CAMDEN TOWN AND KENTISH TOWN.
"Vix rure urbem dignoscere possis."
Camden Town—Statue of Richard Cobden—Oakley Square—The "Bedford Arms"—The Royal Park Theatre—The "Mother Red Cap"—The
"Mother Shipton"—The Alderney Dairy—The Grand Junction Canal—Bayham Street, and its Former Inhabitants—Camden Road—Camden Town Railway Station—The Tailors' Almshouses—St. Pancras Almshouses—Maitland Park—The Orphan Working School—The Dominican Monastery—Gospel Oak—St. Martin's Church—Kentish Town: its Buildings and its Residents—Great College Street—The
Royal Veterinary College—Pratt Street—St. Stephen's Church—Sir Henry Bishop—Agar Town.
Camden Town, says Mr. Peter Cunningham,
"was so called (but indirectly) after William Camden, author of the 'Britannia.' Charles Pratt,
Attorney-General and Lord Chancellor in the reign
of George III., created, in 1765, Baron Camden of
Camden Place, in Kent, derived his title from his
seat near Chislehurst, in Kent, formerly the residence of William Camden, the historian. His
lordship, who died in 1794, married the daughter
and co-heir of Nicholas Jeffreys, Esq., son and heir
of Sir Geoffery Jeffreys, of Brecknock; and his
lordship's eldest son was created, in 1812, Earl of
Brecknock and Marquis Camden. Lord Camden's
second title was Viscount Bayham; and all these
names, Pratt, Jeffreys, Brecknock, and Bayham,
may be found in Camden Town."
Camden Town, we may here remark, was commenced towards the close of the last century, Lord
Camden having, in the year 1791, let out the ground
on leases for building 1,400 houses. The houses
in Camden Road and Square have perhaps the
most aristocratic appearance of any in the district.
The High Street, which originally consisted of a
row of small shops with one floor above, and trim
gardens in their fronts, separated by hedges of
privet, have within the last few years been for the
most part either rebuilt or enlarged, and are now
on a par with the other business parts of London;
and on Saturday evenings the upper part of the
street, thronged as it is with stalls of itinerant
vendors of the necessaries of daily life, and with
the dwellers in the surrounding districts, presents
to an ordinary spectator all the attributes of a
At the lower end of High Street, facing Eversholt
Street, is a marble statue of Richard Cobden,
which was erected by subscription in the year
1863. The statue, which stands in a conspicuous
position, is rather above life-size, and is placed
upon a granite pedestal of two stages, about twelve
feet high, the plinth of which is simply inscribed
"Cobden. The Corn-Laws Repealed, June, 1846."
The great politician is represented in a standing
attitude, as if delivering an address in the House
of Commons. He is attired in the ordinary dress
of a gentleman of the present day, and holds in
one hand a Parliamentary roll. The sculptor's
name was Wills. Born at Dunford, in Sussex,
in the year 1804, Cobden was brought up as a
lad to business, and served behind a counter in a
large establishment at Manchester. About the
year 1840 he helped to found the Anti-Corn Law
League, whose efforts in less than ten years' time
set aside the restrictions imposed by the old Corn
Laws on the importation of foreign grain, and
eventually secured to the country the advantages
of free trade. He was offered, but refused, all
honours and offices; but he represented Stockport,
the West Riding, and Rochdale from 1841 down
to his death, in 1865.
Oakley Square, which lies on the east side of
Eversholt Street and Harrington Square, is so
called after Oakley House, one of the seats of the
ducal owner, near Bedford. In this square is St.
Matthew's Church, a large and handsome Gothic
building, with a lofty tower and spire. It was
erected in 1854, from the designs of Mr. J.
Johnson, F.R.S., and is capable of seating upwards
of 1,200 persons.
The "Bedford Arms," in Grove Street, on the
west side of the High Street, has been a tavern of
some note in its day. Formerly, the tea-gardens
attached to the house were occasionally the scene
of balloon ascents. The Morning Chronicle of
July 5, 1824, contains an account of an aërial
voyage made from these gardens by a Mr. Rossiter and another gentleman. The ascent took
place shortly after five o'clock, and the balloon
alighted safely in Havering Park, two miles from
Romford, in Essex. The two aëronauts, having
been provided with a post-coach, returned at once
to Camden Town, and arrived at the "Bedford
Arms" about half-past ten o'clock. On the 14th
of June, 1825, as we learn from the Morning
Herald, Mr. Graham took a trip into the aërial
regions from these grounds, accompanied by two
ladies. Their ascent was witnessed by a large
concourse of spectators; and after a pleasant
voyage of nearly an hour, they alighted at Feltham,
near Hounslow. Of late years the "Bedford
Arms" has added the attractions of a music-hall,
called "The Bedford."
In Park Street, which connects Camden Town
with the north-east corner of Regent's Park, is the
Royal Park Theatre, a place of dramatic entertainment, originally opened about the year 1870
under the name of the Alexandra Theatre. The
class of amusement generally given here consists
of melodramas, farces, and opera-bouffe.
From a manuscript list of inns in this neighbourhood about the year 1830, we find that in
Camden Town at that time there were the "Mother
Red Cap," the "Mother Black Cap," the "Laurel
Tree," the "Britannia," the "Camden Arms,"
the "Bedford Arms," the "Southampton Arms,"
the "Wheatsheaf," the "Hope and Anchor," and
the "Elephant and Castle." The two first-named
of these houses were, and are still, rival establishments at the northern, or upper, end of the High
Street. The "Mother Black Cap" stands within
a few doors of the corner of Park Street.
The "Mother Red Cap," observes Mr. J. T.
Smith, in his "Book for a Rainy Day," was in
former times a house of no small terror to travellers.
"It has been stated," he adds, "that 'Mother Red
Cap' was the 'Mother Damnable' of Kentish
Town in early days, and that it was at her house
that the notorious 'Moll Cut-purse,' the highway
woman of Oliver Cromwell's days, dismounted,
and frequently lodged." The old house was taken
down, and another rebuilt on its site, with the
former sign, about the year 1850. This, again, in
its turn, was removed; and a third house, in the
modern style, and of still greater pretensions, was
built on the same site some quarter of a century
Great doubts have been entertained as to the
real history of the semi-mythic personage whose
name stands on the sign-board of this inn. It has
been stated that the original Mother Red Cap was
a follower of the army under Marlborough, in the
reign of Queen Anne; but this idea is negatived
by the existence of a rude copper coin, or token,
dated 1667, and mentioning in its inscription,
"Mother Read Cap's (sic) in Holl(o)way." Further
arguments in refutation of this idea will be found
in the Monthly Magazine for 1812. Again, some
writers have attempted to identify her with the
renowned Eleanor Rumming, of Leatherhead, in
Surrey, who lived under Henry VIII. This noted
alewife is mentioned by Skelton, the poet laureate
of Henry VIII., as having lived
"In a certain stead,
She was, he assures us, one of the most frightful of
her sex, being
"—ugly of cheer,
Her face all bowsy,
Her een bleared,
And she grey-haired."
