Old and New London: Volume 1. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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The Original Guildhall—A fearful Civic Spectacle—The Value of Land increased by the Great Fire—Guildhall as it was and is—The Statues over the South Porch—Dance's Disfigurements—The Renovation in 1864—The Crypt—Gog and Magog—Shopkeepers in Guildhall—The Cenotaphs in Guildhall—The Court of Aldermen—The City Courts—The Chamberlain's Office—Pictures in the Guildhall—Sir Robert Porter —The Common Council Room—Pictures and Statues—Guildhall Chapel—The New Library and Museum—Some Rare Books—Historical Events in Guildhall—Chaucer in Trouble—Buckingham at Guildhall—Anne Askew's Trial and Death—Surrey—Throckmorton—Garnet— A Grand Banquet.
The Guildhall—the mean-looking Hôtel de Ville of London—was originally (says Stow) situated more to the east side of Aldermanbury, to which it gave name. Richard de Reynere, a sheriff in the reign of Richard I. (1189), gave to the church of St. Mary, at Osney, near Oxford, certain ground rents in Aldermanbury, as appears by an entry in the Register of the Court of Hustings of the Guildhall. In Stow's time the Aldermanbury hall had been turned into a carpenter's yard.
The present Guildhall (which the meanest Flemish city would despise) was "builded new," whatever that might imply, according to our venerable guide, in 1411 (12th of Henry IV.), by Thomas Knoles, the mayor, and his brethren the aldermen, and "from a little cottage it grew into a great house." The expenses were defrayed by benevolences from the City Companies, and ten years' fees, fines, and amercements. Henry V. granted the City free passages for four boats and four carts, to bring lime, ragstone, and freestone for the works. In the first year of Henry VI., when the citizens were every day growing richer and more powerful, the illustrious Whittington's executors gave £35 to pave the Great Hall with Purbeck stone. They also blazoned some of the windows of the hall, and the Mayor's Court, with Whittington's escutcheons.
A few years afterwards one of the porches, the Mayor's Chamber, and the Council Chamber were built. In 1501 (Henry VII.), Sir John Shaw, mayor, knighted on Bosworth Field, built the kitchens, since which time the City feasts, before that held at Merchant Taylors' and Grocers' Hall, were annually held here. In 1505, Sir Nicholas Alwin, mayor in 1499, left £73 6s. 8d. to purchase tapestry for "gaudy" days at the Guildhall. In 1614 a new Council Chamber, with a second room over it, was erected, at an outlay of £1,740.
In the Great Fire, when all the roofs and outbuildings were destroyed, an eye-witness describes Guildhall itself still standing firm, probably because it was framed with solid oak.
Mr. Vincent, a minister, in his "God's Terrible Voice in the City," printed in the year 1667, says: "And amongst other things that night, the sight of Guildhall was a fearful spectacle, which stood the whole body of it together in view for several hours together, after the fire had taken it, without flames (I suppose because the timber was such solid oake), like a bright shining coal, as if it had been a palace of gold, or a great building of burnished brass."
Pepys has some curious notes about the new Guildhall.
"Sir Richard Ford," he says, "tells me, speaking of the new street"—the present King Street—" that is to be made from Guildhall down to Cheapside, that the ground is already, most of it, bought; and tells me of one particular, of a man that hath a piece of ground lying in the very middle of the street that must be; which, when the street is cut out of it, there will remain ground enough of each side to build a house to front the street. He demanded seven hundred pounds for the ground, and to be excused paying anything for the melioration of the rest of his ground that he was to keep. The Court consented to give him £700, only not to abate him the consideration, which the man denied; but told them, and so they agreed, that he would excuse the City the £700, that he might have the benefit of the melioration without paying anything for it. So much some will get by having the City burned. Ground, by this means, that was not fourpence a foot afore, will now, when houses are built, be worth fifteen shillings a foot."
In the "Calendar of State Papers" (Charles II., February, 1667), we find notice that "the Committee of the Common Council of London for making the new street called King Street, between Guildhall and Cheapside, will sit twice a week at Guildhall, to treat with persons concerned; enquiry to be made by jury, according to the Act for Rebuilding the City, of the value of land of such persons as refuse to appear."
The Great Hall is 153 feet long, 50 feet broad, and about 55 feet high. The interior sides, in 1829, were divided into eight portions by projecting clusters of columns. Above the dados were two windows of the meanest and most debased Gothic. Several of the large windows were blocked up with tasteless monuments. The blockings of the friezes were sculptured; large guideron shields were blazoned with the arms of the principal City companies. The old mediæval open timber-work roof had been swallowed up by the Great Fire, and in lieu of it there was a poor attic storey, and a flat panelled ceiling, by some attributed to Wren. At each end of the hall was a large pointed window; the east one blazoned with the royal arms, and the stars and jewels of the English orders of knighthood; the west with the City arms and supporters. At the east end of the hall (the ancient dais) was a raised enclosed platform, for holding the Court of Hustings and taking the poll at elections, and other purposes. The panelled wainscoting (in the old churchwarden taste) was separated into compartments by fluted Corinthian pilasters. Over these was a range of ancient canopied niches in carved stone, vulgarly imitated by modern work on the west side. Our old friends Gog and Magog, before Dance's improvements, stood on brackets adjoining a balcony over the entrance to the interior courts, and were removed to brackets on each side the great west window.
