Old and New London: Volume 5. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. Public Domain.
HAMPSTEAD (continued).—ITS LITERARY ASSOCIATIONS, &c.
"Well, this Hampstead's a charming place."—Old Play.
Church Row—Fashionable Frequenters of "the Row" in the Last Century—Dr. Sherlock—Dr. John Arbuthnot—Dr. Anthony Askew—Dr. George Sewell—The Rev. Rochmont Barbauld—Mr. J. Park—Miss Lucy Aikin—Reformatory Schools—John Rogers Herbert—Henry Fuscli—Hannah Lightfoot—Charles Dickens—Charles Knight—An Artistic Gift rejected by Hampstead—The Parish Church—Repairs and Alterations in the Building—Eminent Incumbents—The Graves of Joanna Baillie, Sir James Mackintosh, John Constable, Lord Erskine, and Others—St. Mary's Roman Catholic Chapel—Grove Lodge and Montagu Grove—The Old Workhouse.
Retracing our steps to the High Street, and passing up a narrow lane on the west side, called Church Lane, we find ourselves in Church Row. Here, and almost only here, the hand of the "improver" and "restorer" has not been at work; the projecting hooded doorways of the days of Queen Anne still frown over the entrances of the red-bricked houses on our right and left, just as they did in the days "when George III. was king;" and the whole street has an air of quiet, homely, and venerable respectability which we can scarcely see elsewhere. Long may it remain in statu quo, this venerable relic of the days when the fashionable crowd—the "quality"—gentlemen with powdered wigs and gold-headed canes, and ladies in farthingales and "hoops of wondrous size"—used to make "the Row" their evening parade, after drinking the waters at the chalybeate spring, which, as we have just seen, still flows so invitingly on the other side of the High Street. Like Flask Walk and Well Walk, and some other thoroughfares which we have mentioned, Church Row—and, indeed, the High Street also—could in former times boast of its row of lime-trees growing down the centre of the roadway. Those in the High Street, save one, disappeared long ago; and of those in Church Row one solitary lime remains as a memento of the past. It may not be out of place to add here that the sedan-chairs continued in use in Hampstead longer than in any other part of London; indeed, it was no farther back than the early part of the present century that they were superseded by the donkey-carriages, which may still be seen driven along the quiet thoroughfares. Till comparatively recent times, too, the linkextinguishers of former days remained in situ by the doors of most of the houses in Church Row, although their use had been long ago set aside by the introduction of gas.
Among the frequenters of Church Row at the beginning of the last century doubtless might have been seen Dr. William Sherlock, Dean of St. Paul's and Master of the Temple, and also Dr. Arbuthnot, the witty physician, and friend of Swift, Gay, and Pope. The former, at all events, died at Hampstead, in June, 1707, at the age of sixty-six. He was induced by his wife, somewhat reluctantly, to submit to William and Mary. Walking with his spouse, he was pointed at by a bookseller, who said, "There goes Dr. Sherlock with his reasons for taking the oaths on his arm." Dr. Sherlock was the author of a "Practical Treatise on Death." He was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.
Dr. John Arbuthnot, of whom we have already
spoken in our account of Dover Street, Piccadilly, (fn. 1)
was for some time a resident at Hampstead. He
was eminent as a wit and man of letters, even
among the choice spirits of the reign of Queen
Anne. Soon after coming to England from Scotland, the place of his birth, he went to practise as
a physician at Dorchester, but the salubrity of the
air was unfriendly to his success, and he took
horse for London. A neighbour, meeting him on
full gallop, asked him where he was going. "To
leave your confounded place, where I can neither
live nor die." His wit and pleasantry sometimes
assisted his prescriptions, and in some cases superseded the necessity of prescribing. Queen Anne
and her consort appointed him their physician; the
Royal Society elected him a member, and the
College of Physicians followed. "He gained the
admiration of Swift, Pope, and Gay," writes Hone
in his "Year Book," "and with them he wrote and
laughed. No man had more friends, or fewer
enemies; yet he did not want energy of character;
he diverged from the laughter-loving mood to tear
away the mask from the infamous 'Charitable Corporation.' He could do all things well but walk.
