Streets North Of Fleet Street
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE chief characteristic of the north side of Fleet Street is the number of small courts and alleys which, at one time, were to be found there. Some of these have now disappeared, like the famous Johnson's Court, which was absorbed in Anderton's Hotel ; some were but means of access to larger areas behind the houses in the main thoroughfare, and have become obliterated in the course of building developments ; not a few, however, still remain, and it is in these exiguous outlets that one can, here and there, best gain an approximate idea of what Fleet Street must have looked like to our forefathers. Indeed, there is not much remaining in the thoroughfare itself capable of carrying our minds back to earlier days, so greatly have its picturesque features been changed into later and more regular building lines.
In the last chapter we left Fleet Street at St. Bride's Lane, so that it will be convenient to begin our per-ambulation of the north side of the thoroughfare at the opposite corner, where, at No, 108, we find BLACK HORSE ALLEY, clearly marked in Hollar's Exact Surveigh, dated 1667.
This court dates back to Jacobean times, and is found specifically mentioned in the year 1618. Except, however, for its antiquity, it is not particularly notable ; nor does the fact that, about the middle of the eighteenth century, a group of eight houses, either actually in it or close by, were called the ` Devil's Nook,' predispose us to regard it as a noticeably respectable quarter. At the commencement of the nineteenth century, John McCreery, who wrote a poem on " The Press," here had his printing establishment ; while in the same building, on the ground floor, was the office of the News Exchange.
Next to Black Horse Alley was Poppin's, or, as Horwood calls it, POPPING'S COURT, on the site of No. 109 Fleet Street. Hollar, in his Exact Surveigh, spells it Papinger Alley. It takes its name from the 'Poppingaye,' the inn or hostel of the Abbot of Cirencester,1 from which circumstance the place was called, in Elizabeth's time, ` Poppinggay Alley ' ; and in our own day, a successor, in the modern 'Popinjay,' has arisen on its site.2
A few paces west bring us to RACQUET COURT (No. 114), about which the only item of interest that has survived, is the fact that it was here, in 1721, that Dennis Connel was killed in a duel by Thomas Wicks.
SHOE LANE, on the other hand, is a very important tributary of the main stream. The earliest mention we have of this ancient street is in the thirteenth century, when it was known as Showell Lane.3 It is not recorded from whom or what this title was taken, but it seems probable that it was derived from the name of an early owner of land hereabouts. Not long, however, did it preserve this designation, for in the year 1310, we find it referred to as Scolane in a writ sent to the City by Edward n. which recites that you cause to come before us, or the person holding our place, at the church of St. Brigit without Ludgate, on the Saturday next after the Feast of the Translation of St Thomas the Martyr, eighteen good and lawful men of the venue of Scolane in the ward without Ludgate ; to make inquisition on oath as to a certain tenement with its appurtenances in Scholane, which the Abbot of Rievaulx is said to have appropriated without leave of our Lord the King," etc. Apparently no notice was taken of this by the City authorities, nor do we know the result of a similar command, sent on the following 10th of October. Two references to the lane occur in the reign of Edward III. : one in 1345, when a certain Thomas de Donyngtone is condemned to be hanged for theft here ; and the other in 1347, when John Tournour of Sholane is ordered to stamp his name on his wine measures, and to construct them of " dried wood."
An early and notable resident was the Bishop of Bangor, who, in 1378, had his Inn on the west side of the street, a residence used by various occupants of the See till 1647. In Wyngaerde's " Plan " (1543) this Inn may, I think, be recognised in the gabled building, a few doors up on the west side, which is distinguished by its superior size from its neighbours. It is also indicated by Agas (circa 1560), who calls the street Schow Lane.
In the Patent Rolls is the following entry, dated 48 Edward III. (1375), referring to this property : " Rex amortizarit Epo Bangoren', in successione unum Messuag : unam placeam term, ac unum gardinum cum aliis aedificiis, in Shoe Lane, London." The position of this Episcopal Inn was for long indicated by a small alley known as Bangor Court. The last Bishop who occupied the place was Doulben, who died here on Nov. 27, 1633. Fourteen years later, the reversion of the property, with the ` waste ground ' attached, comprising an area of 168 feet in length by 144 in breadth,' was purchased from the Trustees for the sale of Bishops' Lands, by Sir John Barkstead, for the purpose of erecting tenements thereon. In 1657, when an Act of Parliament was passed to prevent new buildings, an exception was made in Sir John's case, because, as it was pointed out, he had given more for the property than he otherwise would have done, " the place being both dangerous and noisome to the passengers and inhabitants near adjoining," in view of developing it, Apparently, however, Barkstead after all did not build, as we find the property reverting to the See of Bangor in 1660. A portion of the garden belonging to the Inn, containing a rookery (of birds, not of tumble-down houses) and some lime trees, remained here till 1759 ; and a part of the original house was in existence down to 1828, when, in consequence of an Act passed two years earlier, again enabling the See to sell the property, this last relic was cleared away. Later, Bentley's printing-offices occupied its site.
On the opposite side of Shoe Lane stood an old mansion known as Oldbourne Hall, which Stow mentions as being " letten out in divers tenements " even in his far off day. Fleet Market practically covered all this spot, from the time of its being opened, 1737, to the year 1829, when it was, in its turn, done away with, to make room for Farringdon Street.
In the Domestic State Papers is a reference to a messuage called the 'Crown,' in Shoe Lane, in the form of a lease dated Oct. 11, 1630, from Mary Allanson to Thomas Beadle of Shoe Lane. This property, from its name, was probably situated in Rose and Crown Court, about halfway up on the east side of the street.
Among notable inhabitants in Shoe Lane, appears to have been John de Critz, the serjeant painter to James i. and Charles i. ; although at one period of his sojourn in this country he is known to have lived in Austin Friars. Florio, who compiled A Worlde of Words, and translated Montaigne's Essays, once owned a house here which is mentioned in his will, but he himself died at Fulham in 1625. Later (1676), 'Praise-God' Barebone rented a dwelling here for which he paid £25 per annum. At this time he was eighty years old, and he died three years later.
Richard Whitehead, the manufacturer of mathematical instruments, and, according to a record in the Sloane MSS.,1 " the best workman we ever had in England," died in Shoe Lane in 1694 ; and Chatter-ton, who put an end to his brilliantly meteoric career in a garret in Brooke Street in 1770, was interred in the paupers' burial - ground which existed here till it was done away with to form Farringdon Market. Another poet who fell on bad times and came to a starving condition, Samuel Boyce, died in this street in 1749.
Shoe Lane was almost as busy a trade centre in the seventeenth century as it is to-day, and from that period a number of tokens have come down to us. Among these I find, in Akerman, the following : Jeremy Bucher, at Shoe Lane End, smoker (probably a bacon-curer) ; Ann Castree, at the ` Five Bells' ; Robert Hiscock, at the 'Last ' ; John Payne, mealman, 1669 Nicholas Rowe, 1669 ; and Thomas Seele ; while one was issued from Fountaine Court in Shew Lane, 1659, and one from the 'Cross Keys,' in the thoroughfare itself. Burn, in his account of the Beaufoy Tokens, also gives one of the Mansfield Coffee-House, in the lane. On the obverse is a hand holding a coffee-pot ; and on the reverse the words : " in Shoe Lane by Providence." This was one of the tokens issued on the re-opening of such places after the Great Fire.