The portrait of Eleanor on the frontispiece of
an original edition of the "Tunning of Eleanor
Rumming," by Skelton, will satisfy the reader that
her description is no exaggeration.
Perhaps there may be more of truth in the
following "biographical sketch" of the original
Mother Red Cap, which we now quote from Mr.
Palmer's work on "St. Pancras, and its History,"
above referred to:—"This singular character,
known as 'Mother Damnable,' is also called
'Mother Red Cap,' and sometimes 'The Shrew of
Kentish Town.' Her father's name was Jacob
Bingham, by trade a brickmaker in the neighbourhood of Kentish Town. He enlisted in the
army, and went with it to Scotland, where he
married a Scotch pedlar's daughter. They had
one daughter, this 'Mother Damnable.' This
daughter they named Jinney. Her father, on
leaving the army, took again to his old trade of
brickmaking, occasionally travelling with his wife
and child as a pedlar. When the girl had reached
her sixteenth year, she had a child by one Coulter,
who was better known as Gipsey George. This
man lived no one knew how; but he was a great
trouble to the magistrates. Jinney and Coulter
after this lived together; but being brought into
trouble for stealing a sheep from some lands near
Holloway, Coulter was sent to Newgate, tried at
the Old Bailey, and hung at Tyburn. Jinney then
associated with one Darby; but this union produced a cat-and-dog life, for Darby was constantly
drunk; so Jinney and her mother consulted
together, Darby was suddenly missed, and no one
knew whither he went. About this time her
parents were carried before the justices for practising the black art, and therewith causing the
death of a maiden, for which they were both hung.
Jinney then associated herself with one Pitcher,
though who or what he was, never was known;
but after a time his body was found crouched up
in the oven, burnt to a cinder. Jinney was tried
for the murder, but acquitted, because one of her
associates proved he had 'often got into the oven
to hide himself from her tongue.' Jinney was now
a 'lone woman,' for her former companions were
afraid of her. She was scarcely ever seen, or if
she were, it was at nightfall, under the hedges or
in the lanes; but how she subsisted was a miracle
to her neighbours. It happened during the
troubles of the Commonwealth, that a man, sorely
pressed by his pursuers, got into her house by the
back door, and begged on his knees for a night's
lodging. He was haggard in his countenance, and
full of trouble. He offered Jinney money, of
which he had plenty, and she gave him a lodging.
This man, it is said, lived with her many years,
during which time she wanted for nothing, though
hard words and sometimes blows were heard from
her cottage. The man at length died, and an
inquest was held on the body; but though every
one thought him poisoned, no proof could be
found, and so she again escaped harmless. After
this Jinney never wanted money, as the cottage
she lived in was her own, built on waste land by
her father. Years thus passed, Jinney using her
foul tongue against every one, and the rabble in
return baiting her as if she were a wild beast. The
occasion of this arose principally from Jinney being
reputed a practiser of the black art—a very witch.
She was resorted to by numbers as a fortune-teller
and healer of strange diseases; and when any
mishap occurred, then the old crone was set upon
by the mob and hooted without mercy. The old,
ill-favoured creature would at such times lean out
of her hatch-door, with a grotesque red cap on her
head. She had a large broad nose, heavy shaggy
eyebrows, sunken eyes, and lank and leathern
cheeks; her forehead wrinkled, her mouth wide,
and her looks sullen and unmoved. On her
shoulders was thrown a dark grey striped frieze,
with black patches, which looked at a distance like
flying bats. Suddenly she would let her huge
black cat jump upon the hatch by her side, when
the mob instantly retreated from a superstitious
dread of the double foe.
"The extraordinary death of this singular character is given in an old pamphlet:—'Hundreds of
men, women, and children were witnesses of the
devil entering her house in his very appearance
and state, and that, although his return was narrowly watched for, he was not seen again; and
that Mother Damnable was found dead on the
following morning, sitting before the fire-place,
holding a crutch over it, with a tea-pot full of
herbs, drugs, and liquid, part of which being given
to the cat, the hair fell off in two hours, and the
cat soon after died; that the body was stiff when
found, and that the undertaker was obliged to
break her limbs before he could place them in the
coffin, and that the justices have put men in possession of the house to examine its contents.'
"Such is the history of this strange being, whose
name will ever be associated with Camden Town,
and whose reminiscence will ever be revived by
the old wayside house, which, built on the site of
the old beldame's cottage, wears her head as the
sign of the tavern."
The figure of Mother Red Cap, as it was represented on the sign, exhibited that venerable lady—whether she was ale-wife or witch—with a tall
extinguisher-shaped hat, not unlike that ascribed
to Mother Shipton; and it is not a little remarkable
that two inns bearing the names of these semimythical ladies exist within half a mile of each
Although the tavern bearing the sign of "Mother
Shipton" is thus far off, at the corner of Malden
Road, near Chalk Farm, some account of the other
weird woman may not be altogether out of place
here. "The prophecies of Mother Shipton,"
writes Dr. C. Mackay, in his "Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions," "are still believed
in many of the rural districts of England. In
cottages and in servants' halls her reputation is still
great; and she rules, the most popular of British
prophets, among all the uneducated or half educated portion of the community. She is generally
supposed to have been born at Knaresborough, in
the reign of Henry VII., and to have 'sold her
soul to the devil' for the power of foretelling future
events. Though during her lifetime she was
looked upon as a witch, yet she escaped the
usual witches' fate, and died peaceably in her bed
at an extreme old age, near Clifton, in Yorkshire.
A stone is said to have been erected to her
memory in the churchyard of the place, with the
"'Here lies she who never lied,
Whose skill often has been tried;
Her prophecies shall still survive,
And ever keep her name alive.'"
"Never a day passed," says her traditionary
biography, "wherein she did not relate something
remarkable, and that required the most serious
consideration. People flocked to her from far and
near, her fame was so great. They went to her
of all sorts, both old and young, rich and poor,
especially young maidens, to be resolved of their
doubts concerning things to come; and all returned
wonderfully satisfied in the explanations that she
gave to their questions." Among the rest, Dr.
Mackay tells us, who went to her was the Abbot
of Beverley, to whom she foretold the suppression
of the monasteries by Henry VIII., his marriage
with Anne Boleyn, the fires for heretics in Smith
field, the death of Cardinal Wolsey, and the
execution of Mary Queen of Scots. She also foretold the accession of James I. to the English
throne, adding that with him—
"From the cold north
Every evil shall come forth.
