W. J. (William John) Loftie.

Rambles in and near London : or, London afternoons online

. (page 17 of 23)
Online LibraryW. J. (William John) LoftieRambles in and near London : or, London afternoons → online text (page 17 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

his Duchess, on ground given by Queen Anne for the
purpose. Wren himself was married in the older, or
Royal Chapel, to his second wife, the Honourable Jane
Fitzwilliam, in 1676. But many weddings of great folk
and christenings of princes and princesses have taken


place here in the course of ages, and many royal person-
ages have died in the palace. Let me conclude these
vignettes with an example of each kind.

The brave Queen of George II., Caroline of Brandenburg-
Anspach, who made Walpole's Ministry possible, and who
laid out Kensington Gardens, to mention two of her claims
on the gratitude of posterity, died at St. James's on Sunday,
the 20th of November, 1737. She had built herself a library
in the garden, and after a visit to it and a walk, fell suddenly
ill, when it turned out that she had long suffered from a
painful malady, but that for fear of being prevented from
fulfilling her duties to her husband and his people, she
had never allowed any complaint to escape her. For the
piece of tapestry in which is woven the last interview of the
King and Queen, the sobbing husband and the forgiving
wife, and for the kindly intentioned but brutal vow with
which he tried to soothe her last moments, see Thackeray,
in his " Lectures on the Four Georges." It is said that,
stupid and sensual as he was, after her death George
borrowed a portrait of her, which he thought more like
her than any of his own, from one of his attendants, and
wept beside it for hours.

Here is a royal wedding at the Court of St. James's.
This is a piece which Mr. Hilyard can never have seen,
for when the young George III. ascended the throne the
" fifteen " and the " forty-five " were both over long ago,
and no one openly disputed his title. In the following
year he married, by the advice of the Council, Charlotte of
Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a princess whom he had never seen
before. She travelled over from Germany, a little plain
girl, with, perhaps, in her early youth, a face not so un-
attractive as it afterwards became. When she arrived,
one fine September afternoon, at the famous " Court of
St. James's," it is related that she turned pale, and, in


truth, it must have been difficult for her to realise, after
all she had heard of the greatness and opulence and mag-
nificence of the King who had chosen her for his bride,
when she came to the low, irregular pile of bricks, without
any architectural features except those then known
throughout Europe as barbarous, Vandalic, or Gothic,
that, though her bridegroom was so great, and so young,
and so handsome, he literally had not a palace in which
any other king in Christendom would have lived at the
time. Windsor was little more than a picturesque ruin ;
Kew was a mere private lodge ; Whitehall had been burnt
more than sixty years before and never rebuilt ; the
old palace of Westminster was wholly occupied by the
Parliament ; and the young couple had to " begin house-
keeping " in St. James's. Buckingham House, at the
other end of the Park, was afterwards settled on the

Here is a royal christening. Ten or eleven months
after the little Queen first saw her magnificent King
and his shabby house, the son who was destined to figure
so largely in history as " the Prince Eegent " was born and
baptised at St. James's, and before he was twelve days old
the hope of the nation was solemnly laid out in his plumed
cradle and exhibited to the public on drawing-room days
from one o'clock to three.

I have attempted no detailed account of St. James's
Palace. The place is almost too familiar to Londoners,
and, though it is shabby and old and not very convenient,
one would be sorry to see it pulled down or even altered.
It is a monument of the days when England was more
remarkable for large subsidies than for fine palaces, and
it has been the scene of some of the greatest events in our
history. I have mentioned only a few, but 1 cannot
conclude without one more. It is too late, too modern,


to figure on tapestry, though it is full sixty years
old; but in a book on "London Interiors," published
and dedicated to Queen Victoria in 1841, there is a view
of the chapel of St. James's Palace during the performance
of divine service, soon after the Queen's marriage with
Prince Albert. It was drawn by T. H. Shepherd, who
could draw correctly enough sometimes. But, though
her late Majesty was, like Queen Elizabeth, of moderate
height, and though the lamented Prince was very little
taller, and though the royal gallery is in the background
of the picture, the gigantic figures of the Queen and her
husband dwarf everything else in the view. Perhaps
Shepherd considered that they were both at the time
very young and might grow, and so gave them the benefit
of the doubt !




