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Mr. Joseph Fussell who resides within sight of this little edifice, and whose pencil took the Roman general’s station, and the well, also drew this Conduit; and his neighbour, Mr. Henry White, engraved the three, as they now present themselves to the reader’s eye.
The view of the “White Conduit” is from the north, or back part, looking towards Pentonville, with Pancras new church and other buildings in the distance. It was erected over a head of water that formerly supplied the Charter-house, and bore a stone in front inscribed “T. S.” the initials of Sutton, the founder, with his arms, and the date “1641.”
About 1810, the late celebrated Wm. Huntington, S.S., of Providence chapel,
* Nelson's History of Islington.
has long been the Sunday resort of Irishmen for the game of foot-ball. Getting back into the New Road, its street which stands on fields I rambled in when a boy, leads to “White Conduithouse,” which derives its name from a building still preserved, I was going to say, but I prefer to say, still standing.
who lived in a handsome house within sight, was at the expense of clearing the spring for the use of the inhabitants; but, because his pulpit opinions were obnoxious, some of the neighbouring vulgar threw loads of soil upon it in the night, which rendered the water impure, and obstructed its channel, and finally ceasing to flow, the public was deprived of the kindness he proposed. The building itself was in a very perfect state at that time, and ought to have been boarded up after the field it stood in was thrown open. As the new buildings proceeded it was injured and defaced by idle labourers and boys, from mere wantonness, and reduced. to a mere ruin. There was a kind of upper floor or hayloft in it, which was frequently a shelter to the houseless wanderer. A few years ago some poor creatures made it a comfortable hostel for the night, with a little hay. Early in the morning a passing workman perceived smoke issuing from the crevices, and as he approached heard loud cries from within. Some mischievous miscreants had set fire to the fodder beneath the sleepers, and afterwards fastened the door on the outside : the inmates were scorched by the fire, and probably they would all have been suffocated in a few minutes, if the place had not been broken open. The “White Conduit"at this time merely stands to shame those who had the power, and neglected to preserve it. To the buildings grown up around, it might have been rendered a neat ornament, by planting a few trees and enclosing the whole with an iron railing, and have stood as a monument of departed worth. This vicinity was anciently full of springs and stone conduits; the erections have long since gone to decay, and from their many waters, only one has been preserved, which is notoriously deficient as a supply to the populous neighbourhood. During the heats of summer the inhabitants want this common element in the midst of plenty. The spring in a neighbouring street is frequently exhausted by three or four o'clock in the afternoon, the handle of the pump is then padlocked till the next morning, and the grateful and necessary refreshment of spring-water is not to be obtained without going miles in search of another pump. It would seem as if the arochial powers in this quarter were eagued with publicans and sinners, to compel the thirsty to buy deleterious beer and bowel-disturbing “pop,” or to swallow the New River water fresh with impurities from the thousands of people who daily cleanse their foul bodies in the stream, as it lags along for the use of our kitchens and tea-tables.
“White Conduit-house,” has ceased to be a recreation in the good sense of the word. Its present denomination is the “Minor Vauxhall,” and its chief attraction during the passing summer has been Mrs. Bland. She has still powers, and if their exercise here has been a stay and sup to this sweet melodist, so far the establishment may be deemed respectable. It is a ground for balloon-flying and skittle-playing, and just maintains itself above the very lowest, so as to be one of the most doubtful places of public resort. Recollections of it some years ago are more in its favour. Its tea-gardens then in summer afternoons, were well accustomed by tradesmen and their families; they are now comparatively deserted, and instead, there is, at night, a starveling show of odd company and coloured lamps, a mock orchestra with mock singing, dancing in a room which decent persons would refer to withdraw their young folks from if they entered, and fire-works “as usual,” which, to say the truth, are usually very
Such is the present state of a vicinage which, “in my time,” was the pleasantest near spot to the north of London. The meadow of the “White Conduit" commanded an extensive prospect of the Hampstead and Highgate hills, over beautiful pastures and hedge-rows which are now built on, or converted into brick clamps, for the material of irruption on the remaining glades. The pleasant views are wholly obstructed. In a few short years, London will distend its enormous bulk to the heights that overlook its proud city; and, like the locusts of old, devour every green field, and nothing will be left to me to admire, of all that I admired.
Written in Bartlemy Fair, at Five o'clock in the morning, in 1810.
The clock-bell tolls the hour of early day,
The watchman homeward plods his weary way
Now the first beams of morning glad the sight,
Save when the sheep-dog bays with hoarse affright.
