Westminster: Modern Westminster

Pages 35-46

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

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


In this section



"But times are altered."—Goldsmith.

Great Smith Street—St. Margaret's and St. John's Free Public Library—Public Baths and Washhouses—Mechanics' Institution—Bowling Alley—Little Dean Street—Tufton Street—Royal Architectural Museum—A Cock-pit—Great Peter Street—St. Matthew's Church—The Residence of Colonel Blood—St. Anne's Lane—Old and New Pye Streets—Westminster Working Men's Club and Lodging House—Orchard Street—The "Rookery"—A Good Clearance—Palmer's Village—Victoria Street—The Palace Hotel—Westminster Chambers—Metropolitan Drinking-fountain and Cattle-trough Association—Duck Lane—Horseferry Road—Roman Catholic Chapel—Queen Anne's Gate—The Mission Hall—Jeremy Bentham—Mr. Towneley's Réunions—The "Three Johns"—The Cock-pit in Birdcage Walk—Distinguished Residents in Westminster in the Olden Times.

Having in the preceding chapters dealt with the streets and thoroughfares forming the centre of the City of Westminster, we will now endeavour to point out some of the chief features of interest, and penetrate into some of the courts and alleys that lie scattered through its outlying regions.

Starting from the Broadway, skirting the southwestern corner of Dean's Yard, and running parallel to Abingdon Street, is Great Smith Street: this, with Little Smith Street, which joins it at right angles, and also Smith Square, derive their names, says Mr. Mackenzie Walcott, from a person who was clerk of the works at the time of the erection; but according to Hutton, from Sir James Smith, the ground-landlord, who resided here. At the commencement of the last century there was a turnpike in Smith Street. In Great Smith Street is St. Margaret's and St. John's Free Public Library, and also the Public Baths and Washhouses, two very useful institutions, the benefits of which are highly appreciated by a large number of that particular class of the inhabitants for whose service they were specially erected. In 1840, Dr. H. H. Milman, afterwards Dean of St. Paul's, laid in this street the first stone of the City of Westminster Literary, Scientific, and Mechanics' Institution. The building comprised a spacious lecture-room, reading-rooms, class-rooms for drawing and music, a museum, and a library.

JUDGE JEFFREYS' HOUSE IN DUKE STREET. (From an Original Drawing by Shepherd.)

To the south of College Street was the bowlinggreen, where the members of the convent in other days amused themselves at the game of bowls. The memory of the spot is still preserved in the name of Bowling Alley.

In Little Dean Street stood one of the chapels of the French Huguenot Refugees, removed hither about the year 1700, from Berwick Street, Soho.

Tufton Street was built by Sir Richard Tufton, after whom it was named. He died in 1631, and was buried in the Abbey.

At No. 18 in this street is the Royal Architectural Museum. The building in itself has little or nothing architectural about it to merit special mention. It is simply a lofty plain brick edifice on the west side of the street, and is entered through an arched doorway and vestibule. The interior is lighted from the roof only, the walls being entirely covered with the various objects exhibited, such as castings of capitals and bases of columns, bosses, and other kinds of ornament. Two galleries run round the building, each of them likewise filled with specimens. The Museum was founded in 1851, in Cannon Row, as the nucleus of a National Museum of Architectural Art, and subsequently for several years formed part of the collection exhibited at the South Kensington Museum. The intention of its founders was to supply to architects, artists, and art-workmen, the means of referring to and studying the architecture of past ages, and in combination with those arts which have their origin in or are dependent on architecture itself. Its direct practical object is to improve and perfect the artworkmanship of the present time, and to afford art-workmen the opportunity of studying casts or copies of those works, the originals of which neither their time nor their means will allow them to visit. Accordingly, a large collection of casts and actual specimens has been formed from the finest mediæval examples, English and foreign, of complete architectural works, arranged, as far as possible in the order of their dates; and of details, comprehending figures, animals, foliage, mouldings, encaustic tiles, mural paintings, roof ornaments, rubbings of sepulchral brasses, stained glass, impressions from seals, and other objects. Schools of Classical Art are also represented, though not so fully or systematically. A special collection of marble reliefs from the ruins of one of the ancient capitals of India, situated in the great desert of Rajpootana, of the date of about 1100 A.D., is due to the generosity of Sir Bartle Frere. The museum is open to the public free; but a small fee is charged for the drawing and modelling classes.

COLONEL BLOOD'S HOUSE. (From a Drawing in Mr. Crace's Collection.)

