Upper Thames Street

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Centre for Metropolitan History

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Author

Walter Thornbury

Year published

1878

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Pages

17-28

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'Upper Thames Street', Old and New London: Volume 2 (1878), pp. 17-28. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45072 Date accessed: 16 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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CHAPTER III.

UPPER THAMES STREET.

Noblemen's Mansions in Thames Street—Clarence's House—Queen's Pin Money—The old Legend of Queen Eleanor—The "Three Cranes" in the Vintry—Cromwell's Widow—Chaucer's Patron—Vintners' Hall—Old Wines—Wine Patentees—The Vintners' Swans—The Duke of Buckingham's House on College Hill—Dryden's Zimri—George Villiers—The Mercers' School, College Hill—St. Michael's Church—Cleveland the Poet.

Among the great mansions and noblemen's palaces that once abounded in this narrow river-side street, we must first of all touch at Cold Harbour, the residence of many great merchants and princes of old time. It is first mentioned, as Stow tells us, in the 13th of Edward II., when Sir John Abel, Knight, let it to Henry Stow, a draper. It was then called Cold Harbrough, in the parish of All Saints ad Fœnum (All Hallows in the Hay), so named from an adjoining hay-wharf. Bequeathed to the Bigots, it was sold by them, in the reign of Edward III., to the well-known London merchant, Sir John Poultney, Draper, four times Mayor of London, and was then called Poultney's Inn. Sir John gave or let it to Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, for one rose at Midsummer, to be given to him and his heirs for all services. In 1397 Richard II. dined there, with his halfbrother John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon, who then lodged in Poultney's Inn, still accounted, as Stow says, "a right fair and stately house." The next year, Edmund, Earl of Cambridge, lodged in it. It still retained its old name in 1410, when Henry IV. granted the house to Prince Hal for the term of his life, starting the young reveller fairly by giving him a generous order on the collector of the customs for twenty casks and one pipe of red Gascony wine, free of duty. In 1472 the river-side mansion belonged to Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter. This duke was the unfortunate Lancastrian (great-grandson of John of Ghent) who, being severely wounded in the battle of Barnet, was conveyed by one of his faithful servants to the Sanctuary at Westminster. He remained in the custody of Edward IV., with the weekly dole of half a mark. The duke hoped to have obtained a pardon from the York party through the influence of his wife, Ann, who was the king's eldest sister. But flight and suffering had made both factions remorseless. This faithless wife obtaining a divorce, married Sir Thomas St. Leger; and not long after, the duke's dead body was found floating in the sea between Dover and Calais. He had either been murdered or drowned in trying to escape from England. Thus the Duke of Exeter's Inn suffered from the victory of Edward, as his neighbour's, the great Earl of Worcester, had paid the penalties of Henry's temporary restoration in 1470. Richard III., grateful to the Heralds for standing up for his strong-handed usurpation, gave Cold Harbour to the Heralds, who, however, were afterwards turned out by Cuthbert Tunstal, Bishop of Durham, whom Henry VIII. had forced out of Durham House in the Strand. In the reign of Edward VI., just before the death of that boy of promise, the ambitious Earl of Northumberland, wishing to win the chief nobles to his side, gave Cold Harbour to Francis, the fifth Earl of Shrewsbury, and its name was then changed to Shrewsbury House (1553), six days before the young king's death. The next earl (guardian for fifteen years of Mary Queen of Scots) took the house down, and built in its place a number of small tenements, and it then became the haunt of poverty, as we see by the following extracts from old writers:—
"Or thence thy starved brother live and die,
Within the Cold Coal-harbour sanctuary."

Bishop Hall's "Satires," b. v., s. I.

"Morose. Your knighthood itself shall come on its knees, and it shall be rejected; . . . or it (knighthood) shall do worse—take sanctuary in Cole-Harbour, and fast."—Ben Jonson, "The Silent Woman," act ii., sc. I.

"Old Harding. And though the beggar's brat—his wife, I mean—

Should, for the want of lodging, sleep on stalls, Or lodge in stocks or cages, would your charities Take her to better harbour?

"John. Unless to Cold Harbour, where, of twenty chimneys standing, you shall scarce, in a whole winter, see two smoking. We harbour her? Bridewell shall first."—Heywood and Rowley, "Fortune by Land and Sea," 410, 1655.


NONSUCH HOUSE. (see page 15.)

