Amazing articles on just about every subject...



Streets South Of Fleet Street

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

STARTING from the spot where Temple Bar once stood, and proceeding eastward, the first tributary from the main stream to which we come is the tiny CHILD'S PLACE, which dates from about 1787, when the Devil Tavern was demolished, and Messrs. Child's Bank, together with this small court, formed on its site. A few steps farther bring us to Middle Temple Lane and Inner Temple Lane (called by Horwood, in 1799, Little Temple Lane). Apart from the fact that the former is part and parcel of the Middle Temple, and therefore has a natural claim to be remembered, there is not any great wealth of association with this narrow alley. It once, however, had a notable resident in the person of Elias Ashmole, the antiquary and historian of the Order of the Garter. A terrible calamity occurred to him here, for on Jan. 26, 1679, a fire broke out in the adjoining chambers, and spread with such rapidity to those occupied by Ashmole, that practically the whole of his books, the accumulation of over

thirty years, together with a fine cabinet of coins, seals, charters, and antiquities of all sorts, fell victims to the flames. Luckily, his collection of manuscripts was at another house owned by Ashmole, at Lambeth, and so has come down to us, preserved now in the British Museum.

INNER TEMPLE LANE, On the other hand, is full of fascinating associations : here Johnson had one of his many Fleet Street abodes ; here Boswell also once lodged ; Cowper was here in 1752, and Lamb in 1809 to 1817 ; while Lord Chief-Justice Campbell resided at No. 5 during the year 1804, and in a shop in the lane the first barometers ever seen in London were sold by an optician named Jones. Much rebuilding has, to some extent, taken from the lane's picturesque appearance, and with these ` improvements ' the one-time homes of Johnson, Boswell, and Lamb have disappeared ; but no one passing up or down it should forget that here the most potent literary figure of the day once lived, and the kindliest and gentlest of men and most consummate of essayists. Johnson's rooms were at No. 1, and here he resided for five years (1760-65). In 1857, No. 1, which had been inscribed " Dr. Johnson's Staircase," was pulled down, but the stairs up which so many notable people went to visit him were taken away and preserved. Among these visitors was Madame de Boufflers, and here occurred the well-known incident, described by Beauclerk, to which I more fully refer in the chapter dealing with the Temple.

Boswell, of course, tells us what Johnson's work-room was like, and on July 19, 1763, he made his first visit to it " up four pair of stairs " ; " it is," he adds, " very airy, commands a view of St. Paul's and many a brick roof. He has many good books, but they are all lying in confusion and dust." He had, however, been before this to the lower rooms " on the first floor of No. 1 Inner Temple Lane," and here he found the " giant in his den," as Dr. Blair phrased it, on May 24, 1763. " It must be confessed," he says, " that his apartment and furniture, and morning dress, were sufficiently uncouth but all these slovenly particulars were forgotten the moment that he began to talk."

It would appear that Lintot, the second of that name, kept his stock of books here before Johnson's time, for another entry by Boswell reads : " Mr. Levett this day showed me Dr. Johnson's library, which was contained in two garrets over his chambers, where Lintot, son of the celebrated bookseller of that name, had formerly his warehouse."

Inner Temple Lane is, indeed, redolent of Johnson, but surely it never witnessed the Doctor in such an hilarious mood as on that occasion when, one night being seized with a fit of merriment at some humorous incident, he went, to the wonderment of his companions, who were ignorant of the cause of his amusement, " roaring all the way to the Temple Gate, where being arrived, he burst into such convulsive laughter that in order to support himself he laid hold of one of the posts at the side of the foot-pavement [I quote Boswell, of course], and sent forth peals so loud that, in the silence of the night, his voice seemed to resound from Temple Bar to Fleet Ditch."

Could we only know the nature of the joke which so moved to this " sudden glorying the awful, melancholy, and venerable Johnson," as Boswell calls him !

The attraction of Johnson soon drew his future biographer to the spot where his idol lived, and we find Boswell lodging in the chambers of the Rev. Mr. Temple, at the south end of the lane : " I found them," he tells us, " particularly convenient for me, as they were so near Dr. Johnson's."

Some ten years earlier, another notable man was living here, William Cowper to wit, who came hither in 1752, and here produced much of his early poetical work. Writing to Joseph Hill many years later (Dec. 2, 1782), Cowper says : " I gave two hundred and fifty pounds for the chambers. Mr. Ashurst's receipt, and the receipt of the person of whom he purchased, are both among my papers ; and when wanted, as I suppose they will be in the case of a sale, shall be forthcoming at your order." This indicates that Cowper kept the rooms for at least thirty years, and also proves that at that period such chambers were to be bought outright, and not merely rented as at present.

It was in 1809 that Charles Lamb came back to the vicinity in which he was born,1 and where he had already occupied chambers in Mitre Court Buildings. Writing to Manning in 1809, he says: " We are at 39 Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane, and shall be here until the end of May, when we remove to No. 4 Inner Temple Lane, where I mean to live and die. . . Our place of final destination I don't mean the grave, but No. 4 Inner Temple Lane looks out upon a gloomy, churchyard-like court, called Hare Court, with three trees and a pump in it. Do you know it ? I was born near it, and used to drink at that pump when I was a Rechabite of six years old." In another letter, this time to Coleridge, Lamb tells his friend that he has " two rooms on the third floor, and five rooms above, with an inner staircase to myself, and all new painted, etc., for £30 a year." " The rooms," he adds, " are delicious. . . . Hare Court's trees come in at the window, so that it's like living in a garden ;

" while in his humorous epistle to Manning, dated 1810, he remarks that in his " best room is a choice collection of the works of Hogarth, an English painter of some humour. In my next best are shelves containing a small but well-chosen library. My best room commands a court, in which there are trees and a pump, the water of which is excellent cold with brandy, and not very insipid without."

