THE STRAND (NORTHERN TRIBUTARIES).—CLEMENT'S INN, NEW INN, LYON'S INN, ETC.
Curious Legend about St. Clement's Lane—Clement's Inn—New Inn—Stanhope Street—Birthplace of Grimaldi—Holywell Street—The "Old
Drury" Tavern—Ancient Shop-Signs—"Bookseller's Row"—Wych Street—New Inn—The "White Lion" and Jack Sheppard—The "Angel"
Inn and Bishop Hooper—"Saddling the Spit"—Lyon's Inn—The "Spotted Dog"—The Globe Theatre—The Opera Comique—The
"He must to the Inns of Court. I was of Clement's once myself, where they talk of Mad Shallow still."—2 Henry IV., Act iii. a.
Turning southwards down that portion of St.
Clement's Lane which still remains, and which lies
between King's College Hospital and New Inn,
it occurs to us that the narrow, dark, and irregular
alleys in the neighbourhood of Clare Market and
Wych Street, encumbered as they were with low
projecting eaves, arched doorways, and bulkheads,
must have afforded every facility, a century ago, or
even less, for the unforeseen attacks of footpads
and for the escape of the offenders; and even now it
is almost as true as it was a century ago, that in the
words of a writer in the Builder, "the whole nest
of streets and passages behind the south side of
Lincoln's Inn Fields requires re-arrangement and
improvement. There is a legend hereabout that
years ago a young man from the country, bearing a
black bag, started one winter night from Portugal
Street to get into the Strand, and that he has been
wandering round and about ever since, constantly
returning with a disconsolate aspect to his original
starting-point. On foggy nights his form may be
descried in Clare Market. Anyhow, no one has
yet heard that he ever reached the Strand."
Fortescue, a celebrated man of letters in the
fifteenth century, was of opinion that the name
Inns of Court arose from these places being the
inns, hospitals, or hotels where young noblemen
and others belonging to the Court temporarily
resided; for many persons of rank sent their sons
here to pursue a course of study, without designing
them to follow the profession of the law.
Clement's Inn, the west boundary of the New
Law Courts, was so named, as we are told by Stow,
"Because it standeth near to Clement's Church,
but nearer to the fair fountain called Clement's
Well." It is stated by Dugdale to have been an
Inn of Chancery in the reign of Edward II.; but
Pennant speaks of it as dating back only as far as
the reign of Edward IV.
The following is quoted from an old writer,
whose style at least is quaint and amusing, Sir
George Buc:—"Clement's Inne was a messuage
belonging to the parish of St. Clement Dane, the
deuise whereof is an anchor without a stocke, with
a capital C couchant upon it; and this is grauen in
stone over the gate of St. Clement's Inne. It
seemeth to be a hieroglyphike, or rebus (as some
conjecture), figuring herein. St. Clement, who
having been Pope, and so reputed head of the
Church (and the Church being resembled to a
shippe), both his name and office are expressed
in this deuise of the 'C' and anchor."
The entrance to Clement's Inn from the thoroughfare on the north side of the church of St. Clement
Danes was formerly through a noble archway, supported by lofty columns, which, however, has been
demolished to make room for the New Law Courts.
Our readers will scarcely need to be reminded that
St. Clement's Inn is the one which Shakespeare
has made immortal as the home of "Master
Shallow" in his Temple days; if they do, they
will forgive the motto prefixed to this chapter.
Clement's Inn is said by Seymour in his "Survey"
to have descended to the Earls of Clare from Sir
William Hollis, Lord Mayor of London in 1539.
In the garden is a celebrated bronze figure of
a negro supporting a sundial, which was brought
from Italy early in the eighteenth century by Lord
Clare, by whom it was presented to the Inn. The
Hall of Clement's Inn, the east end of which overlooks the site of the New Law Courts, is built of
brick, and is an elegant, well-proportioned room.
It contains, among other pictures, a good portrait
of Sir Matthew Hale.
New Inn, which adjoins Clement's Inn, is said
by tradition to have been removed to Wych Street
from Seacole Lane, before which time there was
here a common hostelry or inn, known by the sign
of the "Blessed Virgin."