On the east side of Dowgate, near the church of St. Mary Bothaw, formerly stood a celebrated old house frequently mentioned by Stow and the old chroniclers, and called, we know not why, the Erber. Edward III. is known to have given it to one of the Scropes. The last Scrope, in the reign of Henry IV., gave it to his brother, Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmoreland, who married Joan, daughter of the Duke of Lancaster. This earl was the son of John, Lord Neville of Raby, the knightly companion of Edward III., and who had shared with his chivalrous monarch the glory won in France. From the earl it descended to the king-making Earl of Warwick, that great warrior, who looms like a giant through the red battle-fields of the Wars of the Roses, who lodged his father, the Earl of Salisbury, and 500 men here in the congress of 1458, when there was a pretended reconciliation of the Houses of York and Lancaster, to be followed in two years by the battle of Northampton and the deposition of the weak king. The great earl himself lived in Warwick Lane, Newgate Street. After the death of this maker and unmaker of kings, the house passed to the "false, fleeting, perjured Clarence," who had fought on both sides, and, luckily for himself, at last on the victorious side. Clarence obtained, after the battle of Barnet, a grant of the house in right of his wife, Isabel, daughter of Warwick. After Clarence's murder in the Tower, his younger brother, Richard of Gloucester—the Crookback and monster usurper of Shakespeare—occupied the Thames Street house, repaired it, and called it "the King's Palace." Ralph Darnel, a yeoman of the Crown, kept the building for King Richard till that hot day at Bosworth Field rendered such matters indifferent to him; and Henry VII. then gave it back to Edward, son of the Duke of Clarence, who kept it till his attainder in 1500. It was rebuilt in 1584 by Sir Thomas Pullison (a Draper, ancestor of the Stanleys), Lord Mayor of London, and was afterwards honoured by being the residence of that great sea-king, Sir Francis Drake, who must have found it convenient for dropping down to Greenwich.

Mr. Jesse, in writing of the Neville family, dwells with much pathos on the fate of the family that once held the Erber. "When the granddaughter of John of Gaunt," he says, "sat in her domestic circle, watching complacently the childish sports and listening to the joyous laughter of her young progeny, how little could she have anticipated the strange fate which awaited them ! Her husband perished on the bloody field of Wakefield; her first-born, afterwards Edward IV., followed in the ambitious footsteps of his father, and waded through bloodshed to a throne; her second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, perished at the battle of Wakefield; her third son, 'false, fleeting, perjured Clarence,' died in the dungeons of the Tower; and her youngest son, Richard, succeeded to a throne and a bloody death. The career of her daughters was also remarkable. Ann, her eldest daughter, married Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, whose splendid fortunes and mysterious fate are so well known. Elizabeth, the second daughter, became the wife of John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, and lived to see her son, the second duke, decapitated on Tower Hill for his attachment to the House of York. Lastly, her third daughter, Margaret, married Charles, Duke of Burgundy. This lady's persevering hostility to Henry VII., and open support of the claims of Perkin Warbeck, believing him to be the last male heir of the House of Plantagenet, have rendered her name conspicuous in history."


THE "THREE CRANES," THAMES STREET. (See page 20.)

Queenhithe—or Queenhive, as it was corruptly called by the Elizabethan dramatists—was originally, according to Stow, called "Edred's Hythe," or bank, from some Saxon owner of that part of Thames Street. It was royal property as early as the reign of King Stephen, who bestowed it upon William de Ypres, who left it to the convent of the Holy Trinity within Aldgate. King John is said to have given it to his mother, Eleanor, queen of Henry II. If two vessels came up the river together, one had to discharge at Billingsgate and one at Queenhithe; if three, two went to Queenhithe and one to Billingsgate. The tolls were, in fact, the Queen of England's pin-money. Vessels which brought corn from the Cinque Ports usually discharged their cargoes here. At the end of the fifteenth century, however, Fabian says the harbour dues at Queenhithe were worth only £15 a year. A century later (Stow's time) it was quite forsaken. In the curious old ballad quoted with such naiveté in Peele's chronicle-play of Edward I., Queen Eleanor (Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I.), having taken a false oath, sinks into the ground at Charing Cross and rises again at Queenhithe. The ballad-writer makes her say:—
"If that upon so vile a thing
Her heart did ever think,
She wished the ground might open wide,
And therein she might sink.

"With that at Charing Cross she sunk
Into the ground alive,
And after rose to life again
In London at Queenhithe."

It was at Queenhithe that the rash Essex, the favourite of Elizabeth, took boat after the affray in the City, when he was beginning to be hemmed in, and he rowed back from here to Essex House in the Strand, where he was soon after besieged. He might as well, poor fellow! have pulled straight to the Tower, and ordered the block to be got ready.

St. Nicholas Olave's stood on the west side of Bread Street Hill, in the ward of Queenhithe. That it is of great antiquity is evident by Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of London, having given the same to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's about the year 1172; and its name is supposed to be derived from Olave, or Olaus, King of Norway. The church sharing the common fate in the flames of 1666, was not rebuilt, and the parish was annexed to the church of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey. The following epitaph relating to Blitheman, organist of the Queen's Chapel, and buried in St. Nicholas, has been preserved:—
"Here Blitheman lies, a worthy wight,
Who feared God above;
A friend to all, a foe to none,
Whom rich and poore did love.
Of Prince's Chapel, gentleman,
Unto his dying day,
Whom all tooke great delight to heare
Him on the organs play;
Whose passing skill in musicke's art
A scholar left behind,
John Bull (by name), his master's veine
Expressing in each kind.
But nothing here continues long,
Nor resting-place can have:
His soul departed hence to heaven,
His body here in grave.
"He died on Whitsunday, Anno Domini 1591."

