The name of this place has been generally supposed to be derived from mortuus lacus, or the dead lake. In Doomsday
Book it is called Mortlage, which in the Saxon language signifies a
compulsive law, a derivation which seems to throw little light upon
Situation and boundaries.
Mortlake lies in the western division of Brixton hundred, and is
situated on the banks of the Thames, nearly seven miles from Hydepark-corner. The parish is bounded by Barnes and Putney on the
east; Richmond and Kingston on the south; by Kew on the west;
and on the north by the river. In an ancient record of the manor
of Wimbledon (fn. 1) , mention is made of "a huge stone placed opposite
"the town of Mortlake, to which as their boundaries they claim."
In a very ancient terrier (fn. 2) this parish is said to contain 61 yardlands, each consisting of 15 acres by the custom of the manor, and
making in the whole 915 acres. In this terrier I imagine only the
copyhold lands were included. By a survey taken A° 1612 (fn. 3) , it appears that the parish, including the commons and freehold lands,
contained 2,000 acres. In 1632, when a sum of money was raised
for the king's household, about 1,400 acres were assessed, which
nearly corresponds with the present calculation, including about
650 acres now inclosed in Richmond-park; where the boundaries
of Mortlake parish extend almost to the great lodge.
The Stone-lodge upon the hill, which is in this parish, was built
after a design of Henry Earl of Pembroke, and was intended by
George I. as a place of refreshment after the fatigues of the chace.
It was left in an unfinished state at his death, and remained so till
the Princess Amelia became ranger of the park.
The disproportionate account of the extent of Mortlake parish in
the survey of 1612, probably arose from allowing too great a share
of the commons, which before the making of Richmond-park were
very extensive, and perhaps had never been measured. At present
the uninclosed waste ground does not exceed 100 acres; the remainder of the land is principally arable, including somewhat more than
250 acres of garden-ground. Great quantities of asparagus are
raised here, there being not sewer than 60 acres planted with that
vegetable. At the extremity of the parish towards Richmond, his
Majesty has a farm of about 80 acres in his own occupation, which
is in excellent cultivation. The barns and granaries were built, and
the farm-yard made with all suitable conveniences, about five years
since. The soil at Mortlake consists for the most part of sand and
gravel; in the meadows near the water-side there is some deep
clay. The parish is assessed the sum of 565 l. 10s. to the landtax, which is at the rate of 2s. 6d. in the pound.
The manor being now included in that of Wimbledon, will be
described more particularly in the account of that parish. In the
Conqueror's Survey, and for some centuries after, it was called
the Manor of Mortlake, the manerial residence being at that place.
Wimbledon is not mentioned in Doomsday Book; in subsequent
records it is described as a grange or farm belonging to Mortlake (fn. 4) .
It will hereafter be shewn that as a parish it was the more ancient
of the two.
Archbishops of Canterbury who have resided at their manor house.
During the whole time that this manor belonged to the see of
Canterbury, the manor-house was at Mortlake, being occasionally the
residence of the archbishops, most of whom have dated some of their
public acts from that place. Archbishop Anselm celebrated the feast
of Whitsuntide there in the year 1099 (fn. 5) . Archbishop Corboyle was
consined to his house at Mortlake by sickness A. D. 1136 (fn. 6) . Archbishop Peckham died there A. D. 1292 (fn. 7) ; and Archbishop Reynolds
in 1327 (fn. 8) . Archbishop Mepham having fallen under the displeasure
of the Pope was excommunicated by him, and retiring to Mortlake spent many days there in solitude (fn. 9) . Nicholas Bubwith was
consecrated in the chapel of the manor-house at Mortlake by Archbishop Arundel and the Bishops of Winchester and Worcester,
A.D. 1406 (fn. 10) . Archbishop Warham appears to have been the last
prelate who resided there (fn. 11) . His successor Archbishop Cranmer alienated the manor of Mortlake to Henry VIII. in exchange for other
lands. The house was probably pulled down soon afterwards,
and the manerial residence removed to Wimbledon. The site
of Mortlake-house was alienated by Sir Thomas Cecil to Robert
Walter 36 Eliz. (fn. 12) Not a trace of it now remains except the foundation of a wall, which forms the boundary (towards the river) of a
garden in the occupation of Mrs. Penley.
In Holinshed's Chronicle there is an account of a monstrous fish
which came up the Thames and was taken opposite the king's manor-house at Mortlake A.D. 1240. The temporalties of the see of
Canterbury were then in the king's hands, who kept it vacant three
years after the death of St. Edmund (fn. 13) .
Leland, who wrote in the reign of Henry VIII. speaking of
Mortlake-house in his Cygnea Cantio (fn. 14) , says,
"Dehinc et mortuus est lacus, superba
Villai effigies, domusque nota."
In the commentary upon this passage, it is called "Villa eximiè
Manor of East-sheen and West-hall.
