Stories of the Streets of London

Baker, H. Barton


CHAPTER II:Round About St. Paul's Churchyard and Paternoster Row

CHAPTER II:Round About St. Paul's Churchyard and Paternoster Row


AFTER the cathedral and its belongings, the great school, dedicated to its patron saint, now removed far away, claims first attention. Many of us can still remember that dark - cloistered recreation ground, enclosed above and on both sides and barred in from the pavement, like a prison, on the eastern side of the churchyard; the ground is now covered by huge warehouses.

"Paul's School," says Stow, "in place of an old ruined house" (seemingly a religious establishment), " was built in a most handsome manner by John Colet, Doctor of Divinity, Dean of St. Paul's, for one hundred and fifty-three poor men's children." It has been the nursery of many good and some illustrious citizens, chief among them John Leland, one of the earliest of our Greek scholars, John Churchill, the great Duke of Marlborough, John Milton, Camden, Pepys, and Sir Philip Francis. Education was free in those days: each boy paid fourpence at admission, and found his own candles-only wax were allowed-and that was all.[1] 


The scholars pay enough now. Verily the Charity Commission is a thing to be thankful for(?). Dean Colet's house perished in the great fire and was rebuilt by the Mercers' Company in .

In the old days taverns and coffee-houses were numerous in the churchyard. There was the Mitrefamous for its musical entertainments and museums of curiosities-thereafter the Goose and Gridiron, [2] 


which disappeared only the other day. Sir Christopher Wren, when the cathedral was building, opened a Freemasons' Lodge there, of which he was Grand Master, and Caius Cibber, the sculptor, Colley's father, one of the Grand Wardens; Paul's Coffee-house, patronised by the clergy; Child's, a resort of Addison's; the Queen's Arms, frequented by Garrick and Johnson, where he started a city club; and the Chapter Coffee-house, patronised by publishers and authors.


Even in Shakespeare's days the churchyard was noted for booksellers, and at the sign of the White Greyhound the poet's Venus and Adonis and Rape of


Lucrece were published; and in this same neighbourhood The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Merchant of Venice, Richard II., Richard III., King Lear and Titus Andronicus were first issued in book form.

At the north-west corner of the churchyard was the shop of John Newbery, so highly eulogised by Goldsmith in the Vicar of Wakefield; he was the publisher of The Traveller, and commissioned the poor poet to write The Citizen of the World for The Public Ledger. Cowper's Task was also issued from this house, and some of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's earlier works. But it was for children's books that Newbery's was chiefly noted: Goody Two Shoes, supposed to have been written by Goldsmith, Valentine and Orson, The Seven Champions of Christendom, and others of that ilk, dear to the childhood of our ancestors. Another famous old bookseller of the churchyard was Joseph Johnson, who published Cowper's first volume of poems, Table Talk, and The Olney Hymns; he was imprisoned in the King's Bench nine months for the publication of Gilbert Wakefield's political writings. His successor, William Hunter, was noted for his Friday literary dinners, at which Fuseli and Godwin were frequent guests.

A better known name is that of John Rivington & Sons, whose shop bore the sign of the Bible and Crown; they were the leading publishers for sermons, and to them the country clergy brought their bundles of soporiferous theology: they were the first publishers for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

, Stow informs us, was built without the walls of the churchyard by Henry Walles, who was mayor in the year . "The rents of those houses," says the chronicler, "go to the maintenance of London Bridge. This street is now called , because of stationers or text writers that dwelt there who wrote and sold all sorts of books then in use, namely, A.B.C., with the Pater Noster, Ave, Creed, Graces, etc. There dwelt also turners of beads, and they were called paternoster makers, as I read in a record of one Robert Nikke, paternoster maker and citizen, in the reign of Henry IV., and so of other."

In the time of Queen Elizabeth this thoroughfare was also noted for its ordinaries, where the gay gallants who frequented the middle aisle of St. Paul's took their midday meal. The best patronised of these was the Castle, the great resort of the actors of the Blackfriars, who, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, were as much petted and as eagerly sought after by " the great folks " as they are to-day.[3] 


