Page images

of St. Mary Over-Eye (over the water), who till then had maintained a ferry which gave name to their convent. Even this frail wooden fabric is recorded to have been deemed an impregnable barrier by the invader Canute, who cut a channel from Rotherhithe into the Thames above the bridge, and dragged his vessels through it to blockade the city. This old bridge having been destroyed by fire, that which is now about to be pulled down was erected in 1176. Within the memory of persons yet living this second bridge was laden with an irregular pile of crazy buildings, chiefly occupied by pin-makers, (the first of whom was a Spanish negro,) overhanging the huge starlings on either. side, and bound together by eross-beams of timber, beneath which the

passengers groped along a narrow and dismal way. The remains of the drawbridge in the middle were guarded by an antique tower, and another bulwark protected the entrance from the suburb thence called Southwark. These singular appendages, which are represented in Hollar's curious print, were removed, together with most of the city-gates, by authority of Parliament in the year 1760. No demand for additional means of communication across the river was made till 1738, when Labelye, a Swiss architect, was employed to build the bridge of Westminster. That of Blackfriars, by Milne, was added in 1761.

The most ancient relic in the city is · London Stone,' which may still be seen inserted in the wall of St. Swithin's church, Cannonstreet. It seems to have been regarded with a superstitious reverence as the Palladium of the city. When Jack Cade, at the head of his rebel army, entered London, he struck his sword on this stone, saying, now is Mortimer lord of this citie.'

The fine old gothic cathedral of St. Paul, anciently called Eastminster, which fell in the Great Fire of 1666, covered three acres with its walls. The beautiful spire rose high above the city, and one of its aisles (Paul's Walk) was the daily resort of traders, newsmongers, and sharpers. In front stood Paul's Cross, a pulpit of wood, noted for political sermons, and for the nobler exertions of Latimer and others of our distinguished reformers. This Cross was demolished in 1641, by order of the Long Parliament, who issued a commission for the destruction of pictures and other monuments and relics of idolatry.' The beautiful cross of Queen Eleanor in West Chepe (Cheapside) shared the same fate; and the ancient May Pole which stood on the site of the New Church in the Strand was removed by Sir Isaac Newton to Wanstead park, as a support to his great telescope. In Aggas's map of London, as it was in 1560, Finsbury and Holborn, St. Giles and St. Martin's, appear as scattered villages. Westminster was not only a distinct but a distant city. A long


M 3


dreary road led through Lud-gate to the village of Charing, where another of Eleanor's crosses (now supplanted by Le Soeur's fine statue of Charles I.) pointed the way to the palaces of Whitehall and Westminster. Beyond this cross all was open field and garden. Hedge-lane (now Witcombe-street) and the Haymarket are marked as the roads to Oxenforde and Redynge. On the top of Hay-hill stood the gibbet of Sir Thomas Wyat. In Marybone (now the Regent's) Park, Queen Elizabeth sent her Russian ambassadors to hunt. At a noted Bowling-green and House of Entertainment, (set up on the suppression of Spring Gardens,) were sold a sort of Cakes called Piccadillas, which gave title to the fine street of which this resort was the origin. A little east of this stood the country-house of Lord Keeper Coventry; and, further on, the mansion of SydneyEarlof Leicester, upon the sites now occupied by the Street, Passage, and Square, which retain these

North of this arose King's square, on one side of which stood the house of the Duke of Monmouth, after whose execution his friends changed this royal name to Soho,' the watchword with which he advanced to the fatal battle of Sedgemoor. Hanover and Cavendish squares first appeared in the maps about the year 1720; Oxford-street at that time extended no farther than Princes-street, and Bond-street reached only to Conduitmead. Trinity Chapel, which stands in that quarter of the town, has a curious history. It was originally a Popish chapel of wood mounted on wheels, and followed the camp of James II. to

' Hounslow Heath, where it remained neglected long after the Revolution, till Archbishop Tennison, then rector of St. Martin's, brought it back to its present position, and rebuilt it of more durable materials. .

The venerable Abbey of Westminster, on Thorney Island, was surrounded on three sides by a creek, which opening near Manchester Buildings crossed King’s-street and College-street, supplying the Canal in St. James's Park, and thence rejoined the Thames. The adjacent palace of Edward the Confessor, of which the noble Hall of Rufus and a few fragments only remain, covered both the palace-yards, and extended as far as Whitehall, where it joined to the precincts of York House. On the disgrace of Wolsey, the latter was seized for the use of the king, who from that time kept his court there. St. James's Hospital, till then under the jurisdiction of Eton College, was also seized by Henry VIII. who converted it to a palace, and inclosed the Park, which was afterwards planted by Charles II.

The magnificent palace of Whitehall, designed by Inigo Jones, for James I., was to have comprised six distinct courts; but the beautiful Banqueting-room alone was completed. At that period



[ocr errors]


the royal palaces occupied the whole of the east side of the street of Whitehall and that part on the west where the Horse-Guards, and the Home Office and Treasury now stand. The site of the present Admiralty was occupied by Wallingford House, where died, in 1632,). of a disease as horrible as her depravity, the

( infamous Countess of Essex, and from the roof of which Archbishop Usher beheld the execution of his royal master. In Seotland-yard, stood the ancient palace of King Kenneth. Kingstreet, the only thoroughfare, was guarded by a gate; and another of nobler dimensions, designed by Holbein, stood in the midst of Whitehall,

and formed the principal entrance to the palace, When The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed almost the whole city within the walls, London possessed an arehitect worthy of raising the fallen capital from her ashes. But the citizens ignorantly rejected the beautiful plan of Sir Christopher Wren, who proposed to carry a spacious street in a direct line from St. Paul's to the Exchange, another to the Tower, and a third westward from the same point to Piccadilly. A terrace was to adorn the bank of the river, beside which he intended to place the Halls of the twelve great Companies. The king and his ministers warmly supported this masterly conception, but to little purpose: the citizens cramped Sir Christopher in his operations so as almost wholly to frustrate the design. He effected, nevertheless, great improvement in the comfort and cleanliness of the city, as one proof of which it may be observed, that the plague, which in the preceding year is stated to have carried off 160,000 persons, nevet afterwards appeared.

