Tag Archives: Georgian London

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.

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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.

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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

 

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July in Vauxhall Gardens

It is July , so time for another of George Cruickshank’s delicious monthly ‘snapshots’ of London life from his London Almanac. This month we have a view of Vauxhall pleasure gardens with the orchestra playing and a female singer at the front of the box, music in hand.

Vauxhall 19
Vauxhall Gardens had been a London institution since at least 1661 when the first mention is in John Evelyn’s Diary for 2nd July of that year. They reached their peak of fashion in the 18th century as a haunt of both the fashionable and of anyone else who could afford the admission. Music, promenading, entertainments, dancing, dining on the famous wafer-thin shaved ham with champagne – and all kinds of naughtiness in the secluded groves – made up the Vauxhall experience, starting with the boat trip across the Thames to the candle-lit gardens.
The undated colour print shows the Gardens in their 18th century elegance and several of the features can be picked out in Cruickshank’s depiction of perhaps fifty or sixty years later. The orchestra stand has changed a little but it is just possible to see the tops of the arcades lining the sides of this part of the grounds.

Vauxhall 18
The company is rather more mixed in this view of the 1830s. In the centre, raising his top hat, is Mr C H Simpson. He became the Master of Ceremonies in 1797 and kept control for thirty eight years. He was a definite “character” and was always dressed in the black knee breeches, stockings and coat and frilled shirt as he is depicted here, carrying his elegant cane. He is greeting the Duke of Wellington, distinguished by his prominent hooked nose and with, predictably a young lady on each arm. A much less fashionably-dressed crowd looks on in wonder at these celebrities, with the prominent figure of, perhaps, a merchant with his wife in the centre. Other sightseers rush to view the scene while a waiter hurries along with a bottle and glasses – perhaps for the victor of Waterloo himself.

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The Road to Waterloo Week Five – The Allied Troops Gather While Mrs Bell Corsets the Corpulent

Bells Weekly

On Easter Sunday, the 26th, Bell’s Weekly Messenger stated that no-one had arrived in England from France since the 20th March and that most of the information about Napoleon’s invasion that had been reported so far had been inaccurate. Almost half the newspaper (an 8-page journal) was devoted to news of Bonaparte, and had the facts up to his arrival in Paris more or less correct.
The journal reported that dispatches had been sent on the 23rd from the Admiralty to all the ports in England and speculated that this was giving orders for a general impress of seamen, while every regiment of the line was under orders to prepare for active service and were expected to be marching to the coast to be embarked for Belgium.
Meanwhile, amongst the entertainment offered to Londoners this week, were two of a martial nature looking back to past Allied victories against the French.
At Sadler’s Wells: “Easter Monday, a new Scotch Dance composed by Mr Ellar, called a LOWP AN’ AWA’ – A new Pantomime (by Mr C. Dibden, music by Mr. Reeve) called The MERMAID; or Harlequin Pearl Diver – Clown, Mr. Grimaldi. A new Musical Piece, written by Mr C. Dibden, called LAW’S TWO TAILS; or Entail and Red Tail. Signor Francesco Zanini, from Paris, will make his first appearance in England as an Equilibriste Philharmonique. To conclude with a Naumachia on Real Water, representing the Battle of the Nile.”
At the Panorama, Leicester Square: “Just opened, a VIEW of the LAST BATTLE fought by the ALLIES, near the Butte St. Chaumont, previous to their entering Paris; with a view of the City, and Montmartre in the distance. The splendid BATTLE OF VITTORIA will continue for a few weeks. Admittance to each painting, One shilling. – Open Ten till Dusk.”
Mrs Bell, aMrs Bell adt her shop, the Magazine des Modes, 26, Charlotte Street, was advertising her Bandage Corset for pregnant ladies and those “inclined to Corpulancy”, while, for the more slender ladies, The Circassian Corset, made “without superfluities of Steel, Whalebone or Hard Substances, are declared by Physicians to be the only Corset that should be worn, as they give Ease, Gracefulness, and Dignity to the Shape, which no other Corset is capable of.”
Monday was the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet, preceded by the grand procession from Mansion House to Christ Church, Newgate Street to hear a sermon preached by the Bishop of Oxford. The toasts at the banquet included, “Church and King”” (considerable applause), “The Prince Regent” (“the approbation expressed by the company did not appear to be so strong as on former occasions”) and “The Duke of York and the Army” and “The Duke of Clarence and the Navy” (to great applause.) the dancing commenced at 10 o’clock and continued until “a late hour”. The image below (from Ackermann’s Repository 1810) shows the portico of Mansion House on the right and Cornhill stretching away in the middle of the scene. The Bank of England is out of sight on the left and the royal Exchange is behind the buildings in the centre.

