The Scenery of LondonMitton, G. E.
CHAPTER IV: Great Buildings
CHAPTER IV: Great Buildings
THE reader need not fear that he will be led into a dissertation on the architectural excellences or enormities of our public buildings; these shall be left aside, and, save as it occurs incidentally, architecture shall not be so much as mentioned in what follows. There are many books treating of our great national buildings, and therein may be found details that do not lie within the scope of our present discursive narrative.
The two great Churches of St. Paul and St. Peter are of course the two buildings that stand out pre-eminently in London, by reason of their tradition of antiquity and their sacred character; of the two the Abbey comes in for the largest share of attention from foreigners and visitors. A stranger able to see but one would undoubtedly choose the Abbey, because in many points it has the advantage of St. Paul's; the points easily noticeable are the fact that it is the crowning-place of our sovereigns, and connected with all the State pageantry of these occasions; that it is a much older building than St. Paul's; and that it has always been
|the burial-place of those whom the nation " delights to honour."|
The coronations make a magnificent record: a procession of kings from to ., with every variation of dress and detail, but always the same great ceremony, a tradition momentous enough to throw a feeling of solemnity over the most flippant mind.
The principal personages who took part in these coronation ceremonies no doubt each seemed final unto themselves, the embodiment of the present, and had the idea firmly fixed in their minds that now had arrived the great event for which time had been hastening onward, now was a ceremony eclipsing all that had yet been.
From the time when the monks lived on the island of brambles but slightly above the level of the water and easily overflowed, hard by the ford at which the pilgrims and the travellers from north and south crossed the river, before even the building of , the ground whereon the Abbey stands has been sacred ground. Thus the second point is conceded; as a building also we may grant it to be intrinsically more interesting than St. Paul's by yielding to it the palm in age.
|was in the Norman style, crowned by a cupola of wood, and the whole occupied almost as great an area as the present Abbey. Of this little now remains, and as successive kings were crowned, the Abbey altered in size and shape, always retaining some of the ancient work while new was added, until it attained its present grandeur by the slow growth|
|of centuries. This it is that gives it its charm, dates are written in stones and style as surely as geological periods in different strata, and the ages of the cathedral may be gauged definitely by inspection; here are the stones of , there the work contributed by .|
. did his share : in the reign of Henry VII. was built the magnificent chapel still known by his name, and Wren's two Western Towers complete the architectural cycle.
On the third count St. Paul's yields again, for though there are names whose glory is second to none buried there, yet is in a peculiar sense the National Valhalla, the Hall of Heroes, and her aisles are crowded thickly with notable names as well as those considerably less notable, and but for their presence here already forgotten. Among Kings and Queens, this is the burialplace of; of the I., III., and VI. Edwards; of .; of Henry V., VII., and VIII.; both the .; .; the two Queen Marys and their unhappy sister of Scotland; and Anne, both remembered with love and gratitude though they were the antithesis in character; .; and George II. Of statesmen, soldiers, poets, and authors; of artists, historians, and men of science, the names are legion; were to have no other title to our love and veneration than these mighty names of the past, it would still occupy a high place. The very air is thick with memories; it is impossible for the eye to rest anywhere without encountering
|some memorial of the great past. Yet granted all this, granted the points enumerated, still in the minds of many Londoners, takes a place second to St. Paul's.|
The reason for this is difficult to find, but shall be entered upon presently. Before leaving it is well to notice its external beauties, and the points of view from which it can best be seen. Coming up Victoria Street on a night when the moon is high overhead, the ghostly and glorious outlines of Wren's two Western Towers can be seen at their best, with all their beautiful stonework, their pinnacles and niches traced as in ivory.
A view less known and full of detail is that from the front of the House of Lords, where every fretted pinnacle of Henry VII.'s chapel is shown in relief, where the platform for the intended spire is full in view and many an angle and turret, and where the white outlines of St. Margaret's are in the background. This is perhaps the finest sight of all. From the river again, where those two fretted towers rise grandly, and the Abbey seems to crouch like a lion behind the Houses of Parliament, it is beautiful also; at every point, down every vista, something may be seen that cannot be attained in any other way. For dignity the ancient Abbey is unapproachable, it needs no spire to call attention to its merits; though it is long-backed, somewhat squat in its dimensions, unequal in its parts, it bears in every line the impress of its growth throughout the ages.