The manor of East-sheen and West-hall was enfranchised in the reign
of Henry VII. (fn. 15) , at which time it was the property of the Welbecks;
it had been previously the estate of the Dyneleys (fn. 16) . In 1577 the
manor was alienated to William Bracebridge; in 1596, to Thomas
Whitfield (fn. 17) , and in 1618 to John Juxon, from whom it descended
through the Kay family to Edward Taylor, Esq. whose widow Mrs.
Elizabeth Taylor and her daughters are now joint proprietors.
Mortlake church was first built about the year 1348, as appears
from a record in the Tower, being a licence to the Archbishop
of Canterbury to give a piece of ground in Berecrost nine perches
square to Adomar, parson of Wimbledon, and his successors, to find
a chaplain who should perform divine service in a chapel about to
be erected on that spot for the ease of the bodies and the health of
the souls of the inhabitants of Mortlake and East-sheen, who were
far distant from the parish church of Wimbledon (fn. 18) . I have been
thus explicit in stating the substance of the record, to prove that the
church at Mortlake mentioned in Doomsday Book must have been
that of Wimbledon, then within the manor of Mortlake. The only
part now remaining which seems to be of the original structure
is the outward door of the belfry. A stone with the following inscription, "Johes Joce cujus aie pr[opi]cietur de[us]," is fixed in the wall
at the west end, and probably belonged to the old church, to the
building of which John Joce might have been a contributor. In
1543 the church was rebuilt; the date is upon the tower, and the
east wall of the chancel; over it is "Vivat R.H. 8." The walls are
built of flint and stone checkered. A few of the windows with the
flat arches which were in use in the reign of Henry VIII. are still
remaining. The tower, which is at the west end, is square and
embattled. In 1725 the south aisle was rebuilt, considerably enlarged, and a gallery erected by the voluntary subscription of the
inhabitants. The font, which is ornamented with rich Gothic tracery, was given by Archbishop Bourchier, (temp. Hen. VI.) as appears by his arms (fn. 19) upon it.
On the north side of the church is a brick building of two
stories, the lower room of which is now used as a vestry. On the
north wall of this room is a tablet to the memory of Elizabeth wife
of John Upton, Esq. who died in 1771. Near the door is the
tomb of the Reverend William Arnold, who died in 1736.
Tombs in the church.
In the chancel are the monuments of Nicholas Godschall, Esq. who
died in 1750; William Hawkins, Esq. who died in 1677; Jonathan Clark, Gent. who died in 1670; the Reverend Richard Bifield, who died in 1664; and the honourable Francis Coventry, son
of Thomas Lord Coventry, who died in 1699. On flat stones are
inscriptions to the memory of Nathaniel son of the Reverend Daniel
Bull, vicar of Stoke Newington, who died in 1741; Elizabeth
Starkie, spinster, who died in 1780; Lady Barclay, who died in
1791; and Frances Maria Coderc, wife of William Browne, Esq. of
East-sheen, who died in the same year.
In the north aisle is the monument of Harry Spencer, Esq. who
died in 1769; and on the floor a brass plate to the memory of Henry
Myles, servant to Prince Henry and Prince Charles, who died in 1618.
Over the west gallery is the monument of Robert Devenish, Esq.
Norroy King at Arms, who died in 1704. Under the same gallery
are the tombs of William Simonds, Gent. who died in 1623; Henry Willis, Gent. of the Middle Temple, who died in 1712; and
Arthur Mayor, Esq. who died in 1783.
Aubrey mentions the tombs of Anthony Holt, Esq. clerk comptroller to Queen Elizabeth, and of John Jones, M.D. who died in 1692.
They are now either destroyed or covered with pews. The former
had a brass plate with the figure of a man habited in a gown.
In 1383 Archbishop Courtney gave the inhabitants of Mortlake a
piece of ground adjoining to the chapel there for the burial of the
dead (fn. 20) . The church-yard was enlarged in the year 1725, towards
which Alderman Barber contributed 50 l.
In the church-yard are the tombs of the celebrated John Partridge
and Alderman Barber, with inscriptions, which will be given hereafter; an obelisk to the memory of Edward Athawes (fn. 21) , an eminent merchant, who died in 1767, and the tombs of the following persons:—Maria Catherina, relict of William Marquis of
Blandford, and of Sir William Wyndham, Bart. who died in 1779;
Robert, son of Sir Thomas Liddel, Bart. who died in 1718; Ann
daughter of Isaac Lyte, Esq. who died in 1719; Henry Crofts,
chaplain to Henry Viscount Palmerston, who died in 1721; Richard
Castleman, Esq. who died in 1746; Robert Jeffes, Esq. who died in
1752; Aaron Lambe, Esq. who died in 1777; Joseph Symonds,
Esq. who died in 1779; Elizabeth, wife of John Davies, surgeon,
who died in 1781; Richard Garbrand, Esq. (no date); Eleanora
Hay, spinster, who died in 1783; Mr. William Sanders, who died
in 1784; Zachary Taylor, Esq. who died in 1786; Edward Taylor, Esq. who died in 1787, and Edward Taylor, junior, who died
in 1788; Mary, third wife of Richard Myddleton, Esq. of Chirkcastle, who died in 1788; and Mary, daughter of John Ewer, Esq.
who died in 1790.