Save that where sheltered, or from wind or shower,
Of such as, wandering near their secret bower,
Beneath those ragged tents—that boarded shade,
There, children, dogs, cakes, oysters, all are laid,
The busy call of care-begetting morn,
The showman's clarion, or the echoing horn,
Perhaps in this neglected booth is laid
Hands—that the rod of magic lately sway’d;
Some clown, or pantaloon—the gazers' jest,
Some tired-out posture-master here may rest,
The applause of listening cockneys to command,
To give delight to all the grinning band,
Is still their boast;-nor, haply, theirs alone,
And human monsters, shall acquire renown,
Peace to the youth, who, slumbering at the Bear,
Soon will the crowd again be thronging there,
Careful their booths, from insult to protect,
Nor longer with prodigious pictures deck'd,
But when the day calls forth the belles and beaux,
And many a clown the useful notice shows,
Sleep on, ye imps of merriment-sleep on!
And when this time of annual mirth is gone,
NATURA lists' cALEN DAR.
* The Morning Chronicle, 1810.
PURTon FAIR, WILTs.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book. August 18, 1826. Dear Sir, Perhaps you, or some of your readers, may be acquainted with a small village in the north of Wiltshire, called Purton, very pleasantly situated, and dear to me, from a child it; being the place where I passed nearly all my boyish days. I went to school there, and there spent many a pleasant hour which I now think of with sincere delight; and perhaps you will not object to a few particulars concerning a fair held there on the first day of May and the third day of so in every year. e spot whereon Purton fair is annually celebrated, is a very pleasant little green called the “close,” or play-ground, belonging to all the unmarried men in the village. They generally assemble there every evening after the toils of the day to recreate themselves with a few pleasant sports. Their favourite game is what they call backswording, in some places called singlestick. Some few of the village have the good fortune to be adepts in that noble art, and are held up as beings of transcendent genius among the rustic admirers of that noted science. They have one whom they call their umpire, to whom all disputes are referred, and he always, with the greatest possible impartiality, decides them. About six years ago a neighbouring farmer, whose orchard joins the green, thought that his orchard might be greatly lo. He accordingly set to work, pulled down the original wall, and built a new one, not forgetting to take in several feet of the green. The villagers felt great indignity at the encroachment, and resolved to claim their rights. They waited till the new well should be complete, and in the evening of the same day a party of about forty marched to the spot armed with great sticks, pickaxes, &c., and very deliberately commenced breaking down the wall. The owner on being apprised of what was passing, assembled all his domestics, and proceeded to the spot, when a furious scuffle ensued, and several serious accidents happened. At last, however, the aggressor finding he could not succeed, proposed a settlement; he entirely removed the new wall on the following day, and returned it to the place where the old one stood.
On the morning of the fair, as soon as the day begins to dawn, all is bustle aud confusion throughout the village. Gipsies are first seen with their donkies approaching the place of rendezvous; then the village rustics in their clean white Sunday smocks, and the lasses with their Sunday gowns, caps, and ribands, hasten to the green, and all is mirth and gaiety. I cannot pass over a very curious character who used regularly to visit the fair, and I was told by an ancient inhabitant that he had done so for several years. He was an old gipsy who had attained to high favour with all the *: of the place, from his jocular habits, curious dress, and the pleasant stories he used to relate. He called himself “Corey Dyne,” or “Old Corey,” and those are the only names by which he was known. He was accustomed to place a little hat on the ground, from the centre of which rose a stick about three feet high, whereon he put either halfpence or a small painted box, or something equally winning to the eye of his little customers. There he stood crying, “Now who throws with poor old Corey—come to Corey—come to Corey Dyne; only a halfpenny a throw, and only once a year!” . A boy who had purchased the right to throw was placed about three feet from the hat, with a small piece of wood which he threw at the article on the stick, and if it fell in the hat, (which by the by it was almost invariably sure to do,) the thrower lost his money; but if out of the hat, on the ground, the article from the stick was claimed by the thrower. The good humour of “Old Corey” generally ensured him plenty of custom. I have oftentimes been a loser with him, but never a winner. I believe that no one in all Purton knows from whence he is, although every body is acquainted with him. There was a large show on the place, at which the rustics were wont to gaze with surprise and admiration. The chief object of their wonder was our “punch.” They could not form the slightest idea how little wooden figures could talk and dance about; they supposed that there must be some life in them. I well remember that I once undertook to set them right, but was laughed at and derided me for my presumption. and boast of superior knowledge. There was also another very merry fellow who frequented the fair by the name of “Mr. Merryman.” He obtained