London, Volume 1
There are few things more striking by way of contrast in London than the sudden change which may almost everywhere obtain from the noise, bustle, and apparent confusion of the narrow and crowded streets of the city, to the serene quiet of some fine old edifice lying close beside them, utterly undisturbed by the eternal roar of the great Babel. And to all those who feel, whether as a passing mood or as a more enduring sentiment, that consciousness of solitude in populous places which Byron has so beautifully described, what can be more refreshing than to come unexpectedly upon these green spots in the desert-what more delightful than to step out of the whirl and the throng into some peaceful place where the echo of your own footsteps is the loudest sound you may hear, and the rush of interesting recollections, which people the silent but most eloquent walls, the only crowd that can arrest your wanderings? No happier example of this contrast between the fancy-stirring Past and the matter-of-fact Present, which London so frequently and so forcibly presents, can perhaps be found than in the instance of the subject before us. Crosby Place is certainly of the most interesting edifices in London; and little as its history or even its existence is known to the thousands who pass daily through , yet does it stand within a very few yards of the busiest part of that most
|busy of thoroughfares. Pass those few yards, and you will soon forget the locality of Crosby Place. It appears itself too absorbed in the remembrance of its past glories, and of the great men who have lived within its sheltering arms, to heed the tumult without; and as to the visitor, the antique impressive air of the place soon subdues his thoughts to its own colour.|
Crosby Place derives its name from Sir John Crosby, its reputed builder, an alderman of London during the reign of Edward IV. He held also the offices of Sheriff, Warden of the Grocers' Company, and the Mayoralty of the Staple of Calais; in he represented the city in Parliament. He appears to have distinguished himself among the party attached to the House of York, and was of those whom Edward knighted on his approach to London, after the landing at Ravenspur in . In the following year a most delicate commission was given to him, in common with Sir John Scott, Marshal of Calais, Watcliffe, the King's Secretary, Dr. John Russell, Archdeacon of Berkshire, and other eminent persons. Their chief ostensible object was to arrange various matters then in abeyance between the Duke of Burgundy and the King of England, and, we presume, to form a treaty of alliance against France, which Edward then meditated attacking. From thence they passed to the court of the Duke of Brittany, where, besides concluding a similar treaty, they were, says Stow,
Had they succeeded in this object, in what very different channels might not the history of this country have run! Soon after the defeat of the Lancastrians at the battle of Tewkesbury, the Earl of Pembroke had fled with his young charge to seek refuge in France. A storm drove his vessel on the coast of Brittany, and the nobles were detained by Francis, the reigning Duke. Edward now claimed them as enemies and fugitive traitors, but in vain; he could get no other assurance than that they should never be allowed to disturb his government. This was far from satisfactory; hence the secret mission given to Sir John Crosby and his companions, who, by profession of friendship for the exiles, succeeded at last in persuading both them and the Duke of the propriety of returning to England. The future conqueror of Bosworth Field was already at St. Male on the point of embarkation, when Landois, the minister of the Duke, suddenly arrived, and prevented his sailing on various pretexts, till Richmond took the alarm, and fled from the agents of the man who had probably the same fate in store for him that had awaited Henry VI. The lease of the site of Crosby Place, with a great tenement then standing on it, formerly in possession of Cataneo Pinelli, a merchant of Genoa, was granted to Sir John by Alice Ashfield, prioress of the Convent of St. Helen's, adjoining: this tenement was most probably pulled down to make way for the magnificent erection that soon appeared upon its site, and of which there is no reason to doubt but the more ancient parts of the present structure are the genuine remains. Sir John Crosby died in , so that he could have enjoyed but for--a short time the splendour of Crosby Place, then noticed as the highest domestic building in London. A beautiful tomb in the church of St. Helen's marks the last resting-place of his and-his wife's remains.
