about mid-way between Aldgate church and White-Chappel-Bars, on the left hand or north side of the street; and as the distemper had not reached to that side of the city, our neighbourhood continued very easy: but at the other end of the town, their consternation was very great; and the richer sort of people, especially the nobility and gentry, from the west part of the city, thronged out of town, with their families and servants, in an unusual manner; and this was the more particularly seen in White-Chappel; that is to say, the broad street where I lived. Indeed, nothing was to be seen but waggons and carts, with goods, women, servants, children, &c.; coaches filled with people of the better sort, and horsemen attending them, and all hurrying away. Then empty waggons and carts appeared, and spare horses, with servants, who, it was apparent, were returning or sent from the countries to fetch more people: besides innumerable numbers of men on horseback, some alone, others with servants, and generally speaking, all loaded with baggage, and fitted out for travelling, as any one might perceive by their appearance.
This hurry of the people was such for some weeks, that there was no getting to the lord mayor's door without exceeding difficulty; there was such pressing and crowding there to get passes and certificates of health, for such as travelled abroad; for without these, there was no being admitted to pass through the towns upon the road, or to lodge in any inn. Now, as there had none died in the city for all this time, my lord mayor gave certificates of health without any difficulty to all those who lived in the ninety-seven parishes, and to those within the liberties too for a while. This hurry continued some weeks; that is to say, all the month of May and June; and the more, because it was rumoured, that an order of the government was to be issued out, to place turnpikes and barriers on the road, to prevent people's travelling; and that the towns on the roads would not suffer people from London to pass for fear of bringing the infection along with them; though neither of these rumours had any foundation, but in the imagination, especially at first. Mem. of the Plague, p. 8, 9.
I went all the first part of the time freely about the streets, though not so freely as to run myself into apparent danger, except when they dug the great pit in the church-yard of our parish of Aldgate. A terrible pit it was--about 40 foot in length, and about 15 or 16 broad, and at the time I first looked at it, about nine feet deep: but it was said they dug it near 20 feet deep afterwards, in one part of it, till they could go no deeper for the water; for they had, it seems, dug several large pits before this: for though the plague was long a-coming to our parish, yet, when it did come, there was no parish in or about London where it raged with such violence as in the two parishes of Aldgate and White-Chappel.
I say they had dug several pits in another ground, when the distemper began to spread in our parish, and especially when the
dead carts began to go about, which was not in our parish till the beginning of August. Into these pits they had put perhaps 50 or 60 bodies each; then they made larger holes, wherein they buried all that the cart brought in a week, which, from the middle to the end of August, came to from 200 to 400 a week; and they could not well dig them larger, because of the order of the magistrates, confining them to leave no bodies within six feet of the surface; and the water coming on at about 17 or 18 feet, they could not well, I say, put more in one pit: but now, at the beginning of September, the plague raging in a dreadful manner, and the number of burials increasing to more than was ever buried in any other parish about London, of no larger extent, they ordered this dreadfull gulph to be dug; for such it was, rather than a pit.
They had supposed this pit would have supplyed them for a month, or more, when they had dug it; and some blamed the church-wardens for suffering such a frightful thing, telling them they were making preparations to bury the whole parish, and the like; but time made it appear, the churchwardens knew the condition of the parish better than they did; for the pit being finished on the 4th of September, I think, they began to bury in it the 6th, and by the 20th, which was just two weeks, they had thrown into it 1114 bodies, when they were obliged to fill it up, the bodies being then come to lie within six feet of the surface. I doubt not but that there may be some ancient persons alive in the parish, who can justify the fact of this, and are able to shew even in what part of the church-yard the pit lay better than I can: the mark of it, also, was many years to be seen in the church-yard on the surface, lying in length parallel with the passage which goes by the west wall of the church-yard out of Houndsditch, and turns east again into Whitechapel, coming out near the Three Tuns inn.
It was the 10th of September that my curiosity led, or rather drove me, to go and see this pit again, when there had been near 400 people buried in it; and I was not content to see it in the day-time as I had done before, for then there would have been nothing to have been seen but the loose earth; for all the bodies that were thrown in were immediately covered with earth by those they called the buriers, which at other times were called bearers; but I resolved to go in the night, and see some of them thrown in.
There was a strict order to prevent people coming to those pits, and that was only to prevent infection; but after some time, that order was more necessary; for people that were infected and near their end, and delirious also, would run to those pits, wrapt up in blankets or rugs, and throw themselves in, and, as they said, bury themselves. I cannot say that the officers suffered any willingly to lie there; but I have heard that in a great pit in Finsbury, in the parish of Cripplegate, it lying then open to the fields, for it was not then walled about, many came and threw themselves in, and expired there before they threw any earth upon them; and that when they came to bury others, and found them there, they were quite dead, though not cold.
This may serve a little to describe the dreadful condition of that day; though it is impossible to say any thing that is able to give a true idea of it to those who did not see it other than this; that it was indeed very, very, very dreadful, and such as no tongue can express!
I got admittance into the church-yard by being acquainted with the sexton who attended, who, though he did not refuse me at all, yet earnestly persuaded me not to go; telling me very seriously, (for he was a good, religious, and sensible man), that it was indeed their business and duty to venture, and to run all hazards, and that in it they might hope to be preserved; but that I had no apparent call to it, but my own curiosity, which, he said, he believed I would not pretend was sufficient to justify my running that hazard. I told him I had been pressed in my mind to go, and that it might be an instructing sight, that might not be without its uses. Nay, says the good man, if you will venture upon that score, 'name of God, go in; for, depend upon it, 'twill be a sermon to you; it may be the best that ever you heard in your life. 'Tis a speaking sight (says he) and has a voice with it, and a loud one, to call us all to repentance; and with that he opened the door, and said, Go, if you will.
His discourse had shocked my resolution a little, and I stood wavering for a good while; but just at that interval, I saw two links come over from the end of the Minories, and heard the bellman, and then appeared a dead-cart, as they called it, coming over the streets,; so I could no longer resist my desire of seeing it, and went in. There was nobody, as I could perceive at first in the church-yard, or going into it, but the buyers, and the fellow that drove the cart, or rather led the horse and cart; but when they came up to the pit, they saw a man go to and again, muffled up in a brown cloak, and making motions with his hands, as if he was in great agony; and the buyers immediately gathered about him, supposing he was one of those poor delirious or desperate creatures that used to pretend, as I have said, to bury themselves. He said nothing as he walked about, but two or three times groaned very deeply and loud, and sighed as he would break his heart.
When the buyers came up to him, they soon found he was neither a person infected and desperate, as I have observed above, nor a person distempered in mind, but one oppressed with a dreadful weight of grief indeed, having his wife, and several of his children, all in the cart, that was just come in with him; and he followed in an agony and excess of sorrow. He mourned heartily, as it was easy to see, but with a kind of masculine grief, that could not give itself vent by tears; and calmly desiring the buriers to let him alone, said he would only see the bodies thrown in and go away; so they left importuning him; but no sooner was the cart turned round, and the bodies shot into the pit promiscuously, which was a surprise to him (for he at least expected they would have been decently laid in, tho' indeed he was afterwards convinced that was impracticable;) I say, no sooner did he see the sight, but he cried out aloud, unable to contain himself I could not hear what he said; but he went backward two or three steps, and fell down in a swoon. The buyers ran to him, and took him up; and in a little while he came to himself, and they led him away to the Pye tavern, over against the end of Houndsditch, where, it seems, the man was known, and where they took care of him. He looked into the pit again as he went away; but the buriers had covered the bodies so immediately with throwing in earth, that though there was light enough, for there were lanthorns and candles in them, placed all night round the sides of the pit, upon the heaps of earth, seven or eight, or perhaps more, yet nothing could be seen.
This was a mournful scene indeed, and affected me almost as much as the rest ; but the other was awful, and full of terror: the cart had in it sixteen or seventeen bodies, some were wrapt up in linen sheets, some in rugs, some little other than naked, or so loose that what covering they had fell from them in the shooting out of the cart, and they fell quite naked among the rest; but the matter was not much to them, or the indecency much to any one else, seeing they were all dead, and were to be huddled together into the common grave of mankind, as we may call it; for here was no difference made, but poor and rich went together: there was no other way of burials, neither was it possible there should; for coffins were not to be had for the prodigious numbers that fell in such a calamity as this.
It was reportedly by way of scandal upon the buriers, that if any corpse was delivered to them decently wound up, as we called it then, in a winding sheet tyed over the head and feet, which some did, and which was generally of good linen; I say, it was reported that the buriers were so wicked as to strip them in the cart, and carry them quite naked to the ground; but as I cannot easily credit any thing so vile among Christians, and at a time so filled with terrors as that was, I can only relate it, and leave it undetermined. Innumerable stories also went about the cruel behaviour and practices of nurses, who tended the sick, and of their hastening on the fate of those they tended in their sickness; but these reports were mostly, if not altogether false.
I was indeed shocked With this sight; it almost overwhelmed me, and I went away with my heart much afflicted, and full of the afflicting thoughts such as I cannot describe. Just at my going out of the church, and turning up the street towards my own house, I saw another cart with links, and a bellman going before, coming out of Harrow-alley, in the Butcher-row, on the other side of the way, and being, as I perceived, very full of dead bodies, it went directly over the street also towards the church. I stood a while; but I had no stomach to go back again, to see the same dismal scene over again; so I went directly home, where I could not but consider with thankfulness the risque I had run, believing I had gotten no injury; as, indeed, I had not. Mem. p. 71-76.
After the funerals became so many, that people could not toll the bell, mourn, or weep, or wear black for one another, as they did before, no, nor so much as make coffins for those that died; the fury of the infection appeared to be so increased, that in short, they shut up no houses at all: it seem'd enough that all the remedies of that kind had been used till they were found fruitless, and that the plague spread itself with an irresistible fury, so that, as the fire the succeeding year spread itself, and burnt with such violence, that the citizens in despair gave over their endeavours to extinguish it, so in the plague, it came at last to such violence, that the people sat still looking at one another, and seemed quite abandon'd to despair; whole streets seemed to be desolated, and not to be shut up only, but to be emptied of their inhabitants; doors were left open, windows stood shattering with the wind in empty houses, for want of people to shut them. In a word, people began to give up themselves to their fears, and to think that all regulations and methods were in vain, and that there was nothing to be hoped for, but an universal desolation; and it was even in the height of this general despair, that it pleased God to stay his hand, and to slacken the fury of the contagion, in such a manner as was even surprising like its beginning, and demonstrated it to be his own particular hand, and that above, if not without the agency of means.
But I must still speak of the plague as in its height, raging even to desolation, and the people under the most dreadful consternation, even, as I have said, to despair. It is hardly credible to what excesses the passions of men carry'd them in this extremity of the distemper; and this part, I think, was as moving as the rest. What could afflict a man in his full power of reflection, and what could make deeper impressions on the soul, than to see a man almost naked, and got out of his house, or perhaps out of his bed, into the street, come out of Harrow-alley, a populous conjunction or collection of alleys, courts, and passages, in the Butcher-row, in Whitechapel. I say, what could be more affecting, than to see this poor man come out into the open street, run dancing and singing, and making a thousand antick gestures, with five or six women and children running after him, crying, and calling upon him, for the Lord's sake, to come back, and entreating the help of others to bring him back, but all in vain, nobody daring to lay a hand upon him, or to come near him. This was a most grievous and afflicting thing to me, who saw it all from my own windows, for all this while, the poor afflicted man, was, as I observ'd it, even then in the utmost agony of pain, having, as they said, two swellings upon him, which could not be brought to break or to suppurate; but by laying strong causticks on them, the surgeons had, it seems, hopes to break them; which causticks were then put upon him, burning his flesh as with a hot iron. I cannot say what became of this poor man, but I think he continu'd roving about in that manner till he fell down and died.
No wonder the aspect of the city itself was frightful: the usual concourse of people in the streets, and which used to be supplied from our end of the town, was abated: the Exchange was not kept shut, indeed, but it was no more frequented: the fires
The public fires which were made on these occasions, as I have calculated it, must necessarily have cost the city about 200 chalder of coals a week, if they had continued, which was, indeed, a very great quantity, but as it was thought necessary, nothing was spar'd; however, as some of the physicians cry'd them down, they were not kept a-light above four or five days; the fires were order'd thus:
One at the Custom-House, one at Billingsgate, one at Queen-hith, and one at the Three-Cranes, one in Black-Friers, and one at the gate of Bridewel; one at the corner of Leadenhall street, and Grace-church; one at the north, and one at the south gate of the Royal Exchange; one at Guild-hall, and one at Blackwell-hall gate; one at the lord mayor's door, in St. Helens, one at the west entrance into St. Paul's, and one at the entrance into Bow church. I do not remember whether there was any at the city gates, but one at the bridge foot there was, just by St. Magnus Church.254, 5. were lost; they had been almost extinguished for some days by a very smart and hasty rain: but that was not all; some of the physicians insisted that they were not only of no benefit, but injurious to the health of people. This they made a loud clamour about, and complain'd to the lord mayor about it. On the other hand, others of the same faculty, and eminent too, opposed them, and gave their reasons why the fires were and must be useful to assuage the violence of the distemper. I cannot give a full account of their arguments on both sides, only this I remember, that they cavil'd very much with one another: some were for fires, but that they must be made of wood and not coal, and of particular sorts of wood too, such as fir in particular, or elder, because of the strong effluvia of turpentine; others were for coal, and not wood, because of the sulphur and bitumen; and others were for neither one or other. Upon the whole, the lord mayor ordered no more fires, and especially on this account, namely, that the plague was so fierce, that they saw it evidently defied all means, and rather seemed to increase than decrease upon any application to check and abate it; and yet this amazement of the magistrates proceeded rather from want of being able to apply any means successfully, than from any unwillingness, either to expose themselves, or undertake the care and weight of business; for, to do them justice, they neither spared their pains nor their persons; but nothing answered, the infection rag'd, and the people were frighted and terrified to the last degree, so that, as I may say, they gave themselves up, and, as I mentioned above, abandoned themselves to their despair.
But let me observe, that when I say the people abandoned themselves to despair, I do not mean to what men call a religious despair, or a despair of their eternal state, but I mean a despair of their being able to escape the infection, or outlive the plague, which they saw was so raging and so irresistible in its force, that indeed few people that were touched with it in its height about August, and September, escaped: and which is very particular contrary to its ordinary operation in June and July, and the beginning of August, when, as I have observ'd, many were infected, and continued so many days, and then grew better, after having had the poison in their blood a long time, but now, on the contrary, most of the people who were so taken during the two last weeks in August, and in the three first weeks in September, generally died in two or three days at farthest, and many the very same day they were taken; whether the Dog-days, or, as our astrologers pretend to express themselves, the influence of the Dog-star, had that malignant effect; or all those who had the seeds of infection before in them, brought it up to a maturity at that time altogether, I know not; but this was the time when it was reported that above 3000 people died in one night, and they that wou'd have us believe they more critically observ'd it, pretend to say, that they all died within the space of two hours, (viz.) between the hours of one and three in the morning.
As to the suddenness of people's dying at this time more than before, there were innumerable instances of it, and I could name several in my neighbourhood. One family without the Barrs, and not far from me, were all seemingly well on the Monday, being ten in family; that evening one maid and one apprentice were taken ill, and dy'd the next morning, when the other apprentice and two children were touch'd, whereof one dy'd the same evening, and the other two on Wednesday: in a word, by Saturday at noon, the master, mistress, four children, and four servants, were all gone, and the house left entirely empty, except an ancient woman, who came in to take charge of the goods for the master of the family's brother, who liv'd not far off, and who had not been sick.
Many houses were then left desolate, all the people being carry'd away dead, and especially in an alley farther on, the same side beyond the Barrs, going in at the sign of Moses and Aaron; there were several houses together, which (they said had not one person left alive in them, and some that dy'd last in several of those houses, were left a little too long before they were fetch'd out to be bury'd; the reason of which was not as some have written very untruly, that the living were not sufficient to bury the dead; but that the mortality was so great in the yard or alley, that there was nobody left to give notice to the buriers or sextons, that there was any dead bodies there to be bury'd. It was said, how true I know not, that some of those bodies were so much corrupted and so rotten, that it was with difficulty they were carry'd; and as the carts could not come any nearer than to the alley-gate in the high street, it was so much the more difficult to bring them along; but I am not certain how many bodies were then left, I am sure that ordinarily it was not so.
As I have mention'd how the people were brought into a condition to despair of life and abandon themselves, so this very thing had a strange effect among us for three or four weeks; that is, it made men bold and venturous, they were no more shy of one another, or restrained within doors, but went any where and every where, and began to converse; one would say to another, I do not ask you how you are; or say how I am, it is certain we shall all go, so 'tis no matter who is sick or who is sound, and so they run desperately into any place or any company.
As it brought the people into public company, so it was surprising how it brought them to crowd into the churches, they inquir'd no more into who they sat near to, or far from, what offensive smells they met with or what condition the people seemed to be in, but looking upon themselves all as so many dead corpses, they came to the churches without the least caution, and crowded together, as if their lives were of no consequence, compar'd to the work which they came about there. Indeed, the zeal which they show'd in coming, and the earnestness and affection they showed in their attention to what they heard, made it manifest what a value people would all put upon the worship of God, if they thought every day they attended at the church that it would be their last. Nor was it without other strange effects, for it took away all manner of prejudice at, or scruple about the person whom they found in the pulpit when they came to the churches. It cannot be doubted, but that many of the ministers of the parish-churches were cut off among others in so common and so dreadful a calamity; and others had not courage enough to stand it, but removed into the country, as they found means for escape. As then some parish-churches were quite vacant and forsaken, the people made no scruple of desiring such Dissenters as had been a few years before deprived of their livings, by virtue of the act of parliament, called the act of uniformity, to preach in the churches, nor did the church ministers in that case make any difficulty of accepting their assistance, so that many of those whom they called silenced ministers, had their months open'd on this occasion, and preach'd publicly to the people.
While the height of the distemper lasted, I retired to my home, and continued close ten or twelve days more; during which many dismal spectacles represented themselves in my view, out of my own windows, and in our own street; as that particularly from Harrow-alley, of the poor outrageous creature which danced and sung in his agony, and many others that were. Scarce a day or night passed over, but some dismal thing or other happened at the end of that Harrow-alley, which was a place full of poor people, most of them belonging to the butchers, or to employment depending upon the butchery. Sometimes heaps and throngs of people would burst out of that alley, most of them women, making a dreadful clamour, mixt or compounded of skreetches, crying, and calling one another, that we could not conceive what to make of it; almost all the dead part of the night the Dead-cart stood at the end of the alley, for if it went in it could not well turn again, and could go in but a little way. There, I say, it stood to receive dead bodys, and as the church-yard was but a little way off, if it went away full it would soon be back again: it is impossible to describe the most horrible cries and noise the poor people would make at their bringing the dead bodies of their children and friends to the cart, and by the number one would have thought there had been none left behind, or that there were people enough for a small city living in those places. Several times they cryed murther, sometimes fire; but it was esie to perceive it was all distraction, and the complaints of distressed and distemper'd people.
I believe it was every where thus at that time, for the plague rag'd for six or seven weeks beyond all that I have expressed; and came even to such a height, that in the extremity, they began to break into that excellent order, of which I have spoken so much, in behalf of the magistrates, namely, that no dead bodies were seen in the streets or burials in the day-time, for there was a necessity, in this extremity, to bear with its being otherwise, for a little while.
One thing I cannot omit here, and indeed I thought it was extraordinary, at least, it seemed a remarkable hand of Divine justice, (viz.) that all the predictors, astrologers, fortune-tellers, and what they called cunning men, conjurers, and the like; calculators of nativities, and dreamers of dreams, and such people, were gone and vanished, not one of them was to be found: I am, verily, persuaded that a great number of them fell in the heat of the calamity, having ventured to stay upon the prospect of getting great estates; and indeed their gain was but too great for a time, through the madness and folly of the people; but now they were silent, many of them went to their long home, not able to foretel their own fate, or to calculate their own nativities: some have been critical enough to say, that every one of them dy'd; I dare not affirm that; but this I must own, that I never heard of one of them that ever appeared after the calamity was over.
But to return to my particular observations during this dreadful part of the visitation; I am now come, as I have said, to the month of September, which was the most dreadful of its kind, I believe, that ever London saw; for, by all the accounts which I have seen of the preceding visitations which have been in London, nothing has been like it; the number in the weekly bill amounting to almost 40,000, from the 22nd of August to the 26th of September, being but five weeks: the particulars of the bills are as follows, (viz.)
From August the 22d to the 29th7496
To the 5th of September8252
To the 12th7690
To the 19th8297
To the 26th6460
This was a prodigious number of itself, but if I should add the reasons which I have to believe that this account was deficient, and how deficient it was, you would with me make no scruple to believe that there died above ten thousand a week for all those weeks, one week with another, and a proportion for several weeks both before and after. The confusion among the people, especially within the city at that time, was inexpressible; the terror was so great at last, that the courage of the people appointed to carry away the dead began to fail them; nay, several of them died, although they had the distemper before, and were recovered; and some of them drop'd down when they have been carrying the bodies, even at the pit-side, and just ready to throw them in? and this confusion was greater in the city, because they had flattered themselves with hopes of escaping; and thought the bitterness of death was past. One cart, they told us, going up Shoreditch, was forsaken of the drivers, or being left to one man to drive, he died in the street, and the horses going on, overthrew the cart, and left the bodies, some thrown out here, some there, in a dismal manner; another cart was, it seems, found in the great pit in Finsbury fields, the driver being dead, or having gone and abandoned it, and the horses running too near the pit, the cart fell in and drew the horses in also; it was suggested that the driver was thrown in with it, and the cart fell upon him, by reason his whip was seen to be in the pit among the bodies; but that, I suppose, could not be certain. In our parish of Aldgate, the dead-carts were several times, as I have heard, found standing at the church-yard gate, full of dead bodies, but neither bellman or driver, or any one else with them; neither in these, or many other cases did they know what bodies they had in their cart, for sometimes they were let down with ropes out of balconies and out of windows, and sometimes the bearers brought them to the cart, sometimes other people; nor, as the men themselves said, did they trouble themselves to keep any account of the numbers.
The vigilance of the magistrates was now put to the utmost trial, and it must be confess'd, can never be enough acknowledged on this occasion also, that whatever expence or trouble they were at, two things were never neglected in the city or suburbs either. First, provisions were always to be had in full plenty, and the price not much raised neither, hardly worth speaking. Second, no dead bodies lay unburied or uncovered; and if one walked from one end of the city to another, no funeral, or sign of it was to be seen in the day-time, except a little, as I have said above, in the three first weeks in September.
