Westminster: King St, Great George St and the Broad Sanctuary

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: King St, Great George St and the Broad Sanctuary', in Old and New London: Volume 4( London, 1878), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp26-35 [accessed 23 July 2024].

Edward Walford, 'Westminster: King St, Great George St and the Broad Sanctuary', in Old and New London: Volume 4( London, 1878), British History Online, accessed July 23, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp26-35.

Edward Walford. "Westminster: King St, Great George St and the Broad Sanctuary". Old and New London: Volume 4. (London, 1878), , British History Online. Web. 23 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp26-35.

In this section



"Urbs antiqua fuit."—Virg., "Æn.," i.

Ancient Gates in King Street—Distinguished Residents in King Street—Oliver Cromwell's Mother—A Strange Incident in the Life of Cromwell—King Charles on his Way to his Trial—The Plague—Ancient Hostelries and Coffee houses—Death of Hollar, the Engraver—Delahay Street—Duke Street and its Distinguished Residents—Judge Jeffreys—Fludyer Street—Great George Street—Lying in State of Lord Byron's Body—Institution of Civil Engineers—National Portrait Gallery—Burial of Sheridan—The Buxton Memorial Drinking Fountain—Statue of George Canning—The Sessions House—Westminster Hospital—Training School and Home for Nurses—The National Society—Anecdote about Sir John Hawkins's "History of Music"—Her Majesty's Stationery Office—Parker Street—John Wilkes—The Westminster Crimean Memorial.

King Street, which we have already mentioned incidentally in our notice of Whitehall, was the ancient thoroughfare between the regions of the Court and the Abbey. It runs parallel to its modern sister, Parliament Street, between it and the Park. King Street was formerly extremely, and, it would appear, even dangerously narrow. Pepys thus commemorates it in his "Diary," November 27, 1660:—"To Westminster Hall; and in King Street there being a great stop of coaches, there was a falling out between a drayman and my Lord of Chesterfield's coachman, and one of his footmen killed."

At the north end of this street was the Cock-pit Gate; at the south end, the High Gate, which is shown in one of Hollar's etchings. The latter Gate House, which was taken down in 1723, was occupied at one time by the Earl of Rochester. Part of the land in King Street, extending as far southward as the Bars, was conveyed by the Abbot of Westminster to King Henry VIII., when he was bent on enlarging Whitehall. After the burning of Whitehall Palace, it was resolved to make a broader street to the Abbey, and in course of time Parliament Street was formed, as we have already stated in a previous chapter. Although part of King Street still remains, it is as narrow as ever, though somewhat better paved, and latterly its length has been considerably curtailed at the northern end by the erection of the new India and Foreign Offices.

Narrow as it was, King Street was the residence of many distinguished personages, doubtless owing to its proximity to the Court and the Parliament House. In it lived Lord Howard of Effingham, the High Admiral who, Roman Catholic as he was, went forth to fight the cause of his country against the Spanish Armada. Here, too, Edmund Spenser, the author of "The Faery Queen," after his escape from the troubles in Ireland, spent the last few weeks of his life, and died in actual penury and even in want of bread. Such was the end of the man who had sung the praises of the great Elizabeth in higher than mere courtly strains. But his sad end is only another example of the fate that too often waits on poetic genius. "The breath had scarcely departed from his body when the great, the titled, and the powerful came forward to do honour to his memory and to shower laurels on his grave. His remains were carried in state from King Street to Westminster Abbey, the expenses of the funeral being defrayed by the great favourite of the Court, the Earl of Essex." "His hearse," writes Camden, "was attended by poets, and mournful elegies, and poems, with the pens that wrote them, were thrown into his tomb." And it may be added that Anne, the Countess of Dorset, erected the monument over his grave. "The armorial shield of the Spencers," justly observes Gibbon, "may be emblazoned with the triumphs of a Marlborough, but I exhort them to look upon the 'Faery Queen' as the brightest jewel in their coronet."

In King Street, too, resided that most graceful of the courtier poets of the time of Charles I., Thomas Carew, who wrote the masque of "Cœlum Britannicum" for that prince, and who was the friend and boon-companion of Ben Jonson and Sir John Suckling, and the author of that charming song which begins:—
"He that loves a rosy cheek,
Or a coral lip admires."