The Castle (afterwards Dolly's Coffee-house) was kept by Dick Tarleton, that "fellow of infinite jest," whom Shakespeare is supposed to have described as Yorick. Dick, after being one of the twelve players that formed the queen's company, was appointed court jester. "He could make Elizabeth smile in her sourest mood, tell her more of her faults than her chaplain dared, and cure her of melancholy more effectually than all her physicians." At last, however, he fell into disgrace for speaking scurrilously of the favourites, Leicester and Raleigh, and so was sent packing. But he is now host of the Castle, and hither come all the wild young bloods of the time to listen to his quips and cranks, droll stories and merry sayings, which keep the table in a roar. There he sits at the head of the board, a broad-faced, broadnosed, sturdy-looking fellow, telling a story he has told scores of times-but his infinite variety never stales, and everybody roars as though he had never heard it before. How, having made merry at an inn at Sandwich and run up, as Falstaff did at Dame Quickly's, a long bill for sack, he found himself without money to pay it, so he instructed his boy to accuse him of being a popish priest in disguise; the alarm was given, and when the officers of the law arrived they found him upon his knees crossing himself and telling his beads. So paying his bill, they carried him off a prisoner to London and took him before Fleetwood, the Recorder, who at once recognised him, and so enjoyed the trick he had played that he took


him home to dinner with him. All this is told with appropriate mimicry, convulsing the hearers. Who would think now that the day will come when merry Dick will grow sour and puritanical! It will be the old story, " When the devil was sick," etc., but as Dick did not get well again the devil remained a saint to the end.

is associated with one of the darkest secrets and mysteries of the reign of James I. Here lived the notorious Mrs. Anne Turner, the milliner, who first introduced the use of yellow starch, for getting up linen, into this country. It was at the house of Mrs. Turner in that Lord Rochester and that vile woman, the Countess of Essex, held their assignations. How the countess obtained a divorce from her husband and was married to her paramour, then Earl of Somerset; how Sir Thomas Overbury, the king's secretary, for opposing this marriage-and other things-was marked out for vengeance, thrown into the Tower and done to death by poison, are events known to every reader of history. It was the woman Turner, assisted by a fortune-teller and an apothecary, who prepared the poisons which were mixed with every article of food used by the doomed Overbury. The tools were brought to justice and executed, the earl and countess, after five years' imprisonment, were pardoned, as was Sir Thomas Monson, the king's falconer, who was also involved in the accusations, because, it is said, the king dared not drive to extremities the people who knew so many guilty secrets of his life.

That terrible mania for secret poisoning which raged throughout the seventeenth century in France and Italy had just begun to spread in England. It has been asserted that Henry Prince of Wales was poisoned by Buckingham to make way for Charles, without the latter's knowledge, however; and that James himself shared the same fate at the hands of his unscrupulous favourite. These accusations, however, are only on dits. Sir Anthony Weldon, in his Court and Character of James I., relates that when the king was first informed of the cruel fate of his secretary, he sent for the judges, and kneeling down in the midst of them invoked God's curse upon the heads, not only of them but of himself and his posterity for ever, if they or he spared the criminals. The criminals were spared, and the invocation was terribly answered in the fate of his successors.

in the days of the Stuarts was chiefly occupied by mercers and lacemen, and was so crowded with carriages and footmen during the daytime as to be almost impassable to foot passengers. The great fire brought about another change in the character of the locality; the fashionable trades migrated westward to Covent Garden, though even as late as the Row was noted for milliners and tirewomen's shops; but the booksellers and publishers were now rapidly elbowing out all rivals. The most ancient of these firms is Longman's, the founder of which purchased the business of a Mr. Taylor, the publisher of Robinson Crusoe, in ; and all other


dealers in books who have taken up their business quarters there are the merest parvenus when compared with the venerable Longman. In the first half of the present century "the Row" had almost a monopoly of the trade, the publishers living over their shops. Readers of Thackeray's Pendennis will recall to mind Bungay and Bacon, their jealousies and the little dinner in the Row, "to which Pen and Warrington and Captain Shandon and the Honourable Percy Popjoy, to give it a flavour of aristocracy, were invited". Then publishers, as the mercers and lace-sellers did before them, began to move westward, and the glories of the Row at one time seemed to be in danger of extinction; but the neighbourhood has of late once more become one of the chief emporia of the trade.

"At the end of the ," to continue the quotation from Stow, the supreme authority upon London antiquities, "is Ave Maria Lane, so called upon the like occasion of text writers and bread makers then dwelling there; and at the end of that lane is likewise Creed Lane, late so called, but some time Spurrier Row, of Spurrier's dwelling there; and Amen Lane is added thereunto betwixt the south end of Warwick Lane and the north end of Ave Maria. At the north end of Ave Maria Lane is one great house, built of stone and timber, of old time pertaining to John, Duke of Britain, Earl of Richmond, as appeareth by the records of Edward II., since that it is called Pembroke's Inn, near unto Ludgate, as


belonging to the Earls of Pembroke in the times of Richard II., the eighteenth year, and of Henry VI., the fourteenth year. It is now called Burgaveny House, and belonged then to Henry, late lord of Burgaveny." (Now the Abergavennys.)

