Old and New London: Volume 6. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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STOCKWELL AND KENNINGTON.
Etymology of Stockwell—Its Rustic Retirement Half a Century ago—The Green—Meeting of the Albion Archers—The Stockwell Ghost—Old House in which Lord Cromwell is said to have lived—St. Andrew's Church—Small-pox and Fever Hospital—Mr. John Angell's Bequest—Trinity Asylum—Stockwell Orphanage—Mr. Alfred Forrester—Kennington Manor—Death of Hardicanute—Kennington a Favourite Residence of the Black Prince—Masques and Pageants—Isabella, the "Little Queen" of Richard II.—The Last of the Old Manor House—Cumberland Row—Caron House—Kennington Oval—Beaufoy's Vinegar Distillery—The Tradescants—Kennington Common—Execution of the Scottish Rebels—"Jemmy" Dawson—Meeting of the Chartists in 1848—Large Multitudes addressed by Whitefield—The Common converted into a Park—St. Mark's Church—"The Horns" Tavern—Lambeth Waterworks—The Licensed Victuallers' School.
Stockwell lies to our right as we journey along the Clapham Road on our way back towards the metropolis. "The etymology of the place," writes Allen, in his "History of Surrey," "is probably derived from 'stoke' (the Saxon stoc, a wood), and 'well,' from some spring in the neighbourhood." It is called a "small rural village" by Priscilla Wakefield, in her "Perambulations of London," published in 1809. The place, indeed, retained its characteristics of rustic retirement down to a comparatively recent date. In the "Chimney Corner Companion" is an amusing account of a cockney's "outing" with a gun on the 1st of September, 1825, in which we are told how that he and his friend breakfasted at the "Swan" at Stockwell, and pushed on Kent-wards by way of Brixton to Blackheath, but "without meeting anything beyond yellow-hammers and sparrows!"
Like Lee and other places in the immediate vicinity of London which we have visited in our perambulations, Stockwell once boasted of its "green;" but this, excepting in name, has already become a thing of the past, and bricks and mortar are fast usurping what little is left of its once shady lanes and hedgerows. It was a triangular space on the western side of the high road, nearly opposite the "Swan."
In 1840, as we learn from Colburn's "Kalendar of Amusements," the society of Albion archers held their first grand field-day, to contend for the captaincy and lieutenancy for the month, and Stockwell Park was the place of rendezvous. We are naïvely told that "shooting commences at one, eating and drinking at seven, and the light fantastic toes are agitating at ten o'clock."
In 1778 this place was alarmed by an apparition, known to this day as "the Stockwell Ghost," which spread such terror through the then retired village and neighbourhood that it became suddenly invested with almost as much notoriety as Cock Lane (fn. 1) some years previously.
The story is thus told by Charles Mackay, in his "Extraordinary Popular Delusions:"—"Mrs. Golding, an elderly lady, who resided alone with her servant, Anne Robinson, was sorely surprised, on the evening of Twelfth Day, 1772, to observe an extraordinary commotion among her crockery. Cups and saucers rattled down the chimney; pots and pans were whirled downwards or through the windows; and hams, cheeses, and loaves of bread disported themselves upon the floor just as if the devil were in them. This, at least, was the conclusion to which Mrs. Golding came; and, being greatly alarmed, she invited some of her neighbours to stay with her, and protect her from the evil one. Their presence, however, did not put a stop to the insurrection of china, and every room in the house was in a short time strewed with fragments. The chairs and tables at last joined in the tumult; and things looked altogether so serious and inexplicable that the neighbours, dreading that the house itself would next be seized with a fit of motion and tumble about their ears, left poor Mrs. Golding to bear the brunt of it by herself. The ghost in this case was solemnly remonstrated with, and urged to take its departure; but the destruction continuing as great as before, Mrs. Golding finally made up her mind to quit the house altogether. With Anne Robinson, she took refuge in the house of a neighbour; but his glass and crockery being immediately subjected to the same persecution, he was reluctantly compelled to give her notice to quit. The old lady, thus forced back to her own house, endured the disturbance for some days longer, when suspecting that Anne Robinson was the cause of all the mischief, she dismissed her from her service. The extraordinary appearances immediately ceased, and were never afterwards renewed—a fact which is of itself sufficient to point out the real disturber. A long time afterwards Anne Robinson confessed the whole matter to the Rev. Mr. Brayfield. This gentleman confided the story to Mr. Hone, who published an explanation of the mystery. It appears that Anne was anxious to have a clear house to carry on an intrigue with her lover, and she resorted to this trick in order to effect her purpose. She placed the china on the shelves in such a manner that it fell on the slightest motion; and she attached horse-hair to other articles, so that she could jerk them down from an adjoining room without being perceived by any one. She was exceedingly dexterous at this sort of work, and would have proved a formidable rival to many a juggler by profession. A full explanation of the whole affair may be found in 'Hone's Every-day Book.'" The pranks of the "ghost" are also described so fully by Sir Walter Scott, in his book on "Demonology and Witchcraft," that there is scarcely any necessity of repeating them more minutely here.
"On the west side of Stockwell Green," writes Allen, in his work above quoted, "is an old house, now (1829) in the occupation of a butcher, in which Mr. Nichols says that Thomas, Lord Cromwell, lived. There is no proof, however," he adds, "that the above individual resided here or at the adjacent manor-house."
