The Project Gutenberg EBook of Westminster, by Sir Walter Besant and Geraldine Edith Mitton and A. Murray Smith This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Westminster The Fascination of London Author: Sir Walter Besant Geraldine Edith Mitton A. Murray Smith Release Date: May 31, 2007 [EBook #21648] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WESTMINSTER *** Produced by Susan Skinner and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
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By Sir Walter Besant and G. E. Mitton.
THE STRAND DISTRICT.
By Sir Walter Besant and G. E. Mitton.
By G. E. Mitton. Edited by Sir Walter Besant.
By G. E. Mitton. Edited by Sir Walter Besant.
SIR WALTER BESANT
G. E. MITTON
With a Chapter on the Abbey
by Mrs. A. Murray Smith
ADAM & CHARLES BLACK
A survey of London, a record of the greatest of all cities, that should preserve her history, her historical and literary associations, her mighty buildings, past and present, a book that should comprise all that Londoners love, all that they ought to know of their heritage from the past—this was the work on which Sir Walter Besant was engaged when he died.
As he himself said of it: "This work fascinates me more than anything else I've ever done. Nothing at all like it has ever been attempted before. I've been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day."
He had seen one at least of his dreams realized in the People's Palace, but he was not destined to see this mighty work on London take form. He died when it was still incomplete. His scheme included several volumes on the history of London as a whole. These he finished up to the end of the eighteenth century, and they form a record of the great city practically unique, and exception[Pg vi]ally interesting, compiled by one who had the qualities both of novelist and historian, and who knew how to make the dry bones live. The volume on the eighteenth century, which Sir Walter called a "very big chapter indeed, and particularly interesting," will shortly be issued by Messrs. A. and C. Black, who had undertaken the publication of the Survey.
Sir Walter's idea was that the next two volumes should be a regular and systematic perambulation of London by different persons, so that the history of each parish should be complete in itself. This was a very original feature in the great scheme, and one in which he took the keenest interest. Enough has been done of this section to warrant its issue in the form originally intended, but in the meantime it is proposed to select some of the most interesting of the districts and publish them as a series of booklets, attractive alike to the local inhabitant and the student of London, because much of the interest and the history of London lie in these street associations. For this purpose Chelsea, Westminster, the Strand, and Hampstead have been selected for publication first, and have been revised and brought up to date.
The difficulty of finding a general title for the series was very great, for the title desired was one that would express concisely the undying charm[Pg vii] of London—that is to say, the continuity of her past history with the present times. In streets and stones, in names and palaces, her history is written for those who can read it, and the object of the series is to bring forward these associations, and to make them plain. The solution of the difficulty was found in the words of the man who loved London and planned the great scheme. The work "fascinated" him, and it was because of these associations that it did so. These links between past and present in themselves largely constitute The Fascination of London.
G. E. M.
|South of Victoria Street||1|
|North of Victoria Street||24|
|The Heart of Westminster||40|
|Map at end of Volume.|
The word Westminster used in the title does not mean that city which has its boundaries stretching from Oxford Street to the river, from the Broad Walk, Kensington Gardens, to Temple Bar. A city which embraces the parishes of St. George's, Hanover Square; St. James's, Piccadilly; St. Anne's, Soho; St. Paul's, Covent Garden; St. Clement Danes; St. Mary le Strand, etc.; and which claims to be older even than London, dating its first charter from the reign of King Edgar. But, rather, Westminster in its colloquial sense, that part of the city which lies within the parishes of St. Margaret and St. John. When anyone says, 'I am going to Westminster,' or, 'I am staying in Westminster,' it is this district that he means to indicate.
The parishes of St. Margaret and St. John include the land bounded on one side by the[Pg 2] river; on another by a line running through the Horse Guards and diagonally across St. James's Park to Buckingham Gate; and on the third by an irregular line which crosses Victoria Street to the west of Carlisle Place, and subsequently cuts across the Vauxhall Bridge Road near Francis Street, and, continuing at a slight angle to the course of the Bridge Road, strikes the river at a spot beyond the gasworks between Pulford Terrace and Bessborough Place. There is also another piece of land belonging to St. Margaret's parish; this lies detached, and includes part of Kensington Gardens and the Round Pond; but it is only mentioned to show it has not been overlooked, for the present account will not deal with it. The triangular space roughly indicated above is sufficient for one ramble.
Within this space stand, and have stood, so many magnificent buildings closely connected with the annals of England that Westminster may well claim to occupy a unique place in the history of the nation. The effects of two such buildings as the Abbey and Palace upon its population were striking and unique.
The right of sanctuary possessed by the Abbey drew thieves, villains, and rogues of all kinds to its precincts. The Court drew to the Palace a crowd of hangers-on, attendants, artificers, work-people, etc. When the Court was migratory this[Pg 3] great horde swept over Westminster at intervals like a wave, and made a floating population. In the days of"touching" for "King's evil," when the Court was held at Whitehall, vast crowds of diseased persons gathered to Westminster to be touched. In Charles II.'s time weekly sittings were appointed at which the number of applicants was not to exceed 200. Between 1660-64, 23,601 persons were"touched." Later, when the roads were still too bad to be traversed without danger, many of the members of Parliament lodged in Westminster while the House was sitting. Therefore, from the earliest date, when bands of travellers and merchants came down the great north road, and passed through the marshes of Westminster to the ferry, until the beginning of the present century, there has always been a floating element mingling with the stationary inhabitants of the parishes.
The perambulation of Westminster, undertaken street by street, differs from that made at Chelsea or elsewhere by reason of the great buildings[Pg 4] aforementioned, which are centres of interest and require particular notice. These will be dealt with as they occur, and so interesting are they that they cause the street associations to sink into a position of secondary importance.
Beginning at the least interesting end of Westminster—that is to say, the west end of Victoria Street—there are not many objects of interest apparent. Victoria Street was in 1852 cut through nests of alleys and dirty courts, including a colony of almshouses, cottages, chapel, and school, known as Palmer's Village. The solid uniform buildings on either side of the street have a very sombre aspect; they are mainly used for offices. There is still some waste ground lying to the south of Victoria Street, in spite of the great Roman Catholic Cathedral, begun in 1895, which covers a vast area. The material is red brick with facings of stone, and the style Byzantine, the model set being the "early Christian basilica in its plenitude." The high campanile tower, which is already seen all over London, is a striking feature in a building quite dissimilar from those to which we in England are accustomed. The great entrance at the west end has an arch of forty feet span, and encloses three doorways, of which the central one is only to be used on solemn occasions by the Archbishop. One feature of the interior decoration will be the mosaic pictures in[Pg 5] the marble panels. The building is still incomplete, and not open to the public. It stands on the site of Tothill Fields Prison, which was considered to be one of the finest specimens of brickwork in the country, and cost the nation £200,000, but has now completely vanished. It resembled a fortress; the entrance, which stood in Francis Street, was composed of massive granite blocks, and had a portcullis. The prison took the place of a Bridewell or House of Correction near, built in 1622; but in spite of the vast sum of money spent upon it, it lasted only twenty years (1834-54).
The fire-station and Western District Post-Office also occupy part of the same site. The extension of the Army and Navy Stores stands on the site of the Greencoat School, demolished in 1877. Certain gentlemen founded this school; in Charles I.'s reign it was constituted "a body politic and corporate," and the seal bears date 1636. The lads wore a long green skirt, bound round with a red girdle. In 1874, when the United Westminster Schools were formed from the amalgamation of the various school charities of Westminster, the work was begun here, but three years later the boys were removed to the new buildings in Palace Street. The old school buildings were very picturesque. They stood round a quadrangle, and the Master's house faced the entrance, and was decorated with a bust of King[Pg 6] Charles and the royal arms. In the wainscoted board-room hung portraits of King Charles I. by Vandyck, and King Charles II. by Lely.
The name of Artillery Row is connected with the artillery practice at the butts, which stood near here in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. At the end, if we turn to the left, we come into Old Rochester Row, and so to Greycoat Place, in which stands the Greycoat Hospital. This building, one of the few old ones left in the parish, has a red-tiled roof and dormer windows, projecting eaves and heavy window-frames. Two wings enclose a courtyard, which is below the level of the road. Above the central porch, in niches, are the figures of a boy and girl in the old-fashioned Greycoat garb. In the centre are the Royal arms of Queen Anne, and a turret with clock and vane surmounts the roof.
This hospital was founded in 1698 for the education of seventy poor boys and forty poor girls. In 1706, by letters patent of Queen Anne, the trustees were constituted a body 'politic and corporate.' In this year also the school was established in the present quaint building, which had been a workhouse, perhaps that referred to in the vestry reports of 1664 as the "new workhouse in Tuttle ffields."
The boys then wore a long gray skirt and girdle, something similar to the Christ's Hospital uniform,[Pg 7] and the girls a dress of gray. The hospital originated in the charity of the parishioners. Various additions have since been made to the building, and class-rooms have been added. The older class-rooms and board-room are wainscoted. In the latter are oil-paintings of Queen Anne, Bishops Compton and Smalridge (of Bristol), and various governors. The corporate seal represents two male figures tending a young sapling, a reference to 1 Cor. vii. 8. An old organ, contemporary with the date of the establishment, and a massive Bible and Prayer-Book, are among the most interesting relics. The latter, dated 1706, contains the "Prayer for the Healing" at the King's touch.
The hospital is a very wealthy foundation, and is able to support the strain of its immense expenses without difficulty. The governors have recently erected a row of red-brick flats to the west of the garden, which will further augment the income. The garden is charming with flower-beds and grass plots, while the vine and the ampelopsis climb over the old building.
Rochester Row owes its name to the connection of the See of Rochester with the Deanery of Westminster, which continued through nine successive incumbencies. The row was considered by the Dean and Chapter as a private thoroughfare until the beginning of the present century, but they had no reason to be proud of it. A filthy[Pg 8] ditch caused much complaint; even in 1837 the state of the row was described as "shameful and dangerous." At the north-east end stood the parish pound-house. St. Stephen's Church and Schools are handsome, in a decorated Gothic style, and were built in 1847 by Ferrey, at the cost of the Baroness Burdett-Coutts. The spire rises to a height of 200 feet.
Immediately opposite, two neat rows of almshouses, in red brick, face one another; on the exterior wall of each wing is the half-length effigy of a man in a niche. Beneath that on the northern wing is the inscription: "Mr. Emery Hill, late of the parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster, founded these almshouses Anno Domini 1708. Christian Reader, in Hopes of thy Assistance." On each side similar inscriptions commemorate donations.
On the southern wing the slab beneath the figure bears the words: "Rev. James Palmer founded almshouses in Palmer's Passage for six poor old men and six poor old women Anno Domini 1856; re-erected here, 1881"; and a further record: "Mr. Nicholas Butler founded the almshouses in Little Chapel Street, near Palmer's Passage, for two of the most ancient couples of the best repute, Anno Domini 1675; re-erected here 1881." These are the Westminster United Almshouses. They were consolidated by an order[Pg 9] of the Charity Commission, dated July 11, 1879. The Grenadier Guards Hospital is further down the row on the same side.
Vincent Square is the Westminster School playground. This space, of about ten acres of land, has been the subject of much dispute between the Dean and Chapter and the parish. It was first marked out as a playground in 1810, but not enclosed by railings until 1842. Dr. Vincent, Headmaster of the school and formerly Dean of Westminster, took the lead in the matter, and the enclosure is therefore named after him. The ground is now levelled, and forms magnificent playing-fields; from the south end there is a fine view of many-towered Westminster. The hospital of the Coldstream Guards is in one corner of the Square, and next to it the Westminster Police Court. St. Mary's Church and Schools are on the south side. The Grosvenor Hospital for Women and Children is in Douglas Street close by. This originated in a dispensary in 1865.
The ground in the parish already traversed corresponds roughly with that occupied by the once well-known Tothill Fields. Older writers call this indifferently Tuthill, Totehill, Tootehill, but more generally Tuttle. In Timbs' "London and Westminster" we read: "The name of Tot is the old British word Tent (the German Tulsio), god of wayfarers and merchants.... Sacred stones[Pg 10] were set up on heights, hence called Tothills." If ever there were a hill at Tothill Fields, it must have been a very slight one, and in this case it may have been carted away to raise the level elsewhere. We know that St. John's burial-ground was twice covered with three feet of soil, and in the parish accounts we read of gravel being carted from Tothill. The greater part of the ground in any case can have been only low-lying, for large marshy pools remained until comparatively recent times, one of which was known as the Scholars' Pond. Dean Stanley has aptly termed these fields the Smithfield of West London. Here everything took place which required an open space—combats, tournaments, and fairs.
