Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
Ancient Crypt, called the Cellar of Guy Fawkes. in the Old Palace Yard, Westminster.
At the south east corner of the , , is a short wide passage formerly called Parliament Place, leading to an approach to the river named : which landing was in cut off by a modern wall built across the end of it. On the left of this passage, stood the south wall of the Prince's Chamber, in the ancient Palace of ,[a] beneath which was the cellar hired by the Conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot; the entrance whereto was through a door in an adjoining house in a small enclosed court, behind or at the river end of the Prince's Chamber. When the plan of the conspiracy had been decided on and matured, Thomas Percy, of the principal plotters, hired for their use a house at , near adjoining to the Parliament, and it is supposed from the situation of the building, that it must have stood upon a spot formerly occupied by the Ordnance Office, a plain square white house with a pediment, at the south end of Hall, or on the left side of the King's late entrance to the Prince's Chamber and to the . In the substructure this dwelling was joined by a cellar immediately beneath the Prince's Chamber, most probably at the time belonging to the house which stood there; but there is no doubt that the mining was commenced in that cellar about . In the confession of Guy Fawkes it is stated, that when the conspirators came to the very foundation of the wall of their house and discovered the difficulty of their labour, they took to their assistance Robert Winter, and it is added that it was about Christmas when they arrived at the wall, and about Candlemas they had wrought the wall half through. Whilst they were employed in piercing it they heard a rushing in an adjoining cellar of the removing of coals, when fearing that they were discovered they sent Fawkes to procure information: who, on his return brought word that it was a cellar wherein sea-coals had been deposited, which were then on sale, and that the cellar itself was to be let.[b] This was the place represented in the annexed Engraving, believed to have been originally the kitchen of the old Palace; and in position erected north and south between the Prince's and the Painted Chambers. Upon this intelligence Percy immediately went and hired it, as being more fitted for the designs of the conspirators than the place which they then occupied, because it was directly under the Parliament chamber; and about Lent they conveyed into it barrels of powder, which they covered with billets and faggots to prevent discovery. On they added barrels more, and on other hogsheads;[c] but Sir Edward Coke, in his speech at the trial of the conspirators, stated that there were barrels in the whole.[d] Considerable as this quantity of powder was, the immense thickness of the stone walls of this vault would doubtless have required as much for their destruction. Fawkes describes a foundation-wall , and others have been found there measuring feet inches and an half: and therefore if the force of the powder had not been sufficient to blow all these stone walls in pieces, the explosion would have found a passage at the doors without greatly affecting the buildings above. It was intended that the whole should be fired by a train, or slow-match, which would burn a certain time before exploding; in which interim Fawkes hoped to have passed safely through the doors leading into the court behind the Prince's Chamber, and thence down the passage to , where a boat was to wait for him to carry him to . He expected by means of the water to escape the shock; which, however the conspirators suppose would have levelled and destroyed the whole of London and like an earthquake. The execution of of these persons, namely, Thomas Winter, Ambrose Rookwood, Robert Keyes, and Guy Fawkes, took place close to the exterior of the building in which this cellar was situate, as the scene of their intended crime; since it is stated that they were brought from the Tower to the Old Palace in , over against the Parliament House, and there executed.[e]
From every appearance of this ancient Vault, it has been generally considered to have been the kitchen of the Old Palace of , erected by Edward the Confessor; a conjecture which is supported by the circumstancce, that on taking down the wall in , an entry and recess were discovered, considered to have been the buttery-bar, and a species of beaufet, where the servitors placed the dishes they had brought from above, whilst waiting for others to be delivered to them at the hatch.[f] The age of the structure, especially that of the Painted Chamber and therefore undoubtedly of all the sub-structure, has been assigned partly on the authority of Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, who presided at the trial of Henry Garnet, the Jesuit, for participation in the Powder Plot,—since he stated that he had "found by ancient record that the walls were by the holy Confessor St. Edward raised."[g] Other arguments in support of this date have been derived from the tradition reported by Howel, or rather Stow, that here King Edward held his court, had his palace and general residence, and ended his life, being also buried in the adjoining monastery;[h] and also from the circumstance that the Painted Chamber is synonymously called St. Edward's Chamber.[i] It has been doubted, however, whether that name did not refer to the Coronation of that King painted upon the walls between the times of Henry III. and Edward III.;[k] and that the architecture was really of the reigns of Henry II. and III. Some of the arches
|themselves are supposed to be as late as even the century; whilst in the eastern extremity of the Crypt under the Painted Chamber, are divisions of groins with arches, constructed, as it is believed, by Inigo Jones, as some small portions of his architecture appear inserted at this point in the external wall. The rest of the headway to this Crypt, as well as to that under the , is common flooring: each arrangement was however in all probability originally groined, but destroyed in latter times with the exception of the divisions already mentioned. Mr. Carter, from whom these remarks have been adopted, decidedly referred the "pointed windows, with columnised-mullions and primitive tracery to the time of Henry II."; and he adds that the structure is said to have been erected by Archbishop Becket himself.[a]|
