London: volume 2

Knight, Charles.


XLIII.-The Old Royal Exchange and its Founder.

XLIII.-The Old Royal Exchange and its Founder.




of Henry VII.'s ministers (Cardinal Morton) once told the Parliament that the King was but

a steward in effect for the public; and that what came from them was but as moisture drawn from the earth, which gathered into a cloud, and fell back upon the earth again.

With the applicability of the poetical Cardinal's remark to the business in hand, , we have nothing here to do; but the passage itself is a happy illustration of the character and influence of a class of men of whom England has especial reason to be proud, and more particularly London; of men whose business it has been to draw wealth from the public by a kind of magical process (peculiar to the agents of the great wonder-worker Commerce), which leaves the public richer than it found them, and whose accumulations have, indeed, returned to their fellow-men, blessed with the fertilizing influences that belong to a higher intellectual atmosphere. It is needless to enumerate instances which will rise to the memory of every : we merely therefore observe that the same generation that beheld the foundation of the by merchant, had also witnessed, a few years before, the erection of the chief commercial building of the greatest commercial city of the world by another; and who, not content with that act of princely generosity which, taken alone, might have been thought only an exhibition of the sympathy and pride of class-transformed his own residence into a College, and richly endowed it for the promotion of those arts and sciences which may add lustre and dignity to any and every calling. No wonder that London holds dear the memory of Sir Thomas Gresham.



But, in the Gresham family, the founder of the stands not alone. The original project for the Exchange itself is due to his father, Sir Richard Gresham, who, in , whilst Lord Mayor, drew the attention of the minister, Cromwell, to the subject, and laid before him a design for the erection, which-he proposed to place in ; whilst his uncle, Sir John Gresham, Sheriff in the same year that Richard was Mayor, obtained from Henry VIII. the original foundation of Bethlehem Hospital, and richly endowed with his own means Holt school, Norfolk, where was of the family seats. He too became Mayor, and among other matters made his year of office memorable by the revival of the splendid ceremony of the Marching Watch, described in

Midsummer Eve.

To this uncle was Thomas Gresham apprenticed.

The name of Gresham is derived from a little village in Norfolk, where the ancestors of the future civic worthies had resided, it is said, for generations. Thomas, the younger of sons, is supposed to have been born in London about . At the proper period he was sent to Gonville Hall, Cambridge, which, it is worthy of notice, his father thought only a fitting preparation for his son's future career. The mercantile life, apart from its ends, presented at the period in question many picturesque and exciting features, and was esteemed so honourable, that, in some of the greater speculations of the day, the leading names comprise those of the most influential nobility, and who by no means appear as mere nominal patrons. Gresham had evidently high notions of the power and influence as well as of the duties of the British merchant of the century. Writing, some years after the expiration of his apprenticeship, to his patron the Duke of Northumberland, he says,

to the which


I myself was apprenticed


years, to come by the experience and knowledge that I have:

he then goes on to praise his father's wisdom in so doing. We shall see presently to what excellent purpose Gresham turned these preparations. He was admitted into the Mercers' Company in , being then in his year; and prior to the expiration of the twelvemonth we find

young Thomas Gresham

engaged as a merchant in furnishing supplies for the siege of Boulogne. Soon after he married Anne, widow of a gentleman of Suffolk, and sister to the lady of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper. In of his letters from the continent, written some years later, to the minister, Sir W. Cecil, he says,

I thank you for the gentle entertainment you gave to my poor wife, who I do know right well molests you daily for my coming home.-Such is the fondness of women!

In many others of his important business letters, Gresham recurs to his

poor wife;

and altogether it is very evident there was happiness by the domestic hearth. We now reach the most important period of Gresham's history; for from it may be dated all the consequences which have made his name memorable.

There were formerly but recognised modes of obtaining funds for great national emergencies-subsidies, levied by the arbitrary will of the sovereign or the government, which was as odious as it was in every other respect objectionable-and loans from wealthy merchants; generally of Germany or the Low Countries. By the period in question the last had become the rule, the only the exception. To negotiate the loans an agent became necessary, who was to reside abroad; a person, of course, of distinguished talent and probity, and of agreeable, conciliatory manners. Prior to , and during a period of


considerable financial disorder, the post was held by a man who, in the opinion of the government, was unfitted for it; so, says Gresham,

I was sent for unto the Council, and brought by them before the King's Majesty, to know my opinion (as they had many other merchants) what way with the least charge his Majesty might grow out of debt.

The opinion given was approved of, and Gresham immediately appointed Royal Agent. He set off with his family to Antwerp, the then great commercial emporium of the world. The nature of financial dealings in th century, and of the difficulties which they presented to the man who had determined to revolutionise the system, may be gathered from the following extract from the youthful King's manuscript journal, :--


. A bargain made with the Fulcare (the Fuggers, eminent German merchants) for about


, that in May and August should be paid,--for the deferring of it.


