Old and New London: Volume 6. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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BLACKFRIARS ROAD.—THE SURREY THEATRE, SURREY CHAPEL, &c.
Formation of Blackfriars Road—The Surrey Theatre, originally the "Royal Circus and Equestrian Philharmonic Academy"—The Circus burnt down in 1805—The Amphitheatre rebuilt, and under the Management of Elliston—The Manager in a Fix—The Theatre burnt down in 1865, and rebuilt the same year—Lord Camelford and a Drunken Naval Lieutenant—The "Equestrian" Tavern—A Favourite Locality for Actors—An Incident in Charles Dickens' Boyhood—The Temperance Hall—The South London Working Men's College—The South London Tramway Company—The Mission College of St. Alphege—Nelson Square—The "Dog's Head in the Pot"—Surrey Chapel—The Rev. Rowland Hill—Almshouses founded by him—Paris Garden—Christ Church—Stamford Street—The Unitarian Chapel—Messrs. Clowes' Printing Office—Hospital for Diseases of the Skin—The "Haunted Houses" of Stamford Street—Ashton Lever's Museum—The Rotunda—The Albion Mills.
This great thoroughfare—which, starting at Blackfriars Bridge, meets at the Obelisk five other roads in St. George's Circus—assumed something like its present shape and appearance in the last half of the last century. It seems at one time to have been called St. George's Road, but was long known as Great Surrey Street. The road is perfectly straight, and is about two-thirds of a mile in length. Pennant, as we have already remarked, describes the roads crossing St. George's Fields as being "the wonder of foreigners approaching by this road to our capital, through avenues of lamps, of magnificent breadth and goodness." One foreign ambassador, indeed, thought London was illuminated in honour of his arrival; but, adds Pennant, "this was written before the shameful adulteration of the oil," which dimmed the "glorious splendour!" Pennant, doubtless, was a knowing man; but he lived before the age of gas, and was easily satisfied.
One of the earliest buildings of any note which were erected in this road was Christ Church, near the bridge on the west side, occupying part of the site of old Paris Garden; then came Rowland Hill's Chapel, or, as it is now generally called, "Surrey Chapel," of both of which we shall speak more fully presently. Next came the Magdalen Hospital, which we have already described; and finally, the Surrey Theatre. The early history of this theatre, if Mr. E. L. Blanchard states correctly the facts in his sketch of it, the "Playgoer's Portfolio," affords an illustration of the difficulties under which the minor theatres laboured in their struggle against the patented monopoly of Drury Lane and Covent Garden. The place was first opened under the title of the "Royal Circus and Equestrian Philharmonic Academy," in the year 1782, by the famous composer and song-writer, Charles Dibdin, aided by Charles Hughes, a clever equestrian performer. It was originally planned for the display of equestrian and dramatic entertainments, on a plan similar to that pursued with so much success at Astley's. The entertainments were at first performed by children, the design being to render the circus a nursery for actors. The play-bills of the first few months' performances end with a notice to the effect that a "Horse-patrol is provided from Bridge to Bridge." The theatre, however, having been opened without a licence, was closed by order of the Surrey magistrates, but this was not done without a disturbance, and until the Riot Act had been read on the very stage itself. In the following year a licence was obtained, and the theatre being re-opened, a successful harvest appeared now in prospect, when differences arose among the proprietors which seriously threatened its ruin. Delphini, a celebrated buffo, was appointed manager in 1788, in succession to Grimaldi, the grandfather of the celebrated clown of Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells Theatres; he produced a splendid spectacle, with a real stag-hunt, &c. Then there were several "dog-pieces," so called because they were put together in order to introduce upon the stage as actors two knowing dogs, "Gelert" and "Victor," whose popularity was such that they had an hour every day set apart for them to receive visitors. Afterwards a series of "Lectures on Heads" were given here by a Mr. Stevens, (fn. 1) and many pantomimic and local pieces were performed with indifferent success; among the latter were the "Destruction of the Bastile," "Death of General Wolfe," &c. The popularity of the theatre was largely increased by the skill of a new stage manager, John Palmer, a gay-hearted comedian, who rather enjoyed than otherwise a life "within the Rules of the King's Bench;" but this gleam of sunshine came to an end, in 1789, by the arbitrary and (it would seem) illegal committal of Palmer to the Surrey Gaol as a "rogue and a vagabond," a clause being, at the same time, inserted in the Debtor's Act making all such places of amusement "out of the Rules."
Having been conducted for several years by a Mr. James Jones and his son-in-law, John Cross, as lessees, with average success, the Circus was destroyed by fire in August, 1805; it was, however, rebuilt and re-opened at Easter, 1806. In 1809 the lesseeship was taken in hand by Elliston, who introduced several of Shakespeare's plays, and otherwise endeavoured to raise the character of the house. His success was such that he now resolved to attempt an enlargement of the privileges of his licence, a step which is thus recorded by Mr. E. L. Blanchard: "Hitherto the performances authorised did not permit the introduction of a dialogue, except it was accompanied by music throughout. On the 5th of March, 1810, Sir Thomas Turton presented to the House of Commons a petition for enabling Mr. Elliston and his colleagues to exhibit 'all such entertainments of music and action as are commonly called pantomimes and ballets, together with operatic or musical pieces, accompanied with dialogue.' The petition, however, was rejected, on the ground that it would 'go far to alter the whole principle upon which theatrical entertainments are at present regulated within the metropolis and twenty miles round.' The expenses of this fruitless appeal were £100 for the petition, and £30 more for a second application to the Privy Council."
The amphitheatre, which had previously been the arena for occasional equestrian exercises, was now converted into a commodious pit for the spectators, and the stables into saloons. Melo-dramas now became the order of the day; and here Miss Sally Brook made her first appearance in London. All sorts of varieties followed. One piece was brought out specially to exhibit two magnificent suits of armour of the fourteenth century, which afterwards appeared in the Lord Mayor's show. (fn. 2)
Tom Dibdin, in 1816, having offered his services as stage-manager under Elliston, the Circus was extensively altered and re-opened as "The Surrey," and he held sway here till 1822. After that time the theatre had a somewhat chequered existence, and on the whole may be said to have been one of the chief homes of the English sensational melo-drama. At one time the gig in which Thurtell drove, and the table on which he supped, when he murdered Mr. Weare, were exhibited; and at another, the chief attraction was a man-ape, Mons. Goufflé. In 1827 Elliston became lessee a second time, and made several good hits, being seconded by such actors as T. P. Cooke, Mrs. Fitzwilliam, &c.
