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1551.-Master Bradford spared not the proudest, and among many many others will’t them to tak example be the last Duek of Somerset, who became so cold in hearing God's word, that the yeir before his last apprehension hee wold goe visit his masonis, and wold not dinye himsell to goe from his Gallerie to his hall for hearing of a sermon.—John Knox to the Faithful in London.
What portion of the work was completed when the Protector was beheaded, January 22, 1552, no research has yet been able to discover. In an account of the duke's expenditure between April 1, 1548, and October 7, 1551, the amount expended on Somerset House is stated as £10,091:9:2, equal at least to £50,000 of our present money.1 The name of the architect is unknown. The Clerk of the Works was Robert Lawes, described in a roll of the duke's debts as “late Clerke of the Duke's Woorkes at Strand Place and at Syon.”? There is a plot or plan of the house among the drawings of Thorpe, preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum. Of this very interesting old building there are several views; that by Moss is considered the best. One by Knyff is early and curious. The picture at Dulwich (engraved in Wilkinson) represents the river front before Inigo Jones's chapel and alterations destroyed the uniform character of the building. In the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge is a cork model of the façade and back, presented in 1826 by the Rev. E. B. Elliot of Trinity College. After the attainder of the duke, when Somerset House became the property of the Crown, little, if anything, was done to complete the building. The screen prepared for the hall was bought for the church of St. Bride's, where it no doubt remained till destroyed in the Great Fire.3 During a portion at least of Mary's reign it was appropriated to her sister Elizabeth.
[On February 25, 1557] the Lady Elizabeth came riding from her house at Hatfield to London, attended with a great company of lords, and nobles, and gentlemen, unto her place called Somerset Place, beyond Strand Bridge. -MS. Journal, quoted by Strype, Eccl. Mem., vol. iii. p. 444.
In 1566-1567 Queen Elizabeth listened to the promises of an alchemist who undertook to manufacture precious gems and to transmute any metal into gold. His letters were addressed direct to the Queen. Cecil writes in his Diary, February 10, 1567 : “Cornelius de la Noye, an alchemist, wrought in Somerset House, and abused many." In 1596 Elizabeth granted the keeping of Somerset House to her kinsman, Lord Hunsdon, during life. James I. granted Somerset House to his Queen, Anne of Denmark, and in 1616 commanded it to be called Denmark House.5
August 14, 1604.-Grant by Queen Anne to John Gerard, Surgeon and Herbalist, of lease of a garden plot adjoining Somerset House, on condition of his supplying her with herbs, flowers, and fruit. With an endorsement of surrender to the Queen of the said plot, 27 June 1611, by Robert Earl of Salisbury to whom it was granted by Gerard. — Cal. State Pap., 1603-10, p. 141.
1 Letters to Granger, p. 108.
3 Stow, p. 147. ? Account of Thomas Blagrave, Esq., preserved 4 Burghley's Diary in Murden, p. in the Audit Office, Somerset House.
Norden's Essex, p. 15. 5 Stow, by Howes, ed. 1631, p. 1026.
June 22, 1608.-Grant to Earl of Salisbury of the office of Keeper of Somerset House and Garden during the Queen's life.-Cal. State Pap., 1603-1610, p. 441.
February 8, 1609.-—Warrant to pay to William Goodrowse, Sergeant Surgeon £400 for laying out the gardens of Somerset House.—Ibid., p. 490.
Charles I. assigned it to his Queen (Henrietta Maria) in the ninth year of his reign, and caused a chapel to be added to the building, for the free use of the Roman Catholic religion. The chapel was designed by Inigo Jones, and the first stone laid September 14, 1632. It was consecrated with much ceremony at the end of 1635.
January 8, 1636.—This last month the Queen's Chapel in Somerset House Yard was consecrated by her Bishop; the ceremonies lasted three days, massing, preaching, and singing of Litanies, and such a glorious scene built over their altar, the Glory of Heaven, Inigo Jones neer presented a more curious piece in any of the Masques at Whitehall ; with this our English ignorant papists are mightily taken.—Garrard to Wentworth (Strafford Letters, vol. i. p. 505).
