Discovery of a Holy Well-Fashion patronises it—The Early Days of Sadler's Wells Theatre—A Fatal Panic—Sadler's Wells Visitors—A Grub
Street Eulogy—Eighteenth Century Acrobats—Joe Grimaldi's Father—Dogs that Deserved a Good Name—Theatrical Celebrities at Sadler's
Wells—Belzoni, the Patagonian Samson—"Hot Codlins"—Advent of T.P. Cooke—Samuel Phelps becomes Lessee of Sadler's Wells—The
Original House of Correction—The "Sir Hugh Myddelton" Tavern—A Sadler's Wells Theatrical Company—Spencer's Breakfasting House
—George Alexander Stevens' Lectures on Heads.
While on the subject of places of amusement in
the north of London, near Islington, we must not
forget Sadler's Wells (Islington Spa), or New Tunbridge Wells, as it used to be called. The chalybeate
spring was discovered in 1683 by a Mr. Sadler, a
surveyor of the highways, in a pleasant, retired,
and well-wooded garden of a music-house he had
just opened. The discovery was trumpeted in
a pamphlet, detailing the virtues of the water. It
was, the writer asserted, a holy well, famed, before
the Reformation, for its healing power, which the
priests attributed to their prayers. It had been, in
consequence, looked on as a place venerated by
superstition, but arched over at the Reformation,
it had been since forgotten.
The Wells soon became famous with hypochondriacs. Burlesque poems (one probably by Ned
Ward (fn. 1) ) were written on the humours of the place,
as well as treatises on the cure of invalids by drinking the water; and finally, in 1776, George Colman
produced a farce, called The Spleen; or, Islington
In the summer of 1700 Sadler's Wells became
in high favour with the public. Gout hobbled there;
Rheumatism groaned over his ferruginous water;
severe coughs went arm-in-arm, chuckling as they
hobbled; as for Hypochondria, he cracked jokes,
he was in such high spirits at the thought of the
new remedy. At this time dancers were admitted
during the whole of the day on Mondays and
Tuesdays, says Malcolm, provided they did not
come in masks.
In 1733 the Wells were so fashionable that the
Princesses Amelia and Caroline frequented the
gardens in the June of that year daily, and drank
the waters, the nobility coming in such numbers
that the proprietor took above £30 a morning.
Feathers flaunted, silks rustled, fans fluttered, and
lovers sighed, partly with nausea and partly with
love, as they sipped the bitter waters of Æsculapius. On the birthday of one of the princesses,
the ladies were saluted as they passed through Spa
Fields (then full of carriages) by a discharge of
twenty-one guns—a compliment always paid to
them on their arrival—and in the evening there
was a great bonfire, and more powder was burnt
in their honour. On ceasing to visit the gardens,
the Princess Amelia presented the master with
twenty-five guineas, each of the water-servers with
three guineas, and the other attendants with one
From 1683 till after 1811 these gardens were
famous. Nervous, hypochondriac, hysteric affections, asthmas, indigestions, swellings, and eruptions,
all took their doleful pleasure in them, and drank
the waters with infinite belief. In 1811 the Wells
were still frequented. The subscription for the water
was a guinea the season; to non-subscribers, and
with capillaire, it cost sixpence a glass. The spring
was then enclosed by an artificial grotto of flints and
shells, which was entered by a rustic gate; there was
a lodging-house, to board invalids, and in the garden
a breakfast-room, about forty feet long, with a small
orchestra. In the room was hung up a comparative analysis of the water, and there were testimonials of its efficacy from gentlemen who had
been ill for quarters of centuries, and had drunk
all other mineral waters in vain.
On the bark of one of the trees (before 1811)
were cut the two following lines: (fn. 2) —
"Obstructum recreat; durum terit; humidum siccat;
Debile fortificat—si tamen arte bibas."
The following lines were written in a room of the
lodging-house, just as a votive tablet might have
been hung up on the walls of a Greek temple:—
"For three times ten years I travell'd the globe,
Consulted whole tribes of the physical robe;
Drank the waters of Tunbridge, Bath, Harrogate, Dulwich,
Spa, Epsom (and all by advice of the College);
But in vain, till to Islington waters I came,
To try if my cure would add to their fame.
