Millar’s obelisk

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Dovehouse Green is a small patch of public green, situated on the corner of Dovehouse Street and King’s Road, Chelsea. The paths run crosswise from the four corners and where they meet stands an obelisk, known as Millar’s Obelisk.

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Dovehouse Green was given to the parish by Sir Hans Sloane to be used as an overspill graveyard. It was consecrated as such in 1736, but by 1812, the new cemetery on Sydney Street had taken over its function and only interments in existing family tombs were allowed. In 1977, the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the neglected piece of ground was revamped and opened to the public as Dovehouse Green. The centre piece is the obelisk that was originally erected by Andrew Millar, a bookseller, to commemorate his wife and children.

Andrew Millar (1705-1768) came to London from Schotland in the 1720s to work in the bookshop on the Strand that his Edinburgh master James McEuen (or M’Euen) had opened. In January 1728, young Andrew took over the shop, continuing the name, Buchanan’s Head, and starting with the stock that McEuen had had in the shop. But Millar had grander ideas than just selling books and libraries. He became a respected publisher who did his origins proud by publishing, or acting as agent of, a large number of Scottish authors. Samuel Johnson said of him that he was “the Maecenas of the age” who “raised the price of literature”. Unlike most of his competitors, he looked after his authors and gave them bonuses when their books sold well. Was he without fault? No, of course not. Some thought him a bumpkin upstart with unscrupulous tendencies. Perhaps they were just jealous, but perhaps they were right. If nothing else, Millar must at least have been a sharp businessman to get where he ended up as one of the, if not the, most important publisher of the mid-eighteenth century. He was the publisher who took care of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary and his patience must have been sorely tried by the ever-extending time it took to complete. Allegedly when Millar received the last sheet, he sent his compliments with the money due and thanked God he had done with Johnson. To which Johnson replied that he was glad that there was at least something Millar thanked God for.(1)

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Mindfull / of Death and of Life
ANDREW MILLAR / of the Strand London Bookseller
Erected This / Near the Dormitory
Intended / For Himself and his Beloved Wife
JANE MILLAR / When it shall please Divine Providence
To call them hence / As a place of Like Rem[embrance]
For other near Relations / and / In Memory of
the deceased Pledges of their love
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In 1751, Millar had the obelisk erected over the vault where his relations were or would be buried. On the four sides, texts were carved on the pedestal and base to commemorate the family members who were interred, but time has erased most of the inscriptions. On one side, a coat of arms can be seen. And on the other side is still, faintly, visible that the remains of Margaret Johnstone who died in 1757 are buried there. She was Millar’s unmarried sister-in-law who had lived with the family most of her adult life. Although we can no longer read them, we do know what the texts on the other sides originally said. They commemorate the three children of Andrew and Jane Millar who all died young: Robert in 1736, just one year old; Elizabeth in 1740, also one year old; and Andrew junior who died in Scarborough, five years old. The sorrow of the Millar parents is expressed in a poem:(2)

Reader ! if Pity ever touch’d thy Heart
At these sad Lines a tender Thought impart
Think with what Sorrow we inscribe the Stone
That speaks us Parents and that speaks us None.

The bookseller himself died in 1768 and his widow (by then remarried to Sir Archibald Grant) in 1788.

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The information on Andrew Millar has come from Richard B. Sher, The Enlightenment & the Book. Scottish Authors & Their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, & America 2006), p. 275-294.
The information on the obelisk has mainly come from “Chelsea Old Town Hall to Knightsbridge”, a publication of Kensington and Chelsea Royal Borough which I can no longer find on their website, but which can still be accessed through Google (online here); and from the Survey of London, Volume 11, Chelsea, Part IV: the Royal Hospital. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1927 (online via British History Online here).

(1) Paul J. Korshin, ‘The mythology of Johnson’s Dictionary‘ in Anniversary Essays on Johnson’s Dictionary, ed. Anne McDermott (2005), p. 16-17.
(2) Samuel Richardson had composed another epitaph on Andrew junior’s death, but Millar chose this one (see here for Richardson’s text).

Bolding’s Grosvenor Works

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Bolding’s factory, or to give them their full name, John Bolding & Sons Grosvenor Works, were situated at 56-58 Davies Street from 1891 to 1969. The building nowadays holds Grays Antique Centre with small antique shops positioned around a visible stretch of the Tyburn river (see here), but it was for many years the workshop, salesroom and despatch department of one of the major manufacturers of sanitary appliances. The decorations on the outside of the building are a reminder of the Bolding history and have fortunately been left as they were and have not fallen victim to someone’s misguided idea of modernization.