, that the Fulcare should put it off for


in the


. Secondly, that I should buy

12,000 marks

» weight, at

six shillings

the ounce, to be delivered at Antwerp, and so conveyed over. Thirdly, I should pay


crowns for a very fair jewel of his,


rubies marvellously big,


orient and great diamond, and


great pearl.

Some readers will no doubt be surprised to find the tricks of the disreputable money-lenders of our own day traceable to such high and respectable origin. The zeal with which Gresham entered into the duties of his appointment must have been sorely tried in many ways; during the years, for instance, he was called over, frequently at the shortest notice, no less than times! As to what else was required from him in the pursuit of the objects he had set before him, and what he accomplished, we are glad to be able to allow him to speak for himself.

Before I was called to serve, there was no other way devised to bring the King out of debt but to transport the treasure out of the realm; or else by way of exchange, to the great abasing of the exchange; for a pound of our current money there was brought down in value to but

sixteen shillings

Flemish; and for lack of payment there at the days appointed, for to preserve his Majesty's credit withal, it was customary to prolong time also upon interest, which interest, besides the loss of the exchange, amounted unto


by year. And in every such prolongation, his Majesty was enforced to take great part in jewels, or wares, to his extreme loss and damage; of which


loss for interest, yearly, I have by my travail clearly discharged the said King every penny.

The direct saving from this source alone he estimates at The means by which it was done are thus alluded to:

Whereas I found the exchange at

sixteen shillings

the pound, I found the means, nevertheless, without any charge to the King, or hindrance of any other, to discharge the King's whole debts, as they grew, at

twenty shillings


twenty-two shillings

the pound.

He then points out the other advantages which have accrued in consequence of the raising of the exchange:

All foreign commodities be fallen, and sold after the same value, to the enriching of the subjects of the realm in their commodities, in small process of time, above




The precious metals, it is pointed out, are, as a natural consequence, flowing into the country, and the credit of the sovereign is placed on a solid basis. And all this was done in despite of the

merchants, both strangers and English, who always lay in wait to prevent his devices.

It would be difficult to


explain the nature of these devices to the general reader; suffice it, therefore, to say that they present an extraordinary evidence of the far-sighted character of Gresham's mind, and of the claims which he has upon the gratitude of every English merchant, and of his countrymen generally. Gresham's chief opponents were the merchants of the Steel-yard, whose commercial privileges were a great cause of keeping down the exchange, and which produced besides great heart-burnings and jealousies among our native merchants.

The Esterlings, or Germans, were settled in England as early as the reign of Ethelred; when, says Pennant,

the Germans of the Steel-yard, coming with their ships, were accounted worthy of good laws.

These men were undoubtedly our instructors in the art of commerce. For several centuries they were the chief importers and exporters of England, and the profits derived from their trade, and their connexion with the great Hanseatic Confederation, induced our sovereigns to bestow on them peculiar privileges. On more than occasion the London journeymen and apprentices resented the favour shown to them by riots and by attacks on the warehouses of the obnoxious foreigners. In it was decided by the Government that the Steel-yard merchants had forfeited their liberties, and should be placed for the future, with regard to the duties, upon their exports and imports, on the same footing as other strangers. The merit of this abolition of


which, to every but themselves, had grown into serious wrongs, appears to have been never attributed to its true owner, Gresham; who states expressly, in his account of the


by which he succeeded in raising the exchange, that he

practised with the King and my Lord of Northumberland to overthrow the Steel-yard;

and the dates of the events show that he was successful, The Steel-yard, or, as it was occasionally called, the Steel-house, stood on the banks of the Thames, about the end of the little street still known as Steel-yard Street, a short distance eastwards from . Here also was the very interesting Teutonic , with its famous pictures by Holbein, representing the triumphs of Riches and Poverty. What became of these pictures we know not; they are supposed by Pennant to have been carried into Flanders on the final shutting up of the warehouse by Elizabeth in , and thence into France. Zucchero copied them at the Steelyard in , and engravings, probably from his paintings, were made in the last century. Pennant[n.284.1]  thus describes the chief features of the designs:

In the triumph of Riches, Plutus is represented in a golden car, and Fortune sitting before him, flinging money into the laps of people holding up their garments to receive her favours: Ventidius is wrote under


, Gadareus under another, and Themistocles under a man kneeling beside the car. Croesus, Midas, and Tantalus follow; Narcissus holds the horse of the


: over their heads, in the clouds, is Nemesis ... By the sides of the horses walk dropsical and other diseased figures, the too frequent attendants of Riches. Poverty appears in another car mean and shattered, half naked, squalid, and meagre. Behind her sits Misfortune; before her Memory, Experience, Industry, and Hope. The car is drawn by a pair of oxen and a pair of asses; Diligence drives the ass, and Solicitude, with a face of care, goads the ox. By the sides of the car walk

Labour, represented by lusty workmen with their tools, with cheerful looks; and behind them Misery and Beggary, in ragged weeds, with countenances replete with wretchedness and discontent.

