The Project Gutenberg eBook of South London

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Title: South London

Author: Walter Besant

Illustrator: Francis Sylvester Walker

Release date: January 16, 2014 [eBook #44683]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Susan Skinner and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at


[Transcriber's Note: The cover image was created by the transcriber by adding the title and author's name to a scan of the cover of the original book and is placed in the public domain.]

Book cover



Uniform Edition. Demy 8vo. cloth, 5s. net each.


With 125 Illustrations.

'What the late J. R. Green has done for England Sir Walter Besant has here attempted, with conspicuous success, for Cockaigne. The Author of "A Short History of the English People" and the historian of the London citizen share together the true secret of popularity. Both have placed before the people of to-day a series of vivid and indelible pictures of the people of the past.... No one who loves his London but will love it the better for reading this book. He who loves it not has before him a clear duty and a manifest pleasure.'—Graphic.

'Sir Walter Besant knows and loves his London thoroughly, and his beautifully illustrated book will call up in the minds of those who bow to the spell a thousand delights of memory and expectation. He contrives not merely to call back the old London, but to make the London of the present more living than before.'—Spectator.


With 131 Illustrations.

'Sir Walter Besant has told the story of the old city (London) and its corporate life in a way which has never been surpassed—not even equalled. The past of the mother of municipal life he has made to live and breathe in a manner which reduces all other records of London to the mere dryasdust category. But we like his "Westminster" even better.... There is nothing but admiration to be expressed as well for the plan as for the execution.'—Daily Chronicle.

'Sir Walter Besant has here given us a worthy companion to his charming book on "London."... From beginning to end the narrative never flags, the illustrations never fail, and one rises from its reading with fuller ideas of the historic interest of the place and a greater veneration for the ancient Abbey and all its relics of the past.'—Guardian.


With 120 Illustrations.

'To all Londoners who realise the absorbing fascination of the great world they live in we cordially recommend it as a worthy sequel to the author's previous volumes. It is written by an enthusiast who is also an accomplished writer, by a student who is a close observer of life; and it passes before the reader's imagination a series of indelible pictures which clothe our prosaic and monotonous South London with the romance which is its due.'—Literature.


With 55 Illustrations by Phil May, Raven Hill, and Joseph Pennell.

'Sir Walter Besant knows London as no one has known it since Charles Dickens.... He has given a lifetime to the acquisition of his knowledge of the great city. He was grey before he attempted to write his monumental works on "London," "Westminster," and "South London"—books which have earned him his title as the historian of London—and he has postponed his book on "East London" until his sixty-fifth year.... Crammed with antiquarian lore mingled with human interest and saturated with genuine sympathy for the people is this study of "East London."... A thoroughly masterly book.'—Literary World.

Crown 8vo. cloth, 3s. 6d.


With 144 Plates and Woodcuts.

'A series of entertaining chapters, to which the droll illustrations of George Cruikshank and the inimitable portraits by Daniel Maclise lend additional effect.... The book is full of movement and colour, and presents a vivid and interesting picture of the great reign of Queen Victoria.'—Speaker.

Small 8vo. cloth (in the St. Martin's Library), gilt top, 2s. net each; feather, gilt edges, 3s. net each.


London: CHATTO & WINDUS, 111 St. Martin's Lane, W.C.

F. S. Walker, R.E.

F. S. Walker, R.E.

St. Saviour's, Southwark.







1912 {v}


In sending forth this book on 'South London,' the successor to my two preceding books on 'London' and 'Westminster,' I have to explain in this case, as before, that it is not a history, or a chronicle, or a consecutive account of the Borough and her suburbs that I offer, but, as in the other two books, chapters taken here and there from the mass of material which lies ready to hand, and especially chapters which illustrate the most important part of History, namely, the condition, the manners, the customs of the people dwelling in this place, now, like Westminster, a part of London: yet, until two or three hundred years ago, an ancient marsh kept from the overflowing tide by an Embankment, joined to the Dover road by a Causeway, settled and inhabited by two or three Houses of Religious: by half a dozen Palaces of Bishops, Abbots, and great Lords: by a colony of fishermen living on the Embankment from time immemorial, since the Embankment itself was built: and by a street of Inns and shops.

I hope that 'South London' will be received with favour equal to that bestowed upon its predecessors. The chief difficulty in writing it has been that of selection from the great treasures which have accumulated about this strange spot. The contents of this volume do not form a tenth part of what might be written on the same plan, and still without including the History Proper of the Borough. I am like the showman in the 'Cries of London'—I pull the strings, and the children peep. Lo! Allectus goes forth to fight and die on Clapham Common: William's men burn the fishermen's{vi} cottages: little King Richard, that lovely boy, rides out, all in white and gold, from his Palace at Kennington—saw one ever so gallant a lad? The Bastard of Falconbridge bombards the city: Sir John Fastolfe's man is pressed into Jack Cade's army: the Minters make their last Sanctuary opposite St. George's: the Debtors languish in the King's Bench. There are many pictures in the box—but how many more there are for which no room could be found!

I must acknowledge my obligations, first, to the Editor of the Pall Mall Magazine, where half of these chapters first had the honour of appearing, for the wealth of illustration of which he thought them worthy: and next to the artist, Mr. Percy Wadham, who has so faithfully and so cunningly carried out the task committed to him.


United University Club:
September 1898.





Etched by F. S. Walker, R.E.
From Allen's History of Lambeth
From a Drawing by J. Hassell, 1804
From a Drawing by Jonas Moore
From a Drawing by Schnebbelie
From 'La Belle Assemblée,' November 1822
From an Engraving dated 1804
From the Stained Window in Lambeth Church
MINSTRELS, A.D. 1480177
From an Engraving by Rawle, 1802
From a Drawing by Whichelo
From the Crace Collection
From the Painting by G. Hoffnagel, at Hatfield
From an Engraving by John Boydell, 1750
From an old Print
From a Drawing by T. Higham, 1820
From an Engraving by B. Cole
From 'The Gentleman's Magazine,' September 1803
From the Engraving by J. S. Müller





I propose to call the series of chapters which are to follow by the general name of 'South London.' Like their predecessors on 'London' and 'Westminster,' they will not attempt, or pretend, to present a continuous history of this region—or, indeed, a history at all: they will endeavour to do for this part of London what their predecessors have already attempted for the Cities of London and Westminster: that is to say, they will present such episodes and incidents, with such characters, as may serve to illustrate the life of the place; the manners and customs of the people; the characteristics of the Borough and its outlying suburbs. So far as history means the march of armies and the clash of armour, we shall here find little history. So far, also, as history means the growth of our liberties, the struggles by which they were won; the apparent decay, or defeat, from time to time, of the spirit of freedom, with its inevitable recovery: the reader and the student may be referred to the pages of a Stubbs or a Freeman—not to my humbler page. Great is the work, and worthy to be held in the highest honour, of those who trace out the irresistible march of national freedom: I cannot join their company; I must be contented with the lowlier, yet somewhat useful, task of showing how the people, my forefathers, lived, and{2} what they thought, and how they sang and feasted and made love and grew old and died.

My South London extends from Battersea in the west to Greenwich in the east, and from the river on the north to the first rising ground on the south. This rising ground, a gentle ascent, the beginning of the Surrey hills, can still be observed on the high roads of the south—Clapham, Brixton, Camberwell. It now occupies the place of what was formerly a low cliff, from ten to thirty or forty feet high, overhanging the broad level, and corresponding to those cliffs on the other side of the river, which closed in on either side of Walbrook and made the foundation of London possible. If we draw a straight line from the mouth of the Wandle on the west to the mouth of the Ravensbourne on the east, we shall, roughly speaking, indicate the southern boundary of our district; unless, as we may very well do, we include Greenwich as well. The whole of this region constitutes the Great South Marsh: there is no rising ground, or hillock, or encroaching cliff over the whole of this flat expanse. Before the river was embanked it was one unbroken marsh: for eight miles in length by a varying breadth of about two or two and a half miles, the tidal stream twice in the twenty-four hours submerged this space. Here and there lay islets or eyots, created, as the centuries crept on, by the gradual accumulation of branches, roots, reeds and rubbish, till they rose a few inches above high water; the spring-tide covered them—sometimes swept them away—then others began to form. In later times, after the work of embankment had been commenced, these islets became permanent, and were afterwards known as Battersea, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Lambhithe, Newington, Kennington. Even then, for many a long year, they were but little areas rising a foot or two above the level, covered with sedge, reeds, and tufts of coarse grass, hardly distinguishable from the rest of the ground around them. Before the construction of the river wall, no trees stood upon this morass, no{3} flowers of the field flourished there, no thorns and bushes grew, no cattle pastured there; the wild deer were afraid of it: there were no creatures of the land upon it. On the south side rose the cliff of clay and sand, continually falling and continually receding before the encroaching tide; on the north side ran the river; beyond the river the cliff stood up above the water's edge, where the tiny stream, afterwards named from the Wall, leaped bright and sparkling into the rolling flood. No man could live upon that marsh: its breath after sunset and in the night was pestilential.

View from Southwark Marsh in Prehistoric Times. View from Southwark Marsh in Prehistoric Times.

Many streams poured into this marsh, and at low tide made their way across it into the Thames: at high tide their beds were lost in the shallows. Among them—to use names by which they were afterwards distinguished—were the Wandle, the Falcon, the Effra, the Ravensbourne, and others which have disappeared and left no name. And so for unnumbered years the tide daily ebbed and flowed, and the reeds bent beneath the breeze, and the clouds scudded overhead, and the wild birds screamed, far away from the world of men and women, long after men and women began to wander{4} about this Island called Albion. No one took any thought of this marsh, any more than they heeded the marshes all along the lower reaches of the river; and these were surely the most desolate, dreary stretches of water and mud anywhere in the world. Those who wish to realise what manner of country it was which stretched away on the north and south of the Thames may perhaps get some comprehension of it if they stand on the point at Bradwell in Essex, beside the ruined Chapel of St. Peter-on-the-Wall, and look out at low tide to east and north.

In a previous volume dealing with another part of the country called London I showed to my own satisfaction, and, I believe, that of my readers, that long before there existed any London at all, except perhaps a village of a few fishermen with their coracles, Westminster or Thorney was a busy and crowded place of resort, through which the whole trade of the country north of the Thames passed on its way to Dover and the southern ports. This position, new as it was, and opposed to the general and traditional teaching—opposed, for instance, to the traditional belief of Dean Stanley—has never been attacked, and may be considered, therefore, as generally accepted. When or how the trade of Thorney began, to what extent it developed, we need not here inquire. Indeed, I know not that any fragments of fact or of tradition exist which would enable us to inquire. The fact itself, as will be immediately seen, is of the highest importance as regards the beginning and early history of the Southern settlements.

The ancient way of trade, then, ran across the island called afterwards by the Saxons Thorney, the Isle of Bramble, now Westminster. All the trade of the north passed over that little spot, on which arose a considerable town for the reception of the caravans. After resting a night or so at Thorney, the merchants went on their way. Those who travelled south, making for Dover, crossed over the ford, where there was afterwards a ferry. This ferry continued until the erection{5} of Westminster Bridge in the last century: the name still survives in Horseferry Road. After the passage of the ford, the travellers found themselves face to face with a mile of dangerous bog, marsh and swamp, through which they had to plod and plough their way, sinking over their knees, up to the middle, before they emerged upon the higher ground, now called Clapham Rise. To the merchants driving their long chains of slaves and heavily laden packhorses and mules from the north, this was the worst bit of the whole journey. Every day there were rivers to be forded, in which some of their slaves might get drowned or might escape; there were dark woods, in which they might be attacked by hostile tribes; there were hills to climb; but nowhere, in the whole of their journey, was there a piece of country more difficult than this great swamp beyond the Ford of Thorney. They splashed and floundered through it, over ankles, over knees, up to the middle, up to the neck, in mud and muddy water. The packhorses sank deep down with their loads; they took off the loads and laid them on the shoulders of the slaves, who threw them off into the mud, and let them stay there, while they made a mad attempt to escape. Horse and mule; slave and slave-load; iron, lead, and skins: the merchant paid heavy tribute while he crossed the marshes and waded through the shallows of the broad tidal river.

At some time or other, the idea occurred to an unknown person of engineering genius in advance of his time, that it might not be impossible to construct a causeway across this marsh; and that such a causeway would be extremely useful and convenient for those who used the Thorney Fords. Perhaps the causeway was his own invention; perhaps the work was the first causeway ever constructed in this country; perhaps the inventor began on the smallest possible scale, with a very narrow way across the marsh to the nearest dry ground, which was, of course, somewhere beyond Kennington; perhaps the work, colossal for the time, carried the merchants{6} and their caravans across the whole extent of the marsh—five miles and more—to the rising ground of Deptford or Greenwich, the nearest point to Dover. The causeway was not unlike those which now run across the Hackney Marshes; that is to say, it was raised so high as to be above the highest spring tide, about six feet above the level of the marsh. It was constructed by driving piles into the mud at regular intervals, forming a wall of timber within the piles, and filling up the space with gravel and shingle, brought from Chelsea—'Isle of Shingle'—or from the nearest high ground, where is now Clapham Common. The breadth of the causeway, I take it, was about ten or twelve feet. The construction of the work rendered the passage across the marsh perfectly easy, and greatly facilitated that part of the trade of the island which lay in the midland and on the north.

When was this causeway, the first step in road-making, constructed? Perhaps it was a Roman work. I think, however, that it is older than the Roman occupation; and for these reasons. When London was first visited by the Romans it was already a flourishing city with a 'copia negotiatorum;' in other words, it had already succeeded in attracting the greater part of the trade which formerly passed through Thorney. Had the Romans built the causeway, they would have constructed it along a line drawn from one of the two old ferries to Deptford. The causeway, therefore, must have existed when the Romans arrived upon the scene, together with, as we shall see immediately, the second causeway connecting the ferry with the first causeway. I dare say the Romans strengthened the work: turned it from a gravelled way, soft in bad weather, into one of their hard, firm Roman roads; faced it with stone, and made it durable. If South London were to be stripped of all its houses, the two causeways would be found still, hard and firm, beneath the mass of accumulated soil and rubbish, as the Romans left them.

If you draw a straight line from 'Stanegate,' close to the{7} end of Westminster Bridge, as far as the beginning of the Old Kent Road, you will understand the lie of the causeway. And this causeway, understand, was the very first interference of the hand of man with the marshes south of the Thames. It was a way across the marsh: not an embankment against the river, but a way. It did not keep out the tide which flowed in on the other side—the Battersea side: it was simply a way across the marsh. For a long time—we cannot tell how long—it remained the principal way of communication for the trade of Britain between the north and the south, the midland and the south, the eastern counties and the south.

Causeway across Southwark Marsh. Causeway across Southwark Marsh.

Consider, next, the site of London, as it appeared to the merchants crossing the causeway. They saw, in the centuries of which no trace or memory remains, when they turned their{8} eyes northward, first a level of mud, sprinkled with little eyots of reed and coarse grass, then the broad river, and beyond the river two streams, one fuller than the other, each in its own valley—that of the Walbrook was 132 feet wide at the present site of the Mansion House—falling into the river; a low cliff ran along the north bank, leaving stretches of marsh, as on the south, but, where these streams ran into the Thames, approaching close to the river, and actually overhanging it. On the river they saw numerous coracles, with fishermen catching salmon and every kind of fish in their nets. No river in the world was more plentifully stocked with fish; overhead flew screaming innumerable birds—geese, ducks, herne—which the trappers trapped, snared, shot with sling and stone by the thousand. On those cliffs overhanging the river, the travellers by the causeway saw the huts of the fisherfolk. Then, perhaps, they remembered the plenty of the markets of Thorney; the abundance of birds, the vast quantities of fish offered on those stalls. Those who were curious connected the coracles on the river and the birds that flew up from the lowlands with these markets; they saw that London—'the place or fort over the Lake'—was the settlement which furnished Thorney with a good part of her supplies. And this I verily believe to have been the real origin and cause of London. It was first settled by the humble folk who came here for the purpose of catching fish and trapping birds for the market of Thorney. This is a suggestion only; it will be set aside, most certainly, by those who are not pleased with the upsetting of old theories. To those who are able to realise the ancient condition of things and all it means, the suggestion will be received, I am convinced, as more than a theory: it will be regarded and accepted as a discovery.

Let us put it in another way. Thorney was a place of great resort, as I have shown in these pages already: every day passed into Thorney, and out of Thorney, long processions{9} or caravans of merchants with merchandise carried by slaves—the most valuable part of their merchandise—and by packhorses and mules; they waded through the northern ford; they rested for a night in one of the inns of the place: next day they waded through the southern ford, attained the causeway, and went south. Or else it was the reverse way. The place required a daily supply of food, and, as there were many travellers, a great quantity of food. If you go down the river from Thorney, you will find that the present site of London, on the two hillocks rising out of the river, was the first and only place where men could put up huts in which to live while they caught fish and trapped wild birds for Thorney. If, therefore, the Isle of Bramble was a flourishing centre of trade long before London was a place of trade at all, then the original London must have been a settlement of fishermen and trappers who supplied the markets of Thorney.

Fishers' Huts at the mouth of the Fleet. Fishers' Huts at the mouth of the Fleet.

In course of time—we are still in prehistoric times—the{10} site of London was discovered by seamen and merchant adventurers exploring the rivers in their ships. It was found cheaper and easier and safer to carry goods to and from Thorney by way of sea than by land. To coast along from Dover to the strait between Rum—the Isle of Thanet, and the mainland—to pass through the strait and up the river, was found easier and cheaper than to undertake the costly and dangerous march from Dover to Thorney Ford. This way, then, was by many undertaken; and so a certain part of the trade along the old causeway was diverted.

The next step was the discovery of London as a port. There was no port at Thorney: on the site of London were the two natural ports of Walbrook and the mouth of the Fleet; there was a high ground safer and more salubrious than that of Thorney; ships began to anchor there, quays were erected, goods were landed; the high road which we call Oxford Street was constructed to connect London with the highway of trade—afterwards Watling Street; and the trade of London began.

Now, if you look once more at the map of the south as it was, you will observe that London at its first commencement had no communication with any part of the world except by water. The first road opened was, as I have said, the connection with Watling Street; what was the next? It was a connection with the high road to Dover: that connection was the road which we now call High Street, Borough. These two roads were the first communication between London and any other place; all the other roads, to the north and south and west and east, came afterwards. It was necessary for London to have an open and direct connection, by land as well as by sea, with the then principal port of the country. The High Street formed that open communication; it began not far to the west of St Saviour's Church, opposite the Roman Trajectus, the mediæval ferry, now St. Mary Overies Dock.{11}

Observe, however, that we are as yet very far from embanking the river, or draining the marsh, or making it inhabitable. If you walk across Hackney Marsh by one of its causeways any autumnal morning, especially after rain, you will understand something of what Southwark looked like. Two high causeways crossed the marsh, of which as yet not a square foot had been drained or reclaimed; yet the place was not so wild as it had been; the wild birds had been partly driven away by the noise and crowd of London, and by the concourse of ships sailing continually up and down. There was as yet no bridge. The ferry crossed the river backwards and forwards all day long. The causeways were crowded with people; but as yet nothing on the lowlands. Before the marshes could be drained the river had to be embanked.

Barking Creek Barking Creek

No one knows when that was done. It was done, however. At some time or other a high earthwork was raised along the{12} north and south banks of the river, enclosing the marshes, converting them into pasture and arable land, and keeping out the tides of Thames. It was a work of the most signal benefit; it was also a colossal piece of work, measured by hundreds of miles, for it was continued all round the islets and coast of Essex. It was a work requiring constant repair, though most of it has stood splendidly. The wall gave way, however, at Barking in the time of Henry the Second; at Wapping in the time of Elizabeth; at Dagenham early in the last century: at each of these places the repair of the wall was costly and difficult. The embankment left behind it a low-lying ground, rich and fertile; orchards and woods began to grow and to flourish upon it; yet it was still swampy in parts, numerous ponds lay about on it, streams wound their way confined in channels, and let out through the embankment at low tide by culverts.

Whether the bridge came before the embankment I cannot decide. Yet I think that the embankment came first; for the existence of Southwark—that of any part of South London—depended not on the bridge, but on the embankment and the ferry. Given, however, the embankment; the two causeways; the bridge; two ferries—one at St. Mary Overies and the other lower down, opposite the Tower: given, also, direct communication with Dover, with Thorney—thence with the midlands and the north: there could not fail to arise a settlement or town of some kind on the south of the Thames.

Let us next consider the conditions under which the town of Southwark began to exist and to continue for a great many years.

(1) There was no wall or any means of defence, except the marsh which surrounded it and prohibited the approach of an army except along the causeway.

(2) The ground lay low on either side the causeway, and{13} south of the embankment. Although the tide no longer ebbed and flowed among the reeds and islets of the marsh, yet it was covered with small ponds, some of them stagnant, others formed by the many streams which flowed towards the culverts on the embankment, through which at low tide they escaped into the Thames; until some kind of drainage was attempted, the place caused agues and fevers for any who slept in its white miasma. In other words, not an embankment only, but drainage of some kind, had to be undertaken before life was possible on the marsh.

(3) There were no quays, no shipping, no merchants, no trade, on the south side. All merchandise coming up from the south for export at the port of London, all merchandise landed at the port for the south, had to be carried across the bridge.

(4) The crowds of people connected with the trade of London—the porters, carriers, drivers, grooms and stable-boys, stevedores, lightermen, sailors foreign and native, the employés of the merchants, their wives, women and children—all these people lived in London itself; they had their taverns and drinking shops; their sleeping places and eating places, in London; all the people employed in providing food and drink and sport, lived on the other side. South London had to be a place without trade, without noise, without disturbance of workmen, without broils among the sailors or fights among foreigners.

(5) It stood on the south bank of a river swarming with fish.

(6) The only parts on which houses could be built were along the line of the causeways, or along the line of the embankment.

These were the conditions. We should expect, therefore, to find the place thinly inhabited; and to find that the houses were all built beside or along the raised ways. We should{14} next expect to find along the causeways that the houses belonged to the wealthier class.

We should expect, further, to find no sailors' or working men's quarters. The former because there were no ships; the latter because there were no markets. Lastly, we should not be surprised to find the place very early occupied by inns and places of accommodation for those who resorted to London.

All this was, in fact, what did take place. The Roman remains are numerous; they are all found along the causeways; the existence of a Roman cemetery shows that it was a place of some importance. I say some, because its very limited extent proves that it was never a large place. I will return immediately to the Roman remains.

There was, however, one trade, one class of working men which took up its abode along the embankment of Southwark: it was that of the fishermen, driven across the river by the growth of London. There was no room for the fishermen with their coracles and nets along the line of quays on the north side; they wanted a place to haul up their boats, and a place to spread their nets,—they could not find either in the north; nor would the fish be caught in waters troubled perpetually by oars and keels. The fisherfolk, therefore, put up their huts along the embankment; for long centuries afterwards the fisherfolk continued to live in South London. The last remnant of Thames fishermen occupied, well into the present century, a single court in Lambeth; it is described as unpaved, unglazed, unlighted, dirty, and insanitary. But the last salmon had been caught in the river; the Thames fishermen were by that time almost starved out of existence. I am sure that the south was always their place of residence; the foreshore offered them what they could not find on the north bank. To him, however, who considers the fisheries of the Thames, there are many points on which, for want of exact information, he may speculate and theorise as much as he pleases. For instance, later on, there were fishermen living{15} at Limehouse. Some of the Thames watermen lived here also—the legend of Awdry the ferryman assigns to him a residence on the south; their favourite place of residence, however, was St. Katherine's first, and Wapping afterwards.


The Roman remains found up and down the place prove my assertion that the people who lived here were what we should call substantial. One need not catalogue the long list of Roman trouvailles; but, to take the more important, in the year 1819 there was discovered, in taking up the foundations of some old houses belonging to St. Thomas's Hospital, in St. Thomas's Street, a fine tesselated pavement, about ten feet below the surface of the ground. In the following year, in the area facing St. Saviour's Grammar School, seven or eight feet below the surface, there was found another, of a more{16} elaborate design. Only a part of this was uncovered, as the Governors of the School forbade further investigation: it remains to this day still to be examined and unearthed, under the present potato and fruit market. At the entrance of King Street, at a depth of fifteen or sixteen feet, were found a great many Roman lamps, a vase, and other sepulchral deposits. And in tunnelling for a new sewer through Blackman Street and Snow Fields, in 1818 and 1819, and again in Union Street, in 1823, numerous Roman antiquities were discovered. In Trinity Square was found a coin of Gordianus Africanus. In Deverill Street, south of the Dover road, other coins were discovered; in St. Saviour's churchyard, a coin of Antoninus Pius. It has also been proved that an extensive Roman cemetery existed on the south of the ancient settlement. In the year 1840, when excavations were going on for the purpose of building a new wing to St. Thomas's Hospital, another tesselated pavement was disclosed, with passages and walls of other chambers, all built on piles, showing that the houses beside the causeway were thus supported in the marshy ground; Roman coins and pottery were also found here. Another pavement was discovered on the opposite side, south of Winchester Palace. On the river bank, at the corner of Clink Street, an ancient jetty was found; and in the new Southwark Street, deep down, groups of piles, pointed below, on which houses had been built. In many of the later buildings Roman tiles have been found. These remains are quite sufficient to prove that many wealthy people lived in Roman Southwark, and that they occupied villas built on piles beside the causeway.

Since, too, from the earliest times Southwark was famous for its inns, and since the same conditions prevailed in the fourth as in the fourteenth century, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the people who drove those long lines of packhorses laden with goods from London used Southwark as a place in which to deposit merchandise before taking it across{17} the bridge; they halted in Southwark; they lodged in one of the inns: the place was most convenient for the City; storage was cheaper than on the river wharves; for strangers, the place was cheerful. In one respect, that of being a halting place and a lodging for traders, Southwark was like Thorney in its palmy days—a place of entertainment for man and beast. There was no forum here, as in Augusta; no place of meeting for merchants, such as Thames Street in Plantagenet times; there was no buying and selling, but there was continual coming and going, which made the place lively and cheerful.

Such were the origins of the settlements of South London. An embankment, a causeway, a fishery for the wants of Thorney first and of London next; then villas, put up by the better sort, attracted here, one believes, by the fresh air coming up the river with every tide, and by the quiet of the place. The settlement began quite early in the Roman occupation: this seems to be proved by the extent of the cemetery. The draining and drying of the low lands went on meanwhile gradually, gardens and orchards taking the place of the former marsh.


The place has always, save at rare intervals, been entirely defenceless. The Pax Romana protected it. Remember that London itself was not walled till the latter part of the fourth century. Why should it be? For more than three hundred years, for ten generations, the City knew no wars and feared no invader. The 'Count of the Saxon Shore' beat back, and kept back, the pirates of Norway and Denmark; the Legions beat back the marauders of Scotland and{18} Ireland. Southwark, like the City its neighbour, needed no wall and asked for no defence.

Twice, before the arrival of the East Saxons, we get a glimpse in history of South London. The first is the rout of the usurper, the Emperor Allectus, after the battle of Clapham Common.

Towards the close of the third century the succession of usurpers who sprang up everywhere in the outlying portions of the Empire contained six who came from Britain. What effect these movements had upon the security of South London we have no means of learning. The history, however, of Carausius and his successor Allectus affords material for reflection. The former, who was of Belgian origin, rose to be the Count of the Saxon Shore—in other words, Admiral of the Roman Fleet. In this capacity he kept the seas free from pirates; enriched himself, became famous for his courage and his generosity; usurped the title of Cæsar, fought with and defeated the fleets of Maximian, and reigned in Britain for seven years. His headquarters were Boulogne and Southampton; near the latter place—at Bittern—is still seen the quay at which his ships were moored. His rule, of which we know little, was certainly strong and firm. Coins exist in great numbers of Carausius. They represent his arrival: 'Expectate, veni'—'Come, thou long-expected!' Then his triumph: 'Shout IO ten times.' He held gladiatorial sports at London; he appointed a British senate. Then came the time when he must fight or die. Like the King of the Grove, the Usurper held his throne on that condition. Carausius, for some unknown reason, would not fight when the chance was offered—therefore he died. Another King of the Grove, Allectus by name, one of his officers, killed him and reigned in his stead. Then he, too, had to fight for crown and life. He accepted the challenge; he awaited with an army of Franks and Britons the arrival of the Roman forces sent to quell him: he awaited them in London. When the enemy{19} drew near, he led out his men across the Bridge, and gave battle to the Roman general, Asclepiodotus, on the wild heath south of London, immediately beyond the rising ground—we now call the place Clapham Common—and there he fell bravely fighting. He had enjoyed the purple for three years. Perhaps, when he crossed the Bridge, conscious that he was going to meet his fate—either to continue an Emperor for another spell or to die—he reflected that for such a splendid three years' run it was worth while to risk, and even to lose, his life at the end.


This is, I say, the first glimpse we get of South London in history. We see the army marching across the Bridge and along the Causeway, shouting and singing. We see them a few hours later, flying from the field, rushing headlong over the Causeway, through the lines of villas to the Bridge. The terrified people, those who lived in the villas,{20} are running over the Bridge after them. Once across the Bridge, the soldiers found that there was left in the City neither order nor authority. They therefore began to sack and pillage the rich houses, and to murder the inhabitants. Remember that all over the Roman Empire none were permitted to carry arms except the soldiers. Therefore there could be no defence. The pillage went on until the victorious general had got his army—or some of it—across the Bridge. How long it would take to bring up his troops, whether the Bridge was held by the Franks, whether the defeated army made any organised opposition, we know not. All we are told is that the Roman soldiers fought hand to hand with those of the dead Usurper in the streets of London, and that the latter were all massacred.

In the year 457 we get a second glimpse of Southwark in the flight of another defeated host. The Britons had gone forth to fight the Saxon invaders; they met the enemy—Hengist and Æsc his son—at 'Creeganford'—Crayford: they were defeated; four thousand of them were killed; they fled; they never stopped until they reached London Bridge; we can see them flying bareheaded, without weapons, along the Causeway and through the narrow gates of the Bridge. Alas! the old villas along the Causeway are deserted and in ruins; the place has been desolate for many years—since the Saxons began to swarm about the country; the former residents, if they are living still, are behind the walls; and their sons are carrying on the war which is to last two hundred long years, and to leave its memories of hatred behind it for fifteen hundred years at least. The gardens are grown over, the orchards are neglected, the inns are empty and ruinous.

Before long there falls the silence of death upon the walled City and the Bridge and the settlements of the South. All alike are deserted: the tide idly laps the piles of the rotting Bridge; it rolls along the empty wharves, bearing no{21} keel upon its bosom; there is no boat on the river, there is no smoke from any house; there is no life, no sign of life, in the place which had formerly been so crowded and so busy. The timbered face of the embankment gave way and crumbled into the river; the Causeway was eaten by the tides here and there; the low grounds once more became a marsh, and the wild birds returned, undisturbed, to their former haunts.

I have elsewhere ('London,' ch. i.) described the natural reasons which led to this desertion of the City. It appears to us strange and almost impossible that a great city should be so utterly deserted. Where, however, are the cities of Tadmor, of Tyre, of Carthage? Where are the great cities of Asia Minor? The conqueror not only took the City and killed some of the people; he cut off the supplies, and therefore forced them to go. This was most certainly the case with London. Roger of Wendover, it is true, tells us that in the year 462 the Saxons took possession of London, and then successively of York, Lincoln, and Winchester, committing great devastation. 'They fell on the natives in every quarter, like wolves on sheep forsaken by their shepherds; the churches and all the ecclesiastical buildings they levelled with the ground; the priests they slew at the altars; the holy scriptures they burned with fire; the tombs of the holy martyrs they covered with mounds of earth; the clergy who escaped the slaughter fled with the relics of the saints to the caves and recesses of the earth, to the woods and deserts and the crags of the mountains.'

I do not suppose that Roger of Wendover (he died in 1237) had access to documents of the time. I would rather incline to the belief that, given certain undoubted facts of battle, murder, and sacrilege, he presented the world with a little embroidery of his own. An Assault on London is, however, possible; in which case the desertion of the City would be only hastened. With the ruin and desolation of Augusta came also the ruin of the southern settlement.{22}

This silence—this desolation—lasted some hundred years. Then the men of Essex—the East Saxons—came down, a few at a time, and took possession of the deserted City; the merchants began timidly to bring their ships again with goods for trade; the East Saxons learned the meaning of bargains; Augusta was dead, but London revived. The City preserved its ancient name, but the southern settlement lost its name. We know not what the Romans or the Britons called it, but the Saxons called it Southwark. And they repaired the embankment and restored the ancient causeways, and cleared away the ruins.

Another point of difference: in London the new streets, laid out without rule or order, grew by degrees; they did not follow the old Roman streets, which were quite obliterated and utterly forgotten—one cannot imagine a more decisive proof of complete desertion and ruin. In Southwark, on the other hand, the streets remained the same—they were the two causeways and the embankment—because none others were then possible. High Street, Borough, is still, as it always has been, the ancient causeway connecting the new port of London with the Dover road.

Between the years 600 and 1000 Southwark suffered the vicissitudes which must happen in a period of continual warfare to an undefended suburb. In times of peace, when trade was possible, the place was what the Icelander Snorro Thirlesen calls an 'emporium.' All the merchandise carried to London from the south for export lay there waiting to be carried across the quays: the merchants themselves found accommodation there. But we cannot believe that when the Danish fleets brought their fierce warriors to the very walls of London, Southwark—or any other settlement—would continue to exist unfortified. That the place remained without a wall, except for certain temporary walls put up by the Danes, proves that it was regarded by itself as of small importance. This is also proved by another fact—namely,{23} that the place was always occupied without defence. When, for instance, the Danes held London for twelve years, leaving it a wreck and a ruin, can we believe that any people remained in Southwark? In times of peace the fishermen lived here for greater convenience of their work; London by this time was impossible for them, because it was walled all along the river side. If peace was prolonged, inns were set up for the merchants: people built houses along the causeway. When war began again, and the enemy once more appeared, Southwark was again abandoned. This is the history of South London for a thousand years—alternate occupation and abandonment.

There exists a very singular heresy concerning Southwark. I would deal with it tenderly, because one, if not more, of the heretics is a personal friend of my own. It is that the site of the first or original London was on the South; that Roman London stood on the site of Southwark; and that, at some time or other, there was a transference of sites, the whole of Roman London migrating to the other side. It is even maintained that the name of Walworth proves that there was once a wall round the city of the south. To me the name of Walworth indicates the proximity of the high causeway running through its midst. The consideration of the site—the marshy, wet, and unwholesome site—is quite sufficient for me. At no time, not even in the time of the Lake dwellers, have marshes been selected by choice for the building of cities. Before the Embankment and the Causeway, the South of London was impossible for the residence of man.

The transference of sites is a theory often called in to account for, and make possible, other theories. Thus, the late James Fergusson invented the transference of sites in order to bolster up certain theories of his own on the Holy Places of Jerusalem. Here, however, there is no theory: only a statement by a geographer evidently ignorant of the{24} boundaries of an obscure province of a district in a distant country which he had never seen. London, Ptolemy said, was in Kent. All the Roman remains, as we have seen, are found by the Causeway and the Embankment—there never could have been any wall; and, indeed, the only answer that is required to such a theory is to point to the natural conditions of the site. Is it conceivable that people would settle themselves in a marsh when they had firm and dry ground across the river?{25}



Southwark, then, had no reason for existence at all except for its connection with London by bridge and ferry, and especially by bridge. Before the Ferry and the Bridge there was no Southwark. The history of Southwark is closely connected with the Bridge. It was on the south end of the Bridge that all the fighting took place, London very generously handing over her battles to her daughter of the south. I propose, in this chapter, to discourse about the Bridge and one or two of its earlier battles.

It is sometimes stated, confidently, that before the Bridge there was the Ferry. Why? To carry people across the river and 'dump' them down in the marsh? But people had no business in the marsh. First came the Bridge and the Causeway to connect it with the Dover road. Then traffic began to cross the Bridge and to meet the Dover road. But as yet there was no ferry. Then came the Embankment, and the appearance of houses along the Causeway and on the Embankment. As the trade of London increased, so Southwark—I would we had the Roman name—increased in proportion. Inns were created for the convenience of merchants, trade was drawn from Thorney on the south by the Bridge, just as it was diverted on the north by the military way connecting the great high road with London. When the Causeway was always filled with caravans and long trains of heavily laden packhorses; when the inns were crowded with merchants and their slaves; when the Bridge was all day{26} covered with passengers and carriers; then the Ferry was demanded as a quicker and an easier way of getting across. Two Ferries, there were; perhaps more. One of these ran from Dowgate Dock to St. Mary Overies; the other crossed the river lower down, nearer the Tower. So things remained for nearly two thousand years—say, from A.D. 100 to A.D. 1750. If a man wanted to get across the river, he did not make his way to London Bridge, and painfully walk across amid the carriers and the caravans, the plunging horses and the droves of oxen; he stepped into the boat and was ferried across. We must not look on the Bridge as a means of getting across the river for the people: it was not; it was the means of conveying merchandise to and fro; it was a construction most important for military purposes; it was a barrier to prevent a hostile fleet from getting higher up the river; but, for the ordinary passenger, the boat was the quicker and the easier means of conveyance.

When was the Bridge built? It is impossible to say. It was not there A.D. 61, when Queen Boadicea's troops sacked the City and murdered the people. It was there when Allectus led his troops out to fight the Roman legions. It was there very early in the Roman occupation, as is proved by the quantities of Roman coins of the four centuries of their tenure found in the bed of the river on the site of the old Bridge. It is also proved by the fact that Southwark was a settlement of the wealthier class, who could not have lived in a place absolutely without supplies, had there been no bridge. We may take any time we please for the construction of the Bridge, so long as it is quite early—say, before the second century.

The building of the Bridge can be arrived at with such great certainty that I have no hesitation in presenting a drawing of it. As this Bridge has never before been figured by the pencil of any artist, it will be well for me to indicate the steps by which its reconstruction has been made possible.

Merchants crossing Southwark Marsh Merchants crossing Southwark Marsh

The Britons themselves were quite unable to construct a{27} bridge of any kind, unless in the primitive methods observed at Post Bridge and Two Bridges, on Dartmoor, by a slab of stone laid across two boulders. The work, therefore, was certainly undertaken by Roman engineers. We have, in the next place, to inquire what kind of bridge was built at that time by the Romans. They built bridges of wood and of stone; many of these stone bridges still remain, in other cases the pieces of hewn stone still remain. The Bridge over the Thames, however, was of wood. This is proved by the fact that, had it been of the solid Roman construction in stone, the piers would be still remaining; also by the fact that London had to be contented with a wooden bridge till the year 1176, when the first bridge of stone was commenced. Considerations as to the comparative insignificance of London in the first century, as to the absence of stone in the neighbourhood, and as to the plentiful supply of the best wood in the world from the forests north of the City, confirm the theory that the Bridge was built of wood. We have only,{28} therefore, to learn how Roman engineers built bridges of wood elsewhere, in order to know how they built a bridge of wood over the Thames. And this we know without any doubt.

First: they drove piles into the bed of the river—not upright piles, but inclined at an angle; they placed two piles side by side, and opposite to these two more; they connected the two piles by ties and the opposite piles with them by transverse girders. Across them they laid a huge beam—a tree roughly hewn, and across these beams they laid the floor of stout planks. The weight of beams and planks and the parapet put up afterwards, with perhaps other planks for greater safety, pressed down the piles and held them in place. To prevent the current from carrying them away, each double pair of piles was protected by a 'starling,' formed by driving upright smaller piles in front at the piers and enclosing a space, which was filled up with stones, so that the force of the current was not felt by the great piles.

In this way the Roman Bridge was built. You will understand it better from the drawing, which shows the Bridge taken from the Embankment near the present site of St. Mary Overies Church. The gate is the river-gate in the long straight wall which ran along the bank of the river. The wall, it is obvious, must have been pierced at several points for the convenience of trade and the quays: one supposes that these posterns could be easily closed and defended. This river-wall, we shall presently see, was standing in the time of Cnut. Some parts of it stood until the building of the stone Bridge in the last quarter of the twelfth century. The Roman Bridge was also the Saxon Bridge, the Danish Bridge, and the Norman Bridge.

In course of time the river-wall was removed, bit by bit: its foundations still lie under the pavement and the warehouses. The gate was altered. I do not suppose there was much of the original structure left when the East Saxons took possession of the City after a hundred years of desertion and{29} decay. But a gate of some kind there must always have been. The breadth of the Bridge allowed, according to FitzStephen, two carts to pass each other. That means about sixteen feet. Like the very ancient stone bridges of Saintes and Avignon, the Bridge was from sixteen to twenty feet broad. The river-gate stood at the south end of Botolph Lane, some seventy feet east of the present Bridge: the second Bridge—the first of stone—stood between the first and third, having St. Magnus' Church on the north and St. Olave's on the south side; together with its own chapel of St. Thomas on the Bridge itself, to place it under the special protection of the saints most dear to London hearts.

London Bridge, A.D. 1000 London Bridge, A.D. 1000

The Bridge, and especially the south end of it, was a field of battle whenever the way of war came near to London. The first glimpse, as we have seen, which we catch of it is when Allectus and his forces crossed the river by the Bridge to give battle to the legions of Asclepiodotus on the Heath beyond the rising ground. A few hours later, on the same day, their columns routed, their general dead, we see the defeated troops once more flying across the narrow Bridge. There was no one to lead them, or they could have held the Bridge against all comers; there was no drawbridge to pull up, or they could have kept the Romans out by that expedient. One wonders{30} if all their officers were lying dead on the field, with Allectus, for the troops, who were Franks for the most part, seem to have left the Bridge without a guard, and the river-gate wide open, while they melted into little companies, who ran about the City pillaging the houses and murdering the unfortunate people.

By the Roman law the people were unarmed: no one could carry arms except the soldiers. The law was a safeguard against rebellion; but it opened the door to military revolts, and it destroyed the military spirit among the civil population—always a most dangerous thing for a State. The Roman legions poured into the City; they found Allectus' Franks at their murderous work, and they cut them down. If it is true, as stated by the historians, that they were all cut off to a man, London must have been a horrible shambles.

The second glimpse of the Bridge is also that of a routed army flying across the narrow way to seek shelter between the walls. It is in the year 467. They are the Britons flying from their defeat in Kent. After this there is silence—absolute silence, leaving not so much as a whisper, a tradition, or a legend; the silence that can only mean desertion—silence for a hundred and fifty years.

A Danish House A Danish House

When London reappears, it is in humble guise: the City has shrunk within her ancient walls; and these have fallen into decay. Southwark no longer exists. We learn that the Bridge has been repaired, because there is easy communication with Canterbury. Yet in the Danish troubles there is no fighting on or for the Bridge. Why? simply because there were no defenders of the Bridge on the south. In 819 and in 857 the Danes entered London and 'slaughtered numbers,' apparently without opposition. In 872 they occupied London, apparently without opposition. We hear of no siege, of no fighting on the Bridge; of no shelter behind the walls. Yet there was a defence at York, at Reading, at Nottingham—behind the walls. Why not in London? Because in London{31} the walls, 5,500 yards in length, had become too long to man, or to defend, or to repair. The Danes ran into the City through the shattered gate; they leaped over the broken wall. What happened to the people; what street fighting was carried on, what slaughter, what plunder, what horrible treatment of women—we may understand from the page of the historian Saxo relating other sacks and sieges by the gentle Dane. As for the trade, the wealth, the name and fame of London—they all perished together. It was a ruined city, with a miserable population of craftsmen enslaved by the Dane, that Alfred reconquered. The Bridge itself was broken down; the settlements of the south were deserted: even the fishermen had left the Thames above and below London, and sought for safety in the retired creeks and safe backwaters along the coast of Essex. The London fisherman sallied forth in his coracle from the marshes behind Canvey Island, and from the slopes of Hadleigh. Alfred repaired the walls and the Bridge and rebuilt the gates. Something like peace was restored to the City and order to the country. Then trade, which welcomes the first appearance of safety, began again. If the merchant feared the pirates of the Foreland, he could march across the Bridge to Dover; or he could land at Dover and march across Kent to the Bridge. Then the old{32} settlements on the south Causeway were rebuilt and new inns sprang up, and Southwark began again.

A hundred years of rest from the 'army,' as the 'Chronicle' calls the Danes, gave Southwark time to grow. It is spoken of by the Danish historian as an 'emporium.' I understand from the use of this word that the trade of London was carried on principally by way of Dover, because the seas were swarming with pirates. Southwark was a halting-place and a resting-place, such as Thorney had been of old.

The prosperity of the settlement, however, received another blow when the Danes once more, mindful of their former victories, sailed up the river with hope of again taking London. Southwark was defenceless. There was never any wall about the place: its population was migratory. When the enemy appeared the people of Southwark retreated across the Bridge. The Danes landed, pillaged, and burned; they then went away. Some of the people returned, especially the fishermen, whose huts were easily repaired. When, however, the attacks became more frequent, and the Danes appeared every year, Southwark was deserted. But in London itself they were grievously disappointed; for their grandfathers had told them that it was a feeble and a helpless place, perfectly incapable of resistance, with walls through whose wide gaps a whole army could march; and they fondly expected to find it in the same condition. But it had been growing, unseen by them, in population and resource and power.

In the year 992 the City showed its strength in a manner which was extremely startling to the Danes; for it equipped a great fleet, manned the ships with stout-hearted citizens, sent the ships down the river, met the Danish fleet, engaged them, and routed them with great slaughter. Two years later they returned, eager for revenge—the revenge which they vainly sought in six successive sieges. The army on this occasion consisted of Norsemen and Danes in alliance,{33} under the two kings, Olaf of Norway and Swegen of Denmark. They were firmly resolved to take the City: with their warriors they would attack it by land, with their ships by water. They had no ladders; they had no knowledge of mining; they had no battering-rams; they could, and doubtless did, endeavour to break down the gates with trunks of trees; but the gates were well manned and well defended. On the river-side one half of the town kept open their communications; the other half were exposed to the arrows of the sailors, but had arrows of their own. How long the siege lasted I know not; the 'Chronicle,' all too brief, tells us only that the enemy discovered that they could not prevail, and that they withdrew.


The appearance of a Danish or Norwegian fleet, whose ships were models to King Alfred when he founded the English Navy, must not be gathered from the drawings of the Bayeux tapestry, where the ships are conventional in treatment. We have, fortunately, one actual surviving specimen of a ship of King Olaf's time. It is the famous ship of Gokstad, in Norway. Look at the two pictures on this and following page. One is taken from the tapestry, the other{34} is the Gokstad vessel. The former carries about a dozen men, rather high out of the water, with straight sides, and would certainly capsize. The latter is a long, light, swift vessel, built for speed, and able to sail over quite shallow water; she is constructed on lines which, for beauty or for usefulness, cannot be surpassed even at the present day: she rides lightly, drawing very little water. She is clinker built; the planks overlying each other are fastened with iron bolts, riveted and clinched on the inside. She is built of oak; her length from stem to stern, over all, is 78 feet; her keel is 66 feet; her breadth is 16½ feet; her depth is no more than 4 feet; the third plank from the top is twice as thick as the others; she is pierced by portholes for as many oars. The ship is pointed at both ends; she is steered by a rudder attached to the side of the stern; on each side hang 16 shields; she carried 64 rowers, and probably as many men besides. The decorations lavished on the ship were profuse. The figure-head was gilt, the stern was gilt, the shields were gilt; the ships{35} were painted in long lines of bright colour—you can see that in the ships of the Bayeux tapestry. The whole of the vessel—bows, figure-head, gunwale, stern-post—were covered with carvings; the sails were decorated with embroideries; the mast was gilt. Verily the 'fleet shone as if it were on fire.'

A Viking Ship A Viking Ship

Such were the ships which came up, nearly a hundred in company, with Olaf and Swegen. Low in the water they came, the oars sweeping in a long, measured swish of the water: swiftly flying up the broad river, the sunshine lighting up the colours and the gilding of the ships, and the bright arms of the company on board. It was a company of tall and strong men; young, every one, with long fair hair and blue eyes. From the grey walls of the town, from the Bridge on the river, the citizens saw the splendid array rushing up to destroy them if they could. At the Bridge, the foremost stop: they go no farther; those behind cry 'Forward!' and those in front cry 'Back!' The Bridge would suffer none to pass; and so, jammed together, perhaps lashed together, as when Olaf was to meet his death five years later in his last splendid sea-fight, they essayed to take the city by assault. They shot arrows with red-hot heads over the walls, to strike and set light to the thatch; they shot arrows at the citizens on the walls; they tried to scale the piles of the Bridge. If they could get within the City, these splendid savages, there would be slaughter and pillage, ravishing of women, firing of the thatch, the roar of flames and the clashing of weapons, and next day silence, long teams of slaves and of treasure lifted into the ships, bows turned outward; and the fleet would leave behind it a London once more desolate and naked and forlorn, as when the East Saxon entered towards the end of the sixth century. It was a day of fate, and big with destiny. Had the Danes succeeded, we know not what might have been the history of London and of England.

When they were beaten off, the people of Southwark went back to their homes, and the daily business of life was carried{36} on as usual. We may observe that if there had been a permanent settlement here—a town of any importance—they would have built a wall to protect it. But there was never any wall; the place could be approached by the Causeway or by the river; no one ever at any time thought of protecting Southwark.

But now a worse time fell upon the place, as well as upon London. The whole country, almost unresisting, was ravaged by the Danes: Swegen came over and proved the English weakness, and saw that time would help him, if he waited. Time did help him, and famine helped him as well.

In 1009 occurred the second siege of London, this time by Thurkitel, who afterwards entered into the service of Ethelred. He ravaged Kent and Essex, took up his winter quarters on the Thames, apparently at Greenwich, and laid siege to the City—but in vain. It is of course obvious that without ladders, mines, battering-rams, or wooden towers, the City could never be taken. The people beat him off at every assault with great loss. It seems as if the whole valour in England was at the moment concentrated in London.

