Page images
PDF
EPUB

much humour; and I received this account from a gentle. man who heard him describe his piteous mishap *.”

The manors of Holywell and Finsbury had been granted at a very early period to the prebend of Finsbury, or rather Fensbury, in the cathedral of St. Paul, London. The prebendary, Robert de Baldock, in 1315, therefore granted all his property in the manors to Sir John Gisors, mayor, and to the commonalty of London, for which they were to pay to him and his successors the annual sum of twenty shillings. The right afterwards reverted to the church; and in the last century the prebendary granted to the city a lease for forty-one years. It was then discovered that to build on such a short tenure would be imprudent. Therefore the prebendary applied to parliament; and in the year 1768, an act passed, to enable Christopher Wilson, D.D. and prebendary of Finsbury (afterwards bishop of Bristol) to grant to the mayor and commonalty of London, a lease of the prebendal estate for a term of ninety-nine years; the city appointed a committee to carry the purposes of it into execution; and in 1770, the lease was granted.

In 1773, the committee, attended by Dr. Wilson, having inspected several plans and designs for the improvement of the estate, were unanimously of opinion, that the best method of improvement would be, to begin by building a Square, upon the middle of Moorfields, agreeably to a sketch then produced. Mr. Dance, the city surveyor, was likewise directed to make another design of the whole estate, introducing the square, and disposing of the other parts to the best advantage. The plan for improving the estate was not, however, decidedly agreed upon till 1777; as, early in that year, an order was made by the common council, to fix in the council chamber a plan for its improvement. On the 18th of June, a report was made by a sub-committee; when it was agreed that Mr. Dance should. “ make a plan for letting the east part of the Artillery Ground, and also plans and elevations for letting the ground on the east and south sides of the intended south square; and on the

Penpant's London, p. 218.

north

north side of the quarters of Moorfields, dividing the said pieces of ground respectively in proper lots.”

A new street from Finsbury, along the north side of the quarters of Moorfields, into New Broad Street; and another along the east side to London Wall, at Moorgate, were proposed, but did not take effect.

At first, the ground in Moorfields was continually advertised to be let on building leases, but there were no bid. dings. Since that time, however, the present magnificent square has arisen on the site.

The west side of the square, except two houses at the north end, was built in 1777; and from that time it lay dormant many years, which may, in some measure, be ac. counted for by the following circumstance: Dutton Seaman, Esq. comptroller to the corporation, being almost superannuated, was suspended from active employment, but enjoyed the emolument of the place he had purchased. Mr. Bushnan, then senior clerk in the office, was appointed assistant, with a proper allowance; and on the death of Mr. Seaman, in 1785, was chosen his successor, with a salary of 7001. per annum, and the profits of the leases. The abilities of the new comptroller very evidently appeared, when his own benefit was united with the improvement. Plans soon came forward; and in 1789, the north side was let; in 1790, the east side; in the year following, the south side ; and the surrounding streets in progression. The good effects were quickly evinced by the profits ; for, in 1783, the rents produced only 47921. ; and in 1797, they encreased to 75981.

The original design was, to make the centre of the square a piece of water, the ground being so low as to be formed for it ; and that it might be a reservoir, in case of fire, or accident to the New River ; but from the apprehension that it would be a deposit for filth, and unwholesome, it was changed to a garden, by far the more agrecable accommo. dation to the inbabitants. The expence of making the area, and other contingencies, to the amount of 40001. was defrayed by the corporation, and must be placed among the

Ss 2

works

5

works of their munificence. Their object was, to accom-
modate the merchants with dwellings, and create a respec.
table neighbourhood near the city ; but so little prospect
was there of benefit to the builder, even at the low prices for
which the lotted ground was let, that the person who took
the three first lots of ground, petitioned to be released from
his bargain, after the foundations and part of the houses
were built, though they became ultimately a profit to him
of 50001.!

To the disgrace of the builders, two houses on the south
side fell down almost as soon as they were built, and the rest
of that side lay in a most perilous state. The corporation
upon this caused a survey to be taken, and took such ef-
fectual measures, that at present FINSBURY SQUARE does
hot give place in beauty, and not much in size, to the most
boasted at the west end of the metropolis *.

