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We would next inquire into the origin and
present condition of the district called Saffron Hill. It is very interesting to
trace the steps by which any particular district degenerated into a pauper
colony, because it shows the gradations by which the hotel of the peer may
become the hovel of the pauper; and we may, perhaps, learn at what point to
interpose, and when it becomes necessary to declare a house unfit for human
Saffron Hill is now divided and subdivided into innumerable courts and alleys. It is difficult to ascertain the precise period when it became a Rookery, since many of the houses now used as lodging-houses bear the marks of wealth, and were evidently erected with some regard to the comfort of the owners. The streets are narrow, but not more so than many of the lanes and thoroughfares belonging to the Inns of Court, and the alleys in which a large business is carried on in the City; and could you suppose the business of the Courts transferred to Westminster, in thirty years' time many buildings now leased at an extravagant rent might degenerate to the condition of Saffron Hill. The ground on which this Rookery stands, formerly belonged to the Bishops of [-45-] Ely,the names of some of the streets, Vine Street, and others, seem to indicate this. The gardens attached to this mansion, as appears from the curious map published by Ralph Aggas, occupied the present site of this district; they formed an irregular parallelogram, extending northward from Holborn Hill to the present Hatton Wall, and Vine Street, and east and west from Saffron Hill to the present Leather Lane; but except a line or cluster of houses on Holborn Hill (some of which belonged to the See of Ely, and were called Ely Rents), the surrounding grounds were entirely open and unbuilt upon. Ely House, we are informed by Brayley, or Ely Inn, as it was anciently called, stood on the north side of Holborn Hill, and was the town mansion of the Bishops of Ely. Its first occupier was Bishop John de Kirkeby*, [* The modem Kirby Street, near Saffron Hill, is evidently called after him, the "k" being omitted, a frequent Atticism.] who, dying in 1290, bequeathed a messuage and nine cottages on this spot to his successors in the diocese. William de Luda, the next Bishop, annexed some lands and other dwellings to this residence; and in 1298 devised them to his See, on condition that 1000 marks should be paid by his immediate successor towards the maintenance of three chaplains, for the service of the chapel here. On the west side of Ely Place, are the remains of this very chapel; the present edifice, though well nigh rebuilt, retains still some traces of its ancient glories, the tracery of the east window especially denoting the times of Richard II. Bishop John de Hotham, who died in [-46-] 1386, enlarged the property by annexing to it a vineyard, kitchen garden, and orchard. The good Bishop little thought that the memory of his terrestrial paradise would live in the crumbling streets of a Rookery, where it is unsafe to enter by night, and where day lends its light, only to shock you by its revelations. Shakspeare refers to this mansion, with its pleasure grounds, in his Richard III., in which drama the Duke of Gloucester, at the council in the Tower, thus addresses the Bishop of Ely:-
" My Lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn,
I saw good strawberries in your garden there;
I do beseech you, send for some of them."
This is but the paraphrase of a passage in Hall, one of the old chroniclers. A great feast was given at Ely House, by the Sergeants-at-Law, in November 1531, when eleven new members were added to their body; they kept open house for five successive days; and on Monday, November 18th, which was the fourth and principal day, King Henry himself, with his Queen, Katharine of Arragon, and the foreign ambassadors, were feasted in different chambers.
In the eighteenth year of Queen Elizabeth, an important change took place at her mandatory request. She required the Bishop, who then inhabited Ely House, to resign it to her favourite Hatton: the prelate objected that, as tenant for life, he could not alienate the rights of his successor. On this occasion she is reported to have written the memorable letter :- "Proud Prelate, I understand you are backward in complying with your [-47-] agreement; but I would have you know that I, who made you what you are, can unmake you; and if you do not forthwith fulfil your engagement, by God I will unfrock you." Bishop Cox granted to Richard Hatton, after whose family Hatton Garden was called, the gate-house of the palace, (except two rooms, used as prisons for those that were arrested, or delivered in execution to the Bishop's bailiff, and the lower rooms, used for the Porters' Lodge,) the first court-yard within the gate- house to the long gallery dividing it from the second, the stables there, the long gallery with the rooms above and below it, and some other fourteen acres of land, and the keeping of the garden and orchard, for twenty-one years, Hatton paying at Midsummer day a red rose for the gate- house and garden, and for the ground ten loads of hay, and £.10 per annum; the Bishop reserving to himself and his successors free access through the gate-house, walking in the gardens, and gathering twenty bushels of roses yearly. Mr. Hatton undertaking to repair, and make the gate-house a convenient dwelling.
