Old and New London: Volume 6. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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'Hammersmith', in Old and New London: Volume 6, (London, 1878) pp. 529-548. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol6/pp529-548 [accessed 4 March 2024]
Ecclesiastical Division of Hammersmith from Fulham—The Principal Streets and Thoroughfares—The Railway Stations—The "Bell and Anchor" Tavern—The "Red Cow"—Nazareth House, the Home of "The Little Sisters of the Poor"—The Old Benedictine Convent, now a Training College for the Priesthood—Dr. Bonaventura Giffard—The West London Hospital—The Broadway—Brook Green—The Church of the Holy Trinity—St. Joseph's Almshouses—St. Mary's Normal College—Roman Catholic Reformatories—Blythe House—Market Gardens—Messrs Lee's Nursery—The Church of St. John the Evangelist, in Dartmouth Road—Godolphin School—Ravenscourt Park—The Ancient Manor House of Pallenswick—Starch Green—The Old London Road—A Quaint Old Pump—Queen Street—The Parish Church—The Monument of Sir Nicholas Crispe—The Enshrined Heart of St. Nicholas Crispe—The Impostor, John Tuck—Latymer Schools—The Convent of the Good Shepherd—Sussex House—Brandenburgh House—George Bubb Dodington—The Margravine of Brandenburgh—Anspach—The Funeral of Queen Caroline—Hammersmith Suspension Bridge—Hammersmith Mall—The High Bridge—The "Dove" Coffee-house, and Thomson the Poet—Sir Samuel Morland—The Upper Mall—Catharine, Queen of Charles II.—Dr. Radcliffe—Arthur Murphy—De Loutherbourg—Other Eminent Residents—Leigh Hunt—St. Peter's Church—A Public-spirited Artist—The Hammersmith Ghost.
The town of Hammersmith, at the entrance of which we now find ourselves, is a large straggling place, with a population of nearly 45,000 souls. It lies principally on the high road, which, before the introduction of railways, was the main thoroughfare from London to the West of England. Down to the year 1834 it was known parochially as the Hammersmith division, or side, of the parish of Fulham; but since that period it has not only been made a separate parish, but it has also become in its turn the parent of four separate ecclesiastical districts. During the Interregnum, it was proposed to make the hamlet parochial, and to add to it Sir Nicholas Crispe's house, between Fulham Road and the river, of which we shall presently speak, and a part of North End, "extending from the common highway to London unto the end of Gibbs's Green." The parish now extends from Kensington on the east, along the high road to Turnham Green, and by the side of the Thames from the Crab Tree to Chiswick; and it includes the hamlets of Brook Green, Pallenswick, or Stanbrook Green, and Shepherd's Bush. Faulkner, in his "History of Fulham" (1813), in speaking of the separation of Hammersmith from Fulham, and its erection into an ecclesiastical district, remarks, "When the inhabitants of Fulham and the inhabitants of Hammersmith did mutually agree to divide the parish, it was also agreed that a ditch should be dug as a boundary between them, it being the custom of those days to divide districts in this manner, whereupon a ditch was dug for the above purposes. This watercourse," he adds, "begins a little to the west of the elegant seat of the late Bubb Dodington, Esq. [Brandenburgh House]; there it is formed into canals, fish-ponds, &c.; out of his garden it crosseth the road from Fulham Field to Hammersmith, and so in a meandering course bearing westerly and northerly, it crosseth the London Road opposite the road leading to Brook Green, and from thence, on the north side of the London Road, it runs easterly, and falls into Chelsea Creek, at Counter's Bridge."
The town of Hammersmith consists of several streets, the principal of which is King Street, which formed part of the road to Windsor, about a mile and a half long; at the eastern end this street widens into the Broadway, where it is crossed by a road from Brook Green and the Uxbridge Road, which is continued over the Suspension Bridge into Surrey. The main streets are lined throughout with numerous shops, while the busy posting-houses of former times have given way to four large railway stations—the London and South-Western, in the Grove; the North London, in the Brentford Road; and the Metropolitan and the Metropolitan District in the Broadway. Altogether, therefore, the place now wears a modern business-like aspect, in spite of a number of old red-brick mansions. At the commencement of the present century, as we learn from Faulkner, the village had several good houses in and about it, and was "inhabited by gentry and persons of quality." Now these old mansions are for the most part pulled down, converted into public institutions or schools, cut up into smaller tenements, or made to give place to large and busy factories. Here and there a picturesque old tavern may still be seen, recalling to mind the times when stage-coaches travelled along the Hammersmith Road, on their way to the West of England; one such, in the neighbourhood of North End Road, is the "Bell and Anchor," an inn much patronised by people of fashion in the early part of the reign of George III., though now frequented only by the working population about North End. Mr. Larwood tells us, in his "History of Sign-boards," that representations of the place and of its visitors may be seen in caricatures of the period published by Bowles and Carver, of St. Paul's Churchyard. Another publichouse, farther along the road, bearing the sign of the "Red Cow," still bears upon its exterior clear evidence of its antiquity: it is said to have stood here for about a couple of centuries.
If there is one spot in the neighbourhood of London to which the English Roman Catholics look with greater veneration than another, just as the Nonconformist looks to Bunhill Fields Cemetery, that spot is Hammersmith, which contains an unusual number of establishments belonging to the members of that faith.
On the south side of the high road, just before entering the town, and close to the busy thoroughfare of King Street East, stands a tall Gothic building, of secluded and religious appearance, three storeys high, the home of those noble-hearted ladies, of whose self-denial any communion in the world might well be proud—the "Little Sisters of the Poor." We will not attempt to describe it in our own words, but will employ those of the biographer of Thomas Walker, the London police magistrate, and author of "The Original"—a gentleman whose Protestant zeal is beyond suspicion. He writes: "We are under the roof of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The house is full of old folk, men and women. It is Death's vestibule governed by the gentlest charity I have ever seen acting on the broken fortunes of mankind. The sisters are so many gentlewomen who have put aside all those worldly vanities so dear in these days of hoops and paint to the majority of their sisters, and have dedicated their lives to the menial service of destitute old age. They beg crusts and bones from door to door, and spread the daily board for their protégés with the crumbs from the rich men's tables. And it is only after the old men and women have feasted on the best of the crumbs that the noble sisters break their fast. I stepped into the Little Sisters' refectory. The dishes were heaps of hard crusts and scraps of cheese; and at the ends of the table were jugs of water. The table was as clean as that of the primmest epicure. The serviette of each sister was folded within a ring. And the sisters sit daily—are sitting to-day, will sit to-morrow—with perfect cheerfulness, their banquet the crumbs from pauper tables! Cheerfulness will digest the hardest crust, the horniest cheese, or these pious women had died long ago. He who may find it difficult to make the first step to the cleanly, healthy, gentlemanly life into which Thomas Walker schooled himself, should knock at the gate of the hermitage wherein the Little Sisters of the Poor banquet pauper age, and pass into the refectory of these gentlewomen. It is but a stone's-throw out of the noisy world. It lies in the midst of London. Here let the half-repentant, the wavering Sybarite rest awhile, pondering the help which a holy cheerfulness gives to the stomach—yea, when the food is an iron crust and cheeseparings." The edifice, called Nazareth House, or the "Convent of the Little Daughters of Nazareth," is shut in from the roadway by a brick wall, and the grounds attached to it extend back a considerable distance. It provides a home not only for aged, destitute, and infirm poor persons, but likewise an hospital for epileptic children.
