Category Archives: Architecture

The Story of a Square 8: Soho Square

Soho Square was built in the 1680s by Richard Frith who had obtained a license indirectly from the landowner, the Earl of St Albans. The area had been farmland that had become a popular location for hunting and the most likely origin of the area’s name is that ‘So-Ho!’ was a hunting cry. By the 1670s building in the area was gaining momentum and it was popular with significant courtiers and aristocrats.

The Square had forty one houses by 1691 of which the most significant was Monmouth House on the south side, London home of Charles II’s illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth. The print of c. 1700 below looks south across the Square towards Monmouth House with its forecourt behind railings. Monmouth was executed after his failed rebellion against his uncle, King James II, in 1685. The house was eventually demolished in 1783. In John Evelyn’s Diary he records spending the winter of 1690 ‘at Soho, in the great Square.’

The Square was also known as King Square after Charles II. In 1720 John Strype wrote that the Square ‘hath very good Buildings on all Sides, especially the East and South, which are well inhabited by Nobility and Gentry.’ He described the garden in the centre as ‘a very large and open place, enclosed with a high Pallisado Pale, the Square within neatly kept, with Walks and Grass-plots, and in the midst is the Effigy of King Charles the Second, neatly cut in Stone to the Life, standing on a pedestal.’ It stood in a basin of water with figures representing the rivers Thames, Trent, Humber and Severn. The sculptor was Caius Gabriel Cibber. Stow’s view below looks north.

Soho or King’s Square, for ‘Stow’s Survey of London’, pub. 1754 by Nicholls, Sutton (fl.1700-40); hand coloured copper engraving; (out of copyright)

In 1748 a new wall and railings were erected. By 1839 the statues was ‘in a most wretchedly mutilated state’ and in the 1870s it was removed and sold, the last owner being  W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan fame. A half-timbered tool shed was erected in its place. The statue was returned in 1938, but without its basin. The view is looking south to where Monmouth House once stood.

The most fashionable residents abandoned Soho Square in the 1770s and moved westwards towards Mayfair but the area remained respectable and desirable and many merchants and country gentlemen had houses there, with various foreign diplomatic missions as neighbours.

By the beginning of the 19th century the residents were mainly professional men such as lawyers, doctors, architects and auctioneers. On the corner with Greek Street is what is now the House of St Barnabas, a Grade I Listed house built between 1744-7 and leased in 1754 to Richard Beckford, an immensely wealthy Jamaican plantation owner. It is now a charity for the homeless – one wonders what the slave-owning Mr Beckford would have made of that.

In 1816 Trotter’s, or the Soho Bazaar, was opened at what is now 4-6, Soho Square.  John Trotter was an army contractor and had built numbers 4, 5 and 6 as a warehouse. Having made a vast fortune from the war he turned his warehouse into a bazaar, or indoor market, to offer an outlet for craftwork created by the widows and daughters of army officers. They could rent a counter or stall at a cost of 3d per day per foot and sold jewellery, millinery, baskets, gloves, lace, potted plants and books. There was also a druggist in the bazaar, as a charming children’s book entitled A Visit to the Bazaar (1818) shows. The little book was intended to explain the origins of such goods along with moral lessons and instructions on how to make some of them.

The highly successful venture was patronised by the royal family and lasted until 1885.

If you leave the Square today and go around to Dean Street you can peer through the iron gates at the back of the original warehouse.

The print of 1812 shows the south-west corner of the Square. Frith Street enters to the left and the entrance to Carlyle Street can be seen top right. A mixed herd of cattle and sheep are being driven towards Greek Street, perhaps heading for one of the butchers serving the numerous eating houses in the district.

Soho is a fascinating area to explore. You can find it in Walk 5 in my Walking Jane Austen’s London and Walks 5 and 6 in Walks Through Regency London and discover its treasures, even at this difficult time, with the help of StreetView.

1 Comment

Filed under Architecture, Buildings, Employment, Royal family, Shopping, Walks

Living In History

I nearly always blog about the ‘long’ Regency, the era in which almost all my books are set, but like most of us who are passionate about history, any opportunity to get closer to it fires the imagination. One of the best ways of doing that is living in an historic building. Some people are lucky enough to own one, but for the rest of us the Landmark Trust provides brilliant opportunities to live in eras ranging from the Middle Ages to the mid 20th century.

This month I have stayed in three West County Landmarks – two castles (nothing says Social Distancing like a castle), one medieval and one Tudor, and a Listed mid-century house and I thought I’d share them with you.

The first is Stogursey Castle near Bridgwater in Somerset, that just happened to be built by my husband’s distant great grandfather, William de Curci. Stoke de Curci was corrupted into Stogursey, hence the unusual name..

The castle itself is a ruin of curtain walls surrounding the central space where the keep used to stand.

The castle gradually fell into disrepair after the Wars of the Roses but the gatehouse, was  converted into a cottage in the 17th century. One side incorporates the base of a tower and the rest fits into the section where the gate itself would be. It was repaired in the 19th century and then fell into almost terminal decline until rescued by the Trust who discovered a bridge of about 1300 in the process.

We were enchanted to have a sitting room with arrow-slit windows.

The best view was just after sunrise and the only disappointment was that we couldn’t raise a drawbridge. Several walkers came and knocked, clearly under the impression that we could sell them tickets to get inside!

From Stogursey we went to Anderton House, near Barnstable, and couldn’t have found a greater contrast. The house was commissioned in 1969 and is one of the few houses of the period to have Grade II* Listed status.

The view was wonderful and we enjoyed the simple. pared-back design. In the centre, between the living room and kitchen/dining room was a small, open study space (the white wall behind the sofa), as specified by the original owner, who liked to work in the heart of things. I even managed to write a chapter there on a rainy day.

From our 20th century comforts we travelled on to the South Devon coast and Kingswear Castle, opposite Dartmouth Castle. Kingswear Castle was completed in 1502, a Tudor fortlet to defend a significant harbour.  The position is dramatic, the steps (inside and out) guarantee toned calf muscles by the end of the stay and the views are amazing. Here’s the castle from the opposite bank –

And here is the view across the River Dart to Dartmouth Castle in the early morning.

Stogursey Castle gave me the opportunity to soak up general atmosphere but Kingswear has far more practical experiences. The castle was, when it was built, absolutely state of the art. It possessed the first gun ports that allowed cannon to be trained in a wide sweep of fire and these gun ports remain on the lowest level in the gun battery (picture below). They are low in the walls because the guns were on wooden sledges, not on wheels, and were dragged into position. Above some of them you can see the small apertures that may have been sighting holes for the gunners. Even with the primitive cannon of the time the pair of forts between them could cover the width of the river.

Then artillery design improved and the range rapidly increased to the point where Dartmouth Castle alone could fire right across the estuary and Kingswear became more or less redundant after fifty years. It was manned during times of emergency and saw some action during the Civil War, but then there was a fire and it was allowed to fall into decay. In 1855 a wealthy young man, Charles Hayne Seale Hayne (yes, that is the correct name), bought it and turned it into his summer residence. He later became an MP and held office in Gladstone’s government. After his death it had several owners, was occupied by the Marines during the 2nd World War and was rescued again in 1957 by the MP for Torquay as his constituency home. In 1987 he sold it to the Landmark Trust.