At the eastern end of London Road—or what was formerly called Bedford Private Road—and near the triangular space of ground which was once the "Green," stands St. Andrew's Church. This edifice, originally known as Stockwell Chapel, was in 1829 described as "a plain edifice of brick, with a small turret and bell." The chapel was built about the year 1767, on a piece of ground granted by the Duke of Bedford. In 1810, and again in 1868, it was enlarged and greatly altered, at a cost of £3,400; and on St. Barnabas Day in that year it was consecrated, under the title of St. Andrew. Soon afterwards a consolidated chapelry district, taken out of the new parishes of St. Mark, Kennington, and St. Matthew, Brixton, was assigned to the church.
On the east side of Stockwell Road are the Stockwell Training and Kindergarten Colleges and Practising Schools, in connection with the British and Foreign School Society, whose head-quarters are in the Borough Road. The schools here, which are for girls, were erected about the year 1864, and have since been enlarged by the addition of a new wing. Accommodation is afforded here for 135 girls and 125 students. The Kindergarten institution, as we learn from the Report presented to the Society in 1877, had grown rapidly during the preceding year. "It is meant to be self-supporting, and, judging from present experience, the receipts from students and children will pay all the expenses."
In 1784 died Mr. John Angell, who left £6,000 for the purpose of building at Stockwell a college "for seven decayed gentlemen, two clergymen, an organist, six singing-men, twelve choristers, a verger, chapel clerk, and three domestic servants," which he endowed with rent-charges to the amount of £800 a year, besides making a provision for the daily food of the members. The good intentions of the testator, however, were for many years frustrated by a suit in Chancery respecting his will. The residence of Mr. Angell, at Stockwell, a large brick mansion, was for some time occupied as a boarding-school. His name is now kept in remembrance by the Angell Town Estate, on the east side of the Brixton Road. Early in the present century a Mr. Bailey, a merchant in St. Paul's Churchyard, founded here an asylum for twelve aged females. The building, a neat brick edifice, called Trinity Asylum, was erected in Acre Lane in 1822.
Another charitable institution here, and one with more than a local reputation, is the Stockwell Orphanage for boys, founded under the auspices of Mr. Spurgeon, the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, of whom we have already spoken. The institution, which covers a large space of ground on the Bedford estate, and forms a handsome quadrangle, is approached by a broad avenue from the Clapham Road. At the end of this avenue, which is planted on either side with planetrees, is the entrance arch, an ornamental structure, surmounted by a bell-turret. On the piers of the archway are appropriate inscriptions, such as—"A Father of the fatherless and a Judge of the widow is God in his holy habitation;" "Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these;" and, "Your heavenly Father feedeth them."
The following description of the edifice is from the pen of Mr. Spurgeon himself:—"On looking from under the arch the visitor is struck with the size and beauty of the buildings, and the delightfully airy and open character of the whole institution. It is a place of sweetness and light, where merry voices ring out, and happy children play. The stranger will be pleased with the dining-hall, hung round with engravings given by Mr. Graves, of Pall Mall; he will be shown into the boardroom, where the trustees transact the business; and he will be specially pleased with the great play-hall, in which our public meetings are held and the boys' sports are carried on. There is the swimming-bath, which enables us to say that nearly every boy can swim. Up at the very top of the buildings, after ascending two flights of stairs, the visitor will find the school-rooms, which from their very position are airy and wholesome. The floors, scrubbed by the boys themselves, the beds made, and the domestic arrangements all kept in order by their own labour, are usually spoken of with approbation." At the further end of the Orphanage grounds stands the infirmary. It is spacious enough to accommodate a large number of children, should an epidemic break out in the institution.
The Orphanage, which was commenced in 1868, and finished by the end of the following year, contains accommodation for 250 children, who are here fed, clothed, and taught; and the expenses of the institution are about £5,000 per annum. It is largely, if not mainly, dependent on voluntary contributions for its support. The Orphanage, it should be stated, receives destitute fatherless boys, without respect to the religion of the parents. Children are eligible for entrance between the ages of six and ten, and they are received without putting the mothers to the trouble and expense of canvassing for votes, the trustees themselves selecting the most needy cases. The family system is carried out, the boys living in separate houses, under the care of matrons.
Not far from the Orphanage, in Portland Place North, Clapham Road, lived Mr. Alfred Forrester. better known by his nom de plume of "Alfred Crowquill," the author of "The Wanderings of a Pen and Pencil," "Railway Raillery," &c. Born in London in 1805, Alfred Forrester was educated at a private institution at Islington, where he was a schoolfellow of Captain Marryatt. In due course he became a notary in the Royal Exchange, but retired from business about 1839. He commenced his literary career, at the age of sixteen, as a con tributor to periodical publications. Later in life he devoted himself to drawing, modelling, and engraving both on steel and wood, with the design of illustrating the works of his pen. His first publication was "Leaves from my Memorandum Book," a book of comic prose and verse, illustrated by himself, which was followed by his "Eccentric Tales." In 1828 he joined Mr. B. Disraeli, Theodore Hook, and other writers, in the magazine, edited by Hook, called The Humorist, and subsequently contributed to Bentley's Miscellany, Punch, the Illustrated London News, &c.
