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BY WAY OF THE TOWER AND LONDON BRIDGE
IN a passageway leading out of Brick Lane at No. 120 is still to be seen the large room, pleasantly and airily situated at the top of a safe and commodious ladder, where, in "Pickwick Papers," Dickens located "The Brick Lane Branch of the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association." It is as Dickens pictured it, except that now the Mission Hall is below at the foot of the ladder, and the former mission room at the top is now a shop. It was here that Brother Tadger stumbled up the ladder with Mr. Stiggins, and in the room above Sam Weller and his father found the ladies drinking tea "until such time as they considered it expedient to leave off." And if they are still in England it is safe to say that they have never left off but are still drinking tea.
In Commercial Street, Whitechapel, at the corner of Flower and Dean Street, is a dull and superior looking four story clothier's wareroom. Though it does not seem it, this building has a history, for years ago and until 1882 it was a cooking depot for the workers of this neighbourhood, conducted upon the co-operative system. Dickens, in the "Uncommercial Traveller" paper called "The Boiled Beef of New England," gives an account of the workings and merits of this establishment.
The Minories leads from the Tower to Aldgate High Street. Black and grim at the head of this thoroughfare, rises the spire of the church of St. Botolph. This structure, built in 1744, is on the site of an ancient church. Here is still preserved the head of the Duke of Suffolk, father of Lady Jane Grey, a relic formerly kept in the church of Holy Trinity.
Off this busy street called Minories, the first turning south of Aldgate is a narrow hidden way called Church Street. Here, literally buried from sight, is the tiny yellow and ancient church of Holy Trinity, once belonging to an abbey of Minorites which was founded by Blanche, Queen of Navarre, now used as a parish chapel of St. Botolph Aldgate. Many persons sought out this church in the past, to look upon the head of the Duke of Suffolk, father of Lady Jane Grey, who was executed on nearby Tower Hill in 1554, and whose head was preserved as a relic here for more than three centuries until its removal to St. Botolph Aldgate where it is now.
The Little Wooden Midshipman, marking Sol Gills' instrument shop told of in "Dombey and Son," is now used as a sign by an instrument maker at 9 Minories E. The firm employing the sign formerly were located in Leadenhall Street, just as was Sol Gills' shop which Dickens has made so real to all of us.
In Wellclose Square beyond the Tower, is a building that is more than three hundred years old, and in it are still to be seen the oldest police cells in London. Under them is the entrance to a subway which tradition says once led direct to the Tower. The house is now used as a club. The cells are in the rear of the building, and reached by a winding stone stairway. They are dark and stifling. Many names and inscriptions are carved on the wooden walls. There is still to be deciphered the name of Edward Burk hanged for murder; that of Edward Ray, December 27, 1758, and another inscription reading "Francis Brittain, June 27, 1758. Remember the poor debtors."
The Tower of London, quite the most ancient and historic of English fortresses, begun by William the Conqueror, has been successively a royal palace, a State Prison, and is to-day a barracks and an arsenal. The most ancient portion of the fortress, The White Tower, is still standing. In this Tower of London, Richard II. while imprisoned, was deposed; Henry VI. was murdered by the Duke of Gloucester; the Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV., was drowned in a butt of wine; the princes, Edward V. and his brother, were murdered by order of their uncle, Duke of Gloucester, who thereafter took possession of the throne as Richard III. Here Henry VIII. received in state all his wives before he married them; here were imprisoned countless subjects, among them Archbishop Cranmer; Shakespeare's patron the Earl of Southampton, and Prince James of Scotland. Here Sir Walter Raleigh wrote, while a prisoner, his "History of the World." Here were executed Queen Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. On the Thames side may still be seen the double water gate, called the Traitors' Gate, through which prisoners charged with high treason were brought into the Tower. Through this gate passed the princess who was afterwards Queen Elizabeth, exclaiming as she entered: "Here landeth as true a subject, being a prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs; and before Thee, O God, I speak it." Rich in memories, indeed, is this grimmest of grim monuments consecrated by time and the tears and blood of many captives.
