Westminster: Tothill Fields and neighbourhood

Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. Public Domain.


Edward Walford, 'Westminster: Tothill Fields and neighbourhood', in Old and New London: Volume 4, (London, 1878) pp. 14-26. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp14-26 [accessed 26 May 2024].

Edward Walford. "Westminster: Tothill Fields and neighbourhood", in Old and New London: Volume 4, (London, 1878) 14-26. British History Online, accessed May 26, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp14-26.

Walford, Edward. "Westminster: Tothill Fields and neighbourhood", Old and New London: Volume 4, (London, 1878). 14-26. British History Online. Web. 26 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp14-26.

In this section



"No mead so fit
For courtly joust or tourney brave."—Cavalier Song.

Origin of the Word "Tothill"—Punishment of Necromancers—Grant of a Market and Fair to be held in "Tuthill"—Burials in Tothill Fields—The "Five Houses" or "Seven Chimneys"—The Pest-house—The "Maze" and Public Recreation Ground—The "Butts"—Trial by Wager of Battle—The Last "Affair of Honour"—"Masked Highwaymen in Tothill Fields"—Tothill Fields in the time of Charles I.—Westminster Fair—St. Edward's Fair—Tothill Street—Strutton Ground—Southern, the Dramatic Poet—Drinking-houses in the Olden Time—The Old Swan-yard—The "Cock" Tavern—Royal Aquarium and Summer and Winter Garden—Old and New Pye Streets—The Broadway—York Street—Van Dun's Almshouses—Milton's Residence—Emmanuel Hospital—Westminster Chapel—The Infirmary—James Street—Richard Glover—William Gifford.

The origin of the word "Tot-hill" is probably the "toot," or beacon hill, from the Welch word "twt," a spring or rising; and the name was probably given to this district from a beacon placed here, as the highest spot in and around the flat region of Westminster. The antiquary, Mr. Wykeham Archer, however, derives the name from Teut, the chief divinity of the Druids, and the equivalent of Thoth, the Egyptian Mercury, adding that the "Tot," "Teut," "Tut," or "Thoth" Hill, often, by the way, styled "Tuttle" and "Tut-hill," was the spot on which solemn proclamations were made to the people. Another derivation may also be suggested. The Normans, as we happen to know, often spoke of these parts as "Thorny Island, et tout la champ." What more easy than the corruption of these two words into "Tuttle?" It should, however, be stated that in Rocque's Map (1746), "Toote Hill" is marked at a bend in the Horseferry Road. "Toot," also, in one of its varied forms, is not an uncommon prefix to the names of other places in different parts of England, as, Totnes, Totham, Tutbury, Tooting, Tottenham, &c.; and it may be added that all these are places of considerable elevation compared with the surrounding parts.

"Tothill Fields," says Mr. Archer, in his "Vestiges of Old London," "were, within three centuries, part of a marshy tract of land lying between Millbank and Westminster Abbey, and on which stood a few scattered buildings, some of them the residences of noble personages." They must have witnessed some extraordinary scenes in the Middle Ages. Here necromancers were punished by the destruction of their instruments; for we read that, in the reign of Edward III., a man was taken "practising with a dead man's head, and brought to the bar at the King's Bench, where, after abjuration of his art, his trinkets were taken from him, carried to Tothill, and burned before his face." And, again, in the time of Richard I., Raulf Wigtoft, chaplain to Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, "had provided a girdle and ring, cunningly intoxicated, wherewith he meant to have destroyed Simon (the Dean of York) and others; but his messenger was intercepted, and his girdle and ring burned at this place before the people."

These fields, according to Stow, in the reign of Henry III., formed part of a manor in Westminster, belonging to "John Mansell, the King's counsellor and priest, who did invite to a stately dinner (at his house at Totehill) the kings and queens of England and Scotland, with divers courtiers and citizens, and whereof there was such a multitude that seven hundred messes of meat did not serve for the first dinner." By an Act passed in the same reign, 34 Henry III., the Abbot of Westminster obtained "leave to keepe a markett in the Tuthill every Munday, and a faire every yeare, for three days." Here, in 1236, "royal solemnities and goodly jousts were held" after the coronation of Queen Eleanor, consort of Henry III. Two centuries afterwards, the fields in the neighbourhood were used for appeals by combat; and Stow describes "a combate that was appointed to have been fought" the 18th of June, "in Trinity Terme, 1571," for a "certain manour or demaine lands," in the Isle of Harty, "adjoining to the Isle of Sheppey, in Kent," and for which "it was thought good," says the historian, that "the Court should sit in Tuthill Fields, where was prepared one plot of ground, one and twenty yardes square, double railed, for the combate, without the West Square." In the time of Nicholas Culpepper, the author of the well-known "Herbal," these fields were famous for their parsley. In 1651 (August 25th) "the trained bands of London, Westminster," &c., to the number of 14,000, we are told, "drew out into Tuttle Fields." Here, too, were built the "Five Houses," or "Seven Chimneys," as pest-houses for victims to the plague, and in 1665 many of those who had fallen victims to that direful scourge were buried here. Under date of July 18, 1665, Samuel Pepys writes in his "Diary:"—"I was much troubled this day to hear at Westminster how the officers do bury the dead in the open Tuttle Fields, pretending want of room elsewhere; whereas the New Chapel churchyard was walled in at the publick charge in the last plague-time, merely for want of room, and now none but such as are able to pay dear for it can be buried there." Here, a short while previously, some "1,200 Scotch prisoners, taken at the battle of Worcester," were interred; for in the accounts of the churchwardens of St. Margaret's, Westminster, there is the payment of "thirty shillings for sixty-seven loads of soil laid on the graves of Tothill Fields, wherein," it is added, "the Scotch prisoners are buried." Some of the Scotch were "driven like a herd of swine," says Heath's "Chronicle," "through Westminster to Tuthill Fields," and there sold to several merchants, and sent to the island of Barbadoes.

