The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3

Allen, Thomas


The Compter


In the year , the prisoners were removed from thence to another new Compter in , provided by the city's purchase, and built for that purpose.

The cause of which remove was this; Richard Husband, pasteler, keeper of this Compter in

Bread street

, being a wilful and head-strong man, dealt, for his own advantage, hard with the prisoners under his charge; having also servants, such as himself liked best for their bad usage, and would not for any complaint be reformed. Whereupon, in the year


, sir Rowland Hill being mayor, by the assent of a court of aldermen, he was sent to the gaol of Newgate, for the cruel handling of his prisoners; and it was commanded to the keeper, to set those irons on his legs which are called the widows alms. These he wore from Thursday till Sunday in the afternoon; and, being by a court of aldermen released on the Tuesday, was bound in an

hundred marks

, to observe from thenceforth an act made by the common council, for the ordering of prisoners in the Compters. All

which notwithstanding, he continued as afore, and could not be reformed, till this remove of the prisoners; for the house in

Bread street

was his own by lease, or otherwise, so that he could not be put from it. Such gaolers, buying their offices, will deal hardly with pitiful prisoners.

An abstract of an act of common council, held , in the and years of Philip and Mary, for the removing of the Compter prison out of into Great .

By reason of divers hindrances, injuries, extremities, and displeasures, done unto the prisoners in Compter, by the keepers of the same, who, hiring the house of the Goldsmiths company, would not many times suffer the sheriffs of London, who stand charged with the prisoners, to use them so well as they had proposed; whereby the city had been slandered, law and good orders broken, and poor prisoners too much abused: therefore was the prison removed to a house belonging to the city, situate in Great , where the sheriff and his officers were to keep their courts, &c. as they had before used in . At which time it was also enacted, that the said Compter in should never hereafter, for any cause whatsoever, be let out to any other use or person, &c.

In that part of which is within this ward, stood a beautiful set of houses and shops, called Goldsmiths' row; they were built by Thomas Wood, goldsmith, and of the sheriffs of London, in the year . It contained in number dwelling houses and shops, all in frame, uniformly built stories high, beautified towards the street with the goldsmiths' arms, and the likeness of woodmen, in memory of his name, riding on monstrous beasts; all which were cast in lead, richly painted over and gilt. These he gave to the goldsmiths, with stocks of money to be lent to young men having those shops, &c. This said front was again new painted and gilt over in the year , sir Richard Martin being then mayor, and keeping his mayoralty in of them; and serving out the time of Cutbert Buckle, in that office, from the till the .

The goldsmiths kept their shops and trade in West cheap from ancient times, even before the days of king Edward III. unto the times of king Charles I. And the exchange for the king's coin was not far off the place yet called the , as appears by this record, shewing not only the place of the goldsmiths habitation, but their occupation and business about the coin and plate.

Upon the goldsmith's petition, exhibited to King Edward III. and his council in parliament, holden at in the of his reign, showing

that no private merchant nor stranger heretofore were wont to bring into this land any money coined, but plate of silver to exchange for our coin. And that it had been also ordained,

that all who were of the goldsmiths' trade were to sit in their shops in the high street of Cheap; and that no silver in plate, nor vessel of gold or silver, ought to be sold in the city of London, except at or in the Exchange. or in


, among the goldsmiths, and that publicly; to the end that the people of the said trade might inform themselves, whether the seller came lawfully by such vessel or not. But that now of late the said merchants, as well private as strangers, brought from foreign countries into this nation counterfeit sterling, whereof the pound was not worth above


sols of the right sterling; and of this money none could know the true value by melting it down. And also that many of the said trade of goldsmiths kept shops in obscure turnings, and by-lanes and streets, and did buy vessels of gold and silver secretly, without enquiring whether such vessels were stolen or lawfully come by; and, immediately melting it down, did make it into plate, and sell it to merchants trading beyond sea, that it might be exported. And so they made false work of gold and silver, as bracelets, lockets, rings, and other jewels; in which they set glass of divers colours, counterfeiting right stones, and put more alloy in the silver than they ought ; which they sold to such as had no skill in such things.