Living in the castle now, one has the benefit of a modern kitchen and comfortable sitting room and bedroom, but there are constant reminders of the original purpose of the castle. There is modern plumbing in a bathroom on the roof, in the position where a firing platform would have allowed defenders to shoot at attackers on the landward side – the slope is so steep that the top of the castle is virtually at the level where today one parks the car. This meant that I could conveniently arrange the contents of my washbag in the sockets that carried the beams supporting the platform and could brush my teeth imagining the gunfire and shouts echoing overhead.

The position of the bathroom meant that one had regular experience of living with a stone spiral staircase spanning four floors. It was tough enough in modern clothing and not carrying anything, but negotiating it at night gave me a vivid sense of what it must have been like for defenders, probably in some kind of armour or chainmail, hurrying up and down during an attack. [The image below has been copied from the Landmark Trust website] It also made me wish that the Landmark Trust had seen fit to reinstall the garderobe which was discovered in the alcove that Seale Hayne had used as a wine cupboard and into which a later occupant had installed a large window. It is now in the bedroom.

 

 

Finally, to top off Kingswear’s historical experience, there is the 2nd World War blockhouse.

I look back on ten days experience of the Middle Ages, the early 16thc, the English Civil War, the 2nd World War and the 1970s with my imagination stimulated and ideas jostling for attention – and of course, in expeditions out from our Landmarks I discovered treasures that fitted ‘my’ period perfectly – a very early steam engine and a delicious little Regency ‘Gothic’ house in Totnes, which is surely going to have a place in a future book.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Buildings, Domestic life, Military, Rivers

The Ghost of a Georgian Prison

I was in Devon recently and, crossing Dartmoor, stopped outside Princetown to look at the gloomy bulk of Dartmoor prison. It isn’t easy to stop and look at the place, let alone take photographs, for obvious security reasons, but these were taken from a legitimate parking space beyond the town.

It is often assumed, possibly because of its looming presence in Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, that it is a Victorian  prison and, as a prison for convicted criminals, it is certainly that. The first arrived in 1850, transferred from the rotting prison hulks on the Thames, and the buildings we can see today were built by, and for, those men and their successors.

However, the first stones were laid on the site in March 1806 on land owned by the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent). There was no village there, merely farms and an inn. The government had realized that the prison hulks at Portsmouth and other harbours could no longer cope with the flood of prisoners of war from the Napoleonic Wars. Prisoners were dying in large numbers from disease and it became clear that a new land-based prison was necessary. Britain was at war with France from 1793 to 1815 and it is estimated that over 100,000 prisoners, mainly naval, were landed in England during that period.

Officers were easy to deal with. By definition they were ‘gentlemen’ and could therefore be relied upon to keep their word of honour. If they gave their parole, a promise in writing not to escape, they were allowed to live in lodgings in one of the numerous parole towns, mainly near the coast. There were eleven in Hampshire alone.

Ordinary soldiers and sailors and non-commissioned officers were not trusted and had to be confined. Norman Cross prison near Peterborough had been established as early as 1797, but that was not enough and the hulks had proved an inadequate, lethal, alternative.

The new prison at what became known as Princetown, built at a cost or £200,000, received its first prisoners on 22nd May 1809. In September 1810 Ackermann’s Repository published a plan of Dartmoor Prison & English Barracks.

The vast majority of the structures seen in the plan were demolished from 1850 onwards as ‘modern’ cell blocks were built, but, extraordinarily, the basic shape and some features remain in the present prison. If you look at the satellite view of the prison you will see the circular shape has been retained, that the old barracks have gone, but Barrack Road still runs through the site and the entrance gates and the outlet for the aqueduct remain. It is even possible to trace the shape of the entrance yards and the line of the wall that cuts across the circle is still visible. Even the layout of the blocks, radiating outwards, preserves the footprint of the original structures. Presumably one was demolished and rebuilt at a time.

The Repository provides a helpful key. Starting from the bottom of the picture, outside the gates, is Aqueduct to supply prison with water and Pond of water. Opposite is The Grand entrance; with the inscription ‘Parcere subjectis’ cut in the stone arch. [‘Spare the vanquished’ ie be kind to the prisoners!]. If you use Streetview you can read the inscription, still in place, and behind it see a second gate with a bell over it, as seen in the print.

On either side of the main entrance were the Agent’s and Surgeon’s houses with clerks’ houses making up the rest of the little Agent’s square for market, etc. – a reminder that prisoners were allowed to craft items from straw, bone and wood and sell them to the public. This wonderfully intricate box was shown on the Antiques Roadshow in 2020 and valued at £4-6000. It was not only innocent workboxes and ship models that the prisoners sold. An embarrassed and indignant  local member of the Society For the Suppression of Vice posted two of his purchases to the London Headquarters. They appear, from the difficulty he had in wrapping them and his euphemism-laden remarks, to have been sex toys carved from bone.

Once through the next set of gates one was in the Detached space for prisoners to receive their allowance from [the cooking-house], also public market. the cooking-house and bath were at the bottom left of that space. The large building to the left of the space was the hospital with the Matron’s house and dispensary facing it. On the other side was the Petty-officers’ prison, a reminder that most of the prisoners were sailors.

Through the next set of gates one is in the Prison yard with five prison blocks radiating around it. In the outer circle are four Sheds for drying clothes. A large pond was fed from the aqueduct head outside the gates and what are presumably drainage ditches serving privies run around from low sheds at the end of each prison block. These appear to be open, which must have been both smelly and insanitary, although presumably they were flushed from the pond.  On the outside of the military way (coloured green) and walls are the North and South Guard rooms. The detached enclosed area was a Barracks for 500 men.

The Repository positively gushes with admiration for the new prison and its management: Here, under the humane arrangement and control of the Transport Board, ably seconded by the resident agent, Isaac Cotgrave, Esq. an old post-captain, every comfort is administered to alleviate the prisoners’ unhappy lot, as far as the nature of circumstances will allow. Unbiassed by motives foreign to their duty, and the innate liberality and feeling of their hearts, these gentlemen (some of whom are well acquainted with French prisons, and have personally experienced what they are) pursue an undeviating system of philanthropy, honourable to themselves, and beneficial to the objects of their care and exertions.

Efforts were made to maintain hygiene. Every morning, bedding is immediately exposed to the air, and the rooms properly ventilated… The hospital is kept in the most exact state of cleanliness and order…medicines, wine, etc are furnished unsparingly.

The prisoners, who were clothed in yellow uniforms with occasional blue stripes, elected representatives to discuss grievances with the Agent and to inspect the rations issued. A daily market was held so that the prisoners could sell their work and buy additional food and many trifling luxuries.

Whether or not conditions were ever so good in reality, things rapidly went downhill as the prison grew more and more crowded. It was full by the end of 1809 but prisoners still kept arriving. War broke out with America in 1812 and  from April 1813 until April 1815 about 6,500 American sailors were held at Dartmoor, some of which were American seamen who were serving on British ships. It is estimated that about 1,000 of the prisoners were black.