The lane had a number of smaller streets and alleys leading from it, and among those on the east side were : Ben Jonson's Court, Fountain Court, Harp Alley, Gunpowder Alley, Currier's Alley, Stone-Cutters' Street, Rose and Crown Court, and George Alley. One or two of these seem to indicate the presence in them of some particular class of artisans : one, Ben Jonson's Court,1 may be more intimately connected with the great dramatist than one has now any record of ; another, Harp Alley, is closely associated with the manufacture of signboards, of which there was a regular market here in those days. Formerly, Harp Alley connected Shoe Lane with Farringdon Street, but today it is cut off by St. Bride's Street. It was here that Izaak Walton used to buy " choice hooks " at Charles Kerbye's, who was, to quote the gentle angler, " the most exact hooke maker that the nation affords. On the west side of Shoe Lane was Globe Court, King's Head Court, Gunpowder Alley, and New Street ; and it was in Gunpowder Alley that Richard Lovelace died in 1658, and here also resided Evans, the astrologer, known to readers of Lilly's autobiography.1 The northern end of Shoe Lane does not concern us here, but it is interesting to remember that it was in St. Andrew's Church, at its north-west corner, that Benjamin D'Israeli was baptized at the age of twelve, on July 31, 1817.
Before leaving Shoe Lane, I must not forget to mention the existence there of a cockpit which seems to have been affected by all sorts and conditions of people. For instance, we find the grave Sir Henry Wotton recording his having been there on June 3, 1633, although he certainly says that he was a rara avis in such a place, while on Dec. 21, 1663, the ubiquitous Pepys paid the place a visit, and a pretty mixed company he found there. Hear what he says :
" To Shoe Lane to see a cocke-fighting at a new pit there, a spot I was never at in my life : but Lord to see the strange variety of people, from Parliament man by name Wildes, that was Deputy Governor of the Tower when Robinson was Lord Mayor, to the poorest 'prentices, bakers, brewers, butchers, draymen, and what not, and all these fellows one with another cursing and betting. I soon had enough of it."
Next to Shoe Lane is PETERBOROUGH COURT, SO called because the Inn of that See was situated on its west side, the gardens of which are shown in Ogilby's " Plan." It adjoined what is now the office of the Daily Telegraph, No. 136 Fleet Street, and in it, in 1727, a parish workhouse was opened. Here, too, Walter Scott, a plasterer, carried on his business, and on his death, in 1786, bequeathed a sum of money for the foundation of a blue-coat school in his native town of Ross.1 At the east corner of the court was a shop where was sold Hertner's 'Eupyrion,' the predecessor of the lucifer match ; and nearly opposite were the works of Jacob Perkins, who exhibited his steam-gun at the Adelaide Gallery in the Strand.2 Earlier in the eighteenth century, James Taylor, a merchant, had his business here.
Of WINE OFFICE COURT, to which we next come, I have something to say when speaking of the ` Cheshire Cheese,' which adjoins it, and also when referring to Goldsmith,3 who once lived at No. 6, and who has made it for ever famous by writing the Vicar of Wake-field here. The fig tree once in this court, planted by the vicar of St. Bride's, was a slip taken from another tree once growing at the ` Fig-Tree in Fleet Street--the parent stem from which various cuttings were culled. Two merchants, Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Markum, are given in the Little London Directory for 1677 as having their offices in this court.
HIND COURT, between Wine Office Court and Bolt Court, is shown in Ogilby's "Plan " of 1677 and in Horwood's " Map " of 1799 ; it was a cul-de-sac, and has no interesting associations.
BOLT COURT, a few doors farther west, on the contrary, is one of the most interesting of Fleet Street's byways, for, intimately as Dr. Johnson was associated with the neighbourhood, no spot, save perhaps Gough Square, is quite so closely connected with his towering figure. It was in 1776 that he came (from Johnson's Court) into residence at No. 8, on the right-hand side from Fleet Street, and here he remained till the end of his life, paying a rental of £40 per annum. Boswell tells us how, coming from Scotland, he hastened the next morning (March 16, 1776) to Johnson's Court, only to find that his hero had flitted to his new abode ; and he sets down his reflections on the circumstance. Again, on April 3, he found Johnson in Bolt Court, " very busy putting his books in order ; and as they were generally very old ones, clouds of dust were flying around him. He had on a pair of large gloves such as hedgers use." In fact, his appearance reminded Boswell of his uncle's description of the Doctor : " a robust genius, born to grapple with whole libraries."
In 1784, a youth might have been seen conversing at Johnson's door with Barber, Johnson's black servant ; after some colloquy, he handed a packet to the domestic, and was asked to call again in a week. It was Isaac D'Israeli 1 leaving a poem for the Doctor's consideration. When he called again, he was told that Johnson was too ill to see him, and on Dec. 13, 1784, the great Lexicographer had ceased to breathe.
It was in Bolt Court that Johnson ran that curious ménage in which Mrs. Williams and his other pensioners were continually at loggerheads. " We have tolerable concord at home," writes Johnson to Mrs. Thrale, on Nov. 14, 1778, " but no love. Williams hates everybody. Levett hates Desmoulines, and does not love Williams. Desmoulines hates them both. Poll loves none of them." And later he says : " Discord and discontent reign in my humble habitation as in the palaces of monarchs."
Here Johnson watered his garden, and did much of his mighty work, and received such friends as Howard the philanthropist and Mrs. Siddons. Once, when the latter called, and a chair was not immediately forth-coming, Johnson remarked, " You see, Madam, wherever you go there are no seats to be got." Could Chesterfield have made a better use of the circumstance ?
There is a good view of the house in Bolt Court, in Croker's (1835) edition of Boswell, drawn and en-graved by C. J. Smith, and a representation of the Doctor's sitting-room, from a sketch by J. Smith. The latter shows a good-sized room panelled to the ceiling, and in it the great Lexicographer is represented sitting in familiar discourse with Boswell. Miss Hawkins, in her Memoirs, also speaks of the " decent drawing-room . . . not inferior to others in the same local situation, and with stout, old-fashioned mahogany table and chairs."
Among other residents in Bolt Court, was James Ferguson, the Scotch astronomer, who also painted portraits (he died at No. 4 on Nov. 16, 1776) ; while Cobbett published his Register at No. 11, where, I believe, he once kept the large gilt gridiron he had had made for a sign, but which was never actually set up. This gridiron, as well as the woodcut of one which for long headed his Political Registers, was an allusion to Cobbett's acknowledged readiness to be roasted alive if ever Peel's Cash Payments Bill passed into law. On Sept. 24, 1819, he solemnly announced that " I, William Cobbett, assert that to carry their bill into effect is impossible ; and I say that if this bill be carried into full effect, I will give Castlereagh leave to lay me on a gridiron, and broil me alive, while Sidmouth may stir the coals, and Canning stand by and laugh at my groans."
In 1858, Johnson's one time residence was purchased by the Stationers' Company for conversion into a school. Nine thousand pounds were spent on this scheme, each boy being obliged to pay six shillings quarterly. Two years later, the then Master of the Company (Edward Foss) inaugurated a school fund, by a contribution of one hundred guineas, and another Master (Edmund Hodgson) founded a university scholarship. Noble conjectures that the school play-ground had probably been Johnson's garden.
In the house next to Johnson's, Edmund Allen, his friend, had his printing-office. This house, then being in the occupation of Bensley, the printer, was burned down in 1819, which was apparently the cause of the general, but erroneous, idea that No. 8 had met the same fate. In the twenties of the nineteenth century, a ` Dr. Johnson's Tavern ' was started in Bolt Court, being succeeded by the Albert Club, and here the socalled 'Lumber Troop ' held their meetings, Noble tells us that the qualification for membership of the Troop, was a small payment and the drinking of a quart of beer at a draught !
