Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
MILTON'S BIRTHPLACE, LAMB'S WORK‑SHOP, AND SOME OTHER THINGS
THROUGH a district of wholesale dealers in linens and laces, Bread Street extends, joining Cannon Street to Cheapside. Midway between these, on a building at Watling Street, is a sculptured bust of John Milton with the inscription:
Born in Bread Street
Baptised in the Church of
Which Stood Here Ante
The original All Hallows church destroyed in the Great Fire was rebuilt by Wren and finally demolished in 1878.
Milton was born in this same Bread Street, near Cheapside, where a warehouse numbered 53 now stands. His father was a scrivener—a writer who prepared contracts, deeds and other documents, and the house in which he lived and in which Milton was born bore the sign of "The Spread Eagle." Signs in those days had great significance, for the houses were not numbered, and distinctive sign boards were used in all professions and trades. In former years a bust and a tablet marked the spot, but when the present building was set up, the bust was taken down, and now stands on a shelf inside the building on the third floor.
At the Watling Street corner of Old Change may be found the Church of St. Augustine, built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1683. R. H. Barham, author of the amusing "Ingoldsby Legends," was rector here for thirteen years prior to his death in 1845.
Watling Street is the present day form of an old Roman road that extended from London to Dover.
Further to the south is all that is left of a very old thoroughfare called Knightrider Street. In long ago times it was a direct way from the Tower to Smithfield, and came by its name in memory of the knights who clattered through it on their way to the tourneys at Smithfield.
Around a corner, on the north side of Queen Victoria Street, St. Nicholas Cole Abbey stands, the first church to be completed by Wren after the Great Fire.
Shelley the poet married his second wife, Mary Godwin, in 1816, in the church of St. Mildred which is in Bread Street very close to where Queen Victoria and Cannon streets meet. It was in the first year of her marriage that Mrs. Shelley wrote her remarkable novel "Frankenstein."
Cannon Street is part of the chief road of Roman London, and had been a main road for the Britons before the invasion of the Romans, At a meeting point of this road with several others was the Roman central milestone from which distances on all roads were measured. Here a stone was set up 2000 years ago, and all that remains of it to-day is called "London Stone," and may yet be seen. It is set in the outer wall of the Church of St. Swithin, the saint who controls the weather, in Cannon Street, and is protected with an iron lattice work. This stone was superstitiously looked upon as something that afforded protection to citizens and a defence for the city. The Kentish rebel, Jack Cade, so believed it when he entered London in 1450, calling himself John Mortimer and made straight for London Stone. Arrived there, he struck it with his sword and declared himself lord of the city. Shakespeare has him say in Henry VI.:
"Now is Mortimer lord of this city. And here, sitting upon London Stone, I charge and command that the conduit run nothing but claret wine this first year of our reign. And now henceforth it shall be treason for any that calls me other than Lord Mortimer."
London Stone remained by the roadside until 1742, when being in danger of extinction as an interferer with traffic, it was placed close by the church door. In 1798 it was given the place in the church wall where it is now.
St. Mary, Abchurch, was finished by Wren in 1689. Here was buried—the monument can still be seen—Sir Patience Ward, a Lord Mayor of London, under whose administration the Monument to the Great Fire was built.
The official residence of the Lord Mayor, the Mansion House, was built 150 years ago, on a spot where a fish market called Stocks Market had been since 1282. The market was named from a pair of "stocks" which long stood on the spot and were used for the exhibition of offenders, and which continued near by after the market was established.
Where Lombard Street touches King William Street, is the church of St. Mary Woolnoth, an old church rebuilt by Nicholas Hawksmoor, the "domestic clerk" of Sir Christopher Wren. Here John Newton, the friend of Cowper the poet, was rector for 28 years, and here he was buried.
