Excuses My Ancestor Made

John Glanvill of Chancery Lane – MP, lawyer, excusotron

John Glanvill of Chancery Lane – MP, lawyer, excusotron.

On 18 September 1625 London lawyer John Glanvill, on business in Plymouth, submitted to Charles I’s counsel a document he hoped would opt him out of his appointment as the crown’s observer on a huge, ill-starred naval attack against the Spanish at Cadiz.

The submission was archived as “Mr Glanvills reasons against his being imployed for a Secretary at Warre.” What follows is a transcript of his excuses and the background to them.

Excuse the fyrst. “He is a meere Lawyer, unqualified for h’imployment of a Secretary : his handwriting is so bad that hardly any but his Clarke canne reade itt, who shoulde not be acquainted with all things that may occurre in such a service.”

Well, he got this right: the handwriting is devilish bad. A pretty poor opening gambit nonetheless.

Excuse the secunde. “He hath a wife and six children, and his certaine meanes without his practise is not sufficient to maintain them.”

Tugging at the heartstrings now. The six children were William, Mary, Margaret, John, Francis and Walter – an unnamed child had died at birth six years earlier in March 1619 at Church Yard Alley, Fetter Lane, running adjacent and to the east of Chancery Lane. John and wife Winifred would have two further children: Elizabeth and Julius.

Excuse the thyrd. “He sitteth at 60li rent p annum for a house in Chancery Lane, not worth him in effect anie thing but for the commodiousness of his practise : however hee is to hold itt att that rate for 16 or 17 yeares yet to come.”

The precise whereabouts of his house on or near Chancery Lane are now unknown, but the King’s men would know it was just one of several properties in the Glanvill portfolio. His father, John the Elder, acquired numerous estates in the west country through the patronage of the Duke of Bedford. The Elder, a district judge who died in a fall from his horse on circuit in 1598, when son John was in his early teens, left him Kilworthy, a fine manor north of Tavistock, Devon, but John generously handed it to his older brother Francis. He had estates in Hampshire and Devon, and in later years he made his main domicile at Broad Hinton, Wiltshire, yet his letter to a Mrs Scott in Cocklebury in the same county in 1652 was dispatched from Serjeants Inn, Chancery Lane – he had been made serjeant in 1637. Incidentally, £60 rent is the equivalent of around six grand today. Very good luck in finding a pad in Holborn for that these days.

1560 map showing Fetter Lane (centre left) and Chancery Lane (branching off to left). http://mapco.net/london.htm

Circa 1560 map showing Fetter Lane (centre) and Chancery Lane (branching off to left). http://mapco.net/london.htm

Excuse the forth. “His wife and children are dispersed into four gen’rall counties, with severall frendes in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Gloucestershire and Devonshire, during his sicknes, and hee cannott in his straight and upon so short warninge, setle his affaires for such a journie.”

He has a point: the King was expecting him to disembark from Plymouth at the drop of a hat and be away on this mission for perhaps months. This is also the first documented mention of John’s ‘sicknes’, which recurred sporadically throughout his life – and eventually saw him off in 1661. Sadly the only clues to what the illness was simply describe how it laid him low for extended periods; tantalisingly, there is no discussion of symptoms.

The child-minding friends in Devonshire and Gloucestershire are easily imagined: he hailed from and worked in the former county and his wife Winifred was the daughter of Sir John Bourchier of Barnsley, Gloucestershire. The Herts and Beds connections require further investigation.

Excuse the fifth. “His goods and evidences and the evidences of divers of his clients with many breviattes and noates of instruccons concerninge their Causes, are in his Studdy att Lincolns Inne and house in Chancery Lane, which hee cannot well dispose nor distribut in a short tyme, nor can now safely repaire to the place[s] where they are.”

John was a commercial lawyer as well as MP and Recorder for the Plymouth corporation at the time. According to this submission his legal documents and case files were stored at Lincoln’s Inn, where he had trained and been called to the bar, and in his place next door on Chancery Lane. His argument is that sensitive manuscripts would be left as they are, unattended, in his absence.

At Lincoln’s Inn a splendid portrait of John (as well as one of his father) is still viewable by appointment.

Excuse the sixth. “Hee is witnesse to recordershipps and engaged in divers causes of importance, which affaires and businesses if he desert, much preiudice may thereby grow to very manie.”

This makes absolute sense. Apart from his paid counsel to corporations such as those of Plymouth, Okehampton, and Launceston, he was an extremely active MP and sat on numerous commons committees, particularly those related to his obsessive campaign against market monopolies and rotten boroughs.