May 10, 1638.—The Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir William Balfour, beat a priest lately for seeking to convert his wife: he had a suspicion that she resorted a little too much to Denmark House, and staid long abroad, which made him one day send after her. Word being brought him where she was, he goes thither, finds her at her devotions in the Chapel ; he beckons her out ; finds her accompanied with a priest, who somewhat too saucily reprehended the Lieutenant for disturbing his Lady in her devotions ; for which he struck him two or three sound blows with his Battoon, and the next day came and told the King the whole passage : so it passed over.—Garrard to Wentworth (Strafford Letters, vol. ii. p. 165).
A few tombs of her French Roman Catholic attendants are built into the cellars of the present building, immediately beneath the great square. Here, in the Christmas festivities of 1632-1633, Henrietta Maria took a part in a masque (the last in which she played); Here, in 1652, died Inigo Jones, the great architect. Here, in 1658, Oliver Cromwell's body lay in state.
This folly and profusion so far provoked the people that they threw dirt in the night on his escutcheon that was placed over the great gate of Somerset House.Ludlow, vol. ii. p. 615.
After Cromwell's death it was in contemplation to sell Somerset House. Ludlow, not always a safe authority, says it was sold.
Col. Henry Martin moved at the same time that the Chapel belonging to Somerset House might not be sold, because it was the place of meeting for the French Church, and this request was granted ; but the House itself was sold for the sum of ten thousand pounds.-Ludlow, vol. ii. p. 679.
A project was formed to purchase it for the Quakers, but George Fox put his foot upon it :
1658.-When some forward spirits that came among us would have bought Somerset House, that we might have meetings in it, I forbade them to do so : for I then foresaw the King's coming in again.—George Fox, vol. i. p. 490.
On November 2, 1660, Henrietta Maria resumed her residence in Somerset House, and Cowley and Waller wrote copies of verses on the repairs she had made in her old palace. The former makes the renovated edifice sing its own praises. After speaking of the desolate condition in which she had found it, he continues :
1 Ellis's Letters, vol. iii. p. 271, ad S.
And now I dare
Before my gate a street's broad channel goes,
Cowley, On the Queen's Repairing Somerset House. Here, in May 1665, on Henrietta Maria's farewell to England, Catharine of Braganza took up her residence, although the formal grant by letters patent was not made by Charles II. till after his mother's death in 1669. Here, in January 1669-1670, the body of Monk, Duke of Albemarle, lay in state. Sir Samuel Tuke, author of Adventures of Five Hours, died in Somerset House, January 26, 1673, and was buried in the chapel. Here, on October 17, 1678, the famous Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, is said to have been murdered, and his body carried hence to the field where it was found near Primrose Hill. Two of the supposed murderers were attendants belonging to the chapel in Somerset House. Charles II. died, February 2, 1685, and on April 8 Evelyn “met the Queen - Dowager going now first from Whitehall to dwell at Somerset House. When she left England for Portugal, in May 1692 (never to return), Somerset House became a nest of lodgings (as Hampton Court at the present day) for some of the nobility and poorer persons about the Court; though it would appear to have been always recognised as part of the jointure of the consort of the sovereign.
They passed that building which of old
Churchill, The Ghost, B. iv. Lewis de Duras, Earl of Feversham, who commanded King James's troops at the battle of Sedgemoor, and Lady Arlington, widow of Secretary Bennet, were living here in 1708. Mrs. Gunning, the mother of the three celebrated beauties—the Duchess of Argyll and Hamilton, the Countess of Coventry, and Mrs. Travers-held the appointment of housekeeper, and here she died in 1770, and her husband John Gunning in 1767. Here, in the reign of George III., Charlotte Lennox, author of the Female Quixote, had apartments.
Addison (Spectator, No. 77) represents himself as walking “in Somerset Garden a little before our Club time,” when he saw Will Honeycomb “squirt away his watch a considerable way into the Thames,” thinking it was the pebble he had just picked up from the grand walk.
1 Hatton, p. 633.
Buckingham House, in St. James's Park, was settled on Queen Charlotte, in lieu of Somerset House, by an Act passed in 1775, and the old palace of the Protector and of the Queens of England immediately destroyed, to erect the present pile of public offices still distinguished as Somerset House. See Denmark House ; Somerset Stairs.)
