
Spenser's "Faery Queen:"—
"A little lowly hermitage it was,
Down in a dale, hard by a forest side;
Far from resort of people, that did pass
In traveill to and froe; a little wyde
There was an holy chappell edifyde;
Wherein the hermit dewly wont to say
His holy things, each morne and eventyde;
Thereby a christall streame did gently play,
Which from a sacred fountaine welled forth alway."
Godwin, in course of time, it appears, gave over and granted his hermitage and the adjoining fields to the abbot and monks of Westminster, "as an alms for the redemption of the entire convent of the brethren," under the same terms and conditions as those under which one of the Saxon kings had long before granted the manor of "Hamstede" to the same church. The little cell at Kilburn, however, was destined to undergo another transfer in the lifetime of Godwin, and, indeed, at his request; for we next read that, with the consent of Gilbert, the then Bishop of London, the brethren of St. Peter's, at Westminster, made it over to a sisterhood of three nuns, named Christina, Gunilde, and Emma, all of them, as the story goes, ex-maids of honour to Queen Matilda, or Maud, consort of Henry I. The hermitage, therefore, was changed into a convent of the order of St. Benedict, Godwin himself undertaking the performance of the duties of chaplain and warden.
Soon after the death of Godwin a dispute arose between the Abbot of Westminster and the Bishop of London as to the spiritual jurisdiction over the convent; the difference, however, was at length adjusted in favour of the former, on consideration that from its foundation the "Cell of Keleburn" belonged to their church. Notwithstanding that the dispute was so adjusted, the litigation was subsequently revived by Bishop Roger Nigel, and continued by his successor, who at last agreed to a compromise, under which the abbot "presented" the warden, and the bishop "admitted" him to his office.
But little is known of the history of the convent from this time to the dissolution of religious houses under Henry VIII., except that, during the reign of Edward III., the good nuns were specially exempted from the payment of taxes to the Crown, on account of the dilapidated state of their little house, and of the necessity under which they lay of relieving the wants of many poor wayfarers, and especially of pilgrims bound for St. Alban's shrine. As soon as the fiat of "bluff King Hal" had gone forth for the dissolution of all the lesser religious houses in 1536, we find that the "Nonnerie of Kilnborne" was surrendered to the commissioners, when, doubtless, its gentle sisters were thrown out upon the world to beg their bread, instead of doling it out to the poor and suffering. At that time the priory was returned as of the value of £74 7s. 11d., and it passed into the hands of the rapacious king, who exchanged its lands with the Prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, at Clerkenwell, for his manor of Paris Garden, which lay across the Thames, in Southwark.
But ten years later, the greater monasteries shared the fate of the lesser houses, and along with the Priory of St. John, that of Kilburn was transferred to the hands of a favoured courtier, the Earl of Warwick. From his family the estate passed, through an intermediate owner, to the Earl of Devonshire, and in the early part of the present century to one of the Howards; from them it came to the Uptons, its present owners, by one of whom the Church of St. Mary, at Kilburn, has been erected on a site adjoining the ancient chapel. It is said that the Abbey Farm comprised about forty-five acres, including the land covered by the priory out-buildings.
In Park's "History of Hampstead" there is a view of the old priory, which never could have been one of very imposing appearance. The edifice, it may be added, was dedicated jointly to "The Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist," the latter of whom is depicted on the conventual seal as clothed in his garment of camels' hair.
From an "inventory" taken on the 11th day of May, in the year of the surrender of the house to the king, it appears that the buildings of the priory consisted of "the hall, the chamber next the church, the middle chamber between that and the prioress's chamber, the prioress's chamber, the buttery, pantry, and cellar, inner chamber to the prioress's chamber, the chamber between the latter and the hall, the kitchen, the larder-house, the brewhouse and bakehouse, the three chambers for the chaplain and the hinds or husbandmen, the confessor's chamber, and the church." A few extracts from the above-mentioned inventory will serve to show that, in spite of all the changes worked in our domestic arrangements, in those faroff days, on the whole, the chamber furniture did not differ very materially from that of our own. Thus we read in the middle chamber:—
"It'm: 2 bedsteddes of bordes, viijd. It'm: 1 fetherbedd, vs., 2 matteres, xvd., 2 old cov'lettes, xxd., 3 wollen blankettes, viijd. It'm: a syller of old steyned worke, iiijd. It'm: 2 peces of old hangings, paynted, xd."