In less than six weeks they produc'd a belief
This would be the place of my long-sought relief;
Before six weeks more had finished their course,
Full of spirits and strength, I mounted my horse,
Gave praise to my God, and rede cheerfully home,
Overjoy'd with the thoughts of sweet hours to come.
May Thou, great Jehovah give equal success
To all who resort to this place for redress!"
Amusements resembling those of Vauxhall—music,
fireworks, &c.—were resorted to at New Tunbridge
Wells, in 1809–1810, but without much success.
On the death of Sadler, his music-house passed
to Francis Forcer, whose son exhibited rope-dancing
and tumbling till 1730, when he died.
The place was then taken by Mr. Rosoman, a
builder, and the wooden house was, about the year
1765, replaced by a brick building. A painting,
introducing Rosoman and some of his actors, was
in 1811, to be seen in the bar of the "Sir Hugh
Myddelton," the inn introduced by Hogarth in his
print of "Evening," published in 1738. There
was a club, at this time, at the "Sir Hugh Myddelton," of actors, who, in 1753, formed a regular
company, at what had now become a theatre. The
amusements here were originally in the open air,
the tickets to spectators including refreshments.
The Connoisseur, of 1756, notes the feats of activity
exhibited here. After that time this suburban
theatre became famous for burlettas, musical interludes, and pantomimes. Here Grimaldi cracked
his drollest jokes, and here the celebrated Richer
exhibited on the tight rope. The New River was
also taken advantage of, and introduced into a tank
the size of the stage, to represent more effectively
naval victories and French defeats. After Rosoman, Mr. Thomas King, the comedian, and Mr.
Wroughton, of Drury Lane, became proprietors;
and at one time Mr. Charles Dibdin, jun., was
A most fatal panic took place at this theatre on
the 15th of October, 1807. The cry, "A fight!" was
mistaken for "A fire!" and a rush took place from
the gallery. The manager, shouting to the people'
through speaking-trumpets, entreated them to keep
their seats; but in vain, for many threw themselves down into the pit, and eighteen were crushed
to death on the gallery stairs. The proceed of two
benefits were divided among the children and
widows of the sufferers.
Sadler's Musical House, which, tradition affirms,
was a place of public entertainment even as early
as the reign of Elizabeth, seems early to have
affected a theatrical air. In May, 1698, we find a
vocal and instrumental concert advertised here,
the instrumental part being "composed of violins,
hautboys, trumpets, and kettle-drums." It was to
continue from ten to one, every Monday and Thursday, during the drinking of the waters. In 1699
the Wells were called "Miles's Music 'House;"
and in that year Ned Ward, always coarse and
always lively, describes going with a crowd of Inns
of Court beaux to see a wretch, disguised in a fool's
cap, and with a smutty face like a hangman, eat
a live fowl, feathers and all.
"The state of things described by Ned Ward,"
says Mr. Pinks," is abundantly confirmed by the
reminiscences of Edward Macklin, the actor, who
remembered the time when the admission here was
but threepence, except to a few places scuttled off
at the sides of the stage at sixpence, which were reserved for people of fashion, who occasionally came
to see the fun. 'Here we smoked and drank porter
and rum-and-water, as much as we could pay for.'
Of the audience Macklin says, 'Though we had a
mixture of very odd company, there was little or
no rioting; there was a public then that kept one
another in awe.'"
Ned Ward, who was a quick observer, describes
the dress-circle gallery here as painted with stories
of Apollo and Daphne, Jupiter and Europa, &c.
In his poem, "A Walk to Islington," Ned Ward is
not complimentary to the Sadler's Wells visitors.
In the pit, he says, were butchers, bailiffs, housebreakers, footpads, prizefighters, thief-takers, deerstealers, and bullies, who drank, and smoked, and
lied, and swore. They ate cheesecakes and drank
ale, and one of the buffoons was also a waiter. The
female vocalist was followed by a fiddler in scarlet.
Then came a child, who danced a sword-dance, and
"A young babe of grace,
With mercury in his heels, and a gallows in his face;
In dancing a jig lies the chief of whose graces,
And making strange music-house, monkey-like faces."
About 1711 the Wells seems to have become
still more disreputable, and in 1712 a lieutenant of
the navy was run through the body there by a
Mr. French, of the Temple, in a drunken quarrel.