On the opposite side of the high road, and within a few yards from Nazareth House, is a group of Roman Catholic institutions, the chief of which is the old Benedictine convent, now used as a training college for the priesthood. The site of this college has been devoted to the purposes of Roman Catholic education from the days of King Henry VIII., for it was a school for young ladies for more than three centuries down to the year 1869, when the building was first used as a training college. But the tradition is that it existed as a convent some time before the Reformation; and that subsequently to that date, though ostensibly it was only a girls' school, in reality it was carried on by professed religious ladies, who were nuns in disguise, and who said their office and recited their litanies and rosaries in secret, whilst wearing the outward appearance of ordinary Englishwomen. Faulkner, in his "History of Hammersmith," mentions this tradition, and adds that it is supposed "to have escaped the general destruction of religious houses on account of its want of endowment." If this really was the case, then poverty is sometimes even to be preferred to wealth.
On the breaking-up of the religious houses in England most of the sisterhoods retired to the Continent, where they kept up the practice of their vows unbroken; and we find that a body of Benedictine sisters settled at Dunkirk in 1662, under their abbess, Dame Mary Caryl, whom they regarded as the founder of their house, and who was previously a nun at Ghent. Another Benedictine house, largely recruited from the ladies of the upper classes in England—a colony from the same city—was settled about the same time at Boulogne, and soon after removed to Pontoise, in the neighbourhood of Paris.
As the English Reformation, two centuries and a half before, had driven this Ghent sisterhood from England, so in 1793 the outbreak of the first French Revolution wafted its members back again—not, however, by a very tranquil passage—to the shores which their great-great-grandparents had been forced to leave. Already, however, something had been done to prepare the way for their return. Catherine of Braganza, the poor neglected queen of Charles II., invited over to England some members of a sisterhood at Munich, called the Institute of the Blessed Virgin, and these she settled and supported during her husband's life in a house in St. Martin's Lane. On the death of the king, finding their tenure so near to the Court to be rather insecure, these ladies were glad to migrate farther afield. The chance was soon given to them. A certain Mrs. Frances Bedingfeld, a sister, we believe, of the first baronet of that family, procured, by the aid of the queen, the possession of a large house—indeed, the largest house at that time—in Hammersmith, to the north of the road, near the Broadway, and with a spacious garden behind it. This house adjoined the ladies' school which we have already mentioned; and in course of time the sub rosâ convent and the sisterhood from St. Martin's Lane were merged into one institution under an abbess, who followed the Benedictine rule. The Lady Frances Bedingfeld, as foundress, became the first abbess; and she was succeeded by Mrs. Cecilia Cornwallis, who was a kinswoman of Queen Anne. The school, though somewhat foreign to the scope of a contemplative order, was now carried on more openly and avowedly, though still in modest retirement, by the Benedictine sisterhood, who, adding a third messuage to their two houses, at once taught the daughters of the Roman Catholic aristocracy, and established a home in which ladies in their widowhood might take up their residence en pension, with the privilege of hearing mass and receiving the sacraments in the little chapel attached to it.
Thus the school became absorbed in the convent two centuries ago. In the year 1680 the infamous Titus Oates obtained from the authorities a commission to search the house, as being a reputed nunnery, as well as a well-known home of Papists and recusants. It is not a little singular that, although there was no cheap daily press in his day, we have two separate and independent reports of this proceeding which have come down to us. The first is to be found in the Domestic Intelligencer, or News both from City and Country, for January 13th, 1679–80. The other report, more briefly and tersely expressed, appears in the True Domestic Intelligencer of the same date.
Exactly a century passed away, so far as any records or traditions have been preserved, before the Benedictine sisters again experienced any alarm; but in June, 1780, the convent was doomed to destruction by the infuriated mob. The only precaution which the nuns appear to have taken was to pack up the sacramental plate in a chest, which the lady abbess intrusted to a faithful friend and neighbour, a Mr. Gomme, and who kindly buried it in his garden till the danger had passed away.
Twenty-five ladies from foreign convents on their arrival in England came to Hammersmith, and made it their temporary home until they could obtain admission into other religious houses. In fact, on their arrival they found only three aged nuns, including the abbess, who rejoiced at being able to give them the shelter which they so much needed. The school was accordingly carried on by the Abbess of Pontoise (Dame Prujean), who here revived the school which had dwindled away; and for many years it was the only Catholic ladies' school near the metropolis. Faulkner gives no list of abbesses who ruled this convent during the two centuries of its existence at Hammersmith. We are able, however, to give it complete from a private source, a MS. in the possession of Mrs. Jervis, a near relative of the Markhams, who, at various times, were "professed" within its walls. The list runs as follows:—Frances Bedingfeld (1669), Cicely Cornwallis (1672), Frances Bernard (1715), Mary Delison (1739), Frances Gentil (1760), Marcella Dillon (1781), Mary Placida Messenger (1812), and Placida Selby (1819). The convent at Hammersmith, composed as it was of three private houses, and built in such a way as to do anything rather than attract the attention of the public eye, presented anything but an attractive appearance. A high wall screened it from the passers-by, and the southern face was simply a plain brick front, pierced with two rows of plain sash windows. Inside, the rooms used as dormitories and class-rooms had the same heavy and dreary look, as if the place were a cross between a badly-endowed parsonage and a workhouse school.
The chapel, which was built in 1812 by Mr. George Gillow, and served for many years—in fact, down to 1852—as the mission chapel of Hammersmith and the neighbourhood, still stands, the lower end of it having been cut off and made into a library for the use of the theological students who have been located in these buildings since they were vacated in 1869 by the sisterhood. At the south-eastern corner, between the house and the road, stood a porter's lodge and the guestrooms; but these have been pulled down. Here, too, it is said, stood the original chapel. The principal of the training college, Bishop Wethers, coadjutor to Cardinal Manning, resides in the western portion of the building, formerly the residence of the Portuguese minister, the Baron Moncorvo.
In the middle of the eighteenth century the Vicar-Apostolic of the London District—as the chief Roman Catholic Bishop in England was then called—had his home at Hammersmith, from which place several of the pastoral letters of those prelates were dated.
Here—probably in apartments attached to the convent—died, in 1733, in his ninetieth year, Dr. Bonaventura Giffard, chaplain to King James II., and nominated by that king to the headship of Magdalen College, Oxford, though divested of his office at the Revolution. He became afterwards one of the Roman Catholic bishops in partibus, and lived a life of apostolical poverty, simplicity, and charity. On his deposition from Magdalen College, Dr. Giffard was arrested and imprisoned in Newgate, simply for the exercise of his spiritual functions. Being a man of peace, he lived privately, with the connivance of the Government of the time, in London and at Hammersmith, where he was regarded as almost a saint on account of his charity. He attended the Earl of Derwentwater before his execution at the Tower in 1716.
Here Dr. Challoner, the ablest Roman Catholic controversialist of the eighteenth century, was consecrated, in January, 1741, a bishop of his church and Vicar-Apostolic of the London District, with the title of Bishop of Debra in partibus infidelium. Cardinal Weld was for three years director of the Benedictine nuns of this convent.
"A nunnery," writes Priscilla Wakefield in 1814, "is not a common object in England; but there is at Hammersmith one which is said to have taken its rise from a boarding-school established in the reign of Charles II., for young ladies of the Catholic Church. The zeal of the governesses and teachers," she adds, "induced them voluntarily to subject themselves to monastic rules, a system that has been preserved by many devotees, who have taken the veil and secluded themselves from the world."
In King Street East stands the West London Hospital, an institution which has been increasing in importance and usefulness yearly since it was first established. As this charity is unendowed, it is dependent entirely on voluntary contributions for its support.
Stow mentions a Lock hospital (fn. 1) as formerly standing at Hammersmith; but no traces of its whereabouts are now visible; and as the local historian, Faulkner, is altogether silent on the subject, it is possible that the honest annalist was for once at fault.