Stow describes the statues over the great south porch of King Henry VI.'s time as bearing the following emblems: the tables of the Commandments, a whip, a sword, and a pot. By their ancient habits and the coronets on their heads, he presumed them to be the statues of benefactors of London. The statue of our Saviour had disappeared, but the two bearded figures remaining, he conjectured, were good Bishop William and the Conqueror himself. Four lesser figures, two on each side the porch, seemed to be noble and pious ladies, one of them probably the Empress Maud, another the good Queen Philippa, who once interceded for the City. These figures were taken down during Dance's injudicious alterations in 1789. They lay neglected in a cellar until Alderman Boydell obtained leave of the Corporation to give them to Banks, the sculptor, who had taste enough to appreciate the simple earnestness of the Gothic work. At his death they were given again to the City. These figures were removed from the old screen in 1865, and were not replaced in the new one.
Stow, in relation to the Guildhall statues, and to the general demolition of "images" that occurred in his time, states, "these verses following" were made about 1560, by William Elderton, an attorney in the Sheriff's Court at Guildhall:—
"Though most the Images be pulled downe,
And none be thought remain in Towne,
I am sure there be in London yet
Seven images, such, and in such a place
As few or none I think will hit,
Yet every day they show their face;
And thousands see them every yeare,
But few, I thinke, can tell me where;
Where Jesus Christ aloft doth stand,
Law and Learning on either hand,
Discipline in the Devil's necke,
And hard by her are three direct;
There Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance stand;
Where find ye the like in all this Land ?"
The true renovation of this great City hall commenced in the year 1864, when Mr. Horace Jones, the architect to the City of London, was entrusted with the erection of an open oak roof, with a central louvre and tapering metal spire. The new roof is as nearly as possible framed to resemble the roof destroyed in the Great Fire. Many southern windows have been re-opened, and layer after layer of plaster and cement scraped from the internal architectural ornamentation. The southern windows have been fitted with stained glass, designed by Mr. F. Halliday, the subjects being—the grant of the Charter, coining money, the death of Wat Tyler, a royal tournament, &c. The new roof is of oak, with rather a high pitch, lighted by sixteen dormers, eight on each side. The height from the pavement to the under-side of the ridge is 89 feet, the total length is 152 feet; and there are eight bays and seven principals. The roof, which does great credit to Mr. Jones, is double-lined oak and deal, slated. The hall is lighted by sixteen gaseliers. A screen, with dais or hustings at the east end, is of carved oak. There is a minstrels' gallery and a new stone floor with coloured bands.
The fine crypt under the Guildhall was, till its restoration in the year 1851, a mere receptacle for the planks, benches, and trestles used at the City banquets.
"This crypt is by far the finest and most extensive undercroft remaining in London, and is a true portion of the ancient hall (erected in 1411) which escaped the Great Fire of 1666. It extends half the length beneath the Guildhall, from east to west, and is divided nearly equally by a wall, having an ancient pointed door. The crypt is divided into aisles by clustered columns, from which spring the stone-ribbed groins of the vaulting, composed partly of chalk and stone, the principal intersections being covered with carved bosses of flowers, heads, and shields. The north and south aisles had formerly mullioned windows, long walled up. At the eastern end is a fine Early English arched entrance, in fair preservation; and in the southeastern angle is an octangular recess, which formerly was ceiled by an elegantly groined roof, height thirteen feet. The vaulting, with four centred arches, is very striking, and is probably some of the earliest of the sort, which seems peculiar to this country. Though called the Tudor arch, the time of its introduction was Lancastrian (see Weale's 'London,' p. 159). In 1851 the stone-work was rubbed down and cleaned, and the clustered shafts and capitals were repaired; and on the visit of Queen Victoria to Guildhall, July 9, 1851, a banquet was served to her Majesty and suite in this crypt, which was characteristically decorated for the occasion. Opposite the north entrance is a large antique bowl of Egyptian red granite, which was presented to the Corporation by Major Cookson, in 1802, as a memorial of the British achievements in Egypt." (Timbs.)
"There was something very picturesque," says Brayley, "in the old Guildhall entrance. On each side of the flight of steps was an octangular turreted gallery, balustraded, having an office in each, appropriated to the hall-keeper; these galleries assumed the appearance of arbours, from being each surrounded by six palm-trees in iron-work, the foliage of which gave support to a large balcony, having in front a clock (with three dials) elaborately ornamented, and underneath a representation of the sun, resplendent with gilding; the clock-frame was of oak. At the angles were the cardinal virtues, and on the top a curious figure of Time, with a young child in his arms. On brackets to the right and left of the balcony were the gigantic figures of Gog and Magog, as before-mentioned, giving, by their vast size and singular costume, an unique character to the whole. At the sides of the steps, under the hall-keeper's office, were two dark cells, or cages, in which unruly apprentices were occasionally confined, by order of the City Chamberlain; these were called 'Little Ease,' from not being of sufficient height for a big boy to stand upright in them."
The Gog and Magog, those honest giants of Guildhall who have looked down on many a good dinner with imperturbable self-denial, have been the unconscious occasion of much inkshed. Who did they represent, and were they really carried about in Lord Mayor's Shows, was discussed by many generations of angry antiquaries. In Strype's time, when there were pictures of Queen Anne, King William and his consort Mary, at the east end of the hall, the two pantomime giants of renown stood by the steps going up to the Mayor's Court. The one holding a poleaxe with a spiked ball, Strype considered, represented a Briton; the other, with a halbert, he opined to be a Saxon. Both of them wore garlands. What was denied to great and learned was disclosed to the poor and simple Hone, the bookseller, or one of his writers, came into possession of a little guide-book sold to visitors to the Guildhall in 1741; this set Mr. Fairholt, a most diligent antiquary, on the right track, and he soon settled the matter for ever. Gog and Magog were really Corineus and Gogmagog. The former, a companion of Brutus the Trojan, killed, as the story goes, Gog-magog, the aboriginal giant.