Macklin says there were four or five exhibitions
in a day, and that the duration of each performance depended upon circumstances. The proprietors had always a follow outside to calculate
how many persons were collected for a second
exhibition, and when he thought there were enough,
he came to the back of the upper seats and cried
out, "Is Hiram Fisteman here?" This was a cant
word between the parties, to know the state of the
people without, upon which they concluded the
entertainment, and dismissed the audience with a
song, and prepared for a second representation.
In a poem called "The New River," written
about 1725, by William Garbott, the author thus
describes the Wells, with advertising enthusiasm:—
"There you may sit under the shady trees,
And drink and smoak fann'd by a gentle breeze;
Behold the fish, how wantonly they play,
And catch them also, if you please, you may."
Forcer, a barrister, the proprietor in the early
part of the eighteenth century, improved the pantomimes, rope-dancing, and ladder-dancing, tumbling,
and musical interludes. Acrobats threw summersaults from the upper gallery, and Black Scaramouch struggled with Harlequin on the stage. The
old well was accidentally discovered in Macklin's
time, between the New River and the stage-door.
It was encircled with stone, and you descended to
it by several steps. Cromwell, writing in 1828,
says that it was known that springs existed under
the orchestra, and under the stage, and that the
old fountain of health might hopefully be sought
for there. In 1738, in his "Evening," not one of
his most successful works, Hogarth introduced a
bourgeois holiday-maker and his wife, with Sadler's
Wells in the background. In "The Gentlemen's
and Ladies' Social Companion," a book of songs
published in 1745–6, we find a song on Sadler's
Wells, which contained several characteristic verses.
Rope-dancing and harlequinade, with scenery, feats
of strength, and singing, seem to have been the
usual entertainment about this period. In 1744
the place was presented by the grand jury of the
county as a scene of great extravagance, luxurious
idleness, and ill-fame, but it led to no good
results. In 1746 any person was admitted to
the Wells, "and the diversions of the place," on
taking a ticket for a pint of wine. This same year
a ballet on the Battle of Culloden, a most undanceable subject, one would think, was very popular;
and Hogarth's terrible "Harlot's Progress" was
turned into a drama, with songs, by Lampe.
The Grub Street poets, in the meantime, belauded the Wells, not without reward, and not
always inelegantly, as the following verses show:—
"Ye cheerful souls, who would regale
On honest home-brewed British ale,
To Sadler's Wells in troops repair,
And find the wished-for cordial there;
Strength, colour, elegance of taste,
Combine to bless the rich repast;
And I assure ye, to my knowledge,
'T has been approved by all the Colledge,
More efficacious and prevailing
Than all the recipes of Galen.
Words scarce are able to disclose
The various blessings it bestows.
It helps the younger sort to think,
And wit flows faster as they drink;
It puts the ancient a new fleece on,
Just as Medea did to Eson;
The fair with bloom it does adorn,
Fragrant and fresh as April morn.
Haste hither, then, and take your fill,
Let parsons say whatever they will;
The ale that every ale excels
Is only found at Sadler's Wells."
A writer in the Connoisseur of 1756 praises a
dexterous performer at the Wells, who, with bells
on his feet, head, and hands, jangled out a variety
of tunes, by dint of various nods and jerks. The
same year a wonderful balancer named Maddox
performed on the slack wire, tossing balls, and
kicking straws into a wine-glass which he held in
his mouth. Maddox, the equilibrist, entertained
the public for several seasons by his "balances on
the wire," and his fame was celebrated by a song
set to music, entitled "Balance a Straw," which for
a time was very popular. A similar feat was afterwards performed at the Wells by a Dutchman, with
a peacock's feather, which he blew into the air and
caught as it fell, on different parts of a wire, at the
same time preserving his due equilibrium. The
same performer used to balance a wheel upon his
shoulder, his forehead, and his chin, and afterwards,
to show his skill as an equilibrist, he poised two
wheels, with a boy standing on one of them.