This last article, perhaps, will hardly be believ'd, when some accounts which others have published since that shall be seen, wherein they say, that the dead lay unburied, which I am assured was utterly false; at least, if it had been any where so, it must ha' been in houses where the living were gone from the dead, having found means, as I have observed, to escape, and where no notice was given to the officers: all which amounts to nothing at all in the case in hand; for this I am positive in, having myself been employed a little in the direction of that part of the parish in which I liv'd, and where as great a desolation was made in proportion to the number of inhabitants as was any where. I say, I am sure that there were no dead bodies remained unburied; that is to say, none that the proper officers knew of; none for want of people to carry them off, and buriers to put them into the ground and cover them: and this is sufficient to the argument: for what might lie in houses, as in Moses and Aaron alley, is nothing; for it is most certain they were buried as soon as they were found. As to the first article, namely, of provisions, the scarcity or dearness, tho' I have mentioned it before, and shall speak of it again, yet I must observe here, that the price of bread in particular was not much raised, for in the beginning of the year, (viz.) in the first week in March, the penny wheaten loaf was ten ounces and a half; and in the height of the contagion, it was to be had at nine ounces and an half, and never dearer, no not all that season: and about the beginning of November it was sold ten ounces and a half again, the like of which, I believe, was never heard of in any city, under so dreadful a visitation before. Neither was there (which I wondered much at) any want of bakers or ovens kept open to supply the people with bread; but this was indeed alledg'd by some families, viz. That their maid-servants going to the bake-houses with their dough to be baked, which was then the custom, sometimes came home with the sickness, that is to say, the plague upon them. Jour. p. 196-209
On the first rumour of the pestilence having broken out in Long Acre, as before mentioned, and that two persons, said to be Frenchmen, had died of it in one house, the Secretary of State ordered the bodies to be examined by two physicians and a surgeon, who reported they died of the plague. This occasioned some alarm throughout the metropolis, which was increased on the death of another man in the same house where it had first appeared, in the last week of December. The deaths now gradually increased till the latter end of January, when the prevalence of a frost, attended by sharp winds, checked the mortality till the months of April and May, when they again increased, particularly in the parish of St. Giles. In the second week of June, the deaths greatly increased, more particularly in the above parish, where its strength yet lay; but within the city walls, only four were reported dead, and Southwark was entirely free. About this time Charles II., with his court, departed for Oxford, where they continued till after Christmas. In the months of June and July, the infection spread rapidly, and numbers fled from the metropolis. The disorder now passed eastward to the outskirts of the city, to Clerkenwell, Cripplegate, and Shoreditch; where the crowded habitations of the poor offered a full prey to its ravages: the deaths now progressively increasing from 500 to 600, 700, 1,000, 1,400, and upwards weekly. One of the earliest precautions taken, was the closing up any house in which was any person known to be afflicted with the plague, to prevent its spreading; numerous pest-houses were also appointed to receive the infected, and watchmen to guard the houses that were shut up, both by night and day, and on every door thus closed, a large red cross was marked, with this supplicatory sentence printed over it:-- The Lord have mercy upon us!
During the month of August, the infection greatly extended its ravages, and though every precaution that prudence and skill could suggest, was taken to prevent its spreading, it now began to rage with considerable violence, even within the city itself. All trade, but for the immediate necessaries of life, was at an end; the streets were deserted of passengers, every place of diversion was closed, and assemblies of whatever kind, except for the celebration of prayer and divine worship, were strictly prohibited;note All the plays and interludes, which, after the manner of the French court, had been set up, and began to encrease among us, were forbid to act; the gaming-tables, public dancing-rooms, and music-houses, which multiplied, and began to debauch the manners of the people, were shut up and suppressed: and the jack-puddings, merry andrews, puppet-shews, rope-dancers, and such like doings, which had bewitched the poor common people, shut up their shops, finding indeed no trade: for the minds of the people were agitated with other things, and a kind of sadness and horror at these things, sat upon the countenances even of the common people. Death was before their eyes, and every body began to think of their graves, not of mirth and diversions. Jour. p. 35.still, however, the pestilence spread. In the last week of August, that is, from the twenty-second to the twenty-ninth, and whilst the city was as yet comparatively free, the number of deaths by the plague was recorded in the bills at 7496. It should be remembered too, that this was at a time when nearly 200,000 persons are thought to have previously quitted the metropolis.
This vast increase of mortality occasioned the adoption of fresh measures of precaution, the principal of which was the lighting large fires in every street, and keeping them burning for several days and nights together. These fires were first lit on the fifth of September, in consequence of a proclamation issued by the lord mayor, with the advice of the aldermen, his brethren, and the Duke of Albemarle; strictly commanding all persons whatsoever inhabiting in the city of London and its liberties, to furnish themselves with sufficient quantities of firing, to wit. of sea-coal, or any other combustible matter, to maintain and continue fire constantly burning for three whole days and three whole nights: one fire being maintained at the expense of every twelve houses, and six bushels of coal allotted for the consumption of every twenty-four hours. See London Gazette, for 1665; where also many other curious particulars of the plague may be found. From fifteen to twenty, or more, large public fires, were also lit in different parts of the city; yet, if a judgment may be formed from the vast and rapid increase of deaths that immediately followed, these measures, instead of proving salutary, were most eminently deleterious. The dead augmented beyond the means of enumeration, the church-yards were no longer capable of receiving the bodies, and large open spaces, on the outskirts of the metropolis, were appropriated for the purpose. Whole families, and indeed, whole streets of families, were swept away together, insomuch, that it was frequent for neighbours to call to the bellman to go to such and such houses and fetch out the people, for that they were all dead.
The pestilence was now at its height; its ravages had extended into the borough of Southwark, and from the city into all the parishes eastward of the Tower. The digging of single graves had been long discontinued, and large pits had been excavated, in which the dead were deposited with some little regularity and decent attention; but now all regard to ceremony became impossible. The grave was indeed a yawning abyss: deeper and more extensive pits were dug, and the rich and the poor, the young and the aged, the adult and the child, were all promiscuously thrown headlong together into one common receptacle. By day, the streets presented a most frightful aspect of desolation and misery; and at night, the dead carts, moving with slow pace by torch-light, and with the appalling cry, Bring out your dead! thrilled horror through every heart that was not hardened by suffering to calamity. Brayley's London, i. 391. This work contains a more full and comprehensive account of the two great calamities, the plague and the fire, than any other History of London.
In the three first weeks of September, the numbers returned dead in the bills amounted to upwards of 24,000; a most frightful aggregate in itself, yet a most imperfect one in respect to the actual number that fell victims to the plague alone within that period. Many of the searchers and other officers, whose duties enjoined them to make the returns, acknowledged their incorrectness; and many more, before they could give in their lists, were themselves numbered with those that were. Journal, p. 115. For about nine weeks together, there died near a thousand a day, one day with another, even by the account of the weekly bills, which yet, I have reason to be assured, never gave a full account by many thousands; the confusion being such, and the carts working in the dark when they carried the dead, that in some places no account at all was kept, but they worked on; the clerks and sextons not attending for weeks together, and not knowing what number they carried. It was said, that within the year, the parish of Stepney had one hundred and sixteen sextons, grave-diggers, and their assistants; that is to say, bearers, bellmen, and drivers of carts for carrying off the dead bodies. The more probable calculation is, that at this time not fewer than 10,000 persons were carried off
by the infection itself, without enumerating those who died by the different disorders which it generated, or of which it increased the malignancy. Now, it was indeed a dreadful time, says De Foe, and for about a month together, not taking any notice of the bills of mortality, I believe there did not die less than 1500 or 1700 a day, one day with another. Jour. p. 118. Dr. Hodges states, in his Loimologia, that in one week in September, 12,000 died of the plague; of whom 4000 deceased in one night.
In the last week of September, the pestilence began to abate in virulence; for though more persons were now sick than at any former period, the number of dead returned in the weekly bill had decreased upwards of 1800, viz. from 8,297 to 6,460. This alteration revived the hopes of the people, and gave new vigour to the magistracy.
It is impossible says De Foe, to express the change that appeared in the very countenances of the people, that Thursday morning when the weekly bill came out; a secret surprize and smile of joy set on every body's face; they shook one another by the hands in the streets, who would hardly go on the same side together before; where the streets were not too broad, they would open their windows, and call from one house to another, and ask how they did, and if they had heard the good news that the plague was abated! Some would return, when they said good news, and ask what good news? and when they answered that the bills decreased almost 2000, they would cry out, God be praised! and would weep aloud for joy; and such was the joy of the people, that it was, as it were, life from the grave. Jour. p. 283.
From this period till the end of October, every week's report showed that the infection had lost much of its malignancy; for, though considerable numbers still died, the instances of convalescence were so numerous, that many thousands of those whom apprehension had driven from their homes, now daily returned in the full assurance of security. The conduct which this feeling inspired, merged into rashness; even the limited suggestions of common prudence were despised, and the healthy associated with the diseased, as if the contagion had no power to excite alarm. Through this imprudence, the deaths in the first week of November increased about 400; and there were more people infected and fell sick now, when there did not die above 1,000 or 1,200 in a week, than there was when there died four or six thousand in a week; and the physicians had more work than ever, only with this difference, that more of their patients recovered, that is to say they generally recovered. Jour. p. 265. This doubtless may be attributed to the growing severity of the weather; for the winter now came on apace, and the air was clear and cold, with some sharp frosts; and this increasing still, most of those that had fallen sick recovered, and the health of the city began to return. Ibid. p. 263. From this time till the end of the year, the pestilence, with a few slight intermissions, gave place to returning sanity. The court came back to London in the beginning of February, and before the expiration of that month, the contagion was regarded as having entirely ceased.
During the eight weeks, beginning with the 8th of August, and ending with October the 10th, when the mortality was at its greatest height, the number of deaths returned in the bills of mortality amounted to 59,870; of these 49,605 were recorded under the head Plague. It must be evident, however, from what has been said above, that nearly the whole of this melancholy aggregate ought to be referred to the infection, as the average of deaths from other causes would not have amounted to 2800 within the time mentioned. The entire number returned in the bills, as having died of the plague within the year, was 68,590; yet there can be no doubt that this total was exceeded by many thousands who fell by the infection, but whose deaths were not officially recorded. I saw, under the hand of one, says De Foe, that made as strict an examination as he could, that there really died 100,000 people of the plague, in that one year; and if I may be allowed to give my opinion of what I saw with my eyes, and heard from other people that were eye-witnesses, I do verily believe that there died, at least, 100,000 of the plague only, besides other distempers, and besides those which died in the fields, and highways, and secret places, out of the compass of the communication, as it was called; and who were not put down in the bills, though they really belonged to the body of inhabitants. It was known to us all, that abundance of poor despairing creatures who had the distemper upon them, and were grown stupid, or melancholy, by their misery, as many were,
wandered away into the fields and woods, and into several uncouth
places, almost any where, to creep into a bush or hedge, and die. Jour. p. 116. The number of those miserable objects was great. The country people would go and dig a hole at a distance from them, and then with long poles, and hooks at the ends of them, drag the bodies into these pits, and then throw the earth in as far as they could cast it, to cover them; taking notice how the wind blew, and so coming on that side which the seaman call to windward, that the scent of the bodies might blow from them, and thus great numbers went out of the world, who were never known, or any account of them taken, as well within the bills of mortality as without. The whole number of deaths within the year, as given in the bills, was 97,306.
During the violence of the pestilence, vast sums were contributed towards the relief of the poor, by the benevolent in all parts of England; and many thousand pounds were also disbursed by the city for the like purpose. That nothing might be wanting to promote the general good, the college of physicians composed a set of
directions for the proper treatment of the disease in its different states, and this was published and distributed gratuitously.
Numerous lives were preserved by means of the shipping on the river Thames, which lying in rows, two and two, extended from the Pool to Long Reach; in some parts forming a double and triple line. Into these, the infection did not reach, excepting in some few instances immediately contiguous to the city, where due precaution in obtaining necessaries had not been exercised. Many of the watermen also took their whole families into their boats and small craft, and moved up the river, where they continued till the plague subsided; lying on each side the stream close to the shore, or in small huts or tents set up in convenient places. In the whole, upwards of 10,000 persons are estimated as having been thus secured from the contagion. The delivery of corn and coals at Bear quay and the contiguous wharfs, was subjected to such judicious regulations by the care of the lord mayor and aldermen, that the traders brought up their vessels with full confidence of safety; through which means, the metropolis was always well supplied with corn, and generally with coal.
The year 1665 was productive of an act of common council for the reformation of carmen and woodmongers, who had for several years oppressed the city by innovations and extortions. By this act, the number of carts was limited to four hundred and twenty, and they were placed under the regulation of the president and governors of Christ's hospital. The price of carriage was limited yearly by the court of aldermen; and coal sacks and measures sealed at Guildhall.
That the poor might be constantly supplied with coals in times of scarcity, and to defeat the combination of dealers in that article, the several city companies under-mentioned, were ordered to purchase and lay up yearly, between Lady-day and Michaelmas, the following quantities of coals, which in dear times were to be vended in such manner, and at such prices, as the lord mayor and court of aldermen should by written precept direct; so that the coals should not be sold to loss:
Tylers and Bricklayers19
It is uncertain by what means this excellent institution sunk into disuse. Certainly it was well calculated to remove the inconvenience arising to the poor, both from the want of coals in times of scarcity, and the impositions of private dealers in that commodity.
All retail dealers in coals, by the same act, were prohibited from meeting the vessels, or by their agents contracting for that commodity, before the ships were arrived in the port of London; on the penalty of five shillings for every chaldron so forestalled, or bought by pre-contract.
The general manner in which the pestilence affected its victims, was by fevers, vomiting, head-ach, pains in the back, and tumours, or swellings in the neck, groin, and arm-pits, accompanied by inflammation and gangrene. In the height of the disease, the deaths occurred within two or three days after the patient was taken ill; and sometimes within three, four, or six hours, where plague spots, or tokens, as they were called, had shewn themselves without previous illness. In a few instances, the same persons had the distemper twice. The violence of the pain arising from the swellings frequently occasioned delirium; and where the tumours could not be matured, death was inevitable. In the milder stages of the contagion the deaths did not occur for eight or ten days; and when the disease was subsiding, the patient was relieved by profuse sweats, and the swellings dispersed or broke, without exciting that insufferable torment which had proved so destructive.
Among the anecdotes connected with the plague, most persons have heard the story of the Blind Piper, who having been taken up in the streets when stupidly intoxicated, was thrown into a dead-cart, but coming to himself whilst in the cart, he set up his pipes, which affrighting the buryers, they all ran away. De Foe relates the tale differently. He says the circumstance occurred within the bounds of one John Hayward, who was under-sexton (all the time of the plague) of the parish of St. Stephen Coleman-street, without ever catching the infection. This John told me, says our author,
that the fellow was not blind, but an ignorant, weak, poor, man, and usually walked his rounds about ten o'clock at night, and went piping along from door to door, and the people usually took him in at public-houses, where they knew him, and would give him drink and victuals, and sometimes farthings; and he, in return, would pipe and sing, and talk simply, which diverted the people, and thus he lived. During the plague, the poor fellow went about as usual, but was almost starved; and when any body asked how did, he would answer, the dead-cart had not taken him yet, but had promised to call for him next week. It happened, one night, that this poor fellow, having been feasted more bountifully than common, fell fast asleep, and was laid all along upon the top of a bulk or stall, in the street near London Wall, towards Cripplegate, and, that upon the same bulk or stall, the people of some hearing a bell, which they always rung before the cart came, had laid a body, really dead of the plague, just by him, thinking too, that this poor fellow had been a dead body as the other was, and laid there by some of the neighbours.
Accordingly, when John Hayward, with his bell and the cart, came along, finding two dead bodies lie upon the stall, they took them up with the instruments they used, and threw them into the cart, and all this while the piper slept soundly. From hence they passed along, and took in other dead bodies, till, as honest John Hayward told me, they almost buried him alive in the cart, yet all this while he slept soundly. At length the cart came to the place where the bodies were to be thrown into the ground, which, as I do remember, was at Mount mill, and as the cart usually stopt some time before they were ready to shoot out the melancholy load they had in it, as soon as the cart stopped, the fellow awaked, and struggled a little to get his head out from among the dead bodies, when raising himself up in the cart, he called out Hey! where am I? This frighted the fellow that attended about the work; but, after some pause, John Hayward recovering himself, said, Lord bless us! there's somebody in the cart not quite dead. So another called to him, and said, Who are you? The fellow answered, I am the poor piper. Where am I? Where are you? says Hayward, why, you are in the dead-cart, and we are a-going to bury you. But I an't dead tho', am I? says the piper; which made them laugh a little, though, as John said, they were heartily frighted at first: so they helped the poor fellow down, and he went about his business.
Jour. p. 106, 107.
The stoppage of the plague, after all human efforts had been tried as it were, with only partial success, was by many regarded as supernatural. De Foe was of this opinion, and he uses language particularly strong in expressing it. Nothing, he says, but the immediate finger of God, nothing but omnipotent power could have put a stop to the infection. The contagion despised all medicine; death raged in every corner; and had it gone on as it did then, a few weeks more would have cleared the town of all, and of every thing that had a soul. Man every where began to despair, every heart failed them for fear: people were made desperate through the anguish of their souls, and the terrors of death sat in every countenance. Jour. p. 282.
Whatever deference may be given to the idea of an immediate interposition of providence, the alteration of the weather in September was doubtless a principal means by which the spreading of the pestilence was arrested. Echard, whose authority was Dr. Baynard, an ingenious and learned physician, speaking of the state of the seasons whilst the infection raged, says, that there was such a general calm and serenity of weather, as if both wind and rain had been expelled the kingdom, and for many weeks together he could not discover the least breath of wind, not even so much as would move a fan. That the fires in the streets with great difficulty were made to burn; and that by the extreme rarefaction of the air, the birds did pant for breath, especially those of the larger sort, who were likewise observed to fly more heavily than usual. Hist. of Eng.
The stoppage of public business, in the height of the contagion, was so complete, that grass grew within the very area of the Exchange, and even in the principal streets of the city. All the inns of court were shut up, and all law proceedings suspended. Neither cart nor coach was to be seen from morning till night, excepting those employed in the conveyance of provisions, in the carriage of the infected to the pest-houses, or other hospitals, and a few coaches used by the physicians. Jour. p. 118. The pest-houses, of which there were only two, were situated in Bunhill-fields, near Old-street, and in Tothill-fields, Westminster. These were found to be of the greatest utility, yet the hurry and multiplicity of cases which the rapid increase of the pestilence occasioned, prevented the establishing of any more.
The apprehensions of the people during the early stages of the calamity were highly excited by the predictions of sooth-sayers and astrologers, and for a time they furnished a rich harvest to the multitude of fortune tellers, cunning men, and cheating quacks, that infested the town. Their voice was, however, silenced by the progress of the pestilence; and the expounders of oracles, and the possessors of infallible recipes, were alike swept away with the mass of those upon whom they had imposed. With the ignorant, every unusual occurrence in the heavens was tortured into a prodigy, and the appearance of a comet was regarded as a dire portent. This state of the public feeling was much aggravated by different publications affecting to disclose future events; and by the conduct of several visionary enthusiasts, who, with frantic gestures, and at different times, ran wildly through the streets, denouncing destruction to the whole city. One of these unhappy maniacs is described, by De Foe, as going about naked, excepting a pair of drawers, crying day and night-- Oh! the great and the dreadful God! He repeated those words continually, with a voice and countenance full of horror, a swift pace, and nobody could ever find him to stop, or rest or take any sustenance; at least, that ever I could hear of. I met this poor creature several times in the streets, and would have spoken to him, but he would not enter into speech with me, nor any one else, but held on, his dismal cries continually --Jour. p. 26. So strongly were the populace impressed with the belief of a continual occurrence of wonders, that mobs were often formed in different quarters, to listen to the wild ravings of some lunatic, who, in describing the morbid hallucinations of his own brain, pretended to be descanting on the prodigies which were then apparent to vision in the air. In Lilly's Astrological Prediction, published in 1648, is an astrologicall judgement of the conjunction of Saturn and Mars, wherein occurs the following remarkable passage, the full value of which the believers in astrology will doubtless appreciate. In the year 1656, says our author, the aphelium of Mars, who is the generall significator of England, will be in Virgo, which is assuredly the ascendant of the English monarchy, but Aries of the kingdom: when this absis, therefore, of Mars shall appear in Virgo, who shall expect less than a strange catastrophe of human affairs in this commonwealth, monarchy, and kingdom of England?-There will then either in or about those times, or never that year, or within ten years more or less of that time, or within a little time after, appear in this kingdom so strange a revolution of fate, so grand a catastrophe, and great mutation unto this monarchy and government, as never yet appeared; at which, as the times now stand, I have no liberty or encouragement to deliver any opinion. Only it will be ominous to London, unto her merchants at sea, to her traffique at land, to her poor, to her rich, to all sorts of people inhabiting in her, or her liberties, by reason of sundry fires and a consuming plague, &c.--Astro. Predic. p. 41. The notable indecision with which Lilly has marked the time for the occurrence of these events, will not escape the attention of the intelligent reader, though the notice of fires and a consuming plague is very remarkable.
Since this dreadful period, the plague has entirely ceased in London; a circumstance that must be regarded as the more remarkable, when reference is made to the yearly bills of mortality for nearly all the preceding part of the century. It will be seen from them, that scarcely a year passed without some persons or other falling victims to the infection; and that, in 1609, and 1647, the numbers were respectively as high as 4240, and 3597; without distinguishing those years when the pestilence raged with great violence.
The improved healthfulness of the metropolis must be ascribed principally to the alterations that were made in the widths of the streets, lanes, and other passages, in consequence of the great fire of 1666; to the improved and more open modes of building, by which a free circulation of air was secured; and to the greater cleanliness resulting from the constant supplies of water for domestic purposes, by means of the New River, and various water companies. In April, 1666, John Rathbone, an old colonel, with seven others, formerly officers or soldiers in the late rebellion, were convicted and executed for high treason, in forming a plan for surprising the Tower and the king's guard, killing the lord-general, and other persons, and setting fire to the city, the better to effect their hellish designs. Lond. Gaz. 30th April. The 3rd of September was pitched on for the attempt, as being found by Lillie's almanack, and a scheme erected for that purpose, to be a lucky day, a planet then ruling which prognosticated the downfall of monarchy. Ibid.
The most important event, perhaps, that ever happened in this metropolis, whether it be considered in reference to its immediate effects, or to its remote consequences, was the great fire of 1666; which broke out on the morning of Sunday, the 2nd of September, and, being impelled by strong winds, raged with irresistible fury nearly four days and nights, nor was it entirely mastered till the fifth morning after it began.
The following is the official account, as given in the London Gazette of September the 10th:
Whitehall, September 8.
On the 2nd instant, at one o'clock in the morning, there happened to break out a sad and deplorable fire in Pudding-lane, near New Fish-street; which, falling out at that hour of the night, and in a quarter of the town so close built with wooden pitched houses, spread itself so far before day, and with such destruction to the inhabitants and neighbours, that care was not taken for the timely preventing the further diffusion of it, by pulling down houses, as it ought to have been; so that this lamentable fire, in a short time, became too big to be mastered by any engines, or working near it. It fell out most unhappily too, that a violent easterly wind fomented it, and kept it burning all that day, and the night following; [the fire] spreading itself up to Gracechurch-street, and downwards from Cannon-street, to the waterside, as far as the Three Cranes in the Vintry.
