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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Strand District, by 
Sir Walter Besant and Geraldine Edith Mitton

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Beginning at the extreme westerly limit of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, on the south side of Hyde Park Corner, we find ourselves in the Green Park. This is a triangular piece of ground, which was formerly called Little or Upper St. James's Park. It has not much history. In 1642 fortifications were erected on Constitution Hill, and at the end of the seventeenth century this same spot was a noted place for duels. Fireworks on a great scale, with public entertainments, took place in the park at the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, and again in 1814. On Constitution Hill three attempts were made on the life of Queen Victoria. The chief object of interest in the park is Buckingham Palace, which is not altogether in St. Martin's; in fact, the greater part, including most of the grounds, is in the adjacent parish of[Pg 2] St. George's, Hanover Square. The palace is a dreary building, without any pretence of architectural merit, but it attracts attention as the London home of the English Sovereign.

It stands on the site of Arlington House, so called from its connection with Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington (the Earl whose initial supplied one of the a's in the word "Cabal"). John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, bought the house and rebuilt it in 1703, naming it after himself, and including in the grounds part of the land belonging to Tart Hall, which stood at the head of St. James's Street, and has been mentioned in the account of the adjoining parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster. Buckingham House was bought from Sir Charles Sheffield, son of the above-mentioned Duke, by the Crown in 1762. In 1775 it was granted to Queen Charlotte as a place of residence in lieu of Somerset House, and at this period it was known as Queen's House. George IV. employed Nash to renovate the building, and the restoration was so complete as to amount to an entire rebuilding, in the style considered then fashionable; the result is the present dreary building with stuccoed frontage. The interior is handsome enough, and, like that of many a London house of less importance, is considerably more cheerful than the exterior. The chief staircase is of white marble, and the rooms are richly decorated. The[Pg 3] state apartments include drawing-rooms, saloons, and the throne-room, which is sixty-four feet in length. The picture-gallery contains a collection of pictures made by George IV., chiefly of the Dutch school; it includes works of Rembrandt, Rubens, Vandyck, Dürer, Cuyp, Ruysdael, Vandervelde, and others.

The grounds are about forty acres in extent, and contain a large piece of ornamental water, on the shore of which is a pavilion, or summer-house, with frescoes by Eastlake, Maclise, Landseer, Dyce, and others, illustrating Milton's "Comus." The channel of the Tyburn, now a sewer, passes under the palace. The Marble Arch, at the north-east corner of Hyde Park, was first designed to face the palace, where it stood until 1850.

The palace is partly on the site of the well-known Mulberry Gardens, a place of entertainment in the seventeenth century. These gardens originated in an order of James I., who wished to encourage the rearing of silkworms in England. This project, like many others of the same King, proved a failure, and the gardens were turned into a place of public recreation. The frequenters were of the fashionable classes, and came in the evening to sit in small arbours, and "be regaled with cheesecakes, syllabubs, and wine sweetened with sugar." In this form the place was extremely popular, and is often mentioned in contemporary[Pg 4] literature. Dryden came there to eat tarts with "Mrs." Anne Reeve, and doubtless Evelyn and Pepys often strolled about in the gay crowd, a crowd much gayer than it would now be—in the matter of costume, at all events. The scene of "The Mulberry Gardens," a play by Sir Charles Sedley (1668) is laid here.

Stafford House, not far from St. James's Palace, and overlooking the Green Park, is now tenanted by the Duke of Sutherland. It was originally built for the Duke of York, brother to George IV., but he died before its completion. It stands on the site of an older building, called Godolphin House, and also occupies the site of the Queen's Library formed by Caroline, wife of George IV.

St. James's Palace is divided into many sets of apartments and suites of rooms, and in this way resembles more the ancient than the modern idea of a palace. On its site once stood a hospital for fourteen leprous women, which was founded, as Stow quaintly says, "long before the time of any man's memory." Maitland says the hospital must have been standing before 1100 A.D., as it was then visited by the Abbot of Westminster. Eight brethren were subsequently added to the institution. Several benevolent bequests of land were made to it from time to time. In 1450 the custody of the hospital was granted perpetually to Eton College by Henry VI. In 1531 Henry VIII.[Pg 5] obtained some of the neighbouring land from the Abbey of Westminster, and in the following year he took the hospital also, giving lands in Suffolk in exchange for it. There is reason to believe that he pensioned off the ejected inmates. At any rate, having demolished the House of Mercy, he proceeded to build for himself a palace, which is supposed to have been planned by Holbein, under the direction of Cromwell, Earl of Essex. Henry VIII. was too much occupied in taking possession of Wolsey's palaces to bestow very much of his time on his own new building, though he occasionally resided here before he acquired Whitehall. Edward VI. did not live at St James's Palace regularly, but Queen Mary patronized it, preferring it to Whitehall. It was granted to Prince Henry during the reign of James I., and Charles I. spent the last three days before his execution here. The Prince known as the "Pretender" was born in one of the palace apartments, and many historians have commented on the fact that this chamber was conveniently near a small back-staircase, up which a new-born infant could have been smuggled. During the reign of King William the palace was fitted up as a residence for Prince George of Denmark and Princess Anne. When the Princess ascended the throne, the palace became the regular residence of the Court, which it continued to be until the[Pg 6] accession of Queen Victoria, who preferred Buckingham Palace.

