Зображення сторінки
[ocr errors]

to the eye a rural simplicity and beauty, that offered a striking and remarkable contrast to the business-portion of the vast city, with its spired churches, and gorgeous palaces; large tracts of land close upon the borders of London were occupied by humble cottages, standing in the midst of blooming gardens, each spot being self-appropriated by the occupiers without leave or license from the proprietors of the soil, who in most instances, however, exacted a ground rent from the tenants, and the number of “ squatters” who thus raised the edifice and cultivated the plot of land, equalled that which was to be found in the New Western World some years after its discovery, and I much question whether considerable portions of the earth's surface on which now appear the handsome villa, or elegant mansion, were not claimed as rightful property,” by the descendants of those who had so unceremoniously pitched their tents under the ninth point of the law, possession.

At that period, the worthy citizens were content to slumber in their city dwellings, and thought not of magnificent squares or country houses as the places of their abiding; modern luxuries had not then become a mania, though innovations were gradually creeping over the state of society, as commerce grew more and more diffused and extended, and the wealth of the country increased with its speculative industry. Nor was this simple mode of living confined to the shopkeepers alone, for even the rich merchants resided in their city mansions, such as to this day may be seen in different parts of London, with their flights of stone steps in front, and spacious marble stairs in the interior-grand pillared entrances, noble apartments and dining rooms, resembling more the hall of some public institution, than the feasting place of a private individual. Here the mirth and the revelry of the good old times have abounded—the masque, the pageant, and the ball, each citizen vieing with the other in the splendour of their entertainments.

But to what base uses may we come at last. These buildings are no longer the abodes of the wealthy; they are converted into warehouses for home and foreign produce, and there is an air of mournful grandeur about them calculated to excite a melancholy feeling in the mind of the casual observer. Many of these mansions are to be seen in the neighbourhood of Upper and Lower Thames Street-generally in court-yards, as things of former days, retiring from the gaze of the public eye.

The shopkeepers kept to their boutiques night and day, and were ever ready for business; no horse, or gig, or phaeton was then brought to the door to carry the tradesman each evening to his country house, some miles distant from the sound of Bow bells; but with their three cornered hats upon their head, silver buckles in their shoes, and golden headed cane, the extent of their occasional exercise was a summer ramble to some favourite place of resort, a short walk on either side of the Thames; and they strolled through plantations of fruits and flowers, with a happy independence, for they had paid their coin at the “Halfpenny Hatch," to enjoy the privilege. From Bermondsey to Lambeth, from Hammersmith circling round to Poplar, the cordon 'of cottage-gardens was drawn; and there are some few individuals yet living who can well remember them before the hand of improvement swept nearly the whole away, and except


spaces devoted to horticulture for the London markets, all has been filled up with the handsome and princely dwellings, covering the earth and towering into the air, in numbers of which families are crowded together according to their means, and “male and female after their kind,” on the several floors which wealth or poverty compels them to inhabit. The only residue of the old system is to be found on the Chalk Road, Pentonville, between King's Cross and the New Model Prison ; between the latter building and Holloway, and a few straggling buildings about Islington. The outskirts of Bermondsey also still retain their primitive character—there is a halfpenny hatch leading from Deptford Lower Road to the East Country Dock, but I have no doubt these will yield before many years have expired to the rage for bricks and mortar, as it has become a prevalent fashion for London to go out of town.

Who can tell me where Pedlar's Acre is situated ? with the exception of those who are residing in the immediate locality; I believe there are but few who could answer that question, for its very name is changed to the Belvidere and York Roads, and there is not more than two or three now living on the spot, who can remember it fifty years ago, when it was covered with lovely gardens, and blossomed as luxuriantly as


Previously to the erection of Westminster Bridge, the river was crossed by ferry from Whitehall Stairs, on the London side, to the King's Arms Stairs, Pedlar's Acre, on the Southwark side, and after passing from the wharfs at the latter place through College Street (which in many parts still retains its primitive character), a halfpenny hatch branched off in different directions towards Lambeth or Newington, or the Great Kent Road, shortening the distance to the foot passenger,

and during three parts of the year affording delightful recreation to all who loved to witness the bounteousness of nature in repaying the toil of


The several paths led through well cultivated grounds, divided into small portions, each containing its cottage structure, and all more or less ornamented and embellished according to the neatness, taste, or outre display of the various occupants. More than one had their outer walls covered with oyster shells, some were castellated, with mimic tower and turret, others were gaily stained with mingling colours of pink, and blue, and green, and red, but the principal number presented a lovely picture of simplicity mantled with flowers.

The entrance to these paths was singularly pretty-a barrier of wood work was thrown across-stout and substantial to the height of three feet, then surmounted by strong railings six feet higher, through which the jasmine had twined its manifold embraces so as to mask the interior from view. In the middle of this barrier was a gateway, the door of which was divided horizontally in two, the upper half being kept open during the day, the lower half closed-to, and only swinging on its hinges, to those who dropped their halfpence as they passed, into the hand of a hearty sturdy old porter, who sat in a little snug lodge by the way side to receive the proffered coin and the good wishes of the donor.

