Old and New London: Volume 6. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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ST. GEORGE'S FIELDS.
"Saint George's Fields are fields no more,
The trowel supersedes the plough;
Huge inundated swamps of yore
Are changed to civic villas now."
St. George's Fields in the Time of the Roman Occupation—Canute's Trench—Charles II. entertained at St. George's Fields on his Restoration—The Populace resort hither during the Great Fire—The Character of St. George's Fields in the Last Century—The Apollo Gardens—The "Dog and Duck" Tavern—St. George's Spa—A Curious Exhibition—The Wilkes' Riots—The Gordon Riots—Death of Lord George Gordon—Gradual Advance of Building in St. George's Fields—The Magdalen Hospital—Peabody Buildings—The Asylum for Female Orphans—The Philanthropic Society—The School for the Indigent Blind—The Obelisk.
In the above lines, the Brothers Smith, the authors
of the "Rejected Addresses," in 1812, lamented
the decline alike of sports and of rural beauty,
which were once the chief characteristics of this
locality; but even this description has long ceased
to be applicable. Perhaps the following stanza,
though less poetic, quoted from Tallis's "Illustrated
London," would present the reader of to-day with
a more faithful character of St. George's Fields:—
"Thy 'civic villas,' witty Smith,
Have fled, as well as woodland copse;
Where erst the water-lily bloomed
Are planted rows of brokers' shops."
St. George's Fields were named after the adjacent church of St. George the Martyr, and appear once to have been marked by all the floral beauty of meadows, uninvaded by London smoke. We learn from Mr. Cunningham that Gerard came here to collect specimens of his "Herbal." "Of water-violets," he says, "I have not found such plenty in any one place as the water ditches adjoining St. George his fielde near London." And yet these "fields," together with Lambeth Marsh—which lies between them and the Thames—were at one time almost covered with water at every high tide, and across which the Romans threw embanked roads, and on which they reared villas, after the Dutch summer-house fashion, on piles. Indeed, St. George's Fields were certainly occupied by the Romans, for large quantities of Roman remains, coins, tesselated pavements, urns, and bones have been found there. They formed probably one of the æstiva, or summer camps; for in the winter a great part of them, now known as Lambeth Marsh and Marsh Gate, were under water. It is not stated when all this ground was first drained, but various ancient commissions are remaining for persons to survey the banks of the river, here and in the adjoining parishes, and to take measures for repairing them, and to impress such workmen as they should find necessary for that employment; notwithstanding which, these periodical overflows continued to do considerable mischief; and Strype, in his edition of Stow's "Survey," informs us that, so late as 1555, owing to this cause and some great rains which had then fallen, all St. George's Fields were covered with water. Inundations, therefore, are no novelty to the lands on the south of the Thames near London.
In 1016, as we have already had occasion to observe, (fn. 1) Canute laid siege to London; but finding that the bridge was so strongly fortified by the citizens that he could not come up with his vessels to make any impression on the Thames side of the place, he projected the design of making a canal through St. George's Fields, then marshes, wide and deep enough to convey his ships to the west of the bridge, and to enable him by that means to invest the town on all sides. The line of this canal, called "Canute's Trench," ran from the great wet dock, below Rotherhithe, through Newington, to the river Thames again at Chelsea Reach; but its exact course cannot now be traced.
Dr. Wallis, in a letter to Samuel Pepys, dated in 1699, speaks of having walked, fifty years before, from Stangate, close by Westminster Bridge, to Redriff [Rotherhithe], "across the fields" to Lambeth, meaning there to cross the Thames to Westminster. On this occasion, he writes, a friend "showed me in the passage diverse remains of the old channel which had been heretofore made from Redriff to Lambeth for diverting the Thames whilst London Bridge was a-building, all in a straight line or near it, but with great intervals which had long since been filled up; those remains which then appeared so visible, are now, I suspect, all or most of them filled up, for . . . people in those marshes would be more fond of so much meadow grounds than to let those lakes remain unfilled." In the same letter he speaks of the southern shore of the river as "full of flags and reeds."
St. George's Fields have not been unvisited by royalty, for we are told that at the happy Restoration, on the 29th of May, 1660, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London met Charles II., in his journey from Dover to London, in St. George's Fields, where a magnificent tent was erected, and the king was provided with a sumptuous banquet before entering the City.
These fields, according to Pepys and Evelyn, were one of the places of refuge to which the poorer citizens retreated with such of their goods and chattels as they could save from the fire of London.
We read in Evelyn's "Diary," in September, 1666, that many of the poor people, who had lost their homes in the City, were dispersed about St. George's Fields; "some under miserable huts and hovels, many without a rag or any necessary utensils, bed or board, who from delicatenesse, riches, and easy accommodation in stately and wellfurnished houses, were now reduced to extreamest misery and poverty."
St. George's Fields, down to the commencement of the present century, comprised broad open meadows, and stretched from Blackman Street, Borough, to the Kennington Road. Dirty ditches intersected it, travelling show-vans and wooden huts on wheels were squatted there, and some rusty boilers and pipes rotted by the roadside. They were places, as we read in Malcolm, much resorted to by field-preachers, who, during the reign of the Stuart sovereigns, were not allowed to hold forth in London.
Several of the names of the particular plots of land, during the unbuilt state of St. George's Fields, are transmitted to us in old writings, as well as some amusing notices of certain places here, or in the neighbourhood, in scarce books. Among other documents, the parish records of St. Saviour's mention Checquer Mead, Lamb Acre, and an estate denominated the Chimney Sweepers, as situated in these fields and belonging to that parish; as also a large laystall, or common dunghill, used by the parishioners, called St. George's Dunghill. The open part, at the commencement of the last and end of the preceding century, like Moorfields, and some other void places near the metropolis, was appropriated to the practice of archery, as we learn from a scarce tract published near the time, called "An Aim for those that shoot in St. George's Fields."
Here were the "Apollo Gardens" and the "Dog and Duck," both standing till the Regency of George IV. In point of fashion they were a direct contrast to Ranelagh, and even to Vauxhall, to which "the quality" repaired. The former stood opposite the Asylum in the Westminster Road, and they were fitted up on the plan of Vauxhall, though on a smaller scale, by a Mr. Clayett. In the centre of the gardens was an orchestra, very large and beautiful. "A want of the rural accompaniment of fine trees, their small extent, their situation, and other causes, soon made them the resort of only low and vicious characters; and after an ineffectual struggle, lasting through two or three seasons, they were finally closed, and the site was built over." The old orchestra of the gardens, when taken down, was removed to Sydney Gardens, at Bath, to be re-erected there.
The "Dog and Duck" grounds were far more
obstinate and also far more unworthy of patronage.
At this place there was a long room, with tables
and benches, and an organ at the upper end, so
that in all probability the place was used for
"popular concerts." The audience was composed
of the riff-raff and scum of the town. Becoming
a public nuisance, the gardens were at length put
down by the magistrates, and Bethlehem Hospital
now occupies the spot which once they covered.
The spot was a noted place of amusement for the
lower middle classes; and as the name indicates,
it was one of the chief scenes of the brutal diversion
of duck-hunting, which was carried on here, less
than two centuries ago, in a pond or ponds in the
grounds attached to the house. The fun of the
sport consisted in seeing the duck make its escape
from the dog's mouth by diving. It was much
practised in the neighbourhood of London till it
was out of fashion, being superseded by pigeonshooting, and other pastimes equally cruel. In the
seventeenth century the place was celebrated for
its springs. The "Dog and Duck," in its later
days, bore but a bad repute as a regular haunt of
thieves and of other low characters. After a long
existence, during which it frequently figured in
connection with trials for highway robbery and
other crimes, it was suppressed by the order of the
magistrates. Garrick thus alludes to the tavern
and its tea-gardens in his Prologue to the Maid of
the Oaks, 1774:—
"St. George's Fields, with taste of fashion struck,
Display Arcadia at the 'Dog and Duck;'
And Drury misses here, in tawdry pride,
Are there 'Pastoras' by the fountain side."
It will be remembered that one of the best scenes in Hannah More's "Cheapside Apprentice" is laid in the infamous Dog and Duck Fields.
The following interesting extract from a MS. by Hone, the author of the "Year-Book," is printed in extenso by Mr. Larwood, in his "History of Signboards:"—
"It (the 'Dog and Duck') was a very small public-house till Hedger's mother took it; she had been a barmaid to a tavern-keeper in London, who at his death left her his house. Her son Hedger was then a postboy to a yard at Epsom, I believe, and came to be master there. After making a good deal of money, he left the house to his nephew, one Miles, who, though it still went in Hedger's name, was to allow him £1,000 a year out of the profits; and it was he that allowed the house to acquire so bad a character that the licence was taken away. I have this from one William Nelson, who was servant to old Mrs. Hedger, and remembers the house before he had it. He is now (1826) in the employ of the Lamb Street WaterWorks Company, and has been for thirty years. In particular, there never was any duck-hunting since he knew the gardens; therefore, if ever, it must have been in a very early time indeed. Hedger, I am told, was the first person who sold the water (whence the St. George's Spa). In 1787, when Hedger applied for a renewal of his licence, the magistrates of Surrey refused; and the Lord Mayor came into Southwark and held a court, and granted his licence, in despite of the magistrates, which occasioned a great disturbance and litigation in the law courts."
A fort, with four half-bulwarks, at the "Dog and Duck," in St. George's Fields, is mentioned among the defences of London, set up by order of the Parliament in 1642.
The old stone sign of the "Dog and Duck" tea-gardens is still preserved, embedded in the brick wall of the garden of Bethlehem Hospital, visible from the road, and representing a dog squatting on its haunches with a duck in its mouth, and bearing the date 1617.
A well of water, celebrated for its purgative qualities, formerly existed near the "Dog and Duck" grounds. Dr. Fothergill tells us that this water had gained a reputation for the cure of most cutaneous disorders, in scrofulous cases, and that it was useful for keeping the body cool, and preventing cancerous diseases; but the exact site of this well is no longer known.
"St. George's Fields," as Malcolm informs us, "abounded with gardens, where the lower classes met to drink and smoke tobacco. But those were not their only amusements. A Mr. Shanks, near Lambeth Marsh, contrived to assemble his customers in 1711 with a grinning match. The prize was a gold-laced hat; the competitors were exhilarated by music and dancing; the hour of exhibition was twelve at noon; the admission sixpence. The same was repeated at six o'clock."
A century ago St. George's Fields became the scene of very fierce gatherings of the "Wilkes and Liberty" mobs; and the populace were very riotous, clamouring for the release of their dissolute and witty favourite from the King's Bench. During the riot which ensued, a young man named William Allen was killed by one of the soldiers. Allen was pursued to the "Horse-shoe Inn," Stones End, and shot in the inn-yard. He was buried, as we have seen, in the churchyard at Newington, (fn. 2) where a monument was erected to his memory.
It is not a little strange that the pains-taking and conscientious antiquary, Pennant, though he wrote in 1790, when their memory must have been still fresh, makes no mention of these fields having been the head-quarters of the rioters under Lord George Gordon, who ten years before had wellnigh set fire to all London. He simply speaks of these fields as "now the wonder of foreigners approaching our capital by this road, through avenues of lamps of magnificent breadth and goodness." Whether the "breadth and the goodness" was predicated by Pennant of the "road" or the "lamps" is a little doubtful, more particularly since he refers, in a foot-note, to some new process of adulteration of the oil, and tells the following story almost in the same breath:—"I have heard that a foreign ambassador, who happened to make his entry at night, imagined that these illuminations were in honour of his arrival, and, as he modestly expressed himself, more than he could have expected!"