The document from which we have transcribed the foregoing passages relating to Gresham's financial miracles, for such they then appeared to all parties, is a Memorial presented to Queen Mary soon after the execution of Gresham's patron, the Duke of Northumberland, on no less occasion than that of the former being removed from the office he had filled with so much ability and success. That removal may in some way or other, perhaps, be attributed to his friendship with the fallen earl; and Gresham, naturally alarmed, seems to have feared that the entire ruin of his prospects was about to take place. Having mentioned the late King's acknowledgment of his services,--

It pleased the King's Majesty to give unto me

one hundred pounds

, to me and my heirs for ever,


weeks before his death ; and promised me with his own mouth that he would hereafter see me rewarded better; saying

I should know that I served a King


--he nexts laments the influence of his enemies, and a loss he had just heard of

by casualty of weather;

and now,

says he,

God help poor Gresham!

Whatever the cause of his momentary disgrace, the services of Gresham were precisely of the kind that the Government were unable to dispense with, so he was soon re-instated; and when Elizabeth came to the throne he was able to give a scarcely less satisfactory account of what he had done--for Mary, and of the reward he had received, than is contained in the memorial above mentioned. He was present at the council held by the Virgin Queen, at Hatfield, and was received with marked favour. Elizabeth, to dissipate his fears of what his enemies might say in his absence, told him she would keep ear shut from his enemies, that should be ever open to him; and promised him, if he did her none other service than he had done to King Edward, her late brother, and Queen Mary, her late sister, she


would give him as much land as ever they both did. The characteristic reply was an exposition of his financial views, ending with the following admirable advice :

An it please your Majesty to restore this your realm into such estate as heretofore it hath been,--


, your Highness hath none other ways but, when time--and opportunity serveth, to bring your base money into fine, of


ounces fine; and so gold after the rate. Secondly, not to restore the Steel-yard to their usurped privilege. Thirdly, to grant as few licences as you can. Fourthly, to come in as small debt as you can beyond seas. Fifthly, to keep your credit, and specially with your own merchants; for it is they who must stand by you at all events in your necessity.

It is worth noting how implicitly the advice appears to have been followed, with the exception of the matter of the licences. In carrying. out the and greatest of the reforms proposed, the restoration of a debased coinage, Gresham himself was, if not a chief actor, evidently the main adviser, for he introduced the foreigners who executed the gigantic task proposed, and was of their sureties during its performance. The Steel-yard not only did not recover

its usurped privilege,

but was finally closed by the Queen. And as to the disuse of foreign loans, and the establishment of domestic credit, Gresham again appears not only as the author of the propositions, but as the man who carried them into execution. Elizabeth made a subsidy in throughout England, which produced no more than More money was indispensable; so, the subsidy having failed, Gresham was empowered to negotiate with the great body, of British merchants known as the Merchant Adventurers. It was no easy matter. The merchants and the Queen held very different opinions on the subject of loans; which need not excite surprise when we know what the Queen's opinions were, or at least her conduct, which may be taken as their best representative. Whenever she was in want of a small sum of money, her remedy was strikingly simple: of the city companies were desired to furnish it. Nor was this all. On occasion she required the ironmongers to send her ; and if they were unprovided . The Merchant Adventurers were puzzled what to do with the application. At last, they referred the matter to a common hall, were the loan was refused by a show of hands. But if they had known the importance Gresham attached to the matter, they might have saved themselves much trouble. He was a man who could never understand failure in any scheme he undertook. He now met their refusal by a show of great surprise and indignation; he caused the Queen's Council to write expressing its displeasure; then, again going quietly, and in a conciliatory tone, to the individuals whom he had marked out for express favour, he soon obtained some for months. The loan had to be renewed at the expiration of the months; but in the mean time the merchants had become convinced that principal and interest were safe in the royal hands, and that Gresham had understood their interests, as well as those of the sovereign, better than either party had understood them for themselves. From that time we hear no more of foreign loans. Among the less permanently valuable services of Gresham, but which, during his own lifetime, formed not the least of his claims to the respect and attention of the Government, was the peculiar and delicate office which he undertook, in addition to his other multifarious occupations, as Queen's agent for the negotiation


of loans,--and Queen's merchant for the supply of military and other stores,--namely, that of being the Government's chief continental correspondent. Antwerp was then

what London is now,--the centre of intelligence: so that, in addition to Flemish news, Gresham conveyed home the freshest intelligence respecting the Pope, derived from Rome, Naples, or Venice; respecting the Turk, derived from Constantinople or Tripoli; Spanish news, from Seville or Toledo; and not least often, tidings of what was passing, or rumoured, in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France.