"It'm: 2 bookes of Legenda Aurea, the one in prynt, and other written, both Englishe, viijd. It'm: 2 mas bookes, one old writen, and the oder prynt, xxd. It'm: 4 p'cessions, in p'chement, iijs., and paper, xd. It'm: 2 chestes wt div'se bookes p'teinynge to the chirche, bokes of no value. It'm: 2 legendes, viijd; the one in p'chment, and thoder on paper."
With regard to church furniture and vestments the nuns would seem to have been better off; for besides altar-cloths, curtains, hangings, copes, chalices, &c., we find the following articles mentioned in the inventory:—
"It'm: a relique of the holy crosse, closed in silver, and guilt, sett wt counterfeyte stones and perls, worth iijs. iiijd. It'm: a cross wt certain other reliques plated wt silver gilded, ijs. iiijd. It'm: a case to kepe in reliques, plated and gilt, vd. It'm: a clocke, vs."
It may be added that the orchard and cemetery were valued at "xxs. by the yere," and "one horse of the coller of black," at 5s. Anne Browne, the last prioress, was probably a member of the noble house of Lord Montagu.
Mr. Wood, in his "Ecclesiastical Antiquities of London," mentions a tradition, which may or may not be true, that the nuns of Kilburn enjoyed the privilege of having seats in the triforium in Westminster Abbey.
Not far from the site of the old priory, a "Home" has been established, called the "Sisterhood of St. Peter's." It was founded by a Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster, to carry out by united effort the work of missionaries and nurses amongst the poor. The establishment, which was formerly at Brompton, consists of a lady superior, four sisters, and a limited number of serving-sisters. Besides the more spiritual object of the sisterhood, it undertakes the special care of a large number of sick people, who are received from the hospitals, and nursed until restored to health.
In Kilburn Park Road, near Edgware Road Station, is the Church of St. Augustine, one of the finest ecclesiastical structures in London, and, with the exception of St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey, by far the largest. The church, which at present has sittings for about 1,000 worshippers, is in the "First Pointed" style of Gothic architecture, and was commenced in 1872 from the designs of Mr. Pearson. The sisterhood of St. Peter above mentioned assist in the district in nursing the sick and in mission work; then there are "Sisters of the Church" for the education of the poor, and also a "Guild," with several branches. In May, 1876, the foundation-stone of the nave of this church was laid.
After the Reformation the reminiscences of Kilburn are secular rather than religious, leading us in the direction of suburban pleasure-grounds and "the gardens," and mineral waters. In fact, before the end of the sixteenth century, and even perhaps earlier, near a mineral spring which bubbled up not far from the spot where the nuns had knelt in prayer, and had relieved the beggars and the poor out of their slender store, there arose a rural house, known to the holiday folks of London as the "Kilburn Wells." The well is still to be seen adjoining a cottage at the corner of the Station Road, on some premises belonging to the London and North-Western Railway. The water rises about twelve feet below the surface, and is enclosed in a brick reservoir of about five feet in diameter, surmounted by a cupola. The key-stone of the arch over the doorway bears the date 1714. The water collected in this reservoir is usually about five or six feet in depth, though in a dry summer it is shallower; and it is said that its purgative qualities are increased as its bulk diminishes. These wells, in fact, were once famous for their saline and purgative waters. A writer in the Kilburn Almanack observes:—"Upon a recent visit we found about five feet six inches of water in the well, and the water very clear and bright, with little or no sediment at the bottom; probably the water has been as high as it now is ever since the roadway parted it from the 'Bell' Tea Gardens, not having been so much used lately as of old." "Is it not strange," asks Mr. W. Harrison Ainsworth, "that, in these water-drinking times, the wells of Hampstead and Kilburn should not come again into vogue?"