The cottage of this Cerberus was the first that met the eye, it was of a superior construction to most of the rest, and consisted of four comfortable rooms, with an outbuilding for culinary purposes, all on the same floor-a trellis work covered the front, on which was thickly intermingled the spreading creepers of the clematis with the wanton branches of white and red rose trees, whilst the ivy, rising from the rear of the building, fantastically extended its evergreen leaves over every other part, even to the summit of the roof. The garden had been much larger than it then was, for a part of it was separated from the rest, and a small dwelling erected within its bounds, the rental of which served to increase the weekly stipend of the collector-general of tolls. His own immediate garden was tastefully laid out, and there was an air of neatness about it that plainly evidenced the careful labour of diligent hands--the hedges were nicely cut, the fruit trees well arranged, the horticultural de partinent was free from weeds, and the flower beds glowed with the rainbow dyes of richest beauty. But there was also another peculiarity in high contrast to the rest, and which at once manifested a strong partiality for matters connected with a maritime life. A flag-staff, composed of lower mast and topmast nicely rigged, with the appropriate yards across squared to an exact parallel, reared its lofty truck by one corner of the dwelling, and from which on the anniversary of sea fights or state occasions, a unión jack floated as proudly in the breeze as if hoisted at the main of a three decker carrying the admiral of England—at least so said the neighbours, for they had never seen a display of the latter. A three-pounder gun on a carriage all ship-shape was mounted on each side of the cottage doorway, but the truth must be told, that old age had brought on infirinities that rendered them unable to perform the functions for which they were originally designed, though this was kept a profound

secret from the world, as both old and young, unpractised in such affairs, firmly believed that they were constantly kept loaded with real gun-powder and iron bullets to defend the halfpenny treasury of the collector.

At the termination of the middle walk of the garden, seen through a vista of gooseberry bushes and currant trees, stood a figure of Hope leaning on her anchor, the ancient ornament of some vessel's prow, which in former times had dashed through the foaming billows and constantly exposed alike to burning sun or chilling storm, that had left a ruddy glow of health on the rich bronzed features of the goddess. Her's was no pale-faced sentimentality, sickly with apprehension, there was nothing that Byron calls “ bilious and interesting” in her look--No! there were full laughter-loving blue eyes, red cheeks, ruby lips in a broad grin, and auburn hair, in some places approaching to a sea-green that descended over blushing shoulders and a lovely bosom, one half of which, however, was concealed by blue drapery fringed with gold desending to the feet, but looped up above the left knee so as to display a handsome leg, with a capacious calf, and instep, and ankle to correspond, giving the beholder an idea of stability and firmness, and a pretty well proportioned foot with five nicely tumed toes as smooth as alabaster and utroubled by a single corn or bunion. The "fair-eyed” inspirer of mankind was pedestalled on a diminutive capstan, a most happy and philosophical association, forming a poetical group, for what to the seaman's eye can portray the

“ promised pleasure
And bid the lovely scenes at distance hail,”

more powerfully than a ship's capstan lifting the anchor from its oozy bed of dulness, to swing its hammock at the bows, whilst the proud bark her eager sails swelling in the breath of hope and expectation rides careering over the waves.

It is true the lady in question, though leaning on her anchor, was not a bowery hope, she was in fact something of the Wapping breed and cut, like an honest landlady chalking two for one at the seaman's favourite sign, and eagerly looking forward to the happy moment when she should be able to set her cap-stern in defiance of the world. It offered a lesson to hope against hope, for none who looked upon that face could ever yield to despair, especially when on certain mischievous opportunities, a waggish youngster to tease the old man, his father, would stick a short pipe in her mouth.

To complete the thing and give it a perfect nautical finish, the base of the capstan was surrounded by sea shells, pieces of rock, coral, and fint stones, intermingled with the wooden heads and blubber faces of grinning cherubs all looking up aloft to the enchanted figure that watched over them.

The inside of the cottage was characterized by the same peculiarities as the exterior, everything was particularly neat and clean, the stone floors perfectly white with scrubbing, and the old high-backed, curiously carved, oak chairs and tables of the same wood, brightly polished. In the family apartment this was particularly the case, and on the wall was fixed a looking glass in mahogany frame, elaborately ornamented with nondescript birds and sheaves of corn in burnished gilt, beneath which, on brackets made of sheet copper, horizontally reposed a well bee's-waxed wooden leg. There were also several glaringly coloured pictures of naval engagements between the English and Dutch feets, and brandy-faced portraits of veteran chiefs who had sustained--and nobly sustained the honour of their country's flag. In one place was a brass-mounted hanger crossed by a short boarding pike, and lashed together at the crossing with a piece of white line, forming in the finish, a true-love knot. On one of the tables stood a correct model of a frigate, rigged according to the fashion of the times, and in a small glass case above it was a massive silver call, such as was once the symbol of the most exalted rank in the Royal Navy, and whose shrill sounds from the lips of a Lord High Admiral were designed to invigorate the men in the heat of battle; but in later times was only used by the boatswain and his mates to summon the people to their duty or their meals, and to direct their operations when busily engaged without the aid of human voice. To the call was attached a thickly-linked silver chain which was coiled round in Flemish fakes, and in the same case beneath the above, hung in strange companionship, the messenger of mortal death and the emblem of eternal life, the latter consisting of a heavy but small gold crucifix, the former, a flattened musket-bullet of lead. There were other tokens of the inariner to be seen, such as the palm and needle, the marlin-spike, &c., &c., but these were mere accidental displays, only coming forth occasionally when wanted for use.

The sleeping rooms were of the ordinary nature, except that in one of them a seaman's hammock was suspended diagonally from corner to corner by stout rope laniards, that were well calculated by their thickness and strength, to bear the strain of a heavy weight. The linen was delicately clean, and every department indicated the industrious habit of a clever and tidy housewife.

And now we must come to the inhabitants of this charming spot, as more essential to the progress of our history.

John Paulet was a thorough seaman of the old school, and from his earliest years had served in ships of the Royal Navy. Whilst yet a


« НазадПродовжити »