Here, too, lived Charles, Lord Buckhurst, afterwards Earl of Dorset, the witty and accomplished courtier and poet, and the author of the famous song addressed to the gay ladies of Charles II.'s court, the first stanza of which runs thus:—
"To all you ladies now on land
We men at sea indite;
But first would have you understand
How hard it is to write;
The Muses now, and Neptune, too,
We must implore to write to you."

Here the Lord Protector assigned to his mother a suite of apartments, which she occupied until the day of her death, in 1654: she was buried in Westminster Abbey. She was devotedly fond of her son, and lived in constant fear of hearing of his assassination; indeed it is said, in Ludlow's "Memoirs," that she was quite unhappy if she did not see him twice a day, and never heard the report of a gun without calling out, "My son is shot." Mr. Noble, in his "Memoirs of the Cromwell Family," tells us that "she requested, when dying, to have a private funeral, and that her body might not be deposited in the Abbey; but that, instead of fulfilling her request, the Protector conveyed her remains, with great solemnity, and attended with many hundred torches, though it was daylight, and interred them in the dormitory of our English monarchs, in a manner suitable to those of the mother of a person of his then rank." He adds that, "the needless ceremonies and great expense to which the Protector put the public in thus burying her gave great offence to the Republicans."

It would have been well for her if her wish had been granted, for, at the Restoration, Mrs. Cromwell's body was taken up and indecently thrown, with others, into a hole made before the back door of the lodgings of the canons or prebendaries, in St. Margaret's Churchyard. Mrs. Cromwell appears to have been an excellent and amiable person; and it is worthy of note that she is styled "a decent woman" by so strong a royalist as Lord Chancellor Clarendon.

The house occupied by Mrs. Cromwell, according to Mr. John Timbs, stood a little to the north of Blue Boar's Head Yard, on the west side of the street. If we may accept the testimony of Mr. G. H. Malone, its identity was ascertained by a search into the parish rate-books, and fixed to the north of the above-mentioned yard, and south of the wall of Ram's Mews. Among the Cole MSS. in the British Museum is a copy of a letter written by Cromwell at Dunbar, and addressed to his wife in this street.

One day a strange incident occurred to the Lord Protector as he was passing in his coach through this street, accompanied by Lord Broghill, afterwards better known by his superior title as Earl of Ossory, from whom the story has come down to us through his chaplain and biographer, Morrice:—"It happened that the crowd of people was so great that the coach could not go forward, and the place was so narrow that all the halberdiers were either before the coach or behind it, none of them having room to stand by the side. When they were in this posture, Lord Broghill observed the door of a cobbler's stall to open and shut a little, and at every opening of it his lordship saw something bright, like a drawn sword or a pistol. Upon which my lord drew out his sword with the scabbard on it, and struck upon the stall, asking who was there. This was no sooner done but a tall man burst out with a sword by his side, and Cromwell was so much frightened that he called his guard to seize him, but the man got away in the crowd. My lord thought him to be an officer in the army in Ireland, whom he remembered Cromwell had disgusted, and his lordship apprehended he lay there in wait to kill him. Upon this," adds Morrice, "Cromwell forbore to come any more that way, but a little after sickened and died."

And yet there was, at all events, one other occasion on which the Lord Protector passed along this narrow thoroughfare, and that was to his funeral in the Abbey. He died at Whitehall, in September, 1658; and as he died in the midst of his power and state, his obsequies were celebrated with the pomp and magnificence of a king. It would tax the pen of Macaulay to describe the scene: the road prepared for the passage of the hearse by gravel thrown into the ruts; and the sides of the street lined with soldiery, all in mourning, as in solemn state the body was conducted to the great western entrance of the Abbey, where it was received by the clergy with the usual ceremonials.

Among the other residents in King Street were Sir Thomas Knevett, or Knyvett, who seized Guy Fawkes; and Dr. Sydenham, on the site of Ram's Mews. Here, too, lived Erasmus Dryden, brother of "glorious" John Dryden, supporting himself by trade before his accession to the baronetcy as head of the family.

Dudley, the second Lord North, had a house in this street, about 1646, which was remarkable as being the first brick house in it. His son, Sir Dudley, as we learn in the "Lives of the Norths," was stolen by beggars, and retaken in an alley leading towards Cannon Row, while he was being stripped of his clothes. Bishop Goodman, during the Great Rebellion, lived here in great obscurity, and chiefly in the house of Mrs. Sybilla Aglionby, employing the greater part of his time in frequenting the Cottonian Library.

