Clerkenwell: (part 2 of 2)

Old and New London: Volume 2. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

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Walter Thornbury, 'Clerkenwell: (part 2 of 2)', in Old and New London: Volume 2( London, 1878), British History Online [accessed 16 July 2024].

Walter Thornbury, 'Clerkenwell: (part 2 of 2)', in Old and New London: Volume 2( London, 1878), British History Online, accessed July 16, 2024,

Walter Thornbury. "Clerkenwell: (part 2 of 2)". Old and New London: Volume 2. (London, 1878), , British History Online. Web. 16 July 2024.

In this section



The Early Days of Croquet—Clerkenwell Close—Thomas Weaver—Sir Thomas Challoner—The Fourth Earl of Clanricarde—A Right Mad Doctor—Newcastle Place and its Inhabitants—Clerkenwell Green—Izaac Walton—Jack Adams, the Clerkenwell Simpleton—The Lamb and Flag Ragged School—The Northampton Family—Miss Ray—The Bewicks—Aylesbury House and its Associations—The Musical Small-coal Man—Berkeley Street—"Sally in our Alley"—Red Bull Theatre—Ward's Public-house—The Old and New Church of St. James.

Bowling-greens were once numerous in Bowling Green Lane, Clerkenwell. In 1675, says Mr. Pinks, there were two at the north-east corner. The bowling-alleys were both open and covered, and were laid with turf or gravel. The bowls were flat or round, and the simple object was to lay your bowl so many times nearest the jack, or mark. The pleasant game is repeatedly mentioned by Shakespeare, and furnished his quick fancy with innumerable metaphors. There was also a game of ground balls, which were driven through an arch. This game expanded became Charles II.'s favourite diversion, "Pall Mall," and, contracted and complicated, it changed into our modern "Croquet." In 1617 (James I.) the Groom Porters' Office issued licences for thirty-one bowling-alleys, fourteen tenniscourts, and forty gambling-houses in London, Westminster, and their suburbs, all to be closed on Sundays. In 1675 there were only six houses in this lane, and at the south-west corner was the churchyard of St. James's. The "Cherry Tree" public-house was well known in 1775, and there were cherry-trees still there in 1825. At the southwest corner of Bowling Green Lane, in 1675, stood one of those mountain heaps of cinders and rubbish which disgraced old London. At one end of the lane there once stood a whipping-post for petty offenders. An old name for this lane was Feather Bed Lane, but why we do not know, unless boys like Defoe's Colonel Jack lolled, burrowed, and gambolled on the huge dust-heap.

Clerkenwell Close teems with old legends and traditions; and well it may, for was it not part of the old nunnery cloisters, and afterwards a portion of the glebe of the church of St. James? The house now No. 22, says Mr. Pinks, the Stow of Clerkenwell, was originally the parsonage house. The "Crown Tavern," at the south-west corner of the Close, was rebuilt in the early part of this century. The mummy of a poor cat, which some mason of John or Richard's reign had cruelly buried alive in one of the walls of St. James's Church, used to be solemnly shown there. Formerly the southern entrance to the Close was small, and squeezed in between a butcher's shop and the "Crown Tavern."

That good plodding "old mortality," John Weever, lived in Clerkenwell Close in 1631 (Charles I.), and to that place brought home many a pocket-load of old epitaphs, to adorn his good old book, "Ancient Funeral Monuments." His house was the next one northward of No. 8. It is large, and double-fronted, and has fine old staircases, and foliated ceilings. Weever was a friend of Cotton and Selden, and therefore not lightly to be despised, but Anthony à Wood pronounces him credulous, and he is said to be careless in his dates. The following is Weever's epitaph, in St. James's, Clerkenwell:—
"Lancashire gave me breath,
And Cambridge education;
Middlesex gave me death,
And this church my humation;
And Christ to me hath given
A place with Him in heaven."

In the Close, opposite the nunnery, according to Weever, resided Sir Thomas Challoner, in a house which either Thurlow or Cromwell himself afterwards occupied. On the front of the mansion, which stood in a large garden, were written four Latin lines, which have been thus Englished:—
"Chaste faith still stays behind, though thence be flown
Those veiled nuns who here before did nest,
For reverend marriage wedlock vows doth own,
And sacred flames keep here in loyal breasts."

