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Fig. i. — -"A Windy Day." A scene outside the famous shop of Bowles, the printseller,

in St. Paul's Churchyard.

From the original water-colour drawing by Robert Dighton.


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R. A. B. C.




THE History of the 18th Century so far even as it concerns
London would, if treated exclusively, fill many volumes. The
aim of the present book is merely to give a general view of the
period as reflected in the buildings, the habits, and the customs
as they existed in the London of that day. The City's history during the
years which elapsed between 1700 and 1800 is fuller than at almost any other
time anterior to our own day, and in order to keep the work within its prescribed
limits the most drastic elimination has been necessary. Much, therefore, that
is familiar to the students of those days necessarily finds itself omitted. It is
hoped, however, that what is recorded, whether it be concerning old buildings,
forgotten institutions, or memorable people, will be sufficient to give a more
or less complete picture of the London of the period. One of the objects
aimed at has been to show what architectural remains of the 18th Century
still exist in London ; another, to point out how reconstruction and rebuilding
have altered the outlines and general appearance of the City.

The book, of course, might have been doubled in size had one attempted
to fill it even with a tithe of the anecdotes concerning the great figures who
moved and had their being during the full and picturesque years under con-
sideration, but so many of these stories have already been recorded over and
over again, that there seemed no point in repeating them.

The selection of the illustrations has been carefully carried out, and
except where a building or object remains to-day practically unaltered and
is capable of being photographed on the spot, I have in almost every case
selected for reproduction drawings or pictures executed by artists who actually
lived and worked during the period under consideration. In this way it is
hoped that, co-ordinating with the text, they re-create a period which was
perhaps the most decorative, as it has generally been allowed to be the most
popular, of all the periods of London's history.


I should like to associate myself with the Publishers in expressing my
obligations and deep thanks to those who have so kindly permitted me to
reproduce pictures and drawings in their possession : —

* To His Most Gracious Majesty The King for permission to repro-
duce from the Royal Collection (Figs. 63 and 153); * The Most Hon. the
Marquis of Sligo (Figs. 67 and 68) ; # The Right Hon. Earl Brownlow
(Fig. 79) ; # The Right Hon. Earl Spencer (Fig. 43) ; * Maiy, Countess of
Ilchester (Fig. 88); * The Right Hon. Lord Aldenham (Fig. 46); The
Right Hon. Lord Leverhulme (Fig. 69) ; * Sir Philip Norman, LL.D. (Fig. 75) ;
*Mr. E. C. Grenfell (Fig. 155); *Mr. J. P. Haseltine (Fig. 154); * The
Governors of the Bank of England (Fig. 53) : * The Governors of the Found-
ling Hospital (Fig. 158); Mr. Basil Dighton (Fig. 33); Messrs. James Rimell
& Son (Figs. 4, 15, 35, 36, 66, and 78); Messrs. Ellis & Smith (Fig. 5); The
Corporation of the City of London (Figs. 26, 50, and 157); Mr. Noel
Broadbent (Fig. 12); The Architectural Review (Figs. 99 and 100); J. Gale
(Fig. 103); Messrs. Bedford Lemere (Figs. 112, 113, 122, 123, 133, and
1 60) ; Mr. H. N. King (Figs. 114, 115, and 1 1 6).

My thanks are also due to the Committee of the Burlington Fine Arts
Club, for the facilities which they gave to my Publishers to photograph in
situ certain of those pictures, the owners of which are acknowledged above
(marked # ), shown in February 1 9 1 9 at the Exhibition of " Early Drawings
and Pictures of London " organised by that Club. With regard to the
remainder of the Illustrations, with the exception of a certain number from
my Publishers' collection, I am indebted to the Authorities of the British
Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum, and the London Museum for
permission to reproduce prints and pictures in their custody.


September 1920.







