Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 23.djvu/157

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Gresham
Gresham
149

not been passed for eleven years. The subsequent audit at the treasury showed that he had received in the last ten years in behalf of the government 677,248l. 4s. 8¾d., and had expended 659,099l. 2s. l½d. Several items of personal expenditure were disallowed or reduced by the official auditor; but certain sums owing to Gresham at the last audit (in 1563) were acknowledged, and he finally found himself about 10,000l. in debt to the government. Gresham tried to wipe off this debt by claiming interest at twelve per cent., and exchange at 22s. 6d. on the sums admitted to be due to him from the previous audit. On this calculation he represented that the crown was in his debt to the large extent of 11,506l. 18s. 0¼d. This exorbitant demand was at once disputed by the commissioners. Gresham promptly obtained a duplicate copy of his accounts, and caused a footnote to be added to the document acknowledging the impudent claim for interest and exchange which had already been practically rejected. With this paper he set out for Kenilworth, where the queen was staying as the guest of Leicester. Through the good offices of her host Elizabeth was induced to allow the claim, and, fortified by the royal endorsement, Gresham obtained the signatures of the commissioners to his duplicate account, with its deceitfully appended note. The evidence is too complete to admit of a favourable construction being placed on this transaction.

During 1564 Gresham had suffered a crushing misfortune in the death of his only son, Richard, a young man twenty years old, who was buried in St. Helen's Church, Bishopsgate. This bereavement seems to have disposed him to devote his wealth to schemes for the public benefit. His father had contemplated erecting a bourse or exchange for the London merchants as early as 1537, and on 31 Dec. 1562 Clough had urged him to fulfil this object. But it was not till 4 Jan. 1564-5 that Gresham offered to the court of aldermen, through his servant, Anthony Strynger, to build at his own expense a burse or exchange for the merchants of London, if the city would provide a site. The offer was thankfully accepted, a committee was appointed to consider a site, and Gresham's intention of employing `strangers' in erecting the building was approved. The situation first selected was between Cornhill and Lombard Street, the old meeting-place of the merchants, but this was afterwards rejected in favour of the site occupied by the present structure on the north side of Cornhill. The wardens of the twelve principal livery companies were summoned to meet, and the aid of the merchant adventurers and staplers was also enlisted to raise the necessary funds for the purchase of the land, the latter companies being required to contribute four hundred marks within two months. The total cost of the ground was 3,532l. 17s. 2d., towards which twenty of the principal companies contributed 1,685l. 9s. 7d., subscribed by 738 of their members between March 1565 and October 1566, in sums rising from 10s. to 13l. 6s. 8d. Notice was served in Christmas 1565 upon the occupiers of the property required, and on 9 Feb. Gresham, while at the house of Alderman Ryvers, promised in the presence of many citizens that within a month after the burse should be fully finished he would present it in equal moieties to the city and the Mercers' Company. The foundation-stone of the new burse was laid by Gresham on 7 June 1566, and the timber used in its construction came from Battisford, near his house at Ringshall in Suffolk. The great bulk of the materials required, stone, slate, wainscot, glass, &c., were obtained by Clough at Antwerp, and a Flemish architect, named Henryke, whom Gresham in 1568 recommended to Cecil to build his house at Burleigh, was engaged to design the building and superintend its erection. The statues employed for the decoration of the interior were the work of English artists, with the exception of Queen Elizabeth's,which was procured from Antwerp (ib. pp. 107-21, 500-3). By November 1567 Stow tells us the building was covered with slate, and shortly afterwards fully finished.

The building was ready for the use of merchants on 22 Dec. 1568. Two contemporary engravings of the exterior and interior of the structure are reproduced by Burgon (pl. 8 and 9), and exhibit a striking likeness to the burse at Antwerp. It was built, like Gresham's own house in Bishopsgate Street, over piazzas supported by marble pillars, and forming covered walks opening into an open square inner court. On the first story there were also covered walks (known as the 'pawn'), lined by a hundred small shops, from the rents of which Gresham proposed to reimburse himself for the cost of the erection. A square tower rose beside the south entrance, containing the bell which summoned the merchants to their meetings at noon and at six o'clock in the evening. Outside the north entrance was also a lofty Corinthian column. On each of these towers and above each corner of the building was the crest of the founder, a huge grasshopper, and the statues already mentioned, including one of Gresham himself, adorned the covered walks. According to Fuller, Clough contributed to the expense of building the burse to the extent of some