The great fire of 1666 entirely destroyed the central and southern portions of the City so that the buildings which survived are all to be found in the North and East. The Churches are very few in number but extremely rich in interest. They are: St. Bartholomew the Great, St. Helen’s, St. Katherine Cree, St. Giles’ Cripplegate, Allhallows Barking, St. Olave’s, Hart Street, St. Etheldreda, St. Ethelburga, St. Andrew Undershaft, and the Dutch Church in Austin Friars.
There are. also parts of the towers of several other Churches: St. Mary Aldermary, St. Lawrence Jewry, with Norman arch, and the porch of St. Sepulchre’s, which survived the re-building of the body of the Church.
Turning to the left at Holborn Circus where Prince Albert may be seen politely saluting the Viaduct we find Ely Place, and when we enter St. Etheldreda’s Church the clatter of Holborn falls from us and fades into a drowsy murmur.
Ely Place is the site of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely, the Chapel being the last surviving portion of the old foundation.
As we pass into the pleasant cloister we are greeted with a cheerful ” good morning ” from the good natured and good looking Irish woman who is the custodian of the Church. It was in this cloisteror rather its predecessor for this is a mere fragmentthat King Henry VIII. first met Cranmer, and in they garden of which this is a part the strawberries about which Shakespeare speaks in “Richard.” used to grow. John of Gaunt, father of Henry IV., when his Palace at the Savoy was burnt down by rioters took refuge here and remained until his death in 1399. In 1576, Sir Christopher Hatton, the Chancellor and favourite of Queen Elizabeth, obtained a lease of the Palace, and coming to later times Bishop Ken the author of the well-known hymn ” Glory to Thee my God this night,” was preacher here, and Queen Anne used to come to Ely Place to enjoy his preaching.
The Chapel is an excellent specimen of 14th century architecture although much restored. Sir Gilbert Scott, under whose directions the recent restoration was carried out, considers that the building dates from about 1290 as it corresponds in many important particulars with the monument of the Bishop of Ely in Ely Cathedral who owned this property.
The crypt is the only part of the original structure remaining and measures 87 x 25 ft., the walls being in places 8 ft. thick. Overhead are massive beams and rafters of chestnut wood, black with age. The font to the left of the main south door is supposed to be Saxon workmanship. In a narrow court connecting Ely Place to Hatton Garden, is a public-house called the ” Mitre,” which has as a sign a carved stone mitre upon the facia with date 1531.
Returning to Charterhouse Street and turning to the left, we are soon in the turmoil and noise of Smithfield market. On the east side of Smithfield stands the old gateway of St. Bartholomew’s, the weather beater arch, stained with dust and age facing the spot where Wallis, the noble Scottish, patriot, so bravely met his death, ant blackened possibly by the smoke which arose from that awful pyre, where, during the Reign of Queen Mary, 277 people were burnt to death. John Rogers, the Vicar of the adjoining Church of St. Sepulchre’s, being the first of the long list of Protestant martyrs. The earl’ English dog-tooth moulding of the arch is ye comparatively perfect.
When one enters the Church of St. Bartholomew the effect is positively startling; the grandeur and sublimity of the glorious Normal work which is possibly increased by the some what sordid surroundings outside fills one with, intense delight.
The history of the Church has been so often old that it would be out of place to repeat it ere. St. John’s.Chapel in the Tower is the my Norman building we have left in London 3 compare with St. Bartholomew’s, but the work at the latter is much finer. From. behind he Communion table the. arches can be seen to. he best effect and the vaulting illustrates the finest period of Norman work.
All the Norman work in St. Bartholomew’s vas done by Rahere, the founder ‘(date 1123) and his successor, St. Thomas of Osyth, who vas Prior from the years 1143 to 1174. The figure of Rahere on his tomb is considered by experts to be the original carving, although he tomb itself and the canopy are Elizabethan. Prior Bolton about 1520 added the Perpenlicular Clerestory and other additions.