The only parts remaining of King Henry's building are the gatehouse, some turrets, a mantelpiece in the presence chamber, which bears the initials H. and A. (Henry and Anne Boleyn) with a true lovers' knot, the Chapel Royal (which has, of course, been renovated), and the tapestry-room. Levées are still held at the palace.

On the west of the gatehouse a series of apartments were being prepared for the Duke of Clarence at the time of his death, and were afterwards assigned to the present Prince and Princess of Wales. At the west end is Clarence House, in the occupation of the Duke of Connaught. This was occupied by the King of Prussia and his sons on their visit to England in 1814. The Duchess of Kent resided here until 1861.

The Lord Chamberlain's offices and residence, and also the official residence of the Keeper of the Privy Purse, are among the official chambers in the palace. There are minor offices also, those of the Clerk of the Works, and the Gentlemen of the Wine Cellar; there are state apartments and the quarters of the Gentlemen at Arms and the Yeomen of the Guard. There are several courts in the palace, namely, the Ambassadors' Court, Engine Court, Friary Court, and Colour Court. There have been various chapels connected with[Pg 7] the palace, but the only two of importance are the Chapel Royal and German Chapel, which still remain.

The Chapel Royal is supposed to be on the site of the chapel of the ancient hospital, and various Norman remains dug up in the course of repairs favour this supposition. The roof is beautifully decorated in panels by Holbein; the date of its completion is supposed to be 1540. Prince George and Princess Anne; Frederick, Prince of Wales; George IV.; Queen Victoria; and the Empress Frederick, were all married in this Chapel.

The German Chapel was founded in 1700 by Princess Anne; service was held in it once on Sundays up to the present reign, but has now been discontinued.

Just opposite to the palace is Marlborough House, the residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales. The house was built in 1709 at the public expense, as a national compliment to the Duke of Marlborough. Sir Christopher Wren was the architect. After the death of the third Duke it was sublet to Leopold, subsequently King of the Belgians. Queen Adelaide lived in it after the death of King William IV. The building was afterwards used as a gallery for the pictures known as the Vernon Collection. But in 1850 it was settled on King Edward VII., then Prince of Wales, when he should attain his eighteenth year,[Pg 8] which he did nine years later. The interior is decorated with beautiful mural paintings executed by La Guerre; many of these represent the battles of the famous Duke of Marlborough. On the removal of the King to Buckingham Palace the present Prince of Wales comes in his turn to Marlborough House.

Carlton House Terrace owes its name to Carlton House, built by Henry Boyle, Baron Carlton, in Queen Anne's reign. It was afterwards sold to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and was occupied subsequently by George IV. before he succeeded to the throne. J. T. Smith says: "Many a saturnalia did those walls witness in the days of his hot youth." Princess Charlotte was born here. In 1811 the ceremony of conferring the regency upon Prince George was enacted at Carlton House, and in the June following the Prince gave a magnificent supper to 2,000 guests. In 1827 the house was pulled down. It stood right across the end of the present Waterloo Place, where now a flight of steps lead into the park. At the head of the steps is the York Column of granite, 124 feet high, designed by Wyatt, and surmounted by a figure of the Duke of York, son of George III.

One of the sights of London in the seventeenth century, was the garden which lay between St. James's Park and Charing Cross, called Spring Gardens. The place was laid out as a[Pg 9] bowling-green; it had also butts, a bathing-pond, a spring made to scatter water all around by turning a wheel. There was also an ordinary, which charged 6s. for a dinner—then an enormous price—and a tavern where drinking of wine was carried on all day long. In the "Character of England," 1659, attributed to Evelyn, the following account of Spring Gardens is found:

"The manner is as the company returned [from Hyde Park] to alight at the Spring Gardens so called, in order to the Parke, as our Thuilleries is to the Course; the inclosure not disagreeable, for the solemness of the grove is broken by the warbling of the birds, as it opens into the spacious walks at St. James's; but the company walk in it at such a rate, you would think that all the ladies were so many Atalantas contending with their wooers.... But fast as they run they stay there so long as if they wanted not time to finish the race; for it is usual here to find some of the young company till midnight; and the thickets of the garden seem to be contrived to all advantages of gallantry; after they have been refreshed with the collation, which is here seldom omitted, at a certain cabaret, in the middle of this paradise, where the forbidden fruits are certain trifling tarts, neats' tongues, salacious meats, and bad Rhenish; for which the gallants pay sauce, as indeed they do at all such houses throughout England."[Pg 10]

After the Restoration the gardens were built over. Prince Rupert lived here 1674-1682. Colley Cibber, actor and prolific dramatist, had a house "near Bull's Head Tavern in Spring Gardens, 1711-14"; Sir Philip Warwick and George Canning were also among the residents.

