« НазадПродовжити »
Within the quadrangle are twenty-four niches in the inter: columns, twenty of these are decorated with the statues of the kings and queens of England, properly habited, except three, which are in Roman habits. On ihe south side are Edward I. Edward III. Henry V. and Henry VI. On the west side, Edward IV. Edward V. Henry VII. and Henry VIII. On the north side, Edward VI. Mary I. Elizabeth, James I. Charles I. Charles II. and James II. On the east side, William III. and his queen, in conjoined niches; queen Anne, George I. and II. by Rysbrack, and George III. by Wilton. Most of the kings before Charles II. were sculptured by Cibber; those of Charles I. and II. on the front in the street, are the workmanship of Bushnell. A very fine statue of Charles II. by Grinlin Gibbons, formerly graced the centre of the area; but this was replaced by another, by Spiller; this is also habited in the Roman stile. Under the piazza, are two obscured statues, one dedicated to the memory of Sir Thomas Gresham; the other erected as a mark of civic respect to Sir John Bernard, in his life-time. The modesty of this magistrate was so great, that after this statue was placed, he was never seen on the walks afterwards.
The ground plot of the whole structure is two hundred and three feet iu length, and one hundred and seventy-one feet broad. The area in the middle contains sixty-one square perches, surrounded by a regular substantial stone build. ing wrought in rustic, with a spacious piazza. In the centre of the principal fronts north and south, are grand entrances into the area, under a very lofty and noble arch.
In this area, and under the surrounding piazza, the mer. chants, and all other persons engaged in mercantile connexions, meet every day to transact business, between the hours of twelve and three, and for mutual convenience, those engaged in the same branches of trade, assemble in distinct parts, or, as they are called, The Walks, a view of which may be seen by the following sketch or plan.
Under the north and south fronts are spacious stair-cases, which lead to a gallery that extends round the four sides of the building, and in which were formerly about two hundred shops, occupied by milliners, haberdashers, &c. but these shops have been long deserted; and the galleries are now let out to the Royal Exchange Assurance Office ; Lloyd's Coffee House, &c. Under the whole are vaults occupied by the East India Company, as magazines for pepper.
The north side in Threadneedle Street has a piazza, pilaster, and pediment, but contains nothing particularly striking or elegant.
In the year 1767, parliament granted 10,0001. for the repairs of the Exchange, Mr. Robinson, who had the super
intendence of the business, found the west end so decayed, as to be obliged to have it rebuilt. The lower stages of the structure is surrounded by offices and shops, some of which obtrude themselves in a disagreeable and inconvenient manner; and the north front is very much incommoded by stage coaches, plying for passengers to the villages in the vicinity of London.
Mr. Grosley mentions an anecdote of the amiable Duke de Nivernois, ambassador from France, to negociate the peace in 1763, which is worthy of attention here.
“ I took care,” says he, “to enquire at the Royal Exchange, into the particulars of the treatment, which the Duke de Nivernois met with there in his embassy. The Gazette of France, made mention of it at the time, and it had very much the appearance of insult.
Curiosity had led that nobleman to the Royal Exchange. After he had walked all over it, just as he had approached the great gate, leading to the street, it was shut upon him. At this he discovered some surprize; and the report being spread, that the Duke was there, he was surrounded, pressed, and squeezed by the croud, till he reached the
opposite gate, which he found half shut.
Upon this occasion, I was informed, nay, I found by my own experience, that the Royal Exchange is opened before one o'clock; that at two, one of the folding doors, which opens into the street, is shut; that at half after two, the other folding door is also shut, together with one belonging to the opposite gate: the folding gate that remains open, is half shut at three quarters of an hour after two, and at three all the gates are locked, so that those, who stay behind till the hour is past, are sure to be locked in till be. tween four and five.
“ Now it happened, that the Duke de Nivernois presented himself at the door, that leads to the great street, just as it was shutting. With regard to the surrounding crowd, I was informed by several bankers, who were then upon Change, that the crowd was occasioned by the general eagerAess of the multitude to see a man, who, by his magnificence
and affability, had conciliated the affections of the English of all ranks of a man whom England views with the same eye as France, and, who, having united the two nations in their opinion concerning him, might carry that union as far as he thought proper.”
It gives us great pain to add that this great, this good man, in consequence of the French revolution, was, at the age of eighty and upwards, immured in a loathsome dungeon, where he ended his days in extreme distress!
We ascend the gallery by two spacious stair cases, with iron rails and black marble steps. The appearance of this gallery is contrary to its first intention; and, instead of the busy scenery of shops, presents a blank, except the entrances to the offices of the various public bodies, which rent this part of the building.
The Royal Exchange AssURANCE OFFICE, which occupies some of these apartments, is one of the surviving schemes started in the memorable South Sea year. This corporation was established by act of parliament in the reign of king George I. for assuring buildings, goods, wares, and mere chandizes from fire; ships and merchandize at sea ; and for lending money upon bottomry: for their charter they agreed to pay 300,000l. into his majesty's exchequer, for discharging the debts of the civil list. But the scheme not immediately answering, the crown remitted most part of the money, and granted them a new charter, impowering them to insure lives. This corporation has several engines, and men, with proper tools and instruments, to extinguish fires; and porters to remove goods upon such melancholy occasions: these wear a badge on their arm, with the figure of the , Royal Exchange upon it; and they are numbered, in order to ascertain the person who wears it, in case of any com. plaint against him. The management of the corporation is in a governor, sub-governor, deputy governor, and twentyfour- directors; under whom are a treasurer, a secretary, an accomptant, and clerks.
The office for the MAYOR's court si also kept over the Exchange. And in a large room conveniently adapted for the purpose, are read the lectures which were formerly delivered at Gresham College, agreeably to the will of the founder, before the erection of the present Excise Office.
The north-west angle of this gallery is occupied by that celebrated commercial rendezvous, LLOYD'S COFFEE HOUSE. This is of very long establishment, and maintains a superiority of resort to any place of its kind. The merchants who frequent it are of the first consequence; it is a vehicle of communication between the government and the mercantile interest of the city: and as its information is authentic, no reports of engagements, captures and re-captures of shipping, &c. are credited except “ the news is up at Lloyd's." At this place subscriptions are usually coma menced for the exigencies of the state ; for the relief and support of the relatives of soldiers and seamen who have died in defence of their country; and late experience has fully shewn, what has been the effect produced by the subscription at “ Lloyd's," when the empire was threatened by invasion.
Mr. Ralph, in his Critical Review of Public Buildings, &C. remarks, in speaking of the Royal Exchange, that “ here, as in most costly fabrics, there is something to blame, and something to admire: a building of that extent, grandeur, and elevation, ought, without question, to have had an ample area before it, that we might comprehend the whole, and every part at once: this is a requisite which ought to be allowed to all buildings, but particularly all of this sort; that is to say, such as are formed of very large parts; for in such a case the eye is forced to travel with pain and difficulty from one object to another; nay, sometimes obliged to. divide one into many parts; whereby the judgment is confused, and it is, with great uncertainty, we come to any conclusion at all. Upon the whole, the entrance into this building is very grand and august; the two statues which adorn it are, in a particular manner, beautiful and ad. mirable: but then the tower which arises over it is a weight to the whole building, and is, at the same time, broken into so many parts, that it rather hurts than pleases; and, if re