Temple Bar, that old dingy gateway of blackened Portland stone which separates the Strand from Fleet Street, the City from the Shire, and the Freedom of the City of London from the Liberty of the City of Westminster, was built by[Pg 5] Sir Christopher Wren in the year 1670, four years after the Great Fire, and ten after the Restoration.
In earlier days there were at this spot only posts, rails, and a chain, as at Holborn, Smithfield, and Whitechapel. In later times, however, a house of timber was erected, with a narrow gateway and one passage on the south side.
The original Bar seems to have crossed Fleet Street, several yards farther to the east of its successor. In the time of James I. it consisted of an iron railing with a gate in the middle. A man sat on the spot for many years after the erection of the new gate, to take toll from all carts which had not the City arms painted on them.
Temple Bar, if described now in an architect’s catalogue, would be noted as pierced with two side posterns for foot passengers, and having a central flattened archway for carriages. In the upper story is an apartment with semicircular arched windows on the eastern and western sides, and the whole is crowned with a sweeping pediment.
On the western or Westminster side there are two niches, in which are placed mean statues of Charles I. and Charles II. in fluttering Roman robes, and on the east or Fleet Street side there are statues of James I. and Queen Elizabeth. They are all remarkable for their small feeble heads, their affected and crinkled drapery, and the piebald look produced by their projecting hands and feet being washed white by years of rain, while the rest of their bodies remains a sooty black.
The upper room is held of the City by the partners of the very ancient firm of Messrs. Child, bankers. There they store their books and records, as in an old muniment-chamber. The north side ground floor, next to Shire Lane, was occupied as a barber’s shop from the days of Steele and the Tatler.
The centre slab on the east side of Temple Bar once contained the following inscription, now all but obliterated:—“Erected in the year 1670, Sir Samuel Sterling, Mayor; continued in the year 1671, Sir Richard Ford, Lord Mayor;[Pg 6] and finished in the year 1672, Sir George Waterman, Lord Mayor.” It is probable that the corresponding western slab, and also the smaller one over the postern, once bore inscriptions.
Temple Bar was doomed to destruction by the City as early as 1790, through the exertions of Alderman Picket. “Threatened men live long,” says an old Italian proverb. Temple Bar still stands a narrow neck to an immense decanter; an impeder of traffic, a venerable nuisance, with nothing interesting but its associations and its dirt. But then let us remember that as Holborn Hill has tormented horses and drivers ever since the Conquest, and its steepness is not yet in any way mitigated, we must not expect hasty reforms in London.
It does not enter into my purpose (unless I walked like a crab, backwards) to give the history of Child’s bank. Suffice it for me to say that it stands on part of the site of the old Devil Tavern, kept by old Simon Wadloe, where Ben Jonson held his club. It was taken down in 1788, and Child’s Place built in its stead. Alderman Backwell, who was ruined by the shutting up of the Exchequer in the reign of Charles II., and became a partner in this, the oldest banking-house in London, was the agent for Government in the sale of Dunkirk to the French.
Pepys makes frequent allusions to his friend Child, probably one of the founders of this bank. The Duke of York opposed his interference in Admiralty matters, and had a quarrel with a gentleman who declared that whoever impugned Child’s honesty must be a knave. Child wrote an enlightened work on Indian trade, supporting the interests of the East India Company.
Apollo Court, exactly opposite the bank, marks a passage that once faced the Apollo room, from whose windows Ben Jonson must have often glowered and Herrick laughed.
Archenholz says that in his day there were forty-eight[Pg 7] bankers in London. “The Duke of Marlborough,” writes the Prussian traveller, “had some years ago in the hands of Child the banker, a fund of ten, fifteen, or twenty thousand pounds. Drummond had often in his hands several hundred thousand pounds at one time belonging to the Government.”