On the north side of Stockwell, and hemmed in by Walworth, Newington, and South Lambeth, is the once royal manor of Kennington. The name of Kennington, it is said by some topographers, was probably derived originally from the Saxon Kyning-tun, "the town or place of the king." "In the parish of Lambeth," writes Hughson, in his "History of London," "is the manor of Kennington, which, in the Conqueror's Survey, is called Chenintun. At that time it was in the possession of Theodoric, a goldsmith, who held it of Edward the Confessor. There is no record to show how it reverted to the Crown; but during the time of Edward III. it was made part of the Duchy of Cornwall, to which it still continues annexed. Here was a royal palace, which was the residence of the Black Prince: it stood near the spot now called Kennington Cross. This palace was occasionally a residence of royalty down to the reign of Henry VII. After his time the manor appears to have been let out to various persons. Charles I., however, when Prince of Wales, inhabited a house built on part of the site of the old palace, the stables of which, built of flint and stone, remained in situ until the year 1795, when they were known as 'The Long Barn.'"
Kennington is described in the "Tour round London," in 1774, as "a village near Lambeth, in Surrey, and one of the precincts of that parish." It was formerly a lordship belonging to the ancient Earls of Warren, one of whom, in the reign of Edward II., being childless, gave the manor to the king. It had been already alienated, however, before the sixteenth year of Edward III., and was part of the estate of Roger d'Amory, who was attainted in the same reign for joining with sundry other lords in a seditious movement. Coming once more into the hands of the king, it was made a royal seat, and became shortly afterwards the principal residence of the Black Prince. The author above quoted states of this once abode of royalty, that "there is nothing now remaining of this ancient seat but a building called The Long Barn, which in the year 1709 was one of the receptacles of the poor persecuted Palatines."
It is generally accepted as a certainty that there was a royal residence near the spot now known as Kennington Cross as far back as the Saxon times; and here, says tradition, Hardicanute died in the year 1041. This amiable King of Denmark, third son of Canute, succeeded to the English crown on the death of his brother, Harold Harefoot, whose body, it is related, he caused to be dug up from its tomb at Winchester, and afterwards to be beheaded and thrown into the Thames. "Some good fishermen," so runs the story, "found the mangled trunk of the dead king, and decently interred it in the church of St. Clement Danes. The peculiarly clement Dane who ruled over them, however, directly he heard of their pious act, again ordered his brother's body to be flung into the Thames." Two years afterwards Hardicanute went to Kennington (or, according to another account, to Lambeth), in order to honour the nuptial feast of a Danish lord; and there, within sight of the river on the banks of which Harold's corse had been washed by the stream, he fell dead, amidst the shouting and drinking of the guests assembled at the marriage banquet.
In 1189, Richard of the Lion Heart granted the manor to Sir Robert Percy; and it was afterwards the subject of frequent royal grants. As stated above, it seems to have been rather a favourite residence of Edward the Black Prince; and the road by which he reached the palace from the landing-place at the water-side, nearly corresponding with Upper Kennington Lane, long retained the name of Princes Road. Here died that powerful vassal of Edward I., John, Earl of Warren and Surrey, in September, 1304.
Again, the kings of Scotland, France, and Cyprus being in England in the year 1363, on a visit to Edward III., Henry Picard, who had been lord mayor, had the honour of entertaining these four monarchs, with the Prince of Wales and other illustrious persons. At another time, the citizens gave a grand masquerade on horseback for the amusement of the Black Prince's son, Richard (then in his tenth year), and his mother, Joan of Kent. The procession set out from Newgate, and proceeded to Kennington, and was composed of stately pageants, in masques, one of which represented the pope and twenty-four cardinals. This "great mummery" consisted of 130 citizens in fancy dresses, with trumpets, sackbuts, and minstrels; and they danced and "mummed" to their hearts' content in the great hall of the palace; after which, having been right royally feasted, they returned again to the City by way of London Bridge.
Nineteen years afterwards, when the young king wanted money, and to that end made up his mind to take a second wife, he married Isabel, daughter of Charles VI. of France—the "little queen," as she was pettingly styled, for she was but a child, under eight years of age. The royal train, on approaching London, was met on Blackheath (fn. 2) by the lord mayor and aldermen, habited in scarlet, who attended the king to Newington (Surrey), where he dismissed them, as he and his youthful bride were to "rest at Kenyngtoun." When the poor child was taken from Kennington to her lodgings in the Tower, the press to see her was so great that several persons were crushed to death on London Bridge—among them the Prior of Tiptree, in Essex.
At Kennington, John of Gaunt sought refuge from the citizens, after he had quarrelled with the Bishop of London. The proud Lancaster was one of the protectors of Wyclif, who was, of course, particularly unpopular with the prelates, and had bearded the bishop in a very irreverent manner. The good churchmen of London, who had small respect for royalty when royalty chanced to offend them, chased the ducal offender in the very same year in which they danced before his nephew, and he was glad to be quiet for some time in the old palace. His son, the fiery Bolingbroke, after he became king, sometimes resided here, as did his grandson, the unfortunate Henry VI., and Henry VII., and Katharine of Arragon. James I. settled the manor of Kennington on the Prince of Wales, and it has ever since formed part of the princely possessions. The manor had been purchased in November, 1604, by Alleyn, the player, and founder of Dulwich College, for £1,065, and sold five years afterwards by the astute actor—who knew how to turn a penny, and made good use of his savings—for £2,000. It was of him, probably, that it was purchased by James I., who rebuilt the manor-house. The last fragment of the old palace—the "Old Barn," or "Long Barn"—remained till near the close of the last century; and the old manor-house itself, having served for some years as a Female Philanthropic School, finally disappeared in 1875. From an account of the building, published at the time of its demolition, we gather the following interesting particulars:—The first object which struck the visitor was the canopied head to the outer doorway, supported by finely carved trusses. The entrance door was very massive, and the large lock and unwieldy bar were suggestive of the times when every precaution was necessary for the safe custody of property. The rooms were square and lofty, with old-fashioned chimney-openings. The finest specimen of decorative art was, without doubt, the modelled plaster ceiling in the back room. The enrichments were finely undercut and in alto-relief, the mouldings and border being in true character with the other portions. The staircase was of massive oak, and the mouldings cut in the solid. The doors and the wainscot dado were also solid oak, the latter being a particularly fine specimen of wainscoting. The substantial timbers, door, and window-frames and heads to the last were in an excellent state of preservation. The estate having been leased to a speculative builder, the old house was demolished in order to make room for modern residences.