The house with grounds contiguous to the well was formerly a place of amusement, and would appear to have borne a tolerably good character for respectability, if we may judge from the "Dialogue between a Master and his Servant," by Richard Owen Cambridge, in imitation of Horace, and published in 1752, which we quote as a motto to this chapter.
"Kilburn Wells, near Paddington.—The waters are now in the utmost perfection; the gardens enlarged and greatly improved; the house and offices re-painted and beautified in the most elegant manner. The whole is now open for the reception of the public, the great room being particularly adapted to the use and amusement of the politest companies. Fit either for music, dancing, or entertainments. This happy spot is equally celebrated for its rural situation, extensive prospects, and the acknowledged efficacy of its waters; is most delightfully situated on the site of the once famous Abbey of Kilburn, on the Edgware Road, at an easy distance, being but a morning's walk, from the metropolis, two miles from Oxford Street; the footway from the Mary-bone across the fields still nearer. A plentiful larder is always provided, together with the best of wines and other liquors. Breakfasting and hot loaves. A printed account of the waters, as drawn up by an eminent physician, is given gratis at the Wells."
The "Bell" Tavern, we may add, dates from about the year 1600. The following "Legend of Kilburn" we condense from Mr. John Timbs' "Romance of London:"—"There is a curious traditionary relation connected with Kilburn Priory, which, however, is not traceable to any authentic source. The legend states that, at a place called St. John's Wood, near Kilburn, there was a stone of a dark red colour, showing the stain of the blood of Sir Gervaise de Morton, or de Mortoune, which flowed upon it some centuries ago. The story runs that Stephen de Morton, being enamoured of his brother's wife, frequently insulted her by the open avowal of his passion, which at length she threatened to make known to her husband; and that, to prevent this being done, Stephen resolved to waylay his brother and kill him. This he effected by seizing him in a narrow lane and stabbing him in the back; whereupon he fell upon a projecting rock and dyed it with his blood. In his expiring moments Sir Gervaise, recognising his brother in the assassin, upbraided him with his cruelty, adding, 'This stone shall be thy death-bed.' Stephen returned to Kilburn, and his brother's wife still refusing to listen to his criminal proposals, he confined her in a dungeon, and strove to forget his many crimes by a dissolute enjoyment of his wealth and power. Oppressed, however, by a troubled conscience, he determined upon submitting to a religious penance; and so, ordering his brother's remains to be removed to Kilburn, he gave directions for their reinterment in a handsome mausoleum, erected with stone brought from the quarry hard by where the murderous deed was committed. The identical stone on which his murdered brother had breathed his last thus came too for his tomb, and the legend adds that as soon as the eye of the murderer rested upon it blood began to issue from it. Struck with horror at the sight, the murderer hastened to the Bishop of London, and making a full confession of his guilt, he demised his property to the Priory at Kilburn, in the hope thereby of making atonement. But all in vain; for in spite of having thus endeavoured to compensate his guilt by a deed of charity and mortification, he was seized upon by such feelings of remorse and grier as quickly hurried him to his grave."
Whether there is any truth or not in this story we are not prepared to say; but, at all events, it wears about it the air of probability, and it is told here, as they say, "just for what it is worth." We may add, however, that just three hundred and thirty years after the surrender of the old chapel and priory to Henry VIII., a new Roman Catholic chapel and monastery was founded on a spot hard by, in Quex Road, by the Fathers known as the "Oblates of Mary." The first stone was laid in 1866, and the chapel opened two years later.
A writer in the Mirror, in 1824, expresses his regret that, on re-visiting Kilburn after a long absence, he has found it grown from the little rural hamlet, which he remembered it, into a town, with its own chapel and its own coaches!
The Rev. J. Richardson, in his amusing "Recollections," states that one of its residents at the beginning of the present century was a lady of some means, the owner of a villa here, who used to entertain George Brummell too hospitably when he was a boy at school; and that one day the future "Beau," having stuffed himself almost to bursting, broke out into a flood of tears, regretting that his stomach would not stretch any further so as to hold more plum-cake. In 1826, "Brandesbury House, near Kilburn," figures in the Blue Book as the country seat of Sir Coutts Trotter, whose townhouse was in Grosvenor Square.
