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The exterior of the building was, till very lately, obnoxious to the eye, on account of the charity school which projected at the west end. This, however, has been judiciously removed, and in its place, a small Gothic tower, with pinnacles, has recently been erected.
On entering the church, the body of which, exclusively of the choir, is sixty-nine feet long, sixty broad, and ninety high, the large east window, free from the incumbrance of heavy stone work, immediately arrests the spectator's attention. The flood of light thrown on every part of the structure from this window, forms a delightful exhibition seldom to be met with.
A handsome Gothic screen separates the body from the choir of the church. This part of the church where choral service was performed till the alienation of doctor Sir Thomas Wylson, caused it to be abolished, is adorned with beautiful stalls, was began by William de Erldesley, master, in 1340, and finished by John de Her. mesthorp, master, in 1369. The antient seats are handsomely carved. The altar piece is of exquisite workmanship ; and is the only altar in the pure Gothic stile in Eng. land, or perhaps in Europe.
The lofty pillars in the church are remarkably light, airy, and durable ; and the windows on each side admit a good light to the whole building. The pulpit is a curious specimen of grotesque carving, round the six sides of which is cut “ EZRA THE SCRIBE, STOOD UPON A PULPIT OF Wood, WHICH HE HAD MADE FOR THE PREACHER.” Nehemiah, chap. vii.
A most stately and fine toned organ was built, in 1778, by Mr. Green. It is enclosed in a beautiful mahogany case, with spiral work, and other Gothic carvings. The pipes are of very large dimensions, and the instrument has three scts of keys, full compass, with twenty-one stops, and a swell. The construction of the organ is in many respects entirely new; the swell, however, attracts the attention of musical amateurs; its compass entends from E in alt, to gamut, a whole octave more than usual; and is five notes
lower than that of St. Paul's cathedral; so that this is the largest swell in England. The difficulty of increasing the swell deterred many artists from the attempt; but the successful genius of Mr. Green, happily accomplished the excellent improvement, which is of so much consequence in this scale of science, that the instrument is frequently visited, and constantly approved.
The principal monument worthy notice, is that of the duke of Exeter. This, except those in the Temple church, is the most antient in the city. The figure of the duke, with his first lady and his sister, both on his left side, are all in praying postures, with coronets on their heads, and their fingers ornamented by many rings. On a tablet hung near the tomb is transmitted to memory, by John Gibbon, herald at arms, whose tomb is also here, the following inscription :
John Holland, duke of Exon, earl of Huntington, earl of Ivory in Normandy, lord of Sparr, lieutenant-general of the dukedom of Aquitain, admiral of England and Ireland, knight of the most noble order of the garter, and constable of the Tower of London,
Lyes buried here in the Chapter House belonging to the collegiat church of St. Catharine. He died in the 25th year of Hen. VI. on the 5th of August 1447.
Here lye buried by him his two wives, Ann daughter of Edmund earl of Stafford, by whom he had issue Henry the last duke of Exon, of that sir name, dying without issue and buried in Westminster Abbey. The 2 wife of duke John, was Ann daughter of John Montacute, earl of Salisbury, and by her had issue, Ann mother to Ralph Nevill, third earl of Westmorland. Mr. Weever says, she dyed 27th of November 1 457,
Reges atque duces mors ducit ad atria ditis,
Death hath no more respect to crowns,
Than to the pates of meanest clowns. Mr. Weever also says, here lies buried Constance, sister of the said duke John; who was married to Thomas lord Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, earl of Nottingham, and earl marshal of England; and remarried to Sir John Grey, lord Grey of Ruthin.
The queens consorts of England are, by law, the perpetual patronesses, this hospital being considered part of their dower; and they nominate, appoint, increase, lessen, or remove, alter old statutes, make new ones, and use unlimited power. Should there be no queen consort, the king exercises the same authority ; for no queen dowager can interfere ; the dignity and patronage ceasing to her on the death of the sovereign. On this account it is called “ The Royal Peculiar of St. Catharine.”
The business of the establishment is transacted in chapter by the master, brothers, and sisters, the latter of whom have an equal vote with the brothers; and no meetings are lawful, except four members, one a sister, are present. The subordinate officers, elected by a majority in chapter, are a commissary, registrar, steward, surveyor, receiver, chapter clerk, besides a clerk, sexton, &c.
