Book 1, Ch. 10: James I

A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.

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John Noorthouck, 'Book 1, Ch. 10: James I', A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1773), pp. 144-153. British History Online [accessed 20 June 2024].

John Noorthouck. "Book 1, Ch. 10: James I", in A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1773) 144-153. British History Online, accessed June 20, 2024,

Noorthouck, John. "Book 1, Ch. 10: James I", A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark, (London, 1773). 144-153. British History Online. Web. 20 June 2024,

In this section


During the reign of James I.

By the extinction of the direct line of the English royal family with Elizabeth, the succession was peaceably admitted to be in James VI. of Scotland, as great grandson of Margaret, eldest daughter of Henry VII (fn. 1); who, as usual with all new kings, was proclaimed with great demonstrations of joy: an additional circumstance however concurred in the present instance to add to the national satisfaction, which was, the prospect of future peace and harmony between the two kingdoms, now united under one prince. The only check to the general festivity on James's arrival, was that old enemy of the metropolis, the plague; which, this year, destroyed 30,578 persons. The lord-mayor assisted at the coronation according to custom, and with the other magistrates not already dignified, received the honour of knighthood the succeeding day. James was indeed so profuse in his honorary favours, that the distinction thereby intended was destroyed; and a pasquinade was fixed on St. Paul's church, promising an art to assist weak memories, in retaining the names of the new nobility (fn. 2).

To anticipate a little for the sake of connection: We find that the number of city knights soon gave rise to a dispute on the point of precedency, between the aldermen who were knights, and the knights commoners. The latter pleaded, that precedence was due to seniority; the former, that their magistracy gave them precedence independent of knighthood. The junior ladies took the lead so warmly in this important contest, that the mayor and aldermen petitioned the king, that the affair might be determined by the earl marshal, to restore quiet to the city. The pleas on both sides were learnedly argued; but at length the commoners tacitly giving up the point by default of appearance, the marshal's court decided in favour of the aldermen; with this distinction among the commoners, that an honourable employment conferred on a junior knight, should give him place before a senior: this distinction was established in favour of Sir Thomas Smith, who had been employed on an embassy to Russia.

Among the first acts of James's government, was a proclamation on account of the plague, to prohibit all fairs that year within fifty miles of London; and a renewal of the proclamation against laying new foundations in and about the city. The first parliament also passed an act for the recovery of small debts within the city and liberties (fn. 3); by which statute, the court of Conscience, which hitherto had subsisted by acts of the corporation, was now established by national authority.

December 21, 1603, the making bills of mortality was revived and continued; but they were not published weekly; a general account being annually made up and given. They underwent several alterations in subsequent years, as the limits of them were extended.

While England remained under the church of Rome, the people confined to prescribed rituals they did not understand, and furnished with visible objects of worship, never troubled their heads about principles and doctrines; nor did the priests desire that they should. But the case was far otherwise under the reformation: idols, with the pageantry of religion, being taken away, and the Bible put into the hands of the people; the right of private judgment thus received a tacit sanction, which the new establishment, however disposed, was unable afterward to check. This right was by no means suffered to lie dormant: beside those of the established church, which was in some respects a compromise with the Catholics; there were others who went still farther lengths in their departure from the old religion, and these were denominated Puritans. By their numbers and inflexible hatred of every thing that bore the least resemblance to popery, they had proved the principal bulwark against all attempts to restore that establishment: dividing afterward in doctrinal points among themselves, they produced different sects, of opposite and even extravagant tenets, till mellowed by the course of time; but that time was yet distant. They had been greatly depressed by the late queen; and James, who had been plagued with the Puritans in Scotland, bore them no good will; but being a great casuist, he opened a conference at Hampton court between the church clergy and the Puritans, in order to bring about a comprehension of both parties. A petition signed by 750 of the Puritan clergy, had been presented to him on his accession, to abate the rigour of the laws against them; but neither that petition, nor the conferences, produced any thing but a few alterations in the liturgy, which by no means satisfied the Nonconformists. The great share the Puritans took in some following events rendered it necessary to introduce them in proper time.

