ST. GILES'S IN THE FIELDS.
"On Newgate steps Jack Chance was found,
And bred up near St. Giles's Pound."—Old Song.
St. Giles, the Patron Saint of Lepers—The Lepers' Hospital founded here—The Village of St. Giles in the Time of the Plantagenets, Tudors,
and Stuarts—Executions at St. Giles's—The "Half-way House" on the Road to Tyburn—The Cage and the Pound—St. Giles's Church—Church Lane—Monmouth Court and the Catnatch Press—The Seven Dials—Shaved by a Woman—The Prince and the Beggars.
St. Giles, the patron saint of this and of so many
other outlying parishes in English towns and cities,
is said, by Alban Butler in his "Lives of the
Saints," to have been of noble birth at Athens.
He flourished in the seventh and eighth centuries,
and combined with his piety a marked love of
solitude. Quitting his own country he found a
retreat in France, and passed many years of his
life in the recesses of a forest in the neighbourhood
of Nismes. It is said that the French king and a
troop of hunters pursued a hind, which fled for
protection to the saint. An arrow, intended for the
hind, wounded the saint, who, however, continued
his devotions, and refused all recompense for the
injury done to his body. The hind, it appeared,
had long nourished him with its milk, and had
strayed into danger in one of the glades. This
incident made him a great favourite with the king,
but nothing could induce him to quit his forest for
the atmosphere of a court. Towards the end of his
life, however, he so far abandoned his solitude as
to admit several disciples and found a monastery,
which afterwards became a Benedictine abbey.
The saint is commemorated in the Martyrologies
of St. Bede and others, and St. Giles and the hind
have often afforded a subject for the artist's pencil.
St. Giles is the patron saint of lepers, and is styled
in the calendar of the Roman Church "Abbot and
It is very doubtful whether this manor and
village, of which we now come to treat, was dedicated to St. Giles before the erection of the lepers'
hospital by Queen Matilda, for there is no mention
of it by any such name in "Domesday Book." The
hospital consisted of a house or principal mansion,
with an oratory and offices, but the "oratory"
appears to have been only a chapel, added on to
the village church. "Private charity, however,"
says Newton, "augmented it in after times, and the
brotherhood seem to have become subsequently
possessed of other lands, as the Spital croft, consisting of sixteen acres, lying on the north side of
the highway, opposite the great gate of the hospital,
and also two estates called Newlands and Lelane,
the exact situations of which, though probably
contiguous, we are unable to point out."
According to existing records, the earliest notice
of this district tells us that a hospital for lepers was
founded here, about the year 1118, by Queen
Matilda, the good wife of Henry I., and that it
was attached as a "cell," or subordinate house, to
a larger institution at Burton Lazars, in Leicestershire, then recently founded. Grants of royalty
were confirmed by a bull of Pope Alexander VI.
(1240). The hospital here stood on land belonging
to the Crown, and not very far from the present
parish church. The grounds were enclosed with
a wall, and formed almost a triangle, embracing
between seven and eight acres. On the north it
was bounded by High Street, on the west by Crown
Street, and on the east by Dudley (formerly Monmouth) Street. The conventual buildings do not
appear to have been of any great size, and, so far
as we know, there is no print of their extent. The
foundation, however, as we happen to know, was
for "forty lepers, one clerk, and one messenger,
besides matrons, the master, and other members of
the establishment." Mr. Newton tells us that the
grant from the Crown expressly stipulated that the
hospital should be built "on the spot where 'John,
of good memory,' was chaplain;" and hence he
argues that the village church formed part of the
grant along with the ancient manor.
Carew, in his "Survey of Cornwall," says that
leprosy was common in the far west in his own day
(James I.), and attributes it to the "disorderly
eating of sea-fish newly taken, and principally the
livers of them, not well prepared, soused, pickled,
or condited." St. James's, St. Giles's, and Burton
Lazars, in Leicestershire, were the three oldest
houses for lepers in the kingdom.
At the Reformation St. Giles's Hospital was
dissolved, and granted by Henry VIII. to John
Dudley, Viscount Lisle, whom the king graciously
allowed to alienate it to John or Wymond Carew,
in 1547. Belonging to the hospital was a Grange
at Edmonton (Edelmston). At the time of this
alienation (1547) Dr. Andrew Borde, "the first of
Merry Andrews," was the tenant of a messuage,
with an orchard and garden, adjoining the said
dissolved hospital. Mr. Parton identifies this with
the site of the residence afterwards given to the
rector by the Duchess of Dudley, and now known
as Dudley Court. The hospital was endowed with
lands at Feltham and Isleworth, and by an annual
rent from St. Clement's parish. Lord Lisle fitted
up the chief part of the building, and lived here
two years. Mr. Parton publishes the list of masters
and wardens of the hospital, with accounts, &c.
Cotterell Garden, in St. Giles's parish, was confirmed to the hospital in 1186.
The hospital chapel and the parish church of
St. Giles would appear to have been two distinct
structures under a single roof, much like the
arrangement still to be seen in St. Helen's Church,
Bishopsgate. Before the high altar in the chapel
burnt St. Giles's light. There was a second altar
and chapel of St. Michael.
SEVEN DIALS. (From an Original Sketch.)
The chief part of the village of St. Giles, in the
days of our Plantagenet kings, was composed of
houses standing on the north of the highway which
led westward from Holborn to Tyburn, and whose
gardens stretched behind them to St. Blemund's
Dyke. In Ralph Aggas' map it figures as a small
village, or rather a small group of cottages, with
their respective garden-plots nestling around the
walls of the hospital. In 1541 an Act of Parliament was passed, ordering the "western road"
of London, from "Holborne Bars" to St. Giles-inthe-Fields, to be paved, "as far as there was any
habitation of both sides of the street." The village
of St. Giles had its ancient stone cross, which
seems to have stood near what is now the north
end of Endell Street.
In 1413 there was in London a conspiracy of the
sect called the Lollards. They met in the fields
adjoining St. Giles's Hospital, headed by Sir John
Oldcastle, who afterwards was executed on the spot,
being hung in chains over a slow fire.
In the days of Elizabeth it was not so easy
either for lepers or for ordinary people to find their
way from St. Giles's to St. James's, as there were
no continuous rows of houses in that south-west
direction. But at the point where Tottenham
Court Road now intersects Oxford Street, there was
a notice, at the top of a narrow lane running across
where is now Soho, "The Road to Reading." It led,
however, by a somewhat singular bend, no further
than the top of the Haymarket and a narrow lane
parallel to it, which bore the rural name of Hedge
Lane, not far from the corner of Leicester Fields.
The first era of building began a little before
1600, at which date Holborn and St. Giles's were
nearly connected together. On the wall of the
hospital being pulled down, houses began to be
built on the east, west, and south sides of the
church, and on both sides of St. Giles's Street new
dwellings multiplied. Ten years later saw the
commencement of Great Queen Street, and a continuation of the houses down both sides of Drury
Lane. And so great was the increase that in 1623
no less than 897 houses were rated. Indeed, in
Elizabeth's time, the parish was very largely built
on, and distinguished by the rank of its inhabitants.
(Both Elizabeth and James, it will be remembered,
forbade building in the suburbs.) At the end of
Charles II.'s reign there were more than 2,000;
in Anne's, more than 3,000; in 1812, nearly 5,000
houses rated in the parish books.
VIEWS IN THE ROOKERY, ST. GILES'S.
A second great era of building came in with the
Restoration. After the Revocation of the Edict
of Nantes, large numbers of poor French took up
their quarters about this part.
In this parish, unfortunately, the earlier volumes
of the rate-books have perished, so that it is not
possible to obtain such accurate information as to
its inhabitants in the Tudor and Stuart times as we
find in those of St. Martin's, and of St. Paul's,
Although the parish of St. Giles is reckoned, as
indeed it is, a poor and third-rate neighbourhood,
and its very name has passed into a by-word as the
very antipodes of fashionable St. James's, still it is
richer in its materials for history than many districts
inhabited by a class higher in the social scale. It
is observed in "Haunted London" that "the story
of St. Giles's parish should properly embrace the
whole records of London vagrancy."