 

 

Mansion House
In Friday’s paper, an enterprising furniture salesman managed to get the following inserted as editorial: “The rage for French furniture and elegancies has been very prevalent amongst the Nobility and higher classes of this country, who have made large purchases at Paris, which, from recent events, it is probable they will never receive, this will of course enhance the value of what is to be sold next week at Mr. Squibb’s.”
On Wednesday the 19th, Wellington left Vienna to take up command of the combined armies. On Saturday, April 1st, it was reported from the Brussels papers that “the march of troops through this town is incessant” and that 50 ships had already arrived in Ostend, full of British troops. Londoners could be left in no doubt that the situation was now serious.

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The Road to Waterloo Week Four – Napoleon Arrives In Paris & the London Exchanges Shiver

No doubt Londoners sitting down on Sunday morning, 19th March, read with relief the excellent  – and completely inaccurate – news from the continent. As Bell’s Weekly Messenger’s headlines said, quoting the Paris papers of the 15th – “Gratifying Change In The State Of Affairs –Bonaparte Still At Lyons – Marching of troops On Duchess_of_Courland_kauffmanAll Sides Against Him – Vigour of the Bourbons.”
In fact King Louis, whose reactions so far had been so far from vigorous as to be positively flabby, had fled Paris by night, heading for Brussels. The Duchess of Courland (shown left as a young woman in a portrait by Angelica Kauffman) set out at the same time to take the news to the Congress at Vienna. Meanwhile Napoleon continued to advance on Paris, despite further British headlines – “Reported Defeat of Bonaparte – Defection Of His Troops – His Probable Destruction.”
Meanwhile the London newspaper reader could pass on with relief to such good news as the signing of the peace treaty with the Americans and the assurances that Syphilis could be completely cured by doses of Velos’s Vegetable Syrup which “acts salutarily on the whole system, throws off all its impurities, and also removed the various forms of diseased Liver, Scrofula and Scurvy, that are so frequently left to medicines which aggravate their ravages.”
Bell’s Weekly Messenger’s “Died” column reported a curious selection of deaths in scrupulously alphabetical order, including:
O’Halloran, Sir Caesar Felix O’Neill, “the notorious swindler in Giltspur-street Counter.” [debtors’ prison]
Ripon, Mr Thomas of Nottingham, aged 75. “He was no more than 54 inches high. On a prodigious large head he wore an enormous cocked hat, and acquired a handsome income by former habits of mendicity (sic). ”
Saxe Cobourg, the Prince of, aged 77. “He commanded the Austrian Armies in the campaigns of 1793 and 1794.”
On Monday 20th Napoleon arrived at Fontainbleu and left again at 2 pm for Paris. He was met on the way by the 1st, 4th and 6th Chasseurs à Cheval anLargeNapoleonasGuardColonelbyLefevred the 6th Lancers who had been sent to intercept him. Instead of arresting him they presented arms and joined his forces.
Bonaparte entered Paris at 10.30 pm without a shot being fired and was carried shoulder-high into the Tuileries, eyes closed, a smile on his face.
Perhaps the relieved Londoners who had read that he was in the process of fleeing through France at that very moment flocked to the Adelphi Exhibition in Adam Street, off the Strand to see Robert Lefèvre’s portrait of Napoleon in the uniform of Colonel of the Guard of Chasseurs.
A stir was caused on Tuesday 21st by the escape of the quite impossibly colourful Admiral Cochrane from the King’s Bench prison. He strolled into the Palace of Westminster to take his seat in Parliament, from whence he was returned to custody. On the same day anyone still worried about Napoleon would have been reassured by the arrival of the Hyperion frigate in Plymouth, loaded with troops and en route for Holland.
Then on Thursday the devastating news arrived that Napoleon had entered Paris and the King had fled. The 24th was Good Friday, and in his diary Mr Oakes in Bury Saint Edmunds recorded, “This morning the London papers this morning announced the arrival of Bonaparte at Paris on Monday last, 20th Inst, without opposition. Not a gun fired.” The Duchess of Courland reached Vienna the same day to report the King’s flight to the Allies.
By Saturday the Congress had acted, ratifying the Treaty of Alliance against Napoleon in which each of the great powers (Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia) agreed to pledge 150,000 men for the fight. The Duke of Wellington was made commander-in-chief.Bank
In London the crisis was having its predictable consequences on the Exchange. Bell’s Weekly Messenger reported “… a close holiday at the Bank, but in the private bargains the Three per cent. Consols, the leading Stock, have suffered a decline of one per cent, reckoning from the closing price on Thursday, and one quarter from the closing price yesterday. The causes of the depression are too obvious to require specification.” The view above is of the Bank of England in 1809 (from Ackermann’s Repository). It is a view from the north, standing in Lothbury and looking down Princes Street on the right towards Mansion House.