His health declined, while his mind remained
sound to the last. He long wished for death to
release him from a complication of disorders, and
declared himself tired with 'keeping so much bad
company.' A few weeks before his decease he
wrote, 'I am as well as a man can be who is
gasping for breath, and has a house full of men
and women unprovided for.'… Dr. Arbuthnot was a man of great humanity and benevolence.
Swift said to Pope, 'Oh that the world had but a
dozen Arbuthnots in it; if so, I would burn my
travels.' Pope no less passionately lamented him,
and said of him, 'He was a man of humour, whose
mind seemed to be always pregnant with comic
ideas.' Arbuthnot was, indeed, seldom serious,
except in his attacks upon great enormities, and
then his pen was masterly. The condemnation of
the play of Three Hours after Marriage, written
by him, Pope, and Gay, was published by Wilkes,
in his prologue to the Sultaness:—
'Such were the wags who boldly did adventure
To club a farce by tripartite indenture;
But let them share their dividend of praise,
And wear their own fool's cap instead of bays.'
Arbuthnot simply retorted, in 'Gulliver Decyphered.' Satire was his chief weapon, but the wound he inflicted on folly soon healed; he was always playful, unless he added weight to keenness for the chastisement of crime."
To the above names of the frequenters of Church Row may be added that of Dr. Johnson, during his sojourn at Frognal, just round by the western end of the church, whose "ivy-mantled tower" forms a pleasing termination to the bottom of Church Row.
Another distinguished physician who resided for some time at Hampstead, and who, doubtless, might have been seen mixing with the fashionable throng in Church Row, was Dr. Anthony Askew, who died here in 1774. He practised originally at Cambridge, but seems to have been introduced to London, and zealously recommended there, by the celebrated Dr. Mead. Dr. Askew was chiefly noted for his collection of classical works, which were sold at his death. Nichols says that his collection of Greek and Latin works was "one of the best, rarest, and most valuable ever sold in Great Britain."
Dr. George Sewell, an intimate friend of Pope and Arbuthnot, had lodgings in Hampstead, where he died in 1725. He contributed largely to the supplemental volumes of the Tatler and Spectator, and wrote the principal part of a translation of Ovid's "Metamorphoses." His principal work, however, was the tragedy of Sir Walter Raleigh, which was produced at the Duke's Theatre, in Lincoln's Inn Fields.
John Wylde, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer during the civil war, spent the last few years of his life in retirement at Hampstead, and died about ten years after the Restoration.
The Rev. Rochmont Barbauld—a well-known Unitarian minister at Hampstead at the close of the last century—resided in Church Row, where he had a few pupils. Hampstead at that time was deemed almost inaccessible. In a diary kept by Mr. Barbauld, he frequently speaks of being prevented from going to town by the state of the roads. Mrs. Barbauld resided in Hampstead long after her husband's death, but chiefly on Rosslyn Hill; we shall have more to say of her on reaching that place.
Mr. J. Park, the author of the "History of Hampstead," most excellent as a man and as an antiquary, lived in Church Row; he died in June, 1833. The work associated with his name was published before Mr. Park came of age, and in closing the preface, which is dated November 30, 1813, Mr. Park remarked, "The severer studies of an arduous profession now call upon me to bid a final adieu to those literary blandishments which have beguiled my youthful days." To this resolution he firmly adhered; but afterwards committed to the care of Mr. Nichols, the well-known antiquary, to whom we have frequently had occasion to refer, some additional documents, which were printed as an appendix, in 1818. Mr. Park became a barrister-at-law of Lincoln's Inn, and two years before his death he was appointed Professor of Law and Jurisprudence at King's College, London.
