The Chelsea of Sir Thomas More – Crosby Hall – Cheyne Walk – Sandford Manor – Chelsea Hospital – Buns – Chelsea Old Church – The Physic Garden – Ranelagh
Knightsbridge to Soho
Tattersall's – Ely House – London Museum – St. James's Church – The Haymarket Shoppe – A King in Soho
Trafalgar Square to Fleet Street
The Strand – Charing Cross – Water Gates – The Adelphi – St. Clement Danes – Savoy Chapel – Prince Henry's Room – The Temple
Round about the Tower
Roman Baths – London Stone – Great Tower Street – All Hallows, Barking – St. Olave's – Roman Wall – Port of London Authority – Trinity House – The Crooked Billet – The Tower
Round about Cheapside
Bow Church – The Old Mansion House – The Old Watling Restaurant – 37, Cheapside – Wood Street – The City Companies – The Guildhall
Round about Holborn
Tyburn – Staple Inn – Tooks Court – Gray's Inn – Hatton Garden – Ely Place – St. Sepulchre's – Panier Alley
Down Chancery Lane
Lincoln's Inn Fields – Soane Museum – Lincoln's Inn – Record Office – Moravian Chapel – Nevills Court – Clifford's Inn
The Charterhouse and St. Bartholomews
Pye Corner – St. Bartholomew's the Great – St. John's Gate – The Charterhouse
A stroll in Whitehall and Westminster
Whitehall – United Services Museum – The Abbey Cloisters – The Chapter House – Ashburnham House – Jerusalem Chamber – St. Margaret's
British Museum – Foundling Hospital – South Kensington – Wallace – Geffrye
Hyde Park – Kensington Gardens – Green Park – St. James's Park – Regent's Park – Battersea – Kew
List of Illustrations
The Old Snuff House
Water Gate, York House
St. Clement Danes
Dr. Johnson's Pew, St. Clement Danes
The Temple Church, The Round
London Stone, Cannon Street
The Tower of London, Byward Tower
The Tower of London
Traitors' Gate, Tower of London
Gray's Inn Hall
Lincoln's Inn Gateway
Rahere's Tomb in St. Bartholomew's Church
Church of St. Bartholomew the Great
St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell
The Charterhouse from the Square
United Services Museum
Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey
Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens
Trafalgar Square to Fleet Street
"For such things do go on in Fleet Street as no man has written yet."
One of the most enthralling and endearing things about London is the way the memory of the great people, whose names are so familiar that you feel you would know their bearers if you met them, pervades the city and crops up in such very unexpected places. If business ever took you through that evil-smelling fishy Lower Thames Street, you would discover that Chaucer lived there for six years when he was Comptroller of the Petty Customs in the Port of London. You stroll through the little Cloisters in Westminster Abbey, of all places in the world, and someone tells you that Lady Hamilton once lived in the Littlington Tower, when she was servant to Mr. Hare and had no thought that she would ever inspire a hero to great victories. You think that when you have seen Sir Thomas More's tomb in Chelsea Old Church, and Crosby Hall nearby, you have exhausted the souvenirs of his life, but you find him again in Westminster Hall, where he was condemned to death – in the Deanery where he spent two months in charge of the Abbot of Westminster, – in Lincoln's Inn – in Milk Street in the City, where he was born, "the brightest star that ever shone in that Via Lactea" – in the church of St. Lawrence Jewry where he lectured, and in the Tower where he died.
Dr. Johnson, of course, was ubiquitous. He went everywhere and usually said something noteworthy about everything. One of the great difficulties in writing this book has been to refrain from quoting him too frequently, and Pepys is even worse. The kindly official in the Clothworkers' Hall (where I lunched once on a special occasion) said to me: "Samuel Pepys, Ma'am, Pepys the great Diarist – you may have heard of him," and I felt like replying: "My good man, I have been with your Pepys through Chelsea – and in St. Margaret's, Westminster, where he was married – I have seen his portrait at the Royal Society Rooms in Burlington House and his house in Buckingham Street – the church of St. Bride, where his birth was registered – St. Lawrence Jewry, where he was disappointed with Wilkins' sermon – All Hallows, Barking, that, as he wrote on the 5th September, 1666, only just escaped the Great Fire – his parish church of St. Olave's, where he worshipped, and Hyde Park, where he used to go driving with his wife."
"Through the long Strand together let us stray,
With thee conversing I forget the way."