In the south aisle is the beautiful alabaster tomb of Sir W. Mildmay, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth, and founder of Emanuel College, Cambridge. The bust of lames Rivers is attributed to Le Soeur. Mrs. Charlotte Hart, for 40 years sextoness, left 600 pounds towards the Restoration Fund of the Church, and the handsome new pulpit has been recently erected to her memory. In the baptismal register under date November 28th, 1697, is the name of Hogarth. The existing font is the one at which the great artist was baptized. Hogarth maintained his interest in this part of the city all his life through, and when the adjoining hospital was rebuilt he painted the cartoons on the walls of the grand staircase, the best preserved being that of Christ healing the sick.
Mr. Burton Baker in his ” Stories of the Streets of London,” has many references to the Puritans, ” those snuffling hypocrites” as lie always describes them. The documents of St. Bartholomew are full of interest, and among other notes is the record of the fact that during the time of the Puritans some offertories taken at the Church were devoted entirely to the benefit of sick Roman Catholic priests, proving that the Puritans were not so intolerant as Mr. Baker would have us believe.
Our opinions when coloured and controlled by political prejudices are generally foolish enough. The Puritans were of course often harsh and cruel, but to have no other name than “snuffling hypocrites” for the men who established the British Navy and gave us our first Colony is singular nonsense. When Cromwell obtained power there were but 14 ships of war of two decks belonging to England. Rigorous reforms were at once introduced. The ratings, existing almost to our day, were established and the whole work of re-organising was energetically pushed forward, and although during all this time England was fighting the greatest naval power of the world, within five years Cromwell increased the Fleet to 150 sail of the line. The gallant Puritan Blake met and finally over-threw the hitherto invincible Van Tromp, who, with his broom at the mast head had so long wept the seas, and finally by a magnificent action, Blake destroyed the Spanish Fleet at Teneriffe under the guns of the fort, thus giving to England her proud position of mistress of the seas.
To the eternal disgrace of Charles II. the body of the great Admiral was, by the King’s command, dug up and cast out of Westminster Abbey, and Mr. Burton Baker follows at some distance the example of the noble Stuart–with his “snuffling hypocrites.” In our eagerness to pour ridicule on our opponents we sometimes fail to notice that we are splashing ourselves.
St. Bartholomew’s Hospital opposite which I was part of the Priory, was sold at the time of the dissolution, the hospital being re-established by Henry VIII. and Edward VI. The building escaped the fire but was taken down and rebuilt early in the 18th century. St. Bartholomew’s has long been celebrated as the leading hospital and school of medicine and surgery in London. Harvey, who discovered’ the circulation of the blood, and Sir Richard’ Owen, the great anatomist, were surgeons here.
St. Bartholomew’s is surrounded by a maze of quaint and narrow streets, and many of tin houses with their projecting gables are nearly 300 years old. At the end of Cloth Fair an old inn, the Richard Whittington, claims to be the oldest licensed house in London.
A few steps from here will bring us to the Charterhouse, where, in the lobby on the right of the entrance, a courteous and well-informed attendant is generally to be found ready to do the honours and uphold the good name of the foundation.
In the year 1348 a terrible pestilence devastated London and mowed down its thousands of victims. The plague was so in-appeasable that it is said grave-diggers could hardly be found to bury the dead, and many thousands of bodies were thrown into pits dug in the open fields.
The Bishop of London in his zeal to alter this dreadful state of things, erected a small chapel and enclosed a small piece of waste ground just outside the City wall at Alders-gate, and called it Pardon Churchyard. It is estimated that at least 50,000 persons were buried in this small piece of ground. From the Church a Carthusian Monastery was established in 1371 by Sir Walter Manny, and this flourished until the dissolution when Prior Houghton and two of the brethren who refused to acknowledge the supremacy of the King, and who energetically denounced Henry for his many acts of spoliation were sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn. Sir Thomas More, who at this time was a prisoner for the same offence, looking from his dungeon window in the Tower, saw the procession conducting these three men to execution, and, as his daughter reports, longed to accompany them, ” Lo dost thou not see Meg, the blessed fathers cheerfully going to their death as bridegrooms to their marriage.”
