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London in 1839

Part Two - Architecture :-

Although London is known to have existed as a town for near two thousand years, with the exception of here and there a building, or a mass of old tenements, all the rest is comparatively of yesterday, there being very few portions which are more than a century old, and those in situations where they must be purposely sought out. What Roman London was is now entirely matter of conjecture, for although pavements and other fragments of antiquity have been from lime to time discovered, they merely prove that Roman structures of some splendour formerly existed on the sites where such remains have been dug up ; but in regard to the buildings themselves they afford no information ; still less do they assist us in forming any idea of the general mode of building and the aspect of the city. Imagination may speculate freely as to the grandeur of Londinium under the Roman sway, but it is impossible for it to cheat us into the idea of the city’s presenting any signs of grandeur in after-times, for under both its Anglo-Saxon and Norman sovereigns it must have been, as we shall presently see, in a most wretched condition, and its inhabitants subjected to what would now be considered intolerable nuisances and inconveniences.  Londinium was most probably a British town, that is, a large enclosure protected by a rampart and fosse, previous to the invasion of the island by Caesar, in whose time a considerable traffic was carried on between the Britons and the Gauls. But though Caesar crossed the Thames, he makes no mention of Londinium. The first notice of it occurs in Tacitus (Ann., xiv. 33), where it is spoken of as not then honoured with the name of a colonia, but still as a place much frequented by merchants and as a great depot of merchandise.  In the revolt of Boadicea (AD 62) Suetonius, the Roman commander, abandoned Londinium to the enemy, who massacred all the inhabitants who did not leave it with Suetonius ; a circumstance which leads us to infer that it was then chiefly occupied  as a Roman station. If any conclusion can be drawn from the brief notice of Tacitus, London was then incapable of making any defence, and had probably no wall that could resist the enemy ; though that historian mentions the want of soldiers as the cause of its being abandoned by Suetonius. It does not appear from Tacitus whether the place was then destroyed by the Britons. At a later date London appears to have been made a colonia under the name of Augusta (Amin. Marcell., xxvii. 8.) The ancient wall of London, ascribed to Theodosius, governor of Britain, began at a fort near the present site of the Tower, and continued along the Minories, to Cripplegate, Newgate, and Ludgate. The walls are said to have enclosed an area of somewhat more than three miles in circumference, and to have been guarded by fifteen towers, which latter are conjectured to have been 40 feet high, and the walls 22. The praetorium and its adjuncts are supposed to have occupied the site of the Poultry and Cornhill, as tesselated pavements have been discovered there and at the Lothbury gate of the Bank, and near St. Mary’s Woolnoth.

In regard to Anglo-Saxon London, our information is as scanty as it is with respect to the Roman city ; but we may easily conceive that it must have greatly fallen off in appearance during the barbarous period that succeeded the final departure of the Romans from the island, when it was alternately attacked and ravaged by the Picts and Scots, by the Saxons and Angles. In the sixth century it became the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Essex, and in the following one a bishop's see. Sebert, king of Essex, having been converted to Christianity, erected a cathedral church to St. Paul, and an abbey church to St. Peter, on the sites of the present cathedral and Westminster Abbey. All however that we know of London, till for many centuries afterwards, extends no further that a few sites and names, the memory of which has been preserved, notwithstanding the successive changes to which the places themselves have been subjected. At this period and for long after, the city could have been little more than an assemblage of hovels, intersected by narrow miry lanes, the whole enclosed by walls, except on the side towards the river. It was on the banks of the river, in Castle Baynard Ward, and on the south side of the present cathedral, that the residence of the Anglo-Saxon kings stood, erected either by Alfred, Edward, or Athelstan ; most probably by the last, whose name is retained in that of Adel or Addle Hill. This Anglo-Saxon palace was forsaken by Edward the Confessor, who removed to that which he had erected at Westminster ; after which, together with the cathedral, the first-mentioned building was destroyed by fire in 1087.  The Tower Royal (at the end of the street so called) was another palace, erected after the Norman conquest, but its origin cannot be traced.  In Richard II’s time it was called the Royal Wardrobe, and was granted by Richard III to the first duke of Norfolk.

Of public buildings there were scarcely any besides religious houses and hospitals, both which were very numerous previous to the Reformation, and of several of them the names are retained at the present day, viz. Black Friars, White Friars, Crutched Friars, Chartreux (the Charter-house); Priories - St. John of Jerusalem, Clerkenwell (St. John's Gate), St. Bartholomew the Great, St. Mary Overies, Southw ark ; Nunneries - St. Helen's, Bishopgate Street, and Holywell, in Holywell Lane, Shoreditch ; Hospitals - St. Giles's, St. James’s (the Palace), St. Katherine's, and St. Thomas's. What few residences there were of any note were scattered about, and mingled with the meanest habitations : that of Henry, earl of Northumberland in the time of Henry VI, stood in Fenchurch Street ; Crosby House (1470, a portion of which still remains, and has lately been restored), in Bishopgate Street. Oxford Place, the residence of the Veres, earls of Oxford (1598), was in St. Swithin's Lane, where were the houses of Sir Richard Empson and Dudley, the notorious agents of Henry VII ; and that of Cromwell, earl of Essex, stood in Throgmorton Street, while at a later period Aldersgate Street and other places now abandoned to shops, countinghouses, and warehouses, were inhabited by the noble and the opulent. The ancient residence of the bishops of London was in Aldersgate-street.

