Old and New London, A Narrative of its History, its People and its Places.Illustrated with Numerous Engravings from the Most Authentic Sources. vol 6

Walford, Edward
1872-78

Blackheath, Charlton, and its Neighbourhood.

Blackheath, Charlton, and its Neighbourhood.

 

And eastward straight from wild Blackheath the warlike errand went, And roused in many an ancient hall the gallant squires of Kent. Mcacaulay's Ballad of The Armada.

 

Blackheath, which is divided from its aristocratic neighbour only by a wall, pleasantly overlooks a portion of the counties of Kent and Surrey, and affords such extensive views of the distant scenery as can be exceeded only by climbing Shooter's Hill, or some of the neighbouring heights on the left of the heath. In past times it was planted with gibbets, on which the bleaching bones of men who had dared to ask for some extension of liberty, or who doubted the infallibility of kings, were left year after year to dangle in the wind. In the distance the ancient palace of Eltham may just be seen between the trees, heaving up like a large barn against the sky.

Blackheath--which furnishes the name to the to which it belongs-lies chiefly in the parishes of Greenwich and Lewisham, a portion, however, being in the parish, or

liberty,

of Kidbrook, while a part of Blackheath Park is in Charlton parish. The name is variously derived from its bleak situation, and from its black appearance. The heath is a broad expanse of open greensward, intersected by several cross-roads. Nearly in the line of the present Dover Road, which traverses the centre of the heath from the top of Blackheath Hill eastward towards Shooter's Hill, ran the ancient or ; and along this road were numerous tumuli. Many of them, including those within Greenwich Park, near Croom's Hill Gate, of which we have spoken in the previous chapter, were opened towards the end of the last century. They were found to be mostly small conical mounds, with a circular trench at the base, and are presumed to have been Romano- British. No skeletons were discovered in them, but there were

some locks of hair, and

one

fine braid of an auburn hue was

tenacious and very distinct,

and

contained its natural phlogiston.

The

spolia

were chiefly iron spear-heads (

one

fifteen

inches long and

two

inches broad was found

in the native gravel

), knives, and nails, glass beads, and woollen and linen cloth. At the south-west corner of the heath, by Blackheath Hill, urns (some of which are in the

British Museum

) and other Roman remains have been found.

Near the summit of the hill, at a spot called

The Point,

a remarkable cavern, extending several feet under ground, was discovered about the year , in laying the foundation of a house.

The entrance,

writes Richardson in his

History of Greenwich,

was then through a narrow aperture, but a flight of steps have since been made. It consists of

four

irregular apartments, in the furthest of which is a well of pure water, twentyseven feet in depth. They are cut out of a stratum of chalk and flint, and communicate by small avenues; the bottom of the cavern is sand. From the well at the extremity of this singular excavation, it seems probable that it has, at some distant period, been used as a place of concealment, and the general supposition is that it was used for that purpose during the Saxon and Danish contests, but nothing has been discovered to assist inquiry.

Previous to the erection of the several villa residences with which the heath is now nearly surrounded on sides, this place was the scene of many important historical and political events.

Here, as we have already had occasion to remark, the main body of the Danish army lay encamped in the reign of Ethelred, while their ships held possession of the river for or years in succession. Several places in the neighbourhood are still called

Coombs

and

Comps

East Coombe and West Coombe, estates on the borders of the heath, are presumed to trace their names from the encampments of the Danes at this place- as well as signifying camp; being probably the Saxon term, and the Danish or corrupt Saxon, both of which tongues were then in use. The manors of East and West Coombe are situated at the north-east corner of the heath; and there was formerly called Middle Coombe, otherwise Spittle Coombe, which in all

225

probability, was attached to that of West Coombe. Vestiges of intrenchments were, some years ago, distinctly traced in different parts of the heath, some formed doubtless by the Danes, and others by the various bodies of insurgents who have encamped here at different times. Of these, the most formidable was that in , raised by Wat Tyler, a blacksmith of Dartford, on account of the imposition of a

poll tax

of groats on all persons above . When the insurgents of Essex arose, they were joined by those of Kent, and began to assemble on Blackheath; whence, having in a few days increased to men, they marched on to London under the command of their principal leaders, Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, and afterwards separated into parties; of these proceeded to the Temple, which they burnt to the ground, with all the books and papers deposited there; another party burnt the monastery of St. John of Jerusalem, at Clerkenwell; while the took up its position at the Tower. Wat Tyler, as all readers of English history know, was soon afterwards slain in by William , Lord Mayor of London; and Jack Straw, with many others, was beheaded.

Again, when Richard II. took for his wife Isabel, the

little

daughter of the King of France, the royal train, on approaching London, was met on Blackheath by the lord mayor and aldermen, habited in scarlet, who attended the king to (Surrey), where he dismissed them, as he and his youthful bride were to

rest at Kennyngtoun.

In , Manuel Palaeologus, Emperor of Constantinople, who had come to England to entreat the assistance of King Henry IV. against Bajazet, Emperor of the Turks, was met on Blackheath by the king, who conducted him to the City with great state and magnificence. In , Henry V. was met here by the lord mayor and aldermen, and a large number of citizens, on his return from the battle of Agincourt; and in the following year this spot was the scene of the reception of the Emperor Sigismund, on his arrival in this country to treat for peace between the crowns of England and France.

On the , [extra_illustrations.6.225.1] , who, months after his coronation in England, had gone to France to be crowned in the church of Notre Dame in Paris, was received with great pomp on Blackheath, upon his return, by the lord mayor and aldermen of London.

