Tag Archives: Samuel Pepys

A Fleet Street Church

fleet-st-st-dunstans

The scene above (from Ackermann’s Repository ) 1812 shows the view west along Fleet Street towards Temple Bar, the point where the City of London becomes Westminster. The Regency Londoner  would have trouble recognizing it today – always assuming they could stand in the same spot without being mown down by the traffic. Temple Bar, after many adventures is now re-erected next to St Paul’s Cathedral and the church whose west end faces us – St Dunstan’s in the West – was demolished and rebuilt in 1830 when Fleet Street was widened by nine metres.

I found a mid-eighteenth century print of St Dunstan’s in a folder I bought at auction a few weeks ago and that image prompted me to look at the one above again. I have to confess an interest in St Dunstan’s – two of my ancestors were in London in 1643, died of the plague and were buried there.

st-dunstans

I love the street scenes these prints show, especially the shops. In the 18th century one you can clearly see the way shops have been built right around the walls of the church itself as was common at the time. Each has its hanging sign and the shop on the far left must be a clockmaker’s. By the time of the 1812 print the shops along the side have been swept away, but the ones of the east end remain.

St Dunstan’s was built in the 12th century, grew and was changed and even survived the Great Fire of 1666 which reached almost to its walls. Samuel Pepys, whose groping is one of his most unattractive features, tried it on with a servant girl while listening to a sermon in St Dunstan’s. She took out a packet of pins in a threatening manner and he took the hint!

Inside there are monuments rescued from the old church and the ring of bells is the original. The only survival of the old church on the outside is the clock projecting from a temple containing the figures of two men with clubs who used to hit a bell every fifteen minutes. It was erected in 1671 by the parishioners as a thank-offering for the escape from the Fire. The clock and the figures are set back a little now, so it is difficult to see them unless you are square in front of them, but they show up well on Streetview. The clock which according to the London Encyclopedia, was the first in London to have minutes marked and to be double sided, was a tourist attraction mentioned by Dickens in Barnaby Rudge and Sir Walter Scott in The Fortunes of Nigel.

When the church was demolished it was removed to the Marquess of Hertford’s Regent Park villa, but it was returned in 1935, thanks to Lord Rothermere the newspaper proprietor who brought it back to the heart of London’s newspaper world, Fleet Street.

 

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Bartholomew’s Fair

The George Cruickshank monthly print for September is a lively image of the Bartholomew fair, held at Smithfield from 1133 until Victorian moral outrage finally suppressed it in 1855.

Barth fair
Its origins were in the cloth fair which provided much of the income for the priory and hospice dedicated to St Bartholomew that eventually became today’s Bartholomew’s Hospital (“Barts”). The fair, one of the largest in the country, was held for three days from the eve of St Bartholomew’s Day (24th August). With the change of calendars in the 18th century the date slipped to 3rd September.
At the same time as the cloth fair the Corporation of London held a cattle fair at the same site and eventually, after many wrangles and the Dissolution of the monasteries, the Corporation took over the whole event.
By the 17th century the fair was more a vast funfair than a cloth or cattle sale and even the Puritans did not try and shut it down. By the time Charles II was on the throne it lasted for three weeks of carnival and downright disorder.
Everyone, rich or poor, went to the Fair, including Samuel Pepys who records numerous visits over the years. On September 2nd 1664 he watched the rope-dancing and bought combs for his wife and her maids.
Entertainments included theatrical performances, jugglers, magicians, stalls selling every kind of trinket, animal shows, food stalls, freaks and vast amounts of drink. The print for a fan dated 1721 shows a rather tidy and sedate fair, but does illustrate some of the activities – rope dancers, Faux the conjuror, rides in a dog cart, an early form of Ferris wheel, a peepshow of the Siege of Gibraltar and a stall selling “toys” – not children’s playthings but adult novelties and trinkets. Dolls known as Bartholomew Babies were one of the most popular souvenirs.

V0014666 Bartholomew Fair, site of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Bartholomew Fair, site of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, pictured in 1721. Aquatint with etching, c. 1800. Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

V0014666 Bartholomew Fair, site of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
images@wellcome.ac.uk
http://wellcomeimages.org
Bartholomew Fair, site of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, pictured in 1721. Aquatint with etching, c. 1800.
Published: –
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

By the later 18th century Richardson’s booth was considered to have the best theatrical entertainments. He charged 6d admission (most others only charged a penny) and the tent was lined with green baize, illuminated by 2,000 lamps and the ushers were dressed as beefeaters. One can be seen to the right of Cruickshank’s print.
A visitor in 1825 records seeing “four lively little crocodiles hatched from eggs at Peckham by steam, Wombwell and his menageries [and] a glass blower in a glass wig blowing tea cups for 3d each.” An account of the money made by stallholders in 1828 gives an idea of the type of sideshows – the Pig-Faced Lady earned £150 (at 1d a time), the Panorama of the Battle of Navarino, £60 and the Chinese Juggler, £50. Wombwell’s Menagere made £1,500.
Cruickshank’s image shows a daytime scene with many children in the crowd – although even then the place is crowded and the bull-baiting appears to have got completely out of control. The coloured image by Pugin and Rowlandson for the Microcosm of London in 1801 shows a much darker, night-time scene, hinting at danger, debauchery and sin.

Microcosm Barth Fair
The Victorians certainly did not approve. In 1840 a committee regulated the booths and increased the rents and forbade “giants and dwarfs”. City notables ceased their support and by 1850 it was so reduced that it was no longer worth having an opening ceremony. In 1855 it ceased to exist, leaving only its name as a bye-word for uncontrolled fun for every class.

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