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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Historic London: Its Teaching for the Child Part 1

by D. L. Maguire, L.L.A.
Volume 12, 1901, pgs. 203-208


". . . I suppose the great value of a grasp and realization of the subject is that it impressed upon the mind the sense of continuity--the continuity of the nation's life.


Read before the Dulwich Branch of the P.N.E.U. [Part 2 is below]

We want to look at the matter from the child's standpoint, and consider how it can be adapted to a child's understanding, and therefore I must ask my readers to bear with me if I write very simply, and of things with which they are already acquainted.

Let us think out the question: has this great city of ours--have its stones, its ancient landmarks--any message for the children, carried down through the long ages? And if, through want of appreciation, or through ignorance, which is generally the cause of that want, they miss that message, will it make any different to them? Will they be the poorer for it in heart, in mind, and in character? In the past year we have seen a great revival of patriotism and loyalty; we have learnt the meaning of the word "citizenship," and we know how the children have shared in the enthusiasm.

It seems to me that just now is the best of times for leading them to take an intelligent interest in their own city and its history. The means for this are ready at hand; an ordinary walk through some of the oldest parts of London will be the object lesson; and I have thought that it would be most helpful for our purpose to imagine such a walk, with the accompanying plan of old London to help us. Now, suppose we have promised this walk to a child, say, of 10 or 12, of course a certain amount of preparation beforehand will make all the difference; but I think a very little will be enough. Not long ago, during a history lesson, a little girl said to me, "I don't like going to see old churches like Westminster Abbey--they're so dry." However, when we had talked over our lesson (the reign of William the Conqueror), and some of the characters of that period began to seem real to her, she admitted, "I think I would like to see the place where Lanfranc lived."

We want to awaken an interest in the subject before starting. First, let us help the child to picture to himself the very first beginning of London--long before there were any history-books--long before there were any English dwelling in the land. (Here, and all through, the vivid imagination of a child will be our greatest help.) See the river, the same old, old Thames of to-day, flowing steadily down to the sea between low, desolate, marshy banks, where not a single dwelling is to be seen--no city, no chimneys, no people. On the north side there are hills, clothed with thick forest to be seen in the distance, and close to the water (Ludgate Hill and Cornhill) the bank rises to a height; but, for the most part, the shores are flat, and when the tide comes up twice a day they are covered with water, and the river looks much broader than it does now. A lonely desolate scene, the haunt of the wild fowl; think of the contrast--the silence of that lonely spot.

At last--we cannot say when--wild fierce hunters came, and fixed their dwelling on the western hill. The Romans found a British fort there. They built their city on the hill to the east (Cornhill), and the little stream of the Walbrook flowed between. Then the wall was built, gates, and a bridge of wood. It will not be necessary to go into details with the child about the coming of the English, and the consequent desolation of London, as of other cities. But we explain at once how, long after, King Alfred (who is almost sure to be a favourite) built up the ruined walls and made a new London, almost exactly 1,000 years ago. It is always a great difficulty to get children to have the faintest realization of periods of time, but a definite landmark like this is a little help.

Some little plan of the city, no matter how rough, drawn on a slate or a bit of paper, and showing the course of the wall, and the gates--as we have them on our plan--would be a great help to the child, and I can imagine his delight when at any time on the Inner Circle he caught the names--Bishopsgate, Aldersgate, etc.--written up.

And now we are ready to begin our walk. We will suppose that we have arrived at Blackfriars Station, a name that carries us back in thought to the ancient Dominican Monastery, founded in the reign of Edward I. Notice how the course of the wall was changed at that time for the sake of the Friars, and made to run further west to the bank of the Fleet River. We make our way to Ludgate Cricus, where a bridge crossed the Fleet, and ascend the hill, passing over the spot where one of the old gates used to stand--Ludgate. It was at the top of the hill, whence there used to be a steep descent to the river. This old gate was decorated with various statues--Led, the fabulous British King, and others. Now we see in front the oldest part of London, and St. Paul's rising before us; here we are in the heart of the City, at the centre of its life. For on this spot, though not in the same building, Londoners have worshipped God for more than 12 centuries; always the same prayers have gone up, the same hymns have been sung. The child will be able to tell us how Old St. Paul's was burnt down in the Great Fire (it was much more like Westminster Abbey than like the present Cathedral), and will perhaps know the name of Sir Christopher Wren as the builder of the new St. Paul's. We don't enter the Cathedral to-day; to visit the interior would be one day's work in itself, and most likely that has been done already. We pass through St. Paul's Churchyard, fancying that we are back in the old days when it was part of the Cathedral precincts, and was shut in by a wall from the rest of busy London. Instead of the shops we now see were cloisters and chapels, but in Paternoster Row, outside the wall of the precincts, books were sold as they still are--books of prayers for the people going into the Cathedral. Paul's Cross, too, stood in the Churchyard.