Of all delightful places to meet memories of famous bygone people, the most intriguing is the Strand. A superficial glance at this modern bustling street shows little of the past still clinging about it. But a little further on you will discover, if you look for them, a bit of Roman London, a Renaissance chapel, a statue with a history, a lovely group of eighteenth-century houses, the water gate of a former fine mansion on the riverside, and a church that links us to the time of the Danish invasion.
The Londoner would probably tell you that Piccadilly Circus is the centre of his city; the historian, St. Paul's; but to the foreigner, the visitor from overseas, or to the Anglo-Indian back from the East, the centre will always be Charing Cross.
It has been a starting-point for the traveller from the days when the little old village of Charing was used as a halting-place on the way to the City or to the Royal Palace of Westminster. Probably that is the true derivation of the name; "La Charrynge" meant the Turning, the great bend where the two roads met, but a prettier tradition derives its name from Edward I.’s dear queen ("chère Reine"). Another cross to her memory once stood here, the most beautiful of all those set up by the sorrowing king wherever her bier rested on its journey from Grantham to Westminster Abbey. Cromwell's Parliament, with its passion for destruction, pulled it down in 1647, and the column which now stands in the courtyard in front of the station is only a memorial modelled as far as possible on the original design. It was set up by Barry about sixty years ago, but it is already so weather-beaten that many people are under the amiable delusion that it is the very cross erected in 1291.
The exact position of the old cross is now covered by King Charles I. on horseback, facing the scene of his death in Whitehall, and this statue has had an even more adventurous history.
It was cast originally in 1633 and after the king's execution it became so unpopular that Parliament sold it to a brazier to be melted down. With an eye to the possibilities of the future that a diplomat might envy, this man cannily buried the statue and did a roaring trade with the Royalists in relics supposed to have been made from the fragments. After the Restoration the statue quietly came to light again, and was set up in its present position in 1674 with popular rejoicings. Its tribulations were not yet over. About the time of Queen Victoria's Coronation, some curio-hunting thief stole the sword, a real one of the period, that hung at the side and it has never been replaced.
Another curious thing about this statue lies in the absence of girths to the saddle or trappings on the horse, and it is said that when this oversight was pointed out to the sculptor Le Sueur, he was so overcome with mortification that he committed suicide on the spot.
In the days when London was no bigger than one of our second-rate provincial towns, Charing Cross was its market square. Here stood the pillory, even as late as the beginning of the last century; here were read the Royal proclamations, and here were the booths of the showmen who dealt in giants and fat ladies, – it was here, too, that Punch made his first appearance in England in 1666. Where the railway station now stands was Hungerford Market, and Trafalgar Square occupies the yard of what were once the Royal Mews, where the king's falcons were kept till they were replaced by the king's horses. It is rather odd that the word "mews" is now always associated with stables, for it once meant the pens or coops in which moulting falcons were kept (from the French muer – to moult). Geoffrey Chaucer, who lodged at Westminster, was in his time Clerk of the King's Works and of the Royal Mews.
"In some parts of London we may go back through the whole English history, perhaps through the history of man."
People seem to think that a great deal of time and energy must be spent if they wish to see anything of historic London, and they pass by, unnoticed, many of the most interesting reminders of bygone periods, just because they may see them every day.
Buckingham Street, leading out of the Strand, is only a stone's throw from Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross and it is full of historic memories. What stories the beautiful old water gate at its foot could tell of the days when the silver Thames washed up and down its grey stone steps, and of the famous people who used to take boat there!
It was built by my Lord Duke of Buckingham, that hated favourite of James and Charles the First, who cuts such a sorry figure in English history books and such a romantic one in the pages of Dumas. He was the father of the extravagant, erratic George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, whom Scott describes in Peveril of the Peak, and Pope more pungently:
Who in the course of one revolving moon,
Was chemist, fiddler, statesman and buffoon.
Lely painted a wonderful portrait of the son. It hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, but even more interesting is the Vandyck picture of him with his brother Francis, painted when they were boys, and lately bought for the National Gallery.
With his father murdered, and his property confiscated by the Commonwealth and given to General Fairfax, the duke solved his problem by marrying the General's daughter and heiress, a solution for which Cromwell made him pay by a sojourn in the Tower, where he was an intermittent resident. But in spite of his wife's fortune the man who, "was everything by turns and nothing long" was obliged to sell the magnificent mansion that his father had re-built in 1625 on the site of the old York House.