VI. THE CHURCHES . . . . . .191



INDEX . . . . . .265


THERE is little doubt that the 18th century is the most fascinating
and picturesque of those periods into which the history of our country
is divided. Then social life first began to take on itself a markedly
individual character, and to link itself up, so to speak, with the
historic annals and the industrial activity of the time. To it the preceding
centuries were introductory ; and that, by then, the country had become inde-
pendent of exoteric influence, is proved by the fact that a family, at first alien but in
the course of years gradually assimilating itself with the life of the people, ruled
the land and yet exercised very little influence, at least during the first half-
century of its power, over the life and habits of the people. Unlike those earlier
times when first the power of the monarch, then that of the great nobles, then
again that of the Crown, was predominant, the 18th century represents the
people standing by themselves, and was the direct heir of the 17th century
when the rights and liberties of the nation were, by a great upheaval, finally
fixed and consolidated. The power of the Crown, at its apogee in the 16th
century, gradually became less pronounced during the following hundred years,
largely in consequence of the disastrous conceptions of sovereignty held by the
Stuarts. But this very circumstance helped more largely and more quickly
towards the evolution from personal to popular government, than had James I.
been another Elizabeth, or had Charles I. been endowed with the great political
qualities of Henry VIII.

As it was, from the time when Anne came to the throne to the day when
George III. died, government by the people had gradually become an accom-
plished fact ; Harley was a popular Minister ; Walpole was representative of the
great middle classes, with ideas and tastes not very dissimilar from their own ;
Chatham, the people's favourite, soon replaced the attempted dictatorship of
Bute, and held even George III. with his Bute-inspired ideas of government in
check ; and during the later years of George's reign, although there were not
wanting phases of retrograde policy, the principle survived, and culminated in
the genius of the younger Pitt who represented the popular idea during the
latter years of the reign, as his father had done during the earlier. This change
in the administration of the country reflected itself both on the classes and the
masses, as well as on all kinds of institutions and customs.


During the period which elapsed between 1704 and 1820, the middle
classes became more powerful, and more distributed (so to say) along those
lines of life from which they had before been rigidly excluded. This was
reflected not only in the composition of the Lower House, where men rose to
power and position, indifferently with or without the aid of powerful supporters,
but in the character of such gatherings as were to be seen at Ranelagh and
Vauxhall, at the Pantheon, or in the rooms of Mrs. Cornelys. The germs of
our present system of canvassing certainly seem to have been then in existence,
for who does not know the story of the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire's
unconventional method of securing a vote for Charles James Fox, at that famous
Westminster election, of which exciting contest Robert Dighton has left a
spirited print (Fig. 2).

The South Sea Scheme (Fig. 4), too, which attracted all classes during the
middle of the period, mingled all classes, and Change Alley saw the noble and
the cit hob-nobbing in the race for wealth ; the pauper of yesterday becoming
the capitalist of to-morrow, and the opulent sinking as quickly into indigence.
As nothing levels like money, the South Sea Scheme and its congeners may, in
a way, be said to have put the seal on the work inaugurated by the Great

There is a kind of superficial analogy between the two periods, in this
country and in France, so far as certain outward formula are concerned ; but
when examined closely, the resemblance ceases, for the dictatorship of Louis
Xiv.'s later years was carried on by the autocratic Ministers of his profligate
successor, and in France the change, which had altered everything in England
in 1648, did not take place till 1793. In this respect, then, France was a
century behind this country, although in certain habits and customs, in modes
of dress, and forms of recreation, there was a distinct similarity, largely because
each country borrowed such things from the other. But the resemblance
is still more observable through a certain circumstance which has helped to
bring the 18th century, in both countries, vividly before us, and has been the
means by which we are able to visualise it in an extraordinarily exact and
intimate way. I refer to the wealth of Diaries, Memoirs, and Letters whose
records of daily events, of changes in politics and changes in dress, of habits
of thought, and methods of amusement, of gossip of the boudoir and scandal
of the Court, of intrigues in love and in politics, have made the century a living
thing for us with all the particularity of a newspaper, and with more than a
newspaper's frankness and daring.