The City around the Bank is still a fascinating place to walk – and Walk 8 from Walking Jane Austen’s London will take you from Temple Bar to the chop houses and coffee houses frequented by the Hellfire Club and Benjamin Franklin. (Not necessarily at the same time!)

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The Story of a Square 7: Finsbury Square

In my occasional series on the history of London Squares I am going eastwards to Finsbury Square, shown outlined in green in Horwood’s map of c1800.

Finsbury Square was built between 1777 and 1791 in an attempt, according to The London Encyclopaedia, to ‘recreate a West End atmosphere near the City’. The principal architect was Charles Dance, but others were involved, and each side of the Square was different. It was severely damaged during World War II and now none of the original buildings remain, nor the circular central garden.

It was built on the land marked on Roque’s map (1740s) below as Upper Moor Fields.

This was originally part of a larger marshy fen or moor outside the City walls which was fully drained in 1527. It ran from immediately north of the City walls and ditch, with the Wall Brook, draining into the City ditch, on the eastern side and a causeway (now the A501, City Road) to the west. Where the causeway met London Walls was the Moor Gate, built 1414 by the Lord Mayor Falconer ‘for ease of citizens that way to pass…into the fields…for their recreation.’ The print shows it at the time of its demolition in 1762.

On the western side Cheselstrete, now Chiswell Street, came in at a right angle to an area of the Moor called Mallow Field, bounded on the east by the parish boundary between St Leonard Shoreditch (east) and St Giles Without Cripplegate (west). The eastern part of the moor in St Leonard’s parish was simply called The Moor and, by the time of Roque’s map, was built over.

To the south of the junction of the causeway with Chiswell Street was the northern boundary of the City, By the 1740s narrow Ropemaker Alley ran along that line to the west and is now Ropemaker Street.

South of the City boundary and north of the Wall was Moor Field, its distorted rectangular shape preserved in the formal landscaped area behind the Bethlem Hospital marked as Moor Fields on Roque’s map. Finsbury Circus (1815-17) occupies much of this area today.

A 16th century illustrated map (below) shows these areas shortly after they were drained. Animals are pastured, archery practice is going on, laundry is laid out to dry and cloth is being stretched on tenterhooks. Finsbury Square occupies the area approximately where the horses are grazing.