In Tufton Street there was formerly a building devoted to the brutal and unmanly amusement of cock-fighting. It comprised a large circular area, with a slightly elevated platform in the centre, surrounded by benches, rising in gradation to nearly the top of the building. The cock-pit existed in this street long after that near St. James's Park was deserted.

Great Peter Street bears the name of the patronsaint of the Abbey. Upon the front of a house in it might be seen the following inscription, rudely cut: "This is Sant Peter Street, 1624. R. [a heart] W." In this street is the principal entrance to the gas-works, noticed in a preceding chapter. Here, too, stands the Church of St. Matthew, which was erected in 1849, to meet the wants of the overcrowded parish of St. John the Evangelist. The church is situated in a very close and poor neighbourhood, its site having been purchased piecemeal as the different miserable houses by which it was partly covered could be procured. It is of a very irregular and unfavourable form, something resembling the letter L, and presenting one narrow frontage to Peter Street, and one still narrower to St. Anne's Lane; the remainder is almost buried by houses. The architect has succeeded, however, in placing the church east and west, and in so arranging it as to present all the usual ecclesiastical features and proportions; and though the building externally is but little seen, the part exposed to view is bold and effective; while the interior, though simple, suffers but little from the cramped nature of the position, excepting that the north aisle is deprived of its side windows by the row of houses by which it is flanked. The chancel is lighted by a bold east window of five lights, and by three windows on the south, and one on the north side, the remainder of that side being occupied by a chancel-aisle and vestry. The nave, with its aisles, consists of five bays or arches in length, and is chiefly lighted from the clerestory and from a large west window which obtains light from above the surrounding houses. The nave and chancel occupying the whole available area of that part of the ground which lies east and west, but not affording the required accommodation, a third aisle is projected into the southern arm of the ground, so that the nave has one aisle on the north and two on the south. The principal entrance is through the tower, which projects again southward from the last-mentioned aisle and faces Peter Street. There are also a western entrance and one from St. Anne's Lane. The style is the later fashion of the geometrical variety of Middlepointed, or, what is more frequently called, "Early Decorated." It is, however, very simple though bold in its details. The church is built to accommodate 1,200 worshippers, and the cost of its construction was about £6,000.

At a house at the corner of Great Peter Street and Tufton Street, overlooking Bowling Alley, if tradition is correct, resided, during the latter part of his life, the notorious Colonel Blood, who, as told by us in a previous volume, (fn. 1) endeavoured to steal the Crown and Regalia from the Tower. While Edwards, the keeper, who so bravely saved the crown, was literally left to starve, Blood is stated to have retired hither—with a pension, too—after his daring exploit at the Tower, King Charles not only having pardoned, but actually conferred upon him an estate in Ireland, worth £500 a year. Truly, therefore, may we add, in the words of the poet of old—
"Ille crucem sceleris pretium tulit, hic diadema."
Colonel Blood was cast in a suit for libel against his former patron, the Duke of Buckingham, and sentenced to pay £10,000, by way of damages. This sentence he could not survive. He died here in August, 1680, and was buried in New Chapel Yard, near the Broadway. He had, however, been such an eccentric scamp during his life, that the populace thought that his death was only a ruse and a sham; so his body was taken up and submitted to the ordeal of a coroner's inquest. It was identified beyond dispute by a malformation of the thumb, and accordingly was put back into its grave.

In the Luttrell Collection of Broadsides in the British Museum is to be seen "An Elegy on Colonel Blood, notorious for stealing the crown," in which occur the two following lines:—
"Thanks, ye kind fates, for your last favour shown,
For stealing Blood, who lately stole the crown."

The house is mentioned in 1820 as "no longer standing." It was distinguished by a shield and coat of arms, raised in relief on the brickwork on the front of the house.

St. Anne's Lane, a narrow turning out of Great Peter Street, was so named from the Chapel dedicated to the mother of the Virgin Mary. Henry Purcell, the musician, who was born in Westminster, lived for some time in this lane. One of the most important features of St. Anne's Lane at the present time is the range of spacious and convenient baths and washhouses, which have been erected at a cost of about £10,000.

An amusing story with reference to St. Anne's Lane is related in the Spectator, No. 125:—"Sir Roger de Coverley was a schoolboy, at the time when the feuds ran high between the Roundheads and Cavaliers. This worthy knight, being then a stripling, had occasion to inquire which was the way to St. Anne's Lane, upon which the person to whom he spoke, instead of answering his question, called him 'a young Popish cur,' and asked him 'who had made Anne a saint?' The boy, in some confusion, inquired of the next he met which was the way to Anne's Lane; but was called 'a prick-eared cur,' and, instead of being shown the way, was told she had been 'a saint before he was born, and would be one after he was hanged." 'Upon this,' says Roger, 'I did not think fit to repeat the former question, but going into every lane in the neighbourhood, asked what they called the name of the lane.'"