[n.287.1]  The Flemish correspondence of the period, consisting of hundreds of letters, is almost entirely written by him; and the evidences are manifold of the great reliance Elizabeth and her ministers placed in his industry, talents, and judgment. Gresham, it appears, had a regular staff of spies, constantly running to and fro. Thus, when it was known, in , that an army had encamped in Guelderland, Gresham immediately sent a servant with crowns, who was to stay in the camp so long as the money lasted. Among the persons of this class whom he employed was Hogan, of whom Elizabeth expressed her distrust, as the man was professedly in the pay of the King of Spain; but Gresham satisfied his royal mistress that he knew perfectly well what he was doing. He was himself indefatigable in the same pursuit, setting time and place at defiance whenever anything of high importance had to be done, and he could trust himself only to do it. His skill in some of the manoeuvres that were then looked on, we presume, as quite proper to diplomacy, has been recorded by Strada, the historian of the Low Country wars,

The Emperor (Maximilian II.), by edict, Prohibited and made it death for any German to bear arms against the King of Spain; which, among divers others, how deeply it was resented by the Prince of Orange (though otherwise subtle and close) he expressed at table, wine laying open the secrets of his heart. For,

being invited by Gresham

(agent for the Queen of England), after he had drunk soundly, the Prince began in a great fury to inveigh against the Emperor's edict;

that the Emperor, and the King, and whosoever was of their opinion, deceived themselves; that not only the Germans would take arms, but a great sort of other nations bordering upon the empire; that the Danes, the Swedes, and many others, would not be wanting, which both would and could help the confederated Low-Countrymen.

The importance of this revelation to Elizabeth will be appreciated when we remember the continual support she rendered through her reign to the Protestants of the continent, as well as the danger her own kingdom might be placed in if the measures of the King of Spain and the Emperor with regard to Germany were successful. Another of Gresham's duties involved considerable personal danger. Ammunition was continually wanted by the English Government from Antwerp; but this want could only be. supplied in great secrecy, for the laws of the Low Countries attached their severest penalties to the exporters. All kinds of ingenious schemes were consequently employed. The ammunition was concealed, in comparatively small quantities, in almost every ship that left Antwerp for England; and in Gresham's correspondence on the subject velvet, silks, satins, and damasks represent the forbidden articles. The continual arrival of these stores at the Tower attracted attention; although even that danger had been


pointed out by Gresham to the council at home, with a remedy which was perhaps thought unnecessary. Hence the catastrophe. In he writes to say he

is wholly at his wits' end.

For on the ,



of the clock at night, the chief searcher (who is all my worker, and conveyer of all my


) gave me to understand that there had been an Englishman with the Costomer, and had informed him that of late I had many


arrived at London of all sorts; and that, if he made a general search now, he should find a great booty. Which matter the Costomer opened to the searcher my friend, and commanded him to be with him on the


day very early in the morning.

But Gresham's liberality had not enlisted the searcher alone in his favour; a kind of council was held on the matter; and the result was, that they agreed among themselves that if they interfered Gresham would not take it in good part at their hands. Dogberry himself never arrived at a sager conclusion. And so the matter ended, to the Royal Merchant's great relief; who desired the proper parties at home,

on the reverence of God,

to take better care for the future. Some of these transactions, it will be seen, are of a more than questionable character; but whilst the private and political honours, of our own public men are so often acknowledged even by themselves to present distinctions differences, it would be unjust not to give Gresham whatever benefit may belong to such a consideration. His private character, nay, his public even, where it refers simply to aught pertaining to self, is unspotted; and with respect to the violation of the laws of Antwerp whilst receiving its protection as an English official, his paid spies, his bribes, &c., they are but part of the widely-spreading system of artifice which the great statesmen of the century thought necessary to the support of the social fabric. It is astonishing what little materials went to the formation of their great policy.

With a few personal notices of Gresham we now conclude his history, with the exception of those prominent features of it which more particularly give to that history its interest,--and which therefore require to be treated independently. Thomas Gresham became Thomas on the occasion of his undertaking the duties of ambassador at the court of the Duchess of Parma. His principal English residences were in ; Mayfield, in Sussex, previously a favourite old palace of the Archbishops of Canterbury; and Osterley, in Middlesex: he had other country houses, but of less importance. was, in Gresham's time, the busiest and most important street in London, for it was there that the merchants from all parts of the world congregated in the open air. In short it was as yet the only Exchange. Like all other bankers and merchants of the day, Gresham had his shop in this street, with his grasshopper over the door as his sign. Those who feel any interest in so doing may yet look upon the site of Gresham's house. It stood where now stands the banking-house of Messrs. Stone, Martin, and Co. Pennant saw the sign itself in the last century, which is understood to have remained on the spot till the erection of the present building. Mayfield and Osterley were magnificent places; the furniture of Mayfield was estimated at ; and in both Gresham had the honour of a visit from his royal mistress. of the rooms yet existing among the beautiful ruins of Mayfield is called the Queen's chamber to this day. Of Osterley, Norden, the local historian, speaks as of

a fair and stately building of brick,


and that the park was formerly

garnished with many fair ponds, which afforded not only fish, and fowls, and swans, and other water-fowl, but also of great use for mills,

as paper-mills

, oil-mills, and corn-mills. There was also a very fair heronry, for the increase and preservation whereof sundry allurements were devised and set up.

