Imatges de pÓgina
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cause of its growth, was, the royal residence being generally here; for which reason, most of the chief nobility also erected inns, or town-houses, in its vicinity, the sites of many of which still retair the names of their former owners.

Westminster continued for many ages a distinct cown from Lon. don, and the road belween them, on the sides of which the street called the Strand was afterwards built, passed along the river side, and through the village of Charing. This road, however, from the frequent passing of horses and carts, had become so dangerous both to men and carriages, that in the year 1353, an order of council was passed which imposed a duty on every pack of wool, as well as all other goods, carriell either by land or water to the staple of Westminster;' • for the purpose of repairing the highway leading from the gale of London, called Temple-bar, to the gate of the abbey at Westminster.'* It is evident from the record, that London and Westminster were then regarded as distinct towns; but it would be, perhaps, too much to infer, that the highway' between them, • now the noble street, called the Strand, was not then built upon, but was a mere country road, having, however, many noblemen's and gentlemen's houses and gardens adjoining to it,' &c. For we learn, from the same order of council, that the cause of the impost was, the highway, being by the frequent passing of carts and horses, carrying merchandize and provisions to the said staple, become so deep and miry, and the pavement so broken and worn, as to be very dangerous both to men and carriages ;' and we farther find, that it was ordained, that all owners of houses, adjacent to the highway, should repair as much as lay before their doors.'It seems pretty elear from these parts of the edict, that even at this early period the buildings of both cities bad extended considerably beyond their respective gates, along the line of the highway between them; although probably they did not reach ol. either side as far as Charing-cross, which is supposed to have derived its name from a village, called Charing, which anciently stood midway between London and Westminster. In 1385, it was new paved from Temple-bar to the Savoy; and some years after, by the interest of sir Robert Cecil, who had an elegant mansion where Cecilstreet now stands, the pavement was continued as far as his house.

In course of time, Westminster became a place of some consideration ; but it received its most distinguished honours from Henry VIII. who, on the dissolution of the monastery of St. Peter, converted it into a bishopric, with a dean and twelve prebendaries; and appointed the whole county of Middlesex, except Fulha..), which was to remain to the bishop of London, for its diocese. On this occasion Westminster became a city; for the making of which, according to lord chief justice Coke, nothing more is re quired, than to be the seat of episcopal power.

Hughson, vol. i, p. 78.

The old palace, near the abbey, baving been nearly destroyed by fire in 1512, Henry VIII. took up his residence at Whitehall, which he purchased, in 1530, of cardinal Wolsey. He also built the palace of St. James, and inclosed a fine spot of ground, which he converted into a park, for the accommodation of both palaces.

From this period, the buildings about Westminster began greatly to increase : but it did not long enjoy the honour of being a city; for it never had but one bishop, Thomas Thirleby, who being translated to the see of Norwich, by Edward VI. in 1550, the new bishopric was dissolved, and its right to the epithet of city was thereby lost. However, Westminster is still considered as a city, and is so stiled in our statutes.

The city of Westminster, properly so called, consists of but two parishes, viz. St. Margaret and St. John the Evangelist; but the liberties contain seven parishes, which are as follow: St. Martin, in the Fields ; St. James ; St. Anne; St. Paul, Covent-garden ; St. Mary-le-Strand; St. Clement Danes; and St. George, Hanoversquare; to which must be added, the precinct of the Savoy.

The government of both the city and liberties of Westminster is under the jurisdiction of the dean and chapter of St. Peter's, as well in civil as in ecclesiastical affairs, whose authority also extends to some towns in Essex, and the whole of their district is exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop of London, and of the archbishop of Canterbury. Since the Reformation, the management of the civil part of the government has been in the hands of laymen, elected, or, when appointed by their principals, confirmed by the dean and chapter.

