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ALONG THE STRAND: AND A PEEP AT COVENT GARDEN AND THE COFFEE HOUSES
WHERE Temple Bar Memorial, surmounted by a Griffin, is now in the Strand Temple Bar itself stood until 1878. In one form or another, at times merely a wooden structure, Temple Bar defined the limits of the City from the 14th century. To the very last of its days was preserved an ancient custom of closing the gate when a sovereign approached the City on any public occasion, and opening it with much ceremony to give entrance way. The last Temple Bar was built in 1670, but was demolished to facilitate traffic. On the top of the old gateway the heads of criminals who had been executed were exposed.
The Strand probably the best known street in the world to-day was once a royal road outlining the water-side. On one side were the castles of noblemen fronting on the river, with gardens between, and state barges carried the courtiers to the Tower, to Richmond or to Westminster wherever the king was to be found. The chief castle belonged to Peter of Savoy uncle of Henry III., and was set in the midst of an estate granted by the king in 1245. In those days the bishops were the principal owners of palaces on the Strand—the courtiers preferring the City as being safer from the attacks of their enemies. But the bishops were regarded as sacred and could live anywhere they pleased unmolested. The Strand became a regular thoroughfare about 1560.
At the time of the Reformation the palace of Walter Stapleton Bishop of Exeter was on the south, or river, side of the Strand and was called Exeter House. Afterward when the Earl of Essex, Elizabeth's favourite lived there it was called Essex House for him and the present Essex Street so gets its name. The only tangible survival of Essex House is at the end of the street—the aged and picturesque Water Gate, with the worn stone stairs that once led directly to the water where the barges received visitors from the palace. It was down these stairs that the Earl of Essex was taken on his way to the Tower to be beheaded at the command of the fickle queen.
In Essex Street just where is now an entrance into New Court stood the tavern of the Essex Head. Here, in 1783, Samuel Johnson then suffering from the diseases which caused his death in the next year established a conversation club that was to meet three times a week. Johnson attended regularly as long as he was able to walk from his home not far away in Bolt Court.
Opposite Essex Street in the middle of the Strand is the church of St. Clement Danes, designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1681. At this church Dr. Johnson was a regular attendant for years and the pew he sat in, No. 18 in the north gallery, is marked with a tablet telling of "the philosopher, the poet, the great lexicographer, the profound moralist and chief writer of his times." Joe Miller, the man of jokes, was buried here, and his epitaph records among other things that he was a facetious companion, a sincere friend and a tender husband, which is about all a man need be.
In the 16th century the Bishop of Bath's palace was on the river side of the Strand. It was called Arundel House and gave its name to Arundel Street.
Norfolk Street, now a quiet thoroughfare of private hotels, is where at No. 21 Dickens located "Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings." In the first house from the river on the west side Peter the Great of Russia lived when he came to London in 1698 on the invitation of William III., to make a personal study of British industrial pursuits, military art, science and trade, a study which he did make, carrying back to Russia with him more than five hundred artisans, surgeons, artificers and engineers.
In Surrey Street the dramatist William Congreve who has been called the greatest English master of pure comedy lived at the height of his success, long after "The Old Bachelor," "Love for Love" and "The Mourning Bride" had made him famous, and here he died.
Placed squarely in the centre of the Strand opposite Somerset House, forming a cross current in the rush of traffic, stands the church of St. Mary-le-Strand, since 1717. It is on the spot of an old Maypole and bears the name of an older church demolished to make room for Somerset House. The Maypole was set up originally in 1601 to honour the wife of General Monk.
In the open space to the west of the church of St. Mary-le-Strand, in 1634, the first cab stand in London was established.
In the narrow Strand Lane opposite the church of St. Mary-le-Strand is the framework of an ancient Roman bath. It is one of the few survivals of Roman London and has been here for fifteen hundred years. Water still flows into it from a hidden spring and it is well worth passing through the door of No. 5 Strand Lane to look upon this relic and to be assured that the days of Boadicea were real.