In the earliest London Directory (1677), among “the goldsmiths that keep running cashes,” we find “Richard Blanchard and Child, at the Marygold in Fleet Street.” The huge marigold (really a sun in full shine), above four feet high, the original street-sign of the old goldsmiths at Temple Bar, is still preserved in one of the rooms of Child’s bank.
John Bushnell, the sculptor who executed the statues on Temple Bar, being compelled by his master, Burman, of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, to marry a discarded servant-maid, went to Italy, and resided in Rome and Venice, and in the latter place executed a monument to a Procuratore, representing a naval engagement between the Venetians and the Turks. His best works are Cowley’s monument, that of Sir Palmes Fairborne in Westminster Abbey, and Lord Mordaunt’s statue in Fulham church. He also executed the statues of Charles I., Charles II., and Sir Thomas Gresham for the Royal Exchange. He had agreed to complete the set of kings, but Cibber being also engaged, Bushnell would not finish the six or seven he had begun. Being told by rival sculptors that he could carve only drapery, and not the naked figure, he produced a very despicable Alexander the Great.
The next whim of this vain, fantastic, and crazy man, was to prove that the Trojan Horse could really have been constructed. He therefore had a wooden horse built with huge timbers, which he proposed to cover with stucco. The head held twelve men and a table; the eyes served as windows. Before it was half completed, however, it was[Pg 8] demolished by a storm of wind, and no entreaties of the two vintners who had contracted to use the horse for a drinking booth could induce the mortified projector to rebuild the monster, which had already cost him £500. A wiser plan of his, that of bringing coal to London by sea, also miscarried; and the loss of an estate in Kent, through an unsuccessful lawsuit, completed the overthrow of Bushnell’s never very well-balanced brain. He died in 1701, and was buried at Paddington. His two sons (to one of whom he left £100 a year, and to the other £60) became recluses, moping in an unfinished house of their father’s, facing Hyde Park, in the lane leading from Piccadilly to Tyburn, now Park Lane. This strange abode had neither staircase nor doors, but there they brooded, sordid and impracticable, saying that the world had not been worthy of their father. Vertue, in 1728, describes a visit to the house, which was then choked with unfinished statues and pictures. There was a ruined cast of an intended brass equestrian statue of Charles II.: an Alexander and other unfinished kings completed the disconsolate brotherhood. Against the wall leant a great picture of a classic triumph, almost obliterated; and on the floor lay a bar of iron, as thick as a man’s wrist, that had been broken by some forgotten invention of Bushnell’s.
After the discovery of the absurd Meal-Tub Plot, in 1679, the 17th of November, the anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth was kept, according to custom, as a high Protestant festival, and celebrated by an extraordinary procession, at the expense of the Green-Ribbon Club, a few citizens, and some gentlemen of the Temple. The bells began to ring out at three o’clock in the morning; at dusk the procession began at Moorgate, and passed through Cheapside and Fleet Street, where it ended with a huge bonfire, “just over against the Inner Temple gate.”
The stormy procession was thus constituted:—
1. Six whifflers, in pioneer caps and red waistcoats, who[Pg 9] cleared the way. 2. A bellman, ringing his bell, and with a doleful voice crying, “Remember Justice Godfrey.” 3. A dead body, representing the wood-merchant of Hartshorne Lane (Sir E. Godfrey), in a decent black habit, white gloves, and the cravat wherewith he was murdered about his neck, with spots of blood on his wrists, breast, and shirt. This figure was held on a white horse by a man representing one of the murderers. 4. A priest in a surplice and cope, embroidered with bones, skulls, and skeletons. He handed pardons to all who would meritoriously murder Protestants. 5. A priest, bearing a great silver cross. 6. Four Carmelite friars, in white and black robes. 7. Four Grey Friars. 8. Six Jesuits with bloody daggers. 9. The waits, playing all the way. 10. Four bishops in purple, with lawn sleeves, golden crosses on their breasts, and croziers in their hands. 11. Four other bishops, in full pontificals (copes and surplices), wearing gilt mitres. 12. Six cardinals, in scarlet robes and caps. 13. The Pope’s chief physician, with Jesuits’ powder and other still more grotesque badges of his office. 14. Two priests in surplices, bearing golden crosses. 15. Then came the centre of all this pageant, the Pope himself, sitting in a scarlet and gilt fringed chair of state. His feet were on a cushion, supported by two boys in surplices, with censers and white silk banners, painted with red crosses and bloody consecrated daggers. His Holiness wore a scarlet gown, lined with ermine and daubed with gold and silver lace. On his head he had the triple tiara, and round his neck a gilt collar, strung with precious stones, beads, Agnus Dei’s, and St. Peter’s keys. At the back of his chair climbed and whispered the devil, who hugged and caressed him, and sometimes urged him aloud to kill King Charles, or to forge a Protestant plot and to fire the city again, for which purpose he kept a torch ready lit.