In previous volumes of this work we have already spoken of the effects of the Gordon Riots in different parts of the metropolis, particularly in the burning of Newgate (fn. 3) and the destruction of Lord Mansfield's house in Bloomsbury Square; (fn. 4) but as St. George's Fields formed the rallying-point, whence the excited mob was to be led on the House of Commons, some further particulars of the proceedings of the rioters may not be out of place here.
A so-called Protestant Association had been formed in 1779, for the purpose of opposing Sir George Savile's bill for the abolition of Roman Catholic disabilities; and a fanatical Scotch nobleman, Lord George Gordon, third son of William, Duke of Gordon, then in his thirtieth year, consented to become president of the association, which was fast gaining an influence over the lower classes. Various meetings to arrange for the presentation of a petition to Parliament against the repeal of these disabilities had been held in April and May, 1780, in the "Crown and Rolls Tavern," Chancery Lane, and in the Coachmakers' Hall, and the presentation was finally agreed upon at Coachmakers' Hall, on the 29th of May. At this meeting, which was attended by upwards of 2,000 excited people, under Lord George Gordon's presidency, a petition was then proposed and carried to the following effect:—
"Whereas no hall in London can contain 40,000 persons: resolved, that the Association do meet on Friday next, in St. George's Fields, at ten o'clock in the morning, to consider the most prudent and respectful manner of attending their petition, which will be presented the same day in the House of Commons.
"Resolved, for the sake of good order and regularity, that this Association, in coming to the ground, do separate themselves into four distinct divisions: viz., the London division, the Westminster division, the Southwark division, and the Scotch division.
"Resolved, that the London division do take place upon the right of the ground towards Southwark, the Westminster division second, the Southwark division third, and the Scotch division upon the left, all wearing blue cockades, to distinguish themselves from the Papists and those who approve of the late set in favour of Popery.
"Resolved, that the magistrates of London, Westminster, and Southwark be requested to attend, that their presence may overawe and control any riotous or evil-minded persons who may wish to disturb the legal and peaceable deportment of His Majesty's Protestant subjects.
"By order of the Association,
"Signed, G. Gordon, President.
"Dated, London, May 29."
The enthusiastic and eccentric president then addressed the billowy meeting, informing them that the system of different divisions would be useful, as he could then go from one to the other, and learn the general opinion as to the mode of taking up the petition. As it was very easy for one person to sign 400 or 500 names to a petition, he thought it was better that every one who signed should appear in person to prove that the names were all genuine. He begged that they would dress decently and behave orderly, and, to prevent riots and to distinguish themselves, they should wear blue cockades in their hats. Some one had suggested that, meeting so early, people might get drinking; but he held that the Protestant Association were not drunken people, and apprehended no danger on that account. Some one had also hinted that so great a number of people being assembled might lead to the military being drawn out; but he did not doubt all the association would be peaceable and orderly; and he desired them not to take even sticks in their hands, and begged that if there was any riotous person the rest should give him up.
"If any one was struck, he was not to return the blow, but seek for a constable. Even if he himself should be at all riotous, he would wish to be given up, for he thought it a proper spirit for Protestants, remembering the text, 'If they smite you on one cheek, turn the other also.' He concluded by saying that he hoped no one who had signed would be afraid or ashamed to show himself in the cause; and he begged leave to decline to present the petition unless he was met in St. George's Fields by 20,000 people, with some mark of distinction on, such as a blue ribbon in their hats, so that he might be able to distinguish their friends from their foes. He would not present the petition of a lukewarm people. They must be firm, like the Scotch, to carry their point. He himself would be there to meet them, and would be answerable for any that were indicted for meeting there; indeed, he wished so well to the cause that he would go to the gallows for it (deafening cheers)."
The "true Protestant" rabble, estimated variously at from 40,000 to 100,000 men, all wearing blue ribbons, some of which had the words "No Popery" upon them, met at the appointed day and hour in St. George's Fields—on the very spot, singularly enough, as tradition says, where the high altar of the present Roman Catholic Cathedral is raised: such is the irony of history. Blue banners were flying; and it is said that in the Scotch division bagpipes were playing. In each of the four divisions the "true Protestants" marched, singing hymns, eight or nine abreast, the enormous tree-trunk of a petition being carried on men's heads in a conspicuous part of the procession. They began to advance towards Westminster soon after twelve, one division marching by Blackfriars Bridge, the others by London Bridge and Westminster Bridge. The march was orderly and decorous; hitherto the passions of these fanatics had been restrained; it was only when the rabble joined, and a sense of new-felt power came over them, that they turned to wild beasts. When they reached the Houses of Parliament, about half-past two, the "true Protestants" gave such a shout as that before which fell the walls of the fated Jericho. Gibbon, the historian, then a member of the House of Commons, describes the scene "as if 40,000 Puritans of the days of Cromwell had started from their graves."
In Boswell's "Life of Johnson" we read that just when the great doctor was engaged in preparing a delightful literary entertainment for the world, "the tranquillity of the metropolis of Great Britain was unexpectedly disturbed by the most horrid series of outrages that ever disgraced a civilised country. A relaxation of some of the severe penal provisions against our fellow-subjects of the Catholic communion had been granted by the legislature, with an opposition so inconsiderable, that the genuine mildness of Christianity, united with liberal policy, seemed to have become general in this island. But a dark and malignant spirit of persecution soon showed itself in an unworthy petition for the repeal of the wise and humane statute. That petition was brought forward by a mob, with the evident purpose of intimidation, and was justly rejected. But the attempt was accompanied and followed by such daring violence as is unexampled in history." Of this extraordinary tumult, Dr. Johnson has given the following concise, lively, and just account in his "Letters to Mrs. Thrale:"—"On Friday the good Protestants met in Saint George's Fields, at the summons of Lord George Gordon, and, marching to Westminster, insulted the Lords and Commons, who all bore it with great tameness. At night the outrages began by the demolition of the mass-house by Lincoln's Inn. An exact journal of a week's defiance of government I cannot give you. On Monday, Mr. Strahan, who had been insulted, spoke to Lord Mansfield (who had, I think, been insulted too) of the licentiousness of the populace; and his lordship treated it as a very slight irregularity. On Tuesday night they pulled down Fielding's house, and burnt his goods in the street. They had gutted, on Monday, Sir George Savile's house, but the building was saved. On Tuesday evening, leaving Fielding's ruins, they went to Newgate to demand their companions who had been seized demolishing the chapel. The keeper could not release them but by the Mayor's permission, which he went to ask; at his return he found all the prisoners released and Newgate in a blaze. They then went to Bloomsbury, and fastened upon Lord Mansfield's house, which they pulled down, and as for his goods they totally burnt them. They have since gone to Caen Wood, but a guard was there before them. They plundered some Papists, and burnt a mass-house in Moorfields the same night." Boswell speaks of these riots as "a miserable sedition, from which London was delivered by the magnanimity of the sovereign himself."
Miss Priscilla Wakefield, in her "Perambulations in London," writes as follows concerning these riotous proceedings:—"The metropolis was thrown into a dreadful consternation, in 1780, by a lawless mob, which caused the most alarming scenes of riot and confusion. On the 2nd of June an immense multitude assembled in St. George's Fields, in consequence of an advertisement from the Protestant Association, in order to proceed to the House of Commons with a petition for the repeal of the law passed the last session in favour of the Roman Catholics. Lord George Gordon condescended to be their leader. They preserved tolerable order till they approached the Houses of Parliament, when they showed their hostile disposition by ill-treating many of the members as they passed along. Lord George encouraged these proceedings by haranguing this tumultuous assembly from the gallery-stairs of the House of Commons, and telling them that they were not likely to succeed in their request, to which he added the imprudence of naming the members who opposed it. Some of them, ripe for active mischief, filed off, and demolished the chapels belonging to the Sardinian and Bavarian ambassadors. The guards being called out, thirteen of the rioters were taken into custody. All remained quiet till Sunday, the 4th, when riotous parties collected in the neighbourhood of Moorfields, and satiated their vengeance on the chapels and dwelling-houses of the Catholics. The next day different parts of the town presented a repetition of the same disgraceful scenes; and in the evening an attempt was made to rescue the rioters confined in Newgate, which, from the firmness of Mr. Akerman, the keeper, they were unable to execute, till, by breaking the windows, battering the entrances of the cells with pick-axes and sledge-hammers, and climbing the walls with ladders, they found means to fire Mr. Akerman's house, which communicated to the prison, and liberated three hundred prisoners. This success increased their fury. They divided into different quarters, with the most mischievous designs. Many were great sufferers from their attacks; but none in whose loss the public was so much interested as Lord Mansfield, in whose house they not only destroyed a great deal of property, and a valuable collection of pictures, but likewise some very scarce manuscripts, besides his lordship's notes on the constitution of England and on important law cases, which, from his advanced age, could never be replaced. The occurrences of Wednesday were still more dreadful. The city was in a state of anarchy; and the evening presented a most awful scene. Flames issued on all sides. The insurgents had set fire to the King's Bench and Fleet prisons, New Bridewell, the toilgates on Blackfriars Bridge, and private houses in all directions. The civil magistrate had no longer any power. The military were obliged to act to preserve the metropolis from destruction. All parts of the town, particularly those near the Bank and the Court, were guarded by soldiery. Multitudes perished by intoxication, &c." It might be added that the Marshalsea was broken open by the mob on this occasion.
Mr. H. Angelo, in his "Reminiscences," thus writes:—"I soon hurried away, and arrived near the obelisk in St. George's Fields, the space before the King's Bench being then quite open, with no houses. On seeing the flames and smoke from the windows along the high wall, it appeared to me like the huge hulk of a man-of-war, dismasted, on fire. Here, with amazement, I stood for some time, gazing on the spot, when, looking behind me, I beheld a number of horse and foot soldiers approach, with a quick step. Off I went, in an instant, in a contrary direction; nor did I look back till I was on Blackfriars Bridge. That night, if my recollection be correct, must have been the time when the dreadful conflagrations in different parts of the metropolis took place. I recollect it was said that six-and-thirty fires might be seen blazing from London Bridge. When the bridge was assailed by the mob, the latter were repulsed by Alderman Wilkes and his party, and many were thrown clean into the Thames."
Horace Walpole sarcastically calls these riotous proceedings "the second conflagration of London, by Lord George Gordon." The number of persons who perished in these riots could not be accurately gathered. According to the military returns, 210 persons died by shot or sword in the streets, and 75 in the hospitals; and 173 were wounded and captured. How many died of injuries, unknown and unseen, cannot be computed. Many more perished in the flames, or died from excesses of one kind or other. Justice came in at the close, to demand her due. At the Old Bailey, eightyfive persons were tried for taking part in the riots, and finally out of these eighteen were executed, one woman, a negress, being of the number. By a Special Commission for the County of Surrey forty-five prisoners were tried, and twenty-six of them capitally convicted, though two or three were reprieved.