As to the actual appearance and condition of the metropolis we have little more than conjectural and piecemeal information until we come down to times that may comparatively be termed recent ; for contemporary chroniclers and topographers seem to have had no regard to the curiosity of posterity ; but contented themselves with noting, whether briefly or prolixly, most drily, what they beheld, without aiming at anything like a graphic description of the whole. We may however easily picture to ourselves what London must have been even in the first half of the sixteenth century, when the act for improving and paving the city, passed in 1532, describes the streets as ‘very foul and full of pits and sloughs, very perilous and noyous as well for all the king's subjects on horseback as on foot, with carriages.’ If to the formidable inconveniences to which passengers and traffic were subjected, we add those of narrow crooked streets, gloomy by day and left in total darkness at night, we shall be forced to add a few shades more to the picture of the noyous condition of the citizens. Perhaps even the vilest bye-lanes, alleys, and courts that are now to be met with, are, except in regard to the houses themselves and their inhabitants, hardly a degree worse then was the London of ‘olden times’ generally.  No wonder therefore that pestilence and fire should at various times have committed such havoc, the population being densely cooped up in confined and badly ventilated dwellings, constructed for the greater part of plaster and timber, covered with thatched roofs, and having each story overhanging that immediately beneath it.  While this last-mentioned circumstance must have contributed not a little to unhealthiness by leaving very little space between the uppermost stories of the opposite houses, it must also have rendered fires particularly destructive, so that what with the denseness of the buildings, the combustibility of their materials, and an insufficient supply of water, the breaking out of a fire must have threatened a conflagration of a whole neighbourhood, as is still the case at Constantinople. At the present day such a conflagration as that of the great fire of 1666 would be almost impossible, even if no efforts were made to arrest its progress.

Though churches, religious houses, and some few private residences may have been substantially built, and perhaps entitled to the epithet of magnificent, especially when compared with the ordinary dwellings, they must have been altogether insufficient to counteract the general rude and mean appearance of the city. Whatever degree of comfort or even luxury there may have been in the abodes of a few great nobles, there can be no doubt that the people generally, even including the wealthier burghers, were miserably lodged and housed. The exceptions from it are not to be mistaken for the rule itself ; and if we contrast the condition of society class by class, we find that, setting aside the very highest, by whom greater state was affected than at present, all the rest will bear no comparison with the corresponding ones of modern times as regards the comforts of life. Many things which were formerly the luxuries of the few have since become the every-day necessaries of the many; to say nothing of the numerous conveniences and enjoyments now placed within the reach of nearly all, though, a century or two ago, no wealth could procure them. The pictures given us by Erasmus and Holinshed of the manners and domestic economy of our ancestors, so far from being at all flattering, portray a state of semi-barbarism ; so that whatever occasion there may have been for regulating attire and restraining luxury in dress, there was no need of sumptuary laws to check excess of refinement in houses and furniture. In the early part of the fifteenth century even  the ‘uplandish towns in the realm’ could not boast of more than three or four chimneys ; and afterwards the houses of the English were described by the foreigners who came over with Philip II as consisting of walls built with ‘sticks and dirt.’ In the metropolis the generality of the houses may have been a degree better ; yet Holinshed himself admits that London had a very mean appearance in comparison with most foreign cities.  During the sixteenth century however it greatly extended itself westward along the north bank of the river, where many of the nobility erected ‘fayre and statelie’ mansions, of which Northumberland House is the only one remaining, no traces of the others being left, although the names of several of them are still retained in the streets opening into the Strand. Even Exeter ‘Change, which occupied the site of Exeter House, originally built by the great Lord Burleigh, has in its turn disappeared, and transmitted its name to the present Exeter Hall. Still greatly as the metropolis had increased in extent in the reign of Elizabeth, the map of it at that period shows it to have been a mere dwarf in comparison with its present gigantic dimensions : all to the north and west of the Strand was open fields and country, as well as nearly all the south bank of the river, now a populous and extensive district, and connected with the northern side by several bridges, whereas before the erection of Westminster Bridge (commenced 1739), London Bridge was the only structure of its kind which the metropolis possessed. Insignificant as the increase of buildings in Elizabeth's reign may now appear, it was regarded with so much apprehension as well as wonder at the time, that the queen issued a proclamation in 1580, forbidding the erection of any but houses of the highest class within three miles of the city. The same was done by her successor, but in neither case had the prohibition much effect ; so that by 1666 many new districts and parishes had been added to the suburbs. Terrible as was the calamity which during that year befell the city itself, when upwards of 13,000 houses and other buildings, including St. Paul's cathedral and the portico added to it by Inigo Jones, fell a prey to the flames, it has been attended with much benefit. ‘Heaven be praised,’ exclaims Malcolm, ‘Old London was burnt!’ and indeed what is chiefly to be regretted now is that advantage was not taken of the opportunity then afforded of laying out the streets with greater regard to regularity and convenience. A plan for that purpose was made by Sir Christopher Wren, and another by Sir John Evelvn. If either of them had been carried into execution, the City would have been infinitely more commodious for traffic than it now is now, notwithstanding the very material improvements which have taken place within the few last years, by opening a communication from New London Bridge to the Mansion House and Bank, and thence northwards to Finsbury Circus. According to Wren's plan there would have been two principal streets carried in a direct line, one from Aldgate, the other from the Tower, intersecting in their course one or two open polygonal areas or piazzas (from which other streets would have branched off), and terminating in a larger triangular piazza, in which St. Paul's would have been placed, and from which another street would have been carried in a straight course to Temple Bar. Evelyn's plan also provided for several piazzas of various forms, one of which would have been an oval with St. Paul's in the centre of it ; but it differed from the other in proposing a street in a line from St. Dunstan's in the East to the cathedral, and then straight on onwards to Temple Bar ; but this plan did not, like Wren's, contemplate a continued quay or terrace along the river.  Unfortunately the singular obstinacy and narrow-mindedness of the citizens set them both aside : the extraordinary opportunity for improvement which then presented itself was entirely thrown away, and instead of being in any respect calculated to show that noble pile to advantage, the area in which St. Paul's stands is as irregular and unarchitectural as it is inconvenient.