Where Trinity Gardens are now, to the west of the Tower and at the end of Great Tower Hill, stood the scaffold where political and state prisoners were sent from the Tower to be executed. With few exceptions, only queens were executed within the Tower walls, so that the greater number of historical executions took place outside them. Here met death, Protector Somerset, Sir John More, Cromwell, Earl of Essex; James Fitzroy, Duke of Monmouth, Sir Thomas Wyatt, and many another. The last execution on Tower Hill, and the last person beheaded in England, was Simon, Lord Lovat, in 1747. In his last moments he said how remarkable it seemed that a great gathering should think it worth while to assemble to see a grey head taken off. A stone in Trinity Square Gardens marks the exact site of the scaffold. These gardens are a touch of pleasing contrast close beside grimy warehouses, and in the daytime the constant din of business life throbs on every side, an offset to their quietness. Otway, the poet, lived and died on Tower Hill, and on Tower Hill William Penn was born.
THE TOWER OF LONDON
At the head of Tower Street is the church of All Hallows, Barking, founded by the nuns of Barking Abbey during the reign of Richard I. Bloody Judge Jeffreys, the leader of the Bloody Assizes, was married here, as was also John Quincy Adams. William Penn, born close by, was here baptised.
When Peter the Great visited London in 1698, he frequented a tavern which stood on the spot where The Czar's Head is now opposite the church of All Hallows, Barking.
Lower Thames Street is as old as the City itself. It is enclosed by tall warehouses and shipping marts. Chaucer, sometimes called the father of English poetry, lived in this street, where his father was a vintner.
St. Dunstan's-in-the-East stands where St. Dunstan's Hill and Idol Lane meet, between Little Thames and Tower streets. In the building of this church Wren made his first effort at perching a steeple upon quadrangular columns. Though the work was much criticised, the architect was well satisfied with the effect.
Once when told that a violent windstorm had toppled over all the steeples of the City churches Wren exclaimed, "Not St. Dunstan's, I'm sure." For many years Archbishop Morton, the tutor of Sir Thomas More, was rector of this church.
Further to the west, St. Mary at Hill was damaged in the Great Fire and afterwards repaired and reconstructed by Wren in 1672. Here Dr. Young, author of the tranquil "Night Thoughts," was married in 1731. For many years John Brand, the author of "The Popular Antiquitus," was rector of this church and was buried here.
The bad language of Billingsgate is proverbial all over the world. Since the reign of Elizabeth there has been a market where Billingsgate Market is now—the chief fish mart of London. Originally it was a place for the sale of all sorts of provisions, but has been exclusively set apart for the sale of fish since the time of William III., and the wharf of Billingsgate is the oldest on the Thames.
On Fish Street Hill is a fluted Doric stone column, two hundred feet high, crowned by a flaming urn of brass. This was erected in 1671 as a memorial of the Great Fire of 1666. It has 345 steps leading to the top. When the Monument was first set up an inscription was put on it which wrongly traced the cause of the Great Fire to "the treachery and malice of the Popish faction, in order to carry out their horrid plot for extirpating the Protestant religion." And Pope, writing of the Monument, and referring to the charge of the inscription as without foundation, said:
Where London's column, pointing to the skies, Like a tall bully, lifts the head and lies.
On the spot where King William joins Cannon Street is the statue of King William IV. Here for generations stood a celebrated tavern called the Boar's Head. Shakespeare speaks often of this house in his plays, making it the scene of the revels of Falstaff and the Prince (afterwards Henry V.). The original tavern was destroyed in the Great Fire but was immediately rebuilt. In 1739 it was doubtless the principal tavern of London. In 1831 it was demolished.
The church of St. Clement, Eastcheap, close by the statue of William IV. in King William Street, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The parishoners were very proud of their church when it was finished and they gave the great architect a hogshead of wine costing 2S. 0d., and then were so pleased with their own liberality that this fact was placed in the church records and the entry may be seen to this day.
In Pudding Lane south of the Monument the Great Fire of 1666 started, raged for six days and destroyed three-quarters of London.
