Maps of Old London/Wyngaerde
PANORAMA OF LONDON
By ANTONY VAN DEN WYNGAERDE
Description.—This is the earliest representation of London that has come down to our time. Accurately speaking, it is not a map, but a picture; but as many of the old maps are more or less in the same category, we need not exclude it on that account. Such topographical drawings are apt to be misleading, owing to the immense difficulties of perspective—witness the wretched samples hawked about the pavements at the present time. But, considering the difficulties, this map of Wyngaerde's is wonderfully accurate, and it has the advantage of being full of architectural details which no true map could give.
Designer.—Of Wyngaerde himself little is known. He is supposed to have been a Fleming, and may have come to England in the train of Philip II. of Spain. He is known to have made other topographical drawings. The date of the one here reproduced cannot be fixed with perfect certainty, but must have been between 1543 and 1550.
Original.—The original is in the Sutherland Collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and it measures 10 feet by 17 inches, and is in seven sheets. A tracing of it, made by N. Whittock, can be seen in the Crace Collection, Prints Department, British Museum, or in the Guildhall Library.
The present reproduction is from that made by the London Topographical Society, which photographed the original.
It is reduced, and is here placed in three sections, which overlap for convenience in handling.
Details.—If we examine the first section, which is that to the extreme west, we see the Abbey, very much as it is at present, with the exception of Wren's western towers. On the site of the present Houses of Parliament is the King's Palace at Westminster. It is impossible here to treat this in detail, for if that were attempted for all the buildings in this atlas, space would fail. A concise account of Westminster may be found in the book of that name in the Fascination of London Series. The chief point to note in the palace is St. Stephen's Chapel, of which the crypt now alone remains. About fifteen or twenty years previous to the date of this map King Henry VIII. had claimed Whitehall from Wolsey, and transferred himself to it from the old palace, which was growing ruinous.
Across the river opposite to Westminster is Lambeth, standing in a grove of trees.
Beyond Westminster westward all is open ground, in the midst of which we see St. James's Hospital, where is now St. James's Palace. Though still marked "Hospital," it had already been annexed by the King. Where is now Trafalgar Square we are shown in the map the King's Mews, built by Henry VIII. for his hawks. Charing Cross is marked by the cross put up in memory of Queen Eleanor. Along the river banks is a fringe of fine houses and foliage. We may pick out one or two of these princely buildings—namely, Durham House, Savoy Palace, and Somerset House (see The Strand in the above series). The church of St. Clement Danes is only separated from the open country by a single row of houses.
On the west side of the Fleet River is Bridewell, built by Henry VIII. in 1522 for the entertainment of the Emperor Charles V. Here, in 1529, Henry and Katherine stayed while the legality of their marriage was being disputed in Blackfriars across the Fleet. Then we come to Old St. Paul's, still carrying its tall spire, destined so soon to topple down. Between it and the river is one of the most famous of the old strongholds, Baynard's Castle. On the extreme right of the map is the port of Queenhithe, which can be seen to-day by any wanderer in the City.
Turning the page, we see the old City as it was before the Fire, made up of gable-ended wooden houses with overhanging stories, crowded close together, and diversified by the numerous pinnacles and spires of the City churches, many of which were never rebuilt. The embattled line of the wall hems the City in on the north, and Cheapside cuts it laterally in a broad highway. Almost in the centre of the picture is the Guildhall. The interest reaches its culmination in the spectacle of Old London Bridge, with its irregular houses, its archways, and its chapel. Note that the engraver has not omitted to indicate the decaying heads on poles, a succession of which adorned the bridge throughout the centuries (see The Thames in above series).
On the south side of the water is St. Mary Overies (see Mediæval London, vol. ii., p. 297). It has as neighbours Winchester and Rochester Houses, the residences of the respective Bishops of those sees; while the proud cupolas of Suffolk House—built circa 1516, and later used as the Mint—are clearly shown. The houses running from it up to the foreground of the picture are beautifully delineated, and may be taken as models of Elizabethan architecture; while the man with the harp and the horseman are quite clearly enough drawn to show their period by the style of their dress. From some point behind here must Wyngaerde have made his survey, as it is manifestly impossible it could have been done from Suffolk House, as stated by one authority.
There are three objects so striking in this picture that attention is at once claimed by them to the exclusion of all else—the Abbey of Bermondsey, the Tower of London, and Greenwich Palace. In Bermondsey two Queens died—Katherine, consort of Henry V., and Elizabeth, consort of Edward IV. Only a year or two before this map was made had the grand old Abbey been surrendered to the King (for a full account see Mediæval London, vol. ii., p. 288).
The Tower, taken as a whole, is very much as we still know it; it is one of the oldest remaining relics of the past. Note the gruesome place of execution near by, and the guns and primitive cranes at work upon the wharf. Just beyond it eastward rise the fretted pinnacles of St. Katherine's by the Tower, on the spot now covered by St. Katherine's Docks.
Stepney Church stands far away on the horizon, cut off from the City by an ocean of green fields.
Returning to the south side, we see Says Court, Deptford, between Bermondsey and Greenwich. This was for long the home of John Evelyn, and was ruinously treated by Peter the Great, who tenanted it during his memorable stay in this country in 1698. (For Greenwich Palace or Placentia, see London in the Time of the Tudors.)