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memory of Mr. Wood, author of the splendid description of the Ruins of Palmyra and Balbec.
The village consists principally of one well-built street, called High Street, on one side of which is a row of fine trees. Here is a Charity School, a Workhouse, and Alms-houses for twelve poor persons, founded about 1640 by Sir W. Dawes. The inhabitants were, in 1821, 3394. A fishery, established before the Conquest, is still carried on here; and salmon and smelts are taken in the spring months.
In 1647 the head quarters of the Parliamentary army were fixed here, and the military councils were held in the Church. On Putney Heath a house was erected by David Hartley, Esq. in 1776, for the purpose of proving the efficacy of plates placed between the ceiling and floor in preserving buildings from fire. In this house several experiments were made, before persons of distinction; in one of which their Majesties and some of the Royal Family remained in an upper apartment, in perfect security, while the room below them was burning furiously. For this invention Mr. Hartley received £2500 from Parliament, and the freedom of the City of London, the Corporation of which also erected an Obelisk near the house, with inscriptions stating these circumstances; but the discovery, however important and useful, has hitherto been neglected.
This village is celebrated as the birth-place of several distinguished persons; West, Bishop of Ely, and Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, were both born here, in the fifteenth century, of humble parentage, and each raised himself, by his abilities, to the highest station in the church and state. Cromwell was the son of a blacksmith, and being taken into the service of Wolsey, soon acquired his confidence by the dexterity and zeal which he displayed; and it should be mentioned to his honour, that when the Cardinal was disgraced, Cromwell did not desert him, but defended him in the House of Commons against the charges of treason, so eloquently and fervently, that they were rejected. He was then employed by the King in his grand scheme of the suppression of ecclesiastical foundations, was knighted, and had several offices conferred on him. In his visitation of the monasteries he is said to have acted with great injustice and se
verity; but this recommended him to his rapacious and tyrannical master, and he was accordingly created lord privy seal, a peer, and afterwards vicar-general, or superintendant of the Church, under the "Defender of the Faith." He used all his influence to promote the Reformation, by patronizing the translation of the Scriptures, and ordering a copy to be deposited in every parish church, &c.; but the motives of such a man, even for seemingly good actions, must always be liable to doubt. Honours now poured in upon him; he became a knight of the garter, Earl of Essex, and lord high chamberlain, and was appa rently in the utmost favour with the King; but that capricious tyrant, being displeased with the person of Anne of Cleves, whom he had married principally at Cromwell's instigation, caused him to be arrested at the council table, condemned without a hearing by bill of attainder (an iniquitous practice which the earl himself had made use of against many persons), and executed on July 28, 1540, in the 50th year of his age. He was certainly ambitious, tyrannical, and unjust; but on the other hand he was munificent, charitable, and grateful.
At Putney was also born, in 1737, Edward Gibbon, whose Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire places him in the first rank as an historian. At an early age he became a convert to the Roman Catholic faith, which, upon further examination and instruction, he abandoned, and again became a Protestant; but unhappily these changes led at last to a disbelief of Christianity altogether. From 1774 to 1782 he had a seat in Parliament, and at the Board of Trade, but on the abolition of the latter he retired to the Continent. In 1776 he produced the first volume of his great work, which at once acquired the most distinguished popularity, although his insidious attacks on the Christian religion drew on the author much animadversion; the work was completed in 1788 in six volumes 4to. After a long residence at Lausanne, the progress of the French revolution drove him back to his native country, in 1793, and in the following year he expired, at the age of 67. Two volumes of his miscellaneous works have been since published by Lord Sheffield, and contain memoirs of his life, and several interesting fragments.
In a house on Putney Heath, the Right Hon. William Pitt expired, January 23, 1806 *.
REIGATE, OR RYEGATE,
An ancient borough and market-town, is situated in the beautiful valley of Holmesdale, which, according to the ancient proverb quoted by Camden, was "never wonne, ne never shalle," supposed to allude to the valour with which the inhabitants defended themselves against the attacks of the Danes. The town is 21 miles from London, on the high road to Brighton, and had, in 1821, a population of 2960 persons. It consists principally of two streets, crossing each other, and stands on a rock, which yields the finest white sand in the kingdom. The Church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, is a well-built ancient edifice, and has a lofty square tower, of hewn stone. It contains several monuments; and in a vault below is an inscription in memory of the first Earl of Nottingham, Lord High Admiral, who commanded the English fleet against the Spanish Armada, in 1588, and died in 1624, aged 87. The Market-house is a neat building, erected in 1708, over which is a room used as the Town Hall; the Market, which was granted in 1313, is held weekly on Tuesday; beside which there is a monthly Market, and three annual Fairs. A Dissenting Chapel, and a Quaker's Meeting-house, are established here; and a Workhouse, a Lying-in Hospital, a parochial Library for the use of the poor inhabitants, a Free Grammar School, and a School on Dr. Bell's plan, evince the liberality and charity of the inhabitants.
