We are assured, on the authority of several antiquarians, that St. Martin's
Church formerly stood in the fields, and that St. Martin's Lane was a rural
avenue with a shady streamlet murmuring by, where the Apollonicon now growls,
and odorous flowers on the mossy bank, where PALMER now manufactures his
candles. The whole of this part of the Metropolis was originally a rural
district; and it is even believed that - such was the savage wildness of the
spot - bears were known to prowl about that part of it to which the name of Bear
Street has since been given. Leicester Fields, as they were then called, formed
the grand centre for the meeting of the hounds, and the loud cry of "Hilly
ho! yo hoicks! hilly high ho!" was accustomed to reverberate up Leicester
Place, across Newport Market, and right away over the hills of Holborn.
This brings us again to Whetstone Park, the subject of our present visit. It was formerly the abode of the Earls of Whetstone, who were collaterally related to the Barons of Turnstile, who lived in great style: since corrupted into Great Turnstile, in the neighbourhood. It is well known to all our legal readers - or if it is not, it ought to be - that no place can be called a park, without a royal license; and it is said that the first Earl of Whetstone extorted from ETHELRED the right to call his domain of Whetstone a Park, as the price of some secret service rendered to the Saxon monarch in the wars of Wessex. The place has not preserved its park-like appearance, but it has still some remains of the sylvan symplicity by which a park would probably he distinguished. The cat nestles undisturbed amid the quiet chimney-pots; the hen leads her little brood about in security; and the horse pokes his head out of the stable-door with a calm sense of security. The aspect of the place proves, that even as
"You may break, you may ruin the vase if you will,
But the scent of the roses will linger there still."
So you may build over the park grounds as you may; still the relics of rusticity will haunt its gutters, and cling to its tiled roofs, its clotheslines, its children, and its chickens, for ever.
Some of our readers may not perhaps be acquainted with the geography of Whetstone Park, which is a narrow neck of land - as they say of the Isthmus of Suez - lying between the northern continent of Holborn and the Lincoln's Inn southern hemisphere. It has been said that there is no part of the British dominions on which the sun never shines; but Whetstone Park, from the height of its buildings, and its own narrowness, is decidedly extra-solarly situated. It was formerly the residence of those generous-hearted and fine old English gentlemen who never could see a fellow-creature in distress without offering to become his bail, and who took the name of Straw Bail, from the notion perhaps of straw being usually in the truss; and the trust they put in their fellow man was really wonderful. They used to stand at Sergeant's Inn, thrusting into every one's hands their cards inscribed with their names and addresses; the majority of those addresses being Whetstone Park, in the County of Middlesex. These bail, like many other of our venerable institutions, have been swept away by the besom of Reform, aided by a few twigs in the birch of the Schoolmaster. Where are they now? Echo, alas! must answer as it used when these bail were called upon to justify - "Where?"
Punch, Jan.-Jun. 1846