The road home from the Wells seems to have
been peculiarly dangerous about 1757, as the
manager announces in the Public Advertiser that
on the night of a certain charitable performance
a horse-patrol would be sent by Mr. Fielding (the
blind magistrate, and kinsman of the novelist) for
the protection of nobility and gentry who came
from the squares. The road to the City was, as
he promised, also to be properly guarded. A year
later an armed patrol was advertised as stationed
on the New Road, between Sadler's Wells and
Grosvenor Square. Foote wrote, about the same
"If at Sadler's Wells the wine should be thick,
The cheesecakes be sour, or Miss Wilkinson sick;
If the fumes of the pipes should prove powerful in June,
Or the tumblers be lame, or the bells out of tune,
We hope that you'll call at our warehouse at Drury,
We've a good assortment of goods, I assure you."
In 1765 the old wooden theatre at the Wells was
pulled down and a new one built, at an expense
of £4,225. A three-shilling ticket for the boxes,
in 1773, entitled the bearer to a pint of port,
mountain, Lisbon, or punch. A second pint cost
In 1763 Signor Grimaldi, Joe Grimaldi's father,
first appeared as chief dancer and ballet-master.
He continued there till the close of 1767. In
1775 James Byrne, the famous harlequin of Drury
Lane, and the father of Oscar Byrne, was employed at Sadler's Wells as a dancer, and a Signor
Rossignol gave imitations of birds, like Herr Joel,
and accompanied the orchestra on a fiddle without
strings. About this time, too, Charles Dibdin the
elder wrote some clever and fanciful pieces for this
theatre, entitled "Intelligence from Sadler's Wells."
In 1772 Rosomon surrendered the management
to King, the famous comedian, who held it till
1782, when Sheridan gave him up the sovereignty
of Drury Lane. King had been an attorney, but
had thrown up his parchments to join theatres and
play under Garrick. He excelled in Sir Peter
Teasle, Lord Ogleby, Puff, and Dr. Cantwell. His
Touchstone and Ranger, says Dr. Doran, were only
equalled by Garrick and Elliston. He was arch,
easy, and versatile, and the last time he played Sir
Peter, in 1802, the fascinating Mrs. Jordan was the
young wife. King remained an inveterate gambler
to the last, in spite of Garrick's urgent entreaties.
King sold the Wells, says Mr. Pinks, for £12,000.
Joe Grimaldi appeared at Sadler's Wells first in
1781, in the character of a monkey. In 1783 eggdancers and performing dogs were the rage, the
dogs alone clearing for the managers, in one season,
£10,000. The saying at the theatre at that time
was, that if the dogs had not come to the theatre,
the theatre must have gone to the dogs. Horsepatrols still paraded the roads to the City at night.
In 1786 Miss Romanzini (afterwards the celebrated ballad vocalist, Mrs. Bland) appeared at the
Wells, and also Pietro Bologna, father of the celebrated clown, Jack Bologna. In 1788 Braham,
then a boy, who had first appeared in 1787, at the
Royalty Theatre, Wells Street, near Goodman's
Fields, made his first appearance at the Wells.
"Two Frenchmen," says Mr. Pinks, "named Duranie and Bois-Maison, as pantomimists, eclipsed
all their predecessors on that stage. Boyce, a distinguished engraver, was the harlequin, and, from
all accounts, was the most finished actor of the
motley hero, either in his own day or since. On
the benefit-night of Joseph Dortor, clown to the
rope, and Richer, the rope-dancer, Miss Richer
made her first appearance on two slack wires, passing through a hoop, with a pyramid of glasses on
her head and Master Richer performed on the
tight rope, with a skipping-rope. Joseph Dortor,
among other almost incredible feats, drank a glass
of wine backwards from the stage floor, beating a
drum at the same time. Lawrence threw a somersault over twelve men's heads, and Paul Redigé,
the 'Little Devil,' on October 1st, threw a somersault over two men on horseback, the riders having
each a lighted candle on his head. Dubois, as
clown, had no superior in his time, and the troop
of voltigeurs were pre-eminent for their agility,
skill, and daring."
After Wroughton's time, Mr. Siddons (husband
of the great actress) became one of the proprietors
of the Wells, where, in 1801, a young tragedian,
Master Carey, the "Pupil of Nature," otherwise
known as Edmund Kean, recited Rollo's speech
from Pisarro. His great-grandfather, Henry Carey,
the illegitimate son of the Marquis of Halifax, and
the author of the delightful ballad, "Sally in our
Alley," had written and composed many of the
ballad operas and ballad farces which were very
successful at Sadler's Wells.