Emerging into Cheapside, we find ourselves in what has always been the busiest part of London. Chepe was the old market-place; before there were any dwelling houses, the goods were set out on stalls and in booths. Each trade had its own part of the market, and so afterwards, when house came to be built in Chepe, still the streets belonged to different trades, as their names still tell:--Bread Street, Wood Street, Milk Street, Cordwainer Street, Ironmongers' Lane, The Poultry, etc. But we have no time to stop and imagine the bustle of the market, the shouting of the apprentices, or the gorgeous processions that often passed through Cheapside on the festival days of Guilds, and the tournaments that took place there; nor can we to-day visit the Guildhall.

Our walk takes us in the other direction, along Newgate Street, past Christ's Hospital. The child will be interested in the quaint dress of the boys of the Blue Coat School; they seem to have walked straight out of a portrait of the time of Edward VI. Perhaps our little companion can tell us that the school was founded by the boy King; but we must help him to imagine the first dwellers at Christ's Hospital--the Grey Friars and Franciscans. We tell him the story of their first coming to live there, when they were still endued with the spirit of St. Francis, and loved best to dwell among the poor, and to care for the sick and dying. It is no wonder they were loved as they were, and that kings, queens, and great nobles vied with one another in providing them not only with a monastery, but with a splendid church (which was afterwards destroyed in the Great Fire). One has to exercise a great deal of self-restraint in talking to an intelligent child; it is so easy to tell him too much, and such a temptation to do so. Of course our aim must be rather to draw out and make use of what he already does know. So here, in the case of Christ's Hospital, our difficulty is to choose out of all the many memories that cluster around it. Here we meet with an old and familiar friend of childhood--the Dick Whittington of the old fairy-tale--and we find him to be indeed "thrice" mayor--though not Lord Mayor--of London, in the 15th century, dying a rich man, and providing in his will for a splendid library for the Grey Friars' Monastery. And then the Blue Coat boys who became great men--by-and-by the child will know them too. Two stand out clear and distinct: Charles Lamb, who loved every bit of Old London, and, indeed, could never bear to be long away from it, and his contemporary, Coleridge, the poet full of dreams and fancies, even as a boy.

A little past Christ's Hospital is the spot where another of the old gates (Newgate) stood, through which Watling Street passed--now we are outside the walls again. We turn to the right, up a street which has an interesting name--Giltspur Street. It suggests to us the pictures of a gay cavalcade of knights, in full armour, with gilded spurs, mounted on splendid chargers; and often and often, in those old days of the 13th and 14th centuries, such knights might be seen passing this way, bound for the wide open space outside the walls, which was called Smithfield or Smoothfield, and where tournaments were often held. On our way up Giltspur Street we pass Pie Corner, the spot where the Great Fire was stopped in this direction; the child will tell us how it began at Pudding Lane.

Now we enter Smithfield, and find it still a large, open space, though much smaller than it was in the old days. Then it was the great playground of the citizens--not only of the prentice lads, but of the men too. We look up at the walls of St. Bartholomew's Hospital on our right, and then we see, built right into the houses facing us, an ancient-looking gateway. We pass through, and find ourselves in a churchyard--the path leading straight up to a church in front of us. This is St. Bartholomew the Great, the oldest church in London. We don't want to trouble children with much explanation about architecture, but as we enter the solemn shadow of the old Norman building, I think they can feel the beauty and the strength of the massive pillars supporting the rounded arches--all suggestive of power, and long-enduring steadfastness; the stone dark and stained with the decay of ages. Perhaps we have already told the child the beautiful story of the founding of the church and of the hospital we have just passed. If not, we tell it quietly now, resting in the shadow of the arches, with a calming, quieting influence of the Norman architecture upon us. It is the story of Rahere, the gay courtier of Henry I. The child knows the story of Henry's great sorrow; we will tell him now how the shadow of the king's grief fell upon the courtier, till he too grew serious and more thoughtful. How he showed his new earnestness after the fashion of those days by going on pilgrimage to Rome, and was struck down by malarial fever while visiting the scene of St. Paul's martyrdom. His vow to care for other sufferers by building a hospital in his native London: his dream of St. Bartholomew and the command to build a church as well--a "spiritual house" which "Almighty God should inhabit and hallow." This glorious church, or fragment of a church (for it really is only the chancel and crossing of the original building), is one part of the fulfillment of Rahere's resolution. He became the first Prior of the monastery of Black Canons which he founded here. We cross over to the east end of the church, and look quietly at the founder's tomb, and the recumbent stone figure, said to be a true likeness of Rahere in the dress of his order. He rests beneath carved tabernacle work of the 15th century. A crowned angel at his feet holds a shield bearing the arms of the Priory, and a monk kneeling at each side reads from a book how "the Lord shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places." We understand this when we remember that in Rahere's time Smithfield was a waste, marshy piece of meadow-land. When he had received the grant of land from Henry I., he drained it, and put it to the noblest uses, for here he built his Priory church and hospital (1123). We must remember as we pass out again through the churchyard, that before the Reformation the church extended right down to the outer gate--that here was formerly the nave. Outside in Smithfield again, we picture it as it was in the 13th and 14th centuries: a large, open, grassy space shaded by great elms, surrounded by the noble buildings of the church, monastery, and hospital.