The services in , beautiful as they are, lack something; it may be that the monuments piled in every available space, or the dust of ages lying thickly, deaden and muffle the sound of sweet singing; it may be the peculiar construction of the interior, where the transepts are occupied by the worshippers, who thus sit across the cathedral, and do not see the long nave; or the feeling of having the choir on the wrong side; from one or other of these causes, or all combined, there is never the perfect satisfaction about a service in that there is in St. Paul's.
Who that has sat beneath St. Paul's mighty dome and heard the grand hymn-
sung by the full choir with the deep notes of hundreds of voices, each in themselves of small compass, but fervent in utterance, can forget it ? St. Paul's is the national church in a way that can never be, and the feeling that she inspires is a deep sense of citizenship. Yet this is strange, because the style of , the Pointed or Early English, is far more national than the classical outlines of St. Paul's. From the vast dome that rears itself high over the surrounding houses, to the mighty nave in which the very atmosphere of London is enclosed, St. Paul's strikes a note of our nation. has its coronations, St. Paul's its thanksgiving processions, and though, with the exception of the Jubilee celebrations, these cannot compare with the coronations for pageantry, they touch sometimes
|another note, not reverence only, but glad thanksgiving.|
The present cathedral is due to Wren, who-though to strengthen the foundations he altered the axis of the church-built on the site of the old cathedral, first founded, according to Bede, in 604. There are no remnants of Old St. Paul's except some monuments and the foundations of the Chapter House, uncovered on the south side.
The Sunday afternoon services, as at present held, bear witness that faith is not dead among us. There, gathered together, Sunday by Sunday, may be found a great crowd of all ages and both sexes, mostly of the middle classes, the comfortably off, comfortably clad people, who keep up a tradition of honest living and hard work, with respectability among us. It is a wonderful sight: the grey distances, the dimness of the towering dome, the long-drawn aisles, and the crowd soberly dressed in black, and brown and dingy colours; a crowd reverent, attentive, joining a service that for singing and music can hardly be surpassed. The boys' voices of St. Paul's are well known for their beauty; wandering down the narrow streets of the neighbourhood on a week day you may chance to hear a song sweeter than any lark's, a boy's clear treble, rising higher and higher, until you catch your breath to listen as the fresh young voice goes up, up, lending wings to the soul; and suddenly with its cessation you come back into a very work-a-day world, a world of hurrying people, of huge carts, of crowded omnibuses,
|of muddy streets and grey skies; a world filled with the essence of the commonplace, from which you had been carried away by the practising notes of one of the choir boys of St. Paul's in the school hard by the cathedral.|
To return to the congregation, why is it that the commonplace crowd appeals to us so ? Is it because of the love of humanity that beats in our veins ? Is it because we feel that here, in the mass of men and women, are the characteristics to which none of us are strangers, and that, therefore, if these characteristics could by a miracle become visible, and the excrescences of personal idiosyncrasies be taken away, the remnant would be those feelings and qualities common to all ? In fact that we should see humanity in the abstract? It is difficult to express the idea in words, but to those who feel this responsive beat St. Paul's appeals with force. It utters the voiceless cry of those who cannot speak for themselves; it embodies the national ideals. It is the uplifting of those who toil and those who think. The same crowd that gathers in St. Paul's on a Sunday afternoon may be seen any day in the Underground trains about six o'clock, men and women soberly dressed, hard working, keenly alive; intelligent men and women who have opinions and character, who are selfish, imperfect, grasping, and unclean, but who yet have ideals, and with more or less ardour strive to live up to them; who are rarely destitute of self-respect and independence; who form the large majority of Londoners, outnumbering all other classes by ten to one, and who
|make the "wheels go round." From them, when successful, spring the aristocrats of the future, the landed proprietors, the great commercial princes, the peers; from them, if unsuccessful, come the scavengers and scamps, the wastrels and worse. Always it goes on, this falling and rising, without cessation, and yet like a lake into which a river flows in and flows out, the bulk of the commonplace remains the same.|
But we have gone far from St. Paul's. Of its past there are two pictures on which I like to dwell. One is Paul's Cross, with its eager fanatics preaching to an excited crowd, to those who held their religion dear enough to go to the stake and brave the fire for it.