By the 1740s the tenter grounds were clearly defined and laid out to the east and north of Upper and Lower Moor Fields and the adjoining Upper Moor Field to the west and, stretching up further north, was The Artillery Ground. The Honourable Artillery Company (who still provide the salutes at the Tower and on state occasions) continue to occupy the site which is now their sports field with the headquarters to the north. In 1672 Moor Gate was rebuilt and made higher so that the trained Bands (the local militia) could march through with their long pikes upright on their way to military exercises on the Moor.

In 1785, as work began on Finsbury Square, Vicenzo Lunardi, the Italian pioneer balloonist, took off from the Artillery Ground with a vast and excited crowd spilling out over the Moor all around. (He landed safely near Ware, in Hertfordshire.)

John Wallis, in his London (quoted below), incorporates  Pennant’s London Improved which mentions Moor Fields, describing the area immediately to the north of Bethlem Hospital as “The City Mall” a popular, tree-lined promenade.

The upper part which had been partly enclosed with a dwarf wall, contained waste, and was long a rendezvous for the boxers and wrestlers that composed old Vinegar’s [a bare knuckle boxer] Ring; and for mountebanks, methodist preachers, old iron stalls, etc.

Upper Moor Field might not, with its military drills, the gunfire of the Artillery Company and its use for such displays as balloon ascensions, fights and scrap iron sales,  seem to be an ideal place to erect a fashionable square. John Wallis in his London: Being a Complete Guide to the British Capital (1810) remarks:

A sudden transformation, as it were, of a marshy moor into the magnificent abodes of some of the wealthiest merchants in the metropolis, cannot be otherwise than interesting to the curious observer.

[An] improvement, truly magnificent, must certainly be admitted in the erection of Finsbury-square, and those new and elegant edifices which now cover all the northern site of ancient Moor-fields. This erection commenced about 1777. After this period the west side being erected first, the others rose with as little interruption as possible, and the whole was nearly inhabited in 1783; the rents, which then produced £4792, in 1797 encreased [sic] to £7598.

It is believed that Finsbury Square was the first public space permanently lit by gas.

The best-known occupant of Finsbury Square is probably Lackington’s Library, known as the Temple of the Muses, in the south-east corner. This vast shop, with a frontage of over forty three metres held a stock of thousands of volumes. I have devoted a post to London libraries, including Lackingtons, and you can read more about it here.

The exterior is shown below, in a print of 1828 when it was no longer owned by James Lackington. It burned down in 1841.

 

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Admiring the Adelphi

In the 1750s the three acre site between the Strand and the Thames that had once been occupied by Durham House was nothing more than a ruinous network of slum courts. It was to be transformed into the Adelphi (from the Greek for brothers), an elegant housing development, by the family of Scottish architects John, William, Robert and James Adam. They leased the land for 99 years and imported a large team of bagpipe-playing Scottish labourers – cheaper apparently than the local workmen and a source of considerable resentment. (although the unfamiliar bagpipes may have contributed to that).

The Thames was not embanked at that point and the land simply ran down to the muddy foreshore with landing stages and water gates. It required an Act of Parliament in 1771 to allow the Adam brothers to create an embankment with arched entrances into subterranean streets and storage areas and the Corporation of London was none too pleased at this infringement of its rights over the river. As well as the Mayor and Corporation they also managed to upset the Watermen and Lightermen’s Company, the Coal and Corn Lightermen and (somehow) the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey. A popular ditty of the time reveals the general prejudice against the oatmeal-eating Scots.

Four Scotsmen by the name of Adams

Who keep their coaches and their madams,

Quoth John in sulky mood to Thomas

Have stole the very river from us.

O Scotland, long has it been said

Their teeth are sharp for English bread

What seize our bread and water too….

Take all to gratify your pride

But dip your oatmeal in the Clyde.