The earlier mansion had been the home of the Bishop of Norwich in Henry VIII.’s time, of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, of the Archbishop of York, who gave the house its name, and of Sir Francis Bacon who loved the place and only left it for the Tower.
In 1672 the second York House was sold for £30,000, with the stipulation that the streets built on the site were to be given the Duke's names. They are quite easy to trace: there is George Court, with the George Tavern, where you may eat your chop to the sound of an orchestra of singing birds; hard by are Villiers and Duke Streets; "Of" Lane has been re-christened York Place, – and now we are back in Buckingham Street.
The new quarter soon had famous tenants. John Evelyn lived for a year in Villiers Street, and forty years later Sir Richard Steele had a house there. No. 14, Buckingham Street, has been much remodelled since Samuel Pepys lived there and walked down the steps of the water gate on his way to visit his friend Mr. Cole in Brentford. There is a tablet on the house to tell the passer-by that the Earl of Oxford, William Etty and Clarkson Stanford, the marine painter, also lived here.
The house opposite looks far more modern, but within the very new outer walls of the offices of the Royal National Pension Fund for Nurses are preserved much of the exquisite carving, ceiling paintings, and elaborate stucco work that belong to the time when Peter the Great, Czar of all the Russias, came over to England in 1698 and lodged in these very rooms. David Hume, Rousseau, Fielding and Black all lived at No. 15, now incorporated in No. 16, but the Dickens lover will ignore these famous names and only remember that the rooms at the top of the house are the very ones taken by Miss Betsy Trotwood for David Copperfield.
With the exception perhaps of that Shah of Persia who spent a happy holiday in England in the reign of the late Queen Victoria, I suppose we never had a more eccentric royal visitor than Peter the Great. No doubt that is the reason why the memories of his brief stay here still seem to cling about so many parts of London. This strange being, half-barbarian, half-genius, had great ambitions and achieved them. As Voltaire says: "He gave a polish to his people and was himself a savage; he taught them the art of war, of which he was himself ignorant; inspired by the sight of a small boat on the river Moskwa, he erected a powerful fleet and made himself an expert and active shipwright, pilot, sailor and commander; he changed the manners, customs and laws of the Russians, and lives in their memory as the father of his country."
Ships and shipbuilding were his passion. He went to Holland and worked in the yards there as a mechanic, calling himself Pieter Timmermann, until he had mastered the manual part of his craft. Then he came to England to study the theory of shipbuilding. King William III. placed the house in Buckingham Street, so conveniently close to the river, at his disposal, and invited him to Court when he felt inclined. But Pieter hated crowds and ceremonies and preferred to spend his days in hard work and his evenings drinking and smoking with boon companions.
At the end of a month, finding himself too far from the dockyards, he moved to Deptford, and put up at Sayes Court, kindly lent to him by John Evelyn. He was a dreadful tenant. We all know how Evelyn loved his garden, – but the Czar and his rough crowd trampled the flower-beds and spoilt the grass-plots, and trundled wheelbarrows through the diarist's pet holly-hedge for exercise. "There is a house full of people right nasty!" wrote Evelyn's indignant servant to his master. They ate and drank enormously, – eight bottles of sack after dinner were nothing to Pieter, and listen to this for a breakfast menu for twenty-one persons: hall a sheep, a quarter of lamb, ten pullets, twelve chickens, three quarts of brandy, six quarts of mulled wine, seven dozen of eggs, with salad in proportion.
Much of his time, when he was not gathering the vast store of information that he afterwards used to such excellent advantage, the Czar spent sailing on the river, and in the evening he would repair with favoured members of his suite to a public-house in Great Tower Street. The old tavern has been rebuilt, but the name "The Czar of Muscovy," and later "The Czar's Head," that it adopted as a compliment to its imperial visitor, is there to this day, and you may see it close to the city merchant's house at No. 34 that is noticed in another chapter.
The "right nasty" people did not stay long, luckily for Evelyn's peace of mind, but returned to London for another month or two. Then saying good-bye to King William, who had certainly treated him very well, the Czar pressed into his hand a little twist of brown paper, in which was found a ruby valued at £10,000, and sailed away home for Russia, taking with him no fewer than 500 English captains, scientists, pilots, gunners, surgeons, sail-makers, anchor-smiths, coppersmiths and the like, all ready for adventure in the unknown, according to the tradition of their race.
To come back to the Strand. It is fairly certain that the rather heavy and unattractive stone archway and steps at the bottom of Essex Street (at the other end of the Strand) formed the water gate of old Essex House, once occupied by the Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth's favourite.