The third siege of London was in 1013, when Swegen returned. This time, mindful of his former failure, and of Thurkitel's failure, he left his ships at Southampton; he marched upon London by way of Winchester, which he took on the way; but although he came up from the south, he did not attack from the south, nor did he encamp on the south. The reason is obvious: the Causeway was narrow; to fight on the Bridge was to engage a mere handful of men; there was no place except that and the Causeway. Swegen, therefore, passed over the ford of Westminster, and attacked the walls on the north side. Within the City was Thurkitel, now in the English service; by his help or counsel, the Londoners drove Swegen off the field. He withdrew. But all England rapidly submitted to his arms; therefore London, too, seeing that it was useless to hold out alone, sent hostages and submitted. It is reported{37} that they were terrified at the threats of Swegen: he would cut off their hands and their feet; he would tear out their eyes; he would burn and destroy—and so forth. But these promises were the common garnish of besiegers; they no more frightened the defenders of London at this time than they frightened the defenders of any other city.

The end of Swegen, as everybody knows, was that St. Edmund of Bury killed him for doubting his saintliness.


We now come to the three successive sieges by King Cnut. The expedition with which he proposed to reduce London was far finer and more powerful than that of Olaf and Swegen. The poetic description of it says that the ships were counted by hundreds; that they were manned by an army among whom there was never a slave, or a freeman son of a slave, or one unworthy man, or an old man. Freeman asks what nobility meant if all were nobles? A strange question for one so learned! The nobles of Denmark were simply the conquering race; nobility consisted in free birth, and in descent from the conquering race, not the conquered: it was not necessarily a small caste; it might possibly include the larger part of the people.{38}

Cnut anchored off Greenwich and prepared for his siege. First of all, he resolved that the Bridge should no longer bar the way. He therefore cut a trench round the south of the Bridge, by means of which he drew some of his ships to the other side of it. He then cut another trench round the whole of the wall. In this way he hoped to shut in the City and cut off all supplies: if he could not take the place by storm, he would starve it out. There are no details of the siege, but as Cnut speedily abandoned the hope of success and marched off to look after Edmund, his investment of the City was certainly not a success.

He met Edmund and fought two battles with him; with what result history has made us acquainted. He then returned and resumed the siege of London. Edmund fought him again, and made him once more raise the siege. When Edmund went into Wessex to gather new forces, Cnut began a third siege, in which, also, 'by God's help,' he made no progress.

In twenty years, therefore, the City of London was besieged six times, and not once taken.

Antiquaries have written a good deal on the colossal nature of the canal constructed by Cnut; they have looked for traces of it in the south of London before it was covered over by houses; they have gone as far afield as Deptford in search of these traces; they have even found them; and to the present day every writer who has mentioned the canal speaks of it and thinks of it with the respect due to a colossal work. Freeman himself called it a 'deep ditch.' How deep it was, how long it was, how broad it was, I am going to explain.

It was in the year 1756 that the painstaking historian, William Maitland, F.R.S., announced that he had been so fortunate as to light upon the course of the long-lost trench of King Cnut.

He had found certain evidence, he said, of its course, in a{39} direction nearly east and west from the then 'New Dock' of Rotherhithe to the river at the end of Chelsea Reach, through Vauxhall Gardens. The proofs were, first, certain depressions in the ground; next, the discovery of oaken planks and piles driven into the ground for what he thought was the northern fence of the canal, near the Old Kent Road; and next a report that, in 1694, when the wet dock of Rotherhithe was constructed, a quantity of hazel, willow, and other branches were found pointing northward, with stakes to keep them in position, forming a kind of water fence, such as, it is said, is still in use in Denmark. It will be seen that Mr. Maitland's theory has but a small basis of evidence, yet it seems to have been generally accepted—partly, I suppose, because it was so colossal.

The canal thus cut would actually be a little over four miles and a half in length. Another writer, seeing the difficulties of so great a work, suggests another course. He would start from the site of the New Dock, Rotherhithe, and end on the other side of London Bridge, a course of only three and three-quarter miles!

Let us ask ourselves why it should be a 'deep' ditch; why it should be a long ditch; why it should be a broad ditch.

Wherever Cnut began his trench, whether at Rotherhithe or nearer the Bridge, he would have the same preliminary difficulties to encounter: that is to say, he would have to cut through the Embankment of the river at either end, and he would have to cut through the Causeway in the middle. In these cuttings he would perhaps have to take down two or three houses, huts, or cabins, all deserted, because the people had all run across the Bridge for safety at the first sight of the Danes, if there were any people at the time living in Southwark—which I doubt.

We may, further, take it for granted that Cnut had officers of sense and experience on whom he could depend for carrying out his canal in a workmanlike manner. A people who{40} could build such perfect ships would certainly not waste time and labour in constructing a trench which would be any longer or deeper or wider than was absolutely necessary.


Now the shortest canal possible would be that in which he was just able to drag his vessels round without destroying the banks. In other words, if a circular canal began at C B, and if we drew an imaginary circle round the middle of the canal, what was required was that the chord D F, forming a tangent to the middle circle, should be at least as long as the longest vessel. Now (see diagram)—

AD² - AE² = DE².

If r is the radius, AD and 2a the breadth BC, and 2b the length of the chord DF—

r² - (r - a)² = b² ∴ r = (a² + b²)/2a.

This represents the length of the radius in terms of the length and breadth of the largest vessel in the fleet, and is therefore the smallest radius possible for getting the ships through. Now, the ship of Gokstad, already described, was undoubtedly one of the finest of the vessels used by Danes and Normans. The poets certainly speak of larger ships,{41} but as a marvel. Nothing is said about Cnut bringing over ships of very great size. Now, that vessel was 66 feet in length, considering the keel, which is all we need consider; 16½ feet in breadth, and 4 feet in depth. She drew very little water; therefore a breadth of canal less than the breadth of the vessel was enough. Let us make the chord 70 feet in length, so that b = 35. Let us make the breadth of the canal 12 feet. Therefore 2a = 12 or a = 6 and r = 105 feet very nearly. Measuring, therefore, 105 feet on either side of London Bridge, we arrive at a possible commencement of Cnut's work. That is to say, if he made a semicircular canal, in that case the length of the canal would be 320 yards, which is certainly an improvement on four miles and a half, or even three miles and three-quarters.


There is, however, more to consider. Why should Cnut make a semicircle when an arc would serve his turn? All he had to do was to draw an arc of a circle with the radius just found, to clear any obstacles in the way of approach to the Bridge, and use that arc for his canal. This is most certainly what he did: I am quite certain he adopted this method, because it was the only sensible thing to do. He would thus get off with a canal about fifty yards long, of which the only difficulty would be the cutting through the Embankment and the Causeway.

What would be the depth of the canal? Look at this section of the Gokstad ship. With her breadth of sixteen{42} feet, she had only four feet in depth; without her company and crew, and their arms and provisions, she would thus draw no more than a few inches—certainly not more than eight inches or so. Freeman's deep canal therefore comes to eight inches at the most. But there is still another consideration which lessened the labour materially. The ground behind the Embankment was a little lower than the river at high tide: the Danes, therefore, had only to construct a low wooden containing-wall of timber on each side in order to make their canal without excavating an inch. When that was done, the cutting of the Embankment let in the tide and did the rest. In this simple manner do we reduce Cnut's colossal work of a deep canal, four miles and a half long, into a piece of construction and demolition which would take a large body of men no more than a few hours.

If, however, there actually was any digging to be done, we must remember that the ground was a level; that there were no stones or rocks in the way, and that it consisted of a soft black humus, the result of ages of successive growths of sedge and coarse grass, formerly washed twice a day by the brackish waters of a tidal river. The object of the canal once attained, the ships drawn back again, Cnut, of course, left the place to be repaired by any who pleased. The broken Embankment let in the tide; the broken Causeway cut off any approach to the river; but Southwark was deserted. When things settled down a little, workmen were sent across from London, and the broken places were repaired. Then all traces of the canal disappeared.

Thirty-six years later, in 1052, Earl Godwine arrived at Southwark with a fleet and an army. He had no difficulty in passing the Bridge; he waited till flood-tide, and then sailed through 'on the south side.' It is quite impossible to explain this statement, or to make it agree with the difficulty felt by Cnut. The Bridge may have sustained some damage; there may have been a drawbridge; or Godwine's ships may{43} have been smaller: one knows nothing. I merely state the fact as the Chronicler gives it.

One more glimpse of the Bridge from Southwark before we pass on to more modern times.

Ships of William the Conqueror Ships of William the Conqueror

After Hastings, William marched northwards. Arrived near London, he advanced to Southwark, where he found the Bridge closed to him—closed, I believe, by knocking away some of the upper beams. This, of course, he expected; his friends within the City, of whom he had many, kept him acquainted with the changing currents of popular opinion. It is commonly stated that the citizens were terrified by the sight of Southwark in flames at his command. Southwark in flames! A few fishermen's huts were all that remained of the suburb, whose population since the time of the Pax Romana had been so precarious and so changeful. Five hundred years of battle, war between kings and tribes, invasion and ravage by Dane and Norseman, had not left of{44} Southwark, once so beautiful a suburb, anything more than these poor huts and ruins of huts. William's soldiers burned them, because wherever a soldier of that period appeared, the thatch always caught fire spontaneously. William saw the flames, and regarded them not, any more than he regarded the flames that followed in his track all the way from Senlac. He gazed across the river, and remembered that twice had London defied all the strength of Swegen; that three times had London beaten off the great King Cnut when all England had surrendered; that in six sieges London had always been victorious; he knew, because his friends in the City would allow no mistake on that point, that the spirit of the citizens was as high now as it had been then; that they still remembered with pride the defeat of Cnut; and that not a few were anxious to treat William the Norman as they had treated Cnut the Dane. One knows not, exactly, what things went on within the walls; what exhortations, what wild talk, what faction fight; how the citizens rolled, and surged, a mass of wild faces, about their Folk-mote by St. Paul's. But of one thing we may be quite certain: that William did not expect the citizens to be afraid of him; and that, in fact, they were not afraid of him, whether he set fire to the huts of Southwark or not; they were not afraid of William, whatever the historians say. As for the Bridge, the old Roman Bridge, by this time there could hardly have been a single pile remaining of the original structure; yet it was constantly repaired.

We may restore to Norman London, therefore, not only the grey wall rising out of the level ground, without any ditch or moat outside, but also the Bridge of wooden piles with the transverse girders and beams for additional security, so that the old Bridge contained a whole forest of timbers like those which support the roof of an ancient hall. It was continually receiving damage. In the year 1091, a mighty whirlwind blew down a good part of London, houses and churches and all. It has been assumed that the Bridge{45} was also destroyed; but the 'Chronicle' is silent on the subject. In 1092 there was a great fire in London; it is again assumed that the Bridge was destroyed, but again the 'Chronicle' is silent. In 1097, however, it is plainly stated that the Bridge had been almost washed away, and that it was repaired.


In 1136 the most destructive fire ever experienced by London, save that of 1666, spread through the whole City, from London Bridge, which it greatly damaged, all the way to St. Clement Danes on the west, and Aldgate on the east. One wonders what ancient monuments—walls of Roman churches, villas, and baths, still surviving halls and chambers of the Forum—were destroyed in this fire; Saxon houses of the better sort, with their great halls and courtyards; small Saxon churches of wood or stone, with low towers and little windows. Possibly there was no great loss: it was already seven hundred years since Augusta was deserted. Roman remains must have been scanty; the City was chiefly built of wood, with thatched roofs; the splendour of the latter centuries had not yet commenced. The Bridge, however, was either wholly or in part destroyed. It was repaired, because, fifty years later, FitzStephen, in his description of the City, speaks of the citizens watching the water sports from the Bridge. Indeed, the Bridge was now absolutely necessary to the City. A hundred years of order in the City—with the seas cleared of pirates, the Danes kept down, and merchants filling{46} the river with ships, and the quays with merchandise—crowded the Bridge all day long with trains of packhorses, and the less frequent rude carts with broad grunting wheels which would have quite taken the place of the horse but for the bad roads. Southwark, during this period of rest, had become once more a town, or at least a village. Still, along the Embankment stood the thatched huts of the fisherfolk; but they were pushed farther east and west every year, until Lambeth and Rotherhithe were their quarters when the fish deserted the river and their occupation was gone. The Roman inns were gone, but new ones were springing up in their places. Bishops and abbots were looking on Southwark as a place of fine air, open to every breeze and free from the noise and crowd of London; ecclesiastical foundations were already springing into existence. In a word, the settlements of the south, after four hundred years of ruin and desertion, were once more beginning a new existence. The day when William rode up to the south end of the Bridge, and looked across upon a City that had not yet made up its mind about his reception, marked a new birth for the long-suffering suburb of the Embankment and the Causeway. A hundred years later still—in 1176—they began to build their Bridge of Stone.{47}



The earliest maps of South London are those of the sixteenth century. But it is perfectly easy from them and from the historical facts to draw a map of all that country lying between Deptford and Battersea which we have agreed to call South London. Thus, to put the map into words, there were buildings all along both sides of the Causeway as far as St. George's Church; in the middle of the Causeway stood St. Margaret's Church, facing St. Margaret's Hill; on the right-hand side, just under the Bridge, was St. Olave's Church. The Bridge was thus protected on the north by St. Magnus, on the south by St. Olave—two Danish saints—and in the middle by the patron saint of its chapel, St. Thomas à Becket. There were houses along the Embankment on either side, but more on the west of the Causeway than on the east. A few houses were built already on the low-lying ground near the Causeway; for instance, on the south and south-west of St. Mary Overies. On the east of St. Olave's a single straight lane with no houses ran across country to Bermondsey Abbey; on the west of the Causeway another lane led to Kennington Palace, from which another lane led to the Causeway from Lambeth and Westminster to the Dover Road. That was the whole extent of Southwark.

The place was essentially a suburb. There were no trades or industries in it, except that of fishing; the fishermen had their cottages dotted about all along the Embankment; a few watermen lived here, but that was perhaps later:{48} other working men there were none, save the cooks and varlets of the great houses, and the 'service' of the inns. Because the air was fresh and pure, blown up daily with the tides; and because the place was easy of access, by river, to Westminster and the Court, many great men, ecclesiastics and nobles, had their town houses here: the Bishop of Winchester, the Bishop of Rochester, the Prior of Lewes, the Abbot of Hyde, the Abbot of Battle, the Earls of Surrey, Sir John Fastolfe, also the Brandons. Also, because it was easy of access by bridge and river to the City, the merchants brought their goods and warehoused them here in the inns at which they stayed, while they went across the river and transacted their business. It was a suburb which, in modern times, would be described as needing no poor rate. Later on there grew up, as we shall see, a class of the unclassed—a population of rogues and vagabonds, thieves, and sanctuary birds.

The government of the place as a whole was difficult, or rather impossible. There were several 'Liberties;' the Liberty of Bermondsey; that of the Bishop of Winchester; that of the King; that of the Mayor. The last contained the part of the Borough lying between St. Saviour's Dock on the west and Hay's Dock on the east, with a southern limit just including St. Margaret's Church. This very small district was called the Gildable Manor: it was conceded by the King to the City of London in the thirteenth century in order to prevent the place from becoming the home and refuge of criminals from the City. As the other liberties remained outside the jurisdiction of the City, the alleviation gained was not very great: criminals still dropped across the river, finding shelter on the Lambeth Marsh or the marsh between Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. It was from this unavoidable hospitality to persons escaping from justice that Southwark received a character which has stuck to it till the present day. In the centuries which include the twelfth to the fifteenth, however, South London, so far as it was populated at all, was{49} the residence of great lords and the place of sojourn for merchants from the country. As yet the reputation of Southwark was spotless and its dignity enviable. London itself had no such collection of palaces gathered together so closely. As for the land, that lay low, but was protected by the Embankment from the river. Many rivulets flowed slowly across the misty meadows; many ponds lay about the flats; there was an abundant growth of trees everywhere, so that parts of the land were dark at midday by reason of the trees growing so close together. The rivulets were pretty little streams; willows grew over them; alders grew beside them; they were coloured brown by the peaty soil; on their banks grew wild flowers—the marsh mallow, the anemone, the hedgehog grass, the frogbit, the crowfoot, and the bitter-wort; orchards flourished in the fat and fertile soil. The people had almost forgotten the special need of their Embankment. Yet when, in the year 1242, the Embankment at Lambeth was broken down, the river rushed in and covered six square miles of country, including all that part which is now called Battersea.

Remember, however, that as yet there was not a single house upon the whole of Lambeth Marsh, nor upon the whole of Bermondsey Marsh. The houses began near what is now the south end of Blackfriars Bridge; they faced the river, having gardens behind them. On the other side of the Bridge the houses extended farther, going on nearly opposite to Wapping.

The place was well provided with prisons; every Liberty had its own prison. Thus there were the Clink of the Winchester Liberty, that of the Bermondsey Liberty, the 'White Lion' of Surrey, the King's Bench, and the Marshalsea, all in the narrow limits we have laid down. And there were also, for the delectation of the righteous and the terror of evil-doers, the visible instruments for correction. In every parish there was the whipping post—one in St. Mary{50} Overy's churchyard, put up after the time of the monks; one at St. Thomas's Hospital; there was the pillory for neck and hands, generally with somebody on it, but the pillory was movable; there was the cage—one stood at the south end of the Bridge—women had to stand in the cage; there were stocks for feet wandering and trespassing; there were pounds for stray animals.

Markets were held in the churchyard of St. Margaret's; in the precinct of Bermondsey Abbey; and along the street called 'Long Southwark'—now High Street—from the Bridge to St. Margaret's Hill. But we must not suppose that the markets of Southwark presented the same crowded appearance, and were carried on with the same noise and bustle, as those of Chepe and Newgate on the other side.

Everything, in those days, was quiet and dignified in Southwark. The Princes of the Church arrived and departed, each with his retinue of chaplains and secretaries, gentlemen and livery. Kings and ambassadors rode up from Dover through Long Southwark and across the Bridge. The mayor and aldermen in new cloaks of red murrey and gold chains sallied forth to meet the King returning from abroad. Cavalcades of pilgrims for Canterbury, Compostella, Seville, Rome, and Jerusalem rode out of Southwark when the spring returned; and every day there arrived and departed long lines of packhorses laden with the produce of the country and with things imported for sale in London City. Pilgrims, merchants, travellers, all put up at the Southwark inns. The place was nothing but a collection of inns; the ecclesiastics stayed here for a few weeks and then went away; the great lords came here when they had business at Court and then went away again; the merchants came and went: by itself the place had, as yet, no independent life or character of its own at all.

There were two Monastic Houses. Both were stately; both are full of history. Let us consider the House of{51} Bermondsey, because it is less generally known than the other of St. Mary Overy or Overies.

The Monastery of Bermondsey The Monastery of Bermondsey

The Abbey of St. Saviour, Bermondsey, was the Westminster of South London. Like Westminster, Bermondsey stood upon a low islet in the midst of a marsh; at the distance of half a mile on the north ran the river; half a mile on the west was the Causeway; half a mile on the south was the Dover road. It is significant of the seclusion in which the House lay that the only road which connected it with the world was that lane called Bermondsey or Barnsie or Barnabie Lane, which ran from the Abbey to St. Olave's and so to London Bridge. It was not, like Westminster, a place of traffic and resort. It lay alone and secluded, separated from the noise and racket of life. When the marsh had been gradually drained and the Embankment continued through Rotherhithe to Deptford and beyond the Greenwich levels,{52} the Abbey lands round the islet became extremely fertile and wooded and covered with sheep and cattle.

The House was founded in the year 1182 by one Ailwin Childe, a merchant of the City, an Alderman also and one of the ruling families of London. He was the son of an elder Ailwin, who was a member of that 'Knighten Guild' which, with all its members and all its property—the land which now forms the Ward of Portsoken—went over to the Priory of the Holy Trinity. Religion of a practical and real kind was therefore hereditary in the family. The elder Ailwin became a monk, the younger founded a monastery; his son, the third of the family of whom we know anything, became the first Mayor of London, and remained Mayor for twenty-four years—the rest of his life.


The whole of history from the ninth to the fifteenth century is full of a pathetic longing after a religious Order, if that could be found, of true and proved sanctity. One Order after the other arises; one after the other challenges{53} respect for reputed holiness of a new and hitherto unknown kind: in fact, it commands the respect of the people who always admire voluntary privation of what they value so much—food and drink; it receives endowments, gifts, foundations of all kinds; it then departs from the ancient rule, and quickly loses its hold upon the people. This is the{54} simple history of Benedictine, Franciscan, Cistercian, and all the rest. However, at the close of the eleventh century the Cluniac was in the highest repute for a rigid Rule, strictly kept: and for an austerity strictly enforced. It was a Cluniac House which Ailwin Childe set up in Bermondsey, and which Earl de Warren, who also founded the Cluniac House of Lewes, enriched.


This Priory, with thirty-seven other Houses, was an Alien owing obedience to the Abbot of Cluny. A large part of its revenues, therefore, was sent out of the country, and it received its Priors from abroad. In the reign of Henry the Fifth the growing dissatisfaction on account of the Alien Priories came to a head, and they were all suppressed, or at least cut off from obedience to the Mother Convent. The Priory of Bermondsey was therefore raised to the dignity of an Abbey, with an English Abbot, and so continued until the Dissolution.

The Abbey was one of the many places of pilgrimage dotted about round London—places accessible in a single day's journey. Thus there were the three shrines of Willesden, Muswell Hill, and Gospel Oak, each possessing an image of the Virgin to which miraculous powers were attributed. At Blackheath there was another holy shrine; at Bermondsey there was a Holy Rood which was daily visited in the summer by pious pilgrims from London. The Rood had been fished up from the Thames, and no one knew its history; but the merit of a pilgrimage to the Abbey and of prayers said before the shrine was considered very precious. It was, moreover, an easy pilgrimage. A boat taken below the Bridge would take the pilgrim over to the opposite shore in a few minutes, where a cross standing before a lane leading out of 'Short Southwark' showed him the way. It was but half a mile to the Abbey of St. Saviour and the Holy Rood.

'Go,' writes John Paston in 1465 to his mother, 'visit the{55} Rood of North door and St. Saviour in Bermondsey among while ye abide in London; and let my sister Margery go with you to pray to them that she may have a good husband or she come home again.'

One can hardly expect that the Abbot of Cluny should resign this valuable possession without a remonstrance. He made, in fact, the strongest possible remonstrance. In 1457 he sent over three monks with orders to lay the case before the King, and to invite his attention especially to the papers showing the clear and indisputable right of the Mother Convent to the House of Bermondsey. These monks, in fact, did present their case to the King, with the documents. But no one heeded them; they could hardly get a hearing; no one replied to their arguments. This neglect was perhaps the cause why one of them died while in this country. The other two went home again, having accomplished nothing. One of them on the eve of their departure wrote a piteous letter to the Abbot of St. Albans:—

For the rest, be it known to you, my Lord, that after having spent four months and a half on our journey, and following our Right with the most serene Lord the King and his Privy Council, we have obtained nothing: nay, we are sent back very disconsolate, deprived of our Manors, our Pensions alienated, and, what is still worse, we are denied the obedience of all our Monasteries which are 38 in number: nor did our Legal Deeds, nor the Testimonies of your Chronicles avail us anything, and at length, after all our pleading and expenses, we return home moneyless, for in truth, after paying for what we have eaten and drunk, we have but five crowns left, to go back about 260 leagues. But what then? We will sell what we have: we will go on: and God will provide. Nothing else occurs to write to your Paternity: but that as we entered England with joy, so we depart thence with sorrow: having buried one of our Companions—viz. the Archdeacon, the youngest of our company. May he rest in Peace! Amen.

There is not at the present moment a single stone of this stately House visible, though there were many remains{56} above ground one hundred years ago. It is a pity, because there is the association of two Queens, not to speak of many great Lords of state Functions, and of Parliaments, connected with this House secluded in the Marsh.

The first of the two Queens is Katharine of Valois, widow of Henry the Fifth. The story is the most romantic, perhaps, of all the stories connected with our line of sovereigns and Queens and Royal Princes. It is not a new story, and yet it is not so well known that any apology is needed for telling it once more.

Henry died August 31, 1422. His widow, Katharine, began to live in the seclusion fitted for her sorrow and her widowhood. Among her household, the office of Clerk to the Wardrobe was filled by a young and handsome Welshman named Owen Tudor, or Theodore. He was the son of a plain Welsh gentleman of slender means, if any, who was in the service of the Bishop of Chester. He distinguished himself at Agincourt in the following of some nobleman unknown. It has been said, with singular ignorance of the time, that he was a private soldier—that is, a man with a pike or a bow, dressed in a leather jerkin which the men threw off when the battle began. The opportunities for a common soldier to distinguish himself in such an action were few, nor do we ever hear of a king raising a man from the ranks, as Henry raised Owen Tudor, to the post of Esquire to the Body. It is possible, but most improbable, that Owen Tudor was regarded as a common soldier: since his father was a gentleman in the service of the Bishop of Chester, he himself would go to war as a gentleman in the service and wearing the livery of some noble lord.

In this way, however, his promotion began. When the King married, Owen Tudor was attached to the household of the Queen. After the death of Henry he accompanied the Queen and remained in her service as Clerk to the Wardrobe. In this office he had to buy whatever was{57} wanted by the Queen—her silk, her velvet, her cloth of gold. He was therefore brought into much closer and more direct relation with the Queen than other officers of the household. He pleased her by his appearance, his accomplishments, and his manners. Tradition says that he danced very well. There is no reason to inquire by what attractions or accomplishments he pleased. The fact remains that he did please the Queen, and that so much that she consented to a secret marriage with him. It was a dangerous step for this Welsh adventurer to take: it was a step which would cover the Queen with dishonour should it become known. That the widow of the great and glorious Henry, chief captain of the age, should be able to forget her husband at all; should be capable of union with any lower man; should ally her royal line with that of a man who could only call himself gentleman after the fashion of Wales: would certainly be considered to bring dishonour on the King, the royal family, and the country at large.

The marriage was not found out for some years. The Queen must have been most faithfully and loyally served, because children cannot be born without observation. Owen Tudor must have conducted matters with a discretion beyond all praise. No doubt the ordinary members of the household knew nothing and suspected nothing, because several years passed before any suspicion was awakened. Three sons and one daughter, in all, were born. The eldest, Edmund of Hadham, was so called because he was born there; the second, Jasper, was of Hatfield; the third, Owen, of Westminster; the youngest, Margaret, died in infancy.

Suspicions were aroused about the time of the birth of Owen, which took place apparently before it was expected and without all the precautions necessary, in the King's House at Westminster. The infant was taken as soon as born to the monastery of St. Peter's, secretly. It is not likely that the Abbot received the child without full knowledge{58} of his parents. He did take the child, however; and here the little Owen remained, growing up in a monastery, and taking vows in due time. Here he lived and here he died, a Benedictine of Westminster.

It would seem as if Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, heard some whisper or rumour concerning this birth, or was told something about the true nature of the Queen's illness, for he issued a very singular proclamation, warning the world, generally, against marrying Queen dowagers, as if these ladies grew on every hedge. When, however, a year or so afterwards, the fourth child, Margaret, was born, Humphrey learned the whole truth: the degradation, as he thought it, of the Queen, who had stooped to such an alliance, and the humble rank and the audacity of the Welshman. He took steps promptly. He sent Katharine with some of her ladies to Bermondsey Abbey, there to remain in honourable confinement: he arrested Owen Tudor, a priest—probably the priest who had performed the marriage—and his servant, and sent all three to Newgate.

All three succeeded in breaking prison, and escaped. At this point the story gets mixed. The King himself, we are told, then a lad of fifteen, sent to Owen commanding his attendance before the Council. Why did they not arrest him again? Owen, however, refused to trust himself to the Council—was not Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, one of them? He asked for a safe-conduct. They promised him one by a verbal message. Where was he, then, that all these messages should be sent backwards and forwards? I think he must have been in Sanctuary. He refused a verbal message, and demanded a written safe-conduct. This was granted him, and he returned to London. But he mistrusted even the written promise; he would not face the Council: he took refuge in the Sanctuary of Westminster, where they were afraid to seize him. And here for a while he remained. It is said that they tried to draw him out by sending old{59} friends who invited him to the taverns outside the Abbey Precinct. But Owen would not be so drawn. He knew that Duke Humphrey would make an end of him if he could. He therefore remained where he was. I think that he must have had some secret understanding with the King; for one day, learning that Henry himself was with the Council, he suddenly presented himself and pleaded his own cause. The mild young king, tender on account of his mother, would not allow the case to be pursued, but bade him go free.

He departed; he made all haste to get out of an unwholesome air: he made for Wales. Here the hostility of Duke Humphrey pursued him still: he was once more arrested, taken to Wallingford, and placed in the Castle there a prisoner. From Wallingford he was transferred again to Newgate, he and his priest and his servant. Once more they all three broke prison, 'foully' wounding a warder in the achievement of liberty, and got back to Wales, choosing for their residence the mountainous parts into which the English garrisons never penetrated.

When the King came of age Owen Tudor was allowed to return, and was presented with a pension of £40 a year. It is remarkable, however, that he received no promotion, or rank; that he was never knighted; and that the title of Esquire was the only one by which he was known. It certainly seems as if the claim of Owen Tudor to be called a gentleman was not recognised by the King or the heralds. Perhaps Welsh gentility was as little understood by these Normans as Irish royalty—yet, so far as length of pedigree goes, both Welsh and Irish were very superior to Normans.

The two sons, Edmund and Jasper, were placed under the charge of Katharine de la Pole, Abbess of Barking, and sister of the Earl of Suffolk. When the King came of age he remembered his half-brothers: Edmund was made Earl of Richmond, Jasper Earl of Pembroke; both ranked before all other English Earls. Edmund was afterwards married to{60} Margaret Beaufort, who as Countess of Richmond was the foundress of Christ's and St. John's Colleges, Cambridge. Her son, as everybody knows, was Henry VII.

As for Owen Tudor, that gallant adventurer, who began so well on the field of battle, ended as well, fighting, as he should, for his step-son and King, under the badge of the Red Rose. When the Civil Wars began he joined the King's forces, though he was then nearer seventy than sixty. He fought at Wakefield; he pursued the Yorkists to Mortimer's Cross, where another fight took place. The Lancastrians were defeated. Owen was taken prisoner, and was cruelly beheaded on the field. It was right and just that he should so fight and should so die. He survived his Queen twenty-four years.

The unfortunate Katharine, whose mésalliance gave us the strongest sovereigns we have ever had over us, did not long survive the disgrace of discovery. As to public knowledge of the fact, one cannot learn how widely it was extended. Probably it grew by degrees: chroniclers speak of it without reserve, and when the sons grew up and were acknowledged by the King there was no pretence at concealment. To be the son of a French Princess and a Welsh gentleman was not, after all, a matter for shame or concealment. Katharine carried down to the Abbey a disorder which she calls of long standing and grievous. It killed her in less than a year after her imprisonment among the orchards and meadows of the Precinct. It is said that her remorse during her last days was very deep; not for her second marriage, but for having allowed her accouchement of the King to take place at Windsor, a place against which she was warned by the astrologer. 'Henry of Windsor shall lose all that Henry of Monmouth shall win.' Alas! had Henry of Windsor been Henry of Monmouth himself, he would have lost all there was to lose. Could there be a worse prospect, had Katharine understood the dangers, of{61} hereditary disease? On the one side the grandson of a leper and the son of a consumptive; on the other side, the grandson of a madman and a Messalina.


Katharine dictated her will a few days before her death. She asks for masses for her soul: for rewards for her servants: for her debts to be paid. And she says not one word about her children by Owen Tudor. She confesses by this silence that she is ashamed. She confesses by this silence that, being{62} a Queen, and of a Royal House, she ought not in her widowhood to have been mated with any less than a King.

'I trustfully,' she says in the preamble, addressing her son the King, 'and am right sure, that among all creatures earthly ye best may and will best tender and favour my will, in ordaining for my soul and body, in seeing that my debts be paid and my servants guerdoned, and in tender and favourable fulfilment of mine intent.' The words are full of queenly dignity; but—where is the mention of her children? Perhaps, however, she knew that the King would provide for them.

Another Queen died here: the Queen 'to whom all griefs were known'—Elizabeth Woodville. It is not easy to feel much sympathy with this unfortunate woman, yet there are few scenes of history more full of pathos and of mournfulness than that in which her boy was torn from her arms; and she knew—all knew—even the Archbishops, when they gave their consent, knew—that the boy was to be done to death. When one talks of Queens and their misfortunes, it may be remembered that few Queens have suffered more than Elizabeth Woodville. In misfortune she sits apart from other Queens, her only companions being Mary Queen of Scots and Marie Antoinette. Her record is full of woe. But in that long war it seems impossible to find one single character, man or woman—unless it is King Henry—who is true and loyal. All—all—are perjured, treacherous, cruel, self-seeking. All are as proud as Lucifer. Murder is the friend and companion of the noblest lord; perjury walks on the other side of him; treachery stalks behind him: all are his henchmen. Elizabeth met perjury and treachery with intrigue and plot and counter-plot: she was the daughter of her time. She was accused of being privy to the plots of Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck: she was more Yorkist than her husband; she hated the Red Rose long after the Red and the White were united by her daughter and Henry the Seventh. That{63} she was suspected of these intrigues shows the character she bore. We must make allowance: she was always in a false position; Edward ought not to have married her; she was hated by her own party; she was compelled in the interests of her children to be always on the defensive; and in her conduct of defence she was the daughter of her age. These things, however, deprive her, somewhat, of the pity which we ought to feel for so many misfortunes.


She, too, had to retire to the seclusion of Bermondsey, where she could sit and watch the ships go up and down, and so feel that the world, with which she had no more concern, still continued. It has been suggested that she retired voluntarily to the Abbey. Such a retreat was not in the{64} character of Elizabeth Woodville, so long as there was a daughter or a kinsman left to fight for. Like Katharine of Valois, she made an end not without dignity. Witness the following clause in her will:—

Item. Whereas I have no worldly goods with which to do the Queen's Grace, my dearest daughter, a pleasure, neither to reward any of my children, according to my heart and mind, I beseech God Almighty to bless her Grace with all her noble Issue, and, with as good a heart and mind as may be, I give her Grace aforesaid my blessing and all the aforesaid my children.

In this chapter it has been my endeavour to restore an ecclesiastical foundation which has somehow dropped out of history and become no more than a name. If this were a history of South London it would be necessary to devote an equal space to other houses; to the churches and to the two ancient hospitals 'Le Loke' and St. Thomas's. It is impossible, even in these narrow limits, to speak of the religious foundations of South London without mention of the other great House, more ancient than that of Bermondsey. Few Americans who visit London leave it without paying a pilgrimage to the venerable and beautiful church which glorifies Southwark. There were great marriages and great functions held in the Church of St. Mary Overy: Gower, that excellent poet whom the professors of literature praise and nobody reads, died and lies buried in this church; it was the church of the playerfolk: here lie buried Edmund Shakespeare, John Fletcher, Philip Massinger, and Philip Henslow. Here lie buried, in that 'sure and certain hope' which the Church allows even to them, the rufflers, 'roreres' and sinners of Bank Side and Maiden Lane; the brawlers and the topers and the strikers of the Bear Garden and the Bull Baiting. Here were tried notable heretics: Hooper and Rogers, and many more, while Gardiner and Bonner thundered and bullied. From this church the martyrs went forth to meet the flames. The people of Southwark needed not to cross the river in order to learn such lessons as the martyrdoms had to teach{65} them. The stake was set up in St. George's Fields, where they could read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the undesigned teaching of Bonner and his friends.

It is the custom of historians to point to the martyrdom of Cranmer and the Bishops as the chief cause of the overwhelming Protestant reaction. So great was the horror, they say, of the people at the death of the Archbishop, that the whole nation was roused—and so on. For myself I like to think that, as the people would feel now, so, mutatis mutandis, they felt then. Was there any such mighty horror felt in London when Cranmer died in Oxford? Not so much horror, I believe, as when from their own ranks, from their own houses, from their own families, men and women and boys were taken out and led to execution. Violent deaths—by beheading, by hanging, by the flames—were witnessed every day. How many were hanged by Henry VIII.? The deaths of nobles did not touch the people; they looked on unmoved while the most innocent and most holy men in the country—the blameless Carthusians—suffered death as traitors; they looked on at the death of Sir Thomas More; when witches were burned they looked on. It was when they saw their own brothers, sisters, cousins, dragged out and put to death without a cause, that they began to doubt and to question. Nay, I think it was not the manner of death that affected them, because burning was a thing so common: it was the sentence itself passed on honest and godly folk, and the behaviour of the people at their death. Tender women chained to the stake suffered without a groan, only praying loudly till death came; people remembered, they recalled with tears afterwards, how the martyr and his wife and his children knelt on the ground for one last prayer before the stake; they remembered how the sufferer stepped into his place with a smiling face and welcomed the fiery lane that led him to the place where he longed to be: was this, they asked, the courage inspired of God, or of the{66} devil? They remembered how another washed his hands in the mounting and roaring flames; how the clouds parted at the prayer of another, and the smiling sun of heaven shone upon him; and it was even like unto the countenance of the Blessed Lord. The sight and the remembrance of the sufferings of their own folk, not the execution at a distance of an Archbishop and a few Bishops, moved the people and remained with them, and enveloped the Church of Rome with a hatred from which it has not wholly recovered even in these latter days.

The foundation of St. Thomas's Hospital belongs to both the great Houses of Southwark.

It was the general Rule in all religious Houses that there should be a provision for the poor, the sick, and those who were orphans. St. Mary Overy had a hospital adjoining the priory which was an almshouse certainly, and probably an orphanage as well. It was under the care of the Archdeacon of Surrey. Attached to St. Saviour's was an almonry intended for the same purpose. But the Abbey was entirely secluded: it lay far from any highway; there were no houses, except farm buildings for the monastery's labourers; there were no poor, no sick, and no orphans. So that, when the great fire of 1213 destroyed Southwark and crossed the river by the Bridge into London, the monks of St. Saviour's bethought them that to make their almonry useful it would be well to rebuild it half a mile to the west, on the Southwark Causeway. This was done, and the Hospital of St. Mary was united with it, and the new foundation which Bishop Peter de Rupibus most liberally endowed was named after St. Thomas. At first it was not a hospital especially for the sick, as St. Bartholomew's and St. Mary of Spittal. It was a fraternity like St. Catherine's by the Tower, for brethren and sisters under a master, with bedesmen and women, and a school, and an infirmary; but not, as St. Bartholomew's was from the beginning altogether, only a hospital for the sick.{67}


As for the religious life of the place, it was in most respects like that of London. There were no houses for Friars, but the Friars came across the river en quête,{68} 'mumping,' on their begging rounds; and in the taverns were put up boxes for the contributions of the faithful (towards the end these contributions fell off sadly). There was plenty of life and colour in the streets: serving men in bright liveries of the great Houses—the Bishops of Winchester and Rochester, the Abbots of Lewes, Hyde, and Battle—went about their errands; there were Gilds, notably that of St. George, which had their processions and their days: there were crosses and images of saints, at which the passer-by doffed his hat—in the wall of Lambeth Palace was an image of St. Thomas à Becket overlooking the river, to which every waterman and bargee paid reverence.

Some of the punishments of the time were ordered by the Church. There was whipping, but not the terrible murderous flogging of the eighteenth century; there were hangings, but not for everything. Mostly to the credit of the Church, punishment was designed not to crush a man, but to shame him into repentance, and to give him a chance of retrieving his character. A man might be set in the stocks, or put in pillory, and so made to feel the heinousness of his offence. This punishment was like that which is inflicted on a schoolboy: the thing done, the boy is taken back to favour. The eighteenth century branded him, imprisoned him, transported him, made a brute of him, and then hanged him. Did a woman speak despitefully of authority? Presumptuous quean! Set her up in the cage besides the stoulpes of London Bridge, that everyone should see her there and should ask what she had done. After an hour or two take her down; bid her go home and keep henceforth a quiet tongue in her head. This leniency was only for offences moral and against the law. For freedom of thought or doctrine there was Bishop Bonner's better way. And it was a way inhuman, inflexible, unable to forgive.{69}



All round London, like beads upon a string, were dotted Royal Houses, Palaces, and Hunting Places. On the north side were Westminster, Whitehall, St. James's, Kensington, Shene, Theobald's, Hatfield, Cheshunt, King's Langley, Hunsdon, Havering-atte-Bower, Stepney, the Tower; on the south side were Kennington, Eltham, Greenwich, Kew, Hampton, Windsor, a tradition attaching to Streatham, and the House of Nonesuch, built by Henry VIII. at Cheam. Most of these royal houses are now clean forgotten. Eltham preserves some ruins left of Edward IV.'s buildings; it still shows the moat and the old bridge, and the line of its former wall; but tradition, which has quite forgotten its memories of the Edwards and the Tudors, describes it as the Palace of King John. The sailors—now, alas! also gone—have deprived Greenwich of Edward VI. and Elizabeth. Theobald's is gone altogether, Nonesuch is wholly cleared away. Of Kennington, of which I have to speak in this place, not one stone remains upon another; not a vestige is above ground; the people on the spot know of no remains underground; its very memory is gone and forgotten: there is not even a tradition left, although part of the ruins were still standing only a hundred years ago.

The reason for this oblivion is not far to seek. The palace was deserted; it was pulled down before 1607—Camden says that even then there was not a stone remaining—there was not a single house within half a mile in every direction. There was no one, when the last stones had been carted away, left{70} to remember or to remind his children that there had been a palace on this spot. Another house was built here, but no tradition attached to it. Two hundred years passed, and then came the destruction of the second house; in 1745 there was not even a cottage near the spot. This being so, it is not difficult to understand why the site was forgotten.


The moat remained, however, and apparently some of the substructures; a building of stone and thatch, part of the offices of the palace, also stood. They called it the 'Long Barn,' and when the distressed Protestants were brought over here in 1700 as many as the place would hold were crammed into the Long Barn. Market gardens lay all over the country between Kennington Road and Lambeth, and on the site of the palace there was not a single person left who could carry on the tradition of the king's house that once stood here. Roque, the map-maker of 1745, knew nothing about it. In 1795 the Long Barn was taken down. At the beginning of the century houses began to rise here and there; streets began to be formed: at least three streets cross the gardens and the site of the palace; but there is not one tradition of a place which, as we shall see, was full of history for six hundred years. 'Is this fame?' might ask the king who crowned himself here, the king who died here, the king who was brought{71} up here, the kings who kept their Christmas feast here, the kings who here received their brides, held Parliament, and went out a-hunting.

The king who crowned himself here was Harold Harefoot, son of Cnut—that is to say, it was at 'Lambeth,' and there was no other house at Lambeth.


The king who died in this house was that young Dane who appears to have been an incarnation of the ideal Danish brutality. He dragged his brother's body out of its grave and flung it into the Thames; he massacred the people of Worcester and ravaged the shire; and he did these brave deeds and many others all in two short years. Then he went to his own place. His departure was both fitting and dramatic. For one so young it showed with what a yearning and madness he had been drinking. He went across the river—there was, I repeat, no other house in Lambeth except this, so that it must have been here—to attend the wedding of his standard-bearer, Tostig the Proud, with Goda, daughter of the Thane Osgod Clapa, whose name survives in his former estate of Clapham. A Danish wedding was always an occasion for{72} hard drinking, while the minstrels played and sang and the mummers tumbled. When men were well drunken the pleasing sport of bone throwing began: they threw the beef bones at each other. The fun of the game consisted in the accident of a man not being able to dodge the bone which struck him, and probably killed him. Archbishop Alphege was thus killed. The soldiers had no special desire to kill the old man: why couldn't he enter into the spirit of the game and dodge the bones? As he did not, of course he was hit, and as the bone was a big and a heavy bone, hurled by a powerful hand, of course it split open his skull. One may be permitted to think that perhaps King Hardacnut, who is said to have fallen down suddenly when he 'stood up to drink,' did actually intercept a big beef bone which knocked him down; and as he remained comatose until he died, the proud Tostig, unwilling to have it said that even in sport his king had been killed at his wedding, gave out that the king fell down in a fit. This, however, is speculation.

Forty years after this event, when Domesday Book was compiled, the place was in the possession of a London citizen, Theodric by name and a goldsmith by trade. It was still a royal manor, because the goldsmith held it of Edward the Confessor. It was then valued at three pounds a year. It is impossible to arrive at the meaning of this valuation. We may compare it with that of other estates, with the rental and price of other lands, with the cost of provisions, and with the wages and pay of servants and officers; and when we have done all, we are still very far from understanding the value of money then or at any subsequent time. There are, you see, so many points which the writers on the value of money do not take into consideration. There is the price of bread; but then there were so many kinds of bread—wheaten bread, barley bread, oat bread, rye bread; and how much bread did a family of the working class consume? Flesh, fish, fowl, but how much of either did the working classes enjoy? Rent?{73} But on the farms the "villains" paid no rent. There is, in a word, not only the market prices that have to be considered, but the standard of comfort—always a little higher than the practice—and the daily relations of the demand to the supply. So that when we read that this manor of Kennington was worth three pounds a year we are not advanced in the least. As most of the land was still marshy and useless, we may understand that the value was low.

We next hear of Kennington in 1189, when King Richard granted it on lease, or for life, to Sir Robert Percy with the title of Lord of the Manor. Henry III. came here on several occasions; here he held his Lambeth Parliament. He kept his Christmas here in 1231. Great was the feasting and boundless the hospitality of this Christmas, at which this king lavished the treasures of the State.

The site of the palace is indicated in the accompanying map. If you walk along the Kennington Road from Bridge Street, Westminster, you presently come to a place where four roads meet, Upper Kennington Lane on the left, and Lower Kennington Lane on the right; the road goes on to the Horns Tavern and Kennington Park. On the right-hand side stood the palace. In the year 1636 a plan of the house and grounds was executed; but by that time the mediæval character of the place was quite forgotten. It was a square house, probably Elizabethan; the home of King Henry III. at some time or other had been completely taken away. The site of the moat, however, was left, and there was still standing the 'Long Barn.' The only way to find out what the palace really was in the thirteenth or fourteenth century is to compare it with another palace built under much the same conditions, and intended to serve the same purpose. Fortunately there still stand, some miles to the east of Kennington, at Eltham, important remains of such a contemporary palace, with a description of the place as it was before it was allowed to fall into ruins.{74}

We are not at this moment concerned with the history of Eltham. Sufficient to note that it was a great and stately place for five hundred years and more; that it passed through the hands of Bishop Odo; of the Mandevilles; of the De Vescis; of Bishop Anthony Bec; and of Geoffrey le Scrope of Masham. As a royal residence its history begins with Henry III., who kept his Christmas here in 1270, and ends with Elizabeth, who came over here occasionally from Greenwich. Here Isabella, wife of Edward II., gave birth to a son, John of Eltham. The greatest builder at Eltham was Edward IV.

The house in 1649, fifty years after Elizabeth had visited it, is said to have contained a chapel, a banqueting-hall, rooms on the ground floor and first floor called the King's side and the Queen's side. There were buildings and rooms of all kinds round the courtyard. The number of chambers in all was very great, and it is said, further, that the large courtyard covered a whole acre in extent. Such an area would give about two hundred and ten feet to each side of a square. This would be large for a college at Oxford or Cambridge. It would cover about the same area as that of New Palace Yard. There were, however, other courts; four courts in all are spoken of. The lesser courts were used for the 'service,' the kitchens, butteries, pantries, stables, rooms for the servants, the barracks for the men-at-arms who accompanied the king, the grooms, armourers, makers and menders, bakers and brewers, cooks and scullions, and the women servants, and the wives and the children. A strong stone wall, battlemented, with loopholed turrets, surrounded the palace; a broad and deep moat defended the wall; the bridge which crossed the moat had a drawbridge; the gate had its portcullis. The palace, in a word, was a fortress, for there was never a king in England who would have dared to keep his court, or to sleep, in an unfortified manor house, or outside a fortress—certainly not Henry III. or Edward IV.—unless,{75} of course, it was on the tented field in the midst of his army.

The existing remains of the palace correspond to this description. There is the moat, deep and broad; there is the bridge, the drawbridge gone. Within, the most important ruin is that of Edward IV.'s banqueting hall. This is a most noble chamber, with a roof of oak as perfect as when it was built; the two magnificent bays remain, with the double row of windows. It would be difficult to find a finer banqueting hall in the whole country than that of Eltham. In the grounds, the traces of the wall and those of other buildings ought to make it possible, with a very little excavation, to trace a plan of the whole house.

Gateway in the Hall, Eltham Palace Gateway in the Hall, Eltham Palace

As was Eltham, so was Kennington. Both places were built for the same purpose about the same time. Both were castles erected on a plain without the aid of hillock, mound or running stream—unless the moat at Kennington was fed by one of the many streams of South London. The plan of 1636 shows approximately the line of the wall; the stream or the ditch marks the course of the moat; the 'Long Barn' on the east side of the palace belonged to the 'service'—it was kitchens, stables, armoury, brewery, or granary. The house itself had its principal entrance on the north. This is{76} certain, because all the supplies were brought by what is now Kennington Road either from Westminster Ferry or from Southwark. A gate on this side simplified the transference which took place when the court moved from one place to another; when everything—bedding, blankets, utensils of all kinds, plate, batterie de cuisine, the workmen with their tools, the wardrobe of king and queen—was packed up and carried from Westminster over the ferry to Kennington, or from Kennington to Woolwich. Provisions and goods sent up from the City were also landed at Stangate, Lambeth, so as to get as short a land journey as possible. For these reasons I place the principal gate at the north.

I have seen it stated—I know not with what truth—that the people of the streets now on the site have found substructures beneath their houses. If so, one would expect, what one cannot find, some tradition to account for the existence of these stone vaults.

Such was the vanished Palace of Kennington: a fortress of the Lambeth Marsh, a place for keeping Christmas, a royal residence; now completely vanished.

Two other royal houses there were in South London, neither of which can be compared with Kennington. Greenwich, for instance, which appears in history from the time of King Alfred. Edward I., Henry IV., Henry V., Edward IV., Henry VII., Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth—all had more or less to do with Greenwich. When Henry VIII. completed his buildings here he deserted Eltham; he left, that is, the mediæval fortress for the modern house. His Greenwich was not fortified. The accompanying view of it shows that it possessed none of the characteristics of the ancient residence, half castle, half manor house. Greenwich, however, before Henry rebuilt it, was a fortified castle. Had we a plan of Greenwich of the fourteenth century it would most certainly resemble those of Eltham and of Kennington, with certain small differences, just as one Benedictine{77} monastery resembles in its general disposition another Benedictine monastery, and one Norman castle in general terms, and allowing for the site, resembles another.