No sign of Lamb's chambers remains today, the modern erection known as Johnson's Buildings having replaced them ; but the pump, which will always be associated with him, and the court into which he so often looked, still remind us of the gentle presence of Elia here. Notwithstanding his assertion that he would live and die in Inner Temple Lane, Lamb left it in October 1817, and the Temple, as a place of residence, knew him no more.

Close to Inner Temple Lane is FALCON COURT, notable as being the site of the premises bearing the sign of the 'Falcon,' where the great printer Wynkyn de Worde lived, and where was printed the first edition of Sackville's Gorboduc, by William Griffith, in 1565. Griffith had his bookselling shop on the opposite side of the thoroughfare, in St. Dunstan's Churchyard. Falcon Court is immediately under 32 Fleet Street (the Falcon '), and this property, together with six other houses, was bequeathed by John Fisher, in 1547, to the Cordwainers' Company in trust for the poor of St. Dunstan's, the only conditions being the preaching of an annual sermon, the praying for the repose of the benefactor's soul, and the drinking of a certain quantity of sack. The last condition seems to indicate that Fisher once kept the ` Falcon ' as a tavern, and that the ruling passion was strong in death.

We are told by Noble that, in 1651, there was apprehended at Denzie's, the barber's, " over against St. Dunstan's Church, by Falcon Court," " the prince of prigs, the grand thief captain, James Hind," who was executed at Doncaster in the following year.1

No. 32 Fleet Street existed into the nineteenth century, and then bore the date of 1667 on its front. It was occupied at this time by John Murray, and from here Childe Harold as well as the earlier numbers of the Quarterly, were published

Boswell, it will be remembered, accidentally met Johnson at this spot on March 20, 1781, and " stepped aside into Falcon Court " with his hero, on which occasion the Doctor uttered his aphorism that " a London morning does not go with the sun."

I have overlooked, a few doors farther west, a little alley, which existed till the sixties of the nineteenth century, bearing no name, but earlier known as HERCULES' PILLARS ALLEY, from the fact that the inn with that sign was situated in it. The court was, indeed, a great place for inns, and Strype describes it as " but narrow, and altogether inhabited by such as keep Publick-Houses for entertainment, for which it is of note." Its sole interest centres in this connection.

Another lane leading to the Temple is close by this is MITRE COURT, at the corner of which the famous Mitre Tavern, at one time erroneously associated with Dr. Johnson and his circle, was situated. It was at the Fleet Street end of the court that Sarah Malcolm, garbed in a crape mourning gown, a white apron, and black gloves, and with, it is said, her face painted, was executed on March 7, 1733, for several atrocious murders in Tanfield Court, Temple.

It was at No. 16 Mitre Court Buildings, leading from this old court to King's Bench Walk, that Lamb took rooms in 1800. Writing to Manning, he says : " I live at No. 16 Mitre Court Buildings, a pistol shot off Baron Maseres. He lives on the ground floor for convenience of the gout ; I prefer the attic storey for the air. N.B. When you come to see me, mount up to the top of the stairs and come in flannel, for it is pure airy up there. And bring your glass, and I will show you the Surrey Hills. My bed faces the river, so as by perking up upon my haunches, and supporting my carcass with my elbows, without much wrying my neck, I can see the white sails glide by the bottom of the King's Bench Walks."

The present Mitre Court Buildings are not, however, those in which Lamb Iived, as they were not erected, on the site of the earlier ones, till 1830.

By another letter from Lamb to Manning we learn that Rickman, who was, he says, " the finest fellow to drop in o' nights," and was a friend of Southey, lived here at the same time. Lamb remained till 1809, three years after he had inaugurated his famous ` Wednesday Evening ' gatherings.

RAM ALLEY,1 No. 46 Fleet Street, subsequently known as Hare Court,2 was situated in that area of Whitefriars known as Alsatia, which. had at one time been a conventual sanctuary, but afterwards developed into a chartered abode of libertinism and roguery of all sorts ; its characteristics being well illustrated in Shadwell's Squire of Alsatia. Curiously enough, Ram Alley also gave its name to a dramatic work, for Barry's Ram Alley, or Merrie Tricks, printed in 1611, took its title from the place. At this time, it was known, we are told, for its " cookes, alemen, and laundresses."

Strype, indeed, describes it as " taken up by publick houses," and he adds that it was " a place of no great reputation, as being a kind of privileged place for debtors, before the late Act 3 of Parliament for taking them away." What it was in Strype's day it had been much earlier, for we find references to it and its questionable denizens, as well as its eating-houses, in the works of Ben Jonson, Massinger, Shadwell, and other contemporary writers ; while Scott, in Kenilworth, puts a reference to the place in the mouth of the Countess of Rutland.

In his Life of Charles 1., Hamon L'Estrange gives a curious and amusing account of an affray in Ram Alley, brought about by the ` Temple Sparks,' who, having instituted a Lord of Misrule, tried to exact a contribution to the Christmas festivities, of 5s. a house, in default of which a so-called ` Gunner' battered down the door. The Lord Mayor, being summoned at last, put a stop, not without trouble and blows, to this attempted extortion.

In Ram Alley was situated a certain ` Hare House ' (from which the later title of the court took its name), which was bequeathed by its owner to the parish in 1594, and in the following century the Ram Tavern is mentioned as also being in its precincts.