The following is an extract from a curious poem (transcribed by Sir Harris Nicolas from the Harleian and Cottonian. MSS. in the ) written by John Lydgate, the

Monk of Bury,

and entitled,

The Comynge of the Kyng out of France to London,

when the citizens of every craft-

Statly horsyd, after the Mair ridyng,

Passyd the subbarbes to mete with the Kyng,

attended by all their officers and servants.

To the Blakeheth whanne they dyd atteyne,

The Mair of prudence in especialle

Made them hove in renges tweyne,

A strete betwen, ech party lik a walle,

Alle clad in whit, and the most principalle,

Afore in red, with the Mair ridyng,

Till tyme that he saw the Kyng comyng;

Thanne, with his sporys, he toke his hors anone,

That to beholde it was a noble sight,

How lyk a man he to the Kyng is gone,

Right well cheryd of herte, glad, and light,

Obeienge to hym, as hym ought of right.Chronicles of London, from 1089 to 1483.

During Jack Cade's noted rebellion in and , his followers-

Rebellious hinds, the filth and scum of Kent--

were twice encamped

on the plaine of Blackheath between Eltham and Greenwiche,

as we learn from Holinshed's

Chronicle.

Of Cade's subsequent capture and death we have already spoken in our account of the

White Hart

Inn in the Borough. On the , his followers came

in their shirts,

and with

halters on their necks,

to the king on Blackheath, and begged his pardon on their knees, professing themselves ready to receive from him their

doom of life or death.

In , Henry VI. pitched his tent on Blackheath, when opposing the forces of his cousin, the Duke of York, father of King Edward IV. In the

bastard

Falconbridge encamped here with his army against Edward IV.; and years later the lord mayor and aldermen of London, with citizens, here met the king on his return from France, where he had been with an army of to conclude a treaty of peace with Louis, the French monarch.

In , the Cornish rebels, amounting to , headed by Lord Audley, Michael Joseph, a farrier, and Thomas Flammock, a lawyer, were defeated on this heath by the forces under King Henry VII. of the insurgents were slain, and the rest forced to surrender. Lord Audley was beheaded on , and Joseph and Flammock were hanged at Tyburn. Lambarde, the Kentish historian, who at the beginning of the century lived at West Coombe, and was therefore familiar with the locality, writes in his

226

Perambulation of Kent,

There remaineth yet to be seen upon the heath the place of the smith's tent, commonly called his forge, and the grave-hills of such as were buried after the overthrow.

The Smith's Forge is a mound of earth partly surrounded by fir-trees, to the south-west of Montagu Corner, which is at the end of Chesterfield Walk. Down to a comparatively recent date, this mound was frequently called

Whitefield's Mount,

from the circumstance of that celebrated preacher having delivered from it some of what are termed his

field discourses.

The spot seems also to have been used in former times as a butt for artillery practice; for Evelyn in his

Diary,

under date of , writes,

I saw a trial of those develish, murdering, mischief-doing engines called bombs, shot out of a mortar-piece on Blackheath. The distance that they are cast, the destruction [which] they make where they fall, is prodigious.

In , Cardinal Campegio, the Pope's Legate, was received on Blackheath with great state by the Duke of Norfolk, and a large retinue of bishops, knights, and gentlemen,

all richly apparelled.

His Eminence was conducted to a tent of cloth of gold,

where,

as Hall's

Chronicles

relate,

he shifted himself into a robe of a cardinal, edged with ermines, and so took his moyle [mule], riding towards London.

Soon afterwards, another pretty sight was witnessed here, when Bonevet, High Admiral of France, attended by a splendid cavalcade of noblemen and gentlemen, was met by the Earl of Surrey, as High Admiral of England, with a still more gorgeous retinue. Hall tells us how that

the young gallants of France had coats guarded with

one

colour, cut in

ten

or

twelve

parts, very richly to behold; and so all the Englishmen coupled themselves with the Frenchmen lovingly together, and so rode to London.

On the public entry of the Princess Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII.'s new bride, she was met on Blackheath on the , by the king, accompanied by the lord mayor, aldermen, and citizens of London, with all the foreign merchants resident in the City, and escorted in grand state to the royal palace at Greenwich. The old chroniclers record how that on the eastern side of the heath

was pitched a rich cloth of gold, and divers other tents and pavilions, in the which were made fires and perfumes for her and such ladies as should receive her grace;

and

from the tents to the park gate . . . a large and ample way was made for the show of all persons.

Along this way were ranged the mayor and aldermen, citizens, and foreign merchants, all in their richest liveries, esquires, gentlemen, pensioners, and serving-men,

well horsed and apparelled, that whosoever had well viewed them might say that they, for tall and comely personages, and clean of limb and body, were able to give the greatest prince in Christendom a mortal breakfast if he were the king's enemy.

About mid-day Anne came down Shooter's Hill, accompanied by the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and a large number of other noblemen and bishops, besides her own attendants, and was met and conducted to her tent by the lord chamberlain and other officials. Magnificent as was the suite of Anne, it seems to have been outshone in splendour by that of the king, while Henry himself, if we may trust the description given in Hall's

Chronicles,

was all ablaze with gold and jewellery. Here is his portrait as sketched by the old chronicler:--

The king's highness was mounted on a goodly courser, trapped in rich cloth of gold, traversed lattice-wise square, all over embroidered with gold of damask, pearled on every side of the embroidery; the buckles and pendants were all of fine gold. His person was apparelled in a coat of purple velvet, somewhat made like a frock, all over embroidered with flat gold of damask with small lace mixed between of the same gold, and other laces of the same so going traverse-wise, that the ground little appeared: about which garment was a rich guard very curiously embroidered; the sleeves and breast were cut, lined with cloth of gold, and tyed together with great buttons of diamonds, rubies, and orient pearl; his sword and sword-girdle adorned with stones and especial emerodes; his night-cap garnished with stone, but his bonnet was so rich with jewels that few men could value them. Beside all this, he wore in baudrick-wise a collar of such balystes and pearl that few men ever saw the like . . .. And notwithstanding that this rich apparel and precious jewels were pleasant to the nobles and all other being present to behold, yet his princely countenance, his goodly personage, and royal gesture so far exceeded all other creatures being present, that in comparison of his person, all his rich apparel was little esteemed.