The other house of which I have spoken is that of Nonesuch. This house was not a reconstruction and an adaptation with much of the ancient work: it was newly built and furnished entirely by Henry VIII. There was no suspicion of battlements, no pretence at a fortification; the house stood open and unprotected save by the order maintained by the strong king. It was not beautiful according to our ideas; nor was it what we now call a Tudor house; it bears upon it every mark of the builder's interference with the architect. The outside walls of Nonesuch were decorated by certain bas-reliefs representing subjects from the heathen mythology. The house was pulled down by the Duchess of Cleveland, to whom Charles II. gave it. Nonesuch, however, has nothing to do with Kennington, and must not detain us.

The Ancient Royal Palace at Greenwich The Ancient Royal Palace at Greenwich

Let us next consider what it means when the king is said to have kept his Christmas at a place.{78}

During the festival—for twenty days—he kept open house, nominally. That is to say, all comers received food and drink: his guests, one supposes, were bidden. Every day during the festival the king sat at the feast wearing his crown and his robes of royal state. Richard II., the most prodigal of all princes that ever lived, entertained every day no fewer than ten thousand persons at his palace. What the number was at Christmas no one knows. In addition to the ordinary following of the court—a huge army of chaplains, canons, scribes, secretaries, gentlemen archers, and servants—there were the bishops and abbots, the peers and barons, who came to the Christmas feast, each attended by his own following of knights and esquires and men in livery. For the entertainment of this enormous company what a huge establishment would be needed! The organisation was complete; everything was in departments, each under the yeomen: the chambers, the wardrobe, the kitchens, the stables, the cellars. Yet what an army in each department! Then, since at Christmas time we look for amusement, there was the Master of the Revels, and with him an extensive and variegated following; among them were all those who played on the different instruments of music, those who sang, the buffoons, tumblers, and mummers, the dancing girls. It was in the time of Henry III. that these performances were brought over for the delectation of the English court—perhaps with the pious intention of showing what joys and attractions awaited the Crusaders in the Holy Land itself.

Hall's account of the festivities of a Christmas a hundred and fifty years later than the time of Richard II. is as follows:—

'The Kyng this yere kept the feast of Christmas at Grenewiche, wher was suche abundance of viands served to all comers of any honest behaviour, as hath been few times seen; and against New Yeres night was made, in the Hall, a castle, gates, towers, and dungion, garnished with artilerie, and weapon after the most warlike fashion: and on the{79} frount of the castle was written, Le Fortresse Dangerus, and within the castle were six ladies clothed in russet satin laide all over with leves of golde, and every owde knit with laces of blewe silke and golde; on ther heddes, coyfes and cappes all of golde. After this castle had been carried about the hal, and the Quene had behelde it, in came the Kyng with five other appareled in coates, the one half of russet satyn, spangled with spangles of fine golde, the other halfe riche cloth of gold; on their heddes cappes of russet satin embroudered with workes of fine gold bullion. These six assaulted the castle: the ladies seyng them so lustie and coragious were content to solace with them, and upon farther communication to yeld the castle, and so thei came down and daunced a long space. And after the ladies led the knightes into the castle, and then the castle sodainly vanished out of their sight.

'On the daie of the Epiphanie at night, the Kyng with XI other were disguised after the manner of Italie, called a maske, a thing not seen afore in Englande; they were apparelled in garments long and brode, wrought all with gold, with visers and cappes of gold; and after the banket doen, these maskers came in with six gentlemen disguised in silke, bearing staffe torches, and desired the ladies to daunce; some were content, and some that knew the fashion of it refused, because it was not a thing commonly seen. And after they daunced and commoned together as the fashion of the maske is, thei tooke their leave and departed. And so did the Quene and all the ladies.'

When the Christmas festivities ceased, the servants packed up the gear: the napery, plate, gold and silver cups, dishes, pillows, curtains, tapestry and carpets. They were all laid upon waggons, the broad-wheeled creaking waggons which were dragged slowly over the uneven and heavy lanes by teams of horses or by bullocks. The queen and her ladies were carried in chairs or carriages, or went on horseback; the{80} king and his followers rode; and so they went back to Westminster. The ferry carried over the heavy goods and the horses: the royal barges received the court. After them marched the whole rout—the two thousand archers without whom Richard never moved; the armies of servants; lastly, when the last procurable cup had been drained, the musicians and the mummers and the singers marched off sadly. A whole twelvemonth before another Christmas! They marched in the direction of the City, and that night, as they report, there was strange revelry in the inns of Southwark. The house was left in charge of a warden, who had with him the principal officers of the palace, the yeomen of the wardrobe, of the cellars, of the kitchens, and so forth; the organisation being kept up in readiness, though the king might not come back for years. This fact was illustrated a short time ago, when I was interested in watching the progress of a certain genealogy. About the year 1540 a certain younger son left his house; it was necessary to connect him with his own descendants. The link was found in the fact that this younger son had been received by Carey, warden of Hunsdon House, who made him one of his yeomen; a cheerless appointment, like a college in perpetual vacation, the warden and yeomen, representing the Master and Fellows, dining every day in the dismantled hall, and wandering about the empty courts and silent gardens. Palaces, like theatres, have their times of emptiness, during which it is best to keep out of them. For my own part, I think the true way of enjoying a palace is to frequent it as Froissart did: to hear all that was said and to put down all that was done, but not to be an actor in a drama which reeks of blood; not even the splendid mounting can destroy that dreadful reek. How many people are murdered about the court of England from Richard II. to Henry VII.? Richard murders his uncle, Henry IV. murders his cousin, Henry V. murders his uncle; Henry VI., it is true, murders no one, but then he lives in a time when there is a perpetual{81} series of murders. What an awful time! Froissart, who looked on at part of the drama, achieved deathless renown for his history, while in the whole of that court there was no one whose head was safe on his shoulders except Froissart. Unfortunately, he says little about this palace which we are considering.

There are many names of kings and princes connected with this house of Kennington. Edward I. was here occasionally. During his reign it was the residence of John Earl of Surrey, and of his son, John Plantagenet Earl of Warren and Surrey. Plenty of histories could be made out of these and other names, had the writer time or the reader patience. In truth, the reader's patience is more to be considered than the writer's time, for the writer, at least, has the joy of hunting up names and notes and allusions, and of piecing together what, after all, his reader may not find of interest enough to carry him through. Edward III. made the manor part of the Duchy of Cornwall. After the death of the Black Prince the princess lived here with the young Prince Richard. I do not find that Henry IV. was fond of a house which would certainly be haunted—especially the room in which he was to sleep—by the sorrowful shade of his murdered cousin. Nor did Henry V. come here during his short reign. Henry VI., however, made use of Kennington Palace; so did Henry VII.; and the last of the queens whose name can be connected with the palace was Catherine of Arragon.

I do not know when the palace was destroyed. You have seen the place as it was figured in 1636, when it was only an ordinary square house. The plan was drawn when Charles I. leased it to Sir Francis Cottington. The destruction of the old house and the building of the new must have taken place during the hundred years between 1530 and 1630. When the new house was taken down I do not know.

The name that we especially associate with Kennington Palace is that of Richard II. When the Black Prince died,{82} in 1376, Richard remained at Kennington under the care of his mother and the tutorship of Sir Guiscard d'Angle, 'that accomplished knight.' The young prince started with the finest possible chances of popularity. His father was not only the greatest captain of his age, but he was also, in the latter years of his life, on the popular side against the old King and his supporters; the boy was endowed with a singular beauty of person, and, when he pleased, with a sweetness of manner most unusual even among princes, with whom affability is the first essential in princely manners. In addition to this he was destined to show on two occasions courage which almost amounted to insensibility—first, when he dispersed Wat Tyler's mob, and next, when he seized the reins of government. History shows how he threw away all his chances in reckless extravagance.

(From Allen's History of Lambeth)

After the death of the Black Prince it was resolved by the Lord Mayor to pay a visit to Prince Richard at Kennington, with a riding worthy of the City. The day chosen was the Sunday before Candlemas (February 2). One has frequent occasion to remark generally upon City pageants, that the people in these processions and their pageants were entirely regardless of winter cold or summer heat; they rode forth upon a pageant as cheerfully in the cold of February as in the sunshine of August. On this occasion, one hundred and thirty-two citizens on horseback, with trumpets and other musical instruments, and a vast number of flambeaux, assembled at Newgate in the afternoon, and marched through the City and over the bridge to Kennington Palace beyond the Borough. First rode eight-and-forty men in the habits of esquires—with red coats, say gowns, and vizards. Then followed the same number apparelled as knights in the same livery. Then rode one singly, a very majestic figure, who represented the Pope, followed by his four-and-twenty cardinals. They were followed by ten men dressed in black, with black vizards, representing legates from the Pope of Hell.{83} This accounts for one hundred and thirty-two out of the whole number. The last man is not described. To them must be added pages and henchmen and whifflers, with men carrying the presents. This cavalcade, which gave the greatest joy to the citizens, all the way was followed by an enormous company of 'prentices and craftsmen and children, crowding after it and shouting. When it arrived at Kennington Palace they all dismounted and entered the hall, where they found the Princess of Wales, the young Prince, and their attendants, together with the Duke of Lancaster and other great lords. The court was first solemnly saluted by the masquers, who then produced dice and invited the Prince to play with them. Would you believe it?—every time the Prince threw, he won, which was in itself a remarkable circumstance. He carried off his winnings: a bowl of pure gold, chased and decorated; a drinking cup also of gold, and a gold ring. They then invited the Princess and the Duke of Lancaster and other{84} nobles present, each of whom also won and carried off a gold ring. This done, the music played, and they were all invited to supper in the hall with the Prince and the Princess his mother. After supper, the tables were taken away—they were only planks laid on trestles and covered with white cloths—and the floor being cleared, the masquers had the honour of dancing with the royal party. Finally, at a late hour, the flambeaux were lighted, and the masquers rode home, well pleased with the reception they had met and the courtesy of the best behaved boy in the world.

In the same year occurred the great riot of London, which arose out of Wyclyf's trial in St. Paul's and the quarrel between the Bishop of London and John of Gaunt. The latter, after the dismissal of Wyclyf, repaired to the house of John de Ypres, close beside the river, where he was sitting at dinner when one of his following ran hastily to warn him that the people were flocking together with intent to murder him if they could. The Duke therefore hastily ran down to the nearest stairs, took a boat across the river, and fled as quickly as possible to Kennington Palace, where he took shelter with the young Prince Richard and his guardians. The mob, finding that the Duke was gone, made their way to the Savoy, his palace, threatening to burn and destroy all: they did actually murder one poor priest because he resembled the Duke in countenance; they were then persuaded by the Bishop of London to go home without doing any more mischief. What would have happened one knows not, but the death of the old King gave an opportunity of patching up the peace between the Duke of Lancaster and the citizens. Hearing that Edward was in extremis, the Mayor and Aldermen waited on the Princess of Wales and Prince Richard informing them of the King's critical situation, and beseeching the Prince's favour to the City; they also begged him to interfere for the better accommodation of the Duke's differences with them. It is pleasing to find that John of Gaunt freely{86} forgave the City and became reconciled to the citizens; a reconciliation which paved the way to the subsequent popularity of his son Henry.

The High Street Southwark as it appeared MDXLIII The High Street Southwark
as it appeared MDXLIII

It might be argued that the various impressions as regards London produced on the mind of this prince explain his conduct towards the citizens when he grew older. The first experiment he had of the citizens was when they rode over in a goodly company clad in red cloaks with gold chains and finely appointed horses to visit him at Kennington: he remembered that their appearance betokened great wealth; that they tossed about gold cups as if they were of wood. This is a kind of impression which does not easily die away.

His second impression of the City was when his uncle, John of Gaunt, came flying from the City, having barely escaped with his life, the people having gone on to wreck, if they could, his palace of the Savoy. A turbulent and dangerous people, then, as well as rich; a people to be kept down.

He next saw the City when he rode through it on his way to be crowned at Westminster. All the way there was nothing but rich tapestry, carpets, scarlet, cloth, masquers clad in velvet, pageants with cloth of gold, and the streets filled with men and women dressed in rich furs and silks, such as only great barons could afford. This third impression confirmed the first.

His next impression was that of the City lying prostrate at the mercy of a large mob, unable to move or to help itself. He went into the City almost alone; he, by one single act of splendid courage, put an end to the insurrection. A City cowardly, therefore, and unable to act together. It was his City, moreover—the Camera Regis. Should not a prince do what he pleases with his own?

When we read of his subsequent treatment of the City: how he believed its treasures to be inexhaustible; how he believed that it had no power to resist; how he made the way easy for his cousin to supplant him, let us bear in mind the{87} lessons which the Londoners themselves provided for him in his youth.

This King seizes on the imagination of all who think about him. His is one of the strangest of all the strange figures which crowd the National Portrait Gallery. Richly endowed with artistic instincts; a lover of music and all the fine arts; of singularly winning manners; the comeliest man in his whole kingdom; splendid in raiment, magnificent in his court, colossal in his personal pride, prodigal and extravagant beyond compare; the King whom those who knew him in his youth never ceased to love; for whose soul—not for the soul of Henry IV.—Whittington, for instance, left money for masses—this is a figure among our English kings which has no parallel.

One more reminiscence of Kennington Palace. The last occasion on which Richard lodged there was when he brought home his little bride Isabel, the queen of eight years. They brought her from Dover, resting on the way at Canterbury and Rochester. At Blackheath they were met by the Mayor and Aldermen, attired with great magnificence of costume to do honour to the bride. After reverences due, they fell into their place and rode on with the procession. When they arrived at Newington, the King thanked the Mayor and permitted him to leave the procession and return home. He himself, with his company, rode by the cross-country lane from Newington to Kennington Palace. I observe that this proves the existence of a path or lane where is now Upper Kennington Lane. At this palace the little queen rested a night, and next day was carried in another procession to the Tower. The knights rode before, and the French ladies came after. It is pretty to read how Isabel, with her long fair hair falling over her shoulders, and her sweet childish face, sat up and smiled upon the people, playing and pretending to be queen, which she had been practising ever since her betrothal. Needless to say that all hearts were ravished. The good{88} people of London were ever ready to welcome one princess after another, and to lose their hearts to them, whether it was Isabel of France, or Katharine her sister, or Anne Boleyn, or Queen Charlotte, or the fair Princess of Denmark. So great a press was there that many were actually squeezed to death on London Bridge, where the houses only left twelve feet in breadth. Isabel's queenship proved a pretence: before she was old enough to be queen, indeed, her husband was in confinement; before she understood that he was a captive, he was murdered, and the splendid extravagant reign was over. The son of the usurper, young Harry of Monmouth himself, desired to take the place of Richard; his father also desired the match, for the sake of the dowry. Isabel, child as she was still, had the heart of a woman; she had learned to love her handsome, courteous, accomplished lord, who died before he could claim her; she refused absolutely to marry the son of his murderer. They tried to move her resolution by persuasion; they did not dare to force her: let us believe that Harry of Monmouth would not stoop to force the girl to marry him. There was nothing therefore left to do, but to send her home to what was certainly the most miserable court or palace in the world—that of her mad father. In the end, she married her cousin, the poet Charles of Orleans. You may read the verses which he made upon her death. Isabel died in childbirth in her twenty-second year. As for Harry of Monmouth, as all the world knows, he was obliged to content himself with Isabel's younger sister, Katharine; we have just read about that queen, and how she stooped to a suitor below her own degree. I think she was made of clay not so fine as that of Isabel, her sister.{89}


The second in our chain of suburban Palaces was the Royal House of Eltham, already mentioned in connection with Kennington. The place itself seems to have been a settlement of some kind, a town or village, in very ancient times. In the thirteenth century it was considered of importance enough to receive the grant of a market day every Tuesday, and a Fair for three days every year, namely, the day before the Feast of the Trinity, the Feast itself, and the day after. In the fourteenth century the market day was altered to Monday, but the Fair remained; in the fifteenth century the market day returned to Tuesday and the Fair was changed to three days on the Eve of St. Peter and St. Paul, on the Feast itself, and on the day after. The market and the Fair have long since been discontinued. The importance of both depended on the occasional presence of the Court, and when that was removed altogether from the place there was no longer any necessity for either market or Fair Day. Eltham then became a small agricultural village lying in the midst of woods, with nothing but scattered villages for many miles round. So long as it contained one of the recognised Palaces, even though years might pass by without a visit from the sovereign, there was, attached to the house, the permanent staff to a Governor or warder, with chiefs of the various departments and the men or assistants under them. The occupation of the Palace by such a staff gave the place a kind of garrison, and created a demand for provisions and for all sorts of things. On those rare occasions when the Court was actually in Residence at Eltham, the market had to furnish supplies, to which all the country round had to contribute; nothing short of provisions for the maintenance of thousands of people daily. At Eltham the difficulty may have been very great; no doubt word would be sent long{90} beforehand if the King proposed to keep Christmas there. The yeomen of the kitchen had the beef put in the pickling tubs in November—vast quantities of beef, for, Christmas or not, the staple food of everybody in the winter was salt beef. At the Palace of Kennington things were easier. It lay within easy reach of the London market; so was Westminster. Greenwich was accessible by ships from the lower reaches of the Thames as well as from London. Eltham, no doubt, depended upon the rich and fruitful country in which it stood. At eight miles from London, the markets there were of very little use. The annals of the Palace are simple, rather than scanty; in fact, there is plenty of mention made of the Palace, yet very little of importance is recorded concerning it. All that is recorded of it belongs to peace and festivity and the season of Christmas. Eltham was given by William the Conqueror to his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent. After the disgrace of Odo, and the confiscation of his estates, the manor belonged partly to the Queen and partly to the Mandevilles. Thence it passed into the hands of the De Vesci family. From them it went to the Scropes, and from them to various holders in succession.

There was a Palace, or House, here of some kind in very ancient times. The historian says that he cannot ascertain when the Palace was built (see p. 74). Since the origin of the House is unknown, he argues that it must have been ancient. Now, concerning its connections with our Kings and Queens, there is quite a long list. All these lists would have to be catalogued, and even then be forgotten. For instance, the following list of visits I borrow from Lysons. But I cannot pretend that it is of much interest.


In the year 1270 Henry III. kept Christmas at his Palace of Eltham with the Queen and his nobles. After this the name of Anthony Bec, Bishop of Durham and Patriarch of Jerusalem, is connected with the place. He built a great{91} deal, but I know not if any ruins of his yet remain. He died at Eltham in 1311, presumably in the Palace, for there seem to have been no other buildings. Now we come back to the kings, and we find historical associations in plenty, though not of a kind which is moving or interesting. It does not excite our curiosity much to learn that this king or that{92} king kept Christmas here, and yet that is the kind of association which I have to offer. Edward the Second was often here: perhaps the seclusion of the place enabled him to play his favourite games with his followers without being overseen. One of his sons, John of Eltham, was born here. Edward III., when still under age, had a Parliament at Eltham in 1329. In 1347 his son Lionel kept Christmas for him at Eltham. In 1364 he entertained here the French king John, his prisoner. In 1375 he held another Parliament here, when the Commons petitioned him to make Richard, his grandson, Prince of Wales. Richard the Second, as we should expect, regarded Eltham with a peculiar affection; it was beautiful; the buildings were splendid. It was a long way from the City which took upon itself to remonstrate with his extravagance. Three times at least he kept Christmas here: on the last he entertained Leo, King of Armenia, with great splendour and profusion. Henry the Fourth kept Christmas four times in the Palace. On the first, the Aldermen of London and their children went down from the City to perform a masque before the King, who received it well. At that moment he was certain to receive everything well that came from the City. On his last visit the disease broke out which killed him. Henry the Fifth was here once, in 1414: Henry the Sixth once, in 1429. Edward the Fourth was a second Founder, so much did he add to the buildings. Among other things, he built a new front to the Palace and is said to have built the Banqueting Hall itself. His festivities rivalled those of Richard the Second. Here his daughter Bridget, afterwards a nun of Dartford, was born. Henry the Seventh was another builder: he stayed at Eltham often. Henry the Eighth came here once at least, but he preferred Greenwich as a residence as soon as that house was built. Elizabeth also came here only once or twice, preferring Greenwich, and James the First is only recorded to have visited Eltham once. After this time Eltham ceased{93} to be a Palace. In 1646 Robert Earl of Essex died here[1]; the Manor was sold after Charles's death. After the Restoration it reverted to the Crown; the rest of the history concerns its occupancy by private families. On the death of Charles the Palace was surveyed; it is described as being built of brick, stone, and timber; it contained (see p. 74) one chapel, a hall, 36 rooms and offices below stairs, with two large cellars; and above stairs 17 lodging houses on the King's side, 12 on the Queen's side, and 9 on the Prince's side; and 78 rooms in the offices round the courtyard, which contained one acre of ground: the house was out of repair and uninhabitable. There were gardens attached to the house. A moat surrounded the house, of width 60 feet, except in the forest, where it was 115 feet. The moat still exists on the north side, and can be traced all round. Of the buildings little remains except the old Banqueting Hall, a truly beautiful ruin; the roof, with its fine woodwork, is happily still standing, but shored up and supported. The windows are mostly blocked up; fragments only remain of the other buildings; but it is said to be possible, in the gardens at the back, to trace out the courts and the foundations of the chapel and offices. The Palace is approached by a bridge of about the same date as the Palace, viz. the fourteenth century. It crosses the moat, and with its picturesque ivy-clad arches and the Banqueting Hall on one side, and the Court House on the other, it is as lovely an approach to the ruin as could well be imagined or created.

(From a Drawing by J. Hassell, 1804)

One of the last visits of the King to Eltham was in the year 1575, when Henry held one of the tournaments in which in his early manhood he so much delighted. This is Holinshed's account of it:—

'After the parlement was ended, the king kept a solemne Christmasse at his manor of Eltham; and on the Twelfe night in the hall was made a goodlie castell, woonderouslie set out, and in it certeine ladies and knights; and when the king and queene were set, in came other knights and assailed{95} the castell, where manie a good stripe was giuen; and at the last the assailants were beaten awaie. And then issued out knights and ladies out of the castell, which ladies were rich and strangelie disguised; for all their apparell was in braids of gold, fret with moouing spangls of siluer and gilt, set on crimson sattin, loose and not fastned: the mens apparell of{96} the same sute made like Iulis of Hungarie; and the ladies heads and bodies were after the fashion of Amsterdam. And when the dansing was doone, the banket was serued in of two hundred dishes, with great plentie to euerie bodie.'

Remains of Eltham Palace Remains of Eltham Palace

There is little more to be said about Eltham, which is a place so beautiful that it ought to have a more interesting history. Kings and Courts delight me not, nor do I take pleasure in reading about tournaments and masques.

There is no figure in the history of Eltham so pleasant to think upon as that of little Prince Richard, the lovely boy who was going to become such an extravagant King. One would like to have seen Edward entertaining his prisoner, King John of France; and one wonders what sort of figure was played by the Armenian Leo in the presence of Richard's splendour: but perhaps he knew the Court of Constantinople, and smiled at the splendour of the barbaric north.

Once more, how did they provide for the maintenance of so many guests? To feed two thousand every day is a great undertaking. We are accustomed to believe that the roads in winter were so bad as to be impassable. Now, everything had to be brought there, whatever the condition of the roads. And they were bye-roads, not high roads. The guests, too, and the nobles and their retainers, had to arrive by those roads. As was stated above, due notice was certainly given: a vast quantity of salt provisions was laid down in readiness: for the rest, the country was fertile and well cultivated. The Park contained deer—but they could not kill all; the Thames, only three miles away—but then, the roads!—was full of salmon and every kind of fish: the banks of the lower reaches and those of the Ravensbourne—again, those roads!—were the homes of myriads of wild birds. Still, one feels that the inland communications of the fourteenth century must have been a great deal better than those of the seventeenth century in order to allow of Christmas being kept in magnificence and profusion by two thousand people in a country village.{97}

The Moat Bridge Eltham Palace The Moat Bridge
Eltham Palace

The views which accompany this account are taken from Lysons: they were engraved in the year 1796. There is not much difference in the present aspect: the moat has been opened again: the buildings represented on the south side of the Hall have vanished: and the place itself which had been used as a barn is now empty, and is only thrown open for visitors or the drilling of Volunteers.

[1] At Eltham House, the lodge in the Great Park.


The Green Village lying on the slope of a gentle hill, with marshes on either side of it—the marsh of the Ravensbourne on one side, and the Woolwich or the Greenwich marsh on the other side of it—is as old as history itself. Its position as the landing-place, or point of approach, to the lands of Kent, a{98} place where ships might lie, pirates and invaders might seize and hold as a base of operations, very early called attention to its natural advantages. Here the Danes encamped in 1011; here they brought the venerable Alphege and murdered him, throwing beef bones at his head. As the throwing of bones was a favourite evening pastime with the Danes, they probably meant little at first beyond a friendly reminder or an invitation to take part in the game: as the Archbishop made no response they threw the bones in earnest (see p. 72). The people of Greenwich have long since forgotten that the place was once a Royal Residence, and that there are historical memories connected with Greenwich of interest almost equal to those of Westminster, and far more important and interesting than those of Eltham.

Let us perform the perfunctory task of cataloguing some of these memories.

In the year 1408, Henry IV. dates his will from Greenwich.

In 1417 Henry V. granted the manor for life to Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, who afterwards died here.

In 1443 it was granted to Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, with permission to fortify and embattle the manor house, and to enclose a park of 200 acres. This was the true beginning of Greenwich Palace. Humphrey rebuilt the house, which he called Placentia, the House of Pleasance: he enclosed the Park and he built a Tower on the spot where the Royal Observatory now stands. On his death, in 1447, the place reverted to the Crown. Edward the Fourth took great pleasure in the place and beautified it at much cost. In 1466 he granted the Manor, Palace, and Park, to the Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, for life. The marriage of Richard Duke of York and Anne Mowbray was here solemnised with the usual rejoicings.

(From a Drawing by Jonas Moore)

With Henry VII. also Greenwich was a favourite place of residence. He added a brick front on the riverside (see p. 77). Here Henry the Eighth was born on June 28, 1491. He was{99} baptised in the Parish Church, the predecessor of the present church. He, too, loved Greenwich above all other Palaces, and made it during the early years of his reign the scene of the festivities and entertainments which he loved so much. Here he married Katharine of Arragon on June 3, 1510. Here he held the great tournament in which he himself, Sir Edward Howard, Charles Brandon, and Edward Neville challenged all comers. In 1512 and in 1513 he kept Christmas here 'with great solemnity, dancing, disguisings, and mummers in a most princely manner.' Holinshed gives an account of two entertainments held by the King at Greenwich—one a tournament in June, the other at Christmas:—

'This yeare also in Iune, the king kept a solemne iustes at Greenewich, the king & sir Charles Brandon taking vpon them to abide all commers. First came the ladies all in white and red silke, set vpon coursers trapped in the same sute, freated ouer with gold; after whom followed a founteine curiouslie made of russet sattin, with eight gargils spowting water: within the founteine sat a knight armed at all peeces.{100} After this founteine followed a ladie all in blacke silke dropped with fine siluer, on a courser trapped in the same. Then followed a knight in a horsselitter, the coursers & litter apparelled in blacke with siluer drops. When the fountein came to the tilt, the ladies rode round about, and so did the founteine, and the knight within the litter. And after them were brought twi goodlie coursers apparelled for the iusts: and when they came to the tilts end, the two knights mounted on the two courses abiding all commers. The king was in the founteine, and sir Charles Brandon was in the litter. Then suddenlie with great noise of trumpets entred sir Thomas Kneuet in a castell of cole blacke, and ouer the castell was written "The Dolorous Castell," and so he and the earle of Essex, the lord Howard, and other ran their courses with the king and sir Charles Brandon, and euer the king brake most speares, and likelie was so to doo yer he began, as in former time; the prise fell to his lot; so luckie was he and fortunat in the proofe of his prowes in martiall actiuitie, whereto from his yong yeers he was giuen....

'After this parlement was ended, the king kept a solemne Christmasse at Greenwich, with danses and mummeries in most princelie maner. And on the Twelfe daie at night came into the hall a mount, called the rich mount. The mount was set full of rich flowers of silke, and especiallie full of broome slips full of cods, and branches were greene sattin, and the flowers flat gold of damaske, which signified Plantagenet. On the top stood a goodlie beacon giuing light, round about the beacon sat the king and fiue other, all in cotes and caps of right crimson veluet, embrodered with flat gold of damaske, their cotes set full of spangles of gold. And foure woodhouses drew the mount till it came before the queene, and then the king and his companie descended and dansed. Then suddenlie the mount opened, and out came six ladies all in crimsin sattin and plunket, embrodered with gold and pearle, with French hoods on their heads, and{102} they dansed alone. Then the lords of the mount tooke the ladies and dansed togither: and the ladies reentered, and the mount closed, and so was conueied out of the hall. Then the king shifted him, and came to the queene, and sat at the banket, which was verie sumptuous.'

(From a Drawing by Schnebbelie)

Other tournaments were held here in 1517, 1526, and 1536.

Here Charles Brandon married Mary, Dowager Queen of France. Six or seven times more Henry kept Christmas at Greenwich. In 1543, the last occasion, he entertained twenty-one Scottish gentlemen, taken prisoners, and released them without a ransom, being to the end, whatever else he was, a Prince of most Princely gifts and graces.

Queen Mary was born at Greenwich in 1515. Cardinal Wolsey was her godfather.

King Edward the Sixth died here.

Queen Elizabeth was born here on September 7, 1533. She, too, spent much of her time at Greenwich.

King James also much delighted in this place: he added to the brickwork by the riverside: he also walled the park and laid the foundations of the house afterwards called the House of Delight. The Queen, who received the Palace in jointure, carried on this House, which was afterwards completed by Inigo Jones for Henrietta Maria. It was called the King's House, the Queen's House, or the Ranger's Lodge. It was not until 1807 that the house was granted to the Commissioners of the Royal Naval Asylum.

Separated from town by five miles of road, and four of river, it was thus easily accessible in all weathers and independent of the condition of the roads. In other respects the position of the place was unrivalled: it was on a slope rising from the river in front, and from lowlands on either side; it was swept night and day by the sharp fresh breeze that came up with the tide from the sea; behind it, on a high level, lay an expanse of heath, dry and wholesome; there{103} was no better air to be got than the air of Greenwich; that of Eltham, with its stagnant marsh and thick woods, was close and aguish in comparison: for view, the broad river rolled along the Palace front and bent round to east and west, so that one could see all the shipping in front; all in Limehouse Reach; and all in Blackwall Reach. As the tide ebbed and flowed, the navies and the trade of London passed up and down, outward bound or homeward bound. Sitting at her window, or walking on her terrace, Queen Elizabeth could for herself learn what was meant by the foreign trade of London: what was meant by the exports and imports: she could see every kind of ship that floats come sailing up the river, streamers flying, dipping the peak in salute: she could understand the coasting trade and the Flemish trade: she could ask what the hoys and ketches, the lighters, and the barges carried up to the Port of London in such numbers: she could herself, and often did, embark upon the stream in summer, when the sun was sinking in the west, to see the ships more closely and to enjoy the fresh, cool air of the river. Witness the sad history of Thomas Appletree.

It was on the 17th day of July in the year 1579, about nine o'clock of the evening, that an accident happened which might have had fatal consequences. The Queen was taking the air in her private barge, between Greenwich and Deptford. With her were the French Ambassador, the Earl of Lincoln, and other great persons, discoursing affairs of state. Unfortunately for themselves, four young fellows were out in a small boat at the same time, and on the same part of the river. They were Thomas Appletree, a young servant of Francis Carey, two singing boys of the Queen's choir, and another. Thomas Appletree had possessed himself of a 'caliver' or arquebus, which he was so ill advised as to load with ball and then fire it at random up and down the river. One of these haphazard discharges carried the bullet straight to the Queen's barge, where it passed through both arms of{104} the oarsman nearest Her Majesty. The man thus unexpectedly wounded, finding himself bleeding like a pig—for it was a flesh wound—threw himself down, bawling and roaring out that he was murdered. The Queen comforted him with the assurance that he should be properly cared for, and ordered the barge to be taken back to the shore at once. The man, being treated, speedily recovered. Meantime, who had dared to fire a gun at the Queen's barge? The question was very quickly answered, and the Lords in Council had the four lads brought up before them. It appearing that the only guilty person was Thomas Appletree, the other three were suffered to depart, and Thomas was tried. It was ascertained that there could be no question as to the loyalty of Thomas's master, Francis Carey, therefore the whole guilt rested on the shoulders of the unlucky serving man, whose only fault had been foolhardiness in firing his gun at random. He was therefore sentenced to be hanged, with the usual accompaniments, for treason. Accordingly, on the 20th day of July he was taken from Newgate and conducted on a hurdle with great ceremony to Tower Hill, and so through the postern to Ratcliff, where, opposite the place where the offence was committed, they had put up a gibbet on which the unhappy Thomas Appletree was to be hanged. He had made a dolorous journey on his hurdle, weeping copiously all the way, and many of the people weeping with him. Arrived at the gallows, he mounted the ladder, and, if the chronicler repeats faithfully, he made a most admirable use of the last moments which remained to him. It is, indeed, truly remarkable to observe how admirably all those who were taken out to die acquitted themselves, whether it was a peer to be beheaded for treason, or a Catholic priest to be hanged, drawn, and quartered for being a priest. Appletree, for his part, spoke so movingly that the people all wept with him. Then the hangman put the rope round the condemned man's neck, and the bitterness of death entered into his soul. But the people{105} cried, 'Stay! Stay!' and at that moment there came riding up the Queen's Vice-Chamberlain, Sir Christopher Hatton. But think not that the Vice-Chamberlain hastily proclaimed the royal pardon. Not at all. He left Thomas on the ladder for a while; he made an oration on the heinousness of the offence: he made everybody kneel while he prayed for the safety of the Queen: and then, when all hearts were softened and all eyes bedewed, he pronounced the Queen's pardon, which the prisoner acknowledged in suitable language. Thomas Appletree was then taken back to the Marshalsea, where he remained, one hopes, a very short time after this. We may be quite sure that whatever destiny was in store for this young man, shooting at random with a caliver or arquebus would have nothing to do with it.

Another association of Greenwich is that of Sir John Willoughby's departure for the Arctic seas. He was going to endeavour to open a new way for trade round the N.E. Arctic sea along the north coast of Asia. He embarked at Ratcliff Stairs: you may take boat there to this day. As he passed down the river, with flags and streamers flying, they brought out the little King Edward, who was dying, to see the sailing of the stout old sailor. So with firing of guns the ships passed on their way, and they carried the dying King back to his bed. In a day or two Edward was dead. In six months, or it might be less, Willoughby was dead too, frozen to death in his cabin, where the Russians found him, his dead hand on his papers.

If you wish to know what state was kept by Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich, you will find an account of it in Hentzner, that excellent traveller who remarked so much, and put all down on paper.

'We arrived at the Royal Palace of Greenwich, reported to have been originally built by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and to have received very magnificent additions from Henry VII. It was here Elizabeth, the present Queen,{106} was born, and here she generally resides; particularly in Summer, for the Delightfulness of its Situation. We were admitted by an Order Mr. Rogers had procured from the Lord Chamberlain, into the Presence-Chamber, hung with rich Tapestry, and the Floor, after the English fashion, strewed with Hay,[1] through which the Queen commonly passes in her way to chapel: At the Door stood a Gentleman dressed in Velvet, with a Gold Chain, whose Office was to introduce to the Queen any Person of Distinction, that came to wait on her: It was Sunday, when there is usually the greatest Attendance of Nobility. In the same Hall were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, a great Number of Counsellors of State, Officers of the Crown, and Gentlemen, who waited the Queen's coming out; which she did from her own Apartment, when it was Time to go to Prayers, attended in the following Manner:

'First went Gentlemen, Barons, Earls, Knights of the Garter, all richly dressed and bare-headed; next came the Chancellor, bearing the Seals in a red-silk Purse, between Two: One of which carried the Royal Scepter, the other the Sword of State, in a red Scabbard, studded with golden Fleurs de Lis, the Point upwards: Next came the Queen, in the Sixty-fifth Year of her Age, as we were told, very majestic; her Face oblong, fair, but wrinkled; her Eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her Nose a little hooked; her Lips narrow, and her Teeth black (a Defect the English seem subject to, from their too great Use of Sugar): she had in her Ears two Pearls, with very rich Drops; she wore false Hair, and that red; upon her Head she had a small Crown, reported to be made of some of the Gold of the celebrated Lunebourg Table:[2] Her Bosom was uncovered, as all the English Ladies have it, till they marry; and she had on a Necklace of exceeding fine Jewels; her Hands were small,{107} her Fingers long, and her Stature neither tall nor low; her Air was stately, her Manner of Speaking mild and obliging. That Day she was dressed in white Silk, bordered with Pearls of the Size of Beans, and over it a Mantle of black Silk, shot with Silver Threads; her Train was very long, the End of it borne by a Marchioness; instead of a Chain, she had an oblong Collar of Gold and Jewels. As she went along in all this State and Magnificence, she spoke very graciously, first to one, then to another, whether foreign Ministers, or those who attended for different Reasons, in English, French and Italian; for, besides being well skilled in Greek, Latin, and the Languages I have mentioned, she is mistress of Spanish, Scotch, and Dutch: Whoever speaks to her, it is kneeling; now and then she raises some with her Hand. While we were there, W. Slawata, a Bohemian Baron, had Letters to present to her; and she, after pulling off her Glove, gave him her right Hand to kiss, sparkling with Rings and Jewels, a Mark of particular Favour: Where-ever she turned her Face, as she was going along, everybody fell down on their Knees.[3] The Ladies of the Court followed next to her, very handsome and well-shaped, and for the most Part dressed in white; she was guarded on each Side by the Gentlemen Pensioners, fifty in Number, with gilt Battleaxes. In the Antichapel next the Hall where we were, Petitions were presented to her, and she received them most graciously, which occasioned the Acclamation of, Long live Queen ELIZABETH! She answered with, I thank you, my good PEOPLE. In the Chapel was excellent Music; as soon as it and the Service was over, which scarce exceeded half an hour, the Queen returned in the same State and Order, and prepared to go to Dinner. But while she was still at Prayers, we saw her Table set out with the following Solemnity.{108}

'A Gentleman entered the Room bearing a Rod, and along with him another who had a Table-cloth, which, after they had both kneeled three Times with the utmost Veneration, he spread upon the Table, and after kneeling again they both retired. Then came two others, one with the Rod again, the other with a Salt-seller, a Plate and Bread; when they had kneeled, as the others had done, and placed what was brought upon the Table, they too retired with the same Ceremonies performed by the first. At last came an unmarried Lady (we were told she was a Countess), and along with her a married one, bearing a Tasting-knife; the former was dressed in white Silk, who, when she had prostrated herself three Times, in the most graceful Manner, approached the Table, and rubbed the Plates with Bread and Salt with as much Awe as if the Queen had been present: When they had waited there a little while, the Yeomen of the Guard entered, bare-headed, cloathed in Scarlet, with a golden Rose upon their Backs, bringing in at each Turn a Course of twenty-four Dishes, served in plate, most of it Gilt; these Dishes were received by a Gentleman in the same Order they were brought, and placed upon the Table, while the Lady-taster gave to each of the Guards a mouthful to eat, of the particular dish he had brought, for Fear of any Poison. During the Time that this Guard, which consists of the tallest and stoutest Men that can be found in all England, being carefully selected for this Service, were bringing Dinner, twelve Trumpets and two Kettle-drums made the Hall ring for Half an Hour together. At the end of this Ceremonial a Number of unmarried Ladies appeared, who, with particular solemnity, lifted the Meat off the Table, and conveyed it into the Queen's inner and more private Chamber, where, after she had chosen for herself, the rest goes to the Ladies of the Court.

'The Queen dines and sups alone, with very few Attendants; and it is very seldom that any Body, Foreigner or{109} Native, is admitted at that Time, and then only at the Intercession of somebody in Power.'

On the Restoration, Charles at first resolved to pull down the Palace and build it anew. For this purpose he consulted various persons, and after many delays began the building. He only succeeded, however, in erecting what is now the west wing of the Hospital. But it never again became a Royal Residence. In 1694, the Palace was converted into a Hospital for the Royal Navy. This splendid institution, one of the glories of Great Britain, and a standing monument of the nation's gratitude to her sailors, and an ever present invitation to enter the navy, was closed, with that stupid indifference to sentiment which so often distinguishes the acts of our Government, in the year 1870.

[1] He probably means rushes.

[2] At this distance of time, it is difficult to say what this was.

[3] Her Father had been treated with the same Deference. It is mentioned by Fox in his 'Acts and Monuments,' that when the Lord Chancellor went to apprehend Queen Catherine Parr, he spoke to the King on his Knees. King James I. suffered his Courtiers to omit it.


Lambeth Palace Lambeth Palace

The now huge town of Lambeth presents few points of interest either to the visitor or to the historian. There are no buildings of any antiquity except the Palace and the Church. There are no modern buildings at all worth notice. There have been two or three memorable houses{110} which we shall do well to touch upon: but they are not so memorable as to deserve long description. The Bishops of Rochester had a house in the Marsh—the site is in Carlisle Place, Westminster Road, at the back of St. Thomas's Hospital, close to Lambeth Palace. It was in this house that, in 1531, a wretched man named Robert Roose, in the Bishop's service as cook, wilfully, as was alleged, poisoned a large number of people, and was boiled to death in oil—the only instance, I believe, of this dreadful punishment. The wretched man was tied naked to a post and slowly lowered into the boiling fluid. Fisher was the last Bishop of Rochester who lived in this house. The buildings, with losses and additions, existed in some form or other till 1827. The house, indeed, had a strangely chequered history. The Bishop of Rochester exchanged it with the Crown for a house thought more convenient in Southwark, close to Winchester House. The Crown gave it to the Bishop of Carlisle, who seems to have let it on lease: thus it lost its ecclesiastical character altogether and became given over to entirely secular uses. It was at one time a pottery: then a tavern, and even a notorious and disorderly house: then a dancing master taught his accomplishments in the house: then it became a school. Finally, the gardens were built over, the operations disclosing many interesting gates and 'bits.'

Another house was that belonging to the Duke of Norfolk: it was called Norfolk House, and it stood on the other side of the Palace, on the site now marked by Paradise Street. Here lived the old Duke whose life was saved by the death of Henry the Eighth; here was brought up the accomplished Earl of Surrey whose life would have been saved had Henry died a few days earlier. Leland, the antiquary and scholar, was the Earl's tutor. The widow of Dr. Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, obtained the house. Her heirs ceased to live in it; the house was neglected, probably because no tenant could be found for it. Finally, it was pulled down. It is{111} interesting to note the town houses which stood upon the Bank from Rotherhithe to Battersea: that of the Prior of Lewes; of Sir John Fastolfe; of the Augustines; the House of St. Mary Overies; Winchester House; Rochester House; Norfolk House; and later, the house of the St. Johns at Battersea. There are none between Bankside and Lambeth; that part of the Embankment which lies between Blackfriars and Westminster Bridge has no history and no associations.


Another noteworthy Lambeth house was that called Copt Hall, afterwards Vauxhall, situated opposite to the gardens afterwards called Vauxhall. In this house the unfortunate Arabella Stuart lived for a time. A good deal might be written about Copt Hall, but not in this place.

The houses of the Archbishop, the Bishop of Rochester, and the Duke of Norfolk stood close together and clustered round the church. The reason was the necessity of building on or near to the Embankment. Exactly opposite the south{112} porch of the church may be observed a small and somewhat decayed street grandly called the High. The name and the situation close to the church indicate an individual and separate existence of the town or village of Lambeth, of which this was the principal street and the centre. The village, in fact, did exist from very early times; its population for the most part earned their livelihood as Thames fishermen. They were the lineal successors of that fortunate Edric to whom St. Peter appeared when he consecrated the Abbey. There was another colony of Thames fishermen lower down the river on Bermondsey Wall. When William the Conqueror is said to have burned Southwark it was the fishermen's cottages which he destroyed. None of these lived between Bankside and Westminster, which is proved by the fact that there is no church near the river wall at that place. The Thames fishermen lingered on, though the fishery grew poorer, until about 1820, when they were reduced to a single court in Lambeth. The place is described as mean and rickety, with neither paving nor lamps; the woodwork of the cottages broken; the roofs burst and tottering; the windows stuffed with rags or mended with paper; the children in rags; the court a receptacle for everything.

Lambeth as it is has mostly sprung into existence in the nineteenth century, during which its population has been actually multiplied by ten, and more than ten, rising from 27,000 in 1801 to 295,000 in 1891, an enormous increase. The principal reason of this development is the introduction of a great many industries—potteries, vinegar factories, distilleries, salt warehouses, bottle factories, and so forth.

Lambeth certainly cannot be called a beautiful town nor a desirable place of residence. The perambulator looks about in vain for streets noble, striking or picturesque; he looks in vain for houses beautiful or ancient; there is nothing to reward him. Old houses there were before the great increase began, but they exist no more; the place is dull; in parts it{113} is dirty; everywhere it is without character or distinction. It has, however, a pretty park called after the famous Vauxhall Gardens, on whose site it stands. The park is new, but it is well laid out and planted; already it is a pretty piece of greenery, and, with Kennington and Battersea Parks, offers a much wanted breathing place for the multitudes of that quarter. It is adorned, or enriched, or ennobled, by a statue of Henry Fawcett, who died in a house on this spot. The statesman, attired in a costume strictly of the period, is sitting in a chair, pretending not to be aware that behind him stands an angel with outstretched wings, crowning him with laurel. He is obviously embarrassed by the situation. He feels that he ought to be dressed in some kind of Court costume—if he knew what—in order to receive the angel; or the angel might have assumed a frock coat in compliment to the statesman. The wings were probably in the way.

(From 'La Belle Assemblée,' Nov. 1822)

Lambeth Palace, whose history I am not going to narrate, plays a very considerable part in the History of England. In 1232 and in 1234, Parliament was held here. In 1261{114} and 1280 Councils were held here. In 1412 Archbishop Arundell, the kindly Christian who was so anxious to burn heretics, issued from this Palace a condemnation as heretical of a great many opinions, insomuch that it became obviously dangerous to have any opinions at all. This, however, was the condition of mind most desired by the Church of Arundell's time and of his views. It is needless to recount the many occasions when Kings and Queens were entertained at Lambeth Palace. Cardinal Pole died here. It was sometimes a prison. Queen Elizabeth entrusted to the care of the Archbishop at Lambeth, Bishops Tonstal and Thirlby, the Earl of Essex, the Earl of Southampton, Lord Stourton, and many others, who were kept in honourable confinement, not in dungeons or cells, but each in his own chamber.

(From an Engraving dated 1804)

That there were prisons in every Episcopal Palace was{115} necessary at a time when the clergy could only be tried in Ecclesiastical Courts, so that the Bishops could not send their criminous clerks to an ordinary prison. Hence it is that we{116} frequently read of a priest brought before an Ecclesiastical Court, but we do not learn what became of him. He was consigned to the prison of the House. When the Lollards inveighed against the corruption of ecclesiastics they accused the Bishops of too great leniency towards their delinquents and prisoners. In some cases, no doubt, the ecclesiastical prison was used to save a prisoner from the worst consequences of his offence. For instance, a heretic handed over to the secular arm had by law to be burned. Let us endeavour to believe that in the Archbishop's prison cells of Lambeth there were many who might have been burned but for the humanity which sometimes overrode even Ecclesiastical ruthlessness.


It is recorded in Archbishop Arundell's Register (Cave-Browne, 'Lambeth Palace,' p. 710) that he sent for a Chaplain out of his prisons below his manor house at Lambeth. The Chaplain was a preacher licensed by the Archbishop who yet carried about with him a concubine. No doubt the poor man regarded her as his wife, and so called her, as thousands of the clergy did, and were held blameless by the people for so doing.

The Palace either contains, or has at some time contained, the work of nearly every Archbishop in succession. For a full and complete history of the buildings, which would be outside the limits of the present chapter, the reader is referred{117} to the pleasant pages of the Rev. J. Cave-Browne, called 'Lambeth and its Associations.'


It is impossible to determine when the building of Lambeth Palace began. One thing is certain, that it has always been an Ecclesiastical Palace. The manor of Lambeth belonged to the Lady Guda, sister of Edward the Confessor. In Domesday Book the manor contained thirty-nine men,{118} who with their families probably represented a population of about 200. They had a church, which stood on the site of the present church. Observe how all the old churches belonging to the Marsh stand on the Embankment—Rotherhithe; St. Olave's; Lambeth; Battersea. Guda, wife of Eustace, Count of Boulogne, gave the manor to the Bishop and convent of Rochester, reserving the church. Harold, it is said, took it from the Bishop; it was seized by William the Conqueror. William Rufus restored it to Rochester and added the patronage of the Church. In 1197 Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, gave the manor of Dartford to the Bishop and convent of Rochester, in exchange for Lambeth. Having got possession of the place, Hubert set to work to improve it. He obtained a weekly market and an annual fair; the latter continued till the year 1757.

What Hubert built here is uncertain, but it is certain that he did build some kind of residence. Stephen Langton added other buildings; Boniface, A.D. 1260, found the buildings in great need of repair or insufficient. He was the first considerable builder of Lambeth. One may make a fair guess at the work of Boniface. We may consider it by the light afforded by the monastic Houses—this was not a monastery, but there was certainly something of the monastic spirit about the House. We may also take it for granted that certain essential parts of the building, though they might be rebuilt with greater splendour, would not change their position. For instance, when in after years we find a chapel, a cloister, a water-tower, or entrance from the river, and a gate-tower, or entrance from the land—then these things existed from the first. Boniface, therefore, found a chapel in the north-west corner of the Palace, where it still stands; on the west side of the chapel he found a water-tower with a gate opening upon a creek of the river by which everything was received into the House, the door of communication with the outer world, while the Archbishop's barges and boats lay moored up the{119} creek. South of the chapel Boniface either built or rebuilt the cloisters; south of the cloisters he built or rebuilt his Hall. A Hall was absolutely necessary for a great house, and for an Archbishop's Palace it must be a splendid Hall. What is now called the Guard Room was probably at first part of the Archbishop's private apartments.