The "Three Cranes" was formerly a favourite London sign. Instead of the three cranes which in the Vintry used to lift the barrels of wine, three birds were represented. The "Three Cranes" in Thames Street was a famous tavern as early as the reign of James I. It was one of the taverns frequented by the wits in Ben Jonson's time. In one of his plays he says:—

"A pox o' these pretenders to wit! your 'Three Cranes,' 'Mitre,' and 'Mermaid' men! Not a corn of true salt, not a grain of right mustard amongst them all."—Bartholomew Fair, act i., sc. I.

And in another of his plays we have:—

"Iniquity. Nay, boy, I will bring thee to the sluts and the roysters,

At Billingsgate, feasting with claret-wine and oysters;

From thence shoot the bridge, child, to the 'Cranes,' in the Vintry,

And see there the gimblets how they make their entry.'

Ben Jonson, "The Devil is an Ass," act i., sc. I.

On the 23rd of January, 1661–2, Pepys suffered a bitter mortification of the flesh in having to dine at this tavern with some poor relations. The sufferings of the snobbish secretary must have been intense:—"By invitacion to my uncle Fenner's, where I found his new wife, a pitiful, old, ugly, illbred woman in a hatt, a midwife. Here were many of his, and as many of her relations, sorry, mean people; and after choosing our gloves we all went over to the 'Three Crane' Taverne, and (though the best room of the house), in such a narrow dogghole we were crammed (and I believe we were near forty), that it made me loath my company and victuals, and a sorry poor dinner it was too."

The Mercurius Politicus of May 14th, 1660, says: "Information was given to the Council of State that several of His Majesty's goods were kept at a fruiterer's warehouse near the 'Three Cranes,' in Thames Street, for the use of Mistress Elizabeth Cromwell, wife to Oliver Cromwell, sometime called Protector; and the Council ordered that persons be appointed to view them, and seventeen cart-loads of rich house stuff was taken from thence and brought to Whitehall, from whence they were stolen."

"New Queen Street," says Strype, "commonly called the 'Three Cranes,' in the Vintry, a good open street, especially that part next Cheapside, which is best built and inhabited. . . . At the low end of the street, next the Thames, is a pair of stairs, the usual place for the Lord Mayor and aldermen to take water at, to go to Westminster Hall, for the new Lord Mayor to be sworn before the Barons of the Exchequer. This place, with the 'Three Cranes,' is now of some account for the costermongers, where they have their warehouses for their fruit."

The church of St. Martin in the Vintry was sometimes, according to Stow, called by the name of St. Martin de Beremand. This church, destroyed in the Great Fire, was not rebuilt. A curious epitaph in it related to Robert Dalusse, barber in the reign of Edward IV.:—
"As flowers in the field thus passeth life,
Naked, then clothed, feeble in the end;
It sheweth by Robert Dalusse, and Alison, his wife,
Christ them save from power of the Fiend."

A little to the west of Vintner's Hall once stood a most celebrated house, in Lower Thames Street, the residence of that learned nobleman, John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, and Lord High Treasurer of England (Edward IV.), but more distinguished to later generations as the generous patron of Caxton, our first great printer.

In the dedication of his "Cicero," Caxton says of the earl: "I mean the right virtuous and noble earl, the Earl of Worcester, which late piteously lost his life, whose soul I recommend unto your special prayers; and also in his time made many other virtuous works, which I have heard of. O good blessed Lord God, what great loss was it of that noble, virtuous, and well-disposed lord! when I remember and advertise his life, his science, and his virtue, me thinketh God displeased over the great loss of such a man, considering his estate and cunning; and also the exercise of the same, with the great labours of going on pilgrimage unto Jerusalem; visiting there the holy places that our blessed Lord Jesu Christ hallowed with his blessed presence; and shedding there his precious blood for our redemption, and from thence ascended unto his Father in heaven; and what worship had he at Rome in the presence of our Holy Father the Pope. And so in all other places unto his death, at which death every man that was there might learn to die and take his death patiently, wherein I hope, and doubt not, but that God received his soul into his everlasting bliss."

"The Earl of Worcester, while he resided in Italy, was a great collector of books. 'The Earl of Worcester,' says Laurentius Carbo, 'captivated by the charms of the Muses, hath remained three years in Italy, and now resides at Padua, for the sake of study, and detained by the civilities of the Venetians, who, being exceedingly fond of books, hath plundered, if I may so speak, our Italian libraries to enrich England.' After his return home the earl made a present of books to the University Library of Oxford, which had cost him 500 marks—a great sum in those times," &c. But this prosperity was not of long duration. A new revolution took place. Edward IV. was obliged to abandon his kingdom with great precipitation to save his life. The Earl of Worcester was not so fortunate as to escape; but, after he had concealed himself a few days, he was discovered on a high tree in the forest of Waybrig, conducted to London, condemned at Westminster, and beheaded on Tower Hill, October 15, 1470. He was accused of cruelty in the government of Ireland; but his greatest crime, and that for which he suffered, was his steady loyalty to his rightful sovereign and generous benefactor, Edward IV. "The axe," says Fuller, in his usually pithy way, "then did, at one blow, cut off more learning than was in the heads of all the surviving nobility." While the earl resided at Padua, which was about three years, during the heat of the civil wars in England, he visited Rome, and delivered an oration before Pope Pius II. (Æneas Silvius) and his cardinals, which drew tears of joy from His Holiness, and made him say aloud, "Behold the only prince of our times who, for virtue and eloquence, may be compared to the most excellent emperors of Greece and Rome;" and yet so barbarous was the age, that this same learned man impaled forty Lancastrian prisoners at Southampton, put to death the infant children of the Irish chief Desmond, and acquired the nickname of "the Butcher of England."