Within the course of the next hundred years from this date the metropolis extended itself considerably to the west and north-west, where it became more fashionable to reside ; and no doubt the fire of London had a great share in this change, for their mansions in the city having been destroyed by it, the nobility removed from that seat of bustle and traffic much earlier than they otherwise might have done. Both Soho Square and Golden Square (now places of very inferior rank to the more modern ones) were built before the close of the seventeenth century ; while Hanover and Cavendish Squares appear to have been erected between the years 1716 and 1720. In the reign of George II arose three churches, each of which is distinguished by a noble Corinthian portico, viz. St. George's, Bloomsbury(consecrated 1731) ; St. Martin's, and St. George's, Hanover Square (1742). The first of these however has not obtained a reputation equal to that of the second, notwithstanding that it ought to place the name of Hawksmoor at least on a level with that of Gibbs. In 1700 Old Bond Street was partly built, but its situation was then almost rural, all to the north being fields, lanes, and uncovered ground ; and many mansions which are now surrounded by buildings and streets for a considerable distance, then stood, if not quite solitary, with only a few straggling houses in their neighbourhood ; such was the case with Montague House, now the British Museum, and Burlington House, Piccadilly.

Notwithstanding however that other squares and streets continued to be progressively formed, until the district the north of Piccadilly assumed a connected town-like appearance, neither that nor any other part of the metropolis bore much resemblance, in character and aspect, to what it now does, the houses having been all, if not rebuilt, more or less modernised since that time. As one instance of this, we may observe that no one would be able recognise St. James's Street as shown in one of the plates of Hogarth’s Rake's Progress, were it not for the gateway of the palace, the only feature that remains unaltered. The town might have gone on increasing to its present bulk ; yet unless improvement had kept pace with its growth, it would have been far different from what it actually is ; and we should at this day have had to contend with all the inconveniences described by Gay described in his ‘Trivia, or Art of Walking the Streets’, which appear to have been formidable enough, both in rainy weather and after nightfall.

It was not till the beginning of the reign of George III when the present system of paving and lighting the streets was introduced, that the metropolis began to put on a civilised appearance, by the safety and convenience of the public being attended to.  Signs, posts, waterspouts, and all similar nuisances and obstructions were removed ; footpaths were laid down, and lamps were lit at night. It is true the foot-pavements were exceedingly scanty, and the oil-lamps diffused a light just as scanty - certainly not brilliant enough to extinguish all at once both flambeaux and link-boys. With the exception of this very important improvement, and the increase of building, little advance was made in the architecture of the metropolis during the latter part of the last century. Almost the only public edifices of this time at all entitled to the epithet of magnificent were Somerset House and the Bank ; which latter however with equal propriety be considered as belonging to the present century, since it was not completed as at present till about 1826. The Adams indeed erected the Adelphi, Portland and Stratford Places, and two sides of Fitzroy Square ; yet these can scarcely be considered as public works, and as specimens of street architecture are (at least the first-mentioned) of exceedingly questionable taste, although they may fairly be allowed to be handsome in their general air and appearance. The Adams however are entitled to the praise of having improved the general style of ordinary house-building, and of having substituted convenience, cheerfulness, and lightness for the incommodiousness and heavy taste which formerly prevailed. The Pantheon, in Oxford Street, by James Wyatt, ought perhaps to be mentioned as a piece of architecture of some note, belonging to the latter half of the last century ; but it no longer exists, save in name alone, being now totally altered, except some portion of the facade, which in itself displays no very great taste, and has not sufficient size to give it importance, while the interior is now converted to a very different purpose from its original one. As buildings, none of the theatres can be dated farther back than the present century, at the commencement of which, or about 1803, we may observe that Russell Square (the nucleus of a cluster of other squares that have risen up in its immediate neighbourhood) was first formed. Covent-Garden Theatre, the first production of Sir R. Smirke, and almost the first specimen of the Grecian Doric style in the metropolis, may also be considered as the beginning of a new era in its architecture ; or rather it has so happened that it has been followed by numerous other structures and improvements, which have given (at least as far as they extend) quite a different aspect to the town.