For the continuation of this history we must turn to another of London's chroniclers, Pennant. " Burgaveny House (some time after the reign of Elizabeth) was finally possessed by the Company of Stationers, who rebuilt it of wood, and made it their hall. It was destroyed by the great fire, and was succeeded by the present plain building."

This famous hall, that figures so conspicuously in literary history, is hung round with portraits of celebrated literati-Steele, Prior, Richardson, Dr. Hoadley-taken from life. Here, in , was instituted the St. Cecilia Society, to commemorate that patron saint of music; for its initiation Dryden wrote his fine ode, "A Song for St. Cecilia's Day," and two years after the yet greater " Alexander's Feast," perhaps the two grandest odes written since the days of Pindar. They were set to music by Jeremiah Clarke, the organist of St. Paul's. " Alexander's Feast" thereafter found a much greater interpreter in glorious Handel. Formerly Stationers' Hall had the sole monopoly of publishing almanacs; it was from there the venerable " Moore " was first issued.

In Panyer's Alley, on the north side of the Row, there is a curious stone, built into the wall of one of the houses, on which is carved the figure of a boy



seated on a pannier or wicker basket, with the following inscription underneath:- When you have sought the city round, Yet still this is the highest ground.

According to Stow this was a sign, but apropos of what he does not explain; the date upon the stone, however, , is a century later than the time of the old chronicler. Panyer Alley originally led to the

Church of St. Michael and Bladudum. Parallel with the alley westward runs Ivy Lane, " so called," again to quote Stow, "on account of ivy growing on the walls of the prebends' houses, but now the lane is replenished on both sides with fair houses, and divers offices have been there kept, by registers, namely, for the prerogative court of the Archbishop of Canterbury,



the probate of wills, which is now removed into Warwick Lane, and also for the lord treasurer's remembrance of the exchequer, etc."

At the King's Head Beef-Steak House in Ivy Lane Dr. Johnson in his earlier years started one of his many clubs; the members were merchants, booksellers, physicians and clergymen, over whom he dogmatised in his usual Aristarchian fashion. After a time the

doctor ceased to attend the meetings, which soon languished for want of his commanding presence. One December day, when the great lexicographer was nearing his end, a meeting of the surviving members was held at the Queen's Arms, St. Paul's Churchyard. "We had not met together for thirty years," wrote the doctor to Mrs. Thrale, " and one of


us thought the others grown very old. Our meeting may be supposed to have been somewhat tender. We were as cheerful as ever, but could not make so much noise." His voice had been weakened by a slight attack of paralysis.

"This [Ivy] lane," writes Stow, "runneth north to the west end of St. Nicholas Shambles. Of old time was one great house sometime belonging to the Earls of Britain, since to the Lovels, and was called Lovel's Inn." Warwick Lane, originally Eldenese Lane, was so named from an ancient house there built by an Earl of Warwick, the memory of whom is preserved by a stone similar to that in Panyer Alley, bearing a figure of Guy, Earl of Warwick. Here again the date attached is much later than that to which the stone belongs.

Retracing our steps and crossing the churchyard to the south, we are confronted by reminiscences of another dead and gone institution--Doctors' Commons, which dated back to the reign of Elizabeth. To us of these later times, Doctors' Commons is chiefly associated with the white-aproned men who used to stand at the entrance and tout for marriage licences. " Licence, sir; licence," was the cry, with a touch of the hat, much as a Clare Market tradesman cried his wares on a Saturday night. The scene is comically described by Dickens in Pickwick, and touched upon with a soberer pen in David Copperfield: "Doctors' Commons was approached by a little low archway. Before we had taken many paces down the


street beyond it, the noise of the city seemed to melt, as if by magic, into a softened distance. A few dull courts and narrow ways brought us to the skylighted offices of Spenlow and Jorkins "-to whom David was articled. Doctors' Commons disappeared in .

That ancient narrow thoroughfare called Knight Riders Street is said to have been so named as being the usual route taken by knights on their way to and from the Tower. Close to St. Andrew's Church is a secluded court, approached by a covered opening, quite an old-world place, with trees and quiet, quaint houses, one of those forgotten spots which have escaped the flood of "improvement," and that are becoming fewer and fewer every year. This marks the site where, in the fourteenth century, and for some centuries afterwards, stood the Royal Wardrobe. Richard III. stayed there for a time. It is frequently referred to in Pepys' Diary.

