Memorials of Old London - Volume I
Author: Various
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The Scriveners formerly discharged many of the duties now performed by solicitors, such as making wills, drawing up charters, deeds relating to lands, tenements, and inheritances, and other documents. They were known as the "Scriveners, or writers of the Court Letter of the city of London." Their earliest set of ordinances was granted to them in the time of Adam de Bury, mayor, in the 38th year of Edward III., a document couched in old law French. They complained bitterly against certain chaplains and other men out of divers countries who called themselves Scriveners, and took upon themselves to make testaments, charters, and other things belonging to the mystery, to the great damage and slander of all honest and true scriveners. Their apprentices caused them trouble, because they had not their "perfect congruity of grammar, which is the thing most necessary and expedient to every person exercising the science and faculty of the mystery." Every apprentice found deficient was ordered to be sent to a grammar school until "he be erudite in the books of genders, declensions, preterites and supines, equivox and sinonimes." Their first charter was granted in 1617. John Milton, the father of the poet, was a member of the company.

The Shipwrights have had a corporate life of four centuries, originally known as the Brethren and Sisters of the Fraternity of SS. Simon and Jude, and were established on the river side at Southwark or Bermondsey. The use of "good and seasonable timber" in the building of ships was enjoined by their ordinances. Their well-stored yards of timber were, however, considered dangerous to the city, and the constant noise of hammering offended the ears of the citizens; hence the shipwrights migrated to Radcliffe, and they had much trouble with a colony of "foreigners," who dared to set up their yards at Rotherhithe, and actually obtained a charter from King James. A long and bitter struggle for supremacy ensued, and was not settled until 1684. The art of shipbuilding has been revolutionized by the advent of steam and the use of iron; the Thames side is no longer the great centre of the industry, and the importance of the company has waned, though it still exercises some useful functions.

The Spectacle-makers' Company has no great history, though their first charter dates back to the time of Charles I. Its membership is large, including many illustrious names, and no less than twenty lord mayors. It does much good in modern times by improving the skill of opticians. The Stationers have a noteworthy history, which has been graphically told by Mr. C. R. Rivington, and celebrated their five-hundredth birthday four years ago. For an account of their powers, privileges, and the story of their copyright register, I must refer the curious reader to Mr. Rivington's book, or to my larger history of The City Companies of London and their Good Works.

The Tallow Chandlers can boast of great antiquity, and possess several charters and documents of much interest, and also the Tin-plate Workers, alias Wire Workers' Company. The Tylers and Bricklayers formed a fraternity in 1356, and have received charters from Queen Elizabeth and subsequent monarchs, which contain no remarkable provisions. The Turners or "Wood-potters" showed their skill in mediaeval times in the manufacture of household furniture, and their fellowship was recognised in 1310. They received a charter from James I., and in modern times have shown much activity, and have enrolled many distinguished men in their rank of Freemen. The Upholder is really an upholster, or upholsterer, who now supplies furniture, beds, and such-like goods. His company was founded in 1460, and received a grant of arms from Edward IV. Cornhill was the original home of the upholder, or fripperer, as he was sometimes called, and he used to deal in old clothes, old beds, old armour, old combs, and his shop must have been a combination of old curiosity shop and a store-dealer's warehouse. Later on, he concentrated his attention on furniture; his status improved, and his guild became an important association, though never very wealthy or remarkable.

The Wax Chandlers lived in palmy days, when they furnished the great halls of the nobles with the produce of their skill, and innumerable lights burned before every altar in our churches. Their guild existed in 1371, and was qualified to make "torches, cierges, prikits, great candles, or any other manner of wax chandlery." They still possess a hall in Gresham Street and Gutter Lane. The Weavers claim to possess the oldest company of all the city guilds. It certainly existed in the time of Henry I., and they have a charter of Henry II. which is signed by St. Thomas of Canterbury, and no less than eleven others. In the palmy days of the cloth industry they were very prosperous, but unfortunately few records of their former greatness remain. The Wheelwrights' Company suggests the fascinating study of the introduction of coaches and cars, upon which we cannot now embark, nor listen to the wails of the Thames watermen, who complained against new-fangled ways. This guild received a charter from Charles II., and did good service in protecting the lives of his Majesty's subjects from "the falling of carts and coaches through the ignorance and ill-work" of foreign craftsmen. Last, but not least, on the list stands the Woolmen's Company, founded in 1300, when the trade in wool was at its zenith. It has borne several names, and was identical with the guild of the wool-packers or wool-winders. Wool-combers were also licensed by the company. A noted member of this ancient fraternity was Sir John Crosby, the founder of Crosby Hall, "Grocer and Woolman," alderman of the city in the reign of Edward IV., whose noble house London has at length declined to spare.