The Broadway forms the central part of the town, whence roads diverge to the right and left; that to the right leads to Brook Green, whilst that on the left hand leads to the Suspension Bridge across the Thames. On the north side of the Broadway, up a narrow court, is a large house surrounding a quadrangle. It used to be a sort of seraglio for George IV., when Prince of Wales; but it has long been cut up into tenements for poor people.
Brook Green—so called from a small tributary of the Thames which once wound its way through it from north-west to south-east—connects the Broadway, on the north side, with Shepherd's Bush, which lies west of Notting Hill, on the Uxbridge Road. It is a long narrow strip of common land, bordered with elms and chestnuts, and can still boast of a few good houses. In former times a fair was held here annually in May, lasting three days. At the eastern end of the green is a group of Roman Catholic buildings, the chief of which is the Church of the Holy Trinity. This is a spacious stone edifice of the Early Decorated style of architecture, and has a lofty tower and spire at the northeastern corner. The first stone of the building was laid in 1851, by Cardinal Wiseman.
The external appearance of this church derives some additional interest from its contiguity to the scarcely less beautiful almshouses of St. Joseph, the first stone of which was laid by the Duchess of Norfolk, in May, 1851. The almshouses are built in a style to correspond with the church, and form together with it a spacious quadrangle. They provide accommodation for forty aged persons, and are managed by the committee of the Aged Poor Society.
On the opposite side of the road stands St. Mary's Normal College, built from the designs of Mr. Charles Hansom, of Clifton, in the Gothic style of architecture. It contains a chapel, and is capable of accommodating seventy students. Near at hand are a Roman Catholic Reformatory for boys and another for girls. The former is located in an ancient mansion, Blythe House. This house, Faulkner informs us, was reported to have been haunted; "many strange stories," he adds, "were related of ghosts and apparitions having been seen here; but it turned out at last that a gang of smugglers had taken up their residence in it, supposing that this sequestered place would be favourable to their illegal pursuits." No doubt, in the last century, the situation of Blythe House was lonely and desolate enough to favour such a supposition as the above; and, apart from this, the roads about Hammersmith in the reign of George II. would seem to have been haunted by footpads and robbers. At all events, Mr. Lewins, in his "History of the Post Office," reminds us that in 1757, the boy who carried the mail for Portsmouth happening to dismount at Hammersmith, about three miles from Hyde Park Corner, and to call for beer, some thieves took the opportunity to cut the mail-bags from off the horse's crupper, and got away undiscovered. The plunder was probably all the more valuable, as there was then no "money-order office," and even large sums of money were enclosed in letters in the shape of bank-notes.
At that time nearly all the land in the outskirts of Hammersmith was under cultivation as nurseries or market gardens, whence a large portion of the produce for the London markets was obtained. Bradley, in his "Philosophical Account of the Works of Nature," published in 1721, tells us that "the gardens about Hammersmith are famous for strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, and such like; and if early fruit is our desire," he adds, "Mr. Millet's garden at North End, near the same place, affords us cherries, apricots, and curiosities of those kinds, some months before the natural season."
Messrs. Lee's nursery garden here enjoyed great celebrity towards the close of the last century; and it is said that they were the first who introduced the fuchsia, now so common, to the public. Their nursery was formerly a vineyard, where large quantities of Burgundy wine were made. To store the wine a thatched house was built, and several large cellars were excavated. The rooms above were afterwards in the occupation of Worlidge, the engraver, and here he executed many of the most valuable and admired of his works.
It was close by Lee's nursery that Samuel Taylor Coleridge stayed frequently with his friends the Morgans, who lived on the road between Kensington and Hammersmith. H. Crabb Robinson, in his "Diary," under date July 28, 1811, tells us how he "after dinner walked to Morgan's, beyond Kensington, to see Coleridge, and found Southey there."
The region northward of the main thoroughfare through Hammersmith is being rapidly covered with streets, many of the houses being of a superior class, particularly in the neighbourhood of Ravenscourt Park. In Dartmouth Road is the church of St. John the Evangelist, a large and lofty edifice, of Early-English architecture, built in 1860, from the designs of Mr. Butterfield. It was erected by voluntary contributions, at a cost of about £6,000. Close by St. John's Church is the Godolphin School, which was founded in the sixteenth century under the will of William Godolphin, but remodelled as a grammar school, in accordance with a scheme of the Court of Chancery, in 1861. The buildings of this institution are surrounded by playgrounds, about four acres in extent; the school is built, like the adjoining church, of brick, with stone mullions and dressings, and it is in the Early Collegiate Gothic style, from the designs of Mr. C. H. Cooke. The buildings include a large school-room, capable of accommodating 200 boys, several class-rooms, a dining-hall, dormitories for forty boarders, and a residence for the head-master.
Ravenscourt Park, at the north-western extremity of Hammersmith, marks the site of the ancient manor-house of Pallenswick, which is supposed to have belonged to Alice Perrers, or Pierce, a lady of not very enviable fame at the court of Edward III., upon whose banishment, in 1378, the place was seized by the Crown. The survey of the manor, taken about that time, describes it as containing "forty acres of land, sixty of pasture, and one and a half of meadow." The manor-house is described as "well built, in good repair, and containing a large hall, chapel, &c." In 1631 the manor of Pallenswick was sold to Sir Richard Gurney, the brave and loyal Lord Mayor of London who died a prisoner in the Tower in 1647. Down to nearly the close of the last century, the manor-house was surrounded by a moat, and Faulkner describes it as "of the style and date of the French architect Mansard . . . Tradition," he adds, "has assigned the site of this house as having been a hunting-seat of Edward III. His arms, richly carved in wood, stood, till within these few years, in a large upper room, but they fell to pieces upon being removed when the house was repaired; the crest of Edward the Black Prince, which was placed over the arms, is still preserved in a parlour, and is in good preservation. . . . It is very probable that this piece of carving was an appendage to the ancient manor-house when it was in the possession of Alice Pierce."
A little to the north of Ravenscourt Park, and leading up towards Shepherd's Bush, on the Uxbridge Road, lies Starch Green, which—like Stanford Brook Green and Gaggle-Goose Green, in the same neighbourhood, mentioned by Faulkner as "two small rural villages"—is now being rapidly covered with houses, and is one of those places which is fortunate enough not to have a history.
The ancient high road from the west to London commenced near the "Pack-horse" inn, at Turnham Green, which lies at the western extremity of Hammersmith, and of which we shall speak presently. It passed through Stanford-Brook Green, Pallenswick, and Bradmoor. At the beginning of this century it was very narrow and impassable, though large sums of money had been spent in its repair. The road, which is now in part lined with houses, skirts the north side of Ravenscourt Park, and joins the Uxbridge Road at Shepherd's Bush. At the junction of the two roads formerly stood an ancient inn, where all the country travellers stopped in their journeys to or from the metropolis. This is supposed to have been the house that Miles Syndercombe hired for the purpose of carrying out his proposed assassination of Cromwell, in January, 1657, while on his journey from Hampton Court to London.
Dull, dreary, and uninteresting as this part of
Hammersmith may have been in former times, it
appears to have possessed at least one curiosity;
the portrait of a quaint old pump, in Webb's Lane,
with a sort of font in front of it to catch the
water, figures in Hone's "Every-Day Book," under
September 10th, but apparently little or nothing
was or is known of its history. Under the portrait in the "Every-Day Book" are the following
"A walking man should not refrain
To take a saunter up Webb's Lane,
Towards Shepherd's Bush, to see a rude
Old lumbering pump. It's made of wood,
And pours its water in a font
So beautiful that, if he don't
Admire how such a combination
Was formed in such a situation,
He has no power of causation,
Or taste, or feeling, but must live
Painless and pleasureless, and give
Himself to doing—what he can,
And die—a sorry sort of man!"