Maitland describes Bolt Court, together with Johnson's Court, as having, in 1739, " good houses, well inhabited," and in those times they were certainly very different in appearance and association from what they are to-day ; even the neighbouring Gough Square being termed fashionable by the topographer. JOHNSON'S COURT does not, of course, take its name from the great Doctor who once lived in it, and who, on a certain occasion, laughingly described himself as " Johnson of that Ilk." The family, after a member of whom it was probably named, was long and honour-ably associated with Fleet Street. Indeed, in Elizabeth's day a certain Dr. Johnson is recorded as residing here. Another, Thomas Johnson, " citizen and merchant tailor," was a member of the Common Council from 1598 till his death in 1626, and was, besides, a benefactor to the parish. His wife was buried in St. Dunstan's Church on April 30, 1622, as appears by the Register. Lord Berkeley is recorded as lodging at the house of Thomas Johnson in the sixteenth century ; while, as referring more particularly to that part of Fleet Street associated with the family name, we read, in the St. Dunstan's Burial Register for 1647, " out of Mr. Johnson's Court, in Fleet Street."
It is, however, with their eighteenth-century name-sake that Johnson's Court is most intimately connected, for here Dr. Johnson lived from 1765 to 1776, at No. 7, " a good house," according to Boswell, and here he wrote his Tour to the Hebrides, published his Shakespeare and a new edition of the Dictionary, and, among many other lesser works, wrote the prologue to Gold-smith's Good-Natured Man.
Many are the references to the place in Boswell's gossiping pages. Thus in 1766 he writes : "I returned to London in February, and found Dr. Johnson in a good house in Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, in which he had accommodated Miss Williams with an apartment on the ground floor, while Mr. Levett occupied his post in the garret ; his faithful Francis was still attending upon him ; " and again : " Mr. Beauelerk and I called on him in the morning. As we walked up Johnson's Court, I said, 'I have a veneration for this court,' and was glad to find that Beauclerk had the same reverential enthusiasm."
According to Hawkins, Johnson worked in an upstairs room " which had the advantages' of a good light and free air " ; this " he had fitted up for a study and furnished with books, chosen with so little regard to editions or their external appearances, as shewed they were intended for use, and that he disdained the ostentation of learning."
From Johnson's Court the Doctor went, as we have seen, to Bolt Court, still keeping to his favourite Fleet Street, as Boswell notes.
It was in Johnson's Court 1 that Theodore Hook began the publication of his newspaper John Bull, in 1820.
We must make a détour to GOUGH SQUARE, which lies behind Bolt Court and Johnson's Court, and can be entered from the former. Here again Johnson is the presiding genius, for here, at No. 17, he lived, in the house which is the chief Mecca of his admirers, from 1748 to 1758. Two years after his arrival, he began the publication of the Rambler here; here, in 1752, his wife died ; and here, three years later, he completed his great Dictionary. This house has since 1885 borne one of the Society of Arts tablets ; and recently, owing to the generosity of Mr. Cecil Harms-worth, it has been secured as a permanent museum of the illustrious man whose spirit seems still to haunt it. Boswell's description of the literary workroom is historic :
" Mr. Burney," he writes, " had an interview with him in Gough Square, where he dined and drank tea with him, and was introduced to the acquaintance of Mrs. Williams. After dinner Mr. Johnson proposed to Mr. Burney to go up with him into his garret, which, being accepted, he there found about five or six Greek folios, a deal writing-desk, and a chair and a half. Johnson gave to his guest the entire seat, and tottered himself on one with only three legs and one arm."
It was in this garret that Johnson's amanuenses sat labouring under his dictation at the Dictionary ; here it was that Johnson himself was arrested for a debt of £5, 18s. in March 1756, a debt discharged by Samuel Richardson ; Reynolds brought Roubiliac hither, and Northeote tells how the Doctor received his guests " with much civility, and took them up into a garret, which he considered as his library ; where, besides his books, all covered with dust, there was an old crazy deal table and a still worse and older elbow chair, having only three legs." It was, I presume, on this occasion that Roubiliac preferred his request that the Doctor should write an epitaph for one of his monuments, and prefaced it with so much fulsome adulation that Johnson cut him short with, " Have done, Sir, with this ridiculous bombastic rhodomontade ! "
In 1831, Carlyle paid a visit to the shrine, and has left us an account of the amusing remarks, concerning Johnson, of the then occupant.
Another inhabitant in Gough Square was Hugh Kelly, who died here in 1777, and who, from being a staymaker's apprentice, became a successful dramatist. It was of Kelly that Johnson once said : " He was so fond of displaying on his sideboard the plate which he possessed, that he added to it his spurs ! "
Noble tells a curious anecdote of a surgeon who lived in the square, at No. 3. He purchased the body of a malefactor hanged at Tyburn, and brought it to his house. In the evening, his servant-maid, impelled by morbid curiosity, went to the room where the body had been laid, and was horrified to find the corpse sitting up on the dissecting table. The surgeon thereupon made arrangements for sending the man to America. There he succeeded in amassing a fortune, which he bequeathed to his benefactor. The latter died intestate, but a next of kin was discovered, by a lawyer, in the person of a shoemaker at Islington. The shoemaker, however, refused to pay the lawyer's bill, whereupon the latter set about to find, if possible, another nearer of kin, which he succeeded in doing, the heir this time being Wilcox, the Strand bookseller, who had first befriended Johnson and Garrick when they came to London from Lich-field.
It is not, I think, generally remembered that a place of worship stood in Gough Square. This structure, called Trinity Church, was erected in 1827 as a chapel of ease to St. Bride's. The first stone was laid on the 3rd of October by the then Lord Mayor (Thomas Kelly), and the edifice was consecrated by the Bishop of London on the following 21st of June. The architect was John Shaw, who designed it in the Anglo-Norman style ; and, from an engraving of it in Godwin and Britten's Churches of London, a very ugly building it was. The ground on which it stood, a corner site, was given by the Gold-smiths' Company, to whom property here had been left for charitable purposes by a widow named Harding in 1513 (Harding Street takes its name from this beneficent lady). In 1842, the extra parochial district of Whitefriars was added to Trinity Church. The church was faced with bright yellow bricks, so that, as it was in the Anglo-Norman style, a style wholly identified with stone, its incon gruousness was patent. It had a tower 80 feet high.
Gough Square is jointly in the parishes of St. Dunstan's and St. Bride's, and it is recorded that the former claimed two houses in it, on the strength of having buried a body found on the spot where they joined.
Returning to Fleet Street, and passing two small courts, St. Dunstan's Court and Morecroft Court, both shown by Ogilby in 1677, as not having any interesting associations, we come to RED LION COURT (No. 169), probably taking its name from the Red Lion Tavern, which stood close by. This alley has always been rather notable for its connection with printing, for here was, at the 'Cicero's Head,' once the press of Messrs. Nichols & Sons, where, in 1779-81, the Gentleman's Magazine was partly printed, and, from 1792-1820, entirely issued.2 Richard Taylor, a man of note in his day, who died at Richmond in 1858, also had his printing establishment here, and later the offices of the South London Press, under the editorship of James Henderson, occupied a position in Red Lion Court.
In connection with Taylor, it is interesting to remember that Richard Jefferies' grandfather, John Jefferies, worked for him here. Indeed, Richard Jefferies' association with Red Lion Court is still closer, for his father married, in 1844, Elizabeth Gyde, daughter of Charles Gyde of Islington, who had a bookbinder's business at No. 7 1/2 Red Lion Court, Gyde having been a colleague of Richard's grandfather in Taylor's firm.3
CRANE COURT, or, as Strype calls it, Two Crane Court, a cul-de-sac, is a few paces farther west, at No. 175 Fleet Street. Its most famous past inhabitant was that Dr. Nicholas Barebone, the great builder who had so much to do with the development of the streets on the Norfolk and Buckingham estates in the Strand, and who is further honourably remembered as the inaugurator of the Phoenix Life Insurance. He was the son of 'Praise-God ' Barebone, who had a leather-seller's shop, known by the sign of the 'Lock and Key,' near Crane Court, and he is said to have been christened 'If -Jesus -Christ -had-not -died-for-thee - thou - hadst - been - damned - Barebone,' which became almost inevitably shortened into 'Damned
Barebone.' Dr. Barebone was in his way as extra-ordinary a man as his father had been before him. He must have made vast sums during his career, in the many ventures he embarked upon ; but, on the other hand, he lost heavily in others, and died in debt. He exhibited his last flash of eccentricity by ordering his executor, John Asgill, never to pay his creditors.
