The Life of JOHN STOW. xxvij

The Life of JOHN STOW.

present Citizens from their Forefathers: who if they had any Treasure to spare, and to lay out in Structures, they preferred the Expence of it upon Buildings for the publick Good; such as Hospitals to harbour the Poor, before the adorning of their own Houses with gaudy Turrets, meerly to go up now and then, and look a great Way about them. And he made once a particular Observation of one Richard Whethill a Merchant Taylor, that was the Builder of an House in Leadenhall street near Lime-street End, with a high Tower, the Second Tower built in the City, and the first of Timber, that ever he learnt to have been built to overlook Neighbours in the City. Of this Man he observed, that being a Young Man he became in a short Time so tormented with the Gout both in his Hands and Legs, that he could neither feed himself, nor go further than he was led; much less able to climb, and take the Pleasure of the Height of his Tower.

Limestreet Ward.

And this leads me to another good Quality in him; which was, his Pity and Compassion for the Poor. And on their Account, he commended the antient Hospitality, when the Needy Sort were relieved with Food; and likewise Harbour afforded them. Which Charities he observed to be much abated upon the Suppression of Religious Houses: Many of those Helps and Succours of the Poor being sunk and lost, the Revenues falling into private Hands, and become the Possessions of such as were of a quite contrary Disposition to the former Owners. And where Houses were free for the charitable Entertainment of poor People, even there (the Poor being turned out) Houses were sometimes erected for the Oppressions of the Poor, by hard Bargains made with the Workmen, and by racking the poor Tenants by advanced Rents. Upon this Occasion he would not forbear now and then to express his Mind. And particularly in Shorditch Parish. Where was a Place, called Rotten-Row, consisting of small Houses with Gardens; which belonged to the Priory of Haliwel: Who placed there a great many Poor that dwelt there freely, only paying a Peny as an Acknowledgment to him at Christmas; who then feasted them all at the Priory with good Cheer. Afterwards, when that Priory was dissolved, these Houses, with the rest of the Revenues, were swallowed up; and came at length into the Hands of one Russel: who bought them a good Penyworth; and new builded them. And now was the Case quite altered; and there, where Charity and Relief was exercised, now became a Place of Rigor and Covetousness. For this Man made his Bargains so hardly with his Carpenters, Bricklayers and other Workmen, that they were undone by it: and then so rented these Buildings, and took such large Fines of the Tenants, that it came to near as much as the Houses cost him. And yet the Place was now from Rotten-Row, called Russel-Row, in Honour of his Name; as Stow smartly reproacheth him.

He liked ancient Hospitality.

As he had a mighty Concern for the Reputation of the City, which it had obtained of antient Times, so he was uneasy at some Things in his Time that abated it, and made the Citizens degenerate. He observed how it bred warlike People, that delighted in manly and healthful Exercises and Sports; whereby they were fitted for War, and Defence of their City and Countrey; namely Wrestling, Running at the Quinten, shooting in the Long Bow, going the Watches Armed. Which began now to be disused. Whereof that of shooting was much laid by; because the Common Grounds about the City began to be much enclosed: and so Room was wanted for that Exercise. Which Enclosures, for that Reason, as well as others, Stow disliked. And so instead of that, and the other becoming Recreations, the Sports that then took Place, were creeping, he said, into Bowling Allies, and Dicing Houses near Home; where, said he, they have room enough to hazard their Money at unlawful Games: And where I leave them to take their Pleasures. And noting likewise the Pastimes in former Days the younger Sort used to betake themselves to on Holidays after Evening Prayer; the Young Men playing at Bucklers; and the Maids, in the Sight of their Masters and Mistresses, dancing for the Garland, hanging thwart the Streets, (but were now suppressed) worse Practices, added he shortly, within Doors were to be feared.

His Concern for the Cities Reputation.

And thus we leave these Memorials of this honest good Citizen to his lasting Praise, and for an Example to all the Natives of this most Noble City.

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