Old and New London: Volume 2. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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Miracles performed by Edmund the Martyr after Death—Cripplegate—The Church of St. Giles—The Tomb of John Speed—The Legend of Constance Whitney—Sir Martin Frobisher—Milton's Grave Outraged—The Author of "The Book of Martyrs:" his Fortunate Escape from Bishop Gardiner—St. Alphage, London Wall—An Old State Funeral—The Barber Surgeons' Hall: its Famous Picture of Henry VIII. —Holbein's Death—Treasures in Barber-Surgeons' Hall: its Plate Stolen and Recovered—Another kind of Recovery there—Lambe, the Benevolent Clothworker—The Perambulation of Cripplegate Parish in Olden Time—Basinghall Street—St. Michale's Bassishaw— William Lee, the Inventor of the Stocking-loom-Minor City Companies in the neighbourhood of Basinghall Street—The Bankruptcy Court—Whitecross Street and its Prison—The Dissenters' Library in Whitecross Street.
Stow, quoting a history of Edmund the Martyr, King of the East Angles, by Abbo Floriacensis, says that in 1010, when the Danes approached Bury St. Edmunds, Bishop Alwyn removed the body of the martyred king to St. Gregory's Church, near St. Paul's; and as it passed through Cripplegate, such was the blessed influence it diffused, that many lame persons rose upright, and began to praise God for their miraculous cure. The postern afterwards became a prison, like the Compter, for debtors, and common trespassers. The gate was rebuilt, says Fabian, by the Brewers of London, in 1244, and again in 1491, at the cost of 400 marks, money left by Edmund Shaw, goldsmith and exmayor. It was again repaired and beautified, and a foot-postern made, in the 15th Charles II. The rooms over the gate were set apart for the City Water Bailiff.
The church of St. Giles's, Cripplegate, is the successor of one founded some twenty-four years after the Conquest. It suffered greatly by fire in 1545 (Henry VIII.) Matilda, queen of Henry I., had founded a brotherhood there, dedicated to St. Mary and St. Giles. The church was repaired, and perhaps partially rebuilt, after the fire of 1545. "Since that event," says Mr. Godwin, "it has undergone miscalled adornments, but has not been materially changed." The tower was raised fifteen feet in 1682. St. Giles's had a peal of twelve bells, besides one in the turret. It also boasts one of the sets of chimes in London. Those of St. Giles were, it is said, constructed by a poor working man.
In the north aisle of this interesting and historical church lies a great benefactor to London antiquaries, the learned and laborious John Speed, the great topographical writer, who died 1629. He was a wise tailor whom Sir Fulke Greville patronised, and who was assisted in his labours by Cotton and Spelman. He had in his time twelve sons and six daughters. His marble monument is adorned with an effigy of Speed (once gilt and painted), holding in one hand a book, and in the other a skull. The long eulogistic Latin inscription describes him as "Civis Londinensis Mercatorum Scissorum Fratris." It is a singular fact that two of the great London antiquaries should have been tailors, yet the sartor's is undoubtedly a contemplative trade, and we owe both worthies much gratitude for laboriously stitching together such a vast patchwork of interesting facts.
Considering that Foxe, the martyrologist (buried,
it is believed, on the south side of the chancel)
was sheltered by Sir Thomas Lucy, Shakespeare's
"At home a poor scarecrow, in London an ass,"
it is singular to find near the centre of the north aisle of St. Giles's a monument to Constance Whitney, eldest daughter of Sir Robert Whitney, and granddaughter of Sir Thomas Lucy, who died at the age of seventeen, excelling "in all noble qualities becoming a virgin of so sweet proportion of beauty and harmonie of parts." From this maiden's grave a lying tradition has sprung like a fungus.
The striking-looking monument represents a female in a shroud rising from a coffin. According to tradition it commemorates the story of a lady who, after having been buried while in a trance, was not only restored to life, but subsequently became the mother of several children, her resuscitation, it is said, having been brought about by the cupidity of a sexton, which induced him to open the coffin, in order to obtain possession of a valuable ring on her finger. This story, however, is entirely fabulous.
A small white marble tablet within the communion-rails also records another Lucy. The inscription is—
"Here lies Margaret Lucy, the second daughter of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlcott in the county of Warwicke, Knight (the third by imediate discent of the name of Thomas), by Alice, sole daughter and heire of Thomas Spenser, of Clarenden, in the same county, Esq., and Custos Brevium of the Courte of Comon Pleas at Westminster, who departed this life the 18th day of November, 1634, and aboute the 19th year of her age. For discretion and sweetnesse of conversation not many excelled, and for pietie and patience in her sicknesse and death, few equalled her; which is the comforte of her nearest friendes, to every of whom shee was very dear, but especiallie to her old grandmother, the Lady Constance Lucy, under whose government shee died, who, having long exspected every day to have gone before her, doth now trust, by faith and hope in the precious bloode of Christ Jesus, shortly to follow after, and be partaker, together with her and others, of the unspeakable and eternell joyes in His blessed kingdome; to whom be all honour, laude, and praise, now and ever. Amen."
In this church, too, after many a voyage and many a battle, rests that old Elizabethan warrior and explorer, Sir Martin Frobisher, who was brought here in February, 1594–5, after receiving his death shot at Brest. His northern discoveries while in search of a north-west passage to China, in a mere fishing-boat of twenty-five tons, his West Indian cruise with Drake, and his noble courage against the Spanish Armada, fully entitle Frobisher to rank as one of the earliest of our naval heroes.
Above all, Milton is buried here. A sacrilegious desecration of his remains, we regret to record, took place in 1790. The object of the search for the sacred body was reasonable, the manner of the search disgraceful. The church being under repair, and £1,350 being spent upon it, the vestry clerk and churchwardens had agreed—as a monument to Milton was contemplated at St. Giles's, and the exact spot of the poet's interment only traditionally known—to dig up the coffin whilst the repairs were still going on. The difficulty was this: the parish tradition had always been that Milton was buried in the chancel, under the clerk's desk, where afterwards the common councilmen's pew stood, in the same grave with his father, the scrivener, of Bread Street. He died fourteen years after the "blessed Restoration," of consumption, say the parish books, not gout, at his house in Bunhill Fields. Aubrey, in 1681, says, "The stone is now removed, for about two years since the two steps to the communiontable were raised." During the repairs of 1682 the pulpit was removed from the second pillar on the north side to the south side of the old chancel, which was then covered with pews. The parish clerks and sextons, forgetting this change, used to show a grave on the south side as Milton's, and Mr. Baskerville, to show his reverence for Milton, was buried in this wrong spot.
The right spot was at last remembered, the ground was searched, and Milton's leaden coffin discovered, directly over the wooden one of his father. The coffin, which was old, and bore no inscription, was five feet ten inches in length. The following ghoulish and disgraceful scene, described by P. Neve, in his "Narrative of the Disinterment of Milton's Coffin," 1790, then took place. The disinterment had been agreed upon after a merry meeting at the house of Mr. Fountain, overseer, in Beech Lane, the night before, Mr. Cole, another overseer, and the journeyman of Mr. Ascough, the parish clerk, who was a coffin-maker, assisting.