Doorway in the Lollard's Tower Doorway in the Lollard's Tower


A list of the rooms then in the Palace was made in 1321. At that time there was the Archbishop's private Chapel, his Chamber, his Hall, the Chancellor's Chambers, the Great Chapel, the Great Gate, and certain minor apartments—a modest list, but the dormitories and principal bedchambers are not enumerated, nor is any mention made of the Library, the offices, the cells, or the Main Gate, all of which must have been there.

Then we come to the later works, of which there are more than we need set down—are they not written in Ducarel the Laborious and in Cave-Browne the Life-giver to the dust and ashes of ancient facts? The principal gateway as we now see it is the fifteenth century work of Cardinal Morton; it is built in the same style as the gateway of St. John's College, Cambridge, but is much larger and finer; with the Church, it forms a most effective group of buildings. The present Water Tower was built by Archbishop Chicheley, but on the site of an older tower; it contained, as I have said, the water gate—that is to say, the real gate of communication with the world. To this gate came all the visitors—Kings and Cardinals, Legates, Bishops and Ambassadors; and to this gate came the barges with supplies for my Lord's table. Cranmer is said to have built the small tower at the north-east of the Chapel. Cardinal Pole, who died here, built the Long Gallery, and probably the piazza that supported it. Laud built the smaller tower on the south face of the Chicheley Tower. Let us remark here that the Tower never had any connection with Lollards, and that all the talk about the unhappy Lollard prisoners is without foundation.


Juxon, who found the Palace a 'heap of ruins,' spent his three years of occupancy and 15,000l. of his own money in restoring the place for the honour and splendour of the Church. As for what has been done since that time, especially by Archbishop Howley, it all belongs to the detailed history of the Palace. It is sufficient here to note that the Palace is a{121} worthy House to-day, as it was five hundred years ago, for the residence of the Primate. He belongs still, as his Roman Catholic predecessors, to a Church whose members love some splendour in their ecclesiastical Princes, just as they love splendour in their churches and stateliness in their ritual. They do not desire to make a Bishop rich: they do desire that a Bishop should not be hampered by narrow circumstances: they desire that he should be able to take the lead in all good works. In ancient times, the Bishop rode or sat in splendid state: he sat every day at a table loaded with costly and luxurious food: outwardly he was clothed with silken robes. But he touched nothing that was set before him: he lived hardly and abstemiously: and he wore next his skin a hair shirt: and for greater self-denial he suffered{122} his hair shirt to be full of vermin. That was the ideal Bishop of mediæval times. Our own is much the same: a simple life: a splendid house: modest wants: a large income: for himself no luxuries: and an open hand. Such a house: such an income: we have always given to an Archbishop, whether of the old or of the Reformed Faith.

The Chapel has at least one memory which will always cling to it. Within its dark and gloomy crypt Anne Boleyn, brought from the Tower, stood to hear her sentence. She was to be burned to death as an adulteress. I am not qualified by study of the case or by education in the weighing of evidence to pronounce an opinion as to her innocence. I believe that those who have examined into the case are of opinion that Anne Boleyn fell a victim to the King's jealousy: to his change of mind towards her: and to her own foolish frivolity. However, in the crypt she was persuaded into making some sort of avowal of a previous betrothal, in return for which she was spared the agonies of the stake. I have sometimes thought that the King must have thought her guilty, otherwise he would have divorced her on a charge of adultery, and suffered her to live. If he did not believe her guilty, how could he, being, above all things, a man of human passions, have sentenced the woman whom he had once loved to so horrible a death?

Let us note, however, that our ancestors did not regard death by burning with quite the same horror as is now common. There is a story of Rogers—or Bradford—the martyr. Some one once begged his intercession to save a woman from burning. 'It is a gentle mode of death,' he replied. 'Then,' said the other, 'I hope that you yourself will some day have your hands full of this gentle death.' Punishment was meant to be painful: the least painful form of death was that accorded to the noble—to be beheaded. If a man died by the executioner, it was expected that he should suffer. Death, in all forms, meant suffering. In disease and{123} in old age men suffered torture as bad as any inflicted by the executioner.

I am not excusing Henry. I am only pleading that he must have believed in Anne's guilt or he could not possibly have allowed such a sentence; and that cruel as it seems to us, it did not seem so cruel at that time. There is, however, no more sorrowful story in the whole long History of England, which is, alas! so full of sorrow and of tragedy, than that of Anne Boleyn.

Lambeth Palace, the only palace in the whole of South London, is a monument of English History from the twelfth century downwards. Kennington appears at intervals; Eltham is a holiday house; Greenwich practically begins with the Tudors. Lambeth, like Westminster or St. Paul's, belongs to the long history of the English people. It is a place little known: of the millions now, in the circle of the Greater London, how many, I should like to ask, have ever seen the interior? Of the vast population of Lambeth, Battersea, and Kennington, of which it is the centre, how many, I wonder, know anything at all about its history or its buildings?

Of those who daily go up and down the river, who come and go across the Bridge, and suffer their careless and unobservant eyes to rest for a moment on the grey walls and Tower of the Palace, how many are there who know, or inquire, or care for the wealth of history that clings to every stone?{124}



The part which Processions of all kinds played in the mediæval life is so great that one must inquire how Southwark fared in this respect. Where Bishops, Abbots, and great Lords lived there were Processions whenever one arrived or one departed. If the Bishop of Winchester went to the King's House at Winchester, it was with a great Procession of followers, chaplains, priests, secretaries, and gentlemen. If the Earl of Suffolk arrived at his town house, it was with a gallant company of gentlemen wearing his livery. If the King kept his Christmas at Eltham, he would be preceded by an endless train of carts groaning and grumbling along the road, filled with household gear and followed by the troops of scullions, cooks, grooms and lavenders whose duty was in the kitchens, stables, laundries, and pantries. He himself rode with a royal regiment, sometimes 4,000 strong, of archers for his bodyguard, besides the nobles, Bishops and Abbots who were with him for the Christmas festivities. The town itself had its Processions: the annual march of the Fraternity to church: the departure and the arrival of the pilgrims; the Ecclesiastical Functions of Church and Monastic House. As for the royal pageants and the Lord Mayor's Ridings, it must be confessed that Southwark got but the beginning: that part of the pageant which began at London Bridge: and that the place itself was quite passed by and unconsidered.

Since, however, Southwark did witness that part, I have drawn up a short series of notes on the sights of which the Borough took a share.{125}

Thus, when Richard the Second restored the City privileges in 1392, he was met by four hundred of the citizens, all mounted and clad in the same livery: they invited him to ride to Westminster through London.

'The request having been granted, he pursued his journey to Southwark, where, at St. George's Church, he was met by a procession of the Bishop of London and all the religious of every degree and both sexes, and about five hundred boys in surplices. At London Bridge a beautiful white steed and a milk-white palfrey, both saddled, bridled, and caparisoned in cloth of gold, were presented to the King and Queen. The citizens received them, standing in their liveries on each side the street, crying, "King Richard, King Richard!"'

The rest of the pageant belongs to the City and to North London. Again, on the return of the victorious Henry the Fifth from France there was a splendid Pageant, of which the South got some part, namely, the following:

'On the King's return after the glorious field of Agincourt, the Mayor of London and the Aldermen, apparelled in orient grained scarlet, and four hundred commoners clad in beautiful murrey, well mounted and trimly horsed, with rich collars and great chains, met the King at Blackheath; and the clergy of London in solemn procession, with rich crosses, sumptuous copes, and massy censers, received him at St. Thomas of Waterings. The King, like a grave and sober personage, and as one who remembered from Whom all victories are sent, seemed little to regard the vain pomp and shows, insomuch that he would not suffer his helmet to be carried with him, whereby the blows and dents upon it might have been seen by the people, nor would he suffer any ditties to be made and sung by minstrels of his glorious victory, because he would the praise and thanks should be altogether given to God.

'At the entrance of London Bridge, on the top of the tower, stood a gigantic figure, bearing in his right hand an{126} axe, and in his left the keys of the City hanging to a staff, as if he had been the porter. By his side stood a female of scarcely less stature, intended for his wife. Around them were a band of trumpets and other wind instruments. The towers were adorned with banners of the royal arms, and in the front of them was inscribed CIVITAS REGIS JUSTICIE (the City of the King of Righteousness).

'At the drawbridge on each side was erected a lofty column like a little tower, built of wood and covered with linen; one painted like white marble, and the other like green jasper. They were surmounted by figures of the King's beasts—an antelope, having a shield of the royal arms suspended from his neck, and a sceptre in his right foot; and a lion, bearing in his right claw the royal standard unfurled.

'At the foot of the bridge next the city was raised a tower, formed and painted like the columns before mentioned, in the middle of which, under a splendid pavilion, stood a most beautiful image of St. George, armed, excepting his head, which was adorned with a laurel crown studded with gems and precious stones. Behind him was a crimson tapestry, with his arms (a red cross) glittering on a multitude of shields. On his right hung his triumphal helmet, and on his left a shield of his arms of suitable size. In his right hand he held the hilt of the sword with which he was girt, and in his left a scroll, which, extending along the turrets, contained these words, SOLI DEO HONOR ET GLORIA. In a contiguous house were innumerable boys representing the angelic host, arrayed in white, with glittering wings, and their hair set with sprigs of laurel; who, on the King's approach, sang, accompanied by organs, an anthem, supposed to be that beginning "Our King went forth to Normandy;" and whose burthen is "Deo gratias, Anglia, redde pro victoria."'

When Henry VI. returned after his coronation in 1432—

'On returning from his Coronation in France King Henry the Sixth was met at Blackheath by the Mayor and citizens{127} of London, on Feb. 21, 1431-2; the latter being dressed in white, with the cognizances of their mysteries or crafts embroidered on their sleeves; and the Mayor and his brethren in scarlet.

'When the King came to London Bridge, there was devised a mighty giant, standing with a sword drawn, and having this poetical speech inscribed by his side:

'All those that be enemies to the King,
I shall them clothe with confusion,
Make him mighty by virtuous living,
His mortal foes to oppress and bear them down:
And him to increase as Christ's champion.
All mischiefs from him to abridge,
With grace of God, at the entry of this Bridge.

'When the King had passed the first gate, and was arrived at the drawbridge, he found a goodly tower hung with silk and cloth of arras, out of which suddenly appeared three ladies, clad in gold and silk, with coronets upon their heads; of which the first was dame Nature, the second dame Grace, and the third dame Fortune. They each addressed the King in verses similar to those already quoted, and which, together with those which followed, the curious will find in their place. On each side of them were ranged seven virgins, all clothed in white; those on the right hand had baudricks of sapphire colour or blue, and the others had their garments powdered with golden stars. The first seven presented the King with the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost—sapience, intelligence, good counsel, strength, cunning, pity, and dread of God: and the others with the seven gifts of grace, in these verses:

'God thee endow with a crown of glory,
And with the sceptre of clemency and pity,
And with a sword of might and victory,
And with a mantle of prudence clad thou be,
A shield of faith for to defend thee,
A helm of health wrought to thine increase,
Girt with a girdle of love and perfect peace.

'After which they sang a roundel, the burthen of which was "Welcome out of France."'

The Pageant which welcomed Queen Margaret of Anjou on her Coronation presented, first, at the Bridge Foot at Southwark, 'Peace and plenty,' with the motto 'Ingredimini et replete terram,'—Enter ye and replenish the earth—and the following verses were recited:

Most Christian Princesse, by influence of grace,
Doughter of Jherusalem, owr pleasaunce
And joie, welcome as ever Princess was,
With hert entier, and hoole affiaunce:
Cawser of welthe, ioye, and abundaunce,
Youre Citee, yowr people, your subgets all,
With hert, with worde, with dede, your highnesse to avaunce,
Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! vnto you call.
.   .   .   .   .   .   .

Upon the Bridge itself appeared Noah's Ark, with the words, 'Jam non ultra irascar super terram' (Genesis viii. 21), and the following verses were addressed to the Queen:

So trustethe your people, with assurance
Throwghe yowr grace, and highe benignitie.
'Twixt the Realms two, England and Fraunce,
Pees shall approche, rest and vnite:
Mars set asyde with all his crueltye,
Whiche too longe hathe trowbled the Realmes twayne;
Byndynge yowr comfortem in this adversite,
Most Christian Princesse owr Lady Soverayne.
Right as whilom, by God's myght and grace,
Noe this arke dyd forge and ordayne;
Wherein he and his might escape and passe
The flood of vengeance caused by trespasse:
Conveyed aboute as God list him to gye,
By meane of mercy found a restinge place
After the flud, vpon this Armonie.
Vnto the Dove that browght the braunche of peas,
Resemblinge yowr symplenesse columbyne,
Token and signe that the flood shuld cesse,
Conducte by grace and power devyne;{129}
Sonne of comfort 'gynneth faire to shine
By yowr presence whereto we synge and seyne.
Welcome of ioye right extendet lyne
Moste Christian Princesse, owr Lady Sovereyne.

On the marriage of Katharine of Aragon with Prince Arthur there was a great Pageant. The part at the south entrance of the Bridge is thus described:

'It consisted of a tabernacle of two floors, resembling two roodlofts; in the lower of which sat a fair young lady with a wheel in her hand, in likeness of Saint Katherine, with many virgins on every side of her; and in the higher story was another lady, in likeness of Saint Ursula, also with a great multitude of virgins right goodly dressed and arrayed. Above all was a representation of the Trinity. On each side of both stories was one small square tabernacle, with proper vanes, and in every square was a garter with this poesy in French, Onye soit que male pens, inclosing a red rose. On the tops of these tabernacles were six angels, casting incense on the Trinity, and the two Saints. The outer walls were painted with hanging curtains of cloth of tissue, blue and red; and at some distance before the pageant were set two great posts, painted with the three ostrich feathers, red roses, and portcullisses, and surmounted by a lion rampant, holding a vane painted with the arms of England. The whole work was carved with timber, and was gilt and painted with biss and azure.'

The next Pageant that passed through Southwark was that of Charles the Second at his Restoration:

'On the 29th of May, 1660, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen met the King at St. George's Fields in Southwark, and the former, having delivered the City sword to his Majesty, had the same returned with the honour of knighthood. A very magnificent tent was erected in the Fields, provided with a sumptuous collation, of which the King participated. He then proceeded towards London, which was pompously{130} adorned with the richest silks and tapestry, and the streets lined with the City Corporations and trained bands; while the conduits flowed with a variety of delicious wines, and the windows, balconies, and scaffolds were crowded with such an infinite number of spectators, as if the whole collective body of the people had been assembled to grace the Royal Entry.

'The procession was chiefly composed of the military. First marched a gallant troop of gentlemen in cloth of silver, brandishing their swords, and led by Major-General Brown; then another troop of two hundred in velvet coats, with footmen and liveries attending them, in purple; a third led by Alderman Robinson, in buff coats with cloth of silver sleeves and very rich green scarfs; a troop of about two hundred, with blue liveries laid with silver, with six trumpeters, and several footmen, in sea-green and silver; another of two hundred and twenty, with thirty footmen in grey and silver liveries, and four trumpeters richly habited; another of an hundred and five, with grey liveries, and six trumpets; and another of seventy, with five trumpets; and then three troops more, two of three hundred and one of one hundred, all gloriously habited, and gallantly mounted. After these came two trumpets with his Majesty's arms; the Sheriffs' men, in number fourscore, in red cloaks, richly laced with silver, with half-pikes in their hands. Then followed six hundred of the several Companies of London on horseback, in black velvet coats, with gold chains, each Company having footmen in different liveries, with streamers, &c.; after whom came kettle-drums and trumpets, with streamers, and after them twelve ministers (clergymen) at the head of his Majesty's life-guard of horse, commanded by Lord Gerrard. Next the City Marshal, with eight footmen in various colours, with the City Waits and Officers in order; then the two Sheriffs with all the Aldermen in their scarlet gowns and rich trappings, with footmen in liveries, red coats laid with silver, and cloth of gold; the heralds and maces in rich coats; the Lord{131} Mayor bare-headed, carrying the sword, with his Excellency the General (Monk) and the Duke of Buckingham, also uncovered; and then, as the lustre to all this splendid triumph, rode the King himself between his Royal brothers the Dukes of York and Gloucester. Then followed a troop of horse with white colours; the General's life-guard, led by Sir Philip Howard, and another troop of gentry; and, last of all, five regiments of horse belonging to the army, with back, breast, and head-pieces: which, it is remarked, "diversified the show with delight and terror."'

On November 26, 1697, after the Peace of Ryswick, William the Third made a triumphant entry into London:

'He came from Greenwich about ten o'clock, in his coach, with Prince George and the Earl of Scarbrough, attended by four score other coaches, each drawn by six horses. The Archbishop of Canterbury came next to the King, the Lord Chancellor after him, then the Dukes of Norfolk, Devon, Southampton, Grafton, Shrewsbury, and all the principal noblemen. Some companies of Foot Grenadiers went before, the Horse Grenadiers followed, as did the Horse Life-Guards and some of the Earl of Oxford's Horse; the Gentlemen of the Band of Pensioners were in Southwark, but did not march on foot; the Yeomen of the Guard were about the King's coach.

'On St. Margaret's Hill in Southwark the Lord Mayor met his Majesty, where, on his knees, he delivered the sword, which his Majesty returned, ordering him to carry it before him. Then Mr. Recorder made a speech suitable to the occasion, after which the cavalcade commenced.

'A detachment of about one hundred of the City Trained Bands, in buff coats and red feathers in their hats, preceded; then followed two of the King's coaches, and one of Prince George's; then two City Marshals on horseback, with their six men on foot in new liveries; the six City Trumpets on horseback; the Sheriff's Officers on foot with their halberds{132} and javelins in their hands; the Lord Mayor's Officers in black gowns; the City Officers on horseback, each attended by a servant on foot, viz.: the four Attorneys, the Solicitor and Remembrancer, the two Secondaries, the Comptroller, the Common Pleaders, the two Judges, the Town Clerk, the Common Serjeant, and the Chamberlain. Then came the Water Bailiff on horseback, carrying the City banner; the Common Crier and the Sword-bearer, the last in his gown of black damask and gold chain; each with a servant; then those who had fined for Sheriffs or Aldermen, or had served as such, according to their seniority, in scarlet, two and two, on horseback; the two Sheriffs on horseback, with their gold chains and white staffs, with two servants apiece; the Aldermen below the chair on horseback, in scarlet, each attended by his Beadle and two servants; the Recorder, in scarlet, on horseback, with two servants; and the Aldermen above the chair, in scarlet, on horseback, wearing their gold chains, each attended by his Beadle and four servants. Then followed the State all on horseback, uncovered, viz.: the Knight Marshall with a footman on each side; then the kettle-drums, the Drum-Major, the King's Trumpets, the Serjeant Trumpet with his mace; after followed the Pursuivants at Arms, Heralds of Arms, Kings of Arms, with the Serjeants at Arms on each side, bearing their maces, all bare-headed, and each attended with a servant. Then the Lord Mayor of London on horseback, in a crimson velvet gown, with a collar and jewel, bearing the City sword by his Majesty's permission, with four footmen in liveries; Clarenceux King at Arms supplying the place of Garter King at Arms on his right hand, and one of the Gentleman Ushers supplying the place of the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod on his left hand, each with two servants. Then came his Majesty in a rich coach, followed by a strong party of Horseguards; and the Nobility, Judges, &c., according to their ranks and qualities,{133} there being between two and three hundred coaches, each with six horses.'

On September 20, 1714, George the First was received by the Mayor and Corporation at St. Margaret's Hill, Southwark, with much the same state as that of William III. seventeen years before.

The Lord Mayor's Pageants, of which there were so many, had nothing to do with Southwark at all, except when they were water processions, in which case they could be seen as well from the South as from the North. But, in fact, Southwark was wholly disregarded in all these Pageants. The sovereign rode through the City, not through Southwark. Why should the place be regarded at all? Practically, as has been shown over and over again, it consisted of nothing at all but a causeway and an embankment, and what was once a broad Marsh drained and divided into fields and gardens and woods.

I have set down what royal processions Southwark was permitted to see, but I do not suppose that among the four hundred citizens who went out in one livery to meet King Richard there was one man from Southwark, nor do I suppose that when nine hundred and sixty citizens, each man carrying a silver cup, rode through London with the Coronation procession, there was a single man from the quarter south of London Bridge. In other words, although in course of time there was appointed—never elected—an Alderman of the Bridge Without, at no time in these Pageants or in these functions was Southwark ever regarded as part of the City, nor were her wishes consulted or her interests considered.

One Pageant alone—that of our own time—the splendid Pageant of 1897, reversed this position. As is well known, the Procession which celebrated the Sixty Years' Reign passed through the Borough as well as the City.{134}



I have to speak of a 'worthy' of Southwark who is only now remembered by the curious as the alleged original of Sir John Falstaff. If Shakespeare drew his incomparable knight from a portrait of Sir John Fastolf, then one can only say that the portrait in no single particular resembled the original. Sir John Fastolf was a great and, on the whole, a successful soldier who spent forty years fighting and commanding in France. Shakespeare's knight was unwarlike, even cowardly; fat: a frequenter of taverns and of low company, with no dignity and no authority. The only point that may lend colour to the theory that Fastolf was Falstaff lies in the fact that Fastolf was accused of cowardice at a certain battle, one of the many which he fought: and that on his return from France, the English, exasperated at their losses, laid the blame as they always do upon their most distinguished soldiers. Fastolf was as unpopular in his old age as any defeated general: there is no unpopularity so great: yet Fastolf was never a defeated general.

Shakespeare knew no more about Fastolf than the traditional charge of cowardice. In the First Part of 'Henry VI.' he presents him running away:

Captain. Whither away, Sir John Fastolfe, in haste?

Fast. Whither away? To save myself by flight.
We are like to have the overthrow again.

Captain. What? Will you fly and leave Lord Talbot?

Fast. Ay,
All Talbots in the world to save my life.

And again in Act IV. Talbot denounces Fastolf:

This dastard, at the Battle of Patay,
When but in all I was six thousand strong,
And that the French were almost ten to one,
Before we met, or that a stroke was given,
Like to a trusty knight, did run away.

And he tears off the Garter which Sir John was wearing.

Sir John Fastolf came of a Norfolk family; his people held the manors of Caister and Rudham. He was born in the year 1378, and became, after the fashion of the times, first a page to the Duke of Norfolk and next to Thomas of Lancaster, Henry the Fourth's second son.

Caxton says that he 'exercised the wars in the royaume of France and other countries by forty yeares enduring.' If so he must have been fighting in France or elsewhere across the seas as early as 1400. Perhaps he went over earlier. He was, at least, successful in getting promotion, and promotion in a time of continuous war cannot be bestowed on a soldier incapable or cowardly. He became Governor of Veires in Germany and of Harfleur. He fought with distinction at Agincourt: at the taking of Caen and at the siege of Rouen: he was Governor of Condé-sur-Noireau and of other places, as they were taken. We find him, for instance, the Governor of the Bastille in Paris. When Henry V. died, in 1422, he became Master of the Household to the Duke of Bedford, Regent of France. He was Lieutenant-Governor of Normandy and Governor of Anjou and Maine. It is remarkable to observe that in spite of his great services he was not knighted until 1417, when he was already forty years of age. In 1426, he was made a Knight of the Garter. In 1429, he won the day at the 'Battle of the Herrings,' when with a small company of archers he put to flight an army.

His record does not lead one to expect a charge of cowardice. Yet the charge was brought. It was after the Battle of Patay, in which Talbot was taken prisoner and the{136} English totally defeated. The reverse was attributed by Talbot to the cowardly defection of Fastolf, rather than to his own incompetence. Fastolf demanded an investigation, which was made, with the result of his acquittal. Probably Lord Talbot persisted in his explanation of defeat. The age, it must be confessed, was not exactly chivalrous. The Wars of the Roses, which were about to begin, brought to light gallant knights without truth or fidelity: perjured princes as well as perjured barons: accusations and recriminations: shameless desertions and changes of front. An evil time. If Lord Talbot simply tried to shift the blame of his own defeat upon Fastolf, it would be what other noble lords were perfectly ready to do in their anxiety to escape responsibility in the loss of France: a disaster, as it was then thought, which brought the greatest humiliation on the people. As for Fastolf, he continued to receive posts of honour and distinction. Yet the common people heard the reports brought home by the soldiers: nothing is more easy than a charge of treachery and cowardice: they knew nothing of the acquittal. To them Fastolf became in common talk the coward who single-handed lost France by always running away.

After the Battle of Patay, Fastolfe became Governor of Caen: he raised the siege of Vaudmont: took prisoner the Duc de Bar: he was twice appointed ambassador: he fought in the army of the Duc de Bretagne against the Duc d'Alençon: and he was ordered to draw up a report of the war. All this does not show much confidence in Lord Talbot's accusation.

In 1440, then sixty-two years of age, he sheathed his sword, put off his armour and returned to England. Few men could show a longer, or a finer, record of war. In 1441 he received from the Duke of York an annuity of £20 a year, 'pro notabili et laudabili servicio ac bono consilio.' He spent the rest of his life partly in his house at Southwark and partly{138} in his castle of Caister, which he built himself: we may very well understand that he was a man of great wealth when we read that the castle covered five acres of land.


These are the achievements of the man. About his private life and character we have a great fund of information in the 'Paston Letters.' His latest biographer ('S. L. L.' in the 'Dictionary of National Biography') concludes from these letters that Fastolf was a 'grasping man of business:' that he spent his old age in 'amassing wealth:' that he was a testy neighbour: that his dependents had much to endure at his hands. All these things may certainly be inferred from the letters. At the same time we must consider, apart from the letters, the manners of the age and the conditions of the age.

Let us take the charges one by one.

First, that his dependents had much to endure from him.

It was not a time when dependents spent their time as they pleased. In a well-ordered household every man had his post and his work. An old Knight who had fought for forty years and commanded armies was not at all likely to be a master of a soft and indulgent kind. There is no greater disciplinarian than the old soldier: no household is more sternly ruled than his. This man had not only commanded armies, he had governed provinces, cities, castles: he had wielded despotic authority: he had found it necessary to master every branch of human activity, including the law and the chicanery of lawyers: as the general in command or the Governor of the Province considered the interests of his master the King before everything, so Fastolf expected his dependents to consider his interests as before everything else. The stern old Captain, I can very well believe, looked to every one of his dependents for his share of work, and I can also very well believe that they feared him as the masterful man is always feared.{139}

One of these dependents calls him 'cruel and vengeful.' But he gives no reasons.


One does not carry on war for forty years in the midst of spies, traitors, robbers, and all the villainy of a camp without becoming stern and hard. As a soldier he had to harden himself: as a governor he had to observe justice rather than pity: as a judge it was his duty to punish criminals. I picture a stern, determined man, grey and worn, with hard eyes and strong mouth, one who looked for a thing to be done as soon as he commanded it, at the coming of whom{140} his servants became instantly absorbed in work, at whose footstep his secretaries dared not lift their heads.

Next we are told that he was a 'testy neighbour.' The letters are full of complaints about trespass, invasion of his rights, and attempts to over-reach him. How could a man choose but prove a 'testy neighbour' at a time when the law was powerless and every man was trying to enlarge his boundaries at the expense of his next neighbour? The land robber was everywhere moving landmarks and claiming what was not his own. Private persons, simple esquires, had to fortify their houses against their neighbours and to prepare for a siege. 'I pray you,' says Margaret Paston, 'to get some crossebows and wyndace to bind them with, and quarrel'—i.e. bolts—'for your house is so low that ther may no man shoot with no long bow though he had never so much mind.' And she goes on to enumerate the warlike preparations made by her neighbour.

Sir John Fastolf himself orders five dozen long bows, and quarrels for his own house in Norfolk. John Paston complains how Robert Hungerford, Knight, and Lord Moleyne and Alianor his wife, entered forcibly upon his house and manor of Gresham with a thousand people at their heels, and robbed and pillaged, turning his wife and servants into the road.

These are things which do sometimes make neighbours testy.

But he is a 'grasping man of business.'

Hear, then, this story. The Duke of Suffolk seizes upon property belonging to Fastolf. The judges are bribed and justice cannot be had. Sir John and his friend, Mr. Justice Yelverton, resolve to address the Duke of Norfolk, and to let him know that the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk 'do stand right wildly. Without a mun may be that justice be hadde.' Is it a surprising thing that an old soldier should resolve to get justice if possible? Is it right to call a man 'grasping' because he stands up in his own defence? Read{141} again the following. 'I pray you sende me worde who darre be so hardy to kick agen you in my ryght. And sey hem on my half that they shall be givyt as ferre as law and reson wolle. And yff they wolle not dredde, ne obey that, then they shall be quyt by Blackberd or Whiteberd: that ys to say by God or the Devyll. And therefor I charge you, send me word whethyr such as hafe be myne adversaries before thys tyme, contynew still yn their wylfullnesse.' I see nothing unworthy or grasping in this letter: only a plain soldier's resolve to get justice or he would know the reason why.

It is further objected that he had long-standing claims against the Crown, and was always setting them forth and pressing them. If his claims were just, why should he not press them? If a man makes a claim and does not press it, what does it mean except that he is afraid of pressing it or that it is an unjust claim?

The estates which he owned, apart from the claims which were never settled, amounted altogether to a very considerable property well worth defending. He had no fewer than ninety-four manors: there were four residences—Caister: Southwark: Castle Scrope, and another: there was a sum of money in the treasure chest of 2,643l. 10s., equivalent to about 50,000l. of our money. There were no banks in those days and no investments: a gentleman bought lands and plate and armour and weapons: he spent, as a rule, the greater part of his income, showing his wealth and his rank by the splendid manner of living. Sir John Fastolf, for instance, had 3,400 oz. of silver plate; and besides, a wardrobe full of costly robes.

His house stood on the banks of the river in Stoney Lane, which now leads from Tooley Street to Pickleherring Street. The Knight had good neighbours. On the east of St. Olave's Church was the ancient house built in the 12th century for the Earl of Warren and Surrey, and given by his successor to the Abbot of St. Augustine's, Canterbury. Next{142} to the Abbot's Inn came, with the Bridge House between, the Abbot of Battle's Inn, a great building on the river bank, with gardens lying on the other side of what is now Tooley Street. The site was long marked by 'The Maze' and 'Maze Pond.' Then came Fastolf's House. There are no means of ascertaining the appearance or the size of the place. It was certainly a building round a quadrangle capable of housing many followers, because he proposed to fill it with a garrison and so to meet Cade's insurgents. Moreover, a man of such great authority and wealth would not be contented with a small house. On the south side of St. Olave's Church, nearly opposite Fastolf's house, was the Inn or House of the Abbot of Lewes. And half a mile across the fields and gardens rose the towers and walls of St. Saviour's Abbey, Bermondsey. Perhaps there were other great houses east of Sir John Fastolf's, but I think not, because as late as 1720 fields begin a little to the east of Stoney Lane. Now, though fields precede houses, houses seldom precede fields. A house often degenerates, but is rarely converted into a meadow. This, however, did happen with Kennington Palace. We know, for example, that the house called Augustin's Inn came to the Sellinger family, and being deserted by them was presently let out in tenements till it was pulled down and replaced by other buildings. According to these indications, then, Fastolf's house was the last of the great houses on the east side of London Bridge. There is another proof that it was a large house. Fastolf kept a fleet of coasting vessels which continually sailed from Caister or Yarmouth to London bringing provisions and supplies of all kinds for his house at Southwark. This fact not only proves that his household was very large, but it illustrates one way in which the great houses, the ecclesiastical houses and the nobles' houses were victualled. If those whose manors lay within easy reach of a port kept ships for the conveyance of provisions from the country to{143} London it is certain that those who lived inland sent up caravans of pack-horses laden with the produce of their estates and sent up to town flocks of cattle and sheep and droves of pigs.

The Site of Sir John Fastolf's House in Tooley Street The Site of Sir John Fastolf's House in Tooley Street

I have spoken of Sir John's intention to make a stand at Southwark against the rebels under Cade. Fortunately for himself and for everybody with him, he was persuaded to retire across the river to the Tower before the rebels reached the gates. The story is one of the most interesting in the whole of the 'Paston Letters,' which, to tell the truth, unless one looks into them for persons we already know, are somewhat dull in the reading.{144}

When the Commons of Kent were reported to be approaching London in the year 1450, Sir John Fastolf filled his house in Southwark with old soldiers from Normandy and 'abyllyments' of war. This rumour reached the rebels and naturally caused them considerable anxiety. So when they caught a spy among them in the shape of one John Payn, a servant of Sir John, they were disposed to make an example of him. And now you shall hear what happened to John Payn in his own words, the spelling being only partly modernised.

'Pleasyth it your gode and gracios maistershipp tendyrly to consedir the grate losses and hurts that your por peticioner haeth, and haeth had evyr seth the comons of Kent come to the Blakheth,[1] and that is at XV. yer passed whereas my maister Syr John Fastolf, Knyght, that is youre testator,[2] commandyt your besecher to take a man, and ij. of the beste orsse that wer in his stabyll, with hym to ryde to the comens of Kent, to gete the articles that they come for. And so I dyd: and al so sone as I come to the Blakheth, the capteyn[3] made the comens to take me. And for the savacion of my maisters horse, I made my fellowe to ryde a way with the ij. horses; and I was brought forth with befor the Capteyn of Kent. And the capteyn demaundit me what was my cause of comyng thedyr, and why that I made my fellowe to stele a wey with the horse. And I seyd that I come thedyr to chere with my wyves brethren, and other that were my alys and gossipps of myn that were present there. And than was there oone there, and seid to the capteyn that I was one of Syr John Fastolfes men, and the ij. horse were Syr John Fastolfes; and then the capteyn lete cry treson upon me thorough all the felde, and brought me at iiij. partes of the feld with a harrawd of the Duke of Exeter[4] before me in the dukes cote{145} of armes, makyng iiij. Oyes at iiij. partes of the feld; proclaymyng opynly by the seid harrawd that I was sent thedyr for to espy theyre pusaunce, and theyre abyllyments of werr, fro the grettyst traytor that was in Yngelond or in Fraunce, as the seyd capteyn made proclaymacion at that tyme, fro oone Syr John Fastolf, Knyght, the whech mynnysshed all the garrisons of Normaundy, and Manns, and Mayn, the whech was the cause of the lesyng of all the Kyngs tytyll and ryght of an herytaunce that he had by yonde see. And morovyr he seid that the seid Sir John Fastolf had furnysshyd his plase with the olde sawdyors of Normaundy and abyllyments of werr, to destroy the comens of Kent whan that they come to Southwerk; and therfor he seyd playnly that I shulde lese my hede.

'And so furthewith I was taken, and led to the capteyns tent, and j. ax and j. blok was brought forth to have smetyn of myn hede; and than my maister Ponyngs, your brodyr,[5] with other of my frendes, come and lettyd the capteyn, and seyd pleynly that there shulde dye a C. or ij. (a hundred or two), that in case be that I dyed; and so by that meane my lyf was savyd at that tyme. And than I was sworen to the capteyn, and to the comens, that I shulde go to Southwerk, and aray me in the best wyse that I coude, and come ageyn to hem to helpe hem; and so I gote th' articles, and brought hem to my maister, and that cost me more emongs the comens that day than xxvijs.

'Wherupon I come to my maister Fastolf, and brought hym th' articles, and enformed hym of all the mater, and counseyled hym to put a wey all his abyllyments of werr and the olde sawdiors; and so he dyd, and went hymself to the{146} Tour, and all his meyny with hym but betts and j. (i.e. one) Mathew Brayn; and had not I ben, the comens wolde have brennyd his plase and all his tennuryes, wher thorough it coste me of my noune propr godes at that tyme more than vj. merks in mate and drynke; and nought withstondyng the capteyn that same tyme lete take me atte Whyte Harte in Suthewerk, and there comandyt Lovelase to dispoyle me oute of myn aray, and so he dyd. And there he toke a fyn gowne of muster dewyllers[6] furryd with fyn bevers, and j. peyr of Bregandyrns[7] kevert with blew fellewet (velvet) and gylt naile, with leg-harneyse, the vallew of the gown and the bregardyns viijli.

'Item, the capteyn sent certeyn of his meyny to my chamber in your rents, and there breke up my chest, and toke awey j. obligacion of myn that was due unto me of xxxvjli. by a prest of Poules, and j. nother obligacion of j. knyght of xli., and my purse with v. ryngs of golde, and xvijs. vjd. of golde and sylver; and j. herneyse (harness) complete of the touche of Milleyn;[8] and j. gowne of fyn perse[9] blewe furryd with martens; and ij. gounes, one furreyd with bogey,[10] and j. nother lyned with fryse;[11] and ther wolde have smetyn of myn hede, whan that they had dyspoyled me atte White Hart. And there my Maister Ponyngs and my frends savyd me, and so I was put up tyll at nyght that the batayle was at London Brygge;[12] and than atte nyght the captyn put me oute into the batayle atte Brygge, and there I was woundyt, and hurt nere hand to deth; and there I was vj. oures in the batayle, and myght nevyr come oute therof; and iiij. tymes before{147} that tyme I was caryd abought thorough Kent and Sousex, and ther they wolde have smetyn of my hede.

'And in Kent there as my wyfe dwellyd, they toke awey all oure godes movabyll that we had, and there wolde have hongyd my wyfe and v. of my chyldren, and lefte her no more gode but her kyrtyll and her smook. And a none aftye that hurlyng, the Bysshop Roffe,[13] apechyd me to the Quene, and so I was arestyd by the Quenes commaundment in to the Marchalsy, and there was in rygt grete durasse, and fere of myn lyf, and was thretenyd to have ben hongyd, drawen, and quarteryd; and so wold have made me to have pechyd my Maister Fastolf of treson. And by cause that I wolde not, they had me up to Westminster, and there wolde have sent me to the gole house at Wyndsor; but my wyves and j. coseyn of myn noune that were yomen of the Croune, they went to the Kyng, and got grase and j. chartyr of pardon.'

Here we see the popular opinion of Fastolf 'the greatest traitor in England or in France:' he who 'mynnyshed all the garrisons of Normandy, and Manns, and Mayn:' he who was the cause of the 'lesyng of all the Kyng's tytyll and rights of an heritaunce that he had by yonde see.'

The whole story is in the highest degree dramatic. Sir John wants to know what the rebellion means. Let one of his men go and find out. Let him take two horses in case of having to run for it: the rebels will most probably kill him if they catch him. Well: it is all in the day's work: what can a man expect? Would the fellow live for ever? What can he look for except to be killed some time or other? So John Payn takes two horses and sets off. As we expected, he does get caught: he is brought before Mortimer as a spy. At this point we are reminded of the false herald in 'Quentin Durward,' but in this case it is a real herald pressed into the service of{148} Mortimer, alias Jack Cade. Now the Captain is by way of being a gentleman: very likely he was: the story about him, that he had been a common soldier, is improbable and supported by no kind of evidence. However, he conducts the affair in a courteous fashion. No moblike running to the nearest tree: no beating along the prisoner to be hanged upon a branch: not at all: the prisoner is conducted with much ceremony to the four quarters of the camp and at each is proclaimed by the herald a spy. Then the axe and the block are brought out. The prisoner feels already the bitterness of death. But his friends interfere: he must be spared or a hundred heads shall fall. He is spared: on condition that he goes back, arrays himself in his best harness and returns to fight on the side of the rebels.

Observe that this faithful person gets the 'articles' that his master wants: he also reports on the strength of the rebellion in-so-much that Sir John breaks up his garrison and retreats across the river to the Tower. But before going he tells the man that he must keep his parole and go back to the rebels to be killed by them or among them. So the poor man puts on his best harness and goes back.

They spoil him of every thing: and then, they put him in the crowd of those who fight on London Bridge.

It was a very fine battle. Jack Cade had already entered London when he murdered Lord Saye, and Sir James Cromer, Sheriff of Kent, and plundered and fined certain merchants. He kept up, however, the appearance of a friend of the people and permitted no plundering of the lower sort. So that one is led to believe that in the fight the merchants, themselves, and the better class held the bridge.

The following account comes from Holinshed. It must be remembered that the battle was fought on the night of Sunday the 5th of July, in midsummer, when there is no night, but a clear soft twilight, and when the sun rises by four in the morning. It was a wild sight that the sun rose upon that morning.{149} The Londoners and the Kentish men, with shouts and cries, alternately beat each other back upon the narrow bridge, attack and defence growing feebler as the night wore on. And all night long the bells rang to call the citizens to arms in readiness to take their place on the bridge. And all night the old and the young and the women lay trembling in their beds lest the men of London should be beaten back by the men of Kent, and these should come in with fire and sword to pillage and destroy. All night long without stopping: the dead were thrown over the bridge: the wounded fell and were trampled upon until they were dead: and beneath their feet the quiet tide ebbed and flowed through the arches.


'The maior and other magistrates of London, perceiving themselves neither to be sure of goods nor of life well warranted determined to repell and keepe out of their citie such a mischievous caitife and his wicked companie. And to be the better able so to doo, they made the lord Scales, and that renowned Capteine Matthew Gough privie both of their{150} intent and enterprise, beseeching them of their helpe and furtherance therein. The lord Scales promised them his aid, with shooting off the artillerie in the Tower; and Matthew Gough was by him appointed to assist the maior and Londoners in all that he might, and so he and other capteins, appointed for defense of the citie, tooke upon them in the night to keepe the bridge, and would not suffer the Kentish men once to approach. The rebels, who never soundlie slept for feare of sudden assaults, hearing that the bridge was thus kept, ran with great hast to open that passage where between both parties was a fierce and cruell fight.

'Matthew Gough perceiving the rebels to stand to their tackling more manfullie than he thought they would have done, advised his companie not to advance anie further toward Southwarke, till the daie appeared; that they might see where the place of jeopardie rested, and so to provide for the same; but this little availed. For the rebels with their multitude drave back the citizens from the stoops at the bridge foot to the draw bridge, and began to set fire to diverse houses. Great ruth it was to behold the miserable state, wherein some desiring to eschew the fire died upon their enimies weapon; women with children in their armes lept for feare into the river, other in a deadlie care how to save themselves, betweene fire, water, and sword, were in their houses choked and smothered. Yet the capteins not sparing, fought on the bridge all the night valiantlie, but in conclusion the rebels gat the draw bridge, and drowned manie, and slue John Sutton, alderman, and Robert Heisand, a hardie citizen, with manie other, beside Matthew Gough, a man of great wit and much experience in feats of chivalrie, the which in continuall warres had spent his time in service of the king and his father.

'This sore conflict indured in doubtfull wise on the bridge, till nine of the clocke in the morning; for somtime, the{151} Londoners were beaten backe to saint Magnus corner; and suddenlie againe, the rebels were repelled to the stoops in Southwarke, so that both parts being faint and wearie, agreed to leave off from fighting till the next daie; upon condition that neither Londoners should passe into Southwarke, nor Kentish men into London. Upon this abstinence, this rake-hell capteine for making him more friends, brake up the gaites of the kings Bench and Marshalsie and so were manie mates set at libertie verie meet for his matters in hand.' (Holinshed, iii. p. 226.)

When the rebellion was over they clapped the unlucky Payn into prison and tried to get out of him some admission that might enable them to impeach Sir John of treason. This old soldier was not without some love of letters. One of his household, William Worcester, wrote for him Cicero 'De Senectute,' printed by Caxton a few years later. A MS. also exists in the British Museum called 'The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers,' said to have been translated for him by Stephen Perope his stepson.

After the Cade rebellion he returned to his house in Southwark but seldom. He went down into Norfolk, employed his ships in carrying stone and built his great castle of Caistor, which covered five acres. He purposed founding a College at Caistor for seven priests and seven poor folk. He assisted the building of philosophy schools at Cambridge: he made gifts to Magdalen College, Oxford. His intentions as to the College were never carried out, the bequest being transferred to Magdalen College, Oxford, for the support of seven poor priests and seven poor scholars. He died at the age of eighty. It was the misfortune of this stout old warrior that the latter half of his fighting career was in a losing cause: it was also his misfortune to incur a great part of the odium that falls upon a general who is on the losing side: at the same time, in his own actions he was,{152} almost without exception, victorious: and there does not seem any reason why he more than any other should bear the blame of the English reverses. It was probably in deference to popular opinion that no honours were paid to the veteran of so many fights. Perhaps he was not a persona grata at Court. Certainly the story of Payn's imprisonment indicates some enemy in high quarters. Why should the Government desire to charge him with treason?{153}

[1] Jack Cade and his followers encamped on Blackheath on June 11, 1450, and again from June 29 to July 1. Payn refers to the latter occasion.

[2] Sir John Fastolf (who is dead at the date of this letter) left Paston his executor, as will be seen hereafter.

[3] Jack Cade.

[4] Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter. During the civil war which followed, he adhered to the House of Lancaster, though he married Edward IV.'s sister. His herald had probably been seized by Cade's followers, and pressed into their service.

[5] Robert Poynings, who, some years before this letter was written, had married Elizabeth, the sister of John Paston, was sword-bearer and carver to Cade, and was accused of creating disturbances on more than one occasion afterwards.

[6] 'A kind of mixed grey woollen cloth, which continued in use to Elizabeth's reign.'—Halliwell.

[7] A brigandine was a coat of leather or quilted linen, with small iron plates sewed on.—See Grose's Antient Armour. The back and breast of this coat were sometimes made separately, and called a pair.—Meyrick.

[8] Milan was famous for its manufacture of arms and armour.

[9] 'Skye or bluish grey. There was a kind of cloth so called.'—Halliwell.

[10] Budge fur.

[11] Frieze. A coarse narrow cloth, formerly much in use.

[12] The battle on London Bridge was on the 5th of July.

[13] Fenn gives this name 'Rosse' with two long s's, but translates it Rochester, from which it is presumed that it was written 'Roffe' for Roffensis. The Bishop of Rochester's name was John Lowe.



The Bombardment of London, now almost as much forgotten as the all-night battle of London Bridge, took place also on a Sunday, twenty years afterwards. It was the concluding scene, and a very fit end—to the long wars of the Roses.

There was a certain Thomas, a natural son of William Nevill, Lord Fauconberg, Earl of Kent, generally called the Bastard of Fauconberg, or Falconbridge. This man was a sailor. In the year 1454 he had received the freedom of the City of London and the thanks of the Corporation for his services in putting down the pirates of the North Sea and the Channel. It is suggestive of the way in which the Civil War divided families, that though the Earl of Kent did so much to put Edward on the throne, his son did his best to put up Henry.

He was appointed by Warwick Vice-Admiral of the Fleet, and in that capacity he held Calais and prevented the despatch of Burgundians to the help of Edward. He seems to have crossed and recrossed continually.

A reference to the dates shows how slowly news travelled across country. On April the 14th the Battle of Barnet was fought. At this battle Warwick fell. On May the 4th the Battle of Tewkesbury finished the hopes of the Lancastrians. Yet on May the 12th the Bastard of Fauconberg presented himself at the head of 17,000 Kentish men at the gates of London Bridge, and stated that he was come to dethrone the usurper Edward, and to restore King Henry. He asked permission to march through the town, promising that his men should{154} commit no disturbance or pillage. Of course they knew who he was, but he assured them that he held a commission from the Earl of Warwick as Vice-Admiral.

In reply, the Mayor and Corporation sent him a letter, pointing out that his commission was no longer in force because Warwick was dead nearly three weeks before, and that his body had been exposed for two days in St. Paul's; they informed him that the Battle of Barnet had been disastrous to the Lancastrians, and that runners had informed them of a great Lancastrian disaster at Tewkesbury, where Prince Edward was slain with many noble lords of his following.

All this Fauconberg either disbelieved or affected to disbelieve. I think that he really did disbelieve the story: he could not understand how this great Earl of Warwick could be killed. He persisted in his demand for the right of passage. The persistence makes one doubt the sincerity of his assurances. Why did he want to pass through London? If he merely wanted to get across he had his ships with him—they had come up the river and now lay off Ratcliffe. He could have carried his army across in less time than he took to fight his way. Did he propose to hold London against Edward, and to keep it while the Lancastrians were gathering strength? There was still one Lancastrian heir to the throne at least.

However, the City still refused. They sent him a letter urging him to lay down his arms and acknowledge Edward, who was now firmly established.

Seeing that he was not to be moved, the citizens began to look to their fortifications: on the river side the river wall had long since gone, but the houses themselves formed a wall, with narrow lanes leading to the water's edge. These lanes they easily stopped with stones: they looked to their wall and to their gates.

The Bastard therefore resolved upon an assault on the City. Like a skilful commander he attacked it at three points. First, however, he brought in the cannon from his{155} ships, laying them along the shore: he then sent 3,000 men across the river with orders to divide into two companies, one for an attack on Aldgate, the other for an attack on Bishopsgate. He himself undertook the assault on London Bridge. His cannonade of the City was answered by the artillery of the Tower. We should like to know more of this bombardment. Did they still use round stones for shot? Was much mischief done by the cannon? Probably little that was not easily repaired: the shot either struck the houses on the river's edge or it went clean over the City and fell in the fields beyond. Holinshed says that 'the Citizens lodged their great artillerie against their adversaries, and with violent shot thereof so galled them that they durst not abide in anie place alongst the water side but were driven even from their own Ordnance.' Did they, then, take the great guns from the Tower and place them all along the river? I think not: the guns could not be moved from the Tower: then the 'heavie artillerie' could only damage the enemy on the shore opposite—not above the bridge.

The three thousand men told off for the attack on the gates valiantly assailed them. But they met with a stout resistance. Some of them actually got into the City at Aldgate, but the gate was closed behind them, and they were all killed. Robert Basset, Alderman of Aldgate, performed prodigies of valour. At Bishopsgate they did no good at all. In the end they fell back. Then the citizens threw open the gates and sallied forth. The Earl of Kent brought out 500 men by the Tower Postern and chased the rebels as far as Stepney. Some seven hundred of them were killed. Many hundreds were taken prisoners and held to ransom, 'as if they had been Frenchmen,' says the Chronicler.

The attack on the bridge also completely failed. The gate on the south was fired and destroyed: three score of the houses on the bridge were fired and destroyed: the north gate was also fired, but at the bridge end there were planted half a dozen small pieces of cannon, and behind them waited{156} the army of the citizens. It is a pity that we have not another Battle of the Bridge to relate.