In 1802, Charles Dibdin, jun., and Thomas
Dibdin, his brother, were busy at the Wells.
In 1803 appeared Signor Belzoni, afterwards
the great Egyptian traveller, as the "Patagonian
Samson," in which character, says Mr. Pinks, "he
performed prodigious feats of strength, one of
which was to adjust an iron frame to his body,
weighing 127 Ibs., on which he carried eleven persons. The frame had steps or branches projecting
from its sides, on which he placed eleven men in
a pyramidical form, the uppermost of whom reached
to the border of the proscenium. With this immense
weight he walked round the stage, to the astonishment and delight of his audience. On one occasion a serio-comic accident occurred, which might
have proved fatal not only to the mighty Hercules,
but also to his pyramidical group. As he was
walking round the stage with the vast load attached
to his body, the floor gave way, and plunged him
and his companions into the water beneath. A
group of assistants soon came to the rescue, and
the whole party marched to the front of the stage,
made their bows, and retired. On Belzoni's benefitnight he attempted to carry thirteen men, but as
that number could not hold on, it was abandoned.
His stature, as registered in the books of the Alien
Office, was six feet six inches. He was of good
figure, gentlemanly manners, and great mind. He
was an Italian by birth, but early in life he quitted
his native land to seek his fortune."
In 1804 Sadler's Wells first began to assume the
character of an aquatic theatre. An immense tank
was constructed under the stage, and a communication opened with the New River. The first
aquatic piece was a Siege of Gibraltar, in which
real vessels bombarded the fortress. A variety of
pieces were subsequently produced, concluding
with a grand scene for the finale, on "real water."
Thomas Greenwood, a scene-painter at the Wells,
thus records the water successes in his "Rhyming
"Attraction was needed the town to engage,
So Dick emptied the river that year on the stage;
The house overflowed, and became quite the ton,
And the Wells for some seasons went swimmingly on."
"Among the apparently perilous and appalling
incidents exhibited," says a writer to whom we
have already been much indebted, "were those of
a female falling from the rocks into the water, and
being rescued by her hero-lover; a naval battle,
with sailors escaping by plunging into the sea from
a vessel on fire; and a child thrown into the water
by a nurse, who was bribed to drown it, being
rescued by a Newfoundland dog."
In 1819 Grimaldi sang for the first time his immortal song of "Hot Codlins," the very night a
boy was crushed to death in the rush at entering.
"Sadler's Wells was let at Easter, 1821, for the
ensuing three seasons, to Mr. Egerton, of Covent
Garden Theatre; in which year it was honoured by
the presence of Queen Caroline, the wife of George
IV., and her Majesty's box and its appointments
were exhibited daily to the public for a week afterwards. In 1822, in a piece called Tom and Jerry,
pony races were introduced, a course having been
formed by laying a platform on the stage and pit.
Upon the expiration of Egerton's term the Wells
were let to Mr. Williams, of the Surrey Theatre, the
son of the proprietor of the once-famous boiled
beef house in the Old Bailey. He employed one
half of his company, in the earlier part of the
evening, at Sadler's Wells, and thence transferred
them to the Surrey, to finish there; and at that
theatre he adopted the same course, the performers
being conveyed between the two houses by special
carriages. Williams's speculation, however, turned
out a complete failure."
In 1823 the use of water for scenic purposes
was discontinued for a time at Sadler's Wells, and
in 1825 the old manager's house, next the New
River Head, was turned into wine-rooms and a
saloon; the season, in consequence of the immense
growth of the neighbourhood, was extended from
six to twelve months, and Tom Dibdin was engaged as acting manager. The year 1826 being
very hot, the manager got up some pony-races in
the grounds, which drew large audiences. On
March 17, 1828, Grimaldi took his farewell benefit
at Sadler's Wells.
