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Almack's in King Street, St. James's, was a passport to the world of fashion, and coveted accordingly; but the glory has departed, and the exclusive character of the assemblies at Willis's Rooms,' very greatly declined. Almack was a Scotchman, and opened his assembly under high patronage, Feb. 12, 1765. His real name is said to have been Ma'cal.
Let us now enter the Green Park (formerly Little St. James's Park), and away by Constitution Hill (memorable for three outrages against the dearest life in Great Britain, and the accident which ended the career of one of England's greatest statesman, Sir Robert Peel) to Hyde Park Corner, where Charles II., crossing the road almost unattended, met the Duke of York, and said to him, in reply to an expression of brotherly alarm, 'I am in no danger, James, for no man in England will take my life to make you king.' The arch now at the entrance of the Green Park is a poor adaptation from the Arch of Titus, and on the top of it is the arch-absurdity of London, the Duke of Wellington's statue. It was originally put up there for the benefit of 'Punch,' who certainly pulled it to pieces, although he could not pull it down.
Let us pause for a moment at the site of old Tattersall's, or The Corner, as it was called. Richard Tattersall, the founder, was training groom to the Duke of Kingston, brother of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and after the death of the duke, took no other service. He purchased the celebrated racehorse Highflyer for 2500l. The horse was the foundation of Tattersall's fortune, and he gave the name of Highflyer Hall to a house he built at Ely. Tattersall's was opened as an auction mart about 1795, when it stood on the verge of the 'five fields' which sloped down to the stream which carried off the superfluous water of Hyde Park. The five fields were celebrated for nightingales and footpads. What a change in less than a hundred years! Belgravia, a new London, grew round Tattersall's, and has at last squeezed it out of its long-known corner. Charles Mathews the elder, and celebrated
mimic, often accompanied one of the Mr. Tattersalls to Newmarket races, and upon a certain occasion took it into his head to imitate his friend the auctioneer when selling the blood stock usually offered for sale there. Tattersall bore this very well for some time. 'No. 44,' said Mr. Tattersall. No. 44,' said Mathews. 'A brown filly, by Smolenski-what shall we say to begin?' said Mr. T. 'A brown filly, by Smolenski-what shall we say to begin?' echoed Mathews. One hundred guineas, to begin?' asks Mr. Tattersall. 'One hundred guineas,' answered Mathews. 'It's yours, Mr. Mathews, and thank you,' said Mr. Tattersall, knocking down a very weedy affair, to the astonishment of his tormentor.
So far westward, we must take a peep at Ranelagh, and the merry ghosts of those who crowded its rotunda, which stood on the site of Ranelagh House, built in 1691 by Charles II.'s favourite earl of that
The older gardens of Vauxhall, however, claim precedence, although not in Westminster.
Fulkes Hall was called after one of King John's Norman warriors, and the name corrupted into Fauxeshall, Foxhall, and Vauxhall, and Guy Fawkes appears to have had some connection with it. It has been the prison of Lady Arabella Stuart, and the refuge of the gay and gallant Duke of Monmouth after Sedgmoor's fight, and the home of Ambrose Philips, the pastoral poet. When it became a place of entertainment it was called New Spring Gardens. Pepys went there 'by water, to observe the humours of the citizens pulling of cherries, and to see the fine people walking, hear the nightingales and other birds, and the fiddles, and the harp, and the Jews' trump.' He fell in company with Harry Killigrew and young Newport, and their mad talk and other improprieties made his
Who has not been to Vauxhall with the 'Spectator' as Sir Roger de Coverley? If any here, let them turn to No. 383 in those enchanting volumes, and join that pleasant party; and there are other happy
Next year Ranelagh was deserted and pulled down, and part of the grounds included in the old men's garden of Chelsea Hospital.
At the bottom of Jews Row, and near the Compasses, was Richard Hand's old Chelsea Bun House, where royalty and every one pretending to fashion made a small investment. Queen Charlotte presented Mr. Hand with a silver halfgallon mug with five guineas in it. On Good Friday morning upwards of fifty thousand persons have assembled here, and in one day more than 250l. have been taken for buns. When Ranelagh declined the Bun House languished also. Its last day of glory was Good Friday, 1839, when 240,000 buns were sold; and next day black draughts and Dover's powders were in universal demand, no doubt.
Hot cross-buns were the ecclesiastical Eulogic or consecrated wafer bestowed as alms on those who, from any impediment, could not receive the host.
We may as well remind you that the earliest manufactories of porcelain in England were at Bow and Chelsea, and at Chelsea China Works Dr. Johnson made his experiments on tea-cups. The works were in Justice Walk, and subsequently became a stained-paper manufactory. A pair of rare old Chelsea vases, painted with Roman triumphs, brought 237. 10s. at the Stowe sale.
Kensington Palace was Lord Chancellor Finch's house at Kensington, and which his second son sold to William III., who added to the old building another story, designed by Wren. George II. added a royal nursery, destined, at a later date, to cradle our gracious sovereign Queen Victoria. In Kensington Palace died William and Mary, Queen Anne, and George, Prince of Denmark, King George II., and the late Duke of Sussex. The gardens attached were at first nothing but gravel-pits; but Wise 'and Loudon, whom Addison dignifies as the heroic poets of gardening, produced the fine effects we now witness, although marred by the formal alterations of Bridgeman, the Dutch gardener. And here
The dames of Britain oft in crowds repair
They breathe in sunshine and see azure skies.
And chintz the rival of the showery bow.'
These gardens are now much frequented by nursemaids and children, converting them literally into nursery gardens; and we are of opinion that our little men and women have the strongest claims to have their rights considered, knowing, as we do, the value of fresh air to children, especially London children.
The manor of Hyde belonged to the monks at Westminster until exchanged with the adjoining manor of Neyte and the advowson of Chelsea for the priory of Hurley, in Berkshire. Henry VIII., no doubt, had the best of the bargain. It was surrounded with a deer-fence at a very early period, and, in 1550, the French ambassador hunted here with the king. In Charles II.'s time, foot and horse races took place round the ring, then a fashionable ride and promenade, none more so --not even Gray's Inn Gardens and Lamb's Conduit Fields-but partly destroyed by the formation of the Serpentine. Nearly a Nearly a thousand coaches have been seen there of an evening (Oldys), and amongst them the Duchess of Cleveland's, when she abused Wycherley. It was the place of flirtations, except on a windy day, when a well-dressed gentleman could not stir abroad but had to seek shelter in the playhouse (Colley Cibber). To be the envy of the ring was held out as a temptation' to hesitating Mirandas (The Busy-Body,' Centlivre). Poets and play writers have kept its memory green. Here Wilkes and Martin fought on account of a passage in the North Briton,' and Wilkes was wounded (1763).
During the Commonwealth the Park was sold, and the sordid fellow who had purchased it of the State charged, to Evelyn's great disgust, one shilling for every coach and sixpence for every horse. Oliver Crom