"To this inn," says Seymour, with his usual
quaintness, in his "Survey of London and Westminster" (1735), "are pleasant walks and gardens.
The north-easterly part joints to Clement's Inn,
from which it is separated by a handsome iron
gate, shut up a nights, which was placed here anno
Pennant, writing in 1805, says of it—"New Inn,
where the students of the Strand Inn nestled after
they were routed thence by the Duke of Somerset.
In New Inn the great Sir Thomas More received
the early part of his education before he removed
to Lincoln's Inn." The armorial bearings of this
Inn are Vert, a flower-pot argent. It became an
Inn of Chancery in 1485.
Stanhope Street, in this immediate neighbourhood, is worthy of a passing note as having been
the birthplace of the famous clown, Grimaldi, who
here first saw the light of day, Dec. 18, 1778. He
seems to have been born in the purple of the
theatre. His father was of Italian extraction; his
mother, according to Mr. Diprose, was a Miss
Rebecca Brooker, who had been from infancy a
dancer at Drury Lane, and subsequently played
"old woman" at Sadler's Wells. From "Pink's
History of Clerkenwell" we learn that "Joe Grimaldi" made his first appearance at "the Wells"
in 1781 in the character of a monkey, became part
proprietor of the house in 1818, and finally quitted
it in 1832. He died, somewhat suddenly, at his
house in Southampton Street, Pentonville Road, at
the end of May, 1837, and was buried in the
churchyard of St. James's, Pentonville, by the side
of his friend Charles Dibdin.
There is but little in the way of antiquarian
lore or of recent anecdote to be told concerning
Holywell Street, which no doubt received its
name—not, we fear, much in keeping with its real
character—from the "holy well" already mentioned near St. Clement's Church. Leigh Hunt,
in his "London Journal," passes it by with discreet
silence. Allen, in his "History of London," dismisses it in a line, styling it a "narrow, inconvenient
avenue of old, ill-formed houses;" and Mr. Peter
Cunningham "a narrow, dirty lane, chiefly occupied
by old clothesmen and the vendors of low publications."
It appears from honest Strype that in his day
it was tenanted by "divers salesmen and piecebrokers," and was commonly called "the Back
Side of St. Clement's." Mr. Timbs says that the
"holy well" which gave to it its name was
"under the 'Old Dog' Tavern" (No. 24); but this
is clearly a mistake. He adds that the "salesmen
and piecebrokers of Strype's day have nearly
deserted it, and that it is now the head-quarters of
old bookstalls." A few lofty-gabled and deep-bayed
fronts still remain upon some of the houses, especially on the southern side. It is only fair to add
that during the last few years the character of the
street has shown a marked improvement, owing to
the stringent enforcement of Lord Campbell's Act
against the sale of bad books and prints, for which
formerly this thoroughfare was a notorious market.
At the corner of one of the houses on the south
side, near the centre of the street, there still remains a grotesque carving—a lion's head—probably the last of such ornaments now to be found
in the metropolis.
Holywell Street contains several ancient houses,
and was formerly used as the emporium of the
mercers, who had their appropriate signs. Of these
one still remains, the "Half Moon," a carved projecting sign; another—the "Indian Queen," painted
by one of the members of the first association of
the Royal Academy, one Catton—might be seen
down to a very recent period. The "Golden Ball"
was a noted house for silk remnants in this street,
and continued in repute to the end of the last
century. As the mercery trade declined in Holywell Street, the traffic in frippery and old clothes
took its place, and has, to a certain extent, continued to the present time.
Of late years many houses in this street have
been occupied by booksellers of a certain class—those who deal in indecent and immoral literature;
and so bad has been its reputation that, in the
interest of the more respectable inhabitants it has
been proposed more than once to alter the name
to "Booksellers' Row," but the idea has not been
carried out by the Metropolitan Board of Works,
with whom rests the power of changing the names
of the streets of the metropolis. It is only right
to add that in the street at the present time are
many second-hand bookshops of a far different
character from those above mentioned.