"Locket's ordinary, a house of entertainment much frequented by gentry," was on the site of Drummond's Bank:

"Come, at a crown ahead ourselves we'll treat:
Champagne our liquor, and ragouts our meat;
       *       *       *       *       * With evening wheels we'll drive about the Park,
Finish at Locket's, and reel home i' the dark."

Vague rumour assigns an earlier house to Cromwell on the same spot. The bank was established about 1712 by Mr. Andrew Drummond, a goldsmith. George III. transferred his account from Coutts' to Drummond's when he was displeased with the former firm, and he desired Messrs. Drummond to make no advances to Frederick, Prince of Wales, who also had an account here. This order was obeyed, with the consequences that in the succeeding reign the royal account was transferred again to Messrs. Coutts. The County Council offices are at present a very noticeable feature in Spring Gardens, and the aspect of the place is no longer rural.

The part of Whitehall included in St. Martin's[Pg 11] parish is not very large, yet it is of some importance. On the west side is Old Scotland Yard, for long associated with the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, now removed to New Scotland Yard. Stow says:

"On the left hand from Charing Cross are also divers tenements lately built till ye come to a large plot of ground inclosed with brick, and is called Scotland, where great buildings have been for receipt of the Kings of Scotland and other estates of that country, for Margaret Queen of Scots and sister to King Henry VIII. had her abiding here when she came to England after the death of her husband, as the Kings of Scotland had in former times when they came to the Parliament of England."

Here for some time was the official residence of the Surveyor of Works to the Crown, and Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren were both occupants. Sir J. Vanbrugh also resided at Scotland Yard, and as Secretary to the Council Milton had an official residence here before he went to Petty France, as described in the book on Westminster in the same series.

Craig's or Cragg's Court, in which is the Royal Almonry office, is shown in old maps. Strype speaks of it as a "very handsome large Court, with new buildings fit for gentry of Repute." It was built in 1702, and is supposed to have been[Pg 12] called after the father of Secretary Craggs, who was a friend of Pope and Addison. Woodfall, the publisher, had a West End office in the court, and Romney the painter lived there. There is a fine old Queen Anne house still standing at the back of the court.

Opposite Scotland Yard is the Admiralty, built round a courtyard, and hidden by a stone screen surmounted by sea-horses. The screen was the work of the brothers Adam, and was put up to hide a building which even the taste of George III.'s reign declared to be insufferable. This had been built for the Admiralty in 1726, and replaced old Wallingford House, so called from its first owner, Viscount Wallingford, who built it in the reign of James I. George Villiers, the well-known Duke of Buckingham, bought the house, and used it until his death. Archbishop Usher saw the execution of Charles I. from the roof, and swooned with horror at the sight. The house was occupied by Cromwell's son-in-law, General Fleetwood, and in 1680 became Government property. In one of the large rooms the body of Nelson lay in state before his national funeral.

St. Catherine's Hermitage, Charing Cross, stood somewhere near Charing Cross. It is believed to have been about the position of the post-office. It belonged to the See of Llandaff, and was occasionally used as a lodging by such Bishops of[Pg 13] that See as came to attend the Court and had no town-house.

St. Mary Rounceval, on the site of Northumberland House, was founded by William Marischal, Earl of Pembroke, in Henry III.'s reign. The Earl gave several tenements to the Prior of Rounceval, in Navarre, who established here the chief house of the priory in England. The hospital was finally suppressed by Edward VI. The little village of Charing then stood between London and Westminster. It formed part of the great demesne belonging to the Abbey of Westminster, and was inhabited chiefly by Thames fishermen, who had a settlement on the bank, and by the farmers of the Westminster estates. The derivation of the name from La Chère Reine is purely fanciful.

There is certainly no part of London which has been so much changed as Charing Cross. In other parts the houses are changed, but the streets remain. Here the whole disposition of the streets has been transformed. The secondary part of the name recalls the beautiful cross, the last of the nine which marked the places where Queen Eleanor's coffin rested on its journey from Lincolnshire to Westminster Abbey. The cross was destroyed by the fanatical zeal of the Reformers. The equestrian statue of Charles I., cast in 1633 by Le Sœur, occupies the site of the[Pg 14] cross. It had not been set up when the Civil War broke out, and was sold by the Parliament to John Rivit, a brazier, who lived by the Holborn Conduit, on condition that it should be broken up. John Rivit, however, buried the statue, and dug it up again after the Restoration. It was not until 1674 that it was actually erected, on a new pedestal made by Grinling Gibbons, in the place which it now occupies, which is the site of the old cross, the place where the regicides were executed, and where the Charing Cross pillory stood. It is curious to remark on the preservation of the site of the cross. It was apparently railed in; some of the stones of which it was made were used in paving Whitehall. Ballads were written on its destruction:

"Undone, undone, the lawyers are;
They wander about the towne,
Nor can find the way to Westminster
Now Charing Cross is downe.
At the end of the Strand they make a stand,
Swearing they are at a loss,
And chaffing say that's not the way,
They must go by Charing Cross."