From this brief record of the City Companies, and of the part each one played in the drama of the life of London, it will be gathered that most of these guilds showed strong and vigorous growth in the fifteenth century, and were thoroughly established. Then came the period of the Reformation, which proved a time of storm and stress to the companies. They held much property bequeathed to them for the endowment of chantries, for the celebration of masses for the dead, and for other purposes which were deemed to be connected with "superstition." The companies were rich. Greed and spoliation were rampant, and many powerful courtiers were eager enough to prove "superstitious uses" as an excuse for confiscation. Hence a very large amount of the property of the companies, as well as of plate and other valuables, was seized by these robbers, and the guilds were compelled to redeem their lands and wealth by paying down hard cash to the plunderers. It was a grievous time, but the companies weathered the storm, and regained by much sacrifice their possessions. The system of forced loans instituted by the Tudor and Stuart monarchs also pressed hard upon the companies. Henry VIII. required of them L21,000—an enormous sum in those days—for his war with Scotland. Philip and Mary demanded L100,000 for the war with France. The Mercers alone supplied Queen Elizabeth with L4,000 after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Before the Petition of Rights put an end to these forced loans, Charles I. extracted a loan of L120,000 from the city, and the Civil War made further demands on the funds of the companies, both contending parties pressing them for money. It need not be added that little of this enormous wealth was ever returned to the guilds, and they were much impoverished. Many of them were compelled to sell their plate and other valuables, and some were almost reduced to the verge of bankruptcy.

Another drain upon the resources of the companies was the scheme of James I. to establish the Ulster Plantation upon land forfeited to the Crown through a recent rebellion there. The King offered the land to the City Companies for a colony, pointing out the very great advantages which the land afforded. These were painted in very glowing colours, but scarcely answered the expectations of the colonists. The active citizens of London at once formed the Irish Society, raised L60,000 for the purchase of the land from the sagacious King, and each company took an equal share. The old county of Derry was the chief scene of this enterprise, and in token of its new masters was rechristened London-Derry. The colony had scarcely been established when Charles I., with his strange arbitrariness, removed the grant, but it was restored by Charles II., and most of the estates still belong to the energetic companies, and have been made the most prosperous part of the "distressed island."

But the greatest of all the misfortunes which have befallen the companies was the Great Fire. Hall after hall, replete with costly treasures bequeathed by departed brethren of the guilds, with all their archives and documents, perished in that hideous holocaust. All the wealth that rapacious kings and the troubles of the Civil War had spared was engulfed in that awful catastrophe. Again and again, when we try to read the history of a company, we meet with the distressing intelligence that all its records were destroyed in the Great Fire. Very few escaped. The leather-sellers, pinners, and ironmongers were happily without the range of the conflagration. All the books of the companies abound with graphic details of this calamity. It melted their plate, burned their records, and laid their property, from which they chiefly derived their incomes, in ashes. At the same time they were burdened with a load of debt, the consequence of the compulsory loans to which I have referred, and saw no means left of paying. The clouds that hung over the companies were as black as the clouds of smoke that issued from the burning ruins of their halls. But their English hearts were not daunted, and bravely did they struggle with their adversities. They immediately set to work to do what they could to save the relics of their fortunes. They first took steps to secure their melted plate from the ruined buildings. Then they set about the rebuilding of their properties. Extraordinary exertions were made. The wealthier members subscribed vast sums of money. The houses of their tenants rose like magic from the ruins, and it is remarkable that in no more than two or three years' time most of the halls of the companies were rebuilt, and many shone forth with additional splendour. The reign of Charles II. did not, however, conclude without involving the companies in additional anxiety, occasioned by the King's arbitrary interference in their affairs by his quo warranto proceedings. He presumed to call into question the validity of the charter of the city of London, and declared it to be forfeited; and not only that, but also the charters of all the corporations in England, including those of the City Companies. The whole business, when regarded in the light of history, appears farcical and absurd, but the danger to the life of the corporations appeared very real and tremendous to the good citizens of London in the year 1684. They behaved in a most loyal and submissive manner, surrendered their charters, expressed their fear that they had offended their sovereign, who, "in his princely wisdom," had issued a quo warranto against them, and earnestly begged to have their charters renewed. The King granted them new charters, which rivetted strong fetters about the guilds, placed them, bound hand and foot, at the mercy of the King, and reduced the city to entire subservience. James II. showed no inclination to release the city and the companies from their bonds, until the news of the advent of the Prince of Orange forced him to make an act of restitution; the old charters were restored, and the proceedings quo warranto were hastily quashed. One of the first acts of William and Mary was to renew the old charters and declare that all the acts of the Stuart monarchs, with regard to the suppression of these ancient documents and the granting of new ones, were entirely null and void. This action endeared the new sovereign to the citizens, and, doubtless, helped greatly to secure for him the English throne and the loyalty of his people.