Here, on a waste piece of land belonging to the Prince of Wales, as part of the old royal palace and demesne, lay for some years a quantity of the marble statues which had been removed from Arundel House, in the Strand, and which afterwards decorated "Kuper's Gardens," the site of which we shall presently visit. Here they were discovered by connoisseurs, and were purchased, some by Lord Burlington for his villa at Chiswick, and others by Mr. Freeman, of Fawley Court, near Henley-on-Thames, and by Mr. Edmund Waller, of Beaconsfield. Others were cut up and used to make mantel-pieces for private houses in Lambeth.
It would appear that Kennington is still regarded as an appanage of royalty; at all events, it gave the title of earl to the hero of Culloden, William the "butcher," Duke of Cumberland, the younger son of George II. The duke's name is kept in remembrance here by Cumberland Row, close by the Vestry Hall, Kennington Green: it forms a low row of cottages, bearing date 1666. Their unfinished carcases had been used as a lazarhouse during the great plague of the previous year. The Prince of Wales, it may be added, is still the ground landlord of several streets in Kennington.
The manor of Kennington subsequently reverted to the Crown, and was granted by Charles I., when Prince of Wales, to Sir Noel Caron and Sir Francis Cottington. Sir Noel Caron was Dutch Ambassador to the English Court during the early part of the seventeenth century. He erected here a handsome mansion, with two wings. On the front was the inscription, "Omne solum forti patria." He built also on the roadside the almshouses near the third mile-stone for seven poor women. His name is inscribed on their front, with the date, 1618, and a Latin inscription to the effect that "He that hath pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord." Caron House, and the gardens attached to it, are memorable as having been granted by Charles II. to Lord Chancellor Clarendon, who sold them to Sir Jeremias Whichcote. The London Gazette tells us that the prisoners from the Fleet were removed hither after the Fire of London; it was pulled down soon after, and the last remains of the house were removed early in the present century. What remained of it in 1806, when Hughson wrote his "History of London and its Suburbs," was used as an academy, and still retained its former name of Caron House. Not far from it was—and perhaps still is—a spring of clear water called Vauxhall Well, which is said not to freeze in the very coldest winters.
A portion of the site of Sir Noel Caron's park is absorbed in the well-known cricket-ground called Kennington Oval, which shares with "Lord's" (fn. 3) the honour of being the scene of many of those doughty encounters between the heroes of the bat and ball which have made the "elevens" of the north and south, of Surrey and Nottingham, Kent and Sussex, United and All England, all but immortal. The Oval, which, within the memory of living persons, was a cabbage-garden, covers about nine acres of ground, and is set apart entirely for cricket-matches. It was first opened as a cricket-ground on the 16th of April, 1846, as the speculation of a man named Houghton. The Surrey Club have held it for many years on a lease from the Duchy of Cornwall, to which the land hereabouts still belongs; a fact which is kept in remembrance by the "Duchy Arms" inn, "Cornwall" Cottages, &c.
In Meadow Street, which testifies to the once rural character of this locality, stands, in grounds of its own, St. Joseph's Convent belonging to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a community about whom we shall have more to say when we pay a visit to their other house at Hammersmith.
In South Lambeth, on the south of Fentiman Road, which crosses the Oval Road, is the extensive vinegar distillery of the Messrs. Beaufoy, which was removed here many years ago from Cuper's Gardens. The works, which cover a space of about five acres, occupy the site of Caron House.
Nearly adjoining to the distillery, southward, is, or was till a recent date, the residence of John Tradescant, the botanist. The house, a plain brick building, with a court-yard in front and large iron gates, had attached to it the physic-garden of the Tradescants, one of the first established in this country. Tradescant's museum was frequently visited by persons of rank, who became benefactors thereto; among these were Charles I. (to whom he was gardener), Queen Henrietta Maria, Archbishop Laud, George, Duke of Buckingham, Robert and William Cecil, Earls of Salisbury, and many other persons of distinction. Among them also appears the philosophic John Evelyn, who, in his "Diary," under date of September 17, 1657, has the following entry:—"I went to see Sir Robert Needham, at Lambeth, a relation of mine, and thence to John Tradescant's museum." Evelyn also speaks of supping at John Tradescant's house, in company with Dr. (subsequently Archbishop) Tenison, the Bishop of St. Asaph, and Lady Clarendon.