Whatever they may be in regard to architectural taste, or however objectionable when examined in detail, it cannot be denied that both Regent Street and the Regent’s Park were magnificent improvements, and have, moreover, led to a variety of others. They have certainly created a taste for a degree of architectural display that would formerly have been considered quite prodigal ; and if that taste be in many instances very bad - not to say paltry, - it is upon the whole preferable to the dull monotony that used, as far as their architecture was concerned, to characterize even the best of the trading streets in the old metropolis. The Strand affords a very fair comparison between the old and new modes of building, the houses being of the same class, though very different in architectural character ; and as even the most prejudiced can scarcely hesitate to decide in favour of the latter, it may be almost taken for granted, not only that attention to appearance is more studied than it used to be, but that the condition of shopkeepers and tradesmen is improving likewise. The alterations occasioned by the building of New London Bridge, and forming approaches to it, in consequence of the change of site, have already greatly metamorphosed that part of the city, and awakened a spirit of improvement which bids fair to keep pace with that at the other end of the town. As to King William Street, much cannot be said in praise of the facades which it exhibits. The new range of buildings in Princes Street, at that extremity of it which was previously a most inconveniently narrow lane, has, on the contrary, a somewhat imposing air of noble simplicity. Moorgate Street too, which extends from the one just mentioned to Finsbury Circus, is decidedly better than that near the bridge. While it displays a pleasing regularity of design and uniformity of character, it does not offend by too great sameness and monotony, the elevations being broken into sufficiently distinct masses ; besides which the houses have an air of greater loftiness than usual, owing to the breadth of the street not exceeding their height. When the Royal Exchange (destroyed by fire on the night of Jan. 10th 1838) shall come to be rebuilt, it will no doubt lead to various other improvements in its immediate vicinity. In addition to this, it is in contemplation to form new streets where at present either no public thoroughfares exist or only such as are very crooked and narrow. Among these is one from the Post-Office to Lothbury and the Bank ; another in continuation of Farringdon Street northwards ; a third to open a direct communication between Holborn and the Strand, along the east side of Lincoln's Inn Fields. A similar project is now going on for improving the neighbourhood of Westminster, by means of a spacious street intended to lead from the west front of the Abbey to Pimlico. The necessity not only for these but for other improvements of the same kind must be tolerably apparent to any one who looks at a map of London ; and among them would be a direct line of communication from the upper end of St. Martin's Lane into Oxford Street ; another from Coventry Street into Covent Garden Market ; and a third from Holborn into the Strand, to be obtained by widening and rebuilding the whole of Drury Lane.

With the exception of the terraces in the Regent's Park, Hyde Park Terrace near Bayswater, and that in St. James's Park - which are for the greater part more tawdry than rich in point of design, - none of the newer ranges of private houses make any pretension to architectural decoration ; or if any thing of the kind be occasionally attempted, as in Eaton Square, &c., it is so meagre in itself and so grudgingly bestowed, as to be quite the reverse of satisfactory. Internally however the houses themselves are, in proportion to their size, far more commodious and better fitted up than those of half a century ago. All the newer parts of the town are likewise sufficiently airy and cheerful, owing both to the greater width of the streets themselves, and to the greater breadth of the foot-pavements and the areas before the houses ; while, for the last reason, the kitchens are less gloomy and the foot-pavements less muddy than in the older and narrower streets. Besides this, another advantage is that the inhabitants are less exposed to the observation of their opposite neighbours ; while the system of macadamization, now so generally adopted in squares and streets, has very much abated the nuisance of the rattling of carriages. In fact, as regards the laying out, paving, and lighting of the streets, there is very little room for further improvement : there is however one serious inconvenience attending some of the widest streets which are frequented thoroughfares - the width of the carriage-way being so great as to render it hazardous to cross them when filled with carriages. This is particularly the case in Regent Street ; yet the remedy for it is easy, as all danger and inconvenience to foot-passengers would be removed by erecting a lamp-post, with a few other posts around, at one or two crossings ; besides which the roadway of the crossing would then be sufficiently lighted at night. In addition to the more obvious improvements as regards paving, lighting, the widening of streets, and removal of all obstructions in them, it should be mentioned that the salubrity of the metropolis has been greatly increased both by the supply of water and the present effectual system of drainage and sewerage.

Public convenience has been better consulted than it used to be by the erection of more commodious markets, in respect to which London was till lately not so well provided as Liverpool. Although not much of an architectural improvement, the present Covent-Garden Market is far more comfortable and commodious than the old one ; and both Hungerford and Farringdon Markets (the former more especially) exhibit a most welcome change from the condition of their predecessors. The wonder lies not so much in the change itself as that it should not have taken place sooner, shelter being almost indispensable for all such places in a climate so humid and rainy as ours, and which, if not kept dry, can hardly ever be kept clean. Of covered streets of shop's we have as yet but two, namely, the Burlington and Lowther Arcades ; unless we choose, as far as foot-passengers are concerned, to include also the colonnades of the Quadrant in Regent Street and the Opera House. The Lowther Arcade is of exceedingly handsome and tasteful design, and may be termed even luxurious in comparison with some of thin narrow alleys and lanes with shops in the city, where however the example thus set has not been adopted. Somewhat akin to these arcades, or passages, as the French term them, are the bazaars which have of late years become so common, though formerly Exeter ‘Change was the only place of the kind, and one moreover of most homely and mean appearance, compared with the highly decorated one of the Pantheon in Oxford Street. The Pantechnicon, near Belgrave Square, is another very extensive establishment of a similar though not precisely the same kind.