Those conversant with the political and social life of France at this time
will recall the names of innumerable chroniclers of this description, from St.
Simon and Madame de Sevigne to Barbier and Barras. Here, these do not
particularly concern us ; those in this country do ; and in the diaries, memoirs,
or letters of Lady Cowper, Bubb-Dodington, Lord and Lady Hervey,
Horace Walpole, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the poet Gray and the
parson Mason, William Cowper and Mrs. Delany, and hosts of others, we
have pictures of the time, so full, so telling, and so illuminative that we seem to

Fig. 2.— Election of Charles James Fox for Westminster, in 1796.

From print by Robert Dighton^ 1 796.

Fig. 3— Southwark Fair.



filial it


know the daily life of this period as well as we know that of our own, and events
under the Georges are brought as vividly before us as events under Victoria.

Besides this mass of documentary evidence, we have another source
whence we can gauge the characteristics of the 18th century, in the records
left us by foreigners who visited England and indiscriminately noted
our faults and praised our good qualities, from the aspect of independent
judgment. From one point of view such obiter dicta are more valuable than
the more intimate revelations of our own countrymen. A foreigner, however,
unless he makes an alien country his own and lives in it for years, can, after
all, gain but a superficial knowledge of the deeper current of things ; but as
regards amusements and habits of life, as revealed to any intelligent observer,
he can often note matters worthy of record which familiarity passes by. Thus
in the observation of such men as Misson, Grosley, De Saussure, Voltaire,
Moritz, Kilmansegg, and the rest, we obtain a picture of the time which has
some of the particularity of the home-made article, freed generally, and certainly
in the cases mentioned, from the almost inevitable bias of native record.

During the larger part of the 18th century London was to England
something like Paris has always been to France. It is surprising to find how
comparatively little provincial centres enter into the scheme of life. One of
the obvious reasons was the difficulty of transit from the metropolis to far-
thrown cities and towns. People had no idea of the ease with which railway
travelling enables us to fly from one end of the kingdom to the other, and it
took them longer to get to Bath than it takes us now to get to Banff. Then,
too, our 18th-century forebears were far more regular in their methods of
doing such things ; those who had country houses went to them at stated
periods, posting or in their equipages, and the great noble on his way to
Longleat or Arundel or Badminton must have been a picturesque sight, with
his family coach and postilions and outriders — very different, indeed, from
these prosaic days when his man puts him into a first-class railway carriage,
and he is wafted to his nearest station before he has finished his papers.
When Society required change of air, or an alleviation from London's tedium
or the worse tedium of the gout or the megrims, it made an annual ex-
pedition to " the Wells " at Tunbridge or Bath. At a later period George III.
made Weymouth to some extent fashionable, if, indeed, the Farmer-king
could make anything fashionable ; and George, Prince of Wales, gave a fresh
lease of life to Brightelmstone, where Dr. Johnson had once stayed. Here
and there were cases where people broke fresh ground, but the rule was :
London as a standing joint with Tunbridge or Bath as side dishes, if one may
be permitted this culinary analogy. The ordinary commercial man not often
got more than the joint, except in such small entrees (to carry on the
metaphor) as excursions into what are now his habitats in the suburbs.
Then he lived in the city over his business premises, and took his holiday at,
say, Richmond, where he was sure of seeing plenty of the ton, especially on
Sundays, or in some equally convenient centre. The masses seldom got
away from London at all, save, perhaps, for an occasional jaunt to Bagnigge


Wells or the heights of Hampstead ; and the jaded literary man took up his
summer quarters in Canonbury Tower, when his generally exiguous funds
admitted even such a mild diversion. For although, as I have said, the
1 8th century saw the power of the people consolidated, it was rather in
essentials than in the agrtmens of life that it was so. As the century pro-
gressed, so, of course, did means of transit ; until, at its close, stage coaches
made long journeys in very fair time, if it did not happen to be in winter
and they ran into a snowdrift. Business men began to have their villas in
parts that had, before, seemed remote from London, but which are, to-day,
an integral portion of it.