The church of Mortlake is in the peculiar jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The benefice is a perpetual curacy with a
reserved salary of 40 l. per annum, paid out of the great tithes by
the lessee under the Dean and Chapter of Worcester. The nomination of the curate is vested in the Dean and Chapter. The commissioners who were appointed to inquire into the state of ecclesiastical benefices in 1658, endowed the curacy with the great tithes and
made it a rectory (fn. 22) : this arrangement ceased at the Restoration.
Mr. Parkes, curate of Mortlake, was one of the ministers appointed by Cromwell to assist the committee for displacing ignorant
and insufficient ministers and schoolmasters (fn. 23) .
The present curate is the Reverend Thomas Cornthwaite.
The parish register begins in the year 1599. About the latter
end of the last century the baptisms of Dissenters children are entered upon a separate leaf, pursuant to an act of parliament which
passed in 1695.
Comparative state of population.
||Average of Births.
||Average of Burials.
The early part of the register is too imperfect to form a satisfactory average. The population during the last century is evidently increasing, though not so rapidly as in some other parishes. The present
number of houses is 301 (fn. 24) , of which 25 are lately built, or now building. The inhabitants being accurately numbered in the present
month (June 1792) by the resident minister, the Rev. Samuel Peach,
were sound to amount to 1766, of whom 339 were lodgers.
In 1603 and 1625 the plague does not appear to have been
fatal; but in 1665 its ravages were very great. In that year there
are entries of 197 burials, which are about 170 more than the average of that period. In the months of September and October only
there were 122 burials, sometimes seven in one day.
Extracts from the register.
The following extracts from the register relate to remarkable
Sir Kenelm Digby.
"Everard Digby, son of Sir Kilham Digby, Knt. was buried
Jan. 16, 1629." The circumstance of an insant son of the celebrated Sir Kenelm Digby being buried at Mortlake might lead to a
presumption that Sir Kenelm was then a resident at that place, but
of this I have no other proof.
"Richard Bifield, minister, was buried the 30th of Decr 1664."
He was rector of Long-Ditton, had been one of the assembly of
divines, and published several sermons and religious tracts (fn. 25) .
Sir John Temple.
"Sir John Temple, Knight, was buried March 16, 1704." He
was son of Sir John Temple, who wrote the History of the Wars in
Ireland, and was master of the rolls in that kingdom, which office
he himself held, having been successively solicitor and attorney-general, and being esteemed one of the best lawyers in Ireland (fn. 26) . He
purchased a house at East-Sheen of Sir James Rushout Cullen, which
is now the property of his great grandson, Henry Viscount Palmerston. This house was built in the year 1611; the garden-front was
added by the late Lord Palmerston. The rooms are spacious and
losty. The drawing-room is hung with tapestry representing the
four seasons. In the dining parlour are the portraits of Sir John
Temple the younger; his brother, Sir William Temple, the celebrated statesman; and others of the family.
"John Partridge was buried June 30, 1715." This was the famous astrologer so frequently mentioned in the Tatler (fn. 27) . He was a
native of East-Sheen. I find a John Partridge, who probably was his
father, joined with Major Thomas Juxon as collector of the assessments
in 1653 (fn. 29) . Young Partridge is said to have been bound apprentice
to a shoemaker after having been a short time at school, where he
only learned to read and write (fn. 30) . Being fond of books, notwithstanding the disadvantage of his situation, he taught himself Latin,
Greek, and Hebrew. He next applied to the study of physic, but
carried on the trade of shoemaking at the same time in Covent-garden (fn. 31) . He procured the degree of doctor of physic at Leyden, and
was appointed sworn physician to Charles II. (fn. 32) It appears by his epitaph that he also held this office under King William and Queen
Mary. He published an almanac which went by his name, and various astrological treatises; and dying June 24, 1715, was buried
in the church-yard at Mortlake; where is the following inscription
to his memory on a flat stone:
"Johannes Partridge astrologus et medicinæ doctor, natus est
apud East-Sheen in comitatu Surrey 8° die Januarii anno 1644,
et mortuus est Londini 24° die Junii anno 1715. Medicinam
fecit duobus Regibus unique Reginæ Carolo scilicet Secundo,
Willielmo Tertio, Reginæque Mariæ. Creatus medicinæ doctor
"John Barber, Esq. Alderman of London, was buried Jan. 9,
1741." The alderman, who was son of a barber in the city of
London (fn. 33) , was bred a printer, in which business, by a successful train
of circumstances which brought him acquainted with Lord Bolingbroke, Swift, Pope, and others of the most eminent writers of the
age, he acquired considerable opulence (fn. 34) . A remarkable story is
told of his dexterity in his profession:—Being threatened with a prosecution by the House of Lords for an offensive paragraph in a pamphlet which he had printed, and being warned of his danger by
Lord Bolingbroke a few hours before the state messengers came to seize
the books, he called in all the copies from the publishers, cancelled the leaf which contained the obnoxious passage throughout the
whole impression with wonderful expedition, and returned them to
the bookseller with a new paragraph supplied by Lord Bolingbroke,
so that when the pamphlet was produced before the House, and the
passage referred to, it was found perfectly unexceptionable (fn. 35) . Mr.