When Camberwell was a Pleasant Village The Parish Registers
Curious Names Camberwell's Modern Associations It*
Antiquities St. Thomas-a- Watering The Name.

A FEW years ago Camberwell waa in the country, but a
child born there last week would assuredly be a Londoner,
if not a Cockney. Yet Jowett of Balliol, or Browning
the poet, both of whom first saw light at Camberwell,
are by no means to be called Londoners, nor is Mr.
Joseph Chamberlain, of Birmingham, whose father lived
in the parish at the time of his birth, in 1836.

In the middle of the last century Harrison speaks of
it as a very pleasant village of a rather straggling form ;
and another writer says of it, in 1761, that it is a pleasant
village in Surrey, two miles from Southwark. It retains
a good deal of its pleasantness, for, though much nearer
the City than such crowded places as Peckham, Deptford,
Stratford, or Kentish Town, it has much still left of the
greenness which distinguished it when an aloe flowered
in Lord Trevor's garden a hundred and forty years ago,
and when, nearly a century earlier, Evelyn wrote of it
that it had a fine prospect through the meadows to London.
The Green has been well preserved, and the Grove is still
bordered with handsome trees. But every year the open
space is encroached upon, and there are few localities more


crowded now than the site of Lord Trevor's house. The
increase of the population in these districts has been some-
thing enormous. Whether because the parish had a good
name for healthiness, though for the most part lying very
low, or for some other reason, the London people have
crowded into it in larger numbers than into any other
parish on that side of the river. There were only three
thousand houses in Camberwell, and less than 18,000
people, in 1821. Three hundred years ago the average
number of births registered in ten years was twenty-
three, and the deaths twenty-six. The present popula-
tion approaches a quarter of a million.

The church registers began in 1558, and are full of
curious notes, as are the churchwardens' accounts. The
registrar of the time of Charles II. introduced a new
and, so far as we can remember, a unique feature into
the book in his charge, for the margins are decorated
with lively sketches in pen-and-ink. Under 1684 we
find the names of three people " touched " by Charles,
probably at Sir Thomas Bond's house, afterwards Lord
Trevor's, but the entries make no note of the subse-
quent history of the patients, a girl and two boys.
Among the names in the register in 1784 is that of
a Mr. Ono Tichener, who is said to have come by his
Christian name in a curious way. The sponsors at his
christening mistook the officiating clergyman's question
" Name this child," and one of them answering " Oh
no," the " too impetuous parson " went on at once,
* Ono, I baptise thee," etc. Another odd name is " Sence."
It occurs as early as 1559, when Mathew Draper married
Sence Blackwell. In 1571 it is varied into " Saintes,"
but for the most part it is written Sence, and it occurs
half a dozen times with different surnames. One his-
torian of Camberwell supposes it to be a corruption


of Cynthia ; another conjectures that it represents a moral
quality, like Mercy or Prudence. This is probable, and
Machyn in his " Diary " gives the name as Sens. In the
will of Elizabeth Basingdon, in 1544 (though the names
are not of a kind to be found in the church register), the
testator bequeaths a herd of cows, which belonged to her
and pastured in Camberwell meadows. They are men-
tioned in couples : " ij kyne namyd wevyll and bleache "
head the list, which also contains these not always
intelligible names : Leictyn, Sareone, Lytell Gayrle, Blacke
Nan, Pykhorne, Browne, Gret Garll, Litell Cheare, Lele,
and Threbygs.

The chief associations of Camberwell are of a very
modern kind. The church, designed by Sir Gilbert
Scott while he was in partnership with Moffatt, was opened
in 1844, and is one of the largest built since the Gothic
revival. The Crystal Palace stands partly within the
parish. The gorgeous brickwork of the new Dulwich
College was for some years one of the most important
modern buildings of its class in England ; while the
whole question of the old College, and the contentions
which have arisen out of Alleyn's will, have given birth
to a literature, in the form of blue-books, pamphlets, and
newspaper articles, which would fill a moderate library.
Mr. Blanch, who wrote a history of the parish in 1875,
devotes sixty pages of his book, and forty pages of appendix
besides, to what he calls in the preface a slight sketch,
disproportionately brief.