There are also two courts belonging to this district; the Spiritual Court, is a royal jurisdiction for all ecclesiastical causes within the precinct: here probates of wills, administrations, marriage licences, &c. are granted, as in other ecclesiastical courts. All appeals are made to the lord chancellor only. To this court belong a registrar, ten proctors, and an apparitor.
The Temporal Court, in which the high steward of the jurisdiction presides, takes cognizance of all disputes within the precinct; and forms court leets, &c. This court has, besides, a high bailiff, and prothonotary. A disused prison is also belonging to the liberty.
The whole precinct contains St. Catharine, Thames Street, from the Iron gate eastward to the king's brewhouse; also St. Catharine's Court, Queen's Court, Three Sisters Close, St. Catharine's Lane, Dolphin Alley, Brown's Alley, Cat's Hole, alias New Court.
And from the king's brewhouse, it extends northward on the westward side of the Butcher Row, within five doors opposite to the Maypole; likewise Unicorn Yard, Whiting Bridge, Helmet Steps and Court, and the Island.
Also fronting Tower Hill, abutting on Aldgate parish, southward to the Iron Gate; likewise Plow Alley, Flemish
Church Yard, and the other courts, alleys, &c. in this compass.
After the loss of Calais, in the reign of Mary I. the inhabitants sought refuge in England, and this quarter of London, was assigned to them as residence; and a lane, then denominated Hammes and Guisnes, from the places whence they had fed, by corruption, obtained a curious conversion to the name of Hangman's Gains.
St. Catharine's Liberty gave birth to Richard Verstegan, an eminent antiquary, and a judicious critic in the Saxon and Gothic languages in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His father, though a cooper, was a descendant from an antient and honourable family in Guelderland. Verstegan was educated at Oxford, but left the university without a degree, on account of his professing the Roman Catholic doctrines; for which reason also he quitted England, and settled at Antwerp. When the Jesuits and secular clergy had a misunderstanding in England, Verstegan was in the interest of the former. His works are “ Theatrum crudelitatum Hereticorum nostri temporis.”
“ A Restitution of decayed Intelligence in Antiquities, concerning the most noble and renowned English Nation ;” and “ The sundry successive regal Governments of England.” He died about the year 1625.
Little Tower Hill is the usual place for the execution of state criminals who are not of the peerage: the last person that suffered was Charles Ratcliffe, brother to the decapitated earl of Derwentwater, in 1715. This gentleman was beheaded in 1746 *.
Having passed Postern Row, toward Great Tower Hill, we arrive atan excellent spring, called Postern Spring, which is in great repute for the excellence of its water. At the end of the row was formerly The Postern, a gate abutting on part of the city wall.
To a reader in the nineteenth century it must be interesting to be informed that this wall, before the reign of Richard I. reached quite to the Tower; for it is recorded,
that in the year 1190, William Longchamp, bishop of Ely, and lord chancellor, caused a part of the city wall from the Postern, toward the river Thames to the White Tower, to be broken down for enlarging that fortress; which he compassed to a greater extent than before, by a wall, which is now the centre wall of the garrison. Not satisfied with thus robbing the city of its property, he formed the broad ditch which at present surrounds the Tower, with the intent that the river should flow round at every tide. In this however he failed. These innovations urged the resentment both of government and the people, and proved his disgrace *.
The Postern, had before this been erected, a strong arched gate, like Aldgate, of Kentish and Norman stone, and had served as a very convenient inlet to the city ; but Longchamp's arrogance and folly, in the encroachment abovementioned, caused the ruin of this gate; for the foundation having been undermined, the superstructure was weakened, and in 1440 fell to ruin. It was never reedified, but in its place, “ a homely cottage, with a nar. row passage, made of timber, lath, and loam, inhabited by persons of lewd lives," stood in Stow's time. It was however governed by a custos. The whole is now completely demolished; and nothing of its recollection remains except the name it gives to the row.
We have in the former part of this work traced the circuit of the wall which commenced at this place †; we omit. ted however to mention, that at the lower end of a street denominated The Vineyard, in this neighbourhood, is the basis of a Roman tower, about eight feet high, supporting a building of three stories: in the wall of which was fixed a large stone, with the following inscription :
Glory be to God on high, who was graciously pleased in a wonderful manner to preserve the lifes of all the people in this
* See Vol. I. p. 64.
+ The antient citizens of London thought the walls of so much consequence to the city, that, in order to preserve them from all incumbrances, they made an act that no house should be built nearer to them than sixteen feet.