On a subsequent visit, she is said to have uttered
another prophecy, which, perhaps, may be realised
during the present century:—
"'The time shall come when seas of blood
Shall mingle with a greater flood:
Great noise shall there be heard; great shouts and cries,
And seas shall thunder louder than the skies;
Then shall three lions fight with three, and bring
Joy to a people, honour to a king.
That fiery year as soon as o'er
Peace shall then be as before;
Plenty shall everywhere be found,
And men with swords shall plough the ground.'"
THE OLD "MOTHER RED CAP," IN 1746.
The craven heart of James I. was not less disturbed than that of his masculine predecessor,
Elizabeth, by the prophecy of the weird-woman,
Mother Shipton, that—
"Before the good folk of this kingdom be undone,
Shall Highgate Hill stand in the midst of London."
THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS, KENTISH TOWN, 1750.
It is the wont of superficial writers to say that
James despised this and other prophecies of the
like kind; but it is a fact that under him all sorts
of legal enactments were passed which forbade any
further additions to London in the way of building.
Though these enactments were defied to a very
great extent, yet no doubt they helped for many
a long day to keep the metropolis within very
manageable limits down to the time of the Great
Fire of 1666.
We learn from the Morning Post, of 1776, that
the open space opposite the "Mother Red Cap"
was at one time intended to have been made a
second Tyburn. "Orders have been given from
the Secretary of State's office that the criminals
capitally convicted at the Old Bailey shall in
future be executed at the cross road near the
'Mother Red Cap' inn, the half-way house to
Hampstead, and that no galleries, scaffolds, or
other temporary stages be built near the place."
At the beginning of the present century the
"Mother Red Cap" was a constant resort for
many a Londoner who desired to inhale the fresh
air, and enjoy the quiet of the country, for at that
time the old tavern—which, by the way, was also
known as the half-way house to Highgate and
Hampstead—stood almost in the open fields, and
was approached on different sides by green lanes
and hedgeside roads. At that time, too, the dairy
over the way, at the corner of the Chalk Farm, or
Hampstead, and the Kentish Town Roads was not
the fashionable establishment it afterwards became,
but partook more of the character of "milk fair,"
as noticed by us in our account of Spring Gardens, (fn. 1)
for there were forms for the pedestrians to rest on,
and the good folks served out milk fresh from the
cow to all who came.
The Grand Junction Canal, after leaving the
Regent's Park, passes through Camden Town. It
is spanned on the Chalk Farm Road by a fine
bridge of cast iron. A little further to the east it
crosses the Midland Railway, or rather the latter
is carried under it. This work was effected by a
triumph of engineering skill almost unparalleled.
The waters of the canal are drained off every year
for exactly seven days, in order to clear its bed;
during this period so strong a force of men was put
upon it that between one Saturday and the next a
tunnel was dug under the canal, and bricked and
roofed over before the water was sent back into its
Running parallel with High Street, on its eastern
side, is Bayham Street, which is worthy of notice,
as having been the first home of Charles Dickens in
London, when he came up thither from Chatham
with his parents in the year 1821; and here he
took his first impressions of that struggling poverty
which is nowhere more vividly shown than in the
commoner streets of an ordinary London suburb.
It is thus described in Forster's Life of Dickens:—"Bayham Street was then about the poorest part
of the London suburbs, and the house was a mean,
small tenement, with a wretched little garden abutting on a squalid court. Here was no place for
new acquaintances for him; no boys were near
with whom he might hope to become in any way
familiar. A washerwoman lived next door, and a
Bow Street officer lived over the way. Many times
has he spoken to me of this, and how he seemed
at once to fall into a solitary condition apart from
all other boys of his own age, and to sink at home
into a neglected state which had always been quite
unaccountable to him. 'As I thought,' he said, very
bitterly, on one occasion, 'in the little back garret
in Bayham Street, of all that I had lost in losing
Chatham, what would I have given (if I had anything to give) to have been sent back to any other
school, and to have been taught something anywhere!' He was at another school already, not
knowing it. The self-education forced upon him
was teaching him, all unconsciously as yet, what,
for the future that awaited him, it most behoved
him to know."
An old inhabitant of this neighbourhood, and
one who likewise spent his early childhood in this
very street, questioned the accuracy of the above
narrative, in a letter to the Daily Telegraph. The
writer, who signed himself "F. M.," remarked:—"Fifty years ago Camden Town, like some other
London suburbs, was but a village. Bayham Street
had grass struggling through the newly-paved road.
There were not more than some twenty or, at most,
thirty newly-erected houses in it. These were
occupied by, No. 1, Mr. Lever, the builder of the
houses; No. 2, Mr. Engelheart, a then celebrated
engraver; No. 3, a Captain Blake; No. 4, a retired
linendraper, one of the old school; No. 5, by my
father and his family; No. 6, by a retired diamond
merchant, two of whose sons have made their mark,
one as an artist and another as the author of 'True
to the Core.' At No. 7 lived a retired hairdresser,
who, like most others there, had a lease of his house.
In another lived a Regent Street jeweller; and so
I could enumerate the inhabitants of this squalid
neighbourhood. When Charles Dickens lived
there it must have been about the year 1822; and
if he lived over the way, the description given by
his biographer of its character is a perfect caricature
of a quiet street in what was then but a village. I
was then a boy of some six years of age, and, to
my childish apprehension, it was a country village.
Mr. Lever's field was at the back of the principal
row of houses, in which haymaking was enjoyed
in its season, and it was, indeed, a beautiful walk
across the fields to Copenhagen House. Camden
Road then was not. The village watchman's box
was at one end of the street by the 'Red Cap' teagarden. Old Lorimer, who lived in Queen Street—then with gardens and a field in front of but one
row of houses—was the only constable. Occasionally robberies of articles in the out-houses caused
some consternation, but gas had not then arrived
to enlighten the darkness of this squalid neighbourhood."
The above account of Bayham Street and its
residents was supplemented by two other letters in
the Daily Telegraph, which we take the liberty of
quoting. In the first, which was signed "C. L. G.,"
the writer says: "As a boy I was a constant visitor
at one of the houses occupied by the late Mr. Holl,
the celebrated engraver, the father of Mr. Frank
Holl, and of the late William Holl, engravers, and
of Mr. Henry Holl, the actor and novelist. Mr.