It was perhaps during the lesseeship of Elliston that the greatest "hit" was made at "The Surrey." "Elliston," as a writer in the Monthly Magazine tells us, "was, in his day, the Napoleon of Drury Lane, but, like the conqueror of Austerlitz, he suffered his declensions, and the Surrey became to him a St. Helena. However, once an eagle always an eagle; and Robert William was no less aquiline in the day of adversity than in his palmy time of patent prosperity. He was born to carry things with a high hand, and he but fulfilled his destiny. The anecdote we are about to relate is one of the ten thousand instances of his lordly bearing. When, on one occasion, 'no effects' was written over the treasury-door of Covent Garden Theatre, it will be remembered that several actors proffered their services gratis, in aid of the then humble but now arrogant and persecuting establishment; among these patriots was Mr. T. P. Cooke. The Covent Garden managers jumped at the offer of the actor, who was in due time announced as having, in the true play-bill style, 'most generously volunteered his services for six nights!' Cooke was advertised for 'William,' Elliston having 'most generously lent [N.B., this was not put in the bill] the musical score of Black-Eyed Susan, together with the identical captains' coats worn at a hundred and fifty court martials at the Surrey Theatre. Cooke—the score—the coats, were all accepted, and made the most of by the now prosecuting managers of Covent Garden, who cleared out of the said Cooke, score, and coats one thousand pounds at half-price on the first six nights of their exhibition. This is a fact; nay, we have lately heard it stated that all the sum was specially banked, to be used in a future war against the minors. Cooke was then engaged for twelve more nights, at ten pounds per night—a hackney-coach bringing him each night, hot from the Surrey stage, where he had previously made bargemen weep and thrown nursery-maids into convulsions. Well, time drove on, and Cooke drove into the country. Elliston, who was always classical, having a due veneration for that divine 'creature,' Shakespeare, announced, on the anniversary of the poet's birthday, a representation of the Stratford Jubilee. The wardrobe was ransacked, the propertyman was on the alert, and, after much preparation, everything was in readiness for the imposing spectacle. No! There was one thing forgotten—one important 'property!' 'Bottom' must be a 'feature' in the procession; and there was no ass's head! It would not do for the acting manager to apologise for the absence of the head—no, he could not have the face to do it. A head must be procured. Every one was in doubt and trepidation, when hope sounded in the clarion-like voice of Robert William. 'Ben!' exclaimed Elliston, 'take pen, ink, and paper, and write as follows.' Ben (Mr. Benjamin Fairbrother, the late manager's most trusted secretary) sat 'all ear,' and Elliston, with finger on nether lip, proceeded—'My Dear Charles,—I am about to represent, "with entirely new dresses, scenery, and decorations," the Stratford Jubilee, in honour of the sweet swan of Avon. My scene-painter is the finest artist (except your Grieve) in Europe; my tailor is no less a genius; and I lately raised the salary of my property-man. This will give you some idea of the capabilities of the Surrey Theatre. However, in the hurry of "getting up" we have forgotten one property—everything is well with us but our "Bottom," and he wants a head. As it is too late to manufacture—not but that my property-man is the cleverest in the world (except the property-man of Covent Garden)—can you lend me an ass's head; and believe me, my dear Charles, yours ever truly, Robert William Elliston. P.S.—I had forgotten to acknowledge the return of the Black-Eyed Susan score and coats. You were most welcome to them.'
"The letter was dispatched to Covent Garden Theatre, and in a brief time the bearer returned with the following answer:—'My Dear Robert,—It is with the most acute pain that I am compelled to refuse your trifling request. You are aware, my dear sir, of the unfortunate situation of Covent Garden Theatre; it being at the present moment, with all the "dresses, scenery, and decorations,' in the Court of Chancery, I cannot exercise that power which my friendship would dictate. I have spoken to Bartley, and he agrees with me (indeed, he always does) that I cannot lend you an ass's head—he is an authority on such a subject—without risking a reprimand from the Lord High Chancellor. Trusting to your generosity and to your liberal construction of my refusal, and hoping that it will in no way interrupt that mutually cordial friendship that has ever subsisted between us, believe me, ever yours, Charles Kemble. P.S.—When I next see you advertised for "Rover," I intend to leave myself out of the bill, and come and see it.'
"'Dear Charles,—I regret the situation of Covent Garden Theatre; I also, for your sake, deeply regret that the law does not permit you to send me the "property" in question. I knew that law alone could prevent you; for were it not for the vigilance of equity, such is my opinion of the management of Covent Garden, that I am convinced, if left to the dictates of its own judgment, it would be enabled to spare asses' heads, not to the Surrey alone, but to every theatre in Christendom. Yours ever truly, Robert William Elliston. P.S.—My wardrobe-keeper informs me that there are no less than seven buttons missing from the captains' coats. However, I have ordered their places to be instantaneously filled by others.'
"We entreat our readers not to receive the above as a squib of invention. We will not pledge ourselves that the letters are verbatim from the originals; but the loan of the Surrey music and coats to Covent Garden, with the refusal of Covent Garden's ass's head to the Surrey, is 'true as holy writ.'"
At the time when Elliston was lessee of the Surrey and the Olympic Theatres, about 1833, the actors, who were common to both houses, had to hurry from St. George's Fields over Blackfriars Bridge to Wych Street, and occasionally back again also, the same evening. Sometimes the "legitimate drama" was performed here in a curious fashion. The law allowed only musical performances at the minor theatres: so a pianoforte tinkled, or a clarionet moaned, a dismal accompaniment to the speeches of Macbeth or Othello. The fact is that, as Dr. Doran tells us in the epilogue to "His Majesty's Servants, "the powers of the licenser (the Lord Chamberlain) did not extend to St. George's Fields, where political plays, forbidden on the Middlesex side of the river, were attractive merely because they were forbidden." Considerable excellence has generally been shown in the scenery at this theatre, which appeals through the eye to the "sensations" of the lower classes; and M. Esquiros, in his "English at Home," tells us that Danby, as scene-painter, produced at the Surrey some of the chastest effects ever witnessed on an English stage.
After the death of Elliston, the lesseeship was held in succession by Davidge, Osbaldiston, Creswick, and other individuals of dramatic note; but it never rose far above mediocrity. The fabric was burnt down a second time in January, 1865, but rebuilt and re-opened in the course of the same year, great additions and improvements having been made in its interior arrangements.