But there are other and more gloomy reminiscences which attach to King Street. Through it Charles I. was carried on his way to Westminster Hall on the first and last days of his trial. "On both these occasions," writes Mr. Jesse, "his conveyance was a sedan chair, by the side of which walked, bare-headed, his faithful follower, Herbert—the only person who was allowed to attend him. As he returned through King Street, after his condemnation, the inhabitants, we are told, not only shed tears, but, unawed by the soldiers who lined the streets, offered up audible prayers for his eternal welfare." Strange to say, among the residents in this street at the time was Oliver Cromwell himself; and it was from his abode here that, some months after the murder of his sovereign, he set forth in state, amid the blare of trumpets, to take upon himself the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. The house which was traditionally said to have been occupied by the Protector was at the northern end, near Downing Street, and it was not demolished, says Mr. Jesse, until the present century.

Owing to its narrowness and want of light and air, and the crowded courts by which it was hemmed in on either side, King Street was among the first parts of Westminster to suffer from the plague in the year 1665. On its appearance so close to the gates of the royal palace, Charles II. and his train of courtiers, male and female, left Whitehall for Oxford. Accordingly, we find gossiping Samuel Pepys writing, under date June 20th:—"This day I informed myself that there died four or five at Westminster of the plague, in several houses, upon Sunday last, in Bell Alley, over against the Palace Gate." Again, on the 21st: "I find all the town going out of town, the coaches and carriages being all full of people going into the country." And, shortly after, on the 28th and 29th:—"In my way to Westminster Hall, I observed several plaguehouses" (that is, houses smitten with the plague) "in King Street and the Palace. … To Whitehall, where the court was full of waggons and people ready to go out of town. This end of the town every day grows very bad of the plague." It appears from contemporary history that the example set by the King and Court was largely followed by the nobility and the "quality;" and that so great was the exodus that the neighbouring towns and villages rose up to oppose their retreat, as likely to sow the seeds of the disease still more widely, and to carry the infection further a-field. It is usually said by historians that the Great Plague in 1665 broke out at the top of Drury Lane, but Dr. Hodges, in his "Letter to a Person of Quality," states it as a fact that the pestilence first broke out in Westminster, and that it was carried eastwards by contagion.

King Street would seem to have been at one time noted for its coffee-houses, for in the fifth edition of Izaak Walton's additions to the "Complete Angler," (1676), "Piscator" says:—"When I dress an eel thus, I will he was as long and big as that which was caught in Peterboro' river in the year 1667, which was 3¾ feet long; if you will not believe me, then go and see it at one of the coffee-houses in King Street, Westminster."

Among these coffee-houses and hostelries was the "King's Head" Inn, where there was held an "ordinary," as far back as two centuries ago. Here a Mr. Moore told Pepys, in July, 1663, "the great news that my Lady Castlemaine is fallen from Court, and this morning retired;" and the next day, at the same place, the same bit of scandal, he tells us, is confirmed by a "pretty gentleman," who, however, is in ignorance of the cause.

At another house in this street—the Bell Tavern—the "October Club" met early in the last century. The club, which consisted of about 150 members, derived its name from being composed of High Church Tory country gentlemen, who when at home drank October ale. The large room in which the club assembled was adorned with a portrait of Queen Anne, by Dâhl. After Her Majesty's death and the break-up of the club, the picture was purchased by the corporation of the loyal city of Salisbury, in whose council-chamber it may still be seen suspended.

In this street, also, the beautiful and talented actress, Mrs. Oldfield, earned her livelihood when a girl as a sempstress; and through it she was carried, at the age of forty-seven, to her grave in the Abbey, her pall supported by noblemen and gentlemen, and her body being allowed to lie in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, as stated in a previous chapter. Such is the tide of destiny; and well might it have been written on her hearse, "Voluit fortuna jocari."

Mr. John Timbs tells us, in his "Curiosities of London," that near the southern end of King Street, on the west side, was Thieven (Thieves) Lane, so called as being the regular passage along which thieves were led to the Gate House prison, so that they might not escape into the Sanctuary and set the law at defiance.