Recurrent outbreaks of typhoid, pneumonia and smallpox swept through the prison population. 271 American died and over 11,000 Frenchmen. When the  Treaty of Ghent between the Americans and British was signed in December 1814, the American prisoners expected immediate release, but the British government refused to let them go on parole or take any steps until the treaty was ratified by the Senate on 17 February 1815. On April 16 the men’s impatience finally snapped and they rioted. Guards opened fire and 60 were injured and seven killed. After an enquiry jointly by the US and British, the survivors and bereaved families received pensions.

The prison stayed in use until the end of the war when the survivors were repatriated. The last Frenchman left in early 1816.

The Repository had noted that, it is said to be in contemplation to convert this vast, and then useless building, into a receptacle for convicts, whose labour on the moor will prove highly important and beneficial to the nation, and an incredible saving in the expense incurred both at home and in transportation. In the event the prison closed in 1816 and only reopened in 1850.

Leave a comment

Filed under Architecture, Buildings, Crime, Military, Riots

Perambulations Through Late Georgian London or, All the Best Sights in One Week. Day Seven

It is Sunday, the final day of the week-long itinerary laid down by Mr Whittock in his Modern Picture of London.

Attend divine service in the morning, at the Foundling Hospital;

I have blogged about the founding of the Hospital here. Attending services at various charitable institutions was fashionable and was encouraged by the patrons as a means of attracting financial support. The children would be trained as a choir to enhance the experience and the high-point of the year was the performance of Handel’s Messiah which he had donated to the Hospital. The print from The Microcosm of London (c. 1810) shows a service in the magnificent chapel.

then ride in the omnibus to the Edgware Road.

I am not clear why Mr Whittock suggests this. It would be a long walk to reach Hyde Park and the Edgware Road would hold no sights of any interest.

Promenade in Hyde Park.

On a fine day this would have been a very respectable activity for the Sabbath. Families would be out strolling or driving over the very considerable expanse of parkland or beside the Serpentine or the Long Water in the adjacent Kensington Gardens. This print of 1804 shows ‘The Entrance to Hyde Park on a Sunday’ and gives an impression of just how popular it would have been, although I suspect that behaviour by the 1830s would have been more sedate.

Dine at home

 in the evening, attend divine service at the Magdalen Hospital.

The Magdalen Hospital for the Reception of Penitent Prostitutes, to give it its full title, was established in 1758 to reform women below the age of thirty who had become sex workers. They were given religious education and taught laundry work and needlework. It moved to purpose-built premises on Great Surrey Street (now Blackfriars Road) in Southwark in 1772. This was quite close to the other philanthropic institutions our tourists visited on Monday.

Its octagonal chapel became a fashionable place of worship. Unlike the Foundling Hospital where the children in their uniforms were very visible, the inmates’ choir was hidden behind a screen, which cannot have done much for their self-esteem. Perhaps the intention was to prevent male visitors from preying on the young women.

In the 1860s the establishment moved to Streatham, eventually becoming an Approved School in 1934. Incredibly the phrase “for the reception of Penitent Prostitutes” was not removed from its official name until 1938.

The week has now terminated, and the stranger that has visited all the places, in the order laid down for him, will have seen every part of the metropolis, and all the principal objects. He will find that ample time has been allowed for a cursory view of most of the curiosities.

I hope you have enjoyed exploring Georgian London as it teetered on the  edge of the Victorian age, even if, as Mr Whittock says, we have only had time for a ‘cursory view’ of many of the sights.

1 Comment

Filed under Architecture, Buildings, Religion, Women

Perambulations Through Late Georgian London or, All the Best Sights in One Week. Day Six

It is Saturday and we have reached day six in the action-packed itinerary recommended by Mr Herriott in his 1836 Modern Picture of London. Today’s expedition involves a river trip and seems slightly less exhausting, despite an early start.

Visit Covent Garden Market, before breakfast;

Covent Garden market has been in operation since 1656 and has always attracted visitors  – not always in search of fresh fruit and veg or hedgehogs to keep the slugs off their own gardens. In the heart of theatre-land it had a reputation for prostitution and wild nightlife but Mr Herriot was probably safe in sending his tourists there first thing in the morning to view the bustle of porters and shoppers.

The market today is the result of several campaigns of building work and the 1836 visitors would have seen the new market halls shown in this print from Thomas H Shepherd’s Metropolitan Improvements. In this view the east façade of St Paul’s church is to the left of us. The new building cost £70,000 and, according to The Gardener’s Magazine, was “a structure at once perfectly fitted for its various uses; of great architectural beauty and elegance; and so expressive of the purposes for which it is erected, that it cannot by any possibility be mistaken for anything but what it is.” Unfortunately only twenty five years later it was already inadequate and many more alterations have been made.

Return,

Presumably breakfast will be taken before the visitors

go over Hungerford Market,

This was on the site of what is now Charing Cross station. It was built in 1682 as a rival to Covent Garden and was rebuilt as a two-storey market for meat, fish, fruit and vegetables in 1833. The image is from 1850 and shows the view of the market from Hungerford Bridge, built 1841 by Brunel (and replaced by the present eyesore of a structure in 1864).

take a boat at the stairs, to Chelsea.

Before the bridge was built there was a landing stage for passenger boats in front of the market.

See Westminster Bridge, the Speaker’s House,

It must have been very restful, after all the walking over the previous days, to float upriver. The print shows St Stephen’s Chapel and the Speaker’s House from Westminster Bridge. (Ackermann’s Repository, 1815)

the Penitentiary,

Millbank Penitentiary was built on the site of what is now the Tate Gallery and was completed in 1821. It took male and female prisoners who previously would have been transported to New South Wales, but that was becoming overcrowded and the cost was high. It was originally intended to be a humane institution, according to the principles of Jeremy Bentham. Prisoners were to be constantly under the view of guards from a central ‘Panopticon’ and were expected to work in silence and isolation so they could reflect on their sins and on the virtues of honest toil. The reality was an inhumane nightmare. Prisoners were driven insane by the isolation and the site was so marshy and unhealthy that scurvy and cholera swept through the building. By the 1830s conditions had improved somewhat – candles were put in the cells and some education and recreation was provided while sanitary conditions were upgraded. It was finally closed in 1890.

 Vauxhall Bridge

The view is from the bank just upstream of the Penitentiary. This bridge was the first iron bridge over the Thames and was opened in 1816. It was replaced with the current bridge in 1906.

the Royal Hospital, at Chelsea.

The Royal Hospital is better known as Chelsea Hospital, home of the Chelsea Pensioners. It was founded in 1692 by Charles II to provide a home for veteran soldiers and has been fulfilling that function ever since.

David Wilkie’s 1822 picture of Chelsea Pensioners reading the news of Waterloo shows the Royal Hospital in the background

Walk to the Duke of York’s School

The Duke of York’s Royal Military School was founded by ‘the Grand Old Duke’ whose house the visitors passed on Friday’s expedition. It was a pioneering effort to help the previously neglected families of the common soldiers by providing education for fatherless children. A history of the school states that, “From its inception, the Asylum provided the country with the first large scale system of education of working class children.”

The building is now occupied by the Saatchi Gallery.

thence to the Pantechnicon, through Belgrave Square.

I imagine the visitors would take a cab to this large emporium, covering two acres, in Motcomb Street. It was opened in 1834 and sold carriages and household furniture. It was destroyed by fire in 1874 but the façade remains.