|The exact site of the Cross has been ascertained. The old cathedral was not exactly on the same site as the present one, but, to use an expressive word, was "skewed" round a little, and the north-east angle of the present cathedral cuts the spot where stood the Cross of St. Paul. It was of unknown antiquity, and in early days folkmotes were gathered here, and later proclamations of all kinds were issued from it, so as to make it, as Dean Milman says, " the pulpit . . . almost of the Church of England." This pulpit was occupied by men whose names will last as long as English history lasts, Ridley, Latimer, Gardiner, Coverdale, Laud, etc., who were attended by vast crowds and eagerly heard.|
From the time when jousts and tournaments were held in Smithfield, and even hard by in Chepe itself, to the time when first one doctrine and then another
|found utterance according to the tenets of the reigning sovereign, through that era when fire and stake claimed many victims, when religion was not a theory to be aired on Sundays in company with respectability, but a living, pregnant thing that might bring forth any day death by torture, on to the time of the civil wars, when, by order of Parliament in , it was pulled down, Paul's Cross was the scene of the discussion of all the burning questions of the day. The stones around were trodden by an innumerable multitude of men of all ages seeking light. Picture it if you can, this company of the ghosts of the past. Where now you sit on a hard-backed seat and your eyes rest on brilliant green grass, where flocks of opal-hued pigeons bill and coo, where plane-trees wave gracefully and the roar of the traffic comes gently subdued; these crowds ran to and fro, now gathering together and anon turning away for discussion; eyes sought eyes with fear that said, " We also are in danger," and the very crackling of the faggots seemed to rise on the still air as all that great assemblage hung upon the words of the preacher.|
We have several prints of Paul's Cross, one very fine, in which the old cathedral is shown in the background with its flying buttresses and square tower, shorn of the spire, which was burnt in . Against the wall is a sort of grand stand or canopy, where King James I., his Queen, and his son Charles are seated. In the foreground are many people decorously sitting in rows, while a few gallants in cloaks loiter about behind them; one man whips a dog that makes his presence too
|obtrusive, and others lead away a couple of horses, possibly those that have brought the King to listen to the Bishop of London, .|
|One more scene that always haunts St. Paul's, that of the time when it was turned into a house of shopkeepers. St. Paul's aisle in the sixteenth century was the regular meeting-place for merchants who wished to discuss business, gallants who wished to be in the fashion, and those who had assignations. " The south alley for usurye and poperye; the north for simony and the horse fair, in the midst for all kinds of bargains, meetings, brawlings, murthers, conspiracies." The centre walk or "Pervyse" was a lounge for idlers and wits, gallants and cheats. Bishop Corbet says:- "When I past Paul's and travell'd in that walk where all our Britaine sinners sweare and talk," and Captain Bobadil in Every Man in His Humour is described as a "Paul's man," otherwise a loiterer and roysterer. It was also a thoroughfare, porters bearing burdens frequently came in at the north door and crossed out by the south; beside bookshops there were tobacco shops and "semsters "; such a den of thieves is almost incredible, and that this sacrilege was suffered to go on speaks badly for the powers that were. A curious custom was that the choir boys had the right to demand a fee from any one entering the cathedral during service time with spurs on; "the boys will swarm about you like so many white butterflies; when you in the open quire shall draw forth a perfumed embroidered purse . . . and quoit silver into the boys' hands."|
|A delightful training in decorum and reverence for the youngsters!|
In the time of the Fire all the booksellers of Paternoster Row hastened to place their stores in St. Paul's for safe custody, but the stores were burnt with the cathedral. Of all glimpses of St. Paul's, that where it comes suddenly upon you as you pass westward up Cheapside, and the towering dome appears unexpectedly high overhead above the green trees, where the tones of the building run the gamut from indigo to ash-grey, is the most striking. A much better known but less striking view is that of the approach by Fleet Street, where the height of the dome is measured by the pointed spire of St. Dunstan's.