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The firm was established in 1822 by Thomas Bolding in South Molton Street. In the 1841 census, Thomas could be found at that address with his two sons Thomas junior and John, all three listed as ‘brass founders’. The 1841 census does not give any house numbers, but from Thomas’s will (he died in 1849), we learn that the business was situated at number 19. Thomas leaves his share in the business to the two sons he was in partnership with, Thomas Edward and John Lupton, no doubt the two sons already mentioned in the 1841 census as being brass founders. Thomas Edward lived at Hammersmith and died in 1866. John Lupton could be found above the business in South Molton Street in the 1851 census as brass founder. One of his sons, George, is also living there and has the same occupation as his father. By 1871, John Lupton had moved to 27 Elgin Road, Chelsea. In 1881 and 1891 he can be found at 23 Elgin Crescent and is listed as ‘retired brass founder’. In the mean time, in 1871, 19 South Molton Street was occupied by son John Thomas Bolding, the only son of John Lupton to show a lasting interest in the business. name label

In August 1879, John Lupton announces that he is retiring in favour of his son John Thomas and from the notice in The London Gazette (12 August), we learn that the firm has branched out and that they are no longer just situated at 19, South Molton Street, but also at 14, Barratt’s Court, Wigmore Street, and at 304, Euston Road. They describe themselves as ‘wholesale and retail brass and metal founders, lead, iron, tin, and general metal merchants’.

The activities of the firm must have slowly evolved from brass founding to sanitary appliances and that is what they became known for. Already in 1871, John Lupton and John Thomas, together with one Joseph Titsink, acquire a patent for “improvements in water closets and in valves and regulating apparatus for the same” (The London Gazette, 20 January 1871). South Molton Street was outside the City of London and there was no need for a member of the brass founding family to become a member of one of the Worshipful Companies of the City, but in 1883, John Thomas nevertheless deemed it in his interest to do so and he became a member of the Company of Painters by redemption. This membership gave him the right to apply for the Freedom of the City, which he duly did.

1883 freedom John Thomas

1893-1895 Ordnance Survey

1893-1895 Ordnance Survey

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At the end of the 1880s, the firm moved the business to a new building on a triangular plot on the corner of Davies Street and South Molton Lane, not very far from their old premises in South Molton Street (see for the whole building Google Street View here). The building was designed in the northern Renaissance style by John Thomas Wimperis and William Henry Arber who were strongly associated with the Grosvenor Estate who owned and still owns large swathes of Mayfair and Belgravia (see here). It is thus no wonder that Bolding named their business Grosvenor Works. The new building had showrooms, a warehouse and workshops on three of the floors, but, no doubt to the relief of the neighbours, the foundry was moved out in 1894 to Eden Street. John Thomas, according to one story, always came to Davies Street in a brougham and would not allow any females to work in the business. All the administration had to be entered by hand by the clerks or salesmen. John Thomas retired in 1824 and shortly after, the firm became a public limited company, although members of the Bolding family remained on the board.

1932 trade catalogue

1932 trade catalogue

Despite John Thomas’s old-fashioned practices, Bolding’s were one of the first companies to grant their employees holidays with pay and a sickness benefit fund. In 1932, the building in Davies Street was modernised with a new entrance and the basement workshop was turned into a showroom. New workshops and garages were constructed in Davies Mews. The 1930s were a busy time for Bolding’s as the taste in sanitary appliances moved away from the solid Victorian designs to more elegant bathroom furniture that was easier to clean and could be supplied in more colours than just plain white. In 1963, Bolding’s was able to buy their competitor Thomas Crapper & Co., but only a few years after that, the Bolding business was wound up, while Crapper still exists and, as they proudly announce on their website, is still producing bathroom fittings (see here).

1898 advertisement (Source: Graces Guide)

1898 advertisement (Source: Graces Guide)

Basin from Bolding's (Source: English Salvage)

Basin from Bolding’s (Source: English Salvage)

'Plate 21: No. 58 Davies Street, Boldings', in Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings), ed. F H W Sheppard (London, 1980), http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol40/pt2/plate-21 [accessed 26 February 2016].

‘Plate 21: No. 58 Davies Street, Boldings’, in Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair (London, 1980), online via British History Online here

This postage stamp with Bolding's name as a commercial overprint comes from http://cosgb.blogspot.nl/2013/03/j-bolding-sons-ltd.html

Postage stamp with Bolding’s name as a commercial overprint (Source: COSGB)

More information on Bolding’s can be found in “A History of John Bolding & Sons” in The Plumber and Journal of Heating, vol. 84 July 1962 issue, p.474-478.

Heraldic shields

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The unobtrusive entrance to the Moravian burial ground can be found in a quiet corner of Chelsea, on Milman’s Street, more or less on the corner with King’s Road. The Moravians had had their meeting room in the City at Fetter Lane since 1742 and continued to use it till an air raid in World War II destroyed the building. In 1750, the brotherhood bought a large plot of land in Chelsea in order to realise their ideal of a dedicated community which was to have the name “Sharon”, but unfortunately, the money ran out and most of the land had to be sold off again in 1774. What remained is the small site of the burial ground with a few buildings, known as Moravian Close.

Beaufort House, drawn by Kip in 1708 for Britannia Illustrata Beaufort House in the centre of the picture, Lindley House bottom left, Gorges House between the two and the stable blocks beyond the main house on the left

Beaufort House, drawn by Kip in 1708 for Britannia Illustrata with Beaufort House in the centre of the picture, Lindsey House bottom left, Gorges House between the two and the stable blocks beyond the main house on the left

The money to buy the large piece of land in Chelsea came from Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, the head of the Brethren of the Moravian Unity (see for more on him here), but as foreigners were not allowed to own land, it was purchased in trust for the Moravians by various wealthy supporters. The occupation of the original plot of land (stretching from the river to King’s Road) had started in 1524 when Sir Thomas More built a house there surrounded by large gardens and orchards. The Moravian burial ground is situated on what used to be the stable blocks in the northwest corner of the estate. After More was found guilty of treason and executed in July 1535, the estate was granted to Sir William Paulet, the first Marquess of Winchester who had been one of the judges in More’s trial. It was inherited by his son John, the second Marquess. It then passed to Gregory Fienness, Lord Dacre, and his wife Anne who left it to Lord Burleigh and hence to his son Sir Robert Cecil.