Vintners' Hall—one of the most interesting buildings now existing in Thames Street, once so much inhabited by the rich and noble—stands on the river-side not far from Queenhithe.

According to worthy Stow, the Vintry, up till the 28th of Edward I., was the special spot where the Bordeaux merchants unloaded their lighters and sold their wines. Sir John Stodie, Vintner, gave the ground, in 1357 (Edward III.), to the Vintners, with all the neighbouring tenements, and there the Vintners built a fair hall, and thirteen almshouses for thirteen poor people.

The contentions between the citizens of London and the Gascon wine merchants, in the reign of Edward I., it has been remarked, would lead us to infer that the Vintners had long before that time acted as a fraternity, though not formally incorporated till the reign of Henry VI. Edward I. granted them Botolph Wharf, near Billingsgate, in the mayoralty of Henry de Valois, on their paying a silver penny annually at the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Towards the French wars they contributed £23 6s. 8d., a greater sum than that given by the majority of the companies; and in 50 Edward III. they sent six members to the Common Council, which showed their wealth and importance.

The Saxons seem to have had vineyards. In the Norman times there was a vineyard in the Tower precincts. It is supposed this uncomfortable home-made wine was discarded when Gascony fell into our hands. Some writers who disbelieve in English wines declare that the Saxons used the English word "vineyard" for "orchard," and that wine was, after all, cider. Certain, however, it is that at Bath and other old towns there are old streets still called the Vineyard. The traffic in Bordeaux wines is said to have commenced about 1154, when Henry II. married Eleanor of Aquitaine.

"The Normans," says Herbert, "were the great carriers, and Guienne the place from whence most of our wines came." The wines enumerated are Muscadell, a rich wine; Malmsey, Rhenish; Dale wine, a sort of Rhenish; Stum, strong new wine; Gascony wine; Alicant, a Spanish wine, made of mulberries; Canary wine, or sweet sack (the grape of which was brought from the Canaries); Sherry, the original sack, not sweet; Rumney, a sort of Spanish wine. Sack was a term loosely applied at first to all white wines. It was probably those species of wines that Fitzstephens, in the reign of Henry II., mentions to have been sold in the ships, and in wine-cellars near the public places of cookery on the Thames' bank.

There were four Vintner mayors in the reign of Edward III., and yet, says Stow, gravely, "Gascoyne wines were then sold at London not above 4d., nor Rhenish wine above 6d. the gallon." In this reign John Peeche, a fishmonger, was imprisoned and fined for having obtained a monopoly for the sale of sweet wines; and in the 6th of Henry VI., John Rainewell, Mayor of London, finding that the Lombard wine merchants adulterated their sweet wines, he, in his wrath, ordered 150 vessels to be staved in, "so that the liquor, running forth, passed through the cittie like a stream of rainwater in the sight of all the people, from whence there issued a most loathsome savour."

In 2 Henry VI. there was a petition to Parliament praying that the wine-casks from Gascony—tonnes, pipes and hogsheads—should be of full and true measure; and in 10 Henry VI. there was another petition against the adulteration of Gascon and Guienne wines, in which the writer says, "wines that formerly had been fine and fair were drinking for four or five lives."

The charter confirmed by Henry VI. forbids any but such as are enfranchised by the craft of Vintners to trade in wines from Gascony; and Gascoigners were forbidden to sell wine except in the tun or pipe. The right of search in taverns and the regulation of prices was given to four members of the Company, annually chosen. It also permitted merchant Vintners to buy cloth, and the merchants of Gascoigne to purchase dried fish in Cornwall and Devon, also herrings and cloth, in what other parts of the kingdom they please. All wines coming to London were to be unloaded above London Bridge, at the Vintry, so that the king's bottlers and gaugers might there take custom.

Charles I., always arbitrary and greedy, seems to have extorted 40s. a tun from the Vintners, and in return prohibited the wine coopers from exporting wines. Licences for retailing wine were at this time granted by the Vintners' Company for the king's benefit. He also forbade the sale of wines in bottles instead of measures.

The Vintners have six charters—Edward III., Henry VI. (two), Mary, Elizabeth, and their acting charter, 9 James I. The Vintners' arms, granted by Henry VI., are sable, a chevron cetu, three tuns argent, with a Bacchus and loving-cup for the crest.

Patents received their death-blow from the Parliament in 1641, when two patentees, Alderman Abell and Richard Kilvert, were severely fined for having obtained from Charles I. an exclusive patent for wine. The Perfect Diurnall of 5th February, 1641, thus notices the transaction:—"A bill was brought into the House of Commons concerning the wine business, by which it appeared that Alderman Abell and Mr. Kilvert had in their hands, which they deceived the King of, £57,000 upon the wine licence; the Vintners of London, £66,000; the wine merchants of Bristol, £1,051; all of which moneys were ordered to be immediately raised on their lands and estates, and to be employed to the public use."