This Sir Thomas Challoner, of Clerkenwell Close, was a gallant gentleman, who fought beside the Emperor Charles V., in Algiers; on his return he was made by Henry VIII. first clerk of the Council, and in the reign of Edward VI. he won the favour of the proud Protector Somerset. By Elizabeth he was sent as a trusty ambassador to Ferdinand, Emperor of Germany, and afterwards to the court of Philip of Spain, where he was vexed by every possible indignity. He returned home in 1564, and spent the rest of his life quietly in the Close, completing his great work, "The Right Ordering of the English Republic," which he dedicated to his friend Burleigh. Sir Thomas, son of this wise courtier, married a daughter of Sir William Fleetwood, the well-known Recorder of London. His study of science in Italy enabled him to enrich himself by the discovery of alum on his own estate, near Gisborough, in Yorkshire. He became a friend of James I., who placed Prince Henry under his tuition, for which he received £4,000, "as a free gift." Two of this learned man's sons sat as judges at the trial of Charles I., and one was bold enough to sign the king's death-warrant. This latter Challoner Cromwell openly denounced as a drunkard when he dissolved the obstructive Parliament.

Near the Challoners, in the Close, in the year 1619, resided the fourth Earl of Clanricarde. This nobleman married the widow of Sir Philip Sidney. At the Restoration there were thirty-one good houses in Clerkenwell Close, Sir John Cropley and Dr. Theophilus Garenciers being the most distinguished residents. The latter gentleman was a Protestant refugee from Normandy, and kindly taught the "musical small-coal man" chemistry. He wrote some books on tapeworms and tincture of coral, and translated the nonsensical prophecies of Nostradamus. In 1668 Dr. Everard Maynwaring resided in the Close. He was a kinsman of the wife of Ashmole, the antiquary, and wrote a book to show that tobacco produced scurvy.

"An old writer, Aubrey," says Mr. Pinks, "who compiled an amusing volume on the superstitions of his countrymen, when treating of a fatality believed to attach to certain houses, says:—' A handsome brick house, on the south side of Clerkenwell Churchyard, has been so unlucky for at least forty years, that it was seldom tenanted, and at last nobody would adventure to take it.' This was written in 1696. Here also was once a private madhouse, of which the public was apprised by advertisement, as follows:—'In Clerkenwell Close, where the figures of mad people are over the gate, liveth one who, by the blessing of God, cures all lunatick, distracted, or mad people. He seldom exceeds three months in the cure of the maddest person that comes in his house; several have been cured in a fortnight, and some in less time. He has cured several from Bedlam, and other madhouses in and about this city, and has conveniency for people of what quality soever. No cure, no money.' Such equitable dealing as this, there can be little doubt, secured for the proprietor of this asylum a fair share of patronage from the friends of the insane."

Newcastle Place was the site of old Newcastle House, built upon the ruins of the nunnery, which had, at the dissolution, become the property of the Cavendish family. One likes to believe that a curse fell on those greedy nobles who stole what good and charitable men had left in trust for the poor, but that the trust had been sometimes abused, who is hardy enough to deny? But the abuses of the priests could surely have been corrected better than by confiscation. The duke's garden extended as far as the present St. James's Walk, and contained six arches of the southern cloister of the old nunnery. One cloister is described in the Gentleman's Magazine of 1785 as having at its west end an arched door communicating with the church. The roof resembled that of Exeter Cathedral, and the keystones were carved into the form of flowers. Over the cloister was a wareroom, and on the east side of the garden was the site of the ancient cemetery of the nuns. In 1773, according to Noorthouck, the nuns' hall, which still stood at the north-east end of the cloisters, had been turned into a double range of workshops. Two brickedup arched windows, and the hood moulding of a Gothic doorway are visible in the sketch of the hall in Crowle's "Pennant."

The Duke of Newcastle, William Cavendish, and his blue-stocking and eccentric wife, Margaret, the youngest daughter of Sir Charles Lucas, who was shot by the Parliamentarians at the surrender of Colchester, were the most memorable residents in this great Clerkenwell mansion. The duke was a gallant and chivalrous cavalier, whose white regiment of cavalry, generally known to the Cromwellians as the "Newcastle Lambs," did good service for wilful King Charles during the Civil War. In disgust at the loss of the battle of Marston Moor, by the mad rashness of Prince Rupert, the duke retired to the Continent, and there, with his faithful wife, during eighteen years' exile, endured many hardships while lodging at Antwerp, in a house which belonged to the widow of Rubens.