Although, in comparison with many other capitals, London is by no means rich in public collections of works of art, some advancement has of late been made even in this respect, both by the establishment of the National Gallery and the unreserved access now afforded to the British Museum, whose collections have been greatly increased in the present century. The Soanean Museum can as yet hardly be said to be open to the public. An effort has been made to have both Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s opened to visitors gratuitously ; but it has hitherto been unsuccessful. In the meanwhile annual exhibitions are increasing : formerly there was only that of the Royal Academy whereas there are now two at the British Institution, one for modern pictures, the other for works of the old masters ; and that of the Society of British Artists, besides one or two of paintings in water-colours. To these may be added various other exhibitions of more or less recent origin, as dioramas, panoramas, &c. Formerly the ‘lions’ in the Tower and the animals at Exeter ‘Change used to be far famed among the sights of London ; but in lieu of them we have now the Zoological Gardens at the Regent's Park and the Surrey Zoological Gardens. In the course of a few years the Regent's Park will most probably possess another novel and attractive exhibition, it being intended to convert the whole of the inner circle into a botanic garden, with buildings and other ornamental accessories ; and the mention of this reminds us that St. James's Park has been altered greatly for the better, it now presenting, instead of a mere meadow and formal canal, the appearance of a well laid-out pleasure-ground, with a lake studded by islets. The Adelaide Gallery, Lowther Arcade, and the Polytechnic Institute, Regent-street (opened August, 1838), afford proof of the diffusion of knowledge. The same remark applies to the various literary and scientific institutions, of which there is now some one or other in almost every quarter of the metropolis. Another class of establishments which, as now organized, may be said to be peculiar to our own times, are the club-houses, principally at the west-end of the town which in some degree partake of the nature of places of literary as well as convivial meeting. Some of them are not only splendidly fitted-up and afford the most luxurious accommodation within, but are very conspicuous architectural objects. When the Reform Club is finished, the south side of Pall-Mall will consist almost wholly of these palace-like edifices, whose facades offer such a contrast to that homeliness of exterior which, with here and there an exception, prevails among what are internally splendid private mansions.

One innovation of very recent date, though long before demanded by a regard to public health, is the formation of cemeteries beyond the suburbs. Some years before any thing of the kind was actually adopted, a scheme was brought forward for one to the north of the Regent’s Park but it failed probably from its having been on too gigantic and expensive a scale ; for that necropolis was to have been a sort of mimic Athens, with facsimiles of all its temples and other buildings. The idea itself however was taken up by other parties, and the Kelsall Green Cemetery was formed about 1832. There are now two more; one at Highgate, the other at Norwood, both of which were executed chiefly in 1838, and a fourth and fifth are about to be undertaken at Brompton and Newington Butts.

Having thus far given a summary account of the growth of the metropolis, and of some of the principal changes occasioned by the increase of wealth, we should proceed to give some description of the more important public buildings ; yet, unless we were to confine ourselves to merely one or two, which, as being the most noted, have already been described by others again and again, we should very greatly exceed all reasonable limits. We therefore adopt the more novel and convenient mode of exhibiting, in a tabular form, and in chronological order, a list of such public buildings as are most worthy of notice on account of their architecture. This will at all events furnish a synoptical view of our metropolitan architecture, and were similar tables drawn up of the principal buildings of other capitals and cities, including some of our own large provincial towns, more exact information of the kind might be comprised in a few leaves than can otherwise be obtained by turning over a vast number of volumes. We shall however here prefix to the table itself a few general remarks on some of those buildings and others, more satisfactory perhaps than the very brief comments there inserted.

Of older architecture the metropolis now exhibits very little, with the exception of parts of the Tower, the Temple Church, Westminster Abbey and Hall, and one or two churches, such as St. Bartholomew the Great, and St. Mary Overies, at the south end of London Bridge, which was ably restored a few years ago. Other specimens that had been spared by fire have been swept away by improvement ; among the rest the Savoy Palace and Ely House. But if improvement has in this respect been as merciless as fire, and, in the opinion of antiquaries, perhaps no less mischievous, it has at least cleared away the mass of unsightly buildings which formerly blocked it up, the noble abbey of Westminster and the magnificent chapel of Henry VII attached to it, both of them among the finest specimens of their respective styles. Wren's work however, in the western towers of the abbey, shows him to have had no feeling for Gothic architecture, which style did not begin to be revived in the metropolis until the present century. As the architect of St. Paul's, Wren is justly entitled to the reputation which he enjoys ; and that noble edifice has procured for his other works more celebrity than they would otherwise have enjoyed ; certainly more than they actually deserve. The greater part of the churches erected by him exhibit a heavy uncouth mannerism, with hardly a redeeming beauty. Even the steeples of Bow Church and St. Bride's have been greatly over-praised ; the same remark applies to the interior of St. Stephen’s, Walbrook, which derives its claim to elegance solely from its cupola and columns, all the rest being poor and trivial, even to meanness. The few civic buildings which he erected were not in a more refined taste ; nor would such structures as the former Fishmongers' Hall and Custom House, the old College of Physicians (now converted into a butchers’ market), and Temple Bar, add to the reputation of any architect of the present day.