When criminals ceased to be executed at the
Elms in Smithfield, or, as some say, at a much
earlier date, a gallows was set up near the northwest corner of the wall of the hospital; and it soon
became a regular custom to present every malefactor, as he passed the hospital gate in the fatal
cart on his way to the gallows, with a glass of
ale. When the hospital was dissolved, the custom
was still kept up; and there is scarcely an execution at "Tyburn Tree," recorded in the "Newgate
Calendar," in which the fact is not mentioned that
the culprit called at a public-house en route for a
The memory of this last drink given to criminals
on their way is still preserved by Bowl Yard or
Alley, on the south side of the High Street, "over
against Dyott Street, now George Street;" and
Parton, in his "History of the Parish," published
in 1822, makes mention of a public-house bearing
the sign of "The Bowl," which stood between the
end of St. Giles's, High Street, and Hog Lane.
"A like custom," writes Pennant, "obtained
anciently at York, which gave rise to the saying,
that the saddler of Bawtry was hanged for leaving
his liquor: had he stopped, as was usual with
other criminals, to drink his bowl of ale, his
reprieve, which was actually on its way, would
have arrived in time enough to have saved his
The "Bowl" would appear to have been succeeded by the "Angel," or to have had a rival in
that inn. At all events, in 1873, the City Press
reported that another memorial of ancient London
was about to pass away, namely, the "Angel" Inn,
at St. Giles's, the "half-way house" on the road to
Tyburn—the house at which Jack Ketch and the
criminal who was about to expiate his offence on
the scaffold were wont to stop on their way to the
gallows for a "last glass." Mr. W. T. Purkiss, the
proprietor, however, was prevailed upon to stay the
work of demolition for a time.
When Lord Cobham was executed at St. Giles's,
it is said that a new gallows was put up for that
special occasion. But Lord Cobham was not the
only distinguished person who here paid the last
penalty of the law. St. Giles's Pound is also
memorable as the scene of the execution of some
of the accomplices in Babington's plot against
Queen Elizabeth, though Babington himself suffered
at Lincoln's Inn Fields, "even in the place where
they used to meet and conferre of their traytorous
The Cage and the Pound originally stood close
together in the middle of the High Street, but
they were removed in 1656 to make room for almshouses. The Pound, too, occupied, as we learn
casually, a space of thirty feet near the same site,
but it was removed about the same time to the
corner of Tottenham Court Road, where it stood
till 1765 on the site of the isolated block of
houses opposite the entrance to Messrs. Meux's
The immediate neighbourhood of this Pound
bore none of the highest characters, if we may
draw any inference on the subject from the word
of a popular song by Mr. Thompson, an actor a
Drury Lane Theatre, which we have prefixed as
motto to this chapter.
In the High Street, on the left-hand side going
towards Tottenham Court Road, the late Mr. J. T
Smith remembered four large and handsome house,
"with grotesque masques on the key-stones above
the first-floor windows." He also tells us that jut
where Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Rod
meet there was a large circular boundary-stone let
into the pavement. "When," he adds, "the charity
boys of St. Giles's parish walk the boundaries,
those who have deserved flogging are whipped at
this stone, in order that when they grow up they
may remember the place, and be competent to
give evidence should any dispute arise with the
Mr. Smith also tells us, in his "Book for a
Rainy Day," that he remembered a row of six
small almshouses, surrounded by a dwarf brick
wall, standing in the middle of High Street. They
were pulled down about the year 1780, and rebuilt
near the coal-yard at the eastern end of Drury
Lane. There was formerly a vineyard here, as
there was on the slope of the hill near to Hatton
It is remarkable that in almost every ancient
town in England, the church of St. Giles stands
either outside the walls, or, at all events, near its
outlying parts, in allusion, doubtless, to the arrangements of the Israelites of old, who placed their
lepers outside the camp.
St. Giles's Church stands on the south side of
High Street, at the junction of Broad Street, and
was erected between the years 1730 and 1734. It
is a large and stately edifice, built entirely of Portland stone, and is vaulted beneath. The steeple,
which rises to a height of about 160 feet, consists
of a rustic pedestal, supporting a range of Doric
pilasters; whilst above the clock is an octangular
tower, with three-quarter Ionic columns, supporting
a balustrade with vases, on which stands the spire,
which is also octangular and belted. The interior
of the church is bold and effective; the roof is
supported by rows of Ionic pillars of Portland
stone, and the semicircular-headed windows are
mostly filled with coloured glass.
There was here a previous structure of red brick,
consecrated by Laud, whilst Bishop of London, in
1623, and towards the building of which the poor
"players of the Cockpit," so cruelly persecuted
by the Puritan party, gave £20. This church
was pulled down to make room for the present
edifice, which was opened for worship in 1734. It
had for its architect one Henry Flitcroft, the same
who built the church of St. Olave, Southwark; and
Mr. Peter Cunningham draws attention to the fact
that it bears a close resemblance to that of St.
Martin's-in-the-Fields. The first church of all on
this spot appears to have had a round tower, not
unlike those to be seen in the small parishes in the
eastern parts of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Strype gives an account of several of the monuments in the church and churchyard, but we shall
notice only a few. There is, or was, near the
south-west corner, one put up in 1611, by John
Thornton to his wife, who died in childbed. He
probably was the builder of Thornton's Alley, and
that he was from the north country is more than
probable from the legend round the family tomb:—
"Full south this stone four foot doth lie,
His father John and grandsire Harvey;
Thornton of Thornton in Yorkshire bred,
Where lives the fame of Thornton being dead."
A stone in the churchyard against the east end of
the north wall of the church records the death of
one Eleanor Stewart, an old resident in the parish,
who died in 1725, at the age of 123 and five
months, an age which we venture to bring here
under the notice of Mr. Thoms.
In the churchyard are tombs to the memory of
Richard Pendrill, to whom Charles II. owed his
escape after the fatal battle of Worcester, and of
George Chapman, the earliest translator of Homer's
"Iliad;" the latter is said to have been the work of
Inigo Jones. The following bombastic epitaph on
Pendrill's tomb will amuse our readers:—
"Hold, passenger, here's shrouded in his hearse,
Unparallel'd Pendrill through the universe;
Like whom the Eastern star from heaven gave light
To three lost kings, so he in such dark night
To Britain's Monarch, toss'd by adverse war,
On earth appear'd, a second Eastern star;
A pole, a stem in her rebellious main,
A pilot to her royal sovereign.
Now to triumph in heaven's eternal sphere
He's hence advanced for his just steerage here;
Whilst Albion's chronicles with matchless fame
Embalm the story of great Pendrill's name."
Chapman deserves more particular mention here,
as the intimate friend of Ben Jonson, who thus
speaks of his translation of Homer:—
"Whose work could this be, Chapman, to refine
Old Hesiod's ore, and give it thus, but thine,
Who hadst before wrought in rich Homer's mine?
"What treasure hast thou brought us, and what store
Still, still dost thou arrive with at our shore,
To make thy honour and our wealth the more?
"If all the vulgar tongues that speak this day
Were asked of thy discoveries, they must say,
To the Greek coast thine only knew the way.
"Such passage hast thou found, such returns made,
As now of all men it is called the trade;
And who make thither else, rob or invade."
He translated Hesiod's "Works and Days," as
well as Homer, and was even better known as a
play-writer; and was more than once imprisoned,
along with Ben Jonson, for the freedom of his pen.
Chapman and Fletcher, indeed, were Jonson's most
intimate friends. He told Drummond of Hawthornden that he loved them both, and that "next
to himself, they were the only poets who could
make a masque." Chapman died in 1634, at the
age of nearly eighty.
On the very verge of the churchyard, overlooking
the busy traffic of Broad Street, lies a flat stone,
having upon it some faint vestiges of what was
once a coat of arms and some appearance of an
inscription; but the most expert of heralds would
fail to describe the one, and eyes, however penetrating, may be baffled to decipher the other. Yet
this is a grave without its dead—a mockery of the
tomb—a cheating of the sexton; for hither were
brought the decapitated remains of one who was
among the brightest and most popular young
noblemen of his time, and hence were they afterwards disinterred and privately conveyed to Dilston, in Northumberland, where they moulder in
the family vault, amid the ashes of his forefathers.
Here, in fact, was first deposited the body of the
amiable and unfortunate James Radcliffe, Earl of
Derwentwater, whose fatal connection with the
fortunes of the Pretender, and untimely death on
Tower Hill, are matters of history, and reveal a
sad tragedy, in which he was at once the hero and
the victim. The body of the earl was again removed from its grave in Northumberland, and
carried to Thorndon, Lord Petre's seat in Essex,
for re-interment, in October, 1874.
In the church and in the churchyard adjoining
repose several other persons known to history.
