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
An Account of the Ruins Discovered, in 1821, at the Corner of Whitcomb Street, Formerly Called Hedge Lane.
In , the workmen employed in digging for the foundation of the intended new houses on the north side of , on opening the ground at the south-west corner of Hedge Lane, or , and near the west entrance of the , they observed several rude and unshapen pieces of sculpture, which suggested the idea of parts of a Corinthian capital; also a large stone of a conical form (placed in the fore-ground of the annexed view) on whose top were remains of sculptured foliage, &c. On further excavation, and clearing away the earth, were discovered the fragments of walls, evidently of great antiquity, and which no doubt were remains of some eminent building; though of such remote date as to forbid any positive decision of the time or purpose of its erection. The largest of these fragments, which measured about feet in thickness, lay east and west, and stood by itself; and opposite, on the west side, were the other , which lay north and south, the southern end of the touching the northwest end of the other, in a parallel direction; these did not exceed feet in thickness. The distance from the east end of the larger fragment to the outside of the other walls was about feet. The were in good preservation, particularly the northmost of the , which rose nearest to the surface of the ground, and so very compact, that it was with great difficulty they could be broken by driving into them large iron crows. The parts had evidently been connected by others, decayed and gone, and the ruins altogether made a venerable and interesting appearance, though we presume they had formed but a small part of the original structure.
The materials that composed these mural fragments were various, and well worthy of notice, consisting of ragstone, some chalk, a few bricks, and particularly of silicious substances, that had no doubt contributed much to their durability; the bricks in the composition prove them to be of very ancient date, as well as the circumstance that Hedge Lane ran immediately by the site of these ruins, and was about centuries ago a lane bounded by a hedge, that in all probability these ruins were buried, if not entirely unknown at that time.
Their discovery has given rise to numerous conjectures as to the original building: the most prevalent (and, perhaps, the best founded) of which is, that they were the remains of the Royal Mews burnt in ,[*] in the reign of Henry the , and became neglected and buried after the fire: this idea is supposed to account for their concealment so many years; but if even this were the case, they certainly had been connected with a still older building, of which, perhaps, we have not the smallest account. They are by some supposed the remains of a religious edifice, from the circumstance of human bones having been dug up among the ruins. Pennant mentions a hermitage dedicated to St. Catharine, which anciently stood near , as also a small church near the same spot; but the latter is said to have been west of the foundation, nor did the place of the former exactly agree with them. Some conjecture them to be remains af an obscure chapel, fallen into decay through neglect, want of money, or from some other cause, and of which no memorial has been preserved; while others think them to have been the base of the ancient Charing (originally called Cherè Reine, or dear Queen's) Cross, set up in honour of Eleanor, queen of Edward the ,[*] as the last place where her corpse rested on its way to be interred in . All these are, however, mere suppositions; and it can only be added, that the reader, presented with these surmises, and a faithful representation of the ruins and their locality, is left to form his own opinion respecting them.
[*] For an account of which see Pennant's London, edition 1813, page 151.
[*] Queen Eleanor, on her journey to Scotland, died in Lincolnshire, whence her body was brought for interment in the Abbey; and every place where it rested was made to perpetuate her memory by the erection of a Cross, which distinguished marks of respect are well known to have been gained by her conjugal affection, so brilliantly displayed in a hazardous exposure of her own life to save that of the King, when they were in Palestine.
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.