Barber acquired great wealth by the South-Sea scheme, which he had
prudence enough to secure in time, and purchased an estate at EastSheen with a part of his gain (fn. 36) . In principles he was a Jacobite, and
on his travels in Italy, whither he went for the recovery of his health,
was introduced to the Pretender, which exposed him to some danger on
his return to England; for immediately on his arrival he was taken
into custody by a king's messenger, but was released without punishment (fn. 37) . After his success in the South-Sea adventure he was chosen
Alderman of Castle Baynard ward, and in the year 1733 was Lord
Mayor of London. During his mayoralty it happened that the
scheme of a general excise was brought forward, by his active opposition to which he acquired for a time a considerable degree of popularity, though he is accused of procuring clandestinely from Mr.
Bosworth the city chamberlain, the documents which enabled him
to make so conspicuous a figure upon that occasion (fn. 38) . Among the
alderman's public actions it should be mentioned, that he put up a
monument to Butler in Westminster-abbey, upon which occasion
Pope is said to have written the following severe lines, which he proposed should be placed on the vacant scroll under Shakespear's
bust (fn. 39) :
"Thus Britain loved me, and preserved my fame
"Pure from a Barber's or a Benson's name."
Alderman Barber by his will, dated Dec. 28, 1740, desired that
his body might be buried at Mortlake, as near as possible to the
ground which he had given to enlarge the church-yard; he bequeathed 300 l. to Lord Bolingbroke, 200 l. to Dr. Swift, and 100 l.
to Mr. Pope. He died a few days afterwards, and was buried pursuant to his request (fn. 40) .
On his tomb is the following inscription:
"Under this stone are laid the remains of John Barber, Esq.
Alderman of London, a constant benefactor to the poor, true to
his principles in church and state. He preserved his integrity
and discharged the duty of an upright magistrate in the most corrupt times. Zealous for the rights of his fellow-citizens, he opposed all attempts against them; and being Lord Mayor in the
year 1733, was greatly instrumental in defeating a scheme of a
general excise, which (had it succeeded) would have put an end
to the liberties of his country. He departed this life January 2,
1740–41; aged 65."
Sir John Barnard.
"Sir John Barnard, Knt. buried Sept. 4th, 1764." This worthy man, who is mentioned by Pope in the same line with the Man
of Ross (fn. 41) , was born at Reading, bred a Quaker, and educated at a
school for children of that persuasion in Wandworth (fn. 42) . At 19 years
of age he was baptized by Bishop Compton at Fulham. He first distinguished himself as an active citizen by his endeavours to procure
redress against a bill which affected the wine trade. His success
upon this occasion induced the city of London to elect him one of
its representatives in parliament, in which situation he continued till
his death. How well he conducted himself in that character, and
how faithfully he promoted the interest of his fellow-citizens, will
be remembered as long as his statue shall adorn the Royal-Exchange.
The worthy alderman experienced nevertheless in his life-time the
uncertainty of popular applause; there was a time when he was insulted and reviled whenever he appeared in public; but he lived to
see the tide of popularity turn again in his favour (fn. 43) . Sir John Barnard was at the head of the merchants who stood forwards for the
support of public credit in 1745. It is mentioned as an instance of
his modesty that he could never be induced to enter the Royal Exchange after his statue was placed there (fn. 44) . He died at Clapham in
1764, and was buried in the chancel of Mortlake church. Sir John
Barnard published a pamphlet on the proposal for reducing the interest on the national debt.
Instances of longevity.
The two following instances of longevity occur in the register:
"Margaret Bourne widow, being as it was thought above one
hundred years old at her death, was buried April 21, 1673."
"William Bakerage, aged 103, buried Oct. 20, 1741."
Extracts from the parish accounts.
The parish accounts, which are kept in the room over the vestry,
begin in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The following entries in
the year 1646 are very characteristic of the times:
|Paid for a covenant, and a frame to set it in
|Paid two men for taking down the faunt
|Layd out when they carryed the common prayer
books to Margaret's-hill in Southwark, and
then to Kingston
|Paid to a poor man that had been plundered
|— to a poor minister
|Paid for blotting out the cherubims in the church
|— for a frame, and a whip that hangs in the
church for drunkards
Lord Pack, Lord Tichbourn, and Sir John Ireton.