One of the two Serjeants' Inns (the other is in Chancery Lane), which are situated in our district, comes next in Fleet Street, but what I have to say concerning it will be best left to another chapter ; 1 and therefore passing it, as well as the little LOMBARD STREET, another of the tributaries out of the ill-famed Alsatia, one of the worst haunts even down to late times, where the printing press of Messrs. Bradbury, Agnew & Co. is situated, we come to BOUVERIE STREET, perhaps as well-known a thoroughfare as any in the easterly part of London, being notable as a one-time residence of Hazlitt, who was living at No. 3 in 1829, and still more so as the street in which Punch and the Daily News are printed. It was called, originally, Whitefriers Street, and connected Fleet Street with that mysterious district to which I have already referred as Alsatia, and of which a more detailed description is necessary and appropriate here.

Whitefriars takes its name from a colony of Carmelite monks (Fratres Beatae Mariae de Monte Carmeli), so called from the dress they affected, which, having been founded by Sir Richard Gray in 1241, secured a piece of ground abutting on Fleet Street by gift from Edward i. This plot extended, I imagine, roughly from what is now Bouverie Street to one portion of New Bridge Street, for we are told that the Prior of the Order made complaint in 1290 of the smells, arising from the Fleet Ditch then flowing where the latter thoroughfare is now, which are said not only to have overpowered the incense in their chapel, but even to have caused the death of some members of the fraternity.'

The Chapel of the Order was rebuilt, in 1350, by Hugh Courtenay, second Earl of Devonshire, and seventy years later Robert Marshall, Bishop of Hereford, gave it a steeple. It would seem that the foundation was a rich and an increasingly prosperous one, noted for its library, and under the immediate patronage of various rulers of this country. With the Dissolution, however, it shared the fate of so many similar institutions, and its church was demolished in 1545. It must have been an imposing edifice, as we can see by Wyngaerde's " Map " (1543), where the spire of its chapel is shown rising far above it. Many great men had been buried in it, and here lay in state, by his own order, the body of John of Gaunt before being carried to St. Paul's, in 1399. When he dissolved the fraternity, Henry viii. gave its chapter-house to his physician, Dr. Butts, and Stow writes that " many fair houses were built, lodgings for noblemen and others," on the site of this once almost princely establishment. A relic of the monastery was found in Briton's Court, Whitefriars, in 1867, an account of which appeared in the Builder for that year.

The immunities enjoyed by the Order the right of sanctuary, etc. seem to have attached to the site of this religious house, or to have been assumed to exist by later inhabitants, long after any sign of it remained ; and in Elizabeth's reign the dwellers here appear to have come to some arrangement with the authorities to this end, as by a document in the Lansdowne MS.,1 we are told that, in return for freedom from City rules, laws, ordinances, taxation, etc., they promised to duly attend St. Paul's ; to appoint their own officers ; arrest any rogues found within their precincts ; look after their own poor and maintain, during winter time, " lanthornes and lights " ; adding the somewhat elastic phrase, " as hitherto hath been accustomed."

It is obvious that such a state within a state should eventually lead to friction, and a proof of this is forthcoming in the Inquest Book, under date of 1608, where we read " Item, wee pr'sent Richard Whaler late constable of the same precincte (Whiteffriers) and John Saunders deputie constable to John Turner of the same precincte for that wee of the enquest goeinge to p'forme our duties according to the Lo : Maior's command by warrant to take notice of such innormities as wee should their fynd, weere resisted by the afore said constables notwithstanding my Lo : authorite or warrant." Nor was this the worst : taverns of the lowest sort sprang up (in 1609 there were eleven victuallers here, six being considered quite sufficient) ; disorderly houses abounded (one Anne Flore, who had been ` carted' once, was suspected of still carrying on her infamous trade) ; and vice of all sorts was rampant. Nothing shows more clearly the degeneration of the neighbourhood than the crowds of tenements which gradually sprang up where had hitherto been the houses of notable men. For instance, the mansion of Sir John Parker was " divided into twentie severall tenements " ; that of one Francis Pike, into no fewer than thirty-nine ; and both Parker and Pike seem to have allowed this for the sake of the rents obtained, for we read that " these two landlords are those that doe breade muche pore people in the same precincte, and much annoyance." Shadwell, in his Squire of Alsatia, has depicted something of the low life of the place in his day, but the great word-picture of it is to be found in The Fortunes of Nigel, where, as Leigh Hunt says, Scott has painted the place as if he had lived in it.

In spite of its once notorious character, Whitefriars has had noble and even famous residents in the past. Sir John Cheke, tutor to Edward VI., lived here ; so did Sackville and Ogilby and Shirley, Lord Delawarr and Lady Cork, Sir Matthew Carew and Lady Morrison; while Sir Balthazar Gerbier (who collected for George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham) had his Art Academy here in 1649. Other residents of note include the Bishop of Worcester and the Earl of Rutland, and Henry Grey, eighth Earl of Kent, who married a lady, the daughter of Lord Shrewsbury, who died here in 1651, and left her house to her friend, John Selden who was then one of the most notable inhabitants. In 1649, Lord Essex, of the Parliamentary Forces, derived some of the annuity given to him by the Government from property here.

