W. J. (William John) Loftie.

Rambles in and near London : or, London afternoons online

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between Peace and War, sculptured by Bell. Nelson
is commemorated by an elaborate allegorical group,
referring to his victories and death, by James Smith.

The earliest of the great public ceremonials which
we can associate with the present Guildhall was the recep-
tion given to Henry V. after the Battle of Agincourt, in
1415. The election, or attempted election, of Richard HE.
was held at the Guildhall in 1483. By this time the
hall must have been nearly, if not quite finished. Bucking-
ham endeavoured hi vain to rouse the spirit of the citizens
in favour of his master. But Edward IV. had been
very popular with them, and they would not be persuaded
to desert the cause of his children. It is curious to observe
what importance was attached to a formal election of a
King by the citizens of London, and Buckingham's singular
threat, that the Lords and Commons would take the matter
out of their hands, should be noted. It is not mentioned
in Shakespeare's Richard III., where Buckingham reports
his speech to Richard (Act iii., scene vii.).

The reign of Queen Mary was marked by two events
in the Guildhall, the reception of the Queen after Wyatt's
rebellion, in 1553, when many of the citizens fled,
fearing her vengeance ; and, on the 12th of November,
the trial of Jane Grey, her husband, her brothers-in-law,
and Archbishop Cranmer, before the Lord Mayor, the



228 LONDON AFTERNOONS.

Lord Steward, and a number of high officials, when all
the prisoners were condemned to death. They walked
through the streets from the Tower on foot, and went
back again, together.

One other historical event must also be mentioned
before we come to modern times. In 1088, when the
flight of James II. had left England without a King, the
peers, who happened to be in London, and other high
officials, assembled at the Guildhall to take measures for
the public safety. Archbishop Sancroft took the chair,
though the Lord Mayor was present and had welcomed
the Lords as they arrived. Lord Mayor Chapman was
certainly not equal to the occasion. A more capable
man would have taken the lead hi that and all the sub-
sequent movements ; but there can be no doubt that this
memorable meeting at the Guildhall, and the offer of the
Crown, and of money to support it, which the City made
to William of Orange, determined the course of the
Revolution.

Of late years there have been many Eoyal visits to the
Guildhall, and the famous entertainment given to Queen
Victoria on her accession is not forgotten, nor the still
more splendid ball after the opening of the Great Exhibition
in 1851. On this occasion the beautiful crypt was used
as a supper room.

It should be mentioned that the Guildhall is one hundred
and fifty-three feet long, and fifty wide. The Library
is in a very handsome chamber east of the hall, and is
approached by a passage which leads out of the old porch.
The books include many old manuscripts of interest
which were in the possession of the Corporation at
the time of the opening in 1828, and have been
largely supplemented by the gifts of rarities of litera-
ture which citizens have made. This is by no means



THE GUILDHALL. 229

the first library the Corporation has had : for Whit-
tington opened a collection of books at the Guildhall,
which might have subsisted here still, only that Somerset,
the Protector of Edward VI., " borrowed " them all and
never returned them. There were only ten thousand
volumes in the library in 1840, but by 1859 there were
thirty thousand, and in 1869 the collection had grown so
greatly that it was thought desirable to erect the present
commodious building, which contains upwards of one
hundred and fifty thousand volumes. Among its treasures
is a document bearing the very rare signature of William
Shakespeare. Oddly enough, it is so written that it
throws little or no light on the orthography of the name.

A staircase close to the library leads to the Museum,
also an institution of modern growth. It is particularly
rich in Roman remains found in London, though in respect
of works of art of that period it must yield to the British
Museum. But a fine tesselated pavement found in Buck-
lersbury, near the course of the Wallbrook, is probably
unequalled elsewhere in England, and many other relics
found in the same neighbourhood more recently are also
in the collection. There are, too, mediaeval remains,
such as the sign of the Boar's Head Tavern from East
Cheap, and some modern relics and curiosities, including
a fine collection of watches.

Besides the Library and the Museum there is now an
Art Gallery connected with the Guildhall. It occupies
the chamber in which, before the erection of the new
Law Courts at Temple Bar, City cases were heard before
the Court of Queen's Bench. It was built in 1822 on the
site of the old Guildhall Chapel. The recent free exhibitions
of loan collections of pictures have made this gallery famous.