The house occupied by Barebone in Crane Court, which Strype says was larger than the rest, being ascended by large stone steps, was rebuilt by Wren in 1670, and just forty years later we find it in the possession of Dr. Edward Browne, the son of Sir Thomas Browne, and President of the College of Physicians, from whom the Royal Society purchased it, for £1450, in that year. Newton was President of the Royal Society at this time, and he was wont to describe the building as being very suitable for recondite deliberations, as it was " in the middle of town, and out of noise." In 1711, the year after the Society had taken possession, one of its secretaries, Richard Waller, built a museum in the garden attached to the house, and here was stored the collection of curiosities subsequently (1781) presented to the British Museum. This date marks the period when the Royal Society left Crane Court,1 it having continued there for upwards of seventy years. Later, the Philosophical Society rented the large room, and here Coleridge delivered his lectures on Shakespeare, in 1819-20. The Scottish Corporation occupied the house subsequently, and it is noted as doing so by Noble, in 1869. In 1877, however, the building was destroyed by fire.
It was in Crane Court that Dryden Leach, the printer, lived ; and it was from here that he was arrested (being taken out of his bed in the middle of the night) on suspicion of being concerned in the printing of Wilkes's famous North Briton, No. 45 a suspicion without any foundation, except the fact that Wilkes was known to have visited Leach in Crane Court.
Concanen, a friend of Warburton, also once lodged here, and in his room (when being redecorated by Dr. Gavin Knight of the British Museum) was found, in 1750, a letter he had received from Warburton reflecting on Pope, which was subsequently published by Akenside in 1766, and caused no end of literary trouble.
Many newspapers have been produced in Crane Court : the Commercial Chronicle, the Traveller (at No. 9), and the early numbers of Punch were issued from here, and here, at No. 10, the Illustrated London News was first printed.
It is interesting to know that the second circulating library ever started in London began its career at No. 6 Crane Court, the first having been inaugurated at 132 Strand, in 1740. The Crane Court Library, as it was called, first issued a catalogue in 1745, by which we learn that its terms of subscription were four shillings a year. The Society of Arts held its first meetings, in 1754, at this library.
FLEUR-DE-LIS COURT, called by Ogilby Flower-de-Luce Court, lies between Crane Court and Fetter Lane, and has an outlet into the latter on the east side, a little south of West Harding Street. It was in Fleur-de-Lis Court, it will be remembered, that Mrs. Brownrigg murdered her apprentice, Mary Clifford, in 1767, for which crime she was hanged at Tyburn on September 4 of that year. In the Gentleman's Magazine for 1767 there is an account of this atrocious crime, with illustrations showing the kitchen where the apprentices were employed, and " the hole under the stairs where one of the girls lay, and where both were confined on Sundays." Mr. Brownrigg was a journeyman printer, and his name appears on the petty jury list of St. Dunstan's for 1765. Canning, in his " Imitation of Southey," amusingly refers to Mrs. Brownrigg:
" — Dost thou ask her crime ?
She whipped two female 'prentices to death, And hid them in the coal hole. For this act Did Brownrigg swing "
The chapel attached to the Scottish Corporation (which had its headquarters, as we have seen, in Crane Court) was situated at No. 17 1/2 Fleur-de-Lis Court,' and here Coleridge, in 1818, delivered a course of lectures on " Language, Literature, and Social and Moral Questions."
FETTER LANE, to which we now come, is a far more important tributary of Fleet Street than any we have passed, with the possible exception of Shoe Lane. Like that thoroughfare, it runs from Fleet Street to Holborn, where it debouches slightly to the east of Furnival's Inn or rather, what was once Furnival's Inn. Only the Fleet Street end properly concerns us here, however. Timbs always considered that Fetter Lane was in early days the principal street in London, although I do not know on what grounds he based this rather startling assumption.
1 Noble notes that, in 1764, upon the evidence of Daniel Truelove and Mary Howitt, " William Capey, of Flower-de-Luce Court, milk-man, was presented for selling milk by short measure to the detriment of the poor." There is a tradition that Dryden once lived in this court, but it is not substantiated.
Stow thus accounts for the name of this street : " Then is Fewter Lane, which stretcheth south into Fleet Street, by the east end of St. Dunstan's Church, and is so called of fewters (or idle people) lying there, as in a way leading to gardens ; but the same is now of latter years on both sides built through with many fair houses." It is certain that Fetter Lane is not only of great antiquity, but also that Stow's assertion is probably correct, for a document dated 1363 refers to it, being entitled, " De Pecurdiis consuetis colligendis pro emendatione Faytour Lane et Chancellor (Chancery) Lane." On the other hand, we find the lane, in 1450, described as Fraiter Lane, and it is just a question whether its present designation may not be a false derivative from Frater, which might be a plausible and appropriate title for a street so close to the purlieus of the learned brethren of the law. Certainly, in support of Stow's assertion, there were gardens hereabouts, for we read in the document in which the word Frater is given of " Cotag' et 38 gardin' inter Shoe Lane et Fraiter Lane."
That idle people congregated in the lane may be accounted for on the hypothesis that these gardens were then open ground (which is not, I think, satisfactorily proved), but it is more likely that, as both ends of Fetter Lane were at one time recognised places for public execution, these then not infrequent sights were sufficient to draw such classes of the community hither.
An early reference to Fetter Lane, dated 1613, is to be found in the Wardmote Inquest Presentment Book of St. Dunstan's. It is an indictment of one " William Pinke of Fewter Lane," and complains that, " Having a private alley to his dwellinge house leading oute of Fewter Lane aforesaid, he keepeth no gate to the streete, whereby gret harme and annoyance groweth to the neighbourhood by reason that rogues and badd people in the nyght tyme doe hyde themselves in that ally, and do breake over into the neighbouring grounds and so harme them, wch. we hold mete to be reformed."
This seems to confirm Stow's statement, and, in any case, proves that idle and mischievous people abounded here, ready to take advantage of any carelessness in the matter of boundaries.
We gather, from a line in Ben Jonson's Every Man out of his Humour, that another class of people affected the lane in Elizabethan and Jacobean days, namely, pawnbrokers, for Fungoso, in that play, remarks :
" Let me see these four angels, and then forty shillings more I can borrow upon my gown in Fetter Lane."
But notable people have also lived here : for in-stance, the great family of the Nevills once owned property here, perpetuated in Neville's Court; members of another well known family, the Marshalls, were also early inhabitants, as was Lady Saltonstall ; still more illustrious was Hobbes of Malmesbury, who once resided here, as did the ubiquitous ` Praise-God ' Bare-bone ; and probably for he dates letters hence the great Lord Strafford, who was born in Chancery Lane. Whether or not Dryden and Otway, who are said to have lived opposite each other here, were really inhabitants of Fetter Lane, is a question about which I have something to say in another chapter. Otway may probably have been, and possibly Dryden (who is traditionally said to have occupied No. 16, at the corner of Fleur-de-Lis Court), but in the latter case the fact has never been very satisfactorily established.