In the duchess's memoir of her brave husband, on whom she doated, and whom she seems to have pretty considerably bored, she states that at one time of their exile they were both forced to pawn their clothes for a dinner. While abroad the duke produced a luxurious folio on horsemanship. During his absence the Parliament levied, it is computed, £733,579 on his estate. At the Restoration this faithful loyalist was made a chief justice in Eyre, and Duke of Newcastle. He died at his house at Clerkenwell in 1676, aged eightyfour. The duchess, a female savante of the deepest dye, wrote ten folio volumes of learned trifles and fantastic verses. A footman always slept on a truckle bed in a closet of her bedroom, and whenever a thought struck her in the night, she used to call out, "John!" and poor John had to scramble out in the cold, light a candle, and bind the fugitive fancy fast on paper. "The whole story," writes Pepys, "of this lady is a romance, and all she does is romantic. "April 26, 1667.—Met my Lady Newcastle, with her coaches and footmen, all in velvet, herself, whom I never saw before, as I have heard her often described, for all the town-talk is nowadays of her extravagance, with her velvet cap, her hair about her ears, many black patches, because of pimples about her mouth, naked-necked, without anything about it, and a black just an corps.


"May 1, 1667.—She was in a black coach, adorned with silver, instead of gold, and snow-white curtains, and everything black and white. Staid at home, reading the ridiculous history of my Lord Newcastle, wrote by his wife, which shows her to be a mad, conceited, ridiculous woman, and he an asse to suffer her to write what she writes to him and of him."

"On the 10th April, 1667," says Mr. Pinks, Charles and his queen came to Clerkenwell, on a visit to the duchess. On the 18th, John Evelyn went to make court to the noble pair, who received him with great kindness; and another time he dined at Newcastle House, and was privileged to sit discoursing with her grace in her bedchamber, after dinner. Referring to her literary employments, when writing to a friend, she says, 'You will find my works, like infinite Nature, that hath neither beginning nor end; and as confused as the chaos, wherein is neither method nor order, but all mixed together, without separation, like light and darkness.' " It will be remembered that Sir Walter Scott, in his "Peveril of the Peak," has cleverly sketched the old-fashioned high-flown duchess, and contrasted her with the gay and wanton beauties of England's corruptest court. The wise and foolish woman died in 1676, and was buried by her husband in Westminster Abbey.


Henry Cavendish, Master of the Robes to Charles II., left the bulk of his estates, realising about £9,000, to his son-in-law, the Earl of Clare, which set the whole family by the ears. The Earl of Thanet, another son-in-law, fought a duel with the Earl of Clare, in consequence, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, in which both combatants were wounded. The Earl of Clare, for his loyal service to William III., was, in 1694, created Duke of Newcastle, and enjoyed the favour of Queen Anne.

Newcastle House, at one period, was the residence of the eldest daughter of the old duke, the Duchess of Albemarle, a woman crazed with pride, who married General Monk's son, and drove him by her folly to a liquid remedy, which killed him in his youth. At his death the duchess was so immensely wealthy, that pride crazed her, and she vowed never to marry any one but a sovereign prince. In 1692 the Earl of Montague, disguising himself as the Emperor of China, won the mad woman, whom he then kept in constant confinement at Montague House (the site of the British Museum). She survived her second husband thirty years, and at last died at Newcastle House, in 1734, aged ninety-six years. Her body lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, Westminster Abbey, and at midnight was privately interred near her father-in-law, General Monk, in Henry VII.'s Chapel. It is said that up to the time of this mad woman's decease she was always served on the knee, as if she had really been the empress she believed herself.

Newcastle House, in Pennant's time, was a cabinet-maker's, and the garden was strewn with the defaced monuments of Prior Weston, and other worthies. About 1793 Mr. Carr, who built the present church of St. James, erected on the site of the duke's mansion the row of houses called Newcastle Place. Every trace of the convent then disappeared, except a small portion of a wall, the jamb of a Gothic window of the nuns' hall (now the side wall of a house at the north end of Newcastle Street). The old house was a sombre, monotonous brick structure, having its upper storey adorned with stone pilasters. The east and west wings stood forward, and there was a large courtyard in front.

Clerkenwell Green, long gay enough, was, in the seventeenth century, according to that admirable chronicler of the parish, Mr. Pinks, environed by mansions of the noble and rich. In Roques's huge Map of London in 1747 there were lofty trees on either side of the Green, and two at the north-east corner of Aylesbury Street. The last tree on the north side of the Green, says Mr. Pinks, was blown down in July, 1796. The old pillory, where Mr. John Britton had seen a man fastened and pelted, used to stand on the western slope of the Green, near the bottom, and in 1787 a woman who had committed perjury was nearly killed at this place of punishment. A turnstile stood at the entrance of the close, prior to the houses being taken down to form a better approach to the church. A raised circle of stone with lamp-posts, near the middle of the green, and close to the drinking-fountain, marks, says the best of the local historians, the spot where the old watch-house once stood.