Charles Rolls, another artist of note, in addition
to Mr. Engelhart, and to Mr. Henry Selous, the
painter, and Mr. Angelo Selous, the dramatic
author, resided in Bayham Street. The private
theatricals at the late Mr. Holl's residence will not
be forgotten, as all the gentlemen just named took
parts therein, as also another actor, who is no more,
Mr. Benjamin Holl. The houses in Bayham Street
were small, but the locality half a century since
was regarded as a suburb of London. Fields had
to be crossed to reach it, on which the best houses
of Camden Town have been since erected. The
description of Bayham Street by the late Charles
Dickens must have been prompted by personal
privations. What a romance he could have created
out of the house occupied by Mr. Holl, where was
concealed for months young Watson, who was implicated in the treasonable attempt for which his
father and Thistlewood were tried and acquitted—the latter not taking warning by his escape on that
occasion, for he afterwards concocted the Cato
Street conspiracy, for which he was executed at
Newgate. Young Watson shot a gunmaker in
Snow Hill, for which his comrade Cashman, the
sailor, was hanged. Mr. Holl was a Reformer in
days when it was looked upon as treason to differ
from the Government. He gave shelter to young
Watson, having been on intimate terms with his
father, Dr. Watson. Mr. Holl contrived the escape
to America of Watson, junior, disguising him as a
Quaker. Bayham Street was occupied by men of
advanced political opinions, some of whom lived to
see their notions realised."
In the other letter referred to, which appeared
with the initials of "E. P. H.," we get a different
account of Bayham Street. The writer remarks:—"I have a perfect recollection of Bayham Street
thirty years ago, and took a stroll up it this morning
to see if I could trace the house to which Mr.
Forster refers. On entering the street from Crowndale Road I literally rubbed my eyes with astonishment. There is a public-house at the corner, the
sign of which is the 'Hope and Anchor.' When
last I noticed it the name over the door was
'Barker,' now it is 'Dickens.' Who shall say that
this is not a world of strange coincidences when a
Dickens comes to Bayham Street to live just at the
time when we get the record of a greater Dickens
having once trotted round the corner where that
public-house stands? 'F. M.' seems to me to be
in error about Bayham Street having been so
respectable many years since. The block of
houses to which he refers was at one end; then
came fields; and, lower down towards the Old St.
Pancras Road, a lot of small houses or cottages
with gardens in front, in one of which I presume
the parents of Charles Dickens to have resided.
There are still two houses remaining, near Pratt
Street, which I remember as being old houses
twenty-five years ago."
Camden Road is a broad thoroughfare, running
north-east from the top of High Street to Holloway. At the top of this road is the Camden
Town Athenæum, an institution which has been
established to meet the intellectual requirements of
this district. The building, which was erected in
1871, is Italian in style, and was built from the
designs of Mr. F. R. Meeson. Externally the
edifice is of brick, with red brick plinth, stringcourses, cornices, &c., and the enrichments are of
red terra-cotta. The building consists of a large
hall, suitable for lectures and other entertainments,
a reading-room, library, &c.
At the junction of Camden Road and Great
College Street is the Camden Town Station of
the North London Railway, near which the line
branches off to Gospel Oak and Hampstead,
forming a junction with the London and NorthWestern Line at Willesden, and with the West
London Railway at Kensington Station.
Not far from the Chalk Farm station, at the foot
of the slope of Haverstock Hill, near the entrance
to Maitland Park, are the Tailors' Almshouses, consisting of six residences and a small chapel, built
in red brick and stone in the Gothic style, and
standing in the middle of a garden of about an
acre and a half. They were founded and built in
1837–42, by the late Mr. J. Stulz, of Clifford Street,
Hanover Square, for the support of aged tailors of
every nation in the world, irrespective of creed.
Each pensioner, besides his rooms, receives £20
a year, in addition to coals and candles.
A few steps further northwards brings us to the
almshouses for the parish of St. Pancras. They
were founded in 1850, by Mr. Donald Fraser,
M.D., for decayed and aged parishioners. The
buildings consist of a row of ornamental cottages,
with pointed roofs, and red-brick facings; they are
separated from the roadway by a light stone wall
and a spacious and well-kept lawn.
The grounds of the above institutions abut upon
Maitland Park, where there is another edifice
devoted to charitable purposes—viz., the Orphan
Working School, which was originally established
in the east end of London, as far back as the
year 1758, but was removed here when it had
nearly completed a century of existence. Here
orphans and other necessitous children are clothed,
educated, and wholly maintained, from seven years
of age until they are about fourteen or fifteen;
and the number of children usually in the school is
about 400. At the age of fourteen the boys are
apprenticed, and the girls, who are all trained for
domestic service, remain for a year or two longer.
The annual income of this institution is about
£10,000, the larger half being derived from voluntary contributions. On leaving the school, outfits
are provided for the children, in money value—to
the boys of £5, to the girls of £3 3s.; and to
encourage them to keep the situations which are
provided for them, annual rewards are given, from
5s. to 21s., depending upon the length of service,
for the seven years after they leave the school.
The education imparted is unsectarian, and of a
thoroughly practical character, fitting the children
for useful positions in life. Many of the former
pupils, it may be added, are governors and liberal
supporters of the charity.
The Dominican Monastery, close by, stands at
the foot of the hill which ascends to Hampstead.
Its first stone was laid by Cardinal Wiseman, in
the presence of nearly all his clergy, in August,
1863, and the building was opened two years later.
It is a large edifice in the Early-English style
of architecture, with a lofty bell and clock tower.
The buildings surround a quadrangle, and have
altogether an imposing appearance. At present,
the church, as originally designed, is incomplete,
and the future library of the convent has been
made to do duty in its place for celebrating
religious services. Attached to the monastery
is a plot of ground, which the monks themselves
are employed in cultivating. This monastery is a
branch of the Order of St. Dominic, whose headquarters in this country are at Woodchester, near
Stroud, in Gloucestershire. St. Dominic, the
founder of this Order, is known to history as the
author of the devotion called the Rosary. His
feast day is kept on the 4th day of August. He
was of the noble family of Guzman, and was born
in Old Castile in 1170. He conducted the preaching crusade against the Albigenses in the south of
France, and dying in 1221, was canonised about
twelve years later by Pope Gregory IX. His
monks, called the "Black Friars" from the colour
of their dress, were numerous in almost all the
west of Europe, and in England and Scotland,
and especially at Paris and Oxford, where they
held the chairs of theology. It is to the honour of
this Order that it produced the great doctor of
theology, St. Thomas Aquinas; and Chambers tells
us that, in spite of its losses at the time of the
Reformation, the Order in the eighteenth century
could boast of possessing a thousand monasteries
and convents, divided into forty-five provinces, who
all revered St. Dominic as their founder.
From the neighbourhood of the Dominican
monastery and Gospel Oak a thoroughfare named
Fleet Road leads away north-west to Hampstead.
It is named after the Fleet rivulet, which till lately
ran behind the houses, through green fields, in its
way townwards, but it is now nearly dry, and what
water passes down it in winter finds its way into
a sewer. We shall have occasion to mention the
Fleet River again, when we come to St. Pancras.