"Holmes, the journeyman, having fetched a mallet and a chisel, and cut open the top of the coffin, slantwise from the head, as low as the breast, so that, the top being doubled backward, they could see the corpse, he cut it open also at the foot. Upon first view of the body, it appeared perfect, and completely enveloped in the shroud, which was of many folds, the ribs standing up regularly. When they disturbed the shroud the ribs fell. Mr. Fountain confessed that he pulled hard at the teeth, which resisted, until some one hit them a knock with a stone, when they easily came out. There were but five in the upper jaw, which were all perfectly sound and white, and all taken by Mr. Fountain. He gave one of them to Mr. Laming. Mr. Laming also took one from the lower jaw; and Mr. Taylor took two from it. Mr. Laming said that he had at one time a mind to bring away the whole under-jaw with the teeth in it; he had it in his hand, but tossed it back again. Also, that he lifted up the head, and saw a great quantity of hair, which lay strait and even, behind the head, and in the state of hair which had been combed and tied together before interment; but it was wet, the coffin having considerable corroded holes, both at the head and foot, and a great part of the water with which it had been washed on the Tuesday afternoon having run into it.
"Elizabeth Grant, the gravedigger, and who is servant to Mrs. Hoppy, therefore now took possession of the coffin; and, as its situation under the common councilmen's pew would not admit of its being seen without the help of a candle, 'she kept a tinder-box in the excavation, and, when any persons came, struck a light, and conducted them under the pew; where, by reversing the part of the lid which had been cut, she exhibited the body, at first for sixpence and afterwards for threepence and twopence each person. The workmen in the church kept the doors locked to all those who would not pay the price of a pot of beer for entrance, and many, to avoid that payment, got in at a window at the west end of the church, near to Mr. Ayscough's counting-house."
The hair torn off the poet's forehead resembled the short locks seen in Faithorne's quarto print of Milton taken in 1670, four years only before the poet's death. In Charles II.'s time, coffin-plates were not generally used, and it was only usual to paint the name, &c., on the outer wooden case. The rascals altogether stole a rib-bone, ten teeth, and several handfuls of hair.
Upon this sacrilege Cowper, horrified, wrote these lines:—
"Ill fare the hands that heaved the stones
Where Milton's ashes lay,
That trembled not to grasp his bones,
And steal his dust away.
"O, ill-requited bard! neglect
Thy living worth repaid,
And blind idolatrous respect
As much affronts the dead!"
In all fairness, however, it must be added that grave doubts have been raised as to whether the corpse found was really that of the poet. Immediately on the publication of Mr. Neve's Narrative, it was ably answered in the St. James's Chronicle, in "Nine Reasons why it is improbable that the coffin lately dug up in the Parish Church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, should contain the reliques of Milton." Mr. Neve, says Todd, one of Milton's biographers, added a postscript to his Narrative, but all his labour appears to have been employed on an imaginary cause. The late Mr. Steevens, who particularly lamented the indignity which the nominal ashes of the poet sustained, has intimated in his manuscript remarks on this Narrative and Postcript that the disinterred corpse was supposed to be that of a female, and that the minutest examination of the fragments could not disprove, if it did not confirm, the supposition.
In 1793, Samuel Whitbread, Sheridan's friend,
erected a bust to Milton in this church with this
Author of 'Paradise Lost,'
Born Dec., 1608,
Died Nov., 1674.
His father, John Milton, died March, 1646.
They were both interred in this church.
Samuel Whitbread posuit, 1793."
In this most interesting old church were buned many illustrious persons, recorded by Stow. Amongst these we may mention Robert Glover, a celebrated Elizabethan herald, who assisted Camden with the pedigrees of his famous "Britannia." John Foxe, the pious and laborious author of that manual of true Protestantism, "The Book of Martyrs," was also interred here, as well as that good old herbalist and physician of Elizabeth's time, Dr. William Bulleyn, author of the "Government of Health" (1558), and a "Book of Simples," works full of old wives' remedies and fantastic beliefs. Foxe the martyrologist was a Lincolnshire man, born in 1517, the year Luther first openly opposed Romish errors. At Oxford he became famous for writing comedies in especially elegant Latin. For his religious opinions he was expelled Magdalen College, of which he was a Fellow, and, forsaken by his friends, he was reduced to great distress, till he was taken as family tutor by Sir Thomas Lucy, of Warwickshire, the Shakesperian traditional persecutor. With this worthy knight he remained till his children arrived at mature years, and had no longer need of a tutor. Now commenced a period of want and despair, which closed with what his son calls, in the Life of his father "a marvellous accident and great example of God's mercy."
Foxe was sitting one day in St. Paul's Church, almost spent with long fasting, his countenance wan and pale, and his eyes hollow, when there came to him a person whom he never remembered to have seen before, who, sitting down by him, accosted him very familiarly, and put into his hands an untold sum of money, bidding him to be of good cheer, to be careful of himself, and to use all means to prolong his life, for that in a few days new hopes were at hand, and new means of subsistence. Foxe tried all methods to find out the person by whom he was thus so seasonably relieved, but in vain.
The prediction was fulfilled, for within three days the starving student was taken by the Duchess of Richmond as tutor to her nephews and niece, the children of the poet Earl of Surrey. At the escape of Surrey's father, the Duke of Norfolk, from prison, on the death of that swollen tyrant, Henry VIII., the duke took Foxe under his patronage, but Bishop Gardiner's determination to seize him compelled Foxe to take refuge in Switzerland. On the accession of Elizabeth, Foxe returned to England, and was made Prebend of Salisbury. Although befriended by Sir Francis Drake, Bishop Grindal, and Sir Thomas Gresham, Foxe never rose high in the church, having Genevese scruples about ecclesiastical vestments, which he was too honest to swallow. Queen Elizabeth used to call the old martyrologist "Father," but she would not spare, at his intercession, two Anabaptists condemned to the flames. Latterly Foxe denounced the extreme Puritans as "new monks," who desired to bring all things contrary to their own discipline and consciences "into Jewish bondage." This worthy man died in 1587, aged seventy years, and was buried in St. Giles's Church.
The parish register of St. Giles's records the marriage of Oliver Cromwell and Elizabeth Bourchier, on the 22nd of August, 1620. The future Protector was then in his twenty-first year.
In 1803 a fine battlemented piece of the London wall of Edward IV.'s time, tufted with wild plants, that stood in the churchyard of St. Giles's, Cripplegate, was taken down, having become dangerous. It joined on to the fine base of the round bastion tower still existing at the south-west corner, and is the most perfect portion left.
In 1812 "Rainy Day" Smith mentions seeing the workmen remove the wainscoting of the north porch of St. Giles's, when they discovered an old wainscot of Henry IV. or Henry V., its perforated arches beautifully carved, and the vermilion with which it was painted bright as when first put on.
There is little to be said about the Norman church of St. Alphage, London Wall. It was built, remarks Cunningham, "in 1777 (it is said by Dance), on the site of the old Hospital or Priory of St. Mary the Virgin, founded for the sustentation of one hundred blind men in 1532, by William Elsing, mercer, and of which Spittle, the founder, was the first prior. The living is a rectory, and was originally in the gift of the Abbot of St. Martin's-le-Grand. It afterwards came to the Abbot and Convent of Westminster, and was ultimately conferred by Mary I. on the Bishop of London and his successors for ever." The old hospital had become a dwelling-house in Henry VIII.'s reign, and was inhabited by Sir John Williams, Master of the King's Jewels. In 1541 it was destroyed by fire, and many of the jewels were burnt, and more stolen.
The first Barber-Surgeons' Hall, in Monkwell Street, is said to have been of the date of Edward IV. The second hall was built by Inigo Jones, 1636, and was repaired by that distinguished amateur in architecture, the Earl of Burlington. The theatre, one of the finest of Inigo's works, in the opinion of Horace Walpole, was pulled down at the latter end of the last century, and sold for the value of the materials. Hatton describes it temptingly as a theatre fitted with "four degrees of cedar seats," rising one above another, and adorned with the figures of the seven Liberal Sciences, the twelve Signs of the Zodiac, and a bust of King Charles I. The roof was an elliptical cupola. The quaint old wooden doorway, with the deep arched roof, the grotesque goggling head, the monsters, stiff foliage, and heraldry, has been removed, to humour a stuck-up modern set of chambers, and the three razors quartered on the Barber-Surgeons' arms, and the motto, "Trust in God," are gone. The hall, now displaced by warehouses, stood on a bastion of the old Roman wall; and the architect had ingeniously turned it to use, in the erection of the west end of the room.