On the north side of the Green, a low brick house, now divided into three shops, was formerly the Welsh Charity School, founded in 1718. The house was built in 1737, and the charity removed to the Gray's Inn Road in 1772, and after that to Ashford, near Windsor. There used to be a painted figure of a Welsh boy in a niche in the front of the school. Pennant, a warm-hearted Welshman, intended to have devoted the profits of his great work on "British Zoology" to this school, but its expenses were so great that he was unable to do so, and he gave instead the sum of £100.

Of the chief residents of Clerkenwell Green we can only select the most eminent. Amongst these we may mention Sir Richard Cheverton, the Lord Mayor in 1657, who proclaimed Richard Cromwell Protector. He lived long, and was styled the Father of the City. Sir William Bolton, an alderman, knighted by Charles II., also resided on the Green, and in 1670 we find, in the list of rich residents, Sir William Bowles, Bart., Sir Edward Smith, and Lady Windham.

Above all these aldermen and custos rotulorums, rejoice, Clerkenwell, because that good and gentle spirit, Izaac Walton, once lived in thy midst, and often paced his guileless path, pondering on mighty barbel in the muddy depths of the pleasant river Lea. On his retirement from the snug little linendrapers' shops, first at the Exchange and then in Fleet Street, Walton, before the year 1650, says Sir Harris Nicholas, took a house at Clerkenwell. That delightful book, "The Compleat Angler; or, the Contemplative Man's Recreation," sold by Richard Marriot, in St. Dunstan's Churchyard, Fleet Street, appeared in 1653. The good, pious old fisherman lived at Clerkenwell, it is supposed, till 1661. He went to Worcester after that, and died at Winchester, at the house of a son-in-law of his, a prebendary, in 1683. In his will the worthy old man left forty-two mourning-rings to his friends, and (could human forgiveness go further?) £10 to his publisher, Richard Marriot.

George Sawbridge, an eminent bookseller of 1670, who published a book by Culpeper, the herbalist, also dwelt on Clerkenwell Green. He left £40,000 to be divided among his four daughters. Elias Ashmole records that he was a friend of Lilly, the sham astrologer.

Jack Adams, a Clerkenwell simpleton, who lived on the Green, became a notorious street character in the reign of Charles II. This half fool, half knave (like many of Shakespeare's jesters) is constantly mentioned in pamphlets of Charles II.'s reign. In an old work, called "The Wits; or, Sport upon Sport" (published in 1682), the writer describes the excellent comedians at the Red Bull Theatre, in Red Bull Yard, now Woodbridge Street. On one occasion, when Robert Cox, a celebrated low comedian, played "Simpleton the Smith," he used to come in munching a huge slice of breadand-butter; Jack Adams, seeing it, cried out, "Cuz, cuz, give me some! give me some!" to the great amusement of all the spectators. This Adams seems to have turned astrologer and fortune-teller. You got a better fortune from him for five guineas than for five shillings, and he appears to have been as willing to cheat as his dupes were to be cheated. The conjuror of Clerkenwell seems, after this, to have generally adopted this popular name. There is an old print of Jack Adams, in which he is represented with a tobacco-pipe in his girdle, standing by a table, on which lies a horn-book and "Poor Robin's Almanac."

In 1644, during the Civil Wars, Lady Bullock's house, on Clerkenwell Green, was attacked by soldiers, who stole fifty pieces of gold, and tore five rich rings from her ladyship's fingers. Dr. Sibbald, the incumbent of Clerkenwell, who resided near, remonstrated with the Parliamentary soldiers from his window, but the only reply was three musketbullets at his head, which they narrowly missed. A servant of Lady Bullock's was wounded by the soldiers.

In 1844 the Lamb and Flag Ragged School was established on Clerkenwell Green. Since that time day-schools, night-schools, and Sunday-schools have been added to it.

At the corner of Ashby Street, which leads from St. John's Street Road to Northampton Square, stands the old manor house of Clerkenwell, the residence of the Northampton family till nearly the end of the seventeenth century. The first baron was Sir Henry Compton, of Warwickshire, summoned to Parliament among the nobles in 1572 (Elizabeth). The second Lord Compton was created Earl of Northampton in 1618 (James I.), and also K.G. and Lord President of the Marches and Dominions of Wales.