The people in all parts about it, [were] distracted by the vastness of it, and their particular care to carry away their goods; many attempts were made to prevent the spreading of it, by pulling down houses, and making great intervals; but all in vain: the fire seizing upon the timber and rubbish, and so continuing itself even through those spaces, and raging in a bright flame all Monday and Tuesday; notwithstanding his majesty's own, and his royal highness's indefatigable and personal pains to apply all possible remedies to prevent it, calling upon and helping the people with their guards, and a great number of the nobility and gentry unweariedly assisting therein; for which they were requited with a thousand blessings from the poor distressed people.
By the favour of God, the wind slackened a little on Tuesday night, and the flames meeting with the brick buildings at the Temple, by little and little, it was observed to lose its force on that side, so that on Wednesday morning we began to hope well, and his royal highness, never despairing or slackening his personal care, wrought so well that day, assisted in some parts by the lords of the council, before and behind it, that a stop was put to it at the Temple-church, near Holborn-bridge, Pye-corner, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, near the lower end of Coleman-street, at the end of Basinghall-street, by the postern at the upper end of Bishopsgate-street and Leadenhall-street, at the standard in Cornhill, at the church in Fenchurch-street, near Clothworker's hall, in Mincing-lane, at the middle of Mark-lane, and at the Tower Dock.
On Thursday, by the blessing of God, it was wholly beat down and extinguished, but so as that evening, it unhappily burst out again at the Temple, by the falling of some sparks, as is supposed, upon a pile of wooden buildings; but his royal highness, who watched there that whole night in person, by the great labours and diligence used, and especially by applying powder to blow the houses about it, before day most happily mastered it.
Divers strangers, French and Dutch, were, during the fire, apprehended upon suspicion that they contributed mischievously to it, who were all imprisoned, and informations prepared to make a severe inquisition thereupon by my lord chief justice Kneeling, assisted by some of the lords of the privy council, and some of the principal members of the city; notwithstanding which suspicions, the manner of the burning all along in a train, and so blown forward in all its way by strong winds, make us to conclude the whole was the effect of an unhappy chance, or, to speak better, the heavy hand of God upon us for our sins, shewing us the terror of his judgments, in thus raising the fire; and, immediately after, his miraculous and never enough to be acknowledged mercy, in putting a stop to it when we were in the last despair, and that all attempts for the preventing it, however industriously pursued, seemed insufficient.
His majesty then sat hourly in council; and, ever since hath continued making rounds about the city, in all parts of it, where the danger and mischief was greatest, till this morning, when be hath sent his grace, the Duke of Albemarle, whom he hath called to assist him on this great occasion, to put his happy and successful hand to the finishing this memorable deliverance.
This most destructive conflagration commenced at the house of one Farryner, a baker, in Pudding-lane, near New Fish-street-hill, and within ten houses of Thames-street, into which it spread within a few hours; nearly all the contiguous buildings being of timber, lath, and plaister, and the whole neighbourhood presenting little else than closely confined passages and narrow alleys. It began says a contemporary writer, in a heap of bavins, and had gotten some strength ere discovered, yet [that discovery was made] seasonably enough to allow a merchant, who dwelt next door, to remove all his goods; but as soon as it felt the violent impressions of a strong east-north-east wind, leaving a small force to finish the conquest of the house where it received its birth, it ultimately directed its greatest strength against the adjacent ones. It quickly grew powerful enough to despise the use of buckets, and was too advantageously seated among narrow streets to be assaulted by engines: it was therefore proposed to the lord mayor, [Sir Thomas Bludworth,] who came before three o'clock, to pull down some houses to prevent its spreading; but he, with a pish, answering, that a woman might piss it out, neglected that prudent advice, and was not long ere undeceived of the foolish confidence; for, before 8 o'clock, it had gotten to the bridge, and there dividing, left enough to burn down all that had been erected on it since the last great fire in 1633, and, with the main body, pressed forward into Thames.street. Malcolm's Lond. Red. vol iv p. 74; from Manuscript Letters written by a resident in the Middle Temple and lent to the author by the late Rich. Gough, Esq.
Among the various accounts of this dreadful fire, the most interesting are the following :--Lord Clarendon, Printed in his History of his Life. narrating the progress of the fire on its taking hold in Thames-street, says:
But in the night the wind changed, and carried the danger from thence; yet, with so great and irresistible violence, that it scattered the fire from pursuing the line it was in with all its force, and spread it over the city; so that they who went late to bed, at a great distance from any place where the fire prevailed, were awakened before morning with their own houses being in a flame; and whilst endeavours were used to quench that, other houses were discovered to be burning, which were near no place from whence they could imagine the fire could come, all which kindled another fire in the breasts of men, almost as dangerous as that within their houses.
The fire and the wind continued in the same excess all Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday till afternoon, and flung and scattered brands burning into all quarters; the nights more terrible than the days, and the light the same, the light of the fire supplying that of the sun. And, indeed, whoever was an eye-witness of that terrible prospect, can never have so lively an image of the last conflagration till he behold it; the faces of all people in a wonderful dejection and discomposure, not knowing where they could repose themselves for one hour's sleep, and no distance thought secure from the fire, which suddenly started up before it was suspected; so that people left their houses, and carried away their goods from many places which received no hurt, and whither they returned again; all the fields full of women and children, who had made a shift to bring thither some goods and conveniences to rest upon, as safer than any houses, where yet they felt such intolerable heat and drought, as if they had been in the middle of the fire. The king and the duke, who rode from one place to another, and put themselves into great dangers amongst the burning and falling houses, to give advice and direction what was to be done, underwent as much fatigue as the meanest, and had as little sleep or rest; and the face of all men appeared ghastly, and in the highest confusion. The country sent in carts to help those miserable people who had saved any goods; and by this means, and the help of coaches, all the neighboring villages were filled with more people than they could contain, and more goods than they could find room for; so that those fields became likewise as full as the others about London and Westminster.
It was observed, that where the fire prevailed most, when it met with brick buildings, if it was repulsed, it was so well resisted, that it made a much slower progress; and when it had done its worst, that the timber and all the combustible matter fell down to the bottom within the house, and the walls stood and enclosed the fire, and it was burned out without making any farther progress in many of those places; and then the vacancy so interrupted the fury of it, that many times the two or three next houses stood without much damage. Besides the spreading, insomuch as all London seemed but one fire in the breadth of it, it seemed to continue in its full fury, a direct line to the Thames side, all Cheapside, from beyond the Exchange, through Fleet-street; insomuch as for that breadth, taking in both sides as far the Thames, there was scarce a house or church standing from the bridge to Dorset-house, which was burned on Tuesday night after Baynard's Castle.
On Wednesday morning, when the king saw that neither the fire decreased nor the wind lessened, he even despaired of preserving Whitehall, but was more afraid of Westminster Abbey. But having observed, by his having visited all places, that where there were any vacant places between the houses, where the progress of the fire was menacing, they changed its course, and went to the other side; he gave order for pulling down many houses about Whitehall, some whereof were newly built and hardly finished, and sent many of his choice goods by water to Hampton Court; as most of the persons of quality in the Strand, who had the benefit of the river, got barges and other vessels, and sent their furniture for their houses to some houses some miles out of the town. And very many on both sides of the Strand, who knew not whither to go, and scarce what they did, fled with their families out of their houses into the streets, that they might not be within when the fire fell upon their houses.
But it pleased God, contrary to all expectation, that on Wednesday, about four or five of the clock in the afternoon, the wind fell; and, as in an instant, the fire decreased, having burnt all on the Thames side of the new buildings of the Inner Temple next to White Friars, and having consumed them, was stopped by that vacancy from proceeding farther into that house; but laid hold on some old buildings that joined to Ram alley, and swept all those into Fleet street. And the other side being likewise destroyed to Fetter lane, it advanced no farther; but left the other part of Fleet street to the Temple Bar, and all the Strand, unhurt, but what damage the owners of the houses had done to themselves by endeavouring to remove; and it ceased in all other parts of the town near the same time. The greatest care then was, to keep good guards to watch the fire that was upon the ground, that it might not break out again; and this was the better performed, because they who had yet their houses standing had not the courage to sleep, though they watched with much less distraction.
When the night, though far from being a quiet one, had somewhat lessened the consternation, the first care the king took was, that the country might speedily supply markets in all places, that they who had saved themselves from burning, might not be in danger of starving; and if there had not been extraordinary care and diligence used, many would have perished that way. The vast destruction of corn, and other sorts of provisions, in those parts where the fire prevailed, had not only left all those people destitute of all that was to be eat or drank; but the bakers and brewers which inhabited the other parts which were unhurt, had forsaken their houses, and carried away all that was portable: insomuch, as many days passed before they were enough in their wits and in their houses to fall to their occupations; and those parts of the town which God had spared and preserved, were many hours without any thing to eat, as well as they who were in the fields; yet it can hardly be conceived, how great a supply of all kinds was brought from all places within four-and-twenty hours. And which was more miraculous, in four days, in all the fields about the town, which had seemed covered with those whose habitations were burned, and with the goods which they had saved, there was scarce a man to be seen: all found shelter in so short a time, either in those parts which remained of the city and in the suburbs, or in the neighbour villages; all kind of people expressing a marvellous charity towards those who appeared to be undone: and very many, with more expedition than can be conceived, set up little sheds of brick and timber upon the ruins of their own houses, where they chose rather to inhabit than in more convenient places, though they knew they could not long reside in those new buildings.-
The lord mayor, though a very honest man, was much blamed for want of sagacity in the first night of the fire, before the wind gave it much advancement: for though he came with great diligence as soon as he had notice of it, and was present with the first, yet having never been used to such spectacles, his consternation was equal to that of other men, nor did he know how to apply his authority to the remedying the present distress; and when men who were less terrified with the object, pressed him very earnestly, that he would give order for the present pulling down those houses which were nearest, and by which the fire climbed to go farther, (the doing whereof at that time might probably have prevented much of the mischief that succeeded,) he thought it not safe counsel, and made no other answer than, that he durst not do it without the consent of the owners. His want of skill was the less wondered at, when it was known afterwards, that some gentlemen of the Inner Temple, would not endeavour to preserve the goods which were in the lodgings of absent persons, nor suffer others to do it, because, they said, it was against the law to break up any man's chamber!
Clar. Life, p. 355
Thomas Vincent, a non-conformist minister, who was ejected from the living of St. Mary Magdalen, in Milk-street, and during the great plague remained in the city, and preached regularly to the great comfort of the inhabitants under the affliction of the raging pestilence, was an eye-witness of this dreadful conflagration. He wrote God's terrible Judgments in the City by Plague and Fire, and has left a circumstantial relation in that work of the progress made by the flames, and their effects on the people.
It was the 2nd of September, 1666, that the anger of the Lord was kindled against London, and the fire began; it began in a baker's house, in Pudding-lane, by Fish-street-hill; and now the Lord is making London like a fiery oven in the time of his anger, and in his wrath doth devour and swallow up our habitations. It was in the depth and dead of the night, when most doors and fences were locked up in the city, that the fire doth break forth and appear abroad; and, like a mighty giant refreshed with wine, doth awake and arm itself, quickly gathers strength, when it had made havoc of some houses; rusheth down the hill towards the bridge; crosseth Thames-street, invadeth Magnus church, at the bridge foot; and, though that church were so great, yet it was not sufficient barricado against this conqueror; but, having scaled and taken this fort, it shooteth flames with so much the greater advantage into all places round about; and a great building of houses upon the bridge is quickly thrown to the ground: then the conqueror, being stayed in his course at the bridge, marcheth back to the city again, and runs along with great noise and violence through Thames-street, westward; where, having such combustible matter in its teeth, and such a fierce wind upon its back, it prevails with little resistance, unto the astonishment of the beholders.
Fire! fire! fire! doth resound the streets, many citizens start out of their sleep, look out of their windows; some dress themselves and run to the place. The lord mayor of the city comes with his officers; a confusion there is; counsel is taken away; and London, so famous for wisdom and dexterity, can now find neither brains nor hands to prevent its ruin. The hand of God was in it; the decree was come forth; London must now fall, and who could prevent it? No wonder, when so many pillars are removed if the building tumbles; the prayers, tears, and faith, which sometimes London hath had, might have quenched the violence of the fire; might have opened heaven for rain, and driven back the wind : but now the fire gets mastery, and burns dreadfully.
That night most of the Londoners had taken their last sleep in their houses; they little thought it would be so when they went into their beds; they did not in the least suspect, when the doors of their ears were unlocked, and the casements of their eyes were opened in the morning, to hear of such an enemy invading the city, and that they should see him, with such fury, enter the doors of their houses, break into every room, and look out of their casements with such a threatening countenance.
That which made the ruin the more dismal, was, that it was begun on the Lord's-day morning: never was there the like sabbath in London; some churches were in flames that day; and God seems to come down, and to preach himself in them, as he did in Mount Sinai, when the mount burned with fire; such warm preaching those churches never had; such lightning dreadful sermons never were before delivered in London. In other churches ministers were preaching their farewell sermons, and people were hearing with quaking and astonishment: instead of a holy rest which christians have taken on this day, there is a tumultuous hurrying about the streets towards the place that burned, and more tumultuous hurrying upon the spirits of those that sat still, and had only the notice of the ear of the quick and strange spreading of the fire.
Now the train-bands are up in arms watching at every quarter for outlandishmen, because of the general fear and jealousies, and rumours, that fire-balls were thrown into houses by several of them to help on and provoke the too furious flames. Now goods are hastily removed from the lower parts of the city; and the body of the people begin to retire, and draw upwards, as the people did from the tabernacles of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when the earth did cleave asunder and swallow them up: or rather as Lot drew out from his house in Sodom before it was consumed by fire from heaven. Yet some hopes were retained on the Lord's-day that the fire would be extinguished, especially by them who lived in the rem ote parts; they could scarcely imagine that the fire a mile off should be able to reach their houses.
But the evening draws on, and now the fire is more visible and dreadful: instead of the black curtains of the night, which used to be spread over the city, now the curtains are yellow; the smoke that arose from the burning parts seemed like so much flame in the night, which being blown upon the other parts by the wind, the whole city, at some distance, seemed to be on fire. Now hopes begin to sink, and a general consternation seizeth upon the spirits of people; little sleep is taken in London this night; the amazement which the eye and ear doth effect upon the spirit, doth either dry up or drive away the vapour which used to bind up the senses. Some are at work to quench the fire with water; others endeavour to stop its course, by pulling down of houses; but all to no purpose: if it be a little allayed, or beaten down, or put to a stand in some places, it is but a very little while; it quickly recovers its force; it leaps and mounts, and makes the more furious onset, drives back its opposers, snatcheth their weapons out of their hands, seizeth upon the water-houses, and engines, burns them, and makes them unfit for service.
On the Lord's-day night the fire had run as far as Garlickhithe, in Thames-street, and had crept up into Cannon-street and levelled it with the ground; and still is making forward by the water-side, and upward to the brow of the hill, on which the city was built.
On Monday, (the 3d) Gracechurch-street is all in flames, with Lombard-street, on the left hand, and part of Fenchurch-street, on the right, the fire working (though not so fast) against the wind that way: before it were pleasant and stately houses, behind it ruinous and desolate heaps. The burning then was in fashion of a bow, a dreadful bow it was, such as mine eyes never before had seen; a bow which had God's arrow in it, with a flaming point : it was a shining bow; not like that in the cloud, which brings water with it; and withal signified God's covenant not to destroy the world any more with water: but it was a bow which had fire in it which signified God's anger, and his intention to destroy London with fire.
Now the flames break in upon Cornhill, 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 houses to prevent its spreading: and so they lick the whole street 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 building so great as to resist their fury: the Royal Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded with much violence; and when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run round the galleries, filling them with flames; then came downstairs, compasseth the walks, giving forth flaming volleys, and filleth the court with sheets of fire: by-and-by down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the stone-building after them, (the founder's statue only remaining,) with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing.
Then, then the city did shake indeed; and the inhabitants did tremble, and flew away in great amazement from their houses, lest the flames should devour them; rattle, rattle, rattle, was the noise which the fire struck upon the ear round about, as if there had been a thousand iron chariots beating upon the stones: and if you opened your eye to the opening of the streets, where the fire was come, you might see, in some places, whole streets at once in flames, that issued forth as if they had been so many great forges, from the opposite windows, which folding together, were united into one great flame throughout the whole street; and then you might see the houses tumble, tumble, tumble, from one end of the street to the other, with a great crash, leaving the foundations open to the view of the heavens.
Now fearfulness and terror doth surprise the citizens of London; confusion and astonishment doth fall upon them at this unheard-of, unthought-of, judgment. It would have grieved the heart of an unconcerned person to see the rueful looks, the pale cheeks, the tears trickling down from the eyes, (where the greatness of sorrow and amazement could give leave for such a vent,) the smiting of the breast, the wringing of the hands; to hear the sighs and groans, the doleful and weeping speeches of the distressed citizens, when they were bringing forth their wives, (some from their child-bed,) and their little ones (some from their sick-bed,) out of their houses, and sending them into the country, or somewhere into the fields with their goods. Now the hopes of London are gone, their heart is sunk; now there is a general remove in the city, and that in a greater hurry than before the plague, their goods being in greater danger by the fire than their persons were by the sickness. Scarcely are some returned, but they must remove again, and, not as before, now without any more hopes of ever returning and living in those houses any more.
Now carts, and drays, and coaches, and horses, as many as could have entrance into the city, were loaded, and any money is given for help; 5l., 10l., 20l., 30l. for a cart, to bear forth into the fields some choice things, which were ready to be consumed: and some of the carmen had the conscience to accept of the highest price, which the citizens did then offer in their extremity; I am mistaken if such money do not burn worse than the fire out of which it was raked. Now casks of wine, and oil, and other commodities, are tumbled along, and the owners shove as much of their goods as they can towards the gate: every one now becomes a porter to himself, and scarcely a back either of man or woman, that hath strength, but had a burden on it in the streets: it was very sad to see such throngs of poor citizens coming in and going forth from the unburnt parts, heavy laden with some pieces of their goods, but more heavy laden with weighty grief and sorry of heart, so that it is wonderful they did not quite sink under these burdens.
Monday night was a dreadful night: when the wings of the night had shadowed the light of the heavenly bodies, there was no darkness of night in London, for the fire shines now round about with a fearful blaze, which yieldeth such light in the streets, as it had been the sun at noon-day. Now the fire having wrought backward strangely against the wind, to Billingsgate, &c. along Thames-street, eastward, runs up the hill to Tower-street, and having marched on from Gracechurch-street, making further progress in Fenchurch-street, and having spread its wing beyond Queenhithe, in Thames-street, westward, mounts up from the water-side, through Dowgate and Old Fish-street, into Watling-street: but the great fury of the fire was in the broader streets; in the midst of the night it was come down Cornhill, and laid it in the dust, and runs along by the Stocks, and there meets with another fire, which came down Threadneedle-street; a little further with another, which came up from Wallbrook; a little further with another, which comes up from Bucklersbury; and all these four joining together, break into one great flame at the corner of Cheapside, with such a dazzling light, and burning heat, and roaring noise, by the fall of so many houses together, that was very amazing; and though it were something stopt in its swift course at Mercers'-chapel, yet with great force in a while it conquers the place, and burns through it; and then, with great rage, proceedeth forward in Cheapside.
On Tuesday (the 4th) was the fire burning up the very bowels of London; Cheapside is all in a light, (fire in a few hours time,) many fires meeting there, as in the centre; from Soper-lane, Bowlane, Bread-street, Friday-street, and Old Change, the fire comes up almost together, and breaks furiously into the Broad-street, and most of that side of the way was together in flames, a dreadful spectacle; and then, partly by the fire which came down by Mercers'chapel, partly by the fall of the houses cross the way, the other side is quickly kindled, and doth not stand long after it. Now the fire gets into Blackfriars, and so continues its course by the water, and makes up towards Paul's church, on that side, and Cheapside fire besets the great building on this side, and the church, though all of stone outward, though naked of houses about it, and though so high above all buildings in the city, yet, within a while, doth yield to the violent assaults of the conquering flames, and strangely takes fire at the top: now the lead melts and runs down, as if it had been snow before the sun; and the great beams and massy stones with a great noise fall on the pavement, and break through into Faith church underneath; now great flakes of stone scale and peel off strangely from the side of the walls; the conqueror having got this high fort, darts its flames round about. Now Paternoster-row, Newgatemarket, the Old Bailey, and Ludgate-hill, have submitted themselves to the devouring fire, which with wonderful speed rusheth down the hill into Fleet-street. Now Cheapside fire marcheth along Ironmonger-lane, Old Jewry, Lawrence-lane, Milk-street, Wood-street, Gutter-lane, Foster-lane. Now it runs along Lothbury, Cateatonstreet, &c. From Newgate-market, it assaults Christchurch, and conquers that great building, and burns through Martin's-lane towards Aldersgate, and all about so furiously, as if it would not leave a house standing upon the ground.
Now horrible flakes of fire mount up the sky, and the yellow smoke of London ascendeth up towards heaven, like the smoke of a great furnace; a smoke so great, as darkened the sun at noonday; (if at any time the sun peeped forth, it looked red like blood:) the cloud of smoke was so great, that travellers did ride at noonday, some miles together, in the shadow thereof, though there were no other cloud beside to be seen in the sky.
And if Monday night was dreadful, Tuesday night was more dreadful, when far the greatest part of the city was consumed; many thousands who on Saturday had houses convenient in the city, both for themselves, and to entertain others, now have not where to lay their head; and the fields are the only receptacle which they can find for themselves and their goods; most of the late inhabitants of London lie all night in the open air, with no other canopy over them but that of the heavens: the fire is still making towards them, and threateneth the suburbs; it was amazing to see how it had spread itself several times in compass; and amongst other things that night, the sight of Guildhall was a fearful spectacle, which stood the whole body of it together in view, for several hours together, after the fire had taken it, without flames, (I suppose because the timber was such solid oak,) in a bright shining coal, as if it had been a palace of gold, or a great building of burnished brass.
On Wednesday morning, (the 5th) when people expected that the suburbs would be burnt, as well as the city, and with speed were preparing their flight, as well as they could, with their luggage into the countries, and neighboring villages, then the Lord hath pity on poor London; his bowels began to relent; his heart is turned within him, and he stays his rough wind in the day of the east wind; his fury begins to be allayed; he hath a remnant of people in London, and there shall a remnant of houses escape: the wind now is husht; the commission of the fire is withdrawing, and it burns so gently, even where it meets with no opposition, that it was not hard to be quenched, in many places, with a few hands: now the citizens begin to gather a little heart, and encouragement in their endeavours to quench the fire. A check it had at Leadenhall by that great building; a stop it had in Bishopsgate-street, Fenchurch-street, Lime-street, Mark-lane, and towards the Tower; one means, under God, was the blowing up of houses with gunpowder. Now it is stayed in Lothbury, Broad-street, Coleman-street; towards the gates it burnt, but not with any great violence; at the Temple also it is stayed, and in Holborn, where it had got no great footing; and when once the fire was got under, it was kept under, and on Thursday the flames were extinguished.