Before the late changes the Barber-Surgeons' Hall used to be dirty and neglected. The inner hall, now pulled down, was some sixty feet by thirty, and was lighted by an octagonal lantern, enriched with fruit and flowers delicately carved in wood. Many of the pictures are fine, especially the great Holbein's, "The Presentation of the Charter by Henry VIII." This picture contains, among eighteen other portraits, that of Sir William Butts, the good-natured physician who saved Cranmer from disgrace, and that of Dr. John Chamber, the doctor who attended Queen Anne Boleyn in her confinement with Elizabeth.
"To this year" (1541), says Mr. Wornum, "also possibly belongs the Barber-Surgeons' picture of Henry granting a charter to the corporation. The Barbers and Surgeons of London, originally constituting one company, had been separated, but were again, in the thirty-second of Henry VIII., combined into a single society, and it was the ceremony of presenting them with a new charter which is commemorated by Holbein's picture, now in their hall in Monkwell Street. In 1745 they were again separated, and the Surgeons constituted a distinct company, and had a hall in the Old Bailey. The date of this picture is not known, but it was necessarily in or after 1541, and as Holbein's life did not extend much beyond this time, there is some probability in the report alluded to by Van Mander, namely, that the painter died without completing the picture. Besides the king's —a seated full-length, crowned, and with the sword of state in his right hand—it contains also portraits of eighteen members of the guild, three kneeling on the right hand of the king, and fifteen on the other, and among them are conspicuous our friends Butts and Chamber on the right. The head of the latter is effective and good, though the portraits generally are unsatisfactory; but Warden Aylef's, the second on the left, is especially good. The rest are indifferent, either owing to the fact of their having been some of them perhaps entirely repainted, or possibly having never had a touch of Holbein's in them.
"There is a large engraving of this picture by B. Baron, but reversed. The names of the members of the guild are written in a most offensive manner over the face of the picture, which is a piece of barbarism that belongs, I imagine, to a period long subsequent to the time of Holbein. These names are J. Alsop, W. Butts, J. Chamber, T. Vycary (the master of the guild, who is receiving the charter from the left hand of the king), T. Aylef, N. Symson, E. Harman, J. Monforde, J. Pen, M. Alcoke, R. Fereis, X. Samon, and W. Tylly; five of the second row are without names.
"The king is placed very stiffly, and the face, much repainted, is that we are familiar with in the many ordinary half-lengths of the king, representing him in the last years of his life. The composition is anything but graceful, and there is not an entire hand in the whole piece; the king's hands are good, though slight and sketchy. The principle of the composition is somewhat Egyptian, for the king is made about twice the size of the other figures, though they are in front of him.
"We have an interesting notice of this picture in Pepys' 'Diary,' where, against the date August 29, 1668, that is, two years after the Great Fire, he notes: 'At noon comes, by appointment, Harris to dine with me; and after dinner he and I to Chirurgeons' Hall, where they are building it new, very fine; and there to see their theatre, which stood all the fire, and, which was our business, their great picture of Holbein's, thinking to have bought it, by the help of Mr. Pierce, for a little money. I did think to give £200 for it, it being said to be worth £1,000; but it is so spoiled that I have no mind to it, and is not a pleasant though a good picture.'
"Pepys is very candid about his motive for buying the picture; because it was said to be worth a thousand pounds he was willing to give two hundred for it, not that he wanted the picture for its own sake; however, he did not like it, and he declined the speculation. When we consider the worth of money at that time, the estimated value seems an enormous one. Pepys' own price was not an inconsiderable sum. Thé picture is on oak, on vertical boards, about six feet high by ten feet three inches in width. The College of Surgeons possesses an old, but smaller, indifferent copy of it, on paper attached to canvas. J. Alsop, on the extreme right, is omitted; and in the place of a tablet with a Latin inscription, which disfigures the Barber-Surgeons' picture, is a window showing the old tower of St. Bride's, indicating, accordingly, the palace of Bridewell as the place of the ceremony.
"There can be no question of the genuineness of this picture in its foundations, but in its present state it is not remarkable that it should cause discussions. I am disposed to believe that Holbein never did finish the picture, and from the great inferiority of the second series of heads on the left hand of the king I think that these must have been added later. There is no trace of Holbein's hand in them; and the fact of five of them being without names is also suggestive of the assumption that these five were not even members of the guild when the picture was painted. Two of this back ground group are named X. Samson and W. Tilley; these, therefore, may have been Holbein's contemporaries, though not introduced by him into the picture. It is not to be supposed that the king sat to Holbein for this portrait; it is the stock portrait of the time. The king is not looking at the master, Vycary, to whom he is handing the charter, but straight before him. The composition is a mere portrait piece, got up for the sake of the portraits. In the whole group of nineteen only five besides the king wear their beards—Aylef, Symson, Harman, Aleoke, and Fereis. Monforde's, the fifth from the king, is a very expressive face, considerably repainted, but full of character. The three on the right—Chamber, Butts, and Alsop —are perhaps so separately placed as physicians to the king."
There is a letter of James I. to the Barber-Surgeons still in their possession. It is written from Newmarket, and dated 1617, requesting the loan of this picture, in order that it should be copied. In Mr. Wornum's opinion this copy is the one is the one still to be seen at the College of Surgeons in Lincoln's Inn Fields. It was formerly in the possession of Desenfans, and at his sale in 1786 was purchased by the Surgeons' Company for five guineas. In the Lincoln's Inn picture there is a window at the back instead of the tablet with a long complimentary Latin inscription to Henry VIII. It was probably added after the picture had been injured in the Fire of London, where, from what Pepys says, it may have got injured. The Lincoln's Inn picture was cleaned in 1789. The cleaner sent in a bill for £400, but eventually took fifty guineas.
Shortly before this picture of Holbein's was finished Henry (who was always murdering or marrying) wedded ugly Anne of Cleves, beheaded Cromwell, and married Lady Katherine Howard. Holbein himself, who lived in the parish of St. Andrew Undershaft, died of the plague in the year 1543, as was proved by Mr. Black's discovery of his hasty will. Before this discovery the date of Holbein's death was generally assigned to 1554.
