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CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH.
The City Corporation-Guildhall-Mansion House-City Companies
and their Halls.
THE “ CITY" is the oldest part of London, and forms as it were the nucleus of the whole metropolis, which from this point has spread out in all directions, adding house to house, and street to street, absorbing neighbouring villages, and covering the intervening fields and gardens, until it has become one of the wonders of the world. The “ City" extends from Alagate on the east to Temple Bar on the west, and from the river Thames on the south to an irregular boundary on the north. Within these limits there are only 631 acres, 6367 inhabited houses, and 45,550 resident people; and yet all the great foci of commerce are herethe Bank of England, the chief joint-stock and private banks, the General Post Office, the Mint, Lloyd's, the Royal Exchange, the Corn and Coal Exchanges, the Custom House, together with the counting-houses of the principal merchants. Here also are the Tower and St. Paul's Cathedral, and here is the residence of the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, president of the Corporation of London.
For municipal purposes, the city is divided into twenty-six wards, each returning an alderman, and subdivided into precincts, each returning a common councilman. At the head of the corporation is the Lord Mayor, who is annually chosen by the livery on the 29th of September. He is usually the senior alderman who has served the office but has not passed the chair, i. e.,
who has not already been mayor. Now and then, however, the same gentleman is elected a second time, as in the case of the present Lord Mayor. The liverymen are select persons of the trade companies, about which we shall have something to say presently.
They are about 10,000 in number. With them rests the choice of the principal city officers. The freemen, a larger body, are persons who by various ways (inheritance, admission to a company, payment, etc.) have obtained the freedom of the city; they are about 20,000 in number. Any male person of the of 21 may be made a freeman on paying £6. It is not an unusual thing to present the freedom of the city to persons who have distinguished themselves in the service of the state. The chief officers after the Lord Mayor are—two sheriffs, a recorder who is a barrister and officiates as judge, chamberlain, common serjeant, and town clerk. The style of the corporation is the Mayor, Commonalty, and Citizens of London. The chief is addressed as My Lord, and styled Right Honourable. After the King, he holds the first place within the city, even before the heir-apparent, a privilege disputed by but maintained against George IV. when Prince of Wales. He is at the head of the military force of the city, is a judge of the criminal court, and presides in all the civic courts. He is lodged in the Mansion House, which is splendidly furnished for him, where he is supplied with plate, jewels, and servants. He has an allowance of £8000 for his year, but he spends £4000 or £5000 out of his own pocket in addition, and the expenses of the office are not far short of £15,000. When installed in his office, on the 9th of November, “ Lord Mayor's Day,” he is conveyed to Westminster, to be sworn in before a Baron of the Exchequer, in a state coach, accompanied by the sheriffs in their state coaches, and by a showy retinue, aldermen, recorder, chaplain, chamberlain, bailiffs, sword-bearer, etc.
“How London doth pour out her citizens !
SHAKSPERE's Henry V. He wears a gold chain and badge, with rich gowns varying with the occasion. His state carriage was built in 1757, from Cipriani's design. It is one of the few remaining pompous vehicles of the last century, is richly carved and gilt, and adorned with paintings, good for their place. It cost originally £1065, and it is said £100 is laid out on it annually. He lives in a style of lavish hospitality, and entertains, several times in the year, the ministers, judges, and other distinguished personages. The great gold mace was given by Charles I.; the sword of state with a scabbard set with pearls, by Queen Elizabeth.
The freemen— householders of a ward paying £10 a year rent-elect the alderman of that ward, and he retains his seat until he chooses to resign it. He is a justice of the peace, a judge of the central criminal court, chairman of the ward meetings, and wears a state robe with a gold chain. The two sheriffz for London, who are also sheriffs for Middlesex, are chosen by the livery. It is said that the expenses of the office exceed the receipts by £2000 for each. The privileges and jurisdiction of the city have been granted or acknowledged by several royal charters. It has its own magistrates and police. It has often been proposed by those who do not like to see money wasted, to reduce the corporation to that of an ordinary municipal body, but so far it has borne a charmed life. The arms of the city, which will be seen everywhere, from the parapets of bridges to the collars of policemen, are the cross of St. George with the sword of St. Paul.
The conservancy of the Thames having been taken away from the corporation, to be vested in a special board, and there being no longer any pretence for preserving the city state barge (which had originally cost £3000, and was continually a source of expense), it was sold not long ago by public auction. forty-three years old, and had seen during this lengthened existence, much feasting and conviviality, when the Mayor, Aldermen, and their friends, proceeded in it to view officially the upper part of the Thames.