Public confidence being restored, the affairs of the companies began to improve. Though still hampered by the loss of much wealth, and by the misfortunes through which they had passed, their members were wealthy, and gifts and bequests were not lacking. It is true that their connection with the trades which they were supposed to govern was fast dying out—indeed, many of their trades had for a long time become obsolete—but the corporations still cared for their poor members, managed their estates, promoted in some measure the trades with which they were associated, and took their part in the government of the affairs of the city. The value of their city property increased enormously, and raised them from poverty to affluence. This has enabled them to institute vast schemes of charity and munificence, which enormously benefits the whole country, and to maintain, preserve, and develop those magnificent educational and charitable establishments which pious benefactors have committed to their care. In my book on The City Companies of London and their Good Works I have told at some length their interesting story, and given a full account of their charities and treasures, and how by wise schemes they have adapted old bequests to modern needs, and how they maintain the hospitable traditions of the city of London. But that story relates not to Old London, and need not be told again.


Time and space will only allow a very brief inspection of a few of these interesting buildings, the homes of the companies, which are, without doubt, the most interesting features of the city of London.[154] In Cheapside is Mercers' Hall, a fine building, erected after the Great Fire. The usual entrance is in Ironmonger Lane. If you would try to realize the former hall and the hospital of St. Thomas and its noble church, you must read Sir John Watney's work, if you are fortunate enough to obtain a copy of that admirable privately printed quarto volume. In the present hall you will see (if permitted) a fine store of plate, four pieces of which escaped the Great Fire, including a curious waggon and tun, the gift of W. Baude in 1573, which moves along the table by clockwork. The entrance colonnade, which occupies the site of the ancient cloister, with its Doric columns, is attractive, and a fine stone staircase protected by a wooden portcullis leads to the hall and court rooms. The hall itself is a noble chamber, panelled by Rowland Wynne after the Great Fire, and hung with banners and paintings. The most interesting paintings are: an original portrait of Sir Thomas Gresham by Holbein; Dean Colet; and a fancy portrait of Sir Richard Whittington with his famous cat.

Grocers' Hall has been recently rebuilt, and Drapers' Hall is modern, situated around a lovely court and garden, where a quiet stillness reigns in refreshing contrast to the noise of the bustling throng of busy stockbrokers in the adjoining street. Two fine pieces of statuary, splendid specimens of Gobelins tapestry, much interesting plate, and fine portraits of kings and queens and other worthies, are among their treasures. The present hall of the Fishmongers was built in 1831, when the new London Bridge, of which Mr. Tavenor-Perry, a member of this company, tells in this volume, was erected. They have many treasures, including the Walworth Pall, said to have been worked previously to 1381, and to have been used at Walworth's funeral, though it is evidently the work of the sixteenth century. Numerous royal and other portraits adorn the walls, paintings of fish by Arnold von Hacken, Scott's pictures of old London and Westminster Bridges, and a large representation of a pageant of ancient days, affording some idea of one of London's scenes of old civic state.

Goldsmiths' Hall, built in 1835, is perhaps the most imposing of all the homes of the companies, and is rich in plate, sculptures, pictures, and other works of art. A magnificent marble staircase leads from the ground floor, monolith pillars support the roof, and a bust of the founder of the company, Edward III., faces the entrance. Two fine sculptures by Storey, the Libyan Sibyl and Cleopatra, adorn the vestibule. The oak panelling of the court room was taken from the old hall. This room contains a painting of St. Dunstan, the patron saint of the company, some portraits of worthies, a silver vase and shield by Vechte, and a small Roman altar, discovered when the foundations of the hall were being laid. This altar is mentioned in the Ingoldsby Legend of the "Lay of St. Dunstan." The plate of this company is remarkably fine.