Successive Bishops endeavoured to regain the property thus alienated, and suits were entered into by them with this view. During the Protectorate of Cromwell, Ely House, and its attached offices, were appropriated by the ruling powers to the uses both of a prison and a hospital; and the crypt under the chapel became a kind of military canteen. Thus occupied, and during the protracted suit for the redemption of the Hatton estate, which followed, the buildings were greatly dilapi-[-48-]dated, and at length being deemed incapable of repair, the entire premises were purchased by the Crown, under the authority of an Act of Parliament, which received the royal assent, in June 1772. The situation had been considered suitable for the erection of public offices; that design was eventually relinquished, and this estate was in consequence sold to a Mr. Cole, an eminent surveyor and builder. By him all the old edifices, except the chapel, were taken down, and the present Ely Place was built upon the vacant ground, about the year 1775. A few years before this, part of the house was still standing, almost opposite to St. Andrew's Church, its entrance being through a large gateway, or porters' lodge, into a small paved court. To the north-west of the Hall, was then attached a quadrangular cloister; in a field containing about an acre of ground stood the chapel ; the field was planted with trees, and surrounded by a wall ;-a print of the building as it stood before 1772, may be found in the edition of Grose, at the British Museum. It would seem that the money obtained by the sale of the ground still attached to the Hall was applied, with other sums, to the purchase of a house in Dover Street, Piccadilly, which is now attached to the See of Ely, and on which is carved a mitre.
Ely Place, then, would seem to have been a comparatively modern erection, yet we may not suppose that any part of the genuine Rookery is of an origin so recent; for, in Aggas's map, made in the reign of Elizabeth, there was a row of houses from Cow Lane to about Ely Place, [-49-] whose backs were opened to the fields. Clerkenwell, which joins this district, had been, long before this, famous for its St. John's Hospital; Smithfield, previously to this, had a melancholy notoriety; the fires of persecution kindled, and the faithful martyrs perishing in the flames, connect its memory with some of the most touching records of our annals. Clerkenwell is not only referred to as a spot generally inhabited at this time, for part of it was, before this, the resort of thieves, loose characters, and desperados. Shakspeare mentions Pickt Hatch in his play of the Merry Wives of Windsor; and antiquarians tell us it was near Clerkenwell Green, the refuge of the destitute, the sanctuary of the disorderly. The great Dramatist puts these words into the mouth of Falstaff* [*Act II, Scene 2]:-
"At a word, hang no more about me, I am no gibbet for you, go, a short knife and a thong to your manor of Pickt Hatch; go, you'll not bear a letter for me, you rogue, you stand upon your honour; why, thou unconfinable baseness, it is as much as I can do to keep the term of mine honour precise." This Pickt Hatch is thus characterised in the celebrated memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson:- "Robinson fell a railing at the Colonel, "giving him the base term of rebel and murderer, and such language as none could have learned, but such as had been conversant with the evil society of Picked Hatch, Turbull Street, and Billingsgate, near which last place the hero got his education."
[-50-] Hatton, the antiquarian, writing in 1708, speaks of Saffron Hill, between Field Lane and Holborne Bridge, and of St. Andrew's, Holborn, as comprising Cross Street, Kirkby Street, Field Lane, part of Chick Lane, all Saffron Hill, Vine Street, Hatton Wall; and of the number of houses in the Liberty of Saffron Hill as 819.
The famous Gordon riots broke out in 1780, in June, - and Newgate was burnt down. The people made a stand at the bottom of Holborn Hill, although they were soon dispersed, but not before they had done much damage; for a large distillery stood on the brow of the hill near Fetter Lane, which was sacked by the mob, the vats were broken up, and their contents ran down the gutters at the side, and many of the mob lay down in the kennel, and drank the raw spirits to such an extent, that some were taken up dead. This scene must have taken place in the neighbourhood of the Rookery, and we cannot but suppose, that the rioters were recruited by the denizens of these haunts. The distiller had incurred the displeasure of the mob because he was a Papist, and they were hounded on to deeds of atrocious violence, by the cry of "No Popery." Within the memory of many now living, the object of this attack was residing at Mitcham, Surrey, where he is said to have reached a good old age; a heavy fine, we believe, was levied on the City of London, from the proceeds of which they, who suffered from the riot, were indemnified.
