Imágenes de página

crown, and, tradition says, owes its name to a palace standing here in the days of King Edgar, in former times as signed by the monarchs of Britain to the use of the tributary Scottish kings, when resident in London.

Somerset House, Strand.· - On the site of the present range of buildings formerly stood a magnificent palace, erected about 1549, in the mixed Gothic and Grecian style, then recently become fashionable, by the Duke of Somerset, Protector of the realm, during a part of the minority of Edward VI. The architect is supposed to have been John of Padua, who was employed by Henry VIII. On the attainder of the Duke of Somerset, his palace became the property of the crown, and was the occasional abode of Elizabeth and other Royal Personages. This structure was levelled with the ground in 1775, pursuant to act of parliament, and the present grand, appropriate, and extensive edifice raised in its stead, after designs by Sir William Chambers. It was intended to concentrate all the public offices, except those already enumerated; and besides them, a portion of the building has been devoted to the use of the Royal Society, the Society of Antiquaries, and the Royal Academy of Arts. The front, in the Strand, is composed of a rustic basement, supporting columns of the Corinthian order, crowned in the centre with an attic, and at the extremities with a balustrade. The basement consists of nine large arches, three in the middle, open, and forming the principal entrance, and three at each end, filled with windows of the Roman Doric order, adorned with pilasters, entablatures, and pediments. On the key-stones of the nine arches are carved, in alto relievo, nine colossal masks, representing Ocean, and the eight great rivers of England, viz. the Thames, Humber, Mersey, Dee, Medway, Tweed, Tyne, and Severn, with emblems to denote their various characters. The Corinthian columns, over the basement, are ten in number, placed upon pedestals, having their regular entablature. Here are comprehended two floors. The attic, which distinguishes the centre of the front, extends over three intercolumniations, and is divided into three parts, by four colossal statues, placed on the columns of the order. It terminates with a

group, consisting of the arms of the British empire, supported on one side by figures emblematic of the Genius of England, and on the other by Fame, sounding her trumpet.

The three open arches in the Strand front form the principal entrances to the whole structure. They open to a spacious and elegant vestibule, decorated with Roman Doric columns. The inner front of this main body of the building that overlooks the magnificent quadrangular court, is also of the most elegant composition, consider. ably wider than that facing the Strand, and has two projecting wings. A continuous pile of stately buildings ranges round the court, and presents, on the side next the Thames, a yet grander, though still incomplete, front, which comprises one of the finest terraces in the world. This terrace commands a view of a beautiful part of the river, with Blackfriars, Waterloo, and Westminster bridges. It is reared on a noble rustic basement, having thirty-two spacious arches. The arcade thus formed, is judiciously relieved by projections, ornamented with rusticated columns, and the effect of the whole, from the water, is majestic and impressive. Were it generally known that this terrace, which forms a truly delightful promenade, is open to the public, it would surely be much more frequented than it is at present.

In the spacious court, and directly fronting the entrance, is a bronze statue of the late King, with a figure of the River Thames at his feet, pouring wealth and plenty from a large cornucopia. It is by Bacon, possesses his charac teristic cast of expression, and is finely executed.

The major part of this grand national structure is occupied by the various offices and by the abodes of different officers of the government. The former are at once commodious, elegant, and worthy of the wealth of the nation to which they belong: business is transacted in them with most admirable order. The hall of the Navy Office is a fine room, having two fronts, one facing the terrace and the other open to the court. On the east is the Stamp Office, which consists of numerous apartments: the room in which the stamping is executed will interest the curious. On the west is the Pay Office of the Navy. Here are also the offices of the Auditor of the Exchequer; of the

Chancellors of the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster; the Hawkers' and Pedlars' Office; Lottery Office; Stage coach Office; Legacy-duty Office; and the revenue establishment of the Tax-Offices. From a late debate in the House of Commons, it appears that the government propose shortly, to complete this building.

[ocr errors]

The Tower of London. - The Tower of London was anciently a royal palace, occasionally inhabited by the various sovereigns of England, from the Norman Conquest till the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Fitz-Stephen says, it was originally built by Julius Cæsar; but there is no evidence of the truth of this assertion, beyond the circumstances, that one of the towers is called Cæsar's Tower, and that coins of the Emperors Honorius and Arcadius were discovered on a part of the site, when digging for the foundations of the new Ordnance Office, in 1777.