By the assessments made during the protectorate it appears that
Lord Pack, Lord Tichbourn, and Sir John Ireton, some of Cromwell's city friends, had houses at that time at Mortlake. Pack, who
was commissioner of the customs and treasurer at war, brought in
the bill to petition Cromwell to be king, and was by him promoted
to the other house as it was called (fn. 45) . Tichbourn, who resided some
years before at Mitcham, was also commissioner of the customs, and
an alderman of London. He was one of King Charles's judges, and
was made a peer by Cromwell (fn. 46) . Sir John Ireton was an alderman of London. In the assessment of 1660 the two latter are styled
Alderman Tichbourn and Alderman Ireton. The former was tried
among the regicides and convicted.
Tradition of Cromwell at Mortlake.
An ancient house at Mortlake, now on lease to the Miss Aynscombs, is said to have been the residence of Cromwell. It is not very
likely that he was an inhabitant there, but highly probable that he
might have been a visitor, as so many of his friends lived in the
neighbourhood, one of whom perhaps occupied this house. It may
be observed here, that there is scarce a village near London in which
there is not one house at least appropriated by tradition to Cromwell, though there is no person to whom they might be appropriated
with less probability. During the whole of the civil wars Cromwell
was with the army; when he was protector, he divided his time
between Whitehall and Hampton-Court.
Miss Aynscomb's house was, during the present century, the
residence of a more amiable though a less celebrated man, the
benevolent Edward Colston, the great benefactor to the city of Bristol
and various other places, who in his life-time expended more than
70,000l. upon charitable institutions. He died there A. D. 1721 (fn. 47) .
Among eminent persons who have resided at Mortlake, the celebrated Dr. Dee must by no means be forgotten. His character
has been so variously represented, and his history is not only so extremely curious but so much connected with this place, that I trust
I shall be excused if I enter more into its detail than is consistent
with the general plan of this work.
Dr. Dee was the son of Rowland Dee, Gentleman Sewer to Henry VIII. and grandson of Bedo Dee, Standard-Bearer to Lord de Ferrars at the battle of Tournay; if any credit is to be given to his
pedigree in the British Museum (fn. 48) , drawn up by himself, he was descended in a direct line from Tudor the Great. His father was imprisoned in the Tower in the year 1553. His mother Johanna Dee,
lived at Mortlake as early as the year 1568. The greater part of
the following account, except where other authorities are quoted, is
taken from the MS. narrative of his life (fn. 49) , which he read to the commissioners at his house at Mortlake.
John Dee was born in London A. D. 1527. At the age of 15 he
went to the university of Cambridge, where he applied himself to
his studies with such diligence that he allowed only four hours for
sleep and two for his meals and recreation. In 1547 he went abroad
to converse with learned men, particularly mathematicians; and on
his return the ensuing year was elected fellow of Trinity College,
and made under-reader of the Greek language. He went to the
Continent again soon afterwards; and being then only 23 years of
age, read public lectures at Paris upon the Elements of Euclid to
crowded audiences, and was visited by persons of the highest rank,
who were anxious to become his pupils. In 1553 Edward VI.
took him under his patronage, allowed him a pension, and gave
him the rectories of Upton-upon-Severn in Worcestershire, and
Long Lednam in Lincolnshire. About this time he was offered a
handsome salary for reading lectures upon natural philosophy at Oxford. In Queen Mary's reign he was out of favour; and being suspected of treasonable designs, was committed to the custody of Bishop Bonner, but escaped better than his fellow-prisoner Green, who
suffered at the stake. Queen Elizabeth, upon her accession to the
throne, immediately took Dee under her patronage, and among
other marks of her favour appointed him, though a layman, to the
deanery of Gloucester; of which however he never got possession.
In 1575 the Queen, with several of the nobility, came to his house
at Mortlake, with an intention of seeing his library, but hearing
that his wife was lately dead, they did not enter the house. Dee attended her Majesty at the door, and explained to her the properties
of a glass which had occasioned much conversation, and given rise
to a report that he was a magician. In 1578 he married Jane,
daughter of Bartholomew Fromound, Esq. of East-Cheam. In 1581
he first began his incantations in concert with one Edward Kelly. Albert Laski, a Polish nobleman of high rank, (and I have no doubt of
large fortune, or he would not have answered their purpose,) was admitted into a kind of partnership with them. They pretended to
carry on their conversations with spirits by means of a show-stone,
which Dee affirmed was given him by an angel. Kelly was the
seer, who, when they had finished their invocations, was to report
what spirits he saw and what they said; whilst Dee, who sat at a
table, noted all in a book. A folio volume of these notes was published by Casaubon, and many more remain in MS. in the British
Museum. They contain the most unintelligible jargon. The consecrated cakes of wax used in these ceremonies, marked with hieroglyphics and mathematical figures, are also in the Museum. The
show-stone, which is a round piece of volcanic glass finely polished,
is in the Earl of Orford's collection at Strawberry-Hill. This farce
was carried on for some time, till at length the whole party having
envolved themselves in debt, they were obliged suddenly to quit
England. They left Mortlake Sept. 21, 1583; the mob, who had
always been prejudiced against him as a magician, immediately upon
his departure broke into his house, and destroyed a great part of his
furniture and books. Meanwhile Dee and his friends hastened to
Poland, where they flattered themselves that they should meet with
great encouragement through the interest of Laski; but were grievously disappointed in their expectations, and reduced to great distress.