There were two St. Anne's Lanes which might have cost Sir Roger some trouble to find: one "on the north side of St. Martin's-le-Grand, just within Aldersgate Street," according to Stow; and the other—which it requires sharp eyes to find in Strype's map—turning, as we have said, out of Great Peter Street. Mr. Peter Cunningham, in his "Handbook for London," prefers supposing that Sir Roger inquired his way in the latter neighbourhood.

There is an old saying among Londoners, quoted in Moryson's "Itinerarie," to the effect that "woe be to him who buys a horse in Smithfield, or who takes a servant from St. Paul's, or a wife out of Westminster." Judging from the appearance of the female part of the community inhabiting many of the narrow courts and alleys abounding in this neighbourhood, one would be almost inclined to feel that the latter part of the saying above quoted holds good even in the present day, notwithstanding the sweeping change that has been effected in this neighbourhood within the last few years under the auspices of the Westminster Improvements Commission.

Old and New Pye Streets, part of which has disappeared since the year 1845 in the formation of Victoria Street, derive their names from the wellknown Sir Robert Pye, who resided in the New Way close by. He was by marriage a cousin of Oliver Cromwell.

In Old Pye Street is a large brick building devoted to the comfort and intellectual improvement of the poorest classes of the population of Westminster. It is known as the Westminster Working Men's Club and Lodging-house. About the year 1860 a very useful little institution was established in a small room in Duck Lane, near Strutton Ground, on the south side of Victoria Street. It was the first attempt made in London at a working men's club as distinguished from a mechanic's institute—a place of repose and recreation, opened every evening from six till half-past ten, on payment of a weekly subscription of one halfpenny. Several daily and weekly papers, with some monthly periodicals, were provided, besides draughts and chess; coffee and ginger-beer were supplied at cost price, no alcoholic beverages being admitted. Educational classes were held three times a week, and lectures, free to members and their families, were given every fortnight. A religious service (quite unsectarian) was also held for one hour on Sunday evenings. A penny bank was opened three nights a week, and in six months from the commencement, a labour loan society, enrolled by Mr. Tidd Pratt, was started. The institution soon proved so successful that it was necessary to enlarge the accommodation. Another room was built over the first one, and opened in December, 1861; the lower room was thus left free for general conversation, coffee, or smoking; the classes, lectures, and quiet reading being carried on upstairs. A temperance association was now formed by some of the members, with a sick benefit society attached, formed by paying a penny a week, the use of a room for the temperance meetings being accorded free of expense. A barrow club was also commenced in 1862, for furnishing the members who were costermongers with barrows. The cost of a barrow is 55s.; a weekly sum is paid, and when the price is liquidated the barrow becomes the property of the owner, instead of the latter always continuing to pay for the hire of one. In 1863, the accommodation having again become insufficient for its numerous members, an adjoining house was taken in, and the club entirely remodelled and improved, at a cost of more than £500, and re-opened in November of that year.

The demolition of Duck Lane, to make way for the progress of "the Westminster improvements," led to the erection, in Old Pye Street, of the pile of buildings above mentioned, which consists partly of a working men's club and partly of a dwellinghouse, to accommodate between fifty and sixty of those families who are ineligible, from the lowness of their weekly wages or from their occupations, for any other lodging-houses, Mr. Peabody's included, where none but men earning 18s. or 20s. a week are admitted. The new Working Men's Club was opened in May, 1866. In the club building, which is quite distinct from the dwelling-house, there is, on the ground-floor, a spacious club-room, with a lavatory and other accommodation attached, as also a kitchen and library. A portion of the club at the corner of Old Pye Street and St. Ann's Lane has been fitted up as a double-fronted shop, where a co-operative store has been established by the members. Over the club-room are a lectureroom, a committee-room, and an office; the lectureroom can be at any time divided into two by a movable partition, so as to form a reading-room and a class-room.

In Pye Street lived for some time De Groot, the great-nephew of the learned Hugo Grotius, who was afterwards admitted as a poor brother into the Charter House, on the friendly intercession of Dr. Johnson.

Orchard Street was so called from being erected on the old orchard-garden of the monastery. Here, in 1757, the eccentric Thomas Amory, author of "Memoirs of John Buncle," lived the life of a recluse, venturing out only in the evening. He died in 1789, at a great age.