The paper-mill is a new point in Gresham's history; it was of the earliest, if not earliest, established in this country. His protégé, the poet Churchyard, says-

Giass was at first as strange to make or view

As paper now, that is devis'd of new.

Of new I mean in England; save one man

That hath great wealth, and might much treasure spare;

Who with some charge a paper-mill began;

And after built a stately work most rare-

The Royal Exchange.

[n.289.1]  Does the poet here give his patron a hint ;--

and might much treasure spare?

--It looks very like it. This was written about the period of Elizabeth's visit to Osterley, perhaps a short time before. Among the other magnificent preparations made by Gresham was that it is peculiarly agreeable to read of, as showing the latent love of literature, and everything connected with it, that so often breaks out in the life of the bustling merchant of the world. We refer to a play and a pageant by Thomas Churchyard, written and produced expressly for the occasion. Fuller adds another noticeable incident:--

Her Majesty found fault with the court of the house as too great; affirming that it would appear more handsome if divided with a wall in the middle. What doth Sir Thomas, but in the nighttime send for workmen to London (money commands all things), who so speedily and silently apply their business, that the next morning discovered that court double, which the night had left single before.

What the Queen said is unknown; no doubt Gresham received his reward in the delight and surprise visible on his royal mistress's face. The courtiers, thinking, perhaps, the merchant had outdone them even in their own way,

disported themselves with their, several expressions; some avowing it was no wonder he could so soon change a building, who could build a change; others (reflecting on some known differences in this knight's family) affirmed that any house is easier divided than united.

This visit took place in . years later,

on Saturday, the

21st of November, 1579


Writes Holinshed,





of the clock in the evening, coming from the Exchange to his house which he had sumptuously build.l in

Bishopsgate Street

, he suddenly fell down in his kitchen; and, being taken up, was found speechless, and presently dead.

He lies in the church of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, near th tomb of Sir John Crosby, mentioned in

Crosby Place,

beneath a costly, yet unambitious-looking memorial, constructed by his own orders during his lifetime. poor men and women in black gowns followed his remains to the grave, in a procession of almost unequalled splendour. The tomb bears the simple inscription,

Sir Thomas Gresham, Knt., buried

December the 15th, 1579


and even this is only of the date of , for it was thought, says Pennant,

so great a name needed not the proclamation of an epitaph.



The motives or impulses which move men to the performance of great charitable actions are of course as various as their characters, and, where they have not themselves explained them to us, must be looked for in that direction. In Gresham's case many concurring circumstances probably aided the formation of his plan for an Exchange. His father had desired to see the merchants of England lodged as well as those of Antwerp, where he had seen and enjoyed the advantages of their new and magnificent Bourse. His own residence, in the very centre of the meeting-place, must have saved him personally from its inconveniences; but the same circumstance may have afforded him more leisurable opportunity for seeing how it affected others less favourably situated. His biographer seems to think a nearer motive may have been at work. His only son died in ; and with him, no doubt, a great portion of the magnificent fabric of future rank and power which should be his in the persons of his descendants. His father had died some years before. As the old faces disappeared, old objects would lose their attraction. Those only who have felt bereavement can appreciate the value of a new object at such a time; an object into which the energies-that, unemployed in their usual task, have become but so many instruments of self-torture, enhancing the grief which they ought to allay-can be forcibly directed, and there drawn into full occupation. Young Gresham died in . In that same year we find, from the minutes of the Court of Aldermen, the proposal was made to the Court by Sir Thomas Gresham respecting the erection of the Exchange.

We may see how much the proposed building was needed from the picture Stow, in his Chronicle, has left us of .

The merchants and tradesmen, as well English as strangers, for their general making of bargains, contracts, and commerce . . . did usually meet twice every day,

at noon and in the evening.

But these meetings were unpleasant and troublesome, by reason of walking and talking in an open narrow street . . . being there constrained either to endure all extremes of weather, viz. heat and cold, snow and rain; or else to shelter themselves in shops.

Sir Thomas now offered to remedy this state of things, by erecting a Bourse or Exchange, provided a site was found. A subscription was immediately set on foot for the purchase of the chosen spot in , and in the alleys at the back, which, with the houses thereon standing, were ultimately bought for The ground was then made plain, and the whole conveyed over to Sir Thomas Gresham, by certain aldermen, in the name of the citizens generally. Sir Thomas, on his part,

being at the house of Mr. John Rivers, alderman, in company with Sir William Garrard, Sir William Chester, Thomas Rowe, Lionel Ducket, German Cioll, and Thomas Banister, most frankly and lovingly promised that, within a month after the Bourse should be fully finished, he would present it in equal moities to the City and the Mercers' Company. In token of his sincerity, he thereupon gave his hand to Sir William Garrard ; and, in the presence of his assembled friends, drank a carouse to his kinsman, Thomas Rowe.

