Picture of Paul Hentzner

Paul Hentzner

places mentioned

City of London and the Tower

Next Selection Previous Selection

Guildhall, a fine structure built by Thomas Knowles. Here are to be seen the statues of two giants, said to have assisted the English when the Romans made war upon them: Corinius of Britain, and Gogmagog of Albion. Beneath upon a table the titles of Charles V., Emperor, are written in letters of gold.

The government of London is this: the city is divided into twenty-five regions or wards; the Council is composed of twenty-four aldermen, one of whom presides over every ward. And whereas of old the chief magistrate was a portreeve, I.E., governor of the city, Richard I. appointed two bailiffs; instead of which King John gave a power by grant of choosing annually a mayor from any of the twelve principal companies, and to name two sheriffs, one of whom to be called the king's, the other the city's. It is scarce credible how this city increased, both in public and private buildings, upon establishing this form of government. VIDE Camden's "Britannia," Middlesex .

It is worthy of observation, that every year, upon St. Bartholomew's Day, when the fair is held, it is usual for the mayor, attended by the twelve principal aldermen, to walk in a neighbouring field, dressed in his scarlet gown, and about his neck a golden chain, to which is hung a golden fleece,6 and besides, that particular ornament7 which distinguishes the most noble order of the garter. During the year of his magistracy, he is obliged to live so magnificently, that foreigner or native, without any expense, is free, if he can find a chair empty, to dine at his table, where there is always the greatest plenty. When the mayor goes out of the precincts of the city, a sceptre, a sword, and a cap, are borne before him, and he is followed by the principal aldermen in scarlet gowns, with gold chains; himself and they on horseback. Upon their arrival at a place appointed for that purpose, where a tent is pitched, the mob begin to wrestle before them, two at a time; the conquerors receive rewards from the magistrates. After this is over, a parcel of live rabbits are turned loose among the crowd, which are pursued by a number of boys, who endeavour to catch them, with all the noise they can make. While we were at this show, one of our company, Tobias Salander, doctor of physic, had his pocket picked of his purse, with nine crowns du soleil, which, without doubt, was so cleverly taken from him by an Englishman who always kept very close to him, that the doctor did not in the least perceive it.

The Castle or Tower of London, called Bringwin, and Tourgwin, in Welsh, from its whiteness, is encompassed by a very deep and broad ditch, as well as a double wall very high. In the middle of the whole is that very ancient and very strong tower, enclosed with four others, which, in the opinion of some, was built by Julius Caesar. Upon entering the tower, we were obliged to quit our swords at the gate and deliver them to the guard. When we were introduced, we were shown above a hundred pieces of arras belonging to the Crown, made of gold, silver, and silk; several saddles covered with velvet of different colours; an immense quantity of bed-furniture, such as canopies, and the like, some of them most richly ornamented with pearl; some royal dresses, so extremely magnificent as to raise any one's admiration at the sums they must have cost. We were next led into the Armoury, in which are these particularities:— Spears, out of which you may shoot; shields, that will give fire four times; a great many rich halberds, commonly called partisans, with which the guard defend the royal person in battle; some lances, covered with red and green velvet, and the body-armour of Henry VIII.; many and very beautiful arms, as well for men as for horses in horse-fights; the lance of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, three spans thick; two pieces of cannon, the one fires three, the other seven balls at a time; two others made of wood, which the English has at the siege of Boulogne, in France. And by this stratagem, without which they could not have succeeded, they struck a terror into the inhabitants, as at the appearance of artillery, and the town was surrendered upon articles; nineteen cannon of a thicker make than ordinary, and in a room apart; thirty-six of a smaller; other cannon for chain-shot; and balls proper to bring down masts of ships. Cross-bows, bows and arrows, of which to this day the English make great use in their exercises; but who can relate all that is to be seen here? Eight or nine men employed by the year are scarce sufficient to keep all the arms bright.

The Mint for coining money is in the Tower.

N.B.—It is to be noted, that when any of the nobility are sent hither, on the charge of high crimes, punishable with death, such as treason, &c., they seldom or never recover their liberty. Here was beheaded Anne Boleyn, wife of King Henry VIII., and lies buried in the chapel, but without any inscription; and Queen Elizabeth was kept prisoner here by her sister, Queen Mary, at whose death she was enlarged, and by right called to the throne.

On coming out of the Tower, we were led to a small house close by, where are kept variety of creatures, viz.—three lionesses; one lion of great size, called Edward VI. from his having been born in that reign: a tiger; a lynx; a wolf excessively old—this is a very scarce animal in England, so that their sheep and cattle stray about in great numbers, free from any danger, though without anybody to keep them; there is, besides, a porcupine, and an eagle. All these creatures are kept in a remote place, fitted up for the purpose with wooden lattices, at the Queen's expense.