In 1697, the privileges so long attached to Alsatia were abolished by Act of Parliament ; but long after that time the place retained its ill-fame. At one time it was a great resort of fencing-masters, and with one of them, Turner by name, a famous story of revenge, in the reign of James I., is associated. The anecdote is given, with some detail, by Timbs in his Romance of London, but it may be shortly outlined as follows. It appears that Turner, during a fencing bout at Rycote, in Oxfordshire, had accidentally put out the eye of Lord Sanquhar. For this, he was never forgiven ; and Sanquhar seems to have bided his time for revenge a revenge made the more necessary (as Sanquhar thought) by the fact that, being at the French Court, and being asked by the King, Henry iv., how he had lost his eye, Sanquhar had said it was done with a sword ; whereupon the monarch asked, " Doth the man live ? " It was some years, however, before Sanquhar put his purpose, so long brooded over, into execution. But at last the time came, and having hi red two ruffians, he caused them to get into friendly converse with Turner, and then to shoot him dead. A warrant was promptly issued for Sanquhar's apprehension, with the result that he was taken, and together with his accomplices, Carliel and Irweng, was hanged the actual murderer at the top of what is now Bouverie Street, and the instigator of the crime before Westminster Hall.

The name 'Alsatia,' which was for long the cant designation of this district, is taken from the French Alsace, long notorious for its internal strife and political disaffection. Exactly when it was given is uncertain, but its first appearance in print seems to have occurred in a tract, by one Thomas Powel, issued in 1623, and entitled Wheresoever you see mee, Trust unto yourselfe : or, The Mysterie of Lending and Borrowing. After that period, the name becomes fairly common ; thus, it occurs in Otway's The Soldier's Fortune, and it forms the title of Shadwell's play, The Squire of Alsatia, published in 1688, much of the scenario of which is placed at the George Tavern, Whitefriars. By Shadwell's descriptions of his characters for the most part bullies, hypocrites, gulls, and blackguards generally we learn, clearly enough, what sort of people congregated in this hotbed of iniquity, in his day. Now, all this district, with its large offices and warehouses, its fine buildings on the river-side, and its general activity, is as much typical of work and energy as it was at an earlier period of sloth and crime.

Before leaving Whitefriars, or Alsatia, mention must be made of the play house once within its precincts, and it is appropriate here to speak of it, after referring to the dramatist Shadwell's general description of this locality. This place of entertainment, however, can perhaps hardly be described as a theatre in the modern acceptation of the term, for it was established in the hall of the old Whitefriars Monastery, the reason for this being the objection of the Corporation to permit of a regular theatre within its jurisdiction. The Whitefriars play house appears to have followed close on the better known one at Blackfriars, which was established in 1576. Indeed, according to Payne Collier, it was fitted up in 1586. It did not have a very long career, however, for we know that it was dismantled in 1613. In a survey drawn up three years later, mention is made of the house as having been carried on for thirty years, and it tells us that Field's Woman is a Weathercock (1612), played before James I. privately at Whitefriars, was one of the first productions given there after the removal of the " King's servants " from Blackfriars.1 That the City looked askance even at a theatre within a privileged building, is evidenced by the fact that, in 1609, there was 'presented ' " one play house in the same precincte of Whitefriars, not fittinge there to be now tolerable." Other evidence is forthcoming that the place was doomed to a short life, and we are told, in 1616, that " the raine hath made its way in, and if it be not repaired it must soone be plucked downe, or it will fall." As we hear nothing of it after this date, the probability is that it either fell, or was " plucked downe."

There is a record that plays were established here in 1580, but the patent mentioning specifically " the theatre," is dated Jan. 1610. My conclusion, there-fore, is (in view of the fact that the dissolution of the monastery was confirmed in 1608) that plays were first acted in the old hall or refectory of the monastery, and that, later, an actual play-house was erected either on its site or close by. So little, how-ever, is actually known of the place that this can only be regarded as a probable supposition.

BOLT-IN-TUN COURT lies between Bouverie Street and Water Lane. Except for the fact that it takes its name from a once much-frequented tavern 2 bearing this sign, it has not any particular interest, and, so far as I can gather, no history.

WATER LANE, since 1844 known as Whitefriars Street, a few paces farther east, on the other hand, is a not inconsiderable street, compared with the courts and alleys we have passed. This lane led directly into the Alsatian precincts, and was one of the worst haunts in that unsavoury neighbourhood. It is well depicted in Ogilby's " Plan," running from Fleet Street to the river, which at its lower end came up in a channel a considerable way from the foreshore.

Noble has preserved some early references to Water Lane, and in his pages I find that it was ' presented,' in 1569, for its `fall' of water upon the people's heads ; and in 1574, complaint was made concerning " grete dunghills conteyninge by estimacion above 40 loade caste up by the water of the Thames," on its west side. Indeed, the place was for long in a fearful state ; and in 1610, we are told that " the waie beinge soe stopped with dung and dirte that the passengers can hardlie passe, and the pavement soe broken and ruyned that if speedilie redresse be not had neither horse can drawe his loade nor passengers goe that waie." All this occurred when the lane was much narrower than it is to-day, but little seems to have been done, notwithstanding the matter was brought before the Common Council, intermittently, between the years 1594 to 1596, until after the Great Fire, when the street was enlarged, and if not beautified at least cleaned. There was a Black Lion Tavern about half-way down the lane, and among its residents was Tompion, the famous watch-maker, who died at his shop, at the north corner, in 1713; and Filby, the tailor (at the sign of the 'Harrow'), who supplied Oliver Goldsmith with some of those suits of which the poet was so inordinately proud.'