How that nobleman carried off the daughter of rich Lord Mayor Spencer, in a baker's basket, from Canonbury, we have before related. The wife of the second earl had the courage to attend her lord to the battle of Edgehill, where she witnessed the daring and danger of her three Cavalier sons. Spencer Compton fell at the battle of Hopton Heath, in 1643. The third earl resided at Clerkenwell in 1677; his estates, which had been confiscated, were returned to him at the Restoration. He is said to have had a troop of 200 retainers, who wore his livery of blue and grey, and he was one of the king's Privy Council and Constable of the Tower. This earl's youngest brother, after being a cornet of horse, was made Bishop of London, and was entrusted with the education of the Princesses Mary and Ann. After being suspended by James II., he performed the coronation service for William of Orange, and was appointed one of the commissioners for revising the Liturgy. His toleration of Dissenters rendered him unpopular with the Tories. He died in 1713. Joshua Alwyne Spencer, the tenth earl, was the President of the Royal Society.

At the end of the seventeenth century the old manor-house of the Spencers was converted into a private lunatic asylum, by Dr. Newton. Thoresby, the Leeds historian, speaks doubtfully of this doctor's honesty. He published a herbal, which Cave printed, and seems to have had a botanic garden behind the madhouse. It was here that strange fanatic and false prophet, Richard Brothers, was confined. This man had been a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, but left the service in 1789, and refusing, from conscientious scruples, to take the necessary oath, he lost his half-pay. He then became poor, and had to take refuge in a workhouse. In 1790 he became insane, believed himself a prophet sent from God, and warned all who called him mad, an impostor, or a devil, that they were guilty of blasphemy. In 1792 he sent letters to the king, the ministers, and the speaker, saying he was ordered by God to go to the House of Commons, and inform the members, for their safety, that the time was come for the fulfilment of the seventh chapter of Daniel. He went accordingly, and met with the rough reception that might have been expected. Soon after Brothers prophesied the death of King George, the overthrow of the monarchy, and the delivery of the crown into his own hands, which, being treasonable, he was sent to Newgate. On his release, he persuaded many weak people to sell their goods and prepare to accompany him, in 1795, to the New Jerusalem, which was to be built on both sides of the river Jordan, and to become the capital of the world. In 1798 the Jews were to be restored, and he was to be revealed as their prince and ruler, and the governor of all nations, a post for which Brothers had even refused the divine offer of the Chancellorship of the Exchequer. Brothers at last got too troublesome, even for English toleration, and was confined as a lunatic in Clerkenwell; he was released in 1806, by the zealous intercession of his great disciple, John Finlayson, with whom he afterwards resided for nine years. Brothers died suddenly, of cholera, in 1824. His last words were addressed to Finlayson, asking if his sword and hammer were ready, referring to the building of the New Jerusalem. In 1817 the old manorhouse was turned into a ladies' boarding-school.

Albemarle Street was so called from General Monk, Duke of Albemarle, during whose popularity the street was built. Albion Place was erected in 1822. In this street, in 1721, lived Christopher Pinchbeck, an inventor of "astronomico-musical clocks," and the peculiar compound metal to which he gave the name. We have already briefly mentioned this ingenious man in our chapter on Fleet Street. Pinchbeck made musical automata that played tunes and imitated birds, like the curious Black Forest clocks now so familiar to us. He also sold self-playing organs, to save the expense of organists in country churches, and he also condescended to mend clocks and watches.

Miss Ray, that unfortunate mistress of Lord Sandwich, who was shot by her lover, Hackman, the clergyman, served her time with a mantuamaker in St. George's Court, Albion Place. A pleasant memory of those delightful old engravers, the Bewicks, is also associated with St. George's Court, for here, about 1780, lived a bookseller named Hodgson, for whom they worked. In the same obscure yet honoured locality also lived that sturdy old antiquary, Dr. Thomas Birch, the son of a Quaker coffee-mill maker, of Clerkenwell. Birch eventually, after being usher to Mr. Besse, a Quaker in St. George's Court, took orders in the Church of England, and married the daughter of a clergyman. Lord Hardwick patronised him, and in 1734 he became domestic chaplain to the unfortunate Jacobite Earl of Kilmarnock, who, joining in the luckless rebellion of '45, was beheaded on Tower Hill. In 1743 he was presented to the united rectories of St. Michael, Wood Street, and St. Mary Staining. He worked much for Cave, and was killed by a fall from his horse, near Hampstead, in 1760. He bequeathed his valuable library and manuscripts to the British Museum, and the residue of his small property to increase the salaries of the three assistant librarians.