Wych Street—our pathway as we walk from
Pickett Street towards Drury Lane—derives its
name from the Via de Aldwych, whereof it originally formed a part, a lane leading from the north
side of the Strand to Broad Street, St. Giles's. It
still contains, especially on the south side, some
of those curious old wooden-fronted and gabled
houses which are equally picturesque and inconvenient. Like Holywell Street, of late years this
thoroughfare has gained a notoriety for the sale
of books and prints of an immoral class, and at
present the sale of them is only partially suppressed. In bygone days, however, it was tenanted
by a very different class of persons; although in
1734, according to a statement quoted by Mr.
Diprose, this street was "much taken up by upholsterers for the sale of bedding and second-hand
On the north side of Wych Street, nearly
about the centre, is the entrance to New Inn,
through which in the day-time there is a thoroughfare into the dismal region of Clare Market. In
a narrow court of this street the notorious Jack
Sheppard served his apprenticeship to Mr. Wood,
the carpenter; and in White Lion Passage stood
the "hostelrie" of the "White Lion," the scene of
many of the events in the career of that prince of
"cracksmen," who used nightly to meet in the taproom his professional friends and acquaintances,
and with whose feats and various adventures the
pen of Mr. Harrison Ainsworth has made us so
The site of the old "White Lion" was at the
corner of one of the small courts on the northern
side, and is now occupied as a carpenter's shop.
Speaking of Wych Street as it was in the days of
Jack Sheppard, we may say of the Via de Aldwych,
as the writer of "Haunted London" says of
"The street curves quaint,
And cumbrous sign-boards creak on left and right."
From the "Angel" Inn, at the bottom of Wych
Street, Bishop Hooper was taken in 1554 to
Gloucester to be burnt at the stake. Something
more than two centuries later, the "Angel" Inn
figured in a curious advertisement which appeared
in the Public Advertiser, March 28, 1769:—
"To be sold, a Black Girl, 11 years of age; extremely
handy; works at her needle tolerably, and speaks English
well. Inquire of Mr. Owen, at the 'Angel' Inn, behind
St. Clement's Church, in the Strand."
It is said by Allen, in his "History of London,"
that the "Great Fire" of 1666 was not the first of
its kind which laid London waste, for that "in
1136 a great fire happened within the City, which
destroyed all the way westward to St. Clement
Danes," but he does not mention the precise spot
where this fire ended at the west.
We have seen that the parish of St. Clement
Danes was not considered remarkable for decency
and order in the reign of Queen Elizabeth; for in
spite of the rank, wit, and fashion which distinguished it a century and a half later, we find
that it even then bore no better character; and the
Clement's Lane of the First and Second Georges
was no bad precursor to the Wych Street of our
own day. The London Spy of that date observes,
half in earnest and half in jest, that it "is deemed
an excellent air for breeding attorneys in, the chief
subject of all conversation turning here upon
verdicts, costs, damages, writs of inquiry, &c."
According to the same authority, published in
1725, there was formerly in the parish of St.
Clement's the custom of "saddling the spit," which,
the writer adds, "is now laid aside, for reasons well
known at Westminster Hall." It would seem that
whatever this custom may have been—and as far as
we have been able to discover, history preserves a
discreet silence as to its nature—it was a rough
and boisterous one, "more honoured in the breach
than in the observance."
Lyon's Inn, lately demolished, was an old
Inn of Chancery, belonging in former days to the
Inner Temple. It faced Newcastle Street, on its
eastern side, between Wych Street and Holywell
Street; one entrance led to it from the latter, and
also another through Horne Court, next door to an
inn known as the "Spotted Dog." Mr. Diprose,
in his "Account of St. Clement Danes," tells us
that this same "Spotted Dog" had been a hostelry
for some 230 years at least before its demolition in
1864, for the purpose of carrying out a building
speculation of the "Strand Hotel Company," a
speculation which ended in failure. It is said—but
we know not with what amount of truth—that the
once holy well, which gave its name to the street,
was under the "Spotted Dog."