 

Ride home, and in the evening go to the Opera House.

This is presumably the Italian Opera House at the junction of Pall Mall and Haymarket. It has been variously known as the Queen’s, the King’s, Her Majesty’s, His Majesty’s, or the Opera House. Her Majesty’s Theatre currently occupies about half the area of the Italian Opera House shown in this print. The building shown was built in 1790/1 on the site of Sir John Vanburgh’s theatre of 1704. The facades on three sides were added by Nash and Repton in 1816-18. The present theatre dates to  1897.

The interior was redecorated in 1814, not very well, as this extract The Times of 16 January 1815 describes. “Last night this Theatre opened for the season. From the squalid and disarranged state in which it closed, great room as well as great necessity for improvement and cleaning were left to the new Manager [Waters], and certainly much less has been done to restore it to its rank among decent places of public resort. The fronts of the boxes have all been newly coloured. . . . The cieling [sic] represents the Genius of Music, with Iris, and some nondescript figures encircling him. . . . The former cieling [sic] was a striking and vigorous representation. The present must convey to a stranger the impression, either that the arts in England were at the lowest imaginable ebb, or that the arts had nothing to do with this Theatre. . . . The chandeliers are numerous and rich, and the effect as dazzling as anything to be found within the magic of chandeliers. . . . The adoption of glass bells or shades would be devoutly wished for. . . . Last night they poured down their wax on the beaux in the most unsparing profusion; and from their situation over the principal avenues of the Pit, have means of annoyance clearly unrivalled by the noxie [sic] of any of the metropolitan theatres.”

To quote The Survey of London (1960), things improved. “The interior was redecorated under Nash and Repton’s direction, and new lighting was installed, a splendid gas-lit lustre suspended from the domed ceiling replacing the many chandeliers that hung from the tier fronts. An early-Victorian booking plan shows that the auditorium then contained 145 boxes, besides 32 smaller boxes in the arms of the top tier. There were eight rows of stalls, with 222 seats; a pit with fourteen rows of benches; and four rows of gallery stalls, with 112 seats.”

Tomorrow is Sunday, so our valiant tourists can look forward to a day of gentle exercise for the body and some uplifting church services to round off their week.

1 Comment

Filed under Architecture, Buildings, Entertainment, Monuments, Rivers, Shopping, Walks

Perambulations Through Late Georgian London or, All the Best Sights in One Week. Day Five

It’s a Friday in 1836  and, if you have been reading my previous four posts following Mr Whittock’s London tourist itinerary, you may be hoping the visitors are going to have a restful day today. I’m afraid not – they will have to wait until Sunday for that!

West end: walk to St. James’;

Mr Whittock recommended taking lodgings around Charing Cross, so the visitors would begin by walking around the southern edge of the Trafalgar Square building site and then down Pall Mall, passing through Waterloo Place, the southern end of Regent Street and continuing westwards.

The print, from Ackermann’s Repository, shows the view looking back the way they had come. We are facing down the Strand with Northumberland House (demolished 1874) on the right. The site of Trafalgar Square is over our left shoulder and Whitehall runs off to the right. The statue is the only landmark we would recognise today – King Charles I looking down towards his place of execution. I blogged about it more extensively here.

see the Palace,

St James’s Palace, at the foot of St James’s Street, was not open to the public, but the Tudor red brick exterior with its guards was as interesting a sight then as it is, almost unchanged, now. It was no longer the residence of the monarch – that had moved to what is now Buckingham Palace – but it remained the main location for Drawing Rooms, the reception of Ambassadors and all the formal business of royalty. You can read more about it in two parts,  here and here.

The Palace in 1809

Club-houses,

The visitors would have already passed the Athenaeum in Waterloo Place, but a stroll up and down St James’s Street would allow them to see (from the outside only, of course!) Boodles (a favourite of country squires), White’s (the oldest and smartest), Crockford’s (famous for its gambling) and Brooks’s, one of Byron’s clubs, (seen in the print, 1808 – the room looks just the same today with the same tables)

In one corner of the Great Subscription Room a tense game is underway with a large pot of winnings in the centre

and British Gallery, if open;

That would involve walking back along Pall Mall a little to number 52, the home of the British Institution.  Otherwise known as Pall Mall Picture Galleries or the British Gallery, it was founded in 1805 and was considered elitist and conservative by many artists. It was disbanded in 1867. The print from Ackermann’s Repository (1805) shows artists copying the works on display. Interestingly, four of the seven artists are women.

walk through the Park,

This was Green Park and the visitor could access it by walking past the front of St James’s Palace.

see the New Palace, and York House;

They would see the imposing façade of York House, now renamed Lancaster House, on their left just before they entered the Park. (The modern visitor has to take a rather more circuitous route). The house is now managed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and is let out for filming, London Fashion Week, conferences and so on. It was commissioned in 1825 for ‘the grand old Duke of York’ – Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany – of the nursery rhyme. The website gives more of its history and some pictures of the lavish interior.

This is the view across Green Park, captioned “The Queen’s Palace from the Green Park.” It was printed in The Beauties of England and Wales published c. 1815. You can see the chimneys of the Palace on the right and some of Green Park’s famous dairy cows.

The New Palace is Buckingham Palace and would not have been open to the public. It was built as Buckingham House 1702-5 by the Duke of Buckingham and his wife, an illegitimate daughter of the deposed James II. The Buckinghams created the most opulent private house in London, apparently as a snub to the ‘usurping’ Hanoverians in their ramshackle Tudor palace across the park. George II bought it in 1762 for his wife and it became known as The Queen’s House, then, after her death, as The King’s House. His son, George IV, decided that his own palace at Carlton House was no longer adequate when he came to the throne and put in train elaborate and vastly expensive plans to enlarge and remodel the house in its stead. The final bill was £700,000, despite the Duke of Wellington, when Prime Minister in 1828, declaring, ‘If you expect me to put my hand to any additional expense, I’ll be damned if I will.’

It wasn’t finished when George IV died and his brother and successor, William IV never lived there. It was inherited by Queen Victoria in 1837 in a dreadful state – the drainage was abysmal, the windows would not open, the bells did not function…  Work continued throughout the 19th century with the final major change being the Portland stone façade on the east front in 1913.

 walk through the Green Park to Hyde Park;

This path would have been along the line of the present Constitution Road with the high walls of the Palace gardens on the left. The area in the angle formed by the junction of Piccadilly and the Palace wall was known as Constitution Hill, although there is no record of where it got that name.

see the Triumphal Arch,

This is the Wellington Arch designed by Decimus Burton. It was originally part of a scheme for improving the approach to Buckingham Palace but, just as the basic work was completed in 1828, funding cuts as a result of the vast Palace overspend left it without any of the intended decoration. In the 1830s committees were overseeing the erection of monuments to the two great military heroes, Nelson and Wellington. Nelson’s Column was achieved with little controversy but in 1838 an ill-judged decision was made to place a vast statue of the Duke on top of the arch. It was erected in 1846 to general mockery and disapproval for its disproportionate size, but the Duke threatened to resign all his posts if it was removed, seeing that as a personal slight. Eventually in 1883, when the arch itself was moved slightly to its present position in the centre of Hyde Park Corner, it was sent to Aldershot. The interior of the arch can be visited and you can see images of the original design and the arch with the statue in place on the English Heritage website.

and Statue of Achilles.