This district has seen strange scenes then; the imagination paints its infancy in glowing colours, - the lordly [-51-] Bisbop, - some mitred abbot with his stately palace, his garden, through which the impetuous river rushed in its course to the Thames, a pleasant place for eye to look on, with its tiers of terraces and goodly trees,- its aviaries,- its fountains,- its sculptures of fantastic and grotesque forms,- its oratories shaded from observation by hanging groves; and then the long retinue, - the train of attendants,- the pomp,- the state,- the portly form, which seemed to mock the accents of humility which the lips repeated. Yet, with all this, there were the large charities which graced the old faith, the crowds of poor whose wants and sickness alike were tended, and the learned clerks whom the prelate sustained around him, the goodly company, who under his guidance and beneath his roof, went forth on errands of health to the body, and of comfort to the soul. The scene changes, and there is the Lord Hatton, Elizabeth's Chancellor, with his train of menials, and the ensigns of a judge's state, in days when the younger sons of decayed families were glad to discharge a menial office about the person of one whom the Queen honoured;- the open fields, ringing to the cry of hounds, or the shouts of the gay train pursuing the sport of hawking in the very neighbourhood of Ely House; and the pleasant village of Islington in the distance, where men went to breathe the pure air of the country. Now squalid misery and crowded courts, the black ditch, and the mouldering Rookery, supply the place once tenanted by forms the painter would love to depict, and by scenes which call up the merry days of good Queen Bess.
[-52-] The modern condition of Saffron Hill entitles it to high rank among The Rookeries of London; such colonies there are, we need not repeat, in most parishes; St. Giles's does not stand alone, and Saffron Hill has strong claims to the second place. Perhaps for this, it is indebted to Mr. Dickens, whose researches have dragged it into light: some of the scenes of his Oliver Twist are laid there; there, if we remember, the poor friendless boy is enticed into a den of thieves. The place is connected in the minds of many with the disappearance of pocket handkerchiefs, and these thefts are with them types of greater iniquities. The far-famed Jack Sheppard had his lair there, and some few years since, a thieves' house in West Street was the popular exhibition of the day. The veritable Saffron Hill is bounded by Ely Place on the west; Clerkenwell and St. Saviour's parishes on the east; on the south by Holborn Hill; on the north by Brook Street, generally called Mutton Hill. On the east runs a large sewer, commonly termed the Fleet Ditch, once so wide a creek of the Thames, that at high water vessels of small size came up it to a considerable distance, though more than two hundred years since a protest was entered against its filthy condition, or rather its abuse.
From the back of a cottage the writer was enabled to see the Fleet Ditch, a window opening on it. It is a most unsavoury black stream of some width, it does not so much flow as rush impetuously between the walls of the houses on each side. The stream is only visible from the back of these tenements, it carries along with its current all sorts of refuse, corks, &c. floating on the sur-[-53-]face. Its waters are dark and fetid, and it is difficult, even in cold weather, to stand a few minutes in the room when the windows looking down upon it are opened. In summer, the inhabitants tell you, the stench is intolerable. This may be supposed, when a wide deep open sewer momentarily recharged with putrid matter is running just under the kitchens of the houses.
Clerkenwell, in the neighbourhood, is famed for its Printing Houses; this district for several trades peculiar, we believe, to its precincts. In one street was an establishment where the skins of horses' legs were boiled, and then hung up to dry; and other branches of commerce, not less redolent, were carried on not far off.
The Rookeries of this district consist, for the most part, of lodging houses, where trampers and others of uncertain occupation are received; several thieves live in the neighbourhood: in some of these receiving houses families are taken in, others seem only intended for single men; the rooms are small and the beds closely packed. Two bills were given as setting forth the charges and advantages of their several receptacles. The first is as follows:-
"CLEANLINESS V. FILTH!
Do you want a comfortable lodging? Then go to 8, Upper Union Court, opposite St. Andrew's Church, Holborn Hill, where you can be accommodated with a single bed at the low charge of 3d. per night, or 1s. 9d. per week, a good fire and every accommodation.
Please to notice, the first lodging house on the left from Holborn Hill.
[-54-] Gas lamp over the door,
Opposite the Public House!!!"