ENTRANCE TO OLD ROMAN BATH, STRAND LANE
The great inner square of the present Somerset House covers vaults built into the cellars forming tombs in which lie many a favourite of King James I. and King Charles I. But though the building has the same name all else is changed and it is not the same Somerset House which represented the height of political and kingly grandeur. At the time of the Reformation on the Strand by the river were palaces of the Bishops of Landaff, Chester and Worcester, and these palaces were torn down by "The Protector " the Earl of Somerset uncle of Edward VI. On their site in 1549 he had Somerset House built. But the lives of nobles were brief in those days and Somerset was beheaded in 1552 before the completion of his palace which became Crown property. James I. gave the mansion to his queen Anne of Denmark and she called it Denmark House. When Charles I. came to the throne Queen Henrietta Maria lived in Somerset's palace and liked it so well it was her home for many years. In the reign of Charles II., Somerset House passed to Queen Catherine of Braganza. It was here that Inigo Jones died, and here that at different times lay in state the bodies of Anne of Denmark, James I. and Oliver Cromwell. In 1775 when Buckingham House in St. James' Park was purchased for Queen Charlotte, wife of George III., to replace Somerset, the home of many famous folk was destroyed. Then the present structure was erected and since that time has been used for various offices of State, requiring an army of Government clerks and officials.
Midway between the Strand and the river, closed in by buildings and reached by winding ways of which Savoy Street is one, is the Savoy Church, the only reminder of the great palace which stood in this domain of the House of Savoy. In 1246 Henry III. granted to his wife's uncle Peter of Savoy certain land along the Thames- On this land Peter of Savoy built a palace outside the City walls between the road called the Strand and the River Thames. When he died in 1268, bequeathing his Palace of Savoy in London to the reverent friars of Montjoy, they in turn sold the palace to Queen Eleanor. She left it to her son Edmund of Lancaster. After that it became the headquarters of the Duchy of Lancaster and is much to be read of until 1381 when it was destroyed by the followers of Wat Tyler. Henry IV. came into possession of the Duchy of Lancaster on the death of John of Gaunt and in this roundabout way the present Savoy Church became a " Chapel Royal." From 1381 the year of its demolishment until 1509 it was little more than a ruin. In 1509 Henry VII. founded a hospital for the poor on the site—a group of buildings directly on the river. This was finally dissolved in 1702, and the buildings, used for various purposes, gradually vanished until now only the chapel remains. This has been restored many times but much of it is the same—part of the Lancastrian palace of Savoy.
A great modern hostelry, the Savoy Hotel, stands on part of the site of the old Palace of Savoy and the statue over the entrance is that of Count Peter of Savoy former owner of the palace.
On the north side of the Strand between Burleigh and Exeter streets and on ground now occupied by a popular restaurant was Exeter House, the home of the great statesman William Cecil, Lord Burleigh. Queen Elizabeth visited here and on his explaining that he was unable to stand in her presence, "because of the badness of my legs," the queen graciously replied : "We do not make use of you, My Lord, for the badness of your legs, but for the goodness of your head." The famous Exeter Hall occupied this site later, but was demolished in 1908.
In York Street, laid out in the 17th century, on the south side at No. 4 Thomas De Quincey lived and wrote "The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater;" a gruesome chronicle much read and said to be partly autobiographical. A sadness seems to hang about the place, especially when it is "To be Let," with gaping windows and desolate brick front.
For a century Bow Street has been closely associated with the chief police court of London where many famous criminals have ended their days of liberty. Wycherley the dramatist lived here, when he lay ill, and Charles II. came to him and gave him the five hundred pounds that took him to the south of France in search of health.