As to the rest of Kilburn, there is little to be said, beyond the fact that Oliver Goldsmith is said to have written his comedy, She Stoops to Conquer, part of the "Vicar of Wakefield," and some portions of his "Animated Nature," besides sundry ephemeral Essays, whilst in a country lodging at a farm-house on the road to Edgware. The farm-house, writes his anonymous biographer in 1871, is still standing, "on a gentle eminence in what is called Hyde Lane, near the village of Hyde, looking towards Hendon." In Boswell's "Life of Johnson" we get the following glimpse of poor Oliver's suburban quarters:—"Goldsmith told us that he was now busy in writing a Natural History; and, that he might have full leisure for it, he had taken lodgings at a farmer's house, near to the six-mile stone, on the Edgware Road, and had carried down his books in two returned post-chaises. He said he believed the farmer's family thought him an odd character, similar to that in which the Spectator appeared to his landlady and her children: he was The Gentleman. Mr. Mickle, the translator of 'The Lusiad,' and I, went to visit him at this place a few days afterwards. He was not at home; but, having a curiosity to see his apartment, we went in, and found curious scraps of descriptions of animals scrawled upon the wall with a black-lead pencil."
Opposite to the entrance of Willesden Lane is a quaint-looking old building, mainly of wood, with high pointed roofs, now known as Lausanne Cottage, but which is said to have been used formerly as a hunting-box, or as a kennel for his favourite spaniels, by King Charles II. In one of the rooms there is still to be seen a fine old carved mantelpiece, probably as old as the reign of James I.
St. John's Wood, to which we now pass, was so called after its former possessors, the Priors of St. John of Jerusalem. It is now a thickly-peopled suburban district, which has gradually grown up around the western boundaries of the Regent's Park, enclosing the then rural and retired cricket-ground which had been formed there by Mr. Thomas Lord in 1780, of which we shall have more to say presently.
Here, as tradition says, Babington and his comrades in his conspiracy to murder Lord Burghley, in the reign of Elizabeth, sought refuge. Many of the houses in the neighbourhood are detached or semi-detached, and in most of the principal thoroughfares they are shut in from the roadway by brick walls and gardens; and altogether the place has an air of quietude and seclusion, and, as might almost be expected, has long been a favourite abode of the members of the literary and artistic professions.
In St. John's Wood Road—which connects Maida Hill with the Regent's Park—was the residence of the late Sir Edwin Landseer, and here the renowned painter spent much of his life. He arranged the construction of the house so as to suit his own tastes, and to afford him the most favourable facilities for pursuing the art to which he was so devoted. In his studio here many of his most celebrated works were executed. The house is situated on the south side of the main road, between Grove Road and Cunningham Place, and, with the grounds belonging to it, occupies an area of about two acres. Sir Edwin Landseer was the youngest son of John Landseer, A.R.A., some time Associate Engraver to the Royal Academy, and was born in 1802. He excelled in the painting of animals while still a boy, and became a student of the Academy in 1816. Among the best known of his numerous pictures are the following:—"A Highland Breakfast," "The Twa Dogs," "There's no Place like Home," "Comical Dogs," "War" and "Peace," "Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time," "The Duke of Wellington, accompanied by his Daughter-in-law, visiting the Field of Waterloo," "Deer-stalking," "Windsor Park," and "Man Proposes, but God Disposes." One of his latest designs was that for the lions at the base of the Nelson Monument, Trafalgar Square. In 1866 he was elected President of the Royal Academy, but he declined to serve. He died here in 1873, and his remains were interred in St. Paul's Cathedral.
At No. 30, South Bank, lived Thomas Landseer, the elder brother of Sir Edwin. He occupied for many years a distinguished place as an engraver, and constantly exhibited his engravings at the Royal Academy. In 1860–61 he added to his previous reputation by his finely-executed plate of Rosa Bonheur's "Horse Fair."
