Farthing Alley, Hare Court, and other Parliament-connected London streets

I’ve been holding off but it’s finally time to look at some streets with parliamentary connections of one kind or another.

Barbon Alley was named for Nicholas Barbon, a property developer and the son of Praisegod Barebone, the Parliamentary nominee for the City of London and the man for whom Oliver Cromwell’s Barebones Parliament was named. 

Parliament had been pared down by the simple method used by Colonel Thomas Pride to prevent Parliament from agreeing on the Treaty of Newport to reinstate King Charles I: Pride blocked 231 known supporters of the treaty from entering Parliament and imprisoned 45 of them for a few days. The remaining free members then became the Rump Parliament.

Oliver Cromwell became disenchanted when it became clear that the main concern of the Rump Parliament was to create legislation that would ensure the survival of the Parliament. He lost patience after learning that Parliament was attempting to stay in session despite an agreement to dissolve, and attended a sitting of Parliament to lambaste the Rump Members. “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” he declared.

Barebone’s Parliament was then established: 144 Members of Parliament who were not elected, but selected by Cromwell’s officers for their religious fervour.

Not far away is Whitehall, location of the palace of Whitehall, which was the main residence of the English monarchs from 1530 until 1698 when most of its structures were destroyed by fire. Henry VIII was a fan of the bear baiting, and had a bear pit built in the grounds of Whitehall palace so that royalty could watch the sport in comfort from the palace windows. Henry VIII’s daughter, Elizabeth I, was also a big fan and overruled parliament when the members tried to ban bear baiting on Sundays.

Bridle Lane in Soho takes its name from John Brydall, a law writer who became secretary to a Master of the Rolls (the second most senior judge in England and Wales after the Lord Chief Justice), who rejoiced in the name of Sir Harbottle Grimston. Sir Harbottle was a Member of Parliament during Charles I’s reign and was a great defender of the privileges of the House of Commons following Charles I’s unsuccessful attempt in 1642 to arrest five members. He made a fiery speech in defence of the rights of MPs in which he spoke of “the drooping Spirits of men groaning under the burthen of tyrannicall oppression inflicted on them unjustly and maliciously by unmercifull and wicked men that have usurped to themselves places and offices of power and authority both in State and Church”.

There is a Farthing Alley in Bermondsey which took its name from Aleyn Ferthing, a Southwark representative in the 14th-century parliament.

Hare Court, part of London’s Inner Temple, was named for Sir Nicholas Hare, who paid for the building of the court. Hare Master of Rolls to Queen Mary whose Parliament, on the 12th of November 1555, re-established Catholicism. (The restoration of Catholicism lasted only a short time; in 1558, on Mary’s death her half-sister Elizabeth I reversed it.)

Milk Street was the birthplace of Thomas More, who entered Parliament in 1504, was knighted in 1521 and became Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor in 1529 following the fall of Cardinal Wolsey. More was later to oppose the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and also refuse to take an oath renouncing the authority of the pope over that of the king. That led to him being tried and convicted of treason, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Let’s finish not with a street, but with a tower: the Elizabeth Tower where Big Ben is located. At the top of the tower is a light that was installed at the wishes of Queen Victoria so that she could see which of her Members of Parliament were sitting after dark.

Jane Austen, Oliver Cromwell, and a notorious pickpocket

16 December in London’s history: Jane Austen was born on this day in 1775. One of the most widely-read authors in English history, Austen spent her early life in Hampshire, moving to Bath and later Southampton with her family.

Austen did, however, visit London on occasion to visit her brother Henry, who was also her literary agent. One of the places she would have stayed was Henry’s residence in Hans Place, Knightsbridge. Hans Place was named after Hans Sloane, who founded the British Museum and also brought cocoa to England.

Also on this day in London’s history, Oliver Cromwell was appointed as appointed as Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland. There are many London associations with Cromwell, including Whitehall and Long Acre, where he lived; Cripplegate, where he was married; Tyburn, where his body underwent a mock execution on the 12th anniversary of the beheading of Charles I; and Red Lion Square, where his remains were reputed have been interred briefly before that mock execution.

Other Cromwell connections include Horseferry Road, where he is supposed to have taken the ferry; and Fleet Street, where the pickpocket Moll Cutpurse targeted Cromwell supporters.