Another runs thus
"THE PHILANTHROPIC LODGING HOUSE,
11, Union Court, Holborn Hill.
The above house is open for the reception of single men, at the charge of 2d. and 3d. a night, fire for cooking and other necessaries provided. This house is opened for the purpose of providing a home (during the coming inclement season) for those who may be peculiarly situated."
Here, as in most Rookeries, are colonies of Irish, who seem particularly given to courts in which the only egress is a narrow alley. Many a cul-de-sac is there in this district, which the sons of Erin have chosen as their own.
The arrangement of these lodgings is for the most part as follows:-
At the bottom of the house is a low narrow cellar, the receptacle of all sorts of refuse; over this, separated only by thin boards, is the common sitting room allotted to the lodgers, the flooring in many cases much decayed, and not thick enough to prevent the evaporation from below ascending to this apartment: in this room, especially after night-fall, are gathered the motley groups whose necessities, or whose evil deeds force them to take refuge here. Persons of uncertain occupation, trampers, beggars, thieves, are for the most part housed here; even in the better part of the district, the population is of a fluctuating character, street singers, dogs' meat men, crossing [-55-] sweepers (in some cases a lucrative trade), pie-men, muffin-Sellers, dealers in lucifer matches, watercresses, fruit, and sweet-meats, cabmen, dustmen, and a host of others, who prefer a desultory to a regular employment, settle in this quarter. They who ply a regular trade, choose out a home where they soon become known, where they frequently live for many years; so that where the inhabitants of a district are migratory, there poverty and recklessness put on their worst garb.
The bed chambers in which these lodgers for the night sleep, are over the common room, and the tenants ascend by a ladder, to a few small rooms where the beds are packed so close, that there is only space to walk between them. We were informed that water is let on three times a week in these courts, and then only in limited quantities, so that there is much quarrelling, and even fighting for the supply. Many ash heaps were found in different streets; and a bystander to whom we spoke on the subject, told us that the dustman always left a portion behind him when he came on his rounds - though he removed the rest; as though the size of his cart, not the amount of deposit, was the question he was most concerned in. Some of the inhabitants ran across the court without shoes or stockings; the windows in many places were stuffed up with rags in lieu of the glass which had been broken. Field Lane, in this district, is a place of such bad repute, that policemen are constantly employed in it.
In one house are four rooms, with shop and parlour, [-56-] the latter is used as a kitchen, where the lodgers sit in the day time, and cook what they require; two of the rooms have two beds in each, in these rooms they take men and their wives,- two families in each room; the double beds, 6d. each. In two rooms, they have four single beds in each, at 4d. each per night. This is a moral house.
In another house there are six rooms; in the two front there are six double beds,- three in each, paying 2d. each person. In the other four rooms are ten single beds; two have three single beds, and two have two single beds in each: charge, 3d. per night. They receive none but males. This is a moral house.
Two houses are used by known thieves, and the police are very often there in search of bad characters, both male and female, also boys and girls.
In another house they have ninety beds (single) for males only.
Two houses are occupied by thieves, both men and women, two beds in each room. A woman was confined in one of these houses, with another family in the same room, which is not ten feet square. On the same side, next door, are two houses, in which they have twenty- four single beds at 3d. per night each, this house is used by known thieves. In one of them are three beds in a very small room, so close that there was not space to pass up the side to make them. They were occupied by six females, paying 1s. 6d. each per week;- the persons in charge of the houses are not the owners, and are not [-57-] willing to give any information, fearing it might be made public. The parlours, or kitchens of these houses, resemble the tap-room of a low public house. Some of the worst characters in London-men, and in others men and women sitting, conversing, and smoking-using the most disgusting conversation.
We have spoken of the celebrated Thieves' houses* [* We are indebted to the kindness of the Reverend J. Garwood, one of the Secretaries to the City Mission, for mach information on this head, especially for access to the interesting paper published in that Society's journal for October 1844, where is an account given by Mr. Andrew Provan, of this locality. We acknowledge our deep debt of obligation to that excellent Society. Those only who, like the writer, have long known Mr. Garwood, end been conversant with the workings of this the Parent Society, can appreciate the inestimable amount of good which has been done.] in this district; these were destroyed six or seven years since, when the line of the New Street was opened between Farringdon Street and Clerkenwell. The houses were situated in West Street, formerly called Chick Lane; it is supposed that they were built in the year 1683, by a man named McWaullen, or McWelland, chief of a tribe of Gypsies; these buildings went under the name of the Red Lion, but this was only a nom de guerre, to conceal the real character of the place, its true purpose was to be a rendezvous for thieves, and a depot for stolen property: the buildings behind were used as stables, where the horses were kept in constant readiness; these horses were always selected for their speed and breeding;- and among the inhabitants have been at different times, Jonathan [-58-] Wild, Jack Sheppard, Jerry Abershaw, and Richard Turpin.