The monastery now became a secular place of residence. It was’ bought by the Duke of Norfolk, who considerably added to it and made it a ducal residence, but for engaging in the conspiracy to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne the Duke was executed on Tower Hill and the building lapsed to the Crown. Queen Elizabeth ultimately granted it to Lord Thomas Howard, the Duke’s second son, and in the year 1611 a rich coal owner from the North, Sir Thomas Sutton, purchased the building and converted it into an almshouse for old men who had come down in the world, and also a school for poor boys.
When Queen Elizabeth came to London for her coronation she made a stay of five days at the Charterhouse previous to that event. The presence chamber or drawing-room which she occupied is still in a fair state of preservation. The mantelpiece adorned with carvings and royal arms is almost untouched. Various tapestries cover the walls and some beautiful old Chippendale chairs excite feelings, of envy as we notice them still being used at the present day. James II. also lived here for a day or two when he came to London.
The chapel is a Jacobean building though some portions of the original chapel remain.
In the north aisle is a handsome alabaster tomb to Sutton who is buried beneath it, and curtained off from the rest of the building are the seats and raised gallery occupied by Charterhouse boys before the school was re-moved to Godalming in 1872. There are also monuments to Ellenborough by Chantrey and to several of the eminent masters.
In a cloister leading to the chapel are tablets to the memory of famous old Carthusians, the roll of which is a distinguished one, including the names of Steele and Addison, Blackstone, Wesley, Thomas Day, Grote the historian, Leach the immortal caricaturist of Punch, Havelock and Thackeray.
The great hall which dates from the time of the Reformation is one of the finest specimens of the work of that time in London. Sutton added the fireplace which has his crest upon it, and the small cannons at the side are supposed to bear reference to his having provided a ship to fight against the Spaniards at the Armada.
The old brethren, about 80 in number, dine together here every day at 3 0′clock, and, attired in their long robes, make a very picturesque scene, but the great day of the year is December 12th, Founder’s Day, when the elder boys from the school are brought up, distinguished visitors are invited, and the old Carthusian song is sung and the founder’s health is drunk amidst a scene of great enthusiasm. Wash House Court is the oldest part of the fabric, the walls of which formed part of the original monastery.
Thackeray has immortalised his old school in the pages of ” The Newcomes,” and the record of the last words of Colonel Newcome in his quiet room, which tradition points out as overlooking Wash House Court, is one of the most touching pictures ever portrayed by Thackeray’s graphic pen.
“At the usual evening hour the chapel bell began to toll, and Thomas Newcome’s hand outside the bed feebly beat time. And just as the last bell struck, a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face, and he lifted up his head a little, and quickly said ` Adsum ‘ and fell back. It was the word he used at school when names were called; and lo, he, whose heart was as that of a little child, had answered to his name in the presence of ` The Master.’ ”
On a summer afternoon one of the most powerful arguments in favour of a vegetarian diet is surely that furnished by the sight of the great meat market close by. If, however, the traveller will run the gauntlet of this dreadful place he will find in St. John Street the interesting old St. John’s Gate. Boswell tells us that when Johnson first saw this old gate he “beheld it with reverence.” Nearly 200 years have passed since then, but the old building still remains the last relic of the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem. Cave, the publisher and printer of the Gentleman’s Magazine, issued the first number of that journal from here with an illustration of the gateway upon its cover, which illustration survives until to-day. John-son, then an unknown provincial, worked for Cave at St. John’s Gate.
The gate as we know it dates from about 1500 and bears the arms of Prior Docwra. The Protector Somerset blew up the old Monastery using the stones to build his palace in the Strand. The gateway fortunately escaped and remains almost untouched.
It is now the home of the modern Knights of St. John (St. John’s Ambulance) and the fine old room where Johnson, Garrick and Gold-smith used to meet can still be seen.
Two or three hundred yards to the north is St. John’s Church which is built upon a beautiful early English and Norman Crypt restored about ten years ago and open to the public. It was here that the secret of the Cock Lane Ghost which aroused such extra-ordinary, interest about the year 1760 was finally discovered and the deception cleared up.