The change in the name of this theatre, after it
ceased to be used for equestrian performances, is
thus mentioned in the "Rejected Addresses:"—
"And burnt the Royal Circus in a hurry:
'Twas called the Circus then, but now the Surrey."
James Smith, in a note in the "Rejected Addresses," writes:—"The authors happened to be at the Royal Circus when 'God save the King' was called for, accompanied by a cry of 'Stand up!' and 'Hats off!' An inebriated naval lieutenant perceiving a gentleman in an adjoining box slow to obey the call, struck his hat off with his stick, exclaiming, 'Take off your hat, sir.' The other thus assailed proved to be, unluckily for the lieutenant, Lord Camelford, the celebrated bruiser and duellist. A set-to in the lobby was the consequence, where his lordship quickly proved victorious."
The exterior of the old theatre was plain but neat, and the approaches very convenient. The auditorium, which was nearly square in form, was exceedingly spacious. The upper part of the proscenium was supported by two gilt, fluted composite columns on each side, with intervening stage-doors and boxes. The pit would seat about 900 persons. The general ornamentation of the boxes, &c., was white and gold. The gallery, as customary in the minor theatres, was remarkably spacious, and would hold above 1,000 persons. It descended to a level with the side boxes in the centre, but from its principal elevation it was continued along both sides over them. The ceiling sprang from the four extremities of the front and of the side galleries. The centre was painted in imitation of a sky, with genii on the verge and in the angles. A handsome chandelier depended from the centre, besides smaller ones suspended from brackets over the stage-doors, which were continued round the boxes.
The present theatre, which, as we have stated above, was built in 1865, is a great improvement upon the old building in every respect. It is considerably larger, and its construction cost £38,000; the machinery, with the new appliances insisted on by the Lord Chamberlain for the security of life from fire, cost nearly £2,000. Like most of the minor theatres in London, the Surrey has of late years been occasionally used on Sundays for religious "revival" services, thereby reconciling to some extent the old enmities between the pulpit and the stage.
The actors of the transpontine theatres of half a century ago very naturally had their habitations almost invariably on the south side of the Thames. Elliston himself lived in Great Surrey Street (now Blackfriars Road); Osbaldiston in Gray's Walk, Lambeth; Davidge, of the Coburg, afterwards manager of the Surrey, lived in Charlotte Terrace, near the New Cut. St. George's Circus, at the south end of Blackfriars Road, was so thickly peopled by second-rate actors belonging to the Surrey and the Coburg, that it was called the Theatrical Barracks. Hercules Buildings, in the Westminster Bridge Road, had then, and for twenty years afterwards, a theatrical or musical family residing in every house. Stangate, at the back of "Astley's," was another favourite resort for the sons and daughters of Thespis; and the cul de sac of Mount's Place, Lambeth, where Ellar, the famous harlequin, lived and died, was also in great repute as a residence for the pantomimic and equestrian fraternity.
A house "somewhere beyond the obelisk," but not capable of identification now, was the scene of a trifling event in the early life of Charles Dickens, which he records with some minuteness in the autobiographical reminiscences preserved by Mr. J. Forster in his published "Life!" When his father had to pass through the insolvent Court of the Marshalsea, it was necessary to prove that the apparel and personal matters retained were not above £20 in value. Charles, we suppose, must have been regarded by the law as part and parcel of his father, for he had to appear before an official at this house in his best holiday clothes. "I recollect his coming out to view me with his mouth full and a strong smell of beer upon him, and saying, good-naturedly, 'That will do,' and 'All right.'" He adds: "Certainly the hardest creditor would not have been disposed (even if legally entitled) to avail himself of my poor white hat, my little jacket, and my corduroy trousers. But I had in my pocket an old silver watch, given me by my grandmother before the blacking days, and I had entertained my doubts, as I went along, whether that valuable possession might not bring me above the twenty pounds' standard. So I was greatly relieved, and made him a low bow of acknowledgment as I went out."
Between the Surrey Theatre and the Peabody Buildings, which, as we have already stated, stand on the site formerly occupied by the Magdalen Hospital, is the Temperance Hall, a neat brickbuilt Gothic structure, one of several others erected by the London Temperance Halls' Company. It was built in 1875, and is used for concerts, lectures, temperance meetings, and so forth.
Further northwards, between Webber Street and Great Charlotte Street, is a house, No. 91, used as the Working Men's College. It was opened in 1868, for the purpose of giving to the working men of South London, and their families, the means of a thorough education. Professor Huxley has long acted as principal of the college. Among the work carried on here are technical classes for carpenters and bricklayers, elementary classes in chemistry and in mathematics, and a Civil Service class.
A few doors further northward are the offices of the South London Tramway Company, which was founded in 1870, in order to supply cheap and rapid communication by street cars, on the American principle. The company have laid down no less than 20½ miles of street-rails along the high roads connecting Vauxhall, Westminster, Blackfriars, and London Bridges with Greenwich, Deptford, Camberwell, Brixton, Kennington, and Clapham. The cars constantly in use are 90 in number, employing about 1,000 horses and 350 men. They carry in the course of a year about 15,000,000 passengers.
Nearly opposite the above-mentioned offices is the modern Mission College of St. Alphege, named after the saint with whose murder by the Danes the reader has been already made acquainted in our account of Greenwich. (fn. 3)
Nelson Square, close by, on the east side of Blackfriars Road, was doubtless built at the commencement of the century, when the great naval hero was in the height of his glory, and named in honour of him. Beyond a tavern, bearing the sign of the "Lord Nelson," the square is merely occupied by small tradesmen and as lodginghouses, and therefore is one of those fortunate places which has little or no history attached to it.
The "Dog's Head in the Pot" is mentioned as an old London sign in a curious tract, printed by Wynkyn de Worde, called "Cocke Lorelle's Bote." A sign of this description is still to be seen in the Blackfriars Road, over the door of a furnishing ironmonger's shop, at the corner of Little Charlotte Street, close by Nelson Square.