It compares very badly with the water gate in Buckingham Street, which was designed by Inigo Jones in 1625, and built by Nicholas Stone the master mason, who carved one of the lions on its frontage. The London climate has blurred the outline of the arms of the Villiers family on the south side, and the motto "Fidei Coticula Crux" on the north, and the raising of the Embankment now prevents the waters of the Thames from swirling round the old stone steps. No monarch had passed through the water gate since the days of Charles II. until Queen Alexandra came to open the new building in Buckingham Street in 1908. Its glory has departed, but there it stands, useless, unnoticed and forgotten, yet how beautiful!
"I like the spirit of this great London which I feel around me."
Retracing your steps up Buckingham Street, turn to the right along Duke Street and John Street, and you will find yourself in the Adelphi, that oasis of calm quiet so near the roar of the bustling Strand, where literary stars of the present day like to pitch their luxurious tents. Note the steep hill up which you climb. This is the roof of the arches which the brothers Adam built over the site of old Durham House in order that they might erect their elegant houses on a level with the Strand. You can still wander in these vaults, if you are lucky enough to find an open gate; they are curious, and were once a fine rendezvous for evil characters.
The Duke of Buckingham's names are not the only ones to be perpetuated here. The architects, Robert John James and William Adam, all had streets named after them, and they called the whole quarter the Adelphi because they were brothers.
William Street has lately been re-christened Durham House Street, to remind us that the Adelphi was built on the site of Durham House, where Lady Jane Grey was born.
Probably the Adelphi will have to go some day, when a proper bridge for Charing Cross is built across the river here, but lovers of this little bit of unspoiled Georgian London will miss its old-world charm and dignity.
St. Clement Danes
"Blith be thy chirches, wele sownyng be thy bellis."
Nowadays, looking eastward up the Strand, the eye is caught by the two churches of St. Mary-le-Strand and St. Clement Danes, standing isolated in the centre of the roadway, whilst the traffic roars past on either side. In the Middle Ages you would still have seen St. Clement's, though half engulfed in a rookery of ill-smelling, crazy old timbered houses, with so narrow a passage between that coachmen called it the "Straits of St. Clement's." But on the site of St. Mary's stood a maypole, one hundred feet high, dear to the heart of the city youth for the merry-makings that took place around it. Such giddy proceedings vexed the Puritans, who swept it away in an outburst of righteous indignation, but old customs die hard, and at the Restoration another and still lordlier pole was set up with royal approval, and dancing and junketings went on around it for many a long day.
The church of St. Clement's takes us back to very ancient history. Some say that beneath it lie the bones of King Harold and other Danish invaders. What is pretty certain is that the original church was built, after the expulsion of the Danes, by the few settlers who, having married English wives, chose to remain behind, on condition that they did not stir out of the strip of land that lay between the Isle of Thorney, now Westminster, and Caer Lud, now Ludgate.
Travellers from all over the world who have shared the common traditions of childhood, feel a queer sense of kinship when they pass along the Strand and suddenly hear the old bells ringing out the familiar tune of "Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement's." The bells of the nursery-rhyme are not those of St. Clement Danes, but of the St. Clement's, Eastcheap, which for centuries has been in the centre of the dried fruit trade.
The bells were famous even in Shakespeare's day. "We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow," says Falstaff in Henry IV. Those chimes are gone, but the present peal of ten bells, cast in 1693, is as famous for its music.
One might write a whole history of church bells, from the time when Turketul, Abbot of Croyland in Lincolnshire, in the ninth century, presented his abbey with the great bell Guthlac, and added six others with the rhythmic names of Pega, Bega, Bettelin, Barthomew, Tatwin and Turketul, to make a peal.
In the early monkish days they looked upon bells as the voices of good angels: they were blessed and dedicated: the passing bell was tolled to keep off evil spirits from the dead. Henry VIII., that ruthless iconoclast, cared little for superstition, and in the general destruction of the religious houses hundreds of old bells were sold or melted down. But the pious people of those days would point out how the Bishop of Bangor, who sold his Cathedral bells, was shortly afterwards stricken with blindness, and that Sir Miles Partridge won the Jesus Bells of St. Paul's from King Henry at play and, proceeding to remove them and have them melted down, was hanged soon after on Tower Hill.
The bells of St. Clement's were added after the church had been rebuilt in 1692, under the supervision of Sir Christopher Wren, who gave his services for nothing in his usual generous-hearted way.
