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In the days of our Norman sovereigns, when
Cheapside was still the " Crown Field," it shared
H7



148 LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES.

with Smithfield the honour of witnessing those
gorgeous tournaments of which the old chroniclers
have bequeathed us such vivid descriptions. There
is, in fact, no street in London more intimately
associated with the romantic history of the past.
Here, in 1329, between Wood Street and Queen
Street, Edward the Third held a solemn tourna-
ment in honour of the French ambassadors ; the
street being covered with sand to prevent the
horses from slipping, while across it ran a scaffold,
richly decorated, in which sat Queen Philippa and
her ladies, in all the blaze of beauty and precious
stones. The king, surrounded by the rank and
chivalry of the land, was also present ; while apart
sat the lord mayor, aldermen, and common council
in their scarlet robes and chains of massive gold.
Unfortunately, in the midst of the tilting the gal-
lery on which the queen and her ladies sat sud-
denly gave way, " whereby," writes Stow, " they
were, with some shame, forced to fall down."
Some injuries occurred to the knights and others
who were standing close to the gallery, but hap-
pily the ladies escaped unhurt. The king,
nevertheless, was so exasperated against the
master-carpenter who had erected the scaffolding,
that he ordered him to be forthwith led to the
gallows. The queen, however, threw herself on
her knees, and so pathetically pleaded to the king
to save the life of the offender, that with some
difficulty he consented. Philippa's reward for her



LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES. 149

generous interference was a unanimous shout of
applause from the surrounding multitude.

In the same reign (1339) we find Cheapside the
scene of a sanguinary encounter between the rival
companies of the Skinners and Fishmongers. In
the heat of the fray, the lord mayor arrived on the
spot with a band of armed citizens, but it was in
vain that he attempted to restore quiet. The rival
factions, making common cause, drove him and his
men-at-arms from the field ; nor was it till the
sheriffs made their appearance with a large re-
inforcement that the riot was quelled and the
ringleaders were seized. On the following day
seven of them were hanged in Cheapside without
even the pretence of a trial.

Edward the Third died in 1377, shortly after
which event his grandson, Richard the Second,
proceeded in great state through Cheapside in his
way from the Tower to his coronation at West-
minster. In the centre of a brilliant assemblage
of peers, knights, and esquires, the young king,
clad in white robes, rode solemnly, we are told,
through the "public ways " till he came "to the
noble street called the Chepe," the houses of which
were hung with tapestry and cloth of arras, and
thence to " Flete-strete," and so direct to the royal
palace of Westminster. Similarly animated was
the scene at Cheapside when, four years afterward,
Richard conducted his young betrothed, Anne of
Bohemia, through London, on her way to her



150 LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES.

bridal and coronation at Westminster. At the
upper end of Cheapside, we are told, was erected
a castle, from which flowed fountains of wine, and
from which beautiful maidens blew gold leaf in the
faces of the king and queen, and threw florins of
counterfeited gold over their horses' heads.

During Wat Tyler's insurrection we find several
persons beheaded by the infuriated mob at the
Standard in Cheapside. Here also, in 1450, when
Jack Cade made himself master of the metropolis,
Lord Say, High Treasurer of England, was put to
death by the insurgents. It was to little purpose
that he claimed the privilege of being tried by his
peers. Having been wrested from the officers of
justice, he was hurried to the Standard at Cheap-
side, where he was decapitated, after which his
head was carried in triumph through the streets
of London.

"Say. Tell me wherein have I offended most?
Have I affected wealth or honour? speak.
Are my chests filled with extorted gold ?
Is my apparel sumptuous to behold ?
Whom have I injured, that ye seek my death?
These hands are free from guiltless blood-shedding ;
This breast from harbouring foul deceitful thoughts.
O, let me live !

Cade. [Aside] I feel remorse in myself with his words :
but I'll bridle it ; he shall die, an it be but for pleading so
well for his life. Away with him ! he has a familiar under
his tongue ; he speaks not o' God's name. Go, take him
away, I say, and strike off his head presently : and then



LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES. 151

break into his son-in-law's house, Sir James Cromer, and
strike off his head, and bring them both upon two poles
hither.

All. It shall be done !

Say. Ah, countrymen ! if when you make your prayers,
God should be so obdurate as yourselves,
How would it fare with your departed souls ?
And therefore yet relent, and save my life !

Cade. Away with him, and do as I command ye."