Indeed, one of the chief things to remember in surveying the London of
that period is its extraordinary smallness as compared with its present
gigantic proportions. When, at the beginning of the 19th century,
Cobbett called it " The Wen," it had increased by leaps and bounds ; but
half a century earlier it was so relatively diminutive that Knightsbridge was
an outlying village, Hackney, Newington, Marylebone, Islington, Chelsea, and
Kensington were rural hamlets, Belgravia open fields ; and north of Oxford
Street alone exhibited the tentative beginnings of that vast congeries of
houses and streets which, to-day, stretches to Hampstead in the west and
Hackney in the east. Kensington Palace was only reached by well-nigh
impassable roads, and Holland House was, in all essentials, a country
residence. It is thus the limited size of the city and the extraordinarily
indifferent state of its streets that are, perhaps, the two features which most
markedly differentiate it from the city of to-day.

The 20th century may not be a picturesque, but it is at least a sanitary,
one ; the 1 8th century teems with the former characteristics, in its
buildings (the very narrowness of its streets helped to add a touch of this),
its dress, its amusements ; but in everything that goes for health and
cleanliness it was so far to seek that one can quite understand how Sloane
and Sydenham, Baillie and Abernethy, could make vast fortunes ; and the
marvel is that the human frame could withstand so many assaults with
comparative impunity.

In those days London was a red-brick city ; here and there were stone
buildings, such as Wren's churches, the Abbey and Westminster Hall, and,
towards the close of the period, Somerset House ; but, with the exception of
these and a few others (to be mentioned elsewhere), red brick was the
predominant note. Buckingham House, Apsley House, Lanesborough
House, the lesser houses known as of the Queen Anne and Georgian periods,
many of which remain in Westminster and Mayfair, and within the City
boundary, in the streets south of the Strand, in Berkeley Square, in the
distant Borough, and the farther distant Hampstead (although every day
seems to witness fresh demolitions of these), were all erected in this style.
Nash was responsible for many changes, and when a wit remarked that he

" Found us all brick,
And left us all stucco,"

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— •—

Fig. 8.— "The Beaux Disaster."

A scene in Butcher Row looking towards Temple Bar.

Engr. J. Jim, 1770.

Fig. 9.— "The Lady's Disaster."

A scene in the Strand looking East.

Engr. J. June 1770.


he indicated, in a large gesture, what really was the effect of his innovations,
although they were confined to a relatively limited space in the City's immensity.
The area which the London of the 18 th century actually embraced
is, perhaps, best realised by a study of Rocque's great and important map.
That map was issued during the years 1741-45, but was in the making for
a considerable time before then. By it we see that, west to east, the
city extended some four miles ; and, from south to north, not much more than
two. Roughly, all the development of the area north of the Marylebone
Road, in the west, and the Euston and City Roads, in the east, is subsequent
to that day, and much of it later, even, than the close of the 1 8th
century. During the first half of the period the ground between Oxford
Street and the Marylebone Road was but sparsely built over. Everything
west of Hyde Park Corner — except the hamlet of Knightsbridge, Kensington
Palace, and Holland House — is practically of a later date. What is, to-day,
Belgravia was then the Five Fields, the resort of the citizens who went there
to eat syllabubs and who, if returning late, were in constant fear of the highway-
men and footpads who haunted it and made it hardly less safe than the
notorious Turnham Green or Hounslow. 1 The not inappropriately named
" Bloody Bridge " spanned the Westbourne, or Ranelagh Stream as it was
sometimes called, as it ran by the spot known, now, as Sloane Square, before
emptying itself into the river at Chelsea. What is, to-day, a congeries of
houses and buildings at Westminster was, in the middle of the 1 8th
century, the open space known as Tothill Fields, whose name is perpetuated
by Tothill Street, and nearer the river, the cultivated allotments called Neat
House Gardens, which were not developed till about 1831, when a series of
streets was projected. To the north, Marylebone was " in the fields " with its
gardens as an attraction which lasted for many years ; Tottenham Court Road
abutted on the open Lamb's Conduit Fields, on to which looked the contiguous
gardens of Montague House and Bedford House. As Bedford House formed
the north side of Bloomsbury Square, it will be realised what a vast area was
covered by buildings during the century which followed on the making of
Rocque's map ! Where King's Cross is now, was originally a small village
called Battle Bridge, so described as late as 1791, and probably thus named
from some encounter either between Alfred and the Danes, or, as Stukeley
thought, between the Romans and Boadicea. Farther east, Hoxton formed
then a projecting part of the Metropolis, bounded on the west by Finsbury
Fields and on the east by the open country surrounding Bethnal Green and
" Agostine," in which we dimly recognise the Haggerston of our times.
Although in the east the city stretched tentatively along the river, there was
much open land between it and the village of Stepney, and also north of the