Many circumstances contributed to render this district the resort of thieves and low characters; the Fleet Ditch flowed through the middle of it; though its dark and rapid stream was concealed by the houses built on each side, its current swept away at once into the Thames whatever was thrown into it. In the Thieves' house were dark closets, trap-doors, sliding panels, and other means of escape. In shop No. 3, were two trap-doors in the floor, one for the concealment of property, the other to provide means of escape to those who were hard run; a wooden door was cleverly let into the floor, of which, to all appearance, it formed part; through this, the thief, who was in danger of being captured, escaped; as immediately beneath was a cellar, about three feet square; from this there was an outlet to the Fleet Ditch, a plank was thrown across this, and the thief was soon in Black Boy Alley, - out of reach of his pursuers. The cellar is described as a most dismal filthy place, the light was let in through a small window, or hole, immediately above the Fleet Ditch. In one corner was a den or cellar concealed by a wall besmeared with soot and dirt, to prevent detection: this measured about 4 feet by 8; here, it is asserted, that a chimney sweep, who escaped from the prison of Newgate, a few years since, was concealed for a long time, and kept alive by food which was let down through an opening, made by removing a brick near the rafters. In a corner on the opposite side, was a small blast [-59-] furnace, which a gang of coiners had used some years since; and a private still had long been at work in the same locality.
Our informant, who saw the place in its original state, before it was pulled down states, "The most extraordinary and ingenious part of the premises, I consider to be the means of escape. If a prisoner once got within their walls, it was almost impossible to capture him, there were so many outlets and communications. The most active officer had scarcely a chance of taking the thief, if the latter only got a few minutes start of him. There were four means of escape. The staircase was very peculiar, scarcely to be described; for though the pursuer and pursued might only be a few feet distant, the one would escape to the roof of the house, while the other would be descending steps, and, in a moment or two, would find himself in the room he had first left by another door. This was managed by a pivoted panel being turned between the two. A large room on the first floor back, is said to be the place where the abandoned inmates held their nightly orgies, and planned their future robberies. From the upper room, there were means of escape, by an aperture made in the wall, leading to the house No. 2, containing no less than twenty-four rooms, with four distinct staircases. Here, also, level with the floor, was a shoot or spout, which remained covered, except when required, about two feet in breadth and three feet in length, by which goods could be conveyed to the cellar in an instant. [-60-] Immediately behind the premises just described, stood a dilapidated building, lately used as penny lodgings, where men and women slept promiscuously. Scenes commonly occurred here in the middle of the day in the public street, before this house, too gross and revolting to be described."
In the visit we paid, we had an opportunity of seeing much, which the public has already known by hearsay. Several of the courts were entered by a low arch or passage, which was formed of boards and planks; they were uneven squares, or parallelograms, some of them steep, sloping down the hill on which they were built;- they were very narrow,- enclosed on three sides,-open only at the entrance we have described; some were entered by a long alley, or through a stable yard, or by some twisting passage, refuse and dirt-heaps being placed against the walls. You entered the house, and much the same sort of scene met your eyes, which we have before pictured in Church Lane. We will just state what we saw in one of these wretched abodes, which may be taken as a type of the whole; it is not needful to go over the same ground we have once trodden before, or to present again the same results. The house we select contained five rooms, one of which was inhabited only by a man and his wife; whether the landlord was the occupant here, we know not, but in the four remaining rooms, 86 human beings were massed together; in room we will call No. 1, 28,- No. 2, 27,- No. 3, 14,- No. 4, 17,-No. 3 was the front attic at the top of the house, it was a low square room, [-61-] inhabited chiefly by Irish. Although our visit took place in the day time, there were three or four families there,- women suckling their children, men lounging about the floor or cooking potatoes, a little heap of sacking for bedclothes; sundry lines running across the room, on which were hung divers articles of clothing; the walls were discoloured, blackened by soot, or the plaster was peeling off; shelves were extemporized with marvellous dexterity. One of the women had been in Ireland during the fatal Skibbereen fever in 1847; she spoke in warm, and even eloquent terms of the kindness