A very scarce and satirical contemporaneous tract on the subject (says Herbert) gives, in a supposed dialogue between the two parties, a ludicrous exposure of this business of patent hunting. Abell and Kilvert, who in the tract are called "the two maine projectors for wine," accidentally meet, and the latter claiming acquaintance with the alderman, as one at whose house he had often been a guest, "when he kept the 'Ship' tavern behind Old Fish Street," Abell answers that he did indeed get a good estate there by retailing wines, but chiefly through finding hidden treasure in digging a vault near his cellar, or, as he terms it, "the cardinal's cellar," and without which, he adds, "I had never came to wear this gold chaine, with my thumbes under my girdle." Kilvert's proposal contains a fine piece of satire on the mode in which such patents were first obtained:—

"Kilv. Marry, thus: We must first pretend, both in the merchant and vintner, some gross abuses, and these no meane ones either. And that the merchant shall pay to the king forty shillings for every tun ere he shall vent it to the vintner; in lieu of which, that the vintner may be no looser, he shall rayse the price also of his wines—upon all French wines a penny in the quart, upon all Spanish wines two-pence the quart: it is no matter how the subject suffers, so we get and gaine by it. Now to cover this our craft (I will not say coinage), because all things of the like nature carry a pretence for the king's profit, so we will allow him a competent proportion of forty thousand pounds per annum; when, the power of the patent being punctually executed, will yield double at least, if not treble that sume, and returne it into the coffers of the undertakers.

"Abell. Mr. Kilvert, I honour thee before all the feasts in our hall. Nay, we are free Vintners and brothers of the guild, and are for the most part true Trojans, and know where to find the best butts of wine in the cellar, and will pierce them for thee; it shall be pure wine from the grape, not mixt and compounded, but real and brisk. You thinke there are no brewers but such as brew ale and beere; I tell you we do brew and cunger in our sellers, as much as any brewer of their ale. Yea, and without fire too; but so much for that. Methinkes I see myselfe in Cheapside, upon an horse richly caparisoned, and my two shrieves to attend me; and methinkes thee in thy caroch, drawn by four horses, when I shall call to thee and say, 'Friend Kilvert, give me thy hand.'

"Kilv. To which I shall answer, 'God bless your honour, my good Lord Maior !'"

The song we annex occurs at the end of the only printed pageant of the Vintners, and was sung in the hall. No subsequent City pageant was ever publicly performed since; that written for 1708 was not exhibited, owing to the death of Prince George of Denmark the day before. For that pageant no songs were written, so that this is the last song of the last City poet at the last City pageant, and a better specimen than usual of his powers:—
"Come, come, let us drink the Vintners' good health;
'Tis the cask, not the coffer, that holds the true wealth;
If to founders of blessings we pyramids raise,
The bowl, next the sceptre, deserves the best praise.
Then, next to the Queen, let the Vintners' fame shine;
She gives us good laws, and they fill us good wine.

"Columbus and Cortez their sails they unfurl'd,
To discover the mines of an Indian world,
To find beds of gold so far they could roam;
Fools ! fools ! when the wealth of the world lay at home.
The grape, the true treasure, much nearer it grew:
One Isle of Canary's worth all the Peru.

"Let misers in garrets lay up their gay store,
And keep their rich bags to live wretchedly poor;
'Tis the cellar alone with true fame is renown'd:
Her treasure's diffusive, and cheers all around.
The gold and the gem's but the eye's gaudy toy,
But the Vintners' rich juice gives health, life, and joy."

Many of the documents of the Company kept at the first hall are supposed to have been lost in the Fire of London, which is said to be the reason why some of the almshouse and other donations cannot be satisfactorily accounted for.

The New View of London (1708) describes Vintners' Hall to be "situated on the south side of Thames Street, near Queen Street," and to be "well built of brick, and large and commodious. The room," it adds, "called the Hall is paved with marble, and the walls richly wainscoted with right wainscot, enriched with fruit leaves, &c., finely carved, as is more especially the noble screen at the east end, where the aperture into the Hall is adorned with columns, their entablature and pitched pediment; and on acrosters are placed the figures of Bacchus between several Fames, and these between two panthers; and there are other carved figures, as St. Martin, their patron, and the cripple, and pilasters; there are also other embellishments of several coats of arms, &c."

Two of the London Companies—the Dyers' and the Vintners' Companies—are, with the Crown, the principal owners of swans in the Thames. These two companies have long enjoyed the privilege of keeping swans on the river, from the Metropolis to a considerable distance above Windsor. "The swans in the Thames," says Mr. Kempe, "are much less numerous than they used to be. In August, 1841, the following number of old and young swans belonged to Her Majesty and the two civic companies:—

Old Swans. Cygnets. Total.
The Queen 185 47 232
The Vintners' Company 79 21 100
The Dyers' Company 91 14 105
355 82 437

At one period, however, the Vintners' Company alone possessed 500 birds.

