The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 19 From Charing Cross To St Paul's Cathedral

Farringdon Street

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FARRINGDON STREET, another wide thoroughfare, leads north from Ludgate Circus to Holborn Viaduct, passing the Congregational Memorial Hall (on the right), a large Gothic building erected in 1874 as the headquarters of the Congregational Denomination. It was named in honour of the �fidelity to conscience� of the 2000 ministers ejected from the Church of England in 1882 by the Act of Uniformity. It occupies part of the site of the historic Fleet Prison, which stood on the east side of the Fleet River and certainly existed as a royal prison in Norman times. This prison was afterwards used for persons committed by the Star Chamber and for debtors. It was twice rebuilt, after its destruction in the Great Fire (1666) and in the Gordon Riots (1780), and it was finally pulled down in 1844-46. The so-called �Fleet Marriages� arose out of the fact that clergymen imprisoned for debt in the Fleet were not deterred from celebrating clandestine marriages by the financial penalties they nominally incurred. The first entry of this kind in the �Fleet Registers� (now at Somerset House) is dated 1874, but Fleet marriages are known to have taken place at least 80 years earlier. Such marriages were legal down to 1753. Under certain restrictions debtors were allowed to live in a quarter adjoining the Fleet, known as the �Rules� or �Liberty� of the Fleet. William Penn spent nine months in the Fleet Prison (probably in 1709) rather than pay an unjust claim of his steward Ford; and Dr. Donne was confined here for marrying his patron's daughter (1602). See The Fleet; its River, Prison and Marriages,� by John Ashton (1888), and compare the descriptions in �Pickwick� and Besant's �Chaplain of the Fleet.' FARRINGDON ROAD, prolonging Farringdon St. north to Clerkenwell, is the scene of an interesting street market, noted for second-hand books. Beyond Ludgate Circus Fleet St. is continued by Ludgate Hill, passing under the viaduct of the Southern Railway and ascending to St. Paul's Cathedral. To the north diverges the Old Barley, leading to Newgate St. and the Central Criminal Court. Opposite Old Bailey is Water Lane, leading to Apothecaries� Hall. Farther up Ludgate Hill, to the left, is the church of St. Martin Ludgate, the slender spire of which shows up well against the dome of St. Paul's (one of St. Paul's �lean curates, slim and lank in view'). The church (open daily, except Saturday, 11-2) was one of those rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire (completed in 1684) and the simple but dignified facade is a good example of his minor work. Samuel Purchas (1575 ?-1626), author of the �Pilgrimes,� was rector of the parish from 1614 till his death. Behind St. Martin's is Stationers� Hall.