Eleven speeches in the House and appointment to 16 conferences or committees in 1625 was a pipe down from his peak the year before of 84 speeches and 47 appointments, but this could be explained by his debilitating illness.

The nose for an alibi: Lady Alice Glanvill, later Godolphin. Photo (c) ROBERTFROST1960

Excuse the seventhe. “His mother, an aged lady, who relies upon his Counsell and resort, will become herby much weakened and disconsolate.”

If in doubt, mention Mum. Glanvill’s redoutable twice-widowed mother, Lady Alice Godolphin (née Skerrett – she had remarried to Sir Francis Godolphin) was in her mid-70s at the time and died in 1632 aged 82. There is no evidence of frailty; her likeness in a memorial in St Eustachius, Tavistock, is a powerful one.

Excuse the eyghth. “His practise is now as good as most men in ye Kingdome of his tyme, hee having followed ye Studdy these 22 years and ye practise of ye lawe these 15 yeares, with as much Constancie and painefulness as anie man. And if hee should now bee putt into another course though but for a while, itt must needes deprive him of the fruictes of all his labours, for his Clients being by his absence once setled uppon others, he shal never be able to recontinue them again.”

It was always unlikely a whinge about lucrative clients switching allegiance might butter the King’s parsnips, even though some of them were illustrious and influential. What the information does confirm is that he entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1603, around the age of 17, and was called to the bar in 1609.

Excuse the nynthe. “His cominge to Plymouth att this tyme was only to attend ye service of his Recordershippe there, to assist the Maior and his brethren to entertaine his Majestie ; which service hee had p’formed accordingly.”

If begging wouldn’t work, perhaps a gentle reminder of what John had already done for His Maj would do the trick. And it was considerable. He, along with mayor of Plymouth, Nicholas Blake. and another merchant, Thomas Sherwell, were the members of parliament for Plymouth who received the King and his extensive household in September 1625, during which visit this document was written.

City records note the “Fees due to His Majesty’s servants from the said Mayor, for his homage to His Majesty passing through his said towne the fiveteene day of September, 1625.”

“To the Gentlemen Ushers dayly Wayters … £5

“To the Gent. Ushers of the Privy Chamber … £5

“To the S’jants. at Armes … £3

“To the Knight Harbinger … £3

“To the Knight Marshall … £1

“To the Gent. Ushers Quarter Wayters … £1

“To the Servers of the Chamber … £1

“To the Yeoman Ushers … £1

“To the Groomes and Pages … £1

“To the Footmen … £2

“To the fower Yeomen … £2

“To the Porters at the Gate … £1

“To the S’jant. Trumpetters … £1

“To the Trumpetters … £2

“To the Surveyor of the Wayes … £1

“To the Yeoman of the fielde … £10

“To the Coachmen … £10

“To the Yeoman Harbingers … £1

“To the Jester … £10.”

(Quoted in ‘History Of Plymouth’ by Llewellynn Jewitt; Plymouth 1873.)

Charles stayed for ten days. It was not simply the outlay required but the fact that religious turmoil and plague had recently hit Plymouth:

“The King cometh to Plymouth to despatch a fleet. He calls a Parliament and finds great discontent, the Presbyterian interest prevailing so as to ferment the people. A great plague in Plymouth, of which 1,600 people died — some say 2,000.”

The King’s agents also took the opportunity to press 500 men into naval service for his Raid on Cadiz under the command of Edward Lord Cecil. Who could do more for Charles than allow all this indulgence!

In the end the protests were to no avail. Sea-sick Glanvill was made secretary at war for the ill-conceived Cadiz raid and it was a cataclysmic flop.

He took his revenge in two very lawyerly ways.

Firstly he noted every moment of failure with sardonic enthusiasm in his official Journal, published by the Royal Historical Society 250 years later as ‘The Voyage to Cadiz In 1625.’

And secondly, in 1626, a year after the raid, Glanvill was one of the eight chief managers in the impeachment of the King’s favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, whose idea the raid was. Charles reacted by dissolving Parliament. And thus was erected another signpost along the road to Civil War.

Bring Me The Head Of Flinders Petrie

The head of Flinders Petrie. A painting by Ludwig Bloom.

A little known passenger in the chaotic British withdrawal from Palestine in 1947 was Lady Hilda Petrie. She was 80 and had hoped to see out her days in Jerusalem, the city she had resided in and loved for decades.

Her husband, Sir Flinders Petrie, had predeceased her five years earlier and he was buried on Mount Scopus. Well, most of him. He had actually bequeathed what he considered his priceless asset to science, for reasons we will soon discover.

Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie was a world-renowned Egyptologist and father of modern archaeology. He excavated more than sixty of the most important sites in Palestine and Egypt. Equally as important as his amazing discoveries in, say, the Valley of the Kings (he employed Howard Carter, who was later to discover the tomb of Tutankhamen) were the pioneering archaeological methodologies he devised that are still in use to this day.

He was one of the first to recognise the importance of context and the value of data-gathering, and evangelised a more gentle, painstaking approach to the actual digging itself. His principle breakthrough, though, was to work out a chronology by which to date his discoveries.

But those are not the only fascinations surrounding this revered Victorian scientist.

Petrie, one of archaeology’s icons, was also a vehement proponent of eugenics: the belief that racial pools can be improved by selective breeding. He enjoyed a close working relationship with key eugenics proponents Francis Galton and Karl Pearson.

Over the course of fifty years in trenches Petrie regularly sent skulls and bones back to Pearson at his Anthropometric Laboratory at University College London.

The Eugenics Laboratory at UCL relied heavily of data from Petrie’s finds to support its tehories. Galton also hired Petrie to photograph idols and statues for his book ‘Racial Photographs of the Egyptian Monuments’ (1887).

That book was the key publication of the nascent eugenics movement, in later years providing a historical gravitas for new exponents to exploit. All three men proposed ‘selective breeding’ to maintain the quality of the British race.
Eugenics was discredited as naive racism at the start of the 20th century, but returned to wreak havoc and destruction under its greatest advocates, the Nazis.

It is unclear how far our present view of ancient history has been clouded by the legacy of Petrie’s racialised doctrine. (And, indeed, the archaeologist held what might be described as enlightened views about Arab/Jewish cohabitation in what was to become Israel.)

Yet the pseudo-science of eugenics had a clear and inadvertent impact on Petrie himself.

On his deathbed the revered archaeologist donated his head and brain to the Royal Society of Surgeons, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, so that it might be studied for ‘further exploration of the British genius.’

Unfortunately, he died in 1942 in war-torn Palestine, and while his torso was buried in the local Protestant Cemetery, the rest of him was stuck in limbo because of the conflict.

Flinders Petrie's grave in the Protestant Cemetery, Jerusalem.

According to archaeologist and historian Neil A Silberman, Petrie’s head had been ‘surgically removed by the Jerusalem hospital director, placed in a jar, and preserved with formaldehyde’ when he died. But it had to be stored at the American School of Oriental Research until repatriation to Blighty could be arranged.

While at the school, Silberman was informed, students were wont to use his head as a ‘prop for grotesque practical jokes and a source of horrified reactions.’ (Similar stories surrounded the head of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who died in 1832, and bequeathed his body for public display at University College London.)

Another version tells it that Lady Hilda, who lived at the American School, kept her beloved husband’s head under the bed.

Eventually, in 1944 the head was shipped to London by the Palestine Department of Antiquities – labelled as an antiquity. Some of the process can be tracked in correspondence in the Royal College archive.

However, when the famous bonce was finally viewed at the Royal College, some who knew Petrie allegedly noted little resemblance in age or hair to the famously white-bearded Egyptologist: the beard in the jar is black.

Petrie’s head still languishes there today, viewable by appointment, with the Royal College staff perpetuating the mystery by remaining non-committal about whether this is the real head of Flinders Petrie, or – god forbid – that of someone racially inferior.

It is quite ironic that Petrie’s head, filled with hopes of eugenics research, may have gone awol just as Hitler’s disastrous genetic doctrine was collapsing.

The Piccadilly Goat

When I first came to London, Piccadilly still had its goat. I remember meeting it on the pavement one day in 1892

My relatives in Islington once saw a horse collapse in the street. It was in distress, writhing on its side and whinnying, but the carter had his job to do.

He jumped down, shouting and kicking at the beast to get up. It died. The cartman delivered one last side-swipe then threw his cap down in disgust and marched away.

One of the neighbours strode out and placed a blanket over it, preserving its dignity, should that ever have been a commodity its sorry life possessed.

I mention this because it was not an event from the Victorian era. It happened relatively recently, some time in the late 1950s. And in Islington, infamously the London borough with the fewest green spaces.

Two centuries earlier cattle could have overnighted here before the slaughter of Smithfield. Now those fields were developed for housing, roads and industry.

Even in my lifetime (begun December 1960, not over at time of going to press) animals were quite a common sight on London’s roads. Rag and bone men drove horses, police rode them. Tethered donkeys sometimes chewed grass in the odd field or verdant traffic island. Today virtually the only animals seen in public are pets; even the glimpse of the country — rabbit, hare, pheasant, pigeon, deer — hung like furry bunting outside butchers is a thing of a bygone century.