Among them Lord Herbert of Cherbury; Shirley,
the dramatic writer; Andrew Marvell, of whom we
have already spoken; the notorious Countess of
Shrewsbury; Sir Roger L'Estrange, the celebrated
political writer; Michael Mohun, the actor; and
Oliver Plunkett, the Roman Catholic Archbishop
of Armagh, who was executed at Tyburn on the
charge of high treason in 1681.
The only monument of interest in the church is
to be seen in the first window in the north aisle.
It is a recumbent figure of the Duchess of Dudley,
who was created a duchess in her own right by
Charles I., and who died in 1669. "This monument," Mr. P. Cunningham tells us, "was preserved
when the church was rebuilt, as a piece of parochial
gratitude to one whose benefactions to the parish
in which she had resided had been both frequent
and liberal." Among other matters, she had contributed very largely to the interior decoration of
the church, but had the mortification of seeing
her gifts condemned as Popish, cast out of the
sacred edifice, and sold by order of the hypocritical
Puritans. The duchess, who was also in other
ways a benefactor to the parish of St. Giles, was
buried at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.
The gate at the entrance of the churchyard,
which dates from the days of Charles II., is much
admired. It is adorned with a bas-relief of the Day
of Judgment. It formerly stood on the north side
of the churchyard, but in 1865, being unsafe, it
was taken down and carefully re-erected opposite
the western entrance, where it will command a
prominent position towards the new street that is
destined sooner or later to be opened from Tottenham Court Road to St. Martin's Lane.
Mr. J. T. Smith, in his "Book for a Rainy
Day," speaks of this "Resurrection Gateway" as
being of red and brown brick: he says of the
carving above it that it was "borrowed, not from
Michael Angelo, but from the workings of the
brain of some ship-carver." Rowland Dobie, in
his "History of St. Giles'," states that "the composition is, with various alterations, taken from
Michael Angelo's 'Last Judgment.'" Mr. E. L.
Blanchard, in his "London Guide Book," informs
us that the carving is "an elaborate and curious
specimen of bronze sculpture," and that it was
"brought from Florence." But a better authority,
Canon Thorold, tells us, in his "Yearly Report on
the Parish, in 1865," that "it is carved in oak, of
the date of 1658."
The lich-gate was erected from the designs of
William Leverton, Esq., and cost altogether the
sum of £185 14s. 6d., as may be seen in the parish
records. Out of this sum "Love, the carver,"
received the miserable stipend of £27, showing the
estimation in which sacred art was held under our
Stuart kings. At the time of the removal of the
gate, the tombstones were levelled in the churchyard, young trees were planted, the footway outside
widened, and an ornamental railing placed by the
kerb-stone instead of a dead wall.
Of all the dark and dismal thoroughfares in the
parish of St. Giles's, or, indeed, in the great wilderness of London, few, we think, will compare with
that known as Church Lane, which runs between
High Street and New Oxford Street. During the
last half century, while the metropolis has been
undergoing the pressure of progress consequent upon
the quick march of civilisation, what remains of the
Church Lane of our early days has been left with
its little colony of Arabs as completely sequestered
from London society as if it was part of Arabia
Petræa. Few pass through Church Lane who are
not members of its own select society. None else
have any business there; and if they had, they
would find it to their interest to get out of it as soon
as possible. Its condition is a disgrace to the great
city, and to the parish to which it belongs.
The mansion house inhabited by Lord Lisle,
and afterwards by the Carews and the Duchess of
Dudley, stood a little to the west of the church. It
was demolished in order to build Denmark Street.
Its site is marked by Lloyd's Court.
In a small court known as Monmouth Court,
leading out of Dudley Street into Little Earl Street,
is the celebrated printing and publishing office
named after the late Mr. James Catnatch, by whom
it was founded, in 1813. From it has been issued
by far the largest store of ballads, songs, broadsides, "last dying speeches," &c., that has ever
appeared in London, even in this most prolific
age. He was a native of Alnwick, in Northumberland, and, coming to London when a lad to fight
the battle of life, was apprenticed as a compositor
in the office of the Courier newspaper. He deserves the credit of having been the first who,
availing himself of larger capital and greater mechanical skill than his precursors and rivals, substituted white paper and real printer's ink for the
execrable tea-paper, blotched with lamp-black and
oil, which had marked the old broadside and ballad
printing. He also first conceived and carried out
the idea of publishing collections of songs by the
yard, and giving for one penny (formerly the price
of a single ballad) strings of poetry. He was the
patron of much original talent among the bards of
St. Giles's and Drury Lane; and in the quarter of
a century which elapsed between the establishment
of his press and his death, he had literally made a
name in literature—of a particular kind. Among
the events of the day which he turned to the best
and most profitable account, were the trial of
Queen Caroline, the Cato Street conspiracy, and
the murder of Weare by Thurtell. On the lastnamed occasion, when the excitement about the
execution was about to die out, he brought out a
second penny broadside, headed "WE ARE alive
again," which the public read as "WEARE." The
public did not like the trick, and called it a "catchpenny;" hence arose the set phrase, which for a long
time afterwards stuck to the issues of the Seven Dials'
press, though they sold as well as ever. All sorts
of stories are told to show the fertility of Catnatch's
resources. He received such large sums in coppers,
that he used to take them to the Bank of England
in a hackney-coach; and when his neighbours in
Seven Dials refused to take them, for fear of catching a fever which was said to have spread through
their contact with low cadgers and hawkers, he
boiled them en masse with a decoction of potash
and vinegar, to make them bright, and his coppers
recovered their popularity. He had also a knack
of carving rough and rude illustrations on the backs
of music-blocks, which he nailed on to pieces of
wood. Probably through his connection with
Northumberland, he next fortunately picked up
some of the wood blocks of Thomas Bewick, which
raised at once the character of his printing-press.
His next step was to increase the quantity which
he gave for a penny, embodying his generosity to
the public in a phrase which soon was in everybody's mouth, "Songs, three yards a penny!
Songs, beautiful songs!" He next employed his
talents on cheap Christmas carols and broadsheets
of a higher class; and having realised something
more than a competency, retired, in 1839, to the
neighbourhood of South Mimms, on the borders
of Hertfordshire, where he died about two years
afterwards. The business of the "Seven Dials'
Printing Office" he left to his sister, Mrs. Ryle, by
whom it was carried on for a time, in conjunction
with a Mr. Paul. It is now managed by Mr. W.
S. Fortey, who, as a boy, was employed by Mr.
Catnatch. The press is still as busy as ever,
and though rivals have arisen, it enjoys a literary
prestige which will not soon pass away, if we may
judge from the fact that it still turns out and sells
yearly no less than a million of cheap fly-sheets of
the various kinds mentioned above.
Some idea of the Catnatch literature may be
formed from the two items here following, taken
from the catalogue of a second-hand bookseller:—
"Broadsides—A Collection of 9 Curious Old Broadsides and Christmas Carols, printed at Seven Dials and elsewhere. On rough folio paper, and illustrated with quaint
and rude woodcuts, in their original condition, with rough
edges, neatly mounted on white paper and bound in half roxburghe. Contents:—Letter written by Jesus Christ—6 Carols
for Christmas—Messenger of Mortality, or Life and Death
Contrasted—Massacre of the French King, by which the unfortunate Louis XVI. suffered on the scaffold, with a large
woodcut of his execution.
"Old Songs and Ballads—A Collection of 35 most
Curious Old Songs and Ballads, printed at Seven Dials, on
rough old straw paper, and illustrated with quaint and rude
woodcuts or engravings. In their original condition with
rough edges, very neatly mounted on fine paper, and bound in
half roxburghe. This collection embraces a most varied
series of old Ballads, commencing with the Wanton Wife of
Bath, Woful Lamentation of Mrs. Jane Shore, Unhappy
Lady of Hackney, Kentish Garland, Dorsetshire Garland,
or Beggar's Wedding, Faithless Captain, and similar pieces.
It next has 16 ballads with large engravings, illustrative of
the pieces, bacchanalian, humorous, &c. &c.; and concludes
with Liston's Drolleries (with a character portrait), the Paul
Pry Songster (with woodcut of Liston as 'Paul Pry'), and
the Harp of Ossian, &c."
The central space in this neighbourhood, called
Seven Dials, was so named on account of the plan
upon which the neighbourhood was laid out for
building, seven streets being made to converge at
a centre, where there was a pillar adorned with, or,
at all events, intended to be adorned with, seven
dial faces. Till this column was put up, it was
called "the Seven Streets," according to the "New
View of London," which tells us that at the time
of its publication (1708) only four of the seven
streets had been actually built. The locality is
built on what was formerly known as the Marshlands, and also as Cock and Pie Fields. These
were surrounded by a ditch, which ran down to St.