Grinling Gibbons, also had his home in Bow Street. A remarkable carver in wood, whose work adorns many of the London church interiors, he was an unknown worker in a small English town when John Evelyn the 17th century writer and diarist discovered him and placed his work before King Charles II. But in London Gibbons' art was not at first recognized and he had a struggle for existence. In time however he became master carver to the Court, an appointment which lasted until the reign of George I. The subjects of his carvings were usually flowers, foliage, birds and lace and they are remarkable for their delicacy of finish and naturalness. He also finished many works in bronze and marble.
In a house standing where the Bow Street police station is now Henry Fielding wrote "Tom Jones" in 1749,—a story famous as a picture of the times and undoubtedly containing much autobiography.
At the northwest corner of Russell Street where it touches Bow, stood Will's Coffee House, where from 1660 on for fifty years the literary life of London centred. The coffee house was named for William Urwin, the original owner. Dryden spent his dinner hours here for 35 years and was the acknowledged leader of literary fashion until his death in 1700. This, too, was the favourite house of Wycherley and Congreve the dramatists.
To-day on the site of Will's Coffee House stands the old home of Charles and Mary Lamb, where was written the first series of the "Essays of Elia." Russell Street is a place of wholesale fruit and vegetable dealers now, but there are signs of old-time pleasantness to be found, especially in the delightful cornices over many of the windows.
Opposite Will's, Button's Coffee House was established in 1712, presided over by Addison's old servant Daniel Button. As Will's was a place for literary controversy, Button's was first of all ground for the discussion of matters political. Joseph Addison was the recognized head of the coterie who met there, among whom were Alexander Pope, Ambrose Philips, Thomas Tickell, Henry Carey, Richard Steele and Richard Savage. One faithful habitué was a playwright named Charles Johnson, whose fame rested chiefly on the fact that for many years he wrote a play every season and went to Button's every day. Steele, then editing the "Guardian," was so constant in his attendance that he used the rooms as his editorial office, setting up a lion's head, into the mouth of which correspondents deposited communications to which Steele replied in the pages of the "Guardian." Button the proprietor died in 1730 in great poverty and was buried in the churchyard of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, at the expense of the parish.
Another celebrated coffee house was Tom's, on the north side of Russell Street, at No. 17, taking its name from Thomas West its first proprietor. West killed himself by jumping from the second story window of the house in 1722 but the business was continued with considerable success until 1814.
Far back in the 13th century all the land about what is now the Covent Garden district was a real garden, a great fertile tract attached to the convent of the monks of Westminster. Since those early days it has always been associated with flowers and growing things and the Covent Garden Market is now the chief flower, fruit and vegetable market of London. A map of the middle of the 16th century shows it a tract stretching approximately from the Strand to the Long Acre of to-day and surrounded by a wall. The Crown granted the land to the Bedfords in 1552, and in 1621 Inigo Jones planned the Covent Market Square. In 1831 the market buildings of this day were erected, but they have since been added to and improved.
Under the Piazza in Covent Garden was Bedford's Coffee House, the successor in popularity to Will's and Button's. Here gathered David Garrick, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, William Hogarth, Samuel Foote and Henry Fielding. The house continued a popular rendezvous until about 1803.
On the west side of Covent Garden, plain, dingy and unkempt in appearance, blending with the unpleasantness of the streets surrounding the market, is the church of St. Paul's, Covent Garden. Francis, fifth Earl of Bedford, in the 17th century owned all the land hereabouts and directed Inigo Jones to build a chapel for Covent Garden. But, he explained, it must not cost much money—build simply a barn. And Inigo Jones responded: "It shall be the handsomest barn in England." And he built St. Paul's. One of the memories associated with it is the record that here, in 1773, William Turner, the hair-dresser of Maiden Lane, was married to Mary Marshall. Their son was baptised here in 1775 and afterwards became the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner. In the forlorn burial ground back of this church were buried Samuel Butler, author of "Hudibras," in 1680; Grinling Gibbons, the wood carver, in 1721, and Edward Kynaston, an actor of female rôles, in 1712. This actor gained fame not only as a rare interpreter of character, but on one memorable occasion by keeping King Charles II. waiting, "because the queen was not yet shaved." William Wycherley, dramatist and author of "The Country Girl," was laid here in 1715, and T. A. Arne, composer of "Rule Britannia," in 1778. It is here, too, that Daniel Button, proprietor of the famous Button's Coffee House in Russell Street, lies, and others whose names are known all over the world.