Another literary name, long associated with Hampstead, is that of Miss Lucy Aikin, niece of Mrs. Barbauld, and the author of "Memories of the Court of Queen Elizabeth," &c. On the death of her father, Dr. Aikin, which happened at Stoke Newington, in December, 1822, she took up her abode in Church Row, to be near her aunt, Mrs. Barbauld. Her mother accompanied her, and spent here her declining years, and died here in 1830. She had been brought up among the descendants of the old Puritans, and afterwards lived much among the disciples and fellow-workers of Price and Priestley and Dr. Enfield—all Unitarians, or men of the broadest views in that direction. Her only, or at all events her chief, publication whilst living here was her "Memoir of Addison," which appeared in 1843. She quitted Hampstead in the next year, to reside first in London and afterwards at Wimbledon, but returned to it some seven or eight years later, and spent the last twelve years of her life in the house of Mr. P. H. Le Breton, who had married her niece. Late in life she wrote in one of her letters, "I am all but a prisoner to my house and little garden." She died here in January, 1864, in her eighty-third year, and her grave in the old churchyard is next to that of her great friend, Joanna Baillie. "To Hampstead," writes Mr. Le Breton, in his preface to her "Memoirs," "Lucy Aikin was much attached, and her return to it gave her much pleasure, as many dear relatives and friends lived there. The vicinity of Hampstead to the metropolis afforded, at the same time, the opportunity of intercourse with a more varied society. She enjoyed with a keen relish, and thoroughly appreciated, the company of literary men and of eminent politicians and lawyers, with whom she delighted to discuss questions of interest. With almost every distinguished writer of this period she was acquainted, and of many of them notices will be found in her correspondence." Miss Harriet Martineau was among her numerous friends and visitors here.
The Hampstead of 1830–40 is thus portrayed by Miss Lucy Aikin, in one of her charming letters to Dr. Channing:—"Several circumstances render society here peculiarly easy and pleasant; in many respects the place unites the advantages and escapes the evils both of London and provincial towns. It is near enough (to London) to allow its inhabitants to partake in the society, the amusements, and the accommodations of the capital as freely as ever the dissipated could desire; whilst it affords pure air, lovely scenery, and retired and beautiful walks. Because every one here is supposed to have a London set of friends, neighbours do not think it necessary, as in the provinces, to force their acquaintance upon you; of local society you may have much, little, or none, as you please; and with a little, which is very good, you may associate on the easiest terms. Then the summer brings an influx of Londoners, who are often genteel and agreeable people, and pleasingly vary the scene. Such is Hampstead." And such, to a certain extent, it may be added, is Hampstead in the present day; for as yet it is quite distinct from the great metropolis, and has quite a character of its own.
The Hampstead Reformatory School for Girls, founded in 1857, occupied a large-sized house in Church Row, down to the close of 1876, when the establishment was removed to Heathfield House, near "Jack Straw's Castle." This institution is certified under the Reformatory Schools Act of 1866; and the inmates, numbering on an average about a hundred, receive an excellent education. Their former home is still devoted to reformatory purposes, being occupied by girls from the Field Lane Refuge on Saffron Hill. The large old-fashioned house at the corner of Church Row and Church Lane is devoted to a similar purpose, though its inmates are somewhat older.
This quarter of Hampstead, in fact, seems to have had particular attractions for authors and artists. Here, or close at hand, lived Henry Fuseli, R.A., of whom we quote the following extract from the "Mitchell Manuscripts" in the British Museum. The letter is from Mr. Murdock, of Hampstead, to a friend at Berlin, dated Hampstead, 12th June, 1764:—"I like Fuseli very much; he comes out to see us at times, and is just now gone from this with your letter to A. Ramsay, and another from me. He is of himself disposed to all possible economy; but to be decently lodged and fed, in a decent family, cannot be for less than three shillings a day, which he pays. He might, according to Miller's wish, live a little cheaper; but then he must have been lodged in some garret, where nobody could have found their way, and must have been thrown into ale-houses and eating-houses, with company every way unsuitable, or, indeed, insupportable to a stranger of any taste, especially as the common people are of late brutalised. Some time hence, I hope, he may do something for himself; his talent at grouping figures and his faculty of execution being really surprising."