The "Five Houses," if we may trust the Builder, retained much of their primitive appearance in 1832. "With the moss and lichens growing on the roofs and walls, and their generally old-fashioned quaintness, a very small stretch of the imagination removed the buildings which had surrounded them even then, and brought them once more into the open ground. They marked the site of a battery and breastwork when the fortifications around the cities of London and Westminster were hurriedly thrown up in 1642, by an order of Parliament. This battery is marked as about midway between the Chelsea Road and the bank of the river opposite Vauxhall."

The Pest Houses were built by Lord Craven as a lazaretto for the reception of the victims of the Great Plague which preceded the Fire of London. We have already mentioned this nobleman in our account of Craven House, Drury Lane; and it deserves to be recorded to his credit that at that awful season he was not satisfied with building this hospital, but that he sheltered many of the sufferers by that disease who had no residences except in the doomed city, remaining himself on the spot, "with the same coolness with which he had fought the battles of his mistress, the Queen of Bohemia," in order to maintain order and to mitigate the horrors of the scene.

These "pest-houses" consisted of a row of redbrick buildings, and were erected at a cost of £250. At the beginning of the last century they were made into almshouses for twenty-four aged married people. Some remains of them are—or were recently—to be seen near Vauxhall Bridge Road.

"Many a torch or lanthorn-lighted group of mysterious-looking figures have borne the litter of the stricken to this then solitary spot, not so much with hope of recovery, as from fear of spreading the dire infection by retaining them within the frighted and unhealthy town." In connection with the surrounding fields, there are several incidents recorded illustrative of the days of old. Prior to the Statutes of Restraint, they were considered to be within the limits of the sanctuary of the Abbey.

In the seventeenth century the people used to resort to a "Maze" in these same Tothill Fields, which, according to an old writer, was "much frequented in the summer-time, in fair afternoons," the fields being described as "of great use, pleasure, and recreation," to the King's Scholars and neighbours. And Sir Richard Steele, writing in "The Tatler," in 1709, says, "Here was a military garden, a bridewell, and, as I have heard tell, a racecourse." A bear-garden, kept by one William Wells, stood upon the site of the present Vincent Square during the reign of Queen Anne. Mr. Mackenzie Walcott says that, as lately as 1793, there was a famous bear-garden in these fields; and near Willow Walk resided one Haverfield, a noted highwayman, who kept two bears in his rooms as myrmidons. Down to as recent a period as 1820, that most barbarous sport of bull-baiting occasionally took place here; and the three days' fair, held in honour of St. Edward, was not finally discontinued till some time afterwards.

Upon the spot now occupied by Artillery Place, the men of Westminster used to practise at the "butts," which were provided by the parish in the year 1579, in obedience to an ordinance of Queen Elizabeth. In the beginning of the last century it is described as a large inclosure, "made use of by those who delight in military exercises." The butts were a large mound of turf, and at them the volunteers used to shoot. They were close to the "Five Chimneys." The ground was inclosed within a ditch, and a "shooting-house" was provided for shelter and retirement. The actual butts were removed before the battle of Waterloo, and the name of "The Butts" has almost perished from the memory of the present generation, here as elsewhere.

"The open Tothill Fields, as they were called," observes a writer in the Builder, "existed in this state till 1810, with a group of lonely cottages standing in their midst, when the note of preparation for an altered site might have been heard in the construction of the iron bridge at Vauxhall. Dr. Vincent had already inclosed a portion of the fields for the square which bears his name, and the Westminster Gas and Coke Company removed their offices, and commenced their new buildings in the Horseferry Road, on the site of the beforementioned nursery. In 1830, the Vauxhall Road was not entirely built upon, and bits of the hedgerow were still to be seen. Patches of greensward might as yet be observed beneath the litter of old iron, which Andrew Mann so liberally spread over any plot of waste ground; and the site of the present South Belgravia remained open marketgarden ground, intersected by bridle-paths, for some ten years subsequently. The present Warwick Street, uniting Westminster with Chelsea, occupies the precise site of the 'Willow Walk.'"

Tothill Fields, in the days of trial by wager of battle, was the place where the judges sat in all the majesty of their official robes, wigs, and gold chains, as arbiters of these encounters—one of the last remnants of the barbarous laws of another age. It is related that in 1441 such a one occurred in a combat between "two theves." The "pælour" (appellant) is described to have "hadde the felde and victory within three strokes." This absurdity was not formally set a side until 1819, when an Act of Parliament was passed forbidding all such trials both in civil and criminal matters.