Martin's and so into the Thames, but was blotted
out when the Seven Dials was built. Evelyn thus
mentions the work in his "Diary," under date
5th October, 1694:—"I went to see the building
near St. Giles, where seven streets made a star,
from a Doric pillar placed in the middle of a circular area, said to be built by Mr. Neale, introducer of the late lotteries, in imitation of those at
Venice." Gay, in his "Trivia," sings:—
"Here to seven streets Seven Dials count their day,
And from each other catch the circling ray."
It appears that the dial-stone had but six faces,
two of the seven streets opening into one angle.
The column and dials were removed in June, 1774,
to search for a treasure supposed to be concealed
beneath the base; they were never replaced, but in
1822 were purchased of a stonemason, and the
column was surmounted with a ducal coronet, and
set up on Weybridge Green as a memorial to the
late Duchess of York, who died at Oatlands, in
1820. The dial-stone formed a stepping-stone at
the adjoining "Ship" inn. The angular direction
of each street renders the spot rather embarrassing
to a pedestrian who crosses this maze of buildings
unexpectedly, and frequently causes him to diverge
from the road that would lead him to his destination.
THE GATEWAY OF ST. GILES'S, IN ITS ORIGINAL POSITION.
The business carried on in Seven Dials seems to
be of a very heterogeneous character. It is the
great haunt of bird and bird-cage sellers, also of the
sellers of rabbits, cats, dogs, &c.; and as most of
the houses, being of an old fashion, have broad
ledges of lead over the shop-windows, these are
frequently found converted into miniature gardens,
which help, in some degree, to counterbalance the
squalor and misery that is too apparent in some of
the courts and lanes hard by. In Dudley Street
(formerly Monmouth Street) the shops are devoted
chiefly to the sale of old clothes, second-hand
boots and shoes, &c.; ginger-beer, green-grocery,
and theatrical stores. Cheap picture-frame makers
also abound here. In many of the houses, in
some of these streets, whole families seem to live
and thrive in a single room. In Charles Knight's
"London" we read that "cellars serving whole
families for 'kitchen, and parlour, and bed-room,
and all,' are to be found in other streets of London,
but not so numerous and near to each other.
Here they cluster like cells in a convent of the
order of La Trappe, or like onions on a rope. It
is curious and interesting to watch the habits of
these human moles when they emerge, or half
emerge, from their cavities. Their infants seem
exempt from the dangers which haunt those of
other people: at an age when most babies are not
trusted alone on a level floor, these urchins stand
secure on the upmost round of a trap-ladder,
studying the different conformations of the shoes
of the passers-by. The mode of ingress of the
adults is curious: they turn their backs to the
entry, and, inserting first one foot and then the
other, disappear by degrees. The process is not
unlike (were such a thing conceivable) a sword
sheathing itself. They appear a short-winded
generation, often coming, like the otter, to the
surface to breathe. In the twilight, which reigns
at the bottom of their dens, you can sometimes
discern the male busily cobbling shoes on one side
of the entrance, and the female repairing all sorts
of rent garments on the other. They seem to be
free traders: at certain periods of the day tea-cups
and saucers may be seen arranged on their boards;
at others, plates and pewter pots. They have the
appearance of being on the whole a contented
QUEEN ANNE'S BATH. (From a View taken in 1851.)
"On one occasion," says Mr. J. Smith, in his
"Topography of London," "that I might indulge
the humour of being shaved by a woman, I repaired
to the Seven Dials, where, in Great St. Andrew's
Street, a slender female performed the operation,
whilst her husband, a strapping soldier in the
Horse Guards, sat smoking his pipe. There was
a famous woman in Swallow Street, who shaved;
and I recollect a black woman in Butcher Row, a
street formerly standing by the side of St. Clement's
Church, near Temple Bar, who is said to have
shaved with ease and dexterity. Mr. Batrick informs me that he has read of the five barbaresses
of Drury Lane, who shamefully maltreated a woman
in the reign of Charles II."
Considering the class of the inhabitants, it is not
surprising that many lodging-houses are to be met
with. Mr. Diprose, in his "Book about London,"
tells us that perhaps the most celebrated and notorious of those in St. Giles's was kept by "Mother
It is related that Major Hanger accompanied
George IV. to a beggars' carnival in St. Giles's.
He had not been there long when the chairman,
Sir Jeffery Dunston, addressing the company, and
pointing to the then Prince of Wales, said, "I call
upon that ere gemman with a shirt for a song."
The prince, as well as he could, got excused upon
his friend promising to sing for him, and he
chanted a ballad called "The Beggar's Wedding,
or the Jovial Crew," with great applause. The
major's health having been drank with nine times
nine, and responded to by him, wishing them
"good luck till they were tired of it," he departed
with the prince, to afford the company time to fix
their different routes for the ensuing day's business.
At that period they used to have a general meeting
in the course of the year, and each day they were
divided into companies, each company having its
particular walk; their earnings varied much, some
getting as much as five shillings per day.
Monmouth Street, it may be remembered, is
the street to which the Nonconformist minister,
Daniel Burgess, referred when preaching on the
subject of a "robe of righteousness." "If any one
of you, my brethren," he said, "would have a suit
to last a twelvemonth, let him go to Monmouth
Street; if for his lifetime, let him apply to the
Court of Chancery; but if for eternity, let him put
on the Saviour's robe of righteousness."
THE PARISH OF ST. GILES'S-IN-THE-FIELDS (continued).
"Rure ego viventem, tu dicis in urbe beatum."—Horacc.
The Poor of St. Giles's—Curious Parish Regulations—"Old Simon," the Beggar—Denmark Street—Etymology of Brownlow and Belton Streets—Endell Street—Queen Anne's Bath—British Lying-in Hospital—Baths and Washhouses—French Protestant Episcopal Church—Bloomsbury Chapel—Bedford Chapel—Outbreak of the Plague of 1665—Lewknor's Lane (now Charles Street), and its Character in the Reign
of Queen Anne—Nell Gwynne's Birthplace—St. Giles's Almshouses—The Old Round House, and Jack Sheppard's Escape—The Cockpit
and Phœnix Theatres—The "White Lion" in Drury Lane—"The Flash Coves' Parliament"—Great Queen Street and its Fashionable Residents—The Gordon Riots—Opie's Popularity—James Hoole's Residence—The Freemasons' Hall and Tavern—The Wesleyan Chapel—The
Marriage Register of David Garrick—Benjamin Franklin's Printing-press—Gate Street—The Great and Little Turnstiles—Tichborne Court—Religious Persecutions.
The parish of St. Giles, with its nests of close and
narrow alleys and courts inhabited by the lowest
class of Irish costermongers, has passed into a byword as the synonym of filth and squalor. And
although New Oxford Street has been carried
straight through the middle of the worst part of its
slums—"the Rookery"—yet, especially on the
south side, there still are streets which demand to
be swept away in the interest of health and cleanliness. And yet, as Peter Cunningham remarks,
"the parish could show its pound, its cage, its
round-house and watch-house, its stocks, its whipping-post, and at one time its gallows," as our
readers are already aware. The locality, nevertheless, is not without its historic or romantic interest,
for "a redoubt with two flanks near St. Giles's
Pound," and a small fort at the east end of Tyburn
Road, are mentioned among the forts ordered to
be raised round London by the Parliament in
According to the "London Spy" (1725), St.
Giles's was in the days of the first Georges a most
wealthy and populous parish, and one "said to
furnish his Majesty's plantations in America with
more souls than all the rest of the kingdom besides."
It was also remarkable for producing the "Jack
Ketches" of that day, as well as a fair proportion
of the malefactors who suffered at Tyburn. The
same authority quotes an old saying—
"St. Giles' breed,
Better hang than seed."
They were a noisy and riotous lot, fond of street
brawls, equally "fat, ragged and saucy;" and the
courts abounded in pedlars, fish-women, newscriers, and corn-cutters.