Our sketch of City pageants has already shown that two hundred years ago giants named Corineus and Gogmagog (which ought to have put our antiquaries earlier on the right scent) formed part of the procession. In 1672 Thomas Jordan, the City poet, in his own account of the ceremonial, especially mentions two giants fifteen feet high, in two several chariots, "talking and taking tobacco as they ride along," to the great admiration and delight of the spectators. "At the conclusion of the show," says the writer, "they are to be set up in Guildhall, where they may be daily seen all the year, and, I hope, never to be demolished by such dismal violence (the Great Fire) as happened to their predecessors." These giants of Jordan's, being built of wickerwork and pasteboard, at last fell to decay. In 1706 two new and more solid giants of wood were carved for the City by Richard Saunders, a captain in the trained band, and a carver, in King Street, Cheapside. In 1837, Alderman Lucas being mayor, copies of these giants walked in the show, turning their great painted heads and goggling eyes, to the delight of the spectators. The Guildhall giants, as Mr. Fairholt has shown, with his usual honest industry, are mentioned by many of our early poets, dramatists, and writers, as Shirley, facetious Bishop Corbet, George Wither, and Ned Ward. In Hone's time City children visiting Guildhall used to be told that every day when the giants heard the clock strike twelve they came down to dinner. Mr. Fairholt, in his "Gog and Magog" (1859), has shown by many examples how professional giants (protectors or destroyers of lives) are still common in the annual festivals of half the great towns of Flanders and of France.
In the middle of the last century, says Mr. Fairholt, in his "Gog and Magog," the Guildhall was occupied by shopkeepers, after the fashion of our bazaars; and one Thomas Boreman, bookseller, "near the Giants, in Guildhall," published, in 1741, two very small volumes of their "gigantick history," in which he tells us that as Corineus and Gogmagog were two brave giants, who nicely valued their honour, and exerted their whole strength and force in defence of their liberty and country, so the City of London, by placing these their representatives in their Guildhall, emblematically declare that they will, like mighty giants, defend the honour of their country and liberties of this their city, which excels all others as much as those huge giants exceed in stature the common bulk of mankind.
The author of this little volume then gives his version of the tale of the encounter, "wherein the giants were all destroyed, save Goemagog, the hugest among them, who, being in height twelve cubits, was reserved alive, that Corineus might try his strength with him in single combat. Corineus desired nothing more than such a match; but the old giant, in a wrestle, caught him aloft and broke three of his ribs. Upon this, Corineus, being desperately enraged, collected all his strength, heaved up Goemagog by main force, and bearing him on his shoulders to the next high rock, threw him headlong, all shattered, into the sea, and left his name on the cliff, which has ever since been called Lan-Goemagog, that is to say, the Giant's Leap. Thus perished Goemagog, commonly called Gogmagog, the last of the giants."
The early popularity of this tale is testified by its occurrence in the curious history of the FitzWarines, composed, in the thirteenth century, in Anglo-Norman, no doubt by a writer who resided on the Welsh border, and who, in describing a visit paid by William the Conqueror there, speaks of that sovereign asking the history of a burnt and ruined town, and an old Briton thus giving it him: —"None inhabited these parts except very foul people, great giants, whose king was called Goemagog. These heard of the arrival of Brutus, and went out to encounter him, and at last all the giants were killed except Goemagog."
Dance's entrance to the courts was made exactly opposite the grand south entrance. Four large tasteless cenotaphs, more fit for the Pantheon of London, St. Paul's, than for anywhere else, are erected in Guildhall—to the north, those of Beckford, the Earl of Clarendon, and Nelson; on the south, that of William Pitt.
The monument to Beckford, the bold opposer of the arbitrary measures of a mistaken court and a misguided Parliament, is by Moore, a sculptor who lived in Berners Street. It represents the alderman in the act of delivering the celebrated speech which is engraved on the pedestal, and which, as Horace Walpole (who delighted in the mischief) says, made the king uncertain whether to sit still and silent, or to pick up his robes and hurry into his private room. At the angles of the pedestal are two female figures, Liberty and Commerce, mourning for the alderman.
The monument of the Earl of Chatham, by Bacon (executed in 1782 for 3,000 guineas), is of a higher style than Beckford's, and, like its companion, it is a period of political excitement turned into stone. If it were the custom to delay the erection of statues to eminent men twenty years after their death, how many would ever be erected? The usual cold allegory, in this instance, is atoned for by some dignity of mind. The great earl (a Roman senator, of course), his left hand on a helm, is placing his right hand affectionately on the plump shoulders of Commerce, who, as a blushing young débutante, is being presented to him by the City of London, who wears a mural crown, probably because London has no walls. In the foreground is the sculptor's everlasting Britannia, seated on her small but serviceable steed, the lion, and receiving into her capacious lap the contents of a cornucopia of Plenty, poured into it by four children, who represent the four quarters of the world. The inscription was written by Burke.
Nelson's fame is very imperfectly honoured by a pile of allegory, erected in 1811 by the entirely forgotten Mr. James Smith, for £4,442 7s. 4d. This deplorable mass of stone consists of a huge figure of Neptune looking at Britannia, who is mournfully contemplating a very small profile relief of the departed hero, on a small dusty medallion about the size of a maid-servant's locket. To crown all this tame stuff there are some flags and trophies, and a pyramid, on which the City of London (female figure) is writing the words "Nile, Copenhagen, Trafalgar." With admirable taste the sculptor, who knew what his female figures were, has turned the City of London with her back to the spectator. At the base of this absurd monument two sailors watch over a bas-relief of the battle of Trafalgar, which certainly no one of taste would steal. The inscription is from the florid pen of Sheridan.