In a map of the middle of the eighteenth century we see a few scattered houses lying to the south of Horseferry Road just below the bend, and Rochester Row stretching like an arm out into the open ground. Two of the great marshy pools are also marked. If all accounts are to be believed, this spot was noted for its fertility and the beauty of its wild-flowers. From Strype's Survey we learn that the fields supplied London and Westminster with "asparagus, artichokes, cauliflowers and musk melons." The author of "Parochial Memorials" says that the names of Orchard Street, Pear Street and Vine Street are reminiscent of the cultivation of fruit in[Pg 11] Westminster, but these names more probably have reference to the Abbot's garden. Walcott says that Tothill Fields, before the Statute of Restraints, was considered to be within the limits of the sanctuary of the Abbey. Stow gives a long and minute account of a trial by battle held here. One of the earliest recorded tournaments held in these fields was at the coronation of Queen Eleanor in 1226.
A great fair held in the fields in 1248 was a failure. All the shops and places of merchandise were shut during the fifteen days that it lasted, by the King's command, but the wind and rain ruined the project.
In 1256 John Mansell, the King's Counsellor and a priest, entertained the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland and so many Dukes, Lords, and Barons, at Westminster that he had not room for them in his own house, but set up tents and pavilions in Tothill.
In 1441 "was the fighting at the Tothill between two thefes, a pelour and a defendant; the pelour hadde the field, and victory of the defendour withinne three strokes."
Both the armies of the Royalists and the Commonwealth were at different times paraded in these fields; of the latter, 14,000 men were here at one time. During 1851-52 Scottish prisoners were brought to Tothill, and many died there, as[Pg 12] the churchwardens' accounts show. In the latter year we read the entry: "Paid to Thomas Wright for 67 load of soyle laid on the graves in Tuthill Fields wherein 1,200 Scotch prisoners (taken at the fight at Worcester) were buried."
It was fifteen years later, in the time of the Great Plague, that the pesthouses came into full use, for we read in the parish records July 14, 1665, "that the Churchwardens doe forthwith proceed to the making of an additional Provision for the reception of the Poore visited of the Plague, at the Pesthouse in Tuttle ffieldes." The first two cases of this terrible visitation occurred in Westminster, and during the sorrowful months that followed, in place of feasting and pageantry, the fields were the theatre for scenes of horror and death. The pesthouses were still standing in 1832.
There was formerly a "maze" in Tothill Fields, which is shown in a print from an engraving by Hollar taken about 1650.
Vauxhall Bridge Road was cut through part of the site belonging to the old Millbank Penitentiary. The traffic to the famous Vauxhall Gardens on the other side of the river once made this a very crowded thoroughfare; at present it is extremely dreary. The Scots Guards Hospital is on the west side.
Turning to the left at the end in the Grosvenor[Pg 13] Road, we soon come to the Tate Gallery of British Art, the magnificent gift of Sir Henry Tate to the nation. Besides the building, the founder gave sixty-five pictures to form the nucleus of a collection. This is said to be the first picture-gallery erected in England complete in itself; the architect is Sydney Smith, F.R.I.B.A., and the style adopted is a Free Classic, Roman with Greek feeling in the mouldings and decorations. There is a fine portico of six Corinthian columns terminating in a pediment, with the figure of Britannia at the central apex, and the lion and unicorn at each end. The basement, of rusticated stone, ten feet high, runs round the principal elevation. A broad flight of steps leads to the central entrance. The front elevation is about 290 feet in length. The vestibule immediately within the principal door leads into an octagonal sculpture hall, top-lighted by a glass dome. There are besides five picture-galleries, also top-lighted. The pictures, which include the work of the most famous British artists, are nearly all labelled with the titles and artists' names, so a catalogue is superfluous. The collection includes the pictures purchased by the Chantrey Bequest, also a gift from G. F. Watts, R.A., of twenty-three of his own works. The gallery is open from ten to six, and on Sundays in summer after two o'clock. Thursdays and Fridays are students' days.[Pg 14]
The gallery stands on the site of the old Millbank Penitentiary, for the scheme of which Howard the reformer was originally responsible. He was annoyed by the rejection of the site he advocated, however, and afterwards withdrew from the project altogether. Wandsworth Fields and Battersea Rise were both discussed as possible sites, but were eventually abandoned in favour of Millbank. Jeremy Bentham, who advocated new methods in the treatment of prisoners, gained a contract from the Government for the erection and management of the new prison. He, however, greatly exceeded the terms of his contract, and finally withdrew, and supervisors were appointed. The prison was a six-rayed building with a chapel in the centre. Each ray was pentagonal in shape, and had three towers on its exterior angles. The whole was surrounded by an octagonal wall overlooking a moat. At the closing of the prison in Tothill Fields it became the sole Metropolitan prison for females, "just as," says Major Griffiths, "it was the sole reformatory for promising criminals, the first receptacle for military prisoners, the great depot for convicts en route for the antipodes."
In 1843 it was called a penitentiary instead of a prison. Gradually, as new methods of prison architecture were evolved, Millbank was recognised as cumbersome and inadequate. It was doomed for many years before its demolition, and[Pg 15] now, like the prison of Tothill Fields, has vanished. Even the convicts' burial-ground at the back of the Tate Gallery is nearly covered with County Council industrial dwellings.
Further northward in the Grosvenor Road, Peterborough House once stood, facing the river, and this was at one time called "the last house in Westminster." It was built by the first Earl of Peterborough, and retained his name until 1735, when it passed to Alexander Davis of Ebury, whose only daughter and heiress had married Sir Thomas Grosvenor. It was by this marriage that the great London property came into the possession of the Grosvenor (Westminster) family. The house was rebuilt, and renamed Grosvenor House. Strype says: "The Earl of Peterborough's house with a large courtyard before it, and a fine garden behind, but its situation is but bleak in winter and not over healthful, as being too near the low meadows on the south and west parts." The house was finally demolished in 1809.
Beyond, in the direction of the Houses of Parliament, there are several interesting old houses, of which the best specimens are Nos. 8 and 9, offices of the London Road Car Company, and No. 10. In the first a well-furnished ceiling proclaims an ancient drawing-room; in the second panelled walls and a spiral staircase set off a fine hall. This house has a beautiful doorway of the[Pg 16] old scallop-shell pattern, with cherubs' heads and ornamental brackets decorating it. In the third house a ceiling is handsomely finished with dental mouldings, and the edges of the panels are all carved. A mantelpiece of white marble is very fine, and of great height and solidity, with a female face as the keystone.
From Lambeth Bridge the Horseferry Road leads westward. This was the main track to the ferry in ancient days, and as the ferry was the only one on the Thames at London, it was consequently of great importance. It was here that James II. crossed after escaping from Whitehall by night, and from his boat he threw the Great Seal into the river. Horseferry Road is strictly utilitarian, and not beautiful; it passes by gasworks, a Roman Catholic church, Wesleyan chapel, Normal Institute and Training College, all of the present century. North of it Grosvenor Road becomes Millbank Street. The Abbot's watermill stood at the end of College Street (further north), and was turned by the stream which still flows beneath the roadway. In an old survey a mill is marked on this spot, and is supposed to have been built by the same Abbot Litlington who built the wall in College Street (1362-1386). It was still standing in 1644, and mention is made of it at that date in the parish books. The bank was a long strip of raised earth,[Pg 17] extending from here to the site of Peterborough House. Strype mentions "the Millbank" as a "certain parcel of land valued in Edward VI.'s time at 58 shillings, and given in the third of his reign" to one Joanna Smith for "services rendered."
Church Street (left) leads into Smith Square. Here stands the Church of St. John the Evangelist. This was the second of Queen Anne's fifty churches built by imposing a duty on coals and culm brought into the Port of London. The new district was formed in 1723, but the consecration ceremony did not take place until June 20, 1728. The architect was Archer, a pupil of Sir John Vanbrugh's, and the style, which is very peculiar, has been described as Doric. The chief features of the church are its four angle belfries, which were not included in the original scheme of the architect, but were added later to insure an equal pressure on the foundations. Owing to these the church has been unkindly compared to an elephant with its four legs up in the air! Another story has it that Queen Anne, being troubled in mind by much wearisome detail, kicked over her wooden footstool, and said, "Go, build me a church like that"; but this sounds apocryphal, especially in view of the fact that the towers were a later addition. The church is undoubtedly cumbrous, but has the merit of originality. In 1742 it was gutted by fire, and was not rebuilt for some time owing[Pg 18] to lack of funds. In 1773 the roof was slightly damaged by lightning, and subsequently repairs and alterations have taken place. The building seats 1,400 persons, and a canonry of Westminster Abbey is attached to the living.
The churchwardens of St. John's possess an interesting memento in the form of a snuff-box, presented in 1801 by "Thomas Gayfere, Esq., Father of the Vestry of St. John the Evangelist." This has been handed down to the succeeding office-bearers, who have enriched and enlarged it by successive silver plates and cases.
Smith Square shows, like so much of Westminster, an odd mixture of old brick houses, with heavily-tiled roofs, and new brick flats of great height. In the south-west corner stands the Rectory. Romney and Marsham Streets were called after Charles Marsham, Earl of Romney. Tufton Street was named after Sir Richard Tufton. One of the cockpits in Westminster was here as late as 1815, long after the more fashionable one in St. James's Park had vanished. The northern part of the street between Great Peter and Great College Streets was formerly known as Bowling Alley. Here the notorious Colonel Blood lived.
Near the corner of Little Smith Street stands an architectural museum; it is not a very large building, but the frontage is rendered interesting by several statues and reliefs in stone. This, to[Pg 19] give it its full title, is "The Royal Architectural Museum and School of Art in connection with the Science and Art Department." The gallery is open free from ten to four daily, and in the rooms opening off its corridors art classes for students of both sexes are held; the walls are absolutely covered with ancient fragments of architecture and sculpture. The row of houses opposite to the museum is doomed to demolition, a process which has begun already at the north end. The house third from the south end, a small grocer's shop, is the one in which the great composer and musician Purcell lived. He was born in Great St. Ann's Lane near the Almonry, and his mother, as a widow, lived in Tothill Street. The boy at the very early age of six was admitted to the choir of the Chapel Royal, and was appointed organist to Westminster Abbey when only two-and-twenty, a place he very nearly lost by refusing to give up to the Dean and Chapter the proceeds of letting the seats in the organ-loft to view the coronation of James II., a windfall he considered as a perquisite. He is buried beneath the great organ, which had so often throbbed out his emotions in the sounds in which he had clothed them. On leaving Tufton Street he went to Marsham Street, where he died in 1695. The art students from the gallery now patronize the little room behind the shop for lunch and tea, running across[Pg 20] in paint-covered pinafore or blouse, making the scene veritably Bohemian.
At the north end of Tufton Street is Great College Street. Here dignified houses face the old wall built by Abbot Litlington. They are not large; some are overgrown by creepers; the street seems bathed in the peace of a perpetual Sunday. The stream bounding Thorney Island flowed over this site, and its waters still run beneath the roadway. The street has been associated with some names of interest. Gibbon's aunt had here a boarding-house for Westminster boys, in which her famous nephew lived for some time. Mr. Thorne, antiquary, and originator of Notes and Queries, lived here. Some of Keats' letters to Fanny Brawne are dated from 25 Great College Street, where he came on October 16, 1820, to lodgings, in order to conquer his great passion by absence; but apparently absence had only the proverbial effect. Walcott lived here, and his History of St. Margaret's Church and Memorials of Westminster are dated from here in 1847 and 1849 respectively. Little College Street contains a few small, irregular houses brightened by window-boxes. A slab informs us that the date of Barton Street was 1722, but the row of quiet, flat-casemented houses looks older than that. At the west end of Great College Street stood the King's slaughter-house for supplying meat to the palace; the foundations of this[Pg 21] were extant in 1807. The end of Great College Street opens out opposite the smooth lawns of the Victoria Public Garden, near the House of Lords.
In Great Smith Street there was a turnpike at the beginning of the last century. Sir Richard Steele and Keats both dated letters from this address, and Thomas Southerne, the dramatist, died here. The northern part of the street was known as Dean Street until 1865; the old workhouse of the united parish used to stand in it. The Free Library is in this street. Westminster was the first Metropolitan parish to adopt the Library Acts. The Commissioners purchased the lease of a house, together with furniture, books, etc., from a Literary, Scientific, and Mechanics' Institute which stood on the east side of the road, a little to the north of the present library building, and the library was opened there in 1857. In 1888 the present site was purchased, and the building was designed by J. F. Smith, F.R.I.B.A.