Another eminent artist, in more recent times an inhabitant of Church Row, was John Rogers Herbert. He was for some years head-master of the School of Design at Somerset House, and in 1846 was selected to paint one of the frescoes in the vestibule of the Houses of Parliament. He was afterwards commissioned to paint a series of nine subjects, illustrating "Human Justice," for the peers' robing-room. Mr. Herbert was elected a Royal Academician in 1846. His works since 1840, when he embraced the Roman Catholic faith, have assumed a character in accordance with his religious convictions. Of these we may mention his "Introduction of Christianity into Great Britain," "Sir Thomas More and his Daughter observing from their Prison Window the Monks going to Execution," "St. John the Baptist reproving Herod," and "The Virgin Mary." This lastmentioned picture was painted for the Queen in 1860. Sundry other Royal Academicians and artists have likewise been residents here, besides the artists whose names we have enumerated.
Among the residents at Hampstead, in the middle of the last century, was Hannah Lightfoot, the fair Quakeress who is said to have captivated the heart of George III.; (fn. 2) and here she made her will in 1767–8, signing it "Hannah Regina," recommending "my two sons and daughter to the kind protection of their royal father, my husband, His Majesty George III."
Another resident here was Mr. Hamond, one of the literary friends of Mr. H. Crabbe Robinson. The latter writes in his "Diary," under date August, 1812: "A delightful day. The pleasantest walk by far I have had this summer. The very rising from one's bed at Hamond's house is enjoyment worth going to Hampstead over night to partake of. The morning scene from his back rooms is extremely beautiful." And then he describes his walk past the "Spaniards," and down some fields opposite Ken Wood, and so across Finchley to Colney Hatch and Southgate.
Mr. J. Forster, in his "Life of Charles Dickens," speaks several times of his almost daily "foregatherings" here, in the early period of his literary life, with Maclise, Stanfield, David Roberts, and other literary friends.
At Hampstead the elder Mr. Dickens resided during part of the time whilst his son was at school in Mornington Place, but the exact house is not known. Charles Knight, the well-known author and publisher, was a resident at Hampstead from 1865 to 1871. Mr. Knight died at Addlestone, in Surrey, in 1873, aged eighty-one. The whole of his long and honourable career was devoted to the cause of popular literature, of which he was one of the earliest and most accomplished advocates. We have already mentioned him as living at Highgate. Among the numerous works which he published or edited were the "Penny Magazine," the "Library of Entertaining Knowledge," the "Pictorial History of England," "London Pictorially Illustrated," the "Land we Live in," the "English Cyclopædia," and the "Popular History of England." At Hampstead his venerable, but genial and pleasant, face and snow-white locks were familiar to rich and poor, old and young. Here, surrounded by his books and a small but attached circle of literary friends, he spent his declining years, busying himself chiefly with two genial retrospective works—his "Shadows of the Old Booksellers," and "Passages of a Working Life," as he modestly termed his autobiography, and occasionally contributing a stray paper or two to the literature of the day.
We have mentioned Hampstead as a place which for many a long year has been a favourite home and resort of artists. As a proof of this fact, it may be mentioned that the survivor of the brothers Chalon, the eminent painters, about the year 1860 proposed to bestow on Hampstead the whole of his own and his brother's drawings on condition of the inhabitants building a gallery for their reception, and paying the salary of a custodian until his own decease. The lord of the manor, in order to forward the arrangement, offered to give a freehold site upon the Heath, just opposite to the "Upper Flask;" but there was not enough public spirit or taste in the residents to raise the sum required to meet the benefaction; the gift consequently lapsed, and the arrangement fell through.
The old parish church of Hampstead, as we have stated above, stands at the bottom of Church Row, and its green coating of ivy contrasts pleasingly with the red brick and tiled houses on either hand as we approach it. The building seems to have exercised a strange fascination over the artistic mind of the day, for a proposal to pull it down and rebuild it was received a short time ago with a perfect shout of disapproval. It is true that the church is most picturesquely situated, and that the distant view of the spire as it peeps from the mass of variegated foliage which adorns the churchyard is exceedingly pretty; but there is no reason why another church built on the same site should not be even more pleasing. The body of the church is ugly, awkward, and inconvenient in no common degree; the tower is mean, and the spire a shabby minaret, without grace or beauty of any kind. Nor has the structure the merit of antiquity. It dates only from 1747, when church architecture was at its lowest ebb, and it was designed with a wilful disregard of all true principles. The soil being sandy, and the position the side of a steep hill, it was necessary to lay the walls upon timber. In process of time the timber—it is hardly necessary to say—rotted away, and there has been a series of somewhat alarming settlements. The church had hardly been finished a dozen years when it was found necessary to pull down and rebuild the tower and spire. As a reason, we are told that the mason had proved a rogue, and had used Purbeck instead of Portland stone. The fact probably was that the foundations had given way, as it appears has been the case on more than one occasion since. In 1772 the church was subjected to a general repair and ornamentation after the usual churchwarden's fashion, but it has always been insecure and uncomfortable.