Tothill Fields was also, in the seventeenth century, a celebrated duelling-ground; the last "affair of honour" fought there, of which we have any account, took place, it is said, in 1711, when a Kentish gentleman, Sir Cholmley Dering, was killed by a Mr. Richard Thornhill—the fools fighting with pistols so near that the muzzles touched each other.

There is extant a curious etching, by Hollar, of Tothill Fields as they were in the time of Charles I. They appear to be a dead level, broken on by a clump of trees in the centre, forming a sort of maze. The foreground is broken by a row of slight terraces, not unlike the "butts;" and some ladies are promenading leisurely, dressed in the fashionable costume of the day.

In an able article on this interesting locality, a writer in the Builder, of January, 1875, observes:—"The solitary character of this tract of land, spreading out to the Chelsea Road, beyond which lay the 'Five Fields' extending to Knightsbridge, is illustrated by an incident not uncommon to the neighbourhood at a period when the highwayman would lie in ambush for the belated pedestrian, or for the chaise, which in this instance is conveying not the most loyal subjects of George II. from one of those political meetings when the 'mug-house riots' were at their height. Such was the disturbed condition of society at this period, that two witnesses were sufficient for the immediate arrest of any party suspected of harbouring either Romish priest, or other of proven Jacobite politics, and great abuses were consequent upon this hasty legislation. The panic created by the rumoured march of the Highlanders, with the numerous party of the disaffected in London, kept the alarmed citizens wakeful in their beds; for the Highlanders were feared as a terrible race, and possibly no anticipated result had been surrounded with greater doubt and uncertainty, but that the energy of the King, backed as it was by the commercial interests of the Londoners, threw the balance in favour of the new dynasty. In the summer of 1745, two adherents of the House of Stuart—one a young officer in the Pretender's army—had hired a chaise to convey them from Westminster to the then remote village of Chelsea. To avoid the rioting in the town, they had taken a route across the lessdisturbed fields. They had not proceeded very far, however, before two well-mounted men made their appearance, and so suddenly that had they risen out of the earth it could not have surprised them more. Both men wore masks; and whilst one of them stopped the postboy, the other rode up to the window of the chaise, and scrutinised the occupants within. The post-boy spoke in too low a tone to be heard by the travellers, but whatever might have been the nature of the conversation, it was sufficiently talismanic to relieve the party of their apprehensions. Making a sign to his companion, both men turned their horses' heads in the direction of the town, and the post-boy proceeded on his journey. Upon reaching their destination, they asked the 'boy' who his rather suspiciouslooking friends were, to which he gave no answer, but upon being pressed again on the subject, said, 'It's not much matter who they are, but they belong to those who don't care to meddle with Prince Charley's boys!' The mystery seemed now greater than before, and further inquiry might only have involved further difficulty. It was evident the post-boy knew too much, but in what manner he had become acquainted with their political bias it was impossible for them to conceive. Treating the matter, however, as a joke, and paying the boy handsomely, the matter ended, but their anxiety only terminated by their quitting London for the North. The widow of one of these gentlemen died in 1824, at the advanced age of ninety-five years. After the amnesty, her husband, who fought at the battle of Culloden, had, in common with others, some curious restraints laid upon him, one of which was that he could not ride a horse of a higher value than £10 without forfeiture of it to any one who chose to avail himself of the prohibition." But this restraint was also imposed on all Roman Catholics in the seventeenth and the early part of the eighteenth century.

On that part of Tothill Fields which is now covered by the Westminster House of Correction and some neighbouring streets, was held, in ancient times, Westminster Fair, locally named "St. Magdalen's," or "Magdalen's," from the day on which it was celebrated. Mr. Frost, in his "Old Showmen of London," tells us that it was established in 1257, under a charter granted by Henry III. to the Abbot and Canons of St. Peter's Church. From the same authority we learn that the three days to which it was originally limited were extended by favour of Edward III. to thirty-one; but the fair never proved a dangerous rival to that of St. Bartholomew's, in Smithfield, and gradually fell into discredit and disuse.

In the reign of Henry III., St. Edward's Fair, originally held in St. Margaret's Churchyard, was removed hither, and in 1302, the Abbot of Westminster was allowed to levy tolls upon all traders who sold their wares at the time, even within the precincts of the Palace. In 1628 was preserved in the muniment-room of St. Margaret's Church, King Henry III.'s patent to the Abbot of Westminster, giving him leave to keep a market in Tothill every Monday, and a fair every year for three days. The fair was held in Rochester Row, in the space between Emery Hill's Almshouses and the ground now occupied by the Church of St. Stephen the Martyr. The fair was in existence in 1819, but died away gradually, previously to the general suppression of fairs in 1840.