Dean Stanley presented 2,000 volumes of standard works in 1883, to which others were added by his sister, Mrs. Vaughan, to whom they had been left for her lifetime. The library also contains 449 valuable volumes published by the Record Office. These consist of Calendars of State Papers, Reports of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Record Office, Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle[Pg 22] Ages, and Records of Great Britain from the Reign of Edward the Confessor to Henry VIII. The Westminster Public Baths and Wash-houses, designed by the same architect are next door to the library. The Church House opposite is a very handsome building in a Perpendicular style; it is of red brick with stone dressings. The interior is very well furnished with fine stone and wood carving. The great hall holds 1,500 people, and runs the whole length of the building from Smith Street to Tufton Street. The roof is an open timber structure of the hammer-beam type, typical of fourteenth-century work. Near the north end of Great Smith Street is Queen Anne's Bounty Office, rebuilt 1900.
Orchard Street is so named from the Abbot's Orchard. John Wesley once lived here. In Old Pye Street a few squalid houses with low doorways remain to contrast with the immense flats known as Peabody's Buildings, which have sprung up recently. In 1862 George Peabody gave £150,000 for the erection of dwellings for the working classes, and to this he subsequently added £500,000. The first block of buildings was opened in Spitalfields, 1864. These in the neighbourhood of Old Pye Street were erected in 1882. Pye Street derives its name from Sir Robert Pye, member for Westminster in the time of Charles I., who married a daughter of John Hampden. St.[Pg 23] Matthew Street was Duck Lane until 1864, and was a very malodorous quarter. Swift says it was renowned for second-hand bookshops. The Westminster Bluecoat School was first founded here.
St. Ann's Street and Lane are poor and wretched quarters. The name is derived from a chapel which formerly stood on the spot (see p. 37). Herrick lodged in the street when, ejected from his living in the country in 1647, he returned with anything but reluctance to his beloved London. He had resumed lay dress, but was restored to his living in 1662 in reward for his devoted loyalty to the Stuarts. The great musician, Henry Purcell, was born in St. Ann's Lane. Seymour, writing in 1735, says: "Great St. Ann's Lane, a pretty, handsome, well-built and well-inhabited place." St. Matthew's Church and Schools were built by Sir G. A. Scott in 1849-57.
Great Peter Street is a dirty thoroughfare with some very old houses. On one is a stone slab with the words, "This is Sant Peter Street, 1624. R [a heart] W." This and its neighbour, Little Peter Street, obviously derive their names from the patron saint of the Abbey. Strype describes Great Peter Street pithily as "very long and indifferent broad." Great Peter Street runs at its west end into Strutton Ground, a quaint place which recalls bygone days by other things than its[Pg 24] name, which is a corruption of Stourton, from Stourton House. The street is thickly lined by costers' barrows, and on Saturday nights there is no room to pass in the roadway.
Before examining in detail the part that may be called the core and centre of Westminster, that part lying around the Abbey and Houses of Parliament, it is advisable to begin once more at the west end of Victoria Street, and, traversing the part of the parish on the north side, gather there what we may of history and romance.
The United Westminster Schools, constituted 1873, stand on the east side of Palace Street. These comprise Emanuel Hospital, Greencoat School (St. Margaret's), Palmer's (Blackcoat School), and Hill's Grammar School. The building in Palace Street stands back from the road behind a space of green grass. Over one doorway are medallions of Palmer and Hill, and over the other the Royal arms, and the structure is devoid of any architectural attractiveness. The beauty which belonged to the older buildings has not been revived, but replaced by a hideous utilitarianism. Watney's Brewery occupies the ground[Pg 25] opposite to the school. The schools of St. Andrew are in this street, and beyond is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Peter and St. Edward. Stafford Place is called after Viscount Stafford, on the site of whose garden wall it is said to have been built. This wall formed the parish boundary, and a boy was annually whipped upon it to impress the bounds upon his memory.
Tart Hall, built 1638, stood at the north end of James Street. It was the residence of Viscount Stafford, to whom it had come from his mother Alethea, daughter and heiress of the seventh Earl of Shrewsbury. Lord Stafford was the fifth son of the Earl of Arundel and Surrey, and was made first a Baron and then a Viscount by Charles I. He was condemned for high treason on the manufactured evidence of Oates and Turberville, in the reign of Charles II., and was beheaded on Tower Hill, December 29, 1680. After his execution the house was turned into a museum and place of public entertainment. The gateway under which he passed to his death was never again opened after that event, but it was left standing until 1737. Among the notable residents in the street were Dr. White Kennet, Bishop of Peterborough, an indefatigable collector of MSS., and Glover, the poet.
The present street contains many pleasant, picturesque houses, especially at the northern[Pg 26] end. At the corner of Castle Lane is the Westminster Chapel, the largest Independent place of worship in the Metropolis excepting Spurgeon's Tabernacle. It seats 2,500, and has two galleries, one above the other, running round the whole interior. It was opened in 1865 to replace a smaller chapel which had previously stood on the same site.
Emanuel Hospital was a charming old building which stood south of the chapel on the same side of the street. It was founded in 1594 by Lady Dacre "for the relief of aged people and the bringing up of children in virtue and good and laudable arts, whereby they might the better live in time to come by their honest labour." The low range of buildings running round a quadrangle had tall chimneys, and the central house was decorated by a cupola and clock. It was the sort of place that took the sharpness off charity by covering it with a sheath of that dignity which is always to be found in antiquity.
By Lady Dacre's will there were to be twenty almspeople, and each of them was at liberty to bring up one child. It was, however, not until the year 1728 that a school was first established, for before that the funds had been insufficient.
In 1890 thirteen of the almshouses stood empty from failure of income, and subsequently it was resolved to demolish the almshouses and offer the[Pg 27] present valuable site for building purposes. It is not the intention of the trustees to erect new almshouses. The charity will in future be entirely in money pensions known as Lady Dacre's pensions.
Caxton Street was originally called Chapel Street, but was renamed in honour of the great printer, who lived for some years at a house in the Almonry, now replaced by the Westminster Palace Hotel (see p. 34).
On the south side of the street is a curious little square brick building with the figure of a Bluecoat boy over the porch, and the inscription on a slab, "The Blue Coat School, built in the year 1709." On the back is a large painting of a similar boy and the date of foundation: "This School founded 1688." A small garden stretches out behind. The building itself contains simply one hall or classroom, which is decorated by an ornamental dental cornice, and has a curious inner portico with fluted columns over the doorway. It is supposed to have been built by the great Sir Christopher. The Master's house, covered with Virginia creeper, stands on one side of the main building.
The school was first established in Duck Lane, and was instituted by Thomas Jekyll, D.D., one of the chaplains of the Broadway Chapel. It is said to have been the first school in the Metropolis[Pg 28] supported by voluntary contributions. It was at first for boys only, but in 1713 twenty girls were included in the scheme, but these were afterwards dispersed and only the boys retained. Westminster was exceptionally rich in these foundations of the charitable, both for the young and for the old.
Further eastward, on the north side of Caxton Street, is the Medical School in connection with Westminster Hospital. The Town Hall stands close by. The foundation-stone was laid by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts. In the muniment-room there are preserved 3,400 records, etc., of exceptional interest. Here, also, are the St. Ermin's Mansions and Hotel, which derive their name from St. Ermin's Hill, evidently a corruption of Hermit's Hill, under which name the place is marked in some old maps.
Christ Church is of considerable size. It is of the last century (1843), and its stumpy tower, which is incomplete, gives it an odd appearance. The church is on the site of the Broadway Chapel, founded by Darrell, a Prebendary of the Abbey, who in 1631 left £400 for its erection. Various subscriptions were added to this sum, including one of £100 from Archbishop Laud. The churchyard had been consecrated in 1626. The chapel was opened 1642, and saw many vicissitudes of fortune. During the Civil War it[Pg 29] was used as a stable for the soldiers' horses, and at other times as a council-room and a prison. In the churchyard Sir William Waller, the Parliamentary General, is buried.
York Street was named after Frederick, Duke of York, son of George II., who resided here temporarily. Previously it had been called Petty France, from the number of French refugees and merchants who inhabited it. Milton lived in No. 19, now destroyed. The house belonged to Jeremy Bentham, and was afterwards occupied by Hazlitt, who caused a tablet bearing the words "Sacred to Milton, Prince of Poets," to be placed on the outside wall in memory of his famous predecessor.
Milton came here in 1651, when turned out of chambers in Scotland Yard which had been allowed him as Latin Secretary to the Council. He still retained the office. He had lost the sight of one eye, and two years later was totally blind. He was obliged to have an assistant-secretary, a post occupied for some time by Andrew Marvell. His daughter Deborah was born here, and his wife died soon after. In Palmer's Passage, Palmer's Almshouses were first established, and in Little Chapel Street, Mr. Nicholas Butler's. Mr. Cornelius Vandon's (Van Dun) were in Petty France. "Cornelius Vandon was born at Breda in Brabant, Yeoman of the Guard and Usher to their[Pg 30] Majesties Henry VIII., King Edward VI., Queen Marie and Queen Elizabeth. He did give eight almshouses in Pettie France next to the end of James Street for the use of eight poor Women of the Parish. He did also give eight other Almshouses near St. Ermin's Hill by Tuttle side for the use of eight poor widows of this Parish." These eight women were intended to act as charity nurses, and to nurse any who were sick in the parish.
In 1850 the almshouses and ground were sold, and the proceeds devoted to Vandon's Charity Account. Part of the funds was used to purchase a plot of ground in Lambeth, where new almshouses were erected, and after the death of the recipients of the charity these were let to tenants, and the proceeds devoted to supplying nurses for the poor.
The towering blocks of Queen Anne's Mansions, the highest flats in London, rear themselves at the east end of York Street. These are partly on the site of a house occupied for very many years by Jeremy Bentham (see p. 32).
The Guards Barracks, known as the Wellington Barracks, face Birdcage Walk. They were opened in March, 1834, and enlarged in 1859. The long line of yellow-washed building differs little from the usually-accepted barrack model.
At the east end of the barrack yard stands the[Pg 31] chapel, with an extraordinarily massive portico. It was built in 1839-40 on the model of a Grecian temple. The building is well proportioned, but the interior was not at first thought worthy of the exterior. Accordingly, in 1877 the chapel was closed, and a sum of money arising from the sale of the Guards' Institute was devoted to the purpose of a complete internal reconstruction. The work was put into the hands of Sir G. E. Street, R.A., who carried it out in the Lombardian style, with an apse at the eastern end, and over the apse a semi-dome.
Within, every spare foot of wall-space is utilized, and, besides being a perfect storehouse of memorials of departed Guardsmen, the chapel is full of rich but unobtrusive decoration. The sweep of the high pillars and arches of light stone relieves the richness of the mural ornamentation. The side-walls of the nave are covered by an arcade enclosing panels of marble mosaic. The heads of the arches are filled in by terra-cotta groups in high relief, representing Biblical subjects. Between and below the panels are tablets to the memory of those who have served in the Guards.
Between the windows are other tablets, of which the most interesting is that inscribed: "Soldier, Sportsman, Author, George Whyte Melville's memory is here recorded by his old friends and[Pg 32] comrades, the Coldstream Guards." The chancel screen and pulpit are of white Sicilian marble, with handsome panels and a base of Belgian black. In the spandril of the arch on the south side of the chancel is a marble medallion of the Duke of Wellington, presented by his son, and in the corresponding position on the north side one of the Duke of Marlborough, presented by the Earl of Cadogan. The stalls are of stained oak. The altar is of oak, with walnut panels and ebony shafts. The reredos is lined by beautiful glass mosaics, and the semi-dome is mosaic work to match. This sounds a mere catalogue, but it is quite impossible to give any idea of this singularly richly-decorated chapel without descending to detail. The tattered colours used at the Crimea and Waterloo hang from their staves on the pillars. Anyone is admitted to parade service on Sunday mornings by ticket, to be procured beforehand by writing to the chaplain.
Queen Anne's Gate was formerly Queen Square. At a corner stands a statue of Queen Anne without date. Many of the houses show quaintly carved porches with wooden brackets and pendants, and are obviously of the date which the name implies. Jeremy Bentham lived in Queen Square Place, now covered by part of Queen Anne's Mansions, for fifty years of[Pg 33] his life, and here he died in 1832. His skeleton, clothed as in life, is now possessed by University College, London. His house was called The Hermitage. His friend and disciple, James Mill, came to be his tenant in 1814, in what was then 1 Queen's Square, now 40 Queen Anne's Gate. Here he completed his great History of India, published in 1818.
After Mill, Sir John Bowring, first editor of the Westminster Review, established by Bentham, occupied the house now numbered 40. Peg Woffington also lived in Queen Square, which was a fashionable place of residence in the last century, a reputation it still retains. Both Great and Little Queen Streets partake of the old-world look of the seventeenth century, and show quaint keystones and carving of various designs over the doorways.