A network of ancient streets and lanes and churches that occupied the ground between St. Paul's and the Thames was swept away to make Queen Victoria Street; in the thick of these was hidden that fine old mansion, the Heralds' College, which is now one of the handsomest ornaments of the new thoroughfare. It need scarcely be said that the original building, formerly the house of the Earls of Derby, was destroyed by that universal exterminator, the great fire, and that the present belongs to the Stuart period.

Not far beyond, at the western end of Thames Street, the name of one of the ancient London


fortresses still survives in Baynard's Castle. Baynard was a follower of William of Normandy; and he erected a feudal stronghold on the banks of the river. In the reign of King Richard it had passed into the possession of the great baron, Fitzwalter, about whom and his daughter Matilda tradition has woven a pathetic romance. At a great festival held in the castle, Prince John conceived a passion for his host's daughter; but his licentious suit was spurned with indignation, both by Matilda and her father. In revenge, the vile John, who soon afterwards became king, laid the castle in ruins, banished the baron, and pursuing the unfortunate lady, who had taken shelter in a nunnery, had her despatched by poison. Three of the Elizabethan dramatists availed themselves of the theme: Robert Davenport in King John and Matilda; Anthony Munday in The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon ; and Munday and Chettle in The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon. After being rebuilt, and burned down in , the castle was taken over by the Crown, and it was at a great council held there that Edward IV. was first proclaimed king. The famous scene between Buckingham and Gloucester, in Richard III., takes place in the court of Baynard's Castle; and, according to Shakespeare and history, it was there the Lord Mayor tendered Gloucester the crown. In the castle was the scene of another momentous historical event. Having been again rebuilt, by Henry VII., it had passed into the hands of the great Earl of Pembroke,


who, Edward VI. having just died, convoked a council of the nobles and clergy, which there decided to proclaim Mary queen in opposition to Lady Jane Grey. The last of Baynard's Castle perished in the great fire. That dreary-looking wharf, an epitome of the most sordid side of commerce, in one of the dreariest and most sordid of London's commercial localities, seems to be a strange spot for such memories of romance, of fierce passion, pomp, splendour, and intrigues that have helped to fashion the destinies of England. Who would think of looking for mediaeval romance in a Thames Street wharf!


[1] St. Paul's was very severe in its discipline, even well into the present century. Serjeant Ballantyne, in his Experiences, gave agruesome description of the tyranny practised there in his boyhood's days. The three instructors under the head master, Bean, Edwards, and Durham, he says, "were all tyrants-cruel, cold-blooded, unsympathetic tyrants. Armed with a cane, and surrounded by a halo of terror, they sat at their respective desks. Under Durham the smaller boys trembled. Edwards took the next in age. Each flogged continuously. The former, a somewhat obese personage, with a face as if cut out of suet pudding, was solemn in the performance of this, his favourite occupation. The Rev. Mr. Edwards, on the contrary, though a cadaverous-looking object, was quite funny over the tortures he inflicted. . . . One of the favourite modes of inflicting pain adopted by these tyrants was, when the boys came in on winter mornings, shivering and gloveless, to strike them violently with the cane over the tips of the fingers. . . . Bean was a short, podgy, pompous man, with insignificant features. His mode of correction was different in form, and I can see him now, with flushed, angry face, lashing some little culprit over the back and shoulders until his own arm gave way under the exertion."

[2] Larwood, in his History of Signboards, tells us that the Swan and Harp was a common sign for the early music houses. A swan with his wings expanded, within a double tressure, counter, flory, argent, was the arms of the Company of Musicians; this double tressure might have suggested a gridiron to the unsophisticated, and when the traditions of the Mitre were forgotten the swan would easily be transformed into a goose. Music was in great vogue at this time, and fiddlers, in threes, attended all taverns and ordinaries, many of which were called " Musick Houses ". In the old dramatists we continually come across the expression " a noise of fiddlers," not in a depreciatory sense, but as a common term; each band was known by its leader's name, so it was " Mr. Cartwright's noise," or " Mr. Creake's noise ". Every barber kept a cittern or lute for his patrons to play upon while they waited, as his successor keeps newspapers; and a viol de gamba, frequently played by ladies, held a conspicuous place in the best room of every gentleman's house.

[3] "He is not counted a gentleman that does not know Dick Burbage and Will Kemp. There's not a country wench that can dance Sellinger's Round but can talk of Dick Burbage and Will Kemp." "England affords these glorious vagabonds, That carried erst their fardels on their backs, Coursers to ride on through the gazing streets, Sweeping it in their glacing satin suits, And pages to attend their masterships, With mouthing words that better wits have framed, They purchase lands, and now esquires are made." -The Return from Parnassus.