Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 23.djvu/158

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Gresham
Gresham
150

thousands of pounds; but his provision of the building materials from Antwerp on Gresham's behalf may have been mistaken by the writer for a personal outlay.

For more than two years the shops remained, according to Stow, 'in a manner empty;' but when Elizabeth signified to Gresham her intention of visiting him, and of personally inspecting and naming his edifice, Gresham busied himself to improve its appearance for the occasion. By personal visits to the shopkeepers in the upper `pawn,' he persuaded them to take additional shops at a reduced rent, and to furnish them with attractive wares and with wax lights. On 23 Jan. 1570-1, says Stow, the queen, attended by her nobility, made her progress through the city from Somerset House to Bishopsgate Street, where she dined with, Gresham. Afterwards returning through Cornhill, Elizabeth entered the burse, and having viewed every part, especially the 'pawn,' which was richly furnished with all the finest wares of the city, 'she caused the same burse by an herralde and a trompet to be proclaimed the Royal Exchange, and so to be called from thenceforth, and not otherwise' (Survey, ed. 1598, p. 194). Contemporary notices of this event occur in the accounts of the churchwardens of various London parishes. In those of St. Margaret's, Westminster, payments are recorded to the bell-ringers 'for ringing when the Queen's Majesty went to the burse' (cf. Nichols, Illustrations, &c., 1797). The ceremony forms the subject of a Latin play (Tanner MSS., Bodleian Library, No. 207), in five acts, entitled 'Byrsa Basilica, seu Regale Excambium a Sereniss. Regina Elizabetha in Persona sua sic Insignitum, &c.' The characters are twenty in number. The first on the list, `Rialto,' is intended for Sir Thomas Gresham ; Mercury pronounces the prologue and epilogue. The piece appears to be of contemporary date, and is signed I. Rickets. Another play, written by Thomas Heywood, describes the building of the burse. It is in two parts, entitled respectively, 'If you know not me, you know nobody, or the Troubles of Queen Elizabeth,' 4to, 1606 ; and `The second part of Queen Elizabeth's Troubles. Doctor Paries treasons: The building of the Royall Exchange, and the famous victory in ann. 1588,' 4to, 1609. The play is full of fabulous stories of Gresham, including the tale of his drinking the queen's health in a cup of wine in which a costly pearl had been dissolved. Another scene, for which there is probably more foundation, describes a quarrel between Gresham and Alderman Sir Thomas Ramsay, and their reconciliation by Dean Nowell (Gent. Mag. 1826, pt. i. pp. 219-21). The exchange soon became a fashionable lounge for citizens of all classes, and the shops in the upper walk or pawn fetched high rents, and were regarded as one of the sights of London. A record exists in the Inquest Book of Cornhill ward of the `presentment' of the exchange in 1574 for the disturbance occasioned there on 'Sondaies and holy daies' by the `shoutinge and hollowinge' of young rogues, that honest citizens cannot quietly walk or hear themselves speak (Burgon, ii. 355). Gresham's exchange was destroyed in the fire of 1666.

Gresham also contributed from his vast fortune to other public objects. At the close of 1574 or the beginning of 1575 he announced the intention, which he had long entertained, of founding a college in London for the gratuitous instruction of all who chose to attend the lectures. This roused the jealousy of his own university of Cambridge, and Richard Bridgewater,the public orator, wrote to Gresham on 14 March 1574-5, to remind him of a promise to present 500l. to his alma mater, either for the support of one of the old colleges, or the erection of a new one. This was followed by another letter on the 25th, with one of the same date to Lady Burghley (whose husband was chancellor of their university), asking her to use her influence with Gresham to prevent the establishment of a rival university in London. But Gresham did not change his plans. His town residence, Gresham House, was bequeathed to the college upon the death of Lady Gresham (cf. Gresham's will, dated 5 July 1575). The rents of the Royal Exchange were, with Gresham House, to be vested in the hands of the corporation of London and of the Mercers' Company, who were to appoint seven lecturers. The lecturers' salaries were fixed at 50l. per annum, and they were to lecture successively on the sciences of divinity, astronomy, geometry, music, law, medicine, and rhetoric. The professors were required to be unmarried men, and each was to be provided with a separate suite of apartments. The college did not prove very successful. Lady Gresham sought to divert its endowment after Gresham's death. In 1647 complaints of its management appeared (cf. Sir T. Gresham's Ghost, a whimsical tract). The fire of London, which destroyed the Royal Exchange, deprived it of its source of revenue; but the college escaped destruction, and there the corporation and other public bodies took temporary refuge. It was the first home of the Royal Society. In 1707 complaints of its management were renewed, and in 1767 the building, then in a ruinous condition, was sold under an act of parliament to the government