Retracing our steps to the Broadway, we enter Queen Street, which passes in a southerly direction to the Fulham Road, from the junction of the Broadway and Bridge Road. On the west side of this street stands the parish church, dedicated to St. Paul. It was originally a chapel of ease to Fulham, and is remarkable as the church in which one of the last of those romantic entombments known as heart-burials took place. The church was built during the reign of Charles I., at the cost of Sir Nicholas Crispe, a wealthy citizen of London.
Bowack thus describes this church in 1705:—"The very name of a chapel of ease sufficiently points out the causes of its erection, and indeed the great number of people inhabiting in and near this place, at such a great distance from Fulham Church, made the erecting of a chapel long desired and talked of before it could be effected; but about the year 1624 the great number of gentry residing hereabouts being sensible of the inconvenience, as well as the poorer people, began in earnest to think of this remedy; and after several of them had largely subscribed, they set about the work with all possible application. The whole number of inhabitants who were willing to enjoy the benefit of this chapel voluntarily subscribed, and were included within the limits belonging to it upon the division, so that a very considerable sum was secured. . . . About the year 1628 the foundation of the chapel was laid, and the building was carried on with such expedition, that in the year 1631 it was completely finished and consecrated; though, at the west end, there is a stone fixed in the wall with this date, 1630, which was placed there when the said end was built, probably before the inside was begun. The whole building is of brick, very spacious and regular, and at the east [west] end is a large square tower of the same with a ring of six bells. The inside is very well finished, being beautified with several devices in painting. The ceiling also is very neatly painted, and in several compartments and ovals were finely depicted the arms of England, also roses, thistles, fleur-de-luces, &c., all of which the rebels in their furious zeal dashed out, or daubed over; though this particular act was more the effect of their malice against his Majesty King Charles I., and the sacred kingly office, than their blind zeal against Popery, endeavouring, to the utmost, that the memory of a king should be expunged the world. The glass of the chancel window was also finely painted with Moses, Aaron, &c.; also the arms of the most considerable benefactors; but these have been much abused (probably by the same ungodly crew), as relics of Popery and superstition; however, the remains of them evince their former art and beauty, which was very extraordinary. In several of the other windows likewise, there are the benefactors' coats of arms, particularly Sir Nicholas Crispe's, who may be called its founder, himself giving, in money and materials, the sum of £700 towards its building. It was likewise very well paved, and pewed with wainscot, and made commodious and beautiful within; the whole charge of which was about two thousand and odd pounds. . . . Notwithstanding the ill usage this chapel has met with, it is still in very good condition; beside this, adorned with several stately monuments now standing."
Such, then, was the condition of this church within three-quarters of a century of its erection. Since that time it has undergone extensive repairs on different occasions, and in the year 1864 it was restored and enlarged. Although the edifice is constructed of brick, it is covered throughout with stucco; and, architecturally, it is of little or no interest, excepting as a fair specimen of the corrupt style in vogue at the date of its erection. The building consists of a nave, aisles, short transepts, and chancel; the tower is surmounted by a small octagonal bell-turret. The church, which has galleries on either side and at the western end, will accommodate about 1,000 worshippers. The altarpiece is somewhat peculiar in its construction, and occupies nearly the whole eastern wall of the chancel: it may perhaps be best described as an upright "baldachino," the canopy of which is ornamented with a number of candlesticks containing imitation candles, the flames of which are represented in gilding; beneath the canopy are festoons in carved oak, said to be the work of Grinling Gibbons. This baldachino—which is of a heavy Italian style—is of interest, as having been erected by Archbishop Laud.
A picturesque avenue of old trees leads to the north door of the church, whilst the footpath is lined on each side by several rows of tombs, some bearing foreign names, probably of the Walloons employed in the tapestry works, or of persons who were domesticated at Brandenburgh House during the residence there of the Margrave of Anspach and his widow. Within the church are the tombs of many persons famous in history. Among them may be mentioned one of black and white marble, to the Earl of Mulgrave, who commanded a squadron against the Spanish Armada, and was afterwards President of the North under James I.; he died in 1646. A tomb, with bust of Alderman James Smith, who died in 1667; he was the founder of Bookham Almshouses, and "the father of twenty children." Another, of Sir Edward Nevill, Justice of Common Pleas, who died in 1705. Thomas Worlidge, the painter, whose unrivalled etchings are choice gems of the English School of Art, is commemorated by a tablet; as also is Arthur Murphy, the dramatic writer and essayist, and friend of Dr. Johnson. Sir Samuel Morland, Sir Elijah Impey, and Sir George Shea were likewise buried here.
As we have intimated above, however, the most remarkable monument in Hammersmith parish church is that of Sir Nicholas Crispe, of whom Faulkner speaks as "a man of loyalty, that deserves perpetual remembrance." "What especially pleases us in the consideration of the character of this worthy citizen," writes Mr. S. C. Hall, in his "Pilgrimages to English Shrines," "is the broad principle of his humanity: he honoured and revered Charles I. beyond all other beings; he honoured him as a KING, he loved him as a MAN; he contributed largely to his young sovereign's wants during his exile. Yet his loyalty shut not up his heart against those who differed from him in opinion; his sympathies were not conventional, they were not confined to a class, but extended to all his kind. When himself in exile, he made his private misfortunes turn to public benefits; he investigated all foreign improvements and turned them to English uses; he encouraged the farmers of Middlesex in all agricultural pursuits; through his knowledge, new inventions, as to paper-mills, powder-mills, and water-mills, came into familiar use; he discovered the value of the brick-making earth in his immediate neighbourhood, and the art itself, as since practised, was principally, if not entirely, his own." Sir Nicholas, shortly after the Restoration, caused to be erected in Hammersmith Church, in the south-east corner, near the pulpit, a monument of black and white marble, eight feet in height and two in breadth, upon which was placed a bust of the king, immediately beneath which is the following inscription:—"This effigy was erected by the special appointment of Sir Nicholas Crispe, Knight and Baronet, as a grateful commemoration of that glorious martyr, King Charles the First, of blessed memory." Beneath, on a pedestal of black marble, is an urn, enclosing the heart of the brave and loyal knight, which, like the heart of Richard Cœur de Lion and that of the gallant Marquis of Montrose, has found a resting-place apart from that where his body reposes. On the pedestal is inscribed: "Within this urn is enclosed the heart of Sir Nicholas Crispe, Knight and Baronet, a loyal sharer in the sufferings of his late and present Majesty. He first settled the trade of gold from Guinea, and then built the Castle of Cormantin. He died 28th of July, 1665, aged 67." Miss Hartshorne, in her work on "Enshrined Hearts," tells us that Sir Nicholas left a sum of money for the especial purpose that his heart might be refreshed with a glass of wine every year, and that his singular bequest was regularly carried out for a century, when his heart became too much decayed. "Lay my body," he said to his grandson when on his death-bed—"lay my body, as I have directed, in the family vault in the parish church of St. Mildred in Bread Street, but let MY HEART be placed in an urn at my master's feet."
An amusing account of an impostor named John Tuck, who was afterwards transported for other frauds, officiating and preaching in this church as a clergyman in the year 1811, will be found in the "Eccentric." He was the son of a labourer in Devonshire.
Near the church are the Latymer Schools, which were founded in the seventeenth century by Edward Latymer, who, by his will, dated 1624, bequeathed thirty-five acres of land in Hammersmith, "the profits of which were to be appropriated to clothing six poor men, clothing and educating six poor boys, and distributing in money." In consequence of the increased value of the land, in Faulkner's time the number of boys had been augmented to thirty, and the poor men to ten. At the present time thirty men are recipients of Latymer's charity, whilst clothing and education is now afforded to 100 boys and fifty girls. Latymer directed in his will that the clothes of the men should be "coats or cassocks of cloth of frieze to reach below their knees; those of the boys doublets and breeches; all of them to wear a cross of red cloth on their sleeves, called 'Latymer's Cross.'"