The royal pair were conducted from Blackheath to the palace at Greenwich by a procession of the chief nobles, and afterwards conveyed in the grand City barges, with the lord mayor and chief citizens, to , where they were married; a few months after, they were divorced; and on the of the same year, Catherine Howard, to whom the king had been some time privately married, was publicly declared Queen of England.

On May-day, in the year , Colonel Blunt, in order to gratify the Kentish people, who were partial to old customs, drew up regiments of

227

foot, and exercised them on the heath, representing a mock fight between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads.

of the most memorable scenes witnessed on Blackheath, however, was the arrival here of Charles II., on his Restoration, on the , whilst on his way from Rochester to London,

all the ways thither,

says Clarendon,

being so full of people, as if the whole kingdom had been gathered there.

Macaulay, in his

History of England,

gives us the following striking description of the king's reception here: --

Everywhere flags were flying, bells and music sounding, wine and ale flowing in rivers to the health of him whose return was the return of peace, of law, and of freedom. But in the midst of the general joy,

one

spot presented a dark and threatening aspect. On Blackheath the army was drawn up to welcome the sovereign. He smiled, bowed, and extended his hand graciously to the lips of the colonels and majors. But all his courtesy was vain. The countenances of the soldiers were sad and lowering; and, had they given way to their feelings, the festive pageant of which they reluctantly made a part would have had a mournful and bloody end.

Numerous reviews, &c., of militia and other troops have, at various times, been held on Blackheath. Under date of , Evelyn writes in his

Diary:

--

We went after dinner to see the formal and formidable camp on Blackheath, raised to invade HIolland, or, as others suspected, for another designe.

Blackheath Fair was a celebrated place of resort every year in the months of May and October; and, like its neighbours at Greenwich, Peckham, and Camberwell, was always well supplied with startling monsters, with some of which we have since been familiarised by our . These fairs were established by Lord Dartmouth, as we learn from the following entry in Evelyn's

Diary:

--

May 1, 1683

. I went to Blackheath to see the new faire, being the

first

, procured by Lord Dartmouth. This was the

first

day, pretended for the sale of cattle, but I think, in truth, to enrich the new tavern at the bowlinggreene, erected by Snape, his Majesty's farrier, a man full of projects. There appeared nothing but an innumerable assembly of drinking people from London, pedlars, &c.; and I suppose it is too neere London to be of any greate use to the country.

In is printed the following announcement of the exhibition of of the

strange monsters

above referred to :--

Geo. II. R.

This is to give notice to all gentlemen, ladies, and others, That there is to be seen from eight in the morning till nine at night, at the end of the great booth on Blackheath, a West of England woman 38 years of age, alive, with two heads, one above the other; having no hands, fingers, nor toes; yet can she dress or undress, knit, sew, read, sing [Query-a duet with her two mouths? ]. She has had the honour to be seen by Sir Hans Sloane, and several of the Royal Society.

N.B.-Gentlemen and ladies may see her at their own houses if they please. This great wonder never was shown in England before this, the 13th day of May, 1741. Vivat Rex!

The author of the above-mentioned work adds, as a foot-note,

That the caricaturist has been outcaricatured by Nature no

one

will deny. Wilkes was so abominably ugly that he said it always took him half an hour to talk away his face; and Mirabeau, speaking of his own countenance, said,

Fancy a tiger marked with the small-pox!

We have seen an Adonis contemplate

one

of Cruikshank's whimsical figures, of which his particular shanks were the

bow-ideal

, and rail at the artist for libelling Dame Nature! How ill-favoured were Lord Lovat, Magliabecchi, Scarron, and the walleyed, bottle-nosed Buckhorse the Bruiser! how deformed and frightful Sir Harry Dimsdale and Sir Jeffry Dunstan! What would have been said of the painter of imaginary Siamese twins? Yet we have

The true description of two Monstrous Children, born in the parish of Swanburne, in Buckinghamshyre, the 4th of Aprill, Anno Domini 1566; the two Children having both their belies fast joyned together, and imbracing one another with their armes; which Children were both alyve by the space of half an hower, and were baptised, and named the one John, and the other Joan.

A similar wonder was exhibited in Queen Anne's reign, viz.,

Two monstrous girls, born in the kingdom of Hungary,

which were to be seen

from 8 o'clock in the morning till 8 at night, up one pair of stairs, at Mr. William Suttcliff's, a Drugster's Shop, at the sign of the Golden Anchor, in the Strand, near Charing Cross.

The Siamese twins of our own time are fresh in every

one

's memory. Shakespeare throws out a pleasant sarcasm at the characteristic curiosity of the English nation. Trinculo, upon

first

beholding Caliban, exclaims,

A strange fish! were I in England now (as I once was), and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver; there would this monster make a man: when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.

Blackheath Fair lasted, till a very recent date, as a

hog and pleasure

fair-being held on the

228

and -till the year , when it was suppressed by order of the Government; and the swings, roundabouts, spiced gingerbread, penny trumpets, and halfpenny rattles have now become things of the past.