Horwood's " Plan " for 1799 shows a tiny CROWN COURT, and Strype gives HANGING SWORD ALLEY and WHITE LION COURT, all three lying between Water Lane and the entrance to Salisbury Court. Crown Court only requires this mention of its one-time existence ; but Hanging Sword Alley, which communicated with it, apparently took its name from the sign of one of its houses, which is mentioned so early as 1574, as being in the possession of a Mr. Blewit, which proves its antiquity if nothing else ; White Lion Court has not even this hall-mark. Hanging Sword Alley was once known as Blood-bowl Alley, which uneuphonious name it took from a notorious house known by this title, the cellar of which is reproduced by Hogarth in the ninth plate of his " Industry and Idleness " series. It will be remembered that the Jerry Cruncher of A Tale of Two Cities resided here.

SALISBURY COURT, leading directly into Salisbury Square, is shown, under this name, in Agas's " Plan " of 1560. Strype calls it Dorset Court, by which name the street on the south of the square is still known ; but Horwood (1799) gives it its earlier title. It takes its name from the great house and its grounds, on part of which it was formed, belonging to the Bishop of Salisbury in the thirteenth century. This house later, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, was granted to the Earl of Dorset (hence its other title). I have something to say about this mansion elsewhere, so shall here confine myself to a few words about the past notable residents in Salisbury Court (i.e. the street) and Salisbury Square.

It appears that, during the latter half of the sixteenth century, Lord Treasurer Buckhurst induced the See of Salisbury to exchange this property " for a piece of land near Cricklade in Wilts " ; at least so Seth Ward, Bishop of Salisbury from 1667 to 1689, told Aubrey, the antiquary. Even in those days such an exchange could, one imagines, only have been brought about by pressure, and Ward ruefully hints at this.

In 1634, Bulstrode Whitelocke took a house here ;1 and in, or near, the square lived Dryden, from 1673 to 1682 ; Locke dated the dedication of his Essay on the Human Understanding from Dorset Court (believed, by Cunningham, to be the one in Fleet Street) in 1690 ; Shadwell once lived in Salisbury Court, and there, no doubt, he accumulated the experience which he gave to the world in his Squire of Alsatia ; Cave and Underhill also resided in the vicinity ; and the presence here of the Dorset Court Theatre, about which I shall have something to say farther on, was sufficient to account for the presence of Davenant, and, later, his widow, Lady Davenant, and such once well known actors as Harris and Sandford. But Salisbury Court is chiefly associated with Samuel Richardson, who had his printing establishment in the north-west corner of the square, with an entrance into Fleet Street (now No. 76). Mrs. Barbauld, in her Life of Richardson, tells us of his presence here, in the follo

wing words, the year of his settling here being 1755: " In town he took a range of old houses, eight in number, which he pulled down, and built an extensive and commodious range of warehouses and printing-offices. It was still in Salisbury Court,' in the north-west corner, but it is at present (1802) concealed by other houses from common observation. The dwelling-house, it seems, was neither so large nor so airy as the one he quitted ; and therefore the reader will not be so ready, probably, as Mr. Richardson seems to have been, in accusing his wife of perverseness in not liking the new habitation as well as the old. ` Everybody,' he says, is more pleased with what I have done than my wife.' " Here Richardson entertained most of the notable literary men of the day : Johnson and Hogarth were his guests ; Goldsmith read proofs for the author of Clarissa here ; here Pamela was written ; and here Maitland's London was " Printed by Samuel Richardson " in 1739. In 1754, Richardson moved, finally, to Parson's Green.

Another man who once resided in Salisbury Court was that John Eyre who, although a rich man, was transported for stealing paper from the Guildhall in 1771. He seems to have been marked out for some such fate, if the anecdote told by Noble be true. It is said that Eyre's uncle made two wills, in one of which he left £500 to his nephew and the rest of a considerable estate to a clergyman ; in the other, the £500 to the clergyman and the residue to the nephew. Eyre, not knowing of the existence of the first will, destroyed the second in order to avoid having to pay the legacy ! In Salisbury Court, too, died, on June 29, 1677, Sir John King, Solicitor-General to the Duke of York, and Treasurer of the Inner Temple ; and, in 1732, Mrs. Daffy of ' Elixir' fame ; and it was in the square that the copies of Mrs. Clarke's book, exposing her relations with the Duke of York and Colonel Wardle, were publicly burnt.

About the same time, No. 53 was occupied by John Tatum, the silversmith ; and here, acting as his assistant in 1812, was Michael Faraday, the great scientist.

At one corner of Salisbury Square, Messrs. Peacock, Bampton, & Mansfield, who initiated the pocket-book of today, by their Polite Repository of 1778, much patronised by Royalty, had their headquarters ; here, too, Powell's Puppet Show, referred to in the Spectator, enlivened the precincts ; and in the days of William iv., the Misses Thompson kept a boarding-school, and issued an amusing advertisement to attract patrons. At this time the place was still a residential centre ; for, in 1831, William Green, a Trustee of the Law Life Assurance Company, was living here ; while Timbs, in his Doctors and Patients, tells us that the last man in London who is believed to have worn the scarlet coat, flap waistcoat, and frilled sleeves, then the badge of the physician, was a quack doctor who lived in the corner of Salisbury Square, and who might be seen any day pacing the pavement in front of his establishment, until he took to his bed and died of extreme old age.

It should be remembered, too, that one of the chief of the so-called ` Mug Houses ' was situated in the square. On an occasion of one of the Jacobite disturbances, on July 20, 1716, when the rallying cry was 'High Church ' and 'Ormond,' the mob, led by a man named Bean, broke into the house, then kept by Robert Read, who, in defending his property, shot a weaver Vaughan. For this he was tried for manslaughter, but acquitted. Five of the rioters, however, were sentenced to be hanged at the Fleet Street end of Salisbury Square. In an account of this incident in the Weekly Journal for July 28, 1716, and for the following August 4, we learn that a petition was sent to the Court of Aldermen, setting forth the frequency of these riots, and pointing out that Read was justified in defending his property.