Mr Herriot’s tourists would have seen only the unadorned arch, but they would have been able to view the colossal statue of Achilles just inside the park gates behind Apsley House in all its glory. It was cast from captured French guns in 1822 to be given ‘by the women of England to Arthur Duke of Wellington and his brave companions in arms.’ Not only was it six metres high but it was completely nude – with everything in proportion. The outcry was such that a small fig leaf was added, causing further complaints that it was not large enough!

The Cruikshank print is entitled Monstrosities of London (1822) and it is the dandies and the ladies in their highly fashionable outfits that are being caricatured. The statue already has its fig leaf!

At Oxford Street Gate, ride to the Zoological Gardens, spend two hours,

The Zoological Society of London was founded in 1826 and its collection of animals was opened in 1828 on the site at the north of Regent’s Park. There were 30,000 visitors in the first seven months. The contents of the Rooyal Menagerie from Windsor were added in 1830 and the animals from the Tower of London were moved there in 1832-4. Mr Herriott’s visitors would have been able to view monkeys, bears, llamas, zebras, kangaroos, emus, turtles, an Indian elephant, an alligator, huge snakes, Tommy the chimpanzee, four giraffes and visit the camel house (shown in the print of 1835).

 return by Portland Place to Oxford Street; visit the Bazaars,

There were shops in Oxford Street, but it was not until later in the century that the great department stores we associate it with now were developed. It would have had many smaller shops and bazaars which would have been cheaper than the establishments in, for example, Bond Street.

return home, dine, and in the evening, visit Braham’s New Theatre, recently erected in King Street, St. James Square.

The theatre, better known as the St James’s Theatre, was situated immediately opposite the junction with Bury Street. It was demolished in 1957 and replaced by a bland office block.

This theatre is the last erected, and is certainly the most beautiful minor theatre in the metropolis; it is opened under a licence from the lord chamberlain, granted to this favoured votary of Apollo, who has been the leading singer, not only of England, but of Europe, upwards of thirty years. The exterior is plain, but the interior is superb. The boxes are supported by cariatydes [sic], and the ornaments are of the most gorgeous description, in the style used in France during the reign of Louis XIV. The performances are operas, and farces; Braham frequently appears in both, and being seconded by an excellent company, it would be a matter of surprise if the theatre was not fashionably and numerously attended. The prices of admission are, to the boxes, five shillings; pit, three shillings; gallery, one shilling and sixpence: the half-price commences at nine o’clock.

One has to wonder whether Mr Whittock was getting paid for this detailed endorsement. The theatre was a vanity project of opera star John Braham which cost him £28,000 to build. The programme was, apparently, considered unexciting and the location too far west and it consistently lost money – even ‘going dark’ in 1841. It struggled on into the 20th century under numerous managements, maintaining a reputation as an unlucky theatre. The print is by Crace, 1835, and supports Mr Whittock’s enthusiasm about the interior.

If you would like to try more detailed perambulations yourself you will find Hyde Park Corner in Walk 1 and St James’s and Pall Mall in Walk 4 of Walking Jane Austen’s London and Walks 1 & 2 of Walks Through Regency London.

1 Comment

Filed under Animals, Architecture, Art, Buildings, Entertainment, Fashions, London Parks, Monuments, Regency caricatures, Shopping, Walks, Wellington

Perambulations Through Late Georgian London or, All the Best Sights in One Week. Day Four

It’s Thursday, the fourth day of the London sightseeing programme proposed by Nathaniel Whittock in 1836. By now the tourists are either on their knees with exhaustion or getting their second wind after the itineraries described in my previous three posts. They might be relieved to find that there is a fair amount of riding around involved in today’s expedition. This itinerary illustrates more clearly than any of the others how close to the Victorian era these visitors are as they experience engineering marvels and improvements in public transport.

Get into the omnibus or coach that goes to Blackwall.

Mr Whittock informs us that “Omnibusses [sic] now run through the leading thoroughfares: their charge is generally stated on the outside of the carriage. At the present time it is as cheap as the most rigid economist could desire as a person may ride in a handsome vehicle from the Bank to Paddington, a distance of four miles, for sixpence.”

George Shillibeer brought horse-drawn omnibuses (shown in the print above) to London in 1829, having seen them operating in Paris. At first they operated with a conductor who took the fares but did not issue tickets. He recorded all the transactions on a waybill, then paid his own, and the driver’s, wages from the money collected and handed the rest over to the bus owner.

An account of the new service was given in the Morning Post of 7 July 1829. “Saturday the new vehicle, called the Omnibus, commenced running from Paddington to the City, and excited considerable notice, both from the novel form of the carriage, and the elegance with which it is fitted out. It is capable of accommodating 16 or 18 persons, all inside, and we apprehend it would be almost impossible to make it overturn, owing to the great width of the carriage. It was drawn by three beautiful bays abreast, after the French fashion. The Omnibus is a handsome machine, in the shape of a van. The width the horses occupy will render the vehicle rather inconvenient to be turned or driven through some of the streets of London.”

see the East and West India Docks

 

The London docks must have been a spectacular sight, teeming with a mass of sailing ships from all parts of the world. The print is a detail from a painting of 1802, looking west across the neck of the Isle of Dogs towards the City, and showing the West India Dock, opened that year. The import dock is on the right, the dock on the left is for export. The canal on the left later became the South Dock. The East India Docks were slightly to the east at the top of the northward bend of the Blackwall Reach of the Thames. Surrounding the docks were huge secure warehouses with walls thirty feet high and their own guards, an effective protection against the menace of ‘limpers’, ‘water pads’ and ‘water sneaks’ who preyed on the craft moored in the river itself.

The map shows the docks in 1849.

A short walk thence will take you to the Ferry-House. On crossing the Thames, see Greenwich Hospital.

These days an entire day can easily be spent in Greenwich but Mr Whittock merely invites his readers to admire the exterior of the buildings (he doesn’t even mention the Queen’s House), enter the Great Hall and look up the hill to the Observatory – ‘a conspicuous and celebrated Object.’

Ride on the Railroad as far as Bermondsey;

This would have been a real highlight for visitors – the first railway line in London. It was intended only for passengers and was built from London Bridge to Greenwich on a viaduct twenty two feet above the ground and supported on “nearly a thousand arches…intended to be converted into dwelling-houses or places of business.” It cut the journey time from London Bridge to Greenwich from an hour to ten minutes and was the forerunner of all the London commuter lines.

 walk to Rotherhithe, devote an hour to the examination of the Tunnel.

Interestingly, Mr Whittock seems more excited about the Thames Tunnel than he does about the railway. It was certainly an epic piece of engineering, during the course of which Marc Brunel (father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel) invented the tunnel shield which is the basis of all tunnel-boring today. Made essential by the development of the docks, and the problems of building bridges over the Thames to bring the workers from south of the river, it was intended for carriage traffic but instead became a footway and a major tourist attraction. It was converted to take the East London railway line in 1869. The print is from 1835.

Dine at Rotherhithe, and afterwards ride to the Surrey Zoological Gardens.