The well-known passage in Shakspere will occur to all readers, where the Duke of Gloster, at the conclusion of his successful wooing of the Lady Anne, thus addresses her:--
This passage is of great importance; for the preservation of Crosby Hall, through all the vicissitudes of its fortunes, is attributable to the popularity it derived from it. What its own intrinsic beauty and historical character might not have accomplished for it, has been done by a mere incidental notice in the great poet's writings. Richard's residence here, however, at the time of his marriage, , is very doubtful, as Sir John Crosby was then alive. But a much more important event than the poet refers to unquestionably did take place in this building in connexion with Richard. It was in the hall of Crosby Place that he determined upon the deposition, perhaps the death, of the young King, Edward V., and it was here that all the plans were concocted for his own elevation to the vacant throne. When Edward IV. died, on the , his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, was with his maternal uncle, the Earl of Rivers, at Ludlow Castle, and the younger with his mother, Elizabeth, in London. Richard Duke of Gloster was at the same moment at the head of an army devoted to his service in the marches of Scotland. He immediately marched upon York, where he caused his nephew to be proclaimed King, and from thence proceeded towards London. The Prince or King was also, by his mother's directions, advancing towards the metropolis. The Duke, aware of his movements, so well timed his own that they met at Stony , without any appearance of intention on the part of the uncle. There the unsuspicious youth and his guardians were seized, the former being conveyed with all outward marks of respect and allegiance to London, and the latter to Pontefract, where they were almost immediately beheaded. The news of these events preceded the chief actor in them. Elizabeth withdrew with the Duke of York to the sanctuary at , and great was the commotion among the citizens. But the Lord Hastings, another of Richard's destined victims, quieted their minds by assuring them that the Duke was faithful to his Prince, and that the Earl Rivers and his companion had merely been arrested for matters attempted by them against the Duke and the Duke of Buckingham. A curious kind of proof was displayed to the populace--barrels filled with arms, which their conductors said the traitors had privately got together to destroy the noble lords.
was the exclamation, as the spectators turned away perfectly satisfied with this species of optical logic. Such was the state of things when Richard arrived in London, and, having lodged the young King in the Tower, took up his own residence for a short time at Crosby Place. For what follows we are indebted to the graphic pen of Sir Thomas More.
Richard and the Duke of Buckingham now
The wily Earl soon perceived that he had not mistaken the meaning of these separate councils, for at the very next meeting of the members of both, Gloster accused Hastings of witchcraft, and sent him instantly to the block; and Lord Stanley himself, in the melee, escaped destruction only by bending below the council board to escape a blow aimed at him by of the Duke's attendants. The murder of the children, the insurrection and death of Buckingham, and Richard's own defeat and death at Bosworth, followed in rapid succession; and Richmond, the young Prince whom Sir John Crosby had so nearly entrapped a few years before, reigned, the universally acknowledged King of England. He married Elizabeth of York, and then the rival roses became once more blended in a common stock. Soon after the death of her son Prince Arthur, in , within a few months of his marriage, the Queen also died. When
[n.321.1] The objects succeeded, the latter failed. The ambassadors on this occasion were guests of Bartholomew Read, Mayor of London -, who evidently purchased Crosby Place in order that he might have a home befitting the splendour which he had determined should signalize his mayoralty. Read was a member of, and at his death a great benefactor to, the Goldsmiths' Company; and it was supposed that he had given his inauguration dinner in their Hall. Stow, referring to this supposition, writes,--
[n.321.2] Stow was quite unaware, when he wrote this, that Read was, at the time referred to, master of the largest hall in London, next to , and therefore all his argument against the truth of the report concerning the magnificence of the feast falls to the ground. We are
| sorry to be obliged, like Stow, to |
with the above short notice; but all our endeavours to discover his authority have been useless. He refers to
Grafton; but neither in his pages, nor in the pages of any of the other old chroniclers that Stow was likely to have read, can we find any account of this evidently most magnificent feast. The next possessor of Crosby Place was Sir John Rest, who held the office of Mayor in (the year of the Evil May-Day[n.322.1] ), and by him it appears to have been sold, though at what time is uncertain, to the illustrious Sir Thomas More. From the period of More's marriage, in , he resided for some years in . Perhaps it was soon after his return from the mission on which he had been sent to Bruges, in company with Cuthbert Tunstal, in -, that he purchased Crosby Place, for his advancement then became rapid. He was made Privy Councillor in , and in Master of the Requests. The journey to which we have referred forms the groundwork of his famous romance the
At Bruges he supposes himself to have met with Raphael, the learned traveller who had seen the country of Utopia, and describes to Sir Thomas the manners and customs of its inhabitants. It is far from impossible but that this delightful work was written in Crosby Place. In the preface we have a complete picture of Sir Thomas's domestic habits about this period, and which, if it does not directly apply to Crosby Place, may certainly be applied to it with the mere substitution of his
there being little or no doubt but the former work was written within its chambers, however it may be with the latter. He writes, Whilst I daily either plead other men's causes, or hear them sometimes as an arbiter, otherwhiles as a judge-whilst this man I visit for friendship, another for business, and whilst I busy myself abroad about other men's matters all the whole day; I leave no time for myself, that is for study. For when I come home I must discourse with my wife, chat with my children, speak with my servants; and seeing this must needs be done, I number it amongst my affairs; and needful they are, unless will be a stranger in his own house; for we must endeavour to be affable and pleasing unto those whom either nature, chance, or choice hath made our companions; but with such measure it must be done that we do not mar them with affability, or make them of servants our masters by too much gentle entreaty and favour. Whilst these things are doing, a day, a month, a year passeth. When then can I find any time to write? for I have not yet spoken of the time that is spent in eating and sleeping, which things alone bereave most men of half their life. As for me, I get only that spare time which I steal from my meat and sleep, which, because it is but small, I proceed slowly; yet it being somewhat, I have now at the length prevailed so much as I have finished, and sent unto you, Peter, my
But for Bonvisi, with possibly another friend or of his stamp, and Margaret Roper, More's daughter, this great and good man would have been left by his murderers without proper clothes to cover him, or proper food to eat. When the order for his execution came to the Tower, and Sir Thomas Pope,
having informed More of his fate
| --he was to die before in the morning of that same day-had left him to himself, Sir Thomas, as that had been invited to a solemn banquet, changed himself into his best apparel, and put on his silk camlet gown, which his |
gave him whilst he was in the Tower. He was induced, however, by the representations of the lieutenant, to take it off again, as it would have otherwise become a perquisite of the executioners. He then went cheerfully to the block, his wit and humour flashing brightly to the last.