We cannot leave Smithfield without some mention of Bartlemy fair, as it was called. The privilege of holding a fair in the precincts of the Priory was granted by the kings from the very beginning. It was held for three days: the Eve, the Feast, and the Morrow of St. Bartholomew. First of all, it was a fair of clothiers and drapers to sell their goods, and merchants from Flanders and Italy came to it. The little street of Cloth Fair, which runs up beside the churchyard (and which contains very old and quaint, though squalid, houses) keeps the memory of this. It was a motley gathering that used to be seen at the fair--the crowd of merry folk around or in the churchyard, where the stalls and booths were set up, not only for the sale of cloth, but very soon for more attractive wares as well. All kinds of people were there; sober traders and mercers, gay knights and ladies, foreigners come to buy or sell, the mayor and aldermen dressed in scarlet robes come to declare the fair open, and all the poorer folk come to enjoy a holiday.

After the dissolution of the Priory, the fair still continued to be held, but no longer as a cloth fair. It overflowed into Smithfield, and now lasted fourteen days instead of three. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries it was described as a very uproarious fair, where finery, ribbons and toys were sold in booths. Hogarth has left us a picture of Southwark fair, and this gives us a good idea of what Bartlemy fair also was in his time, and well into our own century. We see in it the acting, the puppet shows, performing dogs, dancing bears, etc., usual at fairs.

(To be continued.)

Vol 12 pg 278-283 Historic London: Its Teaching for the Child Part 2
By D. L. Maguire, L.L.A.
(Continued from page 208.)

We are not far now from the end of our walk. Turning up the quaint little street I have mentioned, Cloth Fair, we say good-bye to the gay scene we have just been imagining. Cloth Fair is a very narrow street, and the upper stories of some of the houses project. This will help the child to realize a little what a street in Old London was like; and as we walk along we talk a little about the contrast between our London and that old one, and about the advantages we enjoy. The Londoners of that time threw out fragments of meat, decaying fish and vegetables into the streets, and in the middle of every thoroughfare there was a gutter, with a stream of not very clean water running through it. No wonder there was a great deal of sickness, and that from time to time London was visited by the Plague, or the Black Death. Perhaps we shall find that the child knows all about the terrible visitation in the reign of Edward III., when, Stow says, hardly one person in ten escaped, and in consequence there was not room enough in London to bury all the people who died. And now we come into Charterhouse Square, and we remember that just here is the plot of ground that Sir Walter Manny bought from the monks of St. Bartholomew's (when all this neighbourhood was waste land outside the walls of the city), with the compassionate desire of burying the victims of the Black Death, and so of lessening the danger of infection to those remaining alive in London.