The Gospel Oak Fields, a little to the east of
the monastery, are now built over with numerous
streets, crescents, and circuses. The Midland
Railway emerges from the Haverstock Hill tunnel
in the middle of these streets, about half a mile to
the west of the Kentish Town station.
In these fields a rural fair, called "Gospel Oak
Fair," was held as lately as 1857. There are
many "Gospel Oaks" in various parts of this
country. Mr. John Timbs, in his "Things not
Generally Known," tells us that these Gospel oaks
are traditionally said to have been so called in
consequence of its having been the practice in
ancient times to read aloud, under a tree which
grew on the parish boundary line, a portion of the
Gospel, on the annual "beating of the bounds"
on Ascension Day. These trees may have been,
in some instances, even Druidical, and under such
"leafy tabernacles" the first Christian missionaries
of St. Augustine may have preached. The popular,
though mistaken, idea is, that these trees were so
called because the parishioners were in the habit
of assembling there at the era of the Reformation
in order to read the Bible aloud. Herrick thus
alludes to the real derivation of the term in the
502nd of his "Hesperides:"—
"Dearest, bury me
Under that holy oak, or gospel-tree,
Where, though thou see'st not, thou mayst think upon
Me when thou yearly go'st in procession."
The pagan practice of worshipping the gods in
woods and trees continued for many centuries,
till the introduction of Christianity; and the missionaries did not disdain to adopt every means to
raise Christian worship to higher authority than
that of paganism by acting upon the senses of the
heathens to whom they preached.
Beneath one of the trees in the Gospel Oak
Fields, of which we are now speaking, Whitefield,
the Methodist, and companion of Wesley, is said
to have preached to crowded audiences of the
Close by, in Dale Road, so named after the late
poet, Canon Dale, some time Vicar of St. Pancras,
is the Church of St. Martin, a Gothic structure in
the Decorated style, with a lofty tower, and a fine
peal of bells. It was erected and endowed about
the year 1866, by Mr. John Derby Allcroft, who
also built a handsome parsonage and schools
"At the foot of the Hampstead hills," writes
Mr. Larwood, in his "History of Sign-boards,"
"the noisiest and most objectionable public-house
in the district bears the significant sign of the
'Gospel Oak.' It is the favourite resort of navvies
and quarrelsome shoemakers, and took its name,
not from any inclination to piety on the part of its
landlord, but from an old oak-tree in the neighbourhood, at the boundary line of Hampstead
and St. Pancras parishes—a relic of the once usual
custom of reading a portion of the Gospel under
certain trees in the parish perambulations equivalent
to 'beating the bounds.'" "The boundaries of
the parish of Wolverhampton," says Shaw, in his
"History of Staffordshire," "are thus in many
points marked out by what are called 'Gospel
Trees.'" The old "Gospel Oak" at Kentish
Town was not removed, we may add, till it had
given its name to the surrounding fields, to a group
of small houses (Oak Village), and to a chapel,
and a railway station, as well as to the public-house
Kentish Town, which lies on the east side of
Gospel Oak, and is approached from the "Mother
Red Cap," at Camden Town, by a direct road
called the Kentish Town Road, is described in
gazetteers, &c., as "a hamlet and chapelry in the
parish of St. Pancras, in the Holborn division of
the hundred of Ossulston." The place is mentioned
in Domesday Book as a manor belonging to the
Canons of St. Paul's; and it gives title to the
Prebendary of Cantelows (or Kentish Town), who
is Lord of the Manor, and holds a court-leet and
court-baron. Moll, in his "History of Middlesex,"
on noticing this hamlet, states: "You may, from
Hampstead, see in the vale between it and London
a village, vulgarly called Kentish Town, which we
mention chiefly by reason of the corruption of the
name, the true one being Cantilupe Town, of
which that ancient family were originally the
owners. They were men of great account in the
reigns of King John, Henry III., and Edward I.
Walter de Cantilupe was Bishop of Worcester,
1236 to 1266, and Thomas de Cantilupe was
Bishop of Hereford, 1275 to 1282. Thomas was
canonised for a saint in the thirty-fourth year of
Edward's reign; the inheritance at length devolving
upon the sisters, the very name became extinct."
The place itself is named, not after Kent, as might
be possibly imagined, seeing that Lord Camden's
property lies mainly in that county, but after that
manor in the hundred of Ossulston, known as
Kantelowes or Kentelowes, which appears sometimes to have been called Kentestown. In this,
doubtless, we must seek the origin of Ken (fn. 2) (now
commonly called Caen) Wood, the seat of Lord
Mansfield, between Hampstead and Highgate.
We may, however, add that the thoroughfare now
known as Gray's Inn Road is stated to have led
northwards to a "pleasant rural suburb, variously
named Ken-edge Town and Kauntelows," in which
we can discern the origin of its present name.
The situation of Kentish Town is pleasant and
healthy; and it is described by Thornton, in his
"Survey of London," 1780, as "a village on the
road to Highgate, where people take furnished
lodgings in the summer, especially those afflicted
with consumption and other disorders."
That old gossip, Horace Walpole, who probably
never went so far afield from the metropolis as the
place of which he writes, tells his friend, Sir Horace
Mann, in 1791: "Lord Camden has just let
ground at Kentish Town for building fourteen
hundred houses; nor do I wonder, nor do I
wonder. There will soon be one street from
London . . . to every village ten miles round."
The place is described by the author of "Select
Views of London and its Environs," published in
1804, as "a very respectable village between Highgate and London, containing several handsome
houses, and particularly an elegant seat built by the
late Gregory Bateman, Esq., and intended as a kind
of miniature of Wanstead House, in Essex." The
limits of the village, we may add, have within the
last few years been considerably extended by the
erection of new streets and ranges of handsome
houses, so that altogether the place is now one of
considerable importance. It can now boast of
having two railway stations, in addition to two or
three others on its borders, besides a line of tramway, and a service of omnibuses connecting it
with Fleet Street, the West End, Charing Cross,
and other parts of the metropolis.
Kentish Town was inhabited long before Somers
Town or Camden Town were in existence. It is
not certain that there was a chapel here earlier
than the reign of Elizabeth; and little or nothing
is known in detail concerning it. Norden refers
to a chapel of ease as existing in his time in this
village, as he says, speaking of the old parish
church, "Folks from the hamlet of Kennistonne
now and then visit it, but not often, having a chapele
of their owne." And the chapel (now converted
into a church, and known as Holy Trinity) was
erected by Wyatt in 1783—a dark age for church
architecture—but has since been rendered more
suitable for Christian worship, having been enlarged
about the year 1850, and altered to the Early
Decorated style, from the designs of Mr. Bartholomew. It has two lofty steeples, and a large
painted window at the eastern end; the altar recess
has some elaborate carved work. In this church
is buried Grignion, the engraver.