said he, referring to the danger that had been expressed of the weakness of the scaffold,
So perished this the greatest of the inhabitants of Crosby Place. His connexion with it can be scarcely said to have ended even then; for Bonvisi in leased Crosby Place to William Roper, the husband of More's favourite daughter, Margaret, the affectionate and noble and high-spirited woman who so greatly contributed to the comfort of her father in his worst trials; and to William Rastell, his nephew before mentioned. In the reign of Edward VI., Bonvisi, Roper, and Rastell appear to have been all driven abroad by religious persecution, and the estate of Crosby Place forfeited. It was then granted to Sir Thomas D'Arcy, knight, Lord D'Arcy of Chule. But immediately on the accession of Mary, the persecution having changed sides, Bonvisi and his friends were free to return, which they did in the year of her reign, and immediately regained their property. The next proprietors were Peter Crowle, Germayne Cioll, who married a cousin of Sir Thomas Gresham's, (the daughter of Sir John Gresham, with whom Thomas was apprenticed,) and William Bond, Alderman of London, and his sons. Some extensive alterations are supposed to have been made during the alderman's proprietorship; a turret in particular is mentioned as having been built by him, which greatly increased the height of the building. No traces of this turret are now to be found. From the inscription on the alderman's tomb in the adjoining church of St. Helen's it appears that he had been in his day a personage of considerable energy and importance :--
In Sir John Spencer purchased Crosby Place, and kept his mayoralty that year in it, doubtless with great splendour. He was perhaps the richest citizen of his day, as he died worth nearly a million sterling. He was called
His daughter and sole heiress married William, the Lord Compton, afterwards Earl of Northampton, who was so transported at the value of his inheritance that he lost his wits, and remained for some years in that state. If he had weighed a little more closely the capabilities of his wife to spend the enormous wealth she brought him, it would perhaps have somewhat moderated his transports. Her fortune was large certainly, but we may see from the following unique letter, written to her husband soon after their marriage, that her ideas of her wants were fully
This lady, who so considerately values herself upon her reasonableness, most probably occasionally resided here with her husband, during Sir John Spencer's lifetime, as well as after his death, which took place in . Sir John, it appears, made some alterations in the place, and
Ambassadors were entertained on several occasions here. The most important event of this kind took place during the
proprietorship; when no less important a person than M. de Rosney, afterwards the Duke of Sully, Henry IV. of France's great adviser, was entertained in Crosby Place. He came to London on a special embassy to James I., in the hope of inducing James to maintain the league which had existed between Elizabeth, France, and the Hollanders, and to prevent him from making peace with Roman Catholic Spain. Sully had difficulty to contend with. Many excesses had been committed by the retinue of a former ambassador, and he therefore anticipated finding a strong popular prejudice against him. Referring to this and to the discredit which he felt such transactions cast upon his country, Sully writes,
[n.327.1] Although the character of Sully precludes the idea that he would have hesitated in allowing the civic authorities to put Combant to death, had they so wished, yet it seems to us tolerably evident that Sully deserves great credit for his finesse; his severity disarmed that of more dangerous judges, and we have no doubt saved the young man's life. We may dismiss the Duke de Sully with the remark that by his address, his winning manners, (it is said he bribed the Queen herself), he completely succeeded in his objects. During the proprietorship of Lord Compton and his rich wife, another distinguished tenant
| graced the halls of Crosby Place. This was the lady whose name was so affectionately attached by Sir Philip Sidney to his famous romance: |
is its title, in compliment to his beloved sister. We need scarcely add that this also was the lady whom Ben Jonson has celebrated in of the prettiest epitaphs in our language. The Countess of Pembroke lived so many years in Crosby Place that her history is a part of its own.