As we have stated in a previous chapter, Hampstead, before the Reformation, was only a chapelry in, and dependent on, the mother church of Hendon, and it was only after the dissolution of the monasteries that it came to be formed into a separate parish, the advowson of the living being appended to the lordship of the manor.
In 1549 the lord of the manor presented to the living for the first time; but it was not till a much later date that the vicar and churchwardens of Hampstead put in an appearance at the bishop's visitation; and, indeed, it was only in the year 1588 that the incumbent acknowledged himself as bound to apply to the bishop for his licence in order to officiate. The old chapel of St. Mary, which in the pre-Reformation times had been "served" on Sundays and other holy days by the monks from Westminster, or by a chaplain from Hendon, was a quaint and unpretending edifice, consisting of a nave and low side-aisles, surmounted by a wooden belfry. There is a very scarce print of it by Hollar, which was republished by Park in his "History of Hampstead," now a rare and valuable book. Park tells us that in the early part of the eighteenth century, having been "patched up as long as it would last, and being at length quite worn out," as well as too small to accommodate the inhabitants of Hampstead, the former church was taken down in 1745, and that the present edifice was finished two years later. It is a mistake, therefore, to speak of it as dating from the reign of Queen Anne, for it has nothing about it older than the second George. Before undertaking the work of rebuilding their church, the good people of Hampstead applied to Parliament for aid, but apparently without success, for shortly afterwards they raised by subscription the sum of £3,000 for the purpose; and this not being sufficient, they had recourse to a measure of very doubtful legality, in order to "raise the wind;" for they entered into a sort of joint-stock combination, by which it was agreed that several persons who contributed £20 and upwards should be elected trustees, and that those who subscribed £50 and upwards should have the first choice of seats and pews, which should become heirlooms in their families, though not to be alienated by purchase, but should be distributed to other benefactors of the church by the lord of the manor, the vicar, and the trustees; and in the main this principle still holds good, in spite of all efforts to put an end to such arrangements. It then contained pew-room for 550 persons, exclusive of benches; but further accommodation has since been made on several occasions by the addition of transepts and by other expedients. The church is described by Park as "a neat but ill-designed brick building, in the common style of modern churches, except that, contrary to all custom, the belfry and tower are at the east end, behind the chancel." No doubt the motive for this arrangement was economy, as the ground slopes down abruptly at the west end, and had the tower been placed there it would have been necessary to lay deeper foundations; and another inducement, no doubt, was the wish to create an imposing effect as the parishioners approached their church by the road from the High Street. The total cost of this unsightly structure—for such it really is externally—was between four and five thousand pounds, to which nearly half as much more must be added for repairing the ravages of the dry rot five years later, and for pulling down and rebuilding in 1759 the greater part of the steeple, owing to the knavery of the mason, who, as stated above, had used Purbeck instead of Portland stone as agreed by the contract. The present insignificant copper spire was added in 1784.
Park, who wrote at the commencement of this century, observed, in words which are as true now as then, that "considerable settlements are appearing at the east end, owing to the weight of the tower." The church, we may add, is still under the management of a body of local trustees, who direct the repairs and alterations, and receive and administer the pew rents for the benefit of the incumbent. In 1874–5 the parishioners of Hampstead were engaged in a keen controversy as to whether the church should be "rebuilt" or "restored," mainly through the threatened subsidence of the tower; and matters even went so far that the trustees appointed Mr. F. P. Cockerell as their architect, and that he supplied designs for the twofold purpose; but here the matter seems to have rested for a time, when it was finally decided that the church should be enlarged by the addition of a chancel at the western end, sundry alterations being made in the interior arrangements at the same time, and the tower being underpinned and strengthened.