Tothill Street, which extends to the Broadway from the Broad Sanctuary, near the west front of the Abbey, is the most ancient street in Westminster. It was at one time inhabited by noblemen "and the flower of the gentry." Here the Bishop of Chester was residing in 1488, and in 1522 Lord Dudley rented a house here from the fraternity of St. Mary. Sir Andrew Dudley also lived and died here. At the north-west end of the street, in what is now called Strutton Ground, were the residences of Lord Dacre of the South and Lord Grey de Wilton, as stated in the previous chapter. In 1612 Sir George Carew died at Carew House in this street; and in a house near the Gate House, at one time towards the end of the last century, lived the famous Edmund Burke. Lincoln House was the office of the Revels, when Sir Henry Herbert was master in 1644–5. Southern, the dramatic poet, and author of "Oroonoko," for the last ten years of his life, resided in Tothill Street, where he died in the year 1746. The poet Gray, in a letter to Horace Walpole, dated Burnham, Bucks, 1737, says, "We have old Mr. Southern at a gentleman's house a little way off, who often comes to see us. He is now seventy years old, and has almost wholly lost his memory; but is as agreeable an old man as can be—at least I persuade myself so, when I look at him, and think of 'Isabella' and 'Oroonoko.'" He is said to have been wealthy, but very mean; he used to print tickets on his benefit nights, and press them for sale upon his aristocratic friends. Thomas Betterton, the actor, and friend of Pope, was born in this street.

In the reign of Elizabeth, there were houses on both sides of Tothill Street; those on the north side had large gardens reaching to St. James's Park, and those upon the south had likewise extensive grounds, extending as far as Orchard Street. Very few houses were then built in Petty France (now York Street); a few detached residences appear on the south side only of Orchard Street; and some villas in St. Anne's Lane, Pye Street, and Duck Lane, with gardens along a stream.

Most of the signs of the old inns of Westminster were either religious charges, or else the cognisances of sovereigns or of noblemen residing in the neighbourhood. Such were the "Salutation" (of the Blessed Virgin), in Barton Street; the "Maidenhead," or, more properly, the "Maiden's Head"—in other words, that of "Our Lady;" the "St. George and the Dragon," the "Swan," the "Antelope" (the badge of Henry V.), the "Sun" (that of Richard II.), and the "Blue Boar," the cognisance of the Veres, Earls of Oxford. The "Chequers," in Abingdon Street, was the bearing of the Earls of Arundel, who at one time were empowered by the king to grant licenses to public-houses. Hence the frequency of the "Chequers" as a sign, especially in Westminster, where it was constantly to be seen painted on the walls and door-posts of hostelries; and so the "needy knife-grinder" of Canning was neither the only nor the latest toper who has spent last night in this fair city "a drinking at the Chequers."

Swan Yard was so called after the old hostelry, noted as a resort for highwaymen, "The Swan with Two Necks." The latter word is, as most persons know, a corruption from "nicks"—the marks set upon the birds by the Lord Mayor, in his annual "swan-upping," or, as it is called, vulgarly, "swan-hopping," when he makes his yearly progress up the Thames to count the young cygnets and old swans within the civic jurisdiction.

One of the oldest taverns in the metropolis, bearing the sign of "The Cock," surrounding a quaint old inn-yard, stood till 1871, on the north side of Tothill Street. An ancient coat of arms, those of England and France carved in stone, discovered in this house, was walled up in the front of the building. "Tradition," writes Mr. Larwood in his "History of Sign-boards," "says that the workmen employed at the building of the east end of Westminster Abbey, in the reign of Henry VII., used to receive their wages here." Later, it enjoyed a reputation on quite another account, as having been the inn from which the first stage-coach to Oxford started, some two centuries ago. Those who knew the inn down to a very recent date say that in the back parlour there was a picture of a jolly and bluff-looking man in a red coat, who is said to have been its driver. The house was built so as to inclose a quaint and spacious inn-yard, much frequented by carriers, not unlike some of those still standing in Bishopsgate Street and the Borough. The house in all probability was in former times an inn of considerable importance, as its rafters and timbers were principally of cedar intermixed with oak. It was formerly entered by steps. The building exhibited traces of great antiquity, and appears at one time to have been a house of some pretensions. There was a curious hidingplace on the staircase, which may have secreted either a "mass priest" or else a highwayman in the days when both were in open hostility to the law of the land. In the house was also formerly a massive carving of Abraham about to offer his son Isaac; and another, in wood, representing the adoration of the Magi, said to have been kept in pledge, at some remote period, for an unpaid score. The cock may have been adopted as a sign here on account of the vicinity of the Abbey, of which St. Peter was the patron, for in the Middle Ages a cock crowing on the top of a pillar was often one of the accessories in a picture of the Apostle. This certainly was a very unkind allusion for the saint, particularly when accompanied with such a sneering rhyme as that under the sign of the Red Cock in Amsterdam in 1682. On the one side was written:—

"When the cock began to crow
St. Peter began to cry."

On the reverse:—

"The cock does not crow for nothing;
Ask St. Peter, he can tell you!"

MILTON'S HOUSE. (From a Drawing by F. W. Archer.)

THE OLD "COCK" TAVERN. (From an Original Drawing in the possession of F. G. Crace, Esq.)