The number of spectators in the balconies and windows was computed at two hundred thousand. A hundred and fifty flambeaux followed the procession by order, and as many more came as volunteers.
Lastly came a complaisant, civil gentleman, who was meant to represent either Sir Roger l’Estrange, or the King of France, or the Duke of York. “Taking all in good part, he went on his way to the fire.”
At Temple Bar some of the mob had crowned the statue of Elizabeth with gilt laurel, and placed in her hand a gilt shield with the motto, “The Protestant Religion and Magna Charta.” A spear leant against her arm, and the niche was lit with candles and flambeaux, so that, as North said, she looked like the goddess Pallas, the object of some solemn worship and sacrifice.
All this time perpetual battles and skirmishes went on between the Whigs and Tories at the different windows, and thousands of volleys of squibs were discharged.
When the pope was at last toppled into the fire a prodigious shout was raised, that spread as far as Somerset House, where the queen then was, and, as a pamphleteer of the time says, before it ceased, reached Scotland, France, and even Rome.
From these processions the word MOB (mobile vulgus) became introduced into our language. In 1682, Charles II. tried to prohibit this annual festival, but it continued nevertheless till the reign of Queen Anne, or even later.
At Temple Bar, where the houses seemed turned into mountains of heads, and many fireworks were let off, a man representing the English cardinal (Philip Howard, brother of the Duke of Norfolk) sang a rude part-song with other men who personated the people of England. The cardinal first began:—
“From York to London town we come
To talk of Popish ire,
To reconcile you all to Rome,
And prevent Smithfield fire.”
[Pg 11]To which the people replied, valorously:—
“Cease, cease, thou Norfolk cardinal,
See! yonder stands Queen Bess,
Who saved our souls from Popish thrall:
Oh, Bess! Queen Bess! Queen Bess!
“Your Popish plot, and Smithfield threat,
We do not fear at all,
For, lo! beneath Queen Bess’s feet,
You fall! you fall! you fall!
“’Tis true our king’s on t’other side,
A looking t’wards Whitehall,
But could we bring him round about,
He’d counterplot you all.
“Then down with James and up with Charles,
On good Queen Bess’s side,
That all true commons, lords, and earls
May wish him a fruitful bride.
“Now God preserve great Charles our king,
And eke all honest men,
And traitors all to justice bring:
Amen! Amen! Amen!”
It was formerly the barbarous and brutal custom to place the heads and quarters of traitors upon Temple Bar as scarecrows to all persons who did not consider William of Orange, or the Elector of Hanover, the rightful possessors of the English crown.