Lotteries, rhubarb, and rude stockbrokers

This day in London history: on 11 January 1569, the world’s first national lottery was held to raise money for public works in England. In addition to money, one of the prizes included immunity from arrest for one week (but not if a serious crime was involved).

Lottery ticket
The original lottery ticket

Elizabeth I decided against introducing a tax, which might well have proved unpopular; instead she went for the lottery option. Tickets were sold three years beforehand, giving the government effectively an interest-free loan from the people. The ticket price of ten shillings was beyond the reach of the average person, but apparently the lottery was a huge success socially, and less successful financially.

According to the official ticket, it was “A very rich Lotterie generall, without any Blanckes, contayning a great number of good Prices, aswel of redy Money as of Plate and certaine sorts of Marchaundizes, having ben valued and priced by the commaundment of the Queenes most excellent Majestie, by men expert and skilfull.”

On 11 January 1668/69, Samuel Pepys notes in his diary that he went “with W. Hewer, my guard, to White Hall, where no Committee of Tangier met, so up and down the House talking with this and that man, and so home, calling at the New Exchange for a book or two to send to Mr. Shepley and thence home, and thence to the ‘Change”.

The ‘Change’ to which he refers is the Royal Exchange, founded in 1565 by Sir Thomas Gresham to act as a centre of commerce for the city, and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I, who awarded the building its Royal title, in 1571.

EAS_4102There is a Change Alley in London, which is nothing to do with metamorphosis, but is an abbreviation of ‘Exchange Alley’ – from the Royal Exchange. Towards the end of the 17th century, the Exchange was so crowded that many stockbrokers transacted their business in local coffee houses, Jonathan’s Coffee House in particular. [Some sources say that stockbrokers’ were banned from operating in the Royal Exchange because of their rude manners.]

EAS_4088
The current Royal Exchange with the Shard and Gherkin in the background

In any event, Jonathan’s was also the scene of the disastrous ‘South Sea Bubble’ scheme, speculation that ruined the purses and lives of thousands of investors. It started with the South Sea Company, given exclusive trading rights first with South America and then the South Seas. The company originally planned to convert the National Debt to a lower rate of interest and then take it over completely. Money poured into the scheme, resulting in gross over-speculation and the eventual bursting of the bubble. It was not just the unwary investors who were ruined financially: Members of Parliament were shown to have taken bribes and the bubble was a national scandal.

And also on this day in 1770, the first shipment of rhubarb went from London to the US: when Benjamin Franklin sent a plant to a botanist friend, John Bartram, in Philadelphia.

A Rump, a regicide, and two palaces

This day in London history: Pride’s Purge occurred on 6 December 1648. At the height of the second English Civil War, Colonel Thomas Pride, a supporter of Oliver Cromwell, led an attack on those Members of Parliament considered unlikely to support the army’s goal of punishing Charles I.Pride and his solders stood outside the entrance of Parliament, arresting and excluding more than half of the 460 Members. Following this coup a further 86 Members left in protest and the depleted gathering of around 200 became known as the Rump Parliament.

A small but determined band among the Rump drove through an Act that  established a court to try the king for high treason. Despite Charles I disputing the authority of the court, and widespread opposition to the trial, a verdict of guilty was declared. The death warrant was signed by a minority of less than half of the commissioners of the High Court originally established by the Rump, and later that month Charles I was beheaded outside the Banqueting House of the Palace of Whitehall.

Banqueting house
The Banqueting House

The palace gave its name to the street and area of Whitehall, long known as the seat of the English government. The Banqueting House, designed by Inigo Jones, is the only survivor of the original palace, which burned down in 1698. At the time, the palace was the largest in Europe, with over 1,500 rooms, outstripping even the Vatican and Versailles.

20131109-115052.jpgOriginally the official London residence of monarchs had been the Palace of Westminster and what later became the Palace of Whitehall was York Place, from the archbishop of York, and archbishops resided there for centuries. When Cardinal Wolsey became archbishop, he extended the palace to such a grand extent that, when he was deposed, Henry VIII took it over as his own residence and renamed it Whitehall after the colour of the building.

The name York Place lives on in  a small alley nearby, once called Of Alley.