I think, if we want to find a story of a brave man who, because he was full of true courage, therefore was also of a very tender heart, we cannot do better than tell our boys the tale of Sir Walter Manny. He was not an Englishman, but a native of Hainault, in Flanders. He had come to England with Queen Philippa when she married Edward III., and had been in the royal service ever since. He was one of the King's bravest knights, and fought for him in his French wars. At the time of the battle of Crecy, Sir Walter was holding the castle of Aiguillon, in the south of France, against Prince John, son of Philip of Valois. The Prince had sworn a vow that he would never leave the castle till he had taken it; but the English held out so stoutly that he was compelled at last, in spite of his promise, to raise the siege. Then Sir Walter, with his men-at-arms, burst out from the castle and dashed in among the retreating enemy, taking many prisoners. He heard from these of King Edward's victory at Crecy and of the siege of Calais then going on, and bargained with one of them, a rich knight, promising to set him free if he would obtain for him from Prince John a safe-conduct that he might go to his master at Calais. This was done, and Sir Walter set off with only 20 men-at-arms to travel through the enemy's country. He was taken prisoner on the way, and held captive by King Philip. But Prince John, always a man of his word, protested, and told his father that it would bring dishonour on them if the safe-conduct were broken. So Sir Walter Manny was released, and arrived at Calais before the surrender of the town. It was with him that the governor, John de Vienne, pleaded to intercede with Edward for the townspeople, and he was brave enough to speak plainly to the King. His gentle compassion and his courage both come out in this story, told us by the chronicler Froissart, who has other tales about him too. We have seen how this brave man, when he came home for a time to England, showed pity even to the dead. Then he went abroad to the wars again, but after a good many years, when he was quite an old man, it came into his mind that he would build a religious house close to the sad spot where he had made his cemetery. So he bought ten more acres of ground, and there he built a house for men of prayer, a monastery of Carthusian monks. This house, which in time came to be called the "Charterhouse," is what we have now come to see; but if we have succeeded in interesting the child in Sir Walter Manny, I fear he will be disappointed, when we have passed through the great gateway, to find how little is left of the old monastic buildings. Again imagination has to come to our aid, and we shall not be far wrong if we picture first a quadrangle, or four-sided court, surrounded by cloisters, with the monks' cells opening into them; on one side the beautiful chapel, which contains the founder's tomb; on another the chapter house and the refectory, a long low building, with the kitchens behind. Outside this court were others; among these, that called the Wash-house Court, the only part now remaining of 14th century work (except one wall of the present chapel). This is where the lay brothers lived, and there was a staircase leading up to their rooms above. The monks needed no staircase, as their rooms were on the ground. Then, too, there was the guest hall, large and spacious, an infirmary, and, of course, gardens, as always in a monastery. We have not time now to describe how the monks lived in this quiet spot, or to tell the story of their rude awakening and ejectment in the reign of Henry VIII.

Next we find the Charterhouse transformed into a stately town mansion, and belonging to the Howards, who named it Norfolk House. We realize this period best when we are taken into the great dining hall of that Duke of Norfolk who lived in the reign of Elizabeth, and suffered death for treasonably conspiring to set Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. We can tell that this hall belongs to Tudor times by the great windows, with the lines of the mullions running perpendicularly, crossed by others, dividing the windows into many lights. Here great feasts were held, while musicians played in the beautiful old minstrels' gallery at one end of the hall. In the old days this hall would be hung with tapestry, such as may still be seen in the great drawing-room to which we ascend by a wide oak staircase, with richly carved banisters. The tapestry is very old--so old that we cannot see the pictures at all plainly, the figures are so dim and the colours so faded. Imagine the gaiety and dancing that went on in this room; though the Duke himself must often have had a mind full of anxiety.

Once more the scene changes, and we see the Charterhouse passing into yet other hands. We show the child the portrait of Thomas Sutton, the founder of the celebrated school, dressed in a black gown and seated in a high-backed chair; the picture hangs at the upper end of the great dining-hall. He was a kind-hearted and good man, living in the reign of James I.; he had grown rich by trading, and, in his old age, thought how he could do good with his money. It was in 1611 that he refounded the Charterhouse as an almshouse for aged men and a school for boys. A new chapel was built at the same time, and we can go in and look at the founder's tomb, with the painted figure of old Thomas Sutton recumbent upon it. Then we think of the many, many boys who have been proud to belong to the Charterhouse School--Carthusians, as they are called. Some among them have become famous men--great soldiers, divines, artists, writers. There are the two great essayists, Steele and Addison, whose friendship began at school; clever, but lazy Dick Steele; Addison, with calm, gentle face and manner. There is John Wesley, the great preacher; Sir Henry Havelock, the gallant soldier; and Thackeray, the novelist, who has given is in The Newcomes a vivid picture of his old school under the name of "Grey Friars." Though Colonel Newcome is only a character in fiction, we are glad to introduce him to our boy-companion--for he is a grand character to know; so we trace his history from his life as a schoolboy to his death as one of the "Poor Brothers" at the Charterhouse. Other names might be mentioned; but at the present time the old Carthusian most interesting to boys is, of course, the brave soldier Baden-Powell; a hero of their own day means so much to them, and helps, too, to form a connecting link between present and past.