"Prince Albert," remarks Aleph, "visited this noble Holbein more than once. At his desire it was sent to Buckingham Palace, and remained there a month; but when the directors of the Manchester Exhibition desired the loan of it they were refused. As doubts were entertained that it would be damaged by remaining in the City, a Royal Commission inspected it, and specimens of colours were hung in the hall for several months, with a view to ascertain whether the atmosphere was unfavourable to them, but no change took place, and Dean Milman, with his coadjutors, expressed their conviction that its removal was not desirable. It is pretended that Henry never sat for any other portrait, and that those of him at Hampton Court are merely copies. . . . . The other paintings," continues Aleph, "well deserve notice. Two, certainly, are Vandyke's. 1st. A wholelength of the Countess of Richmond, in a standing position, resting her right hand upon a lamb. This is a beautiful work of art. The face is expressive of unaffected goodness, and the attitude graceful, without stiffness. She is robed in white satin, and so admirably is the fabric imitated that you half believe it may be grasped. There is a copy of this portrait at Hampton Court. 2nd. A likeness of Inigo Jones, very fine, and highly characteristic. Over the entrance to the Hall is a bronzed bust of Jones, which is connected with a rather discreditable story. It seems this bust, not many years since, was found in a lumber-closet. It was of white marble, and the sagacious Master of the day gave orders that it should be bronzed. There is a doubtful sketch of a head, as it is thought, of Linnaeus, and by whatever artist painted, its merit is of no common order. Also, portraits of Charles II. and Queen Anne, both benefactors of the Company; of Henry Johnson, a favourite of the Merry Monarch; and of Thomas Lisle, King's barber in 1622—the latter a most solemn and imposing-looking personage, who might well pass for the Prime Minister. Across the principal entrance there stands a very curious twoleaved screen; originally it had four compartments, two are lost or have been destroyed. It exhibits the arms of the Company, and is elaborately wrought over with innumerable artistic emblems, fruit, flowers, fantastic ornaments, and gilding. Its history is a strange one. Once on a time a notable felon was hanged, and his corpse handed over to the Barber-Surgeons for dissection; the operator, fancying the heart still pulsated, used means for resuscitation, and succeeded. The man was kept hidden for a long while, and then sent abroad at the Company's expense. He ultimately became rich, and in gratitude sent them this screen."
"The Company's plate," remarks the same writer, "includes a drinking-cup and cover, in silver gilt, the gift of Henry VIII., very beautifully chased; a similar cup, in silver, still more elaborately worked, the gift of Charles II.; a dish, or bowl, very large, with a flowered edge, not remarkable for elegance, the gift of Queen Anne; an oblong dish, with a well centre, said to have been used for lather when people of rank were shaved; and two velvet caps, in filagree silver bands, worn on state occasions by the Master and his deputy, they being privileged by charter to be covered in the presence of the sovereign."
In the reign of James I. the Company, it appears, nearly lost the whole of their plate, through a successful robbery. "The thieves," says Mr. Jesse, in his "London and its Celebrities," "were four men of the names of Jones, Lyne, Sames, and Foster, of whom the former confessed his guilt, when, in consequence of information which he gave, the plate was recovered. In the books of the Company for November, 1616, is the following matterof-fact entry recording the fate of the culprits:— 'Thomas Jones was taken, who, being brought to Newgate in December following, Jones and Lyne were both executed for this fact. In January following, Sames was taken and executed. In April, Foster was taken and executed. Now, let's pray God to bless this house from any more of these damages. Amen.'
"The following extract from the Company's papers, under the date of the 13th of July, 1587, is still more curious:—'It is agreed that if any body which shall at any time hereafter happen to be brought to our hall for the intent to be wrought upon by the anatomists of the Company, shall revive or come to life again, as of late hath been seen, the charges about the same body so reviving shall be borne, levied, and sustained by such person or persons who shall so happen to bring home the body; and who, further, shall abide such order or fine as this house shall award.' The last instance, it would appear, of recuscitation in a dissecting-room occurred in the latter part of the last century. The case, as used to be related by the late celebrated anatomist, John Hunter, was that of a criminal, whose body had been cut down after execution at Newgate." This case we have already mentioned.
Lambe's Almshouses stood at the upper end of Monkwell Street. The worthy clothworker who built these havens of refuge after life's storms was a gentleman of Henry VIII.'s chapel. These almshouses were on the site of an ancient chapel or hermitage, built in the old City wall, about the time of the early Norman kings, and was partly supported by royal stipend assigned to it in 1275. Soon after 1346 it passed into the hands of the Corporation of London, and after the dissolution it was purchased by Lambe.
This benevolent man also built a conduit at Holborn Bridge, at a cost of £1,500, and gave one hundred and twenty pails for carrying water to such poor women "as were willing," says Strype, "to take pains." Water was not too plentiful in Elizabethan London. As late as the end of the seventeenth century, carriers with yokes and pails perambulated the streets, shouting "Any New River water here?" Lambe also founded a school at Sutton Valence, Kent, the place of his birth, and built almshouses there. He gave £300 to the Shropshire clothiers; gave £15 to Cripplegate parish, for bells, with a bequest of a £6 annuity and £100 ready money to Christ's Hospital; left St. Thomas's Hospital, Southwark, £4 a year, and bequeathed money to the poor prisoners of the London gaols. He provided 10s. each for the marriage of forty poor maids, provided for all his servants, and ordered a hundred and eight frieze gowns to be distributed to the poor at his funeral.
Anthony Munday's account of the perambulation of Cripplegate parish is so quaint that we cannot refrain from abridging it, as a good specimen of the old parochial anxiety to preserve the parish bounds. The parishioners, says Stow's continuator, first struck down the alley forming part of their churchyard, close by St. Giles's Well (made at the charge of Richard Whittington), and crossing the tower ditch, kept along by the City wall almost to Aldersgate; they then crossed the ditch again, by certain garden-houses near, and came down a little garden alley (formerly leading into Aldersgate), and returned by St. Giles's Well. They then paraded up the west side of Redcross Street and the south side of Barbican, till they came to the "Boar's Head," at the end, and there set up their marks on a great post. From there they crossed over to the north side of the street, through certain garden alleys, on the west side of Willoughby House, a course afterwards denied them. They next passed through Barbican, and turned up Goswell Street; a little beyond the bars they set up their marks, and passed along the right side of the King's highway leading to Islington; then leaving the Mount Mill on the right, they proceeded till they came within three rods of a little bridge at the lower end of a close, over which lay a footpath to Newington Green. They then dug a way over the ditch, and passing south-east by the low grounds and brick-fields, left the footpath leading from the Pest House to Islington on the left. From a boundary-stone in the brick-hill they came south to a bridge, temporarily provided for them, and struck down eastward by the ditch side to the farthest conduit head, where they gave the parish children points (metal tags, used to fasten clothes, in the reign of James I., when Munday lived). This was to fix the boundaries in the children's minds. In some parishes children were whipped at the boundaries, a less agreeable method of mnemonics. From Dame Anne de Clare's famous well, mentioned by Ben Jonson, they pushed on past the Butts, into Holywell Close. Eventually, turning full west over the highway from Moorgate, they came into Little Moorfields; and keeping close to the pales and the Clothworkers' tenters, they reached the Postern, where they put up their final mark, "and so," as Pepys would say, "home."
Basinghall Ward consists of Basinghall Street alone. The present Bankruptcy Court is on the site of the old mansion of the Basings, of whom one, Solomon Basing, was Lord Mayor in the first year of Henry III. To his son, Adam, afterwards mayor, Henry III. gave messuages in Aldermanbury and Milk Street, and the advowson of the church at Basing Hall. According to an old tradition, which Stow derides, the house had once been a Jewish synagogue. It passed into the hands of the Bakewells, in the reign of Edward III., and in the reign of Richard II. was sold by the king for £50 to the City, who turned it into a cloth exchange, which it continued till 1820, when the present Bankruptcy Court was erected on its site. In old times no foreigner was allowed to sell any woollen cloth but in Bakewell Hall. Part of the tolls or hallage was given by Edward VI. to Christ's Hospital, whose governors superintended the warehouses. It was rebuilt for £2,500 in 1558, destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, and re-erected about 1672.
St. Michael's Bassishaw, in this ward, was founded about 1140, rebuilt in 1460, destroyed in the Great Fire, and again rebuilt in 1676 by Sir Christopher Wren. Here lies interred Sir John Gresham, uncle to Sir Thomas Gresham.
One of the great benefactors of the church, John Burton, mercer, who died 1460 his (will was dated 1459), bequeathed seven chasubles wrought with gold, in honour of the Passion, to the church of Wadworth, in Yorkshire, and desired his executor to keep the day of his anniversary, otherwise called "yearsmind," for ten years, in the church of St. Michael.