The thoroughfare of bankers, Lombard Street, got its name from the Longbards, rich bankers who settled in the district during the reign of Edward II. They used as their emblem three golden balls, derived from the lower part of the arms of the Dukes of Medici. These continue to this day as the sign of the money lenders. Many romantic associations belong to this street. Here lived, with her goldsmith husband, Jane Shore, described by King Edward IV. as "the merriest harlot of his reign," and who after the king's death was accused of witchcraft by the Duke of Gloucester, put in open penance at Paul's Cross, and made to walk through Fleet Street with a lighted taper in her hand.
Pope's Head Alley, the footway leading south from the Royal Exchange, from Cornhill to Lombard Street, is where in the earliest years of the 13th century, King John had his City palace. The roadway took its name from the famous tavern of the Pope's Head, which after 1430 stood for three hundred years on the westerly side.
To the south of the Royal Exchange, in Change Alley, centred, in the first quarter of the 18th century, the excitement attending the South Sea Bubble affair. This was the great stock gambling scheme by which the South Sea Company, holding a monopoly of the trade with the South Seas, and trading on the extravagant ideas the public had of such trade, created an extraordinary desire in many persons to participate in the fabulous profits. The company was carried on by fraud and deceit until the bubble burst and caused disaster and ruin to thousands of unwise investors. Gay, in his "Panegyrical Epistle," writing of the South Sea project said:
Why did 'Change Alley waste thy precious hours
Among the fools who gaped for golden showers?
No wonder they were caught by South Sea schemes
Who ne'er enjoyed a guinea but in dreams.
Garraway's Coffee House in Change Alley was used chiefly by the Bubble traders in 1720. At this house in 1651, tea was first sold in England, the proprietor in his announcement recommending it as a cure for all disorders. It certainly has been used extensively ever since. Next door was Jonathan's Coffee House, another tavern of long existence. Both places were burned in 1748, and a bank now marks where they once were.
Plough Court opens out of the south side of Lombard Street. The court is notable as the birthplace of Alexander Pope, and his father here kept a linen draper shop.
In the church of St. Edmund, which has stood for a century and a quarter on the north side of Lombard Street, Joseph Addison was married in 1716, just after the amazing success of his "Tragedy of Cato," to the Dowager Countess of Warwick—a marriage which Thackeray referred to as "his splendid but dismal union." Three years later Addison died.
Quaint and curious is the position of All Hallows, known as the invisible church, literally buried by surrounding houses and approached only through a narrow alley on the north side of Lombard Street. It was in an open space when it was completed in 1694, but the buildings of the City have gradually crowded about it, as though trying to crush it out of existence.
St. Margaret Pattens, in Eastcheap at the Rood Lane corner, is a church of 1678, designed by Wren, and taking its name from the district in which, in the 17th century, pattens were generally sold. Dr. Thomas Birch, author of the "Memoirs of the Reign of Elizabeth," was long its rector. He died in 1766 and was buried beneath the chancel.
Mincing Lane borrowed its name from the Minchens or nuns of St. Helen, and this order once owned all the ground hereabouts.
The Elephant, a tavern of great note, stood where is now the northwest corner of Fenchurch Street at Ironmonger's Alley. It was a massive building of stone, and one of the few in this neighbourhood sturdy enough to resist the Great Fire. When the flames rushed by leaving a desert of ruins on every side, the Elephant was a refuge for many who were left homeless. It was taken down in 1826. At the Elephant lived the great picture satirist, William Hogarth, in 1697, at a time when he was very poor indeed,
At the northern end of Mark Lane, crowded about by business houses, may be seen a fine old church tower. In the Great Fire of 1666, this tower of All Hallows, Staining, escaped though the church itself was destroyed. It is reached by narrow Star Alley, on the west side of Mark Lane, and stands in a bit of the old churchyard which is now the court of the Cloth-workers' Hall. It was to All Hallows that Queen Elizabeth came to offer up thanks after her deliverance from the Tower.