Howes, in his "Annals," in continuation of Stow,
quaintly tell us that it was "a guest inn or hostelerie
held at the sign of the 'Lyon,' and purchased by
gentlemen professors and students in the law in
the reign of King Henry VIII., and converted to
an Inn of Chancery." Sir Edward Coke was a
student there in 1578.
This Inn, never of much importance, had fallen
utterly into disrepute before the beginning of this
century, and become the resort of gamblers and
swindlers. Here lived Mr. Weare, who was murdered near Edgware by Thurtell, in 1824. The
latter in defence pleaded in extenuation that Weare
had cheated him at cards out of £300.
Each of the three Inns alluded to in this chapter
was governed by a Principal or Treasurer, and a
number of "Ancients," corresponding to Benchers;
and Seymour tells us, in his "Survey," that there
were "mootings" in each Inn in every term.
The property of "Lyons Inn" was sold about
the year 1863, and on its site now stand two
theatres, the "Globe," as if in memory of Shakespeare's theatre, and the "Opera Comique."
The Globe Theatre, which covers its western
portion, was built and opened in 1868. It has
a narrow frontage in Newcastle Street. On this
site the Architectural Association had its first
home. The theatre was built from the instructions
of Mr. Sefton Parry, the proprietor, and will seat
1,500 persons. The auditorium is effectively decorated in relief, and has a domed ceiling, with a
sunlight in the centre. The site having been excavated very considerably for the proposed hotel, the
floor of the pit has been made many feet below the
line of the street, and is approached by a steep
flight of steps from Wych Street. In Wych Street
also are the entrances to the gallery stairs, and
that to the "royal box." The ordinary boxes are
entered from Newcastle Street, and are on a level
with the street, so that stairs are avoided. Here,
too, enter the occupants of the stalls. The seats
are all fairly commodious, and conveniently placed,
so that all that is passing on the stage can be distinctly seen and heard from any part of the house.
The house opened in December, 1868, with Mr.
J. H. Byron's comedy of "Cyril's Success," which
in itself proved a great success.
The principal front of the "Opera Comique" is
in the Strand, and observant passengers who know
the narrowness of the area between the Strand and
Holywell Street will find it difficult to imagine
how, even in London, where now-a-days theatres
are edged in among houses anyhow, an "Opera
Comique" can have been formed there. This
frontage, however, is, in truth, nothing but the
entrance to an underground way leading across
Holywell Street to a theatre which has been built
between that and Wych Street. The building,
which is very small, backs on the "Globe," and is
to a considerable extent underground, as will be
understood when we mention that a long flight of
stairs in Wych Street leads down to the stage level,
and that the pit, of course, is lower than that again.
The theatre was opened in 1870, and has seen
several changes of lessees. It is a pretty little
theatre, very nicely decorated, but has no marked
characteristic with regard to the entertainments
given. These consist principally of French plays
or opera bouffe, and are presented sometimes in
French and at other times in English.
The Olympic Theatre, at the end of Wych Street,
occupies the site of old Craven House, which was
taken down in 1803, the ground being purchased
by Mr. Philip Astley, of the "Amphitheatre" over
Westminster Bridge, who constructed what was
called at the time "a house of public exhibition of
horsemanship and droll," which he styled "the
Olympic Pavilion." It was opened as such in 1806,
but the speculation does not appear to have been
successful. In 1813 the lease was sold to Robert
Elliston, who introduced pieces of sufficient merit
to attract the fashionable dwellers in the West-end,
and by that means raised the theatre to something
like successful popularity. The building was destroyed by fire in 1849, but rebuilt and opened
again in the same year, and is now one of the most
popular theatres in London. Madame Vestris had
the management of the "Olympic" from 1832 to
1839, and many of the most eminent actors of the
day have appeared upon its boards. The pieces
brought out at this theatre are principally melodramas of the superior kind. For many years Robson, one of the most gifted modern comedians,
attracted thousands here to witness his wonderful
delineations of the tears and laughter, the joys
and sorrows, of human life in its humbler aspects.
Mr. Horace Wigan was for some time manager
here; Mr. Benjamin Webster has likewise had the
management, and since then Miss Ada Cavendish
took it in hand and redecorated it.