The following is part of an epitaph of an old
knight and surgeon, of Henry VIII. and Edward
"In chirurgery brought up in youth,
A knight here lieth dead;
A knight, and eke a surgeon, such
As England seld hath bred.
"For which so sovereign gift of God,
Wherein he did excel,
King Henry VIII. called him to court,
Who loved him dearly well.
* * * *
"King Edward, for his service sake,
Bade him rise up a knight,
A name of praise; and ever since
He Sir John Ailife hight,"&c.
No less than four of the smaller City companies pitched their tents in or near Basinghall Street. The Masons' Hall is in Masons' Alley, between Basinghall Street and Coleman Street. The Masons, with whom are united the Marblers, were incorporated about 1410 as "the Free Masons," they received their arms in 1474, but were not incorporated till 1677. The Weavers' Hall is in Basinghall Street. Cloth and tapestry weavers were the first of the livery companies incorporated, and in the reign of Henry I. paid £16 a year to the Crown for their immunities. The privileges were confirmed at Winchester by Henry II., in 1184, their charter being sealed by no less an official than Thomas a Becket. The great palladium of the Weavers' Company is their old picture of William Lee, the inventor of the stocking-loom, showing his invention to a female knitter, whose toil it was to spare. Below is this inscription:—
"In the year 1589 the ingenious William Lee, Master of Arts, of St. John's College, Cambridge, devised this profitable art for stockings (but being despised went to France); yet of iron to himself, but to us and others of gold, in memory of whom this is here painted."
There is a tradition that Lee invented the machine to facilitate the labour of knitting, in consequence of falling in love with a young country girl, who, during his visits, was more attentive to her knitting than to his proposals.
Lee is named as the inventor in a petition of the Framework-knitters or Stocking-makers of London to Cromwell for a charter, which Charles II. subsequently granted.
In this street also stood Coopers' Hall. The banqueting-hall is large and wainscoted. "The Coopers," says Mr. Timbs, " were incorporated by Henry VII. in 1501, and Henry VIII. empowered them to search and to gauge beer, ale, and soapvessels in the City and two miles round, at a farthing a cask." At Coopers' Hall the State lotteries were formerly drawn; and Hone describes, in his "Every-Day Book," the drawing of the last lottery here, October 18, 1826. Coopers' Hall was taken down in 1866 for the enlargement of the site for the Guildhall Offices.
Girdlers' Hall, No. 39, Basinghall Street, was rebuilt after the Great Fire. The Company of Girdle-Makers was incorporated by Henry VI., in 1449, and the charter was confirmed by Elizabeth, and they were subsequently united with the Pinners and Wire-Drawers. In their arms the punning heralds have put a girdle-iron. The Company possesses a document dated 1464, by which Edward IV. confirmed privileges granted to them by Richard II. and Edward III. They had the power to seize all girdles found within the City walls, which were manufactured with spurious silver or copper. The Girdlers still retain one quaint old custom of their craft, and that is, at the annual election the clerk of the Company crowns the new master with a silk crown embroidered in gold with the Girdlers' devices, and the lesser officials wear three ancient caps, after which the master pledges the company in a goblet of Rhenish wine.
The old Bankruptcy Court in Basinghall Street had two judges and five commissioners; the present has only one. The most important changes effected in the bankruptcy laws by the Bankruptcy Act of 1869 are as follow:—
1. Jurisdiction of the London Court confined to the metropolis, and in local cases transferred to the County Court of the district. The abolition of commissioners, official assignees, and messengers. Appointment of a single judge, with registrars, not exceeding four clerks, ushers, and other subordinate officers in substitution.
2. Service of the petition on the debtor.
3. The election of a paid trustee and a committee of creditors to wind up the estate.
4. Debtor's petition abolished.
5. Petition to be presented within six months of act of bankruptcy, and secured creditors only to count for amount unsecured.
6. Debtor's summons extended to non-traders, and judgment summons abolished.
7. Bankrupt not entitled to discharge until 10s. in the pound be paid, or creditors pass a special resolution that bankrupt cannot justly be held responsible.
8. If no discharge granted, bankrupt to remain free for three years, but property liable to sequestration afterwards.
9. Privilege of Parliament abolished.
10. Liquidation by arrangement authorised, being a new mode of winding up the debtor's affairs by the creditors, on the petition of the debtor.
11. A new mode of practice in cases of composition.
In Whitecross Street Henry V. built a house for a branch of the Brotherhood of St. Giles, which Henry VIII., after his manner, eventually suppressed. Sir John Gresham, mayor, afterwards purchased the lands, and gave part of them as a maintenance to a free school which he had founded at Holt, in Norfolk. In this street there is the debtor's prison, now almost disused. It was built in 1813–15, from the designs of William Montague, Clerk of the City Works. Warm-hearted Nell Gwynne, in her will, desired her natural son, the Duke of St. Albans, to lay out £20 a year to release poor debtors out of prison, and this sum was distributed every Christmas Day to the inmates of Whitecross Street Prison.
"Whitecross Street Prison," says Mr. H. Dixon, in 1850, in his "London Prisons," "is divided into six distinct divisions, or wards, respectively called—1, the Middlesex Ward; 2, the Poultry and Giltspur Street Ward; 3, the Ludgate Ward; 4, the Dietary Ward; 5, the Remand Ward; 6, the Female Ward. These wards are quite separate, and no communication is permitted between the inmates of one and another. Before commencing our rounds, we gain, from conversation with the intelligent governor, an item or two of useful preliminary information. The establishment is capable of holding 500 persons. It is, however, very seldom that half that number is confined at one time within its walls. At this period last year it had 147 inmates; the pressure of the times has since considerably increased the sum-total. There are now 205, of which number eight are females. The population of this prison is, moreover, very migratory. Last year there were no less than 1,143 commitments. This shows an advance upon previous years—the result of the operation of the Small Debts Act—a part of the building having been set apart for persons committed under that Act. Many debtors are now sent hither for a fixed term, mostly ten days, at the expiration of which they are discharged. This punishment is principally inflicted for contempt of court. A woman was recently locked up here for ten days, for contempt, because unable, or unwilling, it was difficult to say which, to discharge a debt of sevenpence! In all such cases a more penal discipline is enforced; the person incarcerated is not allowed to maintain him or herself, but is compelled to accept the county allowance.
"Round the yard are the lofty walls of the prison, and the general pile of the prison buildings, several storeys high. On one side is a large board, containing a list of the benefactors of this portion of the prison. There are similar benefactions to each ward; amongst others, one from Nell Gwynne, still periodically distributed in the shape of so many loaves of bread, attracts attention. These donations are now employed in hiring some of the poorer of the prisoners to make the beds, clean the floors, and do other menial offices for the rest. Passing through a door in the yard, we enter the day-room of this ward. There are benches and tables down the sides, as in some of the cheap coffee-houses in London, and a large fire at the end, at which each man cooks, or has cooked for him, his victuals. On the wall a number of pigeon-holes or small cupboards are placed, each man having the key of one, and keeping therein his bread and butter, tea and coffee, and so forth. These things are all brought in, and no stint is placed upon the quantity consumed. A man may exist in the prison who has been accustomed to good living, though he cannot live well. All kinds of luxuries are prohibited, as are also spirituous drinks. Each man may have a pint of wine a day, but not more; and dice, cards, and all other instruments for gaming, are strictly vetoed."