They then bent their course to Germany, but the Emperor banished
them his dominions. At length in the year 1589 the Queen ordered
him to return, being then in Bohemia (fn. 50) . On his arrival in England he waited upon her Majesty at Richmond, and was very graciously received. She assured him that he might rely upon her protection in the prosecution of his studies. Having been in England
three years without reaping any advantage from the promise which
had been made him, he was induced to present a petition to the
Queen, praying that she would appoint commissioners to inquire
into the losses and injuries which he had sustained, the services he
had done her Majesty, and the various disappointments which he had
encountered. In consequence of this application Sir Thomas Gorege,
Knt. and Mr. Secretary Wolley were actually appointed commissioners to hear his grievances, and sat as such as his house at Mortlake, Nov. 22, 1592, to whom, sitting in his library, he related his
case at large. In the meantime two tables were placed near him;
on one of them were the proper vouchers for the facts he asserted,
to which he constantly referred; on the other, all the printed books
and MSS. which he had written. Among the services which he
had rendered to the Queen he reckons some consultations with her
Majesty's physicians at home, and a journey of 1,500 miles, which he
undertook in the winter season, to hold a conference with the most
learned philosophers on the Continent upon the means of restoring
and preserving her health. In enumerating his losses he estimates
the damage sustained in his library (fn. 51) at 390l. His whole collection,
which consisted of 4000 books, of which a great part were MSS.
he valued at 2000l. Among the latter he mentions a large collection of deeds and charters relating principally to estates in Ireland
which he got out of a ruined church. He says, they had been examined by heralds, clerks of the office of records in the Tower, and
other antiquaries, who had spent whole days at his house in looking
them over; and had taken away to their liking. His chemical apparatus, which cost him 200l. was entirely destroyed by the mob,
when he left Mortlake in 1583; at the same time they beat in
pieces a fine quadrant of Chancellor's which cost him 20l. and took
away a magnet for which he gave 33l. Among the many promises of preferment which had been made him to so little effect, he
particularly specifies Dr. Aubrey's benefices in the diocese of St.
David's, and the mastership of St. Cross. He concludes with desiring speedy relief, and gives his reasons for preferring the mastership
of St. Cross to any other appointment, it being a retired situation
well adapted for his studies, with a good house annexed; whereas
his present situation at Mortlake was too public, and his house too
small to entertain the foreign literati who resorted to him. Upon
the report of the commissioners, "the Queen willed the Lady How"ard to write some words of comfort to his wife, and send some
friendly tokens besides;" she commanded Sir Thomas Gorge
to take him 100 marks, and said, "that St. Cross he should
"have," and that the incumbent Dr. Bennet might be removed to
some bishopric; and assigned him a pension of 200l. per annum out
of the bishopric of Oxford till it should become vacant. All these
promises, like the former, came to nothing; the mastership of St.
Cross he never got. The next year indeed he was presented to the
chancellorship of St. Paul's, but this was by no means adequate to
his expectations; and he continued to memorialife her majesty till
at length he procured the wardenship of Manchester in 1595 (fn. 52) .
Here he continued seven years, leading a very unquiet life, and
continually engaged in disputes with the fellows. He returned to
Mortlake in 1604. King James at first patronized, but was afterwards prejudiced against him and his studies; upon which Dee
presented a petition to his Majesty, and another in verse to the
House of Commons, praying that he might be brought to trial, having
been accused of calling up evil spirits (fn. 53) . Dr. Dee died at Mortlake
in the year 1608, having been so poor in the latter part of his life
as to be obliged to sell his library piece-meal for subsistence (fn. 54) . He
was buried in the chancel of Mortlake church, where Aubrey says,
an old marble stone was shown as belonging to his tomb (fn. 55) .
The house where Dr. Dee lived is now the property of Richard
Godman Temple, Esq. as appears by a survey of Mortlake (fn. 56) , taken
A. D. 1617, where it is called an ancient house. It was most probably built in the reign of Henry VII. An old room ornamented
with red and white roses existed a few years ago.
Queen Elizabeth's visits to Dr. Dee.