The captain, seeing that he had no hopes of getting possession of London, resolved to march westward and meet Edward. By this time, it is probable that he understood what had happened. He therefore ordered his fleet to await him in the Mersey, and marched as far as Kingston-upon-Thames. It is a strange, incongruous story. All his friends were dead: their cause was hopeless: why should he attempt a thing impossible? Because it was Warwick's order? Perhaps, however, he did not think it impossible.

At Kingston he was met by Lord Scales and Nicolas Fanute, Mayor of Canterbury, who persuaded him 'by fair words' to return. Accordingly, he marched back to Blackheath, where he dismissed his men, ordering them to go home peaceably. As for himself, with a company of 600—his sailors, one supposes—he rejoined his fleet at Chatham, and took his ships round the coast to Sandwich.

Here he waited till Edward came there. He handed over to the King fifty-six ships great and small. The King pardoned him, knighted him, and made him Vice-Admiral of the Fleet. This was in May. Alas! in September we hear that he was taken prisoner at Southampton, carried to Middleham, in Yorkshire, and beheaded, and his head put upon London Bridge.

Why? nobody knows. Holinshed suggests that he had been 'roving,' i.e. practising as a pirate. But would the Vice-Admiral of the English fleet go off 'roving'? Surely not. I take it as only one more of the thousand murders, perjuries, and treacheries of the worst fifty years that ever stained the history of the country. There was but one complete way of safety for Edward—the death of every man, noble or simple, who might take up arms against him. So the Bastard—this fool who had trusted the King and given him a fleet—was beheaded like all the rest.{157}



The town was full of those who carried in their hats the pilgrim's signs. Besides the ordinary insignia of pilgrimage, every shrine had its special signs, which the pilgrim on his return bore conspicuously upon his hat or scrip or hanging round his neck (see Skeat, Notes to Piers Plowman) in token that he had accomplished that particular pilgrimage. Thus the ampullæ were the signs of Canterbury; the scallop shell that of St. James of Compostella; the cross keys and the vernicle of Rome—the vernicle was a copy of the handkerchief of St. Veronica, which was miraculously impressed with the face of our Lord. These shrines were cast in lead in the most part. Thus in the supplement to the Canterbury Tales,

Then as manere and custom is, signes there they bought,
For men of contre should know whom they had sought;
Eche man set his silver in such thing as they liked,
And in the meanwhile the miller had y-piked
His barns full of signes of Canterbury brought.

Erasmus makes Menedemus ask, 'What kind of attire is this that thou wearest? It is all set over with shells scolloped, full of images of lead and tin, and charms of straw work, and the cuffs are adorned with snakes' eggs instead of bracelets.' To which the reply is that he has been to certain shrines on pilgrimage. The late Dr. Hugo communicated to the Society of Antiquaries a paper in which he enumerated and figured a great many of these signs found in different places, but especially in the river when Old London Bridge was removed. Bells—Campana Thomæ—Canterbury Bells—were also hung{158} from the bridles, ringing merrily all the way by way of a charm to keep off evil.


Every day in the summer parties of pilgrims started from one or other of the Inns of Southwark: there was the short pilgrimage and the long pilgrimage: the pilgrimage of a day: the pilgrimage of a month: and the pilgrimage beyond the seas. From Southampton and at Dartmouth sailed the ships of those who were licensed to carry pilgrims to Compostella, which was the shrine of St. Iago: or to Rome: or to Rocamadom in Gascony: or to Jaffa for the Holy Places. The pilgrimage outremer is undoubtedly that which conferred the longest indulgences, the greatest benefits upon the soul, and the highest sanctity upon the pilgrim.

In the matter of short pilgrimages, the South Londoner had a considerable choice. He might simply go to the{159} shrine of St. Erkenwald at Paul's, or to that of Edward the Confessor at Westminster, he might even confine his devotions to the Holy Rood of Bermondsey. If he wished to go a little further afield, there were the shrines of Our Lady of the Oak; of Muswell Hill; or of Willesden. But these were all on the north side of London and belonged to the City rather than to Southwark. For him of the Borough there was the shrine of Crome's Hill, Greenwich, which provided a pleasant outing for the day: it might be prolonged with feasting and drinking to fill up the whole day, so that the whole family could get a holiday combined with religious exercises in good company and return home at night, each happy in the consciousness that so many years were knocked off purgatory.


For the longer pilgrimages there were of course the far distant journeys to Jerusalem, generally over land as far as Venice, and then by a 'personally conducted' voyage, the{160} captain providing escort to and from the Holy Places. There were also pilgrimages to Compostella: to Rome: to Cologne: and other places.

For pilgrimage within the four seas, the pious citizen of South London had surely no choice. For him St. Thomas of Canterbury was the only Saint. There were other Saints, of course, but St. Thomas was his special Saint. No other shrine was possible for him save that of St. Thomas. Not Glastonbury: nor Walsingham: nor Beverley: but Canterbury contained the relics the sight and adoration of which would more effectively assist his soul.


In Erasmus's Dialogue of the Pilgrimage we have an account of what was done and what was shown at the shrines of Our Lady of Walsingham and St. Thomas of Canterbury.

'The church that is dedicated to St. Thomas raises itself up towards heaven with that majesty that it strikes those that behold it at a great distance with an awe of religion, and now with its splendour makes the light of the neighbouring palaces look dim, and as it were obscures the place that was anciently the most celebrated for religion. There are two{161} lofty turrets which stand as it were bidding visitants welcome from afar off, and a ring of bells that make the adjacent country echo far and wide with their rolling sound. In the south porch of the church stand three stone statues of men in armour, who with wicked hands murdered the holy man, with the names of their countries—Tusci, Fusci, and Betri....

'Og. When you are entered in, a certain spacious majesty of place opens itself to you, which is free to every one. Me. Is there nothing to be seen there? Og. Nothing but the bulk of the structure, and some books chained to the pillars, containing the gospel of Nicodemus and the sepulchre of I cannot tell who. Me. And what else? Og. Iron grates enclose the place called the choir, so that there is no entrance, but so that the view is still open from one end of the church to the other. You ascend to this by a great many steps, under which there is a certain vault that opens a passage to the north side. There they show a wooden altar consecrated to the Holy Virgin; it is a very small one, and remarkable for nothing except as a monument of antiquity, reproaching the luxury of the present times. In that place the good man is reported to have taken his last leave of the Virgin, when he was at the point of death. Upon the altar is the point of the sword with which the top of the head of that good prelate was wounded, and some of his brains that were beaten out, to make sure work of it. We most religiously kissed the sacred rust of this weapon out of love to the martyr.

'Leaving this place, we went down into a vault underground; to that there belong two showmen of the relics. The first thing they show you is the skull of the martyr, as it was bored through; the upper part is left open to be kissed, all the rest is covered over with silver. There is also shown you a leaden plate with this inscription, Thomas Acrensis. And there hang up in a great place the shirts of hair-cloth, the girdles, and breeches with which this prelate used to mortify his flesh....{162}

'Og. From hence we return to the choir. On the north side they open a private place. It is incredible what a world of bones they brought out of it, skulls, chins, teeth, hands, fingers, whole arms, all which we having first adored, kissed; nor had there been any end of it had it not been for one of my fellow-travellers, who indiscreetly interrupted the officer that was showing them....

'After this we viewed the table of the altar, and the ornaments; and after that those things that were laid up under the altar; all was very rich, you would have said Midas and Croesus were beggars compared to them, if you beheld the great quantities of gold and silver....

'After this we were carried into the vestry. Good God! what a pomp of silk vestments was there, of golden candlesticks! There we saw also St. Thomas's foot. It looked like a reed painted over with silver; it hath but little of weight, and nothing of workmanship, and was longer than up to one's girdle. Me. Was there never a cross? Og. I saw none. There was a gown shown; it was silk, indeed, but coarse and without embroidery or jewels, and a handkerchief, still having plain marks of sweat and blood from the saint's neck. We readily kissed these monuments of ancient frugality....

'From hence we were conducted up higher; for behind the high altar there is another ascent as into another church. In a certain new chapel there was shewn to us the whole face of the good man set in gold, and adorned with jewels....

'Upon this, out comes the head of the college. Me. Who was he, the abbot of the place? Og. He wears a mitre, and has the revenue of an abbot—he wants nothing but the name; he is called the prior because the archbishop is in the place of an abbot; for in old time every one that was an archbishop of that diocese was a monk. Me. I should not mind if I was called a camel, if I had but the revenue of an abbot. Og. He seemed to me to be a godly and prudent man, and not unacquainted with the Scotch divinity. He opened us the box in which{163} the remainder of the holy man's body is said to rest. Me. Did you see the bones? Og. That is not permitted, nor can it be done without a ladder. But a wooden box covers a golden one, and that being craned up with ropes, discovers an inestimable treasure. Me. What say you? Og. Gold was the basest part. Everything sparkled and shined with very large and scarce jewels, some of them bigger than a goose's egg. There some monks stood about with the greatest veneration. The cover being taken off, we all worshipped. The prior, with a white wand, touched every stone one by one, telling us the name in French, the value of it, and who was the donor of it. The principal of them were the presents of kings....

'Hence he carried us back into a vault. There the Virgin Mary has her residence; it is something dark; it is doubly railed in and encompassed about with iron bars. Me. What is she afraid of? Og. Nothing, I suppose, but thieves. And I never in my life saw anything more laden with riches. Me. You tell me of riches in the dark. Og. Candles being brought in we saw more than a royal sight. Me. What, does it go beyond the Parathalassian virgin in wealth? Og. It goes far beyond in appearance. What is concealed she knows best. These things are shewn to none but great persons or peculiar friends. In the end we were carried back into the vestry. There was pulled out a chest covered with black leather; it was set upon the table and opened. They all fell down on their knees and worshipped. Me. What was in it? Og. Pieces of linen rags.'

At Canterbury, as at Walsingham, the object of the pilgrim was to see the relics, kiss them, saying certain prayers prescribed, and to make offerings at every exhibition of relics. Thus on beholding the precious place containing the milk of the Virgin, the pilgrim recited the following prayer:—

'Virgin Mother, who hast merited to give suck to the Lord of heaven and earth, thy Son Jesus, from thy virgin breasts,{164} we desire that, being purified by His blood, we may arrive at that happy infant state of dovelike innocence in which, being void of malice, fraud, and deceit, we may continually desire the milk of the evangelical doctrine, until we grow up to a perfect man, and to the measure of the fulness of Christ, whose blessed society thou wilt enjoy for evermore, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.'

On being shown the little chapel which was the actual dwelling-place of the Virgin like the Casa Sancta of Loreto, the pilgrim prostrated himself and recited as follows:—

'O thou who only of all women art a mother and a virgin, the most happy of mothers and the purest of virgins, we that are impure do now come to visit and address ourselves to thee that art pure, and reverence thee with our poor offerings, such as they are. Oh that thy Son would enable us to imitate thy most holy life, that we may deserve, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to conceive the Lord Jesus in the most inward bowels of our minds, and having once conceived Him, never to lose Him. Amen.'

As regards the offerings, it was found necessary to station a priest at each place in order to encourage the pilgrims to give openly in the sight of all, otherwise they would give nothing at all, so great was their piety. Nay, even with this stimulus, there were found some who, while they laid their offering on the altar, by sleight of hand would steal what another had laid down. Since pilgrimage was reduced to the easy performance of a journey with recitals and repetitions of set prayers, one easily imagines that the pilgrims would no more hesitate to steal from the altar than to commit any other offence against morality.

On returning from Canterbury to London the pilgrims were waylaid by roadside beggars who came out and sprinkled them with holy water, and showed them St. Thomas's shoe to kiss. In fact, what with the treasures brought home by pilgrims, presented to archbishops and kings, and sold by{165} pardoners and friars, the whole country was crammed with relics; at the great shrines as shown by Erasmus, there were cupboards filled with holy bones and precious rags; but there were too many: the credulity of the people had been tried too much and too long. Erasmus shows the profound disbelief that he himself, if no other, entertained for the sanctity of the relics.


Thomas à Becket was canonised in 1173. Fifty years afterwards his remains were transferred from their original resting-place by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, to the shrine prepared for them behind the high altar.

Erasmus, whose contempt for pilgrimage is sufficiently indicated by the extracts quoted above, was not alone in his opinions. Indeed, it required no great wisdom to perceive that a religious pilgrimage conducted without the least attention to the religious life was a mockery.

Nor was Erasmus the first to make this discovery. Piers Plowman, long before, had expressed the same contempt for pilgrims:{166}

Pilgrims and Palmers plihten hem togederes
For to seche Seint Jeme and seintes at Rome;
Wenten forth in heore wey with mony wyse tales,
And hedden leve to lye al heore lyf aftir.
Ermytes on a hep with hokide staves
Wenten to Walsingham, and here wenches aftir.

But there is a more serious indictment still.

In the year 1407, a certain priest named Thorpe, a prisoner for heretical opinions, was allowed to state these opinions to Archbishop Arundel. An account remains, written by the priest himself, of his arguments and of the Archbishop's replies. On the subject of pilgrimage he is very strong.

'Wherefore, Syr, I have prechid and taucht openlie, and so I purpose all my lyfe tyme to do with God's helpe saying that suche fonde people wast blamefully God's goods in ther veyne pilgrimagis, spending their goodes upon vicious hostelers, which ar ofte unclene women of their bodies: and at the leste those goodes with the which thei should doo werkis of mercie after Goddis bidding to pore nedy men and women. Thes poor mennis goodes and their lyvelode thes runners aboute offer to rich priestis, which have mekill more lyvelode than they need: and thus those goodes they waste wilfully and spende them unjustely against Goddis bidding upon straungers, with which they shoulde helpe and releve after Goddis will their poor nedy neighbours at home: ye, and over this foly, ofte tymes diverse men and women of thes runners thus madly hither and thither in to pilgrimage borowe hereto other mennis goodes, ye and sometymes they stele mennis goodes hereto, and they pay them never again. Also, Syr, I know well that when diverse men and women will go thus often after their own willes, and finding out one pilgrimage, they will order with them before to have with them both men and women that can well syng countre songes and some other pilgremis will have with them baggepipes; so that every{167} timme they come to rome, what with the noyse of their synging and with the sounde of their piping and with the jangeling of their Canterbury bellis, and with the barking out of doggis after them, that they make more noise than if the King came there away with all his clarions, and many other minstrellis. And if these men and women be a moneth in their pilgrimage, many of them shall be an half year after great jangelers, tale tellers, and lyers.'

'And the Archbishop said to me, "Leude Losell, Thou seest not ferre ynough in this matter, for thou considerest not the great trauel of pilgremys, therefore thou blamest the thing that is praisable. I say to the that it is right well done that pilgremys have with them both singers and also pypers, that whan one of them that goeth barfoote striketh his toe upon a stone and hurteth hym sore, and makyth him to blede: it is well done that he or his felow begyn then a songe, or else take out of his bosom a baggepipe for to drive away with suche myrthe the hurt of his felow. For with soche solace the trauel and weeriness of pilgremys is lightely and merily broughte forth."'

From the immortal company of pilgrims which left the Tabard Inn, High Street, Southwark, on the 2nd day of April in, or about, the year 1380, it remains for me to show what pilgrims and pilgrimage meant in the fourteenth century. This company met by appointment the night before the day of departure. They did not agree with each other, but they met by chance. At present, when a party starts for Palestine or for a voyage round the Mediterranean, the members do not agree to meet: they find out that a party will start on such a date from such a place, and they join it. Part of the business of the Tabard, and of other inns of Southwark, was to organise and to conduct such a party to Canterbury and back. As the ships licensed to carry pilgrims charged so much for the voyage there and back, including the visit to the shrine, so the Host of the Tabard charged so much for conducting and{168} entertaining the party there and back again. That the company was collected in this manner and not by personal agreement, is shown by their mixed character; and the ready way in which they all journeyed together, travelled together, and talked together shows that society of the fourteenth century was no respecter of persons, or that pilgrimage was a great leveller of rank.

The following is a list of the company:—

1.—A Knight, his Son, and an attendant Yeoman. 2.—A Prioress: an attendant Nun: and three Priests. 3.—A Monk and a Friar. 4.—A Merchant. 5.—A Clerk of Oxford. 6.—A Serjeant at Law. 7.—A Franklin. 8.—A Haberdasher, a Carpenter, a Weaver, a Dyer, and a Tapestry Maker, all clad in the livery of a Fraternity. 9.—A Sailor and a Cook. 10.—A Physician, 11.—The Wife of Bath. 12.—A Town Parson and a Ploughman. 13.—A Reeve, a Miller, a Sompnour, a Pardoner, a Maunciple, and the Poet himself.


With them all went the Host of the Tabard. It is{169} generally supposed that they rode the whole way to Canterbury, which is sixty-six miles, in a single day. Their resting places have, however, been found by Professor Skeat. Allow them sixteen hours for the journey. This means more than four miles an hour without any halt. But so large a company must needs go slowly and stop often. We cannot believe that in the fourteenth century such a company would travel sixty-six miles a day over such roads as then existed, and at a time of year when the winter mud had not yet had time to dry.

It is not without significance that out of the whole number a third should belong to the Church. Among them the Prioress Madame Eglantine is a gentlewoman who might belong to any age: tenderhearted: delicate and dainty: fond of creatures: courteous in her manner: careful in her eating: wearing a brooch,

On whiche was first i-writen a crowned A,
And aftir, Amor vincit omnia.

The Monk was a mighty hunter: a big burly man who kept many horses and hounds and loved to hunt the hare.

The Friar was a Limitour, one licensed to hear confessions: a wanton man who married many women 'at his own cost:' he heard confessions, sweetly imposing light penance: he knew all the taverns: he could play and sing: he knew all the rich people in his district: he carried knives and pins as gifts for the women:—a wholly worldly loose living Limitour.

The character of the Town Parson, brother of the Ploughman, is perhaps the most charming of all this wonderful group of portraits.

A good man was ther of religioun,
And was a povre Persoun of a toun;
But riche he was of holy thoght and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;
His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.{170}
Benigne he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversitee ful pacient;
And swich he was y-preved ofte sythes.
Ful looth were him to cursen for his tythes,
But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
Un-to his povre parisshens aboute
Of his offring, and eek of his substaunce.
He coude in litel thing han suffisaunce.
Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer a-sonder,
But he ne lafte nat, for reyn ne thonder,
In siknes nor in meschief, to visyte
The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lyte,
Up-on his feet, and in his hand a staf.
This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,
That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte;
Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte;
And this figure he added eek ther-to,
That if gold ruste, what shal iren do?
For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;
And shame it is, if a preest take keep,
A dirty shepherde and a clene sheep.
Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
By his clennesse, how that his sheep shold live.
He sette nat his benefice to hyre,
And leet his sheep encombred in the myre,
And ran to London, un-to seynt Poules,
To seken him a chauntrie for soules,
Or with a bretherhed to been withholde;
But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,
So that the wolf ne made it nat miscarie;
He was a shepherde and no mercenarie.
And thouth he holy were, and vertuous,
He was to sinful man nat despitous,
Ne of his speche daunderous ne digne,
But in his teching discreet and benigne.
To drawen folk to heven by fairnesse,
By good ensample, was his bisinesse:
But it were any persone obstinat,
What-so he were, of heigh or lowe estat,{171}
Him wolde he snibben sharply for the nones.
A bettre preest, I trowe that nowher noon is.
He wayted after no pompe and reverence,
Ne maked him a spyced conscience,
But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve,
He taughte, and first he folwed it him-selve.

The Sompnour, i.e. Summoner of the Ecclesiastical Courts, was a scorbutic person with an inflamed face: children were afraid of him: he loved strong meat and strong drink. If he found a good fellow anywhere he bade him have no fear of the archdeacon's curse unless his soul were in his purse.

Lastly, there was the Pardoner. He, too, was as jolly as the Monk, the Friar, and the Sompnour. He carried in his wallet pardons from Rome; and relics without end: all the imagination in the nature of certain classes was lavished upon the invention of relics. Thus it required a fine power of imagination to show a bit of canvas as a piece of the sail of St. Peter's boat when Christ called him. This, however, the Pardoner did. Chaucer makes him reveal his own character.

Of avarice and of swiche cursednesse
Is al my preching, for to make hem free
To yeve hir pense and namely unto me.

It is not without meaning that the poet shows a Monk, a Limitour, and a Pardoner absolutely without the least tinge of religion: the first a man who dresses like a layman and thinks of nothing but of hunting—what, then, of the Rule? The second, and the third, are both corrupt and rotten to the very core. If any proof were wanting that the spiritual life had gone out of the regular orders, these characters of Chaucer supply the proof. The figures in this company have been described, figured, illustrated, annotated a hundred times. They form the most trustworthy presentation of the time which we possess. The Knight is full of chivalry, truth,{172} honour, and courtesy: his son is well bred and lusty, is a lover and a bachelor. The Merchant talks eagerly and much of his profits: the Clerk, a poor scholar, would rather have books than rich robes or musical instruments: the Craftsmen were all well-to-do, in easy circumstances: the Physician was an astrologer, who understood natural magic, i.e. the influence of the stars; and made for his patients images: he knew the cause of every malady and how it was engendered—the profession are still liable to confuse this knowledge with the power of healing the malady: he was dressed in crimson and blue, lined with taffeta and silk—it would be interesting to know when physicians assumed the black dress of the last century. Lastly, his study was but little in the Bible.

The Clerk of Oxford is a portrait finished to the life.

A Clerk ther was of Oxenford also,
That un-to logik hadde longe y-go.
As lene was his hors as is a rake,
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake;
But loked holwe, and ther-to soberly.
Ful thredbar was his overest courtepy;
For he had geten him yet no benefyce,
Ne was so worldly for to have offyce.
For him was lever have at his beddes heed
Twenty bokes, clad in blak or reed,
Of Aristotle and his philosophye,
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrye.
But al be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
But al that he mighte of his freendes hente,
On bokes and on lerninge he it spente,
And bisily gan for the soules preye
Of hem that yaf him wher-with to scoleye.
Of studie took he most cure and most hede.
Noght o word spak he more than was nede,
And that was seyd in forme and reverence,
And short and quik, and ful of hy sentence.
Souninge in moral vertu was his speche,
And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.

Would it be possible to find a clearer picture of what in those days we should perhaps call a 'lower middle class' woman than that of the Wyf of Bath? She is dressed in all the splendour that she can afford: she frankly loves fine dress.

A good Wyf was ther of bisyde Bathe,
But she was som-del deef, and that was scathe.
Of clooth-making she hadde swiche an haunt,
She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt.
In al the parisshe wyf ne was ther noon
That to the offring bifore hir sholde goon;
And if ther dide, certeyn, so wrooth was she,
That she was out of alle charitee.
Hir coverchiefs ful fyne were of ground;
I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound
That on a Sonday were upon hir heed.
Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
Ful streite y-teyd, and shoos ful moiste and newe.
Bold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.
She was a worthy womman all hir lyve,
Housbondes at chirche-dore she hadde fyve,
Withouten other companye in youthe;
But thereof nedeth nat to speke as nouthe.
And thryes hadde she been at Ierusalem;
She hadde passed many a straunge streem;
At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne
In Galice at seint Iame, and at Coloigne.
She coude muche of wandring by the weye.
Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye.
Up-on an amblere esily she sat,
Y-wimpled wel, and on hir heed an hat
As brood as is a bokeler or a targe;
A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large,
And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.
In felawschip wel coude she laughe and carpe.
Of remedyes of love she knew per-chaunce,
For she coude of that art the olde daunce.
.   .   .   .   .   .   .

She is frankly sensual and self-indulgent: she likes everything that is pleasant: food, drink, love. Observe also the{174} restlessness of the woman: she can never have enough of pilgrimage: she loves the company: the change: the things that one sees: the people that one meets. She has journeyed three times to Jerusalem and back: once to Rome: once to Bologna: once to St. Iago of Compostella: once to Cologne: apart from the English shrines. We may be quite sure that so good an Englishwoman would not neglect the saints of her own country: after Canterbury she would pilgrimise to Beverley and to Walsingham, and to Glastonbury, and many a local saint's shrine. She had a ready wit and could give reasons for everything, especially for her five marriages and her avowed intentions to take a sixth husband when her fifth should die. Yet, she declared, she honoured holy virgins.

Let them be bred of purëd whete seed
And let us wyves eten barley brede:
And yet with barley bred men telle can
Our Lord Ihesù refreisshed many man.

Many of this company play and sing. The Prioress herself sings the divine service, intoning it full sweetly by her nose: the Limitour plays on the rote: the Miller plays the bagpipe: the Pardoner could sing 'full loud:' the Knight's son could both sing and play. Music, in fact, as an accomplishment was far more common in the fourteenth than in the nineteenth century.

Chaucer seems to speak of palmers as if they were the same as pilgrims. The latter, however, simply journeyed from home to the shrine and back again: the former was under vows of poverty, and continually travelled from shrine to shrine. The Canterbury Pilgrims were not, therefore, palmers. The first meaning of a palmer was that he could carry a palm in token of having visited the Holy Land.

When the Prioress spoke the French of Stratford le Bow it is not intended that she spoke bad French, but the Anglo-French which was spoken at Court, in the Law Courts, and by English ecclesiastics of higher rank. But why of Stratford{175} le Bow? Because here was a Benedictine nunnery dating from the eleventh century. The beautiful little Parish Church of Bow was formerly the chapel of the nunnery. The Wyf of Bath is 'gat toothed,' i.e. her teeth are wide apart: Professor Skeat has discovered that an old superstition attaches to such teeth, that, like the Wyf of Bath, those who have such teeth will travel far and be lucky. Popular superstitions are so long lived that one has little doubt about Chaucer's meaning. Certainly his Wyf of Bath had travelled far.

From the Stained Window in Lambeth Church

Let us return to the assumption that Chaucer intended the pilgrimage from Southwark to Canterbury should take but one day. Is not this conclusion based upon the fact that the last tale ends a day and the journey at the same time? Is there{176} anything to prove that the pilgrimage could have been concluded in a day there and a day back? Why, I have said that it was sixty-six miles, and the roads were none of the best: the party jogged on, I am sure, picking their way over the rough places and avoiding the quagmires at a steady pace of about three miles an hour, with many stoppages for rest and for refreshment. When Cardinal Morton journeyed from Lambeth to Canterbury for his enthronisation, he took a whole week over the journey, resting for the night at Croydon, Knole, Maidstone, Charing, and Chartham. Surely, if a company of pilgrims could accomplish the distance in a day, the Archbishop would not take so much as six days? Add to these considerations that Chaucer is a perfectly 'sane' writer: his work hangs together: it would have been impossible to get through all those stories with the intervals between and the times for rest in a single day.

Another point occurs. There was at one time—I think—in the early days of pilgrimage—a special service appointed for the departure of pilgrims—a kind of consecration of the pilgrimage. There is no hint of such a service in Chaucer or in any other writer of the time, so far as I know. There is none in the Pilgrimage of Felix Fabri of the sixteenth century. One may suppose, therefore, that the service had been allowed to drop out of use. Indeed, the original character of the pilgrimage as a thing to be approached in an altogether reverential and religious spirit had quite gone out of it even when Chaucer wrote, not to speak of Erasmus.

The Canterbury Tales, if they are supposed to represent the manner of talk among the better class of people at that time, are curiously modern. Witness the description of the Parson and the Parson's Tale, which is a sermon: witness also the contempt and hatred of the poet for the shrines of religion: the impostor with his relics: the Sompnour and the Friar. Chaucer makes the two latter tell stories reflecting on each other, such great love had these ecclesiastics between themselves. The poet through{177} his Parson preaches a noble form of religion without worry over doctrine. The Parson promises, when he begins:

I wol yow telle a mery tale in prose
To knitte up al this feeste, and make an ende.
And Iesu, for His grace, wit me sende
To shewe yow the wey, in this viage,
Of thilke parfit glorious pilgrimage
That highte Ierusalem celestial—

and preaches a sermon on man's heavenward pilgrimage, taking for his text the passage of Jeremiah, vi. 16: 'Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.'


The priest Thorpe was too hard upon pilgrims. So was Erasmus. The riding all together: the festive meals at the inn: the mixture of men and women of all conditions:{178} the change of thought and scene—could not but be useful and beneficial in the monotonous life of the time. That there were scandals: that on the way there were drinking and revelry, with the 'wanton songs' of which Thorpe complains: that there was an idle parade of pretended relics, and an assumption of virtues and miracles for these relics: we can also very well believe: but on the whole it seems a pity that, when all the relics, with as much wood of the True Cross as would load a big ship, were gathered together and burned, something was not introduced to take the place of pilgrimages and make the people move about and get acquainted with each other.

What, to repeat, said Archbishop Arundel to Thorpe the heretic?

'Leude losell, thou seest not ferre ynough in this matter, for thou considerest not the great trauell of pilgremys, therefore thou blamest that thing that is praisable. I say to the that it is right well done, that pilgremys have with them both syngers and also pypers, that whan one of them that goeth barfoote striketh his toe upon a stone and hurteth hym sore, and maketh hym to blede: it is well done that he or his felow begyn then a songe or else take out of his bosom a baggepipe for to drive away with soche myrthe the hurt of his felow. For with soche solace the trauell and werinesse of pilgremys is lightely and merily broughte forth.'{179}



The fairs of London were at one time many in number. The most ancient was that of St. Bartholomew, held in August, and annexed to the Priory by Henry I. St. James's Fair was held for the benefit of St. James's Lazar House: there was a Fair on Tower Hill, granted by Edward III. to St. Katherine's Hospital: there was the Fair at Tothill Fields, founded by Henry III.: on the South side there were Fairs at Charlton—the Horse Fair: at Greenwich: at Camberwell: at Peckham: at Lambeth. The Lady Fair, or the Southwark Fair, was of comparatively late foundation, having been established in the year 1462 by a Charter of Edward IV. empowering the City of London to hold a Fair in Southwark every year on the 7th, 8th, and 9th days of September, with 'all the liberties to such fairs appertaining,' together with a Court of Pie Powder. Some of the mediæval fairs were held for the sale of special goods: that of Cloth Fair, Bartholomew's, for instance: that of Croydon Cherry Fair: that of Maidstone for hops: that of Royston for cheese. Most of them, however, were general Fairs held for the sale of all kinds of goods: the shops were booths arranged in order side by side, and in streets. One street was for wool and woollen goods: another for hardware: another for spices: another for silks, and so forth. The Fair did no harm to the trade of the nearest town, for the simple reason that most towns had no trade except in provisions and drink. To the Fair people came from all quarters to buy or to sell: the country housewife laid in her stores of spices, sugar, wine,{180} furs, silks, ribbons, gloves, and everything that she could not make at home, in these fairs. The Lady Fair of Southwark, for instance, drew the people from all parts of the country within reach, but mostly from Clapham, Wandsworth, Streatham, and Tooting, to buy their stores for the coming year. There was always, from the beginning, something of a festive nature about a Fair: the merry crowd suggested feasting and good company: the drinking tempted one on every side: there were eating booths as well, and gambling booths, and dancing booths; and in every one there was music and singing.

When internal communications were improved, and people could easily ride or drive to the neighbouring town, the permanent shop replaced the temporary booth, and the original purpose of the Fair was lost. Then it became, and continued until the end, merely a place of amusement, and, until it became riotous, a place of excellent amusement. Nothing is more ancient or more permanent than the arts and tricks and clevernesses of the show folk. I have elsewhere remarked on the singular fact that the comic actor never ceases out of the land: I do not mean the man who can play a comic part to the admiration of beholders, but the man who has a genius for bringing out the comic character in every part and in every situation. It is the same thing with the juggler, the tumbler, the posturer, the dancer on the rope and wire, the trainer and teacher of animals. Dogs, monkeys, bears, horses, were all trained to perform tricks: women danced on the tight rope: jugglers tossed knives and balls: men fought with quarterstaff, single-sticks, rapier, or fist: there were exhibitions of strange monsters: there were strange creatures. The nature of the show was proclaimed by a large painted canvas hung outside the booth.


Evelyn, writing on the 13th of September, 1660, says: 'I saw in Southwark at St. Margaret's Faire, monkies and asses dance and do other feates of activity on ye tight rope; they were gallantly clad à la mode, went upright, saluted the{181} company, bowing and pulling off their hats; they saluted one another with as good a grace as if instructed by a dancing-master. They turn'd heels over head with a basket having eggs in it without breaking any; also with lighted candles in their hands and on their heads without extinguishing them, and with vessels of water without spilling a drop. I also saw an Italian wench daunce and performe all the tricks of ye tight rope to admiration; all the Court went to see her. Likewise{182} here was a man who tooke up a piece of iron cannon of about 400 lb. weight with the haire of his head onely.'

Pepys twice mentions Southwark Fair. The first occasion was on September 11, 1660. He only says: 'Landing at the Bear at the Bridge Foot, we saw Southwark Fair.' Eight years later he pays the Fair a second visit, of which he gives the following account:

'21 September, 1668. To Southwark Fair, very dirty, and there saw the puppet-show of Whittington, which is pretty to see; and how that idle thing do work upon people that see it, and even myself too! And thence to Jacob Hall's dancing on the ropes, where I saw such action as I never saw before, and mightily worth seeing; and here took acquaintance with a fellow who carried me to a tavern, whither came the music of this booth, and by and by Jacob Hall himself, with whom I had a mind to speak, whether he ever had any mischief by falls in his time. He told me, "Yes, many, but never to the breaking of a limb." He seems a mighty strong man. So giving them a bottle or two of wine, I away.'

Hogarth has preserved for us and for our posterity a faithful picture of Lady Fair as it was in the year 1733. As it was in the daytime, remember, not the evening. Hogarth did not shrink from depicting scenes because they were brutal, or debauched—the pen that drew the Rake's midnight orgies could not plead that anything was too coarse or violent or abandoned for representation. Had Hogarth drawn a picture of the Fair in the evening as well as the afternoon we should have known why the City grew more and more disgusted at the orgies of the Lady Fair until it became impossible to tolerate it any longer.

The Fair was held in the open street, between St. Margaret's Hill and St. George's Church. Beyond St. George's Church was open country, with a few houses, &c., as shown in Hogarth's picture which appeared in 1733.{183} That part of the Fair which is shown contains two theatrical booths, Punch's opera, and a waxwork. At one of the theatres, that of Lee and Harper, is about to be performed Elkanah Settle's Droll of 'The Siege of Troy.' At the other Theatre, there is a great show cloth called the Stage Mutiny, referring to a recent dispute at Drury Lane, and the piece promised is the 'Fall of Bajazet.' The youngest and most beautiful of the actresses is out before the Booth with a drum, a black boy playing a cornet, and an actor dressed for the principal part with a magnificent wig and a towering plumed helmet. Alas! the great man is arrested at the moment of taking the picture: at the same moment the stage outside the booth gives way, and actors and actresses are precipitated headlong: there will be no performance this day of 'The Fall of Bajazet.' There is a peep show in the picture: Figg the Prizefighter rides across the stage, his wig off, so as to show the wounds he has received: the dwarf Savoyard plays his bagpipe and makes his dolls jump: there is the cook's shop under the falling stage: the rope dancer Violante tumbles on the slack rope: Cardman the aerial performer descends from the tower of St. George's: a quack eats lighted tow: the conjurer shows some of his tricks outside, but promises marvels inside the booth; the rustics gaze in speechless admiration in the face of the drummer-actress: beyond, we see the beginning of the line of booths, where everything was sold that was of no value—toys, chapbooks, gingerbread, ribbons, cakes, whips, canes, snuff-boxes, tobacco-boxes, worthless rings, cloth slippers, night-caps, shoe laces, buckles, soap by the yard, singing birds and cages for them, tinder-boxes, pewter platters and mugs. All day long the noise went on: it began at noon: the people came from the country and from the city: they dined in one of the booths, off roast sucking pig, for choice, a diet consecrated to all the Fairs from time immemorial: the children were brought and treated to a fairing, the peep-show, and the play, and some gingerbread.{184} In the afternoon the country lads wrestled for a hat—you can see the hat in the picture; and the girls ran a race for a smock—you can see the smock in the picture. When the sun grew low the children were taken home, and the real fun of the fair began. Then all the quiet people within hearing stopped their ears: and all the decent people ran away: and the prentices, the rustics, the roughs of the Mint with their correspondencies of the other sex, had their own way until the weary players put out their footlights and lay down to sleep as they could among the properties and scenes of their theatre, and the people of the booths put their wares under the counters and lay down to sleep upon them like the grocers' assistants. And then, one supposes, the prentices, the rustics, and the rogues went home again. And in the morning repentance and an aching head, and an empty purse.

We may take it that all the amusements and shows which were brought out for Bartholomew Fair, and for May Fair while it lasted, were also exhibited at Southwark.

The 'droll,' which was a kind of acting in dumbshow to music and with singing, was popular; dancing of all kinds formed a large part of the Fair. In Frost's 'Old Showman,' there is an advertisement of dancing in a booth:

'THOMAS DALE, Drawer at the Crown Tavern at Aldgate, keepeth the TURK'S HEAD Musick Booth, in Smithfield Rounds, over against the Greyhound Inn, during the time of Bartholomew Fair, Where is a Glass of good Wine, Mum, Syder, Beer, Ale, and all other Sorts of Liquors, to be Sold; and where you will likewise be entertained with good Musick, Singing and Dancing. You will see a Scaramouch Dance, the Italian Punch's Dance, the Quarter Staff, the Antick, the Countryman and Countrywoman's Dance, and the Merry Cuckolds of Hogsden.

'Also a young Man that dances an Entry, Salabrand, and Jigg, and a Woman that dances with Six Naked Rapiers, that we Challenge the whole Fair to do the like. There is likewise{185} a Young Woman that Dances with Fourteen Glasses on the Backs and Palms of her Hands, and turns round with them above an Hundred Times as fast as a Windmill turns; and another Young Man that Dances a Jigg incomparably well to the Admiration of all Spectators! Vivat Rex!!'

And in the following lines we have a scene at a Fair which we may very well believe to be Lady Fair. They tell us

How pedlars' stalls with glittering toys are laid,
The various fairings of the country maid.
Long silken laces hang upon the twine,
And rows of pins and amber bracelets shine;
How the neat lass knives, combs, and scissors spies,
And looks on thimbles with desiring eyes.
Of lotteries next with tuneful note he told,
Where silver spoons are won, and rings of gold.
The lads and lasses trudge the street along,
And all the fair is crowded in his song.
The mountebank now treads the stage, and sells
His pills, his balsams, and his ague-spells;
Now o'er and o'er the nimble tumbler springs,
And on the rope the venturous maiden swings;
Jack Pudding, in his party-coloured jacket,
Tosses the glove, and jokes at every packet.
Of raree-shows he sung, and Punch's feats,
Of pockets picked in crowds, and various cheats.

The introduction of the theatre with dramas played by the King's servants should have raised the character of the Fair. Perhaps it did. In any case, the Theatre of the Fair was not an unpromising place for a young actor to begin. The audience wanted nothing but the presentation of a story, and that a strong and moving story. If an actor failed in the fire and passion of his part, he was pelted off the stage. He was therefore compelled to pay attention to the very essentials of his profession, the presentation visibly and unmistakably of the emotions. A stagey manner would be the result of too long continuance on these boards, but at the outset no kind of{186} practice could be more useful. This was proved by the lovely Mrs. Horton, who was discovered by the manager of Drury Lane playing at the Lady Fair in the play of 'Cupid and Psyche.' He took her away and placed her on his own stage, where she played for many years, leaving behind her a reputation of the finest actress and the most beautiful woman known up to that time.

The Theatre of the Fair is, I think, quite gone. I rejoice in being able to remember one of these delightful shows. There was a great booth with a platform in front and canvas pictures hung up behind the platform. The orchestra occupied one end of the platform, playing with zeal between the performances. The company in their lovely dresses stood on the platform and danced a kind of quadrille from time to time: the clown and the pantaloon, when they were not tumbling, stood at the head of the broad stairs clanging cymbals and bawling that the play was just about to begin. The price of a seat was threepence, with a few rows at sixpence: the play lasted twenty minutes: it was always a melodrama of persecuted and virginal innocence—in white. The joy of the whole performance was to children beyond all power of words: the play: the music: the ethereal beauty of the actresses: the rollicking fun of the clown: the sense of fleeting pleasure conveyed by the roughness of the benches and the grass under our feet: and the general festivity of the noise, the music, the bawling outside make me remember Richardson's Theatre and Messrs. Doggett's and Penkethman's, with the greatest pleasure and the most poignant regret.

I fear, then, that Lady Fair became, in the evening especially, a place in which everybody went 'as he pleased,' and that with so much dancing, drinking, love-making, singing, playing on the flowery slope that the authorities had to interfere. It is, indeed, a most melancholy circumstance that the people cannot be allowed to amuse themselves in the way they would choose. May Fair first, Lady Fair next, one after the{188} other the Fairs of London have been suppressed. Lady Fair succumbed in 1760, when it was finally abolished.

(From an Engraving by Rawle, 1802)

May one say a word of two other fairs even more disreputable—those of Charlton and of Greenwich? Charlton Fair was founded in the year 1268, so that it was a very ancient institution, to be held on three days in the year—'the Eve, the day, and the morrow of the Trinity.' The time of the Fair was, however, changed at some time to the day of St. Luke, on October 18. It was one of those Fairs which acquired a distinctive character. Just as Barnet Fair became a Horse Fair, Charlton became a Horn Fair. The obvious—and therefore popular—kind of fooling to be made out of horns and their associations—which are now quite lost and forgotten—as well as the day, which was also connected with those associations—made this Fair extremely popular. The people from London went down to Deptford by boat, joined the people from Greenwich and Deptford, and formed a burlesque procession, everyone wearing horns on his head, or carrying horns to affix to some other person's head. At the fair itself there was exhibited a great quantity of vessels and utensils made of horn: every booth had horns put up in the front: rams' horns were exhibited and sold in quantities; even the gingerbread was stamped with horns. The reason of this display was one quite forgotten by the people: viz. that a horned ox is the recognised symbol of St. Luke. It was customary for men to dress up, for the burlesque procession, in women's clothes; they also amused themselves (see Chambers's 'Book of Days') in lashing the women with furze: probably in pretence only. The procession was discontinued in 1768, the Fair went on until 1871.

We must not forget Greenwich Fair, which was held on Whit Monday. Long after Bartholomew Fair decayed and fell, Greenwich Fair remained. It was one of the greatest holidays of the year for the London folk of the lower class. The amusements consisted of two parts, the first playing in{189} the Park, where there were races and sports: the second the fun of the booths and the shows.

The former began early in the forenoon and went on until the evening. The people came down from London in boats for the most part, and by the Old Kent Road in vehicles of every description, or even on foot for the whole five miles. If it was a fine morning the park was filled with the working classes and the young men and maidens belonging to the working classes. The sports were primitive: the favourite amusement was for a line of youths and girls to run down hill hand in hand. The slope was steep, the pace was rapid: before long half of them were sprawling headlong or rolling over and over, with such displays and derangements as may be imagined. Or there were games of kiss in the ring and thread-my-needle: or there were sailors showing the Cockneys how to dance the hornpipe; men with telescopes through which could be seen the men hanging in chains on the Isle of Dogs, or St. Paul's Cathedral: or there were the old pensioners telling yarns of the battles they had fought, especially the Battle of Trafalgar, when to every man, as it seemed, Fortune had caused the hero Nelson to fall into his arms. Outside the Park the street was filled with booths where everything could be bought, as at Lady Fair, which was worthless, including gingerbread. There were theatrical booths, shows of pictures, pantomimes, Punch and Judy, exhibitions of monsters, dwarfs, giants, bearded ladies, mermaids, menageries of wild beasts, feats of legerdemain, fire-eaters, boxers and quarterstaff players, cock fighting, and every other conceivable amusement. In the evening, beside the Theatre, there were the dancing booths. The same cause which led to the suppression of the Lady Fair brought about that of Greenwich Fair. It was suppressed, I think, about the year 1855. I myself saw it in 1851, but only in the afternoon, when it was already, I remember, a good-natured crowd playing horse tricks upon each other,{190} and making a noise, which, with the bellowing of the show folk, the blaring of the bands, the cries of the boys and girls on the merry-go-rounds, and the roar of the crowd, one will never forget. For my own part I am of opinion that the noise was the worst part of the fair: that what went on in the evening would have gone on just as much outside the Fair as in it: and that it did very little harm to let the people enjoy themselves in their own way, which was a coarse, somewhat drunken and somewhat indecent way.{191}



London possesses two churches at least of surpassing beauty. One of them, in the North, is the Church of St. Bartholomew the Great; the other, in the south, is the church of St. Mary Overy or Overies, now called St. Saviour's. This church, for some unknown reason, does not attract many English visitors. Americans go there in great numbers. It is so beautiful: it has so many historical associations: that I hope to interest more of our own people, and, if it may be, to increase the attractions of the place to the Americans, by a few pages on its history. These pages are but a sketch, and that a slight sketch, of this history. I have already in another volume ('London,' p. 47) given the legend of the foundation of St. Mary Overies. Two Norman knights, Pont de l'Arche and d'Aunsey, early in the twelfth century, found here a small Religious House, called the House of Our Lady of the Canons, which had been created by Mary the daughter of one Awdry, ferryman. Mary herself was buried in the chapel of her own House, where is now the Lady Chapel of St. Saviour's. The name, St. Mary Overies, which ought to be restored to the Church, seems to mean, not St. Mary of the Ferry, or St. Mary over the River, but St. Mary 'Ofers,' or St. Mary of the Bank or Shore. These two knights founded a new and larger House on the site of Mary Awdry's modest foundation. For reasons now difficult to discover, if they matter to anybody, the monks of the Norman House fell into poverty. In the year 1212, again, they had the additional misfortune to lose these buildings and their Church, which were in great part, if not altogether, destroyed{192} by the great fire of that year. A hundred years later the monks submitted to Edward I. a pitiful statement that the whole of their possessions was insufficient so much as to provide the bare necessities of life without the gifts of the faithful: that their Church was lying in ruins, and had been in that condition for thirty years; that they had been unable to rebuild any of it except the campanile; and that they lived in constant terror of being inundated by the Thames. This shows that they had suffered the Embankment to fall into a neglected state. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, Cardinal Beaufort—Shakespeare's Cardinal Beaufort—contributed largely to the rebuilding of the Church. Another benefactor was Gower the poet, who spent in the Priory the last years of his life, died here, and was buried in the Church. The monument of John Gower stands in the north aisle of the newly built nave. The Religious of the House showed their gratitude to him by promising a Pardon of 1,500 days to anyone who would say a prayer for the soul of the poet.


The position of the Priory, close to the Palace of the Bishop of Winchester, led to the Church becoming the scene of many important historical events. Just as Blackfriars was used for political Functions; just as Wyclyf was tried in St. Paul's Cathedral, so St. Mary Overies was used on occasions when the Bishop of Winchester had to do with the matter in hand. Thus, two great marriages were solemnised in this Church. One was that of Edmund Holland, Earl of Kent, in 1406, with Lucia, daughter of the Lord of Milan. The bride{193} was given away by Henry IV., and her dowry was 100,000 ducats. At her death she left the canons 6,000 crowns for the good of her soul and that of her husband. The other marriage was one of far greater importance. It was that of James the First, King of Scotland, the most pleasing figure in Scottish history, a poet and a scholar, of whom Drummond of Hawthornden wrote that 'of former Kings it might be said that the nation made the Kings, but of this King, that he made the people a nation.' He married in 1424, being then thirty{194} years of age, after a captivity of nineteen years, Joan, or Johanna, daughter of the Earl of Somerset, and niece of Cardinal Beaufort. She was a cousin, therefore, of King Henry IV. The royal pair rode forth to Scotland laden with such gifts of plate and cloth of gold as Scotland had never before seen. They were accompanied by the Cardinal and his brother, the Duke of Exeter. Twelve years later, the King was murdered in the presence of his wife, who was wounded in trying to save him, a sad ending to a marriage of love, and a tragic widowhood to the woman whom her poet had called

The fairest and the freshest younge flower
That e'er I saw, methought, before that hour.

In 1539 the House was suppressed, the canons were put{195} out, and the place was given to Sir Anthony Brown, whose son became Viscount Montague and gave his new name to the ancient close of the Monastery. In the following year the Church was made a Parish Church, including the church of Mary Magdalene, which stood beside the Priory Church, as St. Peter-le-Poor stood beside St. Austin, St. Gregory beside St. Paul's, and St. Margaret beside Westminster Abbey Church together with the Parish Church of St. Margaret in the High Street. The nave gradually became ruinous and was taken down in 1838,{196} when a new nave, the memory of which makes the whole Borough shudder when it is mentioned, was put up. Its floor was raised above that of the transepts, and it was treated as a separate building, divided from the transepts by a brick wall. This terrible building has now been taken down and a nave rebuilt after the pattern of the original structure of the fourteenth century. Thus reconstructed, the church will soon, it is hoped, become the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Southwark. At present it has not the Cathedral organisation, being without a Dean, or Canons, or a Chapter. The Church can boast of more monuments and of a more distinguished company of the dead than can be found in most London churches. Here are buried, probably, Mary herself, the original founder, if she is not a legendary person: Pont de l'Arche and d'Auncey, the founders: a long line of unknown and forgotten Priors and Canons of the Augustinian House: John Gower, on whose monument can still be read the prayers he wrote for his own soul:

En toy qui es Filz de Dieu le Père
Sauvé soit qui gist sous cest pierre.