Aylesbury Street, says Mr. Pinks, is so called because in old times the garden-wall of the house of the Earls of Aylesbury skirted the south side of the thoroughfare. Aylesbury House was probably a name given to part of the old Priory of St. John, where the Earls of Elgin and Aylesbury resided about 1641. Robert Bruce, second Earl of Elgin, who lived here in 1671, was a devoted Cavalier, and an ardent struggler for the Restoration, and was made Earl of Aylesbury in 1663 by that not usually very grateful king, Charles II., to whom he was privy councillor and gentleman of the bedchamber. At the coronation of that untoward monarch, James II., the Earl of Aylesbury bore in procession St. Edward's staff, eight pounds nine ounces in weight, and supposed by credulous persons to contain a piece of the true cross. The earl died in 1685, the year he had been appointed Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household. Anthony à Wood sums up the earl as a good historian and antiquary, a friend to the clergy, and a "curious collector of manuscripts."

But a far more interesting resident in Aylesbury Street was Thomas Britton, the "musical smallcoal man," who, though a mere itinerant vendor of small coal, cultivated the highest branches of music, and drew round him for years all the great musicians of the day, including even the giant Handel. This singular and most meritorious person, born in Northamptonshire, brought up to the coal trade, and coming to London, took a small stable at the south-east corner of Jerusalem Passage, on the site now occupied by the "Bull's Head" public-house, and commenced his humble business. His coal he kept below, and he lived in a single room above, which was ascended by an external ladder. From Dr. Garenciers, his neighbour, this active-minded man obtained a thorough knowledge of practical chemistry, and in his spare time he acquired an extensive practical and theoretical knowledge of music. This simpleminded man founded a musical club, which met at his house for nearly forty years, and at first gave gratuitous concerts, afterwards paid for by an annual subscription of ten shillings, coffee being sold to his distinguished visitors at a penny a cup. The idea of the club is said to have been first suggested by Sir Roger l'Estrange. Dr. Pepusch, or the great Handel, played the harpsichord; Bannister, or Medler, the first violin. Hughes, a poet, and Woolaston, a painter, were also members, while Britton himself played excellently on the viol di gamba. The musical invitation to these concerts ran thus:—
"Upon Thursdays repair to my palace, and there
Hobble up stair by stair, but I pray you take care
That you break not your shins by a stumble;
And without e'er a souse, paid to me or my spouse,
Sit still as a mouse at the top of the house,
And there you shall hear how we fumble."

Britton's friend, Ned Ward, describes these pleasant Thursday evening concerts, which, he says, were as popular as the evenings of the Kit-Cat Club, and that Britton, in his blue frock, with a measure twisted into the mouth of his sack, was as much respected as if he had been a nobleman in disguise.

"Britton," says our Clerkenwell historian, "besides being a musician, was a bibliomaniac, and collector of rare old books and manuscripts, from which fact we may infer that he had cultivated some acquaintance with literature. It often happened that, on Saturdays, when some of these literati were accustomed to meet at the shop of one Christopher Bateman, a bookseller, at the corner of Ave Maria Lane, Paternoster Row, Britton, who had usually completed his morning round by twelve o'clock at noon, would, despite his smutty appearance and blue smock, after pitching his sack of small coal on the bulk of Bateman's shop, join the literary conclave, and take part in the conversation, which generally lasted an hour. Often as he walked the streets some one who knew him would point him out, and exclaim, 'There goes the small-coal man, who is a lover of learning, a performer of music, and a companion for gentlemen.' The circumstances of Britton's death are as remarkable as those of his life; he was literally frightened out of his life by a practical joke which was played on him by one Robe, a justice of the peace, and a frequenter of his concerts, who one day introduced as his friend a man who had the sobriquet of the 'Talking Smith,' but whose real name was Honeyman. This man possessed the power of ventriloquism, and when he saw Britton he, by a preconcerted arrangement, announced in a solemn voice, which seemed to come from a long distance, the death of Britton in a few hours, unless he immediately fell upon his knees and repeated the Lord's Prayer. Britton, in the terror of his soul, instinctively obeyed; but the chord of his life was unstrung by this sudden shock. A brief illness supervened, and in a few days he died. His death occurred in September, 1714, when he was upwards of sixty years of age. On the 1st of October his remains were followed to the grave by a great concourse of people, and interred in St. James's churchyard." Though Britton was honest and upright, ill-natured people, says Walpole, called him a Jesuit and an atheist, and said that the people attended his meetings to talk sedition and practise magic. At his death the worthy smallcoal man left 1,400 books, twenty-seven fine musical instruments, and some valuable music.

