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Their affections were centred in the parts beyond the sea, from whence all particulars were shrouded in mystery. Ardently athirst for news, the people were beside themselves with joy when the truth arrived to refresh the longing ears of all the City, “That our illustrious King, the Lord giving His aid therein, had by such grace gained the victory over his enemies and adversaries, who had united to oppose his march through the midst of his territory of France towards Calais.” Joyous news succeeding apprehensions of adversity filled the rulers of the City with gratitude, and they went like pilgrims on foot to pour out their thanksgivings at the altar of Westminster Abbey. When the enthusiasm was somewhat passed, the Mayor and Aldermen were anxious that the reasons of their action should not be hidden by an unnecessary silence, and that "such journey on foot may not come to pass for a precedent, when others succeed to the office of the Mayoralty of the said City, in manifest derogation of the laudable customs of the said City hitherto followed." At that time the walk from the City to Westminster would be through much miry ground. As most of the traffic was carried along the “silent highway,” the roads were much neglected.
In this same year, 1415, a case of precedence is related. Henry V. sent the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Winchester, his brothers the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, and others, to consult with the Mayor. Diligent counsel was held as to the order in which they ought to sit, and the Lords agreed together that the Mayor, in consideration of the reverence and honour due to our most excellent Lord the King, of whom he is the representative in the City, should have his place when sitting, in the middle, and that the said Lords of Canterbury and Winchester should be seated on his right hand, and John, Humphrey, and Edward on the left.
Some years after a less satisfactory arrangement was made. About midsummer the serjeants of the Coif gave a feast, to which Sir Matthew Philip, the Mayor of London, was invited. At dinner-time he came with his officers according to his degree, but on finding that the Earl of Worcester by some blunder was set before him, he went home again without meat and drink. When the officers of the feast found out their mistake, they tried to remedy it by sending the Mayor a present of “meat, bread, wine and many divers subtleties.” But when the messengers arrived they found quite as sumptuous a banquet actually laid upon the table, and the person who was to make the presentation felt ashamed of the task imposed upon him. He acquitted himself, however, gracefully, and was dismissed with thanks, “and a great reward withall."
If in those days the honours were great, we shall find that the responsibilities were great also. Henry V. would not allow the Aldermen to be absent from their duty, and he sent a mandate to the Lord Mayor charging him to see that all Aldermen resided within the City. All these incidents have to do with topography, because they show us the importance of London within the City walls. Although there were some suburbs, they were but sparsely inhabited, and the heart of England found its place in the City.
We have been so long used to the freedom of an open City that it is not easy for us to realise the inconveniences attendant on residence within a fortified town. When the curfew was tolled, the gates were closed, and any one found about the streets was liable to be brought up for examination and punishment if he could not give a satisfactory account of himself. In the Provisions for the Safe-keeping of the City (10 Edward I.) 1282, we read :
“All the gates of the City are to be open by day; and at each gate there are to be two serjeants to open the same, skilful men, and fluent of speech, who are to keep a good watch upon persons coming in and going out, that so no evil may befall the City. At every Parish Church curfew is to be rung at the same hour as at St. Martin's-le-Grand; so that they begin together and end together, and then all the gates are to be shut, as well as all taverns for wine or for ale; and no one is then to go about the streets or ways. Six persons are to watch in each ward by night, of the most competent men of the ward thereto; and the two serjeants who guard the gates by day are to lie at night either within the gates or near thereto.
“The serjeants of Billingsgate and Queenhithe are to see that all boats are moored on the City side at night, and are to have the names of all boats; and no one is to cross the Thames at night, and each serjeant must have his own boat with four men, to guard the water by night, on either side of the bridge.
“The serjeants at the gates are to receive fourpence per day, and the boatmen at night one penny each.” No one was to be so daring as to walk in the streets after curfew had rung, but every one was to be ready to come when summoned to the watch, armed and arrayed as he ought to be. 1
In Edward II.'s reign all the gates were to be closed at sunset, but the wickets were to be kept open until curfew. Then the wickets were opened at prime (6 A.m.) and the great gates at sunrise.