But Camberwell has antiquities too. If the Crystal
Palace is at one end of the parish, St. Thomas-a-Watering
is at the other a place which not only claims to have
been mentioned by Chaucer

" And forth we riden a litel more than pass,
Unto the waterynge of seint Thomas"


but also to have been the scene of nearly as many historical
executions as Tyburn. There is a reference to a loving
letter from Lady Egerton to her husband in the " Egerton
Papers." In it mention is made of the inclosure of an
account of the death of Franklin, one of the minor accom-
plices in the murder of Overbury, and a postscript adds,
" My La. commends her love to you, and commandes me
to tell that Frankelen dyd geve the hangman a bockes
of the eare afore he was hanged." The inclosure describes
a scene not unworthy of a puppet show : " The hangman
came to him and offered to put the rope about his neck,
but he took it out of his hand and strived to put it about
the hangman's necke, and laughed in doing it ; then he
stood upright and stretched himself, and gave money to
everyone that begged of him." This bold criminal was
watched with great interest, as the common folk hoped
he would betray some of his accomplices; but though
asked by the chaplain to speak to the people, he refused.
" I'll testimony nothing," he answered, when appealed to
for a word as to the justice of his sentence. He refused
to pray, " but would often use this word in Latin, Non
sum, quod fui, for he sayd he had in his tyme raysed upp
thirtye spirits at a tyme." This forerunner of some
of our modern spiritualists was hanged on the 9th of
December, 1615.

The site of St. Thomas-a-Watering is marked by
St. Thomas's Road, one of the new streets leading
out of the Old Kent Road. Landmarks are rapidly
obliterated so near London, and it would be difficult now
in passing along the crowded street to form even the
slightest conception of what it was like when the Canter-
bury Pilgrims rode out from Southwark. The highway
which suited pedestrians and equestrians would not suit
cabs and omnibuses, and particularly tramways, all of


which now traverse the Old Kent Road. But even
omnibuses have their antiquities, and some people may
sigh for the time when passengers by Mr. Shillibeer's
vehicles were provided gratuitously with newspapers.

The name was long spelt Cammerwell, Camerwell,
and even Camwell. In Domesday it is Ca'brewelle.
But a very few more years will suffice to remove from
Camberwell all traces of the time when it was a " pleasant
village/' when the Camberwell Beauty roved through
gardens and orchards, and when a twopenny church rate
only produced 22 12s. 3d. Already an unbroken street
reaches from London Bridge to Camberwell Church,
and with only two or three intervening fields on to Green-
wich itself. The trees and fields disappear day by day.
The gardens of Sydenham Hill form a pleasing oasis, but
Dulwich has been surrounded, and the tide of brick and
mortar climbs rapidly up the slope to Norwood. The three
hundred and fifty feet elevation of which it boasts cannot
protect it, any more than the four hundred and thirty
of Hampstead protected it. Herne Hill and Denmark
Hill were open in Ruskiii's time, but are being let in
plots on building leases now. Where the town is to end
no one can tell, but nothing can restore the old features
of the countrv over which the houses have once grown
up. The acquisition of Brock well Park, a wide expanse
of hill and dale, studded with old trees and command-
ing views in all directions, is a happy event in the
recent history of Camberwell.




What was a Guild Merchant ? The Old Guildhall in Alderinanbury
The New Guildhall The Hustings The Monuments
Elections of Kings Trial of Queen Jane Royal Visits The
Library The Museum The Art Gallery The Council
Chamber The Records The Real Centre of the City.

No one seems able to tell us what a Guild Merchant is.
We know that when, about the time of the Conquest, a
little earlier and a little later, guilds existed among the
merchants of an English city, one of these guilds had
more to do with the government of that city than
others had. Or, to put it differently, most of the guilds
consisted of members of a single trade : the central or
governing guild included, according to some authorities,
members of all. But it is precisely here that information
fails us. We have scanty records of a contemporary
character relating to the guilds in the eleventh century.
We have none of the tenth century, except the mere fact
that they existed. In the twelfth we have some items,
and in the thirteenth some more ; but it is still open to
argument whether or not the above statement is correct,
for there is very early evidence to the effect that, in London
at least, the governing guild consisted of men who were
not in trade and did not belong to any ordinary guild,
but formed an oligarchy of wealthy families, many of