And yet it must be owned that the church itself looks well, and even imposing, when seen from a distance, especially from the south. The following interesting sketch of the parish church appears in the Sunday at Home for July, 1876:—"From Primrose Hill a full view is obtained of the outline of the fine ridge to the north on which rest the suburbs of Highgate and Hampstead. The steeples of Highgate Church and of Christ's Church, Hampstead, are conspicuous marks in the landscape, while St. John's Church, or, as it is commonly called, old Hampstead Church, may be dimly descried amid a clustering group of trees. Proceeding by the Finchley Road to the old church, and taking the ascending pathway through the fields, a stranger would confront before he was aware the object of his quest, which he would find to be a brick-built and substantial, though a plain and unpretentious building in the Italian style. The belfry and tower are placed in the east end, behind the chancel, contrary to the usual method of church architecture. The advantage, however, is gained, that the handsomest part of the building is brought prominently into view and faces the village, while the clinging ivy covering almost the whole front removes to some extent the prosaic character of the brickwork, and lends an air of antiquity and a certain poetic charm to the sacred edifice, much in keeping with the beauty of the situation and with the decayed memorials of the surrounding burying-ground. The still older church—smaller but more picturesque—occupied the site of the existing building. It had been patched up as long as it would last; but becoming at length quite worn out from inevitable decay, and besides being too small to accommodate the increased population, it was pulled down. The new building was finished in 1747, at a cost of between £4,000 and £5,000, and was consecrated by Dr. Gilbert, Bishop of Llandaff, by commission from the Bishop of London, on the 8th of October of that year; it was dedicated to St. John."
Of the various clergymen who have held the incumbency of Hampstead, since the living passed into the hands of the lord of the manor, there have been some few whose names have become known beyond the circle of their parishioners. Of these we may mention the Rev. Robert Warren, D.D., who was an able, learned, and pious minister, and a man of mark among the clergy of his day. He preached repeatedly before the Lord Mayor of London, and was the author of several works of practical devotion, which in their time were popular, and ran through numerous editions. The general pious character of Dr. Warren's writings may be learned from the title of one of his most successful books, originally published in the year 1720, "The Daily Self-Examinant, or an Earnest Perswasion to the duty of Self-Examination; with Devout Prayers, Meditations, Directions, and Ejaculations for a Holy Life and Happy Death." Dr. Warren broke a lance with Bishop Hoadley on the nature of the sacrament, and, in his "Impartial Churchman," published an earnest and affectionate address to Protestant dissenters. He died in 1740; his son, Langhorne, was nominated his successor. Unlike to the father, the son does not appear to have been addicted to authorship; his only publication is a sermon on a text from the Book of Proverbs. During the incumbency of Langhorne Warren, the celebrated Dr. Butler, Bishop of Durham, resided at Hampstead, in the house built, and for a time occupied, by Sir Harry Vane—the house, indeed, from which the latter was taken to the Tower, where he was executed in 1662.
One of the witnesses to the bishop's will is the Rev. Langhorne Warren; the will was made at Hampstead, and bears date 25th of April, 1752. The following is one of the directions contained in it:—"It is my positive and express will that all my sermons, letters, and papers whatever, which are now in a deal box directed to Dr. Forester (his chaplain), and now standing in my library at Hampstead, be burnt, without being read by any, as soon as may be after my decease."
Samuel Butler and Dr. Secker, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, were both the sons of Dissenters, and were schoolfellows together at the Dissenting academy of Mr. Jones, at Tewkesbury, where, in the impressible days of their boyhood, was contracted that warm friendship which lasted through life between these eminent men. Secker, when in residence as Dean of St. Paul's, was constantly in the society of the author of the "Analogy" at Hampstead, and, it is said, dined with him every day. "A friend of mine, since deceased, told me," says the Rev. John Newton, "that when he was a young man he once dined with the late Dr. Butler, at that time Bishop of Durham, and though the guest was a man of fortune, and the interview by appointment, the provision was no more than a joint of meat and a pudding. The bishop apologised for his plain fare by saying that it was his way of living; that he had been long disgusted with the fashionable expense of time and money in entertainments, and was determined that it should receive no countenance from his example."