In Threadneedle Street is the hall of the Merchant Taylors, the name of that thoroughfare being doubtless derived from their trade. This hall is one of the most interesting of all the palaces of the companies, inasmuch as the Great Fire did not completely destroy the old building, and was stayed on the premises; hence the present hall is a restoration of the ancient building, and not an entirely modern erection. There is an ancient vaulted crypt, the use of which is not quite clear. It may have been a passage leading from the street to the chapel. In the fourteenth century Edmund Crepin granted the hall to John de Gakeslee, the King's pavilion maker, who purchased it on behalf of the company. The property was enlarged by the gift of the Oteswich family, who gave to the company the advowson of the church of St. Martin Outwich (or Oteswich), and certain shops for the benefit of the poor brethren and sisters. The company built their almshouses on the west end of the parish church, and attached to them a new hall, the interior of which was adorned with costly tapestry representing the history of St. John the Baptist, and a silver image of the saint adorned the screen. Heraldic arms appeared in the windows, the floor was strewn with rushes, and silk banners hung from the ceiling. A garden with alleys and a terrace was at the rear of the hall, and in it stood the treasury, in which plate and other valuables were stored; and there was a building called the King's Chamber set apart and well furnished for the reception of Royal guests, who frequently honoured the company with their presence. This chamber, called the banqueting hall, was rebuilt in 1593, and a few years later the space above the ceiling was deemed the most convenient place for the storage of gunpowder. The great hall was restored in 1671, and is "old-fashioned, ample, and sumptuous," having all the characteristics of the fifteenth-century edifice. It is impossible to describe all the treasures of the company, but we must mention the two hearse-cloths of Italian fabric of early sixteenth-century work, some valuable portraits of royalty and of worthies of the company, two being painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Happily, all the old deeds, charters, and documents were saved at the Great Fire, and these add greatly to the history of this important company.

Skinners' Hall was not so fortunate, and a new one was erected, thus described in 1708: "a noble structure built with fine bricks and richly furnished, the hall with right wainscot, and the great parlour with odoriferous cedar." It has been much altered, a new front being added in 1791, and redecorated a hundred years later. The company can boast of many noble and distinguished members, amongst whom we find Edward III. and his Queen, the Black Prince, Richard II. and his Queen, Henry IV., Henry V., Henry VI., Edward IV., and their Royal consorts.

Haberdashers' Hall is modern, built in 1864 on a site bequeathed to the company by William Bacon in 1478, but the court room was erected by Wren after the Great Fire, and has a fine ceiling. Salters' Hall—they have had no less than five—was finished in 1827, and is very magnificent, having a large open space in front, which adds greatly to its imposing appearance. Some pictures were saved at the Great Fire, and there are two fine paintings of Queen Charlotte and George III. by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Ironmongers' Hall, spared by the Great Fire, was pulled down in 1903, and a new hall, we believe, is in course of erection.

The Vintners have a very interesting hall, built partly on the foundations of the old hall destroyed in 1666, and very rich in its treasures: its beautiful carvings by Grinling Gibbons, its ancient tapestry, hearse-cloth, portraits, and valuable store of plate. Pepys tells of the destruction of Clothworkers' Hall. He wrote, "But strange it is to see Clothworkers' Hall on fire these three days and nights in one body of flame, it having two cellars full of oil." After that mighty destruction a new hall arose, worthy of the greatness of the company, the present great hall itself being added in 1859, a noble building lighted by fine windows containing the arms of distinguished members. Pepys was master of the company in 1677, and presented a loving cup, which is still amongst the company's treasures.

It is impossible in this brief survey of the Livery Companies to include a description of the halls of the minor companies, some of which are very fine and interesting. It has been my privilege to visit nearly all of these ancient edifices, and to inspect many of their records and valuable treasures. These I have tried to describe in my larger work on the history of the companies. No volume relating to London would, however, be complete without some reference to the ancient state and glories of these venerable institutions, which, in spite of many vicissitudes, much oppression, heavy losses and crushing calamities, have survived to the present day, and continue their useful careers for the benefit of the present generation of men. The story of the Livery Companies furnishes wonderful examples of the tenacity of the national character of Englishmen, of their firm determination to overcome difficulties, and of their resolution to hand down to their successors the traditions which they have received from a great and historic past.


[154] A full account of the history of each hall, its description and treasures, is contained in my book on The City Companies of London and their Good Works (Dent & Co.), with illustrations by A. R. Quinton, and reproductions of old pictures, tapestry, and plate.



A remarkable episode in the early history of London, and an element in its making, which through the Middle Ages exercised an important and beneficial influence on its progress and growth, was the settlement of foreign merchants, who, at first as individuals, and later under the control of the Hanseatic League, made it one of the principal trading centres of Northern Europe; and no account of mediaeval London would be complete which omitted a reference to the part played by these German and Flemish adventurers. Although it was not until the middle of the twelfth century that the League reached that complete organization which made it for some centuries a great northern power, the trading communities of Germany early acquired some sort of cohesion; and we find them established in London as early as the reign of Ethelred II. The encouragement this Saxon King afforded them was doubtless due to the fact that they were able to offer him the money of which he always stood in need, in return for the privileges he was able to confer on them; and he may have felt that he could always rely on their active support against their common enemy—the Danes. But these first merchants were few and unorganized, and although as time went on they increased in number and importance, it was not until the League itself had become a power that, in the reign of Henry III., they obtained a recognized corporate existence.

