Farringdon Without History of the Most Interesting Places, Leading Events; and Some Account of the Eminent Men connected therewith, since the year 1600

Francis, Adolphus Decimus

1870

Smithfield

Or (from the Saxon smith, smoothe), was anciently the great public suburban promenade of the citi zens of London; it was likewise the live cattle-market of the metropolis, and was used for that purpose, as early as , and continued as a market for more than seven

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centuries. Situate just outside the walls of the city, planted with here and there its clumps of elms, and rich with willows on the west, it formed an agreeable recreation ground for all who had leisure to enjoy it; not unfrequently forsaken by the sober citizens, and given over to the roughs, who settled all disputes within the field, it acquired from their frays and fights the name of Ruffian's Hall; here were held the quintain matches of the middle ages, which gave proficiency and dexterity in warlike exercises to the competitors. The Town Green had its special clump of trees, where executions were carried out, as early as , and here many hundred martyrs suffered at the stake for their religion.

"But this was for their fathers' faith

They suffered chains and courted death."

These fanatical executions commenced in reign, and reached their climax in . Of the 277 persons burnt for heresy in bloody Mary's reign, nearly all suffered in Smithfield. The gallows was set up near St. Bartholomew's gate, and here in reign they boiled a man who had been convicted of poisoning. In Smithfield were held feasts, rejoicings, jousts, and tournaments, to commemorate great victories or especial events. , in , proclaimed a great and truly regal joust, to celebrate the victories of Cressy and Poictiers over the French in . And John, King of France, surnamed

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the Good, taken prisoner in the last-named battle, together with David Bruce, King of Scotland, who had been defeated and captured at Nevil's Cross, in , "graced the chariot wheels" of Edward, and mournfully assisted at these fetes. Richard II., successor to the throne of his grandfather, Edward III., caused a proclamation to be made throughout Europe by his heralds, that on "the Sunday next following the feast of St. Michael" would be commenced jousts or tournaments, open to all comers, and inviting the flower and elite of foreign chevaliers to a trial of arms against the English nobility. It is recorded that on the day appointed there issued about three o'clock in the afternoon, from the gates of the Tower, sixty high-mettled and richly-caparisoned war horses, each bearing a squire of gentle blood, riding at a quiet pace; then followed sixty ladies of high degree, richly dressed and mounted on palfreys, riding on one side, and leading by a golden chain each her favourite knight, and thus they took, amidst the sound of trumpets and the clang of martial music, their way towards Smithfield. Arriving there, the squires and ladies descended from their horses, and took the places assigned them; and the knights mounted each his charger; after the helmet was fastened on their heads, and they were otherwise armed, the heralds made proclamation, and the jousts began. These fetes lasted several days, amidst great feasting; the knights who contested specially in honour of the king, had their armour

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and trappings adorned with a white hart, having a crown of gold on its neck. In these jousts the English nobility carried off nearly all the prizes. On the , Richard II. met Wat Tyler in Smithfield, who was at the head of a riotous mob; to hold a conference and hear a statement of the grievances under which the rebels complained they suffered; when Tyler, seizing the king's horse by the bridle, was stabbed by Walworth, mayor of London; at the same moment the king, then only about fifteen years of age, spurring on his horse towards the irritated populace, called out in a loud voice-" Follow your king, I will be your leader, and redress your grievances." The people, astonished at so daring an act, submitted quietly to be led out of Smithfield, and dispersed to their homes. A few days after, Jack Straw, the second rebel in command, and Tyler's lieutenant, having been taken prisoner, was executed in Smithfield. Trial by ordeal was carried on in Smithfield-ordeal consisted of either fire or water. Trial by fire was used for the free; simple ordeal consisted in carrying in the hand, red hot, a I lb. weight-double ordeal, in carrying a 2 lb.: and triple, in carrying a 3 lb. Trial by water was used for the servile only. After the great fire of London, the houseless, poor, and wretched, lived in huts erected in Smithfield, until more permanent residences could be procured.