But what, it has been asked, did Lord George Gordon all this while? "Filled with consternation at the riots," as his counsel on trial said, "he, on the 7th of June, the terrible Wednesday, sought an audience of the king, professing that it would be of service in checking the riots. No doubt the poor young nobleman would have asked the king to proclaim the intention of repealing the Relief Bill, as if such a step would have had the slightest effect. But the king told him first to go and prove his loyalty by checking the riots, if he could. Lord George did really go into the City; but the 'President of the Protestant Association' was now powerless, and does not seem even to have spoken to the mobs." Every reader of "Barnaby Rudge" knows the fearful state of London during the continuance of these riots; and one act of Lord George, in his presumed attempt to quell the tumult, is particularly referred to by the author of that work. A young man came to the door of his coach, and besought his lordship to sign a paper drawn up for the purpose, which ran thus:—"All true friends to the Protestants, I hope, will be particular, and do no injury to the property of any true Protestant, as I am well assured the proprietor of this house is a staunch and worthy friend to the cause." It has been insinuated that Lord George Gordon wrote for friends many protectionpapers like this, the language of which certainly implies a knowledge and approval of the intent to attack those who were considered enemies. But the young man proved that it was written by himself, and that Lord George signed it hurriedly in compassion. When shown to the mob, it saved the man's house.
Lord George was arrested on the 9th of June, and conveyed to the Tower under a strong guard. The Government thought it prudent to allow eight months to elapse before trying him, and he was then acquitted; though it seems strange that the ringleader should have been absolved from blame, when a score of his poor dupes were executed for their subordinate share in this bloody work.
Some time after this event a person begging alms from him in the street remarked, "God bless you, my lord! you and I have been in all the prisons in London." "What do you mean, fellow?" cried Lord George; "I never was in any prison but the Tower." "That's true, my lord," replied the sturdy beggar; "and I've been in all the rest."
In 1781 Lord George Gordon coolly wished to offer himself as a candidate for the representation of London, but he withdrew, on finding that the City did not choose to be burnt down once a year for his amusement.
The after-life of this nobleman was marked by vagaries which confirmed the probability of his being really afflicted with insanity. In 1786 he openly embraced the Jewish faith, and soon after was convicted of a libel on the Queen of France. He fled to escape the sentence, but was re-taken in a few months and confined in Newgate, where he lived until fever cut short his career on the 1st of November, 1793, at the age of forty-two. He was much beloved by the prisoners, and with good reason, being generous and humane. Two Jewish maid-servants, partly through enthusiasm, waited on him daily up to his death. The last words of Lord George Gordon were characteristic. The French Revolution had attracted him as a glorious event, and he died crazily chanting its watchword, "Ça ira!"
Northouck, writing in 1773, anticipates the early arrival of a day when St. George's Fields will no more resemble fields, but be covered with buildings, as an ultimate consequence of the erection of Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges. He was right. In the course of the next two decades of years, the hand of the builder had been at work, and streets and terraces were fast rendering the name of St. George's Fields but a meaningless title.
The pleasant and open aspect of St. George's Fields, and indeed the whole neighbourhood of the Kent Road, at the above-mentioned date, and it may, perhaps, be added the moderate price of the land, induced the locality to be selected as the site of several charitable institutions. Foremost among them was the Magdalen Hospital, which for just a century stood near the southern end of Blackfriars Road. It was originally opened, under the name of Magdalen House, by the founders, Robert Dingley and Jonas Hanway, in a large building, formerly the London Infirmary, in Prescott Street, Goodman's Fields, in 1758. The good founders were readily assisted by others, and the fame of the institution even reached to Calcutta; and Omichund, the rich native merchant, who figures conspicuously in the history of Warren Hastings, left more than 18,000 rupees to the funds of the hospital, though, we are sorry to add, his executors contrived to seize and appropriate to themselves the greater portion of the sum.
Jonas Hanway's larger schemes of benevolence have connected his name not only with the Marine Society and the Foundling, but also with the Magdalen; and to his courage and perseverance in smaller fields of usefulness (his determined contention with extravagant veils to servants not the least), the men of Goldsmith's day, as we have seen in our account of Hanway Street, (fn. 5) were indebted for liberty to use an umbrella.
At home no one was more zealous in support of the Magdalen than Dr. Dodd, the fashionable preacher, who was its chaplain, and whose unlucky exit from this world of trouble at Tyburn we have already mentioned. (fn. 6) The doctor, we are informed, was unrivalled in his power of extracting tears and loose cash from his fair hearers, and appealed so effectually in two sermons, that the fashionable ladies, sympathising, perhaps, with female frailty, contributed liberally. The charity was incorporated in 1769, and six and a half acres in St. George's Fields purchased, on which a new hospital was erected. Accordingly, the hospital is called "The New Magdalen" in the "Ambulator," in 1774.
The character of this excellent institution is well described in the will of Mr. Charles Wray, who was for many years a governor of the hospital. "I bequeath to the Magdalen Hospital £500 as a farewell token of my affection, and of my sincere good wishes for the everlasting success and prosperity of that humane and truly Christian institution, which, from my own knowledge, founded on many years' experience, and beyond my most sanguine expectations, hath restored a great number of unfortunate young women to their afflicted parents and friends, to honest industry, to virtue, and to happiness."
Thousands of young women who have strayed from the paths of virtue have been admitted, restored to their friends, or placed in service; and it is an invariable rule that no female shall be discharged, unless at her own desire or for mis conduct, until means have been provided by which she may obtain an honest livelihood. No recommendation is necessary to entitle the unfortunate to the benefits of this hospital more than that of repentant guilt.
The hospital consisted of four brick buildings, forming a quadrangle. The chapel belonging to the institution was an octangular building, erected at one of the back corners. In the year 1869 the institution was removed to Streatham, as we have already seen. (fn. 7) The unhappy women, for whose benefit this hospital was erected, are received by petition; and there is a distinction in the wards, according to the education or the behaviour of the persons admitted, the inferior wards consisting of meaner persons and of those degraded for their behaviour. Each person is employed in such kind of work as is suitable to her abilities, and has such part of the benefits arising from her industry as the committee think proper. Allen, in his "History of Surrey," in dealing with the Magdalen Hospital (and the description so far is applicable to it in its new situation, as well as when it stood in St. George's Fields), writes:—"A probationary ward is instituted for the young women on their admission, and a separation of those of different descriptions and qualifications is established. Each class is entrusted to its particular assistant, and the whole is under the inspection of a matron. This separation, useful on many accounts, is particularly so to a numerous class of women, who are much to be pitied, and to whom this charity has been very beneficial, namely, 'young women who have been seduced from their friends under promise of marriage, and have been deserted by their seducers.' Their relations, in the first moments of resentment, refuse to receive, protect, or acknowledge them; they are abandoned by the world, without character, without friends, without money, without resource; and wretched indeed is their situation! To such especially this house of refuge opens wide its doors; and instead of being driven by despair to lay violent hands on themselves, and to superadd the crime of self-murder to that guilt which is the cause of their distress, they find a safe and quiet retreat in this abode of peace and reflection."
A large block of Peabody Buildings now covers the site of the old Magdalen. The trees which stood in front of the latter are still made to do duty by screening the windows which front the street.
Shortly after the foundation of the Magdalen, another valuable institution, the Asylum for Female Orphans, was established, principally through the exertions of Sir John Fielding, the active magistrate, and St. George's Fields was chosen for its site. Like the Magdalen, this institution has migrated further into the country, having within the last few years taken up its quarters at Bedington—the fine old Elizabethan dwelling-house of the Carews—near Croydon. While the Foundling Hospital is limited to the reception of infants, the Asylum for Female Orphans has been founded for the reception of destitute children, who are admitted at a more advanced age. The children are educated and industriously employed until sufficiently old to be apprenticed out, when the utmost care is taken that they are provided with suitable situations. The Asylum stood originally at the junction of Kennington Road and Westminster Bridge Road, on the spot now covered by Christ Church. The old building formed three sides of a square, but its dimensions appeared contracted, and not of that commanding character expected from the celebrity of this charity.
The Royal Freemasons' Charity School for Girls, in Elizabeth Place, Westminster Bridge Road, of which we give an illustration on page 343, was founded about the commencement of the present century, for the maintenance and education of the daughters and orphans of decayed members of the Masonic body. The schools were removed a few years ago, to make room for improvements in the neighbourhood.
In 1788 the Philanthropic Society established an industrial school in St. George's Fields, for the rescue of young children from a career of crime. The first place of reception of the Philanthropic Society was at a small house on Cambridge Heath, but the prosperous encouragement it received induced the directors to contract with the Corporation of London for a piece of ground in the London Road, at the corner of Garden Row, not far from the Obelisk; and on this site it remained till about the year 1850, when the operations of the society were transferred to a more convenient building near the Red Hill station of the Brighton Railway. St. Jude's Church, in St. George's Road, was till 1850 the Philanthropic Society's chapel.
The School for the Indigent Blind, occupying considerable space on the southern side of the Lambeth Road, and shown in our illustration of the Obelisk on page 349, was originated at the premises of the old "Dog and Duck." When new Bethlehem Hospital was erected, in 1812, the site was required, and the Blind School was removed to its present site. Of institutions like this, Dr. Lettsom observed, that "he who enables a blind person, without excess of labour, to earn his own livelihood, does him more real service than if he had pensioned him to a greater amount." While the poor blind were thus cared for in St. George's Fields, those deprived of speech and hearing found a home in the Old Kent Road, where we have already paid them a visit. (fn. 8)
The London Road, which forms a continuation of the Blackfriars Road to the "Elephant and Castle" tavern, may be dismissed with one remark. The South London Palace of Amusement, on the eastern side of the road, was, from 1793 to 1848, in which last-named year St. George's Cathedral was completed, the principal chapel for the Roman Catholics of this part of the metropolis.
Besides witnessing the events mentioned above as having occurred here, St. George's Fields have borne their share of celebrity in the annals of England. They were very often the scenes of royal pomp and knightly cavalcades, as well as the rendezvous of rebellion and discord. It was to this place that Wat Tyler's and Jack Cade's rebels resorted, in order to raise the standard of opposition to the royal authority; and it was hither that the former retired, after the arrest of their leader in Smithfield, and were compelled to yield to the allegiance which they had violated.
The "fields" are now entirely covered with streets and spacious roads. From each of the bridges—Westminster, Waterloo, and Blackfriars—broad throughfares converge to a point, about a mile distant from the river, at what is now called St. George's Circus, whence six roads diverge in various directions.
In the centre of the circus is an obelisk, erected in 1771, during the mayoralty and in honour of Brass Crosby, Esq., who is stated by Allen, in his "History of Surrey," to have been imprisoned in the Tower "for the conscientious discharge of his magisterial duty," and to commemorate the independent and patriotic spirit with which he released a printer who had been seized, contrary to law, by the House of Commons. Full particulars of the proceedings which led to the committal of Brass Crosby to the Tower will be found in the pages of the Gentleman's Magazine for March, 1771, from which it appears that the printers of several London newspapers had been apprehended on warrants issued against them by order of the House of Commons. On being taken before the Lord Mayor and Alderman Wilkes, the printers were at once discharged, his lordship saying that "so long as he was in that high office he looked upon himself as a guardian of the liberties of his fellow-citizens, and that no power had a right to seize a citizen of London without an authority from him or some some other magistrate." In consequence of this Wilkes and Crosby became martyrs; but while the name of the former has been handed down to posterity from his connection with the North Briton, that of the latter is now almost forgotten. On the north side of the obelisk is inscribed, "One mile 350 feet from Fleet Street;" on the south side, "Erected in XIth year of the reign of King George the Third, MDCCLXXI., the Right Hon. Brass Crosby, Lord Mayor;" on the east side, "One mile 40 feet from London Bridge;" and on the west side, "One mile from Palace Yard, Westminster Hall."