In 1599 the house was sold to Henry Clinton, second Earl of Lincoln, and then passed to his son-in-law Sir Arthur Gorges who sold it to Lionel Cranfield, the Earl of Middlesex. Cranfield fell out with Charles I and his property was confiscated and granted in 1627 to George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham. In the Civil War, the house was seized by Parliament, and although the second Duke of Buckingham regained it, he lost it again through debts. It came into the hands of George Digby whose widow sold it in 1682 to Henry Somerset, Marquess of Worcester, later 5th Duke of Beaufort. The house then became known as Beaufort House. The last owner was Sir Hans Sloane who had the building demolished. In the two centuries between the building of the original house for Sir Thomas More and its destruction by Sir Hans Sloane, the house had been modified and enlarged several times and other houses had been built in the grounds, such as Lindsey House and Gorges House.

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burial registration

The buildings that are now on the Moravian site have been transformed several times. In the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, the larger building in the centre of the row of buildings on the north side of the grounds was used by various other organisations; at one time it was a school. The smaller building on the east side was retained by the Moravians as a chapel for burial ceremonies. On the centre building a plaque can be found commemorating Christian Renatus von Zinzendorf, the son of the founder (more on him here). His burial registration refers to the burial ground in Milman’s Street as “Sharon”.

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The burial ground itself is divided into four sections: two squares for single and married sisters and two squares for the single and married brethren. The gravestones lie flat on the ground and only have name and dates of birth and death. The Close is a conservation area and the buildings are Grade II listed. Across from the burial ground a pergola can be seen which was set up by sculptors Ernest and Mary Gillick (see here and here) who leased the site from the Moravians from 1914 to 1964. After they left, the Fetter Lane community who had been using various other chapels after their own was destroyed in 1941, decided to relocate to Moravian Close.

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The Gillicks were also responsible for the heraldic shields above the stone bench along the south wall. They represent the former owners from Thomas More to Hans Sloane.

More

More


More, Paulet, Fiennes

More, Paulet, Fiennes


Fiennes, Cecil, Clinton

Fiennes, Cecil, Clinton


Clinton, Gorges, Cranfield

Clinton, Gorges, Cranfield


Cranfield, Villiers, Digby

Cranfield, Villiers, Digby


Somerset, Sloane

Somerset, Sloane

The site is open to visitors on Wednesday afternoons and – at least when I was there – is a very pleasant and quiet green space, away from the hustle and bustle of Chelsea.
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The information on the history of Beaufort House came from the Survey of London, vol. 4, The Parish of Chelsea II (1913) and information on the burial ground from A Feasibility Study for Moravian Close, 281 Kings Road, Chelsea, London (2003).
Website of the Church: www.moravian.org.uk.

Beasley’s Yard

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When I was looking for background material for the post on Jackson & Walford, booksellers of St. Paul’s Churchyard, for my other blog, I found the Autobiography of William Walford which led me to Beasley’s Yard in Uxbridge.

Autobiography title-page

The Autobiography was edited by John Stoughton and published in 1851 by Jackson & Walford. It takes the form of letters written by Walford senior to his friend Stoughton with the intent of having the letters collectively form a memoir of the reverend’s life. As I already said in the blog post on the booksellers, father William was not very good at details such as names or dates, so it is a bit of a haphazard process to distill his life story from the book, but what I am most interested in for the purpose of this post, is his connection to Beasley’s Yard.

The reverend says in one of his letters that he moved from Hackney to Uxbridge “about the time of the publication of this work”. “This work” is his new translation of the Book of Psalms as – in his view at least – the so-called ‘Authorized Version’ was badly translated and could be improved upon. Walford’s edition of the psalms was published in 1837 by Jackson & Walford, so the move to Uxbridge probably took place in 1837 or 1838. Walford senior had already been acquainted with the Congregational community in Uxbridge for quite some time before his move as he “was in the habit of going almost every week to Uxbridge to officiate in a congregation, the minister of which, a relation of my wife, was advanced in years, and lived but a short time after my visits to assist him were first made”.

portrait of William Walford from his Autobiography

portrait of William Walford from his Autobiography

After the death of the old minister, Walford continued to travel to Uxbridge, until an illness prevented him from doing so. In the years that he suffered from ill-health, the congregation was first served by a friend of Walford and later by a former pupil, but when the latter left for Birmingham, Walford’s health had improved enough for him to take up his duties again. He moved to Uxbridge “as the congregation was not large, [he] thought the discharge of the duties which it involved would not be oppressive”. His house stood “on Uxbridge Common, moderately elevated, and commands, on the eastern front, the hills of Harrow, Highgate, Hampstead, with several others; and on the west, the vicinity of Windsor, sufficiently near to see the Royal Standard, which waves with the breeze, when the Court is at the Castle”. Uxbridge Town was less than half a mile away from his house and as London could be reached in two hours, the reverend was quite pleased with his new abode.