Close by busy Covent Garden Market, in the house numbered 27 Southampton Street, David Garrick the actor lived for more than twenty years. A fanciful tablet over the doorway reads:
Southampton Street takes its name from the Earl of Southampton, and was the main approach to Covent Garden in the reign of Charles II.
Unattractive Maiden Lane leading from Southampton Street back of the Adelphi Theatre is narrow and usually overcrowded with many people and business vehicles. It was in this street, where the house No. 20 stands, that the great Turner was born in 1775, his father here having carried on his profession of hairdresser. Voltaire, the Frenchman, lived in this thoroughfare for a time. In our own times, close by the stage door of the Adelphi, the actor William Terriss was done to death by a madman.
Claude Duval the highwayman celebrated in song and story was captured in "The Hole in the Wall," a well-patronized tavern of the 17th century. It stood in Chandos Street, the second house from Bedford on the north side of the road.
High above Victoria Embankment, Adelphi Terrace, with Cleopatra's Needle just below by the riverside, shows a line .of fine old derelict houses whose windows command a view of the Thames, Waterloo and Charing Cross bridges, and the picturesque confusion of shipping on the Surrey side so often muffled in fog. In the house No. 5, Garrick the actor died, and on a tablet are the words:
The neighbourhood is known as The Adelphi. In 1760, four brothers, Scotch architects named Adam, began laying out the roads, and their names were given to William, Adam, John and Robert streets. At No. 2 Robert Street lived Thomas Hood, and here he wrote the "Song of the Shirt."
Near Buckingham Street once stood the palace of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, given him by King James I. Before that, in the time of the Reformation, it had belonged to the Archbishop of York and was on the south, or river, side of the Strand. The street is dreary and desolate appearing now. In a house at one end near the old Water Gate Dickens had Betsy Trotwood engage a room for David Copperfield in the book of that name. Across the way at the southwest corner overlooking the river Samuel Pepys lived for many years, and Jean Jacques Rosseau and David Hume lived together in this street in 1765.
In the public gardens beyond Buckingham Street is the Water Gate of York House, a substantial relic in the middle of green lawns. It was built by the Duke of Buckingham as the first stage in the rebuilding of York Palace but the task was never completed.
Villiers Street is a clean and quiet thoroughfare, where people seem to walk sedately as though strolling through a graveyard. It is named for George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who was a fashionable courtier much beloved by King James I., and who paid gallant court to Anne of Austria, wife of the French King Louis XIII. The establishment of Charing Cross Station robbed the street of its western side. Pepys' companion diarist, John Evelyn, lived hereabouts, and Richard Steele, too, after the death of his wife.
A newspaper office now occupies Number 149 Strand where Mrs. Siddons the actress passed the night after her first appearance in London when she captured the town by her art.
Charing Cross railway station stands where was once Hungerford Market, which in 1669 took the place of the recently burned mansion of Sir Edward Hungerford. On the Villiers Street side were a line of factories, among them Warren's blacking factory where Charles Dickens worked as a boy, the scenes and workers of which he reproduced in "David Copperfield," changing only the character of the business from blacking to wine. The river then crept up to what is now the northerly side of the Embankment. At the foot of Villiers Street was the Hungerford Stairs where passengers landed from the river. There were many of these "Stairs" along the waterside and two reminders of them may be seen in Essex and York gates.