Facing his father, the gouty old Roman of the true rock, stands William Pitt, lean, arrogant, and with the nose "on which he dangled the Opposition" sufficiently prominent. It was the work of J. G. Bubb, and was erected in 1812, at a cost of £4,078 17s. 3d.; and a pretty mixture of the Greek Pantheon and the English House of Commons it is! Pitt stands on a rock, dressed as Chancellor of the Exchequer; below him are Apollo and Mercury, to represent Eloquence and Learning; and a woman on a dolphin, who stands for—what does our reader think?—National Energy. In the foreground is what guide-books call "a majestic figure" of Britannia, calmly holding a hot thunderbolt and a cold trident, and riding side-saddle on a sea-horse. The inscription is by Canning. The statue of Wellington, by Bell, cost £4,966 10s.
The Court of Aldermen is a richly-gilded room with a stucco ceiling, painted with allegorical figures of the hereditary virtues of the City of London— Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude— by that over-rated painter, Hogarth's father-in-law, Sir James Thornhill, who was presented by the Corporation with a gold cup, value £225 7s. In the cornices are emblazoned the arms of all the mayors since 1780 (the year of the Gordon riots). Each alderman's chair bears his name and arms.
The apartment, says a writer in Knight's "London," as its name tells us, is used for the sittings of the Court of Aldermen, who, in judicial matters, form the bench of magistrates for the City, and in their more directly corporate capacity try the validity of ward elections, and claims to freedom; who admit and swear brokers, superintend prisons, order prosecutions, and perform a variety of other analogous duties; a descent, certainly, from the high position of the ancient "ealdormen," or superior Saxon nobility, from whom they derive their name and partly their functions. They were called "barons" down to the time of Henry I., if, as is probable, the latter term in the charter of that king refers to the aldermen. A striking proof of the high rank and importance of the individuals so designated is to be found in the circumstance that the wards of London of which they were aldermen were, in some cases at least, their own heritable property, and as such bought and sold and transferred under particular circumstances. Thus, the aldermanry of a ward was purchased, in 1279, by William Faryngdon, who gave it his own name, and in whose family it remained upwards of eighty years; and in another case the Knighten Guild having given the lands and soke of what is now called Portsoken Ward to Trinity Priory, the prior became, in consequence, alderman, and so the matter remained in Stow's time, who beheld the prior of his day riding in procession with the mayor and aldermen, only distinguished from them by wearing a purple instead of a scarlet gown.
Each of the twenty-six wards into which the City is divided elects one alderman, with the exception of Cripplegate Within and Cripplegate Without, which together send but one; add to them an alderman for Southwark, or, as it is sometimes called, Bridge Ward Without, and we have the entire number of twenty-six, including the mayor. They are elected for life at ward-motes, by such householders as are at the same time freemen, and paying not less than thirty shillings to the local taxes. The fine for the rejection of the office is £500. Generally speaking, the aldermen consist of those persons who, as common councilmen, have won the good opinion of their fellows, and who are presumed to be fitted for the higher offices.
Talking of the ancient aldermen, Kemble, in his learned work, "The Saxons in England," says:—"The new constitution introduced by Cnut reduced the ealdorman to a subordinate position. Over several counties was now placed one eorl, or earl, in the northern sense a jarl, with power analogous to that of the Frankish dukes. The word ealdorman itself was used by the Danes to denote a class—gentle indeed, but very inferior to the princely officers who had previously borne that title. It is under Cnut, and the following Danish kings, that we gradually lose sight of the old ealdormen. The king rules by his earls and his huscarlas, and the ealdormen vanish from the counties. From this time the king's writs are directed to the earl, the bishop, and the sheriff of the county, but in no one of them does the title of the ealdorman any longer occur; while those sent to the towns are directed to the bishop and the portgeréfa, or prefect of the city. Gradually the old title ceases altogether, except in the cities, where it denotes an inferior judicature, much as it does among ourselves at the present day."
"The courts for the City" in Stow's time were:— "1. The Court of Common Council. 2. The Court of the Lord Maior, and his brethren the Aldermen. 3. The Court of Hustings. 4. The Court of Orphans. 5. The Court of the Sheriffs. 6. The Court of the Wardmote. 7. The Court of Hallmote. 8. The Court of Requests, commonly called the Court of Conscience. 9. The Chamberlain's Court for Apprentices, and making them free."
In the Court of Exchequer, formerly the Court of King's Bench (where the Mayor's Court is still held), Stow describes one of the windows put up by Whittington's executors, as containing a blazon of the mayor, seated, in parti-coloured habit, and with his hood on. At the back of the judge's seat there used to be paintings of Prudence, Justice, Religion, and Fortitude. Here there is a large picture, by Alaux, of Paris, presented by Louis Philippe, representing his reception of an address from the City, on his visit to England, in 1844. This part of the Guildhall treasures also contains several portraits of George III. and Queen Charlotte, by Reynolds' rival, Ramsay (son of Allan Ramsay the poet), and William III. and Queen Mary, by Van der Vaart. There is a pair of classical subjects—Minerva, by Westall, and Apollo washing his locks in the Castalian Fountains, by Gavin Hamilton.