Sir Thomas Armstrong was the first to help to deck Wren’s new arch. When Shaftesbury fled in 1683, and the Court had partly discovered his intrigues with Monmouth and the Duke of Argyle, the more desperate men of the Exclusion Party plotted to stop the king’s coach as he returned from Newmarket to London, at the Rye House, a lonely mansion near Hoddesden. The plot was discovered, and Monmouth escaped to Holland. In the meantime the informers dragged Russell and Sydney into the scheme, for which they were falsely put to death. Sir Thomas Armstrong, who had been taken at Leyden and delivered up to the English Ambassador at the Hague, claimed a trial as a[Pg 12] surrendered outlaw, according to the 6th Edward VI. But Judge Jeffreys refused him his request, as he had not surrendered voluntarily, but had been brought by force. Armstrong still claiming the benefit of the law, the brutal judge replied:—“And the benefit of the law you shall have, by the grace of God. See that execution be done on Friday next, according to law.”
Armstrong had sinned deeply against the king. He had sold himself to the French ambassador, he had urged Monmouth on in his undutiful conduct to his father, and he had been an active agent in the Rye House Plot. Charles would listen to no voice in his favour. On the scaffold he denied any intention of assassinating the king or changing the form of government.
Sir William Perkins and Sir John Friend were the next unfortunate gentlemen who lent their heads to crown the Bar. They were rash, hot-headed Jacobites, who, too eagerly adopting the “ultima ratio” of political partisans, had planned, in 1696, to stop King William’s coach in a deep lane between Brentford and Turnham Green, as he returned from hunting at Richmond. Sir John Friend was a person who had acquired wealth and credit from mean beginnings, but Perkins was a man of fortune, violently attached to King James, though as one of the six clerks of Chancery he had taken the oath to the new Government. Friend owned that he had been at a treasonable meeting at the King’s Head Tavern in Leadenhall Street, but denied connivance in the assassination-plot. Perkins made an artful and vigorous defence, but the judge acted as counsel for the Crown and guided the jury. They both suffered at Tyburn, three nonjuring clergymen absolving them, much to the indignation of the loyal bystanders.
John Evelyn calls the sight of Temple Bar “a dismal sight.” Thank God, this revolting spectacle of traitors’ heads will never be seen here again.
In 1716 Colonel Henry Oxburgh’s head was added to[Pg 13] the quarters of Sir John Friend (a brewer) and the skull of Sir William Perkins. Oxburgh was a Lancashire gentleman, who had served in the French army. General Foster (who escaped from Newgate, in 1716) had made him colonel directly he joined the Pretender’s army. To him, too, had been entrusted the humiliating task of proposing capitulation to the king’s troops at Preston, when the Highlanders, frenzied with despair, were eager to sally out and cut their way through the enemy’s dragoons. He met death with a serene temper. A fellow-prisoner described his words as coming “like a gleam from God. You received comfort,” he says, “from the man you came to comfort.” Oxburgh was executed at Tyburn, May 14; his body was buried at St. Giles’, all but his head, and that was placed on Temple Bar two days afterwards.
A curious print of 1746 represents Temple Bar with the three heads raised on tall poles or iron rods. The devil looks down in triumph and waves the rebel banner, on which are three crowns and a coffin, with the motto, “A crown or a grave.” Underneath are written these wretched verses:
“Observe the banner which would all enslave,
Which ruined traytors did so proudly wave.
The devil seems the project to despise;
A fiend confused from off the trophy flies.
“While trembling rebels at the fabrick gaze,
And dread their fate with horror and amaze,
Let Briton’s sons the emblematick view,
And plainly see what to rebellion’s due.”
A curious little book “by a member of the Inner Temple,” which has preserved this print, has also embalmed the following stupid and cold-blooded impromptu on the heads of Oxburgh, Townley, and Fletcher:—
“Three heads here I spy,
Which the glass did draw nigh,
The better to have a good sight;
Triangle they’re placed,
Old, bald, and barefaced,
Not one of them e’er was upright.”
[Pg 14]The heads of Fletcher and Townley were put up on Temple Bar August 2, 1746. On August 16, Walpole writes to Montague to say that he had “passed under the new heads at Temple Bar, where people made a trade of letting spying-glasses at a halfpenny a look.”