The last of the Guildhall buildings is the new Council
Chamber. It lies to the 'north of the'great hall, and east



230 LONDON AFTERNOONS.

of the passage or lobby. It has none of the historical
associations of the old chamber, which was on the other
side of the passage. It is adorned with busts of great men,
and is handsomely decorated lx>th with painting and
carving. The plan is almost circular, the diameter being
about fifty feet.

The chamber was built with the most astonishing
celerity, for the first stone was laid in April, 1883, and the
first meeting of the Court of Common Council was held
at the beginning of October in the following year. At
the eastern side is the Lord Mayor's seat, with a statue
of King George III. behind it. The old Chamberlain's
Court was built one hundred years ago, and was pulled
down in 1882 to make way for this handsome hall.
The Chamberlain is a kind of Chancellor of the Exchequer
of the City of London, and in the earliest times appears
to have been identical with the portreeve or Mayor ; but
the offices were divorced from each other during the long
suppression of the Mayoralty under Edward I. Besides
the Court, the Chamberlain has his office, in which there
is a lock-up for refractory apprentices ; and what looks at
first sight like a private house near the site of Bridewell
is retained as a prison to which now and then an unhappy
" printers' devil " is committed.

There is much else to see at the Guildhall, but the above-
mentioned hall and chambers are the most easily accessible.
A wonderful gathering of City records is in the Town
Clerk's office, and there are some magnificent apartments
for aldermen, judges, and others. Very nearly, if not
exactly, on the site of the ancient Guildhall, in Alderman-
bury, was the School of Music, now removed to the
Embankment.

The documents preserved at the Guildhall are kept
in an admirable manner, and carefully indexed. The




VOLUMES OF RECORDS, GUILDHALL
(From a photograph by Sir Benjamin Stone, M.P.)




Photo : London Stereoscopic Co., Lim.

A CORNER IN THE MUNIMENT ROOM GUILDHALL.



THE GUILDHALL. 231

Hustings Bolls are the most important, but there are
" Remembrancia " and a long series of " Letter Books,"
so called not because they contain correspondence, but
because each is marked with a letter. " Letter Book A "
goes back to the time of Edward I.

Dr. Sharpe gives many interesting examples from the
records in his care. For instance, he says (Hustings, p.
xlvii.) : " It is curious to trace the fortunes of the widows
of some of the testators in this volume, who, being left
presumably in good circumstances, sooner or later found
second husbands. Thus, in 1314, it is recorded that
the widow of John Laurenz, having re-married, desired
to marry her daughter of eight years of age, by her first
husband, to a child of her second husband, aged ten years.
The banns, we are told, had been published, and the
trousseau and wedding feast prepared, when the affair
got wind, and some friends brought the infant daughter
before the authorities at the Guildhall, who placed her for
the time being under the care of the City Chamberlain."

We may next turn to a volume edited by the same in-
defatigable authority, which contains a series of " Letters
from the Mayor and Corporation of the City of London,"
beginning as far back as 1350. These papers are by no
means so interesting as those mentioned already. They
are, on the other hand, of public and political value, and
throw much light on the position of London, not only
among English cities, but amongst the cities of Europe.
The very first we come to is addressed to the people and
commonalty of Florence, about an Italian who had seized
some property he had undertaken to convey safely to
Florence.

The part played by the Guildhall in the history of the
City might well be compared with that which London
itself played in the history of England. Since the building



232 LONDON AFTERNOONS.

of a Mansion House, some of the most interesting and
memorable of civic gatherings have taken place hi it.
And we might almost assert that the centre of business
activity which, hi the Middle Ages, was in Cheap, flanked
by Cheapside and the Guildhall, is now transferred to the
region occupied by the Bank of England and the Royal
Exchange. Yet, historically, the Guildhall will always
be the centre of the City ; and since it has been found out
that the old date of 1415, which used to be assigned to it,
is probably at least a couple of centuries too late, it has
gained immensely in this kind of interest. The beautiful
Early English crypt is almost the only surviving relic
of its period in the City. The crypt of St. Mary-le-Bow
is Norman. The church of St. Ethelburga, in Bishops-
gate, has in it a few lancet windows which may be con-
temporary with the Guildhall crypt. It is, therefore,
architecturally as well as archaeologically, and artistically
as well as historically, a building which many people wish
to see, and which brings back to us, by its extreme beauty,
the perfection of the Art of the thirteenth century, and
enables us to judge for ourselves what, if this was the
crypt, must have been the magnificence of the building
above.