Several Acts of Parliament were passed, at the close of the last and beginning of the present centuries, for the improvement of this part of the metropolis. In 1812 an Act was passed which enabled the City to sell some detached pieces of land, mentioned in a schedule annexed to the Act, and to invest the purchase-money, and a further sum of £20,000, in the purchase of other land there, so as to make their estate in St. George's Fields more compact.
ST. GEORGE'S FIELDS (continued).—BETHLEHEM HOSPITAL, ETC
"Insanire juvat."—Horace, "Odes," III. xix. 18.
The Priory of the Star of Bethlehem—Its Conversion into a Hospital for Lunatics—"Tom o' Bedlams"—Purchase of the Site for a New Hospital in St. George's Fields—Public Subscription to raise Funds for its Erection—Sign of the Old "Dog and Duck"—The New Hospital described—Cibber's Statues of "Melancholy and Raving Madness"—The Air of Refinement and Taste in the Appearance of the Female Wards—Viscomte d'Arlingcourt's Visit to Bedlam—Gray's Lines on Madness—The Ball-room—The Billiard-room—The Dining-room—The Chapel—The Infirmary Ward—A Picture of the "Good Samaritan," painted by one of the Inmates—The Council Chamber—The Men's Wards—A Sad Love Story—General Particulars of the Hospital, and Mode of Admission of Patients—King Edward's School—Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road—St. George's Roman Catholic Cathedral—The School for the Indigent Blind—The British and Foreign School Society, Borough Road.
Modern "Bedlam", to which we now come in our progress over St. George's Fields, is a very different place from the "Hospital of the Star of Bethlehem" to which it claims to have succeeded, and of which we will proceed to give a history. It is vulgarly styled "Bedlam," by a corruption of "Bethlem," which again is an abbreviation of "Bethlehem."
It was in the year 1246, and therefore in the reign of Henry III., that Simon Fitz-Mary, then Sheriff of London, made a pious determination to establish the "Priory of the Star of Bethlehem;" and in order to endow it with sufficient maintenance, gave up those lands of his which were in the parish of St. Botolph Without, Bishopsgate, in the spot now known as Liverpool Street; the priory itself standing on the east side of "Morefield," afterwards called "Old Bethlem." In the year 1330 the religious house became known as a public hospital; the City of London took it under their protection (an advantage to the establishment which, in those days of disorder, was not the least desirable object to attain), and in 1546 they purchased all the patronage, lands, and tenements belonging to the establishment; upon which Henry VIII., who perhaps happened to be short of money at the time, wished to make them pay for the house itself; but finding that they would not become purchasers of what really belonged to themselves, if to anybody at all, the magnanimous monarch took a liberal alternative, and made them a present of the house. The common story is that the king generously gave it to the "citizens of London," as a hospital for lunatics, whom he did not like to have so near to him as Charing Cross; just as the conscience of the king led him to build the church of St. Martin's in the Fields, because he did not like to see so many funerals pass on the way to Westminster.
The old priory had already been a hospital for lunatics, amongst whom there were certain outpensioners known as "Tom o' Bedlams," who were relieved and then sent away to beg, being known by a metal badge fastened on the arm: a distinction, of course, often simulated by other mendicants. In 1675 the building had become so dilapidated that it became necessary to erect a new one, and this was done upon a new site on the south side of Moorfields, at a cost of £1,700, raised by subscription. Of the appearance of this building at the commencement of the present century, or down to the time of the removal of this institution to St. George's Fields about the year 1815, we have spoken in a previous part of this work; (fn. 9) it only remains, therefore, to state that the edifice which was erected in Moorfields in 1675 having in its turn fallen into a bad condition, and becoming gradually surrounded by narrow streets, and crowded houses, its site was exchanged for a much larger piece of open ground in St. George's Fields. In the Monthly Register for 1802 we read that, "according to a new City plan for building on Moorfields, Bethlehem Hospital is to be pulled down, and reerected on a more convenient site near Islington." This plan, however, was not carried out.
The present edifice was erected in 1812, but various additions have since been made. The building is three storeys high, and has a frontage of about 900 feet in length. It covers, with the offices and gardens, about fifteen acres of ground.
The "first stone" of the new building was laid by the Lord Mayor in April, 1812, and it was erected from the designs and under the direction of James Lewis, architect. The hospital was in 1815 sufficiently advanced for the reception of patients. The cupola, or dome, a comparatively recent addition, which crowns the centre of the roof, and serves as the chapel, was designed by the late Mr. Sydney Smirke.
The cost of the erection was about £122,500, of which £72,819 was granted by Parliament at different times, and £10,229 subscribed by public bodies and private individuals. The Corporation of the City gave £3,000, and the Bank of England £500 towards this sum. The following anecdote, with reference to the above-mentioned subscription, is told in the Youth's Magazine for 1812:—"When the collection was making to build Bethlehem Hospital, those who were employed to gather donations for that purpose went to a small house, the door of which being half open, they overheard an old man, the master, scolding his servant-maid for having thrown away a brimstone-match without using both ends. After diverting themselves some time with the dispute, they presented themselves before the old man, and explained the cause of their coming, though, from what had just passed, they entertained very little, if any, hopes of success. The supposed miser, however, no sooner understood the business, than he stepped into a closet, whence he brought a bag, and counted out four hundred guineas, which he gave to them. No astonishment could exceed that of the collectors at this unexpected reverse of their expectations; they loudly testified their surprise, and scrupled not to inform their benefactor that they had overheard his quarrel with the servant-girl. 'Gentlemen,' said he, 'your surprise is occasioned by a thing of very little consequence. I keep house, and save and spend money my own way; the first furnishes me with the means of doing the other. With regard to benefactions and donations, you may always expect most from prudent people who keep their own accounts.' When he had thus spoken he requested them to withdraw without the smallest ceremony, to prevent which he shut the door, not thinking half so much of the four hundred guineas which he had just given away as of the match which had been carelessly thrown in the fire."
The first hospital in Moorfields could accommodate only fifty or sixty patients; and the second only 150, the number immured there in Strype's time. The present building was originally constructed for 198 patients, but this being found too limited for the purposes and resources of the hospital, a new wing was commenced for 166 additional patients, of which the first stone was laid in July, 1838. Since then other portions of the premises have been considerably enlarged.
Light iron railings, together with an entrancegateway and lodge-house, separate the grounds from the main road. Let into a brick wall, which cuts off from observation the private grounds in front of the hospital, is the old sign-stone of the "Dog and Duck" tavern (shown in page 344), which, as we have stated in the preceding chapter, formerly occupied this site. The sign, which is about a yard square, is cut in high relief, and represents a dog with a duck in its mouth.
It must be owned that the long line of brick frontage of the hospital is somewhat sombre and gloomy in appearance. It consists of a centre and two wings. The former has a handsome and lofty portico, raised on a flight of steps, and composed of six columns of the Ionic order, surmounted by their entablature and a pediment, in the tympanum of which is a relief of the royal arms, and underneath the motto:—HENRICO VIII., REGE FVNDATVM CIVIUM LARGITAS PERFECIT. (Founded by King Henry VIII.; completed by the bounty of the people.) The remainder of the central portion of the building is occupied by the apartments of the officers of the establishment, the council-chamber, &c. On either side of the entrance-hall are the houses assigned to the two resident physicians, who, of course, are men who have studied lunacy in all its bearings, both in theory and in practice. If surgical aid of a special nature is required, a surgeon is summoned from St. Thomas's Hospital or Guy's. The hospital has also accommodation for two medical students who wish to qualify themselves for practice in lunacy; and these two studentships, which give each of their holders free maintenance and instruction for six months, are eagerly sought after.
The wings are in three storeys, in addition to a rusticated basement, which show uniformly grated windows. Behind the principal front are two other wings, with the culinary departments between them. In the vestibule were for years preserved the two statues of "Melancholy and Raving Madness," which were sculptured by the elder Cibber, and formerly surmounted the gates of the old hospital in Moorfields. They are of Portland stone, and have been long since removed to the Museum at South Kensington. These statues were repaired by Bacon in 1820. In Lambert's "History of London" there is an engraving of Cibber's "Brainless Brothers," as these statues have been called: a fine piece of design, though the idea is borrowed from Michael Angelo. Virtue has preserved an anecdote that one of them was copied from Oliver Cromwell's gigantic porter, who became insane.
On entering the grand hall, the eye of the visitor is immediately attracted by the spacious staircase, which ascends from the ground-floor to the councilchamber above. On either side passages run laterally through the building, the one to the right leading to the male, the other to the female wards. The basement and three floors are each divided into galleries. The basement gallery is paved with stone, and its ceiling arched with brickwork; the upper galleries are floored with wood, and the ceiling plated with iron. One is struck on entering the female wards, not so much with the exquisite cleanliness of everything as with the air of taste and refinement which may be met with on either hand. The wards are long galleries, lighted on one side by large windows, in each of which stand globes of fish, fern-cases, or green-house plants; while the spaces between are occupied by pictures, busts, or cages containing birds. The whole air of the place is light and cheerful; and although there is, of course, sad evidence of the purposes of the institution in some of the faces, as they sit brooding over the guarded fires which warm the corridors at intervals of about fifty yards, there is a large per-centage of inmates who look for the most part cheerful, and are either working at some business, reading, writing, or playing with the cats or parrots, which seem wisely to be allowed to them as pets.
"I visited Bethlehem Hospital, or, as it is called, 'Bedlam,' which inspired me," writes the Viscomte D'Arlingcourt, in 1844, "with melancholy thoughts. I beheld this noble establishment with mingled admiration and grief. Its galleries, seemingly of interminable extent, are magnificent, but peopled with lunatics, whose sadness or gaiety appear equally fearful. Confined in a double prison, mentally as well as bodily, without light, without hope, and without end, the unfortunate inmates struggle at the same time under a twofold condemnation. It is true that the prisoners in Bedlam have not, like those in Newgate, to endure the tortures of memory and remorse; but even those in Newgate might have, if they would, an advantage over those in Bedlam—namely, the power of fixing their thoughts on heaven. These last would thus have still a hope left; the captive lunatic has none; he is not even on a level with dumb animals, for instinct likewise has forsaken him. He no longer ranks among men, and he is separated by nature from the brute creation. In one of the apartments in Bedlam is a portrait of Henry VIII., painted by Holbein; his disagreeable countenance consists of a screwed-up mouth, a bushy beard, a short nose, small eyes, and a puffy face. This Bluebeard of the English throne, this royal slayer of women, appeared to me in his proper place at Bedlam. But, alas! he himself was not confined there."
Turning again to the unfortunate objects of this
institution, their case is thus powerfully depicted,
or rather prophesied, by Gray, in his "Ode to
"These shall the fury passions tear,
The vultures of the mind,
Disdainful anger, pallid fear,
And shame that skulks behind;
Or pining love shall waste their youth,
Or jealousy, with rankling tooth,
That only gnaws the secret heart
And envy wan, and faded care,
Grim-visaged, comfortless despair,
And sorrow's piercing dart.
"Ambition this shall tempt to rise,
Then whirl the wretch from high,
To bitter scorn a sacrifice,
And grinning infamy.
The stings of falsehood those shall try,
And hard unkindness' alter'd eye,
That mocks the tear it forced to flow;
And keen remorse, with blood defiled,
And moody madness laughing wild
Amid severest woe."