It is, however, certain that William the Conqueror erected a fortress where the Tower now stands, to overawe the inhabitants of London, on his first gaining possession of the city. About twelve years after, in 1078, the Conqueror erected a larger building, either on the site of the first fortress or near it. This building is that now called the White Tower. In 1092, William Rufus laid the foundation of a castle on the south side of the White Tower, between it and the river, which was finished by his successor, Henry I. Rufus also surrounded this fortress with a stone wall. During the reign of Richard I., in 1190, the Chancellor Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, increased the fortifications and surrounded the whole with a deep ditch on the outside. In 1240, Henry III. added a stone gate and bulwark, with other buildings, to the west entrance. He repaired and whitened the large square tower built by the Conqueror, on which occasion it probably first took the name of the White Tower; and in the subsequent part of his life he greatly augmented the fortifications, and extended and deepened the great ditch or moat. Edward I. followed his father's example, and erected some strong outworks towards the west, as a defence to the main entrance. By the command of Charles II. in 1663, the ditch was completely cleansed, the wharfing rebuilt with brick and stone, and sluices made for admitting and retaining the water of

the river, as occasion might require. This moat was again cleansed during the popular discontents in George the Third's reign, and the outer walls were repaired at the same time.

The right of the city to Tower Hill was long disputed by the crown. In the reign of Edward IV. some king's officers having erected a gallows and scaffold for an execution on this spot, the citizens remonstrated, and the king disavowed the act by proclamation; since which time, all persons executed on Tower Hill, for high treason, are previously consigned to the custody of the sheriffs of London, who preside over the awful ceremony there, as in all other places within their jurisdiction.

The extent of the Tower, within the walls, is twelve acres and five roods. The exterior circuit of the ditch surrounding it, is 3156 feet. On the river side is a broad and handsome wharf, or gravelled terrace, separated by the ditch from the fortress, and mounted with sixty pieces of ordnance, which are fired on the royal birth-days, or in celebration of any remarkable event. From the wharf into the Tower is an entrance by a drawbridge. Near it is a cut connecting the river with the ditch, having a watergate, called Traitors' Gate, state prisoners having been formerly conveyed by this passage from the Tower to Westminster, for trial. Over Traitors' Gate is a building containing the water-works that supply the interior with water, and near it is the Bloody Tower, which, in Henry VIII.'s reign, was called the Garden Tower; it did not receive the former appellation till the time of Queen Elizabeth. Whatever sanguinary deed might have led to its obtaining that epithet, there is no real cause for supposing that the ill-fated Edward V. and his brother were smothered in this tower, nor indeed that they were ever confined in it.

Within the walls of this fortress are several streets. The principal buildings which it contains are, the White Tower, the ancient Chapel, the Ordnance Office, the Record Office, the Jewel Office, the Horse Armoury, the grand Store House, and the Small Armoury, besides the houses belonging to the constables and to other officers, the Barracks for the garrison, and two suttlinghouses, commonly used by the soldiers.

The principal entrance to the Tower is toward the west.

It consists of two gates on the outside of the ditch, a stone bridge built over the ditch, and a gate in the inside. These gates are opened every morning with the following ceremony. The yeoman porter, with a serjeant and six men, goes to the Governor's house for the keys. Having received them, he proceeds to the innermost gate, and, passing that, it is again shut. He then opens the three outermost gates, at each of which the guards rest their firelocks while the keys pass and repass. On his return to the innermost gate, he calls to the warders on duty, to take King George's Keys, when they open the gate, and the keys are placed in the warder's hall. At night, the same formality is used in shutting the gates; and as the yeoman porter, with his guard, is returning with the keys to the governor's house, the main-guard, which, with its officers, is under arms, challenges him with Who comes there? he answers, The Keys, and the challenger replies, Pass Keys. The guards, by order, rest their firelocks, and the yeoman porter says, God Save King George, the soldiers all answering, Amen. The bearer of the keys then proceeds to the governor's house and there leaves them. After they are deposited with the governor, no person can enter or leave the Tower without the watchword for the night. If any person obtains permission to pass, the yeoman porter attends, and the same ceremony is repeated..

The Tower is governed by its Constable, at present the Marquis of Hastings at coronations and other state ceremonies, this officer has the custody of the crown and other regalia. Under him is a lieutenant, deputy lieutenant, commonly called governor, tower-major, gentlemanporter, yeoman-porter, gentleman-gaoler, four quarter gunners, and forty warders. The warders' uniform is the same as that of the yeomen of the King's guard.

The Tower is still used as a state-prison, and, in general, the prisoners are confined in the warders' houses; but, by application to the privy-council, they are usually permitted to, walk on the inner platform during part of the day, accompanied by a warder.

The Lion's Tower, or Menagerie, formerly called the Bulwark, was built by Edward IV. It is situated on the

« AnteriorContinuar »