From the early part of the present century, down to the year , a considerable part of the surface of Blackheath has been greatly disturbed and cut up, owing to the Crown having let, for a rental of , the right to excavate an unlimited quantity of gravel. All these, and other such encroachments, however, were brought to an end by the Metropolitan Commons Act of , when Blackheath was secured to the public as a place of healthful recreation. During the summer months the heath is largely resorted to by holiday-makers, and, like Hampstead Heath, it is much infested with donkeys; but owing to the stringent bye-laws that have been passed of late years, the donkeydrivers are not the nuisance that once they were. Cricket matches take place here in the summer; the Royal Blackheath Golf Club also use the heath as their play-ground, and in winter a well-contested match at foot-ball may often be witnessed here.

In the last century Blackheath was a notorious

resort of highwaymen. Under the Reform Bill of , it was made of the polling places for members of Parliament for the western division of Kent. Of late the heath has been built up to, wherever land was available. On the south side, near Tranquil Vale, stands All Saints' Church, a neat Gothic edifice, erected in the year , from the designs of Mr. B. Ferrey. The village, oras it is beginning to call itself-town of Blackheath, is built chiefly about Tranquil Vale; it has its churches and chapels, assembly-rooms, railway station, skating rink, banks, besides several good shops. At the end of the heath, near Blackheath Hill, is another collection of shops and dwellings, with a church and schools; here, too, is the principal inn, the

Green Man

,

well known to holiday-makers. In former times there was a house of entertainment here, called the

Chocolate House;

it is mentioned by the Duke of Richmond, Master-General of the Ordnance, in a private letter; and it would seem to have been largely patronised by the heads of Woolwich Dockyard and the college hard by, and by their friends. The name of this house was long kept in memory by

Chocolate Row.

Lord Wrottesley had an

229

observatory on Blackheath for some time, previous to his accession to the title, when he removed the astronomical apparatus to his seat in Staffordshire.

The Manor of East Combe, which lies near the , on the north-eastern side of the heath, was appended for several centuries to that of Greenwich, and was settled, in , on Queen Anne of Denmark for life. It was afterwards leased out by the Crown, and has since been held by several private families; in the early part of the present century it was the seat of the Countess of Buckinghamshire. A little to the west, and near the north-east corner of Blackheath, is West Coombe, the manor-house of which was at time the residence of William Lambarde, the learned antiquary, and author of the

Perambulation of Kent,

who died there in . Early in the last century the estate was purchased by Sir Gregory Page, who soon afterwards granted a lease of the house to Captain Galfridus Walpole. This gentleman pulled down the old manor-house, and erected the present mansion at a short distance from the original site, from, it is said, the designs of the Earl of Pembroke. The lease came afterwards into the possession of Charles, Duke of Bolton, who
resided here for several years with Lavinia Fenton (the original

Polly Peachum

in the burletta of the ), whom he married after the death of his duchess, in - years after he had taken her from the stage. Of this lady, Lysons, in his

Environs of London,

gives the following particulars :--

The year

1728

is famous in theatrical annals, for having produced the favourite burletta of the

Beggar's Opera

. Its success surpassed all precedent: it was acted more than

sixty

nights during the

first

season. The part of

Polly

was performed by Lavinia Fenton, a young actress, whose real name, in some of the publications of that day, is said to have been Beswick. Her performance of this character raised her very high in the opinion of the public; and it is uncertain whether the opera itself, or

Polly Peachum,

had the greater share of popularity. Her lovers, of course, were very numerous: she decided in favour of the Duke of Bolton, who, to the great loss of the public, took her from the stage, to which she never returned; and on the

sixty-second

night of the performance, a new

Polly

was, to the great surprise of the audience, who expected to see their old favourite, introduced

on the boards. After the death of his

first

wife, from whom he had been long separated, the duke, in

1751

, married Miss Fenton, who, surviving him a few years, resided at West Coombe Park, in this parish, and died Duchess-dowager of Bolton, in the month of

January, 1760

.

We have already spoken of her interment in Greenwich Church in a previous chapter. [extra_illustrations.6.230.1] 

Between East and West Coombe, in the , is Woodlands, long the residence of the Angersteins. The mansion was erected and the grounds laid out about the year ; they command a beautiful view of the valley of the Thames and the opposite coast of Essex. Here, in , died [extra_illustrations.6.230.2] , whose splendid collection of pictures--of which Waagen gives an account in his

Art and Artists

in England-formed the nucleus of our . Caroline, Princess of Wales, resided here for a short time. In a letter from Geneva, dated , she tells Miss Berry that she shall go to

the Maison Angerstein a Blackheath

on her return to. England. , in Charlton Lane, was built at the cost of the late Mr. W. Angerstein.

In former times, apparently, Blackheath was not considered an aristocratic neighbourhood; at all events, Horace Walpole contrasts the genealogies of illustrious families with those of the denizens of

Paddington and Blackheath,

whom he classes epigrammatically together. Nevertheless, the place seems to have improved as time wore on, for from about to , the Princess Caroline, the much-injured but foolish and frivolous Consort of George IV., was living here at Montagu House. This was after the birth of her child, the Princess Charlotte, whom she saw once every week at the house of the Duchess of Brunswick, close by.

The princess's villa at Blackheath,

wrote Miss Aikin,

is an incongruous piece of patchwork; it may dazzle for a moment when lighted up at night, but it is all glitter, and glare, and trick; everything is tinsel and trumpery about it; it is altogether like a bad dream.

One

day the princess showed me a large book in which she had written characters of a great many of the leading persons in England; she read me some of them; they were drawn with spirit, but I could not form any opinion of their justice.