Threading our way along the corridor which leads to the female wards, and descending a stone staircase, we were led by our guide to the kitchen and culinary offices in the basement, and in the rear of the central portion of the building. The kitchen is a large octagonal building, admirably furnished, and fitted up with huge boilers, a large steam apparatus, and all the requisite appliances for cooking. The water used by the establishment is drawn from an Artesian well, which is bored down into the chalk underlying the clay soil. Hence probably arises the well-known freedom from diarrhœa and cholera among the inmates of Bethlehem when those terrible diseases have raged all around the walls of the institution.
Near at hand, and in other parts of the grounds, are the workshops, where those patients who, from their previous employment, are qualified for the task, may be seen labouring, with more or less industry, at their respective trades. Those who can work at any sedentary employment are encouraged to do so: not the slightest restriction, however, is placed upon the inmates on this score; and there are but few whose demeanour is violent enough to require more rigid measures. Thanks to Dr. Elliotson, (fn. 10) the great modern reformer of the system on which lunatics are treated in this country, all severity—such as the use of chains, manacles, and strait-waistcoats—has now entirely disappeared here; indeed, if a patient on being brought to the hospital should happen to be wearing one, it is stripped off in the hall, and handed back to the patient's friends, often much to their surprise. Kindness is the only charm by which the attendants exert a mastery over the patients, and the influence thus possessed is most remarkable.
The ground-floor of the main building receives the patients on their admission, and this and the succeeding storey are appropriated for dangerous cases. Here, too, are the bath-rooms, lavatories, and sundry rooms, padded with cork and indiarubber, for the reception of refractory and violent patients.
One of the inmates of the first ward which we
visited talked as rationally and sensibly as possible
on the subject of her former pupils when she kept
a ladies' school; and nobody could have suspected
her of being a "patient" here, had we not known
that there was one subject on which it was forbidden to speak. Another poor woman, though
cheerful and even smiling, lived—we were told—under the constant delusion that she hears the
workmen erecting the scaffold for her execution
on the morrow. A third, a handsome woman of
about fifty, on seeing us enter, came forward to see
if we were part of the nuptial party whom she was
daily expecting in attendance on her heavenly
spouse, the Lord himself, and his companion, the
prophet Isaiah! Her disappointment on perceiving her mistake we cannot pretend to describe.
"Well, I know he will come before the end of the
year. He is very kind and good to me; and I am
not worthy of him." Such were her musings.
Poor, good, simple soul! how we felt for the pain
which we had unintentionally caused her, as she
retired into a corner to sit down and weep; while
an aged crone, near her, gave vent to a torrent of
abuse of the institution! Another girl was pointed
out to us, who sat, and sits day by day, in a dark
corner, watching a favourite plant, which she is
persuaded will bring her a blessing as soon as it
comes into flower. Poor girl! how true, again,
are the words of Gray—
"— Where ignorance is bliss
'Tis folly to be wise."
Passing up the stone staircases, we made our way through the various rooms on each floor of the southern wing. Each we found to be furnished with plain couches and lounges, and almost every other comfort which could in any way conduce to the comfort of the wretched inmates. In several of the wards were pianos. At the end of the uppermost floor, in this part of the building, is a ball-room, the sight of which would have gratified Lord Lanesborough; (fn. 11) in it a ball is given every month, and a practice-night also is held fortnightly. The dancers are those of the patients who are fit to be trusted.
A writer in the Illustrated Times most appositely remarks:—"An empty ball-room, whether at Bethlehem or elsewhere, can be but a spacious, well-ventilated, well-boarded, and handsome saloon. But the ball! Ah, those periodical balls at Bethlehem Hospital!—who can describe, who imagine them—their strange, pervading characteristics; their underlying peculiarities; their effects; the longing anticipations of the relief they must afford by recalling old memories half-submerged in the darker broodings which sometimes flood the recollections of a brighter life? Oh! may they help those poor souls to grope their way back to life and light."
In the corresponding wing on the men's side is a billiard-room, to which the most hopeful cases among the male patients have access under certain restrictions. This is a large apartment, which, but for its furniture, would look like an immense and lofty green-house, since it is almost entirely glazed above the height of about six feet—a plan which ensures a capital light upon the table. Around the room are raised cushioned seats for those who desire to watch the play; while nearer the fire a large study-table is filled with magazines, journals, and general literature, in neat, lettered covers, and all uninjured by the stains which ordinarily mark these adjuncts to a public room.
Each of the sleeping-rooms contains a low truckle bedstead, with chair and table, light and air being admitted through a small barred window at the top. Some of them, particularly on the women's side of the hospital, are profusely adorned with pictures and other objects of interest, which may have been left by friends visiting the patient. Each door opens to the gallery, affording a promenade 250 feet in length, where the patients can walk about when the weather proves unfavourable for out-door exercise. To the left of the gallery is the dining-room, capable of accommodating about 100 persons. The diet, which is plain, but of the best kind, is served on wooden bowls and platters, and is seldom unaccompanied by a good appetite. The patients are allowed the use of knives, but these, we remarked, were very blunt.
These long corridors or wards are preserved to an equable temperature through every change of season by the introduction of warm-air pipes and stoves beneath the flooring, so constructed that the warmth of every patient's room can be regulated.
The wards of the women, as already stated, are much more gay and cheerful than those in the men's wing. Their windows are nearly all decked out with evergreens or other plants and flowers, and the prints on the walls have flowers or needlework hung upon them—the latter the work of the patients. Some of these ply the needle as deftly as their saner sisters. One in particular, a girl of about seventeen, who has the reputation of being an excellent darner, showed us her handy-work with great pride, and was evidently delighted by our praise.
Each storey has connected with it one of these galleries, from the last of which a stone staircase conducts to the chapel, a large octagonal apartment covered with a cupola, but of no architectural pretensions, which stands over the central hall. Such of the patients as can be trusted to behave themselves attend service in it twice on a Sunday, the men sitting on one side and the women on the other, each attended by their keepers and attendants. The chaplain generally addresses them in a conversational and homely manner, instead of inflicting on them a written sermon; and the patients themselves form a very fair choir. They have a good organ to aid them in their psalmody.
Beyond the gallery a door opens into a light, airy, and cheerful room, the beds in which, and the air of calm quiet pervading it, prepare you to hear that it is the infirmary ward. Here, once more, we meet with exquisite cleanliness, but still something beyond cleanliness—comfort, elegance, even luxury. The high and neatly-curtained windows admit the light in one pleasant tone, without either glare or shadow, and show flowers, plants, busts, and even the neat white-draped beds, all as pleasant objects. Seated here and there are the partially convalescent, accommodated with easy seats, leg-rests, or pillows, by the aid of which they can lounge over the new number of some favourite periodical, with which a large table is liberally supplied, or plunge more deeply into some book selected from the library.
Descending the staircase to the first floor, we reach the corridor which passes over the central hall, by the head of the grand staircase. Here our attention was drawn to a large painting of the parable of the "Good Samaritan," which was painted some years ago by one of the unfortunate inmates of the hospital—Dadd, a student of the Royal Academy. The wall at the head of the staircase is covered with the names of benefactors to the institution inscribed in letters of gold; and close by is the board-room. This is a fine apartment, adorned with the arms and bequests of every donor to the hospital, together with an excellent portrait of its founder, King Henry VIII., by Holbein, said to be an original. In the "visitors' book," which lies upon one of the tables in the room, are inscribed the signatures of many royal and noble personages, such as the Emperor of Brazil, the Empress of Austria, the King of Spain, &c.; but apparently more valued than all these put together is an autograph signature of Queen Victoria, written when she visited the hospital in 1860: this is preserved under a glass, upon a table by itself in one of the recesses between the windows.
Turning to the right after leaving the boardroom, we pass at once to the men's wards. In plan and general arrangement these rooms are the same as on the women's side of the hospital; but, although the male patients are provided with musical instruments, books, and writing materials, there is an absence of that neatness and taste in the decoration of the wards and galleries which is such a striking feature in that portion of the hospital set apart for females.
A ward on the ground floor, on the men's side, contains a small plunging bath, which is constantly in use in the summer months. It was formerly the custom to plunge patients unawares into this bath, by letting them fall into it suddenly through a trap-door, in the hope that the shock to their nervous system might help to work a cure. But such forcible remedies as these have long since been given up, along with strait-waistcoats and other restraints. Mild and gentle treatment, coupled with firmness, is now found to be the best of remedies. The history of the treatment of the patients in Bethlehem, even to a date so late as the beginning of the present century, would be a terrible and sickening recital. In early days the only system adopted in providing for lunatics was one of constant repression and severity, while the common comforts and necessities of life were almost entirely denied to the poor creatures, who, hopeless, chained, and neglected, wore out their fevered lives in the filthy pesthouse, which, in 1598, was reported to be "loathsome."
In 1770, when two wings appropriated to incurables had been added to the main building in Moorfields, the public were admitted to the hospital as one of the regular London sights; and it may readily be imagined that the promiscuous crowd, who were admitted at a penny each, produced a degree of excitement and confusion which caused incalculable mischief. This state of things lasted, with only partial improvements, till 1815, when the present edifice (or at least the main building) was completed.
Now, instead of chains and loathsome cells, we find light and handsomely-furnished apartments, as shown above, in which the exquisite cleanliness of everything is mingled with an air of taste and refinement, which goes far to diminish the horrors even of lunacy. One room upon the uppermost floor on the men's side of the building is fitted up as a library, magazines and periodicals lying upon the table, for the use of the patients in their saner moments. This apartment is in every respect as quiet, as comfortable, as orderly, and as much adapted to the comfort of the readers as that of most clubs, and more than that of many private houses.
Amongst the men there seems but little conversation, and not much fellowship. Smoking is indulged in by such as care for it, and the general aspect of the patients is that of contentment; excepting, of course, those labouring under particular delusions. Kindness, as we have stated, is the only charm by which the attendants exert a mastery over the patients, and the influence thus possessed is most remarkable. Whilst the impression left on the mind of the visitor is that of a mournful gratification, it is yet blended with a feeling of intense satisfaction, arising from a knowledge that the comforts of his afflicted fellow-creatures are so industriously sought after and so assiduously promoted.
The system of employment carried out seems to be that of providing means for such occupation as can consistently be given to the patients according to their several tastes. The decoration, painting, graining, and so on, for the institution, was mostly executed, a few years ago, by two patients, who, having plenty of time before them, and not being hurried (for no work is exacted, and no profit by sale is ever made of work done in the hospital), the graining, bird's-eye mapling, and general ornamentation in wood-work, is a sight to see.
In the rear of the building is the "play-ground," a large open space, set apart for the recreation and exercise of the patients, where they may be seen pursuing, with considerable eagerness, the different pastimes in which their fancy leads them to indulge. There are four of these open spaces appropriated to recreation—two for the men, and two for the women—and there is evidence constantly afforded that this exercise not only conduces to the immediate health of the inmates, but also to their ultimate recovery. Mowing and gardening, and gathering vegetables during fine weather, and haymaking in the summer, are a source of employment and of enjoyment to the men.
