W. J. (William John) Loftie.

Rambles in and near London : or, London afternoons online

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It " possesses an originality peculiarly striking ; copied from
no other building, it exhibits judgment and invention in every
turn. Its series of cupolettaa, round the grand central dome,
is beautiful, and would have proved eminently effective in execu-
tion ; and the variety of views, from the different parts of the
building, seen in various lights, as the spectator approaches,
recedes, or perambulates its varied scenes, afford a more numerom
assemblage of various, beautiful, and picturesque combinations
than almost any other plan in existence."

Weale, a moderate and judicious writer, with, if anything,
a leaning to the old Gothic, says in his " London " (p. 181):

" He was planning what, strange to say, the world has not
yet seen a solemn and real Protestant temple, not a counterfeit
Roman Catholic one. He would have erected an edifice on the
principles and in the spirit of the mediaeval church-builders, viz.,
an edifice whose form should be governed, as theirs were, by
fitness to the service for which it was built, and by nothing else."

Charles II. and his brother, subsequently James II., would
not give any countenance to Wren's splendid design.
They wished, not for a preaching house, but a mass house.
The documents which, as I have said, are probably
the oldest continuous series of records preserved by any
corporate body in England, if not in the world are con-
tained in the chambers between the north triform m and
the south. They are therefore at the western end of the
cathedral, and are so stored as to be readily accessible in
case their preservation should be threatened. Not only
so, but books into which charters have been copied are
in the collection copies made in some cases as far back
as the reigns of the Conqueror's immediate descendants and
successors. The copiers have added considerably to the
labours of the modern historians who have dipped into
these archives Bishop Stubbs, Dr. Sparrow Simpson, or
Mr. Larking, for example by entering the date when the


copy was made as if it was the date of the original

A curious example occurs in Sir H. Maxwell Lyte's
calendar of these manuscripts. One page of a book of
copies (Liber L) contains a grant of land to the Dean
and Chapter by Goisbert, before the Conquest, and on
another page is an arrangement regarding it made by
Robert, Goisbert's son. This second deed is entered on
an earlier page than the first, and is dated in 1141, " the
year," says the copier, " that King Stephen escaped from
captivity by Robert, son of King Henry." But the deed
itself bears the signatures of several of the worthies who
figure so largely in the pre-Hastings period and are found
in the pages of Freeman and Green and Stubbs ; such
men, to wit, as Ansgar, who was wounded on the fatal
field of Senlac, and William Malet, and many more.

A systematic examination and comparison of the names
in these documents has yet to be made. Many of them
afford the earliest light now to be obtained in any inquiry
as to the origin of surnames. They tell us of the odd
personal nicknames which had to do duty for surnames
in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The investigation
is not only amusing, but useful. We have Sherehog,
a wealthy wool merchant, whose name still lingers in the
City, and reminds us of a sheep farmer's distinction of
some of his flock. Again, Drinkpin, an eminent vintner,
alderman of his ward, reminds us by his name of the
time when tankards were marked by pins or pegs so that
you might not take more than you were entitled to. We
still talk of having a peg : but how many of us remember
what the phrase means ? In " John Gilpin " we hear
of one who was in merry pin. Of other names, the
majority in the twelfth century referred to some personal
peculiarity, and we meet with " Hugh with the teeth,"


" Edwai'd with the beard," " Richard with the crooked
nose/' " William with the wide eye," and " William with
whiskers," and an alderman whose name was " Algar
Maimiiigstepson." There are also a great many names
of animals, such as bat, bull, goose, pig, and others. A
few names seem to be religious, as " Good Soul " and " A
God's half." Personal names are " the Blind," " the
Lame," " the Spotted," and there is a Phillip " the dwarf "
and a Reginald " the dwarf." A few rare trades are named,
such as John " who binds books," and Dionysia " la bok-
byndere," who dwelt in Fleet Street ; and we must not
omit Godeva, the wife of Gerold of Stratford.