The Broadway formerly included the part now occupied by Great Chapel Street, and reached to Strutton Ground. In James I.'s reign a license was granted for a haymarket to be held here, which license was renewed from time to time. Dick Turpin, the highwayman, is said to have lived in one of the small courts off the Broadway, and to have issued from thence on his marauding expeditions. Perhaps this was Black Horse Yard, which name still appears. There is on every side evidence of that mingling of poverty[Pg 34] and riches which has been in all ages so characteristic of Westminster, a parish which contains at the same time splendid Government buildings and squalid slums, one of the most magnificent cathedrals in the world and some of the foulest courts.
In Newcourt's map of 1658 Tothill Street is completely built, while there are very few streets to the south of the present Victoria Street. Walcott says of this street that it "was inhabited by noblemen and the flower of the gentry in Westminster." In Elizabeth's time the houses had large gardens attached. Edmund Burke lived in Tothill Street, also Thomas Southerne, the dramatist, who was a constant attendant at the Abbey; and Thomas Betterton was born here about 1635. His father was an under-cook in the service of Charles I. Betterton wrote a number of plays, but is best remembered as an actor.
The Aquarium, 600 feet in length, stands on the site of a labyrinth of small yards. To one of these the Cock public-house gave its name. Tradition says that the Abbey workmen received their wages at the Cock in the reign of Henry III. At the eastern corner, where Tothill and Victoria Streets meet, is the Palace Hotel, a very large building, with two Titanic male figures supporting the portico in an attitude of eternal strain. This is on part of the site of the Almonry.[Pg 35] This Almonry is thus described by Stow: "Now corruptly the Ambry, for that the alms of the Abbey were there distributed to the Poor. Therein was printing first practised in England." Caxton is often spoken of, incorrectly, as the inventor of printing. That credit belongs to Gutenberg, a native of Mainz, but Caxton was the first who brought the art to England and printed English books. He was born in the Weald of Kent, and his father was a citizen of London. As a boy, Caxton was sent to a house of English merchants at Bruges, and there he remained for many years, rising steadily in reputation. There he came in contact with a man named Colard Mansion, who had brought the art of printing to Bruges. Caxton seems to have seen at once the vast importance of the invention, and got Mansion to print two books in English, the first ever set up in the language. These were: "A Recuyell of the Historyes of Troie," printed 1474; and "The Game and Playe of the Chesse." Apparently the experiment met with success. Caxton soon after left the house of business, married, and became secretary to the Duchess of Burgundy, but he was not long in her service, for he returned to England in 1476. He brought over with him printing-presses and workmen, and settled in Westminster. He placed his press, by permission of the Prior (after[Pg 36]wards Abbot) Islip, in the Almonry just outside the gatehouse.
His house was called Reed (Red) Pale, and was situated on the north side of the Almonry. A house traditionally called Caxton's was pointed out up to fifty years ago. It is described as being of red brick. In the library of Brasenose College, Oxford, there is a placard in Caxton's largest type inviting people to "come to Westminster in the Almonystrye at the Reed Pale."
Caxton died in 1491, and, with his wife, is buried in St. Margaret's Church. He left one daughter.
A copy of "The Royal Book," or "Book for a King," compiled for Philip of France in 1279, and translated and printed by Caxton at Westminster in 1487, was sold this year in England for £2,225. There are only five copies in existence, one of which was sold in 1901 for £1,550. The other three are in public libraries. Could Caxton have looked onward for 400 years, his astonishment and gratification at these prodigious prices would doubtless have been extreme.
The Almonry, or "Eleemosynary," as Stow calls it, was in two parts, of which the larger was again subdivided in two portions, parallel to the two Tothill Streets. The distribution of the Royal maundy which takes place in Westminster Abbey yearly, with much ceremony, is a reminder[Pg 37] of the ancient almsgiving. The address of the present Royal Almonry is 6, Craigs Court.
Henry VII.'s almshouses were in the Little Almonry, and St. Ann's Chapel (p. 23) was at the southern end. King Henry's mother, Margaret, erected an almshouse near the chapel for poor women, which "was afterwards turned into lodgings for the singing men of the College."
A great gatehouse formerly stood at the east end of Victoria Street, close by Dean's Yard. It was built by Richard II., and was very massive, resembling a square tower of stone, and it altogether lacked the architectural decoration of the other gateways near King Street to be spoken of presently. Well might it seem gloomy, for it fulfilled the functions of a prison. On one side was the Bishop of London's prison for"Clerks, convict," and in the other were confined prisoners from the City or Liberties of Westminster. Many distinguished prisoners were confined here. Sir Walter Raleigh passed the night before his execution within the solid walls, and wrote his farewell to life:
Perhaps the most illustrious victim of all those[Pg 38] who have perished on English scaffolds is Sir Walter Raleigh. He was brought out to die in Old Palace Yard at eight in the morning of October 29, 1618. The day chosen was Lord Mayor's Day, in the hope that the pageants of the day would draw away the people from witnessing the death of this great man. The story of his execution is well known. His last words have not been allowed to perish. "Now," he said, as he mounted the scaffold, "I am going to God." Then, touching the axe, he said: "This is a sharp medicine, but it will cure all diseases." Lady Raleigh herself waited near the scaffold in a coach. The head was placed in a leather bag, wrapped about with Sir Walter's gown, and so she carried it away. She preserved it in a case during the rest of her life, and her son Carew kept it afterwards. It is believed to have been buried at last at West Horsley, in Surrey. The body was buried in St. Margaret's, near the altar.
Here also was imprisoned Colonel Lovelace, who wrote within the gloomy walls the well-known lines:
Here were confined, also, Goodman, Bishop of Gloucester; and Sir Jeffrey Hudson, the little dwarf, who was first in the service of the Duchess of Buckingham, and afterwards in that of Queen Henrietta Maria, and was twice painted by Vandyck. Hudson died in the prison. Hampden, Sir John Eliot, and Lilly, the astrologer, were imprisoned at various times, and Titus Oates died in the gatehouse in his sixty-third year. Richard Savage, the poet, adds another name to the list. In 1776 the Dean and Chapter of Westminster ordered that the gatehouse should be pulled down, but one wall, adjoining the house once inhabited by Edmund Burke, was still standing in 1836.
Close by was Thieving Lane, through which thieves were taken to the prison without passing by the sanctuary and claiming its immunity.
Within the High Gate was the Abbey Precinct, and with this we pass into by far the most interesting part of Westminster—that part that may be called the nucleus, round which cluster so many historical memories that the mere task of recording them is very great.[Pg 40]
As we, in imagination, pass through the ancient prison gate, at the east end of Victoria Street, we find on the left Prince's Street, formerly called Long Ditch. His Majesty's Stationery Office stands on the east, a large dull brick building, stuccoed in front, built round a courtyard. Lewisham Street and Parker Street are long narrow foot-passages, running east and west, the latter a cul-de-sac. The tablet on the wall is much worn, but seems to have borne the date "Parker Street, 1621." This is in accordance with the lines of old flat-casemented, two-story houses which line each side of the street.
Westminster Hospital originated in 1715 at a small house in Birdcage Walk from which outdoor relief was administered. Five years later the hospital began to receive in-patients, and in 1724 began a new lease of usefulness in a building in Chapel Street with accommodation for sixty in-patients. Nine years after the removal to Chapel Street the hospital was transferred to James Street. This change of position was objected to by part of the governing body, who seceded, and eventually established St. George's Hospital at[Pg 41] Hyde Park Corner. In 1834 the present building was erected. It was the first to be established by voluntary contributions in London. It is unique in possessing an incurable ward, and in the system of nursing, which is carried out by contract. The leads are utilized as an airing-ground for the patients.
The Guildhall or Sessions House of Middlesex is an ancient institution. Previous to 1752 the sessions were held at the Town Court House near Westminster Hall. In 1805 the Guildhall was erected from designs by S. P. Cockerell at the spot where the present Gothic fountain is. The present building is on the site of the Sanctuary. A little building of heavy stonework, about sixty feet high, once stood here; it had one door only, of solid oak, covered with iron plates, and this led into a sombre chapel. This was St. Peter's Sanctuary, dedicated to the Holy Innocents, and to it any hunted criminal had the right of entry. Apparently, his pursuers might besiege him without danger of sacrilege, but at any rate he could defy them in tolerable security within those massive walls. There do not seem to be many records of the occasions on which it was used; we do not hear of the quick step and panting breath of the fugitive as he neared that doorway, nor read of the sense of relief with which he shot the bolts into place before he crept up to the roof to[Pg 42] peep over the low parapet and see if his enemies were hard upon his heels. Yet these things must have happened again and again. The most touching occasion recorded in history is when the Queen-mother Elizabeth sought refuge here with her younger son Richard and her daughters. It was not a new thing to her to have to seek protection thus. She had been here before, and her elder boy, destined for so short a reign and so cruel a death, had been born within the confines of the prison-like walls. On the second occasion, when the ferocious Richard, Duke of Gloucester, sought to obtain possession of his younger nephew, he respected the limits of sanctuary, but with his plausible tongue he persuaded the Archbishop who accompanied him to consent to his schemes, and he silenced, if he did not assuage, the mother's fears. So the little Richard was taken to die in the Tower with his brother, and small use had sanctuary been to him.
The work of the demolition of this massive keep was going on in 1775, but it does not seem to have proceeded regularly; people came and tore away fragments from the walls as they listed, and the gloomy building vanished piecemeal.
By Acts passed in the early part of the nineteenth century, part of Long Ditch, Bridge Street, Little George Street, and King Street were cleared away, also Broad and Little Sanctuary,[Pg 43] Thieving Lane, and many small courts, and on the space thus obtained public seats were placed, flower-beds planted, and statues erected.
The statues on the quadrangular piece of ground in the centre are of Peel and Beaconsfield, north and south; Palmerston and Derby on the east. The statue of George Canning is in the western enclosure. Union Street ran due eastward to New Palace Yard, and must have cut very near the place where the statue of Palmerston now stands. The drinking fountain at the corner of Great George Street was put up by Charles Buxton in 1865 in memory of the abolition of the slave trade.
Westminster Abbey, Palace, and City stood formerly upon a small island called Thorney, the Isle of Bramble, a low-lying islet covered with brambles, nowhere more than three or four feet above the level of high-tide formed by the fall of the little river, the Tye, into the Thames. Part of this stream ran down Gardener's Lane; part of it diverged and ran south, forming a narrow moat or ditch called Long Lane, turned eastward at College Street, and so fell into the Thames. The island is mentioned in a charter of 785 by Offa, King of Mercia, as"Tornica, Locus terribilis"—i.e., sacred. It was about 1,410 feet long and 1,100 feet broad. It was almost entirely, save for a narrow piece of land on the north, occupied by the King's House and the Abbey. Both Palace and[Pg 44] Abbey were surrounded by walls, one wall being common to both.
The Palace Precinct had three gates: one on the north, one on the east—leading to the Bridge, i.e., the jetty where the state barges and the boats lay—and a postern leading into the Abbey. Westminster was at first a large rural manor belonging to the Abbey before the erection of the Palace.
A large part of Thorney Island is still only slightly above the level of high-tide. King Street was 5 feet 6 inches only above high-water mark. This was the foundation of Westminster. It was a busy place long before London Bridge was built—a place of throng and moil as far back as the centuries before the coming of the Romans. A church was built in the most crowded part of it; monks in leathern jerkins lived beside the church, which lay in ruins for two hundred years, while the pagan Saxon passed every day beside it across the double ford. During the two hundred years of war and conquest by the Saxons, Westminster, quite forgotten and deserted, lay with its brambles growing over the Roman ruins, and the weather and ivy pulling down the old walls of villa and stationary camp piecemeal. Perhaps—rather probably—there had been a church upon the island in the third or fourth century. Soon after the conversion of the Saxons another church was erected here with a monastic house. Then there[Pg 45] was another destruction and another rebuilding, for this place was deserted by the monks; perhaps they were murdered during the Danish troubles. It was King Edgar who restored the Abbey, to which Dunstan brought twelve monks from Glastonbury.
On the sacred island the last great Prince of the Saxon race, Edward, son of Ethelred the Unready, found Dunstan's little brotherhood of Benedictine monks, who were living in mud huts round a small stone chapel. Out of this insignificant beginning grew a mighty monastery, the West Minster, dowered with royal gifts and ruled over by mitred Abbots, who owned no ecclesiastical authority save that of the Pope, bowed to no secular arm save that of the Sovereign himself. The full title of the Abbey, which is seldom used nowadays, is the Collegiate Church of St. Peter's.