"The greater portion of the judicial business of the Corporation is carried on here; that business, as a whole, comprising in its civil jurisdiction, first, the Court of Hustings, the Supreme Court of Record in London, and which is frequently resorted to in outlawry, and other cases where an expeditious judgment is desired; secondly, the Lord Mayor's Court, which has cognisance of all personal and mixed actions at common law, which is a court of equity, and also a criminal court in matters pertaining to the customs of London; and, thirdly, the Sheriffs' Court, which has a common law jurisdiction only. We may add that the jurisdiction of both courts is confined to the City and liberties, or, in other words, to those portions of incorporated London known respectively, in corporate language, as Within the walls and Without. The criminal jurisdiction includes the London Sessions, held generally eight times a year, with the Recorder as the acting judge, for the trial of felonies, &c.; the Southwark Sessions, held in Southwark four times a year; and the eight Courts of Conservancy of the River."
Passing into the Chamberlain's Office, we find a portrait of Mr. Thomas Tomkins, by Reynolds; and if it be asked who is Mr. Thomas Tomkins, we have only to say, in the words of the inscription on another great man, "Look around!" All these beautifully written and emblazoned duplicates of the honorary freedoms and thanks voted by the City, some sixty or more, we believe, in number, are the sole production of him who, we regret to say, is the late Mr. Thomas Tomkins. The duties of the Chamberlain are numerous; among them the most worthy of mention, perhaps, are the admission, on oath, of freemen (till of late years averaging in number one thousand a year); the determining quarrels between masters and apprentices (Hogarth's prints of the "Idle and Industrious Apprentice" are the first things you see within the door); and, lastly, the treasurership, in which department various sums of money pass through his hands. In 1832, the latest year for which we have any authenticated statement, the corporate receipts, derived chiefly from rents, dues, and market tolls, amounted to £160,193 11s. 8d., and the expenditure to somewhat more. Near the door numerous written papers attract the eye—the useful daily memoranda of the multifarious business eternally going on, and which, in addition to the matters already incidentally referred to, point out one of the modes in which that business is accomplished —the committees. We read of appointments for the Committee of the Royal Exchange—of Sewers —of Corn, Coal, and Finance—of Navigation—of Police, and so on. (Knight's "London," 1843.)
In other rooms of the Guildhall are the following interesting pictures:—Opie's "Murder of James I. of Scotland;" Reynolds' portrait of the great Lord Camden; two studies of a "Tiger," and a "Lioness and her Young," by Northcote; the "Battle of Towton," by Boydell; "Conjugal Affection," by Smirke; and portraits of Sir Robert Clayton, Sir Matthew Hale, and Alderman Waithman. These pictures are curious as marking various progressive periods of English art.
A large folding-screen, painted, it is said, by Copley, represents the Lord Mayor Beckford delivering the City sword to George III., at Temple Bar; interesting for its portraits, and record of the costume of the period; presented by Alderman Salomons to the City in 1850. Here once hung a large picture of the battle of Agincourt, painted by Sir Robert Ker Porter, when nineteen years of age, assisted by the late Mr. Mulready, and presented to the City in 1808.
The Common Council room (says Brayley) is a compact and well-proportioned apartment, appropriately fitted up for the assembly of the Court of Common Council, which consists of the Lord Mayor, twenty aldermen, and 236 deputies from the City wards; the middle part is formed into a square by four Tuscan arches, sustaining a cupola, by which the light is admitted. Here is a splendid collection of paintings, and some statuary: for the former the City is chiefly indebted to the munificence of the late Mr. Alderman John Boydell, who was Lord Mayor in 1791. The principal picture, however, was executed at the expense of the Corporation, by J. S. Copley, R.A., in honour of the gallant defence of Gibraltar by General Elliot, afterwards Lord Heathfield; it measures twenty-five feet in width, and about twenty in height, and represents the destruction of the floating batteries before the above fortress on the 13th of September, 1782. The principal figures, which are as large as life, are portraits of the governor and officers of the garrison. It cost the City £1,543. Here also are four pictures, by Paton, representing other events in that celebrated siege; and two by Dodd, of the engagement in the West Indies between Admirals Rodney and De Grasse in 1782.
Against the south wall are portraits of Lord Heathfield, after Sir Joshua Reynolds; the Marquis Cornwallis, by Copley; Admiral Lord Viscount Hood, by Abbott; and Mr. Alderman Boydell, by Sir William Beechey; also, a large picture of the "Murder of David Rizzio," by Opie. On the north wall is "Sir William Walworth killing Wat Tyler," by Northcote; and the following portraits: viz., Admiral Lord Rodney, after Monnoyer; Admiral Earl Howe, copied by G. Kirkland; Admiral Lord Duncan, by Hoppner; Admirals the Earl of St. Vincent and Lord Viscount Nelson, by Sir William Beechey; and David Pinder, Esq., by Opie. The subjects of three other pictures are more strictly municipal—namely, the Ceremony of Administering the Civic Oath to Mr. Alderman Newnham as Lord Mayor, on the Hustings at Guildhall, November 8th, 1782 (this was painted by Miller, and includes upwards of 140 portraits of the aldermen, &c.); the Lord Mayor's Show on the water, November the 9th (the vessels by Paton, the figures by Wheatley); and the Royal Entertainment in Guildhall on the 14th of June, 1814, by William Daniell, R.A.
Within an elevated niche of dark-coloured marble, at the upper end of the room, is a fine statue, in white marble, by Chantrey, of George III., which was executed at the cost to the City of £3,089 9s. 5d. He is represented in his royal robes, with his right hand extended, as in the act of answering an address, the scroll of which he is holding in the left hand. At the western angles of the chamber are busts, in white marble, of Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, by Mrs. Damer; and the Duke of Wellington, by Turnerelli.