233



CHAPTER XIX.

CANONBURY.

Canonbury and the Canons of St. Bartholomew Bolton's Tower
A Great Heiress An Elopement The Tale of a Basket
Lady Compton's Expectations Literary Associations of Canon-
bury.

A LITTLE relic of antiquity, buried among the stucco villas
of the great modern suburb of Islington, has been
made the subject of a good deal of the guess-work
which so often does duty for archeology. Accord-
ing to one eminent authority, Canonbury belonged
before the dissolution of the monasteries to the Priory
of St. John of Jerusalem at Clerkenwell. The anti-
quarians of the daily papers may have access to docu-
mentary evidence denied to ordinary students, but so
far as the history of the house has been printed and it
happens that a good deal has been printed about it
the Prior of Clerkenwell never had anything to do with
Canonbury. It might be thought at first sight that, since
Islington was a prebendal manor of St. Paul's, the house
or " bury " of the canon would be here. But the estate
attached to the stall was situated close to Lower Street,
and was sold by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners some
years ago. If we look in the Domesday Book we shall
be equally at fault. Canonbury is not mentioned. But
a certain Hugh de Berneres is spoken of more than once



234 LONDON AFTERNOONS.

as holding land under the Bishop of London ; and his
estate in Islington has been identified. One of his de-
scendants gave a part of it to the Augustinian Canons of
St. Bartholomew, and the prior built himself a villa, when,
to distinguish the holdings, the original house became
known as Berners' Bury, or Barnsbury, and the prior's
house as " Canones' Bury " or Canonbury often, and
indeed for a time commonly, pronounced Canbury. The
word " bury " generally denotes, in Middlesex at least,
a manorial residence.

The date of the grant is not exactly fixed. It must
have been before 1290, as after that year the Act of
"Quia, emptores" would have prevented the priors from
making their estate into a manor. It was given to
them by Ralph de Berners ; but there were several
Ralphs, and it is not easy to distinguish one from an-
other. However, there is evidence, which need not be
recapitulated here, to show that the canons' benefactor
was the grandson of the Domesday tenant, and this would
bring the gift to the beginning of the thirteenth century.
The Knights of St. John came to Clerkeinvell at the be-
ginning of the twelfth century, and as it w r as not the
common habit of the religious orders to give up what
they once possessed, it follows that if the Lord Prior
of Clerkenwell had a villa in Islington, it must have been
owing to some very unusual occurrence that we find a
canon of St. Bartholomew in possession.

The tower, all that remains of the old house, which
the late Lord Northampton granted to the Islington
parochial authorities, presents few architectural features
by which its age may be ascertained. An adjoining
building had on it the rebus or device of Prior Bolton,
who governed St. Bartholomew's for nearly thirty years
in the beginning of the sixteenth century. He may have



CANONBURY. 235

built the tower, but the few existing decorations which
remain seem to point rather to the time of Sir John
Spencer, the rich Lord Mayor of Queen Elizabeth's reign,
whose arms are described as occurring in several places
in Canonbury House a hundred years ago. He also lived
at Crosby Hall, in the City, but it was from Canonbury
that the famous elopement took place which brought
Sir John's fabulous wealth to the Comptons.

The story has been often told, and so highly embellished
that it is impossible now to get at the truth. Lord Comp-
ton is said to have carried off the fair Elizabeth Spencer
in a clothes-basket, as Falstaff was carried to Datchet
Mead. Another account describes the young lady as
having been let down from the topmost storey of Canon-
bury Tower in the clothes-basket. The tale varies ; the
clothes-basket, though sometimes described as a bread-
basket, is constant. In all folklore tales such points may be
observed. The basket figures again at Sir John Spencer's
funeral, where three hundred and twenty poor men had
each a clothes-basket given him containing a black gown
and various other articles of dress, together with a black
pudding, a candlestick, and tw r o red herrings. Perhaps
the heralds, who assign something very like a basket
but they call it a " beacon " to the Compton family by
way of crest, may have been mindful of the legend. Certain
it is that the heiress married the Northamptonshire lord,
and that in 1609 the alderman's great possessions came
to them.