The foundations of this originally peaceful confederacy were, curiously enough, laid in war, and that of the baser sort—war for the sake of pillage. The Vikings, finding themselves unable to realize the spoil with which they were sometimes gorged, conceived the idea of founding a market-place to which, by assurances of safety and immunity from further theft, they could induce peaceful merchants to attend and receive, and pay for, the goods which they had stolen. Such was the now vanished town of Jomsborg which Palnatoki, the Jarl of Fjon, founded about 950 in the country of the Wends, near the mouth of the Oder. This town was intended to be an abode of peace, where not only could the merchants reside in safety, but to which the Viking Jarls, fighting elsewhere between themselves, might resort to exchange the results of their raids. And this city gradually became not only the market for the goods which the sea-rovers gathered from sacked cities and ruined monasteries, but also the emporium of the merchandise of the East, which reached the Baltic from Byzantium by the Euxine and the Dnieper. It was in this Viking market town that the first German merchants established among themselves that association which eventually grew to be the most important trading community of the Middle Ages.

The name which the association took to itself was a Gothic word, and was not improbably conferred upon them by the Vikings themselves, since Hansa means—in the language of the Goths—"a company," or "a troop," and in that sense it occurs in the Gothic version of the Scriptures by Ulphilas, a copy of which is preserved in the library of Upsala. Some of the rules which Palnatoki made for these merchants remained in force throughout the existence of the League, and formed the basis of the laws by which all the factories of the Hansa were governed. The Joms Vykinga Saga contains some of these rules:—"No man older than fifty years or younger than eighteen winters could be received." "Anyone who committed what had been forbidden was to be cast out, and driven from the community." "No one should have a woman within the burgh, or be absent from it for three nights." Governed by such rules, the Kontors of the League formed among the alien populations in which they were placed semi-monastic establishments, holding only such intercourse with their neighbours as their business required, much like the early British factories established in India.

Hamburg was founded in 809 by Charlemagne, and its merchants were among the first to take advantage of Jomsborg; and it was very shortly after that market was opened when they appeared in London. The growth of the League was, however, very gradual; and it was not until the foundation of Luebeck, which afterwards became its principal city, that it assumed its great importance. But the destruction of Jomsborg by the Danes transferred all the Eastern trade of the Baltic to this new town, which, as a consequence of its increasing importance, was made in 1226 a free city of the Empire; and by 1234 it had become so powerful as to be able to destroy for ever the naval supremacy of Denmark in the sea-fight of Travemuende. Its treaty with Hamburg for mutual defence was made soon afterwards, and this event is reckoned to be the formal establishment of the Hansa League, not only as a corporate body, but as an independent state to make treaties, and, when necessary, to levy war.

During this same period the German settlement in London had been increasing in importance, and, although not yet recognized as a corporate body, is frequently referred to as a guild or association. There is but little doubt that the William Almaine, one of the three city merchants who completed London Bridge, after the death of Peter of Colechurch, was one of its members, and so important had the London settlement become in the eyes of the Flemings, that in a charter granted to the Flemish town of Damme by Joan of Constantinople in 1241, it is specially provided that no one shall aspire to the office of alderman of that place unless he had been previously admitted a member of the Hanse in London.

In 1250 the permanent buildings of the League in London were commenced by the erection of storehouses; and nine years afterwards, through the influence of his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans, Henry III.

"granted that all and singular the merchants, having a house in the City of London, commonly called the Guilda Aula Teutonicorum, should be maintained and upholden through the whole realm by all such freedoms and free usages or liberties as by the King and his noble progenitors' time they had enjoyed."

This "house in the City" was situated to the south of Thames Street, bordering on the river, closely adjoining Dowgate Wharf, one of the principal landing places, and it became known, later on, as the Steel-yard. Several suggestions as to the origin of this name, more or less ingenious, have been made, but it seems most probable that it was due to the fact that there, or thereabouts, was situated a weighing place for foreign goods imported by the Hansa, similar to the King's weigh-house in Cornhill. In this settlement the merchants lived the semi-monastic life required by their rules, avoiding as far as possible intimate association with the people by whom they were surrounded, but with whom they carried on their business; yet at the same time not so exclusively withholding themselves as in the remote settlements of Bergen and Novgorod. Indeed, in return for the privileges which were conceded to them they were required, to a certain extent, to take part in the civil life of London and to share in the duties of its defence.

