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The following will exhibit a comparative statement of the number of houses and inhabitants that have been estimated to be in Islington parish, at different periods, from the commencement of the last century-viz.
The proportion in 1821 of Males and Females was-Males, 9,550; Females, 12,867.
Of the first foundation of a Church at Islington very little at present can be ascertained. It was most probably founded during the usurpation of Rome in this country; as we find that an image of the Virgin Mary, called Our Lady of Islington, was kept in the old Church, and held in high veneration; but which was destroyed at the Reformation. The old edifice (see the annexed engraving)
which stood on the site of the present Church, was a spacious but low-built structure, in the pointed style of architecture, composed of a rough kind of masonry called Boulder, or an intermixture of flints, pebbles, and chalk, strongly cemented together. The tower was embattled, and a bell turret at the north-west corner. The
roof was covered with tiles. In the tower there were six bells, and a clock on the west front; also a sun-dial on the south side bearing the date of 1708. Hatton, an eminent surveyor, who wrote the "New View of London," about a century ago, supposed it to have been erected about 200 years. Of the interior of the building, he observes, "As to ornament, it cannot be expected any considerable should be in so old and decaying a structure; but what there is to be found, is agreeable enough."
This church contained three aisles, and was paved throughout with brick and stone intermixed. The pews were of oak, and the walls wainscotted in most parts seven feet high, and painted of an olive colour, enriched with gilt mouldings. On pulling down this structure in 1751, the earliest date that occurred was 1483, which was discovered at the S.E. corner of the steeple, on the removal of the gallery. This, it is most probable, was the date of its erection, and while it confirms the opinion of Hatton, shows the time of the Church's standing to have been 268 years. Upon the old Church being shut up, previous to its removal, Divine service was regularly performed in a large building, near the Fox publichouse, and which had been previously fitted up at the expence of 100l. to be used as a tabernacle till the new Church should be completed.
We subjoin two of the monumental inscriptions in the old Church. The first was on a plated grave-stone in the south aisle :
"Here lyeth the body of John Markham, Esq., one of the Serjeants at Arms to our most gracious Sovereign Lord King James, who dyed the 26th of August, 1610.
He was both gentilke born, and gentilke bred,
Unto a vertuous and a loving wife,
Who, losing him, loathed her own life;
In the same aisle appeared the following:
"To the sacred memory of Anne, late wife of Henry Chitton, Esq., Chester Herald at Arms, Life is Death's road, and Death Heaven's gate must be,
Heaven is Christ's throne, and Christ is life to me.
The angels of the Lord protect
All those that are His own elect."
On the 28th of August, 1751, the foundation-stone of the new Church was laid by James Colebrooke, Esq., the largest land-proprietor in the parish, and was opened for Divine worship on the 26th of May, 1754. It was built from the designs and under the direction of Mr. Launcelot Dowbiggin. The terms with Mr. G. Stevenson, the builder, were as follows:-for the Church and tower, £5,622; the spire, vane, &c., £577; the stone balustrades, £23; the stone portico, £97; making a total of £6,319. The interior fittings up, with the chandelier, clock, organ, bells, &c. came to £1,021; consequently the total cost was £7,340.
This handsome fabric stands on the exact site of the old Church, which like the present one, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is built of brick, interspersed with stone quoins, cornices, &c. in plain rustic. A square tower, surmounted by a high spire of a peculiar yet graceful form, rises from the middle of the west end; where the principal entrance opens from a semi-circular portico, consisting of a dome supported by four Truscan columns, which stand on an ascent of five steps.
tower, at the height of 87 feet, is terminated by a cornice, with a vase at each angle, and crowned by an octagonal balustrade, within which is the spire basement: this supports eight double columns of the Corinthian order (their shafts wrought with rustic) whereon the dome rests, from which the spire contracts by several gradations to its apex, and is surmounted by a ball and vane. One of the leading features in Church architecture is the SPIRE, which rising from a small base, and carried up to a due height, is well calculated to produce the finest effect; whether considered merely in a pictorial point of view, or more seriously, as intended to lead the mind to that sublime elevation which the nature of Divine worship requires. These advantages are fully possessed by the spire of Islington Church, which is not only a beautiful object in itself, but it contributes, by its union with the other parts, to give grandeur to the whole edifice, whilst from its aërial loftiness, it directs the ideas to that Omniscient Being, to whose services it is constructed.