The "Cock and Tabard" in Tothill Street is described by Stow as having existed as far back as the reign of Edward III. He also says that at this tavern the workmen were paid during the building of the Abbey, when the wages of most of the artificers did not exceed one penny per day. On the demolition of the ancient inn, a new one bearing the sign of the "Cock" was built on the opposite side of the street. Shortly after its erection, while some draymen were in the act of placing a supply of porter in the cellars, it was discovered that an additional wedge was required, and accordingly one of the men looking round perceived a piece of oak, which had formed part of one of the girders of the ancient building. This, it was conceived, would answer the purpose, if it could be riven asunder, and this process was accordingly pursued. "Much to the amazement, however, of all present," we read in a newspaper account of the discovery, "in the course of the operation there suddenly emerged, from one of the mortise-holes or some other aperture, a considerable quantity of gold coins, consisting of fortyone rose nobles, and thirteen marks. The former coins were of the date of Edward III., the first reign in which gold coin was struck in this country. The marks were of the reign of Henry VII. and VIII." The whole of the coin is stated to have been in an admirable state of preservation.

The north side of Tothill Street, at the present time (September, 1875), is almost entirely taken up by a large building which is in course of erection, for the "Royal Aquarium and Summer and Winter Garden." The ground occupies an irregular parallelogram of nearly three acres, extending from Princes Street to the corner of Dartmouth Street, and receding to the north nearly as far as the backs of the houses in Queen Street. The edifice, which is being erected from the designs of Mr. Bedborough, is in the Classical style, constructed of red brick and Portland stone, with an arched roof of glass, similar in general plan to that of the Crystal Palace, though widely different in its details. It is two storeys in height, and contains in the basement a great central tank of salt and fresh water, holding no less than 600,000 gallons. On the ground floor, at the eastern end, is a large vestibule, or ante-chamber, leading to the central hall, or promenade, and containing a series of table-tanks for the reception of the smaller fish, the zoophytes, sea-anemones, and the like.

New Tothill Street was in the last century called White Hart Street. In the New Way, not far from where the present Workhouse stands, resided the well-known Sir Robert Pye, from whom Old and New Pye Streets derive their names, and the husband of Anne Hampden, the "patriot's" daughter. The New Way Chapel stood, according to Hopwood's map of 1801, at the west end of the Great Almonry, opposite the entrance to Jeffery's Buildings from New Tothill Street: here the celebrated Calvinist, Romaine, used to preach, previous to his election as Lecturer of St. Dunstan's-in-theWest. "At this time," says Mr. Mackenzie Walcott, " Dr. Wilson, then Rector of St. Margaret's, was a suitor at Court for a bishopric; and being asked by King George III., 'What news from his parish?' he replied that there was 'that fellow Romaine, who had got a chapel in the New Way, and drew all his parishioners from the church.' The king quickly replied, 'Well, we will make a bishop of him; that will silence him!'" During the last century, the Government rented the New Way Chapel from the Dean and Chapter, and the Guards attended divine service there for many years.

One side of the Broadway is now nearly occupied by the St. James's Park station on the Metropolitan District Railway. Here James I. granted a hay-market to be held for a certain number of years; a further term was obtained by licence of Charles II., but it had expired long before 1730. In a survey made in 1722 mention is made of " the White Horse and Black Horse Inns, for the entertainment of man and horse; there being none in the parish of St. Margaret, at Westminster, for stage-coaches, wagons, or carriers."

Dick Turpin, the notorious highwayman, it is said, lodged in an obscure court hard by, and used to set out from this place on his marauding expeditions, upon his famous mare, Black Bess, from which one of these taverns took its name.

Christ Church, in the Broadway, rebuilt in the Early Pointed style, and dedicated to our Lord, in 1843, stands upon the site of a former edifice which was known as the New Chapel. It consists of a chancel, with pentagonal apse, approached by a lofty flight of steps; a nave, with a lofty open timber roof, separated from the north and south aisles by fourteen cast-iron columns; and a tower (intended to receive a spire, to be 200 feet high) attached to the north-west angle of the nave. The architect was Mr. A. Poynter. Several of the windows are filled with stained glass, the subjects being illustrative of the life of our Saviour. This New Chapel was erected upon a piece of waste ground belonging to the Dean and Chapter; its founder being Mr. George Darrell, Prebendary of St. Peter's, who, in the year 1631, bequeathed £400 to build it, provided it was used for "publick prayers on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and for prayers and plain catechisings on Sunday afternoons." The bequest was insufficient to complete the building, and was therefore increased by voluntary subscriptions.

Archbishop Laud was a liberal contributor to this chapel, and in its churchyard was interred Sir William Waller, one of the heroes of the Parliamentary army, who died in 1668. In this burialground was a memorial of a parishioner, Margaret Batten, who was buried here in 1739. Her portrait is preserved in St. Margaret's Workhouse, in which she died (as asserted) at the advanced age of 136 years.