Many of the regicides were executed at this spot in Charles II.'s reign, within sight of the place where they had murdered their King. These men, according to the brutal temper of the times, were cut down when half hanged and disem[Pg 15]bowelled before a great concourse of people. Pepys mentions going to the executions as to a show. Later the pillory stood here in which, among others, Titus Oates suffered. But, besides these dismal reminiscences, Charing Cross was at one time famed for its taverns and festive places of amusement, and was the resort of wits and literati in the eighteenth century. Dr. Johnson speaks of the "full tide of human existence" being at Charing Cross, and if he could see it now he might be confirmed in his opinion.

At the top of the present Northumberland Avenue stood formerly Northumberland House, the last of the Strand palaces to be destroyed, and until its destruction the chief glory and ornament of the street and Charing Cross. It was never an episcopal palace, having been built in 1605 by the Earl of Northampton; from him it went to the Earl of Suffolk, and was called for a time Suffolk House; in 1642 it fell into the hands of the Earl of Northumberland, and by marriage into those of the Duke of Somerset until 1749, when the daughter of the Duke of Somerset succeeded, and by her marriage with Sir Hugh Smithson the house became the property of this family, now Dukes of Northumberland, until its compulsory sale in the year 1874. The house originally consisted of three sides of a quadrangle, the fourth side lying open with gardens stretching[Pg 16] down to the river. The front was wrongly attributed to Inigo Jones. The house had been repaired or rebuilt in many places, so that there was not much that was ancient left in its later days. By the side of Northumberland House formerly ran Hartshorn Lane, now entirely obliterated. Ben Jonson was born here, and lived here in his childhood.

Trafalgar Square was built over the site of what was formerly the Royal Mews, a building of very ancient foundation; and a rookery of obscure and ill-famed lanes and alleys on the west and north of St. Martin's Church, popularly known as the Bermudas, and afterwards the Caribbean Islands. In the midst of the mews stood a small and remarkable building called Queen Elizabeth's Bath. It is almost impossible to estimate the difference between the then and the now, in regard to this particular part. St. Martin's Lane continued right up to Northumberland House, where the lion of the proud Percies stiffened his tail on the parapet. The house stood across the present head of Northumberland Avenue. The Royal Mews themselves were where the fountains now splash, and on the further side of them was Hedge Lane.

Pennant says the Mews was so called from having been used for the King's falcons—at least, from the time of Richard III. to Henry VIII. In the latter King's reign the royal horses were[Pg 17] stabled here, but the name Mews was retained, and has come to be applied to any town range of stabling. The mews were removed to make way for the National Gallery about 1834. Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet, was Clerk of the King's Works, and of the Mews at Charing about the end of Richard II.'s reign. During the Commonwealth Colonel Joyce was imprisoned in the Mews by order of Oliver Cromwell.

It is supposed that we are indebted to William IV. for the idea of a square to be called Trafalgar in honour of Nelson, and to contain some worthy memorial of the hero. The total height of the monument, designed by Railton, is 193 feet, and its design is from that of one of the columns of the Temple of Mars at Rome. The statue, which looks so small from the ground, is really 17 feet high, nearly three times the height of a man; it was the work of E. H. Baily, R.A. The pedestal has bronze bas-reliefs on its four sides, representing the four greatest of Nelson's battles, Trafalgar, St. Vincent, Aboukir, and Copenhagen. The massive lions on the extended pedestal were designed by Sir Edwin Landseer.

Of the other statues, that of George IV. is by Sir Francis Chantrey, and was originally intended for the top of the Marble Arch, and that of General Gordon was designed by Hamo Thorneycroft. Bronze blocks let into the north wall of[Pg 18] the square contain the measures of the secondary standards of length, and were inserted here in 1876 by the Standards Department of the Board of Trade. The Union Club and College of Physicians are on the west side of the square. The latter was founded by Dr. Linacre, physician to King Henry VIII.

The National Gallery was not designed as it now stands, but grew gradually. The idea of a collection of national pictures began in 1824, when the Angerstein Collection of thirty-eight pictures was purchased. The building began in 1832, and was opened six years later, but there were then only six rooms devoted to the national collection, the remainder being used by the Royal Academy of Arts. The Academy, however, betook itself to Burlington House in 1869, and subsequently the National Gallery was enlarged, and is now well worthy of its name. The English are taunted with not being an artistic nation; this may be, but they recognise merit when they see it, and the national collection need fear comparison with no other in the world. The sections of the gallery include Italian schools, schools of the Netherlands and Germany, Spanish, French, and British schools; in the last named the Turner Collection claims two rooms.