The members of the Council (says Knight) are elected by the same class as the aldermen, but in very varying and—in comparison with the size and importance of the wards—inconsequential numbers. Bassishaw and Lime Street Wards have the smallest representation—four members—and those of Farringdon Within and Without the largest—namely, sixteen and seventeen. The entire number of the Council is 240. Their meetings are held under the presidency of the Lord Mayor; and the aldermen have also the right of being present. The other chief officers of the municipality, as the Recorder, Chamberlain, Judges of the Sheriffs' Courts, Common Serjeant, the four City Pleaders, Town Clerk, &c., also attend.
The chapel at the east end of the Guildhall, pulled down in 1822, once called London College, and dedicated to "our Lady Mary Magdalen and All Saints," was built, says Stow, about the year 1299. It was rebuilt in the reign of Henry VI., who allowed the guild of St. Nicholas for two chaplains to be kept in the said chapel. In Stow's time the chapel contained seven defaced marble tombs, and many flat stones covering rich drapers, fishmongers, custoses of the chapel, chaplains, and attorneys of the Lord Mayor's Court. In Strype's time the Mayors attended the weekly services, and services at their elections and feasts. The chapel and lands had been bought of Edward VI. for £456 13s. 4d. Upon the front of the chapel were stone figures of Edward VI., Elizabeth with a phœnix, and Charles I. treading on a globe. On the south side of the chapel was "a fair and large library," originally built by the executors of Richard Whittington and William Bury. After the Protector Somerset had borrowed (i.e., stolen) the books, the library in Strype's time became a storehouse for cloth.
The New Library and Museum (says Mr. Overall, the librarian), which lies at the east end of the Guildhall, occupies the site of some old and dilapidated houses formerly fronting Basinghall Street, and extending back to the Guildhall. The total frontage of the new buildings to this street is 150 feet, and the depth upwards of 100 feet. The structure consists mainly of two rooms, or halls, placed one over the other, with reading, committee, and muniment rooms surrounding them. Of these two halls the museum occupies the lower site, the floor being level with the ancient crypt of the Guildhall, with which it will directly communicate, and is consequently somewhat below the present level of Basinghall Street. This room, divided into naves and aisles, is 83 feet long and 64 feet wide, and has a clear height of 26 feet. The large fireproof muniment rooms on this floor, entered from the museum, are intended to hold the valuable archives of the City.
The library above the museum is a hall 100 feet in length, 65 feet wide, and 50 feet in height, divided, like the museum, into naves and aisles, the latter being fitted up with handsome oak bookcases, forming twelve bays, into which the furniture can be moved when the nave is required on state occasions as a reception-hall— one of the principal features in the whole design of this building being its adaptability to both the purpose of a library and a series of reception-rooms when required. The hall is exceedingly light, the clerestory over the arcade of the nave, with the large windows at the north and south ends of the room, together with those in the aisles, transmitting a flood of light to every corner of the room. The oak roof—the arched ribs of which are supported by the arms of the twelve great City Companies, with the addition of those of the Leathersellers and Broderers, and also the Royal and City arms—has its several timbers richly moulded, and its spandrils filled in with tracery, and contains three large louvres for lighting the roof, and thoroughly ventilating the hall. The aisle roofs, the timbers of which are also richly wrought, have louvres over each bay, and the hall at night may be lighted by means of sun-burners suspended from each of these louvres, together with those in the nave. Each of the spandrils of the arcade has, next the nave, a sculptured head, representing History, Poetry, Printing, Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Philosophy, Law, Medicine, Music, Astronomy, Geography, Natural History, and Botany; the several personages chosen to illustrate these subjects being Stow and Camden, Shakespeare and Milton, Guttenberg and Caxton, William of Wykeham and Wren, Michael Angelo and Flaxman, Holbein and Hogarth, Bacon and Locke, Coke and Blackstone, Harvey and Sydenham, Purcell and Handel, Galileo and Newton, Columbus and Raleigh, Linnæus and Cuvier, Ray and Gerard. There are three fireplaces in this room. The one at the north end, executed in D'Aubigny stone, is very elaborate in detail, the frieze consisting of a panel of painted tiles, executed by Messrs. Gibbs and Moore, and the subject an architectonic design of a procession of the arts and sciences, with the City of London in the middle.
Among the choicest books are the following:— "Liber Custumarum," 1st to the 17th Henry II. (1154–1171). Edited by Mr. Riley.—"Liber de Antiquis Legibus," 1st Richard I., 1188. Treats of old laws of London. Translated by Riley.—"Liber Dunthorn,"so called from the writer, who was Townclerk of London. Contains transcripts of Charters from William the Conqueror to 3rd Edward IV.— "Liber Ordinationum," 9th Edward III., 1225, to Henry VII. Contains the early statutes of the realm, the ancient customs and ordinances of the City of London. At folio 154 are entered instructions to the citizens of London as to their conduct before the Justices Itinerant at the Tower. —"Liber Horn" (by Andrew Horn). Contains transcripts of charters, statutes, &c.—The celebrated "Liber Albus."—"Liber Fleetwood." Names of all the courts of law within the realm; the arms of the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, &c., for 1576; the liberties, customs, and charters of the Cinque Ports; the Queen's Prerogative in the Salt Shores; the liberties of St. Martin's-le-Grand.
A series of letter books. These books commence about 140 years before the "Journals of the Common Council," and about 220 years before the "Repertories of the Court of Aldermen;" they contain almost the only records of those courts prior to the commencement of such journals and repertories.