Cyrus Redding lived in Hill Road; Mr. J. A. St. John, too, was a resident in St. John's Wood; as also was Douglas Jerrold, who lived close to Kilburn Priory. Charles Knight (for a short time) resided in Maida Vale; and a certain Lord de Ros, who closed his inglorious career in 1839, lived at No. 4, Grove Road. In the Grove Road, too, in 1866, died Mr. George Osbaldiston, the sporting squire. He was born at Hutton Bushell, in Yorkshire, but losing his father when only six years of age, he went to reside with his mother, at Bath, where he received his first lessons in riding, from Dash, the celebrated teacher of the last century. He subsequently entered at Brasenose College, Oxford, and. while still an under-graduate here, commenced his career as master of hounds, with a pack which he purchased from the Earl of Jersey. The entire career of Mr. Osbaldiston, as a master of hounds, lasted during a period of thirty-five years. He further became famous as a most bold and daring rider of steeplechases, in which he had no superior, and is said to have never been beaten. His celebrated 200-mile match took place at Newmarket, in November, 1831. "Squire Osbaldiston," as he was familiarly called, was creditably known upon the turf, and, in fact, in every branch of field sports.
Another noted resident in St. John's Wood was M. Soyer, with whose name, in connection with the culinary art, we have already made our readers acquainted, in our accounts of the Reform Club and Kensington Gore. (fn. 1) He died in August, 1858, after a short illness, at 15, Marlborough Road. M. Soyer, who was of French extraction, had been for many years known as a culinary benefactor to the public, and more particularly during the war with Russia, a few years before his death; his success in ameliorating the condition, in a culinary view, of the army in the Crimea, was well known to all. Subsequent to his return to England he prepared a new dietary for military hospitals, as well as for Government emigrants, both of which were adopted by the authorities. He was also the author of "The Gastronomic Regenerator," a cookery-book for the upper classes; "Pantropheon, or History of Food;" "Shilling Cookery," and "A Culinary Campaign," which gives a vivid description of the Crimean war.
On the north side of St. John's Wood Road is Lord's Cricket Ground, a spot that has become famous in the annals of the manly and invigorating game of cricket. The ground is some six or seven acres in extent, and on it are erected permanent "stands"—after the fashion of those on racecourses—where visitors can sit and witness the matches that are here played. The present ground superseded the space now covered by Dorset Square, which had served for some years as the "old Marylebone" ground.
At the end of the last century men played cricket in summer at the old Artillery Ground, in Finsbury, in the days when they skated on Moorfields in the winter, and shot snipes in Belgravia. At the old Artillery Ground, so large was the attendance, and so heavy were the stakes, that a writer in an old newspaper complains of the idleness of the City apprentices in consequence, and of the unblushing way in which the laws against gaming were broken, matches being advertised for £500, or even £1,000 a side. Indeed, in 1750, an action was tried in the King's Bench for the sum of £50, being a bet laid and won on a game of cricket—Kent v. England.
But at this time cricket was deemed a vulgar game. Robert Southey states the fact, and quotes No. 132 of the Connoisseur, dated 1756, where we are introduced to one Mr. Tony Bumper "drinking purl in the morning, eating black-puddings at Bartholomew Fair, boxing with Buckhorse (the most celebrated of the old pugilists), and also as frequently engaged at the Artillery Ground with Faukner and Dingate at cricket, and considered as good a bat as either of the Bennets."
One who reads with all the curiosity and interest of a cricketer will pick up little notices, which, when put together, throw light on the early history of the game, and show its spread, and how early it had taken root in the land; for instance, in Smith's 'Life of Nollekens," we are told that Alderman Boydell, the etcher and printseller, had many shops, but that the best was the sign of "The Cricket Bat," in Duke's Court, St. Martin's Lane. This was in 1750. Again, in one of the caricatures of 1770, in Mr. Wright's collection, Lord Sandwich is represented with a bat in his hand, in allusion to his fondness for cricket; but it is a curved piece of wood, more like a modern golf club. A bat also is placed satirically in the hand of a cricket-loving lady, in a print of 1778—"Miss Wicket," with her friend, "Miss Trigger"—fast ladies both, no doubt, in their day. In 1706, William Goldwin, an "old king's man," published in Musœ Juveniles a poem called "Certamen Pilæ," or "The Cricket Match." "A ram and bat, 9d.," figures as one of the ten extras in an Eton boy's school-bill, as far back as 1688.