These days, Uxbridge can be reached in less than half the time it took Walford, so one day I went by Underground to have a look at what was left of the meeting house where he had officiated. The building is situated just off the High Street in Beasley’s Yard, named after Thomas Ebenezer Beasley, the minister of the church from 1790 to 1824.(1) Walford does not mention the name of the minister whose duties he took over, but it could well have been Beasley. The Old Meeting Congregational Church is said to have been founded in the 1660s, but meetings were held in the homes of members until 1716 when their first meeting house was erected.

The 1716 building from The history of the ancient town and borough of Uxbridge by G. Redford and T.H. Riches (1818

The 1716 building from The History of the Ancient Town and Borough of Uxbridge by G. Redford and T.H. Riches (1818)

Portrait of Thomas Ebenezer Beasley (Source: British Museum)

Portrait of Thomas Ebenezer Beasley (Source: British Museum)

To the right of the tower, next to the windows on the present-day building, a few tiles forming the year 1883 can be seen and a plaque on the tower itself gives both the original year of 1716 and the year of the extension and rebuilding of 1883. The west wall was rebuilt, the three remaining 18th-century walls were raised to support a new roof, and a small square tower and vestry were added for a total sum of nearly £1,300.(2) The windows are fitted with stained glass in a simple style, befitting the Congregational tenets.

The congregation was never very large and in 1962 it merged with the Providence Congregational Church to form the Uxbridge United Church and in 1972, the Congregational and Methodist churches amalgamated into Christ Church and the building in Beasley’s Yard was no longer needed as a church, but is now used for community purposes and has been renamed Watts Hall, in honour of Isaac Watts, the hymn writer.
When I visited the yard, there was no one around to ask if there was any possibility of looking inside, so the pictures from the outside will have to do, but you can see some inside pictures here.

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William Walford’s Autobiography can be read online here.
A 1960 photograph of the yard can be found here.

(1) http://www.eddiethecomputer.co.uk/history/galli.htm.
(2) A History of the County of Middlesex, volume 4 (1971).

Watts Chapel

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Although this blog is about London Details, this photographic post makes an excursion to Compton, near Guildford, in Surrey where the Watts Mortuary Chapel can be found. The chapel is also known as the Watts Cemetery Chapel and can be found close to Watts Gallery. The first part of the name, Watts, may give you clue why I am including a Surrey chapel in this blog as George Frederic Watts, painter and sculptor, was the brain behind the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park. Although Watts already conceived the idea of such a memorial in 1887, it took so long to materialise that only four plaques had been installed in the memorial wall in the park before Watts’ death in 1904. His widow, Mary Seton Fraser Tytler, continued the project, as she was to do with the chapel in Compton.

Mary Watts was the artistic force behind the chapel, but her husband paid for it and presented it to the village of Compton. Lots of villagers were involved in shaping and decorating the chapel with Mary Watts teaching them how to make the terracotta tiles as well as guiding them in decorating the interior in the Arts & Crafts style mixed with Celtic influences. And it is true what Richard Jefferies, former curator of Watts Gallery, says, that nothing prepares you for the shock of seeing the interior, even after having been astounded by the outside (for link see bottom of post). Both George Frederic and Mary are buried in the cemetery behind the chapel. The chapel is now a Grade I listed building and the cemetery itself is Grade II.(1) Unfortunately the inside is rather dark and no match for my small camera, but I hope I can give you at least a faint impression of what there is to see in this amazing building.

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Links
Lots has been written about the chapel, but you may like to start with these:
London Historians visited Watts Gallery and you can read their posts on the visit here. You can watch the short introduction to the chapel by Watts Gallery here, or the slightly longer explanation, Mary Watts & The Watts Chapel by Richard Jefferies here. Or simply go to the Watts Gallery website for more information.

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(1) Historic England, Listed building 1029541; and Historic England, Register of Parks and Gardens.

Alexander Cruden, the Corrector

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Looking up in London is always a good idea if one can do so without getting run over and in traffic free streets such as Camden Passage it is very rewarding. Looking over an awning into the street is the face of Alexander Cruden who styled himself “the Corrector”. Next to his face is a plaque which reads:

Alexander Cruden 1699-1770 / Humanist scholar and intellectual / Born Aberdeen Educated Marischal College / Came to London 1719 as tutor Appointed / book seller to Queen Caroline in 1737 / Compiled the Concordance to the Bible / Died here in Camden Passage, November 1st / whom niether infirmity nor neglect could debase Nelson 1811

Cruden in Camden Passage 2

The mis-spelled quote “whom neither infirmity nor neglect could debase” comes from John Nelson’s History, Topography, and Antiquities of the Parish of St. Mary Islington, in the County of Middlesex (1811)(1) The phrase is frequently said to come from Alexander Chalmers who first wrote the entry on Cruden in 1778 for the Biographia Britannica (vol. 4, pp. 619-624), but it does not appear there. Nor does it appear in The General Biographical Dictionary of 1813 which was revised by A. Chalmers and in which he says in a footnote that his entry on Cruden is the same as that prefixed to the Concordance of 1810. The phrase does appear in the Memoirs attached to later editions of the Concordance, so I think I will give the benefit of the doubt to Nelson and will assume that Chalmers incorporated the phrase without acknowledgement when he enlarged his biography of Cruden in later editions of the latter’s Concordance.