In the tower is a good peal of eight bells, the six which were in the old Church being recast in 1774, and two smaller ones added by subscription, to complete the The tenor weighs 16 cwt., and was recast in 1808, in order to improve the tone. Around each bell is an inscription, of which the following is a copy :
1st Bell. Although I am but light and small,
proper times our voices we will raise
You'll own our voices sweet and clear.
Ye virgins all, that prize your health and happiness,
In 1787, a flag-staff, 42 feet high, which stood at the S.W. corner of the tower, was removed, and an iron conductor was affixed to the spire to preserve the building from the effect of lightning. The means used to effect these alterations were at once novel and ingenious. Thomas Birch, a basket-maker, undertook for the sum of £20 to erect a scaffold of wicker work round the spire, and which he formed entirely of willow, hazel, and other sticks. It had a flight of stairs within, ascending in a spiral line from the balustrade to the vane, by which the ascent was as easy and safe as the stairs of a dwelling-house. This ingenious contrivance superseded the use of a scaffold, and was found to be of less expense. The spire on this occasion presented a very curious appearance, being enveloped, as it were, in a huge basket, within which the workmen were performing their operations in perfect safety. This exhibition was advertised, and the price of admission to the wicker staircase was sixpence each person, which produced the sum of £50 to the ingenious artificer.*
We intend to give a description of the interior of this Church in our next Number, which will be accompanied with an Engraving of it.
The Church living of this parish was appropriated to the nuns of St. Leonard, at Bromley in this county, to whom it probably was given by William, Bishop of London, their founder, about the time of William the Conqueror. Of the patronage of the Church at Islington "there was of old," says Newcourt, " a controversy before Gilbert, Bishop of London, between the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's on the one part, and the nuns of Stratford Bow on the other; which, by the authority and assent of the said Bishop, was at last quietly determined after this manner-viz. that the said nuns should hold the Church of Iseldon of the canons of St. Paul's, and should therefore yearly pay to the said canons one mark; half on the next day after the feast of St. Leonard, and half in the octaves of Pentecost; and that thereupon the said nuns should freely present to this Church-which Church, it seems, was afterwards appropriated to those nuns; and a vicarage here ordained and endowed, of which they continued patrons till their suppression; but afterwards it came into the hands of private patrons."
At the dissolution of their convent, the Rectory and Advowson were granted to Sir Ralph Sadler, who aliened them in 1548 to John Perse. In 1565 they were conveyed by Thomas Perse to Roger Martyn; and in 1582 by Humphrey Martyn to John Cheke. It is probable that they came into the Stonehouse family before the civil war, and were seized among other estates of Sir John Stonehouse who suffered considerable losses by his attachment to royalty. In 1646 Sir Walter Smyth, being then in the possession of the Rectory of Islington, conveyed it by an indenture of that date to Sir Arthur Heselrige, Sir Thomas Fowler, Sir Thomas Fisher, and other inhabitants of the place, as feoffees in trust for the vicar and his successors, on whom he settled the great tythes. In 1657 it was ordered by the committees, that Leonard Cook, who had been presented to the Vicarage in the December preceding, should receive the profits of the Rectory, pursuant to this grant.
In the year 1662 the Rectory and Advowson were entirely vested in the Stonehouse family in which they continued for many years. By indenture, dated July 1, 1740, the Rev. George Stonehouse conveyed "all the advowson and right of patronage," &c. to Robert Holden, Esq. A deed, dated July 1, 1771, recites that the above conveyance was made to Holden in trust for the use of Sir Gilbert Williams.
Sir Gilbert by his will, directed that his estates should be sold, and his debts paid out of the produce thereof; in pursuance of which, and by virtue of an order of the Court of Chancery, the advowson and right of patronage to the Church of Islington was sold before one of the Masters of the Court, and purchased by Sir David Williams, the eldest son of Sir Gilbert, for the sum of £1,600. The property was then conveyed to Thomas Brigstock, in trust for the said Sir David Williams. By indenture dated July 2, 1771, the advowson, &c. was conveyed to Richard Smith, Esq., for the sum of £3,000. This gentleman by his will dated Sept. 2, 1775, devised the perpetual advowson, &c. " to which soever of the sons of his son Benjamin Smith that should take upon him the profession of the Church of England," charging the same with the payment of a legacy of 1,000l. to his grand-daughter Charlotte.
The impropriation was by deed of bargain and sale, dated June 8