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
The Custom House.
The was originally built in the year of Richard II. in the mayoralty of Sir Nicholas Brembre, by John Churchman, then Sheriff, who is reported to have done many other good works towards the accommodation of the City of London. The building, from its ancient appearance in the reign of Elizabeth, seems never to have undergone the least alteration, and probably continued its original outward form until its destruction in the general conflagration, .
In the year , the of Queen Elizabeth, a list was brought in to the Lord Treasurer of the Queen's yearly Customs, which stood thus:
The Queen lost considerably by concealments of Customs, as appeared by a note brought in about the or year of her reign, by the Customers of the port of London, of all the value of the goods shipped out or bought in by the English and strangers for the Queen's years, taken out of the accounts delivered into ; which Carmarthen, of the , drew up for the Queen's own use; wherein he set down what was, in those years, concealed in Customs inward only, all things allowable deducted, viz. ; besides the petty Lustoms of strangers inwards, which is not herein reckoned. Whereupon there was a commission for concealment of Customs granted to , but he was menaced with destruction, should he proceed in his investigations.
About the year , Thomas Smith was the Queen's Customer, to whom she let the Customs and Subsidies in the port of London inwards to farm (who had long before been a Collector of them), for which he paid her rent whereas, as it was discovered, all the incomes of those Customs amounted nearly to ; so, as it appeared, the Queen lost yearly by that farm This, the said Carmarthen cast up; thereby intending to let the Queen understand how much she lost by farming out her Customs, above a year.
There was a new officer propounded about the year to be brought into the , viz. a Clerk for the Execution of Penal Statutes, Middlemore, who had moved for this place for himself, and obtained a patent for it, upon pretence, that forfeitures and penalties made by merchants might be the better answered to the Queen. About this the Lord Treasurer consulted the chief officers of the , who gave in their reasons against it, which were these: , that there was no place for any more officers or clerks than were already there placed, but rather lack of room for expedition of the merchants and shippers when they came there: that there had been divers like grants made for having of places in the , to whom denial had been made by the Lord Treasurer to have any place there; and that, for patent, they thought it not profitable for the Queen's service, that any penal laws should be executed in her for that it would much hinder her revenue in her Customs and Subsidies, and also grieve the merchants, who did daily diminish in their trades, and employed their moneys upon exchange, whereof Her Majesty had no benefit. Finally, the had always been a quiet place, appointed only for the receipt of the Queen's revenues and duties, and not for execution of penal statutes which were repugnant to the other.
Farming out the Customs continued until the period of the civil wars, when Sir Paul Pindar, who had farmed the Customs during greater part of King James the 's reign, continued the same practice under his son and successor Charles I. by whom he lost considerable sums of money advanced and lent to him during his troubles.
The , built, as mentioned above, in the reign of Richard II. was destroyed by the great fire in , and of which a view is given from an extremely rare print. It was rebuilt shortly after, and again destroyed by fire in the year ; rebuilt a time, and destroyed by the same devouring element in the year . The particulars of which are as follow:
On the , at about o'clock in the morning, the building was discovered to be on fire. The calamity was supposed to have originated from a fire-flue of of the offices of business, adjoining a closet on the -pair of stairs attached to the housekeeper's apartments. There can be little doubt of the fire having been smouldering throughout the greater part of the previous evening. The porter of the house was the person who discovered it. He was going up stairs, and when on the floor, heard a crackling of fire, and saw a flame breaking through the ceiling; he instantly rushed into the room, which was that in which Colonel Kelly slept, whom he found standing by the bed-feet, the curtains in a blaze, and the flame pouring from the above-mentioned closet. By this time the whole room was on fire, and a Mr. Drinkald had given the alarm from the quay, towards which the windows of this room looked. The porter hastened to call up the servants and the family; the Colonel ran to a room adjoining his own fronting the street, and was saved by a ladder with great difficulty, but shockingly burnt in the face and hands. The Miss Kellys most narrowly escaped, with only the covering of blankets; and Captain Hinton Kelly made his way through the fire with his sisters in the same unprovided state. Most of the servants had previously fled to the top of the house, from which they were taken down by ladders. A female servant of Miss Kelly jumped out of a -pair of stairs window: she was much hurt, and carried to in a lifeless state. orphan girls, in the service of Miss Kelly, perished. They had been awakened by the alarm; and the cook of the establishment, in making her escape, passed the door of the room in which these children slept. She threw it open, and called to them to "follow her instantly, for the house was on fire." They answered her, sitting up in their bed, "We will just put on our gowns and get away;" but the room, which was already filled with smoke, burst into flame, and it is concluded that when they strove to make their way to the staircase, they were overpowered by the rapid progress of the fire. The engines arrived soon after o'clock. About the flames had obtained so great an ascendancy, that all attempts to save the edifice were abandoned. The exertions of the firemen and others employed were then directed to the
|warehouses and other buildings on both sides of the street, when a report was circulated that many barrels of gunpowder were deposited in the vaults. This report had nearly a magical effect: all withdrew to a distance, and the flames were left for some time to rage uncontrolled. At half-past an explosion took place, and the shock was distinctly felt on the , and by persons coming to London by the . It carried the burnt papers, ship registers, and a variety of matter, as far as Dalston, Shacklewell, Homerton, Hackney, and all the adjoining villages in the direction of the wind. The gunpowder which exploded had been deposited in the armoury of the Volunteers. The flames soon communicated to the houses in , opposite the , and embraced, in a short time, the warehouses in , and the whole of the tenements extending from Beer Street to , from which it required the utmost activity of the inmates to escape, not with their property, but with their lives. Many individuals were severely scorched. At o'clock the whole of the and the adjoining warehouses were completely reduced to ashes; houses opposite the were burnt down by o'clock; among them Holland's Coffee House, the Rose and Crown and Yorkshire Grey public-houses. and the King's Arms public-house damaged. The East India and corps of volunteers were on the spot soon after the bursting out of the flames, and by unceasing attention prevented much plunder and confusion.|
The actual loss to Government by the sudden destruction of the cannot be calculated; yet there is great consolation in knowing that many of the important papers of office were recovered, and several chests of valuables, with the principal records, saved. The insurance on the amounted to Though public business must have materially suffered by the conflagration, the Commissioners and their officers took the most active measures to facilitate its progress. The spacious and elegant "Commercial Sale Rooms," in , were engaged temporarily to carry on the public business.