THE "CASTLE" TAVERN, KENTISH TOWN ROAD, IN 1800.
In 1841, at which time the population of
Kentish Town numbered upwards of 10,000, there
was only one place of worship belonging to the
Established Church; the erection of a new church
was proposed and erected upon the estate of
Brookfield, the greater part of which is in the
hamlet of Kentish Town, and the remainder in the
adjoining chapelry of Highgate. The building is
erected in the Early English style, and has a fine
tall spire; some of the windows are enriched with
painted glass. The site of the church was given
by the proprietor of the ground whereon it stands,
Lady Burdett-Coutts gave the peal of bells, and
other grants were made towards the fabric.
In 1848 a large Congregational chapel was built
here, in the ecclesiastical style of architecture of the
fifteenth century. It has several richly-traceried
windows filled with stained glass, including a
splendid wheel-window fifteen feet in diameter.
Messrs. Hodge and Butler were the architects.
In Fortess Place is the Roman Catholic Chapel
of St. Mary. A mission chapel was built in the
Highgate Road in 1847, and a schoolroom attached
to it. In 1854 the chapel was, however, closed
by order of the diocesan, and from that time
for several months the Passionist Fathers from
The Hyde served the place. In 1855 a piece of
freehold ground was purchased (funds being provided by Cardinal Wiseman), and three cottages
which stood upon the land were converted into a
temporary chapel, capable of accommodating about
200 persons. The new church, which is in the
Gothic style, has since been erected in its place.
The historical memorabilia of Kentish Town,
we need scarcely remark, are comparatively very
scanty. We are told how that William Bruges,
Garter King-at-Arms in the reign of Henry V., had
a country-house here, at which he entertained the
German Emperor, Sigismund, who visited England
in 1416, to promote a negotiation for peace with
France. This is literally all the figure that it acts
in history down to quite recent times, when we
incidentally learn that the Prince Regent was
nearly meeting with a serious accident here, in
December, 1813, through a dense fog, which would
not yield even to royalty. On his way to pay a
visit to the Marquis of Salisbury, at Hatfield House,
Herts, the Prince was obliged to return to Carlton
House, after one of his outriders had fallen into a
ditch at the entrance of Kentish Town, which at
that time was not lit with gas, and probably not
even with oil.
GENERAL VIEW OF OLD KENTISH TOWN, 1820.
The road through this district, however, even
when no fog prevailed, does not seem to have been
very safe for wayfarers after dark, in former times,
if we may judge from the numerous notices of outrages which appear in the papers of the times, of
which the following may be taken as a sample:—
The London Courant, August 8, 1751, contains
the following:—"On Sunday night, August 5th,
1751, as Mr. Rainsforth and his daughter, of Clare
Street, Clare Market, were returning home through
Kentish Town, about eight o'clock, they were
attacked by three footpads, and after being brutally
ill-used, Mr. R. was robbed of his watch and
A few years later, the following paragraph appeared in the Morning Chronicle (January 9, 1773):—"On Thursday night some villains robbed the
Kentish Town stage, and stripped the passengers
of their money, watches, and buckles. In the
hurry they spared the pockets of Mr. Corbyn, the
druggist; but he, content to have neighbours' fare,
called out to one of the rogues, 'Stop, friend! you
have forgot to take my money.'"
The result of these continual outrages was that
the inhabitants of the district resolved upon adopting some means for their protection, as was notified
by the following announcement in the newspapers:—"The inhabitants of Kentish Town, and other
places between there and London, have entered
into a voluntary subscription for the support of a
guard or patrol to protect foot-passengers to and
from each place during the winter season (that is
to say) from to-morrow, being old Michaelmas
Day, to old Lady Day next, in the following
manner, viz.:—That a guard of two men, well
armed, will set out to-morrow, at six o'clock in the
evening, from Mr. Lander's, the 'Bull,' in Kentish
Town, and go from thence to Mr. Gould's, the
'Coach and Horses,' facing the Foundling Hospital
gate, in Red Lion Street, London; and at seven
will return from thence back to the 'Bull;' at eight
will set out again from the 'Bull' to the 'Coach
and Horses,' and at nine will return from thence to
the 'Bull' again; and will so continue to do every
evening during the said winter season, from which
places, at the above hours, all passengers will be
conducted without fee or reward."
Kentish Town, in the middle of the last century,
could boast of its Assembly Rooms, at which the
balls were sufficiently attractive to draw persons
from all parts of the neighbourhood of London.
In fact, it became a second "Almack's" (fn. 3) —in its
way, of course. It was a large wooden building,
and stood at the angle of the main road, where the
Highgate and Holloway Roads meet, and on gala
nights it was lighted up with numberless lamps.
In 1788 the house was taken by a person named
Wood, who issued the following advertisement:—"Thomas Wood begs leave to inform his friends
and the publick in general, that he has laid in a
choice assortment of wines, spirits, and liquors,
together with mild ales and cyder of the best
quality, all of which he is determined to sell on the
most valuable terms. Dinners for public societies
or private parties dressed on the shortest notice.
Tea, coffee, &c., morning and evening. A good
trap-ball ground, skittle ground, pleasant summerhouse, extensive garden, and every other accommodation for the convenience of those who may
think proper to make an excursion to the above
house during the summer months. A good ordinary on Sundays at two o'clock."
By the side of the roadway, facing the old
Assembly Rooms, was an elm-tree, beneath whose
spreading branches was an oval-shaped marbletopped table, the edge of which was surrounded
with the following inscription:—"Posuit A.D. 1725
in Memoriam Sanitatis Restauratæ Robertus
Wright, Gent." The old tree was struck by
lightning in 1849.
A little further from town, in or about the year
1858, some gardens were opened as a place of
public amusement on the Highgate Road, near
the foot of Highgate Rise. But the place was not
very respectably conducted, and after a run of
about a year the gardens were closed, the magistrates refusing a spirit licence to the proprietor, a
Mr. Weston, the owner of a music-hall in Holborn.
In 1833 races were held at Kentish Town, the
particulars of which, as they appeared in the Daily
Postboy, are reprinted in Mr. Palmer's "History of
St. Pancras." These races in their day drew as
much attention as did Epsom then, but all memory
of them has long passed away. There was also at
one time established here a society or club, known
as "The Corporation of Kentish Town," an institution, there is little doubt, much on a par with
that which we have already described as existing at
"The Harp," in Russell Street, Covent Garden,
which is denominated "The Corporation of the
City of Lushington." (fn. 4) The club is referred to in
the following announcements which appear in the
newspapers of the period:—
The Officers and Aldermen of the Corporation of Kentish
Town are desired to attend the next day of meeting, at Two
o'clock, at Brother Legg's, the "Parrot," in Green Arbour
Court, in the Little Old Baily, in order to pay a visit to the
Corporation of Stroud Green, now held at the "Hole in the
Wall" at Islington; and from thence to return in the evening
to Brother Lamb's in Little Shear Lane, near Temple Bar,
to which house the said Corporation have adjourned for the
By order of the Court,
T. L., Recorder.
October 1, 1754.