The annexed Engraving consists of a view of the whole length of the ancient Crypt under the Old ,[b] looking to the north end, or toward : the drawing for which was measured and executed in , and finished previous to the demolition of the structure in . The vault represented was feet in length by feet inches in width, and at the time referred to was only feet in height; but the original flooring was about feet inches below that shewn in the view. Mr. Capon considered from the style of the masonry that the large open doorway on the right, with all the lower parts of the walls, and the half-arch at the end of the vault,—were some of the earliest portions of the Old Palace of , erected in the times of Edward the Confessor, and William I. and II.; but that almost all the visible remainder of the architecture was of the age of Henry III. superadded to the original work. His description also states that it was through the large doorway on the right that Guy Fawkes is said to have intended escaping after he had fired the train to the combustibles deposited in the crypt; since that entrance led through a modern door in a court at the east end of the Prince's Chamber. On the western side of the crypt was a small apartment covered with modern brick vaulting, to which there was a communication through a large ancient stone doorway, under the arch on the left in the annexed view; in which vault there remained the form of an aperture in the stone wall stopped up with old brick-work, a memorial of the original breach commenced by the Powder Plot conspirators. On the south side of the same vaulted room appeared a very ancient doorway, with ornamented imposts from which sprung a segmental-arch surmounted by a semicircular-arch: the doorway led into apartments lastly occupied as wine-cellars under the Prince's Chamber or Lodgings, as that part of the Palace is denominated in a plan of the edifice of the time of Charles II,—The dark red projecting brick-work enclosing a semicircular arch on the right hand of the present View, was erected to support a fire-place in the Old above, the hearth of which was a very large slab of Portland stone, about or feet in length, feet in width, and or inches in solidity. This was the work of Inigo Jones, as were also the octangular oaken pillars, fixed upon socles, or solid plinths of stone, placed down the centre of the Crypt to sustain the weight of the apartment over it. Only the upper and lower portions of these pillars are represented in the annexed Plate, to prevent the obstruction of many material and interesting parts of the walls. In the distance on the right under a half-arch, was a very ancient privy, the seat of which was formed by the edge of an upright stone and the entrance by a low and narrow triangular arch, constructed of stones placed conically from the sides and meeting at the apex.[c] Though actually above the ground, from its situation the whole of this Crypt was totally dark when the measurements and draughts of it were originally taken in , by candle-light; though about noon at that season an imperfect light entered for a short time from an adjoining passage on the east, at the end of which were windows and a door-way looking full south: there had been also a small lancet-window in the recess at the end of the Crypt, which was stopped up at the time this view was taken, but was afterwards re-opened. The centre arch at the northern end was filled up with wood-work enclosing a large square door opening into a wide passage beyond, wherein was a door with a semi-circular arch, leading into a fine vaulted apartment with segmental-arches of very good workmanship, under the eastern end of the Painted Chamber. In the annexed View the whole of these doorways are supposed to be open, to shew as much as possible of the place represented.
Some few years previous to the entire removal of this Crypt, the arches were altered, the floor was paved, and the whole apartment modernised, to form a Repository for the Journals of the . About , commenced the demolition of the Prince's Chamber and other ancient rooms connecting them at the top of the King's staircase, they being then in a ruinous state, together with this Crypt and the other vaults beneath; and in October were laid the foundations of Sir John Soane's Royal Gallery, which was finished . The new King's staircase, or Scala Regia, had been previously erected by the same architect, having been begun in the summer of , and completed in the January of the year following.[d] Whilst the ancient vaults at existed, it was the custom of the Lord Great Chamberlain with proper officers making a strict search in all the rooms and cellars beneath, or nearly under, the Houses of Parliament, previously to the opening of every new Session.
[a] Mr. Capon has stated at the close of his original description of this Vault, that he possessed an extensive collection of the most minute plans, perspective views, and measurements, of all the remaining buildings of the Old Palace of Westminster: a perfect ground-plan of which, with that of the ancient substructure of the Abbey, had occupied his leisure for upwards of thirty years, even to the period of his death which took place Sept. 26th, 1827, at the age of 70. Of the remains of the Old Palace he composed a scene for the present Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, representing that structure as it might have appeared three centuries since; with two large wings to the same containing other portions of the edifice, derived from an ancient draught which he found in looking over some records in the Augmentation Office at Westminster. —Gentleman's Magazine, Oct. 1827. vol. xcvii. part ii. p. 375.