In addition to these curiosities, the manuscripts in
this little known but most important store contain many
things well worthy of study, if we would understand
London life in those ancient days. But one document
stands out as containing a piece of important historical
information of far wider interest than most of those
which surround it. Only a brief abstract is given in Sir
H. Maxwell Lyte's report, but the Corporation has gone
to the expense of having the whole parchment copied in
facsimile. This document tells us who were the alder-
men of the eleventh century, that is, of the period im-
mediately succeeding the Conquest. The latest date that
can be assigned to it is between 1100 and 1110. The
first list of aldermen recognised before the publication
of the report is one at the Guildhall, and belongs to the
middle of the thirteenth century. It would be easy to
enlarge on the differences and similarities between the
two lists ; but here and now it must suffice to offer a few
particulars of the more important features of the St. Paul's
list. We observe, for instance, that in some editions of
Stow, and in many later books, we are told of certain
provoats, prepositi, who were supposed to be portreeves.


We know that the portreeve was answerable, like a shire
reeve, for the King's farm, or rent. We also know the
names of a certain number of these reeves. But not one
of Stow's prepositi ever occurs among them. Who were
they, then ? This document, which is a list, or terrier,
of lands in the City belonging to St. Paul's, answers the
question, as you shall see.

Furthermore, why did Edward the Confessor, and after
him William the Conqueror, address their charters to the
bishop and the portreeve ? Two of Edward's charters
are thus addressed, and at least one of William's. This
document tells us : but I am not surprised that the mention
of the bishop in almost the first line made its first modern
copiers hesitate* The summary hi the Report leaves out
the most important passage in the whole document. Each
piece of land is described under the name of the alderman
of the ward in which it was situated. Twenty wards are
enumerated, and a great many of them may be identified.
The list begins with some lands beyond the Fleet, which
were afterwards included in the ward of Farringdon
Without. After them we have " Warda Episcopi." Before
the discovery of this document no one knew that the
Bishop of London was an alderman. He was apparently
above all other aldermen, and so we see him classed with
the portreeve, the official lay head of all the aldermen,
in the King's charters. The King wrote to the alderman
who was responsible for the ecclesiastical government
of London and to his brother alderman who, as portreeve,
was responsible for the civil government.

Like his brother alderman, the Prior of Holy
Trinity, Alderman of Portsoken, the Bishop-Alderman
had a deputy, who apparently was called prepositus
or provost. It is impossible that the bishop's provost
can have been the portreeve. The Latin for portreeve


is vicecomes. But an abbot or a bishop in other places,
as Bury St. Edmunds, had a deputy called a provost.
There were many portreeves, such as Gilbert Proudfoot,
and two of the Buckerels, also Fulcred, also Robert, also
Wluardus, and the two Hughs, Bock and Par. One
name is not to be found, that of Leuric, the bishop's
provost. It was but a few years later that the bishop
himself ceased to be an alderman, but it just chances that
we have very little information as to the transitional
period between the hereditary aldermen and those who
were elected. Of the few provosts whom we can discover
or of whom Stow tells us, not one occurs among the port-
reeves or sheriffs who attended annually at the Exchequer.
By the way, Leuric is described as holding land worth,
in fee, xijd., extending twenty-one feet along the roadway
and in the other direction sixty-three feet and a half, in-
cluding two feet which were in dispute. Leuric is men-
tioned in several other places, but always as provost and
never as portreeve.

Before we leave this fascinating collection, it is desirable
that we should give an example of one of the ordinary
documents it contains. I have chosen one of the oldest,
for though it is undated, we know that Turstin and also
some of the witnesses were living at the very beginning
of the twelfth century, that is, before 1115. Turstin is,
in fact, the very earliest of the aldermen we find named,
but what ward was in his jurisdiction we cannot tell, except
that it was close to the river, and may have comprised
such outlying parts of what was afterwards the ward of
Farringdon as were not in the " warda Episcopi." Before
the full text of the list of aldermen was printed, that is,
before we knew that the bishop was an alderman, I for
one imagined that Turstin was alderman of the bishop's
ward. It is so stated in my volume on London in the


Historic Towns Series, and is a warning of the danger
of guessing in historical matters.

Here is Turstin's deed giving his house to the Dean
and Chapter of St. Paul's :

" Turstin the Alderman has given to God and St. Paul for hia
soul's sake and for the sake of the soul of Wlveva his wife, all
that land on which he dwells, by consent of Gilbert his stepson,
quietly and without any prejudice on the part of the said Gilbert."