Although, as we have seen, there was once a play house, of a kind, in Whitefriars, the only theatre in something like our modern acceptation of the term, in Fleet Street, was situated in Salisbury Court, and was variously called the 'Salisbury Court,' 'Dorset Gardens,' 'Davenant's,' or 'Duke's ' Theatre, and was erected at the south-eastern extremity of Salisbury Court, with a fine stone frontage and flight of steps to the river,1 as well as an imposing façade towards the north. But this structure had been preceded by, at least, two earlier play-houses, the first of which was, apparently, erected about the year 1629, but during the Civil War fell a prey to the sectarian zeal of the Puritans. It was built on ground belonging to the Earl of Dorset, whose town mansion adjoined it, and by him it is said to have been let for a term of sixty-one years, the sum of £950 being paid down. To whom, however, this lease was granted does not appear. But it is interesting to find the following entry in the Domestic State Papers, under date of March 25, 1639: " Licence to William Davenant to build a play house in a place near Fleet Street, assigned by the Commissioners of Buildings, and to take such money as is accustomed to be given in such cases " ; because, although it is known that Davenant erected a theatre on the site of the old granary of Dorset House, which had been hitherto used as one, and demolished, as we have seen, in 1649, it is not generally remembered that Davenant had applied for permission to build it so early as the date of this licence. As it was, he did nothing till the Restoration, when the new building (1660) of the second theatre at this spot was begun.

There is a water-colour drawing of it in the Crace Collection. Also there is a view of the river front in Settle's Empress of Morocco (1673), reproduced in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1814, and a view, by Sutton Nicholls, published in 1710, in which the surrounding houses are also depicted.

We are indebted to Pepys for some glimpses of this place and the performances there. The Diarist, a famous play-goer as we know, paid several visits here, the first of which was on Feb. 9, 1661 : " Creed and I to Whitefriars to the Play-house and saw The Mad Lover (by Beaumont and Fletcher), the first time :[ ever saw it acted, which I liked pretty well." Three days later, he went again ; but this visit proved disappointing : " By water to Salisbury Court play house, where not liking to sit, we went out again." On the 23rd of the same month, Pepys kept his twenty-eighth birthday by another visit : " To the Play house, and there saw The Changeling (by Middleton and Rowley), the first time it hath been acted these twenty years, and it takes exceedingly " ; and he adds, " I see the gallants do begin to be tyred with the vanity and pride of the theatre actors, who are indeed grown very proud and rich." On the 2nd of March, he is there again, and finds " the house as full as could

be," the play being The Queene's Maske (otherwise Love's Mistress, by Heywood), which he saw again, with Captain Ferrers, on the 25th of the same month. On April 1, he witnessed Fletcher's Rule a Wife and have a Wife here, but did not like it any more than he did a play called Love's Quarrell, at the first performance of which he was present here on April 6. He had better luck on the last occasion he records of paying the Salisbury Court Theatre a visit. It was on Sept. 9, 1661, and although the play Ford's 'Tis Pity Shee's a Whore was not to his taste, " it was my fortune," he ingenuously remarks, " to sit by a most pretty and most ingenious lady. which pleased me very much." How long Davenant remained in Dorset Court I do not know, but he had certainly removed his company to the old Tennis Court, in Portugal Row, Lincoln's Inn Fields, before the Salisbury House Theatre was destroyed in the Great Fire.

A few years subsequent to this event, Davenant died (1668), and shortly afterwards his widow commissioned Wren to design a new play-house close to the site of the former granary-theatre. This was completed in 1671, and the double façade, to which I have before referred, was thus the work of England's greatest architect, much of the internal decoration being due to the skill of Grinling Gibbon.

The new house was called ` The Duke's Theatre,' from the fact that the Duke of York's company of players performed there. Downes, in his Roscius Anglicanus (1708), thus speaks of the inauguration of the new venture :

" The new theatre in Dorset Garden being finished, and our company (the Duke's) after Sir William's death being under the rule and dominion of his widow, the Lady Davenant, Mr. Betterton, and Mr. Harris (Mr. Charles Davenant, her son, acting for her), they removed from Lincoln's Inn thither. And on the 9th day of November, 1671, they opened their new theatre with Sir Martin Mar-all, which continued acting three days together, with a full audience each day, not-withstanding it had been acted thirty days before in Lincoln's-inn-fields, and above four times at Court."

L'Estrange wrote the prologue to the play on this occasion ; while we learn from another source that the charge for admission to the pit at the Duke's Theatre on the first night of a new performance was five shillings. The theatre had an existence of some ten years, and then, when the combination of the Duke's Players with the King's Players took place, on the death of Killigrew, it was deserted, the new company going, on Nov. 16, 1682, to Drury Lane.

It is interesting to learn that operas were first introduced on the English stage at the Duke's Theatre, and that here, when Lord Orrery's play of Henry the Fifth was performed, Harris, Betterton, and Smith wore respectively the actual coronation robes of the Duke of York, Charles II., and the Earl of Oxford. It was here, too, that Shadwell's operatic version of The Tempest was produced, with the great splendour of scenery and dresses on which this theatre prided itself, in 1673.