[b] Confession of Guy Fawkes contained in A Relation of the Gunpowder Treason, by Thomas Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln, Lond. 1679, sm. 8vo. pp. 41, 42.
[c] Chronicle of the Kings of England, by Sir Richard Baker, Lond. 1670, fol. p. 430.—The True and Perfect Relation of the Proceedings against Garnet and his Confederates. Lond. 1606. 4to. signat. D. and reverse. The latter barrels were added lest those first deposited had become damp; there were also added a thousand billets and five hundred faggots.
[d] Proceedings against Garnet, &c. Signat. H. 3, reverse. A complete Collection of State Trials, by Francis Hargrave, Esq. Lond. 1777. fol. vol. i. col. 241. The indictment mentions thirty barrels and four hogsheads of powder, on which were laid great iron bars and stones. Ibid. col. 234.
[e] State Trials, vol. i. col. 248. This is also stated in a very rare pamphlet entitled The Arraignement and Execution of the late Traytors, Lond. 1606. 4to. Signat. C 2. At signature B the conspirators are said to have been executed in the Old Palace at Westminster, over against the Parliament House on Friday Jan. 31st, 1605. meaning in Old Palace Yard, within the verge of the ancient Palace, which extended from the Chapel of Henry VII. to the beginning of Milbank. The other four conspirators, Sir Everard Digby, Robert Winter, John Grant, and Thomas Bates, were executed on Thursday, Jan. 30th, at the west end of St. Paul's Cathedral. A reprint of the tract above mentioned is inserted in The Antiquarian Repertory, Lond. 1807. 4to. vol. i. pp. 188—196.
[f] MS. description of the annexed Engraving by the late Mr. William Capon. In the late Mr. John Carter's remarks on Mr. J. S. Hawkins' History of the Origin and Establishment of Gothic Architecture, Lond. 1813. 8vo. it is observed of this Crypt, that "there is not the smallest warrant for concluding that any part could have been origmally applied to the purposes of a kitchen or cellar." Gentlemon's Mogazine, Jan. 1814. vol. lxxxiv. part i. p. 10.
[g] Proceedings against Garnet, &c. Signat. Eee, reverse. State Trials, vol. i. col. 307.
[h] Londinopolis, by James Howel, Lond. 1657. fol. p. 356, which should be 354. Stow's Survey of London, Edit. by Rev. J. Strype, Lond. 1720. fol. Vol. II. book vi. chap. iii. p. 47.
[i] In the History of Edward III. and Edward the Black Prince, by Rev. Joshua Barnes, Cambr. 1688. fol. p. 720, a Parliament is mentioned as meeting in the Painted Chamber, May 21st, 1364; and in the ceremonial of the marriage of Richard, Duke of York, second son of Edward IV., 1477, the Painted Chamber is mentioned as St. Edward's Chamber. Observations Introductory to an Historical Essay upon the Knighthood of the Bath, by John Anstis. Lond. 1725. 4to. p. 33, in the Collection of Authorities at the end.—Sir Edward Coke in his Fourth Institute of the Laws of England, Edit. 1644, fol. p. 8, says that the causes of Parliament were in ancient times shewed in the Chambre Depeint, or St. Edward's Chamber. In the Gentleman's Magazine, for August 1823, vol. xciii. part ii. p. 99, it is argued that Edward the Confessor died in a former palace erected on the same site as the latter building.