The Dissenters' Library in Whitecross Street—A Curious Anecdote about Redcross Street—Grub Street—The Haunts of Poor Authors— Johnson in Grub Street—Henry Welby, the Grub Street Recluse—General Monk's House—Whittington's House—Coleman Street and the Puritan Leaders—Venner, the Fanatic—Goodwin—St. Stephen's Church—Armourers' Hall.
Redcross Street derived its name from a cross which stood near the end of Golden Lane, as Whitecross Street did from a stone cross, near which ran a watercourse to Moorfields. Hughson (1806) calls Whitecross Street "noble, wide, and well built, inhabited by persons of property." Here Dr. Williams first established the Free Library, chiefly for the use of Protestant Dissenting ministers, now removed to Grafton Street, Fitzroy Square. Dr. Daniel Williams was a Welsh Nonconformist, in great favour with William III. He was preacher at Hand Alley, Bishopsgate Street, and succeeded Richard Baxter at the lectureship of Pinners' Hall, Broad Street. Opposed by the Antinomians, the Doctor, with Dr. Bates, Dr. Annerley, and others, set up the lectures at Salters' Hall, Cannon Street, already described by us. The richer Dissenters erected a building in Whitecross Street, to contain the Doctor's library, generously left for public use, and employed the building as a place of convocation. The building contained two handsome rooms, capable of holding 40,000 volumes, though the original collection contained not many more than 16,000 (Dr. Bates's and Dr. Williams's libraries formed its basis). There was also a gallery of portraits of celebrated Dissenting ministers. Among the curiosities mentioned in old guide-books of London were the following:— Eighteen volumes of the Bible, written with white ink on black paper, for Mr. Harris, an old linendraper, in 1745, when he had become nearly blind; portraits of Samuel Annesly, an ejected minister of Cripplegate, and grandfather of Wesley; the preachers at the meeting-house in Little St. Helen's, Bishopsgate Street—John Howe, Dr. Watts, Flavell, Baxter, and Jacomb. The library also contains 238 volumes of Civil War tracts and sermons; a finely illuminated copy of the Salisbury Liturgy (1530); the Bible in short-hand, written by a zealous Nonconformist in 1686, when the writer was afraid James II. would destroy all the Bibles; a mask of Cartouche, the great robber, of Paris; the glass basin in which Queen Elizabeth was christened; a portrait of Colonel John Lilburne, one of the judges of Charles I. The library foundation was, in 1806, under the direction of twenty-three trustees, fourteen ministers, and nine laymen, all Dissenters, with a secretary and steward under them.
Sir Thomas More, in his "Pitiful Life of Edward V.," has a curious anecdote about Redcross Street: "And first," he says, " to show you that by conjecture he (Richard III.) pretended this thing in his brother's life, you shall understand for a truth that the same night that King Edward dyed, one called Mistlebrooke, long are the day sprung, came to the house of one Pottier, dwelling in Red Crosse Street, without Cripplegate, of London; and when he was, with hasty rapping, quickly let in, the said Mistlebrooke showed unto Pottier that King Edward was that night deceased. 'By my troth,' quoth Pottier, 'then will my master, the Duke of Gloucester, be king, and that I warrant thee!' What cause he had so to think, hard it is to say, whether he being his servant, knew any such thing pretended, or otherwise had any inkling thereof, but of all likelihood he spake it not of ought."
The old Grub Street, the haunt of poor authors, the mosquitoes who tormented Pope, and the humble drudges with whom Dr. Johnson argued and perambulated in his struggling days, has now changed its name to Milton Street. This absurd transition from Lazarus to Dives, from the dunghill to the palace, originated in the illogical remembrance of some opaque-headed Government official that Milton died at his house in the Artillery Walk, Bunhill Fields, adjoining to which place he had removed soon after his third marriage. The direct association of Pope's Grub Street poets was surely better than the very indirect association of Grub Street with the sacred name of Milton; but officials are like that. Here poor hacks of weak will and mistaken ambition sat up in bed, with blankets skewered round them, and, encouraged by gin, scribbled epics and lampoons, and fulsome dedications to purse-proud patrons. Here poor men of genius, misled by Pleasure's ignis fatuus, repented too late their misused hours, and, by the flickering rushlight, desperately endeavoured to retrieve the loss of opportunities by satires on ministers, or ribald attacks on men more successful than themselves. Here poor wretches, like Hogarth's poet, wrestled with the Muses while the milkman dunned them for their score, or the bailiff's man sat sullenly waiting for the guinea bribe that was to close his one malign eye. We have before alluded to Pope's attacks on his Grub Street enemies, and shown how he degraded literature by associating poor writers, however industrious or clever, with ribaldry and malice, so that for long Curll's historians, sleeping two in a bed, in Grub Street garrets, were considered the natural kinsmen of all who made literature their profession, and did not earn enormous incomes by the generous but often unremunerative effort of spreading knowledge, exposing error, and discovering truth.
Stow describes Grub Street, in Elizabethan times, as having been inhabited by bowyers, fletchers (arrow-makers), and bow-string makers, who supplied the archers of Finsbury, Moorfields, and Islington, and who were gradually succeeded by keepers of bowling-alleys and diceing-houses, who always favoured the suburbs, where there was little supervision over them. Dr. Johnson, in his Dictionary, defines Grub Street as "the name of a street in London much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production is called Grub Street."
The Memoirs of the Grub Street Society was the title of a publication commenced Jan. 8, 1730. Its object was to satirise unsparingly the personages of the "Dunciad," and the productions of Cibber, Curll, Dennis, &c. It was continued weekly, till the end of 1737. The reputed editors were Dr. Martyn, a Cambridge Professor of Botany, and Dr. Richard Russell, who wrote one of the earliest treatises on the beneficial use of salt water.
Warburton seems prophetically to have anticipated a line of Mr. Disraeli's "Lothair," when, in a note to the "Dunciad," he calls a libeller "nothing but a Grub Street critic run to seed." Pompous Sir John Hawkins, in his "Life of Johnson," says, "During the usurpation a prodigious number of seditious and libellous pamphlets and papers, tending to exasperate the people and increase the confusion in which the nation was involved, were from time to time published. The authors of these were for the most parts men whose indigent circumstances compelled them to live in the suburbs and most obscure parts of the town. Grub Street then abounded with mean old houses, which were let out in lodgings, at low rents, to persons of this description, whose occupation was in publishing anonymous treason and slander. One of the original inhabitants of this street was Foxe, the martyrologist." In 1710-11 Swift writes to Stella of a tax on small publications, which, he says, "will utterly ruin Grub Street."
Mr. Hoole, the translator of Tasso, told Dr. Johnson, on one occasion, says Boswell, that "he was born in Moorfields, and had received part of his early instruction in Grub Street. 'Sir,' said Johnson, smiling, 'you have been regularly educated.' Having asked who was his instructor, and Mr. Hoole having answered, 'My uncle, sir, who was a tailor,' Johnson, recollecting himself, said, 'Sir, I knew him; we called him the metaphysical tailor. He was of a club in Old Street, with me and George Psalmanazar, and some others; but pray, sir, was he a good tailor?' Mr. Hoole having answered that he believed he was too mathematical, and used to draw squares and triangles on his shopboard, so that he did not excel in the cut of a coat. 'I am sorry for it,' said Johnson, 'for I would have every man to be master of his own business.'
"In pleasant reference to himself and Mr. Hoole, as brother authors, Johnson often said to a friend, 'Let you and I, sir, go together, and eat a beefsteak in Grub Street.'"