St. Martin's Church was founded by Henry VIII., who disliked to see the funerals of the inhabi[Pg 19]tants passing through Whitehall on their way to St. Margaret's, Westminster, but there had probably been an ecclesiastical building on or near this site from a very early date. In 1222 there was a controversy between the Bishop of London and the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's on the one hand and the Abbot and Canons of Westminster on the other, as to the exemption of the chapel and convent of the latter from the jurisdiction of the former. The matter was settled in favour of Westminster. It is probable that this chapel was for the use of the monks when they visited their convent garden.

In 1721 the old church was pulled down, and a new one built from the designs of Gibbs the architect, whose bust stands in the building near the entrance. A rate was levied on the parish for expenses, but money poured in so liberally that a gift of £500 toward the enrichment of the altar was declined.

The building has been derided, but it has the merit of a bold conception. Ralph in "Publick Buildings" says: "The portico is at once elegant and august, and the steeple above it ought to be considered one of the most tolerable in town. The east end is remarkably elegant, and very justly challenges a particular applause; in short, if there is anything wanting in this fabric, it is a little more elevation."[Pg 20]

The only original features in the interior are the two royal pews, not now used, which look down on the altar. St. Martin's is the royal parish, including in its boundaries Buckingham Palace and St. James's, but the births of the Royal Family are not registered here, as has been frequently stated. There is no monument in the church of any intrinsic interest, and the only other noticeable details are two beautiful mosaic panels on either side of the chancel, put up by Lady Frederick Cavendish to the memory of her husband.

Among the names of those buried in the old church is that of Vansomer, a portrait-painter. Nell Gwynne, Roubiliac, and Jack Sheppard—whose first theft took place at Rummer's Tavern, near Charing Cross—lie in the burial-ground. There is a large crypt, with vaulted roof, below the church, and here are several monuments from the old building, and also the ancient whipping-post.

Before the erection of the palaces along the riverside the fishermen of the Thames lived beside the river bank at Charing Cross. A piece of ground in the churchyard of St. Martin's was set apart for their use and kept separate. Meantime, as one after the other of the Bishops' town-houses were built, the fishermen found themselves pushed farther up the river, until finally they were fairly driven away, and established themselves at[Pg 21] Lambeth, where the last of them lived in the early part of the nineteenth century. Their burial-ground, meantime, was preserved even after they had disappeared. The churchyard of St. Martin's was curtailed in 1826, and the parish burial-ground removed to Pratt Street, Camden Town.

Behind the National Gallery is the National Portrait Gallery, opened in 1896, and opposite to it St. Martin's Town Hall, with the parish emblem—St. Martin dividing his cloak with a beggar—in bas-relief on the frontage.

Charing Cross Road is very modern. It was opened in 1887, and swept over a number of narrow courts and alleys.

For St. Martin's Lane, see p. 16.

In this is the Public Library, where some watercolours and old prints of vanished houses are hung on the staircase. There is also the eighteenth-century plan from Strype's Survey, well worth studying.

Leicester Square, at first known as Leicester Fields, is associated with the Sidneys, Earls of Leicester, who had a town-house on the north side, where the Empire Music-hall is now. This was a large brick building, with a courtyard before it and a Dutch garden at the back. During the reign of Charles I. and in the time of the Commonwealth the Sidneys tenanted it, but later it was[Pg 22] occupied by foreign Ambassadors. Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, took it in 1662, and afterwards it was aptly described by Pennant as "the pouting-place of Princes"; for George, son of George I., established here a rival Court when he had quarrelled with his father, and his son Frederick, the Prince of Wales, did precisely the same thing. During the latter tenancy a large building adjoining, called Savile or Ailesbury House, was amalgamated with Leicester House. George III. was living here when hailed King. Savile House stood until the Gordon Riots, when it was completely stripped and gutted by the rioters. The square was presented to the public in 1874 by Baron Albert Grant, M.P. The gift is recorded on the pedestal of the statue of Shakespeare standing in the centre.

The square was for long a favourite place for duels. A line drawn diagonally from the north-east to the south-west corner roughly indicates the boundary of St Martin's parish, the upper half of the square being in St. Anne's, Soho.

The associations of this part are numerous and very interesting. The busts of the four men standing in the corners of the centre garden have all some local connection. They are those of Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Isaac Newton, and John Hunter. Hogarth's house was on the[Pg 23] east, on the site of Tenison's School, and next to it was that of John Hunter, the famous surgeon. Sir Joshua Reynolds bought No. 47 on the west side in 1760, and lived in it until his death. Sir Isaac Newton lived in the little street off the south side of the square, at the back of the big new Dental Hospital. His house is still standing, and bears a tablet of the Society of Arts. It is quite unpretentious—a stucco-covered building with little dormer-windows in the roof. The great scientist came here in 1710, when he was nearly sixty, and his fame was then world-wide. Men from all parts of Europe sought the dull little street in order to converse with one whose power had wrought a revolution in the methods of scientific thought. In the same house Miss Burney afterwards lived with her father. Sir Thomas Lawrence took apartments at No. 4, Leicester Square, in 1786, when only seventeen, but he had already begun to exhibit at the Royal Academy. The square was for long a favourite place of residence with foreigners, and has not even yet lost a slightly un-English aspect.