Miles Coverdale, Bishop of Exeter, who made the first complete English translation of the Bible in 1535, was at one time rector of the church of St. Magnus the Martyr at the foot of Fish Street Hill. He was buried here and to the right of the altar is a tablet explaining that :
On the 4 of October 1535, the
first complete English Version
of the Bible was published under
The first London Bridge was begun in 1176 and completed in 1209 under the direction of Peter of Colechurch chaplain of the church of St. Mary, Colechurch, in the Poultry. Narrow and poorly paved, at each end was a fortified gate, with a chapel in the centre. On the gatehouse were exposed from time to time heads of poor fellows executed for treason. There were twenty arches and a drawbridge for vessels, for most of the arches were too narrow to permit the passage of boats. Afterwards houses were built on the bridge so that it greatly resembled a regular street. When the inhabitants needed water they lowered buckets by ropes from their windows. In 1481 the houses tottered in decay and fell in one block into the river. They were replaced and not finally removed until 1757. Wat Tyler and his followers entered the City over this bridge, and Jack Cade and his rebel army chose the same way. Until 1769, London Bridge was the only archway over the Thames. The present structure was commenced in 1825, taking the place of the old bridge but about sixty yards further up the river.
In the church of St. Michaels on College Hill, built by Sir Christopher Wren, there is a memorial window to Dick Whittington who was buried in the old church on this site--a church that was destroyed by the Great Fire.
St. James Garlickhithe in Thames Street, erected in 1683, came by its name because in earlier times garlic was usually sold close by along the waterside. Steele has recorded that it was in this church he first really came to understand the Common Prayer. For here he "heard the service read so distinctly, so emphatically, and so fervently, that it was next to an impossibility to be inattentive."
Of the church of St. Mary, Somerset, in Upper Thames Street, only the tower of the original structure remains, that being spared by a special Act of Parliament when the old church was demolished in 1868.
Where the red brick church of St. Benet's, Paul's Wharf, is now, used to be an earlier church, destroyed in the Great Fire. In the older church Inigo Jones was buried in 1652, and his tomb was not restored when the present structure was set up by Wren in 1682.
By the riverside just to the east of where the Fleet stream flowed into the Thames and in the district south of the present Queen Victoria Street stood Bayard's Castle, where the Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III., lived. Here the crown of England was offered him, and here he with pretence of humility at first refused it. The remains of the castle were swept away in the Great Fire. This was the second castle of the name on this site, the first having been that of Robert Fitz Walter a malcontent Baron who fled after refusing allegiance to King John, who in return destroyed his castle. It was here that King John made violent but unsuccessful love to the Baron's daughter, Maud Fitz Walter.
Close by where the Victoria Embankment ends at Blackfriars Bridge and extending broadly to the north was the Black Friars Monastery, dating from 1276. This Monastery grew in time to great importance because of the favours bestowed upon it by Edward I- Here this king deposited the heart of his beloved queen Eleanor although her body was placed in Westminster Abbey. And it was here, in 1529, Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio gave judgment against Catherine of Aragon in her divorce.
Playhouse Yard covers the site of the first theatre set up in the Blackfriars neighbourhood. The larger part of the Monastery was demolished by Sir Thomas Cawarden, Master of the King's Revels, when it was granted to him by Edward VI. Cawarden's executor, Sir William More, continued the demolition, granting a bit of the site for the Blackfriars Theatre to James Burbage the actor. Burbage conducted the Blackfriars Theatre as a private playhouse, in contrast to the public theatres of the time. Nobility supported it almost entirely. Unlike the other playhouses the pit as well as the galleries was entirely roofed over. Also in the pit there were seats, an unusual feature. In ordinary theatres the pit was filled with persons who ate, drank and made merry while the play went on as best it could, but at the Blackfriars nothing of the sort was permitted. There was, too, an unusually good orchestra, the musicians paying for the privilege of performing here where they were sure of attracting the attention of the nobility.
Famous Bridewell Prison, founded by King Edward VI., stood on what is now the westerly side of New Bridge near by Tudor Street. Fleet Brook occupied the space which is now New Bridge Street, extending as far as to the Holborn Viaduct of this day. The prison got its name from the holy spring of St. Bride's in this neighbourhood, the waters of which were supposed to effect miraculous cures. Before the prison was built, the site was occupied by the Palace of the Bridewell. Here the Lords of Court together with the Mayor and Aldermen were summoned by Henry VIII. when he was smitten with love for Anne Boleyn, to hear of the scruples that tormented him because of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. It was here, too, that Shakespeare places an act of his play of Henry VIII.