King Edward had vowed, during his long exile in Normandy, that if he ever sat on the throne of his fathers he would go on a pilgrimage to St. Peter's shrine at Rome. But after his accession the unsettled state of the kingdom made it impossible to keep this vow, and he was absolved from it by the Pope on the condition that he should found or re-endow a monastic church[Pg 46] dedicated to St. Peter. This, therefore, was the origin of the great West Minster, and in afterdays the tomb of St. Edward the Confessor within its walls attracted pilgrims here, and made the building a peculiarly sacred one. Here the Sovereigns of England were always crowned, often married, and until the time of George III. usually buried.
The earliest coronation of which there is historic certainty was that of Edward's friend and former protector, the Conqueror, William I. As the last Saxon King of the race of Ethelred was the first Sovereign who was buried at Westminster, so the head of the Norman line of English Kings was the first who was hallowed to the service of God and of his people on this historic spot. No trace is left of Edward's Norman monastery, save the foundations of some of the pillars and a round arch in the cloisters; but we know that his church was nearly on the same place as the present Abbey, and that the old Norman nave stood for many hundred years joined on to the choir and transepts of the new Early English building, and was pulled down bit by bit as the later church grew. For the beautiful Abbey which we see before us now, in the heart of a busy thoroughfare, is the work, not of one generation, but of five hundred years. The central part was built in the thirteenth century. The Confessor had been canonized by the Pope in 1163, and a century[Pg 47] later Henry III., who was a fervent admirer of the saint, caused a splendid shrine to be made by Italian workmen, which was to replace the old one of Henry II.'s time. The new style of pointed architecture was just coming in, and the Abbot of Westminster, Humez, had added a Lady Chapel to the old Norman church when Henry III. was a boy. As the King grew to manhood he saw the contrast between the two styles of architecture, and while the Italian shrine was still only half finished he caused the central part of the Confessor's Norman church to be demolished, and in its place an Early English choir and transepts were gradually constructed during the last twenty-seven years of Henry's reign, with a series of little chapels round the principal one where the shrine was to be placed. In 1269 the new church was ready for service, and the chapel was prepared for the shrine.
The shrine, and within it the Confessor's coffin, still stands in the centre of this royal chapel of St. Edward—a battered wreck, yet bearing traces of its former beauty—and round it is a circle of royal tombs, drawn as by a magnet to the proximity of the royal saint. Henry III., the second founder, is here himself. At his head is his warlike son Edward I., the Hammer of the Scots, with his faithful wife, Eleanor of Castile, at his feet. On the other side are the tombs of[Pg 48] another Plantagenet, Edward III., the "mighty victor, mighty lord," and his good Queen, the Flemish Philippa. In a line with them is their handsome, unfortunate grandson Richard II., whose picture hangs beside the altar. Here also is the Coronation Chair, which encloses the Stone of Scone, and upon this "Seat of Majesty," ever since the time of Edward I., who reft the ancient stone from the Scots, all our Sovereigns have been seated at the moment of their coronation. On the west of the royal chapel a screen depicts the legends of the Confessor's life; on the east is the mutilated tomb of Henry V., the victor of Agincourt; above it the Chantry Chapel, where, after centuries of neglect, rest the remains of his wife, the French Catherine, ancestress of the great Tudor line.
While the different dynasties succeeded one another, the building of the monastery and church went on slowly but surely under different Abbots, the monastic funds helped by gifts of money from the Kings and Queens and from the pilgrims who visited the shrine. Edward I., for instance, continued his father's work from the crossing of the transepts to one bay west of the present organ-screen, while after him Richard II. and Henry V. were the principal benefactors to the fabric. The west end was not reached till early in the sixteenth century, in the reign of Henry VII., when[Pg 49] Abbot Islip superintended the completion of the west front and placed in the niches statues of those Kings who had been benefactors. The towers were not built till 1740, after the designs of Sir Christopher Wren, who died before they were finished. The great northern entrance has been called "Solomon's Porch" since the reign of Richard II., who erected a beautiful wooden porch outside the north door. This was destroyed in the thirteenth century, and the end of the north transept was changed into the classical style under Dean Atterbury, to whom, it is fair to add, we owe the fine glass of the rose-window. Within recent years the north front has again been restored on the lines of the original thirteenth-century architecture, and the present sculpture on the porch is from the designs of Sir Gilbert Scott; the work was carried out by Mr. John Pearson, who was the Abbey architect at that time.
At the extreme east end, in the place of the Lady Chapel built by Abbot Humez, is the famous chapel called the "Wonder of the World," which was founded and endowed by the first Tudor King, and intended as a place of sepulture for himself and his family. The foundation-stone was laid in the presence of Henry VII. himself and of the great builder, Abbot Islip. The style is Perpendicular, much later than the main portion of the Abbey, and the whole of the exterior and interior[Pg 50] is elaborately carved and decorated with stone panelling, the badge of the Royal founder, the Tudor rose, recurring all over the walls. Inside the great feature is the "fan tracery" of the stone roof, which resembles that of King's College Chapel, Cambridge. The windows were once filled with coloured glass, only a fragment of which remains; and the niches with statues of saints and Kings, many of which were destroyed in early Puritan times, in the reign of Edward VI. In 1725 this chapel was appointed as the place for the installation of the Knights of the Bath, an Order revived by George I., and, although the Knights are now installed at Windsor, the Dean of Westminster remains the official chaplain of the Order.
In the centre of the chapel is the tomb of the founder, Henry VII., and his wife, Elizabeth of York, and on the grille and the gates are the family badges. The tomb of Henry's mother, Margaret, Countess of Richmond, is in the south aisle; and the effigies of herself, her son and his wife, are fine specimens of the skill of the famous Italian sculptor Torrigiano. Henry's grand-daughters, the Queens Elizabeth and Mary Tudor, lie in the opposite aisle, sisters parted in life but united in death. Many other descendants of the founder lie side by side within the vaults, while the tombs of two of them, Margaret Stuart, Countess of Lennox, and Mary, Queen of Scots,[Pg 51] are close to their common ancestress, Lady Margaret, in the south aisle. All the Stuart Sovereigns with the exception of James II. are here, but their only memorials are the wax figures of Charles II., William and Mary, and Anne, in the Islip chantry chapel.
In a small chapel to the east of Henry VII.'s tomb once lay the bodies of the great Protector, Oliver Cromwell, and many of his mighty men, but their bones were dug up after the Restoration, and not allowed to rest in the Royal church. The Hanoverian Sovereigns are represented only by George II. and his Queen, Caroline the Illustrious, who rest here, their dust mingled according to the King's desire. Close by lie members of their numerous family and the mother, brothers and sisters of the next King, their grandson, George III. Amongst his relations is that brave General, the Duke of Cumberland, whose memory is maligned in the sobriquet "Billy the Butcher."
In the ring of smaller chapels all around the shrine are the tombs of Princes and Princesses, courtiers and Court ladies, warriors and statesmen. Most conspicuous of all, towering over the beautiful Crusaders' monuments, is the vast cenotaph which insults the memory of Wolfe, and not far off is the colossal statue of James Watt.
Outside, the cloisters recall the days of the monastery, when the Abbot sat in state in the east[Pg 52] cloister or washed the feet of beggars, and the brethren taught the novices and little schoolboys from the neighbourhood. The architecture there begins in the eleventh century and ends in the fourteenth, when Abbot Litlington finished the building of the monastic offices and cloisters with his predecessor Langham's bequest.
The incomparable chapter-house was built in Henry III.'s time, and restored to some of its original beauty by Sir Gilbert Scott. The modern glass windows remind us of Dean Stanley and his love for the Abbey-church. The chapter-house belongs, as does the Chapel of the Pyx, to the Government, and is not under the Dean's jurisdiction. There the early Parliaments used to meet. In the south cloister is the door of the old refectory where the monks dined, and a little further on we come to the Abbot's house (now the Deanery), which contained in old days within its limits the "College Hall," where the Westminster schoolboys now have their meals. The Jerusalem Chamber and Jericho Parlour, which were formerly the Abbot's withdrawing-room and guest-chambers, date from the abbacy of Litlington at the end of the fourteenth century. To all lovers of Shakespeare the Jerusalem Chamber is familiar as the place where Henry IV. was carried when he fell stricken with a mortal illness before the shrine, and where Henry V. fitted on his father's[Pg 53] crown. In this room in our own days the Revisers of the Bible used to meet.
If we pass back into the nave by the west door, we shall see the names of statesmen, of naval and military heroes, on every side. Huge monstrosities of monuments surround us and grow in bulk as we pass up the musicians' aisle and reach the north transept, called the Statesmen's Corner. If we pause and glance around, striving to forget the outer shell, and to think only of the noble men commemorated, we shall remember much to make us proud of England's heroes and worthies. Above the west door stands young William Pitt pointing with outstretched arm towards the north transept, where we shall find his venerable father, Lord Chatham. Almost beneath his feet is the philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury, and near to him is a white slave kneeling before the statue of Charles James Fox, whose huge monument hides the humbler tablet to another zealous opponent of the slave trade, Zachary Macaulay. We must pause here an instant to gaze upon the bronze medallion head of General Gordon, the martyr of the Soudan, an enthusiast also in the suppression of slavery; and as we walk up the nave we must look for the slab of Livingstone, whose remains were brought to their final resting-place over deserts and trackless wildernesses by his faithful black servants.[Pg 54]
On the right, in Little Poets' Corner, is to be found the chief of the Lake poets, William Wordsworth. Here also is Dr. Arnold, the noted Headmaster of Rugby, his son Matthew, poet and critic, and beside them Keble, Kingsley and Maurice.
The makers of our Indian Empire are about us now. Outram, the "Bayard of India," lies between Lord Lawrence and Lord Clyde; while in the north transept are earlier pioneers, the faithful naval, military, and civil servants of the great East India Company. On each side of the screen are two ponderous monuments which cannot escape the notice of the most casual sightseer; these commemorate Lord Stanhope, a General whose early reputation ranked next to that of Marlborough in Spain, and the immortal philosopher, Sir Isaac Newton. Purcell, chief among English musicians, claims our notice in the choir aisle, and we pass on surrounded by other musicians, by sailors and soldiers, until we stand in the very midst of the statesmen. It may be we have come to the Abbey in the spring, when we shall see the statue of Lord Beaconsfield literally covered with primroses. The Cannings, Sir Robert Peel in his Roman toga, Lord Palmerston, and many other statesmen, are here, and our feet tread on the grave of Gladstone as we pass towards the other transept, hastening to the company of the poets and men of letters.[Pg 55]
The south transept has only been called Poets' Corner since the burial of Spenser, who was the darling of his generation. But the grave of Chaucer, "the father of English poetry," had consecrated the aisle to poetry long before. Chaucer was not given honourable sepulture here because he was a poet, but only from the accidental fact that he happened to be Clerk of the Works at Westminster Palace, and lived near the old Lady Chapel. For 250 years the great poet's only memorial was a leaden plate hanging on a column close by, but in 1551 a devoted admirer, himself a versifier, Nicholas Brigham, placed an ancient tomb here in memory of the master, with a fancy painting of Chaucer at the back. Before this monument are the graves of the two most famous poets of our generation, the Laureate Tennyson and Robert Browning, side by side. Above them is the beautiful bust of another Poet Laureate, Dryden, and the less artistic portrait bust of the American poet Longfellow.
The walls of the Poets' Corner are literally covered with memorials of men of letters. Many of these are but names to us at the present day, but some are familiar; others, such as "Rare Ben Jonson," Butler, the author of "Hudibras," Thomas Gray, Spenser, and Goldsmith, are household words throughout the Empire. Beneath our feet lie Sheridan and old Dr. Johnson.[Pg 56]
The tardy memorials to Milton and Shakespeare eclipse the fame of all the rest. Quite recently busts of the Scotch bard Robert Burns, the poet-novelist Walter Scott, and a medallion head of the artistic prose writer and critic John Ruskin, have been placed here. Music is not unrepresented, for above us is the unwieldy figure of Handel, and beneath his feet a memorial to the Swedish nightingale, Jenny Lind Goldschmidt, whose perfect rendering of the master's airs will ever remain in the memory of those who were privileged to hear her. Further on is the historical side, where the chief prose writers are to be found; the venerable Camden is close to Grote and Bishop Thirlwall, historians whose bodies rest in one grave. The busts of Lord Macaulay and of Thackeray are on each side of Addison's statue, and beneath the pavement in front of them is the tombstone of the ever-popular Charles Dickens. David Garrick stands in close proximity to the grave of the dramatist Davenant, while scattered in various parts of the Abbey and cloisters will be found the names of other actors and actresses, notably Mrs. Siddons and her brother, John Kemble.