We have spoken above of the balls and dancingparties that are held in the women's ward. These are occasionally varied by other entertainments for the amusement of the unfortunate inmates. The beneficial effect of these entertainments on the minds of the patients has at times shown itself. The case of a tailor, who was, a few years ago, an inmate here, may be taken as an instance in point. It was mentioned in one of the general reports at the time. It seems he had been for nearly four years in a state of morbid insanity, with eyes fixed moodily on the ground, neither noticing nor speaking to any one, except an occasional mutter of dissatisfaction if his wishes were disregarded. On the occasion of one of the monthly parties above referred to, an officer of the institution had undertaken to exhibit some feats of legerdemain, and for that purpose had disguised himself in a black wig and a pair of moustaches. It was at first doubted whether it would be worth while to introduce the gloomy patient amongst the company; but Dr. Hood, at that time the principal medical officer of the institution, had directed him to be brought to sit next to himself, and he was induced to favour them with his company. What strange lucidity passed upon the man's perceptions can never be explained, perhaps; but, almost before he sat down, he had looked half-heedlessly round the room, and, recognising the conjuror through his disguise, said, "A good make-up for——!" His attention had been arrested at last; he followed the tricks, discovered the way in which many of them were performed, and finally drank the Queen's health in a glass of something from the "inexhaustible bottle." It is scarcely necessary to remark that from that time there was no relapse into his former state, and that he gradually and steadily improved.
A proof of the general health and longevity enjoyed by the inmates may be found in the fact that Margaret Nicholson, who tried to assassinate George III. at the gate of St. James's Palace, died here in 1828, at the age of ninety-eight, after an imprisonment of forty-two years. James Hatfield, who was confined for a similar offence in 1800, died here in 1841. The following account of Hatfield's crime was written by Sir Herbert Croft:—
"On the 15th of May, 1800, during a field day of the Grenadier battalion of Foot-guards in Hyde Park, while the king was present, a ball from one of the soldiers shot a spectator of the name of Ongley in the thigh, at no great distance from his Majesty. The king showed every attention to the wounded gentleman, but ascribed it wholly to some accident. In the evening the royal family repaired to the play, which had been ordered by them at Drury Lane Theatre, as if nothing had happened. When his Majesty entered the house, followed by the queen and princesses, while he was bowing to the audience, a large horse-pistol was fired at him by Hatfield from the pit. But the king betrayed no alarm, . . . nor discovered any suspicion of his soldiers: though, in dragging the assassin over the orchestra, a military waistcoat became visible under his great coat. His Majesty only stepped to the back of the box, and prevented the queen from entering, saying, 'It was merely a squib, with which they were foolishly diverting themselves; perhaps there might be another.' He then, according to the account of a gentleman who was present, returned to the box, advanced to the front, and with folded arms and a look of great dignity, said, 'Now fire!' Silent but intense admiration burst into acclamations which shook the theatre. Hatfield had served his time as a working silversmith, but afterwards enlisted in the fifteenth Light Dragoons. He served under the Duke of York, and had a deep cut over his eye, and another long scar on his cheek. At Lincelles he was left three hours among the dead in a ditch, and was taken prisoner by the French; he had his arm broken by a shot, and received eight sabre wounds in his head. On being asked what had induced him to attempt the life of the king, he said, 'I did not attempt to kill the king—I fired the pistol over the royal box; I am as good a shot as any man in England; but I am weary of life and wish for death, though not to die by my own hands. I was desirous of raising an alarm, and hoped the spectators would fall upon me; but they did not. Still, I trust my life is forfeited!' Hatfield was subsequently indicted for high treason, but the jury, being satisfied that he was of unsound mind, committed him to Bethlehem Hospital, where he died."
Among the criminal lunatics of more recent years was Oxford, who shot at the Queen soon after her marriage (1840). He was released many years ago, and sent abroad under proper surveillance, whence he corresponded, from time to time, with his old friends in the asylum.
The criminal ward possessed its aviary, plants, and flowers, and to all appearance was as cheerful as the other portions of the hospital; but the criminal lunatics were removed to Broadmoor, near Aldershot, during the years 1863 and 1864, and their ward has since been converted to other purposes.
One of the most recent changes in connection with Bethlehem has been the erection of a fine convalescent hospital at Witley, near Godalming. This was established by Act of Parliament, and was brought into working order about the year 1870. To it are sent such of the patients as are the most hopeful of recovery, to receive the finishing touch, preparatory to their restoration to freedom. The statute states that it is of great advantage to the persons received here, "that the governors should be able to send away from the hospital, for the benefit of their health, but without relinquishing the care and charge of them as lunatics, such of the same persons as are convalescent, and such others of them as the governors may think fit to send away." The convalescent establishment at Witley has been established "for the reception of convalescent and other patients." Regulations have been made for the new establishment, and the Commissioners of Lunacy visit the place as if it were duly registered as an hospital.
The average number of patients in the hospital is about 300, of whom about two-thirds are females. The total number of curable patients admitted during one hundred years, ending the 31st of December, 1876, was 19,844; and out of these the number discharged cured was 9,081, or 45.76 per cent. The deaths during the same period amounted to 1,334, or 6.74 per cent.
Bethlehem Hospital is intended for curable cases only; but unless the patient is of the wellto-do or pauper class, and unless the symptoms of mental disease have existed more than twelve months, it is very rarely that a case is rejected. The number of patients received during the year 1876 was 253; and 243 were discharged within the same period. Of these 112 patients were sent out "not recovered;" but of this number twenty-three did not remain in the hospital the full period of twelve months. In every doubtful case the practice of the committee is to give the patient the benefit of the doubt, and allow him or her to remain under treatment at least three months. A glance at the Annual Report for 1876 shows that the inmates admitted during the year were members of almost every denomination, the Established Church furnishing by far the largest proportion, and the Unitarians the fewest; and that during the same period the male patients comprised among them no less than thirty-two clerks, the highest number of any other profession or occupation being nine; whilst on the female side thirty were governesses, and thirty-five the wives, widows, or daughters of clerks or tradesmen. Of the apparent or assigned causes of lunacy, mental anxiety is set down as that of twenty-two patients, and mental work as that of twenty-four; religious excitement was the cause of bringing nine inmates to "Bedlam"—of these five were males, and four females; seventeen were brought here through pecuniary embarrassment; and "love affairs" are set down as the cause of upsetting the mental equilibrium of five persons, one male and four females.
A sad love-story, ending in madness in Bedlam, is on record, and may not be out of place here:—"About the year 1780, a young East Indian, whose name was Dupree, left his fatherland to visit a distant relation, a merchant, on Fish Street Hill. During the young man's stay, he was waited on by the servant of the house, a country girl, Rebecca Griffiths, chiefly remarkable for the plainness of her person, and the quiet meekness of her manners. The circuit of pleasure run, and yearning again for home, the visitor at length prepared for his departure; the chaise came to the door, and shaking of hands, with tenderer salutations, adieus, and farewells, followed in the usual abundance. Rebecca, in whom an extraordinary depression had for some days previously been perceived, was in attendance, to help to pack the luggage. The leave-taking of friends and relations at length completed, with a guinea squeezed into his humble attendant's hand, and a brief 'God bless you, Rebecca!' the young man sprang into the chaise, the driver smacked his whip, and the vehicle was rolling rapidly out of sight, when a piercing shriek from Rebecca, who had stood to all appearance vacantly gazing on what had passed, alarmed the family, then retiring into the house. They hastily turned round: to their infinite surprise, Rebecca was seen wildly following the chaise. She was rushing with the velocity of lightning along the middle of the road, her hair streaming in the wind, and her whole appearance that of a desperate maniac! Proper persons were immediately dispatched after her, but she was not secured till she had gained the Borough; when she was taken in a state of incurable madness to Bethlehem Hospital, where she died some years after. The guinea he had given her—her richest treasure—her only wealth—she never suffered, during life, to quit her hand; she grasped it still more firmly in her dying moments, and at her request, in the last gleam of returning reason—the lightning before death—it was buried with her. There was a tradition in Bedlam that, through the heartless cupidity of the keeper, it was sacrilegiously wrenched from her, and that her ghost might be seen every night gliding through the dreary cells of that melancholy building, in search of her lover's gift, and mournfully asking the glaring maniacs for her lost guinea. It was Mr. Dupree's only consolation, after her death, that the excessive homeliness of her person, and her retiring air and manners, had never even suffered him to indulge in the most trifling freedom with her. She had loved hopelessly, and paid the forfeiture with sense and life."
Dr. Rhys Williams, the resident physician, in the report to which we have referred above, observes that in an asylum constructed like Bethlehem, on the single room system, there are many difficulties in organising careful supervision during the night without disturbing the patients, and that the feeling of security may be obtained to the detriment of the inmates. The staff of attendants, as we learn from the Report of the Commissioners in Lunacy, is well selected; they consist of fifteen men, including the head attendant, and thirty-two nurses, six of whom are chiefs of wards. The night-watch consists of one man in the male division, and two nurses on the other side. The watchers make their rounds of the wards at certain intervals throughout the night; and in order to ascertain that these duties are regularly performed, an instrument has been devised, in the shape of a check or "tell-tale" clock, affixed in the wall of each ward. The warder, in going his rounds, on arriving at each of these clocks, presses upon them a duplicate paper clock-face, properly lined for the various rounds, and by this means receives upon it the impress of a metal letter at the time indicated. Each of the six wards has a different letter, thus—R. E. F. O. R. M.
A few words for the guidance of persons applying for the admission of patients may not be out of place here. All poor lunatics presumed to be curable are eligible for admission into this hospital for maintenance and medical treatment: except those who have sufficient means for their suitable maintenance in a private asylum; those who have been insane more than twelve months, and are considered by the resident physician to be incurable; and also those who are in a state of idiotcy, or are subject to epileptic fits, or whose condition threatens the speedy dissolution of life, or require the permanent and exclusive attendance of a nurse. A preference is always given to patients of the educated classes, to secure accommodation for whom, no patient is received who is a proper object for admission into a pauper county asylum. A printed form, to be filled up by the friend or guardian of the lunatic, can be obtained from the authorities at the hospital. In this form is a certificate, to be signed by the minister, churchwarden, or overseer of the parish in which the lunatic has resided, setting forth that he (or she) is a proper object for admission into Bethlehem Hospital. A list of the several articles of clothing required to be brought for the use of the patient is also appended to the form; and it is also particularly set forth that during the abode of the patient in the hospital the friends are not to furnish any other articles of clothing than those mentioned, unless by the written request or permission of the steward or matron. The friends of the patient are likewise strictly prohibited from giving money to the servants to purchase any articles of clothing for the patients; and they are not allowed to offer or give any fee, gratuity, or present, to any of the servants, under any pretence whatever. The infringement of these regulations will involve not only the dismissal of the servant, but also the discharge of the patient from the hospital.
We may also add that patients, when sufficiently convalescent, are allowed to be seen by their friends at certain fixed periods; and that, by an order from one of the governors, visitors can be admitted to the hospital on Tuesdays and the three following days in each week.
Readers of Charles Dickens will not have forgotten how he makes his "Uncommercial Traveller" wander by Bethlehem Hospital on his way to Westminster, pondering on the problem whether the sane and the insane are not equal: at all events, at night, when the sane lie a-dreaming. "Are not all of us outside of this hospital who dream more or less in the condition of those inside it every night of our lives?" A very pertinent remark for those who really have entered into the philosophy of dreams and dreamland.