York Street, the thoroughfare running westward in continuation of the Broadway, was formerly known by the name of "Petty France." There were two districts in this locality with foreign names, says Widmore—"Petty Calais," where the woolstaplers principally resided; and "Petty France," where lived the French merchants, who came over to trade at the Staple. An Act of an interchange between the King and the Abbot of Westminster, in the reign of Henry VIII., mentions "a certain great messuage or tenement commonly called 'Pety Caleys,' and all messuages, houses, barns, stables, dove-houses, orchards, gardens, pools, fisheries, waters, ditches, lands, meadows, and pastures." The street received its present name, by a vote of the inhabitants, from Frederick, Duke of York, son of George II., who for some time had a residence among them.

Between Chapel Street and the narrow turning known as Ermin's or Hermit's Hill, stood until very recently a charitable institution—one of a similar character to many others in this neighbourhood—known as the Red Lion Almshouses, but more commonly as Van Dun's Almshouses. These houses contained, originally, twenty rooms, to be inhabited rent free by as many poor women. They were founded in the reign of Elizabeth, under whom and whose predecessors Van Dun officiated as Yeoman of the Guard. His monument in St. Margaret's, Westminster, has a good bust and the following inscription:—"Cornelius Van Dun lieth here, borne at Breda, in Brabant; soldier with King Henry at Turney, Yeoman of the Guard, and Vsher to King Henry, King Edward, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth: of honest and vertuous life, a careful man for poore folke, who in the end of this towne did build for poore widowes twenty houses at his own cost." Round the figure is inscribed:—"Obijt anno Dom. 1577, buried the 4 of September, ætatis suæ 94."

The tenements founded by Van Dun were of the smallest and plainest description. Not being endowed, they were appropriated to the parish pensioners of St. Margaret's, Westminster. The site of these humble edifices was formerly called St. Hermit's Hill, probably from a cell or hermitage there situate. A chapel dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen is mentioned by Stow as standing near this spot, "wholly ruinated."

These almshouses retained much of their primitive character down to the year 1862; but the alterations in the neighbourhood since the building of the St. James's Park Station of the Metropolitan District Railway have at length swept them away. Stow, in his survey of London and Westminster, mentions them as standing upon "St. Hermit's" Hill; and in Rocque's map this hill is clearly marked as bordering on the fields. Even at the beginning of the last century this neighbourhood retained enough of its rural or suburban character for the churchyard of the New Chapel (now Christ Church) to be considered the "pleasantest about London and Westminster."

The author of the article in the Builder to which we have referred in the commencement of this chapter, observes that—"Some interest is awakened by the circumstance that the site on which these almshouses once stood was a spot sacred alike to the Briton, the Roman, and the Saxon. The 'Thoth' of the Egyptian," he argues, "is identical with the Hermes or Mercury of the Greek and Roman, as also with the Tuisco or Teut of the Saxon. The hill of 'Hermes' and the 'teuthill' of the Saxon are the same; and the name which Stow gives it, and by which it seems to have been known, is a curious coincidence, since the transition from 'Hermes' to St. Hermit is not very difficult of solution. The mound once sacred to this tutelary divinity of merchants and wayfarers is now a heap of rubbish; the caduceus and petasus have taken refuge in the locomotive and telegraph hard by; but through the long vista of time perhaps this transition is not greater than the annual setting up of the May-pole on the neighbouring village green, or the wayside inn and cottages with their gardens yet in the remembrance of the octogenarian."

The house No. 19 in York Street occupies the site of the residence of John Milton, which was one of the garden-houses for which the author of "Paradise Lost" appears to have had a preference. Part of the grounds have been walled up, and appropriated to the house formerly inhabited by Jeremy Bentham. The cotton willow-tree planted by the great poet was in a flourishing condition a few years back, although the trunk showed great signs of decay; it has now entirely disappeared, and in the place of the garden workshops and other buildings have sprung up. The present frontage of the house answers to No. 19 in this street, but it is evident that the original front was that facing the Park. On this side Jeremy Bentham placed a small tablet, with the following inscription:—"Sacred to Milton, Prince of Poets." In the old wall which bounded the garden on the Park side, opposite the house, were the indications of a door, long built up, which was probably used by Milton in passing between his house and Whitehall during his intercourse with Cromwell in the capacity of Latin secretary. In the house itself the arrangement of the windows has been entirely changed. It is probable that they formerly extended along the whole front, with sliding frames or lattices, divided by panelled spaces. The original panelling remains in the large room on the first floor. The upper rooms are small, and the staircase, which has not been altered, is steep and narrow. The ground-floor seems to have been comprised in one large room, as the original fireplace was evidently situated about the centre of the wall on the west side. This was probably the family room, or compromise between kitchen and parlour, so common to the economy of houses of respectable pretensions in the olden time. This distinguished house was, in later years, the residence of William Hazlitt, the critic and essayist.

An American paper of 1874 stated that the Historical Society of Pennsylvania has recently received from the Hon. Benjamin Rush an original baluster or newel-post from the stairway of the house formerly inhabited by John Milton, the poet, accompanied by a water-colour sketch of the building, with the following certificate from the hand of the celebrated English jurist, Jeremy Bentham:—"A.D. 1821, August 15. Sketch of a house for some time inhabited by John Milton. It is situated in Westminster, in the street then called Petty France, but on the occasion of the French Revolutionary War, newly named York Street, in horror of France and honour of the Duke of York. This sketch was this day taken from the garden attached to the residence of Jeremy Bentham, into which garden the house has a door, being, under the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, his property. From this house, August 14th, 1821, under the direction of the said Jeremy Bentham, was cut the balustrade pillar, composed of four twisted columns, presented by him, in company with this sketch, to his truly dear and highly-respected friend Richard Rush, Envoy Extraordinary to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Witness my hand, Jeremy Bentham."