Surrey Chapel, which stands on the eastern side of the road, at the opposite corner of Little Charlotte Street, about 500 yards from Blackfriars Bridge, is an ugly octagonal building, with no pretensions to any definite style of architecture. It is still often called "Rowland Hill's Chapel," after its former minister, the Rev. Rowland Hill, who, though the son of a Shropshire baronet and a deacon of the Established Church, became a Dissenter from conviction, and was for half a century the able and eloquent minister of a congregation of Calvinistic Methodists who worshipped here. He was eloquent, witty, and warm-hearted, and was for many years a power in the religious world, being on the best of terms with the more "Evangelical" portion of the national clergy. His wit was almost as ready as that of Douglas Jerrold or Theodore Hook. Once when preaching near the docks at Wapping, he said, "I am come to preach to great, to notorious, yes, to Wapping sinners!" Another day, observing a number of persons coming into his chapel, not so much to hear his sermon as to escape the rain, he declared that though he had known of persons making religion a cloak, he had never heard of it being made an umbrella before! His congregation were much attached to him personally, and always subscribed liberally in answer to his appeals to their purses; and he, therefore, compared them to a good cow, which gives the more the more that she is milked! His wife was too fond of dress for a minister's wife; and it is said that within these walls he would often preach at her by name, saying, "Here comes my wife, with a whole wardrobe on her head and back;" but this story is apocryphal. At all events, he always denied its truth, declaring that though he was always outspoken in denouncing vanity and frivolity, he was not a bear, but a Christian and a gentleman!
In his youth Rowland was noted for that redundant flow of spirits which never failed him even to his latest years. He was, likewise, even in his younger days, celebrated for wit and humour, an instance of which occurred at Eton, on the occasion of a discussion among the scholars as to the power of the letter H. Some contended that it had the full power of a letter, while others thought it a mere aspirate, and that it might be omitted altogether without any disadvantage to our language. Rowland earnestly contended for its continuance, adding, "To me the letter H is a most invaluable one, for if it be taken away, I shall be ill all the days of my life." With the intention of qualifying himself for one of the livings in the gift of his family, he entered St. John's College, Cambridge, where, from his serious behaviour and somewhat unusual zeal in visiting the sick and engaging in out-door preaching, he became the subject of much obloquy. When the time came for taking orders, he found that his former "irregular" conduct proved an insuperable difficulty. His brother Richard was the only member of his family who approved of his eccentric conduct at this period. For several years after leaving college he had been extensively occupied in out-door preaching, both in the country and in the metropolis. The Church of England pulpits were, of course, not then open to him; but among the Dissenters no such obstacle existed. It was at one time generally believed that he would be the successor of Whitefield at Tottenham Court Road Chapel. During four years he experienced six refusals from several prelates; but in 1773 the Bishop of Bath and Wells consented to admit him to deacon's orders. His first curacy was Kingston, near Taunton. The Bishop of Carlisle had promised to ordain him a priest, but was commanded by the Archbishop of York not to admit him to a higher grade in the Church, on account of his irregularity. This refusal caused Rowland to remark that he "ran off with only one ecclesiastical boot on." After leaving his curacy, he returned to his former course of fieldpreaching, and during the next ten years he visited various parts of England, Wales, and Ireland, London not excepted. "As we are commanded," he once remarked, "to preach the Gospel to every creature, even to the ends of the world, I always conceived that in preaching through England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, I stuck close to my parish." In later life nothing gave him greater pleasure than the occasional offer of a Church of England pulpit, for to the close of his life, although fraternising extensively with the Dissenters, he considered himself a clergyman of the Established Church. The time at length came when his somewhat erratic career was to end in a more settled ministry in the metropolis, and where his former popularity would be still further extended.
Being in London during the riots of 1780, Rowland Hill took advantage of the opportunity afforded him of addressing the large multitudes then assembled in St. George's Fields, sometimes preaching to as many as 20,000 persons. Up to this period of his life, he had exercised his ministry irregularly, preaching in Church of England pulpits when practicable, but more frequently in Dissenting chapels or in the open air. He had, it is said, for some time felt the desirability of a settled ministry, and his wish was soon afterwards carried into effect by some liberal-minded persons coming forward with subscriptions towards the erection of a large chapel in the south of London. The spot selected was in the new road then recently opened from Blackfriars Bridge to the Obelisk. Among the contributors to the proposed chapel were Lord George Gordon, who gave a donation of £50, Lady Huntingdon, and others. The first stone was laid early in 1782, and the building, which cost about £5,000, was opened in June, 1783. From that time till his death, in 1833, Mr. Hill was the minister of the chapel, residing in the adjoining parsonage-house for the long period of fifty years.
When first erected, the chapel stood almost among fields, but in the course of a few years the locality on every side became thickly populated. With regard to the shape of the chapel, Mr. Hill is stated to have once remarked that he liked a round building, for it prevented the devil hiding in any of the corners. Its close proximity to the public road, and the excellence of the singing, for which it was long celebrated, induced many passersby to enter the chapel. Many wealthy persons were regular attendants; and among the occasional visitors were Dean Milner, William Wilberforce, Ambrose Serle, and the Duke of Kent. Sheridan once said, "I go to hear Rowland Hill, because his ideas come red-hot from the heart." Dean Milner once told him, "Mr. Hill, Mr. Hill! I felt to-day—'tis this slap-dash preaching, say what they will, that does all the good;" and the Duke of Kent, in Mr. Hill's parlour, mentioned how much he was struck by the service, especially the singing.
Sir Richard Hill, the brother of Rowland, was one of the first trustees, and a frequent attendant. Although in every particular it was essentially a Dissenting chapel, the liturgical service of the Church of England was regularly used, while the most celebrated preachers of all denominations have occupied the pulpit. For the first few years after the erection of the chapel, Mr. Hill availed himself of the occasional services of clergymen of the Establishment, among whom were the Revs. John Venn and Thomas Scott, and also some eminent Dissenting ministers. But, in 1803, the publication of a satirical pamphlet directed against the Established clergy, entitled "Spiritual Characteristics," having special reference to an Act then recently passed in Parliament, with the object of enforcing the residence of some of the beneficed clergy, and generally believed to have been written by Mr. Hill, resulted in the withdrawal of the services of his clerical friends. It was his usual custom to spend the summer of each year in itinerant preaching in various parts of England and Wales, and during these absences from London his pulpit was regularly supplied by eminent Dissenting ministers. He found time to visit Scotland more than once. The popularity of several of his substitutes was so great that the spacious chapel, which had sittings for about 2,000 persons, was sometimes more crowded than when Rowland Hill was the officiating minister. Very large sums have been annually raised for the various charitable institutions and religious societies connected with Surrey Chapel. The organ, which in its day was considered a powerful instrument, was for many years played by Mr. Jacobs, whose musical ear was so fine that he was selected by Haydn to tune his pianoforte. The singing at Surrey Chapel was long a special feature; and Mr. Hill is said to have once remarked that he "did not see why the devil should have all the good tunes," for in his lifetime and some years afterwards it was a common occurrence to hear certain hymns, composed by Rowland Hill, sung to the tunes of "Rule, Britannia," or the "National Anthem."