Over the years, much has been written about Cruden and not all of it positive. He was considered, if not completely mad, at least a touch deranged and he spent several spells in various madhouses because those around him did not know how else to stop him behaving like – in their eyes – a lunatic, or, to put a negative slant on the motives of those who had him incarcerated, against their interests. What I can gather from the biographies is that he was considered rather excentric, but as he did no real harm, he certainly should not have been locked up.

portrait used in the 3rd edition of the Concordance to the Bible 1769 (Source: National Portrait Gallery)

portrait used in the 3rd edition of the Concordance to the Bible 1769 (Source: National Portrait Gallery)

But let’s start at the beginning. Alexander Cruden, the son of a merchant, was born in Aberdeen in either 1699 or 1701, depending on who you believe. After attending grammar school and Marischal College, he apparently intended to study for the ministry, but an unhappy love affair and a spell in the mad-house, probably for knowing about the illicit affair of his intended with her own brother, decided him to leave for London. He worked as a private tutor until 1726 when he became a proof reader. A notice in The London Journal of 16 November 1734, states that he was “lately corrector to the Printing Office in Wild-Court”, but now bookseller at the Bible and Anchor under the Royal Exchange. Just a month before this notice, Cruden had obtained the freedom of the City via the Stationers’ Company by redemption, that is, by paying a fine for not following the usual route of a 7-year apprenticeship.(2) In the following years, quite a number of advertisements appeared in the newspapers to annouce books that could be bought at Cruden’s, but also one for Doctor Rogers’s Oleum Arthriticum: or, Specifick Oyl for the Gout. The doctor sold the stuff from his house in Stamford, Lincs, and he had agents in all the major towns. Cruden was the only address in London where the miraculous cure for gout could be obtained. These days, we would find it most peculiar if patent medicines were sold in our local bookshop, but certainly up to Victorian times it was quite an accepted sideline.

In 1735, Cruden was given the honourable title of “Bookseller in Ordinary to her Majesty”, that is, to Queen Caroline.(3) He replaced a Mr. E. Matthews who had died. Honourable as the title may have been, it probably did not bring many financial rewards and Cruden kept his bookshop running besides embarking on an ambitious project to compile a concordance to the Bible. Apparently he worked on it every morning, attending to business in the afternoon, and at the end of 1737, the publication was announced.

Advertisement in The Daily Post, 10 November 1737

Advertisement in The Daily Post, 10 November 1737

Although the advertisement says “this day is published”, you must not take that too literally, as they still said that in advertisements in December, but it certainly indicates ‘very recently’. The booksellers thought fit to put the year 1738 on the title-page, but that was just a ploy to make sure the book did not appear out of date within a few months. Please note that the volume was “dedicated to Her Most Sacred Majesty”. However, a few days after Cruden presented Queen Caroline with his Concordance, she was taken ill and died shortly afterwards (on the 20th). The advertisement in the paper for Cruden’s work had to be changed rapidly and the one in a paper of 26 November had the phrase “dedicated to her late Sacred Majesty”. Cruden was rather upset about the death of the Queen – not to mention rather put out by not receiving the financial reward he had expected from the queen for his monumental work – and not long afterwards, he gave up bookselling and returned to his former occupation of proof-reading.(4) He corrected, for instance, Thomas Newton’s edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost for Tonson and Draper who published that work in 1749.(5)

In 1754, Cruden unsuccessfully tried to become an M.P. for London, perhaps an understandable failure considering his antics and spells in madhouses, however unfair these may now seem. His eccentricities were usually considered harmless and amusing rather than threatening, although they were probably highly irritating for the ‘victims’ of his attention. But, he gradually grew in his role as self-appointed Corrector of Morals rather than as Corrector of Books. It is said that he walked around with a sponge in order to wipe out offensive graffiti, especially “No. 45” in use by the supporters of John Wilkes.(6) The numer 45 was a reference to instalment 45 of The North Briton which appeared in April, 1763, and in which Wilkes wrote an essay mocking the monarchy.(7)

In 1761, the second, and in 1769, the third revised editions of his Concordance were published and it remained the most authoritative of that kind of work until well into the 19th century. 1769 was also the year in which Cruden finally returned to Aberdeen. He stayed up north for about a year and on 10 April 1770 wrote his will before returning to London.(8) The General Evening Post of 15 May, 1770, reporting on the return of “Mr. Alexander Cruden, Corrector of the People”, said that he speeched in various towns on the way “upon the necessity of Reformation” and “many hundreds of papers were given away in the roads and towns by Mr. Cruden, as he came up in the post-chaise”. Unfortunately, Cruden was not to complete his self-imposed task of reforming the people, as he died on 1 November of that year. He had never married, despite several desperate attempts, and left his property to various relatives and to the City of Aberdeen for the purchase of religious books to be distributed to the poor. Despite his wish to be buried in Aberdeen, his body was interred in the dissenters’ burial-ground at Deadman’s Place, Southwark.