It is the opinion of some writers, that Dee was employed by
Queen Elizabeth as a Spy (fn. 57) , and some have gone so far as to suppose that all the notes of his pretended conversations with spirits
were, in fact, political intelligence, couched in cyphers. As they
contained a kind of jargon meaning nothing in itself, they might
undoubtedly be used occasionally for such purposes. Dee himself
avers in his narrative, that he was taken into the Queen's service on
her accession to the throne, when she promised, that where her brother had given him a crown, she would give him a noble. The
instances of her Majesty's attention to him were striking and numerous, and certainly prove either that she was indebted to him for
real, or that he duped her by magnifying the importance of imaginary
services. When he was sick, the Queen ordered her own physicians
to attend him, "sent him divers rarities to eat, and the honourable
"Lady Sidney to attend on him, and comfort him with divers
"speeches from her Majesty pithy and gracious (fn. 58) !" The Queen
frequently visited him at his house at Mortlake; one day she
came on horseback, and "exhorted him to take his mother's death
"patiently." Another time, as he describes it himself, "she came
"from Richmond in her coach, the higher way of Mortlake field,
and when she came right against the church, she turned down
(says he) towards my house, and when she was against my garden in the field, her Majesty staid there a good while, and then
came into the field at the great gate of the field, where her Majesty espied me at my door making reverent and dutiful obeysances to her; and with her hand her Majesty beckoned me to
come unto her, and I came to her coach-side; her Majesty then
very speedily pulled off her glove, and gave me her hand to kiss;
and to be short, her Majesty willed me to resort oftener to her
"court, and by some of her privy chamber, to give her to weete
when I am there (fn. 59) ."
Character of Dee.
Dee was undoubtedly a man of very great research and singular
learning, as is evident by his various writings both printed and
MSS. in almost every science. He wrote upon the reformation of
the Gregorian calendar; on the mode of propagating the Gospel on
the other side of the Atlantic; on geography; natural philosophy,
particularly optics; mathematics; metaphysics; astronomy; astrology; and the occult sciences. He wrote an account also of his
voyage to St. Helena, and a treatise on the Queen's right to certain foreign countries; and projected a scheme for the preservation
of ancient MSS. by establishing a general repository, a plan which
is in a great measure realised by that noble national collection at the
British Museum. Whether with all his learning he was himself
the dupe of an enthusiastic imagination, or whether he availed
himself of his knowledge to dupe others in an age when all ranks
were given to credulity, may perhaps admit of a question. I own I
am rather inclined to the latter opinion. As a proof of the superstition and credulity of the age, it will not be amiss to mention
that Dee was employed to determine according to the opinion of
the ancient astrologers, what day would be most fortunate for Queen
Elizabeth's coronation (fn. 60) . Some time afterwards he was sent for by
the lords of the council to counteract the ill effects which it was apprehended would befall the Queen from a waxen image of her Majesty
stuck full of pins, which was picked up in Lincoln's-inn-fields (fn. 61) .
This we are told he performed "in a godly and artificial manner,"
in the presence of the Earl of Leicester, and Mr. Secretary Wilson.
Dr. Dee was much connected with the Earl, and has been accused
of being an instrument in his nefarious designs (fn. 62) . He was much
patronized and encouraged by Henry Earl of Northumberland (fn. 63) ,
the Earl of Oxford, Sir Christopher Hatton, Sir Henry Sidney, and
other great men belonging to the court. So great was his reputation
abroad, that he was offered great salaries by various foreign princes
if he would settle in their courts. The Emperor of Russia in particular sent him a rich present, with an offer of conveying him
and all his family to Petersburgh, and promising to settle an annuity of 2000l. per annum upon him, and to grant him the rank of a
privy counsellor. These offers, it must be observed, were made before his last unsuccessful journey to the Continent.
Notwithstanding the Queen's patronage, and the various and rich
presents which he was constantly in the habit of receiving, his unbounded extravagance kept him always poor. His journey from
Bohemia in 1589, which cost him (fn. 64) near 800l., will afford some
idea of his oftentation. He was attended by a guard of horse, and
travelled with three coaches besides baggage-waggons. The coaches,
with harness for 12 horses, he bought new upon the occasion.
When he arrived in England, he appears not to have been worth a
penny, and to have subsisted for the next three years upon the precarious bounty of his friends. During this period he received 500l.
in money, besides vessels of wine, whole sheep, pigs, wheat, sugar,
and other commodities; he sold his wife's jewels, his own rarities,
and whatever could be spared out of his house; at the end of the
three years he was 333l. in debt. With these expenditures, which
according to the present value of money we must estimate at more
than 1000l. per annum, he tells us, that "with great parsimony
"used, he preserved himself and his family from hunger, starving,
"and nakedness (fn. 65) ." Dr. Dee carried on his conversation with spirits
till the year before his death, at which time he seems to have applied his pretended art to the discovery of hidden treasure and stolen
goods (fn. 66) , probably of procuring some present subsistence from those
who were silly enough to employ him. A portrait of Dr. Dee, taken
at the age of 67, as appears by an inscription upon the canvas, is in
the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, where many of his MSS. are
deposited. The annexed plate is copied from the picture just mentioned. Dr. Dee bore for his arms, Gules, a lion rampant Or, within
a border indented of the second. The following crest was granted
him in 1576. A lion seiant gardant, Or, holding in his dexter gamb
a cross formée fitchée Azure; on the cross, a label with this motto,
"Hic labor;" and his sinister gamb on a pyramid Argent, on it a label with this motto, "Hoc opus." Francis Dee, Bishop of Peterborough, was cousin of Dr. Dee, being descended from his grandfather Bedo, called in the Visitation of the County of Salop, the
great Bedo Dee.