In Queen Street, nearly opposite the church, is a large brick mansion, which formed part of a house once the residence of Edmund Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave and Baron of Butterwick, who died here in the year 1646. In 1666 the house and premises, then known as the manor-house and farm of Butterwick, were conveyed to the family of the Fernes, by whom the old mansion was modernised and cut up into two. Early in the last century the place was sold to Elijah Impey, father of the Indian judge of that name, whose family long resided in it. The old portion of the mansion was pulled down many years ago. The principal front of the house, as it now stands, is ornamented with four stone classic columns, and it is surmounted by a pediment.
On the right-hand side of the Fulham Road, which branches off from Queen Street opposite the parish church, stands a large group of brick buildings, designed by Pugin, and known as the Convent of the Good Shepherd and the Asylum for Penitent Women. The site was formerly occupied by Beauchamp Lodge. This charity was commenced in 1841 by some ladies of the Order of the Good Shepherd, who came from Angers, in France, to carry on the work of the reformation of female penitents under the auspices of Dr. Griffiths, then "Vicar-Apostolic of the London District."
Further southward, opposite Alma Terrace, is Sussex House, so named from having been occasionally the residence of the late Duke of Sussex, and where his Royal Highness "was accustomed to steal an hour from state and ceremony, and indulge in that humble seclusion which princes must find the greatest possible luxury."
Mrs. Billington, the singer, lived here for some time; and it was for many years a celebrated house for insane patients, under the late Dr. Forbes Winslow. In speaking of Sussex House, the Rev. J. Richardson, in his "Recollections," tells an amusing story of a visit paid to it by Mrs. Fry, the prison philanthropist, whose restless benevolence was by the uncharitable occasionally mistaken for an impertinent propensity for prying into things with which she had no business. "The Rev. Mr. Clarke, son of the traveller, Dr. Clarke," he writes, "was at one time confined in a lunatic asylum. His visit to the place was fortunately but a short one, and he was pronounced perfectly compos mentis. A day or two before he left the place he perceived, from the unusual bustle that arose, that something of consequence was about to happen; and he learnt from one of the subordinates that no less a person than the great Mrs. Fry, attended by a staff of females, was about to inspect the establishment. Being fond of a joke, Mr. Clarke prevailed upon one of the keepers to introduce the lady to him. This was accordingly done. Mr. Clarke assumed the appearance of melancholy madness; the lady and her suite advanced to offer consolation and condolence; he groaned, rolled his eyes, and gibbered; they became alarmed. He made gestures indicative of a rush at the parties; they retreated towards the door in precipitation; he rose from his seat, and was in instant pursuit. 'Sauve qui peut,' was the word; the retreat became a flight. Mrs. Fry, whose size and age prevented celerity of movement, was upset in the attempt; the sisterhood were involved in her fall; their screams were mingled with the simulated howlings of the supposed maniac; and it was with some difficulty that they were eventually removed from the floor and out of the room. I believe," continues Mr. Richardson, "that Mrs. Fry did not again extend her researches into the mysteries of lunatic asylums."
On the right-hand side of the Fulham Road, nearly opposite Sussex House, and with its gardens and grounds stretching away to the water-side, stood Brandenburgh House, a mansion which in its time passed through various vicissitudes. According to Lysons, it was built early in the reign of Charles I. by Sir Nicholas Crispe, of whom we have spoken above in our account of the parish church, at a cost of nearly £23,000. Sir Nicholas was himself the inventor of the art of making bricks as now practised.
During the Civil War in August, 1647, when the Parliamentary army was stationed at Hammersmith, this house was plundered by the troops, and General Fairfax took up his quarters there; Sir Nicholas being then in France, whither he had retired when the king's affairs became desperate and he could be of no further use. His estates were, of course, confiscated; but he, nevertheless, managed to assist Charles II. when in exile with money, and aided General Monk in bringing about the Restoration. He had, it seems, entered largely into commercial transactions with Guinea, and had built upon its coast the fort of Cormantine. In his old age he once more settled down in his mansion on the banks of the Thames, and dying there, the house was sold by his successor to the celebrated Prince Rupert, nephew of Charles I., so renowned in the Civil Wars. It was settled by the prince upon his mistress, Margaret Hughes, a much admired actress in the reign of Charles II. She owned the house nearly ten years. It was afterwards occupied by different persons of inferior note, until, in 1748, it became the residence of George Bubb Dodington, afterwards Lord Melcombe, who completely altered and modernised it. He added a magnificent gallery for statues and antiquities, of which the floor was inlaid with various marbles, and the door-case supported by columns richly ornamented with lapis lazuli. He also gave to the house the name of La Trappe, after a celebrated monastery; and at the same time inscribed the following lines beneath a bust of Comus placed in the hall:—
"While rosy wreaths the goblet deck,
Thus Comus spake, or seem'd to speak:
'This place, for social hours design'd,
May care and business never find.
Come, ev'ry Muse, without restraint,
Let genius prompt, and fancy paint;
Let mirth and wit, with friendly strife,
Chase the dull gloom that saddens life;
True wit, that, firm to virtue's cause,
Respects religion and the laws;
True mirth, that cheerfulness supplies
To modest ears and decent eyes:
Let these indulge their liveliest sallies,
Both scorn the canker'd help of malice,
True to their country and their friend,
Both scorn to flatter or offend.'"
Of Bubb Dodington, Lord Melcombe, we have already spoken in our notice of Pall Mall; (fn. 2) but more remains to be narrated. His original name was George Bubb, and he was the son of an apothecary in Dorsetshire, where he was born in 1691. He added the name of Dodington in compliment to his uncle, Mr. George Dodington, who was one of the Lords of the Admiralty during the reigns of William III., Queen Anne, and George I., and whose fortune he inherited. Mr. S. Carter Hall, in his "Pilgrimages to English Shrines," writes:—"His amount of mind seems to have consisted in a large share of worldly wisdom, which enriched himself, a total want of conscience in political movements, and a safety-loving desire of being on friendly terms with literary men and satirists, that his faults and follies might be overlooked under the shadow of his patronage. In his Diary, he coolly details acts of political knavery that would condemn any man, without appearing at all to feel their impropriety. His face would have delighted Lavater, so exactly characteristic is it of a well-fed, mindless worldling."
Bubb Dodington's great failing seems to have been want of respect to himself. "His talents, his fortune, his rank, and his connections," says a writer in the European Magazine for 1784, "were sufficient to have placed him in a very elevated situation of life, had he regarded his own character and the advantages which belonged to him; by neglecting these, he passed through the world without much satisfaction to himself, with little respect from the public, and no advantage to his country."
Richard Cumberland, whilst residing with his father at the rectory at Fulham, formed an acquaintance with this celebrated nobleman, and, in the diary which he published, he tells us that Dodington was pleased to call his villa "La Trappe," and his inmates and familiars the "Monks" of the Convent. "These," he adds, "were Mr. Wyndham, his relation, whom he made his heir; Sir William Breton, Privy-Purse to the king; and Dr. Thomson, a physician out of practice. These gentlemen formed a very curious society of very opposite characters: in short, it was a trio, consisting of a misanthrope, a courtier, and a quack."
In each of his tawdry mansions Dodington was only to be approached through a long suite of apartments, bedecked with gilding and a profusion of finery; and when the visitor reached the fat deity of the place, he was found enthroned under painted ceilings and gilt entablatures. "Of pictures," says Cumberland, "he seemed to take his estimate only by their cost; in fact, he was not possessed of any. But I recollect his saying to me one day, in his great saloon at Eastbury, that if he had half a score of pictures of £1,000 a-piece, he would gladly decorate his walls with them; in place of which, I am sorry to say, he had stuck up immense patches of gilt leather, shaped into bugle-horns, upon hangings of rich crimson velvet, and round his state bed he displayed a carpeting of gold and silver embroidery, which too glaringly betrayed its derivation from coat, waistcoat, and breeches by the testimony of pockets, button-holes, and loops, with other equally incontrovertible witnesses subpœnaed from the tailor's shop-board."