When King Edward I., in 1290 journeyed from Lincoln to Westminster Abbey with the body of his beloved Queen, Eleanor of Castile, he rested the coffin on the spot now called Charing Cross. Some say the name Charing was an alteration of Chère Reine (dear queen), but the locality was so called before Edward's day so this cannot be verified. Charing was a little settlement that lay in the fields between London and Westminster and was at first called Cherringe. At all events, in the year after Eleanor's body had rested here Edward erected a memorial cross of Gothic design—which has since then been called Eleanor's Cross—to mark where the coffin had rested, one of nine similar monuments commemorating the various stages of the journey. In successive reigns, for almost four hundred years, Eleanor's Cross was alternately defaced, reinstated or repaired, on the occasion of coronations or visits of royalty. Finally Parliament had it removed in 1647, but a modern copy of it stands to-day in the courtyard of the Charing Cross railway station.
Across the road from Charing Cross railway station Golden Cross Hotel preserves the name of a famous place in old stage-coach days. The original house of this name stood on the site now held by the Nelson Column. In front of the original tavern, Mr. Pickwick of "Pickwick Papers" and his friends met Alfred Jingle for the first time and from here the entire party took the coach for Rochester. At this tavern, David Copperfield met Steerforth, some years after their school days together, when Copperfield had been put "into a small bedchamber, which smelt like a hackney-coach, and was shut up like a family vault."
Where Drummond's Bank is, at Charing Cross, once stood the celebrated tavern "Locket's Ordinary," where Thackeray in the novel "Henry Esmond," placed the dispute between Lord Mohun and Lord Castlewood ending at Leicester Fields and in the killing of the patron of Esmond.
Just beyond Northumberland is Craven Street one of the lonely ways leading from the busy Strand to the river. On the house No. 7 is a tablet reading:
Philosopher and Statesman
In this street too, in Craven Buildings, in the time of William and Mary, dwelt charming Mrs. Bracegirdle who was called the Diana of the stage, and in the same house lived another actress, Madame Vestris. No. 8 is supposed to be the house in which lived Scrooge, of Scrooge and Marley, in Dickens' "Christmas Carol." On the door is the knocker pointed out as the one Scrooge looked at on Christmas Eve, imagining it looked like the face of Marley.
Where the Grand Hotel stands in Northumberland Avenue by Trafalgar Square was once Northumberland House. This was one of the Strand palaces begun by Henry Howard, Earl of Northumberland in 1602. For more than two hundred years it was the home of the Northumberland family and at the time of its demolishment it was looked upon as the finest historical house in London.
Leading from the Strand, close by, is Northumberland Street, called Hortshorne Lane when Ben Jonson lived here with his mother and his step-father the bricklayer who wanted Jonson to follow the bricklaying trade. Here he still lived when he came to be known as the great wit, poet and scholar and the friend of Shakespeare, Bacon and Raleigh.
The statue of Lord Nelson and the four British lions guard Trafalgar Square, where are also statues of Napier, Havelock and Gordon. There is, too, an equestrian figure of George IV. It is told of this king that when he was Prince of Wales he would insist that he had taken part in the Battle of Waterloo, whither he pretended he had gone secretly. He used often to say to the Duke of Wellington, "I was there, wasn't I, Arthur?" To which the duke would invariably reply discreetly: "I have frequently heard Your Royal Highness say so." This statue was to have been placed on the marble arch at Buckingham Palace but was found to be too large so was set up in the square instead. The statue of Charles I. in this square was originally placed close by the church in Covent Garden in 1633 until the Civil War when Parliament sold it to a brasier who was told to break it up. The brasier, however, buried it, and when Charles II. succeeded to the throne at the Restoration it was dug up and placed on a pedestal designed by Grinling Gibbons and set up where it is now. Trafalgar Square was, in 1829, an open space at Charing Cross where St. Martin's Lane, the Strand, Cockspur Street, Pall Mall, Whitehall and Northumberland Avenue came to a point. The 145 foot pillar crowned with the statue of Lord Nelson commemorates his death at the Battle of Trafalgar Bay in 1805.
The columns of the façade of the National Gallery were taken from the Carlton House when that historic palace was demolished in 1827.