Corporation of Kentish Town, 1756.
Your Company is desired to meet the past Mayors,
Sheriffs, and Aldermen of this Corporation, the ensuing
Court Day, at Mr. Thomas Baker's, the "Green Dragon,"
in Fleet Street, precisely at Two o'clock, in order to go in a
body to Mr. Peter Brabant's, the "Roman Eagle," in Church
Street, Deptford, to pay a visit to our Right Worshipful
Mayor who now resides in that town.
By order of the Court,
J. J., Recorder.
The Company of the Aldermen of Stroud Green, the
Loyal Regiment of British Hussars, and the Brethren of the
Most Antient and Noble Order of Bucks, will be esteem'd a
The "Castle" Tavern, in Kentish Town Road,
stands upon the site of an older house bearing the
same sign, which had the reputation—true or
false—of dating its origin from the time of King
John. The front of the old building had the
familiar and picturesque projecting storeys, supported originally by a narrow pier at the side of
a bolder one. The interior of one of the rooms
had a fireplace of stone, carved with a flattened
arch of the Tudor style, with the spandrils enriched
with a rose and a leaf-shaped ornament terminating
in a snake's tail. This fireplace had been for years
hidden from view by a coat of plaster. It is possible that, in their ignorance of Gothic architecture,
the good people of Kentish Town ascribed a Tudor
arch to the early part of the thirteenth century.
Another old building at Kentish Town was the
Emanuel Hospital, an establishment for the reception of the blind, which was burnt down in
1779. The house had been purchased by a Mr.
Lowe, who was one of the chief promoters of the
charity, and who took every possible method to
forward the establishment and procure subscriptions. He was entrusted with the management of
the design, and the receipt of subscriptions, which
flowed in largely; and he insured the house for
£4,000. Circumstances having occurred to show
that the destruction of the building was not caused
by accident, suspicion fastened upon Mr. Lowe;
but before he could be secured and brought to
justice, he put an end to his life by poison.
Among the "worthies" of Kentish Town we
may mention Dr. William Stukeley, the celebrated
antiquary, who formerly lived here. We shall have
occasion to mention him again when we reach St.
Pancras. He was called by his friends "the
Arch-Druid," and over the door of his villa a
friend caused to be written the following lines:—
"Me dulcis saturet quies,
Obscuro positus loco,
Leni perfruar otio,
These lines may be thus translated:—
"Oh, may this rural solitude receive
And contemplation all its pleasures give
The Druid priest."
The word "Chyndonax" is an allusion to an urn
of glass so inscribed in France, in which the
doctor believed were contained the ashes of an
Arch-Druid of that name, whose portrait forms the
frontispiece to his work on Stonehenge. Dr.
Stukeley's reputation, however, as an antiquary is
not great at the present day, as he has been proved
by Mr. B. B. Woodward, in the Gentleman's
Magazine, to have been equally credulous and
Here, too, lived an eccentric old bachelor and
miser, Mr. John Little, at whose sudden death,
intestate, in 1798, about £37,000 of property,
173 pairs of breeches, and 180 old wigs were
found in a miserably furnished apartment which he
allowed no one to enter. These and his wealth
all passed to a brother whom he had discarded,
and whom he had meant to disinherit had not
death prevented him.
It is generally said that Charles Mathews the
elder was a resident in Kentish Town; but his
home, Ivy Cottage, was in Millfield Lane, in the
hamlet of Brookfield, of which, as well as of St.
Anne's Church, Brookfield, it will be more convenient to treat in our notice of Highgate. At
present we have no intention to climb the breezy
"northern heights of London."
At No. 8, in Lower Craven Place, lived, for
some time, Douglas Jerrold. He afterwards removed to Kilburn, where he died in June, 1857. (fn. 5)
One of the peculiarities of this district, and one
which it retained down to a very recent date, was
its slate pavement. It certainly, on fine days,
looked very clean, and was pleasant to the tread;
but in wet and frosty weather it became slippery
and dangerous in the extreme. It has now been
superseded by the ordinary pavement of stone-flags.
During the last few years the green fields which
fringed one side of the road at Kentish Town have
passed away, and unbroken lines of streets connect
it with the Holloway Road. Many new churches
and chapels have been erected, and the once rural
village now forms, like Camden and Somers Town,
but one portion of the great metropolis.
Great College Street, by which we return to the
eastern side of Camden Town, in the direction of
old St. Pancras Church, is so named from the
Royal Veterinary College, which covers a large
space of ground on its eastern side. This institution was established in 1791, with the view of
promoting a reformation in that particular branch
of veterinary science called "farriery," by the
formation of a school, in which the anatomical
structure of quadrupeds of all kinds, horses, cattle,
sheep, dogs, &c., the diseases to which they are
subject, and the remedies proper to be applied,
should be investigated and regularly taught. Of
the foundation of this institution we gather the
following particulars from the Monthly Register of
1802:—"To the agricultural societies in different
parts of this kingdom the public is greatly indebted.
It will be matter of surprise to men of thought,
that the improvements in the veterinary art, instead
of originating with the military establishment to
which it is so important for the benefit of the
cavalry, has been chiefly promoted by an obscure
association at Odiham, in Hampshire, which entertain the design of sending two young men of talents
into France, to become students in this new profession. Monsieur St. Bel, in the year 1788, was
driven from that country, either from his own
pecuniary embarrassments, or by the internal disorganisation which then prevailed. He offered his
services to this society, in consequence of which
the college was instituted, and he was nominated
to superintend it, and some noblemen and gentlemen of the highest rank and consideration in the
country were appointed as managers of the undertaking. Monsieur St. Bel, possessing, however,
many excellent qualities, was not precisely suited
to his situation; his private difficulties impeded his
public exertions. In 1792, to ascertain his ability
to discharge the duties of his situation, he was
examined by Sir George Baker and several other
physicians and surgeons, and was considered competent to his duties. Whether these gentlemen,
comparing the merits of Monsieur St. Bel with the
ordinary farriers, imagined consummate skill in the
profession not necessary to the success of this new
enterprise, we will not determine; but it is certain,
however ingenious he might be in shoeing and in
the inferior branches, with the pharmaceutic art, or
that which respects the healing the diseases of the
animal, he was wholly unacquainted. In August,
1793, Monsieur St. Bel died, and it is probable
that the fatal event was accelerated by the disappointment he felt at the ill success of the establishment he conducted.