"I know," writes Izaak Walton, in his "Complete Angler," "we islanders are averse to the belief of wonders; but there be so many strange creatures to be now seen, many collected by John Tradescant, and others added by my friend Elias Ashmole, Esq., who now keeps them carefully and methodically at his house near to Lambeth, near London, as may yet get belief of some of the other wonders I mentioned. I will tell you some of the wonders that you may now see, and not till then believe, unless you think fit. You may see there the hog-fish, the dog-fish, the dolphin, the coney-fish, the parrot-fish, the shark, the poisonfish, the sword-fish; and not only other incredible fish, but you may there see the salamander, several sorts of barnacles, of Solan geese, and the bird of paradise; such sorts of snakes, and such birds'nests, and of so various forms and so wonderfully made, as may beget wonder and amazement in any beholder; and so many hundreds of other rarities in that collection, as will make the other wonders I spake of the less incredible."
The Tradescants were the first well-known collectors of natural curiosities in this kingdom; they were followed by Ashmole and Sir Hans Sloane, from whom their spirit was afterwards transfused into Sir Ashton Lever, whose collection we mentioned in our account of Leicester Square. (fn. 4) It was a great misfortune that the collection, instead of being sold in lots by auction, was not secured for the British Museum.
There are portraits of the Tradescants to be seen in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. It is usually said that it was the elder Tradescant who first introduced apricots into England, by entering himself on board of a privateer armed against Morocco, whence he stole that fruit which it was forbidden to export.
In Allen's "History of Surrey" we read:—"On the death of John Tradescant, Dr. Ducarel says his son sold the curiosities to the celebrated Elias Ashmole; but Mr. Nichols, in a note, observes that the doctor must be in error, for, according to the diary of Ashmole, it appears that on December 15, 1659, Mr. Tradescant and his wife signed a deed of gift to Ashmole. The house was purchased, about 1760, of some of Ashmole's descendants, by John Small, Esq. Dr. Ducarel's house, once a part of Tradescant's, adjoins."
Kennington Park, which stretches for some distance along the Kennington Road, and lies to the east of the Oval, was known as Kennington Common till only a few years ago, when it was a dreary piece of waste land, covered partly with short grass, and frequented only by boys flying their kites or playing at marbles. It was encircled with some tumble-down wooden rails, which were not sufficient to keep donkeys from straying there. Field preachers also made it one of the chief scenes of oratorical display. It consisted of about twenty acres. It was suddenly seized with a fit of respectability, and clothed itself around with elegant iron railings, its area being, at the same time, cut up by gravel walks, and flower-beds, and shrubberies. It also engaged a beadle to look after it. And so it became a park, and—it must be owned—an ornament to the neighbourhood.
The Common is described in the "Tour round
London," in 1774, as "a small spot of ground on
the road to Camberwell, and about a mile and a
half from London. Upon this spot is erected the
gallows for the county of Surrey; but few have
suffered here of late years. Such of the (Scottish)
rebels as were tried by the Special Commission, in
1746, and ordered for execution, suffered at this
place; amongst whom were those who commanded
the regiment raised at Manchester for the use
(service) of the Pretender." In fact, very many of
those who had "been out" in the Scottish rising of
the previous year here suffered the last penalty of
the law. Among them were Sir John Wedderburn,
John Hamilton, Andrew Wood, and Alexander
Leith, and also two English gentlemen of good
family, named Towneley and Fletcher, who had
joined the standard of "Bonny Prince Charlie" at
Manchester. (fn. 5) Wood, it is said, bravely drank a
glass to the "Pretender's" health on the scaffold.
Others engaged in the same cause also suffered
here; among them Captain James (or, as he is still
called, "Jemmy") Dawson, over whose body, as
soon as the headsman's axe had done its terrible
work, a young lady, who was attached to him tenderly, threw herself in a swoon, and died literally
of a broken heart. The event forms the subject of
one of Shenstone's ballads:—
"Young Dawson was a gallant boy,
A brighter never trod the plain;
And well he loved one charming maid,
And dearly was he loved again. . . .
"The dismal scene was o'er and past,
The lover's mournful hearse retired;
The maid drew back her languid head,
And, sighing forth his name, expired."
Dawson and eight others were dragged on hurdles from the new gaol in Southwark to Kennington Common, and there hanged. After being suspended for three minutes from the gallows, their bodies were stripped naked and cut down, in order to undergo the operation of beheading and embowelling. Colonel Towneley was the first that was laid upon the block, but the executioner observing the body to retain some signs of life, he struck it violently on the breast, for the humane purpose of rendering it quite insensible for the remaining portion of the punishment. This not having the desired effect, he cut the unfortunate gentleman's throat. The shocking ceremony of taking out the heart and throwing the bowels into the fire was then gone through, after which the head was separated from the body with a cleaver, and both were put into a coffin. The rest of the bodies were thus treated in succession; and on throwing the last heart into the fire, which was that of young Dawson, the executioner cried, "God save King George!" and the spectators responded with a shout. Although the rabble had hooted the unhappy gentlemen on the passage to and from their trials, it was remarked that at the execution their fate excited considerable pity, mingled with admiration of their courage. Two circumstances contributed to increase the public sympathy on this occasion, and caused it to be more generally expressed. The first was, the appearance at the place of execution of a youthful brother of one of the culprits, of the name of Deacon, himself a culprit, and under sentence of death for the same crime, but who had been permitted to attend the last scene of his brother's life in a coach along with a guard. The other was the fact of a young and beautiful woman, to whom Dawson had been betrothed, actually attending to witness his execution, as stated above.