In the next age a different mode of design began to be adopted for churches, and those of St. George's, Hanover-square, St. Martin's, and St. George's, Bloomsbury, which are certainly not otherwise inferior to Wren's, greatly surpass them in the classical dignity which they derive from their porticos.  It has indeed hitherto been the fashion - for it can be termed nothing better - wholly to overlook the portico of the last-mentioned edifice, and to decry it on account of the supposed absurdity of its steeple, notwithstanding that, in its outline and architectural expression, that campanile exhibits far greater beauty and propriety than any other we can produce ; while the general bad taste displayed in the design of St. Martin's has escaped from reproach on account of its portico alone. How far the architect of the latter was really gifted with taste will be more correctly judged by examining his church of St. Mary-le-Strand by Somerset-House (1714-18). As to that of St. Clement’s, the steeple of which was also by Gibbs, few will dissent from the opinion passed on it by Malton, who terms it ‘a disgusting fabric.’

Besides churches, there are very few public buildings of this period that make much architectural pretension, at least very few now remaining. The former building of the Bank of England, begun in 1734, possessed little beauty or grandeur, though the wings afterwards added by Sir Robert Taylor gave it its present extent of facade. St, Bartholomew's Hospital, commenced by Gibbs in 1730, is a tolerably fair specimen of the average taste of design at that period, which being the case, it is rather surprising that the Mansion House (1739) should have been so severely censured, since, taken altogether, it certainly possesses an air of dignity, and something picturesque in its side elevations. Ironmongers' Hall, Fenchurch-street, begun a few years later (1748), is very far superior in external appearance to any other of the City companies' halls then erected. In the latter half of the century few public buildings were erected, yet among them were two of the noblest which the City even now possesses, namely, the Excise Office and Newgate. The merit of the latter has been universally admitted ; the other, on the contrary, is scarcely ever mentioned, notwithstanding that, for imposing grandeur of mass, and greatness of manner combined with simplicity, it surpasses everything else in the metropolis ; not so the front of Guildhall by Dance (1789), which is utterly unworthy of the handsome Gothic interior which it masks, being in a most mongrel and vulgarized style, without one single merit to compensate for its absurdities. The small and picturesque front of the adjoining Gothic chapel has now disappeared, it having been taken down some years ago to make room for a building comprising the Bankrupt Courts, &c., a most insipid and tasteless design. After the Excise Office and Newgate, Somerset House is almost the only public building which distinguishes the reign of George III ; for all that has been done in the present century may be considered as commencing with the Regency. The end of the last century was however marked by the erection of the East India House, more decidedly Greek than anything which had preceded it. Compared with what it has since been, architecture was then at a rather low ebb ; for although one or two of the buildings above mentioned are noble works, they must be taken as exceptions to the meagre, insipid, and monotonous style which stamps this period, and which such erections as the Adelphi and Portland-place rather confirm than contradict. With the exception of St. Peter-le-Poor (1791) and St. Martin's Outwich (1796), not one church was built from the commencement of the reign of George III. to the Regency. The year 1809 is the date from which the metropolitan architecture of the present century may be said to begin. The two Grecian orders, Doric and Ionic, were for the first time adopted as the standard mode, and insulated columns took place of engaged ones and pilasters. From this time portico’s became of as general as they were before of rare application. But in London architectural character has been made to depend too much on such features alone, and even in them the chief study has been bestowed on the columns themselves, nothing whatever of embellishment - not even so much as amounts to consistent finish of the order - being bestowed on their entablatures and pediments. This pseudo-classical style, consisting in merely copying to the letter certain details of ancient architecture, has in more than one instance been carried to a most offensive extent ; but perhaps the most preposterous of all was the original front of the College of Surgeons, consisting of an Ionic hexastyle attached to a front which, so far from having any architectural pretensions, was in the most vulgar and barbarous taste.