The Adams brother might have got the site at a good price but they soon found themselves in financial difficulties as they constructed the magnificent terrace of eleven houses which made up Adelphi Terrace shown in the print at the top of the post. They had employed top-level craftsmen and artists on the interiors, including painter Angelica Kaufman. Then, no sooner had they begun than there was a spectacular banking crash “the Panic” of 1772  following the collapse of the Ayr Bank. The repercussions were far-reaching and had an effect in both Europe and America. Faced with bankruptcy they held a lottery in 1774 which cleared their debts (probably helped by the fact that, somehow, they managed to win the main prize themselves.) Their next scheme, Portland Place in Marylebone, built between 1776 and 1790, created further financial problems and with house prices in the Capital falling they found it hard to sell the Adelphi properties and cover their costs with prices falling from £1,000 to just over £300 between 1773 and 1779.

However, they persevered and, with the help of royal favour and celebrity endorsement (David Garrick the star of the stage was a friend and the artist Rowlandson lived there for many years) they went on to sell to a number of big names. Behind the Adelphi Terrace itself was a tight set of streets named after the brothers themselves, along with shops and apartments and the Royal Society of Arts (Below. John Adam Street).

Only a few of the original houses now remain and the fabulous Adelphi Terrace was demolished in 1938 and rebuilt. John Street and Duke Street are now John Adam Street and William Street is Durham House Street.

The vaults under the Terrace still partly exist and can be glimpsed from Lower Robert Street, off York Buildings.

The final print shows the Terrace in the early 19th century. On the left, the little building is the York Watergate, built in 1626 for the Duke of Buckingham to act as a smart entrance to a private landing and steps. It has now been placed in the Victoria Embankment Gardens, completely out of context.

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Filed under Architecture, Buildings, Rivers

May Day

May DayHappy May Day! This is such a lovely image that I am reposting a 2015 blog. Above is one of Cruickshank’s great monthly images of London streets showing a May Day procession, led by a clown and followed by a couple – he is carrying a sword, she appears to have a large wooden spoon. Behind them comes an extraordinary character, disguised as a pile of greenery shaped into a crown at the top, and followed by a motley crowd led by a drummer and fife player. Suitably they are passing the shop of Budd, Florist.

To try and make some sense of the picture I turned to Brand’s “Observations on Popular Antiquities…Vulgar Customs, Ceremonies and Superstitions.” (1813) He records that, “It was anciently the custom for all ranks of people to go out a Maying early on the first of May…both sexes were wont to rise a little after midnight on the morning of that day, and walk to some neighbouring wood, accompanied with musick (sic) and the blowing of horns, where they broke down branches from trees and adorned them with nosegays and crowns of flowers. This done, they returned home with the booty, about the time of sunrise, and made their doors and windows triumph in the flowery spoil.”

He records, “In the Morning Post, Monday, May 2nd, 1791, it was mentioned, ‘that yesterday, being the first of May, according to annual and superstitious custom, a number of persons went into the fields and bathed their faces with the dew on the grass, under the idea that it would render them beautiful.’ I remember too, that in walking that same morning between Hounslow and Brentford, I was met by two distinct parties of girls with garlands of flowers, who begged money of me, saying, ‘Pray, Sir, remember the Garland.'”

The strange foliage figure in the print is presumably a walking May Day garland of branches and greenery and perhaps the procession is on its way to dance around a Maypole. He quotes a Mr Strutt: “The Mayings are in some sort yet kept up by the milk-maids at London, who go about the streets with their garlands and musick, dancing; but this tracing is a very imperfect shadow of the original sports; for May-poles were set up in the streets, with various martial shows, morris-dancing and other devices, with which, and revelling, and good cheer, the day was passed away.”

I wonder whether the wooden spoon the young lady is holding is some kind of dairy implement – a cream skimmer, perhaps – symbolic of the milk maids? The small boy just behind her may be a chimney sweep’s boy, holding his brush and dust pan. Brand records that, “The young chimney-sweepers, some of whom are fantastically dressed in girls’ clothes, with a great profusion of brick dust by way of paint, gilt paper etc, making a noise with their shovels and brushes, are now the most striking objects in the celebration of May Day in the streets of London.” This lad’s hat certainly seems to be decorated.