Mr. Burgon adds to this passage the remark :

How rarely do ancient documents furnish us with such a picture of ancient manners.

On the , the founder laid the stone of the foundation, accompanied by several aldermen, each of whom laid a piece of gold upon it for the workmen. By , the entire building was completed. There is a curious


tradition, not unsupported. by facts, with respect to the formation of the frame-work of the Exchange. Gresham, in of his letters, speaks of

my house at Rinxhall, where I make all my provision for my timber for the Bourse.

Rinxhall, or Ringshall, is near Battisford, in Suffolk, from which it is divided by a great common, called Battisford Tye. This was formerly rich in wood; and in a certain part of it the remains of or saw-pits are still discernible. These, says tradition, are the same that were employed in the frame-work of the great Bourse, which, according to the same authority, was entirely constructed here. The architect was Henrick, a Fleming, who, it appears, was in the habit of going to and fro between England and Flanders during the progress of the edifice, to obtain both materials and men. The stone, the slates, the iron, the wainscot, and the glass, all came from Antwerp. Hollinshed seems to intimate

he bargained for the whole mould and substance of his workmanship in Flanders.

Gresham had evidently made it a matter of importance that he should be at liberty to employ Flemish artists and workmen, for the Court of Aldermen, in acceding to his,proposal, agreed also that


might be employed. Many annoyances, however, were experienced from the English bricklayers,

both in-words and deeds.

The magnificent range of statues which distinguished the Exchange were also most probably made in Flanders; for Mr. Burgon, we think, entirely mistakes the meaning of the following passage in. a letter from Clough, Gresham's factor, who says,

I have received the pictures you write of, whereof I will cause the Queen's Majesty to be made, and will send you the rest back again with that, so soon as it is done.

Gresham's biographer supposes from this that some of the were sent over from- England, where he consequently presumes they had been made, to show the Flemish artist the style in which he was to construct Queen Elizabeth's. Is it not much more likely that the


were really pictures, containing perhaps representations of the statues, if such were needed, and different portraits of her Majesty, to assist the sculptor in his task?

The general aspect of the new building presented striking evidence of its in every way Flemish character. As Flemish materials, Flemish workmen, and a Flemish architect were employed in the execution, so was the design itself a tolerably close imitation of a Flemish building--the great Bourse of Antwerp. prints have been preserved of an interesting character, which show very completely the interior and exterior aspects of the building. They were executed in , and from the date, and the inscription upon them, it appears not improbable, as Mr. Burgon suggests, that they were engraved at Gresham's own order. The English inscription is as follows:--

Sir Thomas Gresham, knight, at his own costs and charges, to the ornament and public use of this royal city of London, caused this place from the foundation to be erected the

7th of June

, anno


; and is full ended anno



This inscription is repeated in the prints in French, Dutch, and Latin, implying a care for its being read in every part of the world, which may be attributed with greater probability to Sir Thomas Gresham than to any else. The view shown by the print of the interior is seen in the engraving at the end of our paper, and need not therefore be described. We may observe, however, that the column there seen in front of the northern entrance, commanding a view of the court within, is shown in no


other engravings of London; which is the more remarkable as, from its evident size, it must have been a conspicuous object from all sides. The principal feature of the exterior view is a lofty square tower with balconied galleries, and a grasshopper surmounting the ball at its top, which stands on side the entrance, and formed a bell-tower, from which issued at at noon, and at in the evening, the merchants' call to


The pillars of the court were of marble. All the corners of the building were ornamented with the founder's crest, the grasshopper, in allusion to which and the Exchange, Bishop Hall, in his description of

the brain-sick youth,


And now he plies the news-full grasshopper

Of voyages and ventures to inquire.

The building consisted essentially of portions, an upper and a lower; the being laid out in shops, in number, and the other into walks and rooms for the merchants, with shops on the exterior. For or years after the opening of the building the shops, remained

in a manner empty,

and, for the time, caused a considerable disappointment to the founder, who anticipated a handsome revenue from that source. But the persevering spirit of Gresham was as actively at work as ever; and a new


soon altered the cheerless-looking aspect of the place. It was noised abroad that the Queen was going to visit it, and Gresham's preparatory movements showed the importance he attached to the matter.

He went,

says Stow,

twice in


day round about the upper Pawn,

The bazaar part of the Exchange was so called; possibly a corrupted form of Bahn--the German word for a path or walk.

and besought those few shopkeepers then present that they would furnish and adorn with wares and wax-lights as many shops as they either could or would, and they should have all those shops so furnished rent-free that year, which otherwise at that time was

forty shillings

a-shop by the year.