There are many curious customs connected with the City Corporation, to which we have no space to do more than allude. We may, however, mention that until quite lately the sheriffs were bound to attend once a year in the Court of Exchequer at Westminster, there to perform suit and service in respect of certain lands held by the corporation, the said suit and service consisting of chopping faggots with a bill hook and adze, and of counting six horse shoes, and sixty-one nails, all which was done in sober seriousness, before the judges and a crowd of spectators. It actually required an Act of Parliament to modify this absurd custom (to abolish it would have been a too dangerous tampering with the institutions of our forefathers), and the proceedings are now transacted with the utmost gravity once a year, between the under-sheriffs and the Queen's Remembrancer, at the official chambers of the latter.
It was CORPORATION BUILDINGS.
GUILDHALL, end of Cheapside, King Street, City, is the town. hall of the City of London. The first hall on this site was built in 1411, but only a few fragments of that edifice remain. The present building was erected in 1789, from the designs of the younger Dance. It is in decidedly bad taste. Over the entrance are the city arms and motto “ Domine dirige Nos." The great hall is 153 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 55 feet high, illuminated with windows of painted glass, and having at the west end two gigantic grotesque wooden figures (carved in 1708), called Gog and Magog, of the origin of which little is known. Around the hall are several marble monuments. 1. Lord Mayor Beckford, father of the author of Vathek, with his bold speech (said never to have been spoken) to George III. 2. Lord Nelson ; the inscription was written by Sheridan. 3. The Duke of Wellington. 4. The Earl of Chatham; the inscription was written by Burke. 5. His son, William Pitt; the inscription was written by Canning. At the back of the dais, are statues of Edward VI., Elizabeth, and Charles I. These came from the old Guildhall Chapel, pulled down some years ago. This hall is used for civic banquets, elections, and other city meetings. It is open to the public every day. In the lobby leading to the Common Council Chamber is a portrait of Major-General Sir W. F. Williams of Kars. At the upper end of the Common Council Chamber is Chantrey's statue of George III., with his words “Born and bred a Briton,” inscribed ; and at the opposite end is Copely's large picture of the siege of Gibraltar. Another large picture is Northcote's Sir William Walworth, the Lord Mayor, killing Wat Tyler. Here are portraits of several British warriors, judges, and aldermen, with busts of the Queen, Nelson, Granville, Sharp (by Chantrey, good), and others. The room where the Court of Aldermen transacts business is rich, and is adorned with paintings by Sir James Thornhill. The windows contain the arms of the Lord Mayors. In an adjoining committee-room is a picture by Opie, representing the murder of James I. of Scotland. The library contains a valuable collection of early printed pageants, tracts of the time of the Civil war, and the Commonwealth, and papers connected with the city. Here are preserved antiquities, pottery, glass, etc., found in various parts of the city, a large stone coffin from Guildhall Chapel no longer in existence, coins,
etc. In glass cases may be seen autographs of kings and queens, of Cromwell, Sir C. Wren, Sir Robert Walpole, Dr. Johnson, and other eminent people. The most interesting object of this class, and one that will receive particular attention, is an autograph signature of the author of Hamlet, attached to the deed of purchase of a house in Blackfriars, dated the 10th of March 1613, in which deed he is described as “ William Shakespeare, of Stratforde upon Avon, Gentleman.” The signature is unmistakeably “William Shakspere.” The city gave £142 for this document. The mortgage of the same property, which Shakspere executed shortly afterwards, was purchased by the trustees of the British Museum, for 300 guineas. Adjoining Guildhall are inconvenient law courts, where the superior judges preside.
THE MANSION HOUSE is the residence of the Lord Mayor during his year of office. It stands in the neighbourhood of the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange, and was erected from George Dance's designs in 1740, but was not inhabited until 1753. The principal feature of the front is a Corinthian portico with six fluted columns, and a pediment of allegorical sculpture by Sir Robert Taylor. The chief room is called the Egyptian Hall, on account, it is said, of being an imitation of that which Vitruvius described under that name. Here the Lord Mayor gives his grand banquets, and it can accommodate 400 guests. It contains some marble statues by British artists, amongst which notice Caractacus and Egeria, by J. H. Foley ; Genius and the Morning Star, by Bailey ; Comus, by Lough ; and Griselda, by Marshall. About £8000 have been laid out on the statuary here. The edifice contains other dining-rooms, with drawing-rooms and a ball room. The Venetian Parlour and some other of the rooms have been recently redecorated in a costly manner. There is also a justice-room, where the Lord Mayor sits as a magistrate daily to hear police cases.
THE CITY COMPANIES AND THEIR HALLS.
The City Companies, of which there are about 82, are the relics of the trading companies that in old time were omnipotent within the city in their respective occupations. Most of their privileges, however, have disappeared, as not being in conformity with the spirit of the age—in other words, as being injurious to the community. In several cases their very names relate to