In Gardener's Lane, which leads from King Street to Duke Street, died in March, 1677, Hollar, the master of early etchers; he was buried on the 28th of that month in St. Margaret's Churchyard. He seems to have been as child-like and improvident as the rest of his fraternity. At all events, at the time of his last illness the bailiffs were in his rooms; and the dying artist, who had been the favourite of Lord Arundel, and the honoured inmate of his house, had to beg as a favour that the bed on which he lay might not be taken away till after his death. Hollar's widow survived him many years, and some time after his death sold to Sir Hans Sloane a large collection of the artist's works. This collection was subsequently acquired by the British Museum, and formed the nucleus of the magnificent collection of Hollar's works there existing. Hollar was of Bohemian extraction and of gentle blood; he was born at Prague in 1607. He came to England in the suite of Lord Arundel, whom we have already mentioned (fn. 1) as a lover and patron of art; and it was the death of his patron that plunged him into difficulties. It is probable that it was through Lord Arundel's influence that he became a member of the Roman Catholic faith, to which his father had formerly belonged.

Delahay Street, between King Street and St. James's Park, was so called from a family of that name formerly resident in the parish of St. Margaret's. At the southern end, at the corner of Great George Street, lived Lady Augusta Murray, the first wife of the Duke of Sussex.

Duke Street, which ran in a line with Delahay Street and is now absorbed into it, was a poor and narrow thoroughfare at its best. Pope, in one of his Letters, tells an amusing anecdote relating to this street, but which serves to illustrate the cruel snares laid by the penal laws in force in his time against persons professing the Roman Catholic religion, who were not allowed to keep either carriages or horses of their own! He writes:—"By our latest account from Duke Street, Westminster, the conversion of T. G.—, Esq., is reported in a manner somewhat more particular. That, upon the seizure of his Flanders mares, he seemed more than ordinarily disturbed for some hours, sent for his ghostly father, and resolved to bear his loss like a Christian; till about the hour of seven or eight, the coaches and horses of several of the nobility passing by his window towards Hyde Park, he could no longer endure the disappointment, but instantly went out, took the oath of abjuration, and recovered his dear horses, which carried him in triumph to the Ring. The poor, distressed Roman Catholics, now unhorsed and uncharioted, cry out with the Psalmist, 'Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will invocate the name of the Lord.'"

In this street died in 1826, aged eighty, Sir Archibald Macdonald, Bart., formerly M.P. for Hindon, &c., and Solicitor-General, and afterwards Chief Baron of the Exchequer. He was educated at Westminster School, to which he was so attached, that he never omitted to be present at every college election and at every performance of the Westminster Play.

Here, too, lived Matthew Prior, in a house facing Charles Street. Bishop Stillingfleet, author of the "Origines Britannicæ," died here in 1699; Archbishop Hutton in 1758; and Dr. Arnold, the musical composer, in 1802.

The house once inhabited by the "infamous Judge" Jeffreys, when Lord Chancellor, has been demolished during subsequent improvements in this locality. Down to the time of its removal, it was easily distinguished from its neighbours by a flight of stone steps, which James II. permitted the cruel favourite to make into the Park for his special accommodation; they terminated above in a small court, on three sides of which stood the once costly house. One portion of the mansion was used as the Admiralty House, until that office was removed by William III. to Wallingford House. The north wing of the house, in which Judge Jeffreys heard cases, when he found it inconvenient to go to Lincoln's Inn or Westminster Hall, was afterwards converted into a chapel: Dr. John Pettingale, the antiquary, was for some time its incumbent.

The State Paper Office stood at the north end of Duke Street for many years. It was erected in 1833, to contain the documents of the Privy Council and Secretaries of State, formerly kept in Holbein's Gatehouse, and first arranged during the time when Lord Grenville was Premier.

At No. 20 in this street are the branch offices of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, Dr. Bray's Institution for Founding Libraries, the Colonial Bishoprics' Fund, the Ladies' Association for Promoting Female Education in India, and the Universities' Mission to Central Africa.

In lodgings in Fludyer Street lived the eminent surgeon, Sir Charles Bell, in the early part of his career, before he joined the Middlesex Hospital. This street was so named after Sir Samuel Fludyer, the ground-landlord, who, when Lord Mayor in 1761, entertained George III. and Queen Charlotte at Guildhall. It is said to occupy the site of the ancient Axe Yard, a haunt of Sir William Davenant. The site is mentioned in a document of the time of Henry VIII., as "on the west side of Kynge Street, a great messuage or brew-house, commonly called the Axe." Pepys at one time had a house here.