"Journals of the Proceedings of the Common Council, from 1416 to the present time."—"Repertories containing the Proceedings of the Court of Aldermen from 1495 to the present time."—"Remembrancia." A collection of correspondence, &c., between the sovereigns, various eminent statesmen, the Lord Mayors and the Courts of Aldermen and Common Council, on matters relating to the government of the City and country at large. "Fire Decrees. Decrees made by virtue of an Act for erecting a judicature for determination of differences touching houses burnt or demolished by reason of the late fire which happened in London."
Of the many historical events that have taken place in the Guildhall, we will now recapitulate a few. Chaucer was connected with one of the most tumultuous scenes in the Guildhall of Richard II.'s time. In 1382 the City, worn out with the king's tyranny and exactions, selected John of Northampton mayor in place of the king's favourite, Sir Nicholas Brember. A tumult arose when Brember endeavoured to hinder the election, which ended with a body of troops under Sir Robert Knolles interposing and installing the king's nominee. John of Northampton was at once packed off to Corfe Castle, and Chaucer fled to the Continent. He returned to London in 1386, and was elected member for Kent. But the king had not forgotten his conduct at the Guildhall, and he was at once deprived of the Comptrollership of the Customs in the Port of London, and sent to the Tower. Here he petitioned the government.
Having alluded to the delicious hours he was wont to spend enjoying the blissful seasons, and contrasted them with his penance in the dark prison, cut off from friendship and acquaintances, "forsaken of all that any word dare speak" for him, he continues: "Although I had little in respect (comparison) among others great and worthy, yet had I a fair parcel, as methought for the time, in furthering of my sustenance; and had riches sufficient to waive need; and had dignity to be reverenced in worship; power methought that I had to keep from mine enemies; and meseemed to shine in glory of renown. Every one of those joys is turned into his contrary; for riches, now have I poverty; for dignity, now am I imprisoned; instead of power, wretchedness I suffer; and for glory of renown, I am now despised and fully hated." Chaucer was set free in 1389, having, it is said, though we hope unjustly, purchased freedom by dishonourable disclosures as to his former associates.
It was at the Guildhall, a few weeks after the death of Edward IV., and while the princes were in the Tower, that the Duke of Buckingham, "the deep revolving witty Buckingham," Richard's accomplice, convened a meeting of citizens in order to prepare the way for Richard's mounting the throne. Shakespeare, closely following Hall and Sir Thomas More, thus sketches the scene:—
Buck. * * * * *
Withal, I did infer your lineaments,
Being the right idea of your father,
Both in your form and nobleness of mind:
Laid open all your victories in Scotland,
Your discipline in war, wisdom in peace,
Your bounty, virtue, fair humility;
Indeed, left nothing fitting for your purpose
Untouch'd, or slightly handled, in discourse;
And, when my oratory drew toward end,
I bade them that did love their country's good
Cry, "God save Richard, England's royal king!"
Glo. And did they so?
Buck. No, so God help me, they spake not a word;
But, like dumb statues or breathing stones,
Stared each on other, and look'd deadly pale.
Which when I saw I reprehended them,
And ask'd the mayor what meant this wilful silence?
His answer was, the people were not us'd
To be spoke to but by the recorder.
Then he was urg'd to tell my tale again—
"Thus saith the duke, thus hath the duke inferr'd;"
But nothing spoke in warrant from himself.
When he had done, some followers of mine own
At lower end o' the hall, hurl'd up their caps,
And some ten voices cried, "God save King Richard!"
And thus I took the vantage of those few—
"Thanks, gentle citizens and friends," quoth I;
"This general applause and cheerful shout,
Argues your wisdom, and your love to Richard:"
And even here brake off, and came away.
Anne Askew, tried at the Guildhall in Henry VIII.'s reign, was the daughter of Sir William Askew, a Lincolnshire gentleman, and had been married to a Papist, who had turned her out of doors on her becoming a Protestant. On coming to London to sue for a separation, this lady had been favourably received by the queen and the court ladies, to whom she had denounced transubstantiation, and distributed tracts. Bishop Bonner soon had her in his clutches, and she was cruelly put to the rack in order to induce her to betray the court ladies who had helped her in prison. She pleaded that her servant had only begged money for her from the City apprentices.
"On my being brought to trial at Guildhall," she says, in her own words, "they said to me there that I was a heretic, and condemned by the law, if I would stand in mine opinion. I answered, that I was no heretic, neither yet deserved I any death by the law of God. But as concerning the faith which I uttered and wrote to the council, I would not deny it, because I knew it true. Then would they needs know if I would deny the sacrament to be Christ's body and blood. I said, 'Yea; for the same Son of God who was born of the Virgin Mary is now glorious in heaven, and will come again from thence at the latter day. And as for that ye call your God, it is a piece of bread. For more proof thereof, mark it when you list; if it lie in the box three months it will be mouldy, and so turn to nothing that is good. Whereupon I am persuaded that it cannot be God.'
"After that they willed me to have a priest, at which I smiled. Then they asked me if it were not good. I said I would confess my faults unto God, for I was sure he would hear me with favour. And so I was condemned. And this was the ground of my sentence: my belief, which I wrote to the council, that the sacramental bread was left us to be received with thanksgiving in remembrance of Christ's death, the only remedy of our souls' recovery, and that thereby we also receive the whole benefits and fruits of his most glorious passion. Then would they know whether the bread in the box were God or no. I said, 'God is a Spirit, and will be worshipped in spirit and truth.' Then they demanded, 'Will you plainly deny Christ to be in the sacrament?' I answered, 'That I believe faithfully the eternal Son of God not to dwell there;' in witness whereof I recited Daniel iii., Acts vii. and xvii., and Matthew xxiv., concluding thus: 'I neither wish death nor yet fear his might; God have the praise thereof, with thanks.'"