Hart Street is very short, which makes it easy to discern where once was the house of Richard Whittington, the Lord Mayor of London, on the north side of the road where the fourth house east of Mark Lane now stands. Here, in "Whittington's Palace," Henry V. visited the Mayor, and here Whittington destroyed the king's note for a debt of 60,000 pounds. At which the king cried out: "No other king has had such a subject." To which Whittington bowed low and made answer: "Sire, never had subject such a king." Perhaps they were both right.
The picturesque gateway decorated with skulls, in narrow Seething Lane by Hart Street, is an entrance way to the old church of St. Olave, which escaped the Great Fire. This is the church frequented by Samuel Pepys, who lived close by in Seething Lane. The pew he occupied is still to be seen here, facing the memorial to Mrs. Pepys on the north side of the church. It was from the tower of St. Olave that Pepys watched the great City burn. Both he and his wife were buried here. The skulls surmounting the gate were in remembrance of the plague of 1665, when 100,000 persons died, and many of the victims were buried in this churchyard. In the register yet may be seen entry of the burial of Mary Ramsey, with the fatal letter "P" beside it, for she it is who was supposed to have brought the plague into Landon.
Aldgate Pump, which has not been in use since 1875, stands at the junction of Leadenhall and Fenchurch streets. Dickens mentions the old pump very often in his books. In "Dombey and Son," Mr. Toots walked to the pump and back for relaxation; and to this neighbourhood Fagan removed secretly when he feared the result of the revelations of Oliver Twist.
The Aldgate was the principal eastern gate of the City in Roman days and later. In 1374 the rooms above the gate were leased by the corporation to Chaucer the poet, for life. In 1471, the gate was attacked by Thomas Neville, the Bastard of Falconbergh, when at the moment of success he was separated from his men and killed. It was demolished in 1760, and there is now no trace of it.
The church of St. Catherine Cree, in Leadenhall Street since 1631, was built on the foundations of an older church. Hans Holbein lived close by the original church, and was buried here when, in 1546, he died of the plague.
In Leadenhall Street at the St. Mary Axe corner, the turreted church of St. Andrew Under-shaft takes its name from the fact that in olden times there stood before it, towering above its height, a tall shaft. The church, built in 1520, is almost five hundred years old. To this day the passer-by wonders at the big rings of iron set in its wall. In these rings the shaft or Maypole rested after the May-day sports were over. In the reign of Edward VI. the Maypole was burned, because a preacher at Paul's Cross had told the people they had made an idol of it by naming their parish church "under the shaft." The tomb of John Stow, author of the "Survey of London," is still to be seen here. Stow was a tailor, and his book is thought to be the most important work on London ever written. His efforts were not regarded in his lifetime, and being in great poverty when he was 80 years old, he applied to James I. for aid, receiving only a license to beg for a living—which he did. He died in 1605.
The buildings of the East India Company were to be found where Lime Street touches Leadenhall at the northeast corner. There Charles Lamb, the essayist and critic, worked. He entered the accountants' office of the company and worked each day at his desk for thirty years until he was retired on a pension. He has said that he found recreation in his writings, and that his true works were to be found in the hundreds of folios he had filled for the East India Company and that were filed away in their archives. The East India was a commercial company of renown, which came into existence in 1599 having its main offices here where had been the home of Lord Craven. The building was restored many times, and finally removed in 1862.
There is nothing to be seen of an historic old church in narrow Cornhill Street, so hemmed in is it, except a tower above the roofs topped by a wind vane in the shape of a great key. Yet this church of St. Peter's, which has been here since 1681, is most interesting, for the claim is set up that it stands on the earliest consecrated ground in England. In the vestry a tablet tells of how it was "originally founded in 179 A. D. by Lucius, the first Christian King of this land, then called Britain."
The house where Thomas Gray, the writer of the "Elegy written in a Country Churchyard," was born, used to be where the building numbered 41 Cornhill now stands.
A carved doorway of quaint design, between two shop windows, and a tower above the housetops, are all that may be seen of the church of St. Michael's in narrow Cornhill. This church was built by Wren when he was 90 years old.