King Henry VI., Part II., Act iv. Sc. 7.

Another notorious political offender whose fate
is associated with Cheapside was the handsome
and accomplished Perkin Warbeck. After his
arrest in the priory of Sheen, in Surrey, he was
brought to London, and compelled to sit for a
whole day in the stocks before the entrance of
Westminster Hall. On the following day he was
brought to Cheapside, where he was again placed
in the stocks, and forced to read a confession which
he is said to have written with his own hand. At
night he was lodged in the dungeons of the Tower,
where he remained till the 23d of November, 1499,
when he was led forth to be hanged at Tyburn.

The Standard in Cheapside anciently the spot
where criminals were executed is said to have
stood in the middle of the street, near Bow Church.
The date of its foundation remains unascertained ;
but inasmuch as so early as the reign of Henry
the Fourth it was in such a ruinous state that it
was necessary to rebuild it, the presumption is
that it was of considerable antiquity. It was at



i $2 LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES.

the Standard in Cheapside that William Fitz-
Osbert, commonly called William Longbeard,
after having been dragged with his concubine from
the neighbouring church of St. Mary-le-Bow, where
he had defended himself by force of arms, was
executed in 1199. Here, also, Walter Stapleton,
Bishop of Exeter, was beheaded by the mob in the
reign of Edward the Second. Here, in 1293, we
find three men decapitated for rescuing an offender
from the officers of justice; and here, in 1461,
John Davy had his hand cut off for striking a
man before the judges at Westminster. It was at
the Standard that Henry the Fourth, in 1399,
caused the blank charter of Richard the Second to
be publicly burnt ; and, lastly, from this spot it
was that Eleanor Cobham, wife of Humphrey,
Duke of Gloucester, when convicted of sorcery
and witchcraft, was compelled to walk with a
sheet over her, and a taper in her hand, to St.
Paul's Cross.

Cheapside is intimately associated with the cele-
brated riots which took place on the ist of May,
1517, and which obtained for that day the name
of "Evil May-day." "A great heart-burning
and malicious grudge," writes Stow, "had grown
among the Englishmen of the city of London
against strangers ; the artificers finding themselves
much aggrieved because such a number of stran-
gers were permitted to resort hither with their
wares, and to exercise handicrafts, to the great



LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES. 153

hindrance and impoverishing of the king's liege
people." The " heart-burnings " thus excited had
not only for some time threatened a popular out-
break, but, according to Stow, a general impression
got abroad that " on May -day next following, the
city would slay all the aliens, insomuch that diverse
strangers fled out of the city." At length, the
fears of the corporation being thoroughly aroused,
they issued orders, strictly enjoining every house-
holder to close his habitation on the evening of
the ist of May, and after nine o'clock at night to
keep his sons, apprentices, and servants within
doors. A trifling incident, however, threw the
city into convulsions. One of the aldermen, in
passing through Cheapside a few minutes after
nine o'clock, happened to observe two apprentices
playing at "bucklers" in the middle of the street,
when, instead of quietly expostulating with them
on the impropriety of their conduct, he threatened,
in a peremptory tone of voice, to send them to the
Compter unless they instantly desisted from their
sport. An insolent reply on the part of one of
the apprentices led to the alderman attempting to
seize one of the offenders, when the bystanders
raised the formidable and then familiar war-shout
of the youths of London, " Prentices, prentices !
clubs, clubs ! " Almost in an instant every door
in the neighbourhood was thrown open, and num-
bers of persons, consisting principally of appren-
tices, servants, and watermen, rushed to join the



154 LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES.

fray. A temporary triumph awaited them. Hav-
ing succeeded in beating every reinforcement which
the lord mayor was able to bring against them,
they dispersed in different directions, for the pur-
pose of plundering and destroying the houses and
warehouses of the unoffending foreigners, a work
of havoc which lasted till break of day. At length,
exhausted by fatigue, the majority of the rioters
returned to their several homes, when the lord
mayor seized his opportunity and captured about
three hundred of the remainder. A commission
was immediately issued to the Duke of Norfolk
and other noblemen to try the offenders, of whom
their reputed leader, John Lincoln, and twelve
others, were subsequently hanged in different
parts of London. The remainder, many of whom
were women and boys, were also sentenced to
death, but were reprieved at the king's pleasure
and subsequently pardoned.