Somerset House, in the STRAND (present building). A pile of public offices, erected between the years 1776 and 1786, on the site of the palace of the Protector Somerset. (See preceding article.] The architect was Sir William Chambers. The general proportions of the building are good, and some of the details of great elegance. The entrance archway or vestibule from the Strand has deservedly found many admirers. 1
The terrace elevation towards the Thames was made, like the Adelphi Terrace of the brothers Adam, in anticipation of the long projected embankment of the river, and is one of the noblest façades in London. The building is in the form of a quadrangle, with wings. The Strand front is 155 feet long, the river front 600 feet. The inner quadrangle is 319 by 224 feet. Wings have been added to Chambers's building; the east wing, which contains King's College, by Sir R. Smirke in 1828-1831; the west wing, devoted to the Inland Revenue Department, by Sir James Pennethorne in 1853.
Observe-under the vestibule, on your left as you enter (distinguished by a bust of Sir Isaac Newton), the entrance doorway to the apartments formerly occupied by the Royal Society and Society of Antiquaries; Herschel and Watt, and Davy and Wollaston, and Walpole and Hallam have often entered by this door. Observe-under the same vestibule, on your right as you enter, the entrance doorway of the apartments, from 1780 to 1838, of the Royal Academy of Arts. Some of the best pictures of the English school have passed under this doorway to the great room of the yearly exhibition; and under the same doorway, and up the same steps, Reynolds, Wilkie, Flaxman and Chantrey have often passed. The last and best of Reynolds's Discourses were delivered, by Sir Joshua himself, in the great room of the Academy, at the top of the building. Somerset House is now wholly appropriated as Government offices. The principal are the Exchequer and Audit Department; the Probate Office; the Legacy Duty Office, where the several payments are made on bequests by wills of personal property; the Inland Revenue Office, where stamps are issued, and public taxes and excise duties received from the several district collectors ; Accountant and Comptroller-General's Office; and the Registrar-General's Office is for the registration of the births, marriages, and deaths of the United Kingdom. In the basement are
1 The keystone masques of river deities on the Strand front were carved by Carlini and Wilton, two of the early Royal Academicians.
produced by steam and hand presses all the various stamps issued from the several Government departments, with the exception of the adhesive postage stamps, which are prepared by private firms. Here also is the Chemical Laboratory of the Inland Revenue Office. The bronze statue of George III. and figure of Father Thames, by John Bacon, R.A., cost £2000.
A little above the entrance door to the Stamps and Taxes is a white watch-face, regarding which the popular belief has been, and is, that it was left there by a labouring man who fell from a scaffold at the top of the building, and was only saved from destruction by the ribbon of his watch, which caught in a piece of projecting work. In thankful remembrance (so the story runs) of his wonderful escape, he afterwards desired that his watch might be placed as near as possible to the spot where his life had been saved. The story is utterly unfounded The watch-face was placed where it is by the Royal Society as a meridian mark for a portable transit instrument in one of the windows of their ante-room.
To this account of Somerset House may be added a little circumstance of interest which Mr. Cunningham was told by an old clerk on the establishment of the Audit Office. “When I first came to this building," he said, "I was in the habit of seeing, for many mornings, a thin, spare, naval officer, with only on arm, enter the vestibule at a smart step, and make direct for the Admiralty, over the rough round stones of the quadrangle, instead of taking what others generally took, and continue to take, the smooth pavement at the sides. His thin, frail figure shook at every step, and I often wondered why he chose so rough a footway; but I ceased to wonder when I heard that the thin, frail officer was no other than Lord Nelson--who always took," continued my informant, “the nearest way to the place he wanted to
July 15, 1817.-Wrote some lines in the solitude of Somerset House, not fifty yards from the Thames on one side, and the Strand on the other ; but as quiet as the sands of Arabia. --Crabbe's Journal.
But the record is wrongly dated by Crabbe: it should be Sunday the 13th,—which explains the quiet.
Somerset Stairs, SOMERSET HOUSE.
Neander was pursuing this discourse so eagerly, that Eugenius had called to him twice or thrice, ere he took notice that the barge stood still, and that they were at the foot of Somerset Stairs, where they had appointed it to land.
The company were all sorry to separate so soon, though a great part of the evening was already spent; and stood awhile looking back on the water, upon which the moonbeams played and made it look like floating quicksilver ; at last they went up through a crowd of French people who were merrily dancing in the open air, and walking thence to the Piazza, they parted there.—Dryden's Essay on Dramatick Poesy, 4to, 1668.
Somerset Street, PORTMAN SQUARE, from Orchard Street to Duke Street. George Stubbs, A.R.A. [elected R.A. in 1781, but