Several gentlemen had left large sums of money in their desks, ready to make payments on the following day. individual lost, it is said, upwards of in Bank notes, which were irrecoverable, as the memorandum of the numbers was in the desk with the notes, and met the same fate.—A very fine collection of pictures was also lost, which the Commissioners had permitted a gentleman to leave in deposit till it would be convenient for him to pay the duties, amounting to An old clerk, with great perseverance, assisted by some workmen, got through the ruins to an iron chest, upon the spot where he had usually officiated, and recovered guineas.
The present magnificent building is every way superior to the last, both with respect to the conveniency of its numerous offices and its dimensions; the facility with which access is given by widening the street, through means of the embankment made from the Thames; the former street rendering it extremely dangerous to passengers, who scarcely had room sufficient to pass without occasionally being compelled to walk in the middle of the road.
The new is erected on the site of a number of warehouses on the free quays, and a few dwellinghouses, extending from the , westward, to Sam's Coffee House, opposite , eastward, both inclusive, viz.
Smart's and Dice Quay.—Smart's and part of Dice Quay is in the parish of and in the ward of ; the whole of the remainder is in the parish of St. Dunstan in the East, in the ward of Tower, viz. Young's Quay, Ralph's Quay, Wiggin's Quay, Sabb's Quay, Bear Quay, and Porter's Quay.
The dwelling-houses are, the , and the Dice and Key, the Tackle Porters, the Ipswich Arms, and the Coopers' Arms, public houses; Mr. Charles Martin, wholesale cheesemonger; Mr. Kenyon, sack merchant; and Sam's Coffee House; and a few inferior dwellings in Dice Quay Gateway and Passage.
The public stairs removed, are, , between Dice and Young's Quay; Bear Quay Stairs, between Wiggin's and Sabb's Quay; , at the east end of Porters' Quay.
The public entrance to the , in , is both grand and commodious; the avenues and offices are convenient and airy; the Long Room, which is perhaps for dispatch of business the best adapted of any thing of the kind in Europe, contains handsome stoves, and circular writing-desks for public use. There are arched communications from to the river side, through the body of the building, which are closed at o'clock every evening, by very handsome ornamented iron gates. At each of the extreme ends of the structure are public entrances, never closed against foot passengers, but secured by large iron gates, against the admission of carriages of every description at unseasonable times. Both the wharf and street are well watched, and the boxes have each a glazed window to protect the watchmen from any inclemency of weather when on duty.
The front view from the Thames exhibits, without question, a prospect of the most chaste and classic architecture of modern times. The frieze which embellishes the upper part of the edifice consists in characteristic representations of every nation, state, and country in the known world. This frieze is in compartments: in the centre of the , His present Majesty, George III. appears, receiving the credentials of foreign ambassadors from their respective sovereigns. In the centre of the , Britannia, seated in an escalop shell, is receiving tributary offerings from the different nations inhabiting the globe.
The wharf forms a beautiful marine parade, at each end of which are handsome and convenient stairs, for the purpose of taking water and landing goods. The end of the next , forms a vast improvement in the access to that celebrated market, which now consists of an enlarged area or square, at corner of which is erected watch-house, built , Sir William Leighton, Knt, alderman of the ward; John Ord, Esq., deputy.
The Royal Arms are placed in the centre of the , next the Thames, over the King's warehouse, and receive double effect from the supporting emblems of England's glory, the figures of NEPTUNE and BRITANNIA.
The Architect of this magnificent building is David Laing, Esq., and the designer of the frieze, with the figures of Neptune and Britannia, Mr. Bubb.
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.