A remarkable seclusion from the world took place in Grub Street, in the person of Henry Welby, Esq. This gentleman was a native of Lincolnshire, where he had an estate of above £1,000 per annum. He possessed in an eminent degree the qualifications of a gentleman. Having been a competent time at the university and the inns of court, he completed his education by making the tour of Europe. He was happy in the love and esteem of all that knew him, on account of his many acts of humanity, benevolence, and charity. When he was about forty years of age, it is said that his brother (though another account makes it merely a kinsman), an abandoned profligate, made an attempt upon his life with a pistol. It missed fire, and Welby, wresting it from the villain's hand, found it charged with bullets. Hence he formed the resolution of retiring from the world; and taking a house in this street, he reserved three rooms for himself—the first for his diet, the second for his lodging, and the third for his study. In these he kept himself so closely retired, that for forty-four years he was never seen by any human creature, except an old female servant that attended him, and who was only permitted to see him in some cases of great necessity. His diet was constantly bread, oatmeal, water-gruel, milk, and vegetables, and as a great indulgence, the yolk of an egg, but no part of the white.
The hermit of Grub Street bought all the new books that were published, most of which, upon a slight examination, he rejected. His time was spent in reading, meditation, and prayer. No Carthusian monk was ever more rigid in his abstinence. His plain garb, his long and silver beard, his mortified and venerable aspect, bespoke him an ancient inhabitant of the desert, rather than a gentleman of fortune in a populous city. He expended a great part of his income in acts of charity, and was very inquisitive after proper objects. He died October 29, 1636, in the eightyfourth year of his age, and was buried in St. Giles's Church, Cripplegate. The old servant died not above six days before her master. He had a very amiable daughter, who married Sir Christopher Hildyard, a gentleman of Yorkshire; but neither she nor any of her family ever saw her father after his retirement.
A very grand old house in Hanover Yard, near Grub Street, was sketched by J. T. Smith, in 1791. It was called by the neighbours "General Monk's House." On one of the old water-spouts was the date, 1653. The lead on the roof was of enormous thickness, the staircase spacious and heavy. The large rooms had ornamented plaster ceilings, and one of the first-floor wainscotings was richly carved with flowers. But the great feature of the old mansion, after all, was the porch, a deep gable-ended structure, supported by stately Ionic pillars, and in the centre of the pediments a lion looking out. The windows were wide and latticed. There is, however, no proof that General Monk ever resided in the house. When the trimming general returned from Scotland, he took up his headquarters at Whitehall; and on the refractory citizens refusing the £60,000 demanded by the Parliament, Monk marched into the City, destroved the portcullises, and drew up his soldiers in Finsbury Fields. When the cowed City advanced the money, chose Monk as the major-general of their forces, and invited the Council of State and the general to reside in London, for their greater safety, it is expressly mentioned that he returned thanks without accepting the offer. If Monk ever resided in Hanover Yard, it must have been after the Restoration. This may have been, as has been suggested by some, the house of Dr. William Bulleyn, that learned physician whom we have mentioned in our chapter on St. Giles's, Cripplegate.
In Sweedon's Passage, Grub Street, Mr. Smith also discovered an extremely old house, which, according to tradition, had been inhabited by both Whittington and Gresham. It was part of six houses which had occupied the site of an older mansion. The lower portions of the chimneys were of stone, the timber was oak and chestnut, and the ceilings were ornamented. There was a descent of three feet into the parlour from the outer street. This house possessed a great curiosity— an external staircase, which stood out like a rickety tower of timber and plaster, and was covered with a slanting projecting wooden roof. In an adjacent house was an oriel window, and in the street there ran a long line of lattices, once covered with the relics of a ruined penthouse.
Coleman Street, near London Wall, was so called, says Stow, vaguely, of "Coleman, the first builder and owner thereof," and had the honour to give a name to one of the twenty-six wards of the City of London. From the trial of Hugh Peters, after the Restoration, we gather that the "Star," in Coleman Street, was a place of meeting for Oliver Cromwell and several of his party, in 1648, when Charles I. was in the hands of the Parliament.
Counsel. Mr. Gunter, what can you say concerning meeting and consultation at the "Star," in Coleman Street?
Gunter. My lord, I was a servant at the "Star," in Coleman Street, with one Mr. Hildesley. That house was a house where Oliver Cromwell, and several of that party, did use to meet in consultation. They had several meetings; I do remember very well one amongst the rest, in particular, that Mr. Peters was there; he came in the afternoon, about four o'clock, and was there till ten or eleven at night. I, being but a drawer, could not hear much of their discourse, but the subject was tending towards the king, after he was a prisoner, for they called him by the name of Charles Stuart. I heard not much of the discourse; they were writing, but what I know not, but I guessed it to be something drawn up against the king. I perceived that Mr. Peters was privy to it, and pleasant in the company.
The Court. How old were you at that time?
Gunter. I am now thirty years the last Bartholomew Day, and this was in 1648.
The Court. How long before the king was put to death?
Gunter. A good while. It was suddenly, as I remember, three days before Oliver Cromwell went out of town.
Peters. I was never there but once with Mr. Nathaniel Fiennes.
Counsel. Was Cromwell there?
Counsel. Was Mr. Peters there oftener than once?
Gunter. I know not, but once I am certain of it; this is the gentleman, for then he wore a great sword.
Peters. I never wore a great sword in my life.
The street had been a loyal street to the Puritan party, for it was here that, in 1642, the five members accused of treason by Charles I. took refuge, when he rashly attempted to arrest them in Parliament.
"And that people might not believe," says Lord Clarendon, "that there was any dejection of mind or sorrow, for what was done, the same night the same council caused a proclamation to be prepared for the stopping the ports, that the accused persons might not escape out of the kingdom, and to forbid all persons to receive and harbour them, when it was well known that they were all together in a house in the City, without any fear of their security. And all this was done without the least communication with anybody but the Lord Digby, who advised it; and it is very true, was so willing to take the utmost hazard upon himself, that he did offer the king, when he knew in what house they were together, with a select company of gentlemen who would accompany him, whereof Sir Thomas Lunsford was one, to seize upon them and bring them away alive, or leave them dead in the place; but the king liked not such enterprises.
"That night the persons accused removed them selves into their stronghold, the City; not that they durst not venture themselves at their old lodgings, for no man would have presumed to trouble them, but that the City might see that they relied upon that place for a sanctuary of their privileges against violence and oppression, and so might put on an early concernment for them. And they were not disappointed; for, in spite of all the Lord Mayor could do to compose their distempers (who like a very wise and stout magistrate bestirred himself), the City was that whole night in arms, some people designed to that purpose running from one gate to another, and crying out 'that the Cavaliers were coming to fire the City,' and some saying that 'the king himself was in the head of them.'
"The next morning Charles himself came in search of the five members. He told one of the sheriffs (who was of the two thought less inclined to his service) 'that he would dine with him. He then departed without that applause and cheerfulness which he might have expected from the extraordinary grace he vouchsafed to them; and in his passage, through the City, the rude people flocked together, crying out, 'Privilege of Parliament! privilege of Parliament!' some of them pressing very near his own coach, and amongst the rest one calling out with a very loud voice, 'To your tents, O Israel!' However, the king, though much mortified, continued his resolution, taking little notice of the distempers; and, having dined at the sherift's, returned in the afternoon to Whitehall, and published the next day a proclamation for the apprehension of all those whom he accused of high treason, forbidding any person to harbour them, the articles of their charge being likewise printed and dispersed."