whom were aldermen ; and that, while they did admit
to their number a few merchants, they were for the most
part more like squires, lords of manors, or prebendaries
of cathedral churches of the Old Foundation, such as
St. Paul's. One thing they had in common, according
to this view, namely, an estate, called the Portsoken in
London, and by other names in Oxford, Winchester, or
other cities. It is only by good-tempered support of one
theory at a time that we may hope to arrive at truth ;
and so far, though a disposition to dogmatism without
sufficient knowledge has been shown alternately on one
side and the other, we are gradually, I hope, accumulating
small items of evidence which will enable the facts to be
seen in their true light.

All religious guilds were abolished, as we have seen
(p. 88), by Act of Parliament in the reign of Edward VI.,
and their property was confiscated. The only guilds
which were not religious were those known as guilds
merchant. Some guilds merchant had patron saints,
and after the passing of the Act they got into trouble
on account of estates which had been " devoted to super-
stitious uses." We do not hear anything of this kind
about London. The guild merchant itself, in London,
is a very mysterious body, of which we hear very little
in history, and nothing distinctly. One thing about it
is, however, very tangible. The Guildhall still exists.
If there is a Guildhall there must have been a guild ; and
that guild, being the governing body of the city, may not
necessarily have been religious. In fact the first mention
we have of the Guildhall certainly does not show it in a
strictly religious character. Giraldus Cambrensis, writing
in the reign of King Henry II., says somewhat enigmatically
that the Guildhall is so called on account of the resort
to it of drinkers. What does that mean ? Apparently,

(From Schnebbelie's View, 1815.)


the custom of guilds to meet at stated intervals for " butt
filling " and for " mutual pledging," as well as for religious
exercise, was in his mind. The chief men of the city,
the aldermen, " majores natu," had been accustomed to
assemble for civic business in Aldermanbury, where, as
the word " bury " seems to imply, they had a house to
which they could resort, and where, after they had taken
counsel, they could adjourn to their municipal hall and
pledge each other as in an ordinary guild. But, in truth,
we have no contemporary account of these meetings.

After a time, perhaps in the reign of Henry III., the
old Aldermanbury hall became too small for them. A
great deal of public business of importance had to be
transacted, and the appointment of a recorder shows that
records had begun to be made and to be preserved. In
fact, from the reign of Edward I. there is no break in
the continuity of the London records. A new Guildhall
became necessary. Its crypt, in part, still remains, and
shows early workmanship ; and by a curious chance we
are able to tell with considerable certainty both that it
was smaller than the present Guildhall, and also how
much smaller it was. The boundaries of the City wards
were defined about the same tune, and it was arranged
that though the new Guildhall stood well back from the
market place, it, with a street leading to it, should be in
the ward of Cheap. At its western end it abutted on the
old Guildhall in Aldermanbury, and when the hall was
rebuilt by Whittington and his executors in the fifteenth
century, the eastern end was prolonged beyond the ward
boundary and beyond the beautiful early crypt. All
the additions to the modern buildings have been made
in the same way, and at present the hall is hi Cheap and
Bassishaw, and the Library and New Council Chamber
and offices are some in Cripplegate and some in Bassishaw.


It is not very easy to determine exactly where the first
Guildhall stood, but it was probably on a site now or lately
covered by the town clerk's and architect's offices on the
western side, and extending quite to the street called

The governing guild of London, then, assembled in
its Guildhall as early as the reign of Henry II., and if
a governing guild now exists, it consists of the Common
Council, the Aldermen, and the Lord Mayor of the City.
True, their name has been changed, and so has their
constitution. The guild no longer consists of the Alder-
men and their portreeve, one of their own body. In 1189
at the earliest, and certainly before 1193, the portreeve
became the mayor ; and a few years later, namely, in
1200, there were chosen twenty-five "of the more discreet
men of the city " to take counsel with the Mayor and
the Aldermen. This Council has been gradually enlarged,
and alongside of it we see a second Council, that of the
livery, or members of the Companies,* who assemble in
common hall. As, practically, every one who wishes to
take part in City affairs belongs to a Company, the interests
of the two bodies are virtually the same.