Most of the rebel lords, and of the others who had borne a share in the Scottish rising of 1745, and who were found guilty of treason, were executed on Tower Hill, as already stated. (fn. 6) Their heads, as well as the heads of those executed here, were afterwards set up on poles on the top of Temple Bar, (fn. 7) where we have already seen them bleaching in the sun and rain. Here also was hung the notorious highwayman, "Jerry Abershaw;" his body being afterwards hung in chains on a gibbet on Wimbledon Common.
In the spring of 1848, just after the Revolution which drove Louis Philippe from Paris, Kennington Common obtained a temporary celebrity as the intended rallying-point of the Chartists of London, who, it was said, were half a million in number; but of this number only about 15,000 actually assembled; had the half a million met, it would have required nearly ten times the space of Kennington Common! On the 10th of April the great meeting came off; they were to march thence in procession to Westminster, in order to present a monster petition in favour of the six points of the charter, signed by six millions. But measures were prudently taken by the Government; the Bank and other public buildings were strictly guarded; the military were called out, and posted in concealed positions near the bridges; and 170,000 special constables were enrolled, among whom was Louis Napoleon, the future Emperor of France. On the eventful day the working men who answered to the call of their leaders—Feargus O'Connor and Ernest Jones—were found to be scarcely 50,000, and these gentlemen shrank from a contest with the soldiery. So the crowd broke up, and the petition was presented peaceably.
"Modern times," writes Mr. W. Johnston, in his "England as it Is," "have afforded no such important illustration of the prevailing tone and temper of the British nation, in regard to public affairs, as was presented to the world by the circumstances of the metropolis during the eventful 10th of April, 1848. That day was, in the British Island, the culminating point of the revolutionary progress which, within a period of little more than two months, had shaken almost every throne of Continental Europe. In England nothing was shaken but the hopes of the disaffected. From one end of Europe to the other, the 10th of April was looked forward to by the partisans of revolution as the day which was to add London to the list of capitals submitting to the dictation of the mob. The spirit of revolt had run like wildfire from kingdom to kingdom, and capital to capital. Paris, Vienna, Naples, Berlin, Dresden, Milan, Venice, Palermo, Frankfort, and Carlsruhe, had all experienced the revolutionary shock, and none had been able completely to withstand it. Now came the turn of London, the greatest capital of all—the greatest prize that the world could afford to revolutionary adventure—the most magnificent prey to the bands of the plunderers who moved about from one point of Europe to another, committing robberies under the name of revolution. London withstood the shock, and escaped without the slightest injury. Even the wild spirit of revolt, made drunk by the extraordinary success it had achieved throughout Continental Europe, was frozen into fear by the calm, complete, and stern preparation which was made to encounter and to crush it. The spirit of Wellington was equal to the occasion, and seemed to pervade the might and the energy of the vast metropolis of England while that veteran was at the head of the resisting power. . . . . The 10th of April seemed, as if by mutual consent, to be the day of trial between the rival forces of revolution and of authority, and it then plainly appeared, without any actual collision, that the revolutionists had no chance. All their points of attack had been anticipated. Everywhere there was preparation to receive them, and yet nothing was so openly done as to produce a sense of public alarm. London was armed to the teeth: and yet, in outward appearance, it was not changed. The force that had been prepared lay hushed in grim repose, and was kept out of sight. The revolutionary leaders were, however, made aware of the consequences that would ensue if they went one step beyond that which the authorities deemed to be consistent with the public safety. Foolish and frantic though they were in their political talk, they were not so mad as to rush upon certain destruction. They gave up the conflict; and from that day the spirit of revolution in England drooped and died away. The political conspirators against existing authority failed utterly, not because they were destitute of the enthusiasm meet for such an occasion, or that there were no real grievances in the condition of the people which called for redress, but because the nation had common sense enough to perceive that the ascendancy of such desperate adventurers would make matters worse than better. It was not that the Londoners had no taste for political improvement, but it was that they had a very decided distaste for being robbed. Not only was all the intelligence, the organisation, and the resource of the country arrayed in opposition to the mode of political action which the revolutionists of Europe had adopted, but the familiar instincts of the hundreds of thousands who had property to guard and hearths to preserve inviolate arrayed them in determined resistance to mob violence, whatever might be the avowed object to which that violence should be directed." Thus, in the words of the Times, "The great demonstration was brought to a ridiculous issue by the unity and resolution of the metropolis, backed by the judicious measures of the Government, and the masterly military precautions of the Duke of Wellington, though no military display was anywhere to be seen."
During the holiday season, Kennington Common in the last century was an epitome of "Bartlemy Fair," with booths, tents, caravans, and scaffolds, surmounted by flags. It also had one peculiarity, for, as we learn from "Merrie England in the Olden Time," it was a favourite spot for merryandrews, and other buffooneries in open rivalry, and competition with field-preachers and ranters. It was here that Mr. Maw-worm encountered the brickbats of his congregation, and had his "pious tail" illuminated with the squibs and crackers of the unregenerate.