All being prepared-amidst the ringing of the bells in every part of the city-

the Queen's Majesty, attended with her nobility, came from her house at

the Strand

, called

Somerset House

, and entered the city by

Temple Bar

, through

Fleet Street

, Cheap, and so by the north side of the Burse to Sir Thomas Gresham's house in

Bishopsgate Street

, where she dined. After dinner her Majesty, returning through


, entered the Burse on the south side, and after that she had viewed every part thereof above the ground, especially the Pawn, which was richly furnished with all sorts of the finest wares in the city, she caused the same Burse, by a herald and trumpet, to be proclaimed the

Royal Exchange

, and so to be called from thenceforth, and not otherwise.

A bas-relief over the entrance through which Elizabeth had passed existed down to the fire, commemorative of this incident. A still more important memorial, however, is to be found in a play, divided into parts, by T. Heywood (whom Charles Lamb finely calls a sort of Shakspere), under the voluminous titles of--

If you know not me, you know nobody; or the Troubles of Queen Elizabeth;




Part of Queen Elizabeth's Troubles; Doctor Parry's Treasons; the Building of the

Royal Exchange

; and the famous Victory in Anno



As it did not suit Heywood, nor perhaps his audiences, who looked upon Gresham as a miracle of wealth and generosity, to abide by the exact vulgar facts as above narrated, the poet gives us a new


reading of the Egyptian story. At the banquet Gresham produces a pearl of such value that few could afford to buy it from him, and, having crushed it to powder, drinks it off in a cup of wine.

Here fifteen hundred pound at one clap goes!

Instead of sugar, Gresham drinks the pearl

Unto his queen and mistress; pledge it, lords!

We may here mention that another play also exists to mark the interest taken by the public in the Royal Merchant during his lifetime. The we now refer to is in Latin, and preserved in manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. There are persons in the list of characters, the , Rialto, being intended for Sir Thomas himself. The prologue and epilogue are delivered by Mercury, and the scene is the . From the period of the Queen's visit the shops of the Pawn soon rose in value from to ,

and then,

says Stow,

all shops were furnished according to that time: for then the milliners or haberdashers in that place sold mousetraps, bird-cages, shoeing-horns, lanthorns, and Jews' trumpets, &c. There was also at that time that kept shops in the upper Pawn of the Royal Exchange-armourers, that sold both new and old armour, apothecaries, booksellers, goldsmiths, and glass-sellers.

But we have in this passage only an indication of the transition period of the Exchange; for a few years later still, and the shops were filled with the richest wares that the world of commerce could produce, till even princes, according to Stow's pleasant exaggeration, sent daily to be served of the best sort. Not the least interesting part of the history of the old Exchange are its literary memorials, though, for the most part, their authors are unknown to fame. of these, the Rev. Samuel Rolle, a clergyman who wrote no less than Discourses, Meditations, and Contemplations on the Great Fire, thus speaks of the Exchange:

How full of riches was that

Royal Exchange

! rich men in the midst of it, rich goods above and beneath! There men walked upon the top of a wealthy mine: considering what eastern treasures, costly spices, and such-like things were laid up in the bowels (I mean the cellars) of that place. As for the upper part of it, was it not the great storehouse whence the nobility and gentry of England wire furnished with most of those costly things wherewith they did adorn either their closets or themselves? Here, if anywhere, might a man have seen the glory of the world in a moment.

And in an equally picturesque strain he continues:

What artificial thing could entertain the senses, the fantasies of men, that was not there to be had? Such was the delight that many gallants took in that magazine of all curious varieties, that they could almost have dwelt there (going from shop to shop like bee from flower to flower), if they had but had a fountain of money that could not be drawn dry.--I doubt not but a Mahomedan, who never expects other than sensual delights, would gladly have availed himself of that place, and the treasures of it, for his heaven, and have thought there was none. like it.

The Pawn, the part he principally referred to, was then, it must be remembered, very differently situated with regard to the fashionable parts of London from what it is now. During Gresham's time the , , &c., on the side, and the on the other, were to


the rest of the Metropolis something like what , , and parts of are at this day.

The lower part of the Exchange, including the great court, must have presented an animated and remarkable scene. Jostling each other among the crowd were men from almost every known nation of the world, habited in their respective national costumes, speaking in every variety of tone and language, exhibiting the most marked differences of manner and countenance. Interspersed with the more numerous English merchants, dressed in their large puffed breeches, long vests, short cloaks and ruffs, appeared here the half-naturalized Fleming, with his fur-trimmed coat and hat, and tight-fitting pantaloons; there the lordly Venetian, in his long robes and elegant cap, a fitting representative of the great and haughty republic. Mingling with the more sedate men of business too would occasionally be seen some courtier from the Palace in all his bravery, conning a new jest at the expense of the


some lover of notoriety seeking to make the best of his small reputation--a


for instance,

the new-come traveller,

With his disguised coat and ringed ear,

Trampling the Bourse's marble twice a day.