It is impossible in a few paragraphs to do more than allude to the history of the Abbey, and of the dead whose names are commemorated, or whose bodies rest within this great "Temple of[Pg 57] Silence and Reconciliation." Let us conclude this brief sketch with the pregnant and pathetic words of the young playwriter John Beaumont, whose bones are mouldering beside those of Chaucer:
St. Margaret's Church is traditionally said to have been founded by Edward the Confessor, and that there was certainly a church here before 1140 is proved by its being mentioned in a grant of Abbot Herebert, who died in that year. It was originally a chapel in the south aisle of the church of the Benedictine monks, and was rebuilt to a great extent in Edward I.'s reign. Further alterations were made in the time of Edward IV. In 1735 the tower was raised and faced with stone, and in 1758 the east end was rebuilt and the present stained glass inserted. A famous case between Sir Thomas Grosvenor and the family of Scrope concerning the rights of a heraldic device which either claimed was heard in St.[Pg 58] Margaret's, and Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet, gave evidence. In 1549 Latimer preached in the church. The Protector Somerset, at the time he was building his great mansion in the Strand, had used a good deal of the ruins of religious houses, and still wanted more material. He therefore cast his unholy eyes upon St. Margaret's in order that he might use its time-worn stones for his own purposes, but he was resisted by the people of Westminster, who arose in their wrath and smote his workmen hip and thigh.
On Palm Sunday in 1713 the great Dr. Sacheverell preached in the church after the term of his suspension, and no less than 40,000 copies of his sermon were sold. The church was for long peculiarly associated with the House of Commons, as when the members began to sit in St. Stephen's Chapel they attended Divine service in St. Margaret's, while the Lords went to the Abbey. Edmund Waller, the poet, was married in St. Margaret's to Anne Banks on July 5, 1631, and John Milton to Katherine Woodcock in November, 1656. A son of Sir Walter Raleigh's is buried in the church, and also Colonel Blood. Children of Judge Jeffreys: Bishop Burnet, Titus Oates and Jeremy Bentham were christened here. Besides Latimer and Sacheverell the list of great preachers in St. Margaret's is long, including many Archbishops and Bishops, and the roll of Rectors con[Pg 59]tains many distinguished names. A man who occupies the pulpit must feel he has high tradition to uphold.
The interior of St. Margaret's is far superior to the exterior, a reversal of what is usual in church architecture. The splendid arcades of aisle arches, early Perpendicular, or transition from Decorated to the Perpendicular style, are uninterrupted by any chancel arch, and with the clerestory windows sweep from end to end of the building. The east window is filled with stained glass of the richest tints, the blues and greens being particularly striking. This glass has a history. It was made at Gouda in Holland, and was a present from the magistrates of Dort to Henry VIII. for the chapel of Whitehall Palace. The King, however, gave it to Waltham Abbey (doubtless in exchange for something else). The glass suffered many removals and vicissitudes, being at one time buried to escape Puritan zeal, but it was eventually bought by the churchwardens of St. Margaret's for 400 guineas. The aisle windows, with one exception, to be noted presently, are the work of Sir Gilbert Scott at the last restoration, just before 1882. He designed the tracery in accordance with what he conceived to have been the date of the church; but when his work was finished a single window, that furthest east in the south aisle, was discovered walled up, and the style of this showed that his[Pg 60] surmise had not been far wrong, though the period he had chosen was a little later. The glass in several of the windows is of interest. That at the east end of the south aisle is the Caxton window, put up 1820 by the Roxburghe Club, as was also the tablet below. That in the window in the centre, west end, is in memory of Sir Walter Raleigh, who was beheaded in Old Palace Yard, near at hand. It was put in by Americans about twenty years ago. Raleigh's tablet, with an inscription copied from the old wooden one which dated from the time of his death, is near the east entrance. The Milton window, also due to the generosity of an American, is on the north side of the Raleigh one. One of especial interest to Americans is that to Phillips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts, near the vestry door. There are many others deserving of notice.
The general tint of all the glass is rich and subdued, with a predominance of yellow and sepia strangely effective. Of monuments there are many—they may be examined in detail on the spot; the oldest is that to Cornelius Van Dun, a dark stone medallion with a man's head in bas-relief on the north wall. Van Dun was Yeoman of the Guard and Usher to Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary and Elizabeth. A quaint one near it is to "Egioke," died 1622. The most elaborate monument in the church is that to Mary,[Pg 61] Lady Dudley, sister to the famous Lord Howard of Effingham. This is the life-sized figure of a woman in alabaster, highly coloured; it stands near the vestry door. Above it is a relic that many might pass unnoticed; it is the figure of a woman about two-thirds life-size standing in an ancient rood door. The statue was found built up in the wall by a workman who struck his pick into the coloured stuff, and called attention to the fact. The figure is either that of the Virgin or St. Margaret. It has been carefully put together, but the head is lacking. Puritan zeal had evidently to do with its concealment. Puritan zeal, too, was answerable for the destruction of a magnificent tomb to Dame Billing, a benefactress who rebuilt the south aisle of the church about 1499.
The churchwardens of St. Margaret's hold a valuable old loving-cup, presented 1764, and a tobacco-box purchased at Horn Fair for fourpence, and presented to the overseers by a Mr. Monck in 1713. Each succeeding set of overseers has added to the decoration of the box or given it a new case, and many of these are beautifully engraved; on the inside of the original lid Hogarth engraved on a silver plate the bust of the Duke of Cumberland of Culloden celebrity, and the whole set is now of great value and is quite unique. The door of the church opposite the Houses of Parliament is open daily from eleven till two.[Pg 62]
Outside the archway leading to Dean's Yard there is a granite column to the memory of the Westminster boys who fell in the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny. It was designed by Gilbert Scott, R.A. Scott was also the architect of the houses over the archway close at hand. The school has been long and intimately associated with the Abbey; there was probably a scholastic establishment carried on by the monks from the very earliest days, and recent discoveries by Mr. Edward Scott in the Abbey muniments prove that there was a grammar school—and not only a choir school—in existence before the Reformation. On the dissolution of the Abbey in Henry VIII.'s reign, it was formed into a college of Secular Canons, and the school was in existence then in dependence on the Canons. Queen Elizabeth remodelled her father's scheme and refounded the school, calling it St. Peter's College, Westminster, which is still its correct designation; so that, though the present establishment owes its origin to Queen Elizabeth, it may be said to have inherited the antiquity of its predecessor, and to hold its own in that matter with Winchester and Eton.
If we pass under the archway into Dean's Yard,[Pg 63] we find a backwater indeed, where the roar of traffic scarcely penetrates, where sleek pigeons coo in the elm-trees round a grass plot, as if they were in the close of one of the sleepiest of provincial towns instead of in the midst of one of the greatest cities in the world. On the east side there is a long building of smoke-blackened, old stone. The door at the north end leads into the cloisters, from whence we can pass into the school courtyard, otherwise the school entry is by a pointed doorway a little further down, beneath the Headmaster's house. Entering this, we have on the left Ashburnham House, on the right the houses of masters who take boarders, and opposite, a fine gateway with the arms of Queen Elizabeth over it; this is said to have been designed by Inigo Jones. The greater part of the buildings was designed by Wren, who died before the project was carried out, but there seems to be little doubt that the Earl of Burlington, who followed him in the appointment, used Wren's plans. The great square building, the scholars' dormitory (now cubicles), which faces us, standing a little way to the right of the ornamental gateway, is of this period; also much of the main building into which we enter by the gateway above mentioned, and a flight of steps. The seventh form room on the right has a fine ceiling of Italian plaster and bookcases with carved panels. This is known as[Pg 64] Dr. Busby's Library, because built by him. It looks out over the college garden.
The great schoolroom beyond, known as Up-School, is a splendid room, with mighty beams in its fine timber roof, and panels with the arms of Westminster boys now dead on the walls. The bar over which the pancake is tossed on Shrove Tuesday is pointed out, and a very great height it is. At the upper end of the room, which, by the way, is now used only for prayers, concerts, etc., is the birching-table, black and worn with age and use. Dryden's name, carved on a bench, is shown, and a chair presented by King Charles to Dr. Busby. The walls date originally from the twelfth century or earlier, but were practically rebuilt in the end of the eighteenth century. The only part of the college buildings which formed part of the original school is the college hall, built by Abbot Litlington in 1380 as the monks' refectory. But by far the oldest part of the buildings at present incorporated in the school is the Norman crypt, approached from the dark cloister, and forming part of the gymnasium made by the Chapter in 1860, by roofing in the walls beyond it, between it and the Chapter-house. A stranger gymnasium, surely, no school can boast.
The name of Dr. Busby, Headmaster from 1638 to 1695, will be for ever held in honour at Westminster. He himself had been a Westminster[Pg 65] boy, and all his great ability and strong character were bent to furthering the interests of the school.
The roll of names of those educated at Westminster includes Dryden, Bishop Atterbury, Cowley, Warren Hastings, Gibbon, Thomas Cowper, Charles Wesley, Lord John Russell, and many others well known wherever the English tongue is spoken.
In 1706 there were nearly 400 boys, but after this the school began to decline; in 1841 it was at a very low ebb—there were less than seventy boys. The reasons for this decline were manifold. Building had been going on apace round the quiet precincts, and parents fancied their sons would be better in the country; also, though the charges were high, the system of living was extremely rough, and no money was spent on repairing the buildings. In 1845, when Wilberforce was appointed Dean, he set to work to inspire fresh life into the institution, but he had hardly time to do anything before he was appointed to the See of Oxford; however, the current set flowing by him gathered strength, and in 1846, when Liddell (afterwards Dean of Christchurch) was made Headmaster, the school was recovering its prosperity.
Ashburnham House was taken over by the school in 1882, and it is well worth a visit. In the hall where the day boys have their lockers there is a very old buttery hatch, probably part of the monks' original building; at the back the little[Pg 66] green garden is the site of the refectory, and traces of Norman windows are seen against the exterior cloister wall. The staircase in Ashburnham House is very fine; it is of the "well" variety, and is surmounted by a cupola with a little gallery. The walls are all panelled; unfortunately, paint has been laid on everything alike, and though the balusters have been recently uncovered, the process is difficult and laborious, and apt to injure the carving. The carving round the doorways is very fine, of the laurel-wreath pattern associated with the period of Wren. The house belonged to Lord Ashburnham, and was later used by the Prebendaries of the cathedral. The school is no longer in any sense dependent on the Abbey, and except that the boys attend the services there as "chapel," the old ties are severed. A great feature of the school are the King's (or Queen's) Scholars, founded by Elizabeth; of these there are now forty resident and twenty non-resident. There are three scholarships and three exhibitions yearly at Christ Church, Oxford, for Westminster boys, and three exhibitions at Trinity College, Oxford. There are at present (1902) about two hundred and thirty boys in the school. The Latin play, which is well known in connection with the school, is acted by the King's Scholars annually in the middle of December, and dates back to 1704.[Pg 67]
The annals of New Palace Yard are long and interesting. It looks so new and modern, with its Houses of Parliament, and its iron railings, that one forgets how ancient a place it is. What stood on the site of Westminster Hall before William Rufus built it we know not, but certainly some buildings belonging to the Old Palace of Cnut and Edward the Confessor. It was called, however, New Palace Yard on account of the buildings erected by William and his successors. It was enclosed by a wall which had three gates. The water-gate was on the site of the present bridge, while the Star Chamber occupied very nearly the site of the present Clock Tower. The yard was further beautified by a fountain, which on great days flowed with wine; this fountain, which was taken down in the reign of Charles II., stood on the north side. On the same side behind the fountain was the "Clochard," or Clock Tower. This fine building was erected by Sir Ralph Hingham, Lord Chief Justice under Edward I., in payment of a fine of 800 marks imposed upon him by the King for having altered a court roll. It was done in mercy, in order to change a poor man's fine of 12s. 4d. to 6s. 8d., but a court roll must not be altered. The care of the clock was[Pg 68] granted to the Dean of St. Stephen's, with an allowance of sixpence a day. The bell, very famous in its day, was large and sonorous; it could be heard all over London when the wind was south-west. It was first called Edward, and bore this legend:
When the Clock Tower, the "Clochard," was taken down in 1698, the bell called "Tom" was found to weigh 82 cwt. 2 qrs. 211 lb. It was bought by the Dean of St. Paul's. As it was being carried to the City, it fell from the cart in crossing the very boundary of Westminster, viz., under Temple Bar. In 1716 it was recast, and presently placed in the western tower of St. Paul's.
In Palace Yard Perkin Warbeck sat in the stocks before the gate of Westminster Hall for a whole day, enduring innumerable reproaches, mockings and scornings.