Both the Custom-house and Bethlehem Hospital exhibit in some degree the same perverseness and incongruity, while many other buildings, though more consistent, are nevertheless cold and monotonous, and display nothing more conspicuously than barrenness of invention.  Now that the novelty attending Grecian architecture, on its first introduction among us, has passed away, we begin to be disagreeably sensible of this, and to perceive that little or nothing been done to naturalize it, or to render it more pliable or more copious than we first found it. Such an avowedly facsimile application of Athenian architecture as St. Pancras was not only excusable but laudable ; yet one such specimen of the kind is sufficient ; especially when we find that nearly every succeeding one has fallen short of it in regard to finish of details and beauty of execution, though even in St. Pancras the entablature and pediment look chillingly naked in comparison with the columns and the doors within the portico, which latter are in the most exquisite style of decoration. The small facade of St. Mark's, in North Audley Street, forms a rather striking exception from the frigidity and commonplace of Grecian design when reduced to mere imitation of ancient columns. Another pleasing exception is afforded by the New Corn Exchange, Mark Lane, which manifests some happy originality. Of such portico’s as that of the College of Physicians, the most that can be said is that they are respectable copies, upon a very respectable scale. That of the Post-office (an Ionic hexastyle) is imposing for its size and spaciousness, and is well arranged, owing to its partly receding within the building as well as projecting from it, and to having only a large centre door, with a lesser one on each side of it ; yet all the rest is rather poor, nor is there much of the genuine expression of the style aimed at. The facade of the University College is a more original and finer composition, besides affording the only instance of a decastyle portico. In the front of the National Gallery the architect of the structure mentioned has been by no means so happy : taken by itself the octostyle portico and the ascents to it make a pleasing and rather striking composition, but the cornice is by far too plain and meagre for the rich Corinthian columns, while the dome is positively bad, and altogether different in feeling and character from every other part.  In the number of their columns these two portico’s (of the University College and National Gallery) exhibit some degree of novelty, but as yet nearly everything if the kind we possess is upon a uniform scale far inferior to that of some of the public buildings at Paris. The only exception, where unusual magnitude has been aimed at, is the Doric Propylaeum or Railway Terminus, Euston Square. Here the order displays itself effectively, not only on account of its dimensions, but also because there are no windows nor other features of that kind to interfere with it. The British Fire Office, on the contrary, exhibits a most perverse application of a Grecian Doric to a building which in itself is in the most extravagant and fantastical taste.

Most of the new churches in London and the suburbs professing to be Greek are little better than parodies and travesties of the style. They exhibit moreover a wearisome repetition of the same stale hackneyed ideas, or rather the want of any idea beyond that of tacking a few columns to the front of what would else be mere meeting-houses. These and other spiritless as well as mongrel samples of the Anglo-Grecian school seem at length to have brought the style into disrepute, and accordingly some of the more recent buildings show a desire to return to the Italian, which, if purified and treated with originality instead of servile indiscriminate copying, would in most cases recommend itself in preference to the other. The Travellers' Club-house, particularly the garden front, is a charming and beautifully finished example of the Italian, and its architect (Mr. Barry) has since given a sort of combination of that and Grecian in the new facade of the College of Surgeons. Goldsmiths' Hall is Italian of a more heavily magnificent character, which however is greatly injured by the poverty of the ground-floor and its windows, which is left very bald, notwithstanding that it is comprised within the order. Two buildings erected in 1838, the London and Westminster Bank, and the new synagogue, St. Helen's Place, belong also to the Italian school.

Here we must bring to a conclusion this general summary of the architecture of the metropolis, which it would have been a far easier task to expand than to confine to these limits.  We have attempted nothing like either description or detailed criticism, the former of which at least is to be met with in a variety of works. The one more especially devoted to buildings and architecture is the new edition of ‘Illustrations of the Public Buildings of London, by W. H. Leeds. The article ‘London,’ in Moule's 'English Counties,' will also be found to contain a great deal of information ; while in the volumes of the ‘Companion to the Almanac,’ most of the edifices erected within the last six or seven years are described at some length. In regard to detailed criticism, the series of papers in the ‘Printing Machine,’ entitled ' Strictures on Structures,' gives the New Palace, York Column, and various other subjects ; and a similar series of architectural critiques on other metropolitan buildings has been commenced in the ‘Civil Engineers Journal.’

Table of Public Buildings most worthy of Notice for their Architecture


Whitehall Chapel, 1619, by Inigo Jones. Chiefly admirable as the first specimen of pure Italian.

York Stairs, 1626, by Inigo Jones.

St. Pauls’s, Covent Garden, by Inigo Jones. Tuscan, distyle in antis.

Temple Bar, 1670-72, by Sir Christopher Wren.

The Monument, 1671-77, by Sir Christopher Wren. Fluted Doric column ; total height, including pedestal, &c., 202 feet.

St. Stephen’s, Walbrook, 1672-79, by Sir Christopher Wren. Exterior concealed by houses ; interior over-praised chiefly remarkable for its dome.

St. Paul’s Cathedral, begun 1675. Extreme length, 500 feet ; height to top of cross, 360 feet.


St. Paul's finished, 1710. Style Italo-Roman ; exterior both magnificent and picturesque, though not faultless.

St. George's, Hanover-square, finished 1724, by J. James. Portico hexastyle, Corinthian.

St. Martin's, 1721-26, by J. Gibbs. Portico hexastyle, Corinthian ; the general style bad.

St. George's, Bloomsbury, finished 1731, by Hawksmoor. Portico hexastyle, Corinthian ; Campanile excellent.

Mansion House, 1739-53, by Dance.

Westminster Bridge, 1739-50, by Labelye. Length 1,066 feet.

Ironmongers' Hall, 1748, by Holden. Italian Ionic on basement.

Horse Guards, 1751, by W. Kent.

Blackfriars Bridge, 1760-70, by R. Mylne. Length 1,000 feet.

Excise Office, 1769, by James Gandon. Plain in design, but of most commanding aspect.

Adelphi, 1770, by Adams.

Newgate, 1770-82, by Dance. Admirable in design and character. Front 590 feet.