[k] The splendid painting of this Coronation, with others of allegorical figures, and the martyrdom of the seven brethren by King Antiochus, as related in 2 Maccabees vii.,—was discovered during some repairs in the Painted Chamber, after the Prorogation of Parliament Nov. 2nd, 1819. They were, however, almost immediately hidden again under new panels and hangings, beside being much deteriorated by the workmen in their haste to prepare the apartment for the re-assembling of Parliament, it being used for conferences between the Lords and Commons; and if they should be ever again disclosed they will never appear in even a similar state of perfection. Copies of them were, however, taken for the Board of Works: and an excellent account of them is given in the Literary Gazette, for Dec. 4th, and 11th. 1819, pp. 776, 794. A paper upon the same subject by Mr. J. C. Buckler also appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, for Nov. 1819, vol. lxxxix. part ii; p. 391. The age of the paintings at Westminster is not in any instance accurately known, though some of them are proved to have been as old as A.D. 1322, when they are thus mentioned in the Itinerarium Symonis-Simeonis, et Hugonis Iluminatoris, Edit. by Jas, Nasmyth, Cambr. 1778. 8vo. p. 5. "At the other end of the City is a monastery of Black Monks, named Westminster, in which all the Kings of England are constantly and commonly buried. And almost immediately adjoining to the same monastery, is that most famous Palace of the King, in which is that well-known chamber on the walls whereof all the histories of the wars of the Bible are painted in a manner surpassing description, and with most complete and perfect inscriptions in French; to the great admiration of the beholders, and with the utmost regal magnificence."—Independently of this account of the paintings in 1322, there is some reason for supposing them much more ancient, since on the Liberate-Roll of the 21st year of Henry III., 1237, occurs an order for paying to Odo the Goldsmith, Keeper of the King's Works at Westminster, 4l. 11s. for pictures in the King's Chamber there; which it is possible was this apartment. Hon. Horace Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting in England, Edit, by Rev. J. Dallaway, vol. i. Lond. 1826, 8vo. p. 10; in the same work will also be found various royal mandates concerning this and other painted chambers in England; and in I. T. Smith's Antiquities of Westminster, Lond. 1807. 4to. pp. 55—57, 73, 74, 76, 78—81, 210—221, are numerous interesting notices of the painters, materials, subjects and progress, of the decorations at the old Palace in that City. Though the Palace were partly destroyed by fire in 1299 and rebuilt by Edward I., it appears that the conflagration was in the western division of the building, next Westminster Abbey, and that the original paintings remained unhurt in the eastern. It was not however, until the removal of the tapestry in the Painted Chamber, early in 1807, that the reason of its name could be at all understood, or became apparent, but the above-mentioned pictures of the Jewish wars and other scripture histories, containing a multitude of large figures, were then discovered upon the walls. Perhaps the subjects of the paintings in the same place found in 1819, may elucidate an unexplained order issued June 5th, 1351, 26th year of Henry III., that "the low chamber in the King's garden," at Westminster, should "be called the Antioch Chambre;" namely, from the pictures of the martyrdom of the Seven Brethren by Antiochus. Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, vol. i. p. 21. I. T. Smith's Antiquities of Westminster, p. 56. The same conjecture is also introduced in the Literary Gazette, for Dec. 4th, 1819, p. 777. The ancient paintings in St. Stephen's Chapel were discovered in making the enlargements there August 11th, 1800, after the union with Ireland.
[a] "The Chancellor Thomas caused the chief seat of the realm, the Palace at London, to be re-edified, which was before almost ruined, perfecting so great a work with wonderful speed between Easter and Whitsuntide that year; all the carpenters and other workmen being so earnestly labouring and with such noise of working, that one could scarcely hear another speak who was even next to him." Vita Sancti Thomæ Cantuariensis, à W. Stephanide conscripta, p. 14, in Joseph Sparke's Historiæ Anglicanæ Scriptores Varii, Lond. 1723. fol. vol. i. Stow refers the year of Becket's rebuilding the Palace at Westminster to about 1163, Survey of London, Vol. II. Book vi. chap. iii. p. 47.
[b] This was a narrow apartment or gallery, standing north and south, forming part of the Prince's lodgings, and connecting the Prince's and Painted Chambers, After the union with Ireland in 1800, a larger room was required for the accommodation of the 32 additional Peers representing that kingdom; and the Court of Requests, formerly bearing the name of Whitehall, was appointed to be the future House of Lords. In the Gentleman's Magazine for July 1807, Vol. lxxvii. part ii. pp. 623, 624, are some remarks upon the very ordinary and ill-adapted fittings up of that place and the neglected state of the former apartments, with the Prince's and Painted Chambers: both before and since the accession of George IV., however, the House of Lords was decorated in a richer and more appropriate manner, and the other chambers having fallen into decay were taken down in 1823.
[c] A large separate view of this doorway is engraven in mezzotinto in Smith's Antiquities of Westminster, p. 41: in which is also shewn part of a cylindrical stone staircase leading to the Painted Chamber It is said to have been in this recess that Guy Fawkes was discovered ready to fire the train.
[d] Illustrations of the Public Buildings of London, by J. Britton and A. Pugin, vol. ii. Lond. 1828, 8vo. pp. 268, 269. The materials of the Old House of Lords, robing-room, and passages, were sold by Auction by order of the Surveyor-General, on Thursday, Aug. 7th, 1823, but the Painted-Chamber was not destroyed.
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.