James called in those numerous patents for monopolies which had been granted by his predecessor, and were such fetters on internal commerce; but the foreign trade still remained principally in the hands of exclusive companies. Almost the whole commerce of the nation centered in London, where the customs amounted to 110,000l. yearly, while the rest of the kingdom produced only 17,000l. Mr. Hume, who cites this estimate from the parliamentary journals, adds from the same authority, that the whole trade of London was confined to about 200 citizens, who were able to fix their own prices, on exports and imports: We shall not therefore be surprized at the city being able to lend the king 60,000l. which he borrowed in the year 1604.


In the year 1605, a most extraordinary plot was concerted, by two catholic gentlemen, Catesby, of an antient family, and Piercy, related to the earl of Northumberland, to blow up the king and both houses of parliament on the first day of the meeting! They administered the sacrament to all whom they associated in this grand scheme of wickedness, intended to destroy the heads of heresy thus collected together, and then to restore popery. The only objection that occurred to these diabolical conspirators was, that many Catholics must of necessity be involved in this general ruin: but Tesmond a Jesuit, and Garnet, superior of that order in England, obviated this scruple, by arguing that the interests of religion required, in this instance, that the innocent should be sacrificed with the guilty. A cellar was hired under the House of Lords, in which 36 barrels of powder were lodged, covered up with faggots; and Guy Fawkes, an officer in the Spanish service, fetched from Flanders on purpose, was entrusted with the execution of the affair. Happily the compunction of one of the conspirators withstood the arguments of the Jesuits, and an anonymous letter sent to the lord Monteagle ten days before the opening the session, containing dark hints of the danger of his going to the parliament, and admonishing him to retire into the country and wait the event; proved the means of unravelling the plot, and saving the lives of all the great men in the kingdom. Lord Monteagle carried the letter to lord Salisbury, and Salisbury laid it before the king, who luckily conjecturing the truth, the vault was searched, Fawkes seized, and the conspirators discovered and brought to punishment (fn. 4). The anniversary of this providential escape, was ordered to be for ever commemorated (fn. 5).

In the third year of his reign, the king granted the city of London his first charter; (see Appendix, No. XLII.) by which charter, the disputes between the corporation and the lieutenant of the Tower, about the metage of coals, &c. were prevented in future.

June 12th, 1606, the king paid his former debt; and was magnificently entertained at Clothworkers hall, where he accepted the freedom of the company, and granted them yearly two brace of bucks, for the anniversary feast on the election of the master and wardens. On July 15th, he with his eldest son prince Henry, dined with the Merchant Taylors; and on their shewing him a roll containing a list of the kings and illustrious persons who had been free of their company; he told them he belonged to another company, but that his son should become a member. Prince Henry was accordingly admitted; and, at his desire, such also of the nobility then present as had not entered into other companies.

The metropolis still increasing, the former prohibitions against new buildings were revived, and offenders were prosecuted in the Star-chamber: in consideration of the decay of wood, persons were also ordered to front their houses with brick or stone. The common-council, moreover, revived the prohibition of hawkers erecting stalls or vending goods in the city, with an exception, however, in favour of persons who brought provisions into the city.

December 22d, a hard frost enabled people to keep a fair for all sorts of commodities, on the Thames; and to carry on their diversions on the ice.



By his former punctuality, James, in May 1607, obtained another loan of 63,000l. and, in 1608, he granted the city a second charter of confirmation; which, moreover, extended the jurisdiction of the corporation over Duke's Place, St. Bartholomew the Greater and Less, Black and White Friars, and Cold Harbour. See Appendix, No. XLIII.


Ireland being reduced to a state of peace; the king, for the purpose of peopling the province of Ulster with English Protestants, made a tender to the city of London, in 1609, of the forfeited lands there; which, after due consideration, and proper surveys taken, the common-council thankfully accepted, and passed an act for raising 20,000l. for the purpose of settling a colony upon them. The lands were greatly improved; and Ulster, from being the wildest, is now become the best cultivated province in the country. This grant will be more particularly explained in another place.