"Rowland Hill's pulpit is raised very high; and before it, at about half the height, is the reader's desk on his right, and the clerk's on his left—the clerk being a very grand personage, with a sonorous voice. The singing was so general and so good, that I joined in it. During the singing, after Rowland had made his prayer before the sermon, we were beckoned from our humble places by a gentleman in one of the pews. He was very civil; and by finding out the hymns for me, and presenting me with the book, enabled me to sing, which I did to admiration. Rowland, a fine, tall old man, with strong features, very like his portrait, began by reading three verses for his text, stooping to the book in a very peculiar manner. Having done this, he stood up erect, and said, 'Why, the text is a sermon, and a very weighty one too.' I could not always follow his delivery, the loss of his teeth rendering his words sometimes indistinct, and the more so because his pronunciation is peculiar, generally giving e the sound of ai, like the French. His manner was animated and striking, sometimes impressive and dignified, always remarkable; and so powerful a voice I have rarely or ever heard. Sometimes he took off his spectacles, frequently stooped down to read a text, and on these occasions he seemed to double his body, so high did he stand. He told one or two familiar stories, and used some odd expressions, such as, 'A murrain on those who preach that when we are sanctified we do not grow in grace!' And again, 'I had almost said I had rather see the devil in the pulpit than an Antinomian!' The purport of his sermon was good; nothing fanatical, nothing enthusiastic; and the Calvinism it expressed was so qualified as to be harmless. The manner, that of a performer, as great in his line as Kean or Kemble: and the manner it is which has attracted so large a congregation about him, all of the better order of persons in business."
Mr. Hill sometimes caused his chapel to take
a prominent part on public occasions, even in
politics. For instance, when the peace of Amiens
took place in 1802, he exhibited in front of his
chapel an appropriate transparency, with the quaint
motto, "May the new-born peace be as old as Methuselah!" When, a few months later, the peace
was at an end, and the invasion of this country
was threatened by Napoleon, volunteer companies
were raised in every district. Mr. Hill at once
invited the volunteers in and around the metropolis
to come to his chapel to hear a sermon, on the
afternoon of the 3rd of December, 1803, on which
occasion the building was thronged in every part.
Of this service he afterwards remarked, speaking
of the volunteers, "I acknowledge that your very
respectacle appearance, your becoming deportment
while in the house of God, and especially the
truly serious and animated manner in which you
all stood up to sing the high praises of our God,
filled me with solemn surprise, and exhibited before
me one of the most affecting scenes I ever beheld."
Mr. Hill composed a hymn specially for the occasion, which was sung to the tune of the "National
Anthem;" and another commencing thus—
"When Jesus first, at Heaven's command,
Descended from his azure throne,"
which was sung to the air of "Rule, Britannia." After the battle of Waterloo, in which five of his nephews were engaged, a neat transparency, which attracted some attention, was placed in front of the chapel. At the head of it two hands held, on a scroll, the words, "The tyrant is fallen!" Under this came a quotation from Obadiah 3, 4; to which was added, "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth." The subject of the painting was the sun setting on the sea, exhibiting on the shore, to the left, a lion crouching at the foot of a fortress near the trophies of war; and to the right, a lamb lying by the implements of agriculture, with a village church and a cottage before it.
Rowland Hill's labours as a philanthropist are not so generally known as his fame as a preacher. During one of his summer visits to Wotton-underEdge, Gloucestershire, where he had erected a small chapel, he became acquainted with Dr. Jenner, who lived in the vicinity of that village. He soon saw the advantages resulting from vaccination, and henceforward very earnestly recommended the practice of inoculation, publishing, in 1806, a pamphlet on the subject, in which he defended the new proposal from the aspersions of some of its opponents. "This," said he, "is the very thing for me;" and wherever he went to preach on his country excursions, he frequently announced after his sermon, "I am ready to vaccinate to-morrow morning as many children as you choose; and if you wish them to escape that horrid disease, the small-pox, you will bring them." One of the most effective vaccine boards in London was established at Surrey Chapel. At different places he instructed suitable persons in the use of the lancet for this purpose. It has been stated that in a few years the numbers inoculated by him amounted to more than 10,000. It may be further added that the first Sunday School in London was established in Mr. Hill's chapel. (fn. 4)
His untiring exertions on behalf of religious liberty ought not to be forgotten. In the earlier part of the present century a most determined effort was made to subject Dissenting chapels to parochial assessments, or the payment of poor's rates, and the experiment was first tried with Surrey Chapel, on account of its nondescript character. Mr. Hill resisted the attempt, because he regarded it as an invasion of the Toleration Act, which George III., in his first speech from the throne, had pledged himself to maintain inviolable. Mr. Hill and his friends were summoned to attend at the Guildford sessions, and although they gained a temporary success, they were compelled to appear on five subsequent occasions, on each of which the parochial authorities were unsuccessful. The subject was then taken up by the Dissenters generally, Mr. Hill meanwhile publishing a pamphlet on the subject, which soon passed through three editions. His exertions were at last crowned with success by the passing of the Religious Worship Act, which repealed certain Acts relating to religious worship and assemblies, and henceforward set the question for ever at rest. During these inquiries concerning the taxation of Surrey Chapel, it was elicited in evidence that instead of the revenues of the chapel going to Rowland Hill, as was by some persons believed, it turned out that the chapel was vested in the hands of trustees, and after the payment of all expenses incident to public worship, only a small surplus remained. Some person once said of him, "Rowland Hill must get a good annual sum by his chapels and his travelling;" and on this coming to his ears, he remarked, "Well, let any one pay my travelling expenses for one year, and he shall have all my gains, I promise him." He did not relax his labours even in old age, for in one week, when past seventy-one, he travelled a hundred miles in a mountainous part of Wales, and preached twenty-one sermons. During his long ministry of sixty-six years he preached at least 23,000 sermons, many of which were delivered in the open air, being an average of 350 every year.