Lloyd's Evening Post, 2 November 1770

Lloyd’s Evening Post, 2 November 1770


Cruden in Camden Passage 1
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According to London Remembers, the plaque in Camden Passage was unveiled by John Betjeman, but it is not the only plaque for Cruden. His hometown of Aberdeen also honoured its – albeit slightly wayward – son with one quite close to where he was born in Cruden’s Court, off Broad Street, apparently also unveiled by Betjeman.(9)

Source: blueplaqueplaces.co.uk

Source: blueplaqueplaces.co.uk

Besides the sources mentioned in the text, information on Cruden can be found in:
– Lionel Alexander Ritchie, ‘Cruden, Alexander (1699–1770)’ in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
– E. Olivier, The Eccentric Life of Alexander Cruden (1934).
– J. Keay, Alexander the Corrector: the tormented genius who unwrote the bible (2005).
– J. Lim, Alexander Cruden on the website http://www.ebenezeroldhill.org.uk/articles.
– R. Pearsal, “Cruden of the Concordance 1701-1770” in New Blackfriars (1971), pp. 88-90.

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(1) Cruden’s biography pp. 392-400.
(2) The fine was 46s 8d.
(3) London Daily Post, 21 March, 1735 and General Evening Post, 12 April 1735.
(4) The Land Tax records for the Royal Exchange only show his name in 1835 and 1836, apparently sharing the property (their names are bracketed) with Portman Safford, hatter, who took over the whole shop after Cruden left.
(5) Percy Simpson, Proof-Reading in the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1935), p. 159-160.
(6) Charles Henry Timperley, Encyclopedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842), p. 723.
(7) http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/summer03/wilkes.cfm
(8) National Archives, Kew, Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers: PROB 11/963/7.
(9) David Toulmin in his A Chiel Among Them: A Scots Miscellany (1982) says “Alexander Cruden had to wait nearly two hundred years for his nameplate in Broad Street, when it was unveiled by Sir John Betjeman, the Poet Laureate, in 1968”.

53 Kingsland Road

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53 Kingsland Rd Detail

The history of the building at 53 Kingsland Road cannot be seen separately from the neighbouring property at numbers 41-49, now the premises of a motorcycle shop. An advertisement of 1928 (see below) gives the address of 41-53 Kingsland Road for Eaton, Parr & Gibson, “plate, sheet & ornamental glass merchants”. This would certainly explain the word ‘GLASS’ above the bay window, but that is not the whole story. Number 53 has always been a separate building with Caroline Place in between number 53 and the other property. Google Maps calls it Caroline Gardens, but as the little alleyway shows no streetname sign, I do not know if that is correct. Although it now looks like a dead end, reaching no further than the back of the shops on Kingsland Road, Caroline Place used to run much further back with houses on both sides. These are now gone and Google Earth shows that back section to be just a parking lot.

1893-95 Ordnance Survey

1893-95 Ordnance Survey

53 Kingsland Rd 3

Before the large firm of Eaton, Parr & Gibson took over number 53, it had been a separate business and in 1878, one William Henry Tilley, “a lamp contractor” had his business there. One of his employees stole various bits of glass from his master and was caught. One day, he left the warehouse where the lamp-glass was stored with 11 panes of glass and a ladder to restore some lamps. After mending two lamps, he deposited some of the other pieces of glass with an accomplish, not knowing that he had been under suspicion and that the glass had been marked. The thief was found guilty and sentenced to three months hard labour.(1)

1902 POD

Tilley continued his business in Kingsland Road and in 1902 we find him, now as a gas fitter, in the Post Office Directory. Please note that number 41 is still a baker’s and also note that number 51 is mentioned as being on the same side of Caroline Place as 41-49 and part of Eaton & Co’s business. In Hughes’ Business Directory of London for 1921, Tilley Bros, gas engineers, are still listed for number 53. The London Street Directory for 1921, helpfully transcribed by pubhistory.com (see here) shows Eaton & Co. at nos. 41-49, then Caroline Place and then at no. 51 the Cheap Glass & Mirror Co. Ltd with Tilley Brothers, gas engineers and the Tilley High Pressure Syndicate at no. 53. It seems unlikely that number 51 suddenly jumped to the other side of Caroline Place, and more likely that it was a mistake in the directory. At least we know that the Tilleys are still at number 53, and although no more glass is mentioned in the directory, an advertisement in the Gas Journal of 1911 shows they still sold lamps and an 1920 advertisement in Building tells us that they undertook “repairs, cleaning, repolishing and relacquering” of bronzing and that fittings could be removed or refixed by experienced workmen.

1934 POD

The 1928 advertisement shown below already had Eaton & Co. at number 53 and the 1934 Post Office Directory confirms that that firm had taken over all properties from numbers 41 to 53. The question remains of course who added the ‘glass’ decoration to the front of the building? I am afraid I have to remain silent on that point as I have not been able to find out and my architectural knowledge is not good enough to determine whether it was done before 1925 and hence by Tilley, or after that year and by Eaton, Parr & Gibson, but I lean towards the later date as Tilley was not so much a glass dealer as someone who used glass in his business, while Eaton & Co. were ‘proper’ glass merchants. Suggestions welcome, however.