The Surrey Zoological Society Gardens were founded in 1831 and occupied a site now under Penton Place in Walworth, just north-east of the Oval cricket ground. Impressario Edward Cross sold them the contents of his menagerie at Exeter Change which I blogged about here. It must have been some improvement for the animals who were housed in cages under a circular domed glass conservatory 300 feet (90 m) in circumference. There were lions, tigers, a rhinoceros and giraffes (shown here in 1841) and, for a time, the gardens were more popular than London Zoo in Regent’s Park. However, that was subsidised, and cheaper (the Surrey Gardens cost one shilling admission), so gained in popularity. The gardens, which were lavishly planted and dotted with pavilions, were used for large public entertainments from 1837 – re-enactments of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the Great Fire of London, or the storming of Badajoz – and spectacular firework displays. The Great Exhibition of 1851 was the final nail in its coffin and it closed in 1856.

Towards the evening return to dress, and at eight o’clock go by water to Vauxhall.

Vauxhall Gardens lay where the modern park is still situated, close to the Thames and Vauxhall Bridge. Going by water was the traditional way of visiting, even though the first bridge had opened in 1816.

I have blogged about Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens here and also in comparison with their rival, Ranelagh. The print by Cruickshank shows the Gardens in the 1830s, just as our tourists must have seen them.

They would have staggered back to their lodgings late and perhaps a trifle tipsy. Hopefully they get a decent night’s sleep, because Friday will be devoted to the West End, London Zoo, shopping and the theatre.

If you are interested in more of the slang used for London’s criminal classes, including the river thieves, you can find that, and much more, here

1 Comment

Filed under Animals, Architecture, Buildings, Crime, Entertainment, London Parks, Rivers, Science & technology, Transport and travel

Perambulations Through Late Georgian London or, All the Best Sights in One Week. Day Three

After  exhaustive (and exhausting) sightseeing on Monday and Tuesday, described in my previous two posts, Mr Whittock (The Modern Picture of London, 1836) has a far shorter list of places to visit for Wednesday. I suspect it would not be much less demanding.

He begins by instructing the tourist to Visit the Adelaide Gallery in Adelaide Street. This was a new street at the time Mr Whittock was writing and was part of the redevelopment of the area that is now Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery and which was the King’s and Queen’s Mews and the St Martin’s Workhouse, the Golden Cross Inn, the Phoenix Insurance company’s fire station and assorted small dwellings and workshops.

The site was cleared in 1830 but work on the hard landscaping of the Square did not begin until 1840. Those visitors guided by Mr Whittock would have seen a vast building site.

Adelaide Street runs from the Strand northwards behind St Martin in the Fields church (seen in the image of 1815). The Adelaide Gallery of Science and Art was one of the most interesting and rational exhibitions in London… and contains models of the most curious discoveries in mechanics, engineering etc. Perkin’s celebrated steam gun, the modern diving bell, the model of the process of distillation from bread and hundreds of other curiosities are exhibited here. The rooms are open daily, the admission is one shilling, and it is impossible to spend a shilling at any other exhibition in London where so much amusement and information may be gained.

Jacob Perkins, an American, patented his steam gun in 1824 and tests showed that it could fire projectiles at great pressure and could even work as a machine gun. The Duke of Wellington became interested, so did the French, the Russians and the Turks. It all came to nothing in the end in a quagmire of government indecision about spending, prejudice against ‘colonials’ and the improvement of more conventional weapons.

The London Mechanics’ Register in November 1824 wrote, If Mr. Perkins’s steam guns were introduced into general use, there would be but very short wars; since no fecundity could provide population for its attacks…What plague, what pestilence would exceed, in its effects, those of the steam gun? – 500 balls fired every minute…one out of 20 to reach its mark – why, 10 such guns would destroy 150,000 daily. If we did not feel that this mode of warfare would end in producing peace, we should be far from recommending it…We have heard, but we do not vouch for the fact, that the Emperor of Russia, who has more knowledge of the importance of steam than some of us Englishmen, has sent an agent to procure a supply of Perkins’s steam guns, which that gentleman’s patriotism will not allow him to offer…

As for distillation from bread – Googling the term produces some interesting results, including vodka from stale bread crusts!

From there we proceed to the British Museum

This was the beginning of the building we see today, although work had only begun in 1823 on a replacement for Montague House, the building purchased on the site in 1755. Visitors had to negotiate a vast building site, but much of the original remained at the time Whittock was writing, including the entrance gates on Great Russell Street. He does not say how long to allow to see the collections – which occupy ten pages in his guidebook. To secure admission it was necessary to enter one’s name and details of one’s companions in a ledger and to leave one’s walking stick, umbrella etc at the entrance. Apparently all visitors, provided they conducted themselves ‘with propriety’, were treated as equal, from noblemen to artisans, sailors and mechanics. The print of 1810 shows a new gallery to house Classical works.

Next Ride to the Regent’s Park –

Regent’s Park was originally an area of about 500 acres of royal hunting land which had become farms. The leases on the farms came due in 1811 and a scheme was formed to create  a vast public park and terraces of superior houses to be linked by a new street to Westminster. John Nash was the architect chosen and he received the enthusiastic support of the Prince Regent despite endless opposition, quibbles and delays. In 1820 work began on the terraces and on the first of eight villas. (The one shown below in a print of 18128 belonged to Thomas Raikes, dandy and diarist.) In 1828 the Zoological Society of London’s zoo was opened on the northern edge of the park and the gardens of the Royal Botanical Society occupied the centre (until 1932). The majority of the park was open to the public by 1841. The plan above is from Metropolitan Improvements with drawings by Thomas Shepherd (1827)

see the Diorama –

The Regent’s Park diorama was run by Jaques Daguerre, photographic pioneer, and was opened in 1823. The entrance was in the facade of 9-10, Park Square East and the interior was a  circular auditorium seating two hundred which could be moved through 73 degrees by a boy operating a ram engine so that two stages could be used and the scenes changed to reveal different tableaux. The main images were painted on vast rollers – 22 metres long by 12 metres high – and various props, shutters, light and sound effects added. One of the most popular was A Midnight Mass of St Etienne-du-Mont. The scene changed from daylight to candlelight, the congregation gradually appeared, midnight mass began and the organ was played. Then, gradually the congregation leaves and daylight returns.

the Coliseum –

This was at the Cambridge Gate of the park, and was designed by Decimus Burton. Despite its name it looked more looked like the Pantheon in Rome. At first the views of London which had been sketched by Mr Horner from the very top of St Paul’s Cathedral and turned into a large panorama, seventy feet tall, were very popular, but interest flagged and it was demolished in 1875. Visitors climbed staircases inside to reach the apparent height of the external gallery around the top of the dome of St Paul’s. Admission was one shilling and, for an extra six pence one could ascend by means of a moving compartment, which is a small circular room, in which six or eight persons are comfortably seated, and raised by machinery. The first elevator?

Swiss Cottage, &c. –

I have not been able to find information about the Swiss Cottage in the Park which appears to have no connection to the modern Swiss Cottage pub and area. There was a fad for ornamental buildings in this style and perhaps this was a refreshment place.