When the game grew "genteel," men of position aspired to better company than the City apprentices, and founded a club in White Conduit Fields. But hard indeed it were in these days to pitch good wickets within view of the Foundling Hospital. So Thomas Lord then came upon the stage—a canny lad from the north country—who, after waiting on Lords Darnley and Winchilsea, Sir Horace Mann, the Duke of Dorset, and others of their contemporaries in the White Conduit Fields Club, speculated in a ground of his own, where now, as we have stated above, is Dorset Square, the original "Lord's." This was in 1780. It was on this ground that the club, taking the name of the Marylebone Cricket Club, brought the game to perfection.
In a map of London published in 1802, the site of Dorset Square is marked as "The Cricket Ground," probably implying that it was the only public ground then devoted to that sport in the neighbourhood of London.
On the present ground is annually fought the "great batting match," as it is called, between Harrow and Eton. The two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, likewise, here enter into friendly rivalry, some months after their perhaps more exciting contest on the River Thames. Here, too, nearly all the great cricket matches of the metropolitan clubs and southern counties of England are played.
Apropos of Lord's Cricket Ground, we may add that there is nothing in which a more visible improvement has taken place than in our sports. The prize-ring and bear-garden, dog-fighting and ratkilling, are things of the past; but our glorious boatraces, in which we are the first in the world; cricket, in which we have no rivals; and athletic sports—running, jumping the hurdles—in which we have reached to the highest perfection. The Duke of Wellington attributed a great deal of his success in war to the athletic exercises which Englishmen had practised in peace. The steady nerve, quick eye, and command of every muscle, exercised considerable power in the battle-field. On the Continent these games are almost unknown, and the biggest Frenchman or Prussian is the veriest baby in the hands of an Englishman in any physical display. We attribute a good deal of the temperance which characterises this age of ours to the growth of those sports; for the intemperate man, shattered in nerves and dim of eye, has no chance in such noble pastimes.
Much of the land in and about St. John's Wood belongs to the family of Eyre, whose estate adjoins those of Lord Portman and the Duke of Portland; their name is kept fresh in remembrance by the sign given to a tavern of some note in the Finchley Road, called the "Eyre Arms." The grounds belonging to this house were occasionally the scene of balloon ascents in the early days of aëronautics. One of the latest was the ascent of Mr. Hampton here on the 7th of June, 1839.
In the rear of the inn is a large concert-room, which is often used for balls, bazaars, public lectures, &c.; and on the opposite side of the way is the St. John's Wood Athenæum, which serves as a club for the residents of the neighbourhood.
Close by, in Circus Road, the Emperor Napoleon lived for some time during his sojourn in England; and in Ordnance Road, between St. John's Wood and the west side of Primrose Hill, are some barracks, generally occupied by a regiment of the Line or of the Guards.
Among the various charitable and provident institutions here is the Ladies' Home, which was founded in 1859, in Abbey Road. It affords board, lodging, and medical attendance to ladies of limited income, each paying from 16s. to 14s. per week. In the St. John's Wood Road are the girls' schools belonging to the Clergy Orphan and Widow Corporation. The objects of this institution, which was established in 1749, are to clothe, educate, and maintain the poor orphans of clergymen. This charity is one of the most extensive in the kingdom, and has greatly assisted the orphans of a large number of clergymen in beginning life. The boys' school in connection with the institution is at Canterbury.
Another old and useful institution is the School of Industry for Female Orphans, which was established in 1786, in Grove Road. The school will accommodate about eighty girls, but it has rarely, if ever, mustered above fifty at one time, the number being restricted by the funds. Board, clothing, and education is here given to girls who have lost both parents.