Other residents about whom no doubts exist, were John Bagford, the antiquary, who was born here in 1675 ; Tom Paine, who lived at No. 77 ; and, more interesting than either, the immortal Lemuel Gulliver, who removed hither from the Old Jewry, and who owned the " long lease of the Black Bull in Fetter Lane," which brought him in £30 a year. The mention of an inn reminds me that the ` White Horse,' a great coaching-house for Oxford and the west, mentioned by Lord Eldon, was at the Holborn end of the lane. It was on the occasion of Eldon's meeting his brother (afterwards Lord Stowell) at this tavern, in 1766, that they both, failing a hackney carriage, got into a sedan-chair and, to quote Eldon's own words : " Turning out of Fleet Street into Fetter Lane there was a sort of contest between our chairmen and some persons who were coming up Fleet Street whether they should first pass Fleet Street, or we in our chair first get out of Fleet Street into Fetter Lane. In the struggle th e sedan-chair was overset with us in it."
It was in Fetter Lane that the Moravian Chapel was situated, at No. 32. Here, in 1672, Richard Baxter preached and lectured till 1682. " After the indulgence of 1672," we are told, " he returned to the City, and was one of the Tuesday lecturers in Pinner's Hall, and had a Friday lecture in Fetter Lane (near Neville's Court)." Here, later, might have been heard the eloquence and fervour of Wesley and Whitefield.
This fine old house, which still exists, although there are signs, as I write, of its approaching demolition, is actually in Neville's Court, a tiny byway between Fetter Lane and Great New Street. It is numbered 10, and when purchased by the Moravians, in 1774, was called " the great house in Neville's Alley." It was probably erected at the end of the seventeenth century. Here C. J. la Trobe, the first Governor of Victoria, was born on March 20, 1801, he being the son of the musician C. I. la Trobe, who took orders in the Church of the United Brethren, and was, in 1795, appointed Secretary to that community.
Neville's Court and Chichester Rents are said to take their names from that Ralph Nevill who was Bishop of Chichester from 1222 to 1224, although it is not proved that he owned the site of either ; yet, as he had a residence on the west side of Chancery Lane, now Lincoln's Inn, the fact may be as stated. Certainly the first name is derived from some member of the Nevill family. Other, and older, buildings I will say " till recently," as they are sure to be pulled down before I correct my proofs clustered in this quaint corner, which was apparently too insignificant for the Great Fire to expend its energy on : notably Nos. 13, 14, and 15, with their picturesque plastered walls and overhanging upper storeys, and particularly their pleasant little gardens in front oases in this wilderness of bricks and mortar.
Another Nonconformist chapel was once in Fetter Lane, at No. 96, and was called the Fetter Lane Independent Chapel. Dr. Thomas Goodwin was its first minister (from 1660 to 1681), and he was succeeded by one Thankful Owen. A later building was erected on the site of this chapel in 1732, and at one time its services were conducted by the Rev. John Spurgeon, father of the more famous C. H. Spurgeon, and it is interesting to find Wesley recording in his Diary for June 1737 that he preached here in that month.
One other interesting fact relating to Fetter Lane is that Charles Lamb once went to school, probably in 1781, at the academy of Mr. Bird, in Bond Stables, the passage leading to the thoroughfare from Bartlett's Buildings, not quite half way up the lane on the west side.
There are a number of tradesmen's tokens connected with Fetter Lane. Of the dated ones, Akerman gives the following : Henry Gibbon, at the 'Falcon,' 1650 ; John Smith, at the ' Mermaid,' 1654, ; Robert Tothaker, mealman, 1657 ; James Gould, at the 'Cock,' 1664 ; William Garratt, 1667 ; Thomas Poslet, 1667 ; and Clement Willcocks, at the 'White Cross,' 1666 ; while there was one issued from the Golden Lyon Tavern, in this street. Burn gives a few more for instance, those issued by William Burman, at the 'Chequer ' ; Thomas Dutch, at the 'Dog and Ball ' ; and Robert Redway, at the 'Lion ' (probably identical with the 'Golden Lion ').
The only important turning out of Fetter Lane which need concern us is HARDING STREET, a little way up on the east side. About where it opens into Fetter Lane is shown in Agas's " Plan " of 1560, and also in Hoefnagel's Londinium Feracissimi Anglice Regni Metropolis, of about 1572, an archway spanning the main street. It is difficult to say what this represents, but the fact that it finds a place in two plans issued at an interval of twelve years, indicates that it was a permanent erection of some importance.
Harding Street takes its name from a certain widow, Agnes Hardinge, who owned considerable property between Fetter Lane and Shoe Lane, in the form of houses and gardens (clearly shown by Agas), which she bequeathed, in 1513, to the Goldsmiths' Company, " to the intent that they should yearly give and pay, weekly for ever, to two poor widows of goldsmiths, eightpence each." The amount thus charged on the property was £3, 9s. 4d. per annum, but so greatly increased in value has the land hereabouts become, that something like £600 a year was paid out in charity so long ago as 1869 ; besides which, in 1836, the Company gave a site, near Gough Square, for the erection of Trinity Church, as we have seen, which site was then valued at £1000, together with an additional £500 as an endowment for the building.
In Notes and Queries is an advertisement which reads as follows : Sept. 9, 1669: " These are to give notice that William Sermon, Dr. of Physic, a person so eminently famous for his cure of his Grace the Duke of Albemarle, is removed from Bristol to London, and may be spoken with every day in the forenoon, at his house in West Harding Street, in Goldsmith's Rents, near Three-Legged Alley, between Fetter Lane and Shooe Lane."
Harding Street is clearly shown in Faithorne and Newcourt's " Plan " of 1658 ; while Three Legged Alley, running from Fetter Lane into the south end of West Harding Street, is indicated by Ogilby. East Harding Street joins New Street, which debouches into Shoe Lane, thus forming a connecting link between these thoroughfares. Pepys records once coming (July 21, 1660) to visit " Mr. Barlow at his lodgings at the Golden Eagle in the New Street between Fetter Lane and Shoe Lane."
NEW STREET SQUARE, or, as it seems earlier to have been called, New Square, is shown, though not actually named, in Ogilby's " Plan," and is identical with the " brode (broad) place by Newe Streete " mentioned by John Childe, the parish clerk of St. Bride's, in the Register, as then (October 1666) containing but sixteen houses left standing after the Great Fire.
A large portion of this area is today occupied by the well-known printing establishment of Messrs. Spottiswoode & Co.
In Ogilby's " Plan " of 1676, we find four alleys shown in Fleet Street, between Fetter Lane and Chancery Lane namely, St. Dunstan's Court, the entrance way to Clifford's Inn, Bull Head Court, and Flying Horse Court, besides a small cul-de-sac unnamed. None of these require any particular notice, as they are all quite subsidiary outlets from the main thoroughfare, having no history beyond the fact that they took their names from the buildings or taverns on which they abutted, two of which St. Dunstan's Church and Clifford's Inn are dealt with in other chapters. On the other hand, CHANCERY LANE deserves special attention, for it is, in many respects, one of the most important lesser thoroughfares of London. Always closely associated with the Law, as its name indicates, it is further interesting from the fact that it joins Fleet Street practically at the point where the jurisdiction of the City begins, and thus, as it were, runs midway between the east and west ends of the Metropolis. It is, besides, a street of many memories and, were my limits in this book less, might well form the subject of a chapter in itself.
Chancery Lane was originally known as New Street. Concerning the change to the name with which, for so many years, this thoroughfare has been identified, Stow thus speaks :
" Beyond this Old Temple and the Bishop of Lincoln's house is New Street, so called in the reign of Henry III., when he of a Jew's house founded the House of Converts, betwixt the Old Temple and the New. The same street hath since been called Chancery Lane, by reason that King Edward III. annexed the House of Converts by patent to the office of Custos Rotulorum, or Master of the Rolls."
Before, however, it was finally designated Chancery Lane, the street was called for a time Chancellor Lane, and probably these two titles were, for long, indifferently applied to it ; indeed, we find Strype referring to it as " This Chancellor's Lane, now called Chancery Lane."