Near to this Tower is a large open space; on the highest part of it is erected a wooden scaffold, for the execution of noble criminals; upon which, they say, three princes of England, the last of their families, have been beheaded for high treason; on the bank of the Thames close by are a great many cannon, such chiefly as are used at sea.

The next thing worthy of note is the Royal Exchange, so named by Queen Elizabeth, built by Sir Thomas Gresham, citizen, for public ornament and the convenience of merchants. It has a great effect, whether you consider the stateliness of the building, the assemblage of different nations, or the quantities of merchandise. I shall say nothing of the hall belonging to the Hans Society; or of the conveyance of water to all parts of the town by subterraneous pipes, nor the beautiful conduits and cisterns for the reception of it; nor of the raising of water out of the Thames by a wheel, invented a few years since by a German.

Bridewell, at present the House of Correction; it was built in six weeks for the reception of the Emperor Charles V.

A Hall built by a cobbler and bestowed on the city, where are exposed to sale, three times in a week, corn, wool, cloth, fruits, and the like.

Without the city are some theatres, where English actors represent almost every day tragedies and comedies to a very numerous audiences; these are concluded with excellent music, variety of dances, and the excessive applause of those that are present.

Not far from one of these theatres, which are all built of wood, lies the royal barge, close to the river. It has two splendid cabins, beautifully ornamented with glass windows, painting, and gilding; it is kept upon dry ground, and sheltered from the weather.

There is still another place, built in the form of a theatre, which serves for the baiting of bulls and bears; they are fastened behind, and then worried by great English bull-dogs, but not without great risk to the dogs, from the horns of the one and the teeth of the other; and it sometimes happens that they are killed upon the spot; fresh ones are immediately supplied in the places of those that are wounded or tired. To this entertainment there often follows that of whipping a blinded bear, which is performed by five or six men, standing circularly with whips, which they exercise upon him without any mercy, as he cannot escape from them because of his chain; he defends himself with all his force and skill, throwing down all who come within his reach and are not active enough to get out of it, and tearing the whips out of their hands and breaking them. At these spectacles, and everywhere else, the English are constantly smoking tobacco; and in this manner—they have pipes on purpose made of clay, into the farther end of which they put the herb, so dry that it may be rubbed into powder, and putting fire to it, they draw the smoke into their mouths, which they puff out again through their nostrils like funnels, along with it plenty of phlegm and defluxion from the head. In these theatres, fruits, such as apples, pears, and nuts, according to the season, are carried about to be sold, as well as ale and wine.

There are fifteen colleges within and without the city, nobly built, with beautiful gardens adjoining. Of these the three principal are:—

  1. The Temple, inhabited formerly by the Knights Templars; it seems to have taken its name from the old temple, or church, which has a round tower added to it, under which lied buried those Kings of Denmark that reigned in England.
  2. Gray's Inn. And,
  3. Lincoln's Inn.

In these colleges numbers of young nobility, gentry, and others, are educated, and chiefly in the study of physic, for very few apply themselves to that of the law; they are allowed a very good table, and silver cups to drink out of. Once a person of distinction, who could not help being surprised at the great number of cups, said, "He should have thought it more suitable to the life of students, if they had used rather glass, or earthenware, than silver." The college answered, "They were ready to make him a present of all their plate, provided he would undertake to supply them with all the glass and earthenware they should have a demand for; since it was very likely he would find the expense, from constant breaking, exceed the value of the silver."

The streets in this city are very handsome and clean; but that which is named from the goldsmiths who inhabit it, surpasses all the rest; there is in it a gilt tower, with a fountain that plays. Near it, on the farther side, is a handsome house built by a goldsmith and presented by him to the city. There are besides to be seen in this street, as in all others where there are goldsmiths' shops, all sorts of gold and silver vessels exposed to sale, as well as ancient and modern medals, in such quantities as must surprise a man the first time he sees and considers them.

Fitz-Stephen, a writer of English history, reckoned in his time in London one hundred and twenty-seven parish churches, and thirteen belonging to convents; he mentions, besides, that upon a review there of men able to bear arms, the people brought into the field under their colours forty thousand foot and twenty thousand horse. VIDE Camden's "Britannia," Middlesex.

The best oysters are sold here in great quantities.

Everybody knows that English cloth is much approved of for the goodness of the materials, and imported into all the kingdoms and provinces of Europe.

We were shown, at the house of Leonard Smith, a tailor, a most perfect looking-glass, ornamented with gold, pearl, silver, and velvet, so richly as to be estimated at five hundred ecus du soleil. We saw at the same place the hippocamp and eagle stone, both very curious and rare.

And thus much of London.

6 This probably alluded to the woollen manufacture; Stow mentions his riding through the Cloth Fair on the Eve of St. Bartholomew.

7 The collar of SS.

Paul Hentzner, Travels in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (London: Cassell, 1892)

Next Selection Previous Selection