We have lingered long enough over the two great churches, and must note, even if only to mention them, other buildings. Of these there is one other church that every Londoner should know, St. Bartholomew's the Great, hard by Smithfield, where Norman work is to be seen in its full beauty. This church is only a fragment, the choir, in fact, of the old Priory Church of St. Bartholomew built in . Across the water is another priory church, that of St. Mary Overies, now known as St. Saviour's, and here some remnants of the earliest building may be seen, though a great deal of the fabric is modern.
Of entirely new ecclesiastical buildings the magnificent Roman Catholic cathedral in is a striking example; the style Byzantine, carried out in red brick, is alien to the spirit of the Londoner, as is
|also the towering campanile, which he is apt to liken to a mill chimney. But none the less, in spite of the half-concealed aversion which leads him to mistrust anything to which he is not accustomed, he is bound to confess that seldom has a finer building been raised for the worship of God in his own age; for, with the exception of Truro Cathedral, we have ceased to build these mighty worship-houses, trusting to those already in existence through the piety of our ancestors.|
|London has many Palaces, but the first example, first because the London residence of the King, Buckingham Palace, hardly deserves the name at all, being merely a large mansion of stucco, well described in the favourite auctioneer's term "commodious." Of St. James's, with its quaint courts, its Tudor clock-tower, and its lovable red brick, we shall speak again. We could linger long about St. James's, picturing many scenes, from the touching farewell between that most loving father, Charles I., and his young children, to the time of the hated Georges, when fat and rude George I. dragged poor Lady Nithisdale half across the great reception-room, as she caught at the skirts of his coat while on her knees before him imploring for the life of her husband. It was in St. James's Palace that the unhappy child destined to be known as the Pretender was born, and here died clever little Queen Caroline, by far the best of the consorts of the Georges. Levées are still held at St. James's, though drawing-rooms take place at Buckingham Palace.|
Kensington Palace speaks still more loudly of the
|Georges; though it was bought and rebuilt by William III., who suffered from asthma, and was persuaded that the " gravel pits " of Kensington were good for that complaint. The view of Kensington Palace usually seen, that from the Park, is not striking, it appears but a uniform building of a dull-coloured brick; to see it to advantage it is necessary to pass to the long semi-private road that skirts the west side, and there it is transformed into a heterogeneous medley of red-tiled, creeper-covered brick buildings standing amid green fields, a group that might be a hundred miles away in the country; with all the reposeful look so delightful in the midst of a busy world. Queen Anne spent most of her time at Kensington Palace, after her accession, living a lonely, dull life; bereft of her husband and children, and without sufficient brains to care for reading, it is hardly wonderful that she succumbed to apoplexy, brought on by too liberal an indulgence in the pleasures of the table. Her negative virtues at all events earned her the title of "good."|
Far beyond Kensington, on the outskirts of the London that now is, lies the Palace of Fulham, the official residence of the Bishops of London. Situated as it is, easy transit by water was first among its advantages, and the older bishops in their splendid barges passed up and down the river in the ordinary course of the day's work, for long and dangerous country roads, boggy and miry and " infested by footpads," lay between them and the old Cities of London and . Even so late as the eighteenth century, the Earl of
|Peterborough, who had a house, a country house of course, in what is now the New King's Road, was stopped by footpads on his way to it and robbed; one at least of the robbers was caught, and turned out to be a student of the Temple, who had done this thing not for a practical joke but as a serious contribution towards his living expenses !|
|One of the courtyards at Fulham Palace dates from the reign of Henry VII., and there are few places that preserve more completely their ancient aspect. Red brick and creepers as usual form the two main elements in the scene, and the fine gateway tower adds character to the long, comparatively low, wings. Other parts of the Palace, like so much elsewhere, have been spoilt by the rebuilding of a later age. At the present time the question whether the See of London can afford to keep up the Palace has been mooted, and the voices of those who would pull asunder all links of continuity with the past, who would rob London life of all that reminds us of our historical record, and would tear down all save that which is strictly utilitarian, are sure to be loudly heard. But the day when the Bishop deserts Fulham Palace will be one of blackness to those who love their London and would preserve her scanty relics of the past, even at the cost of a little additional expense.|
From Fulham to Lambeth we may go bywater, though unless we have a private steam-launch or boat we shall not in these days, these boasted days, find so much as a wherry to take us there. It is down stream, however,
|so unless against the tide the work of rowing will not be arduous.|