St. Clement's is dear to all true Londoners as Dr. Johnson's church. You may see the very pew where he sat, and there is something about the solid, handsome structure that seems to fit the thought of the ponderous great man who worshipped there Sunday by Sunday, striving "to purify and fortify his soul and hold real communion with the Highest." It is a fine and a prosperous church, and so richly endowed that at one time all the paupers of the neighbourhood used to flock there for the sake of what they could get. That they were well looked after, the carefully kept parish registers bear witness as far back as 1558. There are other interesting entries in the old registers. You may read of the baptism of Master Robert Cicill, the sonne of ye L. highe Threasurer of England, and of the marriage of Sir Thomas Grosvenor with Mary Davies, the child heiress of Ebury Manor, who brought to her husband all those lands of Pimlico and Belgravia from whose rents the Dukes of Westminster draw the bulk of their colossal fortune. Her life story has been published recently by Mr. Charles T. Gatty in his two volumes, Mary Davies and The Manor of Ebury.
Chapel Royal of The Savoy
"It is a wonderful place... this London... and what do I know of it?"
From St. Mary's and St. Clement's it is but a few minutes' walk back along the Strand to the Chapel Royal of the Savoy, that once served all the district, but it is now perhaps the tiniest parish in London west of Temple Bar. There it stands in its quiet graveyard, all that is left to remind us of "the fayrest manor in England." The old palace of the Savoy was built by Simon de Montfort, that "Cromwell of the Middle Ages," on land granted by Henry III. to his wife's uncle, Peter of Savoy, for which the said Peter had to pay the not very exorbitant rent of three barbed arrows. Afterwards it came into the possession of the Dukes of Lancaster. Here it was, in 1357, that the Black Prince, riding on a little black hackney, brought his prisoner King John of France, who stayed here, with brief intervals, till his death, as nobody seemed able to raise the money for his ransom. And here lived John of Gaunt, with his numerous household, not least of whom was Geoffrey Chaucer. Later came Henry IV., who annexed the manor, and since his time it has always belonged in a particular manner to the reigning house.
Nothing is left, though, to tell of it, save the chapel, which was begun by Henry VII. in place of a more ancient one fallen into decay, – and that strange judicial survival, the Court Leet with view of Frankpledge of the Manor and Liberty of the Savoy. Few people know that once a year the jury of the Court, headed by the Beadle with his silver-topped and carved staff of office, solemnly makes the round to inspect the boundary marks of the Manor. One is in Child's Bank, another on the Lyceum stage, one in Burleigh Street, one by Cleopatra's Needle, another in Middle Temple Lawn, where many scuffles have taken place in the past between the jurymen and indignant Benchers and officers of the Inns of Court concerning the question of trespass. The Court itself, which dates back to Saxon days, sits annually about Easter time, and still does "what is usually called everybody's business, and nobody's business," as a former High Bailiff wrote.
The old Roman Bath in Strand Lane is a little beyond St. Clement Dane's, and next to the Tube station. That belongs to a later chapter, but a short way further, on the same side of the road, is another bit of unnoticed London.
Prince Henry's Room
"London, thou art the flour of Cities all."
Prince Henry's room is one of those charming links with the past that lie unnoticed in the path of thousands who never stop to heed the story. At No. 17, Fleet Street, close to the ceaseless traffic of the Law Courts, is an unobtrusive timbered house. Through a low archway you see an eighteenth-century oaken stairway that leads to a sedate Jacobean room, where very few people ever come to disturb the peaceful, dignified atmosphere. The Council of the Duchy of Cornwall is supposed to have once met here regularly and I believe that from time to time Prince Henry's room is now used for the meetings of various associations, but if you visit it any day between ten and four you will almost certainly find no one to disturb the ghosts of bygone cavaliers but the war veteran who passes his days there ruminating on the delinquencies of historians.
The house is one of the oldest in the City. It was built in 1610, the year that Henry, the elder son of James I. of England, was created Prince of Wales; and the room is known as Prince Henry's room. Look at the lovely Jacobean art of the panelling on the west wall, and the decorated plaster ceiling, where in the centre you will find the device of this lamented "prince of promise," who died at the early age of eighteen.
Most people say, "Prince Henry! who was Prince Henry?" and very few connect the name with that little known prince who steals like a shadow across the pages of our history books. But his memory deserves to be kept green if only for the reason that he was a true friend to Sir Walter Raleigh, that unfortunate victim of petty-minded James. After one of his visits to Raleigh in the Garden House of the Tower, Prince Henry said: "No man but my father would keep such a bird in a cage." A stained glass window sets forth his titles in old French.