Dr. Johnson was an occasional visitor here. One evening the doctor happening to go out into the garden when there was a storm of wind and rain, Dodington remarked to him that it was a dreadful night. "No, sir," replied the doctor, in a most reverential tone, "it is a very fine night. The Lord is abroad."
Dodington's gardens are mentioned by Lady Lepel Hervey as showing "the finest bloom and the greatest promise of fruit." The approach to the mansion was conspicuous for a large and handsome obelisk, surmounted by an urn of bronze, containing the heart of his wife. On the disposal of the house by his heir, this obelisk found its way to the park of Lord Ailesbury, at Tottenham, in Wiltshire, where it was set up to commemorate the recovery of George III. On one side of its base the following inscription was placed:—"In commemoration of a signal instance of Heaven's protecting Providence over these kingdoms, in the year 1789, by restoring to perfect health, from a long and afflicting disorder, their excellent and beloved Sovereign, George the Third: this tablet was inscribed by Thomas Bruce, Earl of Ailesbury." The inscription may possibly afford a useful hint as to the various purposes to which obelisks may be applied when purchased at second-hand.
After the death of Lord Melcombe, the house was occupied for a time by a Mrs. Sturt, who here gave entertainments, which were honoured with the presence of royalty and the élite of fashion. Sir Gilbert Elliot, in a letter to his wife, dated June 13, 1789, writes:—"Last night we were all at a masquerade at Hammersmith, given by Mrs. Sturt. It is the house that was Lord Melcombe's, and is an excellent one for such occasions. I went with Lady Palmerston, and Crewe, Windham, and Tom Pelham. We did not get home till almost six this morning. The Princes were all three at Mrs. Sturt's, in Highland dresses, and looked very well." (fn. 3)
In 1792 the place was sold to the Margrave of Brandenburgh-Anspach, who, shortly after his marriage, in the previous year, to the sister of the Earl of Berkeley, and widow of William, Lord Craven, had transferred his estates to the King of Prussia for a fair annuity, and had settled down in England. His Highness died in 1806, but the Margravine continued to make this house her chief residence for many years afterwards. She was a lady in whose personal history there were many odds and ends with which she did not wish her neighbours or the public to be acquainted. A good story is told of her butler, an Irishman, to whom she one day gave a guinea in order to set a seal on his lips as to some early indiscretion which he knew or had found out. The money, however, took him to a tavern, where, in a circle of friends, he grew warm and communicative, and at last blabbed out the secret which he had been fee'd to keep within his breast. The story coming round to her ears, the lady reproached him for his conduct, when Pat wittily replied, "Ah! your ladyship should not have given me the money, but have let me remain sober. I'm just like a hedge-hog, my lady: when I am wetted, I open at once."
The Margravine made many alterations in the mansion, which was now named Brandenburgh House, and the principal apartments were filled with paintings by such masters as Murillo, Rubens, Cuyp, Reynolds, and Gainsborough, and adorned with painted ceilings, Sévres vases, and marble busts. A small theatre was erected in the garden, near the river-side, where the Margravine often gratified the lovers of the drama "by exerting her talents both as a writer and performer." The theatre is described by Mr. Henry Angelo, in his "Reminiscences," as small, commodious, and beautifully decorated. "There was a parterre, and also side-boxes. The Margrave's box was at the back of the pit, and was usually occupied by the élite of the company, the corps diplomatique, &c., &c. The Margravine, on all occasions, was the prima donna, and mostly performed juvenile characters; but whether she represented the heroine or the soubrette, her personal appearance and her talents are said to have captivated every heart." Angelo, at her invitation, became one of her standing dramatis personæ, and acted here en amateur for several years. He tells many amusing stories concerning the performances here on the Margrave's birthday, when a gay party assembled, and the Margrave's plate was displayed on the sideboard as a finale—plate which, at Rundell's, "cost two thousand pounds more than that of Queen Charlotte."
John Timbs, in his "London and Westminster," says "the Margravine must have been a grandiose woman. She kept thirty servants in livery, besides grooms, and a stud of sixty horses, in which she took much delight. At the rehearsals of her private theatricals she condescended to permit the attendance of her tradesmen and their families; and on the days of performance, Hammersmith Broadway used to be blocked up with fashionable equipages, while the theatre itself was crowded with nobles, courtiers, and high-born dames."
After twenty years' residence at Hammersmith,
the Margravine of Anspach went to live at Naples.
She had previously parted piecemeal with most of
the costly treasures which adorned her mansion,
and its next occupant was the unhappy Queen
Caroline, wife of George IV., who here kept up
her small rival court pending her trial in the
House of Lords. During the trial she received
here legions of congratulatory, sympathetic, and
consolatory effusions; so much so, that the neighbourhood of the mansion was kept in a constant
state of turmoil. Indeed, as Theodore Hook
wrote at the time in the Tory John Bull,—
"All kinds of addresses,
From collars of SS.
To vendors of cresses,
Came up like a fair;
And all through September,
And down to December,
They hunted this hare."
The queen appears to have been unmercifully
lampooned by Hook, if we may judge from his
"Visit of Mrs. Muggins," a piece in thirty-one
stanzas, of which the following is a specimen:—
"Have you been to Brandenburgh, heigh, ma'am, ho, ma'am?
Have you been to Brandenburgh, ho?—
Oh yes, I have been, ma'am, to visit the Queen, ma'am,
With the rest of the gallantee show, show—
With the rest of the gallantee show.
"And who were the company, heigh, ma'am, ho, ma'am?
Who were the company, ho?—
We happened to drop in with gemmen from Wapping,
And ladies from Blowbladder-row, row—
Ladies from Blowbladder-row.
"What saw you at Brandenburgh, heigh, ma'am, ho, ma'am?
What saw you at Brandenburgh, ho?—
We saw a great dame, with a face red as flame,
And a character spotless as snow, snow—
A character spotless as snow.
"And who were attending her, heigh, ma'am, ho, ma'am?
Who were attending her, ho?—
Lord Hood for a man—for a maid Lady Anne—
And Alderman Wood for a beau, beau—
Alderman Wood for a beau," &c. &c.