Spencer, Earl of Northampton, the son of the last-mentioned proprietor, resided here in . This nobleman was of the most strenuous supporters of Charles I., and almost the of his order who shed his blood in his service. He was killed by the King's side at Hopton Heath, in Staffordshire, in . years before Crosby Place had been leased to Sir John Langham, who was sheriff in , during whose occupation it is said to have been used as a prison for royalists. His son, Sir Stephen Langham, succeeded him, and it is supposed that it was during his tenancy that the fire occurred by which Crosby Place was so greatly injured, that from that period it ceased to be used as a dwelling. In the hall was converted into a Presbyterian meeting-house, and so remained for nearly a century (a son of the eminent divine, Calamy, was of the assistant preachers here about ), and in the present houses in were built on the ruins of the parts of the old mansion that had been destroyed. Its history is now nearly brought to a conclusion. After the disuse of the hall as a meeting-house it was degraded into a packer's warehouse, and whilst thus occupied, received the most serious injury from the alterations which were made in it. In the lease upon which the hall had been held expired; and from that time the most unremitting exertions have been made by a committee of gentlemen, who had taste to appreciate the historical and architectural value of Crosby Place, to restore the remaining parts of the structure to their pristine state: and the subscriptions received have in a great measure enabled them to accomplish this object. Extensive reparations have taken place, and much of the original mansion has been rebuilt. The stone of the new works was laid on the , by the Right Honourable W. T. Copeland, Lord Mayor, when a plan of them, with other documents of the subject, were deposited in a bottle, and the latter placed in a cavity of the stone formed to receive it. After that portion of the ceremony was over the Lord Mayor led the way into the hall, which was fitted up in a characteristic manner for the occasion. Banners floated along the walls, the floor was strewed with rushes, and a genuine old Elizabeth breakfast, including a noble baron of beef, was spread upon the tables.
Our description of Crosby Place will necessarily be but brief, when compared with the space we have devoted to its history. For although, as a work of art, Crosby Place presents some unrivalled features, the roof of its hall for instance, yet its historical recollections constitute its greatest charm. If we take as our guide the plan of the vaults still existing beneath the site of
|Crosby Place and the neighbourhood, it will be evident that the original edifice must have been as magnificent for its extent as for the general beauty of its decorations. Large as is the space occupied by the hall and the council-chamber, with the throne-room above, (the only remaining portions of Crosby Place,) yet it scarcely occupies half the extent denoted by the remains below the soil. Among these remains there is particularly interesting feature, a crypt with a finely groined roof, now occupied as a wine cellar. From its situation it appears highly probable that this stood beneath a chapel belonging to Crosby Place; although we must also state that it is the opinion of persons well qualified to judge that it belonged to a chapel of the old Priory of St. Helen's. The entrance to Crosby Place is through a small gateway; as we pass through this, the view shown at the commencement of our paper meets the eye. This is the exterior of the hall, consisting of story only, with its lofty and elegant windows, and its exquisitely beautiful oriel window, reaching from the ground to the top of the building, and the exterior of the council-chamber, with the throne-room above. It may be noticed that the windows to the extreme right of the hall differ from the remainder, in being closer together. These give light to a part of the building which formed the gallery of the hall, extending over the gateway seen in the drawing, which leads into , formerly the inner court of the great mansion. Beneath this gateway, it is supposed, was the original entrance to the hall; at present, however, we reach the interior of Crosby Place through a low postern doorway, situated in the angle between the wall of the council-chamber and the great oriel window. We enter upon the council-chamber, or, as it is sometimes called, the dining-room. This is lighted by windows which look into the small quadrangle we have just quitted, and by situated in the left-hand corner of the opposite wall. This window is large, lofty, and of a very unique character--a restoration of a former work. There was formerly also a beautiful bay window looking into the quadrangle, and the blank arch of which still remains. The only other peculiar features of this room are the flat, massy-ribbed ceiling, which is modern, (and although in accordance with the character of the room, forms still but a poor substitute for the elaborately elegant work of stucco and gold, with dropping pendants, which formerly met the eye in the same place;) and the chimney-piece, which consists of a low, pointed, and very broad arch, set within square deep mouldings. We next ascend to the throne-room: why so called it is impossible to say. This is a very beautiful room, with a rounded ceiling, divided into small compartments by slender ribs of oak, and lighted in a very similar manner to the room beneath. of the windows, however, looking into the quadrangle has the additional ornament of a richly-painted border, and the window in the corner is still more unique, as well as infinitely more beautiful, than that of the council-chamber directly below. It extends from floor to ceiling, is situated within a small recess panelled at the sides and beautifully ornamented at the top, and is divided into compartments by a slender stem in the centre, which at the top has a small knot of ornament falling, like a bunch of fruit, a little on each side, and giving to the ster, when seen from the opposite wall, of the most graceful forms that it is possible to conceive. Descending to the|