One of the duties they were required to discharge was the maintenance of one of the city gates—that known as Bishopsgate, from the fact that it had been first erected by Saint Erkenwald, sometime Bishop of London; and one of the first troubles they had with the city Corporation arose in consequence of their neglect properly to perform this duty. It is recorded that in the tenth year of Edward I., who had renewed his father's charter, that a great controversy arose between the Mayor and the "Haunce of Almaine" about the reparation of this gate, then likely to fall, and the matter was brought before the King's Court of Exchequer. The result was that the German merchants were found to have neglected their duty, and they were called upon to pay two hundred and ten marks sterling to the Mayor and citizens, and to undertake that they and their successors should from time to time repair the gate. The names of the merchants who at that time were residing in London, and answered to the court, are given by Stow, and the list is interesting as showing the different parts of Germany represented at that time. They were, Gerard Marbod the Alderman, Ralph de Cusarde of Cologne, Bertram of Hamburg, John de Dele, burgess of Muenster, and Ludero de Denevar, John of Arras, and John de Hundondale, all three burgesses of Treves; so that unless the Alderman himself was from Luebeck, the head city of the League was not represented. An interesting point arises in connection with the repairs of this gate. London in the thirteenth century was a city of wood, with only its walls and churches built of stone, and brick as a building material was almost unknown. But in the great cities of the Hanse League, in Luebeck, Hamburg, and Bruges, brick was the ordinary material, and for the Steel-yard merchants it was as easy to bring bricks from Flanders as stone from Surrey or Kent, and the material itself was very much cheaper. We know that wherever the agents of the League settled they seem to have accustomed the people to the use of brick, and taught them the mysteries of brick-making. This was the case at Hull, a branch of the London Kontor, where, although in a stone-producing country, its great church of Holy Trinity, as well as its walls, were built of brick; and in other branches, such as Yarmouth, Boston, and Lynn, we find early examples of brick-work. Old engravings of portions of the Steel-yard buildings show that they were of brick, and with their Guildhall vied in importance and beauty with the great brick buildings of Luebeck and Bruges.

During the Lancastrian supremacy the German merchants were under a cloud in this country, and many of their privileges were withdrawn; and indeed, for a time, the Steel-yard was closed, whilst the fleets of the League were actively supporting the Yorkist cause. But with the accession of Edward IV. all this was changed, and in 1474 they were reinstated in all their privileges, and embarked on a new era of prosperity in London.

The close connection of the King with the house of Burgundy interested him in the fortunes of the League in Flanders. His sister, Margaret of York, was married to Charles the Bold at Damme, one of the principal Kontors of the League, at which ceremony he was present; and he attended, later on, a great Chapter of the Knights of the Golden Fleece in Bruges, as the stall-plate bearing his arms in the choir of Notre Dame testifies to this day. He granted the Flemish merchants special privileges of exemption from taxation—as, for instance, to the makers of dinanderie at Middleburg by Bruges, that the goods sent from hence to England should be admitted free.

In 1479 the guild rebuilt Bishopsgate, which had again fallen into bad repair, and this time we know that it was built of brick, although the image of the bishop on the side towards the city was carved in stone; and this date synchronises with that great period of brick building in England which included the halls of Gifford, Hargraves, Oxburg, and West Stow, and portions of the college at Eton. The Guildhall of the Steel-yard seems also to belong to this date, for it was just then the area of the enclosure was much extended. We have, unfortunately, but very inadequate accounts of what must have been a very important structure, although remains of it existed to the middle of the last century; but we know that its gable was surmounted by the imperial eagle. The interior, no doubt, was of a magnificence which would bear comparison with the halls of the League in Flanders and Germany, and we know that it contained two large paintings by Holbein of the triumphs of Poverty and Riches, which, later, found their way into the collection of Henry, Prince of Wales, and were destroyed in the fire at Whitehall.

In two particulars at least the London settlement was less exclusive than some of those elsewhere. The merchants built no church for their own private use, but resorted to the adjacent parish church of All Hallows the More, which stood, until its recent destruction, at the corner of Thames Street and All Hallows Lane. The original church perished in the Great Fire, and with it all the monuments which could be associated with the League; but in the rebuilt church, in the reign of Queen Anne, was placed by one Jacob Jacobsen, no doubt a descendant of one of the original Hanse merchants, a very beautiful screen, as a memorial of the League. The screen is now in St. Margaret's, Lothbury, and over the gate of it still soars the German eagle, but surmounted by the arms of England. Although tradition says that the screen was made in Hamburg, there seems to be but little doubt that its delicate carving is the work of an English chisel, perhaps one of those which had been employed at St. Paul's Cathedral.