of a Protestant clergyman, whose name was Tyrrell, a man of property, who, having given his substance, at last gave his life, dying by fever, caught in visiting those who were stricken; the poor creatures round her, although Catholics, joined heartily in the benediction she poured out upon his head, saying, "Aye, Sir, he is rewarded for it now!" There was all the courtesy and warmth of heart about these poverty stricken tenants, which we find generally in the Irish; the language, although betraying the brogue, good and appropriate, reminding us strongly of Miss Edgeworth's description of them, where she says, "That instead of the Englishman's benediction, long life to your honour, the Irishman prays that you may live as long as water runs, or the sun shines." They were playing with, or nursing the children, and when asked whether their rest was not disturbed by the crying of infants, where so many were brought together, the answer was, "the children are very good." In the room we have [-62-] called No. 4, seventeen men, women, and children, lived and slept; the size of the room was as follows,- length, 10 feet, or thereabouts, width in one part, 8 feet; in the other, where the fireplace was, 5 feet. We doubted whether it were possible that on such an area seventeen people could be placed? The answer was, "We make shift." This room was half filled with onions, the children must have slept on them; there were a few pieces of the coarsest brownest crockery, old hats and bonnets, no chairs, or tables-two men, and several women and children were here. One of the men was what is called a mud-larker, or one who prowls about the banks of the river, and picks up the coals which are scattered there by the men who unload colliers; another, nearly blind, was supported evidently by the earnings of the rest. Their welcome to us rung cheeringly on our ears, and the salute which they gave us as we left, was full of warmth, and in a style which would not have disgraced noble blood. Round the room were the same number of cords, cupboards, and shelves, as in the other; a small fire was burning, at which an old woman was cooking. Children seemed, if we may judge by the number we saw, to thrive there, and to be fondled with an affection, the want of which renders many mansions desolate. You could not but grieve, that so much kindness and courtesy should be neutralised by wretchedness,-and that these poor creatures should live in the neighbourhood of the worst thieves and lowest prostitutes of London.
In another part of the district, were houses for single [-63-] men; in those tenanted by married couples, four or five families per room seemed the rule.
In Field Lane, and the courts which run out of it, were several lurking places for thieves, lodging houses and places of resort frequented by them; although others, whose only vice is gross intemperance, are often obliged to live in these dens, so that professional men have been known to inhabit these localities, dragged down to this lowest abyss, by their passion for drinking. Of the thieves, the greater proportion are English; for the most part, the receivers of stolen goods, the negociators in this fearful traffic, are Jews, who, with their families, reside here, and drive their nefarious trade. These thieves are often the children of honest, though drunken and debauched parents, father and mother spending their earnings, and devoting their spare time to the public house; their children have become the easy prey of the villains who lurk in the neighbourhood; soon do they learn, in thieves' training houses, the jugglery of their trade, and apt pupils do they become. Even if they were sober, the inhabitants of Rookeries cannot take care of their children,-they are too much from home; the children are allowed to run about, without any one to take care of them, or, if even sent to school, are not quite out of the reach of temptation; and what influence must the example of a thieves' quarter have upon them all. With such a neighbourhood are connected the lowest prostitutes and the worst public houses - for in these two species of enjoyment, the unhallowed gains of felons are [-64-] wasted, scattered profusely, rather than spent,- these different species of intoxication, the lures which wed them to their infamous calling.
The City authorities, some years since, proposed to build a long street to connect Farringdon Street with Clerkenwell; after having erected a few handsome houses, obstacles were put in their way-the purchase of the houses in the line of road about to be made was not completed, and therefore the works were suspended. The open space thus formed the nucleus for an assemblage of ragged boys; near it is a Ragged School, where a hundred beds, in a large, lofty, and airy apartment, are provided for those pupils who are houseless; and baths and other comforts are attached to the establishment, and it is said that in summer, the poor often sleep under the arches which have already been erected. The proposed street, if carried out, would be a great blessing to the neighbourhood, the inhabitants would never be at rest till the back ground of wretchedness had been removed.