" Ah Friends ! poor Dorset Garden House is gone; Our merry meetings there are all undone,"

says Farquhar in the prologue to his Constant Couple, published in 1700 ; and, indeed, its glory had departed, and the place was given over to exhibitions of wrestling 1 and fencing (always closely associated with Whitefriars) in 1697. In the following year a penny lottery was drawn here ; but when there was a scheme on foot to reopen it as a theatre, an advertisement of which appeared in the Daily Courant for Oct. 22, 1706, the intended performance being " By the deserted Company of the Theatre Royal, at the Queen's Theatre, in Dorset Gardens," the Queen, notwithstanding the compliment implied in the new name of the play-house, caused it to be closed.2 The place was finally demolished in 1720 (not 1709, as Noble states ; for Strype speaks of it as standing when he published his edition of ` Stow ' in 1720), and the site for a time used as a timber-yard. Later, the New River Company's offices were situated here, and later still those of the City Gas Works (1814). In 1885, the City of London School was erected on the spot, which had been identified not only with one of the City's private palaces, but also with the annals of the stage at an interesting and momentous period of its history.

The last turnings out of Fleet Street are ST. BRIDE'S AVENUE and ST. BRIDE'S LANE. The former was made in 1825 at a cost of £10,000. It leads to the church. Here, at No. 85, Punch was published for many years ; and next door were the offices of another publisher, David Bogue.

St. Bride's Lane is far older, and is shown in Ogilby's " Plan" of 1676 ;1 indeed, a street is indicated here by Agas (1560), although it then formed, probably, merely the precincts of St. Bride's Church. We know of a tavern with the sign of the ` Twelve Bells in this lane, where the first assemblies of the Madrigal Society were held, in 1741 ; while the 'Cogers ' had one of their meeting places at No. 15, known as Cogers' 2 Hall. Strype describes St. Bride's Lane as coming " out of Fleet Street by St. Bridget's Churchyard, which, with a turning passage by Bridewell and the Ditch Side, falleth down to Woodmongers' Wharf, by the Thames." He adds that " This lane is of note for the many hatters there inhabiting."

Before leaving the south-east corner of Fleet Street, the former existence of a once notable landmark at this spot claims attention. I refer to the ancient palace of Bridewell, which, after having served its original regal purpose, was put to far different uses, and eventually disappeared as the result of modern requirements. From a remark of Stow's, it would seem that a royal residence had been situated at this spot from early days, for he calls Bridewell " of old time the king's house, for the kings of this realm have been there lodged." And, indeed, we have another, though rather hazy, record of this. For here, the Norman kings are said to have held their courts, and Henry I. is reported to have given stone towards an early rebuilding of the place. Excavations in Bride Lane, in 1847, brought to light some undoubted stone-work of the Norman period. It seems probable, indeed, that the Montfiquit 1 Tower, which stood " west of Baynard's Castle," occupied the site of the later Bridewell. But the first clear reference we have to the place is in the year 1522, when the Emperor Charles v. came to England. For his accommodation, Henry viii. caused to be built, or rather rebuilt, " a stately an d beautiful house." This work was executed, according to Hentzner,2 in the short space of six weeks, which would at once prove that there was already some kind of a structure here.

As it happened, Charles v. did not inhabit it, after all, being lodged at the Blackfriars, on the other side of the Fleet Stream. His attendants, however, took up their residence in Bridewell, and for the sake of convenience, " a gallery was made out of the house (Bride-well) over the water (the Fleet Ditch), and through the wall of the city, into the emperor's lodging at the Blackfriars."

Henry VIII. himself frequently used Bridewell, and was Iodged here in 1525, when his Parliament was held in the hall of the Blackfriars ; it being known, because of this, as the Black Parliament. Three years later, the King summoned his Council, as well as the Papal Legate, Cardinal Campeius, hither, to hear him discourse on marital relations !

" On the 8th of November," says Stow, " in his great chamber, he made unto them an oration touching his marriage with Queen Katharine."

Here, too, Wolsey and Campeius had their interview with the unfortunate queen, to announce to her the decision to hold an inquiry into the circumstances of her marriage; and again, later, to offer her carte blanche from Henry, if she would consent to a divorce.

Shakespeare, who followed Hall's Chronicles pretty closely, places the two scenes of the third act of Henry VIII. at Bridewell. Wolsey was presented with " a house at Bridewell in Fleet Street " 1 by Henry ; but this probably means that he had a suite of apartments allotted him in the palace itself.

After the King's death, the place was, apparently, deserted, and in 1553 Edward vi. sent for Sir George Bacon, the Lord Mayor, and, I quote Stow, "gave unto him for the commonalty and citizens, to be a workhouse for the poor and idle persons of the City, his house of Bridewell, and seven hundred marks land, late of the possessions of the house of the Savoy, and all the bedding and other furniture of the said hospital of the Savoy, towards the maintenance of the said workhouse of Bridewell. This gift King Edward confirmed by his Charter, dated the 26th of June next following ; and in the year 1555, in the month of February, Sir William Gerarde, mayor, and the aldermen entered Bridewell, and took possession thereof, according to the gift of the said King Edward, the same being con-firmed by Queen Mary."

From other sources we know that this splendid gift was presented to the citizens at the instance of Bishop Ridley, who had appealed, by letter,1 to Mr. Secretary Cecil, on behalf of " our Master Christ's cause." As his epistle is short and eloquent, I give it :

" GOOD MR. CECIL, I must be a suitor to you in our Master Christ's cause. I beseech you be good unto him. The matter is he hath lyen too long abroad, as you do know, without lodging, in the streets of London, both hungry, naked, and cold. Sir, there is a wide large house of the King's Majesty's called Bridewell, that would wonderful well serve to lodge Christ in, if he might find such good friends in the court as would procure in his cause. There is a rumour that one goeth about to buy that house of the King's Majesty and to pull it down. If there be any such thing, for God's sake speak in our master's cause. Yours in Christ, NIC. LONDON."