Townley was a young officer about thirty-eight years of age, born at Wigan, and of a good family. His uncle had been out in 1715, but was acquitted on his trial. Townley had been fifteen years abroad in the French army, and was close to the Duke of Berwick when the duke’s head was shot off at the siege of Philipsburgh. When the Highlanders came into England he met them near Preston, and received from the young Pretender a commission to raise a regiment of foot. He had been also commandant at Carlisle, and directed the sallies from thence.
Fletcher, a young linen chapman at Salford, had been seen pulling off his hat and shouting when a sergeant and a drummer were beating up for volunteers at the Manchester Exchange. He had been seen also at Carlisle, dressed as an officer, with a white cockade in his hat and a plaid sash round his waist.
Seven other Jacobites were executed on Kennington Common with Fletcher and Townley. They were unchained from the floor of their room in Southwark new gaol early in the morning, and having taken coffee, had their irons knocked off. They were then, at about ten o’clock, put into three sledges, each drawn by three horses. The executioner, with a drawn scimitar, sat in the first sledge with Townley; a party of dragoons and a detachment of foot-guards conducted him to the gallows, near which a pile of faggots and a block had been placed. While the prisoners were stepping from their sledges into a cart drawn up beneath a tree, the wood was set on fire, and the guards formed a circle round the place of execution. The prisoners had no clergyman, but Mr. Morgan, one of their number, put on his spectacles and read prayers to them, which they listened and responded to with devoutness. This lasted above an hour. Each one then[Pg 15] threw his prayer-book and some written papers among the spectators; they also delivered notes to the sheriff, and then flung their hats into the crowd. “Six of the hats,” says the quaint contemporary account, “were laced with gold,—all of these prisoners having been genteelly dressed.” Immediately after, the executioner took a white cap from each man’s pocket and drew it over his eyes; then they were turned off. When they had hung about three minutes, the executioner pulled off their shoes, white stockings, and breeches, a butcher removing their other clothes. The body of Mr. Townley was then cut down and laid upon a block, and the butcher seeing some signs of life remaining, struck it on the breast, then took out the bowels and the heart, and threw them into the fire. Afterwards, with a cleaver, they severed the head and placed it with the body in the coffin. When the last heart, which was Mr. Dawson’s, was tossed into the fire, the executioner cried, “God save King George!” and the immense multitude gave a great shout. The heads and bodies were then removed to Southwark gaol to await the king’s pleasure.
According to another account the bodies were cloven into quarters; and as the butcher held up each heart he cried, “Behold the heart of a traitor!”
Mr. James Dawson, one of the unhappy men thus cruelly punished, was a young Lancashire gentleman of fortune, just engaged to be married. The unhappy lady followed his sledge to the place of execution, and approached near enough to see the fire kindled and all the other dreadful preparations. She bore it well till she heard her lover was no more, but then drew her head back into the coach, and crying out, “My dear, I follow thee!—I follow thee! Sweet Jesus, receive our souls together!” fell on the neck of a companion and expired. Shenstone commemorated this occurrence in a plaintive ballad called “Jemmy Dawson.”
Mr. Dawson is described as “a mighty gay gentleman, who frequented much the company of the ladies, and was well respected by all his acquaintance of either sex for his genteel deportment. He was as strenuous for their vile cause[Pg 16] as any one in the rebel army. When he was condemned and double fettered, he said he did not care if they were to put a ton weight of iron on him; it would not in the least daunt his resolution.”
On January 20 (between 2 and 3 A.M.), 1766, a man was taken up for discharging musket-bullets from a steel crossbow at the two remaining heads upon Temple Bar. On being examined he affected a disorder in his senses, and said his reason for doing so was “his strong attachment to the present Government, and that he thought it was not sufficient that a traitor should merely suffer death; that this provoked his indignation, and that it had been his constant practice for three nights past to amuse himself in the same manner. And it is much to be feared,” says the recorder of the event, “that he is a near relation to one of the unhappy sufferers.” Upon searching this man, about fifty musket-bullets were found on him, wrapped up in a paper with a motto—“Eripuit ille vitam.”