The following clergy and laity are witnesses, viz. :

" Azo, priest of the parish ;
Gerald the priest ;
Robert the sacristan ;

Ralph the priest, nephew of William the archdeacon ;
Gilbert the son of the said Turstin ;
Ernald of Betonia ;
Edward Long or St. Benedict ; "

and thirty-one more, only two of whom possess a sur-
name, and two are sons of priests, " John " being " Son
of the Dean."

The number of men who are named as sons of priests
in these MSS. is very striking ; and it would seem as if
sometimes the bishop, the dean, and most of the canons
were married men. The subject is too large to be fully
treated of here : but it is one of those on which this
collection gives us extensive information. Dean Milman
would have made Bishop Fitz Neal a bastard, because
his father was Bishop of Ely. He suggests, as an
alternative, that he was born before his father took orders.
But at this same time, the middle of the twelfth
century, at least fourteen of the prebendaries of St.
Paul's were sons of priests, and among them we find
Angar, the father of Turstin, the Archbishop of York.




Alterations in Half a Century In a Century Piccadilly in 1801
Southwark London Bridge St. George's Fields and South
London Prison Abuses Tyburn and the Gallows The
Roads A Walk from North to South A Frenchman in
London The Old Bailey The English Character.

IF we could form a picture of what London was like in
1801 it would enable us to judge historically of the physical
changes which have taken place in all England. The moral
changes are equally great, but more impalpable. The
very air has altered. If the changes which can be remem-
bered by a man of sixty are so great, what they must
have been in a hundred years is incalculable. I remember
one street in 1843. I was a child, very young, but
observant as all children are while as yet everything
seems new. I had been born and so far brought up in
the north of Ireland. In London I was taken to see the
Tower, Greenwich Hospital, the Surrey Zoological Gardens,
and a Palace I think Buckingham Palace. My recol-
lections of the Tower are very distinct. I think there
was some kind of tramway or railway to Greenwich.
But the most vivid picture I can call up is the view west-
ward, up hill, towards the Park gate in Oxford Street :
a wide street paved with large round stones, bordered
on either side by low, two- or three-storied houses ; a few,


very few, foot passengers, a blind man playing drearily
on a tin whistle, a single vehicle rumbling up the hill, a
hearse, with people following on foot, and two little children,
all in black. There seemed to be no other traffic. The
tin whistle and the hearse were connected indelibly in
my mind.

The contrast presented by a view from, say, the corner,
at what is called " the Deaf and Dumb Church," any
fine afternoon is indescribable. At Hereford Gardens
there was a dingy brick wall, and just beyond it a house
it is there still which was pointed out as that in which
Prince Leopold and Princess Charlotte stayed after their
marriage. Some fine houses opposite on the right were
called Cumberland Gate. The park railings were low
and shabby, and there were lodges where fourteen years
before had stood the turnpikes to the Edgware Road and
the Uxbridge Road. The houses on the north side were
dwarfed by Quebec Chapel, the tallest building in the
view. There were no omnibuses, no hansom cabs, very
few drays ; and the whole aspect of the place was that
of the extremity of a town but sparsely inhabited, and
that chiefly by the lowest class. The Marble Arch was not
moved to Cumberland Gate till 1850. Connaught Place
was built long before, but seemed to stand by itself for
many years ; and in 1822 Mr. Hope, the principal in-
habitant, improved the neighbourhood by placing a pair
of handsome gates at the entrance to the park, at an
expense of 2,000. Previously, there had only been " a
mean brick arch and a small narrow entrance on each
side for foot passengers," as we are told by Thomas Smith.
If we try to look back another half-century the dif-
ference not only there, but everywhere, is enormous.
Yet we may assume that between 1800 and 1850 it was
not so great as between the middle of the nineteenth