But on Wednesday night, when the people, late of London, now of the fields, hoped to get a little rest on the ground, where they had spread their beds, a more dreadful fear falls upon them than they had before, through a rumour that the French were coming armed against them to cut their throats, and spoil them of what they had saved out of the fire; they were now naked and weak, and in ill condition to defend themselves, and the hearts, especially of the females, do quake and tremble, and are ready to die within them; yet many citizens, having lost their houses, and almost all that they had, are fired with rage and fury: and they begin to stir up themselves like Irons, or like bears bereaved of their whelps, and now arm! arm! doth resound the fields and suburbs with a dreadful voice. We may guess at the distress and perplexity of the people this night, which was something alleviated when the falseness of the alarm was perceived.
The ruins of the city were 396 acres: [viz. 333 acres within the walls, and 63 in the liberties of the city], of the six and twenty wards, it utterly destroyed fifteen, and left eight others shattered, and half burnt; and it consumed 400 streets, 13,200 dwelling houses, 89 churches, [besides chapels,] four of the city gates, Guildhall, many public structures, hospitals, schools, libraries, and a vast number of stately edifices.
In a curious pamphlet, concerning the fire, which has been reprinted in the Harleian Miscellany, vol. iii. p. 232., is the following estimation of the value of the property destroyed.
The city, within the walls, being seated on about 460 acres, wherein were built about 15,000 houses, besides churches, chapels, schools, halls, &c. 12,000 houses were thought to be burnt, which is four parts in five. each house being valued, one with another, at 25l per ann. rent. this, at twelve years purchase, makes 300l. the whole amounting to 3,600,000l. Eighty-seven parochial churches, besides St. Paul's cathedral, the Exchange, Guildhall, the Custom house, companies halls, and other public buildings, amounting to half as much, that is, 1,800,000l. The goods that every private man lost, one with another, valued at half the value of the houses, 1,800,000l. About twenty wharfs of coal and wood, valued at 1000l. a-piece, 20,000l. About 100,000 boats and barges; and 1,000 cart loads, with portess, to remove the goods to and fro, as well for the houses that were burning as for those that stood in fear of it. at 20s. per load, 15000l. In all, 7,370,000l. This calculation, in all probability, does not by any means approach to the extent of the loss The city. properly so called, was, at that period, even more than at present, the very centre of trade, manufactures, and commerce, and in the confusion which was excited by the rapid progress of the flames. but comparatively few goods were preserved. The avenues of escape were, at times, completely choaked up, through the eagerness of the people to save every one their own; and one while the gates were shut, that no hopes of saving any thing being left. [the people] might more desperately endeavour the quenching the fire, but that was presently found in vain, and occasioned the loss of much goods.
The following relation is by the philosophic John Evelyn.note Printed in his Diary recently edited by William Bray, Esq. F.S. A.
which will acquaint the reader withas much as can here be told of the most direful visatation the metropolis ever suffered.
Sept. 2, 1666. This fatal night, about ten, began that deplorable fire near Fish-streete in London.
Sept 3. The fire continuing, after dinner I took coach with my wife and sonn, and went to the Bankside in Southwark, where we beheld that dismal spectacle, the whole city in dreadful flames neare the water-side; all the houses from the bridge, all Thamesstreet, and upwards towards Cheapeside down to the Three Cranes, were now consum'd.
The fire having continued all this night (if I may call that night which was as light as day for ten miles round about, after a dreadful manner,) when conspiring with a fierce eastern wind in a very drie season: I went on foote to the same place, and saw the whole south part of the city burning from Cheapside to the Thames, and all along Cornehill, (for it kindl'd back against the wind as well as forward), Tower-streete, Fenchurch-streete, Gracious-street, and so along to Bainard's-castle, and was now taking hold of St. Paule's church, to which the scaffolds contributed exceedingly. The conflagration was so universal, and the people so astonish'd, that from the beginning, I know not by what despondency or fate, they hardly stirr'd to quench it, so that there was nothing heard or seen but crying out and lamentation, like distracted creatures, without at all attempting to save even their goods, such a strange consternation there was upon them, so as it burned both in breadth and length, the churches, public halls, exchange, hospitals, monuments, and ornaments, leaping after a prodigious manner from house to house, and street to street, at great distances one from the other; for the heate with a long set of faire and warme weather, had even ignited the air, and prepared the materials to conceive the fire which devour'd, after an incredible manner, houses, furniture, and every thing. Here we saw the Thames covered with goods floating, all the barges and boates laden with what some had time and courage to save, as, on the other, the carts, &c. carrying out to the field, which for many miles were strew'd with moveables of all sorts, and tents erecting to shelter both people and what goods they could get away. Oh, the miserable and calamitous spectacle! such as haply the world had not seene the like since the foundation of it, nor to be outdone till the universal conflagration. All the skie was of a fiery aspect, like the top of a burning oven, the light seene above forty miles round about for many nights. God grant my eyes may never behold the like, now seeing above 10,000 houses all in one flame; the noise and cracking and thunder of the impetuous flames, the shrieking of women and children, the hurry of people, the fall of towers, houses, and churches, was like an hideous storme, and the aire all about so hot and inflam'd that at last one was not able to approach it, so that they were forc'd to stand still and let the flames burn on, which they did for neere two miles in length and one in breadth. The clouds of smoke were dismall and reached upon computation neer fifty miles in length. Thus I left it this after noone burning, a resemblance of Sodom or the last day. London was, but is no more!
Sept. 4. The burning still rages, and it was now gotten as far as the Inner Temple, all Fleete-streete, the Old Bailey, Ludgate-hill, Warwick-lane, Newgate, Paul's Chain, Watling-streete, now flaming, and most of it reduced to ashes; the stones of Paules flew like granados, the melting lead running downe the streets in a stream, and the very pavements glowing with fiery rednesse, so as no horse nor man was able to tread on them, and the demolition had stopped all the passages, so that no help could be applied. The eastern wind still more impetuously drove the flames forward. Nothing but the almighty power of God was able to stop them, for vaine was the helpe of man.
Sept. 5. It crossed towards Whitehall; oh, the confusion there was then at that court! it pleased his majesty to command me among the rest to looke after the quenching of Fetter-lane end, to preserve, if possible, that part of Holborn, while the rest of the gentlemen tooke their several posts (for they now began to bestir themselves, and not till now, who hitherto had stood as men intoxicated, with their hands acrosse, and began to consider that nothing was likely to put a stop but the blowing up of so many houses as might make a wider gap than any had yet ben made by the ordinary method of pulling them down with engines; this some stout seamen proposed early enough to have sav'd near the whole city, but this some tenacious and avaritious men, aldermen, &c. would not permit, because their houses must have been of the first. It was therefore now commanded to be practic'd, and my concern being particularly for the hospital of St. Bartholomew neere Smithfield, where I had many wounded and sick men, made me the more diligent to promote it, nor was my care for the Savoy lesse. It now pleased God, by abating the wind, and by the industry of the people, infusing a new spirit into them, that the fury of it began sensibly to abate about noone, so as it came no farther than the Temple westward, nor than the entrance of Smithfield north; but continued all this day and night so impetuous towards Cripplegate and the Tower, as made us all despair: it also broke out again in the Temple, but the courage of the multitude persisting, and many houses being blown up, such gaps and desolations were soone made as with the former three days' consumption, the back fire did not so vehemently urge upon the rest as formerly. There was yet no standing neere the burning and glowing ruines by neere a furlong's space.
The poore inhabitants were dispersed about St. George's Fields and Moorefields, as far as Highgate, and several miles in circle, some under tents, some under miserable huts and hovels, many without a rag or any necessary utensils, bed or board, who from delicatenesse, riches, and easy accommodations in stately and well-furnish'd houses, were now reduc'd to extreamest misery and poverty.
In this calamitous condition I returned with a sad heart to my house, blessing and adoring the mercy of God to me and mine, who in the midst of all this ruine was like Lot, in my little Zoar, safe and sound.
Sept. 7. I went this morning on foote from Whitehall as far as London-bridge, through the late Fleete-streete, Ludgate-hill, by St. Paules, Cheapside, Exchange, Bishopsgate, Aldersgate, and out to Moorefields, thence thro' Cornehille, &c. with extraordinary difficulty clambering over heaps of yet smoking rubbish, and frequently mistaking where I was. The ground under my feete was so hot, that it even burnt the soles of my shoes. In the mean time, his majesty got to the Tower by water to demolish the houses about the graff; which being built entirely about it, had they taken fire and attacked the White Tower, where the magazine of powder lay, would undoubtedly not only have beaten down and destroyed all the bridge, but sunk and torne the vessels in the river, and rendered the demolition beyond all expression for several miles about the country.
At my return I was infinitely concerned to find that goodly church St. Paules now a sad ruine, and that beautiful portico (for structure comparable to any in Europe, as not long before repair'd by the king,) now rent in pieces, flakes of vast stone split asunder, and nothing remaining intire but the inscription in the architrave, shewing by whom it was built, which had not one letter of it defac'd. It was astonishing to see what immense stones the heat had in a manner calcin'd, so that all the ornaments, columns, freezes, and projectures of massie Portland stone flew off even to the very roofe, where a sheet of lead covering a great space was totally mealted; the ruines of the vaulted roofe falling, broke into St. Faith's, which being filled with the magazines of books belonging to the stationers, and carried thither for safety, they were all consum'd, burning for a week following. Lord Clarendon says, that the loss sustained by the stationers' company in books, paper, and other lesser commodities which are vendible in that corporation, was, and might rationally be, computed at no less than 200,000l.--and if, he afterwards proceeds, so vast a damage befel that little company in books and paper, and the like, what shall we conceive we lost in cloth, (of which the country clothiers lost all that they had brought up to Blackwell Hall, against Michaelmas, which was also burned with that fair structure,) in silks of all kinds, in linen, and those richer manufactures. Not to speak of money, plate, and jewels. When all the circumstances are considered, it can hardly be doubted but that the value of the property destroyed amounted to the vast sum of 10,000,000l. sterling.
The great loss sustained by the stationers and booksellers was attended by some remarkable circumstances. The immediate vicinity of St. Paul's was then, more particularly than at this time, the chief seat of the trade, and when the fire was making its approaches, all those who dwelt near, says Clarendon, carried their goods, books, paper, and the like, as others of greater trades did their commodities into the large vaults which were under St. Paul's church, before the fire came thither: which vaults, though all the church above the ground was afterwards burned, with all the houses round about, still stood firm and supported the foundation, and preserved all that was within them; until the impatience of those who had lost their houses, and whatsoever they had else in the fire, made them very desirous to see what they had saved, upon which all their hopes were founded, to repair the rest.
It was the fourth day after the fire ceased to flame, though it still burned in the ruins, from whence there was still an intolerable heat, when the booksellers especially, and some other tradesmen, who had deposited all they had preserved in the greatest and most spacious vault, came to behold all their wealth, which to that moment was safe: but the doors were no sooner opened, and the air from without fanned the strong heat within, but first the dryest and most combustible matters broke into a flame, which consumed all, of what kind soever, that till then had been unhurt there. Yet they who had committed their goods to some lesser vaults, at a distance from the greater, had better fortune; and having learned from the second ruin of their friends to have more patience, attended till the rain fell, and extinguished the fire in all places, and cooled the air; and then they securely opened the doors, and received from thence what they had there.
It is also observable that the lead over the altar, at the east end, was untouch'd, and among the divers monuments, the body of one bishop remain'd intire. Thus lay in ashes that most venerable church, one of the most antient pieces of early piety in the Christian world, besides neere one hundred more. The lead, yron work, bells, plate, &c. mealted; the exquisitely wrought Mercers' chapel, the sumptuous Exchange, the august fabriq of Christ church, all the companies halls, sumptuous buildings, arches, all in dust; the fountaines dried up and ruin'd, whilst the very waters remain'd boiling; the vorrago's of subterranean cellars, wells, and dungeons, formerly warehouses, still burning in stench and dark clouds of smoke, so that in five or six miles traversing about, I did not see one load of timber unconsum'd, nor many stones but what were calcin'd white as snow. The people who now walk'd about the ruines appeared like men in a dismal desert, or rather in some great city laid waste by a cruel enemy; to which was added the stench that came from some poore creatures bodies, beds, &c. Sir Tho. Gresham's statue, tho' fallen from its nich in the Royal Exchange, remain'd intire, when all those of the kings since the conquest were broken to pieces, also the standard in Cornehill, and Q. Elizabeth's effigies, with some armes on Ludgate, continued with but little detriment, whilst the vast yron chaines of the cittie streets, hinges, bars and gates of prisons, were many of them mealted and reduced to cinders by the vehement heate. I was not able to passe through any of the narrow streets, but kept the widest, the ground, and aire, smoake and fiery vapour, continued so intense, that my haire was almost sing'd, and my feete unsufferably surheated. The bie lanes and narrower streets were quite fill'd up with rubbish, nor could one have known where he was, but by the ruines of some church or hall, that had some remarkable tower or pinnacle remaining. I then went towards Islington and Highgate, where one might have seene 200,000 people of all ranks and degrees dispers'd and lying along by their heapes of what they could save from the fire, deploring their losse, and tho' ready to perish for hunger and destitution, yet not asking one penny for relief, which to me appeared a stranger sight than any I had yet beheld. His majesty and council indeed tooke all imaginable care for their relief, by proclamation for the country to come in and refresh them with provisions. In the midst of all this calamity and confusion, there was, I know not how, an alarme begun, that the French and Dutch, with whom we were now in hostility, were not onely landed, but even entering the city. There was in truth some days before great suspicion of those two nations joining; and now, that they had been the occasion of firing the towne. This report did so terrifie, that on a suddaine there was such an uproar and tumult, that they ran from their goods, and, taking what weapons they could come at, they could not be stopp'd from falling on some of those nations whom they casually met, without sense or reason. The clamour and peril grew so excessive, that it made the whole court amaz'd, and they did with infinite paines and great difficulty reduce and appease the people, sending troops of soldiers and guards to cause them to retire into the fields againe, where they were watch'd all this night. I left them pretty quiet, and came home sufficiently weary and broken. Their spirits thus a little calmed, and the affright abated, they now began to repair into the suburbs about the city, where such as had friends or opportunity got shelter.
The following account of the fire of London by S. Pepys, Esq. will be found interesting :
Sept. 2. Lord's day. Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast to-day, Jane called us up about three in the morning to tell us of a great fire they saw in the city. So I rose and slipped on my night-gown, and went to her window, and thought to be on the back side of Marke-lane at the farthest, but being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off, and so went to bed again, and to sleep. About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was, and further off. So to my closet to set things to rights, after yesterday's cleaning. By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down to-night by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish-street, by London-bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower, and there got up upon one of the high places, sir J. Robinson's little son going up with me; and there I did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side the end of the bridge; which, among other people, did trouble me for poor little Michell and our Sarah on the bridge. So down with my heart full of trouble to the lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it begun this morning in the king's baker's house in Pudding-lane, and that it hath burned down St. Magnus church, and most part of Fish-street already. So I down to the water-side, and there got a boat, and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. Poor Michell's house as far as the Old Swan already burned that way, and the fire running further, that in a very little time it got as far as the Steeleyard, while I was there. Every body endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river, or bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys, till they burned their wings, and fell down. Having staid, and in an hour's time seen the fire rage every way, and nobody to my sight endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods and leave all to the fire, and having seen it get as far as the Steele-yard, and the wind mighty high, and driving it into the city; and every thing after so long a drought proving combustible, even the very stones of churches, and among other things, the poor steeple St. Laurence Poultney, of which Thomas Elborough was curate. by which pretty Mrs.--lives, and whereof my schoolfellow Elborough is parson, taken fire in the very top, and there burned till it fell down. I to White-hall (with a gentleman with me, who desired to go off from the Tower, to see the fire in my boat); and there up to the king's closet in the chapel, where people come about me, and I did give them an account dismayed them all, and word was carried into the king. So I was called for, and did tell the king and duke of York what I saw, and that unless his majesty did command houses to be pulled down, nothing could stop the fire. They seemed much troubled, and the king commanded me to go to my lord mayor, Sir Thomas Bludworth. from him, and commanded him to spare no houses, but to pull down before the fire every way. The duke of York bid me tell him, that if he would have any more soldiers he shall; and so did my lord Arlington afterwards as a great secret. Here meeting with Captain Cocke, I in his coach, which he lent me, and Creed with me to Paul's and there walked along Watling-street as well as I could, every creature coming away loaden with goods to save, and here and there sick people carried away in beds. Extraordinary good goods carried in carts and on backs. At last met my lord mayor in Canningstreet, like a man spent, with a handkercher about his neck. To the king's message, he cried, like a fainting woman, Lord what can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses, but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it. That he needed no more soldiers, and that, for himself, he must go and refresh himself, having been up all night. So he left me, and I him, and walked home; seeing people almost distracted, and no manner of means used to quench the fire. The houses too so very thick thereabouts, and full of matter for burning, as pitch and tar, in Thamesstreet; and warehouses of oyle, and wines, and brandy, and other things. Here I saw Mr. Isaac Houblon, the handsome man, prettily dressed and dirty at his door at Dowgate, receiving some of his brother's things, whose houses were on fire; and, as he says, have been removed twice already; and he doubts (as it soon proved) that they must be in a little time removed from his house also, which was a sad consideration. And to see the churches all filling with goods by people, who themselves should have been quietly there at this time. By this time it was about twelve o'clock; and so home, and there find my guests, who were Mr. Wood and his wife, Barbary Sheldon, and also Mr. Moone: she mighty fine, and her husband, for aught I see, a likely man. But Mr. Moone's design and mine, which was to look over my closet, and please him with the sight thereof, which he hath long desired, was wholly disappointed; for we were in great trouble and disturbance at this fire, not knowing what to think of it. However, we had an extraordinary good dinner, and as merry as at this time we could be. While at dinner Mrs. Bateller come to inquire after Mr. Woolfe and Stanes (who, it seems, are related to them), whose houses in Fish-street are all burned, and they in a sad condition. She would not stay in the fright. Soon as dined, I and Moone away, and walked through the city, the streets full of nothing but people, and horses and carts loaden with goods, ready to run over one another, and removing goods from one burned house to another. They now removing out of Canning-street (which received goods in the morning) into Lumbard-street, and further: and among others, I now saw my little goldsmith Stokes receiving some friend's goods, whose house itself was burned the day after. We parted at Paul's; he home, and I to Paul's wharf, where I had appointed a boat to attend me, and took in Mr. Carcasse and his brother, whom I met in the street, and carried them below and above bridge too. And again to see the fire, which was now got further, both below and above, and no likelihood of stopping it. Met with the king and duke of York in their barge, and with them to Queenhith, and there called sir Richard Browne to them. Their order was only to pull down houses apace, and so below bridge at the water-side; but little was or could be done, the fire coming upon them so fast. Good hopes there was of stopping it at the Three Cranes above, and at Buttolph's wharf below bridge, if care be used; but the wind carries it into the city, so as we know not by the water-side what it do there. River full of lighters and boats taking in goods, and good goods swimming in the water; and only I observed that hardly one lighter or boat in three that had the goods of a house in, but there was a pair of virginalls A sort of spinett, so called (according to Johnson) from young women playing upon it. in it. Having seen as much as I could now, I away to White-hall by appointment, and there walked to St. James's park, and there met my wife and Creed, and Wood and his wife, and walked to my boat; and there upon the water again, and to the fire up and down, it still increasing, and the wind great. So near the fire as we could for smoke; and all over the Thames, with one's faces in the wind, you were almost burned with a shower of fire-drops. This is very true; so as houses were burned by these drops and flakes of fire, three or four, nay, five or six houses, one from another. When we could endure no more upon the water, we to a little ale-house on the Bank-side, over against the Three Cranes, and there staid till it was dark almost, and saw the fire grow, and as it grew darker, appeared more and more, and in corners, and upon steeples, and between churches and houses, as far as we could see up the hill of the city, in a most horrid malicious bloody flame, not like the fine flame of an ordinary fire. Barbary and her husband away before us. We staid till it being darkish, we saw the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this to the other side the bridge, and in a bow up the hill for an arch of above a mile long: it made me weep to see it. The churches, houses, and all on fire, and flaming at once; and a horrid noise the flames made, and the cracking of houses at their ruine. So home with a sad heart, and there find every body discoursing and lamenting the fire; and poor Tom Hater come with some few of his goods saved out of his house, which was burned upon Fishstreet-hill. I invited him to lie at my house, and did receive his goods, but was deceived in his lying there, the news coming every moment of the growth of the fire; so as we were forced to begin to pack up our own goods, and prepare for their removal; and did by moonshine (it being brave dry and moonshine, and warm weather) carry much of my goods into the garden, and Mr. Hater and I did remove my money and iron chests into my cellar, as thinking that the safest place. And got my bags of gold into my office, ready to carry away, and my chief papers of accounts also there, and my tallies into a box by themselves. So great was our fear, as sir W. Batten hath carts come out of the country to fetch away his goods this night. We did put Mr. Hater, poor man, to bed a little; but he got but very little rest, so much noise being in my house, taking down of goods.
3rd. About four o'clock in the morning, my Lady Batten sent me a cart to carry away all my money, and plate, and best things, to sir W. Rider's, at Bednall-green. Which I did, riding myself in my nightgown in the cart; and, Lord! to see how the streets and the high ways are crowded with people running and riding, and getting of carts at any rate to fetch away things. I find sir W. Rider tired with being called up all night, and receiving things from several friends. His house full of goods, and much of sir W. Batten's and sir W. Pen's. I am eased at my heart to have my treasure so well secured. Then home, and with much ado to find a way, nor any sleep all this night to me nor my poor wife. But then all this day she and I, and all my people labouring, to get away the rest of our things, and did get Mr. Tooker to get me a lighter to take them in, and we did get them (myself some) over Tower-hill, which was by this time full of people's goods, bringing their goods thither; and down to the lighter, which lay at the next quay above the Tower Dock. And here was my neighbour's wife Mrs.--, with her pretty child, and some few of her things, which I did willingly give way to be saved with mine; but there was no passing with any thing through the postern, the crowd was so great. The duke of York came this day by the office, and spoke to us and did ride with his guard up and down the city to keep all quiet (he being now general, and having the care of all). This day, Mercer being not at home, but against her mistress's order gone to her mother's, and my wife going thither to speak with W. Hewer, beat her there, and was angry; and her mother saying that she was not a 'prentice girl, to ask leave every time she goes abroad, my wife with good reason was angry; and when she come home bid her begone again. And so she went away, which troubled me, but yet less than it would, because of the condition we are in, in fear of coming in a little time to being less able to keep one in her quality. At night lay down a little upon a quilt of W. Hewer's, in the office, all my own things being packed up or gone: and after me my poor wife did the like, we having fed upon the remains of yesterday's dinner, having no fire nor dishes, nor any opportunity of dressing any thing.
