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There is an old proverb that “it is an ill wind that blows nobody good.” This may be considered as being appropriate with regard to the present condition of the much-cherished and over-adored Temple Bar, one of the postern gates of the City of London.
It is now a matter of history that at the end of the month of July or the beginning of that of August, 1874, the keystone of the arch was observed by some architect to have dropped, and Temple Bar was out of the perpendicular. This caused, as might be expected, a great outcry from all the daily newspapers, who clamoured for the instant removal of Temple Bar. The City authorities were duly informed of its dangerous and critical condition, and they at once sent up a gang of workpeople to shore up and put the dilapidated old structure upon crutches, to prevent any further subsidence of the structure.
The immediate cause of the disaster may be attributed to the fact of the foundations being set in alluvial deposits resting upon the London clay; and after the houses which supported it on the north side of Fleet Street were removed to make way for the much-talked-about New Courts of Justice, a very deep excavation was made, close to the Bar, into the London clay to allow for the foundations of a lofty tower being built. This operation exposed the foundation of Temple Bar. It fortunately so happened that there had not been much rain, or it would have percolated the surface soil, and so reached the clay, which it could not have penetrated; thus it would have formed a sort of slide upon which poor old Temple Bar would have been gracefully let down, and the building might have passed into the Law Courts area precisely in the same manner that a ship is launched.
Had there been rain in any quantities, nothing could have prevented this catastrophe, which would have been started by the great vibration caused by the vehicles constantly passing beneath.
So much has been written, both true and false, good and indifferent, relative to the old arch, that I shall not enlarge further upon it than to mention that the present Temple Bar was erected in 1670, from designs by Sir Christopher Wren. Originally only posts, rails, and a chain marked the boundary of the liberty of the City westwards, as did Holborn, Smithfield, and Whitechapel Bars in other directions. Afterwards a house of timber was erected across the street, with a narrow gateway, and an entry on the south side of it under the house.—STRYPE, Book iii.
278. This old structure being considered dangerous, having already stood some hundred years or more, was pulled down after the great fire in 1666. It must have been about this time that Messrs. Blanchard and Child built a new front to their house.
To return to the existing Bar, after the crack and slip had taken place, Messrs. Child and Co., the tenants of the rooms over the gateway, which are rented of the Chamber of London at the rental of £20 per annum, commenced to move all their old ledgers and other books connected with the Bank, amounting to many tons in weight, in order to relieve the arch from an extra burden.
It has always been felt that a history of Messrs. Child and Co.'s Bank would be a very interesting and even in
structive subject to produce; and it appeared to us that this would be the time of all others to commence, whilst all the old books, papers, &c. are in a transition state, previously to being stowed away for an unlimited period, or perhaps destroyed.
We are pleased to record that our labours have been amply repaid; for from the many interesting documents to which we have had access, and from information obtained from other sources, we are enabled to publish the following records of the old Bank.
In olden days it was customary for tradesmen to adopt signs, which they were in the habit of displaying on the outside of their houses. A house known by any particular sign generally retained it, under a succession of occupants, without regard to the avocation, calling, or trade of the new comer. After 1764 signs abutting into the street were no longer tolerated, but were in some cases affixed to the walls of houses, and finally were abolished.
It is said that Wood Street and Whitecross Street were among the last from which signs were taken down, and that these signs existed as late as the year 1773.
The sign of the Bank of Messrs. Child and Co. was the Marygold, which may still be seen in the water-mark of the present cheques. The original sign is still preserved in the front shop, over the door which leads into the back
premises. It is made of oak, the ground stained green, with a gilt border, marygold and sun ; the motto beneath it is, " Ainsi mon âme.”
Many of the customers of the Bank used to address
their cheques to “Mr. Alderman Child and Partner, goldsmiths, at ye sign of ye Marygold, next dore to Temple Barr;” and in 1694 we find a cheque addressed to Mr. John Rogers, goldsmith (who was a partner with Sir Francis Child), “ at ye signe of ye Marygold, next dore to yo Devill Taverne in Fleet Streete;" and again, in 1732, when the second Sir Francis Child was Lord Mayor, we find that the second Earl of Oxford addressed his cheques to “The Worshipful, the Lord Mayor and Company at Temple Bar;” and another cheque we find addressed to Mr. Francis Child, “a goole Smyth, att Temple barr, in London.”
The sign of the Marygold, in Fleet Street, next Temple Bar, appears to have originated in the sign of a tavern ; at any
rate it was first mentioned with reference to a tavern, as may be gathered from the following paragraph, extracted from Beaufoy's Tokens,' p. 75:-“ The Banking-house of Messrs. Childs was, in King James the 1st's reign, a public ordinary, the sign being the “Marygold.' As an ordinary it appears to have borne a riotous character, and at the wardmote held on St. Thomas's day, December 21, 1619, Richard Crompton, keeping an ordinary at the Marygold, in Fleet Street, was presented for disturbing the quiet of John Clarke, being next neighbours, late in the nights, from time to time by ill disorder.”
By an old lease, dated 1676, we find that Robert Blanchard rented the Marygold for sixty-one years of John and Elizabeth Land, which at the decease of Robert Blanchard in 1681 was taken on by Francis Child, until 1706, when we find that John Land died and left the premises to the parish of St. Dunstan's. By the following
extract from a parish lease it will be seen that Sir Francis Child rented these premises of that parish :
“John Land late of the Parish of St Martins Ludgate, London, Gent decd in and by his will dated 26 April 1697 did give and devise all his freehold messuage of tenements with appurtenances situated lying and being in Fleet Street on the South side of the same street next adjoyning to Temple Bar in the Parish of St Dunstans now in the occupation of Sir Francis Child, and his other Freehold messuage &c on the south side of the same street and adjoyning unto the last mentioned messuage and late in the occupation of John Dutton and now or late in the tenure or occupation of William Biggins. And all that the said messuage, or tenement with the appurtenances commonly called and known by the name of the Sugar loaf and Green Lettice situate &c in Fleet Si aforesaid on Sth side of the street and adjoyning to the said last mentioned messuage in tenure and occupation of Willm Biggins, together with all shops, cellars, Chambers, Yards, rooms, lights, passages &c to ye Minister and Church Wardens of the parish of st Dunstans in the West for ever. The premises in occupation of Sir Francis Child from the feast of St Michael the Archangel 1707 and the premises known as the Sugar Loaf in occupation of Will Biggins from the feast of St Michael &c 1714 at the yearly rental of £60 for 61 years."
An agreement was entered into that Sir Francis Child should lay out £800 in building. Of the Sugar Loaf and Green Lettice we cannot glean any history; it was situated immediately in the rear of the Marygold, and the kitchen of the present Bank is a part of those premises, and puts one greatly in mind of what the dining-room at Dick's Coffee-house used to be when kept by Mr. Quelch, and closely resembles the interior of the old Rainbow tavern. But both of these latter coffee-houses were established after the Marygold ceased to exist as a tavern ; the date of Dick's, according to Cunningham, was 1680, and that of the Rainbow 1657.