“Yesterday,” says a news-writer of the 1st of April, 1772, “one of the rebel heads on Temple Bar fell down. There is only one head now remaining.”
The head that fell was probably that of Councillor Layer, executed for high treason in 1723. The blackened head was blown off the spike during a violent storm. It was picked up by Mr. John Pearce, an attorney, one of the Nonjurors of the neighbourhood, who showed it to some friends at a public-house, under the floor of which it was buried. In the meanwhile Dr. Rawlinson, a Jacobite antiquarian, having begged for the relic, was imposed on with another. In his will the doctor desired to be buried with this head in his right hand, and the request was complied with.
This Dr. Rawlinson, one of the first promoters of the Society of Antiquaries, and son of a lord mayor of London, died in 1755. His body was buried in St. Giles’ churchyard, Oxford, and his heart in St. John’s College. The sale of his effects lasted several days, and produced £1164. He left[Pg 17] upwards of 20,000 pamphlets; his coins he bequeathed to Oxford.
The last of the iron poles or spikes on which the heads of the unfortunate Jacobite gentlemen were fixed, was removed only at the commencement of the present century.
The above-named Christopher Layer was a barrister, living in Old Southampton Buildings, who had engaged in a plot to seize the Bank and the Tower, to arm the Minters in Southwark, to seize the king, Walpole, and Lord Cadogan, to place cannon on the terrace of Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields gardens, and to draw a force of armed men together at the Exchange. The prisoner had received blank promissory-notes signed in the Pretender’s own hand, and also treasonable letters full of cant words of the party in disguised names—such as Mr. Atkins for the Pretender, Mrs. Barbara Smith for the army, and Mr. Fountaine for himself.
It was proved that, at an audience in Rome, Layer had assured the Pretender that the South Sea losses had done good to his cause; and the Pretender and the Pretender’s wife (through their proxies, Lord North and Grey, and the Duchess of Ormond) had stood as godfather and godmother to his (Layer’s) daughter’s child.
He was executed at Tyburn in May 1723, and avowed his principles even under the gallows. His head was taken to Newgate, and the next day fixed upon Temple Bar; but his quarters were delivered to his relations to be decently interred.
In April 1773 Boswell dined at Mr. Beauclerk’s with Dr. Johnson, Lord Charlemont, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and some other members of the Literary Club—it being the evening when Boswell was to be balloted for as candidate for admission into that distinguished society. The conversation turned on Westminster Abbey, and on the new and commendable practice of erecting monuments to great men in St. Paul’s; upon which the doctor observed—
“I remember once being with Goldsmith in Westminster[Pg 18] Abbey. While we surveyed the Poets’ Corner, I said to him—
‘Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur illis.’
When we got to Temple Bar he stopped me, pointed to the heads upon it, and slily whispered—
‘Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis.’”
This walk must have taken place a year or two before 1773, for in 1772, as we have seen, the last head but one fell.
O’Keefe, the dramatist, who arrived in England on August 12, 1762, the day on which the Prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.) was born, describes the heads of poor Townley and Fletcher as stuck up on high poles, not over the central archway, but over the side posterns. Parenthetically he mentions that he had also seen the walls of Cork gaol garnished with heads, like the ramparts of the seraglio at Constantinople.
O’Keefe tells us that he heard the unpopular peace of 1763 proclaimed at Temple Bar, and witnessed the heralds in the Strand knock at the city gate. The duke of Nivernois, the French ambassador on that occasion, was a very little man, who wore a coat of richly-embroidered blue velvet, and a small chapeau, which set the fashion of the Nivernois hat.