4th. Up by break of day, to get away the remainder of my things, which I did by a lighter at the Iron gate; and my hands so full, that it was the afternoon before we could get them all away. Sir W. Pen and I to the Tower-street, and there met the fire burning three or four doors beyond Mr. Howell's, whose goods, poor man, his trays and dishes, and shovells, &c. were flung all along Tower-street in the kennels, and people working therewith from one end to the other; the fire coming on in that narrow street on both sides, with infinite fury. Sir W. Batten not knowing how to remove his wine, did dig a pit in the garden, and laid it in there; and I took the opportunity of laying all the papers of my office that I could not otherwise dispose of. And in the evening sir W. Pen and I did dig another, and put our wine in it; and I my Parmazan cheese, as well as my wine and some other things. The duke of York was at the office this day, at sir W. Pen's; but I happened not to be within. This afternoon, sitting melancholy with sir W. Pen in our garden, and thinking of the certain burning of this office, without extraordinary means, I did propose for the sending up of all our workmen from the Woolwich and Deptford yards (none whereof yet appeared), and to write to sir W. Coventry to have the duke of York's permission to pull down houses, rather than lose this office, which would much injure the king's business. So sir W. Pen went down this night, in order to the sending them up to-morrow morning; and I wrote to sir W. Coventry about the business, but received no answer. This night Mrs. Turner (who poor woman was removing her goods all this day, good goods into the garden, and knows not how to dispose of them), and her husband supped with my wife and me at night, in the office, upon a shoulder of mutton from the cook's, without any napkin, or any thing in a sad manner, but were merry. Only now and then walking into the garden, saw how horribly the sky looks, all on a fire in the night, was enough to put us out of our wits; and, indeed, it was extremely dreadful, for it looked just as if it was at us, and the whole heaven on fire. I after supper walked in the dark down to Tower-street, and there saw it all on fire; at the Trinity-house on that side, and the Dolphin tavern on this side, which was very near us, and the fire with extraordinary vehemence. Now begins the practice of blowing up of houses in Tower-street, those next the Tower, which at first did frighten people more than any thing; but it stopped the fire where it was done, it bringing down the houses to the ground in the same places they stood, and then it was easy to quench what little fire was in it, though it kindled nothing almost. W. Hewer went this day to see how his mother did, and comes late home, telling us how he hath been forced to remove her to Islington, her house in Pye-corner being burned so that the fire is got so far that way, and to the Old Bayly, and was running down to Fleet-street, and Paul's is burned, and all Cheapside. I wrote to my father this night; but the post-office being burned, the letter could not go.
5th. I lay down in this office again upon Mr. W. Hewer's quilt, being mighty weary, and sore in my feet, with going till I was hardly able to stand. About two in the morning my wife calls me up, and tells me of new cryes of fire, it being come to Barking Church, which is the bottom of our lane. Seething-lane. I up, and finding it so, resolved presently to take her away, and did, and took my gold, which was about 2,350l. W. Hewer and Jane down by Proundy's boat to Woolwich; but Lord! what a sad sight it was by moonlight to see the whole city almost on fire, that you might see it plain at Woolwich, as if you were by it. There, when I come, I find the gates shut, but no guard kept at all; which troubled me, because of discourses now begun, that there is a plot in it, and that the French had done it. I got the gates open, and to Mr. Shelden's, where I locked up my gold, and charged my wife and W. Hewer never to leave the room without one of them in it night nor day. So back again, by the way seeing my goods well in the lighters at Deptford, and watched well by people home, and whereas I expected to have seen our house on fire, it being now about seven o'clock, it was not. But to the fire, and there find greater hopes than I expected; for my confidence of finding our office on fire was such, that I durst not ask any body how it was with us, till I come and saw it was not burned. But going to the fire, I find by the blowing up of houses, and the great help given by the workmen out of the king's yards, sent up by sir W. Pen, there is a good stop given to it, as well at Marke-lane end, as ours; it having only burned the dyall of Barking Church, and part of the porch, and was there quenched. I up to the top of Barking steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw; every where great fires, oyle cellars and brimstone, and other things, burning, I became afraid to stay there long, and therefore down again as fast as I could, the fire being spread as far as I could see it; and to sir W. Pen's, and there eat a piece of cold meat, having eaten nothing He forgot the shoulder of mutton from the cook's the day before. since Sunday but the remains of Sunday's dinner. Here I met with Mr. Young and Whistler, and having removed all my things, and received good hopes that the fire at our end is stopped, they and I walked into the town, and find Fanchurch-street, Gracious-street, and Lumbard-street, all in dust. The Exchange a sad sight, nothing standing there of all the statues or pillars, but Sir Thomas Gresham's picture in the corner. Into Moorefields (our feet ready to burn, walking through the town among the hot coals), and find that full of people, and poor wretches carrying their goods there, and every body keeping his goods together by themselves (and a great blessing it is to them that it is fair weather for them to keep abroad night and day); drunk there, and paid twopence for a plain penny loaf. Thence homeward, having passed through Cheapside and Newgate-market, all burned, and seen Anthony Joyce's house in fire. And took up (which I keep by me) a piece of glass of Mercers' chapel, in the street, where much more was, so melted and buckled with the heat of the fire, like parchment; I also did see a poor cat taken out of a hole in the chimney, joyning to the wall of the Exchange, with the hair all burnt off the body, and yet alive. So home at night, and find there good hopes of saving our office; but great endeavours of watching all night, and having men ready; and so we lodged them in the office, and had drink and bread and cheese for them. And I lay down and slept a good night about midnight; though when rose I heard that there had been a great alarm of French and Dutch being risen, which proved nothing. But it is a strange thing to see how long this time did look since Sunday, having been always full of variety of actions, and little sleep, that it looked like a week or more, and I had forgot almost the day of the week.
6th. Up about five o'clock, and met Mr. Gauden at the gate of the office (I intending to go out, as I used, every now and then to-day, to see how the fire is), to call our men to Bishop's-gate, where no fire had yet been near, and there is now one broke out; which did give great grounds to people and to me too to think that there was a kind of plot in this (on which many by this time have been taken, and it hath been dangerous for any stranger to walk in the streets), but I went with the men, and we did put it out in a little time, so that that was well again. It was pretty to see how hard the women did work in the cannells, sweeping of water; but then they should scold for drink, and be as drunk as devils. I saw good butts of sugar broke open the street, and people give and take handsfull out, and put into beer, and drink it. And now all being pretty well, I took boat, and over to Southwarke, and took boat on the other side the bridge, and so to Westminster, thinking to shift myself, being all in dirt from top to bottom; but could not then find any place to buy a shirt or a pair of gloves, Westminsterhall being full of people's goods, those in Westminster having removed all their goods, and the exchequer money put into vessels to carry to Nonsuch, Nonsuch House, near Epsom, where the Exchequer had been formerly kept. but to the Swan, and there was trimmed: and then to White-hall, but saw nobody; and so home. A sad sight to see how the river looks; no houses nor church near it, where it stopped. At home did go with sir W. Batten and our neighbour Knightly (who, with one more, was the only man of any fashion left in all the neighbourhood thereabouts, they all removing their goods, and leaving their houses to the mercy of the fire) to sir R. Ford's, and there dined in an earthen platter--a fried breast of mutton; a great many of us, but very merry, and indeed as good a meal, though as ugly a one as ever I had in my life. Thence down to Deptford, and there with great satisfaction landed all my goods at Sir G. Carteret's safe, and nothing missed I could see or hear. This being done to my great content, I home, to sir W. Batten's, and there with sir R. Ford, Mr. Knightley, and one Withers, a professed lying rogue, supped well, and mighty merry, and our fears over. From them to the office, and there slept with the office full of labourers, who talked and slept and walked all night long there. But strange it is to see Clothworkers' hall on fire, these three days and nights in one body of flame, it being the cellar full of oyle.
7th. Up by five o'clock; and, blessed be God! find all well; and by water to Paul's wharf. Walked thence, and saw all the towne burned, and a miserable sight of Paul's church, with all the roofs fallen, and the body of the quire fallen into St. Fayth's; Paul's school also, Ludgate, and Fleet-street. My father's house, and the church, and a good part of the Temple the like. So to Creed's lodging, near the new Exchange, and there find him laid down upon a bed; the house all unfurnished, there being fears of the fires coming to them. There borrowed a shirt of him and washed. To sir W. Coventry at St. James's, who lay without curtains, having removed all his goods; as the king at Whitehall, and every one had done, and was doing. He hopes we shall have no public distractions upon this fire, which is what every body fears, because of the talk of the French having a hand in it. And it is a proper time for discontents; but all men's minds are full of care to protect themselves, and save their goods; the militia is in arms every where. Our fleetes, he tells me, have been in sight one of another, and most unhappily by fowle weather were parted, to our great loss, as in reason they do conclude; the Dutch being come out only to make a shew, and please their people; but in very bad condition as to stores, victuals, and men. They are at Boulogne, and our fleete come to St. Ellen's. We have got nothing, but have lost one ship, but he knows not what. Thence to the Swan, and there drank; and so home, and find all well. My lord Brouncker, at sir W. Batten's, tells us the general is sent for up, to come to advise with the king about business at this juncture, and to keep all quiet; which is great honour to him, but I am sure is but a piece of dissimulation. So home, and did give orders for my house to be made clean, and then down to Woolwich, and there find all well. Dined, and Mrs. Markham come to see my wife. This day our merchants first met at Gresham college, which by proclamation is to be their Exchange. Strange to hear what is bid for houses all up and down here; a friend of sir W. Rider's having 1501. for what he used to let for 40l. per ann. Much dispute where the Custom-house shall be; thereby the growth of the city again to be foreseen. My lord treasurer, they say, and others, would have it at the other end of the town. I home late, to sir W. Pen's who did give me a bed; but without curtains or hangings, all being down. So here I went the first time into a naked bed, only my drawers on; and did sleep pretty well, but still both sleeping and waking, had a fear of fire in my heart, that I took little rest. People do all the world over cry out of the simplicity of my lord mayor in general; and more particularly in this business of the fire, laying it all upon him. A proclamation is come out for markets to be kept at Leadenhall and Mile-end green, and several other places about the town; and Tower-hill, and all churches to be set open to receive poor people.
Pepys' Diary, 1. 445-456.
The destructive fury of this conflagration was never, perhaps, exceeded in any part of the world, by any fire originating in accident. Within the walls, it consumed almost five-sixths of the whole city; and without the walls, it cleared a space nearly as extensive as the one-sixth part left unburnt within. Scarcely a single building that came within the range of the flames was left standing. Public buildings, churches, and dwelling houses were alike involved in one common fate; and, making a proper allowance for irregularities, it may be fairly stated, that the fire extended its ravages over a space of ground equal to an oblong square, measuring upwards of a mile in length, and a half a mile in breadth.
In the summary account of this vast devastation given in one of the inscriptions on the Monument, and which was drawn up from the reports of the surveyors appointed after the fire, it is stated, that The ruins of the city were 436 acres; [viz. 273 acres within the walls, and sixty-three in the liberties of the city;] that, of the six and twenty wards, it utterly destroyed fifteen, and left eight others shattered and half burnt; and that it consumed 400 streets, 13,200 dwelling-houses, eighty-nine churches, (besides chapels;) the city-gates, Guildhall, many public structures, hospitals, schools, libraries, and a vast number of stately edifices.
The immense property destroyed in this dreadful time could never be properly calculated. Lord Clarendon says, The value or estimate of what that devouring fire consumed, could never be computed in any degree: for besides that on the first night, which swept away the vast wealth of Thames-street, there was not any thing that could be preserved in respect to the suddenness and amazement, all people being in their beds till the fire was in their houses, and so could save nothing but themselves; the next day, with the violence of the wind, the destruction increased; nor did many believe that the fire was near them, or that they had reason to remove their goods, till it was upon them and rendered it impossible. Clar. Life, p. 355.
The loss of merchandize was immense; and the houses of very many of the substantial citizens and other wealthy men, who were in the country, were wholly destroyed, with all that they contained. And of this class of absent men, when the fire came where the lawyers had houses, as they had in many places, especially Serjeants Inn, in Fleet-street, with that part of the Inner Temple that was next it and White Friars, there was scarce a man to whom those lodgings appertained who was in town: so that whatsoever was there, their money, books, and papers, besides the evidences of many men's estates, deposited in their hands, were all burned or lost, to a very great value. Ibid.
Whether the fire of London, as this tremendous conflagration has been emphatically denominated, were the effect of design, or of accident, is a question that has been productive of much controversy.
There was a general and strong belief among the people, that the burning of the city was a concerted scheme; and there are many circumstances on record which certainly combine to establish belief, that this destruction of the city was preconcerted by the papists: yet, on a dispassionate consideration of all the circumstances, we must acquit them of so foul a crime.
Lord Clarendon informs us, that
Monday morning produced first a jealousy, and then an universal conclusion, that this fire came not by chance, nor did they care where it began; but the breaking out in several places at so great distance from each other made it evident, that it was by conspiracy and combination: and this determination could not hold long without discovery of the wicked authors, who were concluded to be all the Dutch and all the French in the town, though they had inhabited the same places above twenty years. All of that kind, or, if they were strangers, of what nation soever, were laid hold of; and after all the ill usage that can consist in words, and some blows and kicks, they were thrown into prison. And shortly after, the same conclusion comprehended all the Roman Catholics, who were in the same predicament of guilt and danger, and quickly found that their only safety consisted in keeping within doors; and yet some of them, and of quality, were taken by force out of their house, and carried to prison.
When this rage spread as far as the fire, and every hour brought in reports of some bloody effects of it, worse than in truth they were, the king distributed many of the privy council into several quarters of the city, to prevent, by their authorities, those inhumanities which he heard were committed. In the mean time, even they, or any other person, thought it not safe to declare, that they believed that the fire came by accident, or that it was not a plot of the Dutch and the French papists, to burn the city; which was so generally believed, and in the best company, that he who said the contrary was suspected for a conspirator, or at best a favourer of them. It could not be conceived, how a house that was distant a mile from any part of the fire could suddenly be in a flame, without some particular malice; and this case fell out every hour. When a man at the farthest end of Bread-street had made a shift to get out of his house his best and most portable goods, because the fire had approached near them, he no sooner had secured them, as he thought, in some friend's house in Holborn, which was believed a safe distance, but he saw that very house, and none else near it, in a sudden flame: nor did there want, in this woeful distemper, the testimony of witnesses who saw this villainy committed, and apprehended men who they were ready to swear threw fire-balls into houses, which were presently burning.
Clar. Life, p. 349.
There was a very odd accident that confirmed many in what they were inclined to believe, and startled others who thought the conspiracy impossible, since no combination not very discernible and discovered could have effected that mischief, in which the immediate hand of God was so visible. Amongst many Frenchmen who had been sent to Newgate, there was one Hubert, a young man of five or six-and-twenty years of age, the son of a famous watch-maker in the city of Rouen; and this fellow had wrought in the same profession with several men in London, and had for many years, both in Rouen and in London, been looked upon as distracted. This man confessed, that he had set the first house on fire, and that he had been hired in Paris a year before to do it: that there were three more combined with him to do the same thing, and that they came over together into England to put it into execution in the time of the plague; but when they were in London, he and two of his companions went into Sweden, and returned from thence in the latter end of August, and he resolved to undertake it; and that the two others went away into France.
The whole examination was so senseless, that the chief justice (Keeling), who was not looked upon as a man who wanted rigour, did not believe any thing he said. He was asked, who it was in Paris that suborned him to this action? to which he answered that he did not know, having never seen him before; and in enlarging upon that point, he contradicted himself in many particulars. Being asked, what money he had received to perform a service of so much hazard, he said, he had received but a pistole, but was promised five pistoles more when he should have done his work ; and many such unreasonable things, that nobody present credited any thing he said. However, they durst not slight the evidence, but put him to a particular, in which he so fully confirmed all that he had said before, that they were all surprized with wonder, and knew not afterwards what to say or think. They asked him, if he knew the place where he first put fire ; he answered, that he knew it very well, and would shew it to any body. Upon this the chief justice, and many aldermen who sate with him, sent a guard of substantial citizens with the prisoner, that he might shew them the house; and they first led him to a place at some distance from it, and asked him, if that were it? to which he answered presently, no, it was lower, nearer to the Thames. The house and all which were near it, were so covered and buried inruins, that the owners themselves, without some infallible mark, could very hardly have said where their own houses had stood: but this man led them directly to the place, described how it stood, the shape of the little yard, the fashion of the door and windows, and where he first put the fire; and all this with such exactness, that they who had dwelt long near it could not so perfectly have described all particulars.
This silenced all further doubts. And though the chief justice told the king, that all his discourse was so disjointed that he did not believe him guilty; nor was there one man who prosecuted or accused him; yet upon his own confession, and so sensible a relation of all that he had done, accompanied with so many circumstances, (though without the least shew of compunction or sorrow for what he said he had done, nor yet seeming to justify or take delight in it; but being asked whether he was not sorry for the wickedness, and whether to do so much, he gave no answer at all, or made reply to what was said; and with the same temper died,) the jury found him guilty, and he was executed accordingly. And though no man could imagine any reason why a man should so desperately throw away his life, which he might have saved, though he had been guilty, since he was only accused upon his own confession; yet neither the judges, nor any present at the trial, did believe him guilty, but that he was a poor distracted wretch weary of his life, and chose to part with it this way. Certain it is, that upon the strictest examination that could be afterwards made by the king's command, and then by the diligence of parliament, that upon the jealousy and rumour made a committee, who were very diligent and solicitous to make that discovery, there was never any probable evidence, (that poor creature's only excepted,) that there was any other cause of that woeful fire, than the displeasure of God Almighty: the first accident of the beginning in a baker's house, where there was so great a stock of faggots, and the neighbourhood of much combustible matter, of pitch and rosin, and the like, led it in an instant from house to house through Thames-street, with the agitation of so terrible a wind to scatter and disperse it.
Clar. Life, p. 350.
In regard to Hubert, who, as Lord Clarendon admits, was perfectly consistent in all that respected the fire, the committee subjected him to a similar experiment to that he had made with a guard of substantial citizens, and, Hubert, with more readiness than those that were well acquainted with the place, went to Pudding-lane, unto the very place where the house that was first fired, stood, saying, Here stood the house. A true and faithful acc. p. 8 He also confessed, that there were three-and-twenty complices whereof Peidlow was the chief. Ibid. Peidlow was a fellow-countryman, who had come to England in a Swedish vessel with Hubert, and landing with him on that Saturday night in which the fire broke out, they both proceeded to Pudding-lane, where Peidlow did fix two fire-balls to a long pole, and put them into a window, and then he, the said Robert Hubert did fire one in the same manner, and put it in at the same window. Ibid p. 11
Pepys, also, in his diary says, I enquired about the Frenchman that was said to fire the city, and was hanged for it by his own confession, that he was hired for it by a Frenchman of Roane, and that he did with a stick reach in a fire-ball in at a window of the house; whereas the master of the house, who is the king's baker, and his son, and daughter, do all swear there was no such window, and that the fire did not begin thereabouts. Yet the fellow, who, though a mopish besotted fellow, did not speak like a madman, did swear that he did fire it; and did not this like a madman: for being tried on purpose, and landed with his keeper at the Tower wharf, he could carry the keeper to the very house. Pepys' Diary, ii. 21,
Hubert's confession was, to a certain extent, corroborated by the evidence of Farryner, the baker, who stated to the committee that it was impossible it should happen in his house by accident; for he had, after twelve of the clock that night, gone through every room thereof, and found no fire but in one chimney, where the room was paved with bricks, which fire he diligently raked up in embers. He was then asked whether no window or door might let in wind to disturb those coals? He affirmed there was no possibility for any wind to disturb them ; and that it was absolutely set on fire on purpose. Clar. Life, p. 9.
In addition to the presumed insanity of Hubert, another ground has been taken to destroy the effect of his confession; and which, indeed, were it properly substantiated, would be most decisive. This will be found in Echard, who states, that Laurence Peterson, the master of the ship that brought Hubert over [from Stockholm], upon his examination some time after, declared, that the said Hubert did not land till two days after the fire. Hist. of England. If this is to be depended on, we must doubt Lord Clarendon's statement, respecting his pointing out the site of the house when the fire commenced, and thus negative the idea that the city was set on fire purposely.
Mr. Brayley remarks, that Bishop Burnet has some singular passages relating to the city having been intentionally burnt, though he concludes with saying, that the diversity of opinions was so great that he must leave the matter under the same uncertainty in which he found it. He states, that after the English had burnt the Isle of Ely, some came to De Witt, whom Mr. Fox has characterized as the wisest, best, and most truly patriotic minister that ever appeared upon the public stage: Life of James II. and offered a revenge, that if they were assisted, they would set London on fire: but he rejected the proposition, and said that he would not make the breach wider, nor the quarrel irreconcilable. --He made no further reflections on the matter till the city was burnt; then he began to suspect there had been a design, and that they had intended to draw him into it, and to lay the odium of it upon the Dutch; but he could hear no news of those who had sent that proposition to him. Burnet's Hist. of his own time, i. 230.
Burnet says of Hubert, that he was a French Papist, seized on in Essex, as he was getting out of the way in great confusion. He confessed he had begun the fire, and persisted in his confession to his death; for he was hanged upon no other evidence but that of his own confession. It is true, he gave so broken an account of the whole matter, that he was thought mad; yet he was blindfolded, and carried to several places of the city, and then his eyes being opened, he was asked if that was the place: and he being carried to wrong places, after he had looked round about for some time, he said that was not the place; but when he was brought to the place where it first broke out, he affirmed that was the true place. And Tillotson told me, that Howell, then the recorder of London, was with him, and had much discourse with him; and that he concluded it was impossible that it could be a melancholy dream. The horror of the fact, and the terror of death, and perhaps some engagements in confession, might put him in such disorder, that it was not possible to draw a clear account of any thing from him but of what related to himself. Tillotson believed that the city was burnt on design. Ibid.
The report made to the house of commons, concludes with the following very singular sentence:-- I [the chairman] had order from the committee to acquaint you, that we traced several persons apprehended upon strong suspicion (during the fire) to the guards, but could not make further discovery of them. True and Faithful Acc. p. 10.
Amidst all the confusion and multiplied dangers that arose from the fire, it does not appear that more than six persons lost their lives; and of these, two or three met their deaths through being too venturesome in going over the ruins, and thus sinking into vaults beneath their feet, perished horribly. Brayley's London, i. 432.