To the south-west of the Abbey is a district, between Great Smith Street and Victoria Street, which was and is known as "The Rookery." These "rookeries" or vagabond colonies, which meet us in various parts of "Modern Babylon," were originally the sites of sanctuaries and refuges for debtors and felons, or else of some "'spital" or "loke" for the reception of the poor, the maimed, and the lepers; the districts in which these asylums were located proving each the nucleus or nest of a dense pauper and criminal population. For just as the felon of our own days is too often found among the inmates of our "casual wards," so it is probable that of old the "sanctuary men" mixed with the diseased crowds and hordes of beggars that swarmed around a "'spital," associating of course with women of the lowest class, and so perpetuating the breed of outcasts and thieves, and turning the once "religious houses" into nests of poverty, misery, disease, and vice.

The region above alluded to formerly covered a much larger area than it does now, comprising as it did New Pye Street, Duck Lane, New Tothill Street, and portions of Orchard Street and Old Pye Street, together with a vast number of courts which diverged from them, all of which have been swept away since the year 1845, when the work of clearance was taken in hand by the Westminster Improvement Commission. It was in Orchard Street that Oliver Cromwell had one of his palaces; in those days Palmer's Village was close beside it, and was the seat of gentlemen's country residences. Lady Dacre, the foundress of Emmanuel Hospital, left to the City an estate of between two and three acres of ground—the garden ground—called "Palmer's Village" from the Rev. Edward Palmer, who here founded, in 1654, almshouses for twelve poor persons, and a school for twenty boys, known as the "Black-Coat School," under the parochial authorities. This charitable institution is now located in Little Chapel Street. Palmer's Village, at the early part of the present century, boasted of its village green, upon which the Maypole was annually set up; and there was an old wayside inn, bearing the sign of "The Prince of Orange." All this rurality, together with the nest and labyrinth of vile and dirty lanes and courts which surrounded it, has now disappeared, and in its place has been formed the broad and open thoroughfare, Victoria Street, which was commenced in 1845, and publicly opened in 1851.

"Nobody," writes the author of "A New Critical Review of the Public Buildings" in 1736, "will wonder, I presume, that I am for levelling the Gate House, demolishing a large part of Dean's Yard, and laying open a street at the west end of the Abbey, at least to an equal breadth with the building." Had the writer of these remarks lived to our own days he would have seen his wishes gratified.

Apropos of the improvements that have been of late years effected here, we may add that in 1766 was published Gwyn's "London and Westminster Improved," an important work, dedicated by permission to the King; the dedication and the preface, as we learn from Boswell, being from Dr. Johnson's pen. Mr. Croker thus remarks on it in his notes on Boswell:—"In this work Mr. Gwyn proposed the principle, and in many instances the details, of the most important improvements which have been made in the metropolis in our day. A bridge near Somerset House; a great street from the Haymarket to the New Road; the improvement of the interior of St. James's Park; quays along the Thames; new approaches to London Bridge; the removal of Smithfield Market; and several other suggestions on which we pride ourselves as original designs of our own times, are all to be found in Mr. Gwyn's able and curious work. It is singular that he denounced a row of houses then building in Pimlico, as intolerable nuisances to Buckingham Palace, and of these very houses the public voice now calls for the destruction. Gwyn had what Lord Chatham calls 'the prophetic eye of taste.'"

Victoria Street is upwards of a thousand yards in length, extending from the Broad Sanctuary to Shaftesbury Place, Pimlico; it is eighty feet wide, and the houses on either side upwards of eighty feet high, mostly cut up into "flats." At the corner of this street, about three hundred yards west of the Abbey, stands the Westminster Palace Hotel, erected in 1861. Here the office of the Secretary of State for India was accommodated for a few years, until the new quarters for that department could be made ready for its reception. The hotel was built from the designs of Mr. A. Moseley. The hotel is traditionally said to stand on the site of the press set up in the Almonry, as already stated, by William Caxton, to whose memory the directors have subscribed a sum for the purpose of placing a statue of the first English printer in the entrance-hall.

A block of buildings of great magnitude, called Westminster Chambers, having a frontage of about 450 feet, stands immediately opposite the Hotel, and with it forms a striking entrance to this great street. The building contains about 530 rooms, disposed on the basement, ground, first, second, third, and fourth floors. It consists of two parallel ranges of building, each about 430 feet in length, separated by court-yards, access to the whole being obtained by seven stone staircases of easy gradients, and from seven arched entrances from Victoria Street. Each suite of rooms is approached from a separate entrance-door on the landings of these staircases, and consists of four or five rooms, as the case may be, with a few sets of two rooms each. There are 120 of these suites in the entire building. Party walls separate the building into fourteen compartments; making, as it were, fourteen separate self-contained houses; and thus, in case of fire, limiting the damage to the division or compartment in which it may occur.