Subsequently Mr. T. Dibdin became manager at
the Wells, and produced a variety of ballets, pantomimes, burlettas, and melodramas. In 1832 that
best of all stage sailors, Mr. T. P. Cooke, made
his first appearance at this theatre as William,
in Black-Eyed Susan, a piece which ran one
hundred nights. In 1833, during a serio-romantic
lyric drama called The Island, and founded on the
mutiny of the Bounty, the stage and its scenery
was drawn up bodily to the roof of the house, to
avoid the tediousness of a "wait." The Russian
Mountains were also a great success.
THE EXTERIOR OF BANGIGGE WELLS IN 1780.
But a great epoch was now about to commence.
In 1844 Mr. Samuel Phelps appeared, aided by
Mrs. Warner. In 1846 Mr. Phelps resolved to
produce all Shakespeare's plays, and actually did
represent thirty of them. These thirty, under Mr.
Phelps's management, occupied about 4,000 nights,
Hamlet alone running for 400. After honourable
toil of eighteen years, Mr. Phelps, a true enthusiast
for the "legitimate," retired from Sadler's Wells in
1862. He paid a rent of £1,000 a year.
At the west end of a paved avenue on the south
side of Sadler's Wells Theatre, on the opposite side
of the now buried New River, just where a row of
lofty poplars once fringed the left bank, stands the
"Sir Hugh Myddelton" Tavern, erected in 1831,
on the site of the "Myddelton's Head," which was
built as early as 1614. This was the favourite
house for the actors and authors of the Wells, and
here sturdy Macklin, the best of Shylocks, Rosoman, the manager, Dibdin, and Grimaldi used to
fill their churchwarden's pipes, and merrily stir
their glasses. In Hogarth's "Evening," published
in 1738, we have a glimpse of the old signboard,
and of a gable end and primitive weather-boarding,
against which a vine spreads itself, and displays its
clustering fruit. At an open window honest citizens
are carousing, while the fat and sour City dame,
of by no means unimpeachable virtue, as the painter
implies, is pettishly fanning herself, attended by
her obsequious Jerry Sneak of a husband, who
toils along, carrying the ugly baby. Malcolm,
in 1803, describes the tavern as facing the river,
which was "adorned with tall poplars, graceful
willows, and sloping banks and flowers." In the
bar of the "Sir Hugh Myddelton" is a curious old
picture of Manager Rosoman, surrounded by his
select friends and members of his company; and
of this picture Mr. Mark Lonsdale, a once manager
of the theatre, drew up the following account:—
COLDBATH HOUSE. (From a View published in 1811.)
"The portrait of Mr. Rosoman, the then manager
of Sadler's Wells, forms the centre. Then proceeding to the gentleman on his left hand, and so
round the table as they sit. The seven gentlemen
who are standing up are taken the last, beginning
with Mr. Maddox, the wire-dancer, and so on,
with the remaining six in the order they stand.
The gentleman with one hand upon the pug-dog
is Mr. Rosoman, manager of Sadler's Wells. On
his left hand is Mr. Justice Keeling, a brewer. Mr.
Romaine, a pipe-maker, is distinguished by his
having a handful of pipes, and is in the act of
delivering one to Mr. Justice Keeling. Mr. Copeland, the tobacconist, is also distinguished by his
having a paper of tobacco in his hand, on which
is written 'Copeland's best Virginia.' The gentleman with his hand upon the greyhound is Mr.
Angier, a carver in Long Acre; on his left is
Mr. Cowland, a butcher in Fleet Street. At Mr.
Cowland's right hand is Mr. Seabrook, a glazier
in Cow Cross. The name of the next gentleman,
who is pointing his finger to his nose, is forgotten;
he was a dancer at Sadler's Wells, and went by
an unpleasant nickname, from the circumstance of
his nose being much troubled with warts. The
gentleman at his right hand, having his hand upon
the neck of a bottle, is Mr. Smith, a well-known
carcase butcher in Cow Cross. The next, who
has his fingers upon a glass of wine, is Mr. Ripley,
of Red Lion Street. Mr. Cracraft, a barber in the
same street, sits at his right hand, and is filling his
pipe out of a paper of tobacco. At his right hand
is Mr. Holtham, scene-painter at Sadler's Wells.
The gentleman who sits higher than the rest of
the company, and who is in the attitude of singing, having a bottle under his arm, is Mr. Ranson,
a tailor at Sadler's Wells, known by the name of
Tailor Dick. Mr. Bass, a plasterer in Cow Cross,
sits at his right hand, and is in the attitude of
putting a punch ladle into the bowl. At his right
hand Mr. Chalkill, a poulterer in Whitecross Street.
