« VorigeDoorgaan »
square having been built on the site of the garden and orchards, which were situated to the rear of the old mansion. Aylesbury Street, too, leading from Clerkenwell Green into St. John's Street, covers the site of the mansion and gardens of Aylesbury House; which, as late as the days of Charles the Second, was the town residence of the Bruces, Earls of Aylesbury.
In Clerkenwell Close, on the site of the mansion built by Sir Thomas Chaloner, stood Newcastle House, the residence of William Duke of Newcastle, the brave and devoted follower of Charles the First: the site is still pointed out by the buildings known as Newcastle Place. After the Restoration, we are told, the Duke “spent nearly the whole remainder of his life in the retirement afforded by his seat at Clerkenwell, where he took much pleasure in literary pursuits, and paid some necessary attention to repairing the injuries sustained by his fortune.” Newcastle House was, at different periods, the residence of two of the most eccentric women of their day. The first was Margaret Duchess of Newcastle, the authoress of thirteen folio volumes, consisting of poetry, plays, and philosophy, in which perplexity of ideas and pomposity of expression are the principal characteristics. The other lady was the wealthy heiress of the Newcastle family, Lady Elizabeth Ogle, who married first, Christopher Duke of Albemarle, and afterwards Ralph first Duke of Montagu. In our account of old Montagu IIouse, now the Britislı
Museum, will be found a notice of this fantastic lady, who appears to have inherited the vanity and eccentricity of her grandmother, without any pretence to her claims for literary talent. After the death of the Duchess, Newcastle House became the property of her sister Margaret, who had married John Holles, subsequently created Duke of Newcastle. As late as the year 1683, it continued to be the London residence of that nobleman.
On the opposite side of Clerkenwell Close stood, within the last half century, a large house, which, according to tradition, was inhabited by Oliver Cromwell : the site which it occupied is pointed out by Cromwell Place. In 1631, John Weever, the antiquary, was residing in Clerkenwell Close.
At the upper end of St. John Street, Clerkenwell, is Red Bull Yard, formerly the arena of the Red Bull Theatre, where the persecuted players occasionally performed during the reign of the Puritans; and from whence they were not unfrequently dragged to prison. At the Cross Keys Inn, in this street, the unfortunate Richard Savage occasionally passed his social hours.
A part of the ground adjoining Clerkenwell, to the north, was formerly in the possession of a Miss Wilkes, the daughter of a gentleman of fortune, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and who subsequently became the wife of Sir Thomas Owen, one of the Judges of the Common Pleas. She was the munificent foundress of a school, and some alms-houses, at Islington : in reference to which foundation a
singular anecdote is related by Stow. The young lady was one day walking in the fields with her maid, when she was seized with a fancy to take a lesson in milking a cow ;-she was in the act of stooping down for this purpose, when an arrow, which was shot at random by a gentleman, who was practising archery in an adjoining field, pierced her high-crowned bat, and carried it away. Deeply impressed by her providential escape—(for the circumstance of her stooping at the moment saved her life,)-she expressed her determination, should it ever lie in her power, to raise some pious monument near the spot, in token of the gratitude which she owed to heaven. Many years afterwards, on becoming the wife of Sir Thomas Owen, she had the means of putting her purpose into execution, which she accordingly did by purchasing the ground which had been the scene of her almost miraculous escape. This, by her Will, dated in 1613, she bequeathed to the Brewers' Company, with sufficient funds to build on it and endow ten alms-houses and a free grammar-school. The authenticity of this story has been sometimes called in question ; but the circumstance of Lady Owen leaving no fewer than twentytwo children and grandchildren, seems to lead us to the conclusion that there must have existed some extraordinary reason which induced her to prefer the interests of the poor to those of her own family. Altogether, Lady Owen, by her will, devoted no less than 2,3001. to acts of charity; a very considerable sum when we take into consideration the relative value of money between the days of James the First and our own time.
Coppice Row, which we have already referred to, leads us into Cobham Row, the site of the suburban residence of the ill-fated Sir Thomas Oldcastle, afterwards Lord Cobham, the chief of the Lollards, or disciples of Wickliffe, in the reign of Henry the Fifth. For professing their tenets, he was executed in St. Giles's in the Fields, in February, 1418. Having been suspended alive from a gibbet, by a chain fastened round his body, a fire was lighted underneath and he was slowly burnt to death. To the last, he is said to have expressed his conviction that he would rise again on the third day.
Close to Coppice Row are Cold Bath Fields, so named from a spring or well of cold water, which has long since been built over. Carey, the musical composer, and the author of that pleasing song “ Sally in our Alley," was a resident in Dorrington Street, Cold Bath Fields; and in Warner Street, in the immediate neighbourhood, he perished by his own hand, on the 4th of October, 1743. In a sponginghouse, in Eyre Street Hill, Cold Bath Fields, died, in 1806, the celebrated painter, George Morland.
Within a short distance from Clerkenwell, stood recently the well-known place of amusement, Bagnigge Wells, once famous for its medicinal spring. It was first opened as a place of public entertainment, in 1767. The old house, of which the author witnessed the demolition a few years since, was said to have been the residence of Nell
Gwynn. Among the persons buried in the neighbouring church of St. James, Clerkenwell, appears the name of Richard Gwynn, who died February 16th, 1691. Probably he was an occupant of the house in question, which may have given rise to the tradition that it was the residence of his frail name sake. Colman speaks of
drinking tea, on summer afternoons,
At Sadler's Wells, within no great distance of Bagnigge Wells, is another medicinal spring, which was formerly held in high repute, not only by the citizens in the neighbourhood, but by the wealthiest and noblest in the land. In the last century, Sadler's Wells were frequented every morning by five or six hundred persons; and not a hundred years have passed away, since the daughters of George the Second used to quit St. James's every day, to drink the waters.
The spring, from which Sadler's Wells derives its name, was discovered in the reign of Charles the Second, in the garden of one Sadler, who made a considerable sum of money by opening a place of entertainment near the spot, which was afterwards superseded by the present theatre. Noorthouck writes, in 1773:-“Here, apprentices, journeymen, and clerks, dressed to ridiculous extremes, entertain their ladies on Sundays; and to the utmost of their power, if not beyond their proper power, affect the dissipated manners of their superiors. Bagnigge Wells and the White Conduit House, two