At the top of the Avenue Road, close to the Swiss Cottage, is the School for the Blind, founded in 1838, and erected from the designs of a Mr. Kendal. It will accommodate about 100 inmates, male and female. The school was established for the purpose of imparting secular knowledge and the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, and teaching the blind to read by means of embossed or raised print. A portion of the pupils are received free; others pay a small sum half-yearly. The course of instruction given in the school, it may be added, is as complete as it well could be, and is fitted, in so far as that is possible, to enable the pupils, despite their sorrowful deprivation, to earn their own livelihood, and to take their place of usefulness and honour in the work of life, side by side with those who possess all the inestimable advantages of sight. In the industrial department, the work among the boys consists chiefly of basketmaking and chair-caning; amongst the girls, of chair-caning, knitting, and bead-work. Of the progress made by the pupils generally, Mr. Charles Richards, the literary examiner, made the following encouraging remarks in his annual report to the committee of the institution, in May, 1876:—Speaking of the boys, he says, "The difficulty in learning to write to one who is unable to see a copy is evident; but by means of embossed letters, &c., the difficulty has been so far overcome that many of the boys are able to write very creditably. I was somewhat surprised to find that those who had been at the school a few months only were able to read very fairly. The reading of the others would compare favourably with that of boys of their age who have the advantage of sight. . . . Arithmetic is worked on boards with movable type, and necessarily takes more time than if worded with slate and pencil. Some have advanced as far as the extraction of square and cube roots. All the examples were correctly worked, and I consider this part of the examination to have been very satisfactory. . . . In history, geography, grammar, and religious knowledge, I was altogether satisfied. The answers were given readily, and showed an intelligent knowledge of the subjects." Of the instruction of the girls in this department Mr. Richards' report is equally satisfactory, and he concludes by saying that he "cannot speak too highly of the excellent discipline in both schools, the principle of government being love rather than severity."
The Roman Catholic Chapel in Grove Road is a large Gothic structure, built about the year 1836, through the munificence of two maiden ladies of the name of Gallini, whose father, an Italian refugee, had settled in London, and having taught dancing to sundry members of the royal family, became Sir John Gallini. (fn. 2) So noble and generous was their gift esteemed that they were rewarded with a magnificent testimonial from the Roman Catholic ladies of England, presented by the hands of the Princess Donna Isabella Maria of Portugal. The chapel was one of the early works of Mr. J. J. Scoles, and is a rather poor reproduction of some of the features of the Lady Chapel in St. Saviour's Church, Southwark. It is a cruciform structure, in the "Early English" style, and it consists of a nave, chancel, and side aisles; the wings on each side have been converted into dwelling-houses, one of them serving as a residence for the clergy. The windows of the chapel are "lancets," after the fashion of the twelfth or early part of the thirteenth century, and are filled with stained glass, principally as memorial windows.
Hamilton Terrace and the surrounding streets commemorate, by their names, the governors and other authorities of Harrow School in the last generation. Aberdeen Place, Abercorn Place, Cunningham Place, Northwick Terrace, &c., at all events, serve to show that the foundation of the honest yeoman of Preston, John Lyon, is not in danger of being forgotten or useless.