Parton, in his "History of St. Giles's," tells us
that in remote times this parish "contained no
greater proportion of poor than other parishes of a
similar extent and population; the introduction of
Irish mendicants, and other poor of that description,
for which it afterwards became so noted, is not to
be traced further back than the time of Queen
Elizabeth." Strype, too, remarks that "when
London began to increase in population, there was
observed to be a confluence here out of the
countries of such persons as were of the poorer
sorts of trades and occupations; who, because they
could not exercise them within the jurisdiction of
the City, followed them within the suburbs; therefore the Queen, as well as forbidding the further
erection of new buildings, ordered all persons
within three miles of the gates of the City to forbear from letting or settling, or suffering any more
than one family only to be placed in one house."
In 1637 it was ordered that, "to prevent the
great influx of poor people into this parish, the
beadles do present every fortnight, on the Sunday,
the names of all new-comers, under-setters, inmates,
divided tenements, persons that have families in
cellars, and other abuses." "This," says Parton,
"is the first mention of cellars as places of residence, and for which the parish afterwards became
so noted that the expression of 'a cellar in St.
Giles's' used to designate the lowest poverty,
became afterwards proverbial, and is still used,
though most of these subterranean dwellings are
Speaking of the beggars of St. Giles's, we should
not omit to mention Simon Edy, who lived there in
the middle of the last century. "Old Simon," as
he was commonly named, lodged, with his dog,
under a staircase in an old shattered building called
"Rat's Castle," in Dyot Street. (fn. 1) He is thus
described by Mr. J. T. Smith in his "Book for a
Rainy Day:"—"He wore several hats, and suffered
his beard to grow, which was of a dirty yellowwhite. Upon his fingers were numerous brass
rings. He had several waistcoats, and as many
coats, increasing in size, so that he was enabled by
the extent of the uppermost garment to cover the
greater part of the bundles, containing rags of
various colours, and distinct parcels with which he
was girded about, consisting of books, canisters
containing bread, cheese, and other articles of
food; matches, a tinder-box, and meat for his dog;
cuttings of curious events from old newspapers,
scraps from Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs,' and three
or four dogs'-eared and greasy-thumbed numbers of
the Gentleman's Magazine. From these and suchlike productions he gained a great part of the
information with which he sometimes entertained
those persons who stopped to look at him." This
eccentric character (perhaps the original of the
"Simple Simon" of our nursery rhymes) stood for
many years at the gate of St. Giles's Church, and a
portrait of him is to be found in Mr. J. T. Smith's
well-known book, "Sketches from the London
Denmark Street is described by Strype as "a
fair, broad street, with good houses, and well
inhabited by gentry." Near it is Lloyd's Court or
Alley, to which Hogarth has given a celebrity by
making it and the adjoining Hog Lane the scene
of one of his series of sketches, "The Four Times
of the Day." Lord Wharton's residence stood at
the corner of this thoroughfare.
In Brownlow Street died, in 1684, Michael
Mohun, the actor. The street, and the adjoining
one of Belton (now Endell) Street, derived their
names from Sir John Brownlow, Bart., of Belton,
whose name occurs constantly in the parish ratebooks as a resident in the reign of Charles II.
His town mansion and gardens stood on this site,
but the former was pulled down before the year
1682. The noble estate of Belton, in Lincolnshire,
passed by marriage to the Custs, the head of whom
is now Earl Brownlow.
At No. 3, Endell Street (formerly Old Belton
Street), in the rear of the premises occupied by
Messrs. King, ironmongers, is an ancient bath, said
by local tradition to have been used by Queen
Anne, which for the most part has escaped the
notice of antiquaries. It was fed by a fine spring
of clear water, which was said to have medicinal
qualities. Whether it was the favourite bagnio of
Queen Anne or not, it certainly is a curious relic
of other days, though shorn of its ancient glories.
Descending a dark and narrow staircase, we find
ourselves in a low apartment, about twelve or fourteen feet square, its walls inlaid with Dutch tiles,
white, with blue patterns—clearly of the sixteenth
century. It once had "a lofty French groined
dome roof," but the upper part of the chamber is
now cut off by a modern flooring, and formed into
a blacksmith's forge.
In a "View of Old London" published in
1851, the bath is said to be "supplied direct from
the spring, which is perpetually running; the water,"
adds the writer, "is always fresh, and is much used
in the neighbourhood, where it is considered a
good cure for rheumatism and other disorders. It
is a powerful tonic, and evidently contains a considerable trace of iron." Some of the Dutch tiles
have been taken away, and the lower part is now
filled with lumber and rubbish instead of clear
water, and the spring no longer flows; in this
respect presenting a marked contrast to the "old
Roman bath" of which we have spoken in our
account of the Strand. (fn. 2)
There are one or two buildings in Endell Street
deserving of mention, not only on account of their
architectural merits, but for their beneficial effects
on the humble class of the inhabitants for whom
they are specially intended. The first of these is
the British Lying-in Hospital, a picturesque Elizabethan structure, erected in 1849, with all the improvements of modern science. This institution
was originally established in Brownlow Street, in
1749, but was removed in the above year to its
new quarters. It is the oldest lying-in hospital in
London. It is solely for affording medical and
surgical treatment to married women, who are
either admitted into the hospital as in-patients, or
are attended at their own homes. Down to the
year 1874 upwards of 47,000 in-patients have received the benefits of this institution. The hospital is supported by voluntary subscriptions and
donations. The number of patients annually admitted is about 750, and the yearly receipts amount
to about £1,500.
Then there are the Baths and Washhouses, a
handsome edifice of Italian architecture, erected
in 1852, not far from the site of Queen Anne's
Bath; and close by is Christ Church, a large
building of Early English architecture, erected in
In Bloomsbury Street, between Broad Street and
High Holborn, and nearly in a line with Endell
Street, are three chapels side by side. The first is
the French Protestant Episcopal Church, built in
the Early Pointed style, in 1845, by Poynter, the
architect. This church was founded by Charles II.,
in the Savoy. Next is Bloomsbury Chapel, built
by Sir Morton Peto for the Baptists. Adjoining
this, at the junction of Bloomsbury Street and New
Oxford Street, stands Bedford Chapel. It was built,
or at all events remodelled, in 1844, and here for
some time the late Rev. J. C. M. Bellew officiated
St. Giles's Parish enjoys the distinction of having
originated the Great Plague of 1665. It is on
record that the first persons seized were members
of a family living near the top of Drury Lane,
where two men, said to have been Frenchmen,
were attacked by it, and speedily carried off. The
havoc caused by the plague in this parish alone,
in the above-named year, amounted to 3,216 deaths,
"its malignity," as Dr. Sydenham observes, "being
mostly discovered among the poorer sort of people
in St. Giles's." The parish registers and rate-books
contain many curious entries relating to this sad
year; amongst them, the receipt of £50 from Sir
Edmundbury Godfrey, and of nearly £500 from
Lord Craven, for visiting and relieving the poor.
Lewknor's Lane, opposite Short's Gardens, at
the top of Drury Lane, now styled Charles Street,
derived its name from Sir Lewis Lewknor, who
owned property here in the reign of James I.
From an early date it bore a bad character, and in
it Jonathan Wild kept "a house of ill-fame." Constant allusions to its residents occur in the plays of
the time of Queen Anne; and Gay, in the Beggar's
Opera, alludes to it as one of the three places in
which ladies of easy virtue might be found. If we
may judge from a passage in "Instructions how to
find Mr. Curll's Authors," published in Swift's and
Pope's Miscellanies, it was also the residence of
hack-writers for the press. "At Mr. Summer's, a
thief-catcher, in Lewknor's Lane, a man that wrote
against the impiety of Mr. Rowe's plays." The
thoroughfare (called Lutner's Lane by Strype) is,
as it was two hundred years ago, "a very ordinary
place." It is to be hoped that its morality is higher
now than it was in the time of Samuel Butler, who
speaks—satirically, of course—of
"The nymphs of chaste Diana's train,
The same with those of Lewknor's Lane."
To which passage Sir Roger L'Estrange adds a
note to the effect that it was a "rendezvous and
nursery for lewd women, first resorted to by the
Roundheads." It is said that in the time of
Henry III. the north-west corner of Drury Lane
was occupied by a smith's forge.
In the Coal or Cole Yard, on the eastern side
of Drury Lane, near the Holborn end, Nell Gwynne
is said to have been born. The Coal Yard is now
a row of miserable tenements, at the end of which
there is a turning to the south, by which we enter
the Almshouses belonging to this parish and St.
George's, Bloomsbury. A part of these has been
formed out of the old "Round House," in which
highwaymen and other dangerous personages were
confined until they could be brought before the
sitting magistrates and formally committed to prison.