About this time

(), writes the Hon. Miss Amelia Murray in her

Recollections,

there was an extravagant

furore

in the cause of the Princess of Wales. She was considered an ill-treated woman, and that was enough to rouse popular feeling. My brother was among the young men who helped to give her an ovation at the opera. A few days afterwards he went to breakfast at a place near Woolwich. There he saw the princess in a gorgeous dress, which was looped up to show her petticoat covered with stars, and with silver wings on her shoulders, sitting under a tree with a pot of porter on her knee; and as a

finale

to the gaiety, she had the doors opened of every room in the house, and selecting a partner, she galloped through them, desiring all the guests to copy her example. It may be guessed,

adds the writer,

whether the gentlemen were anxious to clap her at the opera again.

Here, too, was living the celebrated Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke when she made the acquaintance of the Duke of York. She is said to have been the daughter of a journeyman-printer, named Farquhar, who lived in a court between and , though Cyrus Redding affirms that she was the daughter of a Colonel Frederick, and granddaughter of Theodore, King of Corsica. A parliamentary inquiry in brought to light the extent to which she and the duke had trafficked in the sale of commissions in the army; for though nominally acquitted of that offence, the duke had to retire from the post of Commanderin- chief.

Flaxman, the sculptor, when tired of his town rooms near , would take country lodgings in Blackheath; Crabb Robinson tells us in his

Diary

that he visited him here in .

From the north-eastern corner of Blackheath, a somewhat steep and winding road, called Maze Hill, leads down to East Greenwich. On this hill, nearly opposite the eastern gate of Greenwich Park, which opens upon the pathway leading to - Tree Hill, stands an irregular castellated brickbuilt structure, called

Vanbrugh Castle.

It stands on the Page-Turner estate, and was erected, about the year , by Sir John Vanbrugh. It is entered by an embattled gateway, profusely overgrown with ivy; the

castle

itself is a large red-brick building, resembling a fortification, with battlements and towers. The edifice, which has for some years been used as a ladies' boardingschool, was in former times called the

Bastille,

from a fancied resemblance to its prototype at Paris. At a short distance from this building are the Vanbrugh Fields, in which is another singularlooking house, also built by Vanbrugh, and still called after his name. It was at time called the

Mince-pie House

,

doubtless having been. used as a place of public entertainment. An arched

231

gateway, with a lodge on each side, now standing some distance within the principal field, appears to have formed the original entrance from the heath. Vanbrugh House is a brick building, ornamented with raised bands: it has a round tower at either end, and a central porch.

Passing along , which runs eastward from Vanbrugh Park, a short walk brings us to the pretty little village of that name, which stands on the high ground between Greenwich and Woolwich, and has a charming look-out over the valley of the Thames. Here we find ourselves upon the chalky soil of Kent; and although the place has within the last few years lost much of its rural character, through the gradual extension of buildings, it is still green and pleasant. In this neighbourhood, if we may believe the , in , a large eagle was captured, and, strange to say, by a tailor. Its wings, when expanded, were yards inches in length. It was claimed by the lord of the manor, but was afterwards demanded by the king's falconer as a royal bird, and carried off to Court. Its subsequent fate is not recorded.

In Philipott's

Survey of Kent

() we find that Charlton was

anciently written

Ceorlton

, that is, the town inhabited with honest, good, stout, and usefull men, for tillage and countrye business ;

the Saxon word signifying a husbandman, or , as it is termed in old English, whence Churlestown or Charlestown was easily derived, and so by abridgment Charlton.

The church, a red brick-built edifice, dedicated to St. Luke, has a lofty embattled tower, which serves as a landmark for those who sail up or lown the river. It has a double roof, supported by pillars, forming arches down the centre of the building. The edifice was erected by the trustees of Sir Adam Newton, in -. The chancel was added by the rector in ; in it is a handsome stained-glass window. Among the monuments in this church is for the Hon. Brigadier Michael Richards, Surveyor-General of the Ordnance, who died in ; he is represented by a life-size figure of a man in armour, holding a truncheon in his right hand, with military trophies, &c. A marble statue, by the younger Westmacott, commemorates Sir Thomas Hislop, G.C.B., who lied in ; and there is also a monument to Sir William Congreve, the inventor of the rockets which bear his name: he died in . A neat tablet by Chantrey records the interment in the vaults below of the Right Hon. Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister, who was assassinated by John Bellingham, in the lobby of the , on the . In the churchyard, close by the porch, lies buried Mr. Edward Drummond, who was shot in the neighbourhood of the Houses of Parliament, in , in mistake for Sir Robert Peel, the then Prime Minister, whose private secretary he was. Here, too, is buried James Craggs, Postmaster-General, and father of Pope's friend, Mr. Secretary Craggs, who, in consequence of the scandal occasioned by their connection with the South Sea Bubble, destroyed himself by poison in there is a monument to his memory in .

Immediately to the south of the church stands Charlton House, the seat of the lord of the manor, Sir Spencer Maryon-Wilson. The manor of Charlton was given by William the Conqueror to his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, from whom it passed to Robert Bloet, Bishop of Lincoln, who, about the end of the century, gave it to the priory of , . Having reverted to the Crown at the Dissolution, it was given by James I. to of his Northern followers, John, Earl of Mar, by whom it was sold in to Sir James Erskine, who, in turn, disposed of it in the following year to Sir Adam Newton, Dean of Durham, tutor to Henry, Prince of Wales. In it passed to Sir William Ducie, afterwards Viscount Downe, and subsequently it was owned successively by the Langhornes, Games, and Maryons, and also by Lady Spencer Wilson, from whom it has descended to the present owner. The mansion, which Evelyn describes as

a faire house built for Prince Henry,

is pleasantly situated in extensive park-like grounds; it was commenced by Sir Adam Newton in , and completed in about years. The house is very pleasantly situated on rising ground overlooking the Thames and the opposite shores of Essex, and commands a most delightful prospect, which has been described by Evelyn as

one

of the most noble in the world for city, river, ships, meadows, hill, woods, and all other amenities

--a prospect, by the way, which has been considerably abridged of late years by the growth of the surrounding trees. Its situation might indeed well recall to memory those charming lines by Mrs. Hemans, descriptive of the halls of our old nobility:--

The stately homes of England, How beautiful they stand! Amid their tall ancestral trees, All o'er the pleasant land.