The apprehensions of the too great increase of London still continuing, the king, with the advice of his privy council, revived the prohibition of new foundations; but it was found, that political regulations are unable to check the natural tendency of things. James loved peace; peace advanced commerce; and commerce will draw people together. Spital fields were at this time built upon, and inhabited by weavers: Wapping, heretofore a distinct village, was now, by the increase of mariners, connected to Tower-Hill: On the western side of West-Smithfield, used to be a large pond of water; but this being filled up, was occupied by Cow-lane, Hosier-lane, and Chick-lane, &c. Where the fields, and gardens of the great priory of St. John of Jerusalem, and of another convent on the north side of Clerkenwell-green stood, were now built upon; and Holborn was gradually continued up to the village of St. Giles's in the fields (fn. 6). The old ruinous gate at the eastern entrance of the city, called Aldgate, was rebuilt in the same year.


In the eighth year of his reign, king James granted a commission on behalf of the London archers, to level all ditches, banks, and other inclosures within two miles of the suburbs; and to reduce the fields to the same state wherein they were found, in the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII (fn. 7). This was indeed a retrograde proceeding, which removed to a distance the supplies of a growing metropolis; but, by the nature of things, could not long be maintained. A following regulation sprang from rather better policy; twelve new public granaries were established in Bridewell, able to contain 6000 quarters of corn, to be sold to the poor at prime cost, in times of scarcity.


James has, by some writers, been taxed with inclining toward popery; and it will be difficult perhaps to clear him totally from the imputation, while such strong evidence exists as that of Elizabeth's ambassador at Paris, Sir Henry Neville. Elizabeth's ministers were all instructed to have a watchful eye over the transactions of the Scots king; and Neville procured intelligence of the negociations of baron Ogilby in Spain, who offered, in the name of James, "to be reconciled to the apostolic see, and to enter into a confederacy with that crown, in order to rescue himself from the dangers he was exposed to from Elizabeth, on whom he offered (upon condition of being assisted with 12,000 men armed and paid all the time the war should last, and 500,000 ducats to begin it) to make war immediately (fn. 8)." Should this be palliated on the plea of resentment, it was certainly going great lengths in his anger: however, two instances more directly in our way, will shew, that if he was not actually a devotee to Rome, policy more than persuasion with-held him, as he was gifted with the true catholic spirit of persecution. Bartholomew Legate, a man well read in the scriptures, and of unblameable life, was charged with Socinian tenets, and with saying, that the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds did not contain a profession of the true Christian Faith. James, like his learned predecessor Henry VIII. graciously attempted his conversion; but his royal arguments failing of effect, he directed the writ de bæretico comburendo to the sheriffs of London, and Legate was burnt to ashes in Smithfield in 1611, for persisting in the unity of the Divine Being! Edward Wightman, another unfortunate victim, was, to the shame of our Protestant church, burnt for heresy the same year, at Litchfield (fn. 9).

The religious house of the Carthusian monks near Smithfield, called the Charterhouse, had, on its dissolution, fallen into the hands of the earl of Suffolk. Mr. Thomas Sutton, a rich old bachelor, now purchased it of that family for 13,000l; and expended 7,000l. more upon fitting it up for his intended charitable foundation for pensioners and scholars. He obtained a patent in 1611, which was afterward confirmed by parliament, and endowed it with lands then producing 4490l. per annum, but now valued at 6,000l. for the support of eighty pensioners who ought to be decayed gentlemen, merchants, or soldiers; and for the maintenance and education of forty-four scholars, some for the universities, and some for trade, with handsome allowances.

Sir Baptist Hicks, then one of the justices of the peace for Middlesex, but afterward created lord viscount Camden, in the tenth year of James I. built a sessions-house of brick and stone in St. John's-street, for the justices to hold their quarter sessions in; which used, before this accommodation was provided, to be held at the Castle-inn. It still preserves the name of Hicks's-hall.


The elector palatine Frederic, who afterward assumed the title of king of Bohemia, arrived at London, October 16, 1612, to marry the princess Elizabeth, the king's only daughter; from which marriage the present royal family of Great Britain are descended. On the 29th he was entertained at Guildhall by the lord-mayor and his company, who gave him several presents; and on the wedding-day the city presented the bride with a necklace of oriental pearls valued at 2000l. This year died Henry prince of Wales, a youth of the most promising good qualities.