And that the cutlers, in their work-houses, covered tin with silver so subtilly, and with such slight, that the same could not be discerned and severed from the tin; and by that means they sold the tin so covered for fine silver, to the great damage and deceit of the king and his people.

Whereupon the said goldsmiths petitioned the king, that he would be pleased to apply convenient remedy therein. And he, being willing to prevent the said evil, (as the letters patent ran) did, by and with the assent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons of the realm, for the common profit, will and grant for him and his heirs, that henceforth no merchant, either private or stranger, should bring into this land any sort of money, but only plate of fine silver; nor that any gold or silver, wrought by goldsmiths, or any plate of silver, should be sold to the merchant to sell again, and to be carried out of the kingdom, but should be sold at the king's said exchange, or openly among the said goldsmiths, for private use only: and that none that pretended to be of the same trade should keep any shop but in Cheapside, that it might be seen that their works were good and right.

And that those of the same trade might by virtue of these presents, elect honest, lawful, and sufficient men, best skilled in the same trade, to enquire of the matters aforesaid: and that they so chosen might, upon due consideration of the said craft, reform what defects they should find therein, and thereupon inflict due punishment upon the offenders; and that, by the help and assistance of the mayor and sheriffs, if occasion be. And that in all trading cities and towns in England, where goldsmiths resided, the same ordinance be observed as in London. And that one or two of every such city or town, for the rest of that trade, should come to London, to be ascertained of their touch of gold, and there to have a stamp of a puncheon, with a leopard's head, marked upon their work, as of antient time it hath been ordained. These letters patent bore date at Westminster, the thirtieth of March, in the first year of the king.

Mr. Maitland has the following curious account of a remnant of ancient London: he says at the north-east end of Bread-street in 1595, one Thomas Tomlinson, causing in the high street of Cheap a vault to be digged and made, there was found at fifteen feet deep, a fair pavement, like that above ground. And at the further end, at the channel, was found a tree, sawed into five steps, which was to step over some brook, running out of the west, towards Walbrook. And upon the edge of the said brook, as it seemeth, there were found lying along the bodies of two great trees, the ends whereof were then sawed off; and firm timber, as at the first when they fell; part of the said trees remain yet in the ground undigged. It was all forced ground, until they went past the trees aforesaid; which was about seventeen feet deep, or better. Thus much hath the ground of this city (in that place) been raised from the main.


[] Maitland, vol. ii. p 825.

[] Maitland, vol. ii. 827.

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 Title Page
 CHAPTER I: The site, extent, buildings, population, commerce, and a view of the progressive increase of London
 CHAPTER II: List of the parishes and churches in London, with their incumbents, &c
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of Aldersgate Ward
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of Aldgate Ward
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of Bassishaw Ward
CHAPTER VI: History and Topography of Billingsgate Ward
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of Bishopsgate Ward, Without and Within
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of Bread-street Ward
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of Bridge Ward Within
CHAPTER X: History and Topography of Broad-street Ward
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of Candlewick Ward
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of Castle Baynard Ward
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of Cheap Ward
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of Coleman-street Ward
CHAPTER XV: History and Topography of Cordwainer's-street Ward
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of Cornhill Ward
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Ward Within
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Yard Without
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topography of Dowgate Yard
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of Farringdom Ward Within
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of Farringdon Ward Without
CHAPTER XXII: History and Topography of Langbourn Ward
CHAPTER XXIII: History and Topography of Lime-street Ward
CHAPTER XXIV: History and Topogrpahy of Portsoken Ward
CHAPTER XXV: History and Topography of Queenhithe Ward
CHAPTER XXVI: History and Topography of Tower Ward
CHAPTER XXVII: History and Topography of Vintry Ward
CHAPTER XXVIII: History and Topography of Wallbrook Ward