In the "Picture of London" for 1802 the name of Mr. Rowland Hill is placed at the head of the popular preachers among the "Calvinistic Methodists." He is described as "remarkable for a very vehement kind of eloquence, and on all subjects having the gift of a ready utterance; he is followed," adds the writer, "by the most crowded audiences, chiefly composed of the lower classes of society. . . . . Many of the most popular preachers among the Methodists are ordained ministers of the Established Church, and have no objection to administer the ordinances of religion either in the church, the chapel, the meeting-house, or the open air." As a preacher, he long held a position in the religious world which has never been paralleled, except, perhaps, by Robert Hall. Even Bishop Blomfield declared that Mr. Hill was the best preacher that he had ever heard. On one occasion Bishop Maltby accompanied Dr. Blomfield to the Surrey Chapel. The two bishops were great Greek scholars, and as the preacher floundered in some allusion to the original Greek of his text, the two prelates sat and winked at each other, enjoying the fun.
Mr. J. T. Smith, in his "Book for a Rainy Day," tells an amusing anecdote concerning Rowland Hill, which we may be pardoned for quoting. Mr. Smith narrates how that one Sunday morning, in his younger days, he was passing Surrey Chapel on his way to Camberwell, when the "swelling pipes" of the organ had such an attraction that he was induced to go inside. He then proceeds:—"No sooner was the sermon over and the blessing bestowed, than Rowland electrified his hearers by vociferating, 'Door-keepers, shut the doors!' Slam went one door; bounce went another; bang went a third; at last, all being anxiously silent as the most importantly unexpected scenes of Sir Walter Scott could make them, the pastor, with a slow and dulcet emphasis, thus addressed his congregation:—'My dearly beloved, I speak it to my shame, that this sermon was to have been a charity sermon, and if you will only look down into the green pew at those—let me see—three and three are six, and one makes seven, young men with red morocco prayer-books in their hands, poor souls! they were backsliders, for they went on the Serpentine River, and other far distant waters, on a Sabbath; they were, however, as you see, all saved from a watery grave. I need not tell ye that my exertions were to have been for the benefit of that benevolent institution, the Humane Society. What! I see some of ye already up to be gone; fie! fie! fie!—never heed your dinners; don't be Calibans, nor mind your pockets. I know that some of ye are now attending to the devil's whispers. I say, listen to me! take my advice, give shillings instead of sixpences; and those who intended to give shillings, display half-crowns, in order not only to thwart the foul fiend's mischievousness, but to get your pastor out of this scrape; and if you do, I trust Satan will never put his foot within this circle again. Hark ye! I have hit upon it; ye shall leave us directly. The Bank Directors, you must know, have called in the dollars; now, if any of you happen to be encumbered with a stale dollar or two, jingle the Spanish in our dishes; we'll take them, they'll pass current here. Stay, my friends, a moment more. I am to dine with the Humane Society on Tuesday next, and it would shock me beyond expression to see the strings of the Surrey Chapel bag dangle down its sides like the tags upon Lady Huntingdon's servants' shoulders. Now, mind what I say, upon this occasion I wish for a bumper as strenuously as Master Hugh Peters did when he recommended his congregation in Broadway Chapel to take a second glass.'" Mr. Smith adds, as a foot-note, that it is recorded of Hugh Peters, a celebrated preacher during the usurpation of Oliver Cromwell, that when he found the sand of his hour-glass had descended, he turned it, saying, "Come, I know you to be jolly dogs, we'll take t'other glass."
Mr. Sidney, one of Rowland Hill's biographers, relates an amusing instance of his ready wit. It seems he was accustomed, when in the desk, to read any request for prayer that might be sent in. One day he thus commenced—"'The prayers of this congregation are desired for'—well, I suppose I must finish what I have begun—'the Rev. Rowland Hill, that he will not go riding about in his carriage on Sundays.'" Not in the least disconcerted, Mr. Hill looked up, and gravely said, "If the writer of this piece of folly and impertinence is in the congregation, and will go into the vestry after service, and let me put a saddle on his back, I will ride him home, instead of going in my carriage." He then went on with the service as if nothing unusual had happened. Being reminded of this circumstance many years afterwards by Mr. Sidney, he said it was quite true. "You know I could not call him a donkey in plain terms."
From the Rev. T. W. Aveling's "Memoirs of the Clayton Family" we quote two anecdotes of Rowland Hill:—As he was entering Surrey Chapel, one Sunday morning, Mr. Hill passed two lads, one of whom said to his companion, "Let's go and hear Rowland Hill, and have some fun." The old gentleman went inside the porch, just before the boys, and gave directions to the verger to put them in a certain pew, in front of the pulpit, and fasten the door. This was done. After the prayers were finished, Mr. Hill rose and gave out his text—"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (Ps. ix. 17); and looking full into the faces of the two youths, who sat immediately before him, he said, significantly, "And there's fun for you." The congregation, somewhat familiar with the old man's oddities, felt sure that he had a special reason for this strange remark; and when, each time he repeated the text, this singular commentary immediately followed, all looked to see in what direction his glance was turned, and the two lads soon found themselves "the observed of all observers." The tremor and alarm with which they heard the words that reminded them of their design on coming that morning to Surrey Chapel were not diminished when they saw every eye fixed upon them, whichever way they looked; and conscience, "which doth make cowards of us all," wrought so powerfully—in conjunction with Mr. Hill's illustrations of his text—that one of them fainted away, and had to be carried out by his companion. The latter remained comparatively unaffected, except with a temporary feeling of shame. The youth who fainted returned the next Sunday to the chapel; in the course of time he became an Independent minister; and before he died was chairman of the Congregational Union. The other grew up careless and abandoned, and became an outcast from country and friends.
Another anecdote has been related of Mr. Hill, which shows the readiness and wit with which London working men can sometimes retort an unwelcome reproof. One day, going down the New Cut, opposite his chapel, he heard a brewer's drayman, who was lowering some barrels, swearing most fearfully. Rowland Hill rebuked him very solemnly, and said, "Ah, my man! I shall appear one day as a witness against you." "Very likely," rejoined the offender; "the biggest rogues always turn king's evidence!" This unwelcome retort made Mr. Hill resolve to be cautious in future, when he reproved such men again, how he reproved them.
Rowland Hill's biographers inform us that a generous benevolence was a distinguishing trait of his character, and that he seemed to possess the power of inspiring his flock with a similar spirit. On two occasions on which collections were made in the churches and chapels throughout the kingdom (the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd's, and the subscription for the relief of the German sufferers), the collections at Surrey Chapel are recorded to have been the largest raised at any one place. The sum annually raised for charitable and religious institutions at Surrey Chapel has varied from £2,000 to £3,000.