At the proclamation of the short peace of Amiens, the king’s marshal, with his officers, having ridden down the Strand from Westminster, stopped at Temple Bar, which was kept shut to show that there commenced the Lord Mayor’s jurisdiction. The herald’s trumpets were blown thrice; the junior officer then tapped at the gate with his cane, upon which the City marshal, in the most unconscious way possible, answered, “Who is there?” The herald replied, “The officers-of-arms, who seek entrance into the City to publish his majesty’s proclamation of peace.” On[Pg 19] this the gates were flung open, and the herald alone was admitted, and conducted to the Lord Mayor. The latter then read the royal warrant, and returning it to the bearer, ordered the City marshal to open the gate for the whole procession. The Lord Mayor and aldermen then joined it, and proceeded to the Royal Exchange, where the proclamation, that was to bid the cannon cease and chain up the dogs of war, was read for the last time.
The timber work and doors of Temple Bar have been often renewed since 1672. New doors were hung for Nelson’s funeral, when the Bar was to be closed; and again at the funeral of Wellington, when the plumes and trophies had to be removed in order that the car might pass through the gate, which was covered with dull theatrical finery.
[Pg 20]The old, black, mud-splashed gates of Temple Bar are also shut whenever the sovereign has occasion to enter the City. This is an old custom, a tradition of the times when the city was proud of its privileges, and sometimes even jealous of royalty. When the cavalcade approaches, a herald, in his tabard of crimson and gold lace, sounds a trumpet before the portal of the City; another herald knocks; a parley ensues; the gates are then thrown open, and the Lord Mayor appearing, kneels and hands the sword of the city to his sovereign, who graciously returns it.
Stow describes a scene like this in the old days of the “timber house,” when Queen Elizabeth was on her way to old St. Paul’s to return thanks to God for the discomfiture of the Armada. The City waits fluted, trumpeted, and fiddled from the roof of the gate; while below, the Lord Mayor and his brethren, in scarlet gowns, received and welcomed their brave queen, delivering up the sword which, after certain speeches, she re-delivered to the mayor, who, then taking horse, rode onward to St. Paul’s bearing it in its shining sheath before her.
In the June after the execution of Charles I., when Cromwell had dispersed the mutinous regiments with his horse, and pistolled or hanged their leaders, a day of thanksgiving was appointed, and the Parliament, the Council of State, and the Council of the Army, after endless sermons, dined together at Grocers’ Hall; on that day Lenthall, the Speaker, received the sword of state from the mayor at the Bar, and assumed the functions of royalty.
The same ceremony took place when Queen Anne went to St. Paul’s to return thanks for the Duke of Marlborough’s victories, and again when George III. came to return thanks for a recovery from his fit of insanity, and when Queen Victoria passed on her way to Cornhill to open the Royal Exchange.
Temple Bar naturally does not figure much in the early City pageants, because, after proceeding to Westminster[Pg 21] by water, the mayor and aldermen usually landed at St. Paul’s Stairs.
It is, we believe, first mentioned in the great festivities when the City brought poor Anne Boleyn, in 1533, from Greenwich to the Tower, and on the second day after conducted her through the chief streets and honoured her with shows. On that day the Fleet Street conduit ran claret, and Temple Bar was newly painted and repaired; there also stood singing men and children, till the company rode on to Westminster Hall. The next day was the coronation.
On the 19th of February 1546-7 the young King Edward VI. passed through London, the day before his coronation. At the Fleet Street conduit two hogsheads of wine were given to the people. The gate at Temple Bar was also painted and fashioned with varicoloured battlements and buttresses, richly hung with cloth of arras, and garnished with fourteen standards. There were eight French trumpeters blowing their best, besides a pair of “regals,” with children singing to the same.
In September 1553 Queen Mary rode through London, the day before her coronation, in a chariot covered with cloth of tissue, and drawn by six horses draped with the same. Minstrels played at Ludgate, and the Temple Bar was newly painted and hung.