In early days it was, in common with Fleet Street and the Strand, a dirty and muddy thoroughfare, and in the reign of Edward I. it is said to have been quite impassable from these causes ; indeed, at a later date, when John Briton, then Custos of London, because of its condition caused it to be barred up " to hinder any harm that might happen in passing that way," an act that did not go uncriticised, some attempt was made to improve the main thoroughfare. Chancery Lane again came under the notice of the authorities in 1614, and we find Sir Julius Caesar rated for the paving of the street, at that part " over against the gate of the Roles." 1 At this period the west side of Chancery Lane was bounded by open fields, with a few houses between, and the wall of Lincoln's Inn, on which Ben Jonson worked, ran along part of this side of the street. On the east were the gardens of the Rolls, the Rolls Chapel, and a certain number of dwellings growing more numerous as one approached Fleet Street. By the year 1658, however, when Faithorne and Newcourt published their " Plan," Chancery Lane had become as closely built over as it is today.
A number of notable people have been connected with this street : the families of Caesar, Cecil, Throekmorton, Lincoln, once resided here ; and one of the old houses (No. 133) which were demolished in 1853, and of which Hosmer Shepherd made a drawing,1 bore the arms of Lord Leicester on its front.
Lord Strafford was born here in 1593 ; so was Henry Baker, Defoe's father-in-law, who founded the Society of Arts in 1698 ; Isaac Walton lived " in what was then the seventh house on the left hand as you walk from Fleet Street to Holborn," and paid a rent estimated at £31, 10s., in 1638, before he went to the west corner of the lane as it debouches into Fleet Street. Lord Chief-Justice Hyde, who died in 1631, was another one-time resident here, and later, Lord Keeper North came to live in the same residence, " the great brick house near Serjeants' Inn." He it was who attempted a betterment in the Lane by trying to persuade the inhabitants to join with him in paying for a main drain, but their retrograde minds could not see the necessity, and it was only by enlisting the interests of the Commissioners of Sewers that North was able to carry his point, about the year 1672.
Bishop Tillotson, when Dean of Canterbury, Sir John Franklin, Sir Edward Reeve, Sir John Trevor, the notorious Master of the Robes, who died here in 1717, and Sir Richard Fanshawe (at No. 115, in the time of Charles II.) were also former inhabitants, and there is even a tradition, handed down by Vertue, that Wolsey once lived here " next to the six clerks' office, over against the Rolls."
Among later residents was Samuel Rose, the friend of Cowper, who lived at No. 55 ; Horace Twiss, with whom Tom Moore once dined " in a borrowed room, with champagne, pewter spoons, and old Lady Cork," as he amusingly describes it. Jacob Tonson, the famous bookseller, had his first shop near the Fleet Street end of the lane, having for his sign the ` Judge's Head.' Pickering, the well-known bookseller, was once at No. 57, and at No. 115 are the much-frequented literary auction rooms of Messrs. Hodgson, which firm was originally established at the east corner where Messrs. Partridge & Cooper, the stationers, are now.
There was always a large number of taverns in Chancery Lane indeed, from a State Paper dated 1632 and entitled Touching Ale-Houses in Middlesex, we are told that two years previously there were no fewer than forty but as twenty-five of these were stated to be in Sheere (Shire) Lane, and were then suppressed, while the remaining fifteen were licensed, it would seem that by Chancery Lane was rather meant the surrounding district than the street itself. We know that Pepys affected the ` Pope's Head ' and the ` Sun ' here, and that Tom Moore used to visit the Hole in the Wall Tavern,2 then kept by Jack Randall, alias Nonpareil, to get material for some of his more popular poems ; while there must have been many other houses of which all traces are lost.
The most interesting feature of Chancery Lane is undoubtedly the brick Gate-house of Lincoln's Inn, which is the most ancient part of that collocation of buildings. It was erected by Sir Thomas Lovell in 1518, which date may be seen upon it. The chambers adjoining and overlooking Chancery Lane are of a rather later period, and Ben Jonson may possibly have had a hand in their erection as we know he had in the garden wall.
As may be seen by one of the Society of Art's tablets, Thurloe, Cromwell's secretary, and the compiler of the well known collection of State Papers, had chambers in this part of Lincoln's Inn, from 1645 to 1659. The State Papers were found by the merest chance, in the reign of William iii., in the false ceiling of a garret in this part of the building, by a clergyman to whom the rooms had been lent during one of the long vacations, by their owner, a Mr. Tomlinson, The clergyman, who was allowed to annex this ` find,' sold the papers to Lord Somers, who had them bound in sixty-seven folio volumes. They were subsequently published by Dr. Birch, who is responsible for this story a story, I am bound to say, of which the authenticity has been called in question.
A still more interesting anecdote concerning Thurloe's rooms is recorded, for rit is said that one night Cromwell came hither to discuss with his secretary grave and secret matters of state. After having dealt with the questions for some time, Cromwell suddenly discovered that one of Thurloe's clerks was asleep in the room. This clerk was no other than Mr. (afterwards Sir) Samuel Morland,1 later to be known as a famous mechanician. Cromwell, whose subject of discourse had been Sir Richard Willis's plot for delivering Charles ii. and his brothers the Dukes of York and Gloucester into his power, drew his sword and, it is said, would have killed Morland, had not Thurloe with some difficulty prevented him, assuring the furious Protector that his intended victim was really asleep. It so happened, however, that Morland was only pretending to be, and was able to warn the royalists of the intended method of snaring the princes, and thus to prevent its execution.'
The subject of Lincoln's Inn is so large a one, and one besides which has been more than once ably treated in volumes solely devoted to it, that I must content myself with merely thus alluding to its en-trance, which, as being in Chancery Lane, properly claims a place in these pages.
There are one or two buildings close by, however, which must be noticed. The first, and most important, of these is THE RECORD OFFICE, which extends with its fore-court from Chancery Lane to Fetter Lane. It was begun in 1856, but not finished till 1870, from the designs of Mr. (afterwards Sir James) Penniethorne. It stands on the Rolls Estate, and is admirably adapted for the purpose for which it was erected, namely, the custody of the inestimably valuable series of Records of this Realm which, before its day; were housed in such varied centres as the Tower, the Chapter House, Westminster, the Rolls Chapel, the State Paper Office, and elsewhere. The treasures preserved here baffle any attempt at description, but they appropriately include Domesday Book and a long series of royal charters, Chancery and Exchequer records, Treaties (that between Henry VIII and Francis i. bearing the gold seal said to have been designed by Benvenuto Cellini), and innumerable letters, royal and otherwise.
The Rolls House stands on the site of that Carthusian House for converted Jews, which Henry II. founded in 1233, but which in 1377 was disestablished when the buildings were handed over to William Brustall, the Keeper of the Rolls, which office had but recently been created. Since those times, till the opening of the Royal Courts of Justice, the Master of the Rolls held his court here ; but the building, which was designed by Colin Campbell in 1717, and since much altered, is now used by the officials of the Record Office. The most interesting portion of the Rolls Office was the chapel which was ruthlessly destroyed some years ago, a piece of vandalism little compensated for by the erection, on its site, of a museum which nobody knows ! In it may be seen that beautiful monument to Dr. John Young, Master of the Rolls under Henry VIII., which the great Torrigiano produced, and which was by a lucky and extraordinary chance not destroyed with the building which enshrined it. The recumbent effigy of Dr. Young is an exquisite piece of work, and the head of Christ, supported on each side by that of a cherub, which hovers above it, is full of grace and dignity.
Another monument which was spared was that of Lord Bruce of Kinloss, Master of the Rolls, in the reign of James I. The tomb bears the recumbent effigy of Lord Bruce, in his robes, his head resting on his hand, between two columns, with an inscription stating that he died on Jan. :14, 1610, and some Latin verses beneath.
The third monument is that in memory of Sir Richard Allington, of Horseheath, near Cambridge.
It shows him, his wife, and three children kneeling, and as the Latin rhyming inscription says
" Haec Monumenta mihi conjurae fidissima struxit."