Lambeth is a monument of venerable dignity and far less known than it should be, because, though easily accessible, it stands upon what to London, in general, is the wrong side of the water. It has been the dwelling of the archbishops since the days of Archbishop Fitzwalter in , who proposed at first to found here a college for canons, but being opposed by the Pope, founded a town-house for the See of Canterbury instead. The great gateway at Lambeth is the finest of those remaining from the Tudor period, it is bold and high with battlements and towers, red brick and white stone being the materials used. The part of the palace used by the archbishops for their living-house dates only from the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Lollards' Tower is of grey stone and abuts from the chapel. It had formerly an image of St. Thomas %agrave; Becket in the niche in its walls, to which the watermen of former days would touch their caps in passing. The crypt in the chapel is supposed to be one of the oldest parts, dating from the original building by Fitzwalter. During the time of the Commonwealth the soldiers, out of hatred for Laud, broke into the chapel and destroyed the stained-glass windows, and subsequently the palace was used as a prison, as it had been frequentlyused before; later still it was sold, and the chapel for the time turned into a dancing-room. Such was the reign of the godly Cromwell. It was afterwards restored and rebuilt.
Of the vanished palaces of and
|Whitehall we speak in the chapter on , but one vanished palace is so closely associated with one of the greatest of our Queens that it cannot be passed over.|
|This is , so far off that it can hardly rank as London, though it lies within the limits of our Greater London of to-day.|
When the first royal palace of was built we have no record, but that there was a royal residence here in the time of . is stated by Lysons. The best-known view is that of "Placentia," the palace of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, to whom the land had been granted by Henry VI., and this, though altered and having its front rebuilt by succeeding sovereigns, became a royal palace after Duke Humphrey's death. Henry VIII. was born at and was very fond of residing here. Here were born also Mary and , and here died the poor little King . The glory of reached its height in the reign of Queen , who gave splendid entertainments at the palace, and occupied it in preference to any of her other residences. Charles II. ordered it to be taken down, and began rebuilding, though lack of funds caused the work soon to cease. Queen Mary II., inspired by the example of , made it one of her dearest wishes to see a fine home for seamen built on the site of the ancient palace, and after her death her husband carried out her wishes, but the seamen ceased to live within the building in , when the scheme was changed, and the pensioners
|received pensions in money, and went to live with their friends. The Royal Naval School was opened instead in .|
The fine frontage and the domes of Wren's building are well seen from the river, and the great painted hall, decorated by Thornhill, attracts many visitors. Wren's design was given freely as a magnificent contribution to the great scheme. Though retains some parts of Charles II.'s work and that of other sovereigns, it has none of the real flavour of antiquity; it is splendid, but romance seems to have departed from it, and it does not kindle feelings of enthusiasm.
Of the great public buildings not yet described the first in rank is of course the Tower. The arrangements have been so much improved of late years that it is now quite possible for the visitor to attain some idea of the plan of a first-rate medieval fortress. It is still a barrack and a store for artillery, but all the older parts are open to view, and we wander as we will over the site of the palace and its garden, or through the grim prison-like passages and halls of the keep and its chapel. We note that, till the modern doorways were made, the entrance must have been by a ladder, and what look like dungeons were the royal apartments of the Conqueror and his family. The inscriptions in some of the flanking towers are of a single period, but the Tower as a prison is only one of the three aspects in which the building should be studied. When we know it as a palace, as a fortress, and as a prison, we are presented with its modern phase and find it a most
|interesting, well arranged, and carefully labelled museum. But we have seen museums elsewhere. It is outside, on the grass, under the trees, or by the river's edge that we love to linger. About the whole place there is an air of sleepy quiet. Perhaps the voices of the officers drilling soldiers in the moat rise sharply; the rumble of a great dray over the cobble stones comes softened by distance; the shrill scream of a tug in the river cuts the air like a knife; but these are items which only serve to measure the general sense of stillness. Go to the front of the Tower on the quay; here at any time on a fine day the seats will be full of people, who sit there indolently enjoying without analysis the general sense of well-being that the scene imparts. The swiftly flowing water below probably brings up with it a whiff of salt from the sea. Beneath the quay whereon we sit flowed the water to the moat, and here came in those who entered by the Traitors' Gate, and who had little hope in those grim days that justice would fight expediency to the victory.|
The grey walls of the turreted White Tower peep over the brown bricks and fixed walls of the Lieutenant's lodging, and in front is the fresh green of a strip of vivid grass.