In Boswell's "Life of Johnson" we read how that Mrs. Burney wondered that some very beautiful new buildings should be erected in Moorfields, in so shocking a situation as between Bedlam and St. Luke's Hospital, and said she could not live there; to which Johnson replies, "Nay, madam, you see nothing there to hurt you. You no more think of madness by having windows that look to Bedlam than you think of death by having windows that look to a churchyard." Mrs. Burney: "We may look to a churchyard, sir; for it is right that we should be kept in mind of death." Johnson: "Nay, madam; if you go to that, it is right that we should be kept in mind of madness, which is occasioned by too much indulgence of imagination. I think a very moral use may be made of these new buildings—I would have those who have heated imaginations live there, and take warning." Mrs. Burney: "But, sir, many of the poor people that are mad have become so from disease or from distressing events. It is, therefore, not their fault, but their misfortune; and, therefore, to think of them is a melancholy consideration." These remarks, we need scarcely add, are as applicable to the present situation of "Bedlam" as they were to its old site in Moorfields.
From the interior of Bethlehem the change is
pleasant to a building which adjoins it on the
eastern side, and is under the same management,
namely, King Edward's School, which was established here early in the present century. It was
formerly known as "King Edward's School, or the
House of Occupation," and was constructed for
the accommodation of 150 girls, and about the
same number of boys; but the latter have, within
the last few years, been removed to Witley, near
Godalming, and lodged in some school buildings
contiguous to Bethlehem Convalescent Hospital.
The ground-plan of the building here is in the form
of the letter H, the domestic offices, with the chapel
above, occupying the central portion. On the
ground-floor of the principal front are two large
school-rooms and class-rooms, and also some of the
rooms in which the girls are taught domestic duties,
such as washing and ironing, &c. The rooms for
needlework are in the rear part of the building.
The dormitories are large, well-ventilated apartments, and scrupulously clean and tidy in their
appearance. The play-ground is divided from the
recreation-ground and garden of Bethlehem by
only a wall and a path; and yet, what a contrast
between the inmates of the two institutions! The
bright faces of the girls are of themselves a comment
on the lines of the cavalier, Lovelace—
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for a hermitage."
The boys' school at Witley was in 1877–8 in process of enlargement, by the erection of two new dormitories, planned to accommodate about fifty additional children. Similarly the girls' school has been judiciously re-arranged for the same additional number. The children are orphans, or such as have lost their fathers' aid through illness or other affliction; they are admitted at the age of twelve, and stay in the school for four years, when situations are obtained for them. The excellent teaching and training which the girls receive here render them highly qualified for situations as domestic servants; and the characters of such as have left the school, received from time to time by the matron, are almost invariably good. About seventy girls are annually placed out in situations by the institution; whilst the applications for servants which reach the matron are, generally speaking, far more numerous than can be met by the supply.
At a short distance from Bethlehem Hospital, on the site formerly occupied by the Asylum for Female Orphans, at the junction of Kennington Road with Westminster Bridge Road, of which we have spoken in the preceding chapter, stands Christ Church, a new non-denominational church, which has been erected to perpetuate the work inaugurated by Rowland Hill at Surrey Chapel. It was opened on the 4th of July, 1876, the centenary of American independence. The church, a fine specimen of Gothic architecture, is one of the handsomest ecclesiastical edifices in the metropolis. The cost, including lecture-hall, tower, &c., was £60,000. The organ, a very powerful instrument by Messrs. Lewis, has three manuals and a pedale, 41 stops, and 2,198 pipes. Towards the cost of these buildings upwards of £30,000 have been contributed by friends outside the congregation, the greater part of which has been collected by the Rev. Newman Hall, during two visits to America, and by lecturing, preaching, and other means, in Great Britain. There is ample sitting accommodation for 2,500 persons. The interior, which boasts of several stained-glass windows, and an ornamental oak roof, has an appearance approaching that of a cathedral, to which the service closely corresponds. At one corner of the church is a tower, surmounted by a lofty spire. This structure, called the "Lincoln Tower," owes its origin to the suggestion of some American citizens, at the close of the civil war, that it should be built at the cost of Americans, as a testimony to the sympathy expressed for the Union by the Rev. Newman Hall and his congregation. The tower, the cost of which was £7,000, contributed in England and America, is upwards of 200 feet in height. The "stars and stripes" are inwrought in the stone, and the British Lion and American Eagle together adorn the angles of the tower. In the tower are two spacious chambers, designated the "Washington" and "Wilberforce" Rooms; these are used as class-rooms for educational and other benevolent purposes. The architects were Messrs. Paull and Bickerdike.
Adjoining Christ Church, and in an architectural sense forming a part of it, is another building, devoted to religious and philanthropic purposes, called "Hawkstone Hall," after the seat of the head of Rowland Hill's family (Lord Hill), in Shropshire. It is sixty-three feet long by fifty feet wide, with a square gallery, and has sitting accommodation for about 700, the woodwork being a stained pitch pine. In the basement beneath the lecture-hall are five class-rooms, one of which will hold 150 infants, besides another large room, in which meetings are occasionally held.
In the last century, as we have seen, St. George's Fields—now the site of numerous palaces of philanthropy—was the scene of low dissipation; and here, on the very focus of the "No Popery" riots of 1780, has arisen the Roman Catholic Cathedral dedicated to St. George. This singular evidence of the mutations to which localities are subject, and striking proof of our advance in liberality of opinion, occupies a large plot of ground at the junction of the Lambeth, Westminster, and St. George's Roads, and nearly facing Bethlehem Hospital.
For many years previously to the erection of the Pro-Cathedral at Kensington, St. George's Cathedral had quite eclipsed St. Mary's, Moorfields, as the chief church of the Roman Catholic body, especially during the years 1850–52, whilst Cardinal Wiseman administered the diocese of Southwark as well as that of Westminster. It was built between the years 1840 and 1848: the Kings of Bavaria and Sardinia, and nearly the whole of the English Roman Catholic aristocracy, were large contributors to its erection; whilst the Irish poor, including the waifs and strays of St. Patrick's Schools in Soho, and other very poor districts, sent their pence.
"This cathedral," writes Mr. R. Chambers, in his "Book of Days," "by a happy retribution, is built on the very spot where Lord George Gordon's riots were inaugurated by a Protestant mob meeting," a fact to which we have already drawn the attention of our readers in the previous chapter. (fn. 12) It is said that the high altar stands as nearly as possible on the very spot on which the mad-cap leader, Lord George Gordon, rallied his "No Popery" rioters in 1780, previous to marching to Westminster—a curious retribution, if true; but, after all, this may be only a tradition.
The cathedral was designed by Mr. Augustus W. Pugin, who, however, always complained that he had been cramped and crippled in the carrying out of his plans, as he was originally called upon to design a parish church, and not a cathedral. Unfortunately, the position of the church is reversed—the high altar, in contrast to that of most Gothic churches, being at the west instead of the east end. It has no galleries, save one small one at the end of the nave for the organ, and will accommodate 3,000 worshippers on the floor alone.
There was a Roman Catholic "mission" in this neighbourhood as far back as the year 1788, eight years after Lord George Gordon's riots: mass having been formerly said secretly in a modest and humble room in Bandyleg Walk, near Guildford Street (now New Park Street (fn. 13) ). A site for a chapel was procured in that year in the London Road, and a chapel was erected in 1789–93, at the cost of about £2,000. It was opened on St. Patrick's Day, March, 1793, the sermon being preached by "Father" O'Leary. This chapel served for fifty years as the centre of ministrations for the Roman Catholic clergy in Southwark; but eventually it was found too small, and it was resolved to supersede it by a larger and handsomer edifice. This chapel became subsequently a musichall, and is now called the South London Palace. The site of the new cathedral was purchased, in the year 1839, from the Bridge House Estate, for £3,200. The foundations were commenced in September, 1840, and the foundation-stone was laid on the Feast of St. Augustine, the apostle of England, in the following May. It was "solemnly dedicated" on the Festival of St. Alban, first martyr of England, July 4th, 1848, the ceremony being attended by bishops from all the "five quarters" of the world; the high mass being sung, and the sermon preached by Dr. Wiseman, who, two years afterwards, was here formally installed as Archbishop of Westminster, in December, 1850, a few weeks after receiving his cardinal's hat. Here also the new-made cardinal preached his celebrated series of sermons, explanatory of the step taken by the Pope in restoring the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England.
The church, which is built in the Decorated or Edwardian style of Pointed architecture, consists of a nave, chancel, and side aisles, without transepts; it has also no clerestory—a want which sadly detracts from its elevation and dignity. It measures internally 240 feet by 70. The material employed in its construction is yellow brick, instead of stone, which by no means adds to its beauty. The total cost of the building, including the residence for the bishop and his clergy adjoining, was a little over £35,000. A chantry at the end of the north aisle was built by the family of the late Hon. Edward Petre, M.P., in order that masses might be said there daily for the repose of his soul. This was probably the first chantry so built in modern times. There is a second chantry, founded by the family of the late Mr. John Knill, of Blackheath. Attached to the church is a staff of clergy, who attend also the workhouses of Lambeth, St. George's, St. Saviour's, and Newington, together with Bethlehem and St. Thomas's Hospitals, and Horsemonger Lane Prison. Among the former clergy of St. George's was the Honourable and Rev. George Talbot, formerly a clergyman of the Established Church, afterwards chamberlain to Pope Pius IX. The tower still remains incomplete; but when surmounted with a spire it will be upwards of 300 feet high. The chancel is deep, and enclosed with an ornamental screen. On either side of the high altar are chapels of the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady. The font, which stands in the southern aisle, is of stone, octagonal in shape, and highly decorated with images of angels, the Four Evangelists, and the Doctors of the Church. The organ, which stands in the tower, under a pointed arch forty feet in height, is a powerful instrument. The pulpit, which stands in the nave, attached to the third pillar from the chancel on the northern side, is hexagonal. It is supported by marble shafts; on four sides of the pulpit are bassi relievi, elaborately carved, representing our Lord delivering the sermon on the mount, St. John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, and the preaching of the religious Orders of St. Francis and St. Dominic. These sculptures are executed with all the severity of the early Florentine school, and many of the figures are studies from nature and real drapery. The ascent to the pulpit is by a series of detached steps, each supported by a marble shaft, with carved capitals, to which is attached an iron railing. The work is executed in Caen stone, except the shafts, which are of British marble. The large window in the tower contains figures of St. George the Martyr (to whom the church is dedicated), St. Richard, St. Ethelbert, St. Oswald, St. Edmund, and St. Edward the Confessor, with angels bearing scrolls and musical instruments. The rood-screen, of stone, consists of three open arches, resting on marble shafts, with richly carved foliated capitals; above it stands the cross, bearing the figure of the Redeemer of the world, and on either side stand the Virgin Mary and the beloved disciple. The cross itself is an original work of the fifteenth century; the figure of our Lord is from the chisel of the celebrated M. Durlet, of Antwerp; the two other images were carved in England.
In spite of the profuse decoration of the chancel and its side chapels, it must be owned that the nave of St. George's has a singularly bare and naked appearance, which is increased by the starved proportions of the pillars that mark it off from the side aisles. At the lower end of the church, near the chief entrance, is a huge crucifix, at the foot of which, at almost every hour of the day, may be seen many devout worshippers.