At Mr. Chalkill's right hand is Mr. Norris, a salesman in the sheep-skin market. When he died he
left £2,000 in hard cash in his chest. At his right
hand is Mr. Davis, a walksman at the New River
Head. The name of the gentleman at Mr. Davis's
right hand is forgotten. Mr. George, a tallowchandler in Islington, sits at the right hand of the
unknown gentleman. He married the late Alderman Hart's mother. The gentleman next to him
is Mr. Davenport, ballet master at Sadler's Wells,
and was master to Charles Matthews. Next to him is
Mr. Greenwood, painter, father of the scene-painter.
The gentleman at Mr. Rosoman's right hand is
Mr. Hough, his partner. The gentleman in a blue
and gold theatrical dress, with one hand upon Mr.
Davis's shoulder, is Mr. Maddox, the wire-dancer,
who was drowned. The one standing by in a
cocked hat is Mr. Thomas Banks, a carver and
arts' master in Bridewall; also harlequin and clown
at Sadler's Wells. Billy Williams, a tumbler, is
standing between Tailor Dick and Mr. Bass. Peter
Garman, a rope-dancer and tumbler at Sadler's
Wells, is between Mr. Holtman and Tailor Dick,
and is in the attitude of blowing the smoke from
his pipe into Tailor Dick's face. The next standing
figure is Mr. John Collier, a watch finisher in Red
Lion Street. A cheesemonger (name forgot) is at
the left hand. Mr. Talmash, vestry clerk of St.
James's, Clerkenwell (a mighty great man in Red
Lion Street), is at the back of the chair of the
gentleman before-mentioned with the vulgar nickname."
In the days when clover grew round Islington,
and the cows of that region waded knee-deep in
golden buttercups—when the skylark could be
heard in Pentonville, the Cockney pedestrian, after
his early summer walk, expected to fall upon a good
honest breakfast at some such suburban tavern
as the "Sir Hugh Myddelton." About 1745,
Spencer's Breakfasting House, a mere but with
benches outside, at the end of Myddelton Place,
supplied this want—tea at threepence per head, and
coffee at three halfpence per dish, fine Hyson tea at
sixpence per head, "a cat with two legs, to be seen
gratis." On Sunday mornings Spencer's hut was
filled with 'prentices and their sweethearts. The
house had a cow-lair and a wooden fence that almost
surrounded it. Here, in July, 1765, the celebrated
mimic and adventurer, George Alexander Stevens,
delivered his "Lectures on Heads," which the
celebrated comedians of the day attempted in vain
to rival. In the Public Advertiser, July 24th, 1765,
is the following advertisement:—
"This evening, and every evening during the summer
season, at the Long Room opposite to Sadler's Wells, will
be delivered the celebrated 'Lectures on Heads,' by Mr.
Geo. Alex. Stevens.
"Part I. Introduction:—Alexander the Great—Cherokee
Chief—Quack Doctor—Cuckold—Lawyer, humourous
Oration in Praise of the Law, Daniel against Dishclout—
Horse Jockeys—Nobody's, Somebody's, Anybody's, and
Everybody's Coats of Arms—Family of Nobody—Architecture—Painting—Poetry—Astronomy—Music—Statues of
Honesty and Flattery.
"Part II. Ladies' Heads—Riding Hood—Ranelagh Hood
—Billingsgate—Laughing and Crying Philosophers—Venus's
Girdle—Cleopatra—French Nightcap—Face Painting—Old
Maid—Young Married Lady—Old Batchelor—Lass of the
Spirit—Quaker—Two Hats Contrasted—Spitalfields Weaver.
"Part III. Physical Wig—Dissertation on Sneezing and
Snuff-taking—Life of a Blood—Woman of the Town—Teatable Critic—Learned Critic—City Politician, humourously
described—Gambler's Three Faces—Gambler's Funeral and
Monument—Life and Death of a Wit—Head of a wellknown Methodist Parson, with Tabernacle Harangue.
"The doors to be opened at five, begin exactly at six.
Front seats, 1s. 6d.; Backseats 1s."