Return home down Regent Street

It was key for the success of the Regent’s Park development that it could be easily connected to what was fashionable central London at the time and the route chosen had the advantage of improving the rather squalid areas around Haymarket and Pall Mall while sorting out traffic congestion around the Strand and Charing Cross. In his words Nash’s proposal for the route will be a boundary and complete separation between the Streets and Squares occupied by the Nobility and Gentry, and the narrower Streets and meaner houses occupied by mechanics and the trading part of the community.

The section between Piccadilly and Oxford Street was devoted to shopping and was known as the Quadrant (shown above in 1822 and rebuilt in the 1920s). Lower Regent Street, between Piccadilly and St James’s Park was to be semi-residential with clubs such as the Atheneum and the section north of Oxford Street was mainly residential.

dine, and in the evening visit Astley’s Amphitheatre.

Astley’s Amphitheatre was in Westminster Bridge Road. Originally a canvas structure built by Philip Astley in 1768 it was rebuilt twice by the time Mr Whittock’s tourists visited, it would burn down again and be rebuilt in 1841 and 1862. It was finally demolished in 1893.

Astley’s was a very popular, low-brow form of entertainment with strong elements of the circus. Equestrian performers were a very important part of the shows but clowns (including Grimaldi), acrobats and tightrope acts performed and shows included melodramas, tableaus and dramatic sword fights.  You can read more about it in this post. Jane Austen visited and enjoyed it and sent Harriet Smith and Robert Martin to visit in Emma.

The weary tourist can now stagger back to his lodgings and prepare for the next day when a variety of transport awaits him – omnibus, ferry, railroad (!) and hackney carriage.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Buildings, Entertainment, London Parks, Prince Regent, Walks

Perambulations Through Late Georgian London or, All the Best Sights in One Week. Day Two

Despite a packed day of sightseeing on Monday, as reported in my last post,  Mr Whittock, author of The Modern Picture of London  still expected his readers to be on parade bright and early the next day.

Starting at half-past nine, proceed eastward, enter Somerset House –

For centuries the site of a royal palace, the Somerset House we see today was built from 1775 onward with the east and west wings completed in 1835. It was used by government departments  including the Tax Office, and the Navy Office and by institutions such as The Royal Academy (until 1836), the Royal Society, and the Society of Antiquaries. The 1809 view below of Somerset House and the New Church, Strand taken from the Morning Post Office shows St Mary le Strand. The church was built in 1714-17 on the little green that used to be the site of the Strand maypole.

– see King’s College;

King’s College was founded in 1828 with the support of the Duke of Wellington, the Archbishops and thirty bishops of the Church of England to counter the foundation in 1826 of University College – ‘the godless institution’. University College was intended to educate those not of the Church of England who had previously been excluded from a university education by the regulations at Oxford and Cambridge against Roman Catholics, Jews and Dissenters.

– turn down Arundel Street, to the Temple; see the Fountain, Ancient Hall, and the church of the Inner Temple, which is frequently open in the morning.

For the modern explorer it is simplest to walk along the Strand, passing the Griffon in the middle of the road (marking the transition into Fleet Street and the City of London) and turn right under the arch of Prince Henry’s Rooms (number 17) down into the Inner Temple, one of the Inns of Court, still bustling with legal business. The Temple Church with its circular nave and Templar tombs is well worth visiting. The print  shows it in 1808 with visitors viewing the Templar graves and the photograph shows it today from a position to the left of the print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On leaving the Temple, enter Fleet Street, onwards to Ludgate Hill, to the north entrance of St. Paul’s.

There is morning service at St. Paul’s, which occupies about three-quarters of an hour, during which time the cathedral cannot be shown; the party, in this case, if they do not wish to hear the service sung, may proceed to the Post Office, and Goldsmiths’ Hall, then return to St. Paul’s, which it is always best to view in the morning: St. Paul’s may be seen in an hour.

As he did with Westminster Abbey, Mr Whittock appears to expect his tourists to proceed briskly around major monuments.

Next visit the Bank; observe the Pay Office, the Rotunda, and some of the offices, you need not go through them all, as they are nearly alike.

This 1811 image is of the interior courts of the Bank, designed by Sir John Soane. Now only his massive exterior wall remains and the interior has been completely rebuilt.

See the Auction Mart –

The Auction Mart, situated in Bartholomew Lane, right next to the Bank, was completed in 1810. According to an article in Ackermann’s Repository of 1811, from which these two images come, ‘Its object is to facilitate the sale by auction of every species of property, and to promote the circulation of intelligence relative to that subject.’ It contained auction rooms and also suites of offices for brokers and merchants, and a coffee room. I have included images of both the coffee room  and the hall because this is a place one rarely sees illustrated – and for the contrast between the studious young gentlemen in the coffee room and the jovial and portly gents in the hall.

– and Royal Exchange.

The Royal Exchange is between Cornhill and Threadneedle Street, opposite the Bank, and today is merely a shopping centre. The first Exchange was built by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1557 to provide a place for merchants to meet and transact business and was the origin of the Stock Exchange. The original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1660 and rebuilt in architecture that The Picture of London for 1807 describes as ‘of a mixed kind, in a bad taste…’ Each of the two fronts ‘has a piazza, which gives a stately air to the building.’ The upper floor was occupied ‘by Lloyd’s celebrated subscription coffee-house for the use of the underwriters and merchants’ – the origins of Lloyd’s of London, the insurers. This building burned down in 1838 and the one you see now was opened in 1844. Although it is now a shopping and eating venue its steps are still one of the places where a new sovereign is proclaimed.

By way of rest and refreshment, take a basin of soup at Birch’s, or any of the coffee-houses about the Exchange.

Ralph Rylance in his The Epicure’s Almanac (1815) says, ‘Let us not pass Alderman Birch’s unique refectory in Cornhill, opposite the Bank of England, without a tribute to the talents, literary as well as culinary, of the worthy alderman, who having written and published on the theory of National Defence, has here illustrated his system practically, by providing a variety of superior soups and pastry wherewithal to fortify the stomachs, and stimulate the courage of all his Majesty’s liege subjects. These aliments are served up in a  superior style. On the tables are placed lemons, cayenne, and other condiments, with toasted French bread for the free use of the visitants. Throughout all the turtle season, is served up in positive perfection that maximum of high diet, real turtle soup. Here is also fine genuine forest venison exposed for sale.’ Alderman Birch was Lord Mayor in 1814 and the shop provided the turtle soup for the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. The premises on Cornhill remained until 1926.

Proceed down King William Street –

In 1829-35 King William Street was driven across a tangle of minor streets to run from the junction of Cornhill, Lombard Street and Cheapside to meet Cannon Street and then turn down to the new London Bridge – this was a very new route that the visitor was being directed along.

to London Bridge

This was the new bridge built 1823-31 by Sir John Rennie, slightly upstream of the famous Old London Bridge. (Rennie’s bridge is the one now re-erected in Arizona and the present bridge was built 1971/2)

and thence to the Tower

The Tower of London had, by the time Mr Whittock was writing, lost its menagerie to the Zoological Society of London, but the visitor could still be conducted around ‘to any part they may wish to see’ by the Yeoman Warders.  Once again, Mr Whittock evidently expects the tourist to proceed at a fast pace because, having ‘done’ the Tower they still have a lot to do.