The mansion is certainly of the finest

232

specimens extant of the domestic architecture of the time of James I., having been erected when the architecture then in vogue was about to be supplemented by what was then thought to be a purer style. When erected, its appearance must have formed a striking contrast to the more sombre structures of a preceding age. Red brick-so popular in that era--is the material used in its construction; this, however, is relieved with white stone quoins and dressings, and mullioned windows. Its form is an oblong, with slightly projecting wings at each end. The centre of the principal front also projects, but to a less extent than the wings; this compartment has a richly decorated porch, and is entirely of stone. The principal ornamentation of the exterior appears to have been bestowed on this central projection; the arched doorway has plain double columns of the Corinthian order on each side, whilst above it there is a niche containing the bust of a female figure. The storey has quaintly-carved columns on either side of its mullioned window, and over it a series of grotesquely sculptured brackets. To this succeeds another storey, with another row of similar brackets. Along the entire front is carried an open stone balustrade of somewhat peculiar character, and at each end of the building there is a small square turret, surmounted by a cupola, of which contains a clock.

The entrance-hall is spacious and oak-panelled, with a gallery at the western end of a comparatively recent date; whilst a deep central pendant hanging from the ceiling adds considerably to the general ornamentation. At the bottom of the grand staircase is the dining-room, a very handsome apartment, the side of which overlooks the garden and forms a kind of arcade, separated from the room by a row of elegant marble columns with semicircular arches. Adjoining the dining-room, and occupying the north-east angle of the building, is a small chapel, dedicated to St. James. The apartment--for it can hardly be called by any other name--is furnished in accordance with the rest of the building; each side is occupied by a row of pews, and in the recess formed by the bay-window at the eastern end is the communion-table, enclosed by a wooden railing. In the centre of the chapel is a curious font, the circumference of which is almost equal to that of a quart basin. The ancient doors of both the chapel and the dining-room are elaborately carved in oak, and ornamented with bright steel hinges and fastenings.

The upper floors are reached by a spacious and richly-ornamented staircase of chestnut, its arabesque balusters being surmounted by capitals of the Tuscan, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, and also the armorial bearings of the Wilson family, supported by a wolf, whilst the walls are enriched with arabesque mouldings, intermixed with fruit and flowers. The principal or

state

apartments are situated upon the floor. The of these, which is entered from the grand staircase, is the gallery ( feet in length), extending the whole depth of the house. The walls of this room are wainscoted with oak, the ceiling is elaborately moulded with arabesque ornamentation; and in the bay-windows at either end are stained-glass armorial bearings of the Ducies (former owners of Charlton) and their alliances. In the room adjoining the gallery, called the north sitting-room, the ceiling of which is also very rich, is a most elaborately carved chimney-piece, representing the mythological story of Medusa, beneath which are allegorical basso-relievos. From this room we enter the saloon, a lofty and well-proportioned apartment, lighted at either end by large mullioned windows; in the ceiling of of the recesses are the royal arms of James I., the ostrich feathersthe cognisance of the Prince of Walesoccupy- ing a similar position opposite. This room has some highly-wrought marble chimney-pieces, and its ceiling is likewise enriched with arabesque ornamentation, intermixed with fruit and flowers, and decorated with elaborate pendants. In the room next entered, called the south sitting-room, it is traditionally related, on the authority of Dr. Plot, that the marble chimney-piece--a very handsome piece of workmanship in black marble--was so exquisitely polished, that Lord Downe, of the former owners of the mansion,

did see in it the reflection of a robbery committed on Blackheath, whereupon, sending out his servants, the thieves were taken.

Interspersed throughout the various rooms are some choice works of art, and also a very fair collection of family portraits; and of the outbuildings, at a short distance from the house, has been converted into a museum, in which are several interesting objects of natural history, chiefly brought together by Lady Wilson, but greatly augmented by the late Sir Thomas Maryon-Wilson during his t:avels in the north and south of Europe.

The park, although containing but about acres, is well timbered with trees of magnificent growth, among which are several venerable yews; whilst the gardens are laid out with considerable taste, and abound in shrubs and plants, both native and foreign. In the grounds in front of the mansion is a picturesque building of red brick,

233

said to have been originally erected as a

drinking house,

but now made use of as an orangery. Until very recently, this structure had been for several years overshadowed by a solitary cypresstree, the only at that time remaining of a long row mentioned by Evelyn as having adorned the front of the mansion, and which Hasted refers to as seeming

to be of great age, and perhaps the oldest in England.

The ancient gateway, immediately in front of the principal entrance, has long been disused. The mansion is presumed to have been erected from the designs of Inigo Jones, who resided for some time in a house, said to be still standing, in the immediate neighbourhood; and from the fact of the principal apartments being situated on the floor, it is inferred, that it was built shortly after the return of that celebrated architect from Italy, where the state apartments are usually placed upon the uppermost storey.

Henry III. granted to Charlton a market and also a fair, both of which appear to have been given up prior to the middle of the century. Notwithstanding the discontinuance of the fair, the village had been for ages, until late in the last century, famous for a

disorderly fair

held there on day, . It was called

Horn Fair,

according to Philipott,

by reason of the great plentie of all sorts of winding hornes and cups and other vessels of home there brought to be sold.

