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Without recurring to the general welfare of her subjects, which was ever Elizabeth's prevailing object; as well as her inclination to gratify their laudable endeavours; Sir Thomas Gresham had strong claims upon his sovereign's gratitude; he had assisted her and her family in their pecuniary distress, at the same time, he evinced a patriotic self-denial of exorbitant interest. Such conduct had exalted him in the opinion of the queen, and endeared him to his fellow citizens. This honourable distinction was not then to be wondered atı
Sir Thomas by will settled the Royal Exchange in two moieties, one to the mayor and commonalty of London, the other to the company of Mercers, under certain conditions. By this disposition, sufficient care was taken, that the two corporations, in whom the trust was reposed, should receive no damage by its execution ; for the stated annual payments amounted to no more than 603l. 6s. 8d. and the yearly rents of the Exchange received by Sir Thomas were 7401. beside the additional proîts that must arise from time to time by fines, which were very considerable. But the lady Anne, bis wife, was to enjoy both his mansion-house and the Exchange, during her life, if she survived him, and then they were both vested in the two corporations, as was declared in the will, for the term of fifty years; which limi'tation was made on account of the statute of mortmain, that prohibited the alienation of lands or tenements to any corporation, without licence first bad from the crown. And that space
of time the testator thought sufficient for procuring such licence, the doing of which he earnestly recommended to them without delay; in default whereof, these estates were to go to his heirs at law.
After his death, his widow, is said to have received 7511. 5s. per annum, in rents, &c. from the Exchange; which at five per cent. was the interest of upwards of 15,0001. The ground having cost 4,0001. probably the expences of the fabric were not more than 6,0001. ; so that Sir Thomas was enabled to leave his widow, with the interest of 9,0001. the clear profits of this extensive undertaking. Such an -union of public utility and private advantage is seldom equalled.
But the flames which involved the metropolis in one general ruin, laid this magnificent structure in ashes; it was however soon renovated by the classical band of Sir Christopher Wren, at the joint expence of the corporation and the Mercers company, to the amount of 80,0001.
Charles II. laid the first stone of the present building, October 23d, 1667, when he was magnificently entertained on the spot; and in return, bis majesty knighted the two sheriffs. The following particulars of the operation are from the Jourpals of the House of Commons:
“ After the year 1996, all the affairs of Sir Thomas Gresham's trust were managed by a committee of four aldermen and eight commoners, on the part of the corporation, and by the master and wardens, and eight of the court of assistants of the Mercers company. When the Exchange was burnt in 1666, only 234l. 8s. 2d. belonging to the trust was in the company's possession ; yet it appears they begun the work of re-building as soon as possible. Accordingly, on the 15th of February following, their sub-committee was ordered to assist the city surveyors, in giving directions for removing of rubbish, cleansing of arches, taking down defective walls, &c. and to give a joint estimate of the ground necessary
for convenient streets at each end of the intended structure. On the 25th, the joint committee agreed to per tition the king for an order to obtain Portland Stone.
September 20th, 1667. The committee resolved, at Gresham College, that as his majesty had been pleased to interest himself in rebuilding the Exchange, they thought it their duty to lay the elevations and plans of the structure before him, for this purpose they requested the lord mayor, two members of the corporation, two of the Mercers company, and Mr. Jerman, one of the city surveyors, to wait on the king with them; and at the same time to petition for permission to extend the south west angle of the Exchange into the street. On the 27th of the same month, the committee received the report from the above deputation, that the plans, &c. had been laid before the king, and Sir John Denham, surveyor-general of his majesty's works, had greatly approved of them, and particularly of that for the south portico, which he assented to be extended into the street. Thus supported, the committee directed certain persons to treat with the proprietors of ground near the Exchange, where necessary, and with others for building materials and workmen.
“ On the 23d of October, 1667, King Charles II. went to the Royal Exchange, and placed the base of the pillar on the west side of the north entrance. He was entertained on this occasion at the joint expence of the city and company, with a chine of beef, a grand dish of fowls, hams, dried tongues, anchovies, caviare, &c. and plenty of wines. The entertainment was provided under a temporary shed, built and adorned for the purpose, upon the Scotch walk.
“ His majesty gave 201. in gold to the workmen.