Berkeley Street, formerly called Bartlett Street, was so named from its chief pride, Berkeley House, which stood at the corner facing St. John's Lane. The advanced wings of the mansion enclosed a spacious forecourt, and at the rear was a large garden. Sir Maurice Berkeley, who lived here, was standard-bearer to Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Queen Elizabeth. He it was who, when Sir Thomas Wyatt was beaten back from Ludgate to Temple Bar, yet would not surrender, induced Wyatt to mount behind him on his horse, and ride to Whitehall. In this house lived and died that pious Earl Berkeley, who, in Charles II.'s time was called "George the Traveller," and "George the Linguist." The first Earl of Berkeley obtained the title of Viscount Dursley and Earl of Berkeley as a reward for his loyalty to Charles II. When the English prisoners were to be released from Algiers he offered to advance the money for their redemption. He bestowed on Sion College a valuable library, and he wrote some religious meditations, which obtained for him a eulogy from Waller. He died in 1698. His second daughter, Lady Theophila, married the pious and learned Robert Nelson, author of "Fasts and Festivals." At what period Berkeley House was pulled down is unknown, but in the year 1856 a moulded brick, stamped with a lyre, supposed to be a relic of the old mansion, was found in Berkeley Street.

At the south-east end of Ray Street, a broken iron pump, let into the front wall of a dilapidated tenement, says Mr. Pinks, marks, as nearly as possible, the site of the old Clerks' Well, used by the brothers of St. John and the Benedictine nuns, and the place where, as the old chronicler says, the London parish clerks performed their miracle plays. In Stow's time this fine spring was cared for and sheltered with stone. In Aggas's map (about 1560) there is a conduit-house at the south-west corner of the boundary wall of St. Mary's nunnery, and the water falls into an oblong trough, which is enclosed by a low wall. In 1673 the Earl of Northampton gave this spring for the use of the poor of the parish of St. James, but it was at once let to a brewer. Strype, writing about 1720, describes the well as at the right-hand side of a lane which led from Clerkenwell to Hockley-in-the-Hole, and it was then enclosed by a high wall, which had been built to bound Clerkenwell Close. Hone, in 1823, writing of the mystery plays of the Middle Ages, points out that as the priory stood about half way down the slope from Clerkenwell Green to the Fleet, people stationed on the rising ground near could have easily seen the quaint performances at the well. Near the pump, erected in 1800, to mark the old well, stood one of the parish watchhouses, erected in 1794.

Vineyard Walk, Clerkenwell, is supposed to mark the site of one of the old priory vineyards. The ground was called the Mount, and against the western slopes grew vines, row above row, there being a small cottage at the top. It existed in this form as late as 1752. There was also a vineyard in East Smithfield as late as the reign of Stephen. It is said that the soil of this Mount Pleasant was sold, in 1765, for £10,000.

That remarkable man, Henry Carey, the author of "Sally in our Alley," one of the very prettiest of old London love songs, lived and died at his house in Great Warner Street. Carey, by profession a music-master and song-writer for Sadler's Wells, was an illegitimate son of the Marquis of Halifax, who presented the crown to William III. He was for long supposed to have written "God Save the King," but the composition has now been traced much further back. The origin of Carey's great hit, "Sally in our Alley," was a 'prentice day's holiday, witnessed by Carey himself. A shoemaker's apprentice making holiday with his sweetheart, treated her with a sight of Bedlam, the puppet-shows, the flying chairs (ups and downs), and all the elegancies of Moorfields, and from thence proceeding to the Farthing Pye House, he gave her a collation of buns, cheesecakes, stuffed beef, and bottled ale; through all of which scenes the author dodged them. Charmed with the sumplicity of their courtship, he wrote his charming song of "Sally in our Alley," which has been well described as one of the most perfect little pictures of humble life in the language. Reduced to poverty or despair by some unknown cause, Carey hung himself in 1743. Only a halfpenny was found in his pocket.


The Red Bull Theatre, a house as well known, in Elizabeth's time, as the Globe or the Fortune, stood at the south-west corner of what was afterwards a distillery, in Woodbridge Street. At the commencement of the reign of James I. the queen's servants, who had been the Earl of Worcester's players, performed at this house. In 1613, George Wither, the poet, speaks disparagingly of the place. Edward Alleyn, founder of Dulwich College, played here in 1617. In 1627 we find the king's company obtaining an injunction from the Master of the Revels, forbidding the use of Shakespeare's plays by the Red Bull company. Some of the earliest female performers upon record in this country appeared at the Red Bull. The theatre was rebuilt and enlarged in 1633, when it was, probably for the first time, roofed in, and decorated somewhat elaborately, the management particularly priding itself on a stage curtain of "pure Naples silk." We find Carew, in some commendatory lines on a play of Davenant's, denouncing the Red Bull performances as bombast and nonsense.