Archbishop Tenison's School is at the south-east corner of the square. Its founder, who was successively Bishop of Lincoln and Archbishop of Canterbury, intended that it should counterbalance a flourishing Roman Catholic school in the Savoy precincts. Among old boys may be[Pg 24] mentioned Postlethwaite, afterwards Master of St. Paul's; Charles Mathews, when very young; Horne Tooke a former Lord Mayor of London; and Liston who was for a time usher.

As stated above, the northern half of the square is in the parish of St. Anne's, Soho, a parish now tenanted to a very large extent by foreigners, chiefly French and Italians. Shaftesbury Avenue, running diagonally through the parish, is of very recent origin.

Soho has been derived from the watchword of Monmouth at Sedgemoor, because the Duke had a house in Soho, then King's Square. It is much more likely that the reverse is the case, and the Duke took the watchword from the locality in which he lived, for the word Soho occurs in the rate-books long before the Battle of Sedgemoor was fought. In 1634 So-howe appears in State papers; and various other spellings are extant, as Soe-hoe, So-hoe. This district was at one time a favourite hunting-ground, and Halliwell-Phillipps in the "Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words" suggests that the name has arisen from a favourite hunting cry, "So-ho!"

The parish was first made independent of St. Martin's in 1678. Soho has always been a favourite locality with foreigners. There were three distinct waves of emigration which flooded over it: first after the revocation of the Edict of[Pg 25] Nantes in 1635; then in 1798, during the Reign of Terror; and thirdly in 1871, when many Communists who had escaped from Paris found their way to England. At the present time half the population of the parish consists of foreigners, of which French and Italians preponderate, but Swiss, Germans, and specimens of various other nationalities, are frequently to be met with in the streets.

The parish church of St. Anne's was so named "after the mother of the Virgin Mary and in compliment to Princess Anne." The site was a piece of ground known as Kemp's Field, and the architect selected was Sir Christopher Wren. The building is in all respects like others of its period, but has a curious spire added later. This has been described as "two hogsheads placed crosswise, in the ends of which are the dials of the clock," and above is a kind of pyramid, ending in a vane.

The old churchyard lies above the level of the street, and has been turned into a public garden. Facing the principal entrance in Wardour Street is a stone monument to King Theodore of Corsica, and a small crown on the stone marks his rank. King Theodore died in this parish December 11, 1756, immediately after leaving the King's Bench Prison, by the benefit of the Act of Insolvency, in consequence of which he [Pg 26]registered his kingdom of Corsica for the use of his creditors.

His epitaph was written by Horace Walpole:

"The grave, great teacher, to a level brings
Heroes and beggars, galley slaves and kings.
But Theodore this moral learned ere dead:
Fate poured its lessons on his living head,
Bestowed a kingdom, but denied him bread."

Close by is a monument to the essayist Hazlitt, born 1778, died 1830. The inscription says that he lived to see his deepest wishes gratified as he expressed them in his essay on the "Fear of Death," and proceeds to set forth at considerable length the tenor of those wishes.

During the dinner-hour, when the weather is fine, the graveyard seats are filled by the very poorest of the poor, many of them aliens, far from their own country, and sad beneath the gray skies of the land that gives them bread, but denies them sun.

In the registers are recorded the baptisms of two of the children of George II., and five of the children of Frederick, Prince of Wales, born at Leicester House, in this parish.

Wardour Street has long been celebrated for its shops of old china, bric-à-brac, and furniture. It can claim Flaxman among its bygone residents.

Dean Street is a long and narrow thoroughfare, a favourite residence with artists at the end[Pg 27] of the eighteenth century; the names of Hayman, Baily, Ward, and Belines are all to be found here in association. Sir James Thornhill lived at No. 75, where there are the remains of some curious staircase paintings by him, in the composition of which he is said to have been assisted by his son-in-law, Hogarth. Turner, the father of the great painter, was a hairdresser in Dean Street, and Nollekens' father died in No. 28. In the house adjoining the Royalty Theatre Madame Vestris was born.

Frith Street in old maps is marked "Thrift Street," a name by no means inappropriate at the present time. It also has its associations, and can claim the birth of Sir Samuel Romilly, the great law reformer, who lived until the early part of the nineteenth century, and whose father was a jeweller here; the early boyhood of Mozart, and the death of Hazlitt, which took place in furnished lodgings. The failure of his publishers had made him short of money; he was harassed by pecuniary cares, yet his last words were: "I've had a happy life."

The following advertisement bearing date March 8, 1765, is worth quotation: "Mr. Mozart, the father of the celebrated Young Musical Family who have so justly raised the Admiration of the greatest musicians of Europe, proposes to give the Public an opportunity of hearing these[Pg 28] young Prodigies perform both in public and private, by giving on the 13th of this month a concert which will be chiefly conducted by his Son, a boy of eight years of age, with all the overtures of his own composition. Tickets may be had at 5s. each at Mr. Mozart's, or at Mr. Williamson's in Thrift Street, Soho, where Ladies and Gentlemen will find the Family at Home every day in the week from 12 to 2 o'clock and have an opportunity of putting his talents to a more particular proof by giving him anything to play at sight or any Music without a Bass, which he will write upon the spot without recurring to his harpsichord."