The wonderful City of London was once a cluster of huts on a wooded slope of ground which in these days is known as Ludgate Hill. Roman London was enclosed by a wall which extended from about where the Tower is now to Ludgate Hill, and from Ludgate Circus to the Thames River. It had several gates now called to mind by the streets Aldgate, Bishops-gate, Moorgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate, Newgate and Ludgate. This wall was built of brick and cement as hard as stone. The old Lud Gate stood about three parts of the way down Ludgate Hill and the name was derived from the legendary king, Lud. It was removed in 1760.
St. Martin's Church on Ludgate Hill was built by Wren, but an older church stood there before the Great Fire, and in this Cadwallo, King of the Britons was buried in 677. The tall and simple spire of the present structure contrasts strangely with nearby St. Paul's, and it is with St. Martin's partly in mind that one poet wrote:
Lo, like a bishop upon dainties fed,
St. Paul's lifts up his sacredotal head;
While his lean curates, slim and lank to view,
Around him point their steeples to the blue.
On the west side of Old Bailey the second house south of Ship Court, numbered 68, is where Jonathan Wild world-famed thief and receiver of stolen goods, lived. He was hanged at Tyburn in 1725 and true to himself to the last stole the pocket-book of the parson who accompanied him in the cart on the way to the gallows. Henry Fielding wrote of the career of this noted criminal in his novel "Jonathan Wild."
Where Farringdon Street is now once flowed the Fleet Brook, so wide that ships sailed through it as far as to where Holborn Viaduct is to-day. In its course the Fleet passed through a deep cut called the Hole Bourne. From this came the name Holborn. The Viaduct of to-day bridges the Hole Bourne of old. On the east side of the Fleet Brook lay the notorious Fleet Prison for debtors close by where Fleet Lane is in this day. The main gate house of the prison was on the site of the nearby Congregational Memorial Hall. The clandestine Fleet marriages in this noisome place became notorious, being performed without let or hindrance and with no regard for existing laws, by unscrupulous clergymen among the debt prisoners encouraged by attendants who reaped ill gotten gains for their services. Outside the prison regular "runners" gathered in couples and gave every opportunity and encouragement for quick and illegal marriage. It was not unusual for two hundred marriages to take place in a single day. In this prison Mr. Pickwick of Dickens' "Pickwick Papers," was confined after he refused to pay the damages awarded to Mrs. Bardell. In 1846 the Fleet was demolished.
In the narrow passageway called Gunpowder Alley, jutting off Shoe Lane to the westward, Richard Lovelace died in a cellar, literally of starvation, in 1658. The house on the north side, second from Shoe Lane, stands on the site. Lovelace was the handsomest and most accomplished of the group of poets who gathered around Queen Henrietta. He was committed to prison in 1646 on account of his rebellious sympathy for Charles I., and on his release went to France to raise a regiment. He wrote to Lucy Sacheverell, to whom he was engaged, the poem containing the lines:
I could not love thee, dear, so much
Loved I not honour more.
But the lady receiving news of his supposed death in France was married when he returned.
Fleet Street, still the centre of the newspaper and printing industries, is reminiscent of the literary associations of many decades. It takes its name from Fleet Brook which once crossed it at its eastern end. The stream still exists and now in the form of a great sewer flows under Farringdon Street and New Bridge Street, emptying into the Thames under Blackfriars Bridge. It was through Fleet Street in 1448 that Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, walked on her way to St. Paul's bareheaded, bearing a lighted candle as penance for having made a waxen figure of the king, that melted before a fire as she would have had his life slowly waste away.
At the east end of Fleet Street, surrounded by buildings is St. Bride's Church. It is only a few steps from Fleet Street if you happen to be familiar with any of the narrow ways that pierce into the centre of the block. But if you do not know the mystery of the block you will walk all around the church within sight of its two hundred and odd feet high steeple without coming to it. The church was built by Wren in 1680. In the centre aisle is the grave of Samuel Richardson the author who lived close by in Salisbury Square and who died in 1761. Beside the church in the present St. Bride's Lane Milton lived with a tailor named Russell. He moved here in 1640, and here wrote his treatises "Of Practical Episcopacy," "Of Reformation" and some others.
From 76 Fleet Street Salisbury Court is entered communicating direct with Salisbury Square. In the house numbered 9 at the southwest corner of the Square Samuel Richardson, the printer-novelist author of "Clarissa Harlowe," had his printing office and here Oliver Goldsmith for a time acted as a reader for him. Johnson was a friend of Richardson and often came to his printing shop, as did Hogarth the great satirist.