Dr John Dee
Arthur Dee was born at Mortlake in 1579, on the same day that
his grand-father Bartholomew Fromound died, which his father considered as an ill omen. Anthony Wood, with his usual credulity,
says, that when a child he frequently played at quoits with gold
plates which his father made at Prague by transmutation. At eight
years of age he was employed by his father as his Skryer. He was
educated at the university of Oxford, and being bred up to physic,
practised in London; where he was prosecuted by the College of
Physicians for putting a board over his door with a list of medicines.
King James recommended him to the Emperor of Russia, who made
him his physician. He resided in that country fourteen years; and
on his return was appointed physician to Charles I. Dr. Arthur Dee
published a treatise on the hermetical science, and left behind him
some MSS. He died at Norwich in 1651. (fn. 67) .
Anstis, the Garter King at Arms, author of the Register
of the Garter, and some pamphlets on the Office of Earl Marshal, resided at Mortlake, and died at his house there March 4,
1744 (fn. 68) .
Gibson the painter.
A manufactory of fine tapestry (being its first introduction into
England) was established here in the year 1619 by Sir Francis Crane,
who bought some premises of Mr. Juxon for that purpose (fn. 69) . The
King patronized the undertaking, and gave 2,000l. towards it as
an encouragement (fn. 70) . Francis Cleyne, an ingenious artist, coming
to England soon afterwards under the patronage of Sir Robert Anstruther, was employed as a designer, and raised the credit of the manufactures to a very high degree (fn. 71) . The King granted him a pension of 100l. per annum (fn. 72) , and made him a free denizen (fn. 73) . In
the first year of King Charles, Sir Francis Crane, to whom his
Majesty owed 6000l. procured a pension of 1,000l. per annum (fn. 74) .
After his death, his brother Sir Richard sold the premises to the
King. During the civil war they were seized as the property of the
crown. In the Survey (fn. 75) taken by order of parliament the Tapestryhouse is described as containing one room 82 feet in length, and 20 in
breadth, with 12 looms; another about half as long with 6 looms;
and a great room called the limning-room. This manufactory occupied the site of Queen's-head Court. The old house, on the
opposite side of the road, was built by Charles I. for the residence of Francis Cleyne (fn. 76) . Gibson, the dwarf, who had been page
to a lady at Mortlake, was a scholar of Cleyne (fn. 77) . During the protectorate the Tapestry-house remained in the occupation of John
Holliburie, who in the Survey is mentioned as the master workman.
After the Restoration, Charles II. intended to revive the manufacture,
and sent to Verrio to sketch the designs, but his intention was never
carried into execution (fn. 78) . In the Survey above-mentioned the
Tapestry-house is valued at 50l. per annum; the painter's house
Manufactory of delf.
About fifty years ago a manufactory of delf and earthen-ware
was established here by Mr. William Sanders, which is still carried
on by his son.
In the year 1628 John Juxon, Esq. founded four alms-houses for
poor widows. They were endowed by himself, his son, and grandson, with 17l. 2s. per annum; and were further augmented by
Mrs. Elizabeth Heneage, in 1775, with an annuity of 13l. The
widows now receive 2s. 6d. per week, besides clothes at stated
Henry Smith, Esq. gave 3l. per annum to the poor. Thomas
Scales in 1640 gave 5l. 10s. per annum to be distributed in bread;
a certain portion every Sunday. Mrs. Ann Clark gave the interest
of 100l. to be distributed among the poor on St. Stephen's day.
Lady Thorold, the interest of 260l. to be divided between six poor
men on the first of November, on condition that Mr. Coventry's
vault should not be removed; otherwise the benefaction to go to
the parish of Barnes. Mrs. Ann Smyth, in 1733, gave the interest
of 100l. to four of the poorest housekeepers on Christmas-day. The
sum of 260l. has been left by various persons for the purpose of
buying coals for the poor, and 320l. to apprentice children and pay
widows' rents. Louisa Durour left 50l. to the poor; and Nicholas Langley, Esq. in 1783, the same sum. The parish fund at
present amounts to 1,130l. South-Sea stock, which is vested in
Lady Capel, by her will dated 1719, left 11l. per annum to
establish a charity-school here, which being augmented by the collections at an annual sermon, the parish are enabled to clothe and
educate twenty children.
Thomas Whitfield, Esq. lord of the manor of East-Sheen and
West-hall, gave the premises of the Star and Garter towards the repairs of the church.
East-Sheen is a pleasant hamlet in this parish, situated on a rising
ground considerably above the level of the river. It contains about
ninety houses. Here are several handsome villas; the vicinity to
Richmond-park, and the beauty of the surrounding country, making it a desirable situation.