Within the enclosing walls of the Steel-yard on the river's banks was a fine garden planted with vines and fruit trees open to the citizens and their wives, who in fine summer weather took their pleasure there and drank the Rhine wines which the merchants imported from Germany and vended at the rate of threepence a flask. This wine was brought over in stone bottles, made principally at Fretchen, near Cologne, which, from a rough-looking face, intended to represent Charlemagne, placed under the lip, were commonly called "Flemish Gray-beards." When the Cannon Street Railway Station, which occupies part of the site of this garden, was built, many of these in a perfect state of preservation were unearthed; of one of which we give an illustration.

With the discovery of America, and the increasing activity of English merchant adventurers, the trade of the Germans declined, and a domestic revolution in Luebeck, in 1537, destroyed the cohesion of the League, which gradually became effaced during the struggles of the Thirty Years' War. In England its charter was first withdrawn in 1552, and, although its influence slightly revived under Mary in consequence of her Spanish and Burgundian connections, it was finally expelled by Elizabeth.

Of the great League and its Kontor, in London, there remains, perhaps, an echo in the expression, "A pound sterling"—a pound of the Easterlings; but the site of its Steel-yard is now a railway station, and its only tangible memorials remaining are some empty wine bottles.



"Is this a dagger that I see before me?"—Macbeth.

Argent, a cross gules, in the first quarter a sword in pale, point upwards, of the last. Crest; a dragon's sinister wing, argent, charged with a cross, gules. Supporters; on either side a dragon with wings elevated and addorsed, argent, and charged on the wing with a cross, gules. Motto: "Domine dirige nos."—THE CITY.

Gules, two swords in saltire, argent, the hilts in base, or.—THE SEE.

The origin of the City of London is almost as unknown as that of Rome itself, and all its earliest history is lost in the misty traditions of the Middle Ages, and to this may be due the fact that the arms it blazons on its shield, and the weird supporters it claims to use, have but little to warrant them but custom and age. Other cities, less ancient and much less important, can give the full authority for the armorials which they have assumed, and even the great guilds associated with the Corporation are able to quote the reign and year—many of them dating back to the time of Queen Elizabeth—when they received the grant of arms which they still enjoy. But for the arms of the City of London itself no authority can be adduced, and in the opinion of many none is required, "seeing," as an old writer on the subject says, "that of things armorial the very essence is undefinable antiquity; a sort of perpetual old age, without record of childhood." That the arms which the Corporation now use differ from those it first employed is freely admitted, but comparatively few are aware of the modifications they have undergone, or of the recentness of the date when they first assumed their present form; and to those who are interested in the City itself, or in heraldry generally, a short sketch of the history of the subject will be welcome.

It was only in the year 1224, the ninth of Henry III., that permission was granted to the commonalty of London to have a Common Seal; and the seal which was then made continued in use until 1380, the fourth of Richard II., when, to quote Stow, "it was by common consent agreed and ordained that the old seal being very small, old, unapt and uncomely for the honour of the city, should be broken up, and one other new should be had." Of this first seal no copy seems to have survived, and we are left to conjecture what arms, if any, it displayed. From the first, the simple cross of St. George appears to have been the only bearing adopted by the citizens for their shield, but they sometimes varied it by an augmentation in the dexter chief symbolizing their patron saint, St. Paul, but they appear to have used these two shields quite indifferently. Thus, when they rebuilt their Guildhall, in 1411, they carved both of these shields on the bosses of the groined crypt, where they can be seen to this day, those down the centre aisle having only the cross of St. George without the sword. On the screen to the chantry chapel of Bishop Roger de Walden, in the church of St. Bartholomew the Great, erected in 1386, the arms of London appear as a simple cross, and a much later example occurred in the windows of Notre Dame at Antwerp. In the north transept windows of that church were portraits of Henry VII. and Elizabeth of York, which survived the damage wrought by the Gueux; and a traveller, one William Smith, who was Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, in 1597, says he saw with them the arms of many English towns, including London, which had in the dexter chief a capital L, and not a sword.

In the year 1380, as we have seen, a new seal was made, on which were the effigies of the Blessed Virgin and SS. Peter and Paul, and in the base on a shield the arms of the City, a cross with a sword in the dexter chief, and on either side of it a demi-lion as a supporter. As to the origin of the sword, there is a very old story, very generally credited, which only requires retelling to show how inconsistent it is with historical truth. About the part played by the Lord Mayor, Sir William Walworth, in slaying Wat Tyler at Smithfield, there need be little doubt, and at the hall of the Fishmongers' Company is preserved the veritable dagger with which, it is asserted, the deed was done; and as the addition was made to the City arms about the time of this occurrence, popular fancy connected the two events, and ascribed the advent of the dagger on the shield to its use in Smithfield (fig. 1). Since, however, the new seal was made in 1380, and Wat Tyler was slain and Sir William Walworth was knighted a year later, we have to look elsewhere for the origin of the augmentation.