" On the 31st. James Duke of York laid the first stone of the eastern pillar, and was regaled in the same manner. And on the 18th of November, Prince Rupert placed that on the east side of the south entrance.
“ October 24th, 1667. Several tenants below the Exchange, were acquainted by the committee, that it was their intention to gratify the king in his desire of having the Exchange clear of contiguous buildings; for which reason they requested of them to surrender their respective leases for an adequate consideration, and the refusal of any houses that might be built near or on their premises.
“ December 9th, 1667. The committee considered the draft made by Mr. Jerman, for rebuilding the Exchange ; and resolved, “that porticos should be built on the north and south sides, according as bis majesty desires, and as are described in the aforesaid draft; and that houses shall be built on the heads of the said porticos and shops underneath." And that the committee might not be obstructed in their progress, by the owners and tenants of contiguous grounds, three persons of each party in the trust were appointed, attended by Jerman, to apply to the king for a prohibition of any building on them.
“ The following official entry was inserted in the books, , by an order, dated December 16th, 1667. A lctter from the right honourable the Earl of Manchester, recommending one Caius Gabriel Cibber, to the making the statues for the Royal Exchange, and the rather in regard he hath shewn his majesty some models which have been well liked of, having been read: the committee called the gentleman in, and acquainted him, that the business of making the statues is yet very much from their thoughts, having the whole Exchange to build first; and that a new committee will succeed before the main work be effected, to whom, when fitting time shall come, he may do well to apply himself.
« December 21st, 1667. The king intimated, to the committee, that if any person presumed to build near the Exchange, before an act of parliament could be obtained, he would interpose the authority of his privy council.”
The ensuing particulars are from a book produced to a committee of the House of Commons, in 1747. said book begins the 27th October, 1666, and ends July 12th, 1676, and it hereby appears, that the total expence of rebuilding the Royal Exchange, amounted unto 58,9621. the company's moiety whereof, was the sum of 29,4811. to defray which expence, it appeared the company were obliged from time to time to borrow money upon their seal, insomuch, that in the year 1682, they had taken up money on their bonds, on account of the trust of Sir Thomas Gresham, to the amount of 45,7951. It appeared on this occasion, from the examination of John Crumpe, “ that the company had hitherto contributed equally with the city in the repairing of the Royal Exchange, and paying Sir Thomas Gresham's lectures and charities; and that in or about the year 1729, one of the lecturers of Sir Thomas Gresham filed a bill in Chancery against the city of London and the Mercers company, to answer which it became necessary to draw out and state an account between the Mercers company and Sir Thomas Gresham's trust estate, as also between the city and company, and the said estate,
and accordingly such accounts were drawn up; and thereby it appears, that there was due to the Mercers company, for their moiety of the expence of building the Royal Exchange and other payments up to that time, the sum of 100,6591. 185. 10d. Mr. Cawne produced a continuation of this account, down to 1745, when the principal and interest amounted to 141,8851. 7s. Id.
The principal front of this stately mansion of commerce is in Cornhill, where it would make a noble appearance, did not the narrow space of the street preclude an extended view. On each side of this front are Corinthian demi-columns, supporting a compass pediment; within each of which are niches, containing well - executed statues of Charles I. and Charles II. in Roman habits. These cover a piazza of six lofty arches. Over the aperture, on the cornice between the two pediments, is a relievo of the king's arms. The sides of this entrance are ornamented by a range of large sashed windows, between demi-columns and pilasters of the Composite order; above which, the structure is ornamented with a balustrade. From the centre of this front, above the great arch, which reaches to the architrave, rises a steeple of three gradations, each surmounted by pilasters and pillars, with entablatures and balustrades, the crest of the Mercers company, and the city supporters, instead of vases, except the third story, which has pediments on each side, with a cupola arising from the centre, terminating in a globe, and a brazen grasshopper for a vane. The clock which adorns each side of the first story, has a good effect -it is an excellent piece of workmanship, and the medium of regularity, by which the merchants transact their concerns; it has chimes, which play different tunes each day—the 104th Psalm tune being appropriated for the Sabbath.
There are many beauties in the architecture, and but few defects. The four orders of the quadrangle are magaificent, and richly decorated with the basements, arches of the walks, the cornices over them, the niches, statues, pillars, circular windows, entablature, pediments, and balustrade, all in correct proportion and arrangement. VOL. II. No. 32,