In and Out of London Or, the Half-holidays of a Town Clerk
Loftie, W. J.
LONDON has become more than a city: it is a country, a kingdom in itself. With a population already greater than that of Holland or Portugal, almost as great as that of Sweden and Norway together, it increases every day. It spreads north, south, east and west, creeping onward like the tide of the sea, slowly but surely, year by year, and obliterates, as it goes, all the original features of the country. The green fields and orchards are first swallowed up. Next, the old houses and all historical associations. Lastly, the face of the ground is so covered over with brick and mortar, that the geographical landmarks-hill and dale, brook and marsh-are wiped out, and can never reappear. Who can show us the fen in Finsbury, or the islet at Hay Hill ? Not only are they gone, but they will never come back. Supposing even that London became a desolate
|plain, these natural features would not be restored. The thought gives something of a melancholy interest to the subjects of which I have endeavoured to treat in this volume; and there is melancholy enough without it. To the clergyman there is, in the every-day aspect of London, a sadness which, when he goes into the streets and lanes where his work lies, is redoubled in intensity. To influence London is to influence the world; but to grapple successfully with the terrible problems everywhere presented by London life, is at best a hopeless task. The faithful minister may do something, but it is not much; and moments of hopelessness and discouragement come upon him, the harder he works and the more he accomplishes.|
Hard work is much alleviated by the possession and cultivation of a taste. We have scarcely yet sufficiently calculated on the power of the lighter arts and sciences in the education of the young. But the man whose life is passed in labour, whether manual or intellectual, has within him the possibility of great happiness, and the certainty of relaxation without vice, if he early take up, as the amusement of his leisure, art, archaeology, zoology, or some other scientific or asthetic pursuit.
London is full of interest; and the country within half a day's journey of London is the most
|interesting part of England. The man who knows something of the history of Kent, Surrey, and Hertfordshire, knows something tangible of the history of his country. He can connect events with places; and the places are often beautiful, while the events are often the greatest in our history. And the working men of London-be they clerks priestly or lay, be they merchants or mechanics- can find, within the limits of a Saturday afternoon's excursion, scenes and places which a tour on the Continent will not exceed, for the Englishman, either in interest or beauty.|
I have endeavoured, in these pages, to describe a few of the places which may be thus visited. Some of them are in town, some in the country, but all are within easy reach. And many places remain of which, though they are within the limit of an afternoon, I have said nothing. Such are and the Tower, Westminster and St. Paul's, and many others within the town; while, a short way out, Windsor and Eltham, King's Langley and Chertsey, Hatfield, and a hundred more would have been accessible. But I am not writing a guide-book, and have selected my subjects rather on the principle that no place near London is so uninteresting that something may not be found in its history, or its situation, or its buildings, worth thinking over. Among the localities less often visited, I might have
|mentioned Dunstable, with its priory; or Burnham, with its abbey and its beeches; or Cobham, with its hospital and its brasses; or Stoke d'Abernon, where a visitor will find scenery and antiquity combined in such equal proportions, that probably no other spot within a short distance from London will better repay him. Richmond and Hampton Court, too, are full of historical associations. Greenwich and Tilbury to the east, Brentford and Harmondsworth to the west, Harrow and Pinner to the north, all afford material for pleasant half-days' excursions, and might have been included in my book.|
And without wandering so far afield, the London archaeologist has numberless objects, besides those I have described, worthy of notice close at hand. The topography of Clerkenwell, with the monastery of the Knights of St. John, still offers points but half explored. The gate is only one, and that the latest in date, of the buildings which remain. The crypt is not so easily seen, but it will reward a visitor. Then St. Bartholomew's Priory, with its noble church and cloisters, which may still be traced; or Austin Friars, one of the few relics of the Pointed style spared by the fire; or Bermondsey Abbey, of which something, if very little, remains; or St. Giles's, Cripplegate, with its neighbour, Syon College; or St. Saviour's, Southwark; all may be
|easily visited and are worth visiting. I might suggest to anyone ambitious to do good work, a collection of the quaint epitaphs of the seventeenth and previous centuries which may yet be found in London churches; or, what would be better still, a careful study of the churches older than the fire, of which so few are left to us. Such a pilgrimage might begin within the Tower, at St. Peter ad Vincula, and might include All Hallows, Barking; its neighbour, St. Olave's, Hart Street, of which I have said something; St. Andrew, Undershaft; St. Etheldreda's and St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, of which I have endeavoured to give a short account; the two or three old churches mentioned above ; and further west, the Temple; the Savoy, from whose curious history I have taken one chapter; and above all, Westminster. These ancient Gothic buildings of London would form the subject of an interesting volume.|
If any of my readers take up such a task, let me beg of them to remember, in their investigation, the great importance of exactness in minute details; and of constant reference to, and acknowledgment of, authorities. Half the collections of epitaphs, for example, are of no historical or antiquarian value whatever, because chapter and verse, place and date, are not given. The young archaeologist should accustom himself never, if he can help it, to take
|anything at second-hand; but at the same time, never to neglect any means of adding to his information, however humble it may at first appear.|
In the following chapters I have endeavoured to give, first, a picture of the natural features of the district on which London has been built; next, one of London as it was in the early years of the fifteenth century-say in the reign of Henry V.; then a brief sketch of what it was only a hundred years ago. These chapters may be taken together in support of a proposition I think it well worth while to uphold, namely, that our progress has been greater in the last hundred years than in many ages before them. Our progress has not always been made in times of perfect peace; but war has invariably tended to national declension in art, in science, in social improvement, and above all in true religion.
The chapters on Old London generally are followed by three sketches of ancient churches, and one of an old river-side palace,-St. Olave's, Hart Street; St. Helen's, Bishopsgate; the Chapel Royal, Savoy; and Northumberland House, . In the cases of the first and third of these, I have connected with them the name of a prominent character of the seventeenth century.
I next take two ancient suburban.residences, one ecclesiastical and the other civil; and lastly I trace some more extended wanderings, one in Kent, one in Essex, one in Herts, and one in Surrey; ending with a notice of St. Albans Abbey, which recent events have brought into such prominence.