Great George Street, the broad thoroughfare leading in a direct line from Bridge Street to Birdcage Walk and St. James's Park, derives its name from standing on the site of an old stable-yard which belonged to an inn close by, bearing the sign of the "George and the Dragon." The houses in Great George Street were built shortly after the erection of Westminster Bridge, and the street covers ground which formed at that time an arm of the Thames. The tide flowed up from Bridge Street, until it found its way into the canal of St. James's Park. From the frequency of inundations, Flood Street, which stood between the entrances of Dean's Yard and Tothill Street, derived its significant name.

In Great George Street lived, in 1763, John Wilkes, whilst carrying on his North Briton and fighting duels. It was in the front drawing-room of a house, No. 25 in this street, that in July, 1824, lay in state the body of Lord Byron, which had been brought over in the ship Florida from Missolonghi, in Greece, where he died fighting in the cause of Grecian independence. It was hoped that a grave would have been found for the author of "Childe Harold" in Poets' Corner in the Abbey hard by, but the Dean and Chapter refused to allow his body to rest there; so, a day or two afterwards, the poet's remains were taken down into Nottinghamshire, and consigned to their last resting-place in Hucknall Church, near his home at Newstead Abbey. The scene itself is thus described by an American gentleman who was present:—"On being landed from the Florida, the body was removed to the house of Sir Edward Knatchbull, who then resided in Great George Street, Westminster. At the house of Sir Edward it lay in state for two days, and was visited by hundreds of persons, who paid their last tributes to the genius of the mighty slumberer by gazing on his coffin-lid. After the lying in state had terminated, it was found necessary to remove the body, for the purpose of placing it in a better constructed leaden coffin than that which had been prepared in Greece. A friend of mine kindly offered to procure me admission to the chamber where the removal of the body was to be effected—an offer which, I need not say, I gladly accepted. Accordingly, on the afternoon of the 11th of July, I proceeded to Sir Edward Knatchbull's, and found three or four gentlemen, attracted thither, like myself, to witness the solemn face of the poet for the last time, ere it should be shut up in the darkness of death. Mr. Samuel Rogers, the author of the 'Pleasures of Memory,' Mr. (now Sir) John Cam Hobhouse, and John Hanson, Esq. (the two last Lord Byron's executors), Dr. (afterwards Sir John) Bowring, Fletcher, his faithful valet, and one or two others, whose names I did not learn, were present.


"The body lay in the large drawing-room, on the first storey, which was hung with black cloth and lighted with wax candles. Soon after my arrival, the work of opening the coffin commenced. This was soon effected, and when the last covering was removed, we beheld the face of the illustrious dead, 'all cold and all serene.'

"Were I to live a thousand years, I should never, never forget that moment. For years I had been intimate with the mind of Byron. His wondrous works had thrown a charm around my daily paths, and with all the enthusiasm of youth I had almost adored his genius. With his features, through the medium of paintings, I had been familiar from my boyhood; and now far more beautiful, even in death, than my vivid fancy had ever pictured, there they lay in marble repose.

"The body was not attired in that most awful of habiliments—a shroud. It was wrapped in a blue cloth cloak, and the throat and head were uncovered. The former was beautifully moulded. The head of the poet was covered with short, crisp, curling locks, slightly streaked with grey hairs, especially over the temples, which were ample and free from hair, as we see in the portraits. The face had nothing of the appearance of death about it—it was neither sunken nor discoloured in the least, but of a dead, marble whiteness—the expression was that of stern repose. How classically beautiful was the curved upper lip and the chin! I fancied the nose appeared as if it was not in harmony with the other features; but it might possibly have been a little disfigured by the process of embalming. The forehead was high and broad—indeed, the whole head was extremely large—it must have been so to contain a brain of such capacity.

"But what struck me most was the exceeding beauty of the profile, as I observed it when the head was lifted in the operation of removing the corpse. It was perfect in its way, and seemed like a production of Phidias. Indeed, it far more resembled an exquisite piece of sculpture than the face of the dead—so still, so sharply defined, and so marble-like in its repose. I caught the view of it but for a moment; yet it was long enough to have it stamped upon my memory as 'a thing of beauty,' which poor Keats tells us is 'a joy for ever.' It is, indeed, a melancholy joy to me to have gazed upon the silent poet. As Washington Irving says of the old sexton who crept into the vault where Shakespeare was entombed, and beheld there the dust of ages, 'it was something even to have seen the dust of Byron.'"