The great enlargement of London and its suburbs had started a scheme for the supplying the numerous inhabitants with water more commodiously and effectually than by the city conduits; and a supply of water for the prevention of fires entered also into this consideration. An act had been passed in 1605 (fn. 10), impowering the corporation of London to make a trench for bringing a stream of fresh water from the springs of Chadwell and Amwell, &c. in the county of Hertford. Mr. Hugh Middleton, citizen and goldsmith of London, was the projector and manager of this great work, and was thereupon knighted by the king (fn. 11). The channel, though conducted in a winding manner, to accommodate it as much as possible to the natural level of the ground, was in some places, obliged to be cut full 30 feet deep, through subterranean passages arched over; and is carried over two vallies in troughs lined with lead, the one at Bushill 660 feet in length, and 30 feet high, and the other near Highbury 462 feet long, and 17 feet high. Its course from Ware to the reservoir at Clerkenwell near Islington, measures 38¾ miles, 16 poles: from thence the water is distributed by elm pipes through the streets, like the veins of the human body, to all parts of the city and suburbs; and conveyed into every house that subscribes for it, by small leaden pipes of ¾ of an inch bore.


On Michaelmas-day 1613, when Sir Thomas Middleton, brother to the undertaker, was elected lord-mayor, Sir John Swinnerton, then the acting mayor, with many of the heads of the corporation, went in solemn cavalcade to this reservoir, since improperly termed the New river head. The labourers, handsomely dressed, walked with their tools three times round, preceded by drums and trumpets, and addressing the mayor in a copy of verses, the sluices were opened under the discharge of cannon, the sound of music, and the loud acclamations of all the spectators.

Notwithstanding the extensive utility and great profits since arising to the proprietors of this useful work, we are sorry to remark that Sir Hugh Middleton was ruined by it. Having spent his whole fortune, he was forced to part with half the property for money advanced by the king, and to sell many other shares: the undertaking continued long in a declining way, until the advantages of it were generally perceived. The proprietors are incorporated, and compose now one of the most flourishing companies existing; though the present high price of the shares, when they come abroad, reduces the profits to a general average with all other purchases.


West Smithfield was paved, by the king's order to the lord-mayor in 1614, at the expence of 1600l. Being the public market for cattle, horses, and hay, it was almost impassable in rainy weather; and therefore well answered the charges bestowed on it. The citizens now also began to pave the margins of the streets before their doors with broad flag stones for the accommodation of foot passengers.

About this time the city obtained a third charter from the king; (see Appendix, No. XLIV.) which confirmed to the corporation the admeasurement and metage of coals in the port of London, from Yenleet to Staines-bridge.


Sir Peter Proby, alderman of London and governor of the colony of Ulster, was sent over by a special commission from the king and city of London in 1616, to regulate the English plantation there. Londonderry, and Colerain, two good towns, had been raised; the former of which the king had erected into a city, and the latter into a corporate town under a mayor. Proby carried over two rich swords of state, as presents from the city of London, for the use of their chief magistrates. Aldersgate was rebuilt this year.


When king James made a progress to Scotland in 1617, he issued an extraordinary proclamation, commanding "all noblemen, knights, and gentle"men, who have mansion-houses in the country, to depart within twenty days after the date hereof, with their wives and families, out of the city and suburbs of London, and to return to their several habitations in the country, there to continue and abide until the end of the summer vacation, to perform the duties and charge of their places and service; and likewise by housekeeping to be a comfort unto their neighbours, in order to renew and revive the laudable custom of hospitality in their respective countries. Excepting, however, such as have necessary occasion to attend in our city of London for Term business, or other urgent occasions, to be signified to, and approved by, our privy council (fn. 12)." The true motive of this arbitrary mandate appears to be, that James found his parliaments become refractory, and thought that if the gentry were dispersed in their country seats, they could not so readily concert measures of opposition during his absence, as they might if he left them living collected together in the metropolis. He renewed this proclamation several times in the course of his reign.