century and the present time. Improvements have
been made at a rapid pace since the Crystal Palace was
set up where the Albert Memorial stands now, and looked
down southward over the open fields and orchards of
Brompton. Fifty years before, Chelsea and Kensington
were country villages connected by private houses standing
in their own grounds, like Gore House and Gloucester
Lodge and Cromwell House, where now we see the Albert
Hall and St. Stephen's Church and the Victoria and Albert
Museum. Prince of Wales Gate was the " Half-way House
Tavern." The "Fox and Bull" marked the Knights-
bridge entrance to the Park, and Piccadilly extended
as far as it does now, and was full of builders' yards
and plaster works, like Euston Road at the present day.
On the site of St. George's Hospital was a turnpike, and
just outside it the country house of Lord Lanesborough
had just been pulled down to make way for the new
institution. Near it was Buckingham House, which
King George III. had bought, and which was then com-
monly called the Queen's House. There were few or
no buildings, except country houses, further west.
Belgravia consisted of market gardens edging the marshy
meadows by the Grosvenor Canal, where coal and timber
barges unloaded. Pimlico Wharf gave its West Indian
name to the whole district Pimlico, or Pimlicay, being,
I believe, a place where ships obtained Honduras
mahogany. Fulham was resorted to as Richmond is
now ; and from Battersea to Lambeth was almost open
country, with widely separated villages and a few country
houses of rich noblemen.

Lambeth was a little better populated, but the popu-
lation was not of a very respectable kind. All round
the Archbishop's palace were streets and alleys of the
worst description. Some of them possessed privileges of


sanctuary, and were resorted to by insolvent persons of all
classes, who here enjoyed a kind of liberty, and ventured
out once a week only, being exempt from arrest on
Sunday. Very few houses were to be found in Lambeth
Marsh, and where the busy stations we call Waterloo now
stand there were open fields with an occasional factory,
and a fringe of wharves towards the river. Thus we
reach Southwark, at the foot of London Bridge. In
1800 the Borough was very densely populated, and, like
Lambeth, with the lowest class. There was another
sanctuary here called the Mint, but fifty years before its
privileges had been abolished. The debtors' prison,
called the King's Bench, as well as the Marshalsea, were
between Lambeth and Southwark. Pirates as well as
debtors were confined in Marshalsea. St. George's
Church had not been built very long. St. Saviour's had
recently been repaired, but the old nave was still standing.
Two modern Gothic naves have been built successively
since then.

It had been always a serious matter how to cross
the Thames. There was a horse ferry from Lambeth to
Westminster until the year 1750 or thereabouts, when
Westminster Bridge was completed not the bridge we
see now, but a stone bridge almost on the same site. There
the Thames is 300 feet wider than at London Bridge,
and the architect deserved great credit for his boldness.
The bridge, with the old Houses of Parliament in the
background, must have been very picturesque. Black-
friars Bridge, which was at first called Pitt Bridge,
was begun in 1760, and was opened for traffic in 1769.
A year or two before, London Bridge had houses on it
not a double row as previously, but a few here and
there, and the remains of the chapel of St. Thomas a
Becket in the centre. The old half-fortified gateway


stood at the southern end, and may still have deserved
its name of the Traitor's Gate, from the skulls of
the Scots rebels grinning on spikes over the archway,
when it was taken down in 1720 and rebuilt, to be
again, and finally, taken down in 1758. It was like St.
John's Gate at Clerkenwell, or the Gate of St. James's
Palace, but of stone. The bridge itself was built on
abutments and piers of the most primitive kind. It
contained, besides a drawbridge, no fewer than nineteen
arches, pointed, and of course very narrow; instead of
only five arches, as at present. For two hundred years
a large part of the water supplied to the city was drawn
from the river by a water-wheel, which moved under one
of the arches. The stream was often very strong, and
Pennant, in 1787, speaks of taking boat from Westminster
along the river, but getting out at Old Swan Stairs, to
avoid the risk of " adding to the many thousands who
had lost their lives in darting down the rapids at London
Bridge." He tells us then of walking to Billingsgate,
and there re-embarking. The present bridge was begun
in 1825, and the principal difficulty in the way of the
new bridge was the extraordinary solidity of the old
foundations and piers. They were like rocks in the
river bed.