The monument was repaired and painted in 1832 by the first Duke of Sutherland. Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester, is buried in the Lady Chapel, where his monument can be seen in black and white marble; Dyer the poet, who died 1607; Edmund Shakespeare, 'player,' poet and writer, buried somewhere in the Church, 1607; Laurence Fletcher, one of the shareholders in the Globe, also buried in the Church, 1608; Philip Henslow, the manager, buried in the chancel, 1616; John Fletcher, buried in the Church, 1625; Philip Massinger, a 'stranger,' i.e. belonging to some other parish, buried in the Church, 1639. There are three stones in the chancel, inscribed with the names of John Fletcher, Edmund Shakespeare, and Philip Massinger, but merely to record that they are buried somewhere in the Church.{197}

(From a Drawing by Whichelo)

Other monuments and tombs there are: one a figure, commonly found in mediæval churches, of a body wasted by death: a wooden effigy of a knight: a monument to a quack of Charles the Second's time, and monuments to certain persons now forgotten; on one some lines in imitation of Herrick:

Like to the damask rose you see
Or like the blossom on the tree,
Or like the dainty flower of May,
Or like the morning of the day,
Or like the sun, or like the shade,
Or like the gourd which Jonas had,
Even so is Man; Man's thread is spun,
Drawn out, and cut, and so is done.{198}
The rose withers, the blossom blasteth,
The flower fades, the morning hasteth,
The sun sets, the shadow flies,
The gourd consumes, and Man he dies.

The Ladye Chapel, one of the few beautiful things surviving of mediæval London, was very nearly destroyed by the ignorant Vandalism of about the year 1835. It was necessary in rebuilding London Bridge a few feet west of the old Bridge to prepare new approaches on the south as well as on the north. What follows is told by Knight:

'The Committee agreed to grant a space of sixty feet for the better display of St. Mary Overies, on the condition that the Lady Chapel was swept away. The matter appeared in a fair way for being thus settled, when Mr. Taylor sounded the alarm in one of the daily papers. Thomas Saunders, Esq., and Messrs. Cottinggam and Savage, the architects, actively interfered. A large majority of the parishioners, however, decided to accept the proposals of the Committee. In the meantime, the gentlemen we have named were indefatigable in their exertions; and they were effectively seconded by the press. At a subsequent meeting there was a majority of three only for pulling down the chapel; and on a poll being demanded and obtained, there ultimately appeared the large majority of 240 for its preservation. The excitement of the hour was prudently used to obtain funds to restore it, which has been most successfully accomplished.'

I have mentioned Winchester House, the Palace of the Bishop, as being close to the Priory. On any map may be traced the extent of the Palace. On the north is Clink Street, the Clink Prison being at the west end of the street; on the west is now Park Street, formerly Deadman's Place; on the south is a continuation of Park Street; and on the east is a street running south from St. Mary Overies Church. Winchester House, which thus covered a large piece of ground, was, with its grounds, enclosed by a wall. Many of{199} the buildings, especially the great gate, remained standing almost within the memory of man. The state and ceremony of a Bishop demanded a large retinue, and the Bishop's house must therefore be provided with a sufficient number of rooms for their accommodation. The map must not be accepted as laying down the exact site, the distances or the scale, or the arrangement of the courts and buildings.

We have now to speak, but briefly, of the Marian Persecutions and of the Martyrs. With these the Church of St. Mary and Winchester House had a good deal to do.


On Monday, January 28, 1555, was seen the first of many melancholy sights. On that day Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, presided at a Court held in St. Mary Overies Church for the trial of heretics. The court was actually held in the Ladye Chapel. Hither were brought Bishop Hooper and John Rogers: they were heard: they argued their case: they were found obstinate: they were committed to the Clink Prison hard by: on the next day, with Bradford, Dr. Crome, Dr. Saunders, Dr. Ferrar, Dr. Taylor, and several others, they were sentenced to be burned. Bradford wrote to{200} Cranmer after the trial: 'This day, I think, or to-morrow at the uttermost, hearty Hooper, sincere Saunders, and trusty Taylor, end their course and receive their crowne. The next am I, which hourly looke for the Porter to open me the gates after them, to enter into the desired rest.'

So began those fires from which the cause of Roman Catholicism long suffered, and is even now still suffering. For the popular judgment does not discern and separate. The burnings under Henry and Edward are lumped together in the mind of the people, and all set down to Mary. The names, places, and times of the martyrs and their martyrdoms as given by Machyn, not by Fox, show that if the Queen's advisers had deliberately done their best to make their form of Faith odious and hateful, they could not have devised a better plan than the burning of the people for religion's sake. It is generally thought and believed that the indignation of the people was aroused by seeing the Bishops and preachers burned. That I do not believe. The executions of great men do not affect the populace; they witness the passage of a Thomas More on his way to the block: or of a Cromwell: with equal indifference: these statesmen do not belong to the life of the people. In the Marian persecution they heard that Archbishop Cranmer had been burned at Oxford, but they offered little outward show of emotion: they heard that Ridley and Latimer had been burned: their constancy, no doubt, touched the crowd: but still, these martyrs were not of themselves. When, however, they found that not only Bishops and great people, but also their own brothers, cousins, fathers, were taken out from their workshops and tied three or four together to the stake, where they suffered the agonies of the fire and still continued to pray aloud with firmness: then the lesson went straight home to them; and for many a generation to come the people learned to loathe the very name of the religion which could thus burn innocent people by the hundred for believing, as they were told, what the Bible taught.{201}

It is a mistake, again, to suppose that the lessons of persecution were taught at Smithfield alone. They were industriously taught from many centres. There were burnings at Stratford-le-Bow: at Stepney: at Westminster: beyond St. George's, Southwark, at Newington; while the vast crowds which attended a burning and imbibed these lessons of fear and hatred are shown by two entries alone in Machyn's Diary, 1556. 'The xxvij day of June rod from Newgate unto Stratford-a-bow, in iii cares xiij, xj men and ij women, and there bornyd (burned) to iiij postes, and there where a xx M pepull.'


And again, 1556. 'The xxij day of January whent in to Smythfield to berne between vii and viij in the morning v men and ij women: on of the men was a gentyllman of the endor tempull, ys nam Master Grén; and they were all bornyd by ix at iij postes. And ther wher a commonment throughe{202} London over nyght that no young folke shuld come ther, for ther the grettest number was as has byne sene at swyche a tyme.'

Therefore it is evident, first, that enormous crowds gathered together to witness the sufferings of the victims, and to note their constancy in the hour of agony; secondly, that the authorities were becoming alarmed at the effect which these examples might have upon the young. No young people were permitted to be present. We may be sure that the prohibition was openly defied.

As for Gardiner, he died soon after the martyr fires began, stricken, said his enemies, by the hand of God in punishment for his cruelties. His physicians, I believe, called it gout in the stomach, a reading which one prefers, because Gardiner was no worse than the rest of them, and after his death there was no abatement, but rather an increase, in the burnings. He had, however, a very fine funeral, which began at the church of St. Mary Overies, and was continued all the way to Winchester, where the place of his burial and his Chantry Chapel may still be seen.

Of this function, Machyn gives a short account, but it shall suffice. It must be remembered that Gardiner was not only a very great person, but that he was also believed to be the natural son of Bishop Woodville, and, if the belief was well founded, he was therefore a cousin of the Queen. But this may be scandal. Machyn, the chronicler of funerals, thus describes Gardiner's funeral.


'The xxiiij day of Feybruary was the obsequies of the most reverentt father in God, Sthevyn Gardener, docthur and bysshope of Wynchastur, prelett of the gartter, and latte chansseler of England, and on of the preve consell unto Kyng Henry the viij and unto quen Mare, tyll he ded; and so the after-none be-gane the knyll at sant Mare Overes with ryngyng, and after be-gane the durge; with a palle of cloth of gold, and with ij whytt branchys, and ij dosen of stayffe-torchys{203} bornyng, and iiij grett tapurs; and my lord Montyguw the cheyffe mornar, and my lord bysshope of Lynkolne and ser Robart Rochaster, comtroller, and with dyvers odur in blake, and mony blake gownes and cotes; and the morow masse of requeem and offeryng done, be-gane the sarmon; and so masse done, and so to dener to my lord Montyguw ('s); and at ys gatt the corse was putt in-to a wagon with iiij welles all covered with blake, and ower the corsse ys pyctur mad with ys myter on ys hed, with ys armes, and v gentyll men bayryng ys v banars in gownes{204} and hods, then ij harolds in ther cote armur, master Garter and Ruge-crosse; then cam the men rydyng, carehyng of torchys a lx bornyng, at bowt the corsse all the way; and then cam the mornars in gownes and cotes, to the nombur unto ij C. a-for and be-hynd, and so at sant Gorges cam prestes and clarkes with crosse and sensyng, and ther thay had a grett torche gyffyn them, and so to ever parryche tyll they cam to Wynchaster, and had money as many as cam to mett them, and durge and masse at evere logyng.'


The Church, when the Priory was dissolved, stood on the south side of the monastic buildings: the Cloister occupied that part of the ground on the north of the nave: the refectory, chapter house and dormitories, and other buildings stood about the Cloister: an embankment kept off the Thames at high tide: on the west side was St. Mary{205} Overies Dock, which was also the south end of the ferry. The dock is there still, but where the wall of the Monastery stood, round the Garden, and one could see the orchards beyond, are now huge warehouses. Some remains of the Cloister stood until recently, and one gateway of the precinct—there was certainly another on the side of the High Street—stood close to the west front of the Church. The Cloister received the name of Montagu Close, after the son of Sir Thomas Brown who became Viscount Montagu. If you pass round to the north of the Church you will now find a few fragments piled up, the indication of an ancient door in the wall of the Church; but all traces of the monastic buildings are entirely swept away.

The ground in front of the Church is also changed. In post-Reformation times there was a school here—St. Saviour's school; there were also almshouses; there was a peaceful quiet kind of close, in which was heard the buzz of the boys in school; one saw the bedesmen creeping along in the sun; one watched the crumbling ruins falling fast into decay: one wondered where in the narrow churchyard or in the Church lay the bones of Massinger and Fletcher: one seemed to see Bishop Hooper and John Rogers stepping forth into the sunlight, their trial over, their sentence passed: their cheeks, perhaps, somewhat flushed, their eyes somewhat brightened, because, even with such a faith as theirs, all a man's courage must be wanted to face the agony of the flames, through which for half an hour they would have to wade, as Christian waded through the river, before they reached the shore beyond.{206}



Southwark was a city of a various population. It had great Houses for nobles and for Ecclesiastics: it had fair inns for the reception of merchants, coming up from Kent and the south country: it had a riverside people of fishermen and watermen living up stream on the Lambeth bank or down stream at Bermondsey or Rotherhithe: it had a great number of residents who worked in the orchards and the gardens which spread over the whole of the rich low-lying land now embanked, secure from floods and the highest tides. It contained, besides, a large number of rogues and vagabonds, fugitives from justice, lying here in so-called sanctuary, where the officers of the law did not dare to present themselves. In spite of the powers granted to the City over Southwark, the place remained a receptacle and a refuge 'down to the end of the last century, when the so-called Liberties of the Mint'—the last place of sanctuary—were finally abolished and only a slum remained to mark the site of a sanctuary.


Beside all these people Southwark contained the Show Folk of Bankside. When the Show Folk began to live in Bankside I know not: their settlement originally was in Westminster outside the King's Palace, where there was always a great demand for music, dancing, tumbling, mumming and such recreative performances; they were also, however, in great request in London by City Church, city company, and city tavern. Now there was no place for them within the walls: they had no company: there was neither a Musicians'; nor a Dancers'; nor a Singers'; nor a Mummers';{207} nor a Tumblers' Company. There was no company which would admit them; there was no ward where they could get a street for themselves: they were gently but firmly pushed out. And not only were they a class apart but they were a class in contempt. It was always held contemptible to{208} provide amusement. No one, as yet, had made of music or of acting a fine art; no gentleman, as yet, and for a long time after, would take part in the buffoonery which the actor had then to exhibit: an atmosphere of disrepute attached to the calling, to those who followed the calling, and to the place where they lived: in the City, Aldermen had a way of connecting nocturnal disorders with these children of melody: where they resorted the taverns would carry on their revelries after curfew, even to midnight: if the street was alarmed by nocturnal ramblers it would prove to be after an evening with the dancers and the tumblers: the Church, especially the Church Puritanic, set her face against those who devised entertainments, on the ground that the devisers were an ungodly and dissolute crew. Therefore they crossed the river. On Bankside, in the Liberty of the Clink, where the City could not interfere, they 'went as they pleased.' They were dissolute, if they chose—Heaven knows whether they did choose—without reproach: their taverns kept open house as long as they would stop to drink: there was singing every day without interference: there was merriment without the rebuke of the sour face: there was no fear of being haled before the Lord Mayor, for making people laugh: there was no terror of pillory, and no man on their side of the river was 'put in stocks o' Monday, for kissing of his wife o' Sunday.' It was the Bishop of Winchester's Liberty, but he was content, on the whole, to leave the residents unmolested and in the possession of their guitars, their fiddles, their songs and their plays.

(From the Crace Collection)

When the Show Folk were wanted in the City it was easy for them to go across: they were ready at a moment's notice to arrange a pageant, or to take part in one: they could provide the beauteous maidens in white with long fair tresses who stood on platforms in Chepe and scattered gold rose nobles made of paste on the heads of the crowd: they found hermits, and constructed caves for those godly men in the{209} midst of Gracious Street: they found the music for the dragging of the traitor on a hurdle: for the march of the rogue to the pillory: for the riding of the Lord Mayor: for the procession of the Company on its feast day. For a miracle play they presented the parish church with the Fall of Man: the Raising of Lazarus: the Pilgrims of Emmaus: David and Goliath: or any other episode from the Bible—how many excellent players there were among them whose names have long since been forgotten! They knew how to present a Masque—not, perhaps, with the same splendour as one by{210} Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones—who commanded the King's purse—but a neat and creditable affair, with dresses appropriate, full of surprises, and furnished with mythological characters, for the Hall of a City Company on the day of the Annual Feast. For young gentlemen of the more debauched kind they had another kind of entertainment, with singing, dancing girls, tumbling and posturing; with rare jests—pity they were not rarer—and excellent fooling by their clowns. The modern art of acting did not begin at the Globe Theatre: there has never been any time when the actor was unknown: the only difference is that he was not formerly allowed to be anything but a buffoon: that he had little but buffoonery in his répertoire: and now he is an artist and scorns the tricks of the buffoon. Nor is the art of entertainment of modern invention. The Company of Parish Clerks, for instance, were great promoters of sacred plays. Their poets—whose names are entirely lost—provided the words and arranged the scenes; the members of the company played the parts: the Show Folk 'mounted' the piece: they provided the monsters; the red flames for the mouth of Hell; the troops of angels or of devils, the stage business and the music. Many of the Parish Churches had their annual play on their Saint's Day. Thus the Parish Church of St. Margaret, which was taken down when St. Mary Overies' became St. Saviour's, had its play on St. Margaret's Day (July 20), and often another on the Day of St. Lucy (December 13) as well. We have already observed that the Londoner of old never made any difference in the matter of Play or Pageant whether the time was summer or winter. He was like the Scythian, face all over: he felt no cold: he held his Riding, or his Coronation Procession, quite as readily in December as in July.

Another kind of Show Folk, but rougher and more brutal, were the people who looked after the bears and the dogs. Bull baiting, bear baiting, sometimes horse baiting, together with badger baiting, duck hunting, cock throwing, dog{211} fighting and cock fighting, were the chosen and common sports of the people. Baiting of every kind there was wherever there were dogs and bulls and badgers, but the centre and headquarters of the sport was South London, in the place called Paris Gardens. The popularity of the sport is shown by the simple facts that there was not only bull and bear baiting in Paris Gardens, but also two rings or amphitheatres for bull and bear baiting outside the gardens behind Bankside, and that in the High Street itself, nearly opposite St. George's Church, there was permanently established the bull ring to which an animal could be tied whenever one was found fit for the purpose of affording an hour's sport by the madness of his rage or the agonies of his death.

The present Blackfriars Bridge Road cuts through the site of Paris Gardens, leaving a portion on either side. They extended to the distance of about a quarter of a mile south of the river: sluggish streams and ditches ran across and round the gardens, which were so thickly planted with trees as to be dark in the summer. Both in summer and winter the place was noisome with exhalations from the marshy soil. These gardens were the chief home of the rough and cruel sports already mentioned: here were kept under the King's bearward the King's dogs; the Mayor's dogs; and the bears whom they baited. It does not appear that bulls were also kept here: for baiting purposes it was generally a young bull that was chosen, and he was baited to death. The bears were not killed, they were all known to the people by name, such as Harry Hunks and Sackerson, and were valued in proportion to the sport they afforded. The dogs, who with the bears were fed upon the offal and refuse brought over every day from the Shambles of Newgate, were incredibly fierce and savage. In these days we hardly know what a savage dog is, even the bull dog has become peaceful: formerly, the best defender of the house was the dog who was unloosed at night: they fed him chiefly on meat: he was{212} trained to fly at the throat of a stranger: he was a terror to wayfarers—remember the dog in the second part of the 'Pilgrim's Progress:' he was always biting and rending some one: he had the ferocity of the wolf redeemed only by affection for his master: we have no such dogs in these days. Accompanied by one or two such fierce mastiffs or bull dogs who feared no one but their master, a man might journey from end to end of the country armed with nothing but a club. Such a dog would fight and would overcome a man. Kept in the kennels, with insufficient exercise, with stimulating food, the creatures became fiercer than wolves and stronger than tigers. The bull they loved to bait: he had horns and hoofs to dodge: but the bear afforded the best sport both for man and dog: he presented a nose and ears and a thick fur on which to spring, and to fasten the canine teeth upon. What joy to hang on to those ears, torn and bleeding, the whole dog quivering with rapture even though in the end one stroke of the bear's hind paw dragged out the inside of the dog, with the heart and the breath of life!

It was a Royal sport, a sport offered to ambassadors. In a contemporary Diary it is related that the French Ambassadors, on May 25, 1559, were entertained at Court with a dinner, and after dinner with a bull and bear baiting, the Queen herself looking on from a gallery: the next day they were taken down the river to see the bull and bear baiting at Paris Gardens. Forty years later James the First entertained the Spanish Ambassador after dinner with the bears fighting with greyhounds and with a bull baiting. About the same time the Duke of Wirtemberg paid a visit to London and saw the baiting at Paris Gardens:

'On the 1st of September his Highness was shown in London the English dogs, of which there were about 120, all kept in the same enclosure, but each in a separate kennel.

'In order to gratify his Highness, and at his desire, two bears and a bull were baited; at such times you can perceive the breed and mettle of the dogs, for although they{213} receive serious injuries from the bears, are caught by the horns of the bull, and tossed into the air so as frequently to fall down again upon the horns, they do not give in, [but fasten on the bull so firmly] that one is obliged to pull them back by the tails, and force open their jaws. Four dogs at once were set on the bull; they, however, could not gain any advantage over him, for he so artfully contrived to ward off their attacks that they could not well get at him; on the contrary, the bull served them very scurvily by striking and butting at them.'


And another contemporary account of a bear baiting is furnished by Hentzner in 1598:

'There is still another place, built in the form of a Theatre, which serves for the baiting of bears and bulls: they are fastened behind, and then worried by those great English dogs (quos linguâ vernaculâ "Docken" appellant), and mastiffs, but not without great risks to the dogs from the teeth of the one and the horns of the other, and it sometimes happens they are killed on the spot: fresh ones are immediately{214} supplied in the places of those that are wounded or tired. To this entertainment there often follows that of whipping a blinded bear, which is performed by five or six men, standing in a circle with whips, which they exercise upon him without any mercy; although he cannot escape from them because of his chain, he nevertheless defends himself vigorously, throwing down all who come within his reach and are not active enough to get out of it, tearing the whips out of their hands and breaking them. At these spectacles, and everywhere else, the English are constantly smoking the Nicotian weed, which in America is called Tobaca—others call it Pœtum—[i.e. Petun, the Brazilian name for Tobacco, from which the allied beautiful plant 'Petunia' derives its appellation,] and generally in this manner: they have pipes on purpose made of clay, into the farther end of which they put the herb, so dry that it may be rubbed into powder, and lighting it, they draw the smoke into their mouths, which they puff out again through their nostrils like funnels, along with it plenty of phlegm and defluxion from the head. In these Theatres, fruits, such as apples, pears and nuts, according to the season, are carried about to be sold, as well as wine and ale.'

Bear baiting was so popular that fellows roamed about the country leading a bear which they offered to be baited for so much an hour at the inns which they passed. The master of the 'King's Game' had power to seize upon any mastiff dogs, bears, or bulls for the King's service and to bait in any place within his dominions. Henslow and Alleyn, both actors, were also masters of the King's Game: they had licence to apprehend all vagrants travelling with bears and bulls.

There was another place where the refining influence of the bear baiting might be enjoyed. Its site is still preserved in the lane called Bear Garden Alley. In Agas's map of 1560 an amphitheatre is shown called the 'Bear Baiting:' a little to the west another amphitheatre is seen called the 'Bull{215} Baiting.' Whether these places were the only buildings erected for this amusement or whether they were put up in addition to the place in Paris Gardens is a point for the antiquary. It is learnedly discussed by Mr. Ordish ('Early London Theatres'). The Spanish Ambassador in 1544 describes a bear baiting—but he does not say exactly where he saw it. 'On the other side of the town' is vague. I think, however, that he must mean Paris Gardens:

'On the other side of the town we have seen seven bears, some of them very large; they are driven into a circus, where they are confined by a long rope, while large and courageous dogs are let loose upon them as if to be devoured, and a fight takes place. It is not bad sport to witness the conflict. The large bears contend with three or four dogs, and sometimes one is victorious and sometimes the other; the bears are ferocious and of great strength, and not only defend themselves with their teeth, but hug the dogs so closely with their forelegs, that, if they were not rescued by their masters, they would be suffocated. At the same place a pony is baited, with a monkey on its back, defending itself against the dogs by kicking them; and the shrieks of the monkey, when he sees the dogs hanging from the ears and neck of the pony, render the scene very laughable.'

In the year 1550 Crowley, the author of certain 'Epigrams' against abuses, mentions Paris Gardens (see Stow and Strype, 1758, vol. ii. p. 8).

Every Sunday they will spend
One penny or two, the bearward's living to mend.
At Paris Gardens each Sunday, a man shall not fail
To find two or three hundred for the bearward's vale.

Later on there was certainly an amphitheatre in Paris Gardens, because an accident happened there.

'The same 13th day of Januarie, being Sunday about foure of the clock in the afternoon, the old and under-propped scaffolds round about the Beare Garden, commonly called{216} Paris Garden, on the south side of the great river Thames over against the citie of London, over-deluged with people, fell suddenly downe, whereby to number of eight persons, men and women, were slaine and many others sore hurt and bruised to the shortening of their lives. A friendly warning to all that delight themselves in the cruelties of beastes than in the workes of mercy, the fruits of a true, professed faith, which ought to be the Sabbath dayes exercise.' (Stow's 'Annals,' continued by Hawes.)

The amphitheatre would hold a thousand people.

The sport had other dangers: the bear, for instance, might get loose. Once the blind bear got loose: it was on December 9, 1554, and on the Bankside, probably at the amphitheatre outside Paris Gardens. He caught a serving man by the leg 'and bytt a grate pesse away, and after by the hokyll bone, that within iii days after he ded' (Machyn).

Wherever such sports were carried on there must needs spring up a rabble rout who made their living by them: the bearward, the serving man who kept the kennels, fed the dogs, exercised the dogs, fed the bears, looked after the amphitheatre, took the money, and above all provided the drink. In the little lane now called the Bear Garden, there is a small square place which I take to be the survival of an open court in front of the circus. There is here a small tavern: the house itself is not ancient, but I believe that it stands on the site of the house which provided wine and beer for the spectators of the bear baiting. These sports, with others such as wrestling and fighting: these great crowds of people gathering together: the music which accompanied everything: caused the creation of taverns and drinking-places. Another attraction to the place may be only hinted at in these pages. Suffice it to say that all the profligate, all the debauched, all the rowdy, all the lovers of sport among the citizens of London crossed over to Bankside every evening in the summer and every Sunday in the winter, and{217} there they frolicked, drank, sang, quarrelled, fought, and tortured animals to their hearts' content.

It is pleasant to think of Bankside and the fields beyond it—the pleasure garden of London. It was easy to get into the open country on every side of the City walls, but there was no place so pleasant as the Lambeth Marsh and the Bankside: none that offered so many and such various attractions. The flag flying over the Theatre proclaimed that a play was forward: the number of those who loved the play more than the baiting increased daily: there was never a time when the citizens did not love the green fields and the woods: and these lay behind Paris Gardens and the Bank, beyond the barking of the dogs and the roar of the crowd and the blare of the music and the stink of the kennels. Every summer evening the river was crowded with the boats taking the people across to the stairs upon the Bank between St. Mary Overies and Old Barge House Stairs: innumerable were the boats. As for the watermen, John Taylor, the water poet, says that there were 40,000 of them plying between Windsor and Gravesend, while the number of people who were carried over every day to the plays on Bankside was three or four thousand. Forty thousand seems an enormous number, but we must remember that there were no docks: that ships were laden and unladen in mid stream by barges and boats: that the Thames was the highway between London and all riverside places; between London and Westminster; between London and Southwark, because even if one lived close to the bridge it was easier and quicker to be taken across by a boat than to walk over the bridge. The conveyance of three or four thousand people across the river every day would not want more than a thousand boats or two thousand watermen: at the same time the loss of their custom, which happened when the people went to Blackfriars instead of the Bank for their play, would be felt by the whole fraternity of watermen.

We have arrived at the time when the bear baiting{218} attracted less than the play acting: when the amphitheatres were turned into theatres: and when Bankside became the residence of the poets and the players. They came; unfortunately the other people did not go away. There remained the tribe of them who made the music and found the dancers and the tumblers, the mummers and the conjurers: there remained the men—a rough and brutal lot—who looked after the bears and the dogs: the men who wielded quarterstaff and showed sword play, a swaggering and bullying company: there remained the young bloods who came over from their peaceful shops and warehouses to enjoy the sport and the conversation and talk of the place: there remained the ribald crew of men and women who naturally belong to such gatherings. There was another population at Westminster outside the King's House like unto this at Southwark: these, too, existed for the amusement of the King's courtiers and men-at-arms. The Southwark folk existed for the amusements of not the highest class of London City. The poets came, therefore, to this place in order to be near these theatres: they brought no improvement in example, in morals, or in manners: they lived among the people, and their lives were mostly as disorderly and their morals as loose as the company among whom they walked and talked.

Southwark in the early sixteenth century, it may be noted, consisted of two parts, the one wholly distinct from the other. The first part was the High Street with its four churches of St. George's, St. Margaret's, St. Olave's, and St. Mary Overies: in the High Street were the two Debtors' Prisons: in the High Street was the ancient hospital: there also was the long succession of inns, stately, ample, frequented by merchants and capable of stabling an immense number of packhorses, and of receiving as many waggons as could fill the courtyard. The Palaces were mostly gone, turned into inns or tenements. The whole place was a great House of{219} Call. It had no industries, it had no crafts: it had no civic or corporate existence. But it was respectable.

The other part lay on the west of the High Street, stretching along the river nearly as far as Lambeth. This was the disreputable quarter, the place of amusement: the people who lived there, one and all, made the providing of amusement, pleasure and excitement their means of livelihood. It was like a never-ending fair where nothing was sold, and there were no booths except those of Ursula, with roast sucking pig, black puddings, custards, and gingerbread. From every tavern all day long came the tinkling of the guitar and the trolling of some lusty voice and the silvery notes of a girl who sang like the wood pigeon because nature taught her. Here marched along the bear rolling his head from side to side, a monkey chattering on his back, the tabor and pipe going before him. After him came the dogs straining at the chain which held them, barking madly in anticipation of the fight. Or it was a young bull who was led by two men to the ring where he would defend his life as long as the dogs allowed; or it was the arrival at Falcon Stairs of boats by the dozen, each turning out its complement of citizens and their wives, who made for the theatre where the flag was flying. On the open bank were placed tables for those who drank: the balladmonger sang his songs and sold them afterwards: the posturer spread his carpet and went through his performance: the boys cried nuts and apples: the drawer ran about and filled his cans. In no other part of London was there a scene of greater animation and cheerfulness than on Bankside, on an afternoon or evening in the summer. And then to go home again across the broad and peaceful river at full tide, when the sun was set, and the river, like the sky, was aglow, and the people sang softly in the boats, and still from Bankside came the dying snatches of music, the soft breath of the cornet, and the tingling touch of the harp,{220} and the voices of those who sang, and the baying of the hounds from Paris Gardens.

The early history of the playhouses on the Bank involves many questions, and may be safely left to the antiquarian historian. The reader will find most of these questions raised and settled in a book, already quoted here, by Mr. T. Fairman Ordish ('Early London Theatres'). It appears, however, that there were players, if not playhouses, here as early as 1547. After the death of Henry VIII. Gardiner proposed to have a solemn dirge in memory of the King, but, he complained to the Council, the players of Southwark say that they also will have a 'solemn playe to trye who shall have most resorts, they in game, or I in earnest.'

Whether these players had a regular theatre, or whether they acted in the courtyard of an inn, or whether they had a moveable stage, I do not know. It is, however, quite certain that before the end of the sixteenth century there were four theatres in Bankside—the Rose, whose site was somewhere in Rose Alley: the Hope in Bear Garden Lane: the Swan in Paris Gardens—that is, on the west side of the Blackfriars Road, not far from the Bridge: and the Globe. The site of the Globe is generally allowed to have been at a spot 150 feet south of Park Street, close to the Southwark Bridge Road, and on the east of it. For twenty years, more or less, the stream of playgoers was turned steadily and continuously to the Theatres in Bankside, and poet and player lived beside the theatre, and the place was the pleasure resort of the people, and the haunt of sporting men, and the school of the citizens, in history at least: and the pride and glory of London for its dramatists, if the people knew: and the sink and shame of London for the iniquities and villanies practised there: the debauchery and the shamelessness of those who lived upon the Bank.

The Plague, not only of 1603 and of 1625, but those{221} milder attacks which threatened from time to time were a deadly enemy to the players, for then the theatre must be closed and the Bear Garden too, for in crowds there was infection. Think what it meant to close these places of resort. The Elizabethan theatres maintained almost as many persons as our own: there were the players proper—the Company: there were the servants 'in the front' and the servants behind, the 'supers,' the money takers, the boys who went round selling nuts and cakes, wine and ale, new books and tobacco: there were the watermen required to carry the audience to and fro. Why, the shutting of the Theatres must have thrown out of employ many hundreds of men, and, if we consider their wives and families, many thousands of people. Can we wonder if the players, one and all, were Cavaliers, and were ready to fight for the side which allowed them their daily bread?

The Bear Garden and Hope Theatre 1616 The Bear Garden and Hope Theatre, 1616

But Fortune was against them. The Puritanic spirit prevailed. When the Parliament conquered, the theatres were doomed. And in 1655, by command of Thomas Pride, High Sheriff of Surrey, the seven bears of Paris{222} Gardens were shot by a company of soldiers. In the same year it is mentioned that the Hope Theatre had been destroyed to make room for tenements.

The profession of actor in a time when the Puritanic spirit was rapidly growing stronger could not possibly be held in good repute. There was dancing in it: music: mockery: merriment: satire: low comedy: all these things the misguided flock enjoyed and the shepherd deplored. The Mayor, long before the Theatres were suppressed, would never allow a theatre to be set up within his jurisdiction: had that jurisdiction extended beyond the various Bars: had there not, fortunately, happened to exist certain illogical and absurd Liberties and Precincts, in which the Mayor had no authority, there would have been no theatres in the neighbourhood of London, and therefore no Elizabethan drama, no Shakespeare, no Ben Jonson, no Massinger, no Fletcher. As things happened, we have to note the very remarkable fact that while the popular love for the theatre increased year by year; while the theatre became the teacher of history, the satirist of manners, the home of music and of poetry; the ministers and preachers thundered perpetually against it, yet prevailed not at all, until the Civil War broke out, and the power fell into the hands of the Puritans. For instance, one John Field, the father of one of the most famous players, Nathan Field, wrote to the Earl of Leicester as early as 1585 reviling him for having interfered 'on the behalf of evil men as of late you did for players, to the great griefe of all the godly,' and adjuring him not to encourage their wickedness, and 'the abuses that are wont to be nourished by those impure interludes and plays.' And the same divine, two years later, wrote an attack upon the theatre in consequence of the accident at Paris Gardens which has been already mentioned. The theatre was forcibly suppressed in the Civil War, but it was never forgotten, and the moment that the Restoration allowed it was opened again. But to our day the old Puritanism{223} continues, in a now feeble and impotent way, to consider the Theatre as the chosen home of the Devil.


Nathan Field, though the son of such a father, was ready to meet all comers in defence of the stage. In 1616 one Sutton, Preacher at St. Mary Overies, denounced the Theatre and all connected with it. Field answered him manfully, telling him plainly that he, the preacher, is disloyal, in preaching from his pulpit against people who are licensed and{224} patronised by the King. The players were at all times equal to the task of covering the preacher with derision; but derision seldom convinces or converts.

The general opinion of players remains that they have at all times been a penniless tribe, eating the 'corn in the green;' borrowing; spending their money in riotous living. This opinion is not by any means always true. The musician, the mummer, the dancer, and the tumbler were all regarded much in the same light; they were despised; they did not fight like the soldier; they did not produce like the craftsman; they did not, like the priest, say mass and forgive sins; they did not heal the sick; they knew no law; their only function in the world was to amuse; to make men laugh. It is very remarkable that directly the players ceased to be dependent on noble lords, as soon as they appealed to the public and received money from those who came to see them perform, they became prudent men of business. They may have been a cheerful tribe; they were, however, well to do, and, so far as can be learned, a thrifty tribe. They made money, not by writing plays, nor by acting them, but by being shareholders in the company with which they played. Burbage, Alleyn, Heminge, Sly, Field, Schanke, not to speak of Shakespeare, all appear to have lived in comfort, and to have died possessed of moderate fortunes.

The poets, certainly, continued, as poets have always been, penniless and in debt. By the end of the sixteenth century the earliest of the dramatic poets, Marlowe, Peele, Nash, Greene—that turbulent roystering profligate band whom everybody loved while everybody reproved—had passed away. The early extravagance vanished. The later poets, Ben Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher, Massinger, led more godly lives. Yet they were often harassed for want of money. Three of them, Massinger, Field and Daborne, write to Henslow asking for an advance of 5l. on the security of a play which is worth ten pounds in addition to what they have had. All those, in{225} fact, were poor, and remained poor, who attempted to live by poetic literature alone.

The poets have had enough attention paid to them: let us consider the Company of Actors who played at the Globe and the Rose, the Hope and the Lion, and lived on and near the Bankside. The books of St. Saviour's (see Rendle's 'Southwark,' App. p. 26) are full of references to the actors who died and were buried here, whose children were baptised here or buried here. The name of William Shakespeare, unfortunately, does not occur. Among the actors, and first and chief, was Richard Burbage—like Shakespeare, a Warwickshire man. In person he was under the middle stature, and grew fat and scant of breath. But no actor of the time had so great a power over his audience. It was his father who built the very first permanent theatre—called The Theatre at Shoreditch. In consequence of a dispute with the landlord, he pulled down the house, carried the timbers across the river to Bankside, and set up the Globe.

There was Kempe, the low comedian, who succeeded Tarlton in that line. He was a great dancer: on one occasion he danced all the way from Norwich to London, taking nine days for the work: he was accompanied by one Thomas Sly, who played the tabor and the pipe for him. As he passed through the villages the girls came running out to dance with him along the road till he tired them out. He was a fellow of infinite drollery, with jokes and acting such as pleased the 'groundlings' well. There was a kind of entertainment popular at the time called a jig. It was a monologue for the most part, but might be played by two or more, in which the words were interrupted by songs and dances: the jig was like the farce which used to be played after the tragedy. This worthy lived in Bankside, but I believe there is no record of his death.

Another excellent player was John Lowin or Lewin. He also lived in the Liberty of the Clink. But he lived too long.{226} He survived the suppression of Theatres, and in his old age had no craft or art or mastery by which to earn his bread save that which was proscribed. He wrote for assistance to a patron, and he quoted the lover's words applied to the beggar:

Silence in love betrays more woe
Than words, though ne'er so witty;
The beggar that is dumb, you know,
Deserves a double pity.

Among the low comedians Robert Armin must not be forgotten. He attracted Tarlton's attention when a mere boy. The veteran comedian adopted him and taught him. I know not whether he, or Kempe, was the true successor to that unrivalled buffoon. He is described by some rhymester as—

Honest gamesome Robert Armin,
That tickles the spleen like a harmless vermin.

I have already mentioned Nathan Field the player: he was also Nathan Field the dramatist. He brought into the latter profession the carelessness about money that belonged to the former. There are indications—only indications, it is true—that there was in him something of the temperament of a Micawber, or a Harold Skimpole, a constitutional inability to understand the meaning of addition and subtraction or the translation of money into its equivalent in eating and drinking. He took a wife when he was no longer quite young, and he became jealous. Hence the epigram, 'De Agello et Othello:'

Field is, in sooth, an actor: all men know it;
And is the true Othello of the poet:
I wonder if 'tis true, as people tell us,
That like the character he is most jealous.
If it be so, and many living sweare it,
It takes not little from the actor's merit,
Since, as the Moor is jealous of his wife,
Field can display the passion to the life.

Who remembers John Schanke? He, like Kempe and Armin, carried on the traditions of low comedy. He was great in the invention of 'jigs.' A notable 'jig' was that called 'Schanke's Ordinary,' in which several performers took part. There is an odd story told by Collier of a 'Schanke, a player.' It was in the year 1642. There came galloping to London three of the Lord General's officers with the news that there had been a great battle in which the London Companies had been cut to pieces, and 20,000 men had fallen on both sides. They spread their news as they rode through the villages: they spread it abroad in the city. It was ascertained on inquiry that there had not been any battle at all, but that those three men—Captain Wilson, Lieutenant Whitney, and one Schanke, a player—were simply runaways. Therefore they were all clapped in the Gatehouse, and brought to undergo punishment according to martial law 'for their base cowardliness.'

One remarks that the race of comic actors or low comedians never becomes extinct. That power of always seizing on the comic side in everything, of always being able to make an audience laugh throughout a whole piece, is never, happily, taken away from a world which would be too sad without it. Great poets do not occur more than once in a century: great novelists not more than twice: but the low comedian, the comic man, whose face, whose voice, whose carriage, are as humorous as his words, never fails us. Tarlton is followed by Kempe, Kempe by Armin, Armin by Schanke. So Robson follows Liston, and Toole follows Robson, with lesser lights besides.

There are many other actors. The painstaking Collier finds out what parts they played and where they lived. Alas! He tells us no more. Perhaps there is no more to tell. The rank and file of the theatrical company are never a very interesting collection. Underwood, Toovey, Eccleston, Cowley, Cooke, Sly, Argan—they are shadows that have long since{228} passed out, made an exit, and so an end. They were forgotten by the audience the day after they were dead. Why seek to revive their memory when there is not a single solitary fact to go upon? A bone would be something: out of the skull of Yorick we might perhaps reconstruct his life, with all the adventures, love-making, disappointments, distresses and triumphs.

We know the place where they all lived; the place of a continual Fair without any booths, yet everything offered for sale: the music to cheer your heart—you could command it had you money in purse; the wine to raise your courage—you could call for it; the dancing to charm your eye—any girl would dance for you if you paid her; the new play to fill you with lofty thoughts—but you must pay for your seat; the jig to bring you back to the level of earth—or perhaps a little lower—you could buy it; the eyes of Dalilah at the sign of the Swan in the Hoope were directed to your purse; the ruffians belonging to the kennels and the bear garden; the drawers of the taverns and the sack and the tobacco, the boats and the boatmen, were all at your service. The players lived in this riot and racket, themselves a part: we catch glimpses of them, we can discern them amid the crowd: sometimes one of their women is ducked for a shrew; one of them is clapped in the Clink Prison: some are haled before the Bishop for acting in Lent—these unreasonable people really object to starving in Lent! And the place and the people and their manners and customs are deplorable but delightful; they are picturesque to the highest degree, but they are equally reprehensible. I wish we could go back four hundred years and see and listen for ourselves: but with all our admiration for the Elizabethan drama, I do not think that I should like to be one of the Show Folk or to live with them in that jovial colony on the Bankside in the days of the Globe and the Rose, the Hope and the Swan.{229}



'Below Bridge' covers Tooley Street and her lanes: Horselydown, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Deptford, Greenwich, and Woolwich. The railway has ruined one end of Tooley Street, which is a corruption of St. Olave's Street. Perhaps it was ruined before the railway appeared at all. Certainly no one would believe that this dark and narrow street was once a place of Palaces. The Prior of Lewes had here, opposite St. Olave's Church, his Inn or Town House: here the Abbot of St. Augustine had his Inn: and here, we have seen, was the house of Sir John Fastolf. Here was the Pilgrim's Way to Bermondsey Rood. Some came across the bridge; some by boat, which was far more convenient, to Tooley Stairs; some to Battlebridge Stairs; some to Pickle Herring Stairs. The way lay along Tooley Street and by 'Barmsie' Lane through the fields and gardens: a lovely rural lane. Beyond Tooley Street lies a quarter bounded on the North by the River, and on the East by St. Saviour's Dock: a quarter which is certainly the most industrious in the whole of London. It is called Horselydown, the derivation of which seems obvious, but derivations are not to be trusted, however obvious. We may take it for granted, because we can prove the fact by looking at Roques' map of 1745, that there were meadows where horses grazed as soon as the embankment was up, and the ground drained. There was some kind of common here at one time: here suicides and persons deprived of Christian rites were buried. There was also a Fair held at Horselydown. The{230} industries made their appearance in the eighteenth century, but they came gradually. It is now a place of most remarkable variety as regards occupations. All along the river and the bank of the Dock, formerly Savoy Dock, there are wharves: inland are bonded warehouses, granaries, leather warehouses, hide warehouses, hop warehouses, and wool warehouses. There are tanneries, currieries, fur and skin dyeing works, breweries, rice mills, mustard mills, pepper mills, dyeing works, dog's food manufactories, vinegar works, bottle works, iron foundries, wooden hoop manufactories, cooperages, roperies, smithies, biscuit manufactories, oil and colour works, pin manufactories, varnish works, and distilleries. All this in a district half a mile long and a quarter of a mile broad. Between the factories and the warehouses are houses for the workmen and the foremen. On the south side stands the Church, almost the ugliest Church in London: next to the Church is, or was, a few years ago, a street which has something of the look and feeling of a Close.

It is a great pity that in the whole of South London lying east of the High Street there is not a single beautiful, or even picturesque Church. Look at them! St. Olave's, St. John, Horselydown, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Mary, Rotherhithe, the four oldest churches in the quarter. It cannot be pretended that these structures inspire veneration or even respect. You may see drawings of them in Maitland. St. Olave's was rebuilt in 1737, St. John's, Horselydown, in 1735, St. Mary Magdalen in 1680, and St. Mary, Rotherhithe, in 1713 on the site of the older church. In 1738 the steeple was added. The four churches are therefore all examples of the church architecture of nearly the same period.

(From the Painting by G. Hoffnagel, at Hatfield)

Of all the quarters and parts of London that of Horselydown is the least known and the least visited, except by those whose business takes them there every day. There is, in fact, nothing to be seen: the wharves block out the river: the warehouses darken the streets, the places where people{231} live are not interesting: there is not an ancient memory or association, or any ancient fragment of a building, to make one desire to visit Horselydown. When we pass the Dock, we find ourselves in quite a different quarter: the wharves are arranged along the river wall, called the Bermondsey Wall, but behind the wharves there are fewer factories and more people. Alas! poor people! It is a grimy place to live in: of greenery or garden land there is none. There is not even any access to the river except by one or two narrow stairs: the 'works' are those whose near neighbourhood is not generally desired: places where they make leather and curry it: or where they make glue or vinegar. Fortunately, however, the good people of Bermondsey are spared the handling of tallow, bones, or soap. Things might therefore have been worse. This is the industrial centre of South London, and it occupies, including Horselydown, St. Olave's, Bermondsey, and Rotherhithe, something like a quarter of a million, which{232} is a good-sized city in itself. On the one side of St. Saviour's Dock we may step aside to look at two streets, which fifty years ago represented the lowest kind of vice and brutality, and the worse kind of human pigsties, Talbot Street and London Street. The former was taken over by Dickens to adorn his 'Oliver Twist'—lugged in, for indeed it does not belong there.

The condition of the latter is figured in Wilkinson's 'London Illustrated' in the year 1806.

The ugliness of the neighbourhood remains, but some of the dirt has been washed away.

It seems impossible to create a quarter of workmen's cottages or residences which shall be beautiful. First there is the slum with a row of two- or four-roomed cottages in a narrow court: the windows are broken: the banisters of the staircase are broken away to be burned: the sanitary appliances are terrible: the court is a laystall. Some of these delightful places still survive in Southwark. The next step is to build streets for working men in places where the ground is not too valuable. Thus the town of Bromley near Bow sprang into existence. It consists entirely of monotonous streets with monotonous houses, all small, all ugly, all built after the same pattern: the result being dreary and dispiriting. Then come the model dwelling-houses: the huge barrack, of which, Bermondsey way, there are enormous stacks, accommodating the working classes by the hundred thousand. There is not the smallest attempt at making these places beautiful: they are simple cubes of grey brick with rows and lines of windows. Outside they may be models of economy in space. Once within, they may be models of convenience; but there is another side. The moral effect of this piling up of family on family is reported to be injurious in ways not contemplated by the founders: the quiet folk are terrorised by the rowdy; the children are demoralised: there are dangers not expected, and temptations not considered: in a word, the model lodging-houses{233} of Southwark and Bermondsey are not, in every respect, adapted to a model population.

It is difficult between London Bridge and Rotherhithe to get at the river, except at two or three spots where the old stairs can be approached by a narrow passage. There is an embankment or terrace: the whole bank is occupied for commercial purposes: business men do not like strangers on these wharves: and for all practical purposes the dwellers below Bridge might just as well be a dozen miles inland. If, however, the resident of Bermondsey can sometimes—say, on Saturday afternoon—get down to the stairs and look out upon the river, he will see close at hand, not only the ships and barges that lie about the wharves, but the grand new Watergate of London, the most appropriate entrance that could be devised to the port—the new Tower Bridge.


Where Bermondsey Wall ended and Rotherhithe began the houses, until fifty years ago, rapidly grew thinner, until Rotherhithe itself consisted of little more than a single street,{234} with docks, and stairs, and taverns on the riverside, and on the other side lanes leading to cottages and cottage gardens. The Commercial Docks were opened in 1807, but the place still preserved something of its old character until quite recently. It consisted of a district round which the river flowed on the north and east. Like all the country about the Thames, it was low-lying, and originally a marsh. Even as late as 1830 it was imperfectly drained, and a good part of it remained still a marsh. Thus the road, now called Southwark Park Road—why could they not leave the old name, Blue Anchor Road?—even in 1830 wound through a marsh covered with ditches and ponds. On the east side, near the junction of Blue Anchor Road with Jamaica Row, there was a most remarkable collection of ponds and islands, ending with a broad stream or ditch running into the river at Rotherhithe stairs. Other ditches or streams lay or flowed at will over the levels, making islands which were approached by bridges. The character of the place was entirely that of a marsh: in fact, it was the last part of London where there lingered still the appearance of a marsh. The names show this. We have The Reed Bed; Providence Island; the Seven Islands; the West Pond; the East Pond; Broom Fields; Halfpenny Hatch, repeated more than once. The numerous Ropewalks scattered about show that the ground was cheap, and the factories where they make glue, soap, brimstone, turpentine, white lead, and paper are there, which require plenty of room and few people to enjoy the smell.

(From an Engraving by John Boydell, 1750)

Leaving Rotherhithe, we arrive at a place much more interesting, namely, Deptford. They have done their best to spoil Deptford of late years: they have taken away the old Trinity Almshouses: they have built new streets: but a good deal of the old Deptford remains. I walked about it nearly every day for three months some twelve years ago, reconstructing the Deptford of 1750 from the Deptford of 1886. It is like reconstructing the face in youth from a{235} portrait in middle life. I succeeded at last, to my own satisfaction, and, I hope, to the satisfaction of my readers when the eighteenth-century Deptford appeared as the background of a novel. It was not a very big place: it consisted chiefly of an old church in the lower part of the town, and a new church in the upper part: there were two almshouses: there was the Hall where the Brethren of the Trinity House assembled every year before their service at St. Nicolas and{236} their feast at their house on Tower Hill. The town was full of sailors and naval officers: the latter were not remarkable for the finicking ways of the beaux their contemporaries: on the contrary, they despised such ways—'their fashions I hate, like a pig in a gate.' When they were young they made love all the time they were ashore, except when they were drinking and taking tobacco at the tavern—these occupations, truly, left the honest fellows less time for love than might have been expected. There were officers' taverns and seamen's taverns: rum, however, was the favourite drink at both. And, really, it would surprise you to hear the songs they sang, and to observe the cheerfulness with which they put up with everything: favouritism: long and hopeless service in the lower ranks: bad food on board: long years of foreign service: and for all the gallantry that these brave fellows showed in service not a word of thanks: not a hint at promotion.

The Town consisted mostly of a single street: there were shops, but poor things: there was a market: fruit and vegetables were brought in from the country round: within a few steps of the town one was in the loveliest country, with the Ravensbourne flowing between meadows and under the branches of willows and of alders.

The dockyard of Deptford was founded by Henry the Eighth, and continued till 1869. It was at Deptford that most of the ships were built for the Royal Navy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: it was here that Drake's ship, the Golden Hind, in which he had made his voyage round the world, was laid up, her cabin turned into a place of entertainment. She remained here, an object of pilgrimage for the Londoners, for many years. She was a good deal cut about, because everybody wanted to carry away a piece of her. At last she was suffered to fall to pieces. One pious archæologist got a chair made out of her timbers and presented it to the Bodleian Library.

Pepys was often at Deptford in his capacity of Secretary{237} of the Admiralty. 'Up and down the yard all the morning, and seeing the seamen exercise, which they do already very handsomely. Then to dinner.... After dinner and taking our leave of the officers of the yard, we walked to the waterside, and on our way walked into the ropeyard, where I had a look into the tarhouses and other places, and took great notice of all the several works belonging to the making of a cable.'

It was at Deptford that Pepys visited Lady Sandwich, 'where I stood with great pleasure an hour or two by her bedside, she lying prettily in bed.' During the plague year, when he and his wife were staying at Woolwich, he goes over to Deptford nearly every day, and was continually feasting with his friends and always 'very merry,' though the plague was slaying its thousands only a mile or two away.