Or some idle needy-looking scapegrace, who, perhaps in a penitent or philosophizing mood, is wandering about to see if he cannot catch, as it were, the contagious air of the place,--grow prudent, industrious, rich! Many a shaft is directed by our old satirists at these poor castaways of Fortune, whose usual haunts were and the Exchange. Hayman, in his (), thus addresses Sir Pierce Penniless:--

Though little coin thy purseless pockets line, Yet with great company thou'rt taken up; For often with Duke Humphrey thou dost dine, And often with Sir Thomas Gresham sup.

We need scarcely inform our readers that the Barmecide himself, in the

Arabian Nights,

never enjoyed a lighter or more digestible diet than Duke Humphrey presented to the noonday walkers in , or Sir Thomas Gresham to the promenaders of the evening «Change.

Another of these authors who have written on the Exchange in a style that gives intrinsic value to their compositions, apart from the subject, is Daniel Lupton, who published in a small work called

London and Country Carbonadoed and Quartered into several Characters.

The passage referring to the merchants of the Exchange is so excellent, that we give it almost entire :

The merchants are generally men of. good habit; their words are generally better than their consciences; their discourse ordinarily begins in water, but ends in wine. The frequenting the walks twice a-day, and a careless laughter, argues they are sound: if they visit not once a-day, «tis suspected they are cracking or broken. Their countenance is ordinarily shaped by their success at sea, either merry, sad, or desperate; they are like ships at sea, top and topgallant this day, to-morrow sinking. The sea is a tennis-court, their states are balls, the wind is the racket, and doth strike many for lost under line, and many

in the hazard.

Conscience is sold here for nought, because it is as old sermons; a dead commodity. They will dissemble with and cozen


another, though all the kings that ever were since the Conquest overlooked them. Here are usuall; more coaches attendant than at church-doors. The merchants should keep their wives from visiting the upper rooms too often, lest they tire their purses by attiring themselves. Rough seas, rocks and pirates, treacherous factors, and leading ships, affright them. They are strange politicians; for they bring Turkey and Spain into London, and carry London thither.

Numerous brief records of the Exchange exist in the

Inquest Book of



referring chiefly to presentments of annoyances to which the merchants, visitors, and neighbours were subject; which, though not very remarkable or interesting in. themselves, help to fill up the details of the picture. From its pages we learn that at time the

honest citizens

who walked in the Exchange on Sundays and holidays

could neither quietly walk nor


hear another speak

for the great number of boys and children, and young rogues, who made such

shouting and hollowing ;

that, at another,

certain women, maidens and others,

who sold apples and oranges at the entrance in , amused themselves

in cursing and swearing, to the great annoyance and grief of the passersby;

that again, at a , the same entrance was beset by

rat-catchers, sellers of dogs, birds, plants, trees, and other things, to the great annoyance and trouble of merchants, gents, ladies, and others,

resorting thither; and lastly, to make the confusion worse confounded, and drive the quiet citizens mad, that the bearwards would bring their bears, dogs, and bulls before the Exchange, even at Exchange time, and make their proclamation as to the where and the when of the evening sport.

The last, and not least eloquent, of the literary memorials of the , that we shall transcribe, forms also the most fitting conclusion to its history. It is a leaf from the Book of the Great Fire:--Now the flames break in upon , that large and spacious street, and quickly cross the way by the train of wood that lay in the streets untaken away, which had been pulled down from the houses to prevent its spreading, and so they lick the whole street up as they go; they mount up. to the top of the highest houses; they descend down to the bottom of the lowest vaults-and cellars; and march along on both sides of the way, with such a roaring noise as never was heard in the City of London: no stately buildings so great as to resist their fury: the itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded with much violence.

When the fire was entered, how quickly did it run round the galleries, filling them with flames; then descending the stairs, compasseth the walks, giving forth flaming volleys, and filling the court with sheets of fire. By and by the Kings fell all down on their faces, and the greater part of the stone building after them (

the founder's statue alone remaining

), with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing.

The very interesting fact recorded in the words we have marked with italics is noticed by all the historians of the Fire; and the author of the before mentioned devotes a whole chapter to its illustration. The incident, indeed, was really remarkable, and calculated to stimulate thought into poetry--to connect agreeable memories with the wildest scene of


desolation. Some would remember the exactly parallel circumstance at at the same time, where the architrave alone remained entire, with its builder's name visible by the light of the flames that were destroying his work; others would behold, in the prostration of the effigies of the long line of sovereigns, whilst that of the Merchant--the Philanthropist--the Statesman-remained standing, a symbol of the permanence and natural elevation of the inherent and better qualities of human nature, as contrasted with the temporary rank often bestowed where they are utterly wanting; whilst, lastly, all would feel how impressively that solitary statue seemed to say-



is gone, but


am still here

--and feel the spirit of Gresham animate them to new exertions to replace the lost edifice.


[n.284.1] Edition of 1793, page 333.

[n.287.1] Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham, by John William Burgon, vol. i. p. 361; a work to which we must express our grateful acknowledgments.

[n.289.1] In A Description and Discourse of Paper, &c.