Reigate has sent two Members to Parliament ever since the twenty-third year of Edward I; and had formerly a Castle and a Priory, of which no remains now exist; on the hill on which the former was situated, is the entrance to a cave, 123 feet long, and 11 feet high, which is reported to have been the rendezvous of the confederate Barons in the reign of John; and here they are said to have arranged the articles of Magna Charta, shortly afterwards confirmed at Runnymead. On the site of the Priory stands a handsome modern mansion, still called by
A brief account of this eminent statesman will be found at page 90 of this volume.
that name, erected by Lord Somers. There are several remains of antiquity in the town; and the Market-house occupies the site of a chapel dedicated to St. Thomas a-Becket.
The road in this neighbourhood has been much improved of late years; a tunnel, 150 feet long, has been dug through a chalk hill, and a suspension bridge is carried over part of it.
Although only a village, is of considerable extent, and in 1821 had 5994 inhabitants. It is nine miles from London, and its charming situation on the Thames is too well known to need description here; from this circumstance it derived its ancient name of Sheen, signifying bright or resplendent. Here was a royal residence, in which Edward III expired, in 1377, as did Anne, the consort of Richard II, in 1394, on which occasion the King, who tenderly loved her, abandoned the Palace, and commanded it to be pulled down. Henry V repaired it, and founded a most magnificent monastery here; after suffering from a fire, the Palace was rebuilt with great splendour by Henry VII, who commanded it to be called Richmond, from his own previous title; and here he died in 1509. His successor frequently resided in it; as did Mary and Elizabeth, with the latter of whom, although she had once been imprisoned here, it was a favourite residence; and here, in 1603, she closed in melancholy and despondency a long life of glory and prosperity. By James I it was granted successively to his sons Henry and Charles, by the latter of whom it was settled on his Queen, Henrietta Maria; the Parliament sold it for upwards of £10,000, but on the Restoration it reverted to the Queen, who resided here until 1665. James II's son, afterwards the "Pretender," is said to have been nursed here. Very little of this ancient Palace now remains, but its site is occupied by a number of handsome houses.
The Park is first mentioned in a survey taken by order of Edward I, in 1293, but has been much enlarged by subsequent sovereigns; it is at present eight miles in circumference, containing 2253 acres; and on one part of the Old Park (so called to distinguish it from the New Park, formed by Charles I) an
Observatory was erected by Sir William Chambers, in 1769, and furnished with a fine collection of astronomical instruments, curious subjects of natural history, &c. by King George III; another part of this park was occupied by his Majesty as a dairy and grazing farm, and he also commenced some buildings here, which were never finished; the remainder forms the Royal Gardens, which are beautifully laid out, and are open to the public during the summer.
About the centre of the town is the Green, a pleasant square, three sides of which are formed of handsome houses, and the fourth is occupied by a fine grove of lofty trees, beneath which is a gravel walk. On this Green is the Theatre, a neat building, open during the summer, and generally well attended. In the town are also several Libraries and Readingrooms; and the unrivalled beauty of the situation attracts a great number of visitants in the summer months, beside the nobility and gentry who have permanent residences in the neighbourhood.
The Church, which is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, consists of a nave, two aisles, and a chancel, of brick; with a low tower at the west end, built of stone and flints. The interior is neat, and contains many monuments, the most remarkable of which is that of Thomson, the author of the Seasons, who was buried here in 1748, but without any memorial to mark the spot, until the Earl of Buchan, an enthusiastic admirer of the poet, put up this brass tablet, with a suitable inscription, in 1792*. In the Churchyard lie the remains of Jaques Mallet du Pan, a celebrated political writer; the Rev. Gilbert Wakefield, well known as an eminent classical scholar; and Dr. Moore, author of Zeluco, Views of Society and Manners in France, Italy, and Germany, &c.
In Richmond is a handsome Catholic Chapel, some* places of worship for Dissenters, several Almshouses, Schools, and a Workhouse, built at the expense of George III. The poor of this parish also
* The residence of the poet, Rossdale House, in Kew-foot-lane, has been much enlarged and improved since his death; and the table on which he wrote has been placed in his favourite seat in the garden. Over the entrance is inscribed
"Here Thomson sung the Seasons and their Change."} The inside is adorned with quotations from authors who have complimented his talents; and in the centre is an inscription by the Earl of Buchan.