Another visitor to Deptford who left a lasting memory was Peter the Great, who stayed here in 1698, studying ship architecture. The people of the town had the satisfaction of seeing the Czar of Muscovy—not quite so great a man then as he is now—smoking a pipe of tobacco and drinking brandy in their taverns every evening. By day they might see him working among the dockyard men at the various parts of a ship and its gear.

The most interesting person, however, who is connected with the annals of Deptford is certainly John Evelyn.

Evelyn was not a great writer, nor a great scholar, nor a great statesman: he was not great in anything that he did: yet his memory remains, and will remain long after that of much stronger men has been forgotten. He wrote a great deal, and since some of his writings survive after three hundred years it is manifest that he must have written well. He was a strong royalist who knew how to take care of his own skin. In order to avoid being dragged into the army and fighting for the cause which he loved, he went abroad and travelled in Europe for four years, during which time the{238} royal cause fell to pieces, and those who fought for it were ruined. In 1647 he came home again; in 1649 he went back to France, where he stayed till 1652. By this time he had made many discoveries and observations on art and antiquities. He also married a wife, the daughter of Charles's ambassador at Paris. Through his wife he obtained possession of Sayes Court, Deptford, where, with a few breaks, one of which was to allow Peter the Great to use the house, he lived till nearly the end of his life. He was one of the founders and first Fellows of the Royal Society: he was a member of many commissions: he was the first Treasurer of Queen Mary's new naval hospital, and held many other offices.

In quite a brief note Pepys sums up the character and the accomplishments of this estimable man:

'Nov. 5, 1665. By water to Deptford, and here made a visit to Mr. Evelyn, who among many other things showed me most excellent painting in little: in distemper; in Indian ink; water colours; graving: and above all, the whole secret of mezzotinto, and the manner of it, which is very pretty, and good things done with it. He read to me very much also of his discourse he hath been many years and now is about, about Gardening, which will be a most noble and pleasant piece. He read me part of a play or two of his making; very good, but not as he conceits them, I think, to be. He showed me his "Hortus Hyemalis," leaves laid up in a book of several plants kept dry, which preserve colour, however, and look very finely, better than a Herball. In fine, a most excellent person he is, and must be allowed a little for conceitedness; but he may well be so, being a man so much above others.'

His memory survives on account of the personal character of the man which is revealed in his works, and of the high opinion in which he was held. 'A typical instance,' says his latest biographer ('Dict, of Nat. Biog.'), 'of the accomplished and public-spirited country gentleman of the Restoration, a{239} pious and devoted member of the Church of England, and a staunch loyalist in spite of his grave disapproval of the manners of the court.' Above all things, it might be added, he was a gardener, and all gardeners are amiable and all gardeners are personally popular.


Of Greenwich Palace I have already spoken. There is little else in Greenwich except the Palace or Hospital. The Almshouse known as Norfolk College must not be forgotten, however. It is on the east side of the Hospital, and stands behind a stone terrace, overlooking the river. The College consists of a quadrangle containing a chapel and a small hall or common room, with gardens at the back. This kind of almshouse is common, but it is difficult to build it so that it shall not be beautiful. Norfolk College is quite a beautiful place. Finer and larger is Morden College, up the hill, designed for decayed merchants.{240}

This is the end of London: a few yards beyond Norfolk College the houses stop suddenly: on the tongue of land projecting north formed by a loop of the river there are hardly any houses at all: the place is a dreary flat as far as Woolwich. The London County Council limits include Woolwich and Plumstead; but that broad area covered by continuous houses which begins at Battersea ends at Greenwich.{241}



The Sanctuary created and crossed by the Church for the refuge of those who had fallen into temptation became, as we know, the resort of the rogue, the murderer, and the habitual criminal. Within the precincts of St.-Martin's-le-Grand were carried on with impunity all the trades and methods of producing things counterfeit. The Sanctuary of Westminster was a scandal and a disgrace. These places had been finally abolished after much trouble: the City officers could march their rogues to Newgate without fear of a rescue from St. Martin's. The people of Westminster could lie down at night without fear of housebreakers from Sanctuary. At the same time the custom of holding and seeking sanctuary was too deep-rooted to be quickly abolished. Perhaps there was something comfortable in the thought that there should be a place, however small, where the officers of the law were not admitted, and where rogues should be unmolested. It was a loophole for repentance, perhaps: it was a gleam of sunshine on the path of the outlaw. So the custom was continued well into the eighteenth century. In this chapter I am going to recall the memory of these later Sanctuaries. As may be imagined, literature says little about them. But it says enough to show that there were places dotted about London which served all the purposes of the old sanctuaries without the restraints of ecclesiastical government: in fact, there was no government, except on purely democratic principles. In these places lived rogues and villains of all kinds: here the thief-taker came to find{242} his man—observe that this functionary was admitted; the thief-taker ventured where the sheriff's officer could not. Why was this? Because the London rogue had a sense of justice: no man could expect to go on for ever: when a man's time was up, let him give place to his successor. The thief-taker, therefore, was a recognised official: it was his duty to assign to every man his proper length of rope. This allowance expended, it was the duty of the rogue to get up when he was called, go away quietly with the thief-taker, and get hanged in due course. Otherwise, there would have been no living to be made by the rogues on account of the competition of numbers. The name of Alsatia had been long forgotten, but the asylum still remained.

In the 'Fortunes of Nigel' we are made acquainted with the Alsatia of Fleet Street. There were other places equally secure for rogues, besides Alsatia. Such were Whetstone Park in Lincoln's Inn Fields; Fullwood's Rents, Holborn; Milford Lane, Strand; Montagu Close, Southwark; and others. All these were gradually extinguished; not by any summary procedure; not by turning out the rogues and forcing them to scatter; not by marching off the whole population to prison; but by the slower and more gradual process of transformation. This process began when the parts and places around became respectable. There is something chilling and repellent to the common rogue about the proximity of respectability: he does not like to be in its neighbourhood: in this way these degenerate and unlawful sanctuaries gradually fell into decay. One alone remained, when all the others had disappeared. It was in that part of Southwark—that part which is still a slum—called Mint Street, nearly opposite St. George's Church in the High Street. This street, with its alleys and courts, was inhabited by as villainous a collection as even the eighteenth century, which in point of villains was rich beyond its predecessors, could not equal. They had retreated here from their former{243} haunt in Montagu Close, as to a last fortress, which was not yet besieged. They lived in perfect safety here: no writ could be served on them: no arrest could be made: the only person they had to fear was, as said above, the thief-taker.

The annals of this Sanctuary were never, unfortunately, kept; it is impossible to ascertain what illustrious criminals were here housed and for how long. There are, however, one or two little histories of the Mint which will serve to show us at once the public spirit, the courage, and the immunity with which the people of the later Sanctuary lived and acted.

The first story belongs to the year 1715. The case of Dormer v. Dormer and Jones came on for hearing at Westminster Hall. It was a divorce case, in which the co-respondent had been a footman in the plaintiff's house. There seems to have been no defence, practically. The verdict of the Jury was for the plaintiff, with 5,000l. damages. Now, consider for a moment what that verdict meant. In these days, when a defendant without any private means at all is mulcted in damages and costs, whether of 5,000l. or of 100l., he simply smiles. He is not in the least degree affected. Nothing worse than bankruptcy can happen to him, and when a man has nothing bankruptcy presents few terrors. In Portugal Street subridet vacuus viator—the insolvent pilgrim smiles cheerfully. But in those days it was very different. To inflict damages of 5,000l. meant simply that the Jury considered the case one in which the defendant, who could not be tried in the criminal courts, could only be adequately punished by being locked up for the whole of his remaining days in a debtor's prison, where, since he was only a footman whose relations were probably unable to assist him and certainly unable to maintain him, he would speedily take his place on the common side, and there he would be slowly done to death by insufficient food and insufficient clothing, by privation, cold, fever and misery.{244}

The Jury therefore gave this verdict with deliberate intention. It meant prison and slow starvation and insufficient warmth, and so everybody instantly understood, including Mr. Jones himself. In a moment the officers would have laid hands upon the unhappy but undeserving footman. But he was too quick for them: he turned: he fled: he hurled himself down Westminster Hall through the crowd of lawyers, witnesses, booksellers, glovesellers, and visitors: he tore across New Palace Yard, now pursued by the officers: he made for the 'Bridge,' that is, the pier so called, for as yet there was no Bridge: he jumped into the first boat and shoved off. When the bailiffs arrived breathless at the Stairs, they saw their prisoner already half way across the river. They too jumped into a boat: for some reason or other—one knows not why—it was most unlucky—their boat took a long time to get off: something was wrong with the painter: the ropes were knotted: the stretchers wanted to be set right: the oars were on the wrong sides: the men were slow in getting off their coats: finally, when she was cast loose the boat proved to be another Noah's Ark for creeping slowly over the face of the waters. Jones therefore got safely ashore on the other side, and the bailiffs turned back with a good deal of cursing. Once ashore, the fugitive made straight to Mint Street, as to a Levitical City which was also a City of Refuge. I know not what became of him afterwards. It was a hive where all the bees were busy. Jones could not eat the bread of idleness: he therefore, one may certainly conclude, became a rogue by profession and in due course met his fate bravely with white ribbons round his cap, an orange in one hand, a Prayer-book in the other, and a large nosegay in his shirt front.

Here is another story of the same Eighteenth Century Sanctuary. It will seem incredible that the Executive should have been so incapable, but the story is literally true.


Things being in so satisfactory and settled a condition,{245} the Law being so triumphantly defied, at the Mint in Southwark, some of the residents or collegians naturally desired to go farther afield, and to establish more Sanctuaries or Law-defying{246} colonies on the other side of the river, which was reported to be ripe for these settlements. No reports of Meetings, Proceedings, and Resolutions held and passed on the subject have come down to us. However, that matters very little. Every great movement, we know, is the work of one man. Therefore there arose a Prophet—the Prophet as Rogue. He perceived, understood, and presently began to preach that a 'long felt want'—call it rather a 'need'—existed, which it was his duty to supply. The old Sanctuaries of North London, he pointed out, had fallen into decay. Alsatia was deplorably respectable: bailiffs had been seen in Milford Lane: the trade of counterfeit rings was no longer carried on in St. Martin's. And, though there were certainly taverns in Clerkenwell which bailiffs regarded with a useful respect, it could not be denied that London needed a new Sanctuary. This need he called upon his friends and fellow-residents in the Mint to supply. He set before his hearers with burning eloquence—I am sure it was burning—a Vision of a New London, Purged; Purified; without honesty; without morals; without law; with neither gallows, pillory, whipping post, or stocks: a City entirely in the hands of Rogues who would compel all the conquered City to work for them: would seize on all property and would live triumphantly happy with complete control over all the Prisons. To make a beginning of this Millennium, he proposed, by means of colonies from the Mint, to plant all London with Sanctuaries until, in fulness of time, the City should become one huge Sanctuary, where debts would never be collected, and robbery and murder would never be punished.

They chose for their new settlement a piece of ground on the east of Tower Hill, where Cable Street is now. They laid down their boundaries: they called the place the New Mint: they said, 'Within these limits there shall be no arrest.' This new law they communicated fairly and plainly, because everything was above board, to all the catchpoles. They then sat{247} down as in an impregnable fortress. Remember, that if there were no police, such as we now understand by the word, they were close to the soldiers of the Tower, who might have been called in to disperse this lawless establishment. However, nothing at all was done. They sat down triumphant. Presently—I know not how long afterwards—a bailiff was actually found to disregard the warning. You will hardly believe that this rash and audacious person ventured to arrest a New Minter within the Precincts!

Then the colonists arose and formed into column: they called for music: preceded by a band of what used to be called the Whifflers, they marched in a procession, four abreast, quietly, calmly, but with settled purpose in their gallant and resolute faces: they carried a banner, yea, the Flag of Unrighteousness: they marched straight to the house of the offender, who, for his part, was so foolish as not to run away. It is, however, a weakness common to Catchpoles that they always put their trust in the Law. They arrested that Catchpole: they led him to the place where he had offended: and there they made an example of him. They tore away every shred of clothing from him: they flogged him all over with brooms and thorny brambles: they gave him a thousand lashes, so that there was not a whole inch of skin left upon him: they dragged him through filthy ponds and laystalls: they took him out and flogged him again: they tried to flog the life out of the poor wretch but failed, for he survived: then they dragged him again through the filth: at last they suffered him, bleeding and naked, to crawl home as best he might. I am sorry to say that I have no information as to the end of the New Mint adventure; but it certainly appears that no one was punished for this outrage, and that no attempt even was made to punish anyone. Perhaps the memory of that gallant deed still lingers in Cable Lane: but I have not ventured to inquire of the still rude and independent freemen, its present residents.{248}



If we look at a map of South London compiled at any time during the eighteenth century it is surprising to observe how little the place had grown since the fifteenth. There runs, as of old, the Causeway at right angles to the Embankment. On either side of the Causeway or High Street or St. Margaret's Hill, run off right and left a few narrow streets: the continuity of houses is broken by St. George's Church, south of which, although there are, here and there, detached houses and even rows of houses or terraces, there are open fields, streams, ponds and gardens. St. George's Fields, crossed by paths, are broad and open fields stretching out westward till they join Lambeth Marsh. St. Margaret's Church has long since vanished: he who knows the old maps can still put his finger on the site, but its burial ground has wholly disappeared. There are four old churches in Southwark proper: St. George's, St. Saviour's, St. Thomas's, and St. Olave's. On the east are the churches of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, not to speak of Deptford: on the west is Lambeth Church: on the south are the churches of Newington and Kennington. As for other institutions, there are the two great hospitals St. Thomas's and Guy's almost side by side: and there are the prisons, that of the King's Bench, the Marshalsea and the White Lyon. They were all on the east side of the street until 1756, when the King's Bench Prison was removed across the road nearly opposite to St. George's. Some time after the Marshalsea was moved further south on the site of the old White Lyon and including that ancient Clink. The old{249} Clink on Bankside had vanished. But the Borough Compter was still flourishing—a grimy, filthy, fever-stricken place.


At the back of the houses and narrow streets to east and west, the fields began with open ditches or sewers and sluggish streams. 'Snow's' Fields on the east were as well known as St. George's in the West. 'Long Lane' ran from St. George's to Bermondsey Church: it contained a few houses: Bermondsey Lane, commonly called Barmsie, ran from the old cross to the same church: it was already a street of houses. The most crowded part of Southwark proper was the street called Tooley or St. Olave's, the most ancient street in the Borough, originally built upon the Embankment, the Thames{250} Street of South London. Here, in the eighteenth century, there were no vestiges left of the former palaces: everything had gone except a crypt or a vault: at every step one came upon the entrance to a court, narrow, mean and squalid: these courts remain, also narrow, mean and squalid, to the present day. There were no places in London, unless in the neighbourhood of Hermitage Street, Wapping, where human creatures had to pig together in such horrible conditions. There was no water supply to these courts: there was no lighting: there was no paving, not even with the round cobbles which they still called paving.

(From an old Print)
Some Ancient Houses in the Long Walk Bermondsey Some Ancient Houses in the Long Walk, Bermondsey
Jamaica House Bermondsey Jamaica House, Bermondsey

On the west side of the High Street, of which a map is{251} given on p. 85 of this volume, beyond St. Saviour's, the nave of which was fast falling into ruins, came Bankside. Alas! It was deserted: not a single theatre was left: not a baiting Place: not a Bear to bait: there was no longer a poet or an actor or a musician on Bankside: there were no more evenings at the Falcon: there was no longer heard the tinkling of the guitar, and the scraping of the violin. South of Bankside lay two broad gardens, side by side: one called Pye Garden; and the other, west of Winchester House, was called Winchester Park. Paris Gardens were no more. Blackfriars Bridge Road, in which there were as yet but few houses, had been cut ruthlessly right through the middle of the old Gardens; the trees, once so thick and close, had been laid low, but there were still kitchen gardens. South of the Gardens, with an interval of a few side streets, we come upon St. George's Fields, and on the west of these fields upon Lambeth Marsh, which was{252} cut up into ropewalks, tenter grounds, nurseries, and kitchen gardens. Where Waterloo Station now stands were Cuper's Gardens: there were half a dozen Pleasure Gardens, of which more anon: there were turnpikes wherever two roads met. But perhaps the most remarkable feature of this quarter in the last century was the immense number of streams and ditches and ponds: most of these were little better than open sewers: complaints were common of the pollution of these streams—but it was in vain: people will always throw everything that has to be ejected into the nearest running water if they can. One wants the map in order to understand how numerous were these streams. There was one murky brook which ran along the backs of all the houses on the east side of High Street—the prisoners of the Marshalsea and the King's Bench grumbled about it continually: another corresponding stream ran behind the west side of High Street.{253} Maiden Lane, now called Park Lane, rejoiced in one: Gravel Lane, more blessed still, was happy with a ditch or stream on each side: Dirty Lane had one: another ran along Bandy Leg Walk: other streams flowed, or crept, or crawled, across Lambeth Marsh and St. George's Fields. Where there were no houses, and therefore no pollutions, the streams of this broad marsh, lying beneath and between the orchards, fringing the gardens, and crossing the open fields, were a pleasant feature, though they had no stones to prattle over, but only the dark peaty humus of the marsh: and the water channels necessitated frequent little rustic bridges which were sometimes picturesque. Some of the streams again were of considerable size, especially that called 'The Shore' by Roques. It was also called the Effra. Along the banks of this stream stood here and there cottages, having little gardens in front and rustic bridges across the stream. But whether these streams ran or whether they crawled, behind{254} or beside the crowded houses they were foul and fetid and charged with all the things which should be buried away or burned way: they were laden with fevers and malaria and 'putrid' sore throat.

(From a Drawing by T. Higham, 1820)

The High Street of Southwark is now a crowded thoroughfare, because it is the main artery of a town containing{255} a population of many hundreds of thousands. In the last century it was quite as animated because it was one of the main arteries by which London was in communication with the country. An immense number of coaches, carts, waggons, and 'caravans' passed every day up and down the High Street, some stopping or starting in Southwark itself; some going over London Bridge to their destination in the City. The coach of the first half of the century can be restored from Hogarth. That of the latter half of the{256} century was in all respects like the revived coaches of the present day, adapted for rapid travelling along a smooth road. The carts were carriers' carts on two wheels with a tilt or cover; they carried parcels and small packages, and on occasions, but not always, one or two passengers. The waggons, which carried heavy goods and passengers not in a hurry, were also covered with a tilt; their broad wheels and capacious interior can be restored, as well as the coach, from that most trustworthy painter of his own time. As for the caravans, I am in some doubt. I suppose, however, that a{257} caravan was then what it is now, in which case it was an elementary Pullman's car, in which people and their effects were drawn slowly along the road, in a four-wheeled covered cart. Perhaps the passengers slept in the car at night, drawn up by the roadside, like the gipsies. But of this theory I have no kind of proof.


From the Borough alone, without counting the vehicles which passed through to or from the City, there were sent out, every week, one hundred and forty-three stage coaches: one hundred and twenty-one waggons: and one hundred and ninety-six carts and caravans. And, of course, the same number came back every week. There was a continual succession of departures and arrivals; all day long, one after the other, the stage coaches came galloping up each to its own inn; while they were still far away the people of the inn knew when their own coach was coming by the tune played{258} on the guard's bugle: the High Street, in fact, was like a railway terminus, where trains are arriving and leaving all day long.

THE OLD TOWN HALL SOUTHWARK The Old Town Hall, Southwark

I am quite sure that we have no idea at all of the life and animation at a London inn when the stages were started and when they arrived. With as much method, and as quickly as the railway porters clear out the luggage and get rid of the train, the horses were taken out: the passengers got down: the coachman looked inside for his perquisites in the{259} shape of anything forgotten and left behind: the luggage was laid out: the porters seized it and carried it off to the hackney coach outside: the passengers followed their luggage: and the courtyard was ready for the next coach. Outside the courtyard there hung about, all day long, whole companies of thieves waiting for the chance of carrying off something unconsidered or forgotten. Generally, they stood in with the stable boys and the porters, who, for a trifle, were good enough to shut their eyes. If a trunk was seen to lie unclaimed, one of them came bustling in. 'Give us a hand, Jack,' he cried to one of the porters, as if he had been ordered to call for and bring away that trunk. A confederate or two stood at the door to trip up a pursuer or a proprietor, if there was one, and in a moment man and box would be lost to sight in a neighbouring court. Pickpockets as well abounded about the courtyards: outside were houses filled with disorderly folk of all kinds waiting to entrap and to tempt and to rob the country bumpkin. There was the couple ready with the confidence trick: the generous and hospitable{260} gentleman to welcome the country lad: there was the lady of the ready smile: and the taverns with the doors open to all. The numbers of coaches and waggons I have given refer to Southwark alone, and to the conveyances which belonged to the inns up and down in the High Street. But a great many more came across the bridge from the City daily. Now, if we are considering the traffic and animation of the roads leading to the City, remember that the High Street, Borough, was only one of many main lines of traffic. There were, besides, the roads to the North: to the Eastern counties: to the Midlands: to the West: and to the Northwest. Day and night the roads all round London were thronged with these coaches, carts, caravans, and waggons: but these vehicles were for ordinary folk only: for tradesmen, attorneys, clergymen, farmers, riders (that is, commercial travellers) and servants: a nobleman or a country gentleman scorned to travel in a public conveyance: he came up to London, if not in his own coach, then in a post-chaise, of which there were thousands on the road. Add to these the horsemen, of whom there were an immense number riding from place to place: add, further, the long droves of cattle, sheep and pigs: the cattle, however, to save their feet and to keep them in condition, were mostly taken along 'drives' by the roadside, where the ground was soft. One of these can still be seen on the other side of Hampstead. Pedestrians there were also by thousands: soldiers: sailors: gipsies: strolling actors: tinkers and tramps—the land was full of tramps: in a word the roads near London were crowded and animated and full of adventure, character, incident, and picturesqueness: indeed, the dismal and deserted condition of the modern road makes it difficult for us to realise the crowds and the life of the road in the eighteenth century.

Old Houses in Ewer Street Old Houses in Ewer Street

Of society in the Borough there is little information to be procured. The place had, however, its better class. One infers so much from the fact that there were Assembly Rooms{261} in the High Street, and that a Borough Assembly was held during the winter on stated days, at which the fashion and aristocracy of the place were gathered together. I have gathered one anecdote alone concerning this Assembly. It is of an accident.

COURTYARD OF THE DOG & BEAR INN Courtyard of the Dog & Bear Inn

The company were assembled: the Minuets had begun: the orchestra was in full play: the ladies were dressed in their finest: hoops were swinging: towering heads were nodding: the gentlemen were splendid in pale blue satin and in pink, when suddenly the doors, which stood on the level of the street, were pushed open, and a dozen oxen came running in one after the other. The company parted right and left,{262} falling over benches and each other: the creatures, terrified by the light and the shrieks of the ladies, began to point threatening horns: nobody dared to drive them out till the 'well-known'—the phrase is pathetic, because fame is so short-lived—the 'well-known' Mrs. A. advanced, and with a brandishing of her apron and the magic of a 'Shoo! Shoo!' persuaded the animals to leave the place. Then who shall tell of the raising of fallen and fainting damsels? Who shall speak of the rending of skirts and embroidered petticoats? Who can describe the deplorable damage to the heads? And who can adequately celebrate the gallantry of the men when there was no more danger? Bowls of punch, I am pleased to record, were quickly administered as a restorative: and after certain necessary repairs to the heads and the sewing up of torn skirts, the wounded spirits of the company revived, and the ball proceeded.

Another indication of society in Southwark is the fact that on one occasion—perhaps on more than one occasion—when the black footmen of London resolved on holding an Assembly of their own, it was in the Borough that they held it. And a very interesting evening it must have proved, had we any record of the proceedings. Perhaps black cooks were found to dance with black footmen.


Since it contained the headquarters of so many stage coaches, carts and waggons, the High Street was bound to contain, as well, many houses of entertainment, if only as stables for the horses and accommodation for the drivers and grooms. The inns of Southwark, however, were far more ancient than the stage coaches. We have seen already that from the earliest times of trade the southern suburb was the place where merchants and those who brought produce of all kinds to London out of the south country put up their teams of pack-horses and their goods, and found bed and board and company for themselves. We have also seen how the inns of Southwark were used as gathering places and starting places{263} for the Pilgrims bound for St. Thomas's Shrine, Canterbury. The mediæval inn was not much like that of later times. It contained a common hall and a common dormitory, with another for women. There was also a covered place for goods, and stables for horses. A small specimen of a fifteenth-century inn survives at Aylesbury: the hall, quite a small room, is very well preserved. That of the Tabard must have been much larger, in order to accommodate so large a company. The quaint old inns, so long the delight of the artist, now nearly{264} all gone, were not earlier than the sixteenth or seventeenth century. They consisted of a large open courtyard filled with waggons and vehicles of all kinds, surrounded by galleries, at the back of which were bedrooms, and other chambers opening from the gallery. On the ground floor were the kitchens, dining-rooms, and private sitting-rooms. There was generally a large room for public dinners and other occasions. The inns of Southwark formed, so long as they stood, the most picturesque part of modern Southwark. Scarcely anything now remains of them, the George alone preserving anything of its ancient picturesqueness. The reader who desires a closer acquaintance with these inns is referred to Mr. Philip Norman's exquisitely illustrated book, which presents in a lasting form the vanished glories of the High Street.

To speak of these inns is like entering upon a historical catalogue. There are so many of them, and the associations connected with them carry one away into so many directions and land him into many strange corners of history.

At the south end of London Bridge, and on the west side of it, stood a tavern called the 'Bear at the Bridge Foot.' It was built in the year 1319 by one Thomas Drinkwater, taverner of London. In Riley's 'Memorials' may be found a lease of this house by the proprietor to one James Beauflur. The lease is for six years. James Beauflur is to pay no rent, because he has advanced money to Thomas Drinkwater to help in the building. James is, in fact, to act as manager of a 'tied' house. Thomas Drinkwater will furnish all the wine, and will keep an exact account of the same and will have a settlement twice a year. Thomas will also complete the furniture of the house with 'hanaps,' that is, handled mugs of silver and of wood, with curtains, clothes, and everything else necessary for the proper conduct of a tavern.


One hopes that James Beauflur made the tavern pay. This was the commencement of a long and singularly prosperous inn. It became one of the most famous inns of{265} London, and one of the most popular for dinners. Hither came the Churchwardens and vestry of St. Olave's to feast at the expense of the parish as long as feasts were allowed. Some of the bills of these dinners have been preserved among the papers of St. Saviour's. Rendle the antiquary and historian of Southwark gives one:

Pd for3 Geese, 3 Capons and one Rabbit001408
3 Tarts001200
a Giblett pie makyng000208
3 leggs of mutton00800
wine and dresing the meat and naperie, fire, bread and beere021100
18 oz Tobacco and 12 pipes000102
12 Lemmonds and 18 Oranges000300


Among the names of persons connected with the tavern must be noticed that of the Duke of Norfolk—'Jockey of Norfolk'—in 1463. Two hundred years later, one Cornelius Cooke, late a Colonel in Cromwell's army and a commissioner for the sale of the King's lands, enters upon a new sphere of usefulness by turning landlord of the Bear at the Bridge Foot. Samuel Pepys records several visits paid to the tavern. From this house the Duke of Richmond carried off Miss Stewart. It was pulled down in 1761, when the end of the bridge was widened. I need not catalogue the whole long list of the Southwark inns: you may find them all enumerated in Rendle's book, but mention may be made of the more important. Some of them, it will be seen, had been in more ancient times the town houses of great people—Bishops, Abbots and nobles. Other town houses, those off the highway of trade, having been deserted by their former occupants, fell upon evil times, went down in the world, even became mere tenements. This happened to Sir John Fastolf's house, and to the house of the Prior of Lewes, and to many others. Those standing in the highway, whither came all the merchants; whither came all the waggons; became transformed, and proved more valuable property as inns than as residences.


Thus, in Foul Lane, now just south of St. Mary Overies, was the entrance to the Green Dragon Inn. This inn was anciently the town house of the Cobhams. This family left Southwark, and the house, with some alterations, became an Inn. When carriers began to ply between London and the country towns, Tunbridge was connected by a carrier's cart with the Green Dragon. Early in the eighteenth century it became the Southwark post-office. Another and a much more important inn for carriers and waggons was the King's Head. Taylor, the Water Poet, says that 'carriers come into the Borough of Southwark out of the counties of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey: from Reigate to the Falcon: from{267} Tunbridge, Seavenoks, and Staplehurst to the Katherine Wheel, and others from Sussex thither; Dorking and Ledderhead{268} to the Greyhound: some to the Spurre, the George, the King's Head: some lodge at the Tabbard or Talbot: many, far and wide, are to be had almost daily at the White Hart.'

The White Hart is, if possible, a more historical inn than Chaucer's Tabard itself. It was the headquarters of Jack Cade, as has already been related in chapter vi. In front of this inn one Hawarden was beheaded: and also in front of this inn the headless body of Lord Say, after being dragged at the horsetail from the Standard at Chepe, was cut up in quarters, which were displayed in various places in order to strike terror into the minds of the people.


I have spoken sufficiently of Chaucer already. The Tabard Inn, from which the famous Company set out, was named after the ornamented coat or jacket worn by Kings at Coronations, and by heralds, or even by ordinary persons. In the fourteenth century it was the town house of the Abbot{269} of Hyde, Winchester. Does this mean that the Abbot allowed the place to be used as an ordinary inn? It is clear that Chaucer speaks of it as an ordinary inn. Yet in 1307 the{270} Bishop of Winchester licenses a chapel at the Abbot's Hospitium in the Parish of St. Margaret, Southwark. At the Dissolution it is surrendered as 'a hostelry called the Taberd, the Abbot's place, the Abbot's stable, the garden belonging, a dung place leading to the ditch going to the Thames.' It is explained in Spight's 'Chaucer,' 1598, that the old Tabard had much decayed, but that it had been repaired 'with the Abbot's house adjoining.' Until the inn was finally pulled down, a room used to be shown as that in which Chaucer's Company assembled. This, however, was not the room, though it may have been rebuilt on the site of the old room. For on Friday, May 26, 1676, a destructive fire broke out, which raged over a large part of the Borough and destroyed the Queen's Head, the Talbot, the George, the White Hart, the King's Head, the Green Dragon, the Borough Compter, the Meat Market, and about 500 houses. St. Thomas's Hospital was saved by a change of wind, which also seems to have saved St. Mary Overies.

(From an Engraving by B. Cole)

Walk with me from the Bridge head southwards, noting the Inns first on the right or the west, and then on the left or east.

We have, first, the Bear on Bridge Head: then, before getting to Ford Lane, the Bull's Head: opposite the market place, the Goat: next the Clement. Opposite St. George's Church we cross over, and are on the east side, going north again: here we have a succession of Inns: the Half Moon: the Blue Maid and the Mermaid: the Nag's Head: the Spur: the Christopher: the Cross Keys: the Tabard: the George: the White Hart: the King's Head: the Black Swan: the Boar's Head. There is a pleasing atmosphere of business mixed with festivity about this street of inns and courtyards: of stables and grooms: of drivers and guards: of coaches and waggons: of merchants and middlemen: of country squires come up on business, with the hope of combining a little pleasure amongst the excitements of the town{271} with a profitable deal or two. There is the smell of roast meats hanging about the courtyards of the inns. There is a continual calling for the drawers, there is a clinking of hanaps and a murmur of voices.

The strepitus, however, of the High Street is not like that of Bankside. There is no tinkling of guitars: no singing before noon or after noon: no laughing: the country folk do not laugh: they do not understand the wit of the poets and the players. High Street has nothing to do with Bankside: the merchants and the squires know nothing about the Show Folk.

There was one exception. Among the Show Folk was a certain Edward Alleyn, who was a man of business as well as a conductor of entertainments. He was on the vestry of St. Saviour's: he was also churchwarden, his name appears in the parish accounts of the period. He was a popular churchwarden: probably he had about him so much of the showman that he was genial, and mannerly, and courteous—these are the elementary virtues of the profession. For we find that when he proposes to retire his fellow members of the vestry refuse to let him go.

It is melancholy to walk down the High Street and to reflect that all these inns, most of them so picturesque, were standing thirty or forty years ago, and that some of them were standing ten years ago. One of them is figured in the 'Pickwick Papers.' The courtyard is too vast: the figures are too small: the galleries are too large: but the effect produced is admirable. Now not only are the old Inns gone, but there is nothing to take their place: a modern public-house is not an Inn. The need of an Inn at Southwark is gone: there are no more caravans of produce brought up to the Borough: the High Street has become the shop and the provider of everything for the populations of the parishes of St. Saviour, St. Olave, St. Thomas, and St. George.{272}



There was another kind of Sanctuary in Southwark, a place of Refuge not invited, and of security against one's will—The Debtors' Prison. In fact, there were three Debtors' Prisons—the King's Bench, the Marshalsea, and the Borough Compter. The consideration of these melancholy places—all the more melancholy because they were full of noisy revelry—fills one with amazement to think that a system so ridiculous should be continued so long, and should be abandoned with so much regret, reluctance, and with forebodings so gloomy. There would be no more credit, no more confidence, if the debtor could not be imprisoned. Trade would be destroyed. The Debtors' Prison was a part of trade. It is fifty years and more since the power of imprisoning a debtor for life was taken from the creditor: yet there is as much credit as ever, and as much confidence. To a trading community such as ours it seems, naturally, that the injury inflicted upon a merchant by failing to pay his just claims is so great that imprisonment ought to be awarded to such an offender. The Law gave the creditor the power of revenge full and terrible and lifelong. The Law said to the debtor: 'Whether you are to blame or not, you owe money which you cannot pay: you shall be locked up in a crowded prison: you shall be deprived of your means of getting a livelihood: you shall have no allowance of food: you shall have no fire: you shall have no bed: you shall be forced to herd with a noisome unwashed crowd of wretches: and whereas a criminal may get off with{273} a year or two, you shall be sentenced to life-long imprisonment.'

(From 'The Gentleman's Magazine,' September 1803)

The barbarity of the system, its futility, because the debtor was deprived of the means of making money to pay his debts, withal, were exposed over and over again: prisoners wrote accounts of their prisons: commissions held inquiry into the management of the prisons: regulations were laid down: Acts were passed to release debtors by hundreds at one time: the system of allowing prisoners to live in 'Rules' was tolerated: but the real evil remained untouched so long as a creditor had the power of imprisoning a debtor. The power was abused in the most monstrous manner: a man owed a few shillings: he could not pay: he was put into prison: the next day he discovered that he was in debt to an attorney for as many pounds. If he owed as much as 10l., the bill against him for his arrest amounted to 11l. 15s. 8d. of what we should now call 'taxed costs.' In the year 1759 there were 20,000 prisoners for debt in Great Britain and Ireland. Think what that means: all those were in enforced idleness. Why, their work at 2s. a day means 600,000l. a year: all that wealth{274} lost to the State: nay more, because they were mostly married men with families: their families had to be maintained, so that not only did the country lose 600,000l. a year by the idleness of the debtors, it also lost that much again for the maintenance of their families. Put it in another way. A poor man knowing one trade which one cannot practise in a prison owed, say, 15s. He was arrested and put into prison. He lived there for thirty years. He lived on doles and the proceeds of the begging box, and what his friends could give him: he lived, say, on five shillings a week. He cost some one therefore; the charitable people who dropped money into the box; the community; for his maintenance in the prison, and for thirty years of it, the sum total of 400l. This is rather an expensive tax on the State: but the tradesman to whom he owed the money considered no more than his own 15s. In addition there were his wife and children to keep until the latter were self-supporting. This charge represented perhaps another 400l. But there were 20,000 debtors in prison. If they were all in like evil case, the State was taxed on their behalf in the sum of sixteen millions spread over thirty years, or half a million a year, because these luckless creatures could not pay an insignificant debt of a few shillings or a few pounds.

The King's Bench was the largest of all the Debtors' Prisons. It formerly stood on the east side of the High Street, on the site of what is now the second street north of St. George's Church. This prison was taken down in 1758, and the Debtors were removed to a larger and much more commodious place on the other side of the street south of Lant Street—the site is now marked by a number of new and very ugly houses and mean streets. When it was built it looked out at the back of St. George's Fields and across Lambeth Marsh, then an open space, and by this time drained. But the good air without was fully balanced by the bad air within.{275}

The place was surrounded by a very high wall, the area covered was extensive, and the buildings were more commodious than had ever before been attempted in a prison. But they were not large enough. In the year 1776 the prisoners had to lie two in a bed, and even for those who could pay there were not beds enough, and many slept on the floor of the chapel. There were 395 prisoners: in addition to the prisoners many of them had wives and children with them. There were 279 wives and 725 children: a total of 1,399 sleeping every night in the prison. There was a good water supply, but there was no infirmary, no resident surgeon, and no bath. Imagine a place containing 1,399 persons, and no bath and no infirmary!


Among these prisoners, about a hundred years ago, was a certain Colonel Hanger, who has left his memoirs behind him for the edification of posterity. According to him, the prison 'rivalled the purlieus of Wapping, St. Giles, and St. James's in vice, debauchery, and drunkenness.' The general immorality was so great that it was only possible, he says, to escape contagion by living separate or by consorting{276} only with the few gentlemen of honour who might be found there: 'otherwise a man will quickly sink into dissipation: he will lose every sense of honour and dignity: every moral principle and virtuous disposition.' Among the prisoners in Hanger's time, there were seldom fifty who had any regular means of sustenance. They were always underfed. At that time a detaining creditor had to find sixpence a day for the prisoner's support. But in 1798 a pound of bread cost 4½d., a pint of porter 2d.: therefore a man who had to live on 6d. a day could not get more than a pound of bread and a half pint of porter. And then the 6d. a day was constantly withheld on some pretence or another, and the poor prisoner had not the wherewithal to engage an attorney to secure his rights. And as for attorneys their name stank in the prison: more than half of the prisoners, Hanger avers, were kept there solely because they could not pay the attorneys' costs.

Those prisoners who knew any trade which could be carried on in the King's Bench were fortunate. The cobbler, the tailor, the barber, the fiddler, the carpenter, could get employment and were able to maintain themselves: some of them kept shops, and the principal building in the place, about 360 feet long, had its ground floor, looking out upon an open court, occupied by shops where everything could be bought except spirits, which were forbidden. They were brought in, however, secretly by the visitors. The open court was the common Recreation Ground: there was the Parade, a Walk along the front of the building: three pumps where were benches: these were three separate centres of conversation: there were racket and fives courts: a ground for the play called 'bumble puppy.' And in fine weather there were tables set out here and there, with chairs and benches, where the collegians drank beer and smoked tobacco.

THE KING'S BENCH PRISON The King's Bench Prison

Anybody might enter the Prison to visit an inmate or to look round: every day the place was thronged with visitors,{277} chiefly to see the new comers: the time came when the newcomer was an old resident, who had worn out the kindness of his friends or had outlived them, and now lingered on, poor and friendless, in this living grave. All day long the children played in the court, shouting and running: they saw things that they ought not to have seen: they heard things which they ought not to have heard: they learned habits which they ought not to have learned. Can one conceive a worse school for a boy than the King's Bench Prison? Look at the Court on a fine and sunny afternoon. The whole College is out and in the open: some stroll up and down: in the Prison nobody ever walks: they all stroll: even, it may be said without{278} unkindness, they slouch. The men wear coats which are mostly in holes at the elbows, with other garments that equally show signs of decay: they wear slippers because it is absurd to wear boots in a prison: the slippers are down at heel—never mind: no one cares here whether one is shabby or not: it is better to go ragged than to go hungry. If the men are ragged the women are slatternly: they have lost even the feminine desire to please: they please nobody, and certainly not their husbands: they are shrewish as to tongue and vicious as to temper. Look at their faces: there is this face and that face, but there is not a single happy face among them all. The average face is resentful, painted with strong drink, stamped with the seal of vice and self-indulgence. A vile place, which has imprinted its own vileness on the face of everyone who lives within its walls.

A worse place than the King's Bench was a wretched little Prison called the Borough Compter. It was used both for debtors and for criminals. Now you shall hear what marvellous thing in the way of cruelty can be brought about when the execution of the law is entrusted to such men as prison warders and turnkeys.

The place consisted of a women's ward, a debtors' ward, a felons' ward, and a yard for exercise. The yard was nineteen feet square: this was the only exercising ground for all the prisoners. When Buxton visited the place in the year 1817, there were then thirty-eight debtors, thirty women, and twenty children—all had to exercise themselves in this little yard: he does not say how many felons there were. The debtors' ward consisted of two rooms, each of which was twenty feet long and about nine feet broad. Each room was furnished with eight straw beds, sixteen rugs, and a piece of timber for a pillow. Twenty prisoners slept side by side on these beds! That gives a breadth of twelve inches for each. No one therefore could move in bed. The place was shut up: in the morning the heat and stench were so awful that when the{279} door was opened all rushed together, undressed as they were, into the yard for fresh air. Now and then a man would be brought in with an infectious disease or covered with vermin: they had to endure his company as best they could. There was no infirmary: no surgeon: no conveniences whatever in case of sickness. And the place was so crowded that those who might have carried on their trade could not for want of space. As for the women's ward, I forbear to speak. Think, however, of the noisome, horrible, stinking place, narrow and confined, with its felons' ward of innocent and guilty, tried and untried: the past masters in villainy with the innocent country boy: the honest working man with his wife and children slowly starving and slowly poisoned by the brutal law which permitted a creditor to send him there for life for a paltry debt of a few shillings. Think of the simple-minded country girl thrust into the women's ward, where wickedness was authorised, where nothing was disguised! I sometimes ask whether in the year 1998 the historian of manners will call attention to the lamentable brutality of this the end of the nineteenth century. There are some points as to which I am doubtful. But I cannot believe that there will be anything alleged against us compared with the sleek complacency with which the City Fathers and the Legislators regarded the condition of the Debtors' Prisons.

I have not forgotten the Marshalsea. The position of the Marshalsea Prison was changed from its first site south of King Street in the year 1810, when it was removed to the site which it occupied down to the end, overlooking St. George's Churchyard. The choice of that site is a good illustration of English conservatism. Why was the Marshalsea brought there? Because there had been a prison on the spot before. From time immemorial the Surrey Prison had stood there. They called the place the White Lyon. It still stood when the Marshalsea was brought there: it was still standing when the Marshalsea was pulled down.{280}

I think it was in the year 1877 or 1878 or thereabouts that I walked over to see the Marshalsea before it was pulled down. I found a long narrow terrace of mean houses—they are still standing: there was a narrow courtyard in front for exercise and air: a high wall separated the prison from the Churchyard: the rooms in the terrace were filled with deep cupboards on either side of the fireplace: these cupboards contained the coals, the cooking utensils, the stores, and the clothes of the occupants. My guide, a working man employed on the demolition of another part of the Prison, pointed to certain marks on the floor as, he said, the place where they fastened the staples when they tied down the poor prisoners. Such was his historic information: he also pointed out Mr. Dorrit's room—so real was the novelist's creation. At the east end of the terrace there were certain rooms which I believe to have been the tap-room and the coffee-room. Then we came to the White Lyon, which at the time I did not know to have been the White Lyon. It was a very ancient building. It consisted of two rooms, one above the other: the staircase and the floors were of most solid work: the windows were barred: bars crossed the chimney a few feet up: large square nails were driven into the oaken pillars and into the doors. The lower room had evidently been kitchen, day room, sleeping room and all. Outside was a tiny yard for exercise: this was the old Surrey Prison. I have seen another prison exactly like it, and, if my memory does not play tricks, it was at the little country town of Ilminster. This was a Clink, and on this pattern, I believe, all the old Prisons were constructed. Beyond the Clink was the chapel, a modern structure. So far as I know, Mr. Dickens père, and Mr. Dorrit, were the only persons of eminence confined in this modern Marshalsea. In the older Marshalsea all kinds of distinguished people were kept captive, notably Bishop Bonner, who died there. They say that it was necessary to bury him at midnight for fear of the people, who would have rent his dead{281} body in pieces if they could. Perhaps. But it was not at any time usual for a mob of Englishmen to pull a dead body, even of a martyr-making Marian Bishop, to pieces. Later on, in the last century, it was the rule to bury at night. The darkness, the flicker of the torches, increased the solemnity of the ceremony. So that after all Bishop Bonner may have been buried at night in the usual fashion. He lies buried somewhere in St. George's Churchyard. It is now a pretty garden, whose benches in fine weather are filled with people resting and sunning themselves: in spring the garden is full of pleasant greenery: the dead parishioners to whom headstones have been consecrated, if they ever visit the spot, may amuse themselves by picking out their own tombstones among the illegible ones which line the wall. But I hardly think, wherever they may now be quartered, they would care to revisit this place. The owners of the headstones were in their day accounted as the more fortunate sons of men: they were vestrymen and guardians and churchwardens: they owned shops: they kept the inns and ran the stage coaches and the waggons and the caravans: their tills were heavy with guineas: their faces were smug and smiling: their chins were double: they talked benevolent commonplace: they exchanged the most beautiful sentiments: and they crammed their debtors into these prisons.

There are other tenants of this small area: they belonged to the great army—how great! how vast! how rapidly increasing!—of the 'Not-quite-so-fortunate.' They were brought here from the King's Bench and the Marshalsea: they came from the Master's side and from the Common side. They came here from the mean streets and lanes of the Borough: they were the porters and the fishermen and the rogues and the grooms and the 'service' generally. This churchyard represents all that can be imagined of human patience, human work, human suffering, human degradation. Everything is here beneath our feet, and we sit among these memories unmoved and enjoy the sunshine and forget the sorrows of the past.{282}



It is somewhat remarkable that two books should have appeared almost at the same time on the Pleasure Gardens of London—that of Messrs. Warwick and Edgar Wroth, and that of Mr. H. A. Rogers. I refer the reader who desires exact and special knowledge on the subject to these two books. For my own part I have only to speak of two or three of these gardens, and shall confine myself to certain sources of information neither so exact nor so detailed as those from which Messrs. Warwick and Wroth have drawn the material for their excellent work.

The Pleasure Gardens grew out of the old Bear Baiting Gardens. The London citizen loved sport first and above all things: next, he loved the country: to sit under the shade of trees in the summer: to walk upon the soft sward; to smell the flowers: to rest his eyes upon country scenes. He has always yearned for the country while he remained in town. With these things he desired, as a concomitant of the entertainment, good eating, good drinking, the merry sound of music not softly but loudly played: the voices of those who sang: and a platform or floor for dancing. All these things he could get in Paris Gardens so long as that place existed, together with its bears and dogs. When the bears disappeared, what followed? The Gardens continued without the bears. There were also the Mulberry Gardens on the site of Buckingham House, and the Spring Gardens at Charing Cross. In the month of July 1661 Evelyn visited the new garden of Foxhall, afterwards{284} Vauxhall, and in June 1665, the year of the Plague, Pepys spent the evening at the same place, for the first time, and with great delight.

(From the Engraving by J. S. Müller)

The Pleasure Garden apart from the sport of Bear and Bull Baiting was then beginning. Before long it became a necessity of life—at least, of the gregarious and social life of which the eighteenth century was so fond. Many things are said about that century, now so nearly removed from us by the space of another century, but we cannot say that it was not social, and that it was not gregarious. It had its coffee houses: its clubs: its taverns: its coteries: its societies: it loved the theatre: the opera: the concert: the oratorio: the masquerade: the Assembly: the card-room: but most of all the eighteenth century loved its Pleasure Gardens. It took every opportunity of getting away from the quiet house to crowds and noise and the scene of merriment.


Many things were required to make a Pleasure Garden. There must be, first, abundance of trees—at first cherry trees, but these afterwards disappeared: if possible, there should be avenues of trees: aisles and dark walks of trees. There must be, next, an ornamental water with a fountain and a bridge: there must be a row of rustic bowers or retreats in which tea and supper could be served: there must be a platform for open-air dancing and promenading: there must be card-rooms: there must be a long room for dancing and for promenading, with a gallery for the orchestra and the singers. Add to these things a crowd every night including all classes and conditions of men and women. The eighteenth century was by no means a leveller of distinctions, but all classes met together without levelling. Distinctions were preserved: each party kept to itself: the nobleman wore his star and sash: he did not pretend to be on a level with the people around him: they liked him to keep up the dignity of aristocratic separation: he brought Ladies to the Gardens, sometimes in domino, sometimes not. They were not expected to speak to the ladies outside{285} their set: they danced together in the minuets: after the minuets they withdrew. The main point about the company of the Gardens was that each party was separate and kept separate. In the Park, either in the morning or the afternoon, it was not difficult to make acquaintances. The reason was that in the Park were only to be found in the morning or the afternoon those people who were not engaged in earning their livelihood. Accordingly, all professional men—lawyers, physicians,{286} attorneys, surgeons, artists, architects, literary people: all those engaged in trade, from the greatest merchant to the smallest shopkeeper, were excluded: they were occupied elsewhere. Therefore, the servants and footmen not being allowed in the Park, but compelled to wait outside, the people of position had the place to themselves, and access was easy. In the Gardens it was different: all could enter who paid the shilling for an entrance fee. Among them were the gentlemen in the red coat who bore His Majesty's Commission: the young fellows about town, a noisy disreputable band with noisy and disreputable companions: the plain citizen with his wife and daughter, the young fellow who was courting her: the young tradesman taking a holiday for once: the highwayman: the common pickpocket, and whole troops of the customary courtesan. All were here enjoying together—but separated into tiny groups of two or three—the strings of coloured lamps, the blare of the orchestra, the songs, the dances, and the supper. As for the last, it seems to have been always a cold collation: it generally consisted of chicken and a thin slice of ham, with a bowl of punch and a bottle of Port. There was no affectation of fine or polite behaviour; everybody behaved exactly as he pleased: the citizen was not gêné by the presence of the great lady: he prattled his vulgar commonplaces without being abashed: nor did the great lady put on 'side,' or behave among her own company with any affectation of dignity or reserve in the presence of the mercer of Ludgate Hill in the next box. Perhaps the recognition of rank made them all behave more naturally. After all, the mercer had his own rank. He could look forward to becoming Alderman, Sheriff, and Lord Mayor: he understood very well that he was already a good way up the ladder: the social precedence which belongs to the possession of money and the employment of many servants had already placed him in front of a vast crowd of inferiors: he was perfectly satisfied with his own position, although he could certainly{287} never become a noble earl or wear a star upon his breast, or hope to consort on equal terms with the jewelled lady in silks which he knew (professionally) to be beyond all price, with her rouged face and high-dressed head, who laughed so loud and talked so fast with the noble lords her companions, one of whom was blind drunk and the other was a little mincing beau who walked on his toes with bent knees and carried his hat under his arm, and spoke under his breath as if every word was to be listened to. Do you think the honest mercer was indignant at the manners of the great? Not he: he called for another bowl of punch and tied his handkerchief over his wig to keep off the damp. In the box on the other side of the citizen from Ludgate Hill was a party also taking supper and punch, with plenty of the latter. They were under the lead of an extremely fine gentleman: his white coat was covered with gold lace: his hat was laced in the same way: his waistcoat was of flowered silk: his ruffles were of white lace—lace of Valenciennes. The ladies with him were dressed with a corresponding splendour. Everybody knew that the gentleman was a highwayman: his face was perfectly well known: he had been going on so long that his time must soon be up. In a few months at most he would take that fatal journey in the cart to Tyburn, there to meet the end common to his kind. A good many people in the Gardens knew, besides, that the ladies with him—ladies of St. Giles in the Fields—were dressed from the stores of a receiving house for stolen goods. Perhaps the consciousness of this cheap and easy way of getting one's clothes made the ladies so buoyantly and extravagantly happy, with their sprightly sallies and their high-bred courtesy of adjectives. But the mercer troubled himself not at all about them.

