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mittance, but in vain. Having obtained the assistance of the neighbours, the house was broken open, when, to the horror of those who entered it, they discovered that the whole of the inmates, including even the infant in its cradle, had been barbarously murdered. The second tragedy took place twelve days afterwards, on the 19th of December, about the same hour of the night, at the King's Arms public-house in Old Gravel Lane, Ratcliffe Highway. The victims on this occasion were the landlord Williamson, his wife, and a female servant. The perpetrator, or perpetrators, of these horrors, were never discovered. Suspicion attached itself to one Williams, and the world anxiously anticipated the result of his trial.
He found means, however, to hang himself in prison, and his secret, if any such existed, died with him.
Ratcliffe Highway, which Stow describes as, in his memory, a large highway, “ with fair-elms on
both the sides,” leads us into what was once the hamlet of Shadwell, extending to the banks of the Thames. It is said to have derived its name from a fine spring (probably called shady well), which still issues from the south wall of the church-yard. In the time of Charles the Second, this now populous district was still open country, and was consequently fixed upon as one of the principal burialplaces for the victims of the great plague, in 1665. The frightful plague-pit was situated where the modern church of St. Paul's, Shadwell, now stands. *
* Defoe's “ History of the Plague,” p. 287.
Wapping, also formerly a hamlet, stretches along the river's side from Lower Shadwell to St. Katherine’s. As late as the year 1629, we find King Charles the First, who had been hunting at Wanstead, in Essex, killing a stag in Nightingale Lane, Wapping. The name and site are still preserved in Nightingale Lane, being the street which divides the London Docks from St. Katherine's Docks. The spot where the churcb of St. John, Shadwell, now stands, was another of the principal burial-places in the great plague.* Here is the famous Execution Dock, where pirates, and others, condemned for offences on the high seas, were formerly executed. They were hanged on a temporary gibbet at low water-mark; the body being allowed to remain there till it had been three times over. flowed by the tide. Maitland mentions a remarkable anecdote of a criminal having been rescued from death at the last moment. This was one James Buchanan, who was condemned to death, in December, 1738, for the murder of the fourth mate of the “
Royal Guardian” Indiaman, in the Canton river. He was brought from Newgate to Execution Dock, in pursuance of his sentence, and had actually been suspended five minutes, when he was cut down by a gang of sailors, who conveyed him to their vessel, and carried him in triumph down the river. He is said to have afterwards escaped in safety to France. Stow, who wrote at the latter end of the reign
* Defoe's “ History of the Plague,' p. 287.
of Queen Elizabeth, informs us that the custom of executing pirates at Wapping was usual in his time, and that, forty years before he wrote, not a house was standing in the neighbourhood; but he adds, — “ Since then, the gallows being
, removed further off, a continual street, or filthy straight passage, with alleys of small tenements, or cottages, is builded, inhabited by sailors' victuallers, along by the river of Thames, almost to Ratcliffe, a good mile from the Tower.” It was in a mean public house in Wapping, called the Red Cow, in Anchor and Hope Alley, that the inhuman Judge Jefferys was discovered looking out of a window in a sailor's dress. It was not without difficulty that the crowd which assembled was prevented from tearing him to pieces. He was conducted to the Tower, where he died shortly afterwards, partly from the effect produced on his constitution by his addiction to strong liquors, and partly from the injuries which he received from the infuriated mob.
To the north-east of Wapping is the crowded district of Stepney, which derives its name from the Saxon manor of Stebenhythe, or Stebunhethe. Stepney was a village, and had its church, as far back as the days of the Saxons, and in the time of Elizabeth was the most eastern part of London. In the reign of William the Conqueror, and even previous to that period, Stepney church was known as Ecclesia omnium Sanctorum, or All Saints, but was subsequently dedicated to St. Dunstan, whose name it at present bears. The church itself possesses but little interest. Here, however, were buried Sir Thomas Spert, founder of the Trinity House, and Comptroller of the Navy, in the reign of Henry the Eighth ; *
* the learned divine, , Richard Pace, the friend of Erasmus, who died Vicar of Stepney in 1532;—the father of John Strype, the historian ;—and the Rev. John Entick, the lexicographer, who kept a school in the neighbourhood. Here also is to be traced the curious epitaph to which the “ Spectator” has given cele
“ brity :
Here Thomas Saffin lies interred ; Ah, why?
Deceased, June 18, 1687. Other monumental inscriptions may be traced in St. Dunstan's Church, scarcely less curious than the foregoing one.
Take for instance the acrostic of James Bayly, a sea captain :
I nclosed lies hid as sacred remains
* He died on the 8th of September, 1541, and the monument
B ayly on board, the baffled tempest flew
God gave him leave to breathe his last on shore ;
Born in Landelph, in the county of Cornwall.
The church appears to have been originally built in the fourteenth century; but it has evidently undergone many, and very tasteless, alterations in more modern times; the pillars, arches, and windows being of the modern Gothic, and the west porch being of the Tuscan order.
In the modern maps of London may still be traced a small site designated as “King John's Palace.” According to tradition, King John had a palace here, and as there is no doubt that Edward the First held a parliament at Stepney in 1292, it is not impossible that his predecessors may have erected a suburban palace in this vicinity. Here also stood Worcester House, which, in the reigns of Charles the First and Second, was successively the residence of Henry and Edward, first and second Marquises of Worcester, alike
to his memory was erected by the master and elder brethren of the Trinity House in 1622, eighty-one years after his death.