The form of the civil government of Westminster was settled by an act of parliament passed in the 27th of queen Elizabeth, intituled, • An Act for the government of the city and borough of Westminster;' which directs the appointment of twelve burgesses, and twelve assistants, annually, to preside over twelve wards into which Westminster was at that time divided; and gives power to the dean, high steward, or his deputy, and the twelve burgesses, or any three of them, whereof the dean, bigh steward, or his deputy, to be one, to hear, determine, and punish according to the laws of the realm, or laudable and lawful customs of the city of London, all matters of incontinency, common scolds, inmates, common annoyances, &c. and to commit persons offending against the peace, to prison; but to give notice, within twenty-four hours, to some justice of the peace for the county. All good orders and ordinances, made by the dean and high steward, with the assistance of the burgesses, concerning the government of the inhabitants, and not repugnant to the queen's prerogative, or the laws of the land, to be of full force and strength.

Though the increase of the liberties of Westminster has rendered some alterations in this statute necessary, yet the substance of it is still the basis of the government of this city.

The first of these magistrates is the high steward, who is usually one of the chief nobility, chosen by the dean and chapter. His office has some affinity to that of a chancellor of an university; and he holds his place during life. On his death, or resignation, a chapter is called for the election of another, in which the dean sits as high steward, until the election is determined.

The deputy steward is appointed by the high steward, and confirmed by the dean and chapter. He is chairman of the court-leet; by which the high constable, the petty constables, and the annoyance juries are appointed.

The high bailiff is nominated by the dean, and confirmed by the high steward, and holds his place for life. He is returning officer at the election for members of parliament, and enjoys considerable profits from fines, forfeitures, &c. The office is generally executed by a deputy, who is an attorney of repute.

The burgesses are sixtecn in number, each of whom has an assistant. They are nearly similar to the aldermen and deputies in the city of London, but the exercise of their office is now principally confined to attending the courts leet, &c.

Before the year 1696, the inhabitants of Westminster were liable to be called upon to serve as jurors at the quarter sessions for the county of Middlesex ; but a clause was introduced into an act, passed in that year for regulating jurors, by which they were exempted from this duty

Notwithstanding the great extent of Westminster, the government of it bears but little resemblance to that of a large city; the inhabitants have no exclusive corporation privileges, nor are there any trading companies within its jurisdiction. The two members who represent it in parliament, like those of a common country borough, are chosen by the inhabitant householders at large; and the only courts held in Westminster, are, the court-leet, the quarter session, and two courts of requests, for the recovery of small debts. Westminster has, however, long been the seat of the royal palace, the high court of parliament, and of our law tribunals.

The building of the abbey is involved in mists too dense for the sun of antiquarian research to dissipate. The period of its erection, previous to Edward the Confessor's days, will not probably ever be discovered. In this venerable building lived Sulgardus, a monk, who devoted bis leisure hours to ahistory of it. He has, indeed, according to custom, used but little ceremony with St. Peter, or the choir of heaven; for he pressed both into his service, in order to make the consecration of this church hallowed and sublime.

Widmore, whose work is the only one worthy of implicit credit, both from his having been a learned man, and his unrestrained access to every species of record belonging to the abbey, fixes the foundation between the years 730 and 740 ; but is unable to say who is the founder. If, however, we could rely on dreams, and particularly on those of monks, we might quote the authority o. Wulsinus, that the apostle St. Peter himself had a chapel or oratory on the site of the magnificent pile dedicated to him. The vision of Wulsinus was turned to some advantage by the succeeding monks, who added a new legend of St. Peter's crossing the water one stormy night, to consecrate the church, and rewarding the fishermen who ferried him over Thorney (water which surrounded the church, the site of which was called Thorney Teland), with a miraculous draught of salmon, assuring him and ois fellow watermen that they should never want fish, provided they would give onetenth of what they caught to the newly consecrated church. To those who consider the influence of the Catholic priesthood, it will not excite much surprise that the tale was believed, and that for several centuries the monks of Westminster fed on the offerings of the Thames fishermen. What was at first solicited as a benevolence, in course of time was claimed as a right, so that in the year 1231, the monks brought an action at law against the priest of Rotherhithe, in which they compelled nim to give up to them onehalf of the tithe of all salmon caught in his parish.