Dv. treshavlt. et. trespvissant. Prince. Henry: Filz. Aisne. dv. Roy. Nre. Seign. Prince. de. Gavles: Due: de: Cornvaile: et. Rothsay. Comte: de. Chestre. Chevalier. dv. tresnoble. Ordre. de. la. Iartierre. enstalle. le. 2. de. Iuliet. 1603.
He was in many ways the prototype of our own Prince of Wales and held almost as high a place in the affections of his people. He was everything that a king's son should be. He was handsome, well-grown and athletic; he was scholarly and brilliant, having all James' love of learning without his folly and effeminacy. If he was a paragon of erudition, he also loved the practical side of shipbuilding, and he liked to give and receive hard knocks in the miniature tournaments that he organised at Whitehall, when he and his friends would engage the whole evening in mighty battles with sword and pike. And in addition to all this he seems to have had the generous mind and temper of the truly great. It is no wonder that his untimely death evoked a cry of mourning throughout England.
He was playing tennis, threw off his coat and caught a mortal chill. Everything that the doctors of that day could do was done. They even applied pigeons to his head and a split cock to his feet. Sir Walter Raleigh, who loved the youth, sent from his prison in the Tower the recipe of a potent "quintescence"; it did more good than the pigeons or the split cock, but could not save him. Prince Henry died in 1612, when not quite nineteen years of age.
This is what they wrote of him after his death:
Loe! Where he shineth y'onder,
A fixed star in heaven;
Whose motion heere came under
None of your planets seaven.
If that the moone should tender
The sunne her love, and marry,
They both would not engender
So great a star as Harry.
"He didn't understand the whispers of the Temple fountain though he passed it every day."
I know of a public school and university man who has lived all his life in London and protests that he has never seen Westminster Abbey: there are certainly hundreds of people who have never seen the Temple.
It would be a marvel to me that anyone should leave London without having wandered at least once in those courts, if I had not taken so long to find my own way there. One knows vaguely that it is a charming place, but going there is postponed for that fata morgana, a day of leisure, that recedes as it is approached, and time passes and the train whistles and steams slowly out of Euston or Victoria, leaving behind one of the very loveliest corners in old London, – so easy to reach if one had but tried.
You have only to turn through the old gate-house that Wren built in 1684 to wander about in another world, – a world where it is possible to imagine dear Charles Lamb moving among his guests on a Wednesday evening, with Mary hovering in the background, or Goldsmith giving those rackety supper parties at No. 2 Brick Court that disturbed his studious neighbour Blackstone.
Few places in London are so filled with the memories of brilliant Englishmen as the Temple. If you want to know all about when and where they lived, go to the wigmaker who conducts the Temple affairs from his little shop in Essex Court, and he will provide you with Mr. Bellot's fascinating Story of the Temple.
Expert sightseers of course know all about it. They will tell you that Lamb was born in No. 2, Crown Office Row, and that Thackeray lived at No. 19; that Goldsmith died at No. 2, Brick Court, Middle Temple Lane, and that Johnson's Buildings are on the site of Dr. Johnson's rooms in Inner Temple Lane, and if you share their predilections you can go and peer at the actual bricks that have once sheltered these great men. But if you want to feel the real spirit of the place, unhampered by gazing at any particular pile of bricks and mortar, go to the old Temple Church on a Sunday morning.
Take any bus along the Strand past Temple Bar, where Dr. Johnson used to say that if he stationed himself between eleven and four o'clock, every sixth passer-by was an author, – and go through the second entrance to the Temple called Inner Temple Lane. Or else take the Underground to the Temple and, walking along the Embankment, go up the Essex Street steps and turn into the Temple courts by the first gate you find open, even if that means going round into Fleet Street.
The service in the Temple is an unforgettable revelation. There is no reason why psalms should not be sung in every Anglican church in the world as they are sung in the Temple, but no one seems to have thought of it, except the Temple choirmaster, who has trained his choristers to sing the words as if they had a profound meaning.
Has anyone ever found fitting phrases to describe the peculiar beauty of the Temple Church, with its carved Norman porch, that twelfth-century Round Church, where nine recumbent Crusaders rest in peace, and gleaming marble pillars support both the choir and the Round? It must be seen to be believed, but I pity the traveller who leaves London without seeing it.