Whilst the city lay in ruins, various temporary edifices were raised for the public accommodation; both in respect to divine worship, and to general business. Gresham college, which had escaped the flames, was converted into an Exchange and Guildhall; and the Royal Society removed its sittings to Arundel House. The affairs of the Custom-house were transacted in Mark-lane; the business of the Excise-office was carried on in Southampton-fields, near Bedford-house; the General Post-office was removed to Brydges-street, Covent Garden; the offices of Doctors' Commons were held at Exeter-house, in the Strand; and the king's wardrobe was consigned from Puddle Wharf to York-buildings. The inhabitants, for a time, were mostly lodged in small huts, built in Finsbury and Moor-fields, in Smithfield, and on all the open spaces in the vicinity of the metropolis.
As soon as the general consternation had subsided, the rebuilding of the city became the first object of consideration. On the thirteenth of September, the king held a court of privy council at Whitehall, in which many judicious regulations were determined on, for the immediate re-edification of the city, both for use and beauty; so that it should rather appear to the world as purged with the fire, (in how lamentable a manner soever) to a wonderful beauty and comeliness, than consumed by it. note 29th (March, 1667) the great streets in the city are marked out with piles drove into the ground; and if ever it be built in that form with so fair streets, it will be a noble sight. --Pepys' Diary, ii. 33.
The proclamation that was issued in consequence, after reciting the circumstances of the fire, as a punishment from heaven, &c. proceeds to lay down some general rules for constructing a new and more beautiful city; some of which would be of essential use among the improvements of the present period.
In the first place, the woeful experience in this late heavy visitation hath sufficiently convinced all men of the pernicious consequences which have attended the building with timber, and even with stone itself, and the notable benefit of brick, which in so many places hath resisted, and even extinguished the fire; and we do therefore hereby declare our express will and pleasure that no man whatsoever shall presume to erect any house or building, great or small; but of brick or stone; and if any man shall do the contrary, the next magistrate shall forthwith cause it to be pulled down, and such further course shall be taken for his punishment as he deserves; and we suppose that the notable benefit many men have rendered from those cellars which have been well and strongly arched, will persuade most men who built good houses to practice that good husbandry, by arching all convenient places.
We do declare that Fleet-street, Cheapside, Cornhill, and all other eminent and notorious streets, shall be of such a breadth, as may with God's blessing prevent the mischief that one side may suffer if the other be on fire, which was the case lately in Cheapside; the precise breadth of which several streets shall be, upon advice with the lord mayor and aldermen, shortly published, with many other particular orders and rules which cannot be adjusted; in the mean time we resolve, though all the streets cannot be of equal breadth, yet none shall be so narrow as to make the passage uneasy or inconvenient, especially towards the water-side: nor will we suffer any lanes or alleys to be erected but where, upon mature deliberation, the same shall be found absolutely necessary; except such places shall be set aside which shall be designed only for building of that kind, and from whence no public mischief may probably arise.
The irreparable damage and loss by the late fire, being next to the hand of God in the terrible wind, to be imputed to the place in which it first broke out, amongst small timber houses, standing so close together, that as no remedy could be applied from the river for the quenching thereof, to the contiguousness of the buildings, hindering and keeping all possible relief from the land side: we do resolve and declare, that there shall be a fair key or wharf on all the river side; that no house shall be erected within so many feet of the river, as shall be within a few days declared in the rules formerly mentioned; nor shall there be in those buildings which shall be erected next the river, which we desire may be fair structures for the ornament of the city, any houses to be inhabited by the brewers or dyers, or sugar bakers, which trades, by their continual smoak, contribute much to the unhealthfulness of the adjacent places; but we require the lord mayor and aldermen of London, upon a full consideration, and weighing all conveniences and inconveniences that can be forthseen, to propose such a place as may be fit for all those trades which are carried on by smoak, to inhabit together; or at least several places for the several quarters of the town for those occupations, and in which they shall find their account in convenience and profit, as well as other places shall receive the benefit in the distance of the neighbourhood; it being our purpose that they who exercise those necessary professions, shall be in all respects as well provided for and encouraged as ever they had been, and undergo as little prejudice as may be by being less inconvenient to their neighbours.
The grounds and foundations being laid, from the substance whereof we shall not depart, and which being published are sufficient to prevent any man's running into, or bringing any inconvenience upon, himself, by a precipitate engagement in any act which may cross these foundations, we have, in order to the reducing this great and gracious design into practice, directed, and we do hereby direct, that the lord mayor and court of aldermen do with all possible expedition, cause an exact survey to be made and taken of the whole ruins occasioned by the late lamentable fire, to the end that it may appear to whom all the houses and ground did in truth belong, what terms the several occupiers are possessed of, and at what rents, and to whom either corporations, companies, or single persons, the reversion and inheritance appertained; that some provision may be made, that though every man must not be suffered to erect what buildings and where he pleases, he shall not in any degree be debarred from receiving the reasonable benefit of what ought to accrue to him from such houses or lands; there being nothing less in our thoughts than that any particular person's right and interest should be sacrificed to the public benefit or convenience, without any such recompence, as in justice he ought to receive for the same. And when all things of this kind shall be prepared and adjusted by such commissioners, and otherwise which shall be found expedient, we make no doubt that such an act of parliament will pass as shall secure all men in what they shall and ought to possess.
By the time that this survey shall be taken, we shall cause a plot or model to be made for the whole building through these ruined places; which being well examined by all those persons who have most concernment as well as experience, we make no question but all men will be pleased with it, and conform to those orders and rules which shall be agreed for the pursuing thereof.
In the mean time we do heartily recommend it to the charity and magnanimity of all well disposed persons, and we do heartily pray unto Almighty God that he will infuse it into the hearts of men speedily to endeavour, by degrees, to re-edify some of those many churches which in this lamentable fire have been burnt down and defaced, that so men may have those public places of God's worship to resort to, to humble themselves together before him upon this heavy displeasure, and join in their devotion for his future mercy and blessing upon us; and as soon as we shall be informed of any readiness to begin such a good work, we shall not only give our assistance and direction for the model of it, and freeing it from buildings at too near a distance, but shall encourage it from our own bounty, and all other ways we shall be desired.
Lastly, that we may encourage men by our example, we will use all the expedition we can to rebuild our Custom House in the place where it formerly stood, and enlarge it with the most conveniences for the merchants that can be devised; and upon all other lands which belong unto us, we shall depart with any thing of our own right and benefit for the advancement of the public service and beauty of the city; and shall further remit to all those who shall erect any building according to this declaration, all duties arising to us upon the hearth money for the space of seven years.
Given at our court at Whitehall, the 13th day of September, 1666, in the eighteenth year of our reign.
Accordant with the munificent endeavours used by the king for renovating the city, the parliament was convened with all possible dispatch, and on the 18th of this month, passed an act for erecting a court of judicature, by which was to be determined all differences between landlords and tenants respecting houses and buildings demolished by the late fire, and the justices of the courts of King's Bench and Common Pleas, and the barons of the Exchequer, were appointed to be of the said court. The integrity and impartiality with which the judges conducted themselves, induced the citizens, in token of their gratitude, to cause the portraits of those virtuous men, to be hung up in Guildhall, as monuments of their great merit; but the service has so long elapsed, that the benefactors are nearly forgotten, and the portraits are mouldering into rottenness. A sad reflection on those to whom their preservation should have been a primary object.
The decisions of the judges were followed by an act of parliament for rebuilding the city; in which proper directions were given how the houses should be constructed, and for the regulation of builders; for granting the corporation powers to open and enlarge the streets and lanes; for appointing an annual fast on the day the fire broke out; for erecting a column of brass or stone on the spot where it began, with a proper inscription to perpetuate the memory of the disaster; and for imposing a duty of one shilling per chaldron or ton, on coals for ten years, towards defraying the necessary expenses of carrying the said act into execution.
The common council, on the 29th of April, 1667, also passed an act, in which they allotted what streets should be enlarged and widened, and to what respective widths they should be opened; and agreeably to the act of parliament, the following order was immediately framed, and presented to his majesty, who so highly approved of it, that, on the 8th of May following, he confirmed and enforced it by an order of council:--
It is ordered that the surveyors take special care, that the breast summers of all the houses do range of an equal heighth, house with house, so far as shall be convenient, and there to make breaks by directions.
And that they do encourage and give directions to all builders for ornament sake, that the ornaments and projections of the front buildings be of rubbed bricks; and that all naked parts of the walls may be done of rough bricks, neatly wrought, or all rubbed at the direction of the builders, who may otherwise enrich their fronts as they please.
That if any person or persons shall desire, in any street or lane of note, to build on each side of the lane, opposite one to the other, six or more houses of the third rate, or that the upper rooms or garrets may be flat roofs, encompassed with battlements of bricks covered with stone, or rails, and bannisters of iron or stone, or to vary their roofs for the greater ornament of building; the surveyors, or one of them, shall certify their opinions therein to the committee for rebuilding, who shall have liberty to give leave for the same, if they see cause.
That in all streets no sign posts shall hang across, but signs shall be fixed against the balconies, or some other convenient part of the side of the house.
It is ordered, that a postern shall be made on the north side of Newgate, for conveniency of foot passengers; and that Holborn-bridge shall be enlarged to run strait on a bevel line from the timber house on the north side thereof, known by the sign of the Cock, to the front of the building at the Swan inn, on the north side of Holborn-hill.
Forasmuch as it is provided in the late act for rebuilding, that the surveyors shall take care for the equal setting out of all party walls and piers, and no person be permitted to build till that be done; therefore, for preservation of any exaction in the taking of such surveys, and of all quarrels and contentions that may arise between the builders, it is ordered, that no builder shall lay his foundation, until the surveyors, or one of them (according to the act) shall view it, and see the party-wall and piers equally set out; and that all persons observe the surveyors' directions concerning the superstructure to be erected over the said foundation.
And that, for defraying that and all other incident charges of measuring, staking out, taking the level, and surveying the streets and ground, each builder, before he lays his foundation, and such survey shall be taken, do repair to the chamber of London, and there enter his name, with the place where his building is to be set out, and to pay to the chamberlain the sum of six shillings and eight-pence for every foundation to be rebuilt. For which Mr. Chamberlain shall give acquittances; upon receipt of which acquittances, the surveyors shall proceed to set out such person's foundations.
And it is ordered, that all persons who have already laid any foundations, shall forthwith pay into the chamber of London six shillings and eight-pence for every foundation.
And this court is consenting and desirous that all straight and narrow passages, which shall be found convenient for common benefit and accommodation, and shall receive his majesty's order and approbation, shall and may be enlarged and made wider, and otherwise altered, before the 20th of May now next ensuing, as shall be fitting for the beauty, ornament, and conveniency thereof, and staked and set out accordingly.
Several late inhabitants of Fleet-street intending to rebuild their houses, which did formerly stand backward of other foundations near adjoining, and desiring liberty to advance their houses, that the whole front may run on a straight line; the committee did agree to the same, if the right honourable the lord high chancellor of England and the other lords shall approve thereof, and procure his majesty's approbation to the same: and the committee do desire liberty may be given for other persons in other places where it shall be found convenient.
And it is ordered, that the committee for rebuilding do present the particulars aforesaid to the right honourable the lord high chancellor of England and the other lords, and that the same, if they receive his majesty's approbation, shall be forthwith printed and published.
Which being this day represented to the board by the right honourable the lord high chancellor of England, the same was approved of: and it was ordered that the same be punctually observed in every part thereof. And all persons concerned are required and commanded to yield due obedience, and conform themselves thereunto.
And about the same time, an act of common-council was passed for preventing and suppressing of fires for the future; in which, among other things, it was enacted,
1. That the city be divided into four divisions, and each thereof be provided with eight hundred leather buckets, fifty ladders of different sizes, from twelve to forty-two feet in length, two brazen hand-squirts to each parish, twenty-four pick-axe sledges, and forty shod shovels.
2. That each of the twelve companies provide themselves with an engine, thirty buckets, three ladders, six pick-axe sledges, and two hand-squirts, to be ready upon all occasions. And the inferior companies, such a number of small engines and buckets, as should be allotted them by the lord mayor and court of aldermen, according to their respective abilities.
3. That the aldermen, passed the office of sheriffalty, do provide their several houses with twenty-four buckets, and one hand, squirt each; and those who have not served that office, twelve buckets and one hand-squirt.
4. And, for the effectual supplying the engines and squirts with water, that pumps be placed in all wells; and fire-plugs in the several main pipes belonging to the New River and Thames water-works.
5. That the several companies of carpenters, bricklayers, plaisterers, painters, masons, smiths, plumbers, and paviours, do annually, for each corporation, elect two master workmen, four journeymen, eight apprentices, and sixteen labourers, to be ready, upon all occasions of fire, to attend the lord mayor and sheriffs for extinguishing the same.
6. That all the workmen and labourers belonging to the several water-works within the city, sea coal meters, Blackwell-hall, Leadenhall, ticket, package, and other porters, do constantly attend the lord mayor and sheriffs in all such services.
The citizens of London laboured but a short time under the inconveniences arising from their late calamity; for, by prudent vigilance, it was, to the astonishment of all Europe, rebuilt in the short space of four years, It should be remarked, that what is here said of the rebuilding of the city in such a short period, chiefly refers to the erection of the dwelling houses. in so different a manner from its original state, that those who beheld it before and after the fire, were no less astonished at the wealth of the citizens who could sustain so considerable a loss, than at the expedition and expence that was laid out in its restoration.
A favourable opportunity also offered, by which the city of London might have been rebuilt so as to have exceeded in beauty every
other city in the universe, had the following plans met with that countenance the ingenuity of the projectors merited.
The first of these plans was formed by Dr. (afterwards Sir) Christopher Wren, who had been appointed surveyor general and principal architect for rebuilding the whole city; the cathedral church of St. Paul; all the parochial churches (in number fifty-one, enacted by parliament in lieu of those that were burnt and demolished) with other public structures; and for the disposition of the streets. A charge so great and extensive, incumbent on a single person, disposed him to take to his assistance Mr. Robert Hook Robert Hook, a native of Freshwater, in the Isle of Wight, was educated under Dr. Busby, in Westminster school, whence he removed to Christchurch college, Oxford. He was one of the most eminent geometricians of his time, having perfected the air-pump for Mr. Boyle, improved the pendulum for finding the longitude, and contrived the circular pendulum, besides his many discoveries in the muscular system; and was the author of numerous mechanical and philosophical discoveries, honourable to him self and to his country, particularly the ingenious construction of watches. Upon his appointment of assistant to Dr. Wren, his co-operation with that great renovator of the city, was essential and highly useful. And by the joint efforts of these great men London assumed its present improved appearance, though not that elegance and convenience which their wishes suggested., professor of geometry in Gresham college, to whom he assigned chiefly the business of measuring, adjusting, and setting out the ground of the private streets to the several proprietors; reserving all the public works to his own peculiar care and direction.
Immediately after the fire he took a survey of the ruined spot, by the king's order, and designed a plan for a new city. In this plan all the deformities and inconveniences of the old capital were to be remedied, by enlarging the streets and lanes, and rendering them as nearly parallel to each other as possible; by seating all the parish churches in a conspicuous and regular manner ; by forming the most public places into large piazzas, the centers of eight ways; by uniting the halls of the twelve companies into one regular square annexed to Guildhall; and by making a commodious quay on the whole bank of the river, from Blackfriars to the Tower.
The streets were to be of three magnitudes; the three principal ones to run straight through the city, and one or two cross streets to be at least ninety feet wide; others sixty, and the lanes about thirty feet, excluding all narrow dark alleys, thoroughfares, and courts.
The Exchange to stand free in the middle of a piazza, and to be in the centre of the town, whence the streets should proceed to all the principal parts of the city ; and the building to be formed like a Roman forum, with double porticos.
Many streets were also to radiate upon the bridge, Those of the two first magnitudes to be carried on as straight as possible, and to centre in four or five areas surrounded with piazzas.
Plan for Rebuilding the City of London, by Sir C. Wren.
The key or open wharf on the bank of the Thames, to be spacious and convenient, without any interruptions, with some large docks for barges deep laden.
The canal to be cut up at Bridewell, one hundred and twenty feet wide, with sasses at Holborn bridge, and at the mouth, to cleanse it from all filth, with stowage for coals on each side.
The churches were to be designed according to the best forms for capably and hearing; and those of the larger parishes adorned with porticos and lofty ornamental towers and steeples; but all church-yards, gardens, and unnecessary vacuities, and all trades that use great fires, or produce noisome smells, were to be placed out of the town.
This excellent plan, which Sir Christopher laid before the king, is thus explained;
From that part of Fleet-street which escaped the fire, a straight street of ninety feet wide was to extend, and, passing by the south side of Ludgate, was to end gracefully in a piazza on Tower-hill.
In the middle of Fleet-street was to be a circular area surrounded with a piazza, the centre of eight ways, where, at one station, were to meet the following streets. The first, straight forward, quite through the city: the second, obliquely towards the right hand, to the beginning of the quay that was to run from Bridewell Dock to the Tower: the third, obliquely on the left, to Smithfield: the fourth, straight forward on the right, to the Thames: the fifth, straight on the left, to Hatton Garden and Clerkenwell; the sixth, straight backwards to Temple-bar: the seventh, obliquely on the right, to the walks of the Temple: and the eighth, obliquely on the left to Cursitor's-alley.
On passing down Fleet-street, and Ludgate-hill, Ludgate prison was to stand on the left side of the street, where a triumphal arch was to be formed, instead of the gate, in honour of king Charles II. the founder of the new city; and the cathedral of St. Paul was to be situated where it now stands, surrounded by a triangular piazza.
Leaving St. Paul's on the left, a straight street was to extend directly to the Tower, adorned all the way, at proper distances, with parish churches; and leaving that edifice to the right, the other great branches were to lead to the Royal Exchange, which was to be seated in the middle of a piazza, between two great streets, the one from Ludgate leading to the south front, and another from Holborn, through Newgate, and thence straight to the north front.
This excellent scheme was demonstrated to be practicable, without the least infringement on any person's property; for, by leaving out the church-yards, &c. which were to be removed at a distance from the town, there would have been sufficient room both for the augmentation of the streets, the disposition of the churches, halls, and all public buildings, and to have given every proprietor full satisfaction; for though few of them would have been seated exactly upon the very same ground they possessed before the fire, yet none would have been thrown at any considerable distance from it; but the obstinacy of great part of the citizens, in refusing to recede from the right of rebuilding their houses on the old foundations, was an insurmountable obstacle to the execution of this noble scheme, which would certainly have rendered the city of London one of the most magnificent in the universe.
The other scheme was projected by Sir John Evelyn. In this plan Sir John proposed that some of the deepest valleys should be filled up, or at least made with less sudden declivities. That a new and spacious quay should run from the Tower to the Temple, and extend itself as far as lower water mark; by which means the channel of the river would be kept constantly full; and the irregularity and deformity of the stairs, and the dirt and filth left at every ebb, would also be prevented.
He also proposed, in order to create variety in the streets, that there should be breaks and enlargements, by spacious openings at proper distances, surrounded with piazzas, and uniformly built with beautiful fronts; and that some of these openings should be square, some circular, and others oval. The principal streets were to be an hundred feet in breadth, and the narrowest not less than thirty. Three or four large streets were to be formed between the Thames and London Wall, reckoning that of Cheapside for the chief, which might be extended from Temple Bar to the upper part of Tower Hill, or to Crutched Friars, bearing the cathedral of St. Paul, on its present site, upon a noble eminence. Amidst these streets were to stand the parochial churches, so interspersed as to adorn the profile of the city at all its avenues. Most of them were to be in the centre of spacious areas, adorned with piazzas, &c. so as to be seen from several streets, and others were to be at the abutments and extremities.
Round the piazzas of the churches, the stationers and booksellers were to have their shops, and the ministers their houses. Round St. Paul's was to be the episcopal palace, the dean and prebends' houses, St. Paul's school, a public library, the prerogative and first-fruits' office, &c. all which were to be built at an ample distance from the cathedral, and with very stately fronts, in honour of that venerable pile. In some of these openings, surrounded by piazzas, were to be the several markets, and in others, open and public fountains constantly playing.
The college of physicians was to be situated in a principal part of the town, encircled with a handsome piazza, for the dwellings of those learned persons; with the surgeons, apothecaries, and druggists, in the streets about them. In this, as in other parts, all of a mystery were to be destined to the same quarters. Those of the better sort of shop-keepers, were to be in the most eminent streets and piazzas; and the artificers in the more ordinary houses in the intermediate and narrow passages. The taverns and victualling houses were to be placed amongst them, but so constructed as to preserve the most perfect uniformity.
The halls for the city companies were to be placed between the piazzas, market-places, and churches, and to be fronted with stone; among these was to be the Guildhall, distinguished from the rest by its being more pompous and magnificent; and, adjoining to this edifice, a magnificent house for the lord mayor, and two others for the sheriffs.
The Royal Exchange to front the Thames about the Steelyard, in an area bounded on three sides with piazzas, with vaults for warehouses beneath; and for such merchandise as could not be here preserved, might be erected buildings fronting the Thames on the other side the river, with wharfs before, and yards behind, for the placing of cranes, the laying of timber, coals, &c. and other gross commodities, while the quay over against it should be built for the owners, and the dwellings of the principal merchants; but if the warehouses must be on this side, they were to front Thames-street rather than the river, because of the dull and heavy appearance of those buildings. The little bay at Queenhithe was to have the Quay continued round it, and cloistered about for market people and fruiterers; and where the wharf then was, a stately avenue was to extend to St. Paul's Cathedral.
Four great streets were to extend along the city: the first from Fleet-ditch to the Tower; the second, from the Strand to the most eastern part of the city, where was to be a noble triumphal arch, in honour of the king; the third, from Newgate to Aldgate; and the fourth and shortest, from Aldersgate to Bishopsgate. Besides these, five principal cross streets were to extend from Blackfriars into West Smithfield; from the Thames, east of St. Paul's, to Aldersgate; from Queenhithe to Cripplegate; and from the Royal Exchange to Moorgate. The street from the bridge was to extend to Bishopsgate, and another from the Custom-house to Aldgate. Instead of houses on the bridge, the sides were to be adorned with a substantial iron balustrade, ornamented at convenient distances, with statues on their pedestals, and a footway on each side for the convenience of passengers.
The hospitals, workhouses, and prisons were to be situated in convenient quarters of the city; the hospitals to form one of the principal streets; but the prisons, and court for the trial of criminals, to be built near the entrance. The gates of the city were to be in the form of triumphal arches, adorned with statues, relievos, and apposite inscriptions, neither to be obstructed by sheds, nor to have mean houses joined to them.
Along the wall, between Cripplegate and Aldgate, were to be the church-yards of the several parishes; the houses opposite to them were to form a large street for the common inns, with stations for the carriages, &c. which, being on the north of the city, and nearest the confines of the fields and roads, would least encumber the town, and have a far more commodious and free access by reason of their immediate approaches through the traverse streets, than if they were scattered up and down without distinction. All noisome trades to be removed out of the city to convenient distances.