When the "Bill of Pains and Penalties" was at last abandoned, the Hammersmith tradesmen who served her illuminated their houses, and the populace shouted and made bonfires in front of Brandenburgh House. After her acquittal, the poor queen publicly returned thanks for that issue in Hammersmith Church, and more deputations came to Brandenburgh House to congratulate her on her triumph. She did not, however, long survive the degradation to which she had been subjected, for on the 7th of August, 1821, she here breathed her last. The following account of her funeral we cull from the pages of John Timbs' work we have quoted above:—"Was there ever such a scandalous scene witnessed as that funeral which started from Brandenburgh House, Hammersmith, at seven in the morning, on the 14th of August, 1821? It was a pouring wet day. The imposing cavalcade of sable-clad horsemen who preceded and followed the hearse were drenched to the skin. The procession was an incongruous medley of charity-girls and Latymer-boys, strewing flowers in the mud; of aldermen and barristers, of private carriages and hired mourning-coaches, of Common Councilmen and Life-Guards; wound up by a hearse covered with tattered velvet drapery, to which foil-paper escutcheons had been rudely tacked on, and preceded by Sir George Naylor, Garter King-at-Arms, with a cotton-velvet cushion, on which was placed a trumpery sham crown, made of pasteboard, Dutch-metal, and glass beads, and probably worth about eighteenpence. How this sweep's May-day cortège, dipped in black ink, floundered through the mud and slush, through Hammersmith to Kensington, Knightsbridge, and the Park, with a block-up of wagons, a tearing-up of the road, and a fight between the mob and soldiers at every turnpike, and at last at every street-corner; how pistol-shots were fired and sabre-cuts given, and people killed in the Park; how the executors squabbled with Garter over the dead queen's coffin; how the undertakers tried to take the procession up the Edgware Road, and the populace insisted upon its being carried through the City; and how at last, late in the afternoon, all draggle-tailed, torn, bruised, and bleeding, this lamentable funeral got into Fleet Street, passed through the City, and staggered out by Shoreditch to Harwich, where the coffin was bumped into a barge, hoisted on board a man-ofwar, and taken to Stade, and at last to Brunswick, where, by the side of him who fell at Jena and him who died at Quatre Bras, the ashes of the wretched princess were permitted to rest;—all these matters you may find set down with a grim and painful minuteness in the newspapers and pamphlets of the day. It is good to recall them, if only for a moment, and in their broad outlines; for the remembrance of these bygone scandals should surely increase our gratitude for the better government we now enjoy."
In less than a twelvemonth after the death of Queen Caroline, the materials of Brandenburgh House were sold by auction, and the mansion was pulled down. A large factory now occupies its site, and in the grounds, fronting the Fulham Road, has been erected a house, to which the name of "Brandenburgh" has been given; but this is occupied as a lunatic asylum.
About a quarter of a mile westward of the spot whereon stood Brandenburgh House is Hammersmith Suspension Bridge, which, crossing the river Thames, joins Hammersmith with Barnes. This bridge, which was completed in 1827, was the first constructed on the suspension principle in the vicinity of London. It is a light and elegant structure, nearly 700 feet long and twenty feet wide; its central span is 422 feet. The roadway, which is sixteen feet above high-water mark, is suspended by eight chains, arranged in four double lines; and the suspension towers rise nearly fifty feet above the level of the roadway. The bridge, which cost about £80,000, was designed by Mr. Tierney Clarke.
Facing the river, from the Suspension Bridge westward to Chiswick, stretches the Mall, once the fashionable part of Hammersmith. It is divided into the Upper and Lower Malls by a narrow creek, which runs northwards towards the main road. Over this creek, and almost at its conflux with the Thames, is a wooden foot-bridge, known as the High Bridge, which was erected by Bishop Sherlock in 1751. In this part of the shores of the Thames almost every spot teems with reminiscences of poets, men of letters, and artists: let us therefore
"Softly tread; 'tis hallowed ground."
In fact, there is scarcely an acre on the Middlesex shore which is not associated with the names of Cowley, Pope, Gay, Collins, Thomson, and other bards of song.
The "Doves" coffee-house, just over the High Bridge and at the commencement of the Upper Mall, was one of the favourite resting-places of James Thomson in his long walks between London and his cottage at Richmond; and, according to the local tradition, it was here that he caught some of his wintry aspirations when he was meditating his poem on "The Seasons." "The 'Doves' is still in existence," says Mr. Robert Bell, in 1860, "between the Upper and Lower Malls, and is approachable only by a narrow path winding through a cluster of houses. A terrace at the back, upon which are placed some tables, roofed over by trained limetrees, commands extensive views of two reaches of the stream, and the opposite shore is so flat and monotonous that the place affords a favourable position for studying the chilliest and most mournful, though perhaps not the most picturesque, aspects of the winter season." On one of his pedestrian journeys, Thomson, finding himself fatigued and overheated on arriving at Hammersmith, imprudently took a boat to Kew, contrary to his usual custom. The keen air of the river produced a chill, which the walk up to his house failed to remove, and the next day he was ill with a "tertian" fever. He died a few days later, within a fortnight of completing his forty-eighth year.
Among the noted residents in the Lower Mall, in the seventeenth century, was the ingenious and versatile Sir Samuel Morland, of whom we have already spoken in our account of Vauxhall. (fn. 4) Sir Samuel came to live here in 1684. He was a great practical mechanic, and the author of a variety of useful inventions, including the speaking trumpet and the drum capstan for raising heavy anchors.
"The Archbishop [Sancroft] and myselfe," writes Evelyn, under date October 25, 1695, "went to Hammersmith to visit Sir Samuel Morland, who was entirely blind: a very mortifying sight. He showed us his invention of writing, which was very ingenious; also his wooden kalender (sic), which instructed him all by feeling; and other pretty and useful inventions of mills, pumps, &c.; and the pump he had erected that serves water to his garden and to passengers, with an inscription, and brings from a filthy part of the Thames neere it a most perfect and pure water. He had newly buried £200 worth of music-books six feet under ground, being, as he said, love-songs and vanity. He plays himself psalms and religious hymns on the Theorbo."
Sir Samuel died here in 1696, and was buried in the parish church. There is a print of him after a painting by Sir Peter Lely. Sir Edward Nevill, a judge of the Common Pleas, purchased Sir Samuel Morland's house, and came to reside in it in 1703. He died here two years afterwards.
In the Upper Mall a few old-fashioned houses of the better class are still standing, but their aristocratic occupants have long since migrated to more fashionable quarters. The Mall is in parts shaded by tall elms, which afford by their shade a pleasant promenade along the river-side. These trees are not only some of the finest specimens of their kind in the west of London, but are objects of historic interest, having been planted nearly two hundred years ago by Queen Catharine, widow of Charles II., who resided here for some years in the summer season; her town residence, during the reign of James II., as we have already stated, was at Somerset House. (fn. 5) She returned to Portugal in 1692.
In the reign of Queen Anne, the famous physician, Dr. Radcliffe, whom we have already mentioned in our account of Kensington Palace, had a house here; he intended to have converted it into a public hospital, and the work was commenced, but was left unfinished at his death. Sir Christopher Wintringham, physician to George III., lived for some time in the same house. In the Upper Mall, too, resided William Lloyd, the nonjuring Bishop of Norwich. Another inhabitant of the Mall was a German, named Weltjé, who, having made a fortune as one of the maîtres de cuisine at Carlton House, settled down here as a gentleman, and kept open house, entertaining many of those who had sat as guests at the tables of royalty. He is repeatedly mentioned, in terms of regard, by Mr. H. Angelo, in his agreeable "Reminiscences." He was a great favourite with his royal master. An alderman was dining one day at Carlton House when the prince asked him whether he did not think that there was a very strange taste in the soup? "I think there is, sir," replied the alderman. "Send for Weltjé," said the prince. When he made his appearance the prince told him why he had sent for him. Weltjé called to one of the pages, "Give me de spoon," and putting it into the tureen, after tasting it several times, said, "Boh, boh! very goot!" and immediately disappeared from the room, leaving the spoon on the table, much to the amusement of the heir apparent. Among Weltjé's visitors at Hammersmith were John Banister, the comedian; Rowlandson, the caricaturist; and a host of poets, actors, painters, and musicians.