On the occasion of Queen Elizabeth proceeding
from the Tower to her coronation in Westminster
Abbey, we find her received in great state and
ceremony at the Standard in Cheapside. Lining
the street, which was hung with costly drapery,
were arranged the different city companies, " well
apparelled with many rich furs, and their livery
hoods upon their shoulders." The queen herself
"most honourably accompanied," writes Holin-
shed, "as well with gentlemen, barons, and other
nobility of her realm, as also a notable train of



LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES. 155

goodly and beautiful ladies, richly appointed"
sat in an open chariot sumptuously ornamented.
On reaching the Standard, the Recorder of London,
in the name of the city, presented her with a purse
of crimson velvet containing a thousand marks in
gold, as a token of its affectionate loyalty. At the
same time, a child, intended to personify Truth,
having been made to descend by machinery as if
from heaven, presented her with an English trans-
lation of the Bible, which she accepted with the
greatest reverence. It was a gift, she said, which
gave her more real gratification than all the other
endearing proofs which she had that day experi-
enced of her people's love.

Besides the Standard, there were anciently two
other remarkable buildings in Cheapside, the Cross
and the Conduit. The Cross, which stood nearly
opposite to Wood Street, was one of those beauti-
ful architectural memorials raised by Edward the
First, in 1296, to mark the several spots where
the remains of his beloved consort, Eleanor of
Castile, rested in their progress to Westminster
Abbey. Falling into decay, it was rebuilt in 1441
at the expense of John Hatherley, Lord Mayor of
London, John Fisher, mercer, and other persons.
Subsequently, in consequence of its being deco-
rated with popish images, it was much injured by
the populace in 1581, but was again repaired in
1591. Its final demolition took place in May,
1643, when it shared the fate of many other relig-



156 LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES.

ious crosses in England, the destruction of which
was voted by the Parliament. On that day, a
troop of horse and two companies of foot having
surrounded the Cross, the work of destruction
commenced. At the moment that the cross at
the top fell beneath the blows of the workmen,
the drums beat and the trumpets sounded, the
multitude at the same time throwing their caps into
the air, and raising a general shout of joyful accla-
mation. On the night of the 6th, the leaden pipes
were melted on the spot amidst the ringing of
bells and the renewed shouts of the populace.
The destruction of this " stately cross " was wit-
nessed by Evelyn, who mentions it in his " Diary "
with expressions of great regret.

The Conduit in Cheapside stood in the middle
of the street, rather to the east of the Cross, and
close to the Poultry. It was built about the year
1281, was of stone, and richly decorated. Having
fallen into decay, it was rebuilt in 1479 by Thomas
Ham, Sheriff of London, from which time it con-
tinued in use till about the year 1613, when it
was superseded by the great work of Sir Hugh
Myddelton, who had accomplished his project of
supplying London with water from the New River.
There was also a " lesser conduit " in Cheapside,
. known as the Little Conduit, which stood in the
middle of the street, near the east end of Pater-
noster Row.

The following incident in connection with Cheap-



LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES. 157

side is related by Anthony Wood as having taken
place during the agitation caused by the famous
"Popish Plot" in 1679. "I n tne evening," he
writes, "when the Duke of York returned from
his entertainment in the city, Gates and Bedloe
were got into the balcony of one Cockerill, a blink-
eyed bookseller in Cheapside, and a great rabble
about them. As the duke passed by, they cried
out, ' A Pope, a Pope,' upon which, one of the
duke's guard cocked his pistol, and rode back, say-
ing, ' What factious rogues are these ? ' Upon
which, they cried out, ' No Pope, no Pope ; ' ' God
bless his Highness.' So the king's worthy
evidence, Gates and Bedloe, sneaked away."

In Cheapside was born, in 1591, one of the
sweetest of lyric poets, Robert Herrick. In his
" Tears to Thamasis," he writes :

" Never again shall I with finnie oar
Put from, or draw unto, the faithful shore ;
And landing here, or safely landing there,
Make way to my beloved Westminster;
Or to the golden Cheapside, where the earth
Of Julia Herrick gave to me my birth."

The expression of the "golden" Cheapside has
apparently reference to the father of the poet,
Nicholas Herrick, having carried on the business
of a goldsmith in this street. He survived the
birth of his gifted son little more than a year,
dying on the 9th of November, 1592, of injuries



158 LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES.

which he received by a fall from an upper window
of his house in Cheapside. From the circumstance
of his will having been made only two days before
this event, it has been conjectured that the fall was
not altogether accidental.