During the Commonwealth, when the victorious zealots prohibited stage plays, the Red Bull company were permitted to produce drolls and farces. From a print dated 1622 we see that the stage was at that time lighted by chandeliers, and that there were boxes for spectators behind the actors. At the Restoration the king's players acted for a few days at the Red Bull, and then went to a new playhouse built for them in Vere Street, Clare Market. Pepys speaks of the Red Bull as a low theatre, and the performance as bad. The house closed in 1663, and was then turned into a fencingschool.

In the same street as the Red Bull Theatre, in Queen Anne's reign, Ned Ward, a coarse but clever writer we have often quoted, kept a publichouse. In his poetical address to the public he says, with indistinct reference to the Red Bull Theatre—
"There, on that ancient, venerable ground,
Where Shakespeare in heroic buskins trod,
Within a good old fabrick may be found
Celestial liquors, fit to charm a god;
Rich nectar, royal punch, and home-brewed ale,
Such as our fathers drank in time of yore.
* * * * * *
Commodious room, with Hampstead air supplied.
* * * * * *
No bacchanalian ensigns at the door,
To give the public notice, are displayed,
Yet friends are welcome. We shall say no more,
But hope their friendship will promote a trade."

Ward, who retorted an attack of Pope's in the "Dunciad," was, as we have mentioned, a friend of the musical coal-man, and at his public-house Britton's books and musical instruments were sold after his death.

The old church of St. James, Clerkenwell, was only a fragment in Stow's time. No. 22 in the Close was the original rectory house. The church was sold in 1656 to trustees for the parish. The steeple fell down in 1623, after having stood for five centuries, and, being badly rebuilt, fell again, when nearly repaired, the bells breaking in the roof and gallery, and all the pews. There was no organ in the church till within sixty years of its demolition. The old building was pulled down in 1788, and a fine monument of Sir William Weston, the last prior of St. John's, was sold to Sir George Booth, and removed to Burleigh. The prior's effigy represented a skeleton. There was also a fine brass over the monument of Dr. John Bell, Bishop of Worcester in the time of Henry VIII., to whom it is said he acted as secretary. He was engaged by the king in the matter of his divorce from Catherine of Arragon and Anne of Cleves. He was buried, says Green, the historian of Worcestershire, "like a bishop, with mitre and odours, things that belong to a bishop, with two white branches, two dozen staves, torches, and four great tapers, near the altar," in the old church of St. James, Clerkenwell. On the north side of the church stood a costly stone altar-tomb, with Corinthian pillars, to the memory of Lady Elizabeth Berkeley, whose effigy lay in state, with the head of a negro at her feet. This lady was a gentlewoman to the Princess Elizabeth, in the Tower, and re. fusing to go to mass, was so threatened that she was compelled to fly to Geneva, where she remained till the death of the persecuting Mary. There was also the monument of Thomas Bedingfield, one of Queen Elizabeth's gentlemen pensioners, the son of that worthy Governor of the Tower who treated Elizabeth with such kindness and forbearance when, in her earlier years, she was a prisoner in his care.

The old church also contained a marble tablet, affixed to a chancel pillar, to the memory of that patient old antiquary, John Weever, who collected a great volume of epitaphs and inscriptions. A tomb to the memory of Elizabeth, Countess of Exeter, who married the grandson of the famous Burleigh, and died in 1653, is now in the vaults of the new church. On a painted board near this tomb it was stated that the venerable countess was grandmother to thirty-two children, and great-grandmother to thirty-three. In the old chapter-house, which had been turned into a vestry, was buried Sir Thomas Holt, father of the famous Lord Chief Justice Holt. Near the south-east corner of the church was a black and white marble monument, which had been erected in memory of George Strode, an old Cavalier officer, and a great benefactor to the poor of Clerkenwell.

The new church of St. James, which cost nearly £12,000, was consecrated by Bishop Porteus, in 1792. The church contains several interesting monuments, including one erected to the memory of Bishop Burnet, in 1715, who, as we have already stated, was buried beneath the altar in the old church. The plain blue slab, carved with his arms, surrounded by the garter, is now preserved in the vault. Against the wall, on the gallery staircase, is a memorial stone to the famous Clerkenwell archer, Sir William Wood, captain of the Finsbury archers, who died in 1691. He was the wearer of many a prize-badge, and the author of "The Bowman's Glory," a curious little book in praise of archery. He lived to the age of eighty-two, and three flights of whistling arrows were discharged over his grave.