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missioner of Works, Lord Beauchamp, who deserves to receive the thanks of all lovers of open spaces.
Up to comparatively recent years there were comparatively few elaborate monuments in the West End.
Charles I, George III, the Guards' Memorial, and the statues in Trafalgar Square were the chief of what there were, and most of those in the Square have not been there so very long.
I indeed remember this meeting-place of Socialists and Suffragettes as a bleak, bare, paved, open space in the days when neither the Nelson Column, Landseer's Lions, nor the fountains had yet come into existence. Morley's Hotel, which still flourishes, then had a post office under the coffee-room, whilst a prominent feature on the south-east was the façade of Northumberland House, the huge double doors of which were always kept closed. The Lion crowning this mansion (long ago removed to Sion House, Isleworth) was a never-failing object of interest to country-people visiting London; and it was a favourite joke of mischievous boys to tell any rustic of more than common credulity that if this Lion were watched long enough it would certainly be observed to wag its tail; and not a few returned to their homes firmly convinced that they had seen the animal perform such a feat.
A less ridiculous and indeed possibly true legend used to be current about Somerset House.
During its rebuilding it was said a workman
stumbled on a scaffold, and would have fallen and been killed, had not the chain to his watch caught a hook, and held him suspended until rescued. Out of gratitude for his preservation, he obtained permission to have his watch inserted in the wall where the hook was; but I never heard of anyone who had seen it. If this story was true, the watch should be still in place.
Northumberland House was an historical edifice which the craze for "modern improvement" should have spared. A stately mansion, it had marked for more than a century and a half the boundary between the "City" proper and that apocryphal city of Westminster which owed its designation to an extinct bishropric, and being the seat of the Royal palaces, the Houses of Parliament, and, before their removal to Fleet Street, the Law Courts.
Though a fine old building, Northumberland House was not very ornate as regards architectural detail. Here in 1867 the fifth Duke lay in state. I believe that this was about the last occasion upon which this custom, once so usual amongst the high nobility, was observed. Half a million was the price paid for the house and grounds,—about three acres of land, and the descendant of the builder was able to lay the "flattering unction to his soul" that he had not disposed of his inheritance at a sacrifice. In 1873, when the purchase was concluded, there was considerable opposition to the demolition of the old mansion which had for so long been a London landmark.
"If there were no other way of getting from Charing Cross to the Embankment than by the destruction of Northumberland House, with its associations, its art collections, and most interesting Jacobean façade," said a critic, "we should feel that resistance would be useless, although we will not admit that even then it should not be attempted. We believe that an association, a touch of sentiment, a reminder of the past may, under circumstances, be of more value in the education of a nation than a short cut. But we are strongly of opinion, with all respect for the professional advisers of the Board, that an equally good approach might be obtained without this very costly sacrifice."
It seems a pity that some considerable portion of the three acres could not have been preserved as an open space instead of being covered with buildings.
Every inch of open space in the metropolis, indeed, ought to be fought for and given up only at the sword's point, whilst the trees in our parks should be jealously guarded.
A man in this respect, born as it were before his age, was Colonel Sibthorp, who during the building of the Great Exhibition of 1851 was Paxton's great antagonist. This gallant member of the House of Commons would not consent to sacrifice the trees which adorned the site of the building. “Make what fuss you like about your modern ideas of industry," said he, "but you shall not touch the trees; they are worth all your industry, and all your foreign nick
LET THE OLD TREES STAND nacks, and free-trade and nonsense, and, indeed, anything that ever came from Manchester." Paxton, however was equal to the occasion, "Let the old trees stand," said he, "we will roof them over!" and accordingly he built his glass house one hundred feet higher in the middle, and thus made the transept, keeping the trees beneath.
Except in the parks, few trees will now flourish in London. I believe, indeed, that it is now impossible to grow elms, or even limes, still less laurels, within the range of London smoke.
Only one tree stands the atmosphere well, this is the plane, which renews its annual youth by casting its smut-begrimed bark, and flourishes, as in Berkeley Square, with a vigour and beauty unknown to its native haunts.
In other respects this old square, close to which I have lived for over forty years, does not present a very sylvan appearance, it being, I understand, practically impossible to get the hedge within the railings to grow. Nevertheless in summer it is a peaceful old-world spot, the sole touch of modernity being the fountain facing the entrance to Lansdowne House.
The scantily-draped lady who furnishes a somewhat intermittent supply of water in Berkeley Square is comparatively harmless as compared with many other drinking fountains scattered over the country. Nearly all of these are irredeemably ugly, and positively without a redeeming feature. Nine out
of ten in the metropolis are as insipid in appearance and tasteless in design as the ugliest modern villa, in which all the rules of architecture are wildly set at defiance. Even the best fountain of all, "Gilbert's" at Piccadilly Circus, is lacking in proportion, the base being much too large for the figure at the top; whilst others, like that erected in 1875 at Park Lane, can lay no claim at all to being works of art.
The original design of this fountain could not at first be carried out owing to the death of Mrs. Brown, a rich and benevolent old lady who had entrusted the commission for it to Mr. Thorneycroft.
She died before it was completed, leaving no will, in consequence of which this fountain, one of her pet projects, suffered, her property being thrown into the Court of Chancery, as a result of which the Board of Works refused to supply water for it. It appears that this was considered a promise made during Mr. Ayrton's tenure of office to Mrs. Brown, who intended also to leave the munificent sum of £70,000 for building public baths; but, unfortunately, she died without a will.
In the early days of this fountain, at a time. when some of the traditions of the Tom and Jerry period still lingered, I remember hearing that youthful roysterers were apt to playfully duck one another in its not very free-flowing water.
The most expensive and largest monument in London is, of course, the Albert Memorial, which