Although the outside of this not very inviting
building is modernised, the old cells in which
the prisoners were confined may still be seen;
some of them are underground, and others in the
attics. In one of them, it is said, Jack Sheppard
was ordered to be confined for a night, but before
the morning he had made his escape. Other prisoners, however, remained here long enough to cut
their names or initials on the walls and window-sills,
as may still be seen.
The old "Round House" was converted into
almshouses about the year 1780. They are surrounded with buildings on every side, to which
fresh air can scarcely penetrate; and though the
interior is comfortable, they are sadly "cribbed,
cabined, and confined" in their position. In fact,
the Almshouses should without delay be removed
to "fresh fields and pastures new," and a thoroughfare opened up through this crowded district.
A part of Oldwick Close, between Lincoln's Inn
Fields and Drury Lane, was in possession of the
celebrated Sir Kenelm Digby. In 1632 it was
bounded on the western side by a ditch and a mud
wall, intermixed with a few scattered buildings,
among which was the Cockpit Theatre, which
stood in a narrow court called Pitt Place, running
out of Drury Lane into Wild Street. It was erected
about 1615, but pulled down by the mob in 1617,
and all the apparel of the players torn to pieces.
On its site arose a second theatre, called the
Phœnix, but this again, after a few years, gave way
to Drury Lane Theatre, of which we shall have
more to say presently. In 1651 most of the property had passed into the possession of the ancient
and worthy family of the Welds, of Lulworth Castle,
Dorsetshire, the head of which, Mr. Humphrey
Weld, built here a handsome residence, the site of
which is marked by Wild (formerly Weld) Court
and Little Wild Street.
In Parker Street, or Parker's Lane, were formerly
situated the premises and stables of the Dutch
The "White Lion," in Drury Lane, in former
years, was a place of resort late at night for "swells"
of the upper class, and also for market-gardeners
and other persons, who resorted to the neighbouring market. As may be imagined, it bore no very
At the "Crown Coffee House," in this lane,
was held, in former times, an evening assembly
called "The Flash Coves' Parliament"—a loose sort
of gathering of members of the bar, small tradesmen, and "men about town," each of whom bore
the title of some member or other of the Upper
House of Parliament: e.g., one would be "Lord
Brougham," another "the Duke of Wellington,"
another "Lord Grey," and so forth. This, however, has long since passed away.
Great Queen Street, which connects Drury Lane
with Lincoln's Inn Fields, in a line with Long
Acre, was so named in honour of Queen Elizabeth,
and stands on the site of the common footpath
which anciently separated the south part, or Aldewych Close (properly so called) from the northern
division—latterly termed White Hart Close—which extended to Holborn. In the reign of Elizabeth this footpath appears to have become a roadway, but no houses were built on it up to that
time. In a map of Westminster, by Norden, dated
1593, no houses are shown eastward of Drury Lane;
but building must have commenced very shortly
after this, for in Speed's Map of Westminster, in
his "Great Britain," the commencement of Great
Queen Street is indicated, together with a continuation of the houses on both sides of Drury Lane.
In 1623 only fifteen houses appear to have existed
on the south side of Great Queen Street, which was
then open to the country, and the north side is of
later date. Shortly after the Restoration, a new era
of building having set in, the houses were finished
on the south side of the street, from the designs, it
is said, of Inigo Jones and his pupil Webbe. It
was at one time called Henrietta Street, in compliment to Henrietta Maria, Queen of Charles I.
"According to one authority," says the author
of "Haunted London," "Inigo Jones built Queen
Street at the cost of the Jesuits, designing it for a
square, and leaving in the middle a niche for the
statue of Queen Henrietta. The 'stately and
magnificent houses' begun on the north side, near
Little Queen Street, were not continued. There
were fleurs-de-luce placed on the walls in honour
of the queen."
"Great Queen Street, in the time of the Stuarts,"
says Leigh Hunt, "was one of the grandest and
most fashionable parts of the town. The famous
Lord Herbert of Cherbury died there. Lord Bristol
had a house in it, as also did Lord Chancellor
Finch, and the Conway and Paulet families." Mr.
Parton, the author of a topographical work on St.
Giles's, published in 1822, mentions Paulet House,
Cherbury House, and Conway House among the fine
mansions still standing in this street.
The house of Lord Herbert of Cherbury—"the
Sir Edward Herbert, the all-virtuous Herbert" of
Ben Jonson—was a few doors from Great Wild
Street. Here he wrote a part of his celebrated
treatise, "De Veritate," and here he died, in 1648,
aged seventy-seven, and was buried in St. Giles's
Churchyard. The Lord Chancellor Finch mentioned above was the famous Royalist, Sir Heneage
Finch, afterwards Earl of Nottingham, who died in
1682. He presided at Lord Stafford's trial, in 1680,
and pronounced judgment on that unfortunate
nobleman in a speech of great ability. He was the
"Omri" of Dryden's "Absalom and Achitophel"—
"To whom the double blessing does belong,
With Moses' inspiration, Aaron's tongue."
Many other distinguished personages lived here
about this time; "but," says Parton, "the appropriation of each house to its respective inhabitant
is, however, a matter of uncertainty, no clue whatever being to be found among our parish records,
nor, indeed, any mention made of them to guide
OLD HOUSES IN GREAT QUEEN STREET, SOUTH SIDE.
Sir Thomas Fairfax dated a printed proclamation from Great Queen Street, February 12th, 1648,
and is supposed, on that account, to have lived in
the street. George Digby, second Earl of Bristol,
lived in Great Queen Street, Evelyn says (1671);
his house was taken by the Commissioners of
Trade and Plantations. The Duke of Buckingham,
the Earl of Lauderdale, Sir John Finch, Waller the
poet, and Colonel Titus (author of "Killing no
Murder"), were among its new occupants. At
Conway House, in this street, lived Lord Conway,
an able soldier, defeated by the Scotch at Newburn.
In the year 1733 the Earl of Rochford lived in
Great Queen Street; here, too, about that time,
lived Lady Dinely Goodyer, and Mrs. Kitty Clive
the actress. It would be difficult, at this distant
date, to fix upon the exact house in which any of
these notabilities resided, for the practice of numbering was not in use till 1764; Burlington Street
having been the first and Lincoln's Inn Fields the
second place in London where it was adopted. Sir
Martin Ffolkes, an eminent scholar and antiquary,
was born in Great Queen Street in 1690. He was
a great numismatist, and the first President of the
Royal Society of Antiquaries. He died in 1784.
MIDDLE ROW, ST. GILES'S.
In 1780 the Gordon Riots may be said to have
had their rise in Great Queen Street, the first
meeting in favour of the petition presented by
Lord George Gordon to Parliament, asking for the
repeal of a measure of relief granted to the Roman
Catholics, having been held in Coachmakers' Hall,
in this street, on the 29th of May. On the rejection
of the petition, on the 2nd of June, the mob burnt
the Roman Catholic chapels in Duke Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and Welbeck Street. On the
following days they proceeded to further excesses,
and on the 6th of June the house of Mr. Justice
Cox, in Great Queen Street, was burned, together
with the houses of other magistrates who had become obnoxious. The rest of the story of the
Gordon Riots has been told in its proper place.
It is recorded that in 1735 Ryan the comedian,
whose name was well known in connection with
"Bartlemy Fair," was attacked in this street at
midnight by a footpad, who fired a pistol in his
face, severely wounding him in the jaw, and robbed
him of his sword. He was hurt so badly that a
performance was given at Covent Garden for his
benefit, when the Prince of Wales sent him a purse
of a hundred guineas.
No. 51 in this street is now the office of Messrs.
Kelly and Co., the well-known printers and publishers of the "Post Office London" and "County
Directories." Messrs. Kelly removed here from
Old Boswell Court, St. Clement Danes, on the
demolition of that neighbourhood in order to clear
a space for the new Law Courts.
In this street is one of those Homes for Homeless and Destitute Boys which have done, of late
years, such good service to the State. It was commenced in St. Giles's, in a loft over a cow-shed,
about the year 1852, its originator being a Mr.
Williams. It then gradually grew into a school,
and was located for a time in Arthur Street, St.
Giles's, whence it was removed hither in 1860.
The premises which are occupied by the boys were
formerly a carriage-maker's; they hold from 120 to
130 boys, most of whom are gradually drafted off
to the Chichester and Arethusa training-vessels, or
to farm-work in the country, chiefly with a view
to emigration, the rest being taught various trades
and employments. Some of the boys are employed
in wood-cutting, others in cooking, others in tailoring, shoemaking, and making mats and brushes.