This scheme, which should have been productive of so much good, did not turn out at all satisfactorily. Like many charitable objects, it became the victim of systematic fraud : the idle and the vicious crowded out the needy and deserving, and many are the edicts of the Common Council against the " master-less men " who resorted hither. Not having, apparently, been sufficiently endowed, it became a serious expense to the citizens, who, perhaps, hoped to recoup themselves by turning a portion of the buildings into storehouses for corn and coal a scheme first proposed in 1579, and actually carried into effect in 1608.1

In the Great Fire, Bridewell was entirely destroyed. What its outlines had been can be seen in Agas's " Plan " (1560), although as, there, its elevation is not so imposing or so large as shown in Wyngaerde's earlier " View " (1543), it is probable that when turned into a hospital some superfluous portions were demolished.

Old Bridewell extended from about half way up what is now Bridge Street to the water's edge ; but when it was rebuilt (in 1668) after the fire, the new structure only occupied about half of the space formerly covered, and was erected on the northern portion of the original site; although it was naturally much more conveniently arranged, and, so far as it went, even more imposingly built.

The place had a dual object : the incarceration of disorderly and idle persons, and the reception of the needy and helpless. Hatton, in his New View of London (1708), gives the following description of its aims :---

It is a prison and house of correction for idle vagrants, loose and disorderly servants, night-walkers, etc. These are set to hard labour, and have correction according to their deserts ; but have their clothes and diet during their imprisonment at the charge of the house. It is also an hospital for indigent persons, and where twenty art-masters (as they are called), being decayed traders, as shoemakers, taylors, flax-drapers, etc., have houses, and their servants or apprentices (being about 140 in all) have clothes at the house charge, and their masters, having the profit of their work, do often advance by this means their own fortunes. And these boys, having served their time faithfully, have not only their freedom, but also £10 each towards carrying on their respective trades ; and many have even arrived from nothing to be governors."

Kip's " View " of Bridewell, dated 1720, gives us as good an idea of the building as does Hatton's description of its internal regulations. It was formed in two large quadrangles, the chief of which faced the Fleet Stream, now Bridge Street. Additions were made after Kip's time, however, and by these, fresh prisons and a committee - room were formed ; the chapel was also rebuilt, and the whole place reconstructed, so as to form but a single quadrangle, having a large entrance to Bridge Street, over which was set up a carved head of Edward VI.

Eighteenth century literature contains many references to the flogging, beating hemp, and oakum-picking, which formed the chief punishments at Bridewell in those days. Congreve and Shadwell and Pope have all referred to the place and its denizens, and in the fourth plate of " The Harlot's Progress " Hogarth has for ever translated its shameful horrors through the medium of his instructive art.

In later times Bridewell was used as a place of detention and correction for such offenders as had been sentenced by the City magistrates to terms of imprisonment not exceeding three months ; and it had become united with Bethlehem Hospital and the House of Occupation, all three being placed under the same governing body. In 1842, there were con-fined here 1324 persons, 466 of whom were known or suspected thieves. Mr. Hepworth Dixon, in his London Prisons, gives a dismal picture of the place: " As a House of Correction for criminals it could hardly be worse," he says. " The building itself is bad and, as it stands upon a cold damp soil, it is far from healthy. In wet weather the doors have water trickling down them, and the air is quite humid. Then the prisoners' apartments are small and straggling the whole is so ill arranged that no sort of superintendence, worthy of the name, can possibly be maintained." Howard, at a much earlier date, had found the place in a very similar condition. Indeed, the remedy it offered for vice seems to have been little better than the disease.

When, therefore, Holloway Jail was erected in 1863, and the materials of Bridewell sold and its site cleared, London saw the end of an institution which had only its age and the memories of its predecessor to recommend it. The chapel was pulled down in 1871, but certain portions of the frontage to Bridge Street, notably the gateway (No. 14), were allowed to remain.

As may be supposed, in the case of such a place as Bridewell, those who have been immured here were rather notorious than noteworthy. But there are one or two associations of the latter character : for instance, Johnson's servant, Robert Levett, was interred in the burial-ground attached to Bridewell in 1732 ; Thomas Ellwood, the Quaker, and friend of Milton, was taken to Bridewell in 1661, and in his Autobiography gives several interesting particulars of the place as it was in those days ; and even earlier, in 1567, certain members of the early Congregational Church were committed to prison here, headed by their pastor, Richard Fitz. But these are exceptions, the rule being to find here such people as the notorious Mrs. Creswell of Charles II.'s day, or those 'Bridewell Boys' who, in the following century, became a nuisance to peaceful citizens, and a standing proof of the inefficacy of the system employed in this ` house of correction.

Today, the site of Bridewell is occupied by a congeries of streets and buildings whose interest solely rests on the fact that they stand where once stood the palace of our kings, and where at least an attempt was, later, made to deal, however inefficiently as it has been proved, with crime and idleness.

Annals Of Fleet Street:
Fleet Street

Streets South Of Fleet Street

Streets North Of Fleet Street

Temple Bar And Some Bankers

Inns Of Court And Chancery Clifford's Inn

Churches Of Fleet Street

Taverns And Coffee-houses Of Fleet Street

Famous Men And Women Of Fleet Street

Fleet Street And The Press

Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com