Other monuments in the Museum are those of Fortescue, Master of the Rolls and the friend of Pope, who died in 1749; Sir John Strange, whose epitaph runs
" Here lies an honest lawyer, that is Strange" ; and the Sir John Trevor, who was anything but honest, and, as Speaker of the House of Commons, had the unique experience of pronouncing his own dismissal, for bribery and corruption.
Hatton (1708), who gives an account of these memorials and copies the inscriptions in full, states that in the Rolls Chapel, prayers and a sermon were given every Sunday, and that the then Preacher of the Rolls was Dr. Francis Atterbury, Dean of Car-lisle, who received £10 a term from the Master of the Rolls, which was made up to £100 by the Master in Chancery. Besides Atterbury, both Burnet, and Butler of the Analogy, were preachers here, the former being removed in consequence of a sermon he delivered on Nov. 5, 1684, which was regarded by the King as being " levelled against his coat of arms." Burnet had taken for his text the words, " Save me from the lions' mouth, for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns." Luttrell, in his Diary, thus refers to the incident : " Dr. Burnett, preacher at the Rolls Chappell, on the complaint of some persons being look'd on as disaffected (tho' causelessly), is silenc'd from preaching there." Evelyn records hearing him preach an excellent sermon at the Rolls, on May 28, 1682.
It is a curious fact that, notwithstanding the chapel was used for its proper purpose, it was at the same time made a receptacle for the Chancery records, which were crowded into every available space, even behind the altar and under the pews.
Near the Rolls Office, on the west side of Chancery Lane, was once the Six Clerks' Office. According to Hatton, it was originally the Prior of Necton Park's Inn, and was called (from the Prior's name, I suppose) Herslet Inn. There was, in those early days, a brew-house here, but the place seems to have been put to its later legal use as early as 1377, so that it was contemporaneous with the Rolls. " These Six Clerks," says Hatton, " have their office up two Pair of stairs in this Building, which takes its name from them." Our authority also gives a summary of the duties of these Clerks : " Their business," says he, " is to read in Court before the Lord Keeper in Term time, to sign Bills, Answers, etc., to enroll Commissioners, Patents, Pardons, etc., and for Causes in this Court depending they are Attorneys for the Plaintiffs or Defendants ; their places, which are valued at 5 or £6000, are in the gift of the Master of the Rolls."
In Luttrell's Diary I find this reference to the place, under date of March 31, 1692, " Dr. Barebone hath undertaken to pull down the 6 clerks' office in Chancery Lane, and build a new one on arches in the new square adjoyning to Lincoln's Inn." There does not appear to be much recorded of this office. I think it fairly clear, however, that it was situated where Stone Buildings, built by Sir Robert Taylor in 1775-77, are now. It was certainly near Lincoln's Inn Gateway, as appears by a Plan dated 1592. Sir George Buc gives the following details, some of which are identical with what I have just set down :
" The six clerks of the Chancery are a society of gentlemen learned in the laws, and were at first priests, and thereupon called clerks (for so, anciently, all Churchmen were called). These clerks lodge and common together in one house in Chancery Lane, purchased and accommodated for them by Master John Kederminster, Esq., one of the society. This house was in ancient times the inn of the Abbot of Nocton, in Lincolnshire, and was since the house of one Herfleet,1 and of him it was called Herfleet's inn. But now it is (or ought to be) called the Six Clerks' Inn."
This office is now, of course, abolished, and what functions of it survive are incorporated in the Supreme Court of Judicature.
The headquarters of the Incorporated Law Society form another feature of Chancery Lane. They are on the west side and were erected in 1832, from the designs of Vulliamy, at a cost of some £50,000. Since then they were enlarged on the north side in 1849, and again, by a very excellent addition, a few years ago ; and on the south side in 1857, when P. C. Hardwick was the architect. There is a fine and large legal library here, and the Law Club is at the back of the building.
There are several interesting streets and courts out of Chancery Lane, and although taking us rather beyond our limits, a fleeting glance at them will not occupy very long. Neville's Court and Chichester Rents, so graphically described in Bleak House, have been already referred to, but CAREY STREET on the west of Chancery Lane, and CURSITOR STREET on its east, require a few words. The former, which takes its name from Nicholas Carey who lived in the reign of Charles i., connects Chancery Lane with Portugal Street. Its whole south side has long been occupied by the Law Courts, and much rebuilding in other parts has caused it to lose its once picturesque appearance, although the entrance into New Square, which still exists, helps to carry our minds back to earlier times.
Hatton, in 1708, calls it " a spacious and considerable street," and the magnificent carved doorway and overmantel from one of its houses (No. 18) show that these were once of no mean order. It has, too, had several notable residents : Lady Fanshawe tells how she took a house here, belonging to Sir George Carey, in 1656 ; Sir William Blackstone also resided here, and here wrote his famous Commentaries ; Dr. Parr was an occasional visitor to his friend Oddie, the solicitor ; and Lord Eldon, as a young man ; Judge Park as a poor barrister, until his house was burnt down ; Sir Henry Taylor, the author of Philip van Artevelde ; and Mrs. Chapone (who corresponded with Miss Pinkerton that majestic lady) all once resided in Carey Street.
Several small courts led out of the thoroughfare : Cook's Court, not to be confounded with the court of the same name in Cursitor Street, so called from Sir Henry Cooke, of Charles l.'s day, where Joseph Hill, the friend of Cowper, lived ; Grange Court, in which stood the Grange Tavern, mentioned by Davenant in one of his plays, and demolished in 1853, when King's College Hospital was about to be erected ; Plough Court, taking its name from the Plough Inn, on the south side of the street, which tavern was a place of considerable antiquity, and was once kept by Gully, the prize-fighter, who became Member of Parliament for Pontefract ; and Yeates Court, once connecting the west end of Carey Street with Clement's Inn.
Carey Street is said once to have been known as Jackanapes Lane, and under this designation it is referred to in the following extract from Luttrell's Diary, 1680 :
" April 15.-About 9 at night, John Arnold, Esq., one of his majesties justices of the peace for the county of Monmouth, goeing home to his lodging was sett upon in Bell Yard, near Jack-an-apes lane end by three fellows, who dangerously wounded him, endeavouring to cutt his throat ; " and again, on Aug. 26 of the same year, we read that " John Giles stood on the pillory in Lincoln's Inn fields, near Jack-an-apes lane, and was pelted by the people very severely." The origin of this denomination has not been recorded.
If, architecturally, the thoroughfare has lost its once beautiful houses and its taverns, as well as the Nonconformist New Court Chapel which was pulled down to make way for the Law Courts, it has been endowed with some massive buildings, notably King's College Hospital, the Bankruptcy Buildings, and the late Mr. Waterhouse's large red-brick block of chambers known as New Court.
This detour has taken us perilously near Lincoln's Inn Fields, which is outside my boundary, so we will return to Chancery Lane, crossing which we shall find CURSITOR STREET.
There is little to see when we do so ; but the place has this interest that it took its name from the Cursitors' Office or Inn, in Chancery Lane itself, founded by Sir Nicholas Bacon who, according to Stow, built it with divers fair lodgings for gentlemen, all of brick and timber." The Curisitors, from Coursetours, " Clerici de cursu," were fourteen in number, and their duties were the preparing and issuing of writs on behalf of the Court of Chancery.
The most notable inhabitant in Cursitor Street, was the future Lord Eldon, who, with his young wife, with whom, it will be remembered, he had eloped, set up housekeeping here in so humble a way that he once in after days told a friend, Mr. Pensam, that " many a time have I run down to Fleet Market to get sixpennyworth of sprats for supper."