In his journies between London and Edinburgh, James had observed a Puritanical strictness in the observance of what the people affectedly termed the Sabbath or Lord's-day, in opposition to the popular term Sunday, which they rejected as of heathen origin. In catholic countries, after service on festivals, the people dedicated the remainder of the day to sports and pastimes; which was a sufficient reason to exclude them in the present temper of the times. James therefore undertook by another singular proclamation to authorise the practice of lawful games and exercises on that day, to the great astonishment and grief of his pious subjects (fn. 13). Certain rules were drawn up under the title of The book of Sports, which the parochial ministers were enjoined to read in their respective churches; but many of them refusing obedience, were prosecuted in that species of inquisition called the High Commission court. The lord-mayor of London also proved refractory, by stopping the king's carriages from travelling through the city during divine service; which when the king heard, he swore he thought there were no more kings in England beside himself; and sent an order to the mayor to let them pass. The mayor pacified him by a welltimed concession, the terms of which gratified the king: he said, "while it was in my power, I did my duty; but that being taken away by a higher power, it is my duty to obey."


In 1618 a special commission was issued by the king, to several lords and gentlemen, among whom was that great architect Inigo Jones, then surveyorgeneral of his works, for laying out and improving the ground called Lincoln'sInn fields; under the direction of that gentleman. The expence of laying out the grounds was to be levied on the surrounding parishes and inns of court; and several of the buildings round the square originally constructed by Inigo Jones, still remain, on the south and west sides; as also on the southern side of the adjoining street called Great Queen street (fn. 14).


Though James was a strenuous asserter of ecclesiastical hierarchy and orthodox opinions, he was a latitudinarian in morals; as appears not only by his Book of Sports above mentioned; but also by a grant he gave in 1620 to Clement Cotrel Esq. groom porter of his houshold, to license gaming houses for cards, dice, bowling allies, and tennis courts. The numbers allowed, were, in London and Westminster, including the suburbs, 24 bowling allies: in Southwark 4; in St. Catharine's 1; in Shoreditch 1; and in Lambeth 2: every other town or village within two miles of London and Westminster, was allowed one. Within these limits also, 14 tennis courts were tolerated, and 40 taverns or ordinaries, for playing at cards and dice. The motives expressed in the grant, for this indulgence, were—" for the honest and reasonable recreation of good and civil people, who for their quality and ability, may lawfully use the games of bowling, tennis, dice, cards, tables, nineholes, or any other game hereafter to be invented (fn. 15)."

In 1620, the king impelled rather by the desires of his subjects, than his own inclination, thought of giving some assistance to his son in law, the Elector Palatine; and on the plea of the urgency of the case, he attempted to raise a benevolence on his subjects. The lord mayor and citizens were required to contribute 20,000l. but this on deliberation being thought too exorbitant, they advanced only half the sum, which was raised by the several companies. We are told that one Barnes a citizen, was the first who refused to contribute any thing; and that in consequence of this refusal, the treasurer sent him notice to prepare immediately to carry by post a dispatch to Ireland: he was glad to buy. off this duty with 100l. and no one after that ventured to refuse their contribution (fn. 16). This arbitrary measure not sufficiently answering, the king was obliged to have recourse to parliament; but the commons, after a vote of money, presented him with remonstrances against grievances, beginning first with patents granted for monopolies: these attacks on his prerogatives were but ill relished by James, who at length dissolved them.

Among other abuses discovered, that great man the lord chancellor Bacon was convicted of taking bribes in the execution of his high office, and was degraded. The natural powers of his mind, and his literary abilities, rendered this weakness the more inexcusable; though a perversion of justice was by no means added to the charges against him (fn. 17).

A great frost in 1620 enabled the people to carry on all manner of trades and sports on the Thames.

The king's negociations with Spain, particularly that for a marriage between Charles, now prince of Wales, and the Infanta, were so little relished by the people, that Gondamar, the Spanish ambassador, who was perceived to have great influence over the king, was insulted in passing the streets. This brought the king in a great rage to Guildhall, where he severely reprimanded the city magistrates for the insolence of the populace, and threatened to restrain them by military power. The royal anger was appeased by the whipping one poor fellow from Aldgate to Temple bar, for disrespectful words against this foreign favourite.