But even a greater time came for the old City boundary in January 1558-9, when Queen Elizabeth went from the Tower to Westminster. Temple Bar was “finely dressed” up with the two giants—Gog and Magog (now in the Guildhall)—who held between them a poetical recapitulation of all the other pageantries, both in Latin and English. On the south side was a noise of singing children, one of whom, richly attired as a poet, gave the queen farewell in the name of the whole city.
In 1603 King James, Queen Anne of Denmark, and Prince Henry Frederick passed through “the honourable[Pg 22] City and Chamber” of London, and were welcomed with pageants. The last arch, that of Temple Bar, represented a temple of Janus. The principal character was Peace, with War grovelling at her feet; by her stood Wealth; below sat the four handmaids of Peace,—Quiet treading on Tumult, Liberty on Servitude, Safety on Danger, and Felicity on Unhappiness. There was then recited a poetical dialogue by the Flamen Martialis and the Genius Urbis, written by Ben Jonson.
Here, hitherto, the pageantry had always ceased, but the Strand suburbs having now greatly increased, there was an additional pageant beyond Temple Bar, which had been thought of and perfected in only twelve days. The invention was a rainbow; and the moon, sun, and pleiades advanced between two magnificent pyramids seventy feet high, on which were drawn out the king’s pedigrees through both the English and the Scottish monarchs. A speech composed by Ben Jonson was delivered by Electra.
When Charles II. came through London, according to custom, the day before his coronation, I suspect that “the fourth arch in Fleet Street” was close to Temple Bar. It was of the Doric and Ionic orders, and was dedicated to Plenty, who made a speech, surrounded by Bacchus, Ceres, Flora, Pomona, and the Winds; but whether the latter were alive or only dummies, I cannot say.
The London Gazette of February 8, 1665-6, announces the proclamation of war against France; and Pepys mentions this as also the day on which they went into mourning at court for the King of Spain. War was proclaimed by the herald-at-arms and two of his brethren, his majesty’s sergeants-at-arms, and trumpeters, with the other usual officers before Whitehall, and afterwards (the Lord Mayor and his brethren assisting) at Temple Bar, and in other usual parts of the City.
James II., in 1687, honoured Sir John Shorter as Lord Mayor with his presence at an inaugurative banquet at Guildhall. The king was accompanied by Prince George[Pg 23] of Denmark, and was met by the two sheriffs at Temple Bar.
On Lord Mayor’s Day, 1689, when King William and Queen Mary came to the City to see the show, the City militia regiments lined the street as far as Temple Bar, and beyond came the red and blue regiments of Middlesex and Westminster; the soldiers, at regulated distances, holding lighted flambeaux in their hands, and all the houses being illuminated.
In 1697, when Macaulay’s hero, William III., made a[Pg 24] triumphant entry into London to celebrate the conclusion of the peace of Ryswick, the procession included fourscore state coaches, each with six horses; the three City regiments guarded Temple Bar, and beyond them came the liveries of the several companies, with their banners and ensigns displayed.
George III. in his day, and Queen Victoria in her and our own, passed through Temple Bar in state more than once, on their way into the City; the last occasion was on February 1872, when the Queen proceeded to St. Paul’s to offer thanks for the recovery of her son the Prince of Wales. Through it also the bodies of Nelson and of Wellington were borne to their last resting place in St. Paul’s.
On the auspicious entrance into London of the fair Princess Alexandra, the old gate was hung with tapestry of gold tissue, powdered with crimson hearts; and very mediæval and gorgeous it looked; but the real days of pageants are gone by. We shall never again see fountains running wine, nor maidens blowing gold-leaf into the air, as in the luxurious days of our Plantagenet kings.
There are many portals in the world loftier and more beautiful than our dull, black arch of Temple Bar. The Vatican has grander doorways, the Louvre more stately entrances, but through no gateway in the world have surely passed onwards to death so many millions of wise and brave men, or so many thinkers who have urged forward learning and civilisation, and carried the standard of struggling humanity farther into space.And Last updated on: Sunday, 06-Sep-2020 21:33:49 BST