In this street there are many interesting relics of bygone splendour. No. 9—now to let—has a splendid well staircase with spiral balusters. The walls and ceiling of this are lined with oil-paintings of figures larger than life. These have unfortunately been somewhat knocked about during successive tenancies, but clearly show that the house was one of considerable importance in past times. It was in lodgings in this street that Mrs. Inchbald wrote her "Simple Story," published 1791, in four volumes, which was an immediate success. She was an actress as well as an author, and a friend of the Kembles. Her dramatic writings were very many.

At No. 13, Greek Street were Wedgwood's[Pg 29] exhibition-rooms. In No. 27 De Quincey used to sleep on the floor by permission of Brumel, the money-lender's attorney.

On the other side of Shaftesbury Avenue, and parallel with it, is Gerrard Street, a dingy, unpretending place, but thick with memories and associations. It was built about 1681, and was called after Gerard, Earl of Macclesfield. Wheatley quotes from the Bagford MSS. of the British Museum to the effect that "Henry, Prince of Wales, son of James I., caused a piece of ground near Leicester Fields to be walled in for the exercise of arms. Here he built a house, which was standing at the Restoration. It afterwards fell into the hands of Lord Gerard, who let the ground out to build upon." Hatton speaks of "Macclesfield House, alias Gerrard House, a well-built structure situate in Gerrard Street ... now (1708) in possession of Lord Mohun." Dryden lived in Gerrard Street in a house on the site of one marked by a tablet of the Society of Arts. He died here, and his funeral was interrupted by a drunken frolic of Mohocks headed by Lord Jeffreys. Close by is an hotel, where once Edmund Burke resided; opposite to him J. T. Smith lodged, as he tells us in "Nollekens and his Times," and he could look into Burke's rooms when they were lighted, and see the patient student at work until the small hours[Pg 30] of the morning. Charles Kemble and his family also resided in this street.

On the site of the Westminster General Dispensary was a tavern named the Turk's Head, where the well-known literary club had its origin. The members were at first twelve in number, including Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, Edmund Burke, Dr. Nugent, Topham Beauclerk, Mr. Langton, Dr. Goldsmith, and Sir J. Hawkins. In 1772 the number of the members was increased to twenty, and instead of meeting weekly, on Mondays, for a supper, they met every fortnight, on a Friday, and dined together. David Hume was here in 1758, and the actor Edmund Kean passed most of his boyhood in this street, sheltered by a couple who had adopted him when his mother deserted him in Frith Street. All his early boyhood is associated with this neighbourhood; he was found in Frith Street, and his schools were in Orange Court, Leicester Square, and Chapel Street, Soho. The dispensary is in itself interesting, being one of the very oldest institutions of the kind, established in 1774.

Charing Cross Road follows very nearly the course of the old Hog Lane, later Crown Street, which bounded the parish on the east. St. Mary the Virgin's Church is on the west side, and the building has had many vicissitudes. In 1677 it was erected by the Greek congregation in Soho, and had the distinction of being the first church[Pg 31] of that community in England. It was afterwards used by a French Protestant community, and then by a body of Dissenters. In 1849 it stood in imminent peril of being turned into a dancing-saloon, but was rescued and became Church of England.

The very centre and nucleus of the parish has always been Soho Square, which was built in the reign of Charles II., and was at first called King Square—not in compliment to the monarch, but after a man named Gregory King, who was associated with the earliest buildings. It is a place of singular attractiveness, an oasis in a desert; many of the houses are picturesque. The square garden is not large, but it is planted with fine trees. From the very beginning the square was an aristocratic locality, and the houses tenanted by the nobility; the most important of these, Monmouth House, occupied the whole of the southern side. This was architecturally a very extraordinary building, and the interior was very magnificent. "The principal room on the ground-floor was a dining-room, the carved and gilt panels of which contained whole-length pictures. The principal room on the first-floor was lined with blue satin superbly decorated with pheasants and other birds in gold. The chimneypiece was richly ornamented with fruit and foliage; in the centre, within a wreath of dark leaves, was[Pg 32] a circular recess for a bust" ("Nollekens and his Times").

The Duke of Monmouth obtained the site for this house in 1681, but he did not long enjoy his possession, for four years later he suffered the penalty of his pretensions and was executed. The house was later occupied by successive French Ambassadors; it was demolished in 1773. The houses at present standing at the south end of the square must have been built immediately after the destruction of Monmouth House, and possibly the materials of the older building were used in their construction. The Hospital for Women shows some traces of former grandeur in panelled rooms and decorative cornices. The hospital was only established in these quarters in 1851, so the house may have had fashionable tenants before.