Outside the walls was the Houndsditch, where refuse was thrown, and the City foss obtained that name as well in the west as in the east, where the name still exists.
In considering the history of the various gates, we may commence with Aldgate, which, to judge by the name, was of considerable antiquity.
The earliest historical event connected with the gate itself occurred during the wars of the Barons against King John. In the year 1215 the Barons having received intelligence secretly that they might enter London with ease through Aldgate, which was then in a very ruinous condition, removed their camp from Bedford to Ware, and shortly after marched into the City in the night-time. Having succeeded in their object, they thought it a pity that so important a gate should remain longer in a defenceless condition, and therefore they spoiled the religious houses and robbed the monastery coffers, in order to have means wherewith to rebuild it. Much of the material was obtained from the destroyed houses of the Jews, but the stone for the bulwarks was obtained from Caen, and the small bricks or tiles from Flanders. This is supposed to have been the same gate that is described by Stow, and was taken down in 1606. It had originally two pairs of gates, but there was only one pair in Stow's time, although the hooks of the other pair still remained.
1 Regulations, 25 Edw. I.
In 1374 (48 Edward III.) the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the City of London leased the dwelling-house above the gate of Aldgate to the poet Chaucer for life, and from the original document it appears that he was not allowed to underlet any part of the house to others. The authorities bound themselves not to use the gate as a gaol during Chaucer's life. The Chamberlain had power to enter at all times to see that the place was properly maintained. In times of danger the house might be entered for the purpose of defence.
In spite of this provision there must have been considerable danger from this use of the City gates as dwelling-houses. In 1381, during Wat Tyler's insurrection, when the men of Essex and Kent met at Mile End, they found no difficulty in pouring into the City through Aldgate. An attempt was made to obviate this evil in 1386, when it was enacted that the gates should no longer be let as dwelling-houses.
During the century that had elapsed since Wat Tyler's easy entrance into the City, greater attention appears to have been paid to the protection of the gates, and when Thomas Nevill, son of Lord Thomas Fauconbergh, made his attack upon London in 1471, he experienced a very spirited resistance. He first attempted to land from his ships in the City, but the Thames side from Baynard's Castle to the Tower was so well fortified that he had to seek a quieter and less prepared position.
He then set upon the several gates in succession but was pulsed at all. On May 11 he made a desperate attack upon Aldgate, followed by 500 men, He won the bulwarks, and some of his followers entered into the City; but the portcullis being let down, they were cut off from their own party and were slain by the enemy. The portcullis was then drawn up and the besieged issued forth against the rebels, who were made to fly.
Bishopsgate obtained its name from the famous Erkenwald, Bishop of London (who died in 685). The Hanse merchants were charged with the safe-keeping and repair of the gate, and were free of the toll levied on others. The Bishop of London had the privilege of receiving one stick from every cart laden with wood which entered the gate, and in return he was bound to supply the hinges.
Moorgate was a postern in the wall made in the year 1415 to lead out into the moor of London. This place was a constant trouble to the City. It was first drained in 1527, laid out in walks in 1606, and first built upon late in the reign of Charles II.
Our earliest notice of Cripplegate dates from 1010, in which
year the body of King Edmund the Martyr was carried into London through this entrance. It, like Moorgate, was only a postern at first.
A barbican or watch tower was built to the north of the gate, as an outwork for observation and defence, and the little village with its Fore Street, which grew up outside the walls, was sheltered behind it. The care of this important position was naturally given to trustworthy persons, and there is an interesting little story connected with it. Edward III. appointed Robert Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, keeper of the barbican, and from him it descended in course of time to Catherine, daughter of William Lord Willoughby de Eresby, who married firstly Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and secondly Richard Bertie. Bertie and his wife the Duchess were Protestants, and in Queen Mary's reign their lives were in such great danger that they had to fly from the country. Between four and five o'clock in the morning of January 1, 1554-1555, the Duchess began her adventurous journey in a thick fog. She had to escape with the greatest secrecy, for no confidence could be placed in the bulk of her dependents, but in spite of all precautions her departure was discovered. After she had descended as noiselessly as possible, and passed into the street, she was alarmed by the appearance of a person issuing from the house, bearing a torch in his hand, and evidently bent upon discovering the cause of the unusual bustle at this early hour. The Duchess was standing up under a gateway, and the light of the torch might at any moment be thrown upon her so as to reveal her hiding-place to the man.