This same house, which has a handsome architectural front, is now the home of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The institution was established in 1818, and was formally incorporated in June, 1828. It originated in a few gentlemen then beginning life, who, being impressed, "by what they themselves felt, with the difficulties young men had to contend with in gaining the knowledge requisite for the diversified practice of engineering, resolved to form themselves into a society for promoting a regular intercourse between persons engaged in its various branches, and thereby mutually benefiting by the interchange of individual observation and experience." The profession of the civil engineer is defined in the charter of incorporation as "the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of man, as the means of production and of traffic in states, both for external and internal trade, as applied in the construction of roads, bridges, aqueducts, canals, river navigation, and docks, for internal intercourse and exchange; and in the construction of ports, harbours, moles, breakwaters, and lighthouses; and in the art of navigation by artificial power for the purposes of commerce; and in the construction and adaptation of machinery; and in the drainage of cities and towns."

The institution itself consists of four classes, viz., members, associates, graduates, and honorary members. Members are civil engineers by profession, or mechanical engineers of very high standing; associates are not necessarily civil engineers by profession, but their pursuits must in some way be connected with civil engineering; graduates are elected from the pupils of civil and mechanical engineers; honorary members are distinguished individuals who are enabled to assist in the prosecution of public works, or who are eminent for scientific acquirements.

Here is a portrait of Thomas Telford, the engineer of the Menai Bridge, and for fifteen years president of the institution. Telford was the first president. His successors have been Mr. James Walker, Sir John Rennie, Sir M. I. Brunel, Sir William Cubitt, and Mr. Thomas Hawksley.

At No. 29 in this street was established, at its first formation, in 1857, the National Portrait Gallery. This institution arose out of a suggestion of the late Earl of Derby; its object is the collection of a series of portraits of English men and women of note and celebrity, and forming them into a representative gallery belonging to the nation. The collection is largely recruited by gifts, as might naturally be expected, and a sum of £2,000 is voted annually in Parliament for its maintenance and support. In 1870, the portraits were removed to South Kensington, a portion of the building erected for the International Exhibition having been fitted up for their reception. In Great George Street were, till lately, the town mansions of several of the highest nobility. At No. 15, Edward Lord Thurlow resided, and from it in September, 1806, his remains were removed for interment in the Temple. Bishop Tomline, Pitt's tutor, lived for some time at No. 28. At his house here, on the 12th of December, 1849, died Sir Marc Isambart Brunel, the architect of the Thames Tunnel, and inventor of the engine for cutting ships' blocks, used in the Royal Dockyard, Portsmouth.

In July, 1816, the body of Richard Brinsley Sheridan was removed from Savile Row to the house of Peter Moore, Esq., in this street, whence it was carried to the grave in the Abbey, attended by several noblemen and gentlemen.

At the corner of Great George Street and St. Margaret's Churchyard is a conspicuous structure, with a spire and cross of imposing height, known as the Buxton Memorial Drinking Fountain. The base is octagonal, about twelve feet in diameter, having open arches on the eight sides, supported on clustered shafts of polished Devonshire marble around a large central shaft, with four massive granite basins. Surmounting the pinnacles at the angles of the octagon are eight figures of bronze, representing the different rulers of England; the Britons represented by Caractacus, the Romans by Constantine, the Danes by Canute, the Saxons by Alfred, the Normans by William the Conqueror, and so on, ending with Queen Victoria. The fountain bears an inscription to the effect that it is "intended as a memorial of those members of Parliament who, with Mr. Wilberforce, advocated the abolition of the British slave-trade, achieved in 1807; and of those members of Parliament who, with Sir T. Fowell Buxton, advocated the emancipation of the slaves throughout the British dominions, achieved in 1834. It was designed and built by Mr. Charles Buxton, M.P., in 1865, the year of the final extinction of the slave-trade and of the abolition of slavery in the United States." Mr. S. S. Teulon was the architect, and the fountain was erected at a cost of about £1,200.

Close by this fountain, and facing the Houses of Parliament, is a fine bronze statue of George Canning, standing upon a granite pedestal. It was executed by Sir Richard Westmacott, and erected in 1832. It formerly stood nearer to Westminster Hall, but was removed hither a few years ago, when sundry alterations were made in the laying out of the open space between King Street and the north door of the Abbey.