The great window, over the high altar, is of nine lights; it is filled with stained glass, representing the Root of Jesse, or the genealogy of our Lord, the gift of John, Earl of Shrewsbury. The side windows contain figures of St. George, St. Lawrence, St. Stephen, &c. The high altar and the tabernacle are carved exquisitely in Caen stone; and the reredos, also of stone, contains twelve niches filled with saints and angels. The two side chapels are very elaborately carved and ornamented; and the Petre Chantry is Perpendicular, and not Decorated, in style. The tomb of Mr. Edward Petre is covered with a slab, the legend on which requests the prayers of the faithful for the soul of the founder, who died in June, 1848. The church is opened from six in the morning till nightfall, and contains a large number of religious confraternities.
The bishop's house, where the clergy of this cathedral live in common, is very plain and simple in its outward appearance, and also in its internal arrangements, being arranged on the ordinary plan of a college. The house of the bishop, it must be owned, is anything but a modern "palace;" it looks and is a mass of conventual buildings; and, to use the words of Charles Knight's "Cyclopædia of London," it exhibits more of studied irregularity and quaint homeliness than of pretension as regards design, or even severity of character. "Although these buildings," the writer adds, "are not altogether deficient in character, yet, were not their real purpose known, they might easily pass for an almshouse or a hospital."
At a short distance eastward, covering, with its gardens, a large triangular plot of ground, stands the School for the Indigent Blind. This institution was originally established in 1799, at the "Dog and Duck," in St. George's Fields, and for some time received only fifteen persons as inmates. "The site being required for the building of Bethlehem Hospital," writes John Timbs, in his "Curiosities of London," "about two acres of ground were allotted opposite the Obelisk at the end of Blackfriars Road, and there a plain school-house for the blind was built. In 1826 the school was incorporated; and in the two following years three legacies of £500 each, and one of £10,000, were bequeathed to the establishment. In 1834 additional ground was purchased and the school-house remodelled, so as to form a portion of a more extensive edifice in the Tudor or domestic Gothic style, designed by Mr. John Newman, F.S.A. The tower and gateway in the north front are very picturesque. The school will accommodate about 220 inmates. The pupils are clothed, lodged, and boarded, and receive a religious and industrial education, so that many of them have been returned to their families able to earn from 6s. to 8s. per week. Applicants are not received under twelve, nor above thirty, years of age, nor if they have a greater degree of sight than will enable them to distinguish light from darkness. The admission is by votes of the subscribers; and persons between the ages of twelve and eighteen have been found to receive the greatest benefit from the institution." The women and girls are employed in knitting stockings, needlework, and embroidery; in spinning, and making household and body-linen, netting silk, and in fine basket-making; besides working hoods for babies, work-bags, purses, slippers, &c. Many of these are of very tasteful design, in colour as well as in form. The men and boys make wicker baskets, cradles, and hampers; rope doormats and worsted rugs; brushes of various kinds; and they make all the shoes for the inmates of the school. Reading is mostly taught by Alston's raised or embossed letters, in which the Old and New Testaments and the Liturgy have been printed. Both males and females are remarkably cheerful in their employment; they have great taste and aptness for music, and they are instructed in it, not as a mere amusement, but with a view to engagements as organists or teachers of psalmody. In fact, here, and here only in London, a blind choir, led by a blind organist, may be heard performing the compositions of Handel, Mozart, and Mendelssohn with great accuracy and effect. Once a year a concert of sacred music is given in the chapel or music-room, to which the public are admitted by tickets, the proceeds from the sale of such tickets being added to the funds of the institution. An organ and one or two pianofortes are provided for teaching; fiddles in plenty, too, may be seen in the work-rooms on the men's side. The inmates receive, as pocket-money, part of their earnings; and on leaving the school a sum of money and a set of tools for their respective trades are given to each of them.
A touching picture of a visit to the Blind School was given by a writer in the Echo newspaper, from which we quote the following. The writer, after describing his visit to the basket-making room, proceeds: "I knelt on the floor to watch one little boy's fingers, as he was making what might be a waste-paper basket; my face was almost against his, but he was utterly unconscious of my presence, so that I could see the little hands as they groped about for materials, and the little fingers as they wove so diligently and so nimbly. Suddenly, whilst I was almost touching him, the boy startled me by saying to himself, aloud, 'That must be a lie about there being a hall in the West which holds eight thousand people and has fifty stops in the organ.' Fifteen of the inmates had been taken to an oratorio the night before, and he had heard them talking of it and of the Albert Hall; now he was talking to himself about it as he wove, quite unconscious that my face was against his. I touched his hand, and the busy weaving stopped, the hands fell on the lap, and the sightless eyes looked round for that light which only can break on them on the morn of the resurrection. . . . The girls' room is singularly light and airy. The light is of no use, but the air is. I was bending down, with my fingers before the eyes of a child of six, whom I could hardly believe to be blind, when I felt a touch upon my head, and, looking back, I saw three blind girls, with their arms entwined, one of whom, feeling in the darkness for the very little girl I was looking at, had touched my hair; they drew back respectfully, and waited until the stranger was gone. Up and down this long girls' workroom, at the hour of recreation, they walk in twos and threes, apparently quite happy, talking incessantly. When I left that room I thought that there was more real light in it than in most of the ballrooms I had ever entered."
The number of pupils in the school is about 150, and the articles manufactured entirely by them realise a profit of about £1,000 per annum. The school is maintained at an annual cost of about £10,000, which is covered by the receipts derived from voluntary contributions and from dividends of nearly £3,000.
In the Borough Road, within about two or three minutes' walk of the Blind School, are the headquarters of the British and Foreign School Society. The British, or, as they were originally called, Lancasterian Schools, had great influence during the first seventy years of the present century in raising the state of education in the country among the poorer classes. Without entering into the disputed claims of Dr. Bell and Joseph Lancaster, as to who was the first to originate the peculiar system pursued at these schools, there can be no doubt but that, by the energy of the latter, a practical step of great importance was made towards developing a regular, efficient, and economical plan of teaching. Dr. Bell did much the same kind of work at Madras, but not till Lancaster had already commenced his labours here. Joseph Lancaster was born in Kent Street, Southwark, on the 27th of November, 1778. When only fourteen years old, he read Clarkson's "Essay on the Slave Trade," and, it is said, was so much moved by its statements that he started from home, without the knowledge of his parents, on his way to Jamaica, to teach the "poor blacks" to read the Word of God. While still young, he became a member of the Society of Friends, and soon after this his attention was directed to the educational wants of the poor. The lamentable condition and useless character of the then existing schools for poor children filled his mind with pity and a desire to provide a remedy, and in 1796 he made his first public efforts in education. Before this time, however, he had gathered a number of children together, and his father had provided the schoolroom rent free. When not yet eighteen, he had nearly ninety children under instruction, many of whom paid no school fee. When only in his twenty-first year, he had nearly a thousand children assembled around him in his new premises in the Borough Road. Mr. Lancaster had not proceeded far in his attempts before he was confronted by a great difficulty. Possessed of small means, and surrounded by pupils with no means at all, he must either relinquish his benevolent work, or discover some method of conducting his school without paid teachers and without books. In this dilemma he hit upon the plan of training the elder and more advanced children to teach and govern the young and less advanced scholars; and he denominated this method of conducting a school the "monitorial system." To overcome the difficulty about books, he caused large sheets to be printed over with the necessary lessons, had them pasted on boards, and hung up on the school walls; round each lesson some ten or twelve children were placed, under the care of a trained monitor. This system quickly attracted considerable notice; and in 1805 Mr. Lancaster had an interview with George III., on which occasion his Majesty uttered the memorable words, "It is my wish that every poor child in my kingdom may be taught to read the Bible." The Duke of Bedford gave Lancaster early and cordial assistance; and the most flattering overtures were made to him in connection with the proposition that he should join the Established Church: all which, as a Dissenter, he respectfully but firmly declined. About this time Lancaster's affairs were so embarrassed, through the rapid extension of his plans of teaching, that in 1808 he placed them in the hands of trustees, and a voluntary society was formed to continue the good work which he had begun. Hence the society which, in 1813, designated itself the "Institution for Promoting the British (or Lancasterian) System for the Education of the Labouring and Manufacturing Classes of Society of every religious persuasion," but now known simply as the "British and Foreign School Society." The work was subsequently taken up and put on a sound foundation by Mr. William Allen, of Plough Court, a man of means, and a Quaker, who became treasurer of the institution, and whose portrait now adorns the committee's board-room. In the meantime, namely, in 1811, the "National Society" had been started by the Church of England, in opposition to Lancaster's "monitorial system."
From the great encouragement given to Lancaster by many persons of the highest rank, he was enabled to travel over the kingdom, for the purpose of delivering lectures, giving instructions, and establishing schools. "Flattered by splendid patronage," says his biographer in the Gentleman's Magazine, "and by unrealised promises of support, he was induced to embark in an extensive school establishment at Tooting, to which his own resources proving unequal, he was thrown upon the mercy of cold calculators, who consider unpaid debts as unpardonable crimes. Concessions were, however, made to his merit, which not considering as sufficient, he abandoned his old establishment, and left England in disgust, and, about the year 1820, went to America, where his fame procured him friends and his industry rendered him useful." He died at New York, in October, 1838, in the sixty-ninth year of his age. His memory is now perpetuated in this neighbourhood by Lancaster Street, a name which has within the last few years been bestowed upon Union Street, a thoroughfare crossing the Borough Road in a slanting direction, connecting the southern end of Blackfriars Road with Newington Causeway, and skirting the east side of the school-buildings. Mr. Lancaster for some years had his school-room in this street, almost within a stone's throw of the present noble building in the Borough Road; and as lately as the commencement of the present century, the little children who attended the schools were often unable to reach the school-room, because "the waters were out." There was a large ditch, or rather a small rivulet, which ran northwards down from Newington Butts, and found its way into the Thames near Paris Garden.
The institution in the Borough Road may be looked upon in a threefold aspect. First, it is the Society's seat of government; secondly, here are held the model schools, wherein are taught 350 boys, and in which the Society desires to have at all times examples at hand for imitation by the branch schools, and into which, accordingly, improved methods of tuition are from time to time introduced. Thirdly, there are here some normal seminaries for the instruction of future masters, who, whilst teaching in the model class-schools, are students themselves in the art of tuition, the most practically important branch of their studies. Of the female training college in connection with the British and Foreign School Society we have spoken in our account of Stockwell. (fn. 14)
These schools, though they profess to stand on a Nonconformist basis, are so liberal and unsectarian in their teaching that they number among their patrons many lay members of the Established Church, and even two of its dignitaries, Dr. Temple, the Bishop of Exeter, and Dr. Stanley, the Dean of Westminster. The scholars and teachers attending the schools may be put down as comprising about thirty per cent. of Episcopalians, twenty per cent. of the Baptist, and thirty per cent. of the Congregationalist denomination.
The "pupil-teacher system" may be said to have grown out of the monitorial plan of Bell and Lancaster. It was originated about 1844, but has gradually come to be adopted in nearly all the British schools, which really, from an educational point of view, are identical in plan with the National, Wesleyan, and other schools in connection with the Education Department.
The building now under notice, which stands on the south side of the Borough Road, is a large and lofty but plain edifice of four storeys, consisting of a centre and wings, the latter, however, extending backwards, and partly connected with each other by buildings in the rear of the central front. It is faced with red brick, and finished off with stone dressings in the shape of cornices, &c. The edifice was commenced about the year 1840, and first occupied in 1844. The Female Training School, which at first formed part of it, was removed in 1861, as already stated, to more spacious premises at Stockwell; and in these two institutions the chief work of the British and Foreign School Society has since been carried on.