"On the first Monday in August in every year, the swan-markers of the Crown and the two City companies go up the Thames for the purpose of inspecting and taking an account of the swans belonging to their respective employers, and marking the young birds. They proceed to the different parts of the river frequented by the swans for breeding, and other places where these birds are kept. They pay half-a-crown for each young bird to the fishermen who have made nests for the old birds, and two shillings per week to any person who during the winter has taken care of the swans by sheltering them in ponds, or otherwise protecting them from the severity of the weather. When, as it sometimes happens, the cob bird (male) of one owner mates with a pen bird (female) belonging to another, the brood are divided between the owners of the parent birds, the odd cygnet (except in Buckinghamshire) being allotted to the owner of the cob.

"The marks are made upon the upper mandible with a knife or other sharp instrument. The forms and devices greatly differ. Thus, the swan-mark of Eton College, which has the privilege of keeping swans on the Thames, is the armed point and feathered end of an arrow, and is represented by nail-heads on the door of one of the inner rooms of the college. The Dyers' and Vintners' marks date from the reign of Elizabeth, and anciently consisted of circles or amulets on the beak; but the cutting of these being considered to, inflict more severe pain on the birds than straight lines, the rings are now omitted, and the lines are doubled. The two nicks are probably intended for two half-lozenges, or a demi-lozengsee on each side. The V is perhaps a chevron reversed, the arms of the Company being sable, a chevron between three tuns argent; for the true chevron could scarcely be cut on the beak of the bird without each lateral branch crossing its elongated and tender nostril; and this, from a feeling of humanity, the marker would be disposed to avoid. That many of these swan-marks, besides being heraldic, have the adaptation of the initial letter of the word 'Vintner,' and form also the Roman numeral V, is supported by a custom at the feasts of the Vintners' Company, where one of the regular stand-up toasts of the day is, 'The Worshipful Company of Vintners with Five.' The royal swan-mark has been unchanged since the commencement of the reign of George III."

On College Hill, while intriguing with the City, lived Dryden's "Zimri," the second Duke of Buckingham. In a pasquinade, preserved in the State Poems, entitled the "D. of B's. (Duke of Buckingham's) Litany," occur the following lines:—


COLD HARBOUR. (See page 17.)

"From damning whatever we don't understand,
From purchasing at Dowgate and selling in the Strand,
From calling streets by our name when we've sold the land,
Libera nos, Domine.

"From borrowing our own house to feast scholars ill,
And then be un-chancellored against our will,
Nought left of a College but College Hill,
Libera nos," &c.

Nor would our readers ever pardon us if we omitted Dryden's immortal portrait of the mercurial duke:—
"In the first rank of these did Zimri stand;
A man so various that he seemed to be
Not one, but all mankind's epitome;
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,
Was everything by starts and nothing long;
But, in the course of one revolving moon,
Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon;
Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking,
Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking.
Blest madman, who could every hour employ,
With something new to wish, or to enjoy!
Railing and praising were his usual themes;
And both, to show his judgment, in extremes:
So over-violent, or over-civil,
That every man with him was God or devil.
In squandering wealth was his peculiar art;
Nothing went unrewarded but desert.
Beggar'd by fools, whom still he found too late,
He had his jest, and they had his estate.
He laughed himself from court; then sought relief
By forming parties, but could ne'er be chief;
For, spite of him, the weight of business fell
On Absalom and wise Achitophel."

Lord Clarendon, in his life of himself, indeed, informs us that "the duke had many lodgings in several quarters of the City; and though his Majesty had frequent intelligence where he was, yet when the serjeant-at-arms, and others, employed for his apprehension, came where he was known to have been but an hour before, he was gone from hence, or so concealed that he could not be found."


TOWER STREET WARD. (From a Map made for Stow's Survey.)

"Dryden's inimitable description," says Sir Walter Scott, who has himself nobly sketched the "Zimri" of the poet, "refers, as is well known, to the famous George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, son of the favourite of Charles I., who was murdered by Felton. The Restoration put into the hands of the most lively, mercurial, ambitious, and licentious genius who ever lived, an estate of twenty thousand a year, to be squandered in every wild scheme which the lust of power, of pleasure, of licence, or of whim, could dictate to an unrestrained imagination. Being refused the situation of president of the North, he was suspected of having favoured the disaffected in that part of England, and was disgraced accordingly. But in 1666 he regained the favour of the king, and became a member of the famous administration called the Cabal, which first led Charles into unpopular and arbitrary measures, and laid the foundation for the troubles of his future reign. Buckingham changed sides about 1675, and becoming attached to the country party, made a most active figure in all proceedings which had relation to the Popish plot; intrigued deeply with Shaftesbury, and distinguished himself as a promoter of the Bill of Exclusion. Hence he stood an eminent mark for Dryden's satire, which, we may believe, was not the less poignant that the poet had sustained a personal affront, from being depicted by his grace under the character of Bayes in the Rehearsal. As Dryden owed the duke no favour, he has shown him none; yet, even here, the ridiculous rather than the infamous part of his character is touched upon; and the unprincipled libertine, who slew the Earl of Shrewsbury while his adulterous countess held his horse in the disguise of a page, and who boasted of caressing her before he changed the bloody clothes in which he had murdered her husband, is not exposed to hatred, while the spendthrift and castle-builder are held up to contempt."