Soon after Canning's statue was put up in all its verdant freshness, the carbonate of copper not yet blackened by the smoke of London, Mr. Justice Gaselee was walking away from Westminster Hall with a friend, when the judge, looking at the statue (which is colossal), said, "I don't think this is very like Canning; he was not so large a man." "No, my lord," replied his companion, "nor so green."

On the western side of the Broad Sanctuary, and on the very foundations of the old belfry-tower of the Sanctuary, stands the Sessions House, which, as its name imports, is the place of meeting for the magistrates for the City and Liberties of Westminster. It is an octagonal building of no great architectural pretensions, with a heavy portico, supported by massive columns of the Doric order. It was erected in 1805 from the designs of Mr. S. P. Cockerell. The old Guildhall, apparently of great antiquity, stood on the west side of King Street; and an ancient painting, representing the foundation of this building, said to be a gift of the Duke of Northumberland, was transferred to the walls of the present Sessions House.

Fronting the Broad Sanctuary and the northern side of the nave of the Abbey, between the Sessions House and Victoria Street, stands the Westminster Hospital. It was established in 1719 for the relief of the sick and needy from all parts, and was the first subscription hospital erected in London. It was incorporated in 1836. Patients are admitted by order from a governor, except in cases of accident, which are received, without recommendation, at all hours of the day or night. The institution took its origin from the exertions of a few gentlemen, who set an infirmary on foot, inviting all kindlydisposed persons to aid them. Mr. Henry Hoare was the chief promoter of this charity; and at first the society was known as that "for relieving the sick and needy at the Public Infirmary in Westminster." In 1720, a house was taken for the purpose of an infirmary in Petty France; from which, in 1724, the institution was removed to Chapel Street, and some time after to James Street. The present spacious edifice was completed and opened in 1834. The building is an embattled structure of quasi-Gothic character, and was erected in 1834 by Messrs. Inwood. It has a frontage of about 200 feet, but has no pretensions to taste or beauty. The centre projects slightly, and is raised one storey higher than the wings. The entrance is by a flight of steps to a porch in three divisions, and is surmounted by an oriel. The hospital accommodates about 200 in-patients, and the total number of patients relieved annually is about 20,000.

The following document, which may be styled the first annual report of this institution, dated 1720, hangs framed and glazed on the wall of the secretary's room:—"Whereas a charitable proposal was published in December last (1719), for relieving the sick and needy, by providing them with lodging, with proper food and physick, and nurses to attend them during their sickness, and by procuring them the advice and assistance of physicians or surgeons, as their necessities should require; and by the blessing of God upon this undertaking, such sums of money have been advanced and subscribed by several of the nobility and gentry of both sexes and by some of the clergy, as have enabled the managers of this charity (who are as many of the subscribers as please to be present at their weekly meetings), to carry on in some measure what was then proposed:—for the satisfaction of the subscribers and benefactors, and for animating others to promote and encourage this pious and Christian work, this is to acquaint them, that in pursuance of the foresaid charitable proposal, there is an infirmary set up in Petty France, Westminster, where the poor sick who are admitted into it, are attended by physicians, surgeons, apothecaries, and nurses, supplied with food and physick, and daily visited by some one or other of the clergy; at which place the society meets every Wednesday evening for managing and carrying on this charity, admitting and discharging patients, &c."

Close to and in connection with the hospital, an institution has been opened, styled the Westminster Training School and Home for Nurses, having for its object the training of a superior class of nurses for the sick, for hospitals, and private families. An agreement has been entered into by its managers with the Westminster Hospital to undertake the whole of the nursing there. A limited number of probationers are received at the home, and to those who may be accepted is given the efficient training and practical instruction required.

The central schools of the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Church of England are situated contiguous to Westminster Hospital. These schools were instituted in 1811, and incorporated in 1817. The institution, which has for its object the "Christianising of the children of millions in the densely-crowded streets of the metropolis, amid the ignorance of an agricultural population, and the restlessness of the manufacturing and mining districts," is supported by voluntary contributions. The number of schools in union with it amounts to upwards of 12,000. Here is the National Society's central depository for the sale, at a cheap rate, of books and apparatus for schools.