| council-chamber, we find, besides the low postern door through which we entered, a larger , which admits us into the innermost sanctuary of the place,--the Great Hall. The noble proportions of this place, and the surpassing beauty of its roof, built not less than years ago, will be more evident to our readers from an attentive examination of the engraving of the hall than from any written description that we could give them. We pass on, therefore, to notice such other of its chief features as the engraving does not or cannot convey. And as to its dimensions. It is feet long, ½ broad, and feet high. The breadth of the oriel window is feet inches, and its height the height of the hall. This window is richly decorated with a series of armorial bearings, the tasteful and munificent present of Thomas Willement, Esq., and which, though of so recent an origin, have all the appearance of ancient works of art. We see among them the arms of St. Helen's Priory, the earliest proprietor of the place, of Sir John Crosby the builder, of the City of London, so many of whose eminent citizens have made the hall ring again with the sound of festive hospitality, of Richard the |
whose few days' residence here will preserve the name of Crosby Place when the last vestige of its architectural glories shall have disappeared, and of Henry's murdered Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, the wise, learned, amiable, and witty author of the
The remainder comprise the arms and badges of Richard's Queen, and of the House of York, Sir Thomas D'Arcy, William Bond and his company, and the
and his company. The other windows of the hall are similarly decorated, those on the same side containing the arms of various subscribers to the expenses of the restoration, and those on the opposite, among others, of Sir John Rest, the Duke of Sully, Lord Compton, and the present owner, W. P. Williams Freeman, Esq. In the very beautiful roof of the oriel window we perceive, among the knots of foliage that still bloom for us as they bloomed for our ancestors hundreds of years ago, a boss of superior size, on which is carved in relief a ram trippant,--the crest of Sir John Crosby, and which is looked upon, and in all probability correctly, as having been placed there by Sir John himself to commemorate his name as the founder of the magnificence around. The louvre, or opening in the centre of the roof, has caused much discussion. In ancient halls the smoke had frequently no other mode of escape than by the louvre; but here there is a regular chimney, with a front like that of the council-chamber :--perhaps the chimney was of later construction. The aperture of the louvre is now closed by the same piece of woodwork that was formerly elevated above it. of the hall remains to a certain extent in its original state, when it was paved with stone in small square slabs arranged diagonally, the whole being divided by lines formed in a similar manner, running from end of the hall to the other.
says Mr. Blackburne,[n.330.1]
The walls of the part thus distinguished were usually hung with arras, and this was no doubt the case in Crosby Hall. The dais here must have occupied a very large space, as the oriel window, which was always included in it, stands at some considerable distance
| from the northern wall. In this wall there was most probably a communication with a little room still existing behind it, from which a handsome doorway, with lights above (lately restored), led into the part which was then, it is supposed, the small private garden or |
of the mansion, but which now forms an open space in front of St. Helen's Church. Lastly, we may notice the gallery of the hall, which still remains, though stripped of all its decoration, and hidden by the canvass which covers that end of the room. We have taken the liberty to restore it in our engraving to what we may conceive to be something like its original aspect. Galleries of this kind were generally denominated the Minstrels' Gallery, and the name bespeaks its use. At the commemoration of Sir Thomas Gresham, celebrated on the , the gallery of Crosby Hall was occupied by the choir engaged in the musical performance of that interesting festival after the conclusion of the service in the church. This, if we may adopt the opinion of the eloquent Gresham professor of music, given in a lecture delivered in Crosby Hall in , was but a type of the rich musical memories of the place. Referring to of the many madrigals, and other vocal pieces, composed in honour of the
under the poetical appellation of Oriana, and which it has been supposed Elizabeth herself could not resist from encouraging, Mr. Taylor says, and with his remarks we conclude:--
[n.321.1] Hall's Chronicles, 1548, fol. lvi.
[n.321.2] Survey, Ed. 1633, p. 321.
[n.322.1] See the Old Spring-Time in London, p. 172.
[n.322.2] As translated from the original by Sir Thomas More's great grandson, in his Life of his illustrious ancestor.
[n.327.1] Memoirs of the Duke of Sully. 4to. London, 1756. Vol, ii. p. 174,
[n.330.1] Architectural and Historical Account of Crosby Place.