It is very probable it was destroyed by the Danes, and rebuilt through the influence of Dunstan with king Edgar, and appropriated to the order of St. Benedict, and twelve monks, with endowments sufficient for their maintenance.

The monastery continued unmolested till Edward the Confessor, about 1050, piously resolved to thoroughly renovate it, and some authors

say

rebuild it, in the Norman style. Large revenues were given to the monks by the king; and his nobles, like true courtiers, copied his example.

Whether Edward entirely rebuilt the whole of this monastery, as well as the church, has not been ascertained, though it seems probable, considering the ardour with which he carried on the undertaking, and the vast sum which he appropriated to its support. Some remains of this building still exist, and will be described in their due place.

On the completion of the church, Edward determined to have it consecrated in the most solemn and impressive manner, and with that intent summoned all the bishops and great men in the kingdom to be witnesses of the ceremony, which took place on Holy Innocent's day (Dec. 28,) 1065. He shortly after died (4th or 5th of Jan. 1066) and was buried before the high altar in the new church.

In the time of abbot Laurentius, after the year 1159, some repairs were made to the out-buildings of the monastery, which had been destroyed by fire, and their roofs covered with lead.

Henry III. in the year 1220, on Whitsun-eve, May 16, laid the first stone of a chapel, which was dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary. Its site was that of the present chapel called Henry the seventh's.

In the year 1223, a furious assault was made upon the monastery by the exasperated citizens of London, who pulled down the steward's house, and did other considerable damage, in consequence of a dispute who was winner at a wrestling match. It appears that the people at the abbey were in some measure the aggressors, as the steward had armed them against the day he appointed for a second trial of skill.*

Nothing more occurs relating to the repair or additions to the Confessor's structure till the year 1245, when Henry III. began to take it down, in order to rebuild it. Matthew Paris, speaking of this sovereign, under the date 1245, says, • the king in the same year commanded that the church of St. Peter at Westminster, should be enlarged, and the tower with the eastern part overthrown, to be built anew and more handsome at his own charge, and fitted to the residue, or western part.' This circumstance, his gifts to the abbot and convent, his will, and the translation of the Confessor's body, would lead to a supposition that he was a man picusly disposed towards the clergy and religious orders. On the contrary he was a weak and artful prince, and suffered the most shameful exactions to be forced from the priesthood, through legates and nuncios, for the popes.

Henry appropriated a considerable sum to the rebuilding of the church; in the year 1246, the sum of 2,5911. due from the widow of one David of Oxford, a Jew, was assigned by him to that use.

In 1247, on the day of the translation of Edward the Confessor, a vessel of blood, which in the preceding year had been sent to the king by the knights templars and hospitallers in the Holy Land, and was attested by Robert, the patriarch of Jerusalem, to have trickled from our Saviour's wounds at his crucifixion, was presented with great ceremony to this church.t

During the reign of this monarch, pope Honorius III. demanded that two prebends in every cathedral, and two monk's portions in every monastery, should be appropriated to the holy see. Though the king did not interfere, the parliament did, and prevented such an arrangement from taking place. The clergy too were firm; but as the monarch, who often wanted the capacious shield of papal power as a guard from the resentment of his people, countenanced the legates, they did not escape many pecuniary demands, which were paid to avoid anathemas, excommunications, and deprivations.

On the 13th of October, 1269, the new church, of which the eastern part, with the choir and transept appears to have been at that time completed, was first opened for divine service; and on the same day, the body of Edward the Confessor, that before laye in the syde of the quere, where the monkes nowe singe,' was removed with great solemnity into ye chapell at the backe of the hygh • Vide an e, vol. i. p. 73. + Neale and Brayley's Hist. West. Abbey

i. p. 49.

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