Concerning the origin of this fair there are several wild traditions, but that most usually accepted is that it was held to keep in remembrance the little episode between King John and the miller's wife, of which we have already given the details in dealing with . Mr. S. C. Hall, however, in his

Baronial Halls,

observes that the more probable origin of the term

horn fair

is that it was symbolic of the ox of St. Luke, by which he is usually distinguished in ancient paintings. The fair was formerly held upon a green opposite the church, and facing Charlton House; but this piece of ground having some years ago been enclosed so as to form part of the gardens belonging to the mansion, the fair was subsequently held in a private field at the other end of the village, under the auspices of a few speculative publicans. During the reign of Charles II. it was a carnival of the most unrestrained kind, and those frequenting it from London used to proceed thither in boats,

disguised as kings, queens, millers, &c., with horns on their heads; and men dressed as females, who formed in procession and marched round the church and fair.

Nicholas Breton, in a poem published in , entitled

Pasquil's Nightcap, or Antidote for the Headache,

gives an amusing account of these annual gatherings, which shows that they were held in great pomp, and with an immense concourse of people, all of whom

In comely sort their foreheads did adorne

With goodly coronets of hardy horne;

but the decadence of this ancient custom was at that time evidently anticipated, for Breton ends his poem by indignantly telling us that-

Long time this solemne custome was observ'd,

And Kentish-men with others met to feast;

But latter times are from old fashions swerv'd,

And grown repugnant to this good behest.

For now ungratefull men these meetings scorn,

And thanklesse prove to Fortune and the horn;

For onely now is kept a poor goose fair,

Where none but meaner people doe repaire.

The reader, of course, will not have forgotten the mysteries attached to

swearing in

on the horns at Highgate, of which we have already spoken at some length.

In we read that

at Horn Fair, a party of humorists of both sexes (query, of either sex) corndted in all the variety of bull-feather fashion, after perambulating round

Cuckold's Point

, startled the little quiet village of Charlton on

St. Luke's

Day, shouting their emulation, and blowing voluntaries on rams' horns, in honour of their patron saint.

Ned Ward gives a curious picture of this odd ceremony, and the press of (the worthy successor of Aldermary churchyard) has consigned it to immortality in broadsides-

A New Summons to all the Merry (Wagtail) Jades to attend at Horn Fair,

and

A New Summons to Horn Fair,

both without a date, inspired by the Helicon of the Fleet-

Around whose brink

Bards rush in droves like cart-horses to drink,

Dip their dark beards among its streams so clear,

And while they gulp it, wish it ale or beer.

Leaving Charlton House behind us, and pursuing a south-western course, we make our way to the southern side of the Great Dover Road after it crosses Blackheath. Here we pass, at a short distance on our left, the steep ascent of Shooter's Hill, which, as Philipott writes, was

so called for the thievery there practised, where travellers in early times were so much infested with depredations and bloody mischiefs, that order was taken in the

sixth

year of Richard II., for the enlarging the highway, according to the statute made in the time

of King Edward I., so that they venture still to rob here by prescription.

The road continued a steep and narrow thoroughfare, closed in by thick woods--a convenient harbour for highwaymendown till about the year , when, as Hasted informs us,

a road of easier ascent and of great width was laid out at some distance from the old

one

;

but still the highwaymen lingered about the neighbourhood, and consequently the hill maintained its reputation long after the new road was made. Byron has rendered the spot familiar to his readers by his description of the prospect from the summit of the hill looking towards London-

A mighty mass of brick, and smoke, and shipping, Dirty and dusky, but as wide as eye Could reach, with here and there a sail just skipping In sight, then lost amidst the forestry Of masts; a wilderness of steeples peeping On tip-toe through their sea-coal canopy; A huge dim cupola, like a foolscap crown On a fool's head-and there is London town.

Here, too, probably, was the scene of Don Juan's musings on the morality, or immorality, of

the great city

--

Here are pure wives, safe lives;

a reverie which was destined to be broken off
rather abruptly--if there be any truth in the poet's words which follow-by the sudden attack of a highwayman.

For the discouragement of these knights of the road the usual methods were adopted here; and in former times Shooter's Hill was seldom without the ornament of a gibbet. Pepys tells us in his

Diary,

under date of , how that of all the journeys he ever made,

this [from Dartford to London] was the merriest. ... Amongst other things,

he adds,

I got my lady to let her maid, Mrs. Anne, ride all the way on horseback .... Mrs. Anne and I rode under the man that hangs upon Shooter's Hill, and a filthy sight it was to see how his flesh is shrunk to his bones.

With the improved condition of the times in which we live, however, an end came some years ago to the practice of the highwaymen; but a somewhat ludicrous attempt at its revival was made in the year , and in this very neighbourhood, with some little success; but the young ruffians having been brought to justice, it is to be hoped that henceforth the midnight wayfarer may proceed on his way over Blackheath or Shooter's Hill in security.

235

236

 

On the western slope of the hill, close by the road leading to Eltham, stands the hospital for the Woolwich garrison, called the Herbert Hospital, after Mr. Sidney Herbert, afterwards Lord Herbert of Lea. The building was erected in , from the designs of Captain Galton, R.E., during the period when Lord Herbert was Secretary of State for War. It is constructed on the pavilion system, and comprises parallel blocks, in which are the hospital wards, providing accommodation for between and patients. On the summit of the hill beyond we just catch a glimpse of Severndroog Castle, which was erected by Lady James, in , in commemoration of the gallantry of her husband, Sir William James, who died in the preceding year,

and in a peculiar manner to record the conquest of the Castle of Severn Droog, on the coast of Malabar, which fell to his superior valour and able conduct on the

2nd day of April, 1755

.