In Swift's " Instructions to a porter how to find Mr. Curll's authors " is the following : " At the laundress's at the Hole in the Wall in Cursitor's Alley, up three pair of stairs, the author of my Church History. You may also speak to the gentleman who lies by him in the flock bed, my Index Maker."
Out of Cursitor Street was that 'Took's Court, for ever famous as the Cook's Court of Bleak House, where Mr. Snagsby had his residence and his Law Stationer's business. Dickens describes the little drawing-room upstairs as having " a view of Cook's Court at one end (not to mention a squint into Cursitor Street) and of Coavins's, the Sheriff's Officer's backyard on the other." Here the oily Chadband held forth over the miserable Jo ; hither came the mysterious Mr. Tulkinghorn ; and here 'Guster ' had her perennial fits.
Bream's Buildings are so ugly and so modern that we are apt to forget that they occupy part of the site of old Symond's Inn, not an Inn of Court or Chancery, but private tenements let to law students, and so called, it is conjectured, from a Mr. Thomas Simonds, who was buried in St. Dunstan's in 1621. The offices of the Masters in Chancery were formerly here ; but in 1873—74 the old buildings were demolished, and what is termed, perhaps ironically, in London Past and Present, " a stately pile of 110 chambers " built on their site.
The interest of Symond's Inn again centres in the fact that Dickens has immortalised it. " A little, pale, wall-eyed, woebegone inn like a large dustbin of two compartments and a sifter," he calls it, in Bleak House, where we remember to have found that offensive person, Mr. Vholes, and later, his victim, Richard, who died here, with all his lost illusions about him. It was to a sponging-house in Took's Court, which at that time was full of them, that Sheridan was taken, and locked up in 1815.
Of Bowling Pin Alley, a small and insignificant court out of Chancery Lane, I find nothing of interest, except its unusual name and the fact that it was the birthplace of the notorious Mary Ann Clarke, whose connection with the Duke of York (son of George m.) gave rise to a famous cause célèbre. Waters (W. Russell), in his Traditions of London, weaves a story round a Mrs. Carstairs who lived at No. 1. Waters calls it Bowling Inn Alley. Of NEW STREET (divided into Great, Middle, and Little), and not to be confounded with the earlier name of Chancery Lane, there appears to exist no particular record, although by an entry in Luttrell's Diary, under date of April 13, 1682, we read that " about 9 in the morning, broke out a fire at the upper end of New Street, near Fetter Lane, which consumed that house and the tops of one or two more, but by the help of the engines it was quickly quenched."
I cannot leave Chancery Lane without reminding the reader that it was here that Coleridge, " in wandering mazes lost," once saw a notice asking for "smart lads for the Light Dragoons," and incontinently went and took the King's shilling one of the romantic episodes in that remarkable career.
Returning to Fleet Street, we find APOLLO COURT, about which I have something to say in the chapter on Taverns, FIG-TREE COURT mentioned by Strype (not to be confounded with the court of the same name in the Temple), which took its name from the sign of the Fig Tree, and BELL YARD where was once the Bell Tavern,1 an ancient hostelry belonging to the Priors of St. John in early times, and mentioned in the Parish Register for 1572. Here Fortescue, the friend of Pope, who, by the bye, termed the yard " that filthy old place," once lived in a house at the upper end ; and here, too, " the man from Shropshire " in Bleak House, lodged, as well as Neckett, the servitor of Coavinses.
We now come to the last outlet from Fleet Street which I shall have to mention, namely, SHIRE LANE, variously known as Great Shire Lane, Shear Lane, as Strype spells it, Sheer Lane, and Rogue's Lane, and, at a later day, as Serle's Place.
It was so called, according to Stow, " because it divideth the cittie from the shire," and it entered Fleet Street a few paces east of Temple Bar, being clearly shown in Faithorne and Newcourt's " Plan " of 1658. It connected Fleet Street with Lincoln's Inn Fields, which it joined towards the south-east corner. Its upper end was fairly wide, but as it descended to Fleet Street, in a somewhat serpentining way, it gradually became narrower, until its opening into the main thoroughfare was extremely exiguous. About half-way down, on the west side, was Little Shire Lane leading into Boswell Court, out of which ran (towards the south) Ship Yard ; all this area being now covered by the Law Courts bounded on the north by Carey Street.
After being known as Shire or Sheer Lane for generations, this street, owing to the notoriety of its denizens, became entitled Rogue's Lane, in the reign of James l. Such a sobriquet might well have been continued down to comparatively recent times, for even in the middle of the nineteenth century, it bore the worst of reputations, being full of houses of the lowest kind, and, as a writer in No. 143 of the Quarterly Review phrases it, "a vile, squalid place, noisy and noxious, nearly inaccessible to either light or air, swarming with a population of the most disreputable character." Diprose specifies, by number, some of the most notorious dwellings at the lower end (which was in later days the worst), and he tells us that from Nos. 1, 2, and 3 a communication is said to have existed with No. 242 Strand, " through which the thieves used to escape after ill-using their victims ; that Nos. 9, 10, and 11 were known as " Cadgers' Hall," a rendezvous for pickpockets et hoc genus omne ; and that No. 19 was called ` The Retreat,' from which a means of escape existed down Crown Court into the Strand. I have something to say about the taverns in this street in another chapter taverns which were, for the most part, but meeting-places for the desperadoes who infested the neighbourhood ; while to one of better repute, 'The Trumpet,' I have referred in the account of the famous Kit-Kat Club, which had its inception here, and for which the street is chiefly famous.
The upper portion of Shire Lane was, as I have said, much wider, and seems to have been respectable even in the eighteenth century, for Seymour describes it as having " better buildings and well inhabited."
In 1845 Shire Lane was renamed Serle's Place, from the neighbouring Serle's Street and Serle's Court, now New Square, built in 1682 by a Mr. Henry Serle, whose arms are over the Carey Street Gateway. At this time the street was divided into Upper and Lower Serle's Place, and the spot of demarcation was found to be the Trumpet Tavern, when its front was cleaned of various coatings of paint in 1865. Then was discovered on it the name 'Serle's Place,' Lower Serle's Place beginning with the adjoining house. Notwithstanding the change of title, that of Shire Lane lingered on, and was accepted by many as the proper designation, down even to the time when all this part was cleared away to make room for the Law Courts.
Although Shire Lane was notorious on account of many of its later denizens, it must not be forgotten that it could once boast some famous inhabitants ; the size of its houses, their beautiful over-doorways, and other signs, indicating that it had once been the abode of fashion. Here Sir Charles Sedley lived, and here was born his son, the well known dramatist and poet ; Elias Ashmole, the antiquary, was another resident, and Anthony à Wood records dining here with him in 1670 " neere the Globe in Sheer Lane." An earlier inhabitant was Sir Arthur Atie, knight, secretary to the Earl of Leicester, and a friend of the Earl of Essex, who was buried from a house here, in St. Dunstan's, on Dec. 2, 1604 ; and here, in 1627, was living Lady Warburton. At a later period, Hoole, the translator of Tasso, resided in Shire Lane, in 1767, and was here visited by Dr. Percy and other literary men of the day ; and later still James Perry, the proprietor of the Morning Chronicle, in which the Sketches by Boz first appeared, and the inaugurator of Parliamentary reporting, lived " in a house in the narrow part of Shire Lane, opposite to the lane (Little Shire Lane) which leads to the stairs from Boswell Court," according to John Taylor.1 The names of certain tradesmen once carrying on business here, in the seventeenth century, are found on extant tokens viz., John Parrett, at the 'Sword and Buckler '; William Richardson, in 1666 and 1667 ; Thomas Skelton, at the ` Three Arrows ' ; and Thomas Smith, at the ` Anchor,' 1667.
With Shire Lane we complete the perambulation of the streets and courts leading from the north side of Fleet Street ; for we are now at Temple Bar, which forms the line of division between it and the Strand.
Annals Of 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