At No. 14, Great Bell Yard, now Telegraph Street, Robert Bloomfield, the shoemaker poet, followed his calling. The poet's father was a poor tailor in Suffolk, and his mother kept a little school in which her own children were the chief pupils. Being too delicate to follow the plough, Bloomfield was sent to London to his elder brother George, to learn shoemaking. There, penned up in a garret with six or seven other lads, who paid a shilling each for their lodging, Bloomfield wrote "The Farmer's Boy," of which, in three years, 26,000 copies were sold, besides French, German, Italian, and Latin translations. The Duke of Grafton then kindly assigned him a pension of a shilling a day, and gave him a small post in the Seal Office. Compelled by ill-health to resign this situation, Bloomfield returned to the manufacture of ladies' shoes, became involved in debt, and died worn out and nearly insane in 1823. Taylor, the waterpoet, describes the Cambridge carriers as lodging in his time at the "Bell," in Coleman Street.
Cowley, in his pleasant comedy of The Cutter of Coleman Street, admirably sketches the tricks of the old broken-down Cavaliers after the Restoration, who had to practise all their arts to obtain a dinner, and who, six days out of seven, had to feast with Duke Humphrey, and flourish a toothpick, while all the while struggling with that unruly member, an empty stomach.
Jolly. (A gentleman whose estate was confiscated in the late troubles.) Ye shall no more make monstrous tales from Bruges, to revive your sinking credits in loyal ale-houses, nor inveigle into taverns young foremen of the shop, or little beardless blades of the Inns of Court, to drink to the royal family parabolically, and with bouncing oathes like cannon at every health; nor upon unlucky failing afternoons take melancholy turns in the Temple walks, and when you meet acquaintance cry, "You wonder why your lawyer stays so long, with a hang to him!". …
Worm. (Cutter's companion, and of much the same character.) They call him Colonel Cutter, but to deal faithfully with you, madam, he is no more a colonel than you're a major-general.
Cutter. (A merry, sharking fellow about town—entering.) Ha! Sure I mistake the rogue!
Wor. He never serv'd his king—not he!—no more than he does his Maker. 'Tis true he's drunk his health as often as any man, upon other men's charges, and he was for a little while, I think, a kind of Hector till he was soundly beaten one day, and dragg'd about the room, like old Hector o' Troy about the town.
Cut. What does this dog mean, trow?
Wor. Once, indeed, he was very low—for almost a twelve-month—and had neither money enough to hire a barber nor buy scissors, and then he wore a beard (he said) for King Charles. He's now in pretty good clothes, but would you saw the furniture of his chamber! Marry, half a chair, an earthen pot without an ear, and the bottom of an ink-horn for a candlestick; the rest is broken foul tobacco-pipes, and a dozen o' gally-pots, with salve in 'em.
Cut. Was there ever such a cursed villain!
Wor. He's been a known cheat about town these twenty years.
It was in a conventicle, hidden away in Swan Alley, on the east side of Coleman Street, that that dangerous fanatic Venner, a wine-cooper and Millenarian (already alluded to in our chapter on Wood Street, Cheapside), preached to "the soldiers of King Jesus," and urged them to commence the Fifth Monarchy. The congregation at once rose in arms, and rushed out into the streets to slay all the followers of Baal. An insurrection followed, which ended in Venner (who had better have been hooping his casks) being hung and quartered in Coleman Street, January 19th, 1660–l.
John Goodwin, a Puritan religious writer who promoted the condemnation of Charles I., was, in 1633, presented to the living of St. Stephen's, Coleman Street. He it was who had intruded himself on the king the day before his execution, and offered to pray with him. The king thanked him, but said he had chosen Dr. Juxon, whom he knew. Fearing the gallows after the Restoration, his pamphlet defending the sentence passed on the king having been burnt by the public hangman, Goodwin fled, but afterwards returned and opened a private conventicle in Coleman Street, where he died, 1665.
Goodwin, whose hand was against every man, was much belaboured by John Vicars, an usher of Christ's Hospital, a man even more violent and intolerant than himself. The title of one of Vicars's works will be sufficient to show his command of theological Billingsgate.
"Coleman Street conclave visited, and that grand impostor, the schismatic's cheater-in-chief (who hath long slily lurked therein), truly and duly discovered; containing a most palpable and plain display of Mr. John Goodwin's self-conviction under his own handwriting), and of the notorious heresies, errors, malice, pride, and hypocrisy of this most huge Garagantua, in falsely-pretended piety, to the lamentable misleading of his too-too credulous soul-murdered proselytes of Coleman Street and elsewhere; collected principally out of his own big—bragadochio and wave-like—swelling, and swaggering writings, full-fraught with six-footed terms, and flashie rhetorical phrases, far more than solid and sacred truths. And may fitly serve (if it be the Lord's will), like Belshazzar's handwriting, on the wall of his conscience, to strike terror and shame into his own soul and shameless face, and to undeceive his most miserably cheated and inchanted or bewitched followers."
St. Stephen's, Coleman Street, can boast some antiquity if it can boast no beauty, since between the years 1171 and 1181 the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's granted both this building and St. Olave's, Jewry, to which it was appended as a chapel, to the prior and abbot of Butley in Suffolk. It is said by Stow to have been first a synagogue, then a parish church, and lastly a chapel to St. Olave's, in which vassalage it continued till the 7th of Edward IV., when it was again chosen to reign over a parish of its own. It was destroyed by the Great Fire, and meanly rebuilt by Wren in 1676. The monuments, with few exceptions, are uninteresting. There is one to John Taylor, a haberdasher, who left £200 to be lent to young haberdashers, and 2s. a week in bread to be distributed for ever on Sundays to poor householders; and here lies the only hero of St. Stephen's tombs, good old Anthony Munday, the continuator of Stow, who died in 1633, after much industrious study of the London records, and thirty years' honest labour at City shows and pageants. There is a certain friendly fervour about his epitaph, as if some City laureate had written it to pin to his hearse.
"To the Memory of that ancient Servant to the City, with
His Pen, in Divers Imployments, especially the Survey of
London, Master Anthony Munday, Citizen and Draper of
"He that hath many an ancient tombstone read,
(I' th' labour seeming more among the dead
To live, than with the living), that survaid
Abstruse antiquities, and o'er them laid
Such vive and beanteous colours with his pen,
That (spite of Time) those old are new again.
Under this marble lies interr'd, his tombe
Claiming (as worthily it may) this roome,
Among those many monuments his quill
Has so reviv'd, helping now to fill
A place (with those) in his survey; in which
He has monument, more fair, more rich
Than polisht stones could make him where he lies,
Though dead, still living, and in that ne'er dyes."
The entrance gateway of St. Stephen's has a rude alto-relievo of the Last Judgment; the clouds are as round and heavy as puddings, and the whole is inferior to the treatment of the same subject at St. Giles's-in-the-Fields. Of this parish, according to Defoe's romance, John Hayward was under-sexton during the Great Plague. He carried all the parish dead to the Plague-pit, and drove their bodies in the dead-cart, yet he never caught the disease, and lived twenty years after. Among the modern monuments at St. Stephen's is a marble bas-relief, by E. W. Wyat, erected in 1847, to the Rev. Josiah Pratt, vicar of the parish, whose active missionary labours are personified by an angel addressing an African, a Hindoo, and a New Zealander.
The fine building with a Doric portico situated at the north-east corner of Coleman Street is the Armourers' and Braziers' Hall. It stands on the site of the old hall of the Company, incorporated at the beginning of the reign of Henry VI., in 1422. The Armourers' function is now rather obsolete, but the hall is still decorated with coats of arms, and there is a fine gilt suit at the Tower, which was given by the Company to Charles I., when a gay young prince, with his narrow head firm on. In the Banqueting Hall is one of Northcote's vapid but ambitious pictures, "The Entry of Richard II. and Bolingbroke into London," purchased by the Company from Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, in 1825. How the spiteful, shrewd little painter would writhe could he hear the opinions of critical visitors!