Mr. Gwynne, among his other improvements t, proposed, that a convenient street should be formed from Moorfields to Throgmorton Street, through Austin Friars, to the Royal Exchange, Bank, &c. with streets of communication into Broad Street, and Coleman Street. He also proposed that Bethlem Hospital should be removed, and the area formed into a most beautiful square. Part of his plan has been adopted, the hospital is nearly levelled with the ground, and

a large street is intended to continue from the City Road to x 96 the Mansion House. X

At the south-west angle of this square, is a large building, constructed for a bookseller's shop upon an extensive scale, by James LACKINGTON, Esq. who, from a very small capital, raised himself by indefatigable endeavours to opulence and celebrity. He was originally a shoemaker in Bunhill Row, where he commenced bookseller of pamphlets, &c.

He then removed to Chiswell Street, and
having purchased the present shop, through which a coach
and six horses might pass, retired to enjoy the wealth he had
accumulated. The catalogưe of Lackington, Allen, and
Co. sells at the vast price of two shillings and sixpence.

* Pennant, Europ. Mag. 1802.
† London and Westminster improved.

From

2.587

From Finsbury Square, we pass down CHISWELL STREET, on the north side of which stands the Artillery House, which shall be described in its due place. On the south side stood the antient Manor House of FINSBURY; which, having suffered manv delapidations, was let out as á carpet warehouse, and taken down to make way for the respectable houses which occupy its site.

Near Bunhill Row, is a large house, in which letterfounding was brought to great perfection by

WILLIAM CASLON.

This ingenious artist served a regular apprenticeship to an engraver of ornaments on gun barrels, and, after the expiration of his time, carried on that trade for some time; but without confining his ingenuity to embellishing instruments of war, he diverted himself in making tools for bookbinders, and for chasing silver plate. Mr. William Bowyer, the elder, having accidentally seen the lettering of a book remarkably neat, enquired out the artist who had cut the letters, and thence commenced an acquaintance with Mr. Caslon, whom he soon after took to James's letterfoundery, in Bartholomew Close. Caslon was an entire stranger to the process; but being asked by Mr. Bowyer, whether he could undertake to cut types, requested a day for consideration, and then replied in the affirmative. Such an answer induced Mr. Bowyer to consult two other eminent printers, and they had such confidence in Mr. Caslon's abi. Jities that they lent him 500l.

The choice they made evinced their judgment; for Caslon applied himself with equal assiduity and success.

Thé Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, in consequence of a representation from Mr. Solomon Negri, a native of Damascus, in Syria, who was well skilled in the oriental tongues, and had been professor of Arabic, deemed it expedient to print, in 1720, for the use of the eastern churches, the New Testament and Psalter in the Arabic language. Upon this occasion Mr. Caslon was appointed to cut the fount; which he denominated the Arabic English. After he bad finished this fount, he cut the letters of his own name in Pica Roman, at the bottom of one of the Arabic specimens ; this being seen by Mr. Palmer, a printer, he advised to cut the whole fount of Pica ; some circumstances intervening, Palmer retracted his advice, and attempted to discourage what he had suggested. This justly offended Mr. Caslon, and he applied to the liberal triumvirate who had been his first patrons, and under Mr. Bowyer's inspection he cut, in 722, the beautiful fount of English which was used in printing the works of Selden, and the Coptic types, made use of for Dr. Wilkins's edition of the Pentateuch. Mr. Bowyer was always acknowledged by him to be his master, from whom he had learned his art; in which he arrived at length to such perfection, that he not only freed England from the necessity of importing types from Holland, but in the beauty and elegance of those cast by him, he so far exceeded the productions of the best artificers, that his workmanship was frequently exported to the Continent, as, with great justice and confidence it might be asserted, that a more beautiful specimen of letter-founding, was not to be found in any part of the world. His first foundery was in a small house in Helmet Row, Old Street; afterwards in Ironmonger Row, and ultimately, in 1735, it was removed to Chiswell Street, where he became preeminent in his ingenious profession,

Having acquired opulence by his industry, he was put into the commission of the peace for the county of Middiesex, and consigned the active part of his business to his son; he then retired to a rural residence at Bethnal Green, where he died January 23, 1766, aged seventy-four ; leav. ing the character of a first-rate artist, a tender master, and an honest, friendly, and benevolent man. He was buried at St. Luke's church, Old Street. Sir John Hawkins particularly celebrated his hospitality, his social qualities, and his love of musie. The foundery is still carried on by the family*.

Type Street, is so denominated from another letter foundery, recently established by Messrs. Fry and Co. who • Biographical Dict.

haye

« PreviousContinue »