In this street are the offices of the Metropolitan Drinking-fountain and Cattle-trough Association, of which the Duke of Westminster is the president. This is the only society which provides free supplies of water for animals in the streets of London, and the relief which it affords to horses, dogs, sheep, and oxen is well-nigh incalculable. The number of metropolitan fountains and troughs at the end of the year 1874 was as follows:—276 fountains, 72 large cattle-troughs, and 199 small troughs for sheep and dogs. In some cases the committee of the Association have to pay nearly £50 a year for the water consumed at a single trough. It is calculated that more than 1,200 horses, besides a large number of oxen, sheep, and dogs, frequently drink at a single trough in the course of one day. This invaluable association, we may add, as a hint to the charitable friends of dumb animals, is entirely "supported by voluntary contributions."

Duck Lane, which has quite disappeared in the formation of Victoria Street, probably took its name from the number of those birds which frequented the straight canals and runnels by which early maps represent the immediate vicinity to have been divided. There was a noted piece of water, called the Duck Pond, afterwards built over by the houses of this lane. In Duck Lane was first kept, in 1688, the Blue-Coat School, for boys only, and supported by voluntary contributions; and in 1709, a Mr. William Green built a school and masters' house in Little Chapel Street. A great part of the extensive grounds, including parts of Allington Street, Brewers' Green, St. Peter's Street, the Horseferry Road, and Orchard Street, was purchased by Mr. Green, who founded the Stag, or Elliot's Brewery.

In Horseferry Road, between the river and Victoria Street, about half a mile from the west end of the venerable Abbey, is a small and unpretending building, which for many years was the only chapel for the accommodation of the Roman Catholic poor who crowd the close courts abutting on the old Almonry. Down to 1792 they had no chapel at all, but were forced to practise their religion as best they could, in garrets and cellars, for fear of prosecutions under the penal laws. In that year a small chapel was opened in York Street, near Queen Square (now called Queen Anne's Gate), but it was closed for want of funds six years afterwards. In 1803 another attempt was made to maintain a chapel in Great Smith Street, under the auspices of the Chaplains of the Neapolitan Embassy, but this, too, came to an end after a three years' struggle. A temporary chapel in Dartmouth Street was next secured, and this lasted until 1813, when the present chapel was opened, mainly through the energy of the Rev. W. Hurst, the learned Professor of Theology at Valladolid, and translator of the writings of the Venerable Bede. It was enlarged and beautified in 1852, and is now served by Fathers of the Jesuit Order. The sculpture over the altar, representing the Annunciation of our Lady, by Phyffers, is much admired.

Between Victoria Street and St. James's Park is Queen Square, called by Strype "Queen Anne Square," and now altered by the authority of the Metropolitan Board of Works to "Queen Anne's Gate." It tells its own tale so far as the date of its erection. It is a small oblong parallelogram, extending about fifty yards from east to west, but very narrow from north to south. Hatton, writing in 1708, speaks of it in terms of glowing, and, we fear must be added, undiscriminating praise, as "a beautiful square of very fine buildings." When Park Street was erected, the inhabitants of Queen Square, apprehending that carriages on their way to Ranelagh would pass through the New Street, and make their hitherto quiet square a noisy thoroughfare, in order to avoid King Street, the Sanctuary, and Tothill Street, erected, by subscription, the wall and railing which separates Queen Square and Park Street. At the eastern entrance of the square, set up against one of the houses on the south side, is a statue of the queen after whom the square is named; it is, however, a poor specimen of art, and is so placed that it scarcely strikes the eye of the passer-by. In fact, very few persons know of its existence. The queen is dressed in her state robes, and has the sceptre and orb in her hands.


In the south-west corner of the square is a dull, heavy building, now used as a Mission Hall, and also as a school and lecture-room, but formerly a chapel of ease to St. Peter's parish. It was originally a royal gift for the special use of the judges of Westminster, and was frequented by the members of the Royal Household. In it is a very handsomely carved pulpit, apparently of the seventeenth century, with an inscription, "Look upon me." In 1840 the chapel was much injured by fire; the altar-piece, then nearly destroyed, is said to have been one of the finest specimens of wood-carving in England. The building is now used as a school-room and mission-room.