If this wholesale clearance answered its end, other landlords would be tempted to build better houses in the place of the present dens, courts, and alleys. It would be letting light upon Pluto's gloomy dominions, the astonished ghosts would vanish at the unexpected sight, and the spirits of pestilence, hunger, crime, and despair, betake themselves to Rookeries yet unexplored.
But Plough and Plumtree Courts, in the same parish; Harp Alley, Churchyard and Cockpit Courts, in St. [-65-] Bride's; Crown Court, Hanging Sword Alley, and other worse plague spots than these would be crowded with inmates, room economised, rents raised to the gain of the middleman and the ruin of the poor, unless lodging houses were built to receive those turned out.
Ere we carry on the historical picture, a few remarks cannot be out of place. There were plague spots in former days, and a population dangerous alike to the State and itself. Because, with the exception of the Gordon riots, for forty years later, no popular commotion took place, it is argued that the danger of fostering such a class is exaggerated; that life and property are still secure, though men like these remain; that by speaking of such haunts as these you cannot alarm selfishness, though there is a strong argument addressed to the conscience of the Legislature. We are not quite so certain that even the first assertion is true. St. Antoine, the St. Guess of Paris, contributed her hordes in the revolution of 1789. The Bastille was reared amidst her precincts, and was the first victim of revolutionary fury. We say not that these divisions of the body social originate popular disturbances, but they are the fuel on which agitation feeds, ready to take fire the moment the flame is kindled by great party feuds. A hundred years ago the distinction between rich and poor was not so visible, the middle class so large and so wealthy. Now a gulf yawns - is daily growing wider, and we may fear that at no distant time the legend of old Rome may be here brought to pass, the chasm opening only to close because filled [-66-] up by the best and choicest the country breeds. You have put the weapons into these men's hands, - have taught them, educated them, given them a free press, free to licentiousness, the parent of sedition. They meet, discuss, harangue, plot, combine-wait their time. England's domestic difficulties, her foreign embroilments, a crisis in her councils, a split in her parties, will alike evoke ready instruments to do by violence what should have been done by a paternal Government.
The sketch we have thus far given will describe in what way the most celebrated Rookeries have grown to their present size and condition-a condition not likely to be improved, until the subject of dwellings for the poorer classes really engages the attention of our Rulers.
One remark we cannot forbear. The finest squares of the metropolis are comparatively of modern date,- Grosvenor, Hanover, and St. James's, not two hundred years old,- barely, perhaps, one hundred and fifty. The parish church of St. James was built by Sir Christopher Wren, and some of the carving of the interior is by Grinling Gibbons. We know that these renowned individuals, architect and artisan, flourished towards the close of the seventeenth century, the Church itself having been finished about the era of the Revolution. The Square near it dates its origin from the same period; and Hanover Square was coeval with the introduction of the reigning family; yet the haunts of poverty have been in many instances what they are for more than two hundred years. These squares have been supplanted by new colo-[-67-]nies of aristocratic buildings whose sites are supposed to be better, more airy, laid out on a more commodious plan than were those which were wont to be in vogue. The citizen spends his first surplus on a country house; though for the greater part of the day he toil in London, his family have the benefit of pure air, country scenery, and a detached abode. Whole streets - once residences - are now warehouses, counting houses, and places solely for business. Why? Because they are supposed to be too close for dwellings: and though the houses are often lofty and spacious, with large courts in front - though they lodged our ancestors - though they are handsomely built, - the very retail tradesman hurries from their neighbourhood to the country house, or the cockney villa. Time is lost in going and returning, though Time, in commercial phrase, be money; the underlings in City establishments are left without the wholesome control of the master during greater part of the twenty-four hours; property is jeopardied; opportunities of correspondence lost, because it is confessedly worth the while of the principal to buy a portion of health at the cost of a portion of emolument, with risk and with certain loss.
Rookeries still survive by their very isolation, by their retention of past anomalies,-possessing still the errors and handing down the discomforts of our ancestors,- sad memorials of the past. Meanwhile, when rebellion recruits her forces she is fed by the denizens of these retreats. It is on record that during the combats in Paris in 1848, and on the famous 10th of April here, multi-[-68-]tudes of strange figures issued from these lurking places, distinguished by their appearance from the rest even of the poor population. They bide their time; the agitator calls, and "they will come when he doth call."
St. Antoine, riddled by bullets as when we last saw it, still remains; shall we neglect our duty, because St. Giles and Saffron Hill, unscathed by war, crumble peacefully beneath the hand of Time?