1 On 30th August 1742, a Mr. Smith, master of an eating-house at Chelsea, was robbed and
murdered here ; and, six years later, two highwaymen attacked a coach containing four gentle-
men, who, however, proved too much for the would-be depredators. " The World's End," at
the north-west corner of what is now Eaton Square, was a resort of the tea-garden type, and,
as such, is mentioned by Congreve in his " Love for Love."


Mile End Road, then called Mile End New Town, where dwellings clung
desperately to the main thoroughfare or to the so-called Doo Row and Globe
Lane, now roughly marked by Cambridge Road and Globe Road.

South of the Thames, the chief collocation of buildings was along the bank
of the river. Rotherhithe was practically open fields, here and there inter-
spersed with allotments. Newington was a village separated from the river-
side dwellings by St. George's Fields, where the Dog and Duck, 1 at St.
George's Spa, had its regular Sunday votaries, and the Fields their innumer-
able gatherings, and where some attempt at development had been made by
the laying-out of the Borough Road intersecting the highway leading to
Blackfriars Bridge (Fig. 5) at St. George's Circus. Kennington Common was
one of the places where malefactors were hanged — a notorious criminal
executed here being Jimmy Dawson, for his complicity in the '45 Rebellion —
the gallows standing where St. Mark's Church is now. The Common is also
associated with the preaching of Whitfield (Fig. 6) and Wesley, which drew
large and eager crowds to this spot. 2

If we seek for the remains of 18th-century buildings in the London
of to-day, we find them scattered all over the central portion of the Metropolis ;
but hardly any whole district, except perhaps Bloomsbury — and this now in
process of great changes — can be said to be representative of even the latest
years of that period. The squares were, as such, mostly formed between
the years 1700 and 1800, and consequently, as their houses were of a size
and distinction generally more marked than those in residential streets, they
still contain a residuum dating from this time. Berkeley, Cavendish, Hanover,
Grosvenor, and Portman Squares ; the squares of Bloomsbury ; Soho, Golden,
and Kensington Squares — all exhibit examples of the easily recognised brick-
work, and in some instances stone-work, of that day. In certain streets of
Westminster — College Street and Barton Street and others — as well as in
much of Mayfair formed by Sir Richard Grosvenor during the earlier half of
the period, you will meet with so many examples as to give an idea of the
general effect of residential London of the earlier 18th century. Here
and there, too, in the City, there exist similar remains, not only in houses
(now used as offices), but in the great City Halls and other semi-public and
official buildings ; but the rebuilding and redevelopment of whole areas in the
time of George IV., and still more so in that of Victoria and at the present
time, have obliterated much in localities where we might expect best to find
survivals. Thus in Piccadilly one comes across but a few, and these, chiefly,
structures which have passed from private to semi-public uses, and have there-
fore escaped the destruction which, judging from other instances, would inevitably

1 The Springs at this point were found to be excellent cures for " cutaneous foulnesses and
scrofulous diseases." Mrs. Thrale was once recommended to try them, and Johnson wrote her
a letter of advice, full of his usual common-sense arguments why she should do so.

2 "June 17, 1739. At five I preached on Kennington Common to about fifteen thousand
people" ; and — "June 23, 1739. At Kennington I enforced to about twenty thousand that great
truth, ' One thing is needful,'" are entries in John Wesley's Journal.

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Online LibraryE. Beresford (Edwin Beresford) ChancellorThe XVIIIth century in London : an account of its social life and arts → online text (page 1 of 19)