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Filed under Entertainment, Street life, Traditions

A Fishy Business – Billingsgate Market

The New Family Cookery or Town and Country Housekeepers’ Guide by Duncan MacDonald (1812) begins its General Directions for Marketing with fish and with Billingsgate Market:

The comment in the penultimate paragraph is ironic, considering Billingsgate’s colourful reputation! When I was researching for my book Regency Slang Revealed I discovered that to talk Billingsgate meant to use particularly coarse and foul language.

Billingsgate Market was sited at the foot of Lower Thames Street from at least the 10th century until it was moved to the new market site on the Isle of Dogs in 1982. The first set of toll regulations covering it dates from 1016 and by the time of Elizabeth I it was dealing in corn, malt, salt and vegetables, although fish was always the main reason for its existence at the highest point where fish could be unloaded straight from the boats before London Bridge. It can be seen in Horwood’s map of London (c1800) below with the deep indentation of the dock taking a bite out of the waterfront and London Bridge on the left. This dock vanished with the Victorian rebuilding of the market in 1850. That building proved inadequate and was replaced with the present handsome structure by Sir Horace Jones, opened in 1877. It was refurbished after the closure and is now used for various commercial purposes. During the 1988 work extensive remains of the late 12th century/early 13th century waterfront were revealed.

The engraving from a print of 1820 shows the view of the dock from the river. At this date there was no covered market building, simply stalls and tables set out around the dock. In the days before a ready supply of ice dealers would come into Billingsgate from places within about twenty five miles – an outer ring that included Windsor, St Albans and Romford – and fish was sold in lots by the Dutch auction method where the price falls until a buyer is found. Many of the fish were caught in the Thames and in 1828 a Parliamentary Committee took evidence that in 1798 there were 400 fishermen, each owning a boat and employing one boy, who made a good living between Deptford and London catching roach, plaice, smelts, flounders, shad, eels, dudgeon, dace and dabs. One witness stated that in 1810 3,000 Thames salmon were landed in the season. By the time of the Commission,eighteen years later, the fishery had been destroyed by the massive pollution of the river from water closets and  the waste from gas works and factories that went straight into the river.

It was the fishwives of Billingsgate who became its most notorious feature. They were tough women, as they needed to be to thrive in such a hard, competitive business, and they did not shrink from either physical violence or colourful language. In Bailey’s English Dictionary (1736) a “Billingsgate” is defined as “a scolding, impudent slut.” Addison referred to the “debate” that arose among “the ladies of the British fishery” and Ned Ward describes them scolding and chattering among their heaps of fish, “ready enough to knock down the auctioneer who did not knock down a lot to them.”

The women of Billingsgate were an inevitable attraction to young bucks and gentlemen slumming, as the two prints below show. The top one is a drawing by Henry Alken for the Tom and Jerry series – “Billingsgate: Tom and Bob taking a Survey after a Night’s Spree.”  Below that is “A Frolic: High Life or a Visit to Billingsgate” from The London Spy.

Here two sporting gentlemen stand out in the crowd of working people as they watch a fight that has broken out between two bare-breasted fishwives. Another has just been knocked to the ground. Amongst the details note the woman sitting on a basket smoking a clay pipe, another (far left) taking a swig from a bottle and the porter’s hat on the man in the centre foreground with its long ‘skirt’ to protect the neck.

This print below is not dated, but as there is the funnel of a steam boat in the background amongst the masts it is probably 1820s.

Here a determined-looking lady in a riding habit, her veil thrown back and her whip under her arm, is negotiating the sale of a large fish head. Behind her is a smartly-dressed woman, perhaps a merchant’s wife, and an elderly gentleman in spectacles is talking to another fish seller on the far right. There are two men in livery, perhaps accompanying the lady in the riding habit. The man standing behind the seated fishwife is a sailor, judging by his tarred pigtail, and the porter walking towards us is wearing one of the black hats whose ‘tail’ can just be glimpsed over his shoulders. It is all fairly orderly and respectable, despite the crowd (and the smell, no doubt) but a hint to the other activities in the area may be the couple in the window!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Buildings, Food & drink, Rivers, Shopping, Street life, Women, working life