Rowland Hill's death took place in April, 1833, in the eighty-ninth year of his age. Up to the last fortnight of his life he was able to preach a sermon of nearly an hour's duration once every Sunday. He was buried, at his own request, beneath the pulpit of Surrey Chapel. The funeral service was attended by a very large congregation; his nephew, the head of his family, Lord Hill, then Commanderin-Chief of the army, being the chief mourner. A tablet and bust in his memory were placed soon afterwards in the gallery behind the pulpit. His successor in the ministry of Surrey Chapel was the Rev. James Sherman, on whose resignation, in the year 1854, the pulpit became occupied by the Rev. Newman Hall.
Rowland Hill, when advanced in life, became possessed of some fortune; and accordingly, at his decease, he left the large sum of £11,000 to the Village Itinerancy, together with sundry donations to different religious institutions. Besides these bequests, he left a sum of money for the perpetuation of Surrey Chapel at the expiration of the lease; but this gift having subsequently been declared informal, as coming under the Statute of Mortmain, the bequest reverted to Hackney College, and in 1859 the congregation set themselves zealously to work to subscribe a sum equal to that which they had lost (£8,000). As they were unable to obtain a renewal of the lease, a new church was erected in the Westminster Bridge Road, on the site formerly occupied by the Female Orphan Asylum, as we have already stated; (fn. 5) and to this new building the congregation migrated in July, 1876. Since that date Surrey Chapel has been occupied by the Primitive Methodists.
Surrey Chapel became "the centre of a system of benevolent societies designed to reach the various classes of the community;" and in 1812 Rowland Hill established some almshouses in the adjacent Gravel Lane, in a thoroughfare now known as Hill Street, on a spot ominously enough named Hangman's Acre, where twenty-four poor widows found a home. Mr. Charlesworth, in his recently published "Life of Rowland Hill," thus records the eccentric preacher's mode of dealing with applicants:—"An aged female wished to qualify herself for admission to an almshouse by becoming a member of the church. 'So you wish to join the church?'—'If you please, sir.' 'Where have you been accustomed to hear the Gospel?'—'At your blessed chapel, sir.' 'Oh! indeed; at my blessed chapel; dear me! And how long have you attended with us?'—'For several years.' 'Do you think you have got any good by attending the chapel?'—'Oh! yes, sir. I have had many blessed seasons.' 'Indeed! Under whose ministry do you think you were led to feel yourself to be a sinner?'—'Under your blessed ministry.' 'Indeed! And do you think your heart is pretty good?'—'Oh, no! sir; it is a very bad one.' 'What! and do you come here with your bad heart, and wish to join the church?'—'Oh, sir! I mean that my heart is not worse than others; it is pretty good on the whole!' 'Indeed! that's more than I can say; I'm sure mine's bad enough. Well, have you heard that we are going to build some blessed almshouses?'—'Yes, sir, I have.' 'Should you like to have one of them?' Dropping a very low curtsey, she replied, 'Yes, sir, if you please.' 'I thought so. You may go about your business, my friend; you won't do for us.' The severity of this treatment was doubtless justified by Mr. Hill's knowledge of the applicant, and the suspicion of her ulterior object."
On the west side of Blackfriars Road, about midway between Great Charlotte Street and the bridge, is Christ Church, which dates its erection from the middle of the last century. The parish of Christ Church was taken out of that of St. Saviour, Southwark, and was originally part of the district called the Liberty of Paris Garden. This spot, as we have shown in a previous chapter, (fn. 6) was one of the ancient places of amusement of the metropolis; and it seems to have been much frequented on Sundays for bear-baiting, a favourite sport in the time of Queen Elizabeth. Paris Garden, according to the ancient maps, extended from the west end of Bankside and the Liberty of the Clink towards what is now the southern extremity of Blackfriars Bridge. On the east it appears bounded by a mill-stream and mill-pond, and a road marked as leading to Copt Hall; there was also a mill, with gates, between the pond and the Thames. There is, or used to be, a ditch or dyke running across Great Surrey Street; but for some years it has been covered or built upon. All buildings thereon are subject to a ground-rent, payable to "the steward of the manor of Old Paris Garden, and are collected half-yearly. (fn. 7) In the centre of the Liberty stood a cross, from which a narrow thoroughfare, marked "Olde Parris Lane," leads down to the river. On the south-east, a winding thoroughfare, with water on both sides, leads to St. George's Fields; and on the south-west another to the "Manner (sic) House." There are small rows of cottages along parts of these roads.
In early times very few houses stood on this marshy ground; but we have an account of a mansion or manor-house built upon a somewhat elevated part of the marsh, near the river, by one Robert of Paris, in the reign of Richard II.; the locality is still indicated by the name of Upper Ground Street. "It is said," writes the author of "London in the Olden Time," published in 1855, "that the king commanded the butchers of London to purchase this estate by the river-side for the purpose of making it a receptacle for garbage discharged from the city slaughter-houses, so that the inhabitants might not be annoyed therewith. This plot of ground, called Paris Garden—for so it has always been designated—is, or was, surrounded by the Thames and its waters which flow through ditches at high tides."
It appears that subsequently this estate of Robert of Paris came into the possession of the prior and monks of Bermondsey Abbey; but on the dissolution of the monasteries it was sold, and fell into lay hands. About one hundred and fifty years afterwards, in the reign of William and Mary, we find Paris Garden an inhabited locality, the property of a gentleman named Marshall, who founded and endowed here a church, which he named Christ Church, having obtained an Act of Parliament converting the ancient manor of Paris Garden into a parish under that name.
The first church was erected at the expense of Mr. Marshall, and finished in 1671. The steeple and spire, which were 125 feet high, were not completed till 1695. This edifice, in consequence of the badness of the foundations, soon became so dilapidated, that in 1737 Mr. Marshall's trustees applied to Parliament for power to rebuild it, with the sum of £2,500, which had accumulated in their hands from the trust, and obtained an Act for that purpose. The present structure was accordingly erected. This is situated in a spacious burialground. The plan of the fabric is nearly square; and at the west end is a square tower, flanked by lobbies. The walls are of brick, with stone dressings. The tower is built partly within and partly without the wall of the church; it is in three storeys: the lower has an arched doorway, with a circular window over it, and the second and third storeys each have arched windows. An octagon turret of wood rises above the parapet in two stages, the lower forming the plinth to the other; in four of the faces are dials, and the whole is finished with a cupola and vane. The general appearance of the body of the church is plain and uninteresting, both externally and internally. The great east window contains some ornamented stained glass and a painting of the descending dove; in the side lights are the arms of the see of Winchester, impaled with those of Izaak Walton's "good Bishop Morley," who was bishop of that diocese at the time of the consecration of the church.