During the rebuilding of the city, some public events caused great commotion among the people. The shameful neglect of the king in not providing a naval force whilst engaged in a war with Holland, led to a bold enterprise on the part of De Ruyter, the Dutch admiral; who, in June, 1667, entering the river Thames with a powerful fleet, detached Van Ghent with seventeen light ships, besides fire-ships, and he sailed up the Medway, nearly as high as Rochester, and destroyed and carried off several men of war. The consternation which this news excited was very great, for it was known that the Dutch fleet might then have reached London without opposition. Burnet says, that the king was intending to retire to Windsor; but that looked so like a flying from danger, that he was prevailed on to stay : and though a day or two after that he rode through London, accompanied with the most popular men of his court, and assured the citizens he would live and die with his people, the matter went heavily. The city was yet in ashes, and the jealousy of burning it on design had got so among them, that the king himself was not free from suspicion. Bur. Hist. i. 250. The Dutch, however, did not advance, and time was obtained to construct temporary batteries along the banks of the Thames, and to execute other necessary measures.
In July, 1669, a proclamation was issued for suppressing conventicles, which abounded in all parts of the city; it having been thought hard to hinder men from worshipping God any where, as they could, when there were no churches nor ministers to look after them. Ibid. p. 270. The new act was principally a revival of the former one, but with additional and more severe clauses, which were executed with great rigour. The Quakers were more particularly tenacious of the public right of toleration than most other sects; and after their meeting-houses had been shut up by order, they held their assemblies in the streets before the closed doors. Brayley's London, i. 442.
Another act was passed by the same parliament, for empowering the citizens to widen various other streets and places than had before been agreed to; and for granting an additional sum of two shillings per chaldron on coals, for the term of seventeen years and five months, to rebuild the churches and other public works within the city and its liberties &c. By the same authority, the sole power of regulating, cleansing, pitching, and paving the streets of the city, and making and cleaning all drains and sewers, was vested in the corporation. Stat. at Large, 22 and 23 Cha II. c. 17. In the following year, a very judicious act, partly founded on the above statute, and partly on the ancient regulations, was made by the common council, for the local purposes just mentioned.
The profligate course which Charles and his court was now pursuing, raised the indignation of the independent members of the house of commons; and one of them, sir John Coventry, K. B. in a debate on the propriety of the tax on play-houses, which, to use the strong expression of Burnet, had then become nests of prostitution, sarcastically enquired, in answer to an assertion that the players were the king's servants, and a part of his pleasure, whether did the king's pleasure lie among the men or the women actors. Bur. Hist. i. 269. This having been reported in the court, the king ordered some of the guards to way-lay the indiscreet orator, and leave a mark upon him; and the Duke of Monmouth, Charles's son by Lucy Walters, was commanded to see the order obeyed. On the 25th of December, 1670, therefore, as Coventry was going to his lodgings, he was beset in the streets by sir Thomas Sandys, and others, who, after a sharp conflict, succeeded in disarming him, and then they cut his nose to the bone, to teach him to remember what respect he owed to the king. Ibid. p. 270. This outrage was highly resented by the parliament, which assembled in the January following, and passed, what has since been called the Coventry Act, by which the punishment of death was awarded against all who should, in future, maliciously maim or dismember another; and the perpetrators of the late crime, who had fled from justice, were adjudged to banishment for life; a clause was also inserted in the act, that it should not be in the king's power to pardon them. Ibid. On this occasion, the names of the court and country party, which till now had seemed forgotten, were again revived. Brayley's London, i. 443.
The commencement of the year 1672, was distinguished by the infamous measure of shutting up the exchequer, Echard relates a singular tale respecting the origin of the scheme of shutting up the exchequer, from a manuscript of sir John Tyler's; the substance of which is as follows:--The king promised the white staff to any one of his ministers who would devise a means of raising 1,500,000l. without applying to parliament. The next day, lord Ashley told sir Thomas Clifford that there was a way to do this; but that it was dangerous, and in its consequences might inflame both parliament and people. Clifford, impatient to know the secret, contrived to allure the lord Ashley into a conversation on the king's indigence, after he had flushed him with drink, in which he obtained the information he wished. Sir Thomas, on the same night, went to Whitehall to the king, and having obtained a renewal of the promise, provided the money could be found, disclosed the important secret. The project was soon put into execution; Clifford was advanced to the Treasurership, and created a peer Ashley, feeling indignant, said that Clifford had ploughed with his heifer: so to satisfy him, he was first made earl of Shaftesbury, and afterwards Lord Chancellor.--Ech. Hist. iii. 288 from which the bankruptcy and ruin of many of the principal bankers, merchants, and traders of London, almost immediately ensued. Long before this period, indeed, Charles, upon whose good faith the bankers had depended, had entered into that career of misgovernment, to use the appropriate language of Fox, which that he was able to pursue it to its end, is a disgrace to the history of our country. His councils were now directed by those shameless instruments of arbitrary power, whom history has denominated the CABAL, The word CABAL was formed from the initials of the five persons who composed this cabinet council of political infamy; viz. sir Thomas Clifford, the popish lord treasurer, who, with sir Anthony Ashley, (Cowper) earl of Shaftesbury, devised the scheme of shutting up the exchequer; the profligate duke of Buckingham, the unprincipled earl of Arlington, and the haughty and tyrannical duke of Lauderdale. who, equally with their royal, yet ignoble master, were the secret pensioners of France. Yet, through the want of a sufficiently genuine and reciprocal confidence between the sovereign and his ministers, the nation was at this time saved from the degrading tyranny which was subsequently established.
In the year 1674, on the accession of Sir Robert Vyner to the mayoralty, the king was magnificently entertained at Guildhall, where he accepted of the freedom of the city; the copy and seal of which were, in December, presented to him at Whitehall, in two large boxes of massive gold.
On lord mayor's day, 1677, the sovereign, with his queen, the duke of York, and his two daughters, Mary and Anne, the prince of Orange, and most of the nobility, were again sumptuously feasted by the citizens in Guildhall.
That the court had a latent design to introduce popery again into England was much suspected by many, and more particularly so, after it was known that the duke of York was a declared catholic. This feeling raised a far stronger spirit of resistance in the parliament than could have been thought probable in a body of men of whom so many were in the practice of receiving annual bribes from the king. The supplies, therefore, were generally withheld till other acts had been passed, more congenial to the sentiments of the people than to the intentions of the sovereign, who, by this means, was continually retarded in his endeavours to assume despotic power. The test act, at that period a measure of sound policy, however it may now disgrace the statute-book, was passed in March, 1673; in October, 1675, the commons drew up a test to be taken by their own members, disclaiming the receiving of any bribe or pension from the court; in April, 1677, the writ de Haeretico comburendo was repealed; in November, 1678, papists were disabled from sitting in either house of parliament; and, in the next month, several popish lords were impeached by the commons; in this extremity, Charles ordered the parliament to be dissolved by proclamation on the 25th of January, 1679.
About this period, the metropolis was strongly agitated by the inquiry that had been made into the reality of the Popish Plot, which had been first broached by the infamous Titus Oates and Dr. Tongue, in September, 1678; and had received an apparent confirmation through the mysterious murder of the protestant justice, sir Edmondbury Godfrey, in the following month. It is wholly inconceivable how such a plot as that brought forward by Tongue and Oates could obtain any general belief; nor can any stretch of candour make us admit it to be probable, that all who pretended a belief of it did seriously entertain it.
So little attention was at first given by Charles and his council to Oates' discoveries, that nearly six weeks were suffered to elapse, before any serious or strict examination was made into the truth or falsehood of the plot, even though the basis of it was said to be the assassination of the king. At length, Oates, and his accomplice Tongue, resolved in some way to make the matter public: and as a preparatory step, Oates drew up a narrative of particulars, to the truth of which he solemnly deposed before sir Edmondbury Godfrey, who was an eminent justice of the peace that resided near Whitehall. This, says Burnet, seemed to be done in distrust of the privy council, as if they might stifle his evidence; which to prevent, he put in safe hands. Upon that, Godfrey was chid for his presuming to meddle in so tender a matter; and, as appeared from subsequent events, a plan was immediately laid to murder him; and this, within a few weeks, was but too fatally executed.
The council had now taken up the business with warmth, ordering various arrests to be made; and among the number of those committed to prison, were sir George Wakeman, the queen's physician, Edward Coleman, secretary to the duke of York, Richard Langhorn, a lawyer of eminence, Thomas Whitebread, provincial of the Jesuits, and several other Jesuits and Papists. Coleman was at first committed to the charge of a messenger, whilst in whose custody, it was generally believed, that he had a long private conversation with sir Edmondbury Godfrey, who, it is certain, says Burnet, grew apprehensive and reserved; for meeting me in the street, after some discourse on the present state of affairs, he said, he believed he himself should be knocked on the head. Bur. Hist. i. 429. Godfrey's suspicion of his own danger was also confirmed by evidence, before the house of commons. About a fortnight afterwards, (on Saturday, October 12,) Godfrey was missing; nor could the most sedulous endeavours obtain any other tidings of him for some time, but that he was seen near Saint Clement's church in the Strand, about one o'clock on the day mentioned. On the Thursday evening following, his body was found in a ditch near Chalk farm, then called the White House, Primrosehill. His sword was thrust through him, but no blood was on his clothes, or about him; his shoes were clean; his money was in his pocket; but nothing was about his neck, [although when he went from home he had a large laced band on,] and a mark was all round it, an inch broad, which shewed he was strangled. His breast was likewise all over marked with bruises, and his neck was broken:and it was visible he was first strangled, and then carried to that place, where his sword was run through his dead body. Bur. Hist. i. 429. This full confirmation of the suspicions of the public, for that sir Edmondbury was murdered, had been the general discourse long before any proof appeared, was regarded as a direct testimony of the existence of the Popish Plot; and though the king, in his opening speech to the parliament, which met on the 25th of the month, took but a very slight notice of the rumoured conspiracy, both houses entered into the examination with great ardour; and the commons ordered warrants to be signed for the apprehension of twenty-six persons, who had been implicated by Oates, and among whom were the lords Powis, Stafford, Arundel of Wardour, Petre, and Bellasis, and Sir Henry Tichborne, Bart.; these noblemen surrendered themselves, and were committed to the Tower. Shortly afterwards, all popish recusants were commanded, by proclamation, to depart from the cities of London and Westminster, and all places within ten miles. The papists, says Rapin, accordingly departed out of London; though for so short a space, that in less than a fortnight they returned again, whether they had leave from their leaders to take the oaths, or knew that such proclamations were never strictly enforced. Rap. Hist. ii. 692.
On the last day of October, the remains of sir Edmondbury Godfrey, which had been embalmed, were carried with great solemnity from Bridewell hospital to St. Martin's church, to be interred. The pall was supported by eight knights, all justices of the peace, and the procession was attended by all the city aldermen, together with seventy-two London ministers, who walked in couples before the body; and great multitudes followed after, in the same order. As yet, however, the perpetrators of his murder had not been discovered, though a reward of 500l. and the king's protection had been offered to any person making the disclosure; but within a few days afterwards, one William Bedloe, a man of abandoned character, who had once been servant to the lord Bellasis, and afterwards an ensign in the Low Countries, was brought to London from Bristol, where he had been arrested by his own desire, on affirming that he was acquainted with some circumstances relating to Godfrey's death. On his different examinations, he stated that he had seen the murdered body in Somerset-house (then the queen's residence,) and had been offered a large sum of money to assist in removing it.note Besides Bedloe's oath, says Burnet, that he saw Godfrey's body in Somerset-house, it was remembered that, at that time, the queen was for some days in so close a confinement that no person was admitted. Prince Rupert came there to wait on her, but was denied access. This raised a stronger suspicion of her; but the king would not suffer that matter to go any farther. He also corroborated Oates's testimony in many particulars respecting the Popish Plot, and on their joint evidence, Coleman was soon afterwards convicted of high treason, in carrying on a traiterous correspondence with Father de la Chaise, confessor to Lewis the Fourteenth, in order to subvert the established religion and government. He suffered at Tyburn on the 3rd of December; but died protesting his innocence of any other design than to make the king and the duke as high as he could. It was given out, says Burnet, to make the duke more odious, that he was kept up from making a confession by the hopes the duke sent of a pardon at Tyburn, and this was subsequently corroborated by a man named Stephen Dugdale, who had been lord Aston's bailiff, and came forward as a third evidence in support of the reality of the Popish Plot. He stated that he had learned from one Evers, a Jesuit, that the duke had sent to Coleman, when he was in Newgate, to persuade him not to make any discovery ; and also, that he had inquired whether he had ever discovered their designs to any other person; and that Coleman sent back answer that he had spoke of them to Godfrey; upon which the duke gave orders to kill him.
Soon afterwards Oates and Bedloe implicated the queen as having been concerned in the plot, but the king refused to listen to it, and told Burnet, that though she was a weak woman, and had some disagreeable humours, she was not capable of a wicked thing. Soon afterwards, on December the 6th, the commons impeached the imprisoned lords, and on the twenty-first, they also impeached the earl of Danby, lord treasurer; but before the Lords had resolved on his committal to the Tower, the king, who saw himself and his brother aimed at in the person of his minister, prorogued the parliament, which in the following month was dissolved by proclamation, as mentioned before.
On the same day that the commons had impeached the lord treasurer, Miles Prance, a goldsmith, who had sometimes wrought in the Queen's chapel, was taken up on suspicion of having been concerned in the death of Godfrey ; and, on his subsequent confession and testimony, confirmed by Bedloe, and others, Green, Hill, and Berry, all of them in subordinate situations at Somerset-house, were convicted of the murder, which they had effected in conjunction with two Irish Jesuits who had absconded. It appeared that the unfortunate magistrate had been inveigled in at the water-gate to Somerset-house, under the pretence of his assistance being wanted to allay a quarrel, and that he was immediately strangled with a twisted handkerchief, after which, Green, with all his force, wrung his neck almost round. On the fourth night after, the assassins conveyed his body to the place where it was discovered near Primrose Hill, and there one of the Jesuits run his sword through the corpse, in the manner it was found. Green and Hill were executed on the twenty-first of February; but Berry was reprieved till the twenty-eighth of May. All of them affirmed their innocence to the very last; and Berry declared himself a Protestant. Brayley's London, i. 451.
In the ensuing elections for a new parliament, which had been summoned to meet on the sixth of March anno 1679,) such a preponderating majority of the country party was returned, that Charles thought it expedient to command his brother to go beyond the seas, a few days previous to the commencement of the session. When the commons had assembled, after a six days' contest respecting their right of choosing a speaker without the king's interference, they proceeded to make further inquiries into the Popish Plot, and addressed the king that the 500l. promised by the proclamation for the discovery of Godfrey's murder, should be paid to Bedloe, which was accordingly done. Shortly afterwards, a bill of attainder was brought in against the earl of Danby, who, to prevent its effect, surrendered himself in April, and was committed to the Tower. In May, the Habeas Corpus Act, which Mr. Fox has characterized as the most important barrier against tyranny, and best-framed protection for the liberty of individuals, that has ever existed in any ancient or modern commonwealth, Life of Jam. II. p. 35. was passed; and a bill for excluding the duke of York from the succession to the throne, was also brought in, but the king prevented its passing at that time, by proroguing the parliament.
Shortly before this, the metropolis was much agitated by a new design of the papists to destroy London, which was attempted to be carried into effect by a maid servant, who set fire to her master's house in Fetter-lane, by the instigation of one Stubbs; by whom it was declared, that he had persuaded her to the attempt, on the assurance of Father Gifford, his confessor, that it was no sin to burn all the houses of the heretics. Four Jesuits, who were implicated in this design, were executed; but the commons obtained pardon for Stubbs and the servant, on account of their ready confession. Ech. Hist. vol. iii. p. 540. To quiet the alarm, a new proclamation was issued for expelling all papists to the distance of twenty miles from the city.
The presumed reality of the Popish Plot may be contravened from the fact of the discoveries of Oates and Bedloe not having been all unfolded at the same time. Both of them were at different periods asked, whether they had stated all they knew; and both of them protested that they had, though they afterwards made many new and important disclosures. It was probably from this circumstance, connected with the despicable character of the witnesses, and the many improbabilities, and some known falsehoods in their evidence, that impressed the mind of Mr. Fox with the belief that the whole plot was a fiction; yet, however intricate the circumstances, and difficult of development as they must be regarded, there still appears sufficient proof of a design having been then actually on foot to subvert the established religion. The hypothesis of a double plot, perhaps; of one of which, the most active, the duke of York was leader; and, of the other, the most latent, the king himself, would seem to unravel many of the difficulties that perplex this gordian knot of British history.
In the month of October, the rumour of a new plot became prevalent in London; and one Dangerfield, whom Burnet describes as a subtle and dextrous man, who had gone through all the shapes and practices of roguery, gave information of a design to seize the royal family, and change the form of the government. He accused the dukes of Monmouth and Buckingham, the earl of Essex, the lord Halifax, and several eminent citizens, of being parties in this scheme; but a nefarious attempt which he made to introduce forged papers into the lodgings of colonel Mansel, In Axe-yard, King-street, Westminster; Dang. Nar. p. 42. led to the disclosure of his villany, and he was committed to Newgate. Two days afterwards, the scheme of the whole fiction was found fairly written, hidden in a meal-tub, whence this acquired the appellation of the Meal-tub-plot, in the house of a popish midwife, with whom Dangerfield had an intrigue; the latter finding himself thus detected, sent for the lord mayor and made a full disclosure of all the circumstances of the pretended plot, which had been chiefly contrived by the countess of Powis, for the purpose of stigmatizing the protestants, and furthering the popish cause. The countess, and Roger Palmer, earl of Castlemain, were shortly afterwards sent to the Tower; and Gadbery, the astrologer, Mrs. Cellier, the midwife, and some others were also committed to prison: all of them being implicated by Dangerfield's evidence, yet eventually they were all cleared, the different juries not crediting his testimony. Burnet's Hist. i. 475-6; and Rap. Hist. ii. 711. Mrs. Cellier afterwards published an account of her trial, mingled with libellous remarks, for which she was sentenced to stand three times in the pillory, and fined 1000l.
The people were rendered so indignant by the detection of the Meal-tub Plot, that they determined to express their feelings against the papists in a marked way. Accordingly, on the 17th of November, the anniversary of queen Elizabeth's accession, which, at that time, was a popular holiday, the annual solemnity of burning the pope, was performed with additional ceremonies of mock grandeur. Priests in copes, Carmelites, Grey-friars, Jesuits, Bishops, and Cardinals, all marched in pontificalibus, in the procession, which was headed by a man on horseback, personating the dead body of sir Edmondbury Godfrey, with a bell-man to remind the people of his murder: the cardinals were followed by the pope, who was enthroned in state, attended by boys scattering incense, and the devil, as his prime minister, whispering in his ear. The procession commenced at Bishopsgate, and after his holiness had been paraded through the principal streets of the city, he was conducted in the evening to Fleet-street, and there committed to the flames, amidst the huzzas of a vast multitude of spectators.
The proceedings of the king, during the whole course of this year, had betrayed a decided intention of governing without a parliament; though, as if in deference to the public voice, he had, in April, chosen a new council, into which many of the whigs, as the country party were now denominated, had been admitted. The appellations of Whig and Tory, which have continued through all the subsequent reigns, originated in the feuds of that of Charles the Second; the respective parties distinguishing each other by these terms in derision. The courtiers reproached their antagonists with their resemblance to the rigid covenanters in Scotland, who were said to live upon sour milk, called whig, whence they were denominated Whigs. The country party discovered a similitude between their opponents and the Irish robbers and cut-throats, called Tories; and however inappropriate the terms themselves, they are still regarded as characteristic of those parties, which are supposed to represent either the independent and popular interests of the country, or the more immediate friends of the crown as opposed to the rights of the people.-Brayley's London, i. 455. Without the concurrence of this body, however, he, in July, dissolved one parliament; and, in October, forbade any of its members to say a word against his resolution of proroguing another, though the latter had not yet assembled; but the kings, having watched the elections, justly apprehended that it would prove inimical to his designs. On this, the principal members in the whig interest resigned their places at the council-board, which gave the duke's party a decided influence. The metropolis, as well as the whole country, was now in great ferment. Petitions for the meeting of parliament flowed in from every part, and many of them were conceived in such strong language, that the king prohibited them by proclamation. Still they had the effect of occasioning him to summon the parliament to meet in January, 1680, instead of in the November following, as he had intended; yet the session was of very short continuance, for after Charles, in a brief speech, had said that the unsettled state of the nation rendered a long interval of the parliament absolutely necessary, a prorogation was commanded till the 15th of April. Two days afterwards, the king declared in council that he had recalled his brother, from not having found such an effect from his absence, as should incline him to keep him longer from him; and on the 24th of February, the duke arrived in London. On the 8th of March, Charles and his brother were sumptuously entertained by sir Robert Clayton, the lord mayor, at his house in the Old Jewry.
The lord Stafford being tried and convicted of high treason, for being concerned in the late popish plot, received sentence to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. This judgment, upon application to the king, was commuted into beheading; which Bethel and Cornish, the sheriffs, entertaining some scruples about, occasioned their presenting the following queries to the house of commons:-- 1. Whether the king, being neither judge nor party, can award the execution? 2. Whether the lords can award the execution? 3. Whether the king can dispense with any part of the execution? 4. If the king can dispense with some part of the execution, why not all? But, lest the commons interfering in the affair should prevent Stafford's execution, they were willing he should enjoy his majesty's favor of being beheaded; which was executed on the 29th of November on Tower-hill.
On the 13th of January, 1681, a strong petition was presented to the king, by the lord-mayor and common-council, for reassembling the parliament on the 20th, (the day to which it had been prorogued,) yet, on the 18th, as if in contempt of the city, the parliament was dissolved by proclamation, and a new one was summoned to meet at Oxford, on the 21st of March. The most strenuous exertions were now made by both parties to secure a preponderance. Several of the more patriotic members of the privy council were struck off the list by the king's own hand, and other changes were made favourable to his purposes. The country party mostly re-chose their old members; and, in particular, the city of London, for which sir Robert Clayton, sir Thomas Player, Thomas Pilkington, and William Love, esquires, were a third time returned. As soon as the election was over, the citizens assembled in common-hall, and after their most hearty thanks to their representatives for their past conduct, they resolved, by God's assistance, to stand by them with their lives and fortunes; being confidently assured that the said members for the city will never consent to the granting any money or supply till they have effectually secured them against popery and arbitrary power.
The divisions between Charles and the commons appeared strongly to indicate a renewal of civil war, and the ordering the parliament to assemble at Oxford was by no means calculated to allay this suspicion. Many of the members, apprehending violence, attended in that city on the day appointed, with armed retinues; and, in particular, the London representatives, who came with numerous body of well-armed horse, having ribbands in their hats, with the words-- No Popery! No Slavery! woven in them.