In Queen Square Place, where he had resided nearly half a century, died, in the year 1832, Jeremy Bentham, the eminent jurist, and writer on the philosophy of legislation. It was here that his brother, Sir Samuel Bentham, on his return from Russia, began to make machinery for all kinds of woodwork before unknown, and planned and constructed ships for the Admiralty, in which for the first time powder magazines were made safe. A singular anecdote is told concerning Jeremy Bentham, which we give for what it is worth:—"One day, returning to his home through Tothill Street, dressed in a suit of grey, of ancient cut, and with long grey hair falling over his shoulders, he sat down, tired, on a door-step. A lady passing, struck with his appearance, and taking him for a poor man, gave him a penny. He took it, enjoying the jest, and ever after kept it in his writingdesk." It is related of Jeremy Bentham, that he bequeathed his body to Dr. Southwood Smith, for the purposes of anatomical science.


In 1874 Queen Square and Park Street were re-numbered throughout, and together re-named Queen Anne's Gate, as stated above.

At No. 7, Park Street, on Sunday evenings, Mr. Towneley, the collector of the Towneley Marbles, &c., in the British Museum, one of the earliest revivers of the arts, was accustomed to entertain distinguished literati and artists, members of the Dilettanti Club; and Nollekens, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Zoffany were generally found at his hospitable table. Here, in 1772, Mr. Towneley first assembled his collection of marbles, bronzes, and other works of art, which he had commenced in 1768 at Rome. We shall have more to say about this collection when we come to the British Museum.

In Little Park Street there is a curious alehouse called the "Three Johns," and the same sign, it is said, was also to be seen till lately near Queen Anne's Gate. It is thus described by Mr. Larwood:—"It represented an oblong table, with John Wilkes in the middle, John Horne Tooke at one end, and Sir John Glynn, serjeant-at-law, at the other. There is a mezzotint print of this picture, or the sign may have been taken from the print, and engraved by R. Houston in 1769. John Wilkes, on whom the popular gratitude for writing the Earl of Bute out of power has conferred many a sign-board, still survives in a few other spots also."

We have already seen that the Palace of Whitehall had its cock-pit, (fn. 2) and therefore our readers may be surprised to hear that there was a second cock-pit—called also the Royal—within three or four hundred yards off, in Birdcage Walk, facing the Park. It stood at the junction of Queen Square with Park Street, just at the top of Dartmouth Street, and was ornamented with a cupola. It was taken down in 1816; but in Ackermann's "Microcosm of London," published in 1808, there is a picture of its interior, as it was a few years previously, in a style worthy of Hogarth, who, by the way, has also immortalised it. It is drawn by Rowlandson and Pugin, and coloured; showing the style of dress worn by all grades, from the lord to the Westminster "rough." Some of the figures introduced are evidently portraits of "peers and pick-pockets, grooms and gentlemen," mixed up in a strange medley. The rival cocks are being backed up by two boys, called feeders, dressed in red jackets and yellow trowsers—a sort of "royal" livery; the chief figure in the front row is an elderly gentleman, who seems to anticipate the loss of the battle, as also does his fat neighbour on the left, while a stupid look of despair in the countenance of a grim individual on the right proclaims that all is lost. The smiling gentleman on the left appears to be the winner, actual or expectant. The clenched fists and earnest looks of those in the two front rows show that a goodly sum of money is risked on the issue. Nearly in the centre of the back row of all are two figures apparently hurling defiance at the whole company; they are certainly offering odds which no one is disposed to take. At the back sits an officer in a cocked hat, and above him are the royal arms, the lion and the unicorn, to all appearance, looking down with composure on the fray, whilst some of the "roughs" are laying whips and thick sticks on the heads and shoulders of their neighbours. The whole picture is a study, and gives a far more perfect idea of such a scene than any words can convey. It seems strange that such scenes were tolerated and approved by royalty in the "good old days when George III. was king." In some families in the seventeenth century the patronage of cock-fighting would appear to have been as hereditary as is the keeping of hounds with certain nobles of a later date; for instance, the Herberts, concerning whom there is an old doggerel verse, often quoted:—
"The Herberts every cock-pit day,
Do carry away, away, away!
The gold and glory of the day."

It was at the Cock-pit in St. James's Park that Robert Harley, afterwards Earl of Oxford, was stabbed, though not fatally, with a penknife, by a French noble refugee, the Marquis de Guiscard, who was brought before him and the rest of the Cabinet Council by the Queen's Messenger, charged with treacherous correspondence with the rival Court at St. Germain, whilst drawing a pension from the English Court.