During the year 1739, when the south of London was a pleasant country suburb, George Whitefield preached frequently on this common, his audience being generally reckoned by tens of thousands. In his "Journal," under date May 6th in that year, he thus remarks: "Preached this morning in Moorfields to about 20,000 people, who were very quiet and attentive, and much affected. Went to public worship morning and evening, and at six preached at Kennington. But such a sight never were my eyes blessed with before. I believe there were no less than 50,000 people, near fourscore coaches, besides great numbers of horses; and what is most remarkable, there was such an awful silence amongst them, and the word of God came with such power, that all, I believe, were pleasingly surprised. God gave me great enlargement of heart. I continued my discourse for an hour and a half; and when I returned home, I was filled with such love, peace, and joy, that I cannot express it." On subsequent occasions Mr. Whitefield mentions having addressed audiences of 30,000, 20,000, and 10,000 on this same spot. The example thus set by Whitefield was soon afterwards followed by Charles Wesley, with an equal amount of fervour. In June, 1739, Charles Wesley being summoned before the Archbishop of Canterbury to give an account of his "irregularity," he was for a time greatly troubled; but Whitefield, whom he had consulted for advice in this emergency, told him, "Preach in the fields next Sunday; by this step you will break down the bridge, render your retreat difficult, or impossible, and be forced to fight your way forward." This counsel was followed, for in Charles Wesley's diary, June 24th, 1739, occurs this passage:—"I walked to Kennington Common, and cried to multitudes upon multitudes, 'Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.' The Lord was my strength, and my mouth, and my wisdom."
"Kennington Common," wrote Thomas Miller, in his "Picturesque Sketches in London," published in 1852, "is but a name for a small grassless square, surrounded with houses, and poisoned by the stench of vitriol works, and by black, open, sluggish ditches; what it will be when the promised alterations are completed, we have yet to see." That the place, however, has since become completely changed in appearance we need scarcely state, for it was converted into a public pleasureground, under the Act 15 and 16 Vict., in June of the above-mentioned year. It now affords a very pretty promenade. What was once but a dismal waste, some twenty acres in extent, is now laid out in grass-plats, intersected by broad and well-kept gravelled walks bordered with flower-beds. A pair of the model farm-cottages of the late Prince Consort were erected in the middle of the western side, near the entrance, about the year 1850. More recently, in addition to the improvements effected by the change of the Common to an ornamental promenade, a church, dedicated to St. Agnes, was built on the site of the vitriol works.
On the first formation of the "park," the sum of £1,800 annually was voted by the Government; but this sum was subsequently reduced, until, in the year 1877, it was only £1,370; and these reductions had been made although there had been an increase in the total sum devoted to public parks.
On the eastern side of the Common, in the middle of the last century, stood a mansion, once the residence of Sir Richard Manley. Near the site of this mansion, occupying the site of the vitriol works just mentioned, and directly facing the central paths of the ornamental garden, now stands the church of St. Agnes. The edifice, which was erected from the designs of Sir G. Gilbert Scott, is in the English Middle Pointed style of architecture of the fourteenth century; and it depends mainly for its effect upon its loftiness, the height being sixty-five feet from the floor to the nave ceiling, and seventy-five feet to the external ridge, and the chancel roof of the same height. The most important feature in the decorative work of the church is the east window of six lights, illustrating the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Atonement, the stained glass of which, costing £1,000, was executed by Mr. C. E. Kempe, and forms a memorial to the lady who was the chief benefactress of the church. The illustration of the Incarnation was "A Tree of Jesse," or genealogical tree of Christ's progenitors, of which the Virgin Mary, holding the Divine Child in her arms, formed the principal figure, the Virgin's head being crowned. When, in accordance with customary usage, the building was inspected by the bishop's representative, the archdeacon, the existence of this design was mentioned, and before the ceremony of consecration was performed, the figure of the Blessed Virgin was removed by the bishop's desire.
On the southern portion of the Common, on the upper part of a small triangular plot of ground, separated from the larger portion of the Common by the road to Brixton and the Camberwell New Road, stands St. Mark's Church, the second of the district churches erected in this parish. What is now the site of the church was formerly the spot where the gallows were erected for the execution of criminals; and it is rendered more interesting by its being the actual spot where many of the unfortunate adherents to the expatriated family of the Stuarts fell a sacrifice to their principles, as we have stated above. In preparing the foundation of the church, the site of a gibbet was discovered; and a curious piece of iron, which it is supposed was the swivel attached to the head of a criminal, was turned up a foot or two below the surface.
St. Mark's Church, which was finished in 1824, from the designs of Mr. D. Roper, consists of two distinct portions. The body of the edifice is a long octagon—a parallelogram, with the corners cut off. The eastern end is brought out, to form a recess for the communion-table, and to the western end is attached the tower, sided by lobbies, containing staircases to the galleries; and the whole is fronted by a portico, formed of four columns, supporting an entablature of the Greek Doric order, finished with a pediment. The tower, which is square and massive, is surmounted by a circular structure, composed of fluted Ionic columns, and finished with a plain spherical cupola, on the apex of which is a stone cross of elegant design. The main portion of the church is constructed of brick, and has stone pilasters attached to the piers between the windows, which are singularly plain and uninteresting. The interior of the church, beyond its elliptically-coved ceiling, ornamented at intervals with groups of foliage, contains nothing to call for special remark.
Along the south side of the churchyard once ran a small stream, which was crossed by a bridge, called Merton Bridge, from its formerly having been repaired by the canons of Merton Abbey, who had lands bequeathed to them for that purpose.
Opposite the western gates of the park, and at the entrance to Kennington Road, is the "Horns Tavern." It stands at the junction of the roads leading to London and Westminster Bridges; and the assembly-rooms adjoining have for many years been a great place for public meetings. There is nothing, so far as we are aware, to connect this inn with such ceremonies as those formerly enacted at Highgate (fn. 8) and at Charlton, (fn. 9) in which, as we have shown, the "horns" played such a conspicuous part; it may have been that a former landlord was desirous of emulating the reputation enjoyed by his professional brethren at Highgate.