Here again a pretty story is interpolated. Queen
Elizabeth was interested in the young pair. Lord Compton,
in fact, was a member of the Privy Council. The Queen
took advantage of an opportunity to ask the indignant
father-in-law to join her Grace as sponsor for the child
of a couple whose relations had cast them off. The child



236 LONDON AFTERNOONS.

was christened " Spencer " after its godfather, who expressed
to the Queen his intention, as his daughter had run away
from him, of making the infant his heir. The curtain
falls on the appropriate and familiar situation, and the
" Bless you, my children ! " of the alderman.

The heiress of Canonbury Tower, with all her wealth,
does not seem, however, to have made Lord Compton
very happy. The first thing that happened to him on
inheriting Sir John's fortune is described in a curious
letter among Winwood's collections, from which we gather
that, " at the first newes, either through the vehement
apprehension of joy for such a plentiful succession, or
of carefulness how to take it up and dispose of it," he
became " somewhat distracted." And what, asks the
writer very pertinently, " shall these thousands and
millions avayle him if he come to lose, if not his soul, at
least his wits and reason ? " But he eventually recovered,
was made an earl by King James, and was Lord Presi-
dent of Wales when he died in 1G30.

The marriage had taken place so far back as 1594,
the year when Sir John was Lord Mayor, and in
the fifteen years which elapsed before the inheritance
came to the Comptons the heiress found time to
elaborate a scheme for the organisation of her house-
hold which has been preserved, and affords a curious
picture of the social life of the upper classes before the
Great Rebellion. She must have, she tells her " sweet
life," 1,GOO a year, to be paid quarterly, for apparel ; 600
more " for the performance of charitable works." She
further required three horses for her own saddle ; two
gentlewomen to attend her, " lest one should be sick,"
and " six or eight gentlemen," and " for that it is indecent
to crowd myself with my gentleman usher hi my coach,
I will have him to have a convenient horse, to attend me




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CANONBUBY. 237

either in city or in country." She also desired as a start
twenty gowns, of which six were to be " very excellent
good ones," and 2,200 to put hi her purse. Moreover,
her husband was to discharge her debts and give her
10,000 for jewellery; and she goes on, "Now seeing I
am so reasonable unto you, I pray you find my children
apparel, and their schooling," and ends by stipulating
that when he becomes an earl he is to allow her another
thousand a year, and to double her attendance.

Canonbury has remained in the possession of the
Compton family ever since. The first Lord Northampton
does not appear to have made much use of it as a residence.
He had lodgings in the Savoy at the time of his death,
which was caused by sudden chill from bathing late one
night in the Thames ; and Canonbury was inhabited by
various tenants, some of them, such as Lord Chancellor
Egerton, people of eminence. In 1770 the old park of
the priors, which was surrounded by a wall, was cut up
into building ground. A Mr. Dawes, " an eminent and
very successful stockbroker," took it and built " a genteel
villa," and other houses ; and now the town is all round
it and far beyond it. The tower was let in flats, and
enjoyed a certain amount of popularity, especially among
literary people. Chambers, the author of the " Cyclopaedia,"
long lived here, and was engaged on a larger edition of
that work when he died. At that time, as we are assured
by Nichols, the building was so detached from others,
" so encompassed with fine fields and gardens, the goodness
of the air, considering its nearness to London, being
remarkable," and had three such "delightful prospects
to the east, north, and south, and the higher rooms also
to the west, commanding the whole City of London, and
the hills in Surrey and Kent," that many people whose
affairs would not permit them to be further from



238 LONDON AFTERNOONS.

London resorted to it for retirement and relaxation.
He gives the names of some of the more remarkable,
but omits, or does not know, the greatest of them all,
Oliver Goldsmith.

The tower as it now appears is 17 feet square and 58
feet high, and still contains some handsome rooms, all
much disguised with plaster-work and painting. We must
hope, whatever happens, that this memorial of old time
may be spared. It is not easy to realise now that when
Prior Bolton came out here from Smithfield he passed
hardly any inhabited houses, except the two convents
at Clerkenwell, and that from the top of his tower he
could look without any interruption at St. Bartholomew's
and the new church he was engaged in building.



239



CHAPTEE XX.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE.