The death of this butterfly Pope has drawn with terrible force:—
"In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half hung,
The floors of plaister, and the walls of dung;
On once a flock-bed, but repaired with straw,
With tape-tied curtains, never meant to draw;
The Goorge and Garter dangling from that bed,
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies! alas, how changed from him!
That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim;
Gallant and gay, in Cliveden's proud alcove,
The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love;
Or just as gay at council, in a ring
Of mimick'd statesmen, and a merry king;
No wit to flatter left of all his store,
No fool to laugh at, which he valued more;
There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,
And fame, this lord of useless thousands ends."

It must, however, be allowed that the poet's shadows are too dark, for the duke died in the house of a respectable tenant in Yorkshire, from a fever caught out hunting.

The Mercers' School, College Hill, is one of the four ancient schools of London, of which number the Mercers' Company have the proud privilege of having given their generous patronage to two. It stood originally in the Old Jewry (west side), and formed part of a cemetery for strangers and a house of the Knights Hospitalers, founded during the reign of Henry II. by Thomas FitzTheobald de Helles, who married Agnes, a sister of the so-called martyr Thomas á Becket. The school was held in a chapel of St. Thomas of Acon (Acre). It was classed among the four City schools which received the sanction of Parliament in 1447 (Henry VI.), when "four grave clergymen and parsons" of City parishes, seeing the gross ignorance prevalent in London since Henry V. had seized many of the alien priories and religious houses in England, and so reduced the number of schools, humbly petitioned that they might be allowed to play a part in the advancement of learning. These worthy men were at once allowed to set up schools of their own founding in their respective parishes—i.e., Great Allhallows, St. Andrew's, Holborn, St. Peter's, Cornhill, and St. Mary Colechurch (St. Thomas Acons). When Henry VIII. laid his eager hands on the Abbot of St. Nicholas' princely revenues, and sold the hospital to the Mercers' Company, he expressly stipulated that the school, chapel, and cemetery should be retained. After the Great Fire, in the Act for rebuilding the City (1676), it was expressly provided that there should be a plot of ground set apart on the west side of Old Jewry for Mercers' Chapel Grammar School. In 1787 the school was removed to No. 13, Budge Row, about thirty yards from Dowgate Hill. On the death of Mr. Waterhouse, the master, in 1804, the school was suspended for a time, and then removed to No. 20, Red Lion Court, Watling Street. There it remained till 1808, when it was removed to its present situation on College Hill. Up to 1804 it had been a free school with twenty-five scholars, the master being allowed to take private pupils. Greek and Latin were alone taught; but after 1804 English and the modern sciences were also introduced. The school reopened with a single scholar, but soon began to take root; and in 1805 the Company increased the number of scholars to thirty-five. There are two exhibitions of £70 each, founded by Mr. Thomas Rich, a master of the school, who died in 1672. The rules of 1804 require every boy to bring wax tapers for his use in winter. Mr. William Baxter, an eminent grammarian, who died in the year 1725, was master of this school for more than twenty years.

The list of eminent persons educated in the Mercers' School includes the wise and worthy Dean Colet, the friend of Erasmus and founder of St. Paul's School; that great merchant, Sir Thomas Gresham; William Fulke, master of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, and a commentator on the Rheims Testament; John Young, Bishop of Rochester (died 1605); Davenant, Bishop of Salisbury (died 1641); Sir Lionel Cranfield, afterwards Earl of Middlesex and Lord Treasurer to James I.; and Matthew Wren, Bishop of Ely (died 1667).

St. Michael's Paternoster Royal, College Hill, is mentioned as early as 1283, when Hugh de Derby was rector. It is interesting to us from having been rebuilt by the illustrious Richard Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London. Here, on the north side of the church, he built almshouses (now the site of the Mercers' School), some years since removed to Highgate; and here, in great state, he was buried. Alas for human fame and human gratitude! no memorial of the good man now exists at St. Michael's—not even a half-worn-out stone—not even a thin, trodden, defaced brass. The great sculptured marble tomb is gone to dust; the banners have faded like the leaf. In the reign of Edward VI. one Mountain, an incumbent (may the earth lie heavy on him!), believing great riches of gold and jewels were buried with Whittington, dug him up, and, probably in his vexation, destroyed the tomb. In the reign of Mary the parishioners reopened the grave, to re-wrap the dishonoured body in lead. It is now beyond desecration, nor could it be sifted from the obscurer earth. In the old epitaph, which is in excellent rhyming Latin, Whittington is quaintly termed "Richardus Albificans villam."

"Ut fragrans Nardus,
Fama fuit iste Richardus,
Albificans villam,
Qui juste rexerat illam.

Pauperibus pater,
Et Major qui fuit urbis,
Martins hunc vicit,
En! Annos gens tibi dicit,
Finiit ipse dies,
Sis sibi Christe quies. Amen."

"This church," says Stow, "was made a College of St. Spirit and St. Mary by Richard Whittington, Mercer, four times maior, for a master, four fellows, Masters of Art, clerks, conducts, chorists, &c.; and an almshouse, called God's house or hospital, for thirteen poor men, one of them to be tutor, and to have 16d. a week, the other twelve each of them to have 14d. the week for ever, with other necessary provision; an hutch with three docks, a common seal, &c."