We have yet to notice one other assembly of
citizens which is connected with the Guildhall. Tlus is
the hustings. The word is familiar enough. It is com-
mon when elections are going on, and at such times it is
used all over England. Yet, when we look into it, we
observe that it is not, strictly speaking, an English word.
It is Scandinavian, Danish perhaps. It is one of a small
number of words which are relics among us of the great
Danish conquest of England in the tenth century. In
other towns and cities the great assembly of the free men
of the place is the " portmannimote." That is an English

See Chapter VIIL, p. 88.


word, strange and unaccustomed as it may sound to modern
ears. But in London what would have been called the
" portmannimote " anywhere else was called the hustings.
In Iceland, the great Council of the people is, or was lately,
the * Hus-thing," the assembly of the House. In English
* Hus " enters into the composition of a great many words,
some of them obsolete. We speak of husband and hus-
bandry ; of housewife, or hussif, or hussey ; and our
ancestors had " hus-carl " and other common expressions.
The assembling of all the citizens of London was
the hustings, and in some respects the hustings court
of London was in the early Middle Ages the most
powerful body in the City. To it was the ultimate
appeal from the acts of the governing guild, the
Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council. The word
" hus " in hustings was conjectured by Mr. Price to refer
to the civil and domestic matters brought before it ; and
Mr. Coote translated it into " the domestic judicatory."
These derivations at least show the objects and jurisdiction
of the hustings ; and the civic wills proved before it form
a large and most interesting collection, which has been
printed for the benefit of future historians by Dr Sharpe,
of the Town Clerk's office. By degrees legislation has
deprived the hustings of most of its functions, but on
certain occasions it still assembles on the dais at the east
end of the Guildhall, as it did in the days of Chaucer,
who mentions it. Other courts have always sat at the
Guildhall, some of them of very modern origin ; and the
new offices to the north and north-west of the original
hall are as great an ornament to the City as those charm-
ingly incongruous buildings the Guildhall Chapel and
Backwell Hall, which once, not so very long ago, con-
fronted St. Laurence's Church, now, besides the Guild-
hall itself, the only architectural feature of a little square


which must at one time have been as picturesque as any
of the kind in England.

The Guildhall, as it is now, presents some of those
mixtures of style and incongruities which seem in them-
selves to impart picturesqueness to a building, and which
are the objects of an almost personal animosity to the
average architect. The lamented Sir Horace Jones was
not one of these. He improved the building, but was
always mindful of its history. The Stuart Gothic with
which Jarman refaced it after some injury in the Great
Fire was not destroyed ; the Georgian monuments with
their classical details were not swept out of the hall ; even
the ridiculous giants, about which so much rubbish has
been written, were not disestablished. But the new roof,
with its fine brown beams, and the stained glass in the
windows some of it very good are comparatively new.
The last of these windows was presented by the late
John T. Bedford, a member of the Common Council, to
commemorate the opening and presentation of Epping
Forest by the Corporation of London, one of the most
splendid gifts ever made to the public.

The monuments which are ranged along the sides
of the hall are of more interest than is generally the case
with objects of this kind. They were all put up in tunes
of great civic emotion, so to speak. Each of them repre-
sents some phase or mood of popular excitement, for the
City of London has always been in the van of progress,
and has led the way in every reform which has been for
the real benefit of the nation. The monuments are
five in number. The first is to the memory of William
Beckford, who died in 1770 in his second mayoralty.
Beckford asserted the rights of the citizens against certain
high-handed proceedings of George HI., and a speech
which he is said to have made to the King is inscribed

(From Ackermann's "Microcosm," 1808.)


on the pedestal. There are two versions of this speech
extant, and this one is said to have been written by John
Home Tooke. Whether Beckford really delivered it or
not does not greatly matter. He attended at Court to
remonstrate, and the speech shows the object of the
remonstrance. The monument is by a sculptor called
Moore, and cost 1,300. The second monument in the
Guildhall is to Chatham, by John Bacon, R.A., and the
third to Pitt, his son, by J. G. Bubb. Wellington appears

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryW. J. (William John) LoftieRambles in and near London : or, London afternoons → online text (page 17 of 23)