The Largest English Palace The Site ami its Memories Mary
Davies the Heiress, aiid her Marriago to Sir Richard Grosvenor
James I.'s Mulberry Garden Arlington or Goring House
The Duke of Buckingham Buckingham House a Royal
Residence George III. and his Library The Meeting
between the King and Dr. Johnson Queen Victoria as the
Occupant of Buckingham Palace.

As an example of the architecture of the Victorian age,
Buckingham Palace is not a building of which we can
feel very proud. The additions which made it the largest
of English royal residences were designed at a very
unfortunate period in our art history. Architecture had
just then fallen between two stools, the Gothic style and
the Classical. Classical architecture itself was also divided,
and the Greek, or supposed Greek style, was contending
with the Palladian. So that, literally, there were three
incompatible schools of design not one of which, by the
way, was understood by a majority of its professors. No
wonder, then, if the design of Buckingham Palace, in
spite of its immense size, deserves above all other adjectives
that of " trivial," whether " trivial " means, as Dr. Johnson
says, " vulgar," or is connected with Latin words referring
to three ways. There were three possible styles in which
Buckingham Palace might have been built : and it may
safely be said that it is in none of them. Fortunately



240 LONDON AFTERNOONS.

there are two sides to every case, however bad, and the
inside of Buckingham Palace is certainly better than the
outside.

The oldest map which gives the features of tliis locality
in any detail is one in the Grace Collection at the British
Museum. It is a survey of the estate of Mrs. Mary Davies
misspelt on the map " Dammison " made in 1675 by
a certain Henry Morgan, whose method of spelling the
English language was peculiar to himself. He shows
us Hyde Park Corner, which he decorates with trees,
and calls "Brooke shot." A road skirts the Brookshot,
having on its western side open fields labelled " Pastuer."
The road passes close to " Gorin House," and an alternative
name is also recorded " Arndall House and Garden."
This stands for " Arlington House." Behind it on the
western side is " Mr. Thomson, Pasteur," with a brick
wall called Gorin Garden. The brick wall enclosed an
hexagonal plot, which very nearly coincides with the
forty acres of the present Palace Gardens. Nearer the
road, to the north of " Arndall House," is the " Mulberry
Garden."

Who was Mrs. Mary Davies ? She was the daughter
of Alexander Davies, a scrivener who had married Mary
Dukeson, the daughter of the rector of St. Clement Danes.
The rector had living in his house at the time a very
old man, named Audley, a lawyer, who had amassed a
great fortune, which he distributed by will among the
children and grandchildren of his sister, Mary Peacock.
Her daughter, another Mary, was Alexander Davies's
mother; and "Rich Audley," as he is called by Pepys and
his other contemporaries, left him the lands eventually
surveyed by Henry Morgan. Davies died in the Great
Plague, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Margaret's
at Westminster. His daughter, " Mrs. Mary Dammison,"




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BUCKINGHAM PALACE. 241

was but six months old at the time, and lived with her
grandfather, Dr. Dukeson, who gave her in marriage,
when she had attained the ripe age of eleven, to young
Sir Richard Grosvenor, of Eaton, in Cheshire. The
rector himself had come from Cheshire. Lady Grosvenor's
inheritance forms the chief estate of her descendant, the
Duke of Westminster ; and was, as it still is, cut in two
by the Mulberry Garden of King James, on the site now
occupied by Buckingham Palace and its grounds.

To account for the local names on Morgan's map,
we find that soon after the accession of King James I.
the great importance in England of the newly established
silk manufacture caused an attempt to be made in many
places to feed the silk-producing insect at home. The
French some years before had made not unsuccessful efforts
with the same object, and, ignoring the differences of
climate, our " British Solomon " issued to his subjects
a circular in which he recommended them to plant
mulberry trees, and himself set the example by walling
in four acres of the Green Park, then called " Upper
St. James's Park," and establishing a Mulberry Garden.
The first keeper was William Stallenge, who appears
either to have been successful or, at least, to have per-
suaded his patron that he was so, and he had a patent
granted him for seven years. Eventually, however,
the office of Keeper of the Mulberry Garden became more
or less a sinecure, and evidently not a very rich one, as it
was sold by one official for the modest sum of 406. The
buyer was George Goring, a favourite of the King, who
was made a peer, as Lord Goring, in 1628. He built a


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Online LibraryW. J. (William John) LoftieRambles in and near London : or, London afternoons → online text (page 18 of 23)