Here John Stubbs, the Puritan, an attorney of Lincoln's Inn, and Robert Page, his servant (December 3, 1580), had their hands struck off for a libel on the Queen, called "The Gaping Gulph, in which England will be swallowed by the French Marriage." What part the unfortunate servant played that he, too, should deserve a punishment so terrible is difficult to say. On[Pg 69] March 2, 1585, William Parry was drawn from the Tower and hanged and quartered here. And in January, 1587, one Thomas Lovelace, sentenced by the Star Chamber for false accusations, was carried on horseback about Westminster Hall, his face to the tail; he was then pilloried, and had one of his ears cut off. The execution, in 1612, of Lord Sanquire for the murder of a fencing-master, and of the Duke of Hamilton, the Earl of Holland and Lord Capel, on March 9, 1649, for so-called treason, took place in New Palace Yard. Here in 1630 Alexander Leighton was whipped, pilloried and branded for a libel on the Queen and the Bishops. In May, 1685, Titus Oates was stripped of his ecclesiastical robes and led round Westminster Hall; afterwards he was put in the pillory. The printer of the famous "No. 45" of the North Briton also stood in the pillory in New Palace Yard in 1765.
In the Old Palace Yard, now covered by buildings, were fought out certain ordeals of battle. Here was held at least one famous tournament, that in which the two Scottish prisoners, the Earl Douglas and Sir William Douglas, bore themselves so gallantly that the King restored them to liberty on their promise not to fight against the English.
One memory of Old Palace Yard must not be forgotten. Geoffrey Chaucer lived during his last year at a house adjoining the White Rose Tavern[Pg 70] abutting on the Lady Chapel of the Abbey. The house was swept away to make room for Henry VII.'s chapel. Nor must we forget that Ben Jonson lived and died in a house over the gate or passage from the churchyard to the old palace. In the south-east corner of Old Palace Yard stood the house hired by the Gunpowder Plot conspirators for the conveyance of the barrels into the vault. And it was in Old Palace Yard that four of them suffered death.
The whole of the ground now occupied by the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Hall and New Palace Yard was formerly covered with the walls, gates, tower, state chambers, private chambers, offices, stables, gardens, and outhouses, of the King's House, Westminster. Until sixty years ago, when fire finally destroyed them, still stood on this spot many of the buildings, altered and reroofed, repaired, and with changed windows and new decorations, of Edward the Confessor, and perhaps of Knut. Still under these modern houses the ground is covered with the old cellars, vaults and crypts, which it was found safer and cheaper to fill with cement than to break up and carry away.
It is at present impossible to present a plan of the King's House such as it was when Edward the Confessor occupied it; we can, however, draw an incomplete plan of the place later on, say in the fourteenth century.[Pg 71]
The palace was walled, but not moated; it had two principal gates, one opening to the north, and another on the river. The circuit of the wall only included twelve acres and a half, and into this compass had to be crowded in Plantagenet times the King's and Queen's state and private apartments, and accommodation for an immense army of followers, and also for all the craftsmen and artificers required by the Court. The total number of persons thus housed in the fourteenth century is reckoned at 20,000. The part of the King's House thus occupied, the narrow streets of gabled houses, with tourelles at the corners, and much gilded and carved work, has vanished completely, even to the memory. When King Henry VIII. removed to the palace at Whitehall a new Westminster arose about his old Court; this in its turn almost vanished with the fire of 1834. Up to this time some of the old buildings remained, but have now completely gone. Among them were the Painted Chamber, the Star Chamber, the old House of Lords, and Princes' Chamber, all part of Edward the Confessor's palace. In the Painted Chamber the Confessor himself died, but it is manifestly impossible to give here any minute account of the chambers in the ancient building.
The crypt of St. Stephen's Chapel (not shown to visitors) is one of the few parts remaining which dates from before the fire. The chapel is said to[Pg 72] have been first built by the King whose name it bore, but was rebuilt by Edward I. and greatly altered by his two immediate successors. It was used for the sittings of the House of Commons after Edward VI.'s reign. At the end of the seventeenth century it was much altered by Wren, but it perished in 1834. A small chapel on the south side was called Our Lady of the Pew. The oldest part of the ancient palace remaining is Westminster Hall, built by William Rufus as a part of a projected new palace. He held his Court here in 1099, and, on hearing a remark on the vastness of his hall, he declared that it would be only a bedroom to the palace when finished. However, he himself had to occupy much narrower quarters before he could carry out his scheme. Richard II. raised the hall and gave it the splendid hammer-beam roof, one of the finest feats in carpentry extant. George IV. refaced the exterior of the hall with stone.
In the eighteenth century the Courts of Justice (Chancery and King's Bench) were held here, and as the hall was also lined with shops, and the babble and walking to and fro were incessant, it is not wonderful that justice was sometimes left undone. It would be difficult—nay, impossible—to tell in detail all the strange historic scenes enacted in Westminster Hall in the limited space at disposal, and as they are all concerned rather with[Pg 73] the nation than with Westminster, mere mention of the principal ones will be enough. Henry II. caused his eldest son to be crowned in the hall in his own lifetime, at which ceremony the young Prince disdainfully asserted he was higher in rank than his father, having a King for father and a Queen for mother, whereas his father could only claim blood royal on the mother's side.
Edward III. here received King John of France, brought captive by the Black Prince. In 1535 Sir Thomas More was tried here; later there were many trials, the greatest of which was that of King Charles I., followed by that of the regicides, brought to justice and the fruit of their crimes in a way they had not expected when they took prominent parts in the first great drama. Cromwell's head was stuck upon the southern gable of the hall, where it remained for twenty years. The trial of the Seven Bishops caused great excitement, that of Lords Kenmure and Derwentwater hardly less. Lord Byron was tried in Westminster Hall, and every child has heard of the arraignment of Warren Hastings. Surely, if ever a building had memories of historic dramas, played upon its floor as on a stage, it is Rufus's great hall at Westminster.
Parliament was first called to Westminster in Edward I.'s reign. The Commons sat for 300 years in the Abbey Chapter-house, then for 300[Pg 74] years more in St. Stephen's Chapel. In 1790 a report on the buildings declared them to be defective and in great danger of fire, a prophecy fulfilled in 1834. On the evening of October 16 in that year the wife of a doorkeeper saw a light under one of the doors, and gave an alarm. The place was made for a bonfire; a strong wind blowing from the south, and afterwards south-west, drove the flames along the dried woodwork and through the draughty passages. As the flames got a stronger and stronger hold, the scene from the further bank of the river was magnificent. Until three o'clock the next day the fire raged, and Westminster Hall and the crypt of St. Stephen's Chapel alone survived the wreck. The cause of the fire is said to have been the heating of the flues by some workmen burning a quantity of tallies or ancient notched sticks.
The present Houses of Parliament, built after the fire from Sir Charles Barry's designs, have been the cause of much of that criticism which is applied to the work of some people by others who certainly could not do so well themselves. The material used is magnesian limestone, which, unfortunately, has not worn well; and the erection took seventeen years (1840-57). On Saturday afternoons the door under the Victoria Tower, south end, is open, and anyone may walk through the principal rooms. This is well worth doing,[Pg 75] though what is to be seen is mostly modern. What will chiefly astonish strangers is the smallness of the House of Commons.
The Clock Tower, 316 feet high, containing Big Ben, and standing at the north end of the present Houses of Parliament, is a notable object, and a landmark for miles around. Ben was called after Sir Benjamin Hall, who was First Commissioner of Works at the time he was brought into being.
Bridge Street was formed at the building of the bridge, and is almost on the site of the Long Woolstaple.
In the reign of King Edward III., in the year 1353, Westminster was made one of the ten towns in England where the staple or market for wool might be held. This had formerly been held in Flanders, and the removal of the market to England brought a great increase to the Royal revenue, for on every sack exported the King received a certain sum. Pennant says: "The concourse of people which this removal of the Woolstaple to Westminster occasioned caused this Royal village to grow into a considerable town."
Henry VI. held six wool-houses in the Staple, which he granted to the Dean and Canons of St. Stephen's.
Walcott says: "On the north side of the Long Staple was a turning in a westerly direction lead[Pg 76]ing into the Round Staple, at the south-east end of the present King Street." This must have been on the site of the present Great George Street. An attempt was made to establish a fish-market here in competition with Billingsgate, but the pre-established interest was too strong and the fish-market was abandoned.
There was a gateway at the end of the Staple. This was still in existence in 1741, when it was pulled down in view of the new bridge.
There has been much dispute as to the origin of the name of Cannon Row. Some hold that it was derived from the prebendal houses of the Canons of St. Stephen's Chapel, and others that it was a corruption of Channel Row, from the arm of the river which entered near the spot. There were many noble houses here at one time. The Earl of Derby in 1552 had two houses, with gardens stretching to the river, granted to him by Edward VI.
Anne, Duchess of Somerset, built a house here. The Marquis of Dorset's house gave its name to a court subsequently built on its site. In 1556-57 the Earl of Sussex lived here, and in 1618 a later Earl of Derby built a house, afterwards used as the Admiralty Office. The name is preserved in Derby Street. The Earl of Essex, Lord Halifax, and the Bishop of Peterborough were all residents in this row. In the middle of the seventeenth[Pg 77] century the Duke of Manchester, Lord Privy Seal, resided here also. At present the row is very dreary. The building in which the Civil Service examinations are held stands on the east side. This was erected in 1784 for the Ordnance Board, then given to the Board of Control, and finally to the Civil Service Commissioners.
The Victoria Embankment was begun in 1864, and completed about six years later. The wall is of brick, faced with granite and founded in Portland cement; it looks solid enough to withstand the tides of many a hundred years. The parapet is of granite, decorated by cast-iron standard lamps. St Stephen's Club is on the Embankment, close by Westminster Bridge Station. Further on is the huge building of the Police Commissioners, known as New Scotland Yard, built in 1890 from designs of Norman Shaw, R.A. It is the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Force, and the architecture is singularly well in keeping with its object. The building is of red brick, with the tower floors cased in granite. It is in the form of a square, built round an inner courtyard, and has an immense bastion at each exterior angle. Besides the offices of the police force, the Lost Property Office, the Public Carriage Office, and the Criminal Investigation Department are here. The building communicates directly by telephone with the Horse Guards, Houses of Parliament, British Museum,[Pg 78] and other public places, and has telegraphic communication with the twenty-two head-offices of the Metropolitan Police district. The Criminal Museum is open to the public under certain conditions.
Parliament Street and King Street have now been merged in one, and together have become a part of Whitehall, so that the very names will soon be forgotten. Yet King Street was once the direct land route to the Abbey and Palace from the north, and its narrow span was perforce wide enough for all the pageantry of funerals, coronations, and other State shows that passed through it. It must be remembered that King Street formerly ran right up to the Abbey precincts, from which it was separated by a gate-house, called Highgate, built by Richard II.; but the street was subsequently shorn of a third of its length, over which now grows green grass in smooth lawns. The street was very picturesque:"The houses rose up three and four stories high; gabled all, with projecting fronts, story above story, the timbers of the fronts painted and gilt, some of them with escutcheons hung in front, the richly blazoned arms brightening the narrow way." But it was also dirty: "The roadway was rough and full of holes; a filthy stream ran down the middle, all kinds of refuse were lying about." But what mattered that? No one went on foot who could[Pg 79] possibly go by boat, and there lay the great highway of the river close at hand. We have said processions went down this street; among them we may number all the coronation processions up to the time when Parliament Street was cut through numerous small courts and by-streets in the reign of George II. Lord Howard of Effingham set out from King Street to fight the Spanish Armada. Charles I. came this way from Whitehall Palace to his trial at Westminster; he went back by the same route condemned to death; and later Cromwell's funeral procession followed the same route. Cromwell himself narrowly escaped assassination in this very street, where he had a house north of Boar's Head Yard. The story is told that he was in his state carriage, but owing to the crowd and narrow street he was separated from his guard. Suddenly Lord Broghill, who was with him, saw the door of a cobbler's stall open and shut, while something glittered behind it. He therefore got out of the carriage and hammered at the door with his scabbard, when a tall man, armed with a sword, rushed out and made his escape.
Anne Oldfield was apprenticed to a seamstress in King Street. Sir Henry Wootton also lived here; and Ben Jonson says that Spenser died here for"lack of bread," and that the Earl of Essex sent him "20 pieces" on hearing of his poverty,[Pg 80] but the poet refused them, saying they came too late. Fletcher wrote of him: "Poorly, poor man, he lived; poorly, poor man, he died." But it seems hardly credible he was so badly off as to be destitute, for he was at the time a pensioner of the Crown. Thomas Carew the poet lived in King Street. Most of the taverns in Westminster seem to have clustered about this street; we have the names of the Bell, the Boar's Head, and the Rhenish Wine House still handed down as places of importance. There were innumerable courts and alleys opening out of King Street. On the west, south of Downing Street, were Axe Yard, Sea Alley, Bell Yard, Antelope Alley. Gardener's Lane ran parallel with Charles Street; here Hollar the engraver died in extreme poverty in 1677.