At the Charterhouse our walk ends; and now we want to consider briefly what teaching such an expedition as this has for the child-learner. I do not mean, of course, that I would give all this information to a child on one single walk, nor do I think we ought directly to teach much, but by suggestion and reminder help him to see these pictures of the past. My aim has been to show how much material for this there is in one fragment of Old London, leaving untouched such great historic monuments as Westminster Abbey, the Tower, etc.

The uses of such a walk are, I think, manifold. First, it will help the child to a greater realization of the past. To see the actual place where an interesting thing happened, or, even if the building itself has disappeared, to identify the spot where it once stood, is a help to the imagination. Thus a name alone, such as Giltspur Street, or the names of streets connected with the old market of Chepe, have power to carry us back to past days. I shall never forget a class of children whom I once took a part of this walk. They had been prepared for it, and knew what they were going to see, and I never had more delightful companions on a historical ramble, they were so eager and excited at every reminder of the past. Such a realization must of course lead to a deeper and more intelligent interest in history. Speaking of the history of our own country only, I suppose the great value of a grasp and realization of the subject is that it impressed upon the mind the sense of continuity--the continuity of the nation's life. There on the hill rises the mighty dome of St. Paul's, dominating the great city; the oldest part of it, as it were, the first-fruits of its life consecrated to God. It speaks to us of continuity of worship. Cheapside, on which St. Paul's looks down, roughly marks the spot on which our forefathers were wont to assemble to make their own laws and settle their own affairs--it is the place of the old Folk-moot. Here has always been the centre of trade and of civic life--of the national life. It was so in the time of Richard Whittington, when he entertained Henry V. magnificently in the Guildhall of those days, and when, a few years earlier, there was a gorgeous procession to St. Paul's to give thanks for the victory at Agincourt. So it is now, even this very week, (the lecture was given on October 25th, 1900) when the City Imperial Volunteers will march in procession to St. Paul's, returning from their victories in South Africa to be entertained by the Lord Mayor of 1900. How we felt the beating of the nation's heart--nay, of the heart of the Empire--on Ladysmith day, on Mafeking day; on that mystic spot of which the Mansion House forms the centre; how all London gravitated towards that centre, as by some irresistible attraction. We want the children to know why.

Then, too, let the child have a vivid realization of the men and the spirit of the men who founded the great hospitals of London (we have considered the origin of one), where the blessed work of healing is still carried on day after day, and he cannot think of the twelfth century as part of a dry history book which has nothing to do with us. Our great schools carry us back in thought to their founders, who gave so lavishly, so generously, to future generations. It must be good for the children's minds to be peopled with living memories of such men. There is old Thomas Sutton, in gown and ruff, thinking how best he can do good with his wealth. Sir Walter Manny, in armour, his shield dinted with blows got in many a battle, yet caring not for his own glory, but for the glory of God. Whittington, in the Mayor's scarlet or crimson gown and hood, full of thought for the good of London, caring for the poor prisoners at Newgate, rebuilding St. Bartholomew's hospital, giving a library to the Grey Friars. There are the Grey Friars themselves, going quietly about their self-denying work among the very poorest. The practical part of all this is the influence we hope it will have on the children's own lives. For when a child realizes that the life of the English nation is from first to last one continuous whole, then he will see that he, too, forms a link in the chain of the national life; and with that comes the sense of individual responsibility. We Londoners of to-day enjoy many good things which, only for the generous forethought and unselfishness of the past, we should not have. The child is the future citizen, and, if he is to be worthy of so great an ancestry, he must learn to bear his part nobly, as one who shares in the nation's life. The great king, Alfred, to whom we have been looking back as, in a sense, the founder of London, wrote some wise words as to the responsibility involved in the having a noble ancestry. He asks, "Art thou more fair for other men's fairness? The only thing which is good in noble descent is this--that it makes men ashamed of being worse than their elders, and strive to do better than they."

They are to be an inspiration to us, that the citizen of to-day may think, as they did, not of the present alone, but of those who are to come after him. A great man lately passed away from us has said that we have not rightly done our duty on the earth unless we have done something to benefit "not only the companions, but the successors of our pilgrimage." And he goes on to say, "God has lent us the earth for our life; it is a great entail. It belongs as much to those who are to come after us, and whose names are already written in the book of creation." And he adds, in the spirit of Rahere and other great men of the past, "Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever."


Proofread May 2011, LNL