The toleration of the mercer ought to endear his memory to us. For in all public assemblies there are things which must be tolerated. Less wise, we shut up the Assembly. We cannot keep out the Lady of the Camellias from the{288} Pleasure Garden. Therefore we shut up the place. In the eighteenth century this lady was told that everybody must behave with a certain amount of restraint: we have improved upon that manner: we cut off our nose to spite our face: we shut up the lovely Garden because we cannot keep her out.

For the same reason we have practically forbidden the youth of the lower middle class to practise the laudable, innocent, and delightful diversion of dancing. Not a single place, except certain so-called clubs, where the young people can now go to dance. Why? Because the magistrates in their wisdom have concluded that vice free and unchecked out of doors is better for the people than vice fettered and restrained by the necessity of behaving decently, and compelled to hide itself under the semblance of virtue. The Pleasure Gardens were shut up one after the other for that reason. When will they return? And in what form?

The Gardens of South London were not so celebrated as those of the North. Against Ranelagh, Cremorne, Marylebone, Bagnigge Wells, the White Conduit House—the South can only point to Vauxhall as a national institution. They were, however, of considerable note in their time, and were greatly frequented. They lay in a half circle, like pearls on a chain, all round South London. There were the Lambeth Wells, the Marble Hall, and the Cumberland Gardens at Vauxhall, besides Vauxhall itself; the Black Prince, Newington Butts; the Temple of Flora, the Temple of Apollo, the Flora Tea Gardens, the Restoration Spring Gardens, the Dog and Duck, the Folly on the Thames; Cuper's Gardens; Finch's Grotto, the Bermondsey Spa, and St. Helena Gardens, Rotherhithe. No doubt there were others, but these were the principal Gardens.

Cuper's Gardens lay exactly opposite to Somerset House. When Waterloo Bridge and Waterloo Bridge Road were constructed the latter passed right through the former site of the Gardens. St. John's Church marks the southern limit of{289} the Gardens. They were opened about the year 1678 by one Cuper, gardener to the Earl of Arundel. He begged such of the statues belonging to his master as were mutilated, and decorated the new gardens with them. Aubrey mentions them as belonging to Jesus College, Oxford; he calls them Cupid's gardens, and speaks of the arbours and walks of the place. There was a tavern connected with the gardens by the riverside, and fireworks were exhibited. These gardens continued until 1753, when they were suppressed as a nuisance. Cunningham quotes the prologue to Mrs. Centlivre's 'Busy Body.'

The Fleet Street sempstress, toast of Temple sparks,
That runs spruce neckcloths for attorneys' clerks,
At Cupid's Gardens will her hours regale,
Sing 'Fair Dorinda,' and drink bottled ale.

In the 'Sunday Ramble' (1794) the Dog and Duck is one of the last places visited in the course of that very remarkable Sunday 'out,' which began at four o'clock in the morning and ended at one o'clock next morning, such was the zeal of the ramblers. The place was a tavern in St.{290} George's Fields. On its site now stands Bethlehem Hospital. It was first built for the accommodation of those who came to this spot in order to drink the waters of a spring supposed to possess wonderful properties, especially in the case of cutaneous disorders and scrofula. The spring, like so many other medicinal springs, has long since been forgotten. Where is Beulah Spa? Who remembereth Hampstead Spa? Yet in its day the spring in St. George's Wells had no small reputation. It was especially in vogue between 1744 and 1770. Dr. Johnson advised Mrs. Thrale to try it. When the Spa declined, the tavern looked out for other attractions; it found them by day in certain ponds on the Fields close to the tavern: these ponds especially on Sunday were used for the magnificent sport of hunting the duck by dogs. All the ponds around London, especially those lying on the east side of Tottenham Court Road, were used for this sport. The gallant sportsmen, their hunt over, naturally felt thirsty: they were easily persuaded to stay for the evening when on week days there was music, with dancing, singing, supper, and more drink, and on Sundays the organ, with a choice company of the most well-bred gentlemen and ladies of similar breeding and taste.

Like Ranelagh and Bagnigge Wells, and indeed all the Pleasure Gardens, the Dog and Duck was a favourite place for breakfasts. The fashion of the public breakfast, now so completely forgotten, was brought to London from Bath, Tunbridge Wells, and Epsom. Tea and coffee were served at breakfast. After breakfast the people stayed on at the gardens, very often all day and half the night at the Dog and Duck. There was a bowling green for fine weather, there was also a swimming bath—I believe, the only one south of the Thames. About three or four in the afternoon there was dinner, with a bottle or several bottles of wine. One of the ponds not then employed for duck-hunting was in the garden, and served as an ornamental water, with alcoves or{291} bowers round it; a band played at intervals during the day. In the long room there was an organ, with an excellent organist. In the evening, there was generally a concert; the Dog and Duck maintained its own poet and its own composer. All this sounds very innocent and Arcadian, but in truth the place was acquiring a most evil reputation. In 1787 it was closed on Sunday, and in 1799 it was suppressed. In the 'Sunday Ramble' (1794) the Dog and Duck is open, but the Ramble may have taken place before 1787. Let us see what is going on. Remember that it is Sunday evening. But there is not the least trace of any respect for the day, and the place—to speak the truth—is full of the vilest company in the world, whose histories are described in the greedy fulness and with the hypocritical indignation against the wickedness of the people which were common among such writers a hundred years ago. I suppose they would not venture to set down what they did, but for the pretence of indignation. Thus, there is a certain City merchant, once a Quaker and formerly a bankrupt, but now rich and flourishing again. His companion is an ex-orange-girl, his mistress. Observe that the writer is certainly airing some City scandal of the day, and that his readers know perfectly well who was meant. There is a certain Nan Sheldon, who seems to have been a lady of some conversational powers with a considerable fund of information about the shady side of town life. There is also present a young lady described as the mistress of the 'Rev. Dr. D——s, of St. G.' Here, no doubt, we have a piece of contemporary humour which enables us to have a slap at the Church. There is other company of the like kind, but this specimen must suffice. As to the men, they are chiefly 'prentices and shopmen. At the Dog and Duck the license to sell drink had been withdrawn. The manager, however, met the difficulty by engaging a free vintner, i.e. a member of the Vintners'{292} Company, for whom no license was required. He therefore came to sell the drink to the visitors. It is a curious illustration of City privileges. Leaving the Dog and Duck, the Ramblers visited the Temple of Flora, dropped a tear over the Apollo Gardens, deserted and falling into ruins, and visited the Flora Tea Garden. The company here was more respectable, in consequence of some separation among the ladies; it was not, however, very orderly, and political argument ran high.

From this Tea Garden they drove to the Bermondsey Spa Gardens. Let me extract this account of this place, which was once so popular:

'We found the entrance presents a vista between trees, hung with lamps, blue, red, green, and white; nor is the walk in which they are hung inferior (length excepted) to the grand walk in Vauxhall Gardens. Nearly at the upper end of the walk is a large room, hung round with paintings, many of them in an elegant and the rest in a singular taste. At the upper end of the room is a painting of a butcher's shop, so finely executed by the landlord that a stranger to the place would cheapen a fillet of veal or a buttock of beef, a shoulder of mutton or a leg of pork, without hesitation, if there were not other pictures in the room to take off his attention. But these paintings are not seen on a Sunday.

'The accommodations at this place on a Sunday are very good, and the charges reasonable, and the captain, who is very intimate with Mr. Keyse, declares that there is no place in the vicinity of London can afford a more agreeable evening's entertainment.

'This elegant place of entertainment is situate in the lower road, between the Borough of Southwark and Deptford. The proprietor calls it one, but it is nearer two miles from London Bridge, and the same distance from that of Black-Friars. The proprietor is Mr. Thomas Keyse, who has been at great expense, and exerted himself in a very extraordinary{293} manner, for the entertainment of the public; and his labours have been amply repaid.

'It is easy to paint the elegance of this place, situated in a spot where elegance, among people who talk of taste, would be little expected. But Mr. Keyse's good humour, his unaffected easiness of behaviour, and his genuine taste for the polite arts, have secured him universal approbation.

'The gardens, with an adjacent field, consist of not less than four acres.

'On the north-east side of the gardens is a very fine lawn, consisting of about three acres, and in a field, parted from this lawn by a sunk fence, is a building with turrets, resembling a fortress, or castle. The turrets are in the ancient style of building. At each side of this fortress, at unequal distances, are two buildings, from which, on public nights, bomb shells, &c., are thrown at the fortress; the fire is returned, and the whole exhibits a very picturesque, and therefore a horrid, prospect of a siege.

'After walking a round or two in the gardens we retired into the parlour, where we were very agreeably entertained by the proprietor, who, contrary to his own rule, favoured us with a sight of his curious museum, for, it being Sunday, he never shows to any one these articles; but, the captain never having seen them, I wished him to be gratified with such an agreeable sight.

'Mr. Keyse presented us with a little pamphlet, written by the late celebrated John Oakman, of lyric memory, descriptive of his situation, which a few years ago was but a waste piece of ground. "Here is now," said he, "an agreeable place, where before was but a mere wilderness piece of ground, and, in my opinion, it was a better plan to lay it out in this manner than any other wise, as the remoteness of any place of public entertainment from this secured to me in my retreat a comfortable piece of livelihood."

'We perfectly coincided in opinion with our worthy host,{294} and, after paying for our liquor, got into our carriage, but not before we had tasted a comfortable glass of cherry brandy, for which Mr. Keyse is remarkable for preparing.'

I am not here writing a history of South London. Were this a history, Vauxhall Gardens would demand its own place, and a very large place. A garden which continued to be a favourite resort from the year 1660 or thereabouts until the year 1859, when it was finally abandoned, which occupies so large a part in the literature of that long period, must have its history told in length when a history is written of the place where it stood. In this place I desire to do no more than to take off my hat to this Queen of Gardens, and to recognise her importance. The history of Vauxhall is an old story; it has been told at greater or less length, over and over again. We seem to know all the anecdotes which have been copied from one writer by another, and all the literature and all the poetry about Vauxhall. The poetry is, indeed, very poor stuff. The best are the lines of Canning:

There oft returning from the green retreats
Where fair Vauxhallia decks her sylvan seats;
Where each spruce nymph, from City counters free,
Sips the frothed syllabub or fragrant tea:
While with sliced ham, scraped beef, and burnt champagne,
Her 'prentice lover soothes his amorous pain.

What a chain of anecdotes it is! We begin in 1661 with Evelyn, who treats the place with his accustomed brevity and coldness; we go on to Pepys, who records how the visitors picked cherries, and how the nightingales sang, and lets us understand how much he enjoyed his visits there, and how delightful he found the place, and how much after his own heart; we proceed to Congreve and Tom Brown, to Addison, to Fielding, to Horace Walpole. We all know the Dark Walk, and how the ladies were taken there, not unwillingly, to be frightened: we know the stage where they danced: we{295} know the orchestra; we know the Chinese Room: we know Rowlandson's picture of the evening at Vauxhall with the Prince of Wales, putting on princely arrogance in the middle, and the Duchess of Devonshire and her friends apparently making fun of him; and in the side box, having supper, Goldsmith and Boswell, and Mrs. Traill, and Dr. Johnson; with Miss Linley singing; and we all know about the forty thousand coloured lamps festooned about the trees.

London was not London, life was not worth having, without Vauxhall. Like Mrs. Cornelys's masquerades and assemblies, Vauxhall was the great leveller of the eighteenth century. A man might be an earl or a prince: he would get no more enjoyment out of Vauxhall than a 'prentice who had a little money to spare. And the milliner going to Vauxhall with that 'prentice was quite as happy as any lady in the land could be.

When one thinks of Vauxhall and all it meant, one is carried away by admiration. To the City Miss who might belong to the City Assembly, but most likely did not, there was no such spectacle in the world as those avenues of trees with their thousands of coloured lamps; there was nothing that so much made her heart leap up as the sight of the dancing in the open air to the music of the orchestra in the high stand; there was nothing so delightful as to sit in an arbour dimly lighted, and to make a supper off cold chicken with a glass of punch afterwards—girls drank punch then—to look out upon the company, resplendent, men and women alike, in their dress, and ceremonious in their manners; to be told how the one was the young Lord Mellamour and the angel with him was a danseuse of Covent Garden: and that other gentleman behind them was the Rev. Dr. Scattertext of St. Bride's; and that the dashing young fellow in peach-coloured velvet was no other than Sixteen String Jack the highwayman. Vauxhall, in fact, for two hundred years, was nothing less than a national institution. All classes who could{296} command a decent coat went to Vauxhall. The Prince of Wales went there—once or twice he was recognised and mobbed; all the great ladies went there; all the lesser ladies; all the ladies of the half world; all the citizens, from the Alderman to the 'prentice; all the adventurers; all the gallant highwaymen. There was a charming toleration about the visitors to Vauxhall. They were not in the least disturbed by the presence of the highwaymen, of the adventurers, or of the ladies corresponding to those gentlemen—not in the least; they walked together in the lanes and aisles of the place; they ate supper in the next arbour; they saw the young rakes carrying on openly and without the least disguise. The sober citizen saw it; his sober wife saw it; her daughter saw it. There were no complaints, save occasionally from the Surrey magistrates. The place and the behaviour of the people are typical of the eighteenth century, in which the maintenance of order was thrown upon the public, and there were no police. If things got very bad in a pleasure garden, the magistrates refused a license; if the visitors were robbed by highwaymen on their way to and from the place, guards were appointed by the managers. Vauxhall, however, was safer than most places, because most of the people came by boat. In common with all places of amusement in the eighteenth century, Vauxhall was late. The people seem to have been allowed to stay there nearly all night.

There is a passage quoted in Chambers's 'Book of Days,' which I should like to transfer with acknowledgments to this page. It is from the 'Connoisseur' of 1755, and discusses a Vauxhall slice of ham.

'When it was brought, our honest friend twirled the dish about three or four times, and surveyed it with a settled countenance. Then taking up a slice of the ham on the point of his fork, and dangling it to and fro, he asked the waiter how much there was of it. "A shilling's worth, sir," said the fellow. "Prithee," said the cit, "how much dost{297} think it weighs?" "An ounce, sir." "Ah! a shilling an ounce, that is sixteen shillings per pound; a reasonable profit, truly! Let me see. Suppose, now, the whole ham weighs thirty pounds: at a shilling per ounce, that is sixteen shillings per pound. Why, your master makes exactly twenty-four pounds off of every ham; and if he buys them at the best hand, and salts and cures them himself, they don't stand him in ten shillings a-piece!"'

In 1841 there seemed every prospect that the gardens would be closed; they were not closed, however, but were reopened and continued open until the year 1859, where they were finally closed and the farewell night was celebrated.

The scare, however, in 1841 produced in June a brief history of Vauxhall Gardens in one of the morning papers—I do not know which—I have it as a cutting only. It is as follows:

'Vauxhall Gardens are announced for public sale under Gye and Hughes's bankruptcy, and their past celebrity deserves a notice, if only as a memento of the pleasure the old and young have experienced in their delightful retreats, while their hundredfold associations, such as the journey of Sir Roger de Coverley to the gardens, old Jonathan Tyers, and the paintings in the pavilions by Hayman and Hogarth, create an interest seldom to be met with. The gardens derive their name from the manor of Vauxhall, or Faukeshall, but the tradition that the property belonged to Guy Fawkes is erroneous. The premises were in 1615 the property of Jane Vaux, and the mansion was then called Stockdens. The gardens appear to have been originally planted with trees and laid out into walks for the pleasure of a private gentleman, Sir Samuel Moreland, who displayed in his house and gardens many whimsical proofs of his skill in mechanics. It is said these gardens were planted in the reign of Charles I.; nor is it improbable, since, according to Aubrey, they were well known in 1667, when Sir Samuel Moreland, the proprietor,{298} added a public room to them, "the inside of which," he says, "is all looking-glass and fountains and very pleasant to behold, and which is much visited by strangers." The time when they were first opened for the entertainment of the public is involved in some uncertainty; their celebrity is, however, established to be upwards of a century and a half old. In the reign of Queen Anne they appear to have been a place of great public resort, for in the "Spectator," No. 383, dated May 20, 1712, Addison has introduced Sir Roger de Coverley as accompanying him in a voyage from Temple-stairs to Vauxhall, then called Spring Gardens. He says: "We made the best of our way to Foxhall;" and describes the gardens as "exceedingly pleasant at this time of the year. When I considered the fragrancy of the walks and bowers with the choirs of birds that sung upon the trees and the tribe of people that walked under their shades, I could not but look on this place as a sort of Mohammedan Paradise." Masks were then worn, at least by some visitors, for Addison talks of "a mask tapping Sir Roger on the shoulder and inviting him to drink a bottle of mead with her." A glass of Burton ale and a slice of hung beef formed the supper of the party. The place, however, resembled a tea-garden of our days till the year 1730, when Mr. Jonathan Tyers took a lease of the premises, and shortly afterwards opened Vauxhall with a Ridotto al Fresco. The novelty of the term attracted great numbers, and Mr. Tyers was so successful in occasional repetitions as to be induced to open the gardens every evening during the summer. Hogarth at this time had lodgings at Lambeth-terrace, and, becoming intimate with Tyers, was induced to embellish the gardens with his designs, in which he was joined by Hayman. The house which he occupied is still shown, and a vine pointed out which he planted. Tyers's improvements consisted of sweeps of pavilions and saloons, in which these paintings were placed. He also erected an orchestra, engaged a band of music, and placed a fine statue of{299} Handel by Roubiliac in a conspicuous part of the gardens. Mr. Cunningham dates the appearance of this statue, which was Roubiliac's earliest work, at 1732. Mr. Tyers afterwards purchased the whole of the estate, which is copyhold of inheritance, and held of the Prince of Wales, as lord of Kennington manor, in right of his Duchy of Cornwall. The gardens were originally opened daily (Sunday excepted), and till the year 1792 the admission was 1s.; it was then raised to 2s.; including tea and coffee; in 1809 several improvements were made, lamps added, &c., the price was raised to 3s. 6d., and the gardens were only opened three nights in the week; in 1821 the price was again raised to 4s. Upon the death of Mr. Jonathan Tyers, the gardens became the property of Mr. Bryant Barrett, who married the granddaughter of the original proprietor. They next descended to Mr. Barrett's sons, and from them by right of purchase to the late proprietors. Mr. Thomas Tyers, a son of the famous Jonathan Tyers, and author of "Biographical Sketches of Johnson," and "Political Conferences," who died on February 1, 1787, contributed many poetic trifles to the gardens. The representation of the Ridotto al Fresco is thus described by one of the newspapers of June 21, 1732: "On Wednesday, at the Ridotto al Fresco at Vauxhall, there was not one half of the company as was expected, being no more than 203 persons, amongst whom were several persons of distinction, but more ladies than gentlemen, and the whole was managed with great order and decency; a detachment of 100 of the Foot Guards being posted round the gardens. A waiter belonging to the house having got drunk put on a dress and went to fresco with the rest of the company, but being discovered he was immediately turned out of doors." The season of 1739 was for three months, and the admittance was by silver tickets. The proprietors then announced that "1,000 tickets would only be delivered at 25s. each, the silver of every ticket to be worth 3s. 2d., and to admit two persons every{300} evening (Sunday excepted) during the season." It appears that these silver tickets were struck after designs by Hogarth, and a plate of some of them shows the following:—Mr. John Hinton, 212, 1794; on the reverse side the figure of Calliope. Mr. Wood, 63, 1750; on the reverse side three boys playing with a lyre, and the motto "Jocosæ conveniunt Lyræ." Mr. R. Frankling, 70; on the reverse side figure of Euterpe. Mr. Samuel Lewes, 87; on the reverse side the figure of Erato. Mr. Carey, 11; on the reverse side the figure of Thalia. This plate also exhibits the gold ticket, a perpetual admission given to Hogarth by Jonathan Tyers, in gratitude for his advice and assistance in decorating the gardens. After his decease it remained in the hands of Mrs. Hogarth, his widow, who bequeathed it to her relation, Mrs. Mary Lewis, who subsequently left it to Mr. P. F. Hart, who in his will, in 1823, bequeathed it to Mr. John Tuck. It is hardly necessary to say that the ticket is after Hogarth's own design. The face of it presents the word "Hogarth," in a bold hand, beneath which is "In perpetuam beneficii memoriam." On the reverse there are two figures, surrounded with the motto, "Virtus voluptas felices una." It also appears that Roubiliac furnished a statue of Milton for the gardens. Among the singers Beard and Lowe were early favourites; then came Dignum, Mrs. Weichsel, Mrs. Billington, Signora Storace, Incledon, Mrs. Bland, &c. In later years, Misses Tunstall, Noel, Melville, and Williams; Stephens, Love, Madame Cornega, and Madame Vestris; Mr. Braham, Mr. Sinclair, Mr. Robinson, and Signor de Begnis, &c., with Signor Spagnoletti as leader.'{301}




The expansion of London during the Nineteenth Century is in itself a fact unparalleled in the history of cities. Those who call attention to this miracle always point to the filling up of the huge area between Highgate and Hampstead and Clerkenwell in the North, or the extension of the town to Hammersmith on the West. Perhaps a little consideration of the South may show a still more remarkable growth. I have before me a map of the year 1834, only sixty-four years ago, showing South London as it was. I see a small town or collection of small towns, occupying the{302} district called the Borough Proper, Lambeth, Newington, Walworth, and Bermondsey. In some parts this area is densely populated, filled with narrow courts and lanes; in other parts there are broad fields, open spaces, unoccupied pieces of ground. At the back of Vauxhall Gardens, for instance there are open fields; in Walworth there is a certain place, then notorious for the people who lived there, called Snow's Fields; in Bermondsey there are also open spaces, some of them gardens, or recreation grounds, without any buildings. Battersea is a mere stretch of open country. I myself remember{303} the old Battersea Fields perfectly well; one shivers at the recollection; they were low, flat, damp, and, I believe, treeless; they were crossed, like Hackney Marsh, by paths raised above the level; at no time of year could the Battersea Fields look anything but dreary. In winter they were inexpressibly dismal. As a boy I have walked across the fields in order to get to the embankment or river wall from which one commanded a view of the Thames with its barges and lighters going up and down—pleasant when the sun shone on the river, but a mere shadow of the ancient glory when the pleasure barges and the State barges swept majestically up the river with the hautboys and the trumpets in the bows; when the swans by thousands sailed upon the broad bosom of the waters, and in the middle of the river{304} the fisherman cast his net, as Edric had done fifteen hundred years before at St. Peter's orders, when he brought out his famous salmon. One walked along the embankment; the fields on one side were lower than the waters on the other. Beyond the river were the trees of Chelsea Hospital. Close to the river bank was an enclosure which was called the Subscription Ground; here the subscribers came to shoot pigeons—noble sport. If I remember aright, while the subscribing sportsmen shot at the pigeons in the enclosure, others of low condition who were not subscribers lurked about on the outside to shoot down those birds which escaped from the murderers within. Close by the Subscription Ground was a certain famous tavern called the Red House. I do not know why it was famous, but everybody always said it was. I believe it was much frequented on summer evenings, and that the subscribing sportsmen close by, whether they hit their pigeon or not, proved excellent customers for the drinks of the Red House. At that time there were 'famous' taverns all up and down the river on either bank. There are still Riverside taverns, but the invasion of the new streets and houses has driven them, considered as 'famous' taverns, either higher up, or lower down. As mere commonplace public houses they probably remain still. Duels were conducted on the Battersea Fields, and there were certain historical associations in connection with these dreary flats. Here, for instance, the Duke of Wellington fought his duel with Lord Winchilsea. Other important people were also connected either with the Fields or the Village of Battersea, but at the time I knew not anything about them. The Battersea of my boyhood is gone absolutely: no trace of it remains, except the Church. The Grosvenor Railway Bridge passes over the site of the famous Red House; the most beautiful of all our Parks covers the Subscription Shooting Grounds, together with most of the flat and dreary fields; and houses by the thousand, with streets mean and monotonous, stand where formerly the{305} pigeons flew wildly, hoping to escape those who waited outside the grounds as they had escaped those who potted at them from within.

The Temple from the Surrey Bank The Temple from the Surrey Bank

Let us turn to another part of the map and inquire into Rotherhithe. It is curious that at one end we get Rotherhithe, the Place of Cattle; and at the other Lambeth or Lambhythe, if it be the 'Place of Lambs' and not the 'Place of Mud.' In 1834 the Commercial Docks are already there, but without prejudice to the ancient and venerable docks of the preceding century, Acorn Dock and Lavender Dock. A single street runs along the Embankment, which it hides and{306} covers: at the back of this street there is a succession of small lanes and courts running back with tiny houses—two or four rooms to each—on either side, and ending generally in gardens of greenery—leaves and palings. You may still see, in 1898, if you are lucky, the bows and bowsprit of a ship in one of the old docks, sticking across the street, causing a momentary confusion in the mind between land and water; there are riverside taverns which look as if at a touch they would yield and slide into the mud below. In 1834 this street with these little lanes was the whole of Rotherhithe. Inland—or in-marsh—ponds and ditches and creeping streams lay about; one of the ponds survives to this day; you will find it in the middle of the pretty garden they call Southwark Park, of which it forms the ornamental water. And the rest of Rotherhithe, between the Park and Bermondsey, is one unbroken mass of streets with no green thing and no open space. All is filled up and built upon.

A little beyond Rotherhithe lies Deptford. On my map of 1834 I see a little town, lying partly on the bank of the Thames, partly on the bank of the Ravensbourne, which here widens out and forms Deptford Creek. The greater part of the area of Deptford is taken up by the Dockyard, not yet closed. As for the town, which now contains nearly 100,000 people, about five-and-twenty little streets sufficed for all its people; it boasted of two churches and two almshouses. One of these Havens of Rest was so picturesque and so beautiful that it could not be suffered to remain. Almshouses which are perfectly beautiful are only vouchsafed to man for a limited period, lest other buildings become intolerable. Their time expired, they are then carried off Heavenward.

Or turn your eyes further south. London in this direction now covers—for the most part completely, in some parts leaving spaces and fields here and there—Greenwich, Blackheath, Brockley, Peckham, Forest Hill, Dulwich,{307} Brixton, Stockwell, Camberwell, Clapham, Balham, Wandsworth, Vauxhall, and Penge, and many others.


It is difficult, now that the whole country south of London has been covered with villas, roads, streets, and shops, to understand how wonderful for loveliness it was until the builder seized upon it. When the ground rose out of the great Lambeth and Bermondsey Marsh—the cliff or incline is marked still by the names of Battersea Rise, Clapham Rise, and Brixton Rise—it opened out into one wild heath after another—Clapham, Wandsworth, Putney, Wimbledon, Barnes, Tooting, Streatham, Richmond, Thornton, and so south as far as Banstead Downs. The country was not flat: it rose at Wimbledon to a high plateau; it rose at Norwood to a chain of hills; between the Heaths stretched gardens and orchards; between the orchards were pasture lands; on the hill sides were hanging woods; villages were scattered about, each with its venerable church and its peaceful churchyard; along the high roads to Dover, Southampton, and Portsmouth bumped and rolled, all day{308} and all night, the stage coaches and the waggons; the wayside inns were crowded with those who halted to drink, those who halted to dine, and those who halted to sleep: if the village lay off the main road it was as quiet and as secure as the town of Laish. All this beauty is gone; we have destroyed it: all this beauty has gone for ever; it cannot be replaced. And on the south there was so much more beauty than on the north. On the latter side of London there are the heights with Hampstead, Highgate, and Hornsey—one row of villages; but there is little more. The country between Hatfield or St. Albans and Hampstead is singularly dull and uninteresting: it is not until one reaches Hertford or Rickmansworth that the explorer comes once more into lovely country. But the loveliness of South London lay almost at the very doors of London: one could walk into it; the heaths were within an easy walk, and the loveliness of Surrey lay upon all.

I have mentioned already some of the heaths, those which remain at the present moment. It will be a matter of surprise to the reader to hear of the many waste and wild places which have been appropriated and built over in the last two hundred years. In the parish of Lambeth alone, an extensive tract, it is true, there was nearly 500 acres of commons: namely, Kennington, Norwood, Norwood Common (in another part of Norwood), Hall Lane, Knight's Hill Green, Half Moon Green, Rush Common, South Stockwell Common, South Lambeth and North Stockwell Common. With the exception of the first all these are now gone.


Look at Dulwich—the peaceful and picturesque village of Dulwich on this map of 1834. It lies among its trees, its gardens, and its fields: the venerable college of Alleyn is the glory of the village—nothing more beautiful than this almshouse with its hall and its picture gallery. Yet the people flocked out to Dulwich less for the picture gallery than the{309} shady walks, the fields, and a certain tavern—the Greyhound—which was beloved by everybody, and believed to contain a particular brew of beer, a particular kind of old Jamaica for punch, and a particular vintage of port not to be found anywhere else, even in a City company's cellars. There was, in fact, no more favourite place of resort for the better sort of citizens of London than Dulwich in the summer. For the poorer sort it was too far off, and cost too much in conveyance. The Dulwich stage ran two or three times a day: it was not too long a drive from the city; the young men rode—in those days the young men could all ride—even John Gilpin thought he could ride; they hired a horse as we now get into a cab. For those who lived in any suburb on the south, Dulwich was an easy walk. Not far from the college and the village—Mr. Pickwick lived there in 1834—were the Dulwich Fields, as beautiful and interesting as those of Battersea were the{310} contrary: there were, I think, five of them in succession: the little stream called the Effra rose somewhere in the neighbourhood, and ran about, winding through the fields in a deep channel with rustic bridges across. In older days—at the end of the eighteenth century, for example, the Effra, a bright and sparkling stream, ran out of the fields above what is now called the Effra Road, and so along the south side—or was it the north?—of Brixton Road. Rustic cottages stood on the other side of the stream, with flowering shrubs—lilac, laburnum, and hawthorn—on the bank, and beds of the simpler flowers in the summer: the gardens and the cottages were approached by little wooden bridges, each provided with a single rail painted green. That, however, was before my time. In the 'fifties the boys used to play in these fields, jumping over the stream: when they left the fields and got into the village they looked about for Mr. Pickwick and for Sam Weller, if haply they might see either. But I do not learn that either sage or servant ever gratified those eyes of faith by an incarnation.

Here are three hills close together: Herne Hill, Denmark Hill, and Champion Hill. On Denmark Hill Ruskin once lived; but in the 'fifties I was not conscious of that fact or of his greatness. It must be saddening to a great man to reflect that the schoolboys have no respect for him. The road up the hill was somewhat gloomy on account of the trees: the houses, with their gardens and lawns, and carriage drives, and smoothness and snugness, betokened in those years the institution of evening prayers. I fear I may be misunderstood. At that time great was the power and the authority of seriousness. To be serious was fashionable, if one may say so, in City circles. Respectability was nearly always serious: it was divided into two classes: that which had morning prayers only, and that which had evening prayers as well. With the young, the latter institution was unpopular—no one of the present younger generation can understand how unpopular{311} it was: a house which had evening prayers made a deliberate profession of a seriousness which was something out of the common, which the young people disliked, as a rule; and it insisted on the sons getting home in time for prayers. This profession of seriousness generally belonged to a large house, beautiful gardens, rich conservatories, a large income, and a carriage and pair. Denmark Hill used to appear to outward view as more especially a suburb belonging to the serious rich, who could afford a profession of more than common earnestness.


Herne Hill was remarkable for consisting of three houses only, each with its parklike grounds and gardens and its noble trees. Champion Hill I remember as a green and grassy slope: there were no houses at all upon it: but there was a road, and at the bottom of the road a green called Goose Green—you may still find this tract of grass, but I believe it is now pinched and attenuated. On Goose Green{312} they kept ponies for hire: the boys used to ride them up the hill and gallop them down the hill. Beyond this green there was a much larger expanse called Peckham Rye: so far as I can remember it was a most uninviting place formerly; not a wild heath like Putney or Hampstead, not a waste place covered with fern and gorse and bramble and wild trees; but a barren, dreary expanse of uncertain grass. Boys would perhaps have played cricket upon it in summer, but there were then no boys at Peckham Rye. Now, all this country is covered with houses, and Peckham is like Bloomsbury itself for streets and terraces and squares.

We have not only destroyed the former beauty of South London: we have forgotten it. Ask a resident of Penge—one of the many thousands of Penge—what this suburban town was like seventy years ago. Do you think he can tell you anything of Penge Common? Has he ever heard of any Penge Common? Well, it is exactly seventy-one years ago—viz. in May 1827—that Mr. William Hone—the compiler of the 'Every-Day Book,' climbed up outside the Dulwich stage, proposing to visit the picture gallery of Dulwich College. Hone was one of the first of those curious and inquisitive persons who began to employ their summers in exploring the unknown villages and strange places round London. The picture gallery he could not see because it was closed; he therefore walked across the country from Dulwich to a place called Penge. At the top of a hill he found a choice of three roads. He chose that which led through Penge Common. The place was thickly wooded: it was, he says, 'a cathedral of singing birds.' At the mere recollection of that choir he bursts into verse—other people's verse. Alas! the Common had already, even then, been ravished from its owners, the people: it was enclosed; it was doomed; it was about to be built upon. Mr. Hone consoled himself, however, at the 'Old Crooked Billet,' with eggs and bacon and home-brewed ale. Again, is there anyone in Penge who now remembers{313} the hanging woods? They hung over a hillside, and were as beautiful as the hanging woods of Cliveden. But, like the Common, they are gone.

From the Tower of St. Saviour's From the Tower of St. Saviour's

Or let us ask the resident of Norwood what he remembers of its ancient glories; whether there were any ancient glories. Has he heard of the famous Norwood oak? Of the Norwood Spa? Of the gypsies of Norwood? Why, the Queen of all the gypsies, unless there was a more powerful sovereign at Jedburgh, held her court and camp at Norwood. Has this resident heard of the views from the top of the hill, four hundred feet above the level of the sea, whither the people flocked by hundreds to see the view and to wander in the woods?

All this beauty is destroyed. Of course, the destruction was inevitable. One accepts the inevitable with a sigh; we cannot have town and country together. The woods are gone, the rural life is gone, encroachments have been made upon{314} the commons, the wayside tavern—the place was full of wayside taverns—is gone. What remains of all this beauty is a fragment here and there. Clapham Common, once a heath, now a park; Wimbledon Common, Tooting Common; these expanses are mercifully left us for breathing-places. Some of them, like Clapham, are transformed into imitations of a park, instead of being left as a heath. All of them are bereft, of course, of their old accompaniments; they have lost the wood beside the heath, the farm, the ploughed lands, the tinkle of the sheep bell, the song of the skylark.

We have seen in the course of these chapters some of the associations of South London. I confess that, for my own part, I am not happy in considering associations connected with rows of terraces and villas. Here, you say, was once the house, with the park, of such and such a great man. Really! I dare say. But it is now covered with gentility. If I am taken to a slum—such a slum as that on the west of St. Mary Overies, and am told that in this place was Winchester House, I am at once interested. Why should the memory of the past appeal to our imagination more in a slum than in a brand new, spick and span collection of pleasant country villas? Is it from a feeling that all things tend to decay, and that the new suburb speaks not of decay? Who, for instance, stepping from the south-east corner of Tooting Common into the place which was once Streatham Park, can think of Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Johnson among these roads and villas? At Tooting itself, one might remember, were it not for the houses, Daniel De Foe, who founded the first Independent chapel there. At Wandsworth, if it were not so much built upon, I might see Voltaire walking about. At Putney, but for the villas, I should look for Pitt. Oh! there are a thousand people once living, and walking, and playing their parts in their villages, whose wraiths and spectres would willingly haunt them still, but cannot for the{315} bricks and the walls, the chimneys and the smoke, the roads and the trams.

We have destroyed the beauty of South London: we have also made its historical associations impossible.


The first settlers or colonisers of this region, apart from its rural folk, came from London about the time when roads began to be tolerable; that is to say, late in the seventeenth century; they were the great folk, the leisured folk, the Quality, who had suburban houses in addition to their town houses and their country houses. They sought shelter in the quiet retreats of Clapham, Streatham, or Norwood. These people did not come, however, to settle, but only remained, as a rule, for a year or two, for a few months, for a season.{316} When the roads became so far improved as to make driving easy and pleasant, the city merchants came and built or bought big houses, and drove in and out every day in their carriage and pair. They did not buy estates, as a rule: they bought a substantial house and grounds, and sat down therein. They had large gardens behind, with greenhouses where they grew early strawberries; they had in front a broad lawn with a carriage drive; they liked to have on the lawn two stately cedars, whose branches swept the grass. They brought their friends down from Saturday to Monday. In course of time other people came; but the first comers—these merchants—were the aristocracy, the first families of the suburbs. In the newer places there are still to be found the first families; in the older suburbs they have all disappeared from the place. Thus Clapham, I believe, knows no longer a Macaulay, a Wilberforce, a Venn. These were people of national distinction. Of course there were not in other suburbs first families who rose to the giddy heights attained by these fortunate aristocrats of the suburbs; but there were many which had among them ex-Lord Mayors and Aldermen; there were many persons among them of dignity and authority. Alas! the first families are gone: there is now no aristocracy of the suburb left. It is a pity. There should be in every community some whose position entitles them to respect and authority; there should be some to take the lead naturally; there should be some who should maintain the standards of conduct, ideas, and principles. Especially is this the case when by far the greater part of the people in a community are engaged in trade.


I cannot quite avoid the use of figures, because a comparison between the population of these villages in 1801 with that of these great towns in 1898 is so startling that it must be recorded. Battersea has risen from 3,365 to 165,115; Camberwell from 7,059 to 253,076; Lambeth from 27,985 to 295,033; Lewisham from 4,007 to 104,521; Wandsworth from 14,283{317} to 187,264. Or, taking the whole area of South London, that part which is covered by the electoral districts, there is now a population of very nearly two millions; in other words the population, in less than a hundred years, has been multiplied by ten. That of London itself, in the same time, the London including the City, Clerkenwell, Whitechapel, Bloomsbury, and Westminster, has been multiplied during the same time by five. What has caused this enormous increase in South London? Well, people must live somewhere; the old limits proved insufficient. First, places which had been dotted over with fields and gardens and vacant places, such as Southwark{318} on the west side, and Bermondsey, were completely built over and inhabited. Then, when it became a problem how to stow away the people within reach of their work, the 'short stage' was supplemented by the omnibus. Next South London stretched itself out farther; it began to include Camberwell, Brixton, Stockwell, Clapham, and Wandsworth. These were separate suburbs lying each among its own gardens; the inhabitants were not clerks, but principals and employers, substantial merchants and flourishing shopkeepers. The clerks lived nearer London, mostly on the north of the river. Lastly came the railway, when London made another step outward, so as to take in the places lying south of Clapham and Brixton. Then the builder began; he saw that a new class of residents would be attracted by small houses and low rents. The houses sprang up as if in a single night; streets in a month, churches and chapels in a quarter. The population of South London no longer consists of rich merchants, principals, and partners. Clerks, assistants, and employés of all kinds now crowd the morning and evening trains.

If you want to form some idea of the South London folk, go stand inside Cannon Street Station and watch the trains come in, each with its freight of those who earn their daily bread within the City. See them pass out—by the hundred—by the thousand—by the fifty thousand. The brain reels at the mere contemplation of this mighty multitude which comes in every morning and goes out every afternoon. As they hurry past you observe on each the same expression, the same set eagerness, with which the day's work is approached. Employer or employé, principal or clerk, it matters nothing. The clerk, who will get none of the thousands he is helping to secure, comes in to town as eager for the fray as his master; the fighting instinct is in the man; his face means battle, daily battle, in which the weapons are superior knowledge, earlier knowledge, keen sight, readiness, ruthlessness, while there is as much need, for success, or courage tenacity,{319} and bluff as in any battle between contending armies. The many twinkling feet pass out of the station by the hundred thousand, every morning, to the field of battle. The English are a warlike people; they enjoy the field of battle; the City is like that state of beatitude which the pious Dane desired, in which there would be fighting every day, and all day, and for ever.

Below Cherry Garden Pier Below Cherry Garden Pier

In South London there are two millions of people. It is therefore one of the great cities of the world. It stands upon{320} an area about twelve miles long and five or six broad—but its limits cannot be laid down even approximately. It is a city without a municipality, without a centre, without a civic history; it has no newspapers, magazines, or journals; it has no university; it has no colleges, apart from medicine; it has no intellectual, artistic, scientific, musical, literary centre—unless the Crystal Palace can be considered a centre; its residents have no local patriotism or enthusiasm—one cannot imagine a man proud of New Cross; it has no theatres, except of a very popular or humble kind; it has no clubs, it has no public buildings, it has no West End. It is argued that although it has none of these things, yet it has them all by right of being a part of London. That is, in a sense, true. The theatres, concerts, picture galleries of the West End are accessible to the South. Far be it from me to deny the culture of Sydenham and the artistic elevation of Tooting. Yet one feels there must surely be some disadvantage in being separated from the literary and artistic circles whose members, it must be confessed, reside for the most part in North London. It must surely, one thinks, be a disadvantage for a young man who would pursue a career in art not to live among people who habitually talk of art and think of art. It must surely be some disadvantage to live in a place where the people, when they are gathered together, mostly allow the conversation to turn upon things connected with the City.

How are these two millions distributed?

There are, in fact, four layers. First, there is the 'submerged' element, the people of the slums of which mention has been made. Their numbers and their proportion to the whole I know not. Next, there are the working people, those for whom the long lines, the endless lines, of barracks called model lodging-houses, have been built. Here they live by the hundred thousand—by the million: there are more than a million working men in South London. For their use are{321} the shops of the Borough, chiefly provision shops, and the public houses. The third layer is found on a slip of ground, of which Newington and Kennington may be taken as representative: it consists principally of lodging-houses for clerks. The fourth layer is that of the suburban villa, from the little semi-detached cottage to the stately mansion. The 'High Street,' filled with shops, is for the villas.

The George Inn  Little Dorrit's Window in the Marshalsea The George Inn

Little Dorrit's Window in the Marshalsea

Now, the whole of this immense population lives upon the City. The bread-winners go in and out every day; the local shops provide for the houses, and are paid out of the money made in the City; the local doctor, the local house agent, the local schoolmaster, the local clergyman, all receive their share of the money made in the City; even if there be, here and there, a literary man, his wares are bought by the money made in the City; the artist looks for his patron to the{322} City; the working man, whatever his work, is paid out of the City, so that the first function of the City is to feed and supply all these millions. If at any time the trade of the City were to decay, these suburbs would decay as well; if the decay were gradual, they would slowly cease to spread, begin to show empty houses and deserted streets; if the decay were to mean ruin, the suburbs would themselves be speedily deserted. Then would be seen a deserted city on a scale never before equalled. Tadmor in the Wilderness would be a mere little wheelbarrow full of stones compared with suburban London given over to decay and wreck.

Two millions of people, most of whom belong to the working class! The brain reels at thinking of this teeming multitudinous life; these armies of men, women, and children living in the slums and in the huge, unlovely barracks. The very number makes it impossible to grasp the enormity of the mass; the vastness of the population makes one feel as if individual effort would be absolutely useless. In a sense it is useless, because it can only touch one or two, and what are they among so many? But in another sense, as I will presently show, individual effort may produce consequences both deep and widespread.

It seems, again, when one contemplates this mass of humanity—this compact round ball of men and women, to make which two millions have been brought together—as if any one life was nothing, as if the life of any one out of the heap—any girl, any lad—was wholly unimportant and trivial, however that life were spent. That is not so: every heap is made up of atoms; the influence of the individual is as great in a densely populated place as in a village. One example is precious—beyond all price—in a model dwelling-house of Bermondsey as in the most retired community of rustics. It is very easy to generalise from the mass: the dweller of the slums stands before the mind's eye, beery, unwashed, in rags, inarticulate, his brain filled with thoughts which may better{323} be described as suspicions, desirous of nothing but of food, drink, and warmth. That is what we think of him. It is because we do not know him. Ask those who go down among these people habitually, they will tell you of differences and distinctions among them as among ourselves, of memories of better things, of resignation rather than despair, and, at the very worst, of traits of generosity and unselfishness worthy of a clean cottage and the air of a village green. We must be very careful how we form general conclusions about men and women.

Alcove from Old London Bridge now at Guy's Alcove from Old London Bridge, now at Guy's

But—two millions of people! And every one of them{324} wanting all the time what he thinks will make his life more happy. For the riverside folk the wants are few, but they are daily wants. With them, literally, it is a question of daily bread. Happy are the people whose wants are more numerous and their happiness more complex!

Let me terminate this chapter by a brief account of certain work of a philanthropic kind which is characteristic of the place and of the time. Many and various are the attempts and the associations and the machinery for raising some of these people and for keeping others from sliding down. There are the parish clergy, of late years better organised than at any previous time, more active, and more largely assisted; they have planted evening schools and clubs, for boys and girls. One must put the Church of England first, not only because her clergy began the work of rescue, but also because hers is still the larger part. There is, next, the indirect work of the medical students of Guy's and St. Thomas's, who go in and out among the worst courts, tolerated because they come to doctor the sick, and do not ask disagreeable questions about the children's school. There are, next, places which aim at civilising by the presentation of things civilised. For instance, there is a very pleasing institute in Whitecross Street, where a garden, an open air band, a lecture or concert hall, and a row of cottages beautiful to look upon are provided as a standard to which the people may rise by degrees. There are one or two Polytechnics for the lads, and, lastly, there are the 'Settlements,' college settlements and others. Let me briefly describe the work and aims of one of these settlements. I have before me the last Report of the Browning Settlement in Walworth. It is called the Browning Settlement because its headquarters is the chapel in York Street in which Robert Browning was christened.

The Entrance Gates to Guy's The Entrance Gates to Guy's

As for their plan of work, perhaps the aims and methods of a 'settlement' are not too well known for repetition. They are not all the same, but the differences are slight. The{325} directors of this settlement, for instance, desire to plant a settlement house in every poor street; a house which shall be inhabited by the workers, men or women, and shall serve as a model for the other people in the street; example, in fact, is relied upon as a potent influence. There is, or will be, a large club house and coffee tavern for men and women, boys and girls. Once a week there is a concert in the hall. The members of the settlement take as large a part as possible in{326} the local government; they have laid out a burial-ground at the back of their hall as a garden; they have a medical mission which gives consultations free; some of them are poor men's lawyers; they have introduced the University Extension Lectures; they have founded thrift agencies; they hold Sunday afternoons for the men; they have a maternity society; they have a clothes store; they have an adult school. Classes are held in hygiene, mathematics, and classics; there have been Shakespeare readings, music, singing, country holidays, summer camps, children's holidays; there is a boys' brigade; there is musical drill; there are May Day and Harvest Festivals; and there are, in addition, works of religion and temperance which I have not enumerated above.

The keynote of all such work as this is, for the workers, personal service; for the people, the influence of example, the attraction of things which they understand at once to be a great deal more pleasant than the bar and the tap-room; such a variety of work and recreation as may drag all into the net except the substratum of all, whom nothing can lift out of the mire.

One or two things have yet to be learned as regards these settlements. First, how large an area in a densely populated part can be covered by a single settlement? Next, how many young men can be found to carry on the work? For instance, if the Browning Settlement can reach—of course it cannot—all the people of Walworth, which is in the Parish of Newington, and includes 120,000 people, there ought to be nine other settlements in South London from Battersea to Greenwich, both included. If we give 20,000 people for each settlement, then there ought to be at least fifty settlements for the millions of the working class. The Report does not state how many residents there are, but gives a list of the officers and managers of departments, from which it would seem that about thirty are actively engaged from day to day. So that fifteen hundred voluntary workers in all would be required{327} in order to cover this land of slums with an effective string of settlements.

A Former Entrance to St. Thomas's Hospital A Former Entrance to St. Thomas's Hospital

There never was a time when more determined efforts have been made for the elevation of the submerged, and there never was a time when so many young men and young women have been found ready to give the whole of their time, or all their spare time, to the work. Whether they will succeed in effecting a permanent improvement remains to be{328} seen; whether the attraction of personal devotion which is now passing over the minds of the young will continue and remain with us has also to be proved. The directors of the Browning Settlement meantime declare—I have no intention of questioning the truth of their assertion—that they find already among the people 'a quickening of spirit, shown in keener intellectual interest, intenser civic ardour, warmer friendship, and more avowed piety.' If such are the fruits of a settlement, we cannot but desire for South London a chain of settlements reaching from Battersea to Greenwich, both inclusive.

Note.—Since this was written several new Theatres have been built in South London. I should therefore like to correct the passage on p. 320 which states that the Theatres are humble. Also I would acknowledge the existence of local newspapers, and instead of saying that it has no public buildings I would say only one or two old buildings.





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