In Little James Street is Emmanuel Hospital, known also by the name of Lady Dacre's Almshouses. It was founded and built in the year 1600, under the will of Ann, widow of Gregory Fiennes, Lord Dacre, for the support of ten men and ten women, as pensioners; and also for ten boys and ten girls, with a master for the former and a mistress for the latter. The children, when educated and grown up, were formerly apprenticed to different trades. The buildings and gardens of the hospital occupy about three and a half acres. The original buildings becoming decayed, the present almshouses were erected in the reign of Queen Anne, the chapel in that of George II., and the schoolrooms in the present century. In 1873 the Endowed Schools Commission successfully carried a "scheme" for the "reform" of the schools attached to the hospital. This institution, therefore, was the first of the kind which the "reforming" tendencies of the age may be said to have touched. These schools afford a good middleclass education to sixty-three children, selected from Westminster, Chelsea, and the village of Hayes, near Uxbridge, and also from the City of London and Brandesburton, near Beverley, Yorkshire. All the children are fed, clothed, sheltered, and educated, free of all expense to their relatives. In the education of the girls domestic work has always occupied a prominent position.

The will of Lady Dacre, under which this hospital was established, has often been printed. The testatrix provides, after declaring that her husband in his lifetime, and herself, designed to erect a hospital for the poor in Westminster or its neighbourhood, that her executors, if she should not perform it before her decease, should cause to be erected "a neat and convenient house, with room of habitation for twenty poor folk and twenty poor children," and that it should be entitled "Emmanuel Hospital." She expresses her design to be "the relief of aged people, and the bringing up of children in virtue and good and laudable arts, whereby they may the better live in time to come by their own honest labour," and enjoins her executors to be humble suitors to the Queen for a charter of incorporation. Accordingly a charter was obtained in 1601, ordaining "the house in Tuttle Fields an hospital for the poor, under the name of Emmanuel Hospital," and appointing, after the decease of the last-surviving executor, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London governors in perpetuity. The terms of this charter, however, are somewhat peculiar and contradictory; whilst allowing the governors very direct authority in the management of the charity, it nevertheless entrusts the alms-people themselves with very considerable powers of self-government, and incorporates them as "a body corporate of themselves for ever." This corporation is authorised "to purchase land, to grant leases, to have a common seal, to sue and be sued," &c., to choose its own warden, and "to have the custody of all deeds, writings, and surplus moneys in the common chest provided in the chapel." Practically, by custom, long disuse, and by an Act of Parliament passed in 1794, this corporation is defunct, and the jurisdiction entirely in the hands of the aldermen as the governing body. The statutes of 1601 are interesting, as showing the kind of persons which, in the opinion of Lady Dacre's executors, ought to have preference as pensioners:—"1. Decayed and distressed servants of Lady Dacre. 2. Former servants of this family who have grown poor, lame, or diseased 'in the service of their prince,' or 'without their own fault.' 3. Any poor, honest, godly people past labour. 4. Those born blind, or lamed, or disabled in the service of their prince. 5. Those brought down from riches to poverty without their own fault." The present inmates are entirely of the third class. It would appear from the founder's will that she did not contemplate a school, but rather a cluster of industrial houses, in which each of the aged pensioners, in return for shelter and support, should "bring up and instruct in virtue, and good and laudable acts," one child. But, "as the present poor people are not capable of instructing children, the governors were of opinion that some honest and industrious clergyman who has a wife should be nominated and appointed to read prayers twice a day in the chapel, and instruct the children." Accordingly the school was founded, and the first clerical master appointed in 1735. In 1793 the pensioners' allowance (originally £5 only, and subsequently £15) was increased to £18, and is now fixed at £20 per annum.

In 1794, the lease of the Brandesburton estate having fallen in, the governors obtained an Act of Parliament to "increase and extend the objects of the charity." Ten out-pensioners were added to the almshouse branch, and the benefits of the inpensioners were increased by the addition of twenty chaldrons of coals to their annual pension. In 1821 the number of children was increased from twenty to forty, which number was finally raised to sixty, in 1845, when the new schools were erected. In 1846 the chapel was enlarged, by the addition of an apex on the west side, to serve the purpose of a chancel. Before this time there had been no means of celebrating the holy communion. The altar-piece was purchased at the taking down of the church of St. Benet Fink, near the Royal Exchange. The pulpit is of elaborately-carved oak, and apparently of the time of James I. Under an arch at the north end of the chapel is a small model of the tomb of the founder, Lady Dacre, in Chelsea Church.

Of the masters of the hospital the only man of eminence was the Rev. William Beloe, the translator of Herodotus, who retained the office from 1783 to 1808, when he was appointed Rector of Allhallows, London Wall, and Assistant Librarian in the British Museum.