On the same side is the Rectory House, which was probably built directly after the demolition of Monmouth House in 1773. Here there are to be found all the characteristics of an eighteenth-century building, including a decorative ceiling by Flaxman. In the south-west corner of the square there is the house in which is now the Hospital for Diseases of the Heart and Paralysis. This was at one time the headquarters of the Linnæan Society, before its removal to Burlington House. It contains some beautiful ceilings and cornices, and one room, now a female ward, is[Pg 33] worthy of special notice. A very lofty arched ceiling of rather unusual construction is beautifully decorated, and the overmantel and fireplace are exquisite.

In the opposite or south-east corner of the square is the House of Charity. This was formerly the residence of Alderman Beckford, twice Lord Mayor of London in George III.'s reign, who was credited with being the only man of his day who dared tell the King the truth to his face. His son was the author of "Vathek." The house is now a house of mercy, for the assistance of orphans, homeless girls, and all who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without a roof to shelter them or work to do. The charity is Church of England, and under the direction of a Warden and Council. The fine decorative wooden overmantels and doorways still remain, and the joints and edges of the panels are all carved, which gives a very handsome appearance to some of the rooms. The council-room ceiling is a large oval with the figures of four cherubic boys in relief, carrying respectively flowers, a bird, fire, and water, to represent the four elements.

One of the former famous houses in the square was Carlisle House. The walls were of red brick, and the date on the cisterns 1669, the date of the creation of the earldom of Carlisle. In its later days the house became notorious from its connec[Pg 34]tion with Mrs. Cornelys, the daughter of an actor, who was born at Venice in 1723, and who, after a tarnished career in various Continental towns as a public singer, came to the King's Theatre, London, to take part in one of Gluck's operas. She took possession of Carlisle House, and projected a series of society entertainments, which proved a marvellous success. The square was blocked with the coaches and chairs of her patrons. In Taylor's "Records of my Life" it is stated she had as many as 600 persons in her saloon at one time, at two guineas per head. Foreign Ministers, many of the nobility, scions of royalty, flocked to her rooms. She spent profusely and lavishly. The decorations were superb, the entertainments magnificent, in the ceremonious and rather affected style of the period. In 1770 she was at the climax of prosperity. "Galas, masquerades, and festivals, all equally splendid, succeeded one another throughout the season" (Clinch); but after her sky-rocket ascent came the fall: fickle Fashion deserted her, and finally the house and its contents were announced in the Gazette for sale. The Pantheon had proved too formidable a rival. In 1785 the property was in Chancery, and Mrs. Cornelys died in the Fleet Prison in 1797. The banqueting-hall in Sutton Street, attached to Carlisle House by a covered way, was converted into the Chapel of St. Patrick,[Pg 35] and where masqueraders had revelled priests heard confession. This also eventually disappeared, to make way for the present church, which is such a feature of the square; it stands at the corner of Sutton Street, and bears the name of its predecessor. It was opened 1893, and its campanile reaches a height of 125 feet. Within the porch is a beautiful marble group of the dead Christ, supported by an angel. The pictures inside are exceptionally valuable and beautiful, including paintings by Vandyke, Murillo, Carlo Dolci, Paul Veronese (attributed), and many others. On the opposite side of the street Messrs. Crosse and Blackwell's factory also covers a house owning historical associations. No. 21 was the "White House," and 22, "Falconberg House," in former times. The latter was the residence of Oliver Cromwell's third daughter, Lady Falconberg, who died in 1712. Sutton Street takes its name from the county seat of the Falconbergs. In this house Sir Cloudesley Shovel's body lay in state before its interment, after having been found cast up on one of the Scilly Islands. A Spanish Ambassador was among the later residents, and afterwards the house was for a time an hotel. In the large drawing-room the ceiling was painted by Angelica Kauffmann. The Duke of Argyll, the Earl of Bradford, and Speaker Onslow, were among its tenants. This house is now the offices[Pg 36] of Messrs. Crosse and Blackwell. The painted ceiling was carefully taken down and saved from destruction by one of the heads of the firm. The chief articles of interest remaining are a handsome overmantel in one of the private rooms of the firm, and a curious ceiling. The former is of wood, and is varnished and painted in various tones of bronze and gold. The carving upon it is very elaborate and enigmatical. The panelled ceiling has some affinity with it, but has been modernized, and is not so interesting. The front of the house remains as it was, and claims to be the only original frontage in the square.

The centre of the square, when first laid out, was occupied by a fountain surmounted by a statue of Charles II. in armour, the work of Colley Cibber. Clinch in "Soho and its Associations" mentions a document of 1748, still extant, in which are recorded the subscriptions made by the inhabitants to replace the wooden palisades round the square by iron railings. This is headed by £300 from the Duke of Portland, and among the names are those of many titled and influential people, showing that fashion had not then migrated westward. It was on the doorstep of a house in the square that De Quincey sank dying of exhaustion and starvation during his first novitiate of London life, and he was only saved by his faithful companion Ann.[Pg 37]

And Last updated on: Thursday, 07-Jan-2021 11:09:06 GMT