Somerset House, 1776, by Sir W. Chambers. Though poor in parts, a good example of Italian. River front 590 feet.

Clerkenwell Sessions House, 1780, by Rogers. East front very handsome.

Bank, 1789-1826, by Sir J. Soane. Very picturesque in parts.

India House, 1799, by R. Jupp. Hexastyle loggia, Grecian Ionic ; sculptured frieze and pediment.


Covent-Garden Theatre, 1808-9, BY Sir R. Smirke. Grecian Doric ; tetrastyle portico.

Drury-Lane Theatre, 1811-12, by B. Wyatt.

Opera-house, altered, 1818, by Nash and Repton.

Bethlehem Hospital, 1812-15, by J. Lewis. Portico hexastyle, Ionic. Length 569 feet.

Waterloo Bridge, 1811, by J. Rennie. Length 1,326 feet.

Mint, 1811, by Sir R. Smirke. Grecian Doric on a basement.

Custom House, 1813, by D. Laing. The Long Room and centre of the river front quite altered after the accident in 1826. Length 484 feet.

London Institution, 1815-19, by W. Brooks.

St. Pancras Church, 1819-22, by W. & H. W. Inwood. The finest copy of Athenian Ionic.

Post-Office, 1823-9, by Sir R. Smirke. Hexastyle Ionic portico ; extent of front 390 feet.

Hanover Chapel, Regent-street, 1823-5, by R. C. Cockerell. Tetrastyle Ionic portico.

British Museum (new buildings, by Sir R. Smirke.

Buckingham Palace, 1825, by Nash and Blore.

College of Physicians and Union Club-House, 1825-7, by Sir R. Smirke. Grecian Ionic.

Board of Trade, 1824-6, by Sir J. Soane. Roman Corinthian.

Colosseum, 1824, by D. Burton. Hexastyle, Grecian Doric portico attached to a polygon 130 feet diameter.

London Bridge, 1825-31, by J. Rennie. Length 920 feet.

St. Mark's, North Audley-street, 1825-8, by Gandy-Deering. Florid Grecian Ionic ; facade small, but of rich design.

St. Katherine's Hospital, 1826, by Poynter. Chapel Gothic ; the rest Old English Domestic.

Hall, Christ Church Hospital, 1826, by J. Shaw. Later Gothic.

Scotch Church, Regent-square, 1827-8, by W. Tite. Gothic.

St. George's Hospital, 1827, by W. Wilkins. Portico tetrastyle, with square pillars.

London University, 1827-9, by W. Wilkins. Facade not completed ; decastyle portico, and dome.

New Corn Exchange, 1827-8, by G. Smith. Grecian Doric, with pleasing originality of design.

St. Paul's School, 1827, by G. Smith. Hexastyle, Tivoli Corinthian on a basement.

Law Institution, Chancery-lane, 1827-9, by L. Vulliamy. Grecian Ionic hexastyle.

Archway, Green Park, 1828, by D. Burton.

Fishmongers' Hall, 1827-34, by H. Roberts. Grecian Ionic.

Athenaeum Club, 1829, by D. Burton. Its bas-relief frieze the only specimen in London.

Goldsmiths' Hall, 1829-35, by P. Hardwick. Italian ; magnificent, yet somewhat heavy, and basement poor.

Exeter Hall, 1830-1, by Gandy-Deering. Greco-Corinthian, distyle in antis.

St. Dunstan's in the West, 1830-32, by J. Shaw. Gothic ; handsome Louvre tower.

York Column, 1830-36, by B. Wyatt. Total height, including statue, 137 feet 9 inches.

Lowther Arcade, 1830, by J. Turner. Greco-Italian, with pendentive domes.

Hungerford Market, 1831-3, by C. Fowler.

Travellers' Club, 1831, by C. Barry. Choice specimen of the best Italian style, particularly the design of garden front.

Charing-Cross Hospital, 1830-1, by D. Burton.

St. George's, Woburn-square, 1832, by L. Vulliamy. Gothic ; handsome spire.

Westminster Hospital, 1832, by Inwoods. Modernized Gothic.

National Gallery, 1832-7, by W. Wilkins. Grecian ; total extent of front 458 feet.

State-Paper Office, St. Jame’s s Park, 1833, by Sir J. Soane. One of his chastest productions. Style, Italian.

Pantheon Bazaar, 1834, by S. Smirke.

School for Indigent Blind, 1834-7, by J. Newman. Style Tudor, white brick and stone ; central tower of rich design.

St. Olave's School, 1835, by J. Field. Style Elizabethan, red brick and stone.

College of Surgeons, 1835-6, by C. Barry. Italianized Grecian.

United University Club, 1836-7, by Sir R. & S. Smirke. Style a modified Italian ; bas-relief panels.

St. James's Theatre, 1836, by S. Beazley.

Railway Terminus, Euston-square, 1837-8, by P. Hardwick. A Grecian Doric propylaeum on an imposing scale.

London and Westminster Bank, 1837-8, by Cockerell and Tite. Style modified Italian ; singular but pleasing.

Synagogue, Great St. Helen's, 1837-8, by J. Davies. Style Italian ; interior rich and tasteful.

Reform Club, 1838, by C. Barry. Italian.