Go over the drawbridge, and pass under the portcullis of Bloody Tower-which deserves its name if ever a place did so-and seated on Tower Green wait until the spirit of the place has enfolded you. Apart from its historical interest, which is of course paramount, there is another interest that appeals with potency to
|some, and this is the fact that those whose impatience had been dulled by long-deferred hope to a quiet resignation; those whose bitter tears became fewer as the inevitable end approached; whose beating hearts had grown so used to the grim spectre of fear that he had become almost a friend, were nearly all of culture and of birth. Queens, princes, princesses, nobles, and men of learning and of piety, the salt of the earth, were they who suffered here. This is no common gaol, but little did they who endured the long imprisonment and ignominious end imagine that instead of infamy they had earned glory, that in times to come their names would be classed in a hierarchy of the noblest of England.|
In the beautiful Chapel of St. Peter to the north, every stone in the chancel and aisle covers the dust of some murdered man or woman. As Macaulay says, "there is no sadder spot on earth than this little cemetery." Here are buried two queens, Anne Boleyn and Katharine Howard; Lady Jane Grey, who, from the range of building to the south of the Beauchamp Tower, saw her husband's headless body brought back in a cart; Devereux, Earl of Essex; Margaret, Countess of Salisbury. All these were executed on Tower Green on the railed-in space before us, then covered with green grass, now paved with rough cobble stones and gently shaded by young planes. In the chapel also lie the Duke of Monmouth and the Scots Lords, brought here from Tower Hill. As Stow quaintly wrote, in the days when the Earl of Essex, the last of the six persons beheaded in the Tower from
|, had but just suffered, "There lyeth before the High Altar, two Dukes between two Queens, to wit the Duke of Somerset and Duke of Northumberland between Queen Anne and Queen Katharine, all four beheaded."|
Modern barracks occupy part of the space within the walls, and in the centre rises sternly and splendidly the White Tower. Its facings of Portland stone, due to Wren, have added to its appearance, so that we do not grumble at the change; the interior is as grim and gloomy as in the days when it was first built as a house of defence and a strong tower. The narrow, winding staircase connecting battlements through many stories to vast vaults underground for storage; the well for water; and the secret access to the moat, all prove it capable of being held without difficulty by those besieged, and the walls, thirty feet thick in parts, promised ill for the success of any besiegers that should surmount the moat and wall outside to attack it at close quarters.
St. John's beautiful Norman chapel, with its double crypts; and the airless, lightless cells-one well named with a strange, jesting humour, " Little Ease "-though slightly changed in small details still carry one's mind back through the centuries.
What is supposed to be part of the old Roman City wall stands near the White Tower, and from here a fine view of the Tower Bridge gives one of those peeps which are found in abundance about the Tower. Its charm lies in its heterogeneity, its unexpectedness, its mixture of styles, its marks of growth; he who would
|know the Tower well would have to live there many a day.|
After the Tower all other buildings seem small and uninteresting, yet the Guildhall, which has existed since the earliest corporate existence of London, has a dignity of its own, in spite of what Mr. Wheatley calls the " mongrel substitute" of the frontage put up in . This is the only part of the building generally seen, and is far from lacking beauty, with its delightful irregularity of design and the whiteness of its Portland stone. The walls of the great Hall date from the rebuilding of , and the roof, a modern addition but of oak in the hammer-beam style, cost £100,000. The crypt is probably the part least seen, and yet, from an architectural point of view, it is infinitely the most interesting. It dates from also, and from each pillar spring sixteen ribs to form the groins, a curious and almost unique design. It has been repaired, and is in good preservation. This was not always a crypt, but was once upon the street level, as the windows now blocked up tell. The pavement outside is ten feet or more above it now, for the same reason that we found in Bow Church. The Guildhall has many memories, its courts, its City banquets, and ceremonies being mingled with scenes of history, of which the most memorable is the trial of Lady Jane Grey. The Art Gallery, the Museum, and the Library are all well known both to strangers and citizens.