"In the time of Monsieur St. Bel a house was
taken at Pancras for the purposes of the institution. Since his decease the professorship has
devolved to Mr. Coleman, and a handsome theatre
has been prepared, with a museum and dissecting
rooms for the use of the pupils, and for their
examination; and for other purposes a medical
committee has been appointed, comprising Dr.
Fordyce, Dr. Bailie, Dr. Babington, Dr. Relp, Mr.
Cline, Mr. Abernethy, Mr. A. Cooper, Mr. Home,
and Mr. Houlstone.
"In consequence of the new regulations pupils
are admitted for the sum of twenty guineas, and
they are accommodated in the college with board
or otherwise, according to their own convenience.
For this sum they see the practice of the college,
and by the liberality of the medical committee are
admitted to the lectures of those who compose it
gratis; and in the army the veterinary surgeons are
advanced to the rank of commissioned officers, by
which condescension of the commander-in-chief
the regiments of English cavalry have, for the first
time, obtained the assistance of gentlemen educated in a way to discharge the important duties of
The Duke of Northumberland was the first
president of the college. A school for the instruction of pupils in veterinary science is carried on
under the direction of a duly-qualified professor;
and diseased horses are admitted upon certain
terms into the infirmary. Such is thought to be
the national importance of this institution, that
Parliament has liberally afforded aid when the state
of the college's finances rendered a supply essential.
Lectures are delivered daily in the theatre of the
college during the session, which commences in
October and ends in May; to these only students
are admitted. The fee for pupils is twenty-five
guineas, which entitles them to attend the lectures
and general practical instructions of the college
until they shall have passed their examination.
On Tuesday evenings there are discussions on
various subjects connected with the veterinary art.
The buildings are of plain brick, and have an extensive frontage to the street, within which they
stretch back to the distance of more than 200
yards. The theatre for dissections and lectures is
judiciously planned; and in a large contiguous
apartment are numerous anatomical illustrations.
The infirmary will hold about sixty horses. There
is likewise a forge, for the shoeing of horses on
the most approved principles, and several paddocks
are attached to the institution.
Not far from the Veterinary College lived, in
1802, Mr. Andrew Wilson, a gentleman who is
described as "of the Stereotype Office," and who
took out a patent for the process of stereotyping.
He was not, however, the original inventor of
the stereotypic art, nor was he destined to be the
man who should revive it practically or perfect it.
As early as the year 1711, a Dutchman, Van der
Mey, introduced a process for consolidating types
after they had been set up, by soldering them
together at the back; and it is asserted that the
process, as we now understand it, was practised in
1725 by William Gedd, or Gedde, of Edinburgh,
who endeavoured to apply it to the printing of
Bibles for the University of Cambridge. It is
well known that the process was, half a century
later or more, carried out into common use by the
then Lord Stanhope, at his private printing-press
at Chevening, in Kent.
Pratt Street, as we have already stated, is so
called after the family name of Lord Camden.
This is one of the principal streets in Camden
Town, and connects Great College Street with the
High Street. In it is the burial-ground for the
parish of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, together with a
chapel and residence for the officiating clergyman.
The site formed originally two fields, called Upper
Meadow and Upper Brook Meadow, and was
purchased from the Earl of Camden and Dr.
Hamilton, Prebendary of Canteloes, in accordance
with the provisions of an Act of Parliament passed
for that purpose, and the cemetery was laid out
and consecrated by the Bishop of London in 1805.
Here lies buried Charles Dibdin, the author of
most of the best of our naval songs. Charles
Knight speaks of him, somewhat sarcastically, it
must be owned, as a man who, "had he rendered
a tithe of the services actually performed by him to
the naval strength of his country under the name
of a 'Captain R.N.' instead of as a writer, he
would have died a wealthy peer instead of drawing
his last breath in poverty."
St. Stephen's Church, in this street, with its
adjoining parsonage and schools, covering several
acres, is a large and commodious structure, in the
Grecian style. It was built about the year 1836.
Among the residents in Camden Town in former
times, besides those we have named, was the
veteran composer, Sir Henry Rowley Bishop—the
last who wrote English music in a distinctive
national style, carrying the traditions of Purcell,
Arne, Boyce, &c., far on into the present century.
Born towards the close of the last century, he had
as his early instructor Signor Bianchi. In 1806
he composed the music for a ballet performed at
Covent Garden Theatre, and shortly afterwards
commenced to write regularly for the stage. From
1810 to 1824 he held the post of musical director
at Covent Garden, and subsequently became a
director of the Concerts of Ancient Music. He
received the honour of knighthood in 1842, but it
was a barren honour; and in spite of a knighthood
and the Professorship of Music at Oxford, added to
the more solid rewards of successful authorship,
his last days were spent in comparative poverty.
Such are the rewards held out in this country to
professional eminence! In every house where
music, and more especially vocal music, is welcome,
the name of Sir Henry Bishop has long been, and
must long remain, a household word. Who has
not been soothed by the melody of "Blow, gentle
gales," charmed by the measures of "Lo! here the
gentle lark," enlivened by the animated strains of
"Foresters, sound the cheerful horn," or touched
by the sadder music of "The winds whistle cold?"
Who has not been haunted by the insinuating
tones of "Tell me, my heart," "Bid me discourse,"
or "Where the wind blows," which Rossini, the
minstrel of the South, loved so well? Who has
not felt sympathy with "As it fell upon a day, in
the merry month of May," or admired that masterpiece of glee and chorus, "The chough and the
crow," or been moved to jollity at some convivial
feast by "Mynheer von Dunck," the most original
and genial of comic glees? Sir Henry Bishop
died in 1855, at his residence in Cambridge Street,
As we pass down Great College Street, we have
on our left, stretching away towards Islington, a
sort of "No man's land," formerly known as Agar
Town, and filling up a part of the interval between
the Midland and the Great Northern Railway, of
which we shall have more to say in a future
chapter. On our right, too, down to a comparatively recent date, the character of the locality was
not much better; indeed, the whole of the neighbourhood which lay—and part of which still lies—between Clarendon Square and the Brill and St.
Pancras Road, would answer to the description of
what Charles Dickens, in his "Uncommercial
Traveller," calls a "shy neighbourhood," abounding
in bird and birdcage shops, costermongers' shops,
old rag and bottle shops, donkeys, barrows, dirty
fowls, &c., and with the inevitable gin-shop at
every corner. "The very dogs of shy neighbourhoods usually betray a slinking consciousness of
being in poor circumstances," is one of the appropriate remarks of "Boz;" and another is to the
same effect—"Nothing in shy neighbourhoods perplexes me more than the bad company which birds
keep. Foreign birds often get into good society,
but British birds are inseparable from low associates."
THE ROYAL VETERINARY COLLEGE, 1825.