When his health was fast failing, Dr. Butler left Hampstead for Clifton. Afterwards he went to Bath, to try the effect of the waters of that place. Dr. Forester thus writes from Bath to Secker, then Bishop of Oxford, on the 4th of June, 1752:—"My lord, I have barely strength and spirits to inform your lordship that my good lord was brought hither, in a very weak state, yesterday, in hopes of receiving some benefit from the waters." On the 16th of the same month Dr. Butler died. He was buried in the cathedral of Bristol, where two monuments have been erected to his memory.
Ten years after the death of the great bishop, died his friend Langhorne Warren, curate of Hampstead, who, in his turn, was succeeded by his son Erasmus. This gentleman lived until 1806; so that for nearly a century the perpetual curacy of Hampstead was held by the Warren family. Mr. Warren's two assistant curates, the Rev. Charles Grant, and the Rev. Samuel White, in turn succeeded to the incumbency. Dr. White dying in 1841, was succeeded by the Rev. Thomas Ainger, under whose incumbency the parish was subdivided into ecclesiastical districts, for which five new churches were erected. Mr. Ainger was succeeded by the Rev. Charlton Lane, one of the professors in Gresham College; and he by the Rev. Sherard Burnaby.
Able and zealous clergymen connected with the churches which have sprung up of late years efficiently sustain the cause of the Church of England in Hampstead. Of these we would mention the name of the Rev. E. H. Bickersteth, the vicar of Christ Church. Mr. Bickersteth is besides favourably known in the world of letters, both as a poet and an essayist.
The amiable and accomplished Joanna Baillie, of whom we have already spoken, was scrupulously regular in her attendance on divine service in the parish church. She died on the 23rd of February, 1851; her grave may readily be found among the other memorials of the dead in the burying-ground adjoining the edifice. One other grave there will specially attract the visitor—it is that of Sir James Mackintosh, the brilliant lawyer and historian, who died in May, 1832. Mackintosh was a man of great powers and intellectual ability, and was President of the Board of Control under Earl Grey.
In a previous chapter (page 149) we have mentioned Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton in the midst of his benevolent labours residing at North End. In his "Memoirs" we find a letter from him to Sir James Mackintosh, whose mind was then engaged on the questions of the criminal law and colonial reform, inviting him to lend a full, hearty, and unreserved co-operation in the cause of the West Indian slaves. The death of Sir James Mackintosh, after a long illness, was really occasioned by a piece of chicken sticking in his throat when at dinner. He was nearly strangled, and though the meat was dislodged at the time, his health suffered ever afterwards.
Sir James Mackintosh is praised by all his cotemporaries for his wonderful stores of information,
his philanthropy, his amiability, and great powers
of conversation. Lord Russell tells us that he
was "the ablest, the most brilliant, and the bestinformed" of all those whose conversational talents
are mentioned by Tommy Moore, who often came
from Muswell Hill to meet him at the hospitable
table of the Longmans on the Green Hill. He
is thus portrayed in the "New Whig Guide:"—
"——Mackintosh strives to unite
The grave and the gay, the profound and polite,
And piques himself much that the ladies should say
How well Scottish strength softens down in Bombay!
He frequents the assembly, the supper, the ball,
The philosophe beau of unlovable Staël;
Affects to talk French in his hoarse Highland note,
And gurgles Italian half-way down his throat.
His gait is a shuffle, his smile is a leer,
His converse is quaint, his civility queer;
In short, to all grace and deportment a rebel,
At best he is but a half-polished Scotch pebble."