In 1766 (just a century after) Mr. John Gwynn, an architect of reputation, dedicated to his late Majesty proposals for the improvement of London and Westminster, and plans for the erection of a Royal Palace in Hyde-park, upon a scale of magnificence which would satisfy the most enthusiastic of modern projectors. This work (now-scarce) displays excellent taste, and anticipates nearly all the improvements since made or now contemplated. On one of his plans we observe ' St. George's-bridge' occupying nearly the site of our bridge of Waterloo, with a noble street leading north through Bow-street. King's-square' is seen occupying the place of the Mews A great street leads north from Pall Mall, nearly in the line of Regent-street, and another east from Piccadilly. Splendid improvements for Whitehall and Palace-yard are also sketched out, as well as a quay on both banks of the river, extending as far as London-bridge.-- No part of his ingenious design, however, was adopted: the publication does not appear to have produced any public interest at the time; and Mr. Gwynn

M 4


[ocr errors]

has been so little thought of since, that we have seen some of his designs lately brought forward as original conceptions.

We have taken this retrospective glance of London, in order to afford our readers better means of judging of the various suge gestions for the improvement of our modern city, which we now proceed to examine.

Mr. Croker, in his Letter to the Earl of Liverpool,' (1823) warmly urges the completion of the eastern wing of Somerset House, and suggests that it might be advantageously dedicated to the purposes of a National Museum, instead of the ruinous old fabric in Great Russell-street. This plan is stated for the consideration of the premier with all the zeal and ingenuity for which the author is distinguished; but though we have the satisfaction to know that the government has consented to the erection of the deficient wing, we rather think it will be devoted to public offices. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the banks of the Thames afford a safe situation for books and pictures. The foggy exhalations from the river, and the tremendous volumes of smoke and soot which are wafted from the steam-engines, (daily increasing in number,) in its neighbourhood, are found highly injurious to such articles, even in private houses, and would still more seriously affect an extensive public collection. In the preface to the third edition the author states that when the Letter was first written, • the larger and more generous views. which the Country seems now inclined to take of this kind of questions were not anticipated, and that his proposals referred not to what he thought desirable, but to what it seemed practicable to obtain. We, therefore, conclude, that subsequent events have altered some of his opinions given on a different state of the case. When this pamphlet was first circulated there was but little prospect of rescuing our great national collections from the risk and inconves nience to which they were exposed in old Montague House. Much is therefore due to its author as the first who directed the public attention to this very important object. The rebuilding of that edifice, on a scale correspondent to the dignity of a British Musæum, is now proceeding rapidly, and we agree (as has been already hinted*) in the more matured opinion of Mr. Croker, that it is the fittest depository for the great National Library, though the propriety of adding the library of his late Majesty to the existing collection seems more than doubtful. We should bave preferred to see that library placed in a suitable separate


a building, nearer the Houses of Parliament. Thus accommodated, (perhaps on the site of Carlton-House,) it would stand as an Vide p. 157, ante.


honourable memorial of King George the Third, its founder, and of the munificence of his accomplished successor, by whom it was presented to the public. It is curious that the royal collector and his venerable librarian (Mr. Barnard) should have survived almost sixty years after commencing the formation of this, the most complete private library in Europe, steadily appropriating £2000 per annum to this object, and adhering with scrupulous attention to the instructions of Dr. Johnson, contained in the admirable letter recently printed by order of the House of Commons.

We are inclined to believe a veteran diplomatist, who much frequents the Alfred, to be the author of the lively and sensible

Observations' which stand second on our list, and though we by no means concur in all his criticisms, we cordially recommend his pamphlet to those readers who, like ourselves, take an interest m the growing beauty of the metropolis.

The attractive project of Colonel Trench, illustrated by a series of lithographic views, comes next to be considered; but it need not long detain us,for, with a sincere desire to see it executed,

a we have long thought it hopeless. Our first opinion was that he began his canvass in the wrong quarter—that he should have sounded the wharfingers and coal-merchants, before he launched his summer-barge upon the Thames freighted with princes, -lordings, and high dames, the patrons and protectresses of his scheme. But perhaps he might think that a committee of management, including ministers of state and other men of refined taste, would carry all before it. It was soon perceived that the plan would never pay, and that Parliament, however liberal, must reserve its funds for higher objects. Thus abandoned by his most powerful supporters, we think Colonel Trench will not have courage to proceed farther in this speculation, but as we observe a portion of his long lithographic plan proposes to open a noble Colonnade from St. Paul's to the river Thames, we earnestly recommend him to coalesce as to that point with Sir Wm. Curtis. That worthy baronet, laudably anxious to commemorate himself as a benefactor to his own city, has long been teeming with a similar project, and would, we cannot doubt, be very thankful for the Colonel's aid in giving it birth.

The pamphlet dedicated to the King by a ' Member of Parliament' offers a magnificent design for a Palace in Hyde-Park near Stanhope-street gate. We have seen another plan, not published, which proposes the Regent's Park as a preferable site. The authors, who are brethren in taste as well as blood, have abundantly proved that an intimate acquaintance with the details of architecture is not incompatible with the more dignified acquirements


[ocr errors]



« PreviousContinue »