Tudor Street cuts through the very centre of the district once called "Alsatia" occupying the space between the river and Fleet Street. This was a cant name for Whitefriars. The neighbourhood had certain privileges of sanctuary derived from an old convent of the Carmelites or White Friars and was the abode of lawless classes. Scott immortalised it in the "Fortunes of Nigel."
Wine Office Court opens from Fleet Street and a few yards from the entrance is the Cheshire Cheese, the famous low-ceilinged, sanded-floored dining place of Dr. Johnson, looking doubtless much as it did in the days when Johnson and Goldsmith so often dined here together.
Goldsmith lived for a long time in Wine Office Court at No. 6 and it is here he is said to have written the "Vicar of Wakefield." His house has been replaced by a modern structure and the old Vicar and his daughters Olivia and Sophia would hardly feel at home now.
At the top of Wine Office Court is Gough Square and in a corner house numbered 17 may be found a tablet telling that Dr. Samuel Johnson once lived within. That was almost one hundred and fifty years ago but the house is very little changed outwardly. Within it is wholly given up to business. Of all the houses Johnson occupied in London this is the only one still standing. Here the greater part of his dictionary was written and here Mrs. Johnson died.
In Bolt Court the last years of Dr. Johnson's life were spent in the house No. 8, long since demolished. Here he died in 1784.
Johnson's Court a blind alley off Fleet Street was not named for Dr. Samuel Johnson although many persons believe so because Dr. Johnson lived here for a time on the site where No. 7 is now. The old " Monthly Magazine " had offices here in 1833, when Charles Dickens came and through the oaken doorway with uncertain hand dropped his first manuscript into the yawning opening of the letter box, that might or might not bring back good news.
At the head of Crane Court which opens out of Fleet Street is the spot selected by Sir Isaac Newton as "the middle of town and out of noise." Newton was president of the Royal Society and that body occupied the house from 1710 to 1762. The old house was burned in 1877 and a modern structure erected.
Fetter Lane evidently had an ill start taking its name from its early inhabitants the "Faitours" or beggars.
St. Dunstan's-in-the-West with its wondrous tower of fretwork is in Fleet Street close by Chancery Lane and is a restoration of 1831.
In Fleet Street opposite the gateway to the Temple once stood the old Cock Tavern which was swept away when Temple Bar was removed, and now exists in modern form close by on the south side. A cock is still the sign of the place, said to have been carved by Grinling Gibbons.
It is this tavern that Tennyson speaks of in his "Will Waterproof's Lyric":
Oh plump head waiter at The Cock
To which I most resort.
Samuel Pepys went often to the Cock Tavern, once with the elegant Mrs. Knipp and has left the record that they ate a lobster, sang and made merry until midnight—at which Mrs. Pepys was much annoyed.
Child's Bank close by the Temple Bar Griffin on the south side of Fleet Street, is the oldest of England's banking houses dating from the time of Charles I. when the first Francis Child, an apprentice to William Wheeler the goldsmith, married his master's daughter and by thrift and industry founded the fortunes of the great institution. The present bank stands on the site of the old Devil Tavern that for two hundred years was the haunt of men of letters. Here Ben Jonson had his social headquarters gathering around him in the famous Apollo Room wits of all degree.
In his day, Oliver Goldsmith was a most conscientious member of the shilling whist that met at the Devil Tavern. Several practical jokers in the club were quite in sympathy one evening when Goldsmith arrived and explained that he had given the cabman a guinea instead of a shilling. At the next meeting Goldsmith was surprised at being summoned to the door by a cabman who returned the guinea. He was quite overpowered and collected small sums from the other members, contributing heavily himself, and rewarded the cabman. He was still expatiating upon the honesty of the lower classes when one of the guests asked to see the returned guinea. It was counterfeit and in reality so was the cabman. Goldsmith realising that he had been imposed upon by his facetious colleagues retired amid a burst of much laughter.
Two doors to the south of the Devil Tavern towards the east Bernard Lintot had his bookshop. John Gay the poet who wrote "The Beggar's Opera," went himself to impress upon the book man the importance of having his books exposed for sale, and afterwards, in 1711, said in his "Trivia":
oh, Lintot, let my labours obvious lie
Ranged on thy stall for every envious eye.