The Royal Exchange, the Bank, and the Mansion House serve to make a group, which if not beautiful
|is at all events inoffensive, and they speak of the age of solidity in which they were erected. Associated as they are with the wonderful and ever-varying scenes passing continually before them, the Londoner at all events learns to love the massive columns of the Exchange and the long, low lines of the Bank; here if nowhere else he feels he really is in London.|
|North-westward of the City is the hoary Charterhouse, where still stands the ancient gateway from which dripped the blood of the last prior, in the reign of the tyrant Harry. Upon part of the grounds are the modern and fine buildings of the Merchant Taylors' School, for the famous Charterhouse School, which includes in its roll the names of Wesley, Thackeray, Leech, and others, is removed into the country. The old pensioners, gowned and well cared for, spend peaceful days in this strange backwater, separated only from the rushing tide of traffic in the Clerkenwell Road by an ancient wall on which fig-trees grow.|
Not far off is , to be mentioned again in connection with . It is the only ancient gate left standing across a street in London. It formed the entrance to the priory of St. John of Jerusalem, and the offices of the re-established Order of the same name are here to-day.
Among other public buildings to be mentioned are the Houses of Parliament, forming a well-known river view,-I mean the view from the east, where the bridge draws a line across the front, and the towers rise behind a foreground of barges and rippling water; and
|if this view is seen set against the smoky splendour of a sunset sky, its beauty is enhanced tenfold. The glory of the Houses of Parliament is Hall, built by William Rufus, who designed to rebuild altogether the old palace of , and afterwards enlarged by . Strange scenes has the Hall beheld, and now it stands empty, swept, and garnished, a wide open stone space, with the feet of continual passers-by echoing on its pavement and dying away in the vast timbers of the ancient hammer-beam roof. Once the empty Hall was full of life and movement; at one end was the Court of Exchequer and at the other the Court of Chancery and King's Bench. Up and down amid the rabble and riff-raff that always hang on to any law case walked men with straws in their shoes, signifying that they were to be bought as witnesses ! Part of the Hall was occupied with the stalls and shops of booksellers, mathematical -instrument makers, haberdashers and sempstresses. Many historical trials were held here, from Sir William Wallace onward, through those of Sir Thomas More and Queen Anne Boleyn, to that of Warren Hastings. Impassioned pleading, agony of expectation, resignation or loss of hope, the Hall has seen them all, and mingled with them what Carlyle calls the "roaring flood of life" passing in and out, persons cynical, humorous, callous, and seeking opportunities for self-advancement.|
Besides the crypt of St. Stephen's the hall is the only part of the ancient palace left.
Of galleries and museums in London the less said
|the better. The National Gallery is adorned with the colonnade that formerly fronted Carlton House. The British Museum contrives to give exactly the impression which its contents inspire,-absolute trustworthiness; here you may find all that you can possibly want, and any fact found is vouched for with all the tremendous weight of official authority. The Museum building says as clearly as if it were written across the frontage, " I am the National Storehouse, and I live up to a full sense of my responsibility."|
What the new South Kensington Museum will be remains to be seen as it sheds its scaffolding poles; it is to be hoped that it will in some degree neutralise the effect of the hideous Noah's Ark next to it. The Imperial Institute, lamentably as it has failed in the purpose for which it was intended, is externally by far the most graceful and harmonious building in this quarter.
But time fails us, of Somerset House, of Burlington House, of the Tate Gallery, of all Wren's churches, we would fain talk by the hour, yet such discourse might fail to be profitable, and could not altogether fail of being wearisome. We forbear, and leave this chapter, with the impressions already gained of the Houses of Parliament outlined against a glowing, smoky, sunset sky; of the stately dome of St. Paul's rising high above the roofs and line of quivering planes; of ancient red-brick, stonequoined gateways; and of the mighty Tower, concrete English History.
- This object is in collection:
- Edwin C. Bolles papers
- London (England)--Pictorial Works --London (England)--Description and Travel
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