The original declaration of the executors begins thus: "The fervent desire and besy intention of a prudent, wyse, and devout man shal be to cast before and make seure the state and thende of the short liffe with dedys of mercy and pite; and, namely, to provide for such pouer persons which grevous penuere and cruel fortune have oppressed, and be not of power to get their lyving either by craft or by any other bodily labour; whereby that at the day of the last judgment he may take his part with them that shal be saved. This considering, the foresaid worthy and notable merchant, Richard Whyttington, the which while he lived had ryght liberal and large hands to the needy and poure people, charged streitly, in his deathbed, us his foresaid executors to ordeyne a house of almes, after his deth, for perpetual sustentacion of such poure people as is tofore rehersed; and thereupon fully he declared his wyll unto us."

The laws of the college required that "every tutour and poor folk every day first when they rise fro their bedds, kneeling upon their knees, say a Pater Noster and an Ave Maria, with special and herty commendacion-making of the foresaid Richard Whyttington and Alice, to God and our blessed lady Maidyn Mary; and other times of the day, when he may best and most commody have leisure thereto, for the staat of all the souls abovesaid, say two or three sauters of our Lady at the least—that is to say, threies seaven Ave Marias, with xv. Pater Nosters and three credes."

St. Michael's was destroyed in the Great Fire, and rebuilt under Wren's directions. The spire was erected in 1715. The parish of St. Martin Vintry is incorporated with that of St. Michael. In this church is Hilton's commendable picture of St. Mary Magdalene anointing the feet of Christ, presented by the directors of the British Institution in 1820. There is some good carving in the oak altar-piece below the picture. The marble font was the gift of Abraham Jordan in 1700. The monument to Sir Samuel Pennant (an ancestor of the London historian), who died in the year of his mayoralty (1750), is worthy of record, as is that of Marmaduke Langdale, a descendant of that Lord Langdale who commanded the left wing of King Charles's army in the battle of Naseby. The lower storey of the steeple is formed by eight projecting Ionic columns, bearing an entablature and vases, and the effect, though fantastic, is not unpicturesque.

In St. Michael's lies buried that brave young Cavalier poet, John Cleveland, as clever and as unfortunate a bard as his contemporary, poor Lovelace. Expelled from a Cambridge fellowship as a malignant, Cleveland mounted his horse and drew sword for King Charles, for whom he wrote or fought till his life's end. He was thrown into prison by Cromwell, who let him out on his telling him that he was too poor to purchase his release. The poet then took up his abode in Gray's Inn, close to Butler, the author of "Hudibras," and there they established a nightly Cavalier club. Cleveland died young, and his friend, good Bishop Pearson, preached his funeral sermon. Of the poet's quick, overstrained fancy, and of his bitter satire against the Scotch, who had betrayed King Charles for money, we give two examples:—

Upon Phillis Walking in a Morning Before

Sunrise.

"The sluggish morn as yet undrest,
My Phillis broke from out her east,
As if she'd made a match to run
With Venus, usher to the sun.
The trees, like yeomen of the guard
(Serving her more for pomp than ward),
Ranked on each side, with loyal duty,
Weav'd branches to inclose her beauty.

The winged choristers began
To chirp their matins, and the fan
Of whistling winds like organs played,
Until their voluntaries made
The wakened earth in odours rise
To be her morning sacrifice,
The flowers, call'd out of their beds,
Start and raise up their drowsie heads;
And he that for their colour seeks
May see it vaulting to her cheeks,
Where roses mix: no civil war
Divides her York and Lancaster."

Against the Scotch our poet discharges not merely bullets, but red-hot shot:—
"Come, keen iambicks, with your badgers' feet,
And bite like badgers till your teeth do meet:
Help ye tart satyrists to imp my rage
With all the scorpions that should whip this age.
Scots are like witches: do but whet your pen,
Scratch till the blood come, they'll not hurt you then.

A land where one may pray with curst intent,
Oh, may they never suffer banishment!
Had Cain been Scot, God would have changed his doom,
Not forc'd him wander, but confined him home.
Like Jews they spread, and as infection fly,
As if the devil had ubiquity.
Hence 'tis they live as rovers, and defy
This or that place—rags of geography.

They're citizens o' th' world, they're all in all—
Scotland's a nation epidemical.

A Scot, when from the gallows-tree got loose,
Drops into Styx, and turns a Soland goose."

Some curious characteristic touches on Cromwell are to be found in Cleveland's prose satires, as for instance where he says: "But the diurnal is weary of the arm of flesh, and now begins an hosanna to Cromwel, one that hath beat up his drums clean through the Old Testament: you may learn the genealogy of our Saviour by the names in his regiment: the muster-master uses no other list but the first chapter of Matthew. This Cromwel is never so valorous as when he is making speeches for the association, which, nevertheless, he doth somewhat ominously with his neck awry, holding up his ear as if he expected Mahomet's pigeon to come and prompt him. He should be a bird of prey, too, by his bloody beak" (i.e.., poor Cromwell's red nose, the result of ague).