And in the late c19th, an animal such as The Piccadilly Goat could even become famous.

The Piccadilly Goat was not William Douglas, the amorous gadabout of the Hell-Fire Club, though that was his nickname.

No, we are concerned with that other ‘lounger of marked individuality and leisured independence’, a herbivore that grazed the pavements of London’s golden triangle at the end of the Victorian era.

No one seems certain how the Piccadilly Goat arrived at his concrete pastures, between Grosvenor Square, Regent’s Street and Piccadilly

Harper’s magazine describe the demon-eyed beast as ‘proud and haughty’. Perhaps they were being unfair: the authors of the book ‘Great Streets Of The World’ (1892) celebrated him as a veritable wonder of the capital.

‘To be sure,’ they wrote, ‘we have what Paris does not, the Piccadilly Goat, who lives in, or often at, the door of a large corner house.’ (The goat is actually supposed to have lived around Stafford Street, where the Goat Tavern stands.)

The Goat Tavern, Stafford Street

Owner-less, horned and bearded, the goat toured the streets as free as a bird. He was especially renowned for grazing the restaurants of the West End with the alacrity of an Alan Brazil or a Jay Rayner, though his ‘table’ of preference was the door at the back, where kindly chefs would break off from their cigarette break to proffer a box of cabbage or turnip.

London was yet to be choked and cowed by the car, but the clatter of steel coach wheel and shod hooves, deafening to many, appears to have left him unmoved. Over time he became an intriguing and much-loved character.

‘When I first came to London,’ wrote Edward Verrall Lucas in 1913, ‘Piccadilly still had its goat. I remember meeting it on the pavement one day in 1892, opposite Hamilton Terrace, and wondering how it got there and why the people, usually so curious about the unusual, were taking so little notice of such a phenomenon, as it seemed to me. It must have been soon after then that it died and, with true London carelessness, was not replaced.’

No one seems to know the goat’s ‘roots’. Perhaps he had fallen off the back of a lorry, or had escaped from the chore of tugging a lady around on one of those small ‘one-gal’ carts called Alexandras.

“He was a large, handsome creature, with great intelligence in his amber eyes”

Whatever his background he appears to have charmed most people he met. Max Beerbohm, in his autobiographical ‘Mainly On The Air,’ (1958) wrote of the beast as an empathetic life companion. ‘I don’t know much about him, though I often saw him and liked him so much.’

The famous wit imagined the animal as a fellow observer of late Victorian London life and its crescendo of absurdity.

‘[The goat] lived in a large mews in a side street, opposite to Gloucester House, the home of the venerable Duke of Cambridge. At about ten o’clock in the morning he would come treading forth with a delicately clumsy gait down the side-street — come very slowly, as though not quite sure there mightn’t be some grass for him to nibble at between the paving-stones.

‘Then he would pause at the corner of Piccadilly and flop down against the railings of the nearest house. He would remain there till luncheon-time and return in the early afternoon. He was a large, handsome creature, with great intelligence in his amber eyes. He never slept. He was always interested in the passing scene. I think nothing escaped him.

‘I wish he could have written his memoirs when he finally retired. He had seen, day by day, much that was worth seeing. He had seen a constant procession of the best-built vehicles in the world, drawn by very beautifully bred and beautifully groomed and beautifully harnessed horses, and containing very ornate people.

‘And all these vehicles went by with a cheerful briskness; there was hardly ever a block for them in the traffic. And their occupants were very visible and were looking their best.

‘The occupants of those low-roofed machines which are so pitifully blocked nowadays all along Piccadilly may, for aught one knows, be looking their best. But they aren’t on view. The students of humanity must be content to observe the pedestrians. These, I fear, would pain my old friend the goat.’

Eventually the sad passing of London’s most famous goat was noted in December 1893 by Punch. Which was fitting, because it was the same periodical’s article by E.T. Reed that had propelled him from cult hero to wider celebrity three years earlier. How his remains were disposed is not recorded; perhaps for the best.

‘I have no idea what became of the Piccadilly Goat,’ wrote Norman Douglas in 1994. ‘Though I know pretty well what would become of him now, were he alive at this moment. Mutton-chops.’

It’s sad to think that the same busy corner of the capital – more violent, over-sanitised, and less tolerant – would consider the old goat lunch. And not someone with whom to share the daily delights and nonsense of the West End.

Rick Glanvill

Standard, Read All About It

Medieval London was a filthy place. A visitor in the c13th would have found its three main rivers, the Thames, Fleet and Walbrook, clogged with animal entrails and human waste. The centre of streets would have been liberally sprinkled with ordure, and rakers, paid to clean cess-pits of houses with no running water, would have offloaded their spoil either at the watery meadows at Moorfields or in the same rivers.