We understand that the boys' industry suffices to
supply the inmates of the Home, and also the farmboys and those on board the ships, with all the
shoes that they require.
At No. 52 lived Sir Robert Strange, the eminent
historical engraver, and adherent of Prince Charles
Edward, "the Young Pretender." Strange died in
1792, and here his widow resided for some years
Another artist of renown who resided in this
street was Opie. He was living here in 1791,
when his popularity was at its highest. In Opie's
"Memoirs" we get a glimpse of the condition of
Great Queen Street, when the roadway was sometimes blocked up with the carriages of his sitters.
The great painter removed in 1792, and by the end
of the century the street was no longer fashionable,
the polite world having migrated westward.
At No. 56 in this street, in a large house, part of
which is over the entrance to New Yard, lived
James Hoole, the translator of Tasso, Metastasio,
and Ariosto, who died in 1803. Born in London
in 1727, he devoted his leisure hours to literary
pursuits, especially to the study of the Italian language, of which he made himself a perfect master.
He was the author of three original tragedies—Cyrus, Timanthes, and Cleonice—which were acted
at Covent Garden, and also of some poems, and of
a life of John Scott, of Amwell, the Quaker poet.
With Hoole lived Hudson the painter, Sir Joshua
This house, now a steam pencil-factory, is the
only one in the street which retains its original
architectural features, all the rest having been
either rebuilt or modernised. Worlidge, an artist
of some celebrity, who was famous for his etchings
in the manner of Rembrandt, died in this house in
1766. Richard Brinsley Sheridan lived in it for
some years; many of the letters in Moore's "Life"
are addressed to him here. How long Sheridan
remained is not known, but it is related that he
passed the day in seclusion at his house in Great
Queen Street on the occasion of Garrick's funeral,
in 1779. The "beautiful Perdita," Mrs. Robinson,
the unfortunate favourite of George IV., appears to
have lived in this same house shortly after her
marriage in 1773; she describes the house in her
"Memoirs" as "a large, old-fashioned mansion, the
property of the widow of Mr. Worlidge."
Like the seven towns which claim to have given
birth to Homer, Great Queen Street is claimed by
some writers to have been the locality of the
"scene" between Sir Godfrey Kneller and Dr.
Radcliffe, which we have already described in our
account of the Royal College of Physicians; (fn. 3)
others, however, fix the abode of the great physician and Sir Godfrey in Bow Street, Covent
The most important buildings in Great Queen
Street are the Freemasons' Hall and Tavern.
These stand on the south side of the street, and
present a noble and elegant appearance. The
Hall was first built by an architect named Sandby—one of the original members of the Royal
Academy—in 1775–6; as its name implies, for
the purpose of furnishing one central place for the
several lodges of Loyal Masons to hold their
meetings and dinners, instead of borrowing, as up
to that time had been the custom, the halls of the
City companies. Freemasons' Hall, as we are
told by Hunter, in his "History of London," was
"dedicated" in May, 1776. The Tavern was built
in 1786, by William Tyler.
The original Hall, at the back of the Tavern, was
built at a cost of about £5,000, which was raised
by a tontine. "It was the first house," says Elmes,
"built in this country with the appropriate symbols
of masonry, and with the suitable apartments for
the holding of lodges, the initiating, passing,
raising, and exalting of brethren." It was a noble
room, although not so large as the present hall.
Above the principal entrance was a gallery, with
an organ; and at the opposite end was a coved
recess, flanked by a pair of fluted Ionic columns,
containing a marble statue of the late Duke of
Sussex, executed for the Grand Lodge by Mr. E.
H. Baily, R.A. Here very many public meetings—political, charitable, and religious—were held;
but the last-named have mostly migrated to Exeter
Hall, in the Strand.
Among the most important public meetings held
at Freemasons' Tavern was one in June, 1824,
at which Lords Liverpool, Brougham, Sir J. Mackintosh, Sir Robert Peel, Sir Humphrey Davy, Mr.
Huskisson, and Mr. Wilberforce, bore public testimony to the services of James Watt as the inventor
of the steam-engine, and resolved that a national
monument should be erected in his honour in
Westminster Abbey. It was on this occasion that
Peel frankly and generously acknowledged the debt
of gratitude which was due to Watt from himself
and his own family, as owing to him their prosperity
and wealth. Here public dinners were given to
John Philip Kemble, to James Hogg ("the Ettrick
Shepherd"), and to many others who, either in the
ranks of bravery, science, or literature, have won
a name which shall last as long as the English
language is spoken.
Of late years the Freemasons' Hall and Tavern
have been considerably altered, and in part rebuilt,
and now occupy a very much larger area than the
original erection. The work was carried out, about
the year 1866, under the direction of Mr. F. P.
Cockerell, son of the late accomplished Professor
of Architecture in the Royal Academy, and the
illustrator of the Æginetan Marbles. The Grand
Lodge buildings and the Freemasons' Tavern are
now entirely separate establishments, although they
join; the former, which stands on the west side
of the Tavern, contains offices for all the Masonic
charities, Grand Secretary's office, and lodge-rooms
entirely for the use of the craft. These rooms,
as it were, form the frontage of the large hall—a
magnificent room, of noble proportions, which,
from its internal fittings, may be truly termed the
temple of Masonic rites. The room is beautifully
decorated, and lit from above. Here are now
held the balls and dinners of the Royal Scottish,
Humane, Artists', and other benevolent societies
Mr. Timbs, in his "Curiosities of London," tells
us how that St. Paul's, in 604, and St. Peter's,
Westminster, in 605, were built by Freemasons;
that Gundulph, Bishop of Rochester, who is said
to have built the White Tower, governed the Freemasons. Peter of Colechurch, architect of Old
London Bridge, was Grand Master. Henry VII.,
in a lodge of master Masons, founded his chapel at
Westminster Abbey. Sir Thomas Gresham, who
planned the Royal Exchange, was Grand Master;
as was also Inigo Jones, the architect. Sir Christopher Wren, Grand Master, founded St. Paul's
with his Lodge of Masons, and the trowel and
mallet then used are preserved; and Covent Garden
Theatre was founded, in 1808, by the Prince of
Wales, in his capacity as Grand Master, assisted
by the Grand Lodge. For some reason or other,
however, Freemasonry has latterly been under the
ban of the Roman Catholic Church.
Two doors eastward of Freemasons' Tavern is
a Wesleyan Chapel; and it may be interesting to
record here the fact, "not generally known," that
at a place of worship on or near this spot on
the 22nd of June, 1748, one "David Garrick, of
St. Paul's, Covent Garden," was married by his
friend, the celebrated Dr. Franklin, to "Eva Maria
Violette, of St. James's, Westminster, a celebrated
dancer." According, however, to her own statement to Mr. J. T. Smith, when within a few months
of her death, Mrs. Garrick was married at the
parish church of St. Giles's, and afterwards in the
Chapel of the Portuguese Ambassador, in South
Audley Street. She also said that she was born at
Vienna, on the 29th of February, 1724. If so, at her
death she must have been only three months short
of entering on her hundredth year. She was buried
beside her husband, in Poet's Corner, Westminster
Although Mrs. Garrick's maiden name (apparently) is given in the above record of her marriage, there has always been a mystery about her
birth. Lee Lewis asserted that she was a natural
daughter of Lord Burlington. When Mrs. Garrick
heard this, she replied with indignation, "Lee is a
liar; Lord Burlington was not my father: but still,
I am of noble birth." It was also said that Lord
Burlington gave Garrick £10,000 to marry her.
This, too, she denied, adding that she had only
the interest on £6,000, which was paid to her by
the Duke of Devonshire. She died at an advanced
age, in October, 1822, in her arm-chair, in the
front drawing-room of her house in the Adelphi,
having survived her husband forty-three years. She
had just ordered her servants to put out on chairs
two or three dresses, in order to choose one in
which to appear that evening at Drury Lane, it
being a private view of Elliston's improvements
for the coming season. Mr. J. T. Smith, who
knew her personally, speaks thus of her in his
"Book for a Rainy Day:"—"Perhaps no lady in
public or private life held a more unexceptionable
character. She was visited by persons of the first
rank; even our late Queen Charlotte, who had
honoured her with a visit at Hampton, found her
peeling onions for pickling. The gracious queen
commanded a knife to be brought, saying, 'I will
peel some onions too.' The late King George IV.
and King William IV., as well as other branches
of the royal family, frequently honoured her with
visits." In addressing her servants, however, she
was in the habit of using more expletives than
would now be thought ladylike in any circle, high
Great Queen Street seems to have been a
favourite locality for the residence of actors.