A view of the city from the Thames at London
Bridge in 1801 differed greatly from what we see now.
St Paul's had been finished some sixty years before.
Many church towers were then visible which are
now hidden by new buildings or altogether removed.
The great railway stations, with their long roofs and
heavy bridges, had not yet appeared to shut out the
view. There was hardly so much smoke ; very few
tall chimneys ; a few more trees, especially on the
left, towards the Temple ; the warehouses were lower


and the church steeples consequently looked taller, and
there were more houses with gables and perhaps a Gothic
window or two. The approaches to the bridge, however,
were very different, consisting of a labyrinth of small
streets where King William Street now stands. And
from the Tower, looking down the river, there were only
one or two docks, and a very small number of ships at
least to our modern ideas and of course no steamers.
Where the important St. Katharine's Dock now stands,
just beyond the Tower, was a church and a kind of
almshouse or college ; this institution was moved to the
Kegent's Park in 1827.

Returning to Southwark, the first thing, perhaps,
that strikes us is how soon the streets end and the
open country succeeds. Newington Causeway was a real
causeway or paved way over some marshy ground, and
Newington Butts was what we should call a rifle-ground
having been set apart for bows and arrows, with butts
or targets. There was a Butts Field at Kensington

St. George's Fields were still fields in reality, with
only a sprinkling of houses. But all about the foot of
the bridge was a closely inhabited district, containing
the remains of many fine buildings of older times than
these. To the west of St. Saviour's Church was an old
Gothic Hall, part of the Bishop of Winchester's Palace.
It was let in small tenements and divided by floors, though
the roof was worthy to be compared with that of West-
minster Hall. Rochester House, another palace of the
same kind, stood where the Borough Market is now.
Near the church were the cloisters, where Lord Montagu
built his house after the Suppression. Monteagle House
was nearer the bridge, and was pulled down in 1831.
There is no evidence in support of the local tradition that


here Lord Monteagle received the famous letter which
led to the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot : in fact, there
is no proof that anyone of the name ever occupied the
house, which at the time of its demolition was not more
than one hundred years old.

The Globe, Shakespeare's theatre, was on part of the
ground now occupied by Barclay and Perkins's brewery.
It was abandoned at the tune of the Parliament's pro-
clamation against theatrical entertainments, and was
never afterwards revived.

A little way down the river from Southwark was
Rotherhithe, a mere village, generally called Redriff.
Here was the Greenland Dock, into which ships laden
with whales' blubber were brought. It was a hundred
years old, but was looked upon hi those days as quite
a wonder. The new church was just finished at this
time. The tower and spire are remarkable. The number
of houses about this tune was about 1,500, and the place
was growing rapidly.

A little way off, across the fields, was Bermondsey.
Tea gardens and grounds like Cremorne were established
there after the discovery of the Bermondsey Spa. There
were some remains still standing of the Abbey and the
King's Palace, all of which are gone now. In those days
the parish contained only about 2,500 houses.

We thus obtain some idea of the size and appearance
of South London a hundred years ago. North London
was just as different. Hampstead and Highgate were a
long way off, and were occupied by the villas of various
noblemen and gentlemen. But we pause not to notice
them ; they were, in those days, as little accounted a part
of London as we should account Richmond or Harrow.
The western extremity of the town was at the Tyburn
Turnpike mentioned"above.


It is hard to understand how persons who were occasion-
ally in the habit of using such phrases as " the mildness
and humanity of English law," except in comparison
with that of France, could have allowed their gaols to be
so mismanaged as they were. By the beginning of the
nineteenth century some improvements had been intro-
duced. The change began when, in 1773, John Howard
happened to be sheriff of Bedfordshire. His attention
was called to the fact that, after trial and acquittal, prisoners
were seldom discharged. He then found the reason
to be that the gaolers had no salary but the fees to be
paid by each prisoner, and that these were seldom forth-
coming. He endeavoured to obtain a mitigation of this
evil, and travelled throughout England to search for
information on the subject. In London, hi Howard's time,
debtors and felons were almost always confined together :
men and women hi many cases ; men, women, and children
in some. A woman with a baby at the breast was hanged
at Tyburn for stealing a piece of lace worth two shillings.
There were several cases of children dying of cold in prison.
There were no prison surgeons in London, except at New-
gate and three other of the most recently erected prisons.
The gaolers always rented the prisons, and made what
they could out of the prisoners. At the entrance of

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Online LibraryW. J. (William John) LoftieRambles in and near London : or, London afternoons → online text (page 20 of 23)