She therefore left her baggage and provisions and fled, but her pursuer was close at hand when she suddenly turned into Garter House, which was close by. The man, seeing no one, retraced his steps ; on his return he discovered the baggage, and while he was examining the contents the Duchess again issued forth. She dared not pass into the City through Cripplegate but walked on to Moorgate. Thence she proceeded safely to Billingsgate, and there found her husband. Soon after she had got out of the country she gave birth to a son at Wesel. He was named Peregrine, from the circumstance of his being born in a foreign land and during the wanderings of his parents. This child grew up to be one of Queen Elizabeth's greatest generals, popularly known as the “brave Lord Willoughby.” 1
Aldersgate was one of the old gates leading to an important northern thoroughfare.
Newgate is said to have borne originally the name of Chamberlain's Gate. It alone of the gates has remained associated with a prison.
Ludgate was of great antiquity. The name it bore is not easily explained, as King Lud was not an historical character. Outside these gates grew up the suburbs, and in course of time bars were erected to define the extent of the liberties. The next great boundary of London to be noticed is the Thames. It was the great means of communication between places in London, and was covered with boats. London
1 The ballad of the "Brave Lord Willoughby” is in Percy's Reliques, ad S., Ek. ii.
Bridge was for many years made hideous with the heads of beheaded
Jack Cade set up there the heads of those he executed and soon afterwards his own found rest in the same place. The heads were sent up from all parts of the country, and at one time so many were stuck up upon the bridge that men spoke of the “harvest of heads.” On Lord Mayor's day 1425, when there existed a feud between the Duke of Gloucester and Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, a battle on the bridge was imminent. The Duke charged the Mayor and Aldermen to keep good watch in the City, and the gates of the bridge were carefully secured. On the morrow the Bishop's men drew the chains at the Southwark end, and knights and esquires issued out of Winchester House in battle array; when the news was spread abroad all the shops in the City were closed in haste, and people came down to the gates of the bridge. Then the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prince of Portugal treated between the opposing potentates Gloucester and Winchester, and eight times they rode “bytwyne the duke and byschoppe that day.” At last peace was restored, every man went to his home and no harm was done to the City.
The various quays at this time were thoroughly guarded, and boatmen were governed by many stringent rules.
We must also bear in mind that there were in many parts of London bridges across the watercourses, which are now covered over and have become nothing more than sewers.
It was not until after the Restoration that the whole aspect of the town was changed. When the cavaliers returned with the exiled King, they did not care to return to their family mansions, and in consequence the City was almost entirely given up to the merchants. Then came the Fire of London, which led to a great change in the appearance of the place.
The years 1665 and 1666 were two of the most eventful in the history of London. In the summer of the former year the plague broke out, and so terribly did the numbers of those struck down increase, that soon the streets were deserted and few houses were to be seen without the red cross and the words, “ Lord have mercy upon us,” marked upon them. The plague was scarcely stayed before the whole City was in flames.
On Sunday, September 2, 1666, the fire broke out in the morning at a house in Pudding Lane. Samuel Pepys, then living in the Navy Office at Crutched Friars, was called up at three o'clock to see the fire, but not thinking much of it he went to bed again. When, however, he got up for the day he found that about 300 houses had been burnt in those few hours. A violent east wind fomented the flames, which raged with fury during the whole of Monday and great part of Tuesday. On Tuesday night the wind fell somewhat and on Wednesday the fire slackened. On Thursday it was extinguished, but on the evening of that day the flames again burst forth at the Temple. Some houses were at once blown up by gunpowder, and thus the fire was