On the Terrace, which also overlooks the river, at the farther end of the Mall, resided for many years Arthur Murphy, the dramatist, and witty friend of Burke and Johnson. Here, too, lived the painter and quack, Philip James Loutherbourg, a native of Strasbourg, who came to England in 1771. He was employed by Garrick to paint the scenes for Drury Lane Theatre, and in a few years he obtained the full honours of the Royal Academy. Whatever notoriety Loutherbourg may have lacked as a painter was made up to him as a "quack;" for he had been caught by the strange empirical mania at that time so prevalent all over Europe. He became a physician, a visionary, a prophet, and a charlatan. His treatment of the patients who flocked to him was undoubtedly founded on the practice of Mesmer; though Horace Walpole appears to draw a distinction between the curative methods of the two doctors when he writes to the Countess of Ossory, July, 1789: "Loutherbourg, the painter, is turned an inspired physician, and has three thousand patients. His sovereign panacea is barley-water; I believe it as efficacious as mesmerism. Baron Swedenborg's disciples multiply also. I am glad of it. The more religions and the more follies the better; they inveigle proselytes from one another." A Mrs. Pratt, of Portland Street, Marylebone, published, in 1789, "A List of Cures performed by Mr. and Mrs. Loutherbourg, of Hammersmith Terrace, without Medicine. By a Lover of the Lamb of God." In this pamphlet he is described as "a gentleman of superior abilities, well known in the scientific and polite assemblies for his brilliancy of talents as a philosopher and painter," who, with his wife, had been made proper recipients of the "divine manuductions," and gifted with power "to diffuse healing to the afflicted, whether deaf, dumb, lame, halt, or blind." That the proceedings of both the Loutherbourgs attracted extraordinary attention is very certain. Crowds surrounded the painter's house, so that it was with difficulty he could go in and out. Particular days were set apart and advertised in the newspapers as "healing days," and a portion of the house was given up as a "healing-room." Patients were admitted to the presence of the artist-physician by tickets only, and to obtain possession of these it is said that three thousand people were to be seen waiting at one time. In the end, the failure of one of Loutherbourg's pretended "miracles" led to his house being besieged by a riotous mob, and he was compelled to make his escape in the best way he could. He, however, subsequently returned to his old quarters at Hammersmith, where he died in 1812. He was buried in Chiswick Churchyard, near the grave of Hogarth.
Besides the personages we have mentioned above, Hammersmith has numbered among its residents many others who have risen to eminence; among them William Belsham, the essayist and historian, who here wrote the greater part of his "History of Great Britain to the Peace of Amiens," and who died here in 1827. Charles Burney, the Greek scholar, who here kept a school for some time, towards the close of the last century, until his preferment to the vicarage of Deptford; and William Sheridan, Bishop of Kilmore, who was deprived for refusing the oath of allegiance to William III., and who died in 1711, and now reposes in the parish church.
Leigh Hunt—who, if we may trust Mr. Planché, was not well off during his later years—lived here in a small house, and spent, among friends and books, the last few years of his life. Mr. Forster, in his "Life of Dickens," thus mentions him:—"Any kind of extravagance or oddity came from Hunt's lips with a curious fascination. There was surely never a man of so sunny a nature, who could draw so much pleasure from common things, or to whom books were a world so real, so exhaustless, so delightful. I was only seventeen when I derived from him the tastes which have been the solace of all subsequent years; and I well remember the last time I saw him at Hammersmith, not long before his death in 1859, when, with his delicate, worn, but keenly-intellectual face, his large luminous eyes, his thick shock of wiry grey hair, and little cape of faded black silk over his shoulders, he looked like an old French abbé. He was buoyant and pleasant as ever, and was busy upon a vindication of Chaucer and Spenser against Cardinal Wiseman, who had attacked them for alleged sensuous and voluptuous qualities."
Mr. Bayard Taylor, in a letter in the New York Tribune, thus describes a visit which he paid here in 1857 to Leigh Hunt:—"The old poet lives in a neat little cottage in Hammersmith, quite alone, since the recent death of his wife. That dainty grace which is the chief charm of his poetry yet lives in his person and manners. He is seventythree years old, but the effects of age are only physical: they have not touched that buoyant joyous nature which survives in spite of sorrow and misfortune. His deep-set eyes still beam with a soft, cheerful, earnest light; his voice is gentle and musical; and his hair, although almost silver-white, falls in fine silky locks on both sides of his face. It was grateful to me to press the same palm which Keats and Shelley had so often clasped in friendly warmth, and to hear him who knew them so well speak of them as long-lost companions. He has a curious collection of locks of the hair of poets, from Milton to Browning. 'That thin tuft of brown silky fibres, could it really have been shorn from Milton's head?' I asked myself. 'Touch it,' said Leigh Hunt, 'and then you will have touched Milton's self.' 'There is a life in hair, though it be dead,' said I; as I did so, repeating a line from Hunt's own sonnet on this lock. Shelley's hair was golden and very soft; Keats's a bright brown, curling in large Bacchic rings; Dr. Johnson's grey, with a harsh and wiry feel; Dean Swift's both brown and grey, but finer, denoting a more sensitive organisation; and Charles Lamb's reddish-brown, short, and strong. I was delighted to hear Hunt speak of poems which he still designed to write, as if the age of verse should never cease with one in whom the faculty is born." We have mentioned Leigh Hunt's death in our account of Putney.
At the western end of the town, a little to the north of the Terrace, stands St. Peter's Church. It is a substantial Grecian-Ionic structure, and was erected in 1829, from the designs of Mr. Edward Lapidge; the total cost, including the expense of enclosing the ground, amounted to about £12,000.
In the good old days when almost every village had its mountebank, there was one at Hammersmith—a "public-spirited artist," immortalized by Addison in the Spectator for having announced before his own people that he would give five shillings as a present to as many as would accept it. "The whole crowd stood agape and ready to take the fellow at his word; when putting his hand into his bag, while all were expecting their crown pieces, he drew out a handful of little packets, each of which, he said, was constantly sold at five shillings and sixpence, and that he would bate the odd five shillings to every real inhabitant of that place. The whole assembly closed with the generous offer and took off all his physic, after the doctor had made them vouch for one another that there were no foreigners among them, but that they were all Hammersmith men!" "Alas!" remarks Charles Knight, "who could find a mountebank at Hammersmith now?"
In the year 1804 the inhabitants of this locality were much alarmed by a nocturnal appearance, which for a considerable time eluded detection or discovery, and which became notorious as the Hammersmith Ghost. In January of the above year, some unknown person made it his diversion to alarm the inhabitants by assuming the figure of a spectre; and the report of its appearance had created so much alarm that few would venture out of their houses after dusk, unless upon urgent business. This sham ghost had certainly much to answer for. One poor woman, while crossing near the churchyard about ten o'clock at night, beheld something, as she described it, rise from the tombstones. The figure was very tall and very white! She attempted to run, but the supposed ghost soon overtook her; and pressing her in his arms, she fainted, in which situation she remained some hours, till discovered by the neighbours, who kindly led her home, when she took to her bed, and died two days afterwards. A wagoner, while driving a team of eight horses, conveying sixteen passengers, was also so alarmed that he took to his heels, and left the wagon, horses, and passengers in the greatest danger. Faulkner tells us, in his "History of Hammersmith," that neither man, woman, nor child could pass that way for some time; and the report was that it was "the apparition of a man who cut his throat in the neighbourhood" about a year previously. Several lay in wait on different nights for the ghost; but there were so many by-lanes and paths leading to Hammersmith, that he was always sure of being in that which was unguarded, and every night played off his tricks, to the terror of the passengers. A young man, however, who had more courage than the rest of his neighbours, determined to watch the proceedings of this visitant of the other world; he accordingly placed himself in a secluded spot, armed with a gun, and as near the spot as possible where the "ghost" had been seen. He had not remained long in his hiding-place when he heard the sound of footsteps advancing, and immediately challenged the supposed spirit; but not receiving any answer, he fired at the object. A deep groan was heard, and upon a light being procured it was discovered that a poor bricklayer, who was passing that way from his work on that evening rather later than usual, and who had on a new flannel jacket, was the innocent cause of this unfortunate occurrence. The young man was tried for murder and acquitted.
The "Wonderful Magazine," published soon after the appearance of the mysterious visitor, contains an engraving of the "ghost," in which the "spectre" appears with uplifted arms and enveloped in a sheet.