At the junction of the Finchley and St. John's Wood Roads, close by the station on the Underground Railway, is the St. John's Wood Chapel, with its burial-ground, in which a few individuals of note have been buried; and among them the impostors, Richard Brothers and Joanna Southcott. Of the former of these two characters we have spoken in our account of Paddington. (fn. 3) Joanna Southcott was a native of Devonshire, and was born about the middle of the last century. In her youth she lived as a domestic servant, chiefly in Exeter, and having joined the Methodists, became acquainted with a man named Sanderson, who laid claim to the spirit of prophecy, a pretension in which she herself ultimately indulged. In 1792, she declared herself to be the woman driven into the wilderness, the subject of the prophecy in the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation. She gave forth predictions in prose and doggerel rhyme, in which she related the denunciation of judgments on the surrounding nations, and promised a speedy approach of the Millennium. In the course of her "mission," as she called it, she employed a boy, who pretended to see visions, and attempted, instead of writing, to adjust them on the walls of her chapel, "the House of God." A schism took place among her followers, one of whom, named Carpenter, took possession of the place, and wrote against her: not denying her mission, but asserting that she had exceeded it. Although very illiterate, she wrote numerous letters and pamphlets, which were published, and found many purchasers. One of her productions was called "The Book of Wonders." She also issued to her followers sealed papers, which she termed her "seals," and which, she assured them, would protect them from the judgments of God, both in this and the other world, assuring them final salvation. Strange as it may seem, thousands of persons received these with implicit confidence, and among them were a few men and women of good education and a respectable position in society. In course of time Joanna is said to have imagined herself to have the usual symptoms of pregnancy, and announced that she was to give birth, at midnight, on the 19th of October, 1814, to a second "Shiloh," or Prince of Peace, miraculously conceived, she being then more than sixty years of age. The infatuation of her followers was such that they received this announcement with devout reverence, prepared an expensive cradle, and spent considerable sums, in order that all might be suitable for so great and interesting an occasion. The expected birth did not take place; but on the 27th of December, 1814, the woman died, at her house in Manchester Street. (fn. 4) On a postmortem examination, it was found that the appearance of pregnancy which had deceived others, and perhaps herself, was due to dropsy. Her followers, however, were not to be undeceived, and for some time continued to believe that she would rise again from her "trance," and appear as the mother of the promised Shiloh.
Mr. James Grant writes thus, in his "Travels in Town," published in 1839:—"Many persons will be surprised when they are informed that Joanna Southcott has still her followers in London. I cannot state with certainty what their number is, but I have reason to believe it is 200 or 300 at least. They meet together on Sundays, but I have not been able to discover the exact place; but I know they are most numerous in the parishes of St. Luke and Shoreditch. I lately met one of their preachers, or 'prophets,' and had some conversation with him. He was evidently a man of education, and strenuously maintained the Divine mission of Joanna. When I asked him how he got over the non-fulfilment of the promise, or rather the assurance, which she made to her 50,000 followers that she would rise from the dead on the third day, his answer was that the expression 'three days' was not to be taken in a literal sense, but as denoting three certain periods of time. Two of these periods, he said, had already passed, and the third would expire in 1842, in which year he held it to be as certain that the prophetess would arise from her grave, and give birth to 'Shiloh,' as that he was then a living man!" More than thirty years have passed away since these words were written, and the grave of Joanna Southcott has never yet given up the dead bones which rest in it.
Some passages in Joanna's "prophecies" are of
rather a practical character, if the following may be
taken as a specimen:—"I am the Lord thy God
and Master. Tell I——to pay thee five pounds
for expenses of thy coming up to London; and
he must give thee twenty pounds to relieve the
perplexity of thy handmaid and thee, that your
thoughts may be free to serve me, the Lord, in
the care of my Shiloh." The Lord is made to inform his people somewhere, anxious to go to meet
the Shiloh at Manchester, that travelling by the
new cut is not expensive. On her death-bed,
poor Joanna is reported to have said:—"If I have
been misled, it has been by some spirit, good or
evil." In her last hours, Joanna was attended by
Ann Underwood, her secretary; Mr. Tozer, who
was called her high-priest; Colonel Harwood, and
some other persons of property; and so determined
were many of her followers to be deceived, that
neither death nor dissection could convince them
of their error. Her remains were first removed
to an undertaker's in Oxford Street, whence they
were taken secretly for interment in this cemetery.
A tablet to her memory contains these lines:—
"While through all thy wondrous days,
Heaven and earth enraptured gazed;
While vain sages think they know
Secrets thou alone canst show;
Time alone will tell what hour
Thou 'It appear to 'greater' power."
About three years after the death of Joanna Southcott, a party of her disciples, conceiving themselves directed by God to proclaim the coming of the Shiloh on earth, marched in procession through Temple Bar, and the leader sounded a brazen trumpet, and proclaimed the coming of Shiloh, the Prince of Peace; while his wife shouted, "Wo! wo! to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the coming of Shiloh!" The crowds pelted the fanatics with mud, some disturbance ensued, and some of the disciples had to answer for their conduct before a magistrate.