The king, finding the commons were not to be diverted from their favourite measure of excluding the duke entirely from the succession, suddenly commanded them to attend in the house of lords, where the king dissolved the parliament, and then immediately taking coach, departed for Windsor, and the next day returned to Whitehall. His resolution never to call another parliament was now fixed: it had been made, indeed, one of the stipulations to which he was bound by the French king, and on which he was to receive his stipend. Brayley's London, i. 458.
The whole history of the remaining part of his reign exhibits an uninterrupted series of attacks upon the liberty, property, and lives of his subjects. The city of London seemed to hold out for a certain time, like a strong fortress in a conquered country; and by means of this citadel, Shaftesbury and others were saved from the vengeance of the court. But this resistance however honorable to the corporation who made it, could not be of long duration. The weapons of law and justice were found feeble, when opposed to the power of a monarch who was at the head of a numerous and bigotted party of the nation, and who, which was most material of all, had enabled himself to govern without a parliament. The court having wrested from the livery of London, partly by corruption, and partly by violence, the free election of their mayor and sheriffs, did not wait the accomplishment of their plan for the destruction of the whole corporation, which, from their first success, they justly deemed certain; but immediately proceeded to put in execution their system of oppression. Pilkington, Colt, and Oates were fined 100,000l. each, for having spoken disrespectfully of the duke of York; and Barnardiston 10,000l for having, in a private letter, expressed sentiments deemed improper; and Sidney, Russell, and Armstrong found that the just and mild principles which characterize the criminal law of England could no longer protect their lives, when the sacrifice was called for by the policy or vengeance of the king.' Life of James II. p. 43-45.
Every possible endeavour was henceforth made to discredit the reality of the popish plot, and various trials were instituted to overawe the supporters of parliament. As yet, however, the measures of the king were thwarted by the firmness of the citizens, but on the election of the lord mayor at Michaelmas, the court party prevailed, and sir John Moor was chosen into that office.
At this time, party matters running very high in the city, each side exerted themselves in a very extraordinary manner to secure the sheriffs of London and Middlesex in their interest; therefore, sir John Moor, willing to run all lengths to serve the court, resolved to secure one of the sheriffs in the same interest for the year ensuing, by insisting on his right of nomination, by the ceremony of drinking to one of his fellow-citizens; and accordingly, says an author of the time, (who published a true and impartial account of the proceedings of the common-hall of the city of London at Guildhall, on the 24th of June, 1682, for electing of sheriffs) at the Bridge-house feast, the 18th of May, his lordship was pleased to pass the compliment of drinking to Dudley North, esq; a ceremony, whereby the person so drank to has been looked upon as put in nomination, or to be, in the judgment of the chair, a very fit man to be one of the sheriffs, if the common-hall shall elect him.
Soon after, Mr. North, before he was chosen by the commonhall, and indeed a considerable time before the day of election, merely upon such my lord's drinking to him, came to a court of aldermen, and gave bond to hold sheriff.
The right honourable the lord mayor then issued forth his precept to the respective companies; but it ran in an unaccustomed form as followeth:
By the mayor.
These are to require you, that on Midsummer-day next, being the day appointed as well for confirmation of the person who hath been by me chosen, according to the ancient custom and constitution of this city, to be one of the sheriffs of this city and county of Middlesex for the year ensuing, as for the election of the other of the said sheriffs, and other officers, you cause the livery of your company to meet together at your common hall early in the morning, and from thence to come together decently and orderly in their gowns to Guildhall, there to make the said confirmation and election. Given the 19th of June, 1682.
This occasioned much discourse and some distraction amongst the companies, some issuing out their summons to their members, to meet and chuse sheriffs, &c. (as anciently) others (after this new mode) for confirmation and election, and some only for electing city officers.
On Friday, the 23rd day of June, the matter being taken into debate at the court of aldermen, after some time, it was desired that Mr. Recorder would deliver his sentiments; who, in a judicious speech, gave his opinion, that the right of election of both the sheriffs lay in the commonalty, and that the sheriffs pro tempore were judges of the poll, if any were: and the whole court acquiesced therein. Whereupon some companies that had sent forth summons for confirmation and election, awarded new ones for election only.
On Midsummer-day, the annual appointed day for choice, the liverymen assembled in common-hall very numerous; and, after the lord mayor and aldermen were come upon the hustings, the common crier made proclamation, and said to this purpose: you gentlemen of the livery of London, attend your confirmation. Upon which the common hall vigorously interrupted, and cried No confirmation! no confirmation! and so continued urging their right in that behalf near half an hour, not suffering him to go on. After which, Mr. Recorder stepped upon the hustings, and made a speech; wherein he set forth the excellence of government in general, and the happiness particularly of our own, and especially of this great and opulent city, more immediately as to their great privilege of chusing their own sheriffs, citing for the same the grant in the charter of king John, &c.
The lord mayor and aldermen then withdrew, and Mr. Common Serjeant offering to speak, the common-hall cried election! election! and the work of the day! But the sheriffs desiring their patience, he went on, and spake a few words, relating in general to the business of the day.
The hall then proceeded in the usual ancient method; and the contest about confirmation being relinquished, there were put in nomination for sheriffs the before-named Dudley North, Thomas Papillion, John Dubois, and Ralph Box, esqrs.
Upon view of the hands, the election was declared to fall upon Mr. Papillion and Mr. Dubois, they having apparently the majority by a thousand or twelve hundred hands. But however a poll was demanded and granted for all the said candidates.
Between two and three o'clock the poll began, eight or nine books and writers being prepared in Guildhall-Yard, and persons appointed to inspect them on either side. It was desired by some, that a distinct column might be for such as were for confirmation; but that being resolved in the negative, and the only dispute now not being for or against confirmation, but which two of the four gentlemen should be chosen by the common-hall for sheriffs, the same was refused as impracticable and impertinent, but all left at liberty to poll for which of the four competitors they pleased. Yet some few factious and troublesome men, only to create occasion for cavil, demanded to be polled for confirmation (as they called it) yet refused to declare who they would confirm, or name any that they would poll for, and yet complained to the court of aldermen, and some of them (as particularly Mr. Masters in St. Paul's church-yard) offered to make oath, that they were denied or refused to be polled.
It was to be taken notice of, that there were fluttering up and down the hall a great many swordsmen and hectoring persons no citizens) who insolently affronted people; as some of them id Mr. Recorder, and others some of the aldermen and citizens, giving unreasonable and almost insufferable provocations, especially in the afternoon, on purpose, as 'tis reasonably believed, to cause some disturbance; but the moderation of the citizens was such, as scorned to take notice of these foolish extravagants, further than modestly to reprove their want of respect to authority, and their incivility.
It appearing that the suffrages were likely to fall upon Papillion and Dubois, several that were there for North and Box applied themselves to my lord mayor, suggesting as if they were denied to poll, and that many of their party were absent, and the like complaints, which occasioned his lordship's coming to the hall, (some people following very rudely, with huzzas and unusual clamour.) His honour sending for the sheriffs into the council-chamber, they excused themselves for the present, being busy in the work of the day, but promised to wait on his lordship as soon as the poll concluded. His lordship came to the polling-place, and seemed to forbid the further proceeding in the poll; but the sheriffs offered several reasons why they ought to go on, being in the legal discharge of their office, and so proceeded.
About seven o'clock in the evening, the mayor, and some few aldermen came to the hustings (the sheriffs being still polling in the yard), where the common crier, by direction from his lordship, spoke to the promiscuous company in the hall to this effect: All you that were summoned to appear here this day, are required to depart, and to give your attendance on Tuesday, at nine o'clock in the morning. But omitting to mention the occasion, some of the people asked for what? But the generality called a poll! a poll! However, his lordship being gone, the sheriffs continued the poll as before, intending, for the ease of their fellow-citizens, to have dispatched it that night; but it growing near nine o'clock that night, and there being present some small number of persons who then unseasonably demanded to be polled, the sheriffs thought fit to adjourn into the hall for half an hour, in which time there were assembled in the great hall three or four thousand people, calling out a hall! a hall! until the sheriffs came upon the hustings, and then Mr. sheriff Shute spoke to this effect: Gentlemen, we have had a poll to-day; and we, the sheriffs, as we are the king's ministers, so we have done and will act therein with all fairness and honesty, as becomes us. My lord mayor hath taken upon him to adjourn this court; but we do now tell you, that we do adjourn this court until Tuesday morning nine o'clock, then to declare the poll, or to poll any such as have right to poll, or have not yet polled already.
Then the sheriffs went home, attended with great multitudes of citizens, following them with loud and grateful acclamations of God bless the Protestant sheriffs, God bless Papillion and Dubois, &c. However, upon the complaint of the mayor that he was there almost jostled off his legs, the lord mayor, aldermen, and sheriffs, were commanded to attend the privy council the Monday following; and being severally examined concerning the late riot, Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Shute, the sheriffs, and alderman Cornish, were committed prisoners to the Tower of London, by a warrant signed by twenty-four privy counsellors, who at the same time gave orders to the attorney general to exhibit an information in the court of king's bench against them, and all such as upon examination should be found to have been promoters and encouragers of the late tumult, to be proceeded against to the utmost severity of the law.
On the Friday following the said prisoners were, by a writ of
Habeas Corpus, carried by the lieutenant of the Tower to the king's-bench bar, where having pleaded not guilty, they were admitted to bail; whereupon the sheriffs met a common-hall on the first of July, when the lord mayor, though indisposed, sent an order to the recorder, to adjourn the hall to the seventh following; but the sheriffs again denying the validity of such adjournment, proceeded in the election, and declared Papillion and Dubois duly elected.
Pursuant to this adjournment, the lord mayor and his party met on the 7th of July, and heard council on the validity of the late adjournments; but coming to no conclusion, the court was again adjourned to the 14th, at which time the following order of council was produced:
His majesty being informed by the lord mayor, and divers of the aldermen of London, that the disorders and riots arisen in the city, upon the day appointed for the election of sheriffs, have been chiefly occasioned by the proceedings of the common hall in an irregular way, contrary to what hath been anciently accustomed; his majesty, by the advice of his council, hath thought fit, for the better keeping of the peace of the city, to direct, and hereby to require the lord mayor to maintain and preserve entire the ancient customs of the city; and, for the better doing thereof, to take effectual order, that, at the common hall to be held tomorrow, all proceedings be begun anew, and carried on in the usual manner, as they ought to have been upon the twenty-fourth of June last.
This order being read in the common-hall, it was vigorously opposed by many of the most eminent citizens, as an innovation, tending to destroy their ancient rights and privileges. However, the lord mayor, in obedience to the said order, declared North duly elected by him, without the sanction of a common-hall; and then proceeded to a poll for another sheriff, to which none coming that had voted for Papillion and Dubois at the former election, Box was chosen without opposition, and North and he were returned duly elected; while Papillion and Dubois were left to seek their remedy at law.
On the twenty-seventh of the same month, the court of lord mayor and aldermen re-assembled in Guildhall, where, for their greater security, a company of trained bands were posted. Thither great number of citizens resorted from all parts, and required an answer to their late petition, for the swearing in of Papillion and Dubois, as sheriffs for the year ensuing; whereupon some of the principal of them being called in, they received, as final, this disagreeable answer:
This court hath considered of your petition, and will take care that such persons shall take the office of sheriffs upon them as are duly elected, according to the law and the ancient customs of this city; and in this, and all other things, this court will endeavour to maintain the rights and privileges of the chair, and of the whole city; and wherein ye think we do otherwise, the law must judge between us.
Mr. Box, it seems, being sensible that the manner of his election could not be legally justified, prudently declined serving the office of sheriff, by paying the accustomed fine of exemption. Wherefore it was necessary to proceed to a new election, to which end a common hall was summoned, wherein Mr. Peter Birch (bishop Burnet calls him Rich) was chosen; who, together with Mr. North, was sworn before the lord mayor.
The violence and injustice with which this matter was managed, showed that the court was resolved to carry their point at any rate; and this gave great occasion of jealousy that some wicked design was on foot; for which it was necessary, in the first place, to be sure of favourable juries. And it appears also to have been the opinion of others, for Lord Russel takes notice of these proceedings in his dying words, after the same manner, and concludes, that he was not much surprised to find the consequence to fall upon himself.
Soon after, sir William Hooker and sir Henry Tulse, aldermen of this city, informed against their brother, alderman Pilkington, for saying that the duke of York has fired this city, and is now come to cut our throats. The duke commenced a process against Pilkington for scandalum magnatum, which was tried on the 24th of November, when the jury gave the plaintiff no less than an exorbitant sum of one hundred thousand pounds damage. So forward were the juries of this time to oblige the court at the expence of the ruin of their fellow-citizens! Whereupon Pilkington surrendered himself in discharge of his bail; and North, one of the sheriffs, was chosen to succeed him as alderman.
At the time, as it was sworn, that Pilkington reflected upon the duke of York, besides Hooker and Tulse, sir Patience Ward, the late lord mayor, was also present; who, upon Pilkington's trial, deposed, that, to the best of his remembrance, he did not hear the words spoken said to be criminal. This seems to have been crime enough; for, two having swore it, it must of course be true; and the third, for not hearing it, must be deemed perjured; therefore, Ward was indicted and convicted of perjury: which occasioned Burnet to say, that juries at that time were a reproach to religion, and a scandal to the nation. Maitland, i. 1476.
In the May following, Pilkington and Shute, the late sheriffs, together with twelve aldermen and principal citizens of the whig party, were condemned in large fines for continuing the poll for sheriffs in the preceding year, after the lord mayor had ordered it to be adjourned.
Among the attempts to enslave the people, was the invasion of the chartered rights of the whole kingdom, by writs of quo warranto, and many towns and boroughs had already surrendered their dearest privileges, rather than enter into a contest with despotic power. The right of having those persons nominated for sheriffs of London who were most at the will of the crown, was liable to be annually contested, a more decisive blow was therefore meditated against the city, and sir Robert Sawyer, the attorney-general, by the advice and authority of sir Edmund Sanders, undertook to procure the forfeiture of the city charters, on the most unjustifiable pretexts.
The substance of these were, first, that the court of common-council having presented a petition to the king on his proroguing the parliament, when they were about to try several noble persons on the popish plot; and by their printing and publishing the said petition, which was deemed seditious, had possessed the people with an ill opinion of the king and government :--Secondly, that on rebuilding the markets, after the great fire, certain tolls had been established by the corporation on goods brought to market, towards defraying the expenses; which, to suit the present intentions of the court, were said to be illegal :--Thirdly, that all the crown gave was forfeitable to the crown again upon a malversation of the body:--Fourthly, that as the common-council was the body of the city, chosen by all the citizens, so they were all involved in what the common-council did:--and Fifthly, since they had both scandalized the king's government and oppressed their fellow-subjects, they had, in consequence, forfeited their liberties.
To this the corporation pleaded, First, that upon the warrant of many charters they claimed to be, and were a body politic, which traversed their usurping upon the king:--Secondly, that by the same warrant, and the liberty and franchise thus granted, they claimed to make and constitute sheriffs :--Thirdly, that by several patents of Charles the First, they claimed to be justices and to hold sessions.
To make the iniquity against the city more palpable, it is observable, that when the demurrer in this cause was joined, sir Francis Pemberton sat as chief justice of the King's Bench; but, before the ensuing term, when it was to be argued, he was removed to the court of Common Pleas merely to provide for sir Edward Sanders, who, for drawing out and advising these pleadings, was promoted to be chief justice of England.
The endeavours of the citizens to support their conduct, and repel these infringements on their dear-bought liberties, were strenuously resisted by the ministry, which was determined at all events to crush them. Accordingly, in Trinity term, on the 12th of June, 1683, the quo warrant being argued and determined, justice Jones, Sanders having died during the interim, pronounced, by order of the court, the following sentence on the city :--That a city might forfeit its charter; that the malversations of the common-council were acts of the whole city; and that the two points set forth in the pleadings, were just grounds for the forfeiture of a charter. Upon which premises, the conclusion seemed to be that, therefore the city of London had forfeited its charter.
But what is singular, although it was determined that the king might seize the liberties of the city, yet, contrary to what is usual in such cases, the attorney-general was ordered to move that the judgment might not be recorded.
The alarmed citizens immediately summoned a court of common-council to deliberate on what measures were most proper to pursue in such an exigency. The country party moved to have the judgment entered; but this was overruled by the court party, who basely insisted upon an absolute submission to the king, before judgment was entered: and though this was, in effect, voluntary surrender of the city liberties, and depriving themselves of the means of obtaining the judgment to be reversed, the act of submission was carried by a great majority. The consequence was, that a petition was drawn up and carried to the king at Windsor, on the 18th of June, by the lord mayor, at the head of a deputation from the council; in which petition they acknowledged their own misgovernment, and his majesty's lenity; solicited his pardon, and promised constant loyalty and obedience; and humbly begged his majesty's commands and direction.
When the king had read the petition, the lord-keeper North, by his majesty's order, after reproaching the citizens for not having been more early in their application, told them that the king would not reject their suit on the following conditions:--First, that no lord mayor, sheriff, recorder, common serjeant, town-clerk, or coroner of the city of London, or steward of the borough of Southwark, should be capable of, or admitted to, the exercise of their respective offices, before his majesty had approved them under his sign manual. Secondly, that if his majesty should disapprove the choice of any person to be lord mayor, and signified the same under his sign manual, the citizens, within one week, were to proceed to a new choice: and, if his majesty, in like manner, disapproved of the second choice, he might, if he pleased, nominate a person to be lord mayor for the ensuing year. Thirdly, that the lord mayor and court of aldermen might also, with the leave of his majesty, displace an alderman, recorder, or other officer. Fourthly, upon the election of an alderman, if the court of aldermen should judge and declare the person presented to be unfit, the ward to choose again; and, upon a disapproval of the second choice, the court to appoint another. Fifthly, the justices of the peace to be by the king's commission; and the settling of these matters to be left to his majesty's attorney and solicitor-general, and council learned in the law. The lord keeper added, that these regulations being made, his majesty would not only stop this prosecution, but would also confirm their charter : and he concluded thus: My lord mayor, the term draws at an end, and Midsummer is at hand, when some of the officers used to be chosen; whereof his majesty will reserve the approbation. Therefore, it is his majesty's pleasure that you return to the city, and consult the common council, that he may speedily know your resolutions thereupon, and accordingly give his directions. That you may see the king is in earnest, and the matter is not capable of delay, I am commanded to let you know he hath given orders to his attorney-general to enter upon judgment on Saturday next, unless you prevent it by your compliance in all these particulars.
On the return of the lord mayor to the city, a court of common council was immediately summoned to determine whether or not these stipulations should be accepted; and violent debates ensued on the question: the friends of liberty declared they would sacrifice all that was dear to them, rather than yield to such slavish conditions; nevertheless, their opposition was at length rendered nugatory by a majority of eighteen. For more extended particulars, see Mait. Lond. i. 477-483; and Burnet's Hist. i. 533-535.
Though the submission of the city had been sufficiently degrading, the king appears to have thought otherwise, and he therefore commanded the judgment that had been given upon the quo warranto to be entered up; and this was no sooner done, than, by a commission under the great seal, he appointed the lord mayor, sir William Pritchard, and the sheriffs, Peter Daniel and Samuel Dashwood, esquires, to hold their respective offices, during pleasure; at the same time, he displaced the recorder, sir George Treby, and preferred Mr. Thomas Jenner to the vacant place. Charles was now seated on the pinnacle of despotism: the example of the city had spread a general alarm, and most of the other corporations tamely resigned their charters, nor could they obtain new ones till they had paid considerable sums; and, even then, all places of power and profit, like those of the capital, were left at the disposal of the crown, in which state they remained till the revolution.
In the course of this year, the Rye-house Plot was made the pretext for effecting the destruction of those eminent patriots, Russel and Sydney, two names, says Mr. Fox. that will, it is hoped, be for ever dear to every English heart; when their memory shall cease to be an object of respect and veneration, it requires no spirit of prophecy to foretell that English liberty will be fast approaching to its final consummation. Life of James II. p. 50. William, lord Russel, was beheaded in Lincoln's Inn-fields, on the 21st of July; and Algernon Sidney, on Tower-hill, on the 7th of December. They both died with exemplary firmness; their deportment was such as might be expected from men, who knew themselves to be suffering, not for their crimes, but their virtues. Ibid. Several other persons, who were implicated in the plot, whether by truth or falsehood, were also executed at different times; and the earl of Essex, as there is strong reason to believe, was basely murdered in the Tower, on the 13th of July (the day on which lord Russel was tried) by the duke's connivance, though it was given out that he had committed suicide to avoid his impending fate for high treason.
The year 1684 was as distinguished by similar violations of law and justice as the preceding one. In February, John Hampden, esq. grandson to the patriot Hampden, was tried for a treasonable misdemeanor, and the jury declaring him guilty, agreeably to the express charge of the infamous Jefferies, (who, for his services to the court, had been made lord chief justice of the King's Bench,) who told them, that unless they condemned him, they would discredit all that had been dons before; Bur. Hist. i. 576. he was fined 10,000l. A few days afterwards, sir Samuel Barnardiston, bart. was convicted for defaming and scandalizing the government, by writing four letters reflecting on the deaths of Russel and Sydney, &c. For this he was sentenced to a fine of 10,000l. and, on default of payment was committed to the King's Bench, where he continued till the revolution. In June, sir Thomas Armstrong, who had been implicated in the Rye-house Plot, and outlawed, was betrayed in Holland, and cruelly put to death at Tyburn; notwithstanding the statute declaring that an outlawed person coming in within the year should have a trial, if required. When Armstrong was brought before the court, after some argument, he said, he asked nothing but the law. The brutal Jefferies replied, that you shall have, by the grace of God: you shall have it to the full: and he then ordered him to be executed within six days. Ibid. p. 579. He was drawn on a sledge to Tyburn; and, having been dismembered as a traitor, his quarters were fixed on the city gates, and his head upon Westminster-hall, between Cromwell's and Bradshaw's.note When Jefferies came to the king at Windsor, soon after this trial, the king took a ring of good value from his finger, and gave it him for these services: the ring thereupon was called his blood stone. --Ibid, p. 580.
In furtherance of the design of the court to overawe or ruin all the leaders of the popular party, Thomas Papillion, esq. was, in November, brought to trial before Jefferies, in the court of King's Bench, for causing, though in due course of law, a writ to be executed on the person of sir William Pritchard, when lord mayor in 1682, for not having returned him sheriff, after he had been duly elected by his fellow-citizens. Not a shadow of proof was offered that Papillion had acted illegally, yet he was condemned to pay a fine of 10,000l.; a sentence that obliged him to quit the country till the period of the Revolution.
On the 6th of February, 1685, the king died at Whitehall, having previously received the sacrament of the mass, and extreme unction. It was vehemently suspected that his death was occasioned by poison.