Anne Askew was burnt at Smithfield with three other martyrs, July 16, 1546. Bonner, the Chancellor Wriothesley, and many nobles were present on state seats near St. Bartholomew's gate, and their only anxiety was lest the gunpowder hung in bags at the martyrs' necks should injure them when it exploded. Shaxton, the ex-Bishop of Salisbury, who had saved his life by apostacy, preached a sermon to the martyrs before the flames were put to the fagots.
In 1546 (towards the close of the life of Henry VIII.), the Earl of Surrey was tried for treason at the Guildhall. He was accused of aiming at dethroning the king, and getting the young prince into his hands; also for adding the arms of Edward the Confessor to his escutcheon. The earl, persecuted by the Seymours, says Lord Herbert, "was of a deep understanding, sharp wit, and deep courage, defended himself many ways—sometimes denying their accusations as false, and together weakening the credit of his adversaries; sometimes interpreting the words he said in a far other sense than that in which they were represented." Nevertheless, the king had vowed the destruction of the family, and the earl, found guilty, was beheaded on Tower Hill, January 19, 1547. He had in vain offered to fight his accuser, Sir Richard Southwell, in his shirt. The order for the execution of the duke, his father, arrived at the Tower the very night King Henry died, and so the duke escaped.
Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, another Guildhall sufferer, was the son of a Papist who had refused to take the oath of supremacy, and had been imprisoned in the Tower by Henry VIII. Nicholas, his son, a Protestant, appointed sewer to the burly tyrant, had fought by the king's side in France. During the reign of Edward VI. Throckmorton distinguished himself at the battle of Pinkie, and was knighted by the young king, who made him under-treasurer of the Mint. At Edward's death Throckmorton sent Mary's goldsmith to inform her of her accession. Though no doubt firmly attached to the Princess Elizabeth, Throckmorton took no public part in the Wyatt rebellion; yet, six days after his friend Wyatt's execution, Throckmorton was tried for conspiracy to kill the queen.
The trial itself is so interesting as a specimen of intellectual energy, that we subjoin a scene or two:—
Serjeant Stamford: Methinks those things which others have confessed, together with your own confession, will weigh shrewdly. But what have you to say as to the rising in Kent, and Wyatt's attempt against the Queen's royal person in her palace?
Chief Justice Bromley: Why do you not read to him Wyatt's accusation, which makes him a sharer in his treasons?
Sir R. Southwell: Wyatt has grievously accused you, and in many things which have been confirmed by others.
Sir N. Throckmorton: Whatever Wyatt said of me, in hopes to save his life, he unsaid it at his death; for, since I came into the hall, I heard one say, whom I do not know, that Wyatt on the scaffold cleared not only the Lady Elizabeth and the Earl of Devonshire, but also all the gentlemen in the Tower, saying none of them knew anything of his commotion, of which number I take myself to be one.
Sir N. Hare: Nevertheless, he said that all he had written and confessed before the Council was true.
Sir N. Throckmorton: Nay, sir, by your patience, Wyatt did not say so; that was Master Doctor's addition.
Sir R. Southwell: It seems you have good intelligence.
Sir N. Throckmorton: Almighty God provided this revelation for me this very day, since I came hither; for I have been in close prison for eight and fifty days, where I could hear nothing but what the birds told me who flew over my head.
Serjeant Stamford told him the judges did not sit there to make disputations, but to declare the law; and one of those judges (Hare) having confirmed the observation, by telling Throckmorton he had heard both the law and the reason, if he could but understand it, he cried out passionately: "O merciful God! O eternal Father! who seest all things, what manner of proceedings are these? To what purpose was the Statute of Repeal made in the last Parliament, where I heard some of you here present, and several others of the Queen's learned counsel, grievously inveigh against the cruel and bloody laws of Henry VIII., and some laws made in the late King's time? Some termed them Draco's laws, which were written in blood; others said they were more intolerable than any laws made by Dionysius or any other tyrant. In a word, as many men, so many bitter names and terms those laws. … Let us now but look with impartial eyes, and consider thoroughly with ourselves, whether, as you, the judges, handle the statute of Edward III. with your equity and constructions, we are not now in a much worse condition than when we were yoked with those cruel laws. Those laws, grievous and captious as they were, yet had the very property of laws, according to St. Paul's description, for they admonished us, and discovered our sins plainly to us, and when a man is warned he is half armed; but these laws, as they are handled, are very baits to catch us, and only prepared for that purpose. They are no laws at all, for at first sight they assure us that we are delivered from our old bondage, and live in more security; but when it pleases the higher powers to call any man's life and sayings in question, then there are such constructions, interpretations, and extensions reserved to the judges and their equity, that the party tried, as I am now, will find himself in a much worse case than when those cruel laws were in force. But I require you, honest men, who are to try my life, to consider these things. It is clear these judges are inclined rather to the times than to the truth, for their judgments are repugnant to the law, repugnant to their own principles, and repugnant to the opinions of their godly and learned predecessors."
We rejoice to say that, in spite of all the efforts of his enemies, this gentleman escaped the scaffold, and lived to enjoy happier times.
Lastly, we come to one of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators; not one of the most guilty, yet undoubtedly cognisant of the mischief brewing.
On the 28th of March, 1606, Garnet, the Superior of the English Jesuits (whose cruel execution in St. Paul's Churchyard we have already described), was tried at the Guildhall, and found guilty of having taken part in organising the Gunpowder Plot. He was found concealed at Hendlip, the mansion of a Roman Catholic gentleman, near Worcester.