In May, 1789, Sir John Hawkins, the author of the "History of Music," and of a "Life of Dr. Johnson," whose executor he was, died at his house near the Broad Sanctuary—the same which had formerly been the residence of the famous Admiral Vernon—in a street leading towards Queen Square. The following anecdote about Sir John Hawkins's "History of Music" is taken from the Harmonicon:—"The fate of this work was decided, like that of many more important things, by a trifle, a word, a pun. A ballad, chanted by a fillede-chambre, undermined the colossal power of Alberoni; a single line of Frederick the Second, reflecting not on politics but the poetry of a French minister, plunged France into the Seven Years' War; and a pun condemned Sir John Hawkins's sixteen years' labour to long obscurity and oblivion. Some wag wrote the following catch, which Dr. Callcott set to music:—

'Have you read Sir John Hawkins's History?
Some folks think it quite a mystery;
Both I have, and I aver
That Burney's History I prefer.'

Burn his History was straightway in every one's mouth; and the bookseller, if he did not follow the advice à pied de la lettre, actually wasted, as the term is, or sold for waste paper, some hundred copies, and buried the rest of the impression in the profoundest depth of a damp cellar, as an article never likely to be called for, so that now hardly a copy can be procured undamaged by damp and mildew. It has been for some time, however, rising—is rising, and the more it is read and known the more it ought to rise—in public estimation and demand."

In Princes Street, immediately behind the Westminster Hospital, and on the site of the Westminster Mews, stands a large building of no great architectural pretensions, which is entered by an archway, and surrounds a court. It is divided into two parts, the one of which, to the south, having formerly been a police-barrack, has been devoted, since 1854, to the purposes of Her Majesty's Stationery Office. This public office was first established as a separate department about the year 1790, the stationery used in the public service having been previously supplied by individuals who had lucrative patents. A yearly estimate is published of the amount required "to defray the expense of providing stationery, printing, binding, and printed books, for the several departments of Government in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and some dependencies; and of providing stationery, binding, printing, and paper for the two Houses of Parliament; and to pay the salaries and expenses of the establishment of the Stationery Office. The late Mr. J. R. M'Culloch, the eminent statistician, was for many years the Comptroller of this department.

Princes Street was formerly called "Long Ditch." At one time it contained an ancient conduit, the site of which has since been marked by a pump. At the bottom of the well, it is said, is a black marble image of St. Peter, and some marble steps. The southern extremity of this street was called "Broken Cross."

Parker Street, on the west side of Princes Street, was formerly called Bennet Street, so named after Bennet (now Corpus Christi) College, Cambridge, to which the land belongs. Its name was changed some years ago, when a number of disorderly occupants were ejected, and new tenants admitted. The new name refers to Archbishop Parker, who, having bequeathed his valuable library to Corpus Christi College, is regarded as one of its chief benefactors.

At the west end of Princes Court—a narrow turning out of Princes Street—resided, in 1788, the great civic notoriety, John Wilkes. It has been noticed that his name, and the offices which he successively filled, coupled with it, were composed of forty-five letters:—

John Wilkes, Esquire, Sheriff for London and Middlesex.
John Wilkes, Esquire, Knight of the Shire for Middlesex.
John Wilkes, Esquire, Alderman for Farringdon Without.
John Wilkes, Esquire, Chamberlain of the City of London.
The Right Honourable John Wilkes, Lord Mayor of London.

Opposite the Broad Sanctuary is a Gothic column, or cross, nearly seventy feet high, erected, in 1861, as a memorial to Lord Raglan, and other "old Westminster scholars," who fell in the Crimea, in 1854—5. It is of Aberdeen granite, and very picturesque, although somewhat incongruous, which is perhaps owing to its having been executed by various artists. Around the polished shaft, which rises from a decorated pedestal, are shields bearing the arms of those whom it commemorates. At the top of the sculptured capital are four sitting figures, under Gothic canopies, representing the successive founders and benefactors of the School and Abbey—Edward the Confessor, Henry III., Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria. The whole is surmounted by a figure of St. George and the Dragon. The architect of this beautiful column was Sir G. Gilbert Scott; the figures of St. George and the Dragon, however, are by Mr. J. R. Clayton. In 1870, the memorial having become somewhat dilapidated, a sum of £30 towards its repair was voted by the Elizabethan Club, of which we have already spoken in our account of Westminster School.


  • 1. See Vol. III., p. 74.