Advertisement from The Times, 22 May 1928

Advertisement from The Times, 22 May 1928

53 Kingsland Rd 2

53 Kingsland Rd 1

(1) The Times, 13 september 1878.

Green oasis 3 – Geffrye

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On a rainy day, I decided to visit the Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Road. After all, visiting a museum is an excellent pastime when it is raining, but as could be expected, it was rather busy inside. Outside, however, few brave souls visited the gardens and that is a shame really, as they are very nice; even when it is raining. So, if you want a quiet moment in a green space, go to the museum when the weather is not all that good and enter the garden just inside the left-hand entrance (opening times the same as the museum; see for directions here). The first thing you come across is a small area with some gravestones, then a bit of lawn and next the walled herb garden. From there, go through the exit on the right and wander into the period gardens; each one is provided with an information panel. Below my pictures, complete with raindrops.

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entrance to the herb garden

entrance to the herb garden

herb garden

herb garden

Echinacae pururea

Echinacae pururea

Elizabethan knot garden

Elizabethan knot garden

Elizabethan 'useful' garden

Elizabethan ‘useful’ garden

Paeonia mascula

Paeonia mascula

Mid-late Victorian greenhouse

Mid-late Victorian greenhouse

Informal Edwardian garden

Informal Edwardian garden

Geffery Museum

Hope you enjoyed that!

Website of the museum here.

A gate at the Royal Exchange

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detail

Anyone even slightly familiar with London knows the impressive Royal Exchange building, but have you ever looked further than the massive porticoed front? Oh, you have been inside, have you? Great, but that was not what I meant. Have you, for instance, gone round the whole building on a Sunday morning when it was still shut? No, I did not think you had, but you should, because if you had done so, you would have seen this very elaborate fence closing off the northern entrance.

Royal Exchange gate in Threadneedle Street 5

map

The present Royal Exhange building is the third on the spot. The first was built at the instigation of Sir Thomas Gresham in 1566-68, but that building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The same fate fell to the second building on the 10th of January, 1838, and the third was subsequently built in the early 1840s. Many plans were submitted for the new building, but the Committee could not decide on a winning design. Several architects were then asked to submit a design, but not many were willing to commit themselves, and after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing the classical design of Sir William Tite was chosen who characterised his design as a building “of grandeur, simpilicity and usefulness”. The fact that a classical design was chosen is no wonder as the remit was that the design was to be “of the Grecian, Roman or Italian style of architecture, having each front of stone of a hard and durable quality”.(1)

Royal Exchange 2
Tenders for the actual building work were received in October 1841 and the firm of Messrs. Webb was chosen to lay the foundation. A second contract for the actual building itself was granted to Thomas Jackson, “of course”, as the Sydney Herald would have it, because he submitted the cheapest estimate.(2) On 17 January, 1842, the foundation stone was laid by Prince Albert. The official opening took place on 28 October, 1844, by Queen Victoria herself.(3)

Royal Exchange gate in Threadneedle Street 1

In the centre of the grillwork at the entrance in Threadneedle Street, a maiden can be seen, the symbol and coat of arms of the Mercers’ Company. Thomas Gresham, a mercer, had bequeathed the first Royal Exchange jointly to the Mercers and the City of London Corporation. You can see the coat of arms of the City on the gates at the southern entrance. The Mercers’ Maiden graces many buildings in London signifying their ownership. According to the Mercers’ website, she first appeared in 1425 on a seal and over the centuries her apparel has changed with the fashions of the day until 1911 when she was officially turned into the coat of arms of the Company.

Royal Exchange gate in Threadneedle Street 3

On the bottom of the gate the name of the ironworks that supplied the gates can be found: H. & M.D. Grissell. Henry and his brother Martin De La Garde Grissell had a partnership between 1841 and 1858 as the Regent’s Canal Ironworks at Eagle Warf Road. Henry was the driving force behind the firm and had worked with John Joseph Bramah before he started his own business. After 1858, Henry continued the business on his own. The firm made ironworks for bridges, lighthouses, dockyards and other waterworks, both in England and abroad. Robert Stephenson and Grissell had the highest regard for each other and they often worked together on Stephenson’s engineering projects, such as on the bridges over the Nile. Other gates and fences that were supplied by the Regent’s Canal Ironworks can be found at Buckingham Palace and the British Museum. After Henry’s death, an obituary appeared in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers (vol. 73, 1883) in which Henry was given the sobriquet of “Iron Henry” and was said to be almost obsessed by the details of his work. This attention to detail speaks strongly from the gates at the Royal Exchange. Let’s hope that this Royal Exchange does not fall victim to a fire as its predecessors have done and that we can admire Grissell’s gates for a long time to come.

Royal Exchange gate in Threadneedle Street 2

One question remains, however. What do the initials G.T. mean on the gates? The only two explanation I can come up with is Guilliam (Latin variant of William) Tite, the architect, or a combination of the first letters of Tite and Grissell. Any thoughts, anyone? Update: the initials are indeed of Sir Thomas Gresham, so the guess by London Remembers (see comment) turns out to be correct. Thanks go to Michael Moore, Building Manager at the Royal Exchange, for confirmation.