– and the Mint (‘the workshops are inaccessible to strangers’) ; survey St. Katherine’s Dock. Then take a boat from the Tower, and you will see the Custom House, London, Southwark, and Waterloo Bridges, with the buildings on either side of the river.

Optimistically, our guide informs us that we should Return to dine in your own apartments at five o’clock; when, by seven o’clock, the party will be sufficiently rested to enjoy the play at Covent Garden Theatre.

If you would like to try this route you can cover the majority of it by combining Walks 7 and 8 in my Walking Jane Austen’s London and Walk 9 in Walks Through Regency London

 

2 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Buildings, Entertainment, Monuments, Walks

Perambulations Through Late Georgian London or, All the Best Sights in One Week. Day One

In 1836 Nathaniel Whittock’s The Modern Picture of London, Westminster, and the Metropolitan Boroughs. Containing a correct description of the most interesting objects in every part of the Metropolis; forming a complete Guide and directory for the Stranger and Resident… was published by George Virtue & Co.

I have half a dozen late Georgian & Regency London guidebooks, but this, on the verge of Victoria’s reign, is the only one that sets out itineraries for the visitor as well as describing the various buildings, parks and institutions of the Capital. I thought it would be interesting to follow his advice, and visit London right at the end of the Georgian era.

Mr Whittock begins by discussing whether it is better to take lodgings or stay at a respectable inn (not a coaching inn, or the visitor will be constantly disturbed, day and night). He concludes that:

The visitor whose time is limited, will find it better to have lodgings without board, as he can take his meals at any time or place, according to his own convenience. The visitor to the metropolis, that has no particular friends to greet him on his arrival, and whose business will only allow him to devote a few days, to the survey of the architectural beauties and splendid exhibitions which surround him on all sides, on his arrival in London, will feel the necessity of so regulating his time, that he may see the various objects that are contiguous to each other on the same day; and, supposing him to have only a week that he can spare for this purpose, we will endeavour to point out the best mode of regulating his hours, so that he may have an opportunity of seeing the greatest number of objects within that time. We will therefore suppose the visitor to have taken apartments near Charing Cross.

In the…directions, it is supposed that the party is in the middle rank of life; the same route would be pointed out to those who kept a carriage, but they would, in consequence, be enabled to visit more objects in the same time, from the facility of conveyance from one place to another.

Monday

A crowded day first ending with a visit to the theatre.

The visitor is advised to commence his perambulation of the metropolis on Monday morning, at half-past nine o’clock.

He will have ample time to see Whitehall, the statue of King James behind it, the Horse Guards, and the Admiralty. 

The bronze statue of King James II now stands in front of the National Gallery. It was produced in the workshop of Grinling Gibbons and erected at the Palace of Whitehall in 1686, two years before James was deposed and fled the country. It stood behind the Banqueting House until 1898 when it was removed and spent some time being shuffled around the Capital before ending up in its present position in 1947. According to A Picture of London For 1807 it is ‘Superior to any statue in any public place in England.’

Walk into St. James’ Park, stand a few minutes to observe the military parade, which always takes place at ten o’clock.

Just such a parade can be seen in the print above of 1809, and one can still do this by walking into Horse Guards between the mounted sentries, under the arch and into Horse Guards Parade.

 Walk through the Park to Storey’s Gate (the point where Horse Guards Road now meets Birdcage Walk); thence, down Princes Street (now Storey’s Gate), and he will see Westminster Abbey, and the New Westminster Hospital, to the greatest advantage. 

The new Westminster Hospital opened in 1834 on the site now occupied by the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. It was immediately struck by serious problems with its water closets and baths which failed to drain properly and caused frequent outbreaks of disease and a terrible stink.

Passing through St. Margaret’s church-yard (Above: Westminster Abbey with St Margaret’s church in front, seen from the north (1810)), he will observe the beautiful entrance to the north transept of the Abbey. The next object that will present itself, is the chapel of Henry VII., and he will arrive at Poet’s Corner at about half-past ten o’clock: the entrance to the Abbey will be open, and he will have an opportunity of hearing the cathedral service performed, and likewise of seeing the beautiful choir of the Abbey; the service is ended about eleven o’clock, and he can then survey every part of this venerable pile, which will occupy about an hour. 

This seems a very short time to view the Abbey! The visitors above, seen in 1805, appear to be taking rather more time to look around.

On leaving the Abbey, at half-past twelve, the stranger may cross the road, to the Houses of Lords and Commons and Westminster Hall, see the interior of them –

The greater part of the Houses of Parliament were destroyed by fire in October 1834, two years before the publication of this guidebook and the main text describes the makeshift debating chambers that had been made out of what remained. Westminster Hall survived the fire and was attached to the new Houses of Parliament when they were begun in 1840.  The watercolour of the House of Lords from Old Palace Yard, 1834, by Robert William Billings shows the devastation. (Parliamentary copyright)

and at one o’clock find himself on Westminster Bridge, surveying the buildings on the banks of the Thames. If this survey should engender historical reminiscences, the stranger would probably wish to visit the scene of Wolsey’s greatness, and the residence of the primate of England, Lambeth Palace; should he do so, he will find his time occupied till two o’clock. 

This image of 1784 shows Morton’s Tower, the entrance to the Palace with Westminster bridge (opened 1750) in the background.  The tower is instantly recognizable today, even though the embankment has been built up between it and the river and the traffic now thunders past on Lambeth Palace Road.

To get to Lambeth Palace at this time the visitor would either have to cross Westminster Bridge and travel south down the southern bank of the Thames or go down the northern bank and take the ferry across: there was no Lambeth Bridge until 1862.

On leaving the palace, if he continues down Canterbury Place, he will, in a short time, arrive at Bethlem Hospital; to some, the interior is interesting, if so, it will occupy half an hour.

This was the New Bethlem Hospital moved from Moorfields in 1815. It was closed in 1930 and the site became a park with the centre of the old building retained as the Imperial War Museum.

 Near the same spot, is the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb,

This was a pioneering institution, founded in 1792 to educate two hundred children who, up until then, had been dismissed as ‘idiots’, incapable of learning or earning their living. They were taught lip-reading, reading, writing, arithmetic and useful trades. It lay between Mason Street and Townsend Street and its modern incarnation as The Royal School for Deaf Children moved to Margate in 1902.

the Philanthropic Asylum –

The Royal Philanthropic Society built the asylum in 1792 in an attempt to help the children of convicted criminals and street children who had resorted to begging or crime.

and other charitable foundations, the whole of which may be visited, and the party return home over Waterloo Bridge, (This was the original 1817 bridge. The present one was opened in 1942) observe the grand front of Somerset House, and arrive at their lodgings by half-past four o’clock, dine, and finish the day by visiting Drury Lane Theatre.

Hopefully the intrepid tourist was not so worn out by their hectic sightseeing that they could not appreciate the atmosphere at Drury Lane Theatre, shown here.

If you wish to follow this route yourself you will find more details in Walking Jane Austen’s London Walk 6 or Walks Through Regency London Walk 8. The area around the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb is described in Driving Through Georgian Britain in the section on the Dover Road.

To be continued…

Leave a comment

Filed under Architecture, Buildings, Entertainment, Horse Guard's Parade, London Parks, St James's Park, Travel