At the north end of King Street stood a second gate, called the King's Gate, and sometimes the Cockpit Gate. It stood at the corner of what is now Downing Street. It had four domed towers; on the south side were pilasters and an entablature enriched with the double rose, the portcullis, and the royal arms. The gate was removed in 1723.
In the year 1605 a solemn function took place in which the gate played a part:
"On January 4, 1605, when Prince Charles, Duke of Albany, then only four years old, was to be created Knight of the Bath, his esquires, the[Pg 81] Earls of Oxford and Essex, with eleven noblemen who were to share in the honour, tooke their lodgings in the first Gate-house going to King's-streete, where they were all after supper, at which they sat by degrees, a row on the one side, with the armes of every of them over the seate where he was placed; and lodged upon severall pallets in one chamber, with their armes likewise over them, having their bathes provided for them in the chamber underneath. The next morning they went about through the gallory downe into the Parke in their hermits' weedes, the musitions playing, and the heralds going before them into The Court, and so into the Chapell, and there after solemn courtesies, like to the Knights of the Garter, first to the Altar, and then to the Cloath of Estate, every one took his place in the stalles of the Quier" (Walcott, p. 58).
Great George Street, made 1750—at the same time as the Bridge, Bridge Street, etc.—contains the Institution of Civil Engineers, a fine building, and at the west end is Delahay Street, once Duke Street, a very fashionable locality in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The poet Matthew Prior lived here, and Bishop Stillingfleet died here in 1699. Duke Street Chapel, recently pulled down, was a very well-known place; it was originally part of a house, overlooking the park built by Judge Jeffreys, and the steps into the[Pg 82] park at Chapel Place were made for Jeffreys' special convenience. In this wing of his house he sometimes heard cases, and it was later made into a chapel for private subscribers. Jeffreys' house was also used for a time as the Admiralty Office. In Delahay Street may be noted the west end of the Boar's Head Court, marking the spot where Cromwell's house stood. The space between Great George Street and Charles Street will soon be covered by Government offices, now in course of erection. When Parliament Street was made it effaced Clinker's Court, White Horse Yard, Lady's Alley, Stephen's Alley, Rhenish Wine Yard, Brewers' Yard, and Pensioners' Alley—some of the slums which had sprung up outside the Abbey precincts. Now Parliament Street in its turn is effaced, swallowed up in an extended Whitehall. King Street has been completely swept away, as one sweeps a row of crumbs from a cloth, but the part it played in the ancient history of Westminster is not yet forgotten. Undoubtedly the change could be justified: the thoroughfare is an important one, the view as now seen from the direction of Charing Cross one of the finest in the world; yet to gain it we have had to give, and one wonders sometimes whether the gain counterbalances the loss.
Beyond the now vacant space on the north are the great group of Government offices, the Home[Pg 83] and Colonial Offices facing Parliament Street, and behind them the India and the Foreign Offices. Above Downing Street there are others, the Privy Council Office and the Treasury.
Downing Street is called after George Downing, an American Ambassador to the Hague under Cromwell and in Charles II.'s reign. John Boyle, Earl of Cork and Ossory and the last Earl of Oxford, lived here. Boswell occupied a house in Downing Street in 1763. But the street is chiefly associated with the official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury. Sir Robert Walpole accepted this house from George II. on condition it should belong to his successors in office for ever.
On the east side, nearly opposite Downing Street, Richmond Terrace stands on the site of the Duke of Richmond's house, burnt down in 1790. Beyond Richmond Terrace is Montagu House, the town residence of the Duke of Buccleuch; the present building, which is of stone, in the Italian style, dates from the middle of the nineteenth century.
Beyond, again, are Whitehall Gardens, on part of the site of the Privy Gardens, belonging to Whitehall Palace. There is now a row of fine houses overlooking the Embankment and the Gardens. One of these was the residence of Sir Robert Peel. A great gallery of sculpture formerly extended along this part of the Embankment. It was partly[Pg 84] destroyed in 1778, and wholly burnt down some years later. Gwydyr House, a sombre brick building with heavy stone facings over the central window and doorway is now occupied by the Charity Commission; it was built by Adam. Adjoining it is a new building with an angle tower and cupola; this belongs to the Royal United Service Institute, and next door to it is the banqueting-hall, now used as the United Service Museum. This is the only fragment left of Whitehall Palace, and is described in detail on p. 88.
The gatehouse known as the Holbein Gate stood across Whitehall a little south of the banqueting-hall. It was the third, and the most magnificent of those which previously stood in Westminster, and was built by Henry VIII. after the design of Holbein. It is said that one of the chambers was Holbein's studio. Later it was used as a State Paper Office, and was removed in 1750 to widen the street. It was intended to rebuild it in Windsor Park, but this design was never carried out; though various fragments of it were afterwards worked into other buildings.
It is a pity that it vanished, for it would have been a fine relic of the Tudor times, with its high angular towers and its elaborate decoration. It had a large central entrance and two smaller doorways beneath the towers. The brickwork was in diaper pattern, and the front ornamented with[Pg 85] busts in niches—altogether a very elaborate piece of work.
Hubert de Burgh bequeathed a house on this site to the Dominican Friars in the thirteenth century, and they sold it to the Archbishop of York. For 250 years it was the town-house of the Archbishops of that see, and when Wolsey became Archbishop he entered into his official residence with the intention of beautifying and enlarging it greatly; he had a passion for display, a quality which perhaps cost him more than he was ever aware of. It was a dangerous thing to build or rebuild great mansions close to the palace of so jealous a King as Henry VIII. It was especially dangerous to do so at Whitehall, because, as has been already shown, the King lived at Westminster in a congeries of old buildings more or less dilapidated and inconvenient. Wolsey's fall was doubtless hastened by his master's covetousness, and after it, by agreement with the Chapter of York, the King had the house conveyed to himself. Up to this time it had been known as York Place, but was henceforth Whitehall. At Anne Boleyn's coronation in the Abbey, the Royal party came to and from Whitehall.
'King Henry VIII.,' Act IV.
It must be remembered that there was then no Parliament Street, and the palace buildings occupied all the ground from Old Scotland Yard to Downing Street, from St. James's Park to the river. King Henry added very much to the land belonging to the palace, also to the buildings. He was fond of sport, and his additions show his tastes in this direction; he built a tennis-court, a tilt-yard,—on the site of the Horse Guards—a bowling-green, and a cockpit. The exact site of the cockpit has long been a matter of uncertainty, but it is now very generally believed that the entrance was just where the present Treasury entrance is.
The palace does not seem to have been very homogeneous; it contained three courts, including Old Scotland Yard, in which was the Guard House. The King and Queen occupied the first court, where was what remained of old York House; here also was the great Hall, the Presence Chamber, and the Banqueting House. In the second court was the way to the Audience and Council Chambers, the Chapel, the offices of the Palace, and the Watergate.
Henry VIII. died in this palace, and all the noble names of his and the succeeding reigns seem to haunt the site of the now vanished building. Here came Sir Thomas More, Erasmus and Thomas Cromwell; Holbein occupied a set of[Pg 87] apartments, and received a salary of 200 florins for painting and decorating the rooms. Here are the ghosts of Cranmer, Katharine of Aragon, Jane Seymour, Latimer and Ridley; later we see a courtlier gathering—Cecil, Essex, Leicester, Raleigh, Drake, Walsingham, Philip Sydney. So true it is, the King doth make the Court. Some time later, in the reign of Charles II., we have a different class of men altogether—Monk, Clarendon, Sedley, Rochester, Wycherley, Dryden, Butler, Suckling, Carew. Here came crowds to be touched for the King's evil. Here the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth implored pardon at his uncle's feet in vain. Whitehall was also the home of the short-lived masque, a form of entertainment extremely costly.
In 1691 a fire broke out, and all the buildings between the stone gallery and the river were burned down, and six years later another fire finished nearly all that the first had left.
Inigo Jones prepared plans for a new palace that should eclipse the old, and his designs lacked not anything on the side of magnificence; if the palace had been built as he designed, it would have exceeded in splendour any building now in London, but he did not finish it. Like William Rufus with Westminster Palace, like many another architect, his plans demanded more than his allotted span of years, and before he could do[Pg 88] more than put his imagination upon paper, and realize but a fragment of it in stone, he was called away from a world dependent on the "work of men's hands."
The fragment he has left us still stands; it was to be the banqueting-hall, but no Royal banquets were held there; it was used as a Chapel Royal for many years, and is now the home of the United Service Museum. For the magnificent ceiling painted by Rubens we are indebted to Charles I., who also designed to have the walls painted by Vandyck, a still more costly operation, which was never carried out. The weathercock on the north end was put up by order of James II., so that he might see whether the wind was for or against the dreaded Dutch fleet. The building has one association never to be forgotten. On that black day when England shamed herself before the nations by spilling the blood of her King, the scaffold was erected before this building, though the exact site is unknown. It is believed that the window second from the north end is that in front of which it stood, and that the King stepped forth from a window in a small outbuilding on the north side; he came forth to die, the only innocent man in all that great crowd, who watched him suffer without raising a finger to save him. At that time the present windows were not glazed, but walled in. William III. talked of rebuilding the[Pg 89] palace, but he died too soon. Queen Anne went to St. James's, and Whitehall was never rebuilt.
The Horse Guards is almost directly opposite the Banqueting House, and stands on the site of an old house for the Gentlemen Pensioners who formed the guard when there was not a standing army in England. This itself superseded the tilt-yard built by King Henry VIII., though the actual yard was the wide space at the back of the building, which still witnesses the trooping of the colours and other ceremonies on state occasions. It is interesting to notice that the words "Tilt-yard Guards" still occur in the regulations hung up inside the sentry-boxes where the magnificent sentries keep guard, to the wonder and admiration of every small boy who passes.
The whole of St. James's Park is now included in the City of Westminster, but only the south-east part is in the parish of St. Margaret's, which we are now considering. The remainder will be found described in the parish of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, which is included in the electoral district of the Strand in the same series. In "The Strand District" there are also full accounts of St. James's Palace, and of Buckingham Palace.
The spot now known as St. James's Park was once a dismal marshy field. In 1531 Henry VIII. obtained some of the land from the Abbey of[Pg 90] Westminster, and in the following year he proceeded to erect what is now St. James's Palace, on the site of a former leper hospital. The park, however, seems to have remained in a desolate condition until the reign of James I., who took a great interest in it, and established a menagerie here which he often visited. The popularity of the park continued throughout the Stuart period. Charles II. after the Restoration employed a Frenchman, Le Nôtre, to lay out the grounds, and under his advice the canal was formed from the chain of pools that spread across the low-lying ground, and also a decoy, where ducks and wildfowl resorted. Rosamund's Pond, an oblong pool, lay at the south-west end of the canal. Of the origin of this name there is no record, though Rosamund's land is mentioned as early as 1531. A new Mall was laid out soon after the Restoration, and preserved with great care. Powdered cockleshells were sprinkled over the earth to keep it firm. As the game of pall-mall went out of fashion the Mall became a promenade, and was the resort of the Court. A pheasant-walk was also formed where Marlborough House now stands. There are two ancient views of the park extant, in one of which the heads of Cromwell, Ireton and Bradshaw stuck upon poles at the end of Westminster Hall are visible, and in the other, a figure walking in the foreground is supposed to be[Pg 91] Charles II. himself. The park was not opened to the public at this time, but those whose houses bordered it appear to have been allowed free entrance. Milton, the poet, certainly strolled here from his house in Petty France.
Charles II. himself frequently used it, and kept his pet animals here, and the lords and ladies of his time made it their fashionable rendezvous. The park is mentioned constantly by Pepys and Evelyn. A couple of oaks planted by Charles from acorns brought from Boscobel survived until 1833, when they were blown down.
The origin of the name of Birdcage Walk has been disputed. It has been derived from "boccage," meaning avenue; another account says it was from the bird-cages of the King's aviary, which were hung in the trees. This seems more probable.
For many reigns St. James's Park continued to be a fashionable place of resort. In 1770 Rosamund's Pond was filled up, and the moat round Duck Island was filled in. In 1779 a gentleman was killed in a duel in the park.
In 1827-29 the park was finally laid out and the canal converted into a piece of ornamental water under the superintendence of Nash. In 1857 the lake was cleared out to a uniform depth of four feet and the present bridge erected, and the park became something like what we see at the present time. The vicinity of Marlborough House and[Pg 92] Buckingham Palace still give it a certain distinction, but it cannot be called in any sense fashionable, as it was in the later Stuart times. And in the midst of the park we must take leave of our present district, having rambled within its borders east and west, north and south, and having met in the process the ghosts of kings and queens, of statesmen and authors, of men of the Court and men of the Church, those who have made history in the past and laid the foundations for the glory of the future.[Pg 93]
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