At a short distance northward of Christ Church, Stamford Street branches off westwards from Blackfriars Road, and thus forms a connecting link with that thoroughfare and Waterloo Bridge Road. It is a good broad street, dating from the beginning of this century; and, with York Road westward of it and Southwark Street to the east, serves as a direct communication, almost parallel with the river, from the High Street, Borough, to Westminster Bridge and Lambeth. On the south side of Stamford Street is a chapel, built about the year 1824, for the Unitarians. The building, from an architectural point of view, forms a striking contrast with the generality of chapels and meetinghouses. A portico, of the Grecian Doric order, occupies the whole front of the edifice, and imparts to it a commanding and temple-like aspect. The wall within this portico is unbroken by any other aperture than a single door, forming the entrance to the building. The interior corresponds with the exterior in simplicity of taste and in the style of its decoration, which is of that plainness that it might even satisfy a congregation of Quakers.
Nearly opposite the above-mentioned chapel, at the corner of Hatfield Street, is the Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, an institution which since its establishment, in 1841, has done a deal of good in the gratuitous medical treatment of the poor afflicted with cutaneous diseases. This institution was originally established in New Bridge Street, Blackfriars, and from 800 to 1,000 of the suffering poor are every week relieved here.
In Duke Street, close by, are the extensive printing works of the Messrs. Clowes and Sons. This is one of the largest establishments of the kind in the kingdom, and from its presses have issued many of the works of Charles Dickens, Charles Knight, and other eminent men of letters, as well as the publications of the "Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales," numerous military works, and statistical reports for various Government offices. The firm, in 1840, undertook the contract for supplying the famous Mulready envelope. The Mirror stated that they arranged to supply the public with half a million a day; but the design was distasteful to the public, and the envelope was speedily recalled.
At the corner of Stamford Street and Blackfriars Road, on the spot now occupied by the Central Bank of London and three or four large houses adjoining it, stood, till 1874, a row of tenements, which for many years previously, owing to the eccentricity of their owner, a Miss Angelina Read, had been allowed to remain unoccupied. They had long been windowless, and the dingy rooms encumbered with dirt and rubbish and overrun with rats; indeed, such a forlorn and desolate aspect had they assumed that they became generally known as "the haunted houses." In the above year, Miss Read having bequeathed them to the Consumption Hospital at Brompton, they were demolished, and some fine buildings have been erected in their place.
A few doors northwards of Stamford Street, on
the west side of Blackfriars Road, is the building
once occupied by the museum collected by Sir
Ashton Lever, and removed hither from Leicester
Square, (fn. 8) when it became the property of a Mr.
Parkinson. The following is a fac-simile of an
advertisement of the exhibition, taken from a
London newspaper of March, 1790:—
This admired Assemblage of the Productions of Nature and Art, with several curious and valuable additions, both presented and purchased, continues to be exhibited every day (Sundays excepted) from Ten to Six.
Part the First of the Catalogue of this Collection may be had at the following places:—Messrs. White and Son, in Fleet Street; Mr. Robson, in New Bond Street, Mr. Elmsly, in the Strand; Mr. Sewell, in Cornhill; and at the Museum. Price 2s. 6d.
This curious, extensive, and valuable collection here experienced the most mortifying neglect, till, in 1806, it was finally dispersed by public auction, in a sale which lasted forty days. The premises were subsequently occupied by the Surrey Institution, which was established in the following year. Here some gentlemen proposed to form an institution on the Surrey side of the river, on a plan similar to that of the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street. It was intended to have a series of lectures, an extensive library and reading-rooms, a chemical laboratory and philosophical apparatus, &c. In 1820 this valuable institution was dissolved, the library, &c., being sold by auction. After that, the building, which was called the Rotunda, was occupied for some years as a wine and concertroom. In September, 1833, it was opened as the Globe Theatre. Two years previously it had been appropriated to all kinds of purposes, including the dissemination of the worst religious and political opinions, and penny exhibitions of wax-work and wild beast shows. In 1838 the Rotunda was again opened as a concert-room; but the concern never prospered, and its vicissitudes afterwards are not worth noting. It was finally closed as a place of amusement about the year 1855, and the building is now used for business purposes, being known as the Rotunda Auction and Sale Rooms.
At the foot of Blackfriars Bridge formerly stood a range of buildings, which at one time constituted part of the Albion Mills. This extensive concern was set on foot by a company of spirited and opulent individuals, with the view of counteracting the impositions but too frequently practised in the grinding of corn. On the 3rd of March, 1791, the whole building, with the exception of the corner wing, occupied as the house and offices of the superintendent, was destroyed by fire, together with four thousand sacks of flour which it contained. When these mills were burnt down, Horace Walpole was not ashamed to own that he had literally never seen or heard of them, though the flakes and the dust of burning grain were carried as far as Westminster, Palace Yard, and even to St. James's. "One may live," writes Walpole, "in a vast capital, and know no more of three-parts of it than of Carthage. When I was in Florence I have surprised some Florentines by telling them that London is built (like their city, where you often cross the bridges several times in a day) on each side of the river, and yet that I had never been but on one side; for then I had never been in Southwark." What would Horace Walpole have said of London, had he lived in the reign of Victoria?
The front of the mill remained for many years unrepaired, but was subsequently formed into a row of handsome private habitations. These, in turn, were demolished a few years ago, to make room for the Blackfriars station and goods depôt on the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway.
Somewhere near this spot, at no great distance from the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge, stood the most westerly of the play-houses on Bankside—the Swan Theatre. It was a large house, and flourished only a few years, being suppressed at the commencement of the civil wars, and soon afterwards demolished.
Before the building of Blackfriars Bridge, in 1766, there was a ferry at this spot for the conveyance of traffic across the river. An idea of the value of some of the ferries on the Thames may be formed from the circumstance that on the construction of this bridge the committee of management agreed to invest the Waterman's Company with £13,650 Consolidated Three per Cent. Annuities, to satisfy them for the loss of the Sunday ferry at Blackfriars, which was proved to have produced, upon an average for fourteen years, the sum of £409,000.