The most valuable endowments of this ancient charity consist of the manorial estate of Brandesburton, the greater part of which parish belongs to the "poor of Emmanuel Hospital." The aldermen of London, as "trustees of the poor of Emmanuel Hospital," have been liberal and popular landlords. In 1843 they rebuilt the Brandesburton Schools, which had already been founded and endowed by a Yorkshire lady in the reign of George I.

In 1869 was passed the "Endowed Schools' Act," bringing this and other hospital schools under the stern and reforming hands of the "Endowed Schools' Commission." In 1873 this commission carried in Parliament a "scheme" for the reconstruction of this hospital, and the separation of the schools from the almshouse branch of the charity. Under the provisions of this scheme the endowments of four hospital schools in Westminster were to be united under the management of one body of governors, viz., Emmanuel, St. Margaret's, Palmer's, and Emery Hill's hospitals. Out of these endowments it was proposed to establish three large middle-class schools, namely, a boarding-school, to be erected within twenty miles of London, and two day-schools in Westminster, each providing accommodation for 300 boys, of whom 200 in each should pay a small sum for their education, whilst the other 100 free places were to be reserved as scholarships and exhibitions for deserving candidates, principally for those belonging to the public elementary day-schools of Westminster and Chelsea. The governing body, or trustees, as at present constituted, consist of the Lord Mayor of London, the Aldermen, the Recorder, and nine elected inhabitants of Westminster. It may be added that the school will be as soon as possible removed into the country. The almshouse branch of the hospital is not touched by the above scheme, and one-third of the revenues of the charity is henceforth set aside for its support.


The hospital forms three sides of a quadrangle, the fourth side, opening to the street, being enclosed with iron railings and gates. The chapel has an enriched pediment, and is in the centre of the west side of the building.

On the north side of Emmanuel Hospital, and at the corner of James Street and Castle Lane, is a Nonconformist edifice called Westminster Chapel, which was rebuilt in 1864, from the designs of Mr. W. F. Poulton. In an architectural sense it is an adaptation of the Lombardic style to the requirements of a building in which convenient accommodation for a large number of persons, and the best acoustical arrangements, were the main considerations. The chapel is constructed of brick, and, with its semicircular-headed windows and doorways, has an elegant appearance. The campanile, at the north-east corner, rises to a height of about 160 feet. The interior is commodious and admirably adapted for the purpose for which it was built. There are two galleries, the fronts of which are of open iron-work, supported on a wooden basement of such a height as to secure the advantages of an enclosed gallery front; the two ends of the chapel are semi-circular. The ceiling is flat in the centre and coved at the sides; the whole being divided into panels by moulded ribs, springing at the base of the cove from semi-detached stone columns, which divide the wall in bays of equal width round the whole chapel. The coved part of the ceiling is groined between each bay in order to admit of the windows being continued above the caps of the columns.

The Infirmary, out of which Westminster Hospital originated, stood formerly on the east side of Castle Lane.

James Street, which extends from York Street to Buckingham Gate, is so called from its vicinity to the Park. On the west side of this street was formerly Tart Hall, built in 1638, by Nicholas Stone, for Alethea, Countess of Arundel, and belonging to the family of the Howards. It was the residence of William, Viscount Stafford, who was beheaded, on the evidence of Titus Oates, in the reign of Charles II. Having been used for some time as a place of entertainment, it was demolished early in the last century. The old gateway of Tart Hall, which stood till 1737, was not opened after the condemned nobleman passed under it for the last time. According to Strype, the old hall was partly in the parish of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, and partly in that of St. James's: we shall have more to say of it in a subsequent chapter. At the garden wall, on the site of which now stands Stafford Row, a boy was whipped annually, in order to keep the parish bounds in remembrance.


At No. 11 in this street lived the poet, Richard Glover, whose song of "Hosier's Ghost" roused the nation to a war with Spain. Another distinguished writer who resided in James Street was William Gifford, editor of the Quarterly Review for the first fifteen years of its existence: he died here in 1826. His early history is prefixed to his translation of "Juvenal."

A native of Devonshire, and eminently a selfmade man, Gifford was a political writer and critic of no small influence in his lifetime. His early life was spent as a cabin-boy on board a little coastingvessel; but at the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to a shoemaker at Ashburton. In spite of a neglected education, his talents showed themselves in a strong thirst for knowledge. Mathematics at first were his favourite study; and he relates that, in want of paper, he used to hammer scraps of leather smooth, and work his problems on them with a blunt awl. Through the kindness of Mr. Cookesley and the Earl of Grosvenor, the poor friendless orphan was enabled ultimately to manifest his talents, and to gain admission into the most brilliant literary and political circles, members of which were Pitt, Canning, Lord Liverpool, and the Marquis of Wellesley.

In James Street, at the house of Thomas Harley, occurred the secret interview between Harley and the Duke of Marlborough—who, we are informed, entered by the garden door at the back of the house looking into the Park—when Harley discovered the existence of the secret negotiations between the French King and the General, a discovery which placed Marlborough's life in the Minister's hands.