In the year 1622, king James issued a commission for licensing, registering, and raising a tax from all aliens and foreigners, for the liberty of exercising their professions under the restrictions formerly imposed on them (fn. 18) : an expedient which obviously shews the short-sighted policy that actuated this prince, whom the flatterers of that age honoured with the title of the Second Solomon. It may suffice to remark in general, that commerce was more favoured by the interval of peace enjoyed during this reign, than by any well calculated endeavours of James to promote it: rather by his want of courage, than by his want of inclination to oppress his people.


Though the king was so ill disposed toward the inoffensive Puritans, and had even burnt two Schismatics, it is plain he tolerated papists, notwithstanding the imminent danger he was once in from their bloody machinations: in 1623, a congregation of 300 persons being assembled at the French ambassador's house in Blackfriars to hear one Drury a famous Jesuist preacher; the floor of the room used for a chapel, which was three stories high, gave way to the weight, and bursting through the next, the preacher with nearly 100 of his auditors were killed, and most of the rest were more or less wounded. The great encouragement, and consequent increase and insolence of the papists, had been complained of, in a remonstrance presented by the commons to the king, against the Spanish match, and to intreat him to support the Palatine (fn. 19).


James at last when it was too late, levied an army for the relief of his son in law, toward which the city of London raised 2000 men. This army was to march through France to the Palatinate; but when the transports arrived at Calais, no orders had been received there for their admission: they were therefore obliged to sail for Zealand, where no measures had been taken for their disembarkation. Mean while a pestilential disorder seized the soldiers by their confinement on board: one half of them died, and the other half was found unable to march to the place of their destination (fn. 20). Nothing more clearly demonstrates how much the known temper of the prince influences all who act under his authority, than a comparison between the event of this reluctant ill-concerted armament, and those of the gallant Elizabeth who preceded him.

Interest of money was in the latter part of this reign reduced from ten to eight per cent. by parliament (fn. 21).


  • 1. See p. 111. ante.
  • 2. Harris's Life of James I. p. 59. note.
  • 3. 1 Jac. I. c. 14. amended by 3 Jac. I. c. 15.
  • 4. Hume.
  • 5. Stat. 3 Jac. I. c. 1.
  • 6. Anderson, vol. I. p. 444.
  • 7. See p. 113 ante.
  • 8. Harris's Life of James I. p. 19.
  • 9. Idem, p. 121.
  • 10. Stat. 3 Jac. I. c. 18. amended by 4 Jac. I. c. 12.
  • 11. Anderson, vol. I. p. 477.
  • 12. Anderson, vol. I. p. 497.
  • 13. See Harris's life of Charles I. p. 46. In a political view, the institution of the Sabbath, is admirably calculated to afford a periodical recess from labour both to man and beast; which could not be secured without stamping a divine sanction on it. Working people on this day dress themselves neatly; they have leisure to reflect that they are rational beings; and, after this interval of rest, they return to their occupations with recruited spirits and fresh alacrity. Under the restriction of laws against immorality, the people have a natural right to walk abroad for fresh air, and to indulge themselves in all innocent recreations: and this liberty they will naturally take without positive injunctions, which were ridiculous enough. They indulged themselves; but the humour then was to return to a Judaical celebration of the Sabbath; if this gratified his subjects. James should have overlooked it, for people seldom continue long in extreams. But with all his kingcraft, he was an arrant bungler in affairs of government; and would have made a better figure as president of a disputing club, had any Robinhood society existed at that time. By his self-conceit and injudiciously thwarting his subjects, he hastened those domestic confusions, that ruined his son after him.
  • 14. Anderson, vol. 1. p. 499.
  • 15. Anderson, vol. II. p. 5.
  • 16. Hume.
  • 17. Hume. The following couplet from Pope, taking all the circumstances of his case together, may be thought to mark the character of this great philosopher in too strong terms. "If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shin'd; The wisest, brightest, meanest, of mankind."
  • 18. Anderson, vol. II. p. 10.
  • 19. Hume.
  • 20. Idem.
  • 21. Stat. 21 Jac. 1. c. 17.