Until the episcopate of Ralph de Stratford, the seals of the bishops of London had borne the effigy only of St. Paul, and that bishop's seal was the first on which the arms of the See of London were placed. An impress of this seal is preserved in the Stowe collection at the British Museum, attached to a deed of 1348, which, although in a somewhat broken condition, clearly shows St. Paul seated in a niche, holding the sword and a book, and beneath, in the base, the bishop kneeling, having on the dexter side the arms of the See, and on the sinister side the bishop's personal arms (fig. 2). The arms of the See show two swords placed in saltire, but the field, instead of being plain, is frettee, with a dot placed in the centre of each mesh, and in this particular only differs from the present shield, and this may be due merely to a desire for ornament, and not intended to have any heraldic significance.

Although St. Paul, as represented both on the seals of the City and the See, bore a sword, this seal of Bishop Ralph's was the first which represented the symbol apart from the saint. No doubt, with this example before them, the Corporation, when making their new seal in 1380, added to their arms the symbol of the patron saint of their city.

The arms of the See underwent no change from the time of their earliest appearance to the present day, and were reproduced in many parts of the new cathedral at its rebuilding, and may be seen exquisitely carved by Grinling Gibbons over the entrance to St. Dunstan's Chapel; but with the arms of the City it was very different, and, in fact, they do not appear even now to have reached finality. When, early in the seventeenth century, the seal of 1380 became too worn for further use, a new one was made, which reproduced on the obverse all the essential features of the earlier one, the details being somewhat classicised, the shield in the base was repeated, and the lions on each side crowned; but the reverse showed a new departure, of which no record exists in the College of Arms. This was the addition of a crest, which consisted of a cross set between two dragons' wings displayed, placed on a peer's helmet. It will be seen by reference to the example preserved in the British Museum, taken from a deed of 1670, that the shield, which is placed couchee, bears the present arms, and is surrounded by a tasselled mantling and a motto, which reads, "Londini defende tuos deus optime cives" (fig. 3). No such use of a peer's helmet has ever been officially allowed to any town or city, and it can only be presumed that as the mayors of London were always addressed as "My Lord," the assumption of a peer's helmet might be permitted. But it may be remarked that, at least in recent years, the helmet is sometimes displaced by a fur cap, the headgear of the sword-bearer to his lordship, for which there does not appear to be the shadow of a warranty. For instance, the official invitation card to the Lord Mayor's Banquet of 1882 has the fur cap hovering in the air between the shield and the crest, whilst the card of 1896 reproduces the helmet with its crest and mantling arranged in the earlier fashion.

The crest which shows on this seal of 1670 introduces the dragon for the first time to the City arms. The association of St. George with the dragon is, of course, obvious, and this may have suggested its wings as an appropriate crest to surmount his cross upon the shield, and from this it was naturally an easy transition to the dragon supporters. They are not known to occur before they were represented by Wallis in his London's Armory, published in 1677, a work dedicated to Charles II., who, in accepting it, said of its author that he "hath with much Pains and Charge endeavoured to attain a perfect and general collection of the Arms proper to every Society and Corporation within our City, and hath at length finished the same in a most exact and curious manner." Whether this royal imprimatur can be held to override the absence of any grant from the College of Arms may seem doubtful to many, but the fact remains—from that day to this, dragons, or some fabulous monsters akin to them or to griffins, have appeared as the supporters of the City arms. Another point to notice in Wallis's representation, of which we give a sketch (fig. 4), is that although he retains the peer's helmet over the shield, he shows the fur cap, together with the mace, sword and other official symbols, grouped as ornamental accessories at the base of his device. The crest also has been modified, and consists of only one dragon's wing, upon which the cross has been charged, as well as upon the wings of the supporters, which, if descendants of the original dragon of St. George, show thereby that they have become "Christen" beasts.

Such is the history, shortly, of the arms now used by the City of London to decorate its buildings and seal its documents, and which Wallis, their inventor, in the true meaning of that word, pronounces correct, "having by just examinations and curious disquisitions now cleared them from many gross absurdities contracted by ignorance and continued along by implicit tradition committed contrary to Art, Nature and Order, and repugnant to the very principles of Heraldry."

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Bemrose & Sons Limited, Printers, Derby and London.

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