As population and trade expanded, the need for fresh water increased, and overworked rivers – even backed up by private wells – could not supply the answer. The first of several projects to pipe fresh water into the heart of London began in 1237 during the mayoralty of Andrew Buckerel, a Pepperer and Alderman of Cripplegate. The City community seemingly lacked the finance for large engineering schemes, with individuals or interest groups footing the bill, perhaps for reasons other than pure altruism.

The founding of the first outlet, or conduit, on Cheapside was noted in 1245 – ‘fundamentum conductii’ – when in return for special access to the London markets, merchants of Picardie in France (possibly wine merchants) donated £100 to the citizenry of London for the purpose of conducting water from Tyburn (or Tybourne) to a conduit in the City. (Conduit, by the way, referred to the construction at the end rather than the pipe itself.)

This privately-sponsored work was completed by 1261, when an old property on the south side of Cheapside is described, for the first time, as ‘opposite the conduit.’

Apparently popular and successful, the system’s design was the model for several later schemes. Though scant documentation survives, archaeology provides a clearer picture.

Excavations by the Museum of London next to Bond Street tube station’s subway have found a large, stone-lined tank, part of the Tyburn water system. (Evidence suggests that this cistern later had to be replenished by fresh water piped from a spring at Oxleas field, next to Bayswater brook. The City of London acquired the right to do so from the Abbot of Westminster in 1440.)

This Bond Street tank had no bottom, just natural gravel, leading archaeologists to presume that the tank was filled naturally by bubbling up from below.

The collected water was siphoned into sections of 90mm diameter lead pipe, encased in clay. From there it began its journey to the City down South Molton Street, whose unusual 45 degree angle marks the downhill course of the underground pipes, past modern Conduit Street to Piccadilly, behind St James’s church (adjacent, appropriately, to Swallow Street).

The subterranean pipes continued to the site of the royal mews at modern Trafalgar Square, where they turned sharply, conveniently, to pass by the luxurious homes of the Strand. Continuing along Fleet Street the pipes entered the city around Ludgate.

At the end of the pipe, a large stone and wooden structure containing a cistern was raised, with a fountain and taps to draw from. The first of these, the Great Conduit, was built at Poultry, at the eastern end of London’s busiest retail street, Cheapside. This was, according to Stow, of ‘Survey of London’ (1598) fame, ‘a long and low stone building with battlements on the top, enclosing a large leaden cistern, the water of which issued from a cock into a square stone bason at the eastern end.’

The pipe was opened again to add the Little Conduit at the other end of Cheapside, next to the old Folkmoot, outside St Paul’s cathedral. (It’s been suggested that the Bishop of London may even have paid for the project to bring clean water to the doorstep of his seat, the cathedral.)

Late c16th engraving showing the Standard on Cheapside

The Little Conduit is first mentioned in 1276: ‘On Friday, the morrow of Saints Fabianus and Sebastianus [20 January 1276], in the sixth year of the reign of King Edward, son of King Henry, Gregory de Rokesle, Chamberlain of London, and John Adrien and Walter le Engleys, Sheriffs of the same city, were given to understand that one William le Pannere, pelterer, was lying dead in the market of West Chepe, near the Conduit in the Ward of Chepe.’

At some time a standard (essentially something that stands up, somewhat grandly) was also erected near St Mary-le-Bone church. Originally built of wood, in 1443 licence was given to pull down ‘le Standard in Chepe, where divers xecutions of the law have been made hitherto, which is now of wood, weak and old, wherein is a conduit, and to set up a new standard of stone with a conduit therein.’ (By the way, I suppose I could have chosen The Cheapside Conduit as the name for this blog, but the newspaper pun would not have worked quite so well.)

Further water towers followed at Fleet Street (rebuilt around 1438/9 – ‘the newe cunduyt in Fletstrete begonnen to make,’ according to the ‘Chronicle of London’), and elsewhere. Mayor of London Sir William Eastfield brought water from springs at Highbury to north of Cheapside, at St Giles Cripplegate, and from Tyburn again to a conduit constructed near St Mary Aldermanbury church. This was completed posthumously, in accordance with his will.

Visible traces of these projects remain only in street names. Yet it’s still evocative to follow the course of that first water pipe from modern Bond Street to Poultry. In fact, the sight of the island churches in the middle of Strand, St Mary-le-Strand and St Clement Danes, give an idea of how the conduits – wonderful examples of c13th civil engineering – might have looked on Cheapside.

In a future blog I’ll look at how the conduits swiftly became notable City landmarks.

Rick Glanvill