Another poet whose name is associated with
Cheapside is Sir Richard Blackmore, who first
commenced practice as a physician in this street.
"His residence," writes Doctor Johnson, "was in
Cheapside, and his friends were chiefly in the city.
In the early part of Blackmore' s time a citizen
was a term of reproach, and his place of abode
was another topic to which his adversaries had
recourse in the penury of scandal."

In Cheapside the pure-minded philosopher and
angler, Isaak Walton, carried on for some years
the trade of a sempster. According to Anthony
Wood, he resided here till 1643, at which time,
" finding it dangerous for honest men to be there,
he left the city, and lived sometimes at Stafford,
and elsewhere, but mostly in the families of the
eminent clergymen of England, by whom he was
much beloved."

Another celebrated person who lived in Cheap-
side was Sir Christopher Wren, whose residence is
said to have been at No. 73. In this street also
died, in March, 1769, in his eighty-eighth year,
Mr. David Barclay, the last surviving son of
Robert Barclay, the author of the "Apology for
the Quakers." He carried on the business of a



LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES. 159

mercer, and had the singular honour of receiving
at his house, No. 108 Cheapside, three successive
monarchs on the occasion of their severally visiting
the city on lord mayor's day.

At No. 3 Cheapside, at the corner of Pater-
noster Row, lived John Beyer, a linen-draper, the
original of Cowper's admirable ballad of John
Gilpin, who hence is said to have set out on his
memorable ride.

" So three doors off the chaise was stayed,

Where they did all get in ;
Six precious souls, and all agog,
To dash through thick and thin.

" Smack went the whip, round went the wheels,

Were never folk so glad ;
The stones did rattle underneath,
As if Cheapside were mad.

" John Gilpin at his horse's side,

Seized fast the flowing mane,

And up he got in haste to ride,

But soon came down again."

During more than three centuries from the
day when the old Benedictine monk, John Lyd-
gate, penned his " London Lykpenny," to those
in which Cowper charmed the world with his
" John Gilpin " we find Cheapside the great
resort of the linen-drapers and haberdashers of
London.



160 LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES.

" Then to the Chepe I began me drawne,

Where mutch people I saw for to stande ;
One ofred me velvet, sylke, and lawne,
An other he taketh me by the hand,
4 Here is Parys thread, the fynest in the land.'
I never was used to such thyngs indede,
And wantyng mony I myght not spede."

The streets in the immediate vicinity of Cheap-
side are no less associated with eminent names
than Cheapside itself. In Milk Street the site
of the London residence of the Staffords, Dukes
of Buckingham Sir Thomas More first saw the
light ; and in Bread Street, on the opposite side
of Cheapside, lived the father of Milton, under
whose roof in this street the great poet was born.
Almost every house in London had anciently its
distinguishing sign. That of Milton's father, who
was a scrivener, was a spread eagle, the armorial
bearing of his family, which was suspended over
his door. From Anthony Wood, who was only
junior to Milton by a few years, we learn that in
his time foreigners used to pay a pilgrimage to the
house in Bread Street in which the poet first saw
the light. Aubrey also informs us: "The only
inducement of several foreigners that came over
to England, was to see the Protector Oliver, and
Mr. John Milton, and would see the house and
chamber where he was born." Milton's father
was himself a poet and a musician. "He was
an ingenious man," writes Aubrey, "delighted in



LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES. 161

music, and composed many songs now in print,
especially that of ' Oriana.' " Milton himself

addresses him :

" . . . thyself

Art skilful to associate verse with airs
Harmonious, and to give the human voice
A thousand modulations, heir by right
Indisputable of Arion's fame.
Now, say, what wonder is it, if a son
Of thine delight in verse ; if, so conjoin'd
In close affinity, we sympathise
In social arts and kindred studies sweet ? "

The house in which Milton was born was burnt
down in the great fire of 1666.