Royal Exchange gate in Threadneedle Street 4

More on Henry Grissell and his activities on the school committee of Holy Trinity, Hoxton, at London Remembers.

(1) Wilson’s Description of the New Royal Exchange (1844), pp. 73-78.
(2) The Penny Mechanic and Chemist: A Magazine of the Arts and Sciences, 11 September 1841, p. 325; and The Sydney Herald, 8 February, 1842.
(3) Wilson, p. 80-81 and 116.

St. Mary’s clock tower

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The area of the Elephant and Castle Roundabout is probably the last place in London you would go to for a relaxing walk, but perhaps you should reconsider. A little to the south of the shopping centre on the A3, on the opposite side of the road, a small green space can be found called St. Mary’s Churchyard. And yes, it did once belong to a real church, St. Mary’s, Newington Butts, but the church is no longer there as it has been moved to Kennington Park Road (website here).

The history of the church officially starts in the fourteenth century when it is mentioned in a medieval document, but it may be a lot older as there is a church mentioned in the Doomsday Book that may or may not refer to the site of St. Mary’s. The lands around it had belonged to the Manor of Walworth, but the area changed its name to Newington, possibly because of the new houses, or ‘New Town’ that had sprung up on the edge of Walworth. According to John Noorthouck, it “is thought to receive the addition of Butts from the exercise of shooting at butts formerly practised here, and in other parts of the kingdom, to train the young men to archery”, although he does concede that it perhaps derived from the Butts family of Norfolk who had an estate in the area.(1)

Horwood 1799 map

Horwood 1799 map

According to John Stow, in 1715 the church showed “a sudden rupture in the wall, which put the Congregation, then assembled, into such a general consternation that they all ran out, and many in making their escape, were bruised and trodden under foot, and received great hurt”.(2) An investigation was launched and the structure was found “so much decayed in the pillars, walls and beams, and in the roof and foundation” that it was deemed unsafe and not worth the money repairing. The main part of the church was demolished in 1720, leaving just the clock tower standing. A new church, incorporating the old clock tower, was speedily built and opened in March 1721 and enlarged in 1793.

Source: Old and New London, vol. 6

The church in 1866 (Source: Old and New London, vol. 6)

The Newington Butts Road became busier and busier and as the church stood so close to the road, it was considered a public danger. In 1876, the church was demolished and a new one built in Kennington Park Road. The old churchyard became a public garden and a year later, on the site of the old church, a new clock tower was erected which is described by Edward Walford:

This tower is fourteen feet square at the base, and carried up in five stages with buttresses to a height of about a hundred feet. The clock-face is placed at the height of seventy feet. In the lower part of the building the material is Portland stone, the remainder being of Bath stone, and the front to Newington Butts, as well as the two sides, is enriched with carvings in florid Gothic. There is a doorway in the centre of the front, with windows in the upper part. On the left side of the doorway is the following inscription: This tower was built at the expense of Robert Faulconer, Esq., Anno Domini 1877, on the site of the old parish church of St. Mary’s, Newington.(3)

1893 Ordnance Survey map showing the position of the clock tower

1893 Ordnance Survey map showing the position of the clock tower

ILN, 6 April 1878

ILN, 6 April 1878

A newspaper report elaborated on Walford’s last remark. According to the Illustrated London News, the new tower had “at the sides of the doorway two handsome panels, filled with polished red granite, on which is the following inscription in engraved and gilded letters: – ‘This clock tower, erected A.D. 1877 by R.S. Faulconer, Esq. formerly a churchwarden of the parish of St. Mary, Newington, probably marks the site of the Saxon church mentioned in the Doomsday Book in connection with Walworth, as it certainly does that of several churches which have been built in succession upon it. The last church upon this site was erected in 1793, and was removed under the authority of an Act of Parliament in 1876, in which year on May 1, the new mother church of St. Mary, Newington, in the Kennington Park-road, was consecrated'”. Now, compare this text with the text on the plaques lying in the plant border near the fence to mark the spot where the tower stood and you will see that the newspaper journalist was not a hundred per cent word perfect, but near enough to make me think we are talking about the same panels. Did they remove them from the clock tower in 1971 when it was demolished after having been a local landmark for almost a hundred years? Or are the ones you see in the churchyard new copies? Granite is a hardy material that can easily survive the century and a half since the tower was first erected and a bit of new gilding will do wonders. Whether original or copy, it is nice to know that a small park on a busy road has a solid connection with the past. The churchyard itself was re-landscaped in 2007 and the restored 1876 railings form a sturdy barrier between a very pleasant green retreat and the hustle and bustle of the Elephant and Castle junction.

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(1) J. Noorthouck, A New History of London, including Westminster and Southwark, 1773, p. 691.
(2) J. Stow, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, Borough of Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, ed. R. Seymour, 1735, volume 2, p. 810.
(3) E. Walford, Old and New London, 1878, volume 6, p. 264.

You can read more on the history of the churchyard on the London Gardens Online website here.

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