Page images

structure, into which, it would seem, for nearly a century, a human foot had scarcely ever intruded. Wandering through gloomy and uninhabitable apartments, passing from room to room, and from corridor to corridor, - the intruders witnessed a strange and melancholy spectacle of departed splendour, a scene of mouldering walls and broken casements, of crumbling roofs and decayed furniture. The first apartment which they entered had apparently been the bedchamber of royalty. The floor was of oak, and the ceiling stuccoed. It was also panelled with oak, with gilt mouldings: some of the sconces still remained attached to the walls of the apartment, and from the ceiling there still hung a chain, from which a chandelier had once been suspended.

In another of the apartments a chandelier was still hanging, and in a third were velvet curtains, which had once been crimson, fringed with gold. Their colour had faded to a tawdry olive, and only a few spangles and shreds of gold afforded evidence of their former costliness. In the audience-chamber the silken hangings still hung in tatters from the walls. There were two apartments which excited especial attention, from their having been converted into store-rooms for those trappings of royalty, which, in consequence of the gradual modernization of the rest of the structure, had from time to time been deposited in them. They contained articles of various kinds, the production and the fashion of different reigns, if not of different ages. Mixed

[ocr errors]

with broken couches, and tattered hangings-with stools, screens, sconces, and fire-dogs- were discovered the vestiges of a throne, together with the spangled velvet with which it had once been canopied. Altogether, these deserted apartments presented a scene in which the imagination of Mrs. Radcliffe would have delighted to revel; and in which the muse of Dr. Johnson might have found fit food for meditating on the vanity of human wishes.

The present Somerset House was built, after designs by Sir William Chambers, between the years 1775 and 1786. Notwithstanding some architectural defects, it presents on the whole a magnificent appearance, especially from the Thames, and unquestionably boasts a great superiority to any edifice which has been erected in London in more modern times. The west front, however, is not only an eye-sore to one of the principal approaches into the metropolis, but a disgrace to the nation.


[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

We now cross the water to Lambeth. Independently of its celebrated episcopal palace, the ancient manor of Lambeth, even in its earliest times, is replete with historical associations. Here, in 1041, died Hardicanute, in the midst of the revelry of a banquet given in celebration of the nuptials of a Danish Lord; and here it was, in 1066, on the death of Edward the Confessor, that Harold assumed the crown.

Immediately before the Norman Conquest, we find the manor of Lambeth in the possession of the Countess Goda (sister to the Confessor, and wife to Walter, Earl of Mantes, and afterwards to Eustace, Earl of Boulogne), who conferred it on the See of Rochester, reserving to herself the patronage of the church. With the exception of a temporary dispossession in the reign of William the Conqueror, we find the manor of Lambeth held by the See of Rochester till the reign of Richard Cœur de Lion,

in whose reign a portion of it was exchanged by Gilbert de Glanville, Bishop of Rochester, with Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, for certain lands in the Isle of Grain. Ten years afterwards, in 1197, the entire manor of Lambeth was made over by Bishop Glanville to Archbishop Hubert Walter, in exchange for the manor of Darent, in Kent. The Bishop, however, reserved to himself and to his successors a plot of ground, "to the east of the manor-place," on which he subsequently erected a mansion for the convenience of the Bishops of Rochester on the occasions of their attending Parliament. It was stipulated that the annual sum of five marks of silver should be paid to himself and to his successors for ever, as a compensation for the lodging, fire, wood, and forage, which the Bishops of Rochester had hitherto enjoyed in right of possessing the manor. This tax is said to be still paid by the Archbishops of Canterbury to the See of Rochester.

Rochester Place, as the mansion built by Bishop Glanville was called,-continued to be the London residence of the Bishops of Rochester till the reign of Henry the Eighth, when it fell into the hands of that monarch, who subsequently exchanged it with Aldridge, Bishop of Carlisle, for certain lands in the Strand from this period it was called Carlisle House, and from hence Carlisle Lane, Lambeth, derives its name.

[ocr errors]

Although we possess no distinct evidence of the Archbishops of Canterbury having had a palace at

Lambeth till the close of the twelfth century,-at which period the manor of Lambeth came into their possession,-it is nevertheless certain that they occasionally resided here as early as the time of the Saxon Kings; and it is not impossible that, even at this early period, they had a fixed residence in some part of the manor. The present palace is said to have been commenced about the year 1262; the task and expense of erecting it having been imposed by the Pope upon Archbishop Boniface, as a punishment for a disgraceful assault which he had made on the sub-prior of St. Bartholomew's, Smithfield.*

Between the years 1424 and 1435, considerable additions were made to the palace by Archbishop Chicheley, among which was the interesting Lollards' Tower, famous as having been the scene of the sufferings of the unfortunate followers of Wickliffe. The magnificent gateway was erected by Cardinal Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, about the year 1490; and, in 1610, the noble library was founded by Archbishop Bancroft.

During the Civil troubles in the reign of Charles the First, we find Lambeth Palace frequently used by the Parliament as a prison. Among the more eminent persons who were confined here were the brave and high-minded James Earl of Derby, who was beheaded for his loyalty to Charles the First, and Richard Lovelace, the poet. In 1648, Lambeth House, as it was then called, was exposed for sale by * See ante, i. 384.

« PreviousContinue »