Percy's Reliques - The Downfall of Charing Cross.

The Downfall of Charing Cross.

            Charing-cross, as it stood before the Civil Wars, was one of those beautiful Gothic obelisks erected to conjugal affection by Edward I. who built such a one wherever the hearse of his beloved Eleanor rested in its way from Lincolnshire to Westminster. But neither its ornamental situation, the beauty of its structure, nor the noble design of its erection (which did honour to humanity), could preserve it from the merciless zeal of the times: for, in 1647, it was demolished by order of the House of Commons, as popish and superstitious. This occasioned the following not unhumorous sarcasm, which has been often printed among the popular sonnets of those times.

            The plot referred to in ver. 17, was that entered into by Mr. Waller the poet, and others, with a view to reduce the city and tower to the service of the king; for which two of them, Nathaniel Tomkins and Richard Chaloner, suffered death, July 5, 1643.-- Vide. Athen. Ox. ii. 24.

UNDONE, undone the lawyers are,
They wander about the towne,
Nor can find the way to Westminster,
Now Charing-cross is downe:
At the end of the Strand, they make a stand,
Swearing they are at a Ioss,
And chaffing say, that's not the way,
They must go by Charing-cross.

The parliament to vote it down
Conceived it very fitting,
For fear it should fall, and kill them all,
In the house, as they were sitting.
They were told, god-wot, it had a plot,
Which made them so hard-hearted,
To give command, it should not stand,
But be taken down and carted.

Men talk of plots, this might have been worse
For any thing I know,
Than that Tomkins, and Chaloner,
Were hang'd for long agoe.
Our parliament did that prevent,
And wisely them defended,
For plots they will discover still,
Before they were intended.

But neither man, woman, nor child,
Will say, I'm confident,
They ever heard it speak one word
Against the parliament.
An informer swore, it letters bore.
Or else it had been freed;
I'll take, in troth, my Bible oath,
It could neither write, nor read.

The committee said, that verily
To popery it was bent;
For ought I know, it might be so,
For to church it never went.
What with excise, and such device,
The kingdom doth begin
To think you'll leave them ne'er a cross,
Without doors nor within.

Methinks the common-council shou'd
Of it have taken pity,
'Cause, good old cross, it always stood
So firmly to the city.
Since crosses you so much disdain,
Faith, if I were as you,
For fear the king should rule again,
I'd pull down Tiburn too.

*** Whitelocke says, "May 7, 1643, Cheapside-cross and other crosses were voted down," &c. But this vote was not put in execution with regard to Charing-cross till four years after, as appears from Lilly's Observations on the Life, &c. of King Charles, viz. "Charing-cross, we know, was pulled down, 1647, in June, July, and August. Part of the stones were converted to pave before Whitehall. I have seen knife-hafts made of some of the stones, which, being well polished, looked like marble." Ed. 1715, p. 18, 12mo.

            See an account of the pulling down Cheapside cross, in the Supplement to Gent. Mag. 1764.

 

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