Pursuing our course along Kennington Road, we leave on our left the water-works belonging to the South London Company. In 1805 an Act of Parliament was passed for establishing the abovementioned company, who were "to form reservoirs near Kennington Green, to be supplied from the Thames along Vauxhall Creek, or at a creek on the other side of Cumberland Gardens, between that and Marble Hall, all in this parish." The work was undertaken; a field of five acres, between Kennington Lane and the Oval, was procured, on which two reservoirs were formed, with steamengines and the requisite offices and buildings. In 1807 the proprietor celebrated the completion of the undertaking by giving a public breakfast. The reservoirs were intended to bring the water into a state of purity before it was distributed; but it was found that it did not answer thoroughly, and a change of site had to be made for the enginehouse.
At the point where the road turns off from Kennington Lane to the Oval, was in former times a noted place of entertainment, known as Spring Garden." (fn. 10) Bray, in his "History of Surrey," says that Moncony mentions a Spring Garden at Lambeth as much frequented in 1663. The gardens were at one time held by Mrs. Cornelys, of whom we have already had occasion to speak in our account of Soho Square. (fn. 11) Mrs. Cornelys, we are told, had "a large white house for entertainment;" but being frequented by loose and dissolute persons, it was suppressed by the magistracy.
In Upper Kennington Lane, which runs from Kennington Cross to Vauxhall Bridge, is the Licensed Victuallers' School, an establishment more to be regarded for the benevolent views of its patrons than for the architectural beauty of the building which contains the objects of their protection. The society was established in the year 1803, and is supported by the respectable body of licensed victuallers of the metropolis as an asylum and school for the orphans and children of the destitute part of their brethren. A portion of the profits of their trade journal, the Morning Advertiser, is also added to its funds. The building is a series of dwellinghouses, added together at various times, as the funds and objects of the institution increased, and is therefore little else than a substantial commodious edifice, with a spacious playground and gardens, located in an airy situation. Its original design has been somewhat improved by a central tablet of stucco over the pedimented door as a sort of centre. The building was constructed with the view of accommodating two hundred children. Great exertions have been made to realise this design, and by the admission of all the approved candidates for three successive years, it was all but accomplished.
At various times, Kennington has been the residence of many eminent persons, among whom we may mention John, seventh Earl of Warrenne and Surrey, father-in-law of John Balliol, who died here in 1304; David Ricardo, the celebrated political economist; the Duke of Brunswick; William Hogarth; and Eliza Cook, who lived here for many years. It has also been the home of many persons connected with the theatres. Here died, in 1877, Mr. E. T. Smith, of Cremorne, the Alhambra, and Drury Lane celebrity.
Kennington in its day has seen its deeds of violence; for it appears that in 1323 Elizabeth, the wife of Sir Richard Talbot, of Goderich Castle, in Herefordshire, was forcibly seized at her house in this parish by Hugh Despencer, Earl of Gloucester, in conjunction with his father, Hugh, Earl of Winchester, and carried off. It is satisfactory to know that for this act the Despencers suffered the extreme penalty of the law; the head of the younger one being set up on London Bridge. Their estate, of course, became confiscated and pounced upon by royalty; and the king very naturally bestowed it on the Prince of Wales, to whom it still belongs.
Before closing this chapter, we may remark that the maypole nearest to the metropolis that stood longest within the memory of the editor of the "Beauties of England and Wales," was near Kennington Green, at the back of the houses at the south-west corner of the Workhouse Lane, leading from the Vauxhall Road to Elizabeth Place. The site was then nearly vacant, and the maypole stood in the field on the south side of the Workhouse Lane, nearly opposite to the "Black Prince" public-house. It remained there till about the year 1795, and was much frequented, particularly by the milkmaids, on May-day. The maypoles in the country were the scenes of much simplicity of rural manners and innocent mirth and enjoyment; but those set up near London, it is to be feared, were provocative of far more boisterous rudeness. In 1517 the unfortunate shaft, or maypole, gave rise to the insurrection of that turbulent body, the London apprentices, and the plundering of the foreigners in the City, whence it got the name of Evil May-day. "From that time," writes the author of "Merrie England in the Olden Time," "the offending pole was hung on a range of hooks over the doors of a long row of neighbouring houses. In the third year of Edward VI., an over-zealous fanatic, called Sir Stephen, began to preach against this maypole, which inflamed the audience so greatly that the owner of every house over which it hung sawed off as much as depended over his premises, and committed piecemeal to the flames this terrible idol!" Like the morris-dancers, and the hobby-horse, and other much-applauded merriments of Old England, the maypole in the end has become a thing of the past, for they were put down or allowed to pass into oblivion.
The old Roman road, or Watling Street, for a short distance, intersected the north-eastern corner of Surrey in its progress from Vagniacis (supposed by antiquaries to be near Southfleet in Kent) to London, skirting the eastern side of Kennington. This road is presumed to have passed through Old Croydon or Woodcote, Streatham, and Newington, to Stone Street in Southwark. If, as some writers have supposed, the ancient Noviomagus was at Old Croydon, the Ermyn Street must have followed nearly the present line of roads through Streatham, Kennington, and Newington, into Southwark; and thence it was continued in a northward direction by way of Stoke Newington, as we have already mentioned in a former volume. (fn. 12)