Bread Street derives its name from the circum-
stance of a bread market having been anciently
held on its site. In Stow's time, however, it was
entirely inhabited by "rich merchants," whose
"diverse fair inns be there." In Basing Lane,
Bread Street, stood formerly Gerard's Hall, cor-
rupted from Gisors Hall. In 1245 it was the
residence of John Gisors, Lord Mayor of London,
in the possession of whose descendants it long
remained. " On the south side of Basing Lane,"
writes Stow, " is one great house of old time built
upon arched vaults, and with arched gates of
stone, brought from Caen, in Normandy. The
same is now a common hostelry for receipt of
travellers, commonly and corruptly called Ger-
rardes-hall, of a giant said to have dwelt there.
In the high-roofed hall of this house sometime



1 62 LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES.

stood a large fir pole, which reached to the roof
thereof, and was said to be one of the staves that
Gerrarde, the giant, used in the wars to run withal.
There stood, also, a ladder of the same length,
which, as they say, served to ascend to the top of
a staff." Gerard's Hall, with its curious Norman
crypt, stood till 1852 under the name of the
Gerard's Hall Hotel, when it was removed to
make room for Cannon Street.

In Bread Street stood the famous Mermaid
Tavern, endeared to us by its association with
some of the most illustrious names in the literature
of our country.

" At Bread Street's Mermaid having dined, and merry,
Proposed to go to Holborn in a wherry."

Ben Jonson.

Here was held the celebrated Mermaid Club,
at which Sir Walter Raleigh so often presided ;
where wit so often flashed from the lips of Shake-
speare, Beaumont, and Ben Jonson ; and where the
author of "The Faerie Queene," as the intimate
friend of Raleigh, was doubtless often a guest.
Gifford, speaking of the year 1603, observes:
"About this time, Jonson probably began to ac-
quire that turn for conviviality for which he was
afterward noted. Sir Walter Raleigh, previously
to his unfortunate engagement with the wretched
Cobham and others, had instituted a meeting of
beaux esprits at the Mermaid, a celebrated tavern



LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES. 163

in Friday Street. 1 Of this club, which combined
more talent and genius than ever met together
before or since, our author was a member ; and
here, for many years, he regularly repaired with
Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Selden, Cotton,
Carew, Martin, Donne, and many others whose
names, even at this distant period, call up a
mingled feeling of reverence and respect." Beau-
mont, in a charming poetical epistle addressed to
Ben Jonson, describes the " wit-combats " in which
they had both of them so often borne a part in
the Mermaid Tavern :

" What things have we seen

Done at the ' Mermaid.' Heard words that have been
So nimble, and so full of subtle flame,
As if that every one from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
And had resolved to live a fool the rest
Of his dull life ; then when there hath been thrown
Wit able enough to justify the town
For three days past, wit that might warrant be
For the whole city to talk foolishly
Till that were cancelled ; and when that was gone
We left an air behind us, which alone
Was able to make the two next companies
Right witty ; though but downright fools, more wise."

1 This appears to be an error. At the time when Jonson
penned his couplet there was also a Mermaid Tavern in
Cheapside, and possibly another in Friday Street. The Mer-
maid in Cornhill was also probably in existence at this period.
Ben Jonson's expression, however, of " Bread Street's Mermaid,"
evidently proves that the Mermaid frequented by Jonson and
his illustrious associates was in Bread Street.



1 64 LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES.

Ben Jonson has again celebrated the Mermaid
Tavern and its delicious Canary in his delightful
poem, " Inviting a Friend to Supper : "

" But that which most doth take my muse and me,
Is a pure cup of rich Canary wine,
Which is the Mermaid's now, but shall be mine."

And again :

" Of this we will sup free, but moderately,
Nor shall our cups make any guilty men ;
But at our parting we will be as when
We innocently met. No simple word
That shall be uttered at our mirthful boards
Shall make us sad next morning, or affright
The liberty that we'll enjoy to-night."

Fuller, speaking of the "wit-combats" between
Shakespeare and Jonson, observes : " Many were
the wit-combats between him and Ben Jonson,
which two I behold like a Spanish great galleon
and an English man-of-war. Master Jonson, like
the former, was built far higher in learning, solid,
but slow in his performances. Shakespeare, with
the English man-of-war, lesser in bulk but lighter
in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about,
and take advantage of all winds by the quickness
of his wit and invention."

Friday Street, running parallel with Bread Street,
is said to have been anciently inhabited almost
entirely by fishmongers ; its name having been
derived from the great quantity of business which



LONDON AND ITS CELEBRITIES. 165

was carried on there on a Friday, the fast-day of
the Roman Catholics. In this street is the church
of St. Matthew, Friday Street, a plain stone
structure, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after
the destruction of the old edifice by the fire of


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