In the records of the Audit Office is an entry of a payment of "xxxl. per annum to the keeper of our Playhouse called the Cockpitt, in St. James's Parke."

Cock-fighting, and the still more barbarous sport of throwing at cocks, it may interest some of our readers to learn, was, in the days of our forefathers, the chief amusement on Shrove Tuesday. Hence Sir Charles Sedley, in his epigram on a cock at Rochester, prays:—
"May'st thou be punished for St. Peter's crime,
And on Shrove Tuesday perish in thy prime!"

Such sports, it is fortunate to add, are now very nearly extinct among the educated classes, for public opinion has declared against them in an unmistakable manner. "Cock-fighting and bearbaiting," as Dr. Johnson said, "may raise the spirit of a company, just as drinking does, but they will never improve the conversation of those who take part in them."

Near the Cock-pit resided Sir John Germaine, who was tried for running off with the Duchess of Norfolk, whom her husband divorced in consequence. She was by birth a Mordaunt, a daughter of the Earl of Peterborough. It was sworn on the trial that Sir John and the duchess used to frequent Vauxhall almost daily in each other's company, a fact on which the divorce was based to a large extent, and which does not speak very much in praise of the morals of that place of amusement.

Much of the incongruous character of the Westminster of the era of Victoria may be traced back to the peculiarities of the ancient city. Du Chatelet, the celebrated French statistician, shows that the "Quartier de la Cité"—now the head-quarters of the thieves of Paris—was formerly the site of a wellknown "sanctuary;" and just so it was also with the City of Westminster itself. "The church at Westminster," writes Stow, "hath had great privilege of sanctuary within the precinct thereof, from whence it hath not been lawful for any prince or any other to take any person that fled thither for any cause. The charter granted to it by Edward the Confessor conferred this privilege in the following terms:—'I order and establish for ever that whatever person, of what condition or estate soever he be, from whence soever he come, or for what offence or cause it be, cometh for his refuge into the said Holy Church of the Blessed Apostle St. Peter, at Westminster, he be assured of his life, liberty, and limbs; . … and whosoever presumeth or doeth contrary to this my grant, I will that he lose his name, worship, dignity, and power, and that, with the great traitor, Judas, that betrayed our Saviour, he be in the everlasting fire of hell.'"

The neighbourhood of the Abbey two centuries, or even a century ago, it is to be feared, was low and disreputable. Pope tells us, for instance, how Curll's hack authors hung about this part: his historian at "the tallow-chandler's under the blind arch in Petty France; his two translators sharing a bed together; and his poet in the cockloft in Budge Row, where the ladder to get at it is in the hands of the landlady."

The author of "A New Critical Review of the Public Buildings, &c.," in the reign of George II., with the shallow and false taste of his time, dismisses the fair city in a very few words, as "though famous for its antiquity, yet producing very little worthy of attention and less of admiration." He would have written far otherwise, had he lived till the days of Queen Victoria.

Till within about a century most of the shops in the Strand and Westminster, as in the City, were open, as those of butchers are to the present day; and in this way not only articles of dress, but watches and jewellery were exposed for sale. In fact, they did not begin to be enclosed and glazed, as now, until about the year 1710. Thus, in the Tatler (No. 162), we find mentioned as novelties, "Private shops that stand upon Corinthian pillars, and whole rows of tin pots showing themselves through a sash window," the appearance of "pillars" and "sash-windows" being equally unwarrantable innovations. The appearance, too, of the master, under the first two Georges, if not to a later date, was equally unlike the dress of a modern tradesman. Then the old shopkeeper might be seen walking the quarter-deck of his own shop, with his hair full-powdered, his silver knee and shoe buckles, and his hands surrounded with the nicely-plaited ruffle hanging down to his knuckles, and his apprentices wearing the same livery, only with distinctions to mark their grade.

"By an Act of Parliament of the fourteenth and fifteenth of Henry VIII., c. 2, the jurisdiction of the City corporations was to extend two miles beyond the City; namely, the town of Westminster, the parishes of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Our Lady in the Strand, St. Clement's Danes without Temple Bar, St. Giles's-in-the-Fields, St. Andrew's in Holborn, the town and borough of Southwark, the parishes of Shoreditch, Whitechapel, St. John's Street, Clerkenwell, and Clerkenwell, St. Botolph without Aldgate, St. Katharine's near the Tower, and Bermondsey.