This beautiful churchyard, perhaps one of the loveliest in England, and one of which it may be said with truth that "it would make one in love with death to think that he should be buried in so sweet a spot," is crowded with other tombs which bear distinguished names. Among them are those of John Constable, the artist; of Lord Erskine; of Harrison, who discovered the mode of ascertaining the longitude; and of the sweet-voiced Incledon, "the most wonderful nature-taught singer this country has ever produced." Not the least interesting of the graves is that of an old lady from St. Giles's parish, who was the solitary victim in Hampstead to the visitation of the cholera in 1849. The story is extant, and written in very choice English in the reports of the medical officer of the Privy Council. She had, it seems, lived in the parish of St. Giles, and having drank of the water from the church pump, fondly imagined that no other could be so good. When, therefore, her husband died, and she retired upon a modest competency to the northern suburb, she arranged with the conductor of an omnibus to bring her a jar of it daily. She drank of it and of it only, and never tired of praising its excellences. The sparkle which she found so attractive was, however, but a form of death; the water was literally loaded with sewage gas and with the phosphates which had filtered through the earth from the churchyard close by. It was, as it were, a matter of course that she should die, but she did not die in vain. The history of her case has been of a value to medical science which few can over-estimate. Had the old lady known much of local history, she would, perhaps, have pinned her faith to the waters of Hampstead, and perhaps have been living at the present time. Among other notabilities preserved in local memories as resting here is Miss West, better known as "Jenny Diver," the most accomplished lady pickpocket of her age, who died here in 1783, leaving £3,000, the fruits of her industry, to her two children, one of whom was born in Bridewell. This desultory gossip leads us to curious associations; but the grave, like misery, makes us acquainted with strange bedfellows; and the ashes of poor Jenny lie peacefully enough with those of better people.
The old churchyard covers about three acres, and lies chiefly on the south of the church. A little higher up on the slope of the hill is the new or upper churchyard, one end of which abuts upon Church Row. It is not quite so large as the other, and was consecrated in 1812.
At the northern extremity of this churchyard stands the little Roman Catholic chapel of St. Mary's, its western front conspicuously decorated with a handsome statue of the Virgin and the Divine Child in a niche. It was built in 1815–16 by the exertions of the Abbé Morel, one of those French emigrés whom the waves of the first French Revolution threw upon our shores. For many years the abbé lived in Hampstead, teaching his native language; his gains he laid by in order to found the mission and chapel, in which he rests beneath a handsome altar-tomb. Before the consecration of the chapel by the "Vicar Apostolic" of the London district in 1816, the abbé used to say mass over a stable in Rosslyn Park, and afterwards at Oriel House, at the upper end of Church Row. He died in 1851. In the interior of the chapel are some fine sacred pictures.
Grove Lodge and Montagu Grove, near here, are places worthy of mention, the former as having been at one time the residence of Sir Gilbert Scott, the architect; and the latter as the residence of Mr. Edward Montagu, the first patron of the Hampstead Sunday School. Concerning this gentleman, the European Magazine for June, 1788, tells the following anecdote:—"June 10. This morning Lord Mansfield sent a servant from Caen Lodge, to Mr. Montagu, the Master in Chancery, Frognal Grove, near Hampstead, requesting that gentleman's company to dinner. The answer returned was that 'Mr. Montagu had come home the preceding evening from London ill, and remained then indisposed.' The messenger returned back, pressing Mr. Montagu's attendance on his lordship, who had some material business to communicate, upon which Mr. Montagu replied, 'He would wait on the earl in the afternoon.' At five the master went to Caen Wood Lodge, where he was introduced to Earl Mansfield, who was alone. 'I sent for you, sir,' said his lordship, 'to receive, ac well officially as my acquaintance and friend, the resignation of my office; and, in order to save trouble, I have caused the instrument to be prepared, as you here see.' He then introduced the paper, which, after Mr. Montagu had perused, and found proper, the earl signed. The master underwrote it, and afterwards dispatched it to the Lord Chancellor's house, who laid it before the king." Montagu Grove was afterwards the residence of Chief Baron Richards.
Opposite Montagu Grove, on some sloping ground leading towards Mount Vernon, and now occupied as a garden, it is said that the workhouse of Hampstead formerly stood. The old house, as depicted in Park's "Hampstead," was a picturesque building, with projecting wings, gabled roof, and bay windows. Here, before it became the parish poorhouse, Colley Cibber used to meet his friends, Booth and Wilkes, the actors, to concert plans for their dramatic campaigns.