The castle is a triangular brick edifice, of floors, with turrets at the angles, and contains a few specimens of armour, weapons, &c., captured at Severndroog.

Since the close of the last century considerable progress has been made in the erection of villas in the immediate neighbourhood of Blackheath, particularly in that part lying to the south-east, known as Blackheath Park. This park forms an estate anciently called Witenemers, or Wricklesmarsh, which during the reign of William the Conqueror formed part of the possessions of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. At the close of the century it came into the possession of Sir John Morden, the founder of Morden College, who, dying in , bequeathed the estate to his widow. Soon after Lady Morden's death, in , it was sold to Sir Gregory Page, who pulled down the old house and erected a large edifice of stone, consisting of a centre and wings, united by a colonnade; and this mansion is described in the

Ambulator

for as

very magnificent, and

one

of the finest seats in England belonging to a private gentleman.

The writer enters into almost as many details about it, and the picture-gallery which it contained, as he does in describing Lord Burlington's mansion at Chiswick; and the catalogue of the paintings alone occupies pages. On the death of Sir Gregory Page, the mansion and estate passed to a greatnephew, who sold the estate, and the house was soon after pulled down.

At the south-east extremity of Blackheath, but in Charlton parish, is Morden College, so named from its founder, Sir John Morden, a wealthy Turkey merchant, mentioned above. He erected this structure in Great Stone Field, near his own residence, in , and placed in it, during his lifetime, decayed merchants; and by his will (dated ) devised all his real and copyhold estates, after the decease of Lady Morden, to the Turkey Company, in trust, for the support of this college, and for the maintenance of poor, aged, and decayed merchants of England,

whose fortunes had been ruined by the perils of the sea, or other unavoidable accidents.

The premises occupy a spacious quadrangle, and are built of brick, with stone quoins and cornices. There is a lofty entrance gateway, and the lodgings of the inmates, dining-hall, and chapel form a quadrangle. Over the entrance are statues of the founder and his wife. The college provides a comfortable home, including lodging, maintenance, and attendance, for about pensioners, who have each an annual stipend of .

From the grounds attached to Morden College a walk of a mile and a half by the footpath by Kidbrook Church, and across some pleasant fields, brings us to Eltham, which will be the limit of our perambulation in this direction.

 
 
Footnotes:

[extra_illustrations.6.225.1] Henry VI.

[] See ante, p. 86.

[] See ante, p. 9.

[] See ante, p. 10.

[extra_illustrations.6.230.1] Princess of Wales' House on Blackheath

[extra_illustrations.6.230.2] Mr. John J. Angerstein

[] See Vol. III. p. 145.

[] See Vol. III., p. 530.

[] See Vol. III., p. 417.

[] See ante, p. 142.

[] See Vol. V., p. 416.

View all images in this book
 Title Page
 Preface
 Chapter I: Introductory -- Southwark
 Chapter II: Southwark (continued) -- Old London Bridge
 Chapter III: Southwark (continued) -- St. Saviour's Church, &c.
 Chapter IV: Southwark (continued) -- Winchester house, Barclay's Brewery, &c.
 Chapter V: Southwark (continued) -- Bankside in the Olden Time
 Chapter VI: Southwark (continued) -- High Street, &c.
 Chapter VII: Southwark (continued) -- Famous Inns of Olden Times
 Chapter VIII: Southwark (continued) -- Old St. Thomas's Hospital, Guy's Hospital, &c.
 Chapter IX: Bermondsey -- Tooley Street, &c.
 Chapter X: Bermondsey (continued) -- The Abbey, &c.
 Chapter XI: Rotherhithe
 Chapter XII: Deptford
 Chapter XIII: Greenwich
 Chapter XIV: Greenwich (continued) -- The Hospital for Seamen, &c.
 Chapter XV: Greenwich (continued) -- The Parish Church, &c.
 Chapter XVI: Greenwich (continued) -- The Park, The Royal Observatory, &c.
 Chapter XVII: Blackheath, Charlton, and its Neighbourhood
 Chapter XVIII: Eltham, Lee, and Lewisham
 Chapter XIX: The Old Kent Road, &c.
 Chapter XX: Newington and Walworth
 Chapter XXI: Camberwell
 Chapter XXII: Peckham and Dulwich
 Chapter XXIII: Sydenham, Norwood, and Streatham
 Chapter XXIV: Brixton and Clapham
 Chapter XXV: Stockwell and Kennington
 Chapter XXVI: St. George's Fields
 Chapter XXVII: St. George's Fields (continued) -- Bethlehem Hospital, &c.
 Chapter XXVIII: Blackfriars Road -- The Surrey Theatre, Surrey Chapel, &c.
 Chapter XXIX: Lambeth
 Chapter XXX: Lambeth (continued) -- The Transpontine Theatres
 Chapter XXXI: Lambeth (continued) -- Waterloo Road, &c.
 Chapter XXXII: Lambeth Palace
 Chapter XXXIII: Vauxhall
 Chapter XXXIV: Vauxhall (continued) and Battersea
 Chapter XXXV: Wandsworth
 Chapter XXXVI: Putney
 Chapter XXXVII: Fulham
 Chapter XXXVIII: Fulham (continued) -- Walham Green and North End
 Chapter XXXIX: Hammersmith
 Chapter XL: Chiswick
 Chapter XLI: General Remarks and Conclusion
This object is in collection:
Edwin C. Bolles papers
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London
England
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