"Such were the suburbs of our great metropolis in 1524. They were greatly detached, and the intervals were principally public fields. The Strand was then occupied by mansions and dwellings of the nobility, which were surrounded by large and splendid gardens; and a considerable portion of the parishes of St. Martin and St. Giles were literally, as they are still called, in the fields, as were also a great portion of the City of Westminster, and the villages of Clerkenwell, Shoreditch, and Whitechapel, and the borough of Southwark."

D'Israeli, in his "Curiosities of Literature," after noting the gradual union of Westminster and London, in spite of all edicts and Acts of Parliament, remarks that "since their happy marriage their fertile progenies have so blended together, that little Londons are no longer distinguishable from their ancient parents. We have succeeded in spreading the capital into a county, and have verified the prediction of James I., that 'England will shortly be London, and London England.'"

In Rymer's "Fœdera" (vol. xvi.) is given a proclamation of Elizabeth, issued for the purpose of restraining the increase of buildings about the metropolis. In it the high-handed Queen commands all persons, on the pain of her royal displeasure, and of sundry punishments besides, to desist from all new buildings of houses or tenements within three miles of any of the gates of London; and in the same document it is ordered that unfinished buildings or new foundations are to be summarily pulled down. A strange contrast this to the policy of Queen Victoria, under whom the buildings and population of London and its suburbs have been more than doubled, without any let or hindrance on the part of the sovereign. The spirit of Elizabeth's proclamation was in due course repeated by James I. on his accession to his southern throne.

The fair city has numbered among its residents many distinguished and many eccentric personages, and has witnessed many freaks of fortune in the sudden rise or fall of individuals of less or more merit. Thus, we read in Erskine's "Dramatic Biography" the following bit of luck which befell a servant maid:—"Mrs. Jane Wiseman, who wrote a tragedy, entitled 'Antiochus the Great, or the Fatal Relapse' (1702, 4to), was a servant in the family of Mr. Wright, Recorder of Oxford, where, having leisure time, she employed it in reading plays and novels. She began there that tragedy which she finished in London, and, soon after, marrying one Holt, a vintner, they were enabled, by the profits of her play, to set up a tavern in Westminster." It is devoutly to be hoped that this worthy pair made a fortune and "lived happily ever after."

Among the distinguished residents of Westminster in former times, as we learn from the "New View of London" (published in 1708), were Lord Scarsdale, who was living at a mansion in Duke Street; Lord Stafford, at Tart Hall; Lord Rochester, "near Westminster Gate;" Lord Essex, near Whitehall; the Lord Portland, near the Banqueting House in Whitehall; the Bishop of Norwich and the Archbishop of York in Petty France. Peterborough House, near the Horseferry, belonged to the Earl of Peterborough, but was let to a merchant, Mr. Bull. In Queen Square were living Lords North, and Grey, and Guernsey. Robert Harley, Principal Secretary of State under Queen Anne, lived in "York Buildings, near the waterside."

In the Market Place at Westminster was formerly an inn bearing the sign of "The Old Man." This probably refers to "Old Parr," of whom we have already spoken in our account of the Strand, (fn. 3) and who was celebrated in the ballads of the day as "The olde, olde, very olde manne." "The token of the inn," says Mr. Larwood, "represents a bearded bust in profile, with a bare head."

James I., with all his learning and pedantry, was, apparently, a patron of sports and pastimes; at all events, we read that he granted to his groomporter, one Clement Cottrell, the privilege of licensing, within the limits of London and Westminster, and within two miles therefrom, no less than forty taverns "for the honest and reasonable recreation of good and civil people, who for their quality and ability, may lawfully use the games of bowling, tennis, dice, cards, tables, nine-holes, or any other game hereafter to be invented."

We cannot turn our backs on Westminster without remarking that the two cities of London and Westminster for a number of years were totally distinct and separate—the one inhabited chiefly by the Scots, and the other by the English. It is believed that the union of the two crowns conduced not a little to unite these several cities; "for," says an old writer, Howel, "the Scots greatly multiplying here, nestled themselves about the court, so that the Strand, from the mud walls and thatched cottages, acquired that perfection of building it now possesses;" and thus went on the process which made London, according to the quaint fancy of the writer just named, like a Jesuit's hat, the brims of which were larger than the block; and that induced the Spanish ambassador, Gondomar, to say to his royal mistress, after his return from London, and whilst describing the place to her, "Madam, I believe there will be no city left shortly, for all will run out of the gates to the suburbs."


  • 1. See Vol. II., page 81.
  • 2. See Vol. III., p. 370.
  • 3. See Vol. III., p. 74.