Miss Pope, a celebrated actress of the last century,
lived for forty years "two doors west of Freemasons' Tavern." She died at Hadley, in 1801.
In a house on the south side, occupied before
1830 by Messrs. Allman, the booksellers, died
Lewis, the comedian; and at No. 74, now part of
Messrs. Wyman and Sons' premises, and known in
these days as the "Lincoln's Inn Steam Printing
Works," died, in 1826, Edward Prescott Holdway
Knight, the comedian, commonly called "Little
Knight." Within the walls of Messrs. Wymans'
establishment (then Messrs. Cox and Co.'s) Laman
Blanchard discharged the duties of a printer's reader
side by side with his friend, Douglas Jerrold, who
at that time (about the year 1825) was the editor
of a periodical called La Belle Assemblée; and
many other interesting literary traditions cling to
Benjamin Franklin has been described by some
writers to have worked at Messrs. Wymans' printing-office as a journeyman printer. This is an
error, Franklin having been employed at Mr.
Watts's, which was on the south side of Wild
Court, a turning out of Great Wild Street, near the
western end of Great Queen Street. The press
which Franklin recognised as that at which he had
worked as a journeyman pressman in London in
the years 1723–6, stood in Messrs. Wymans' office,
however, for many years. In course of time it was
taken down, and passed into the hands of Messrs.
Harrild and Sons, who in 1840 parted with it to
Mr. J. V. Murray, of New York, on condition that
he would secure for them in return a donation to
the Printers' Pension Society of London—a highlydeserving institution (its object being the support
of aged and decayed printers and widows of
printers), and of which they were active members.
By Mr. Murray the press was exhibited in Liverpool, and afterwards taken to America. So great
was the interest excited by the exhibition of the
press, that it was ultimately arranged to have a
lecture delivered on "The Life of Benjamin Franklin" during its exhibition. This was accordingly
done, and with such success as to enable the committee of the Printers' Pension Society to initiate
the "Franklin Pension," amounting to ten guineas
per year; and it is interesting to record that one of
the early recipients of this small bounty was a very
old servant of the firm in whose office he and the
press had so long done duty together.
The following inscription is engraved upon the
plate affixed to the front of the press:—
"Dr. Franklin's Remarks relative to this Press, made
when he came to England as Agent of the Massachusetts, in
the year 1768. The Doctor at this time visited the Printingoffice of Mr. Watts, of Wild Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields,
and, going up to this particular Press (afterwards in the possession of Messrs. Cox and Son, of Great Queen Street, of
whom it was purchased), thus addressed the men who were
working at it:—'Come, my friends, we will drink together.
It is now forty years since I worked like you, at this Press,
as a journeyman Printer." The Doctor then sent out for a
gallon of Porter, and he drank with them—
'SUCCESS TO PRINTING.'
"From the above it will appear that it is 108 years since
Dr. Franklin worked at this identical Press.
In 1863 the authorities of the South Kensington
Museum of Patents, being engaged in collecting
some early memorials relating to the art of printing,
made application to Messrs. Wyman for the loan of
a companion press to that above described, and
which was then in daily use. After being photographed in situ, the press was removed to the
Museum of Patents, it having been presented to
the trustees by Mr. Wyman. This press, of which
we here give an engraving, is a fac-simile of the
Franklin press, and there is strong reason to suppose that the celebrated American philosopher
worked at it as well as at that which is now a
venerated relic in the public museum of Philadelphia.
DUPLICATE OF FRANKLIN'S PRESS.
It may be added that at this printing-office in
Great Queen Street, for nearly a century, was executed all the printing relating to our possessions in
the East, for the once famous East India Company;
and that, in addition to the high reputation which
this office has always enjoyed for its Oriental printing, may be noted its connection with the periodical
press of modern times, in which the Builder takes
a prominent place; and we might also specially
mention a very useful and interesting annual, published by Messrs. Wyman, called Everybody's Yearbook, to which we are indebted for the particulars
here given concerning the Franklin press.
At the eastern end of Great Queen Street is
Gate Street, the name of which is equally significant
of its origin, as being at the top of a lane out of
which the horses would have strayed into the high
road towards St. Giles's if it had not been for a gate.
This thoroughfare leads to a narrow passage called
Little Turnstile, which, with another known as the
Great Turnstile, at the north-east corner of Lincoln's Inn Fields, open up communications with
The Great Turnstile, according to Strype, in
1720 was "a great thoroughfare, and a place inhabited by sempsters, shoemakers, and milliners, for
which it is of considerable trade and well noted."
Of Whetstone Park, the connecting thoroughfare
between the two Turnstiles, we have already spoken
in our chapter on Lincoln's Inn Fields. We may,
however, add that it was a resort of profligate
persons some two centuries since, and that its
character at that time is commemorated in the
plays of Shadwell, Dryden, and Wycherley:—
"Where ladies ply, as many tell us,
Like brimstones in a Whetstone alehouse.
But, if we may believe Strype, its infamous and
vicious inhabitants had been banished previous to
the year 1720.
One of the small courts between Lincoln's Inn
Fields and Holborn, near the eastern end of Whetstone Park, is called Tichborne Court; over the
Holborn entrance are the arms of the Tichbornes,
with the date; the last figure is scarcely legible.
This property came to the Tichborne family early
in the seventeenth century, by the marriage of
White Tichborne, Esq., of Aldershot (grandfather
of the sixth baronet), with Ann, the daughter and
heiress of Richard (or James) Supple, Esq., a member of the Vintners' Company.
THE ARMS OF TICHBORNE.
Among the more celebrated inhabitants of the
parish of St. Giles's are, Andrew Marvell, whom
we have already mentioned, and the profligate
Countess of Shrewsbury, concerning whom Horace
Walpole tells us that she held the horse of Villiers,
Duke of Buckingham, while the latter killed her
husband in a duel.
Among the old families in St. Giles's, Parton
names the Spencers, or De Spencers, after whom
the great ditch which ran along the southern side
of the parish was called Spencer's Ditch or "Dig."
The name of this drain in more recent times was
Cock and Pie Ditch.
The "History of St. Giles's-in-the-Fields," by Mr.
Parton, contains a variety of curious and interesting matter, and we have drawn largely upon it in
these pages. But we have not adopted all his
statements, having our confidence in him as a
topographer and historian a little shaken by the
fact that he gives in it a plan or map of the parish
as it was in the thirteenth century—in other words,
two centuries and a half, at the least, earlier than
the map of London by Ralph Aggas, which is the
oldest authority known to antiquaries, and from
which, it is clear, on a close inspection, that he has
borrowed many of his details. It is, indeed, made
out so minutely as to show each man's possession
in the parish, and every garden-plot delineated, with
flower-beds, parterres, and bordered walks, just as
if the gardener of William III. or Queen Anne had
been alive in the Wars of the Roses! Mr. Parton
gives no authority for these details; and it is to be
feared that he allowed his antiquarian zeal to carry
him in this one matter—like Herodotus of old—out of the domain of fact into the airy regions of
fiction. In other respects, however, he would
appear to have been a trusty chronicler, and his
work from first to last is full of interest.
FRONT OF OLD DRURY LANE THEATRE.
We may conclude our notice of St. Giles's with
the following paragraph from a publication which
does not often mislead, or misrepresent facts:—
DRURY LANE CELEBRITIES.
BETTERTON. GARRICK. MACKLIN.
MRS. PRITCHARD. MRS. ROBINSON.
"As lately as the year 1767," says a writer in the
Gentleman's Magazine, "another mass-house was
discovered in Hog Lane, near the Seven Dials,"
and the officiating priest was "condemned to perpetual imprisonment"—simply for saying mass and
giving the communion to a sick person. After four
years' imprisonment his sentence was "commuted
into exile for life." At the end of the last century,
if not early in the present, Dr. Archer, a well-known
Roman Catholic divine, and the author of several
volumes of sermons, said mass in the garret of a
small public-house in St. Giles's, kept by an Irishman
who was not ashamed of his religion. This sounds
strange in our ears in the present state of general
toleration and liberty; but more than a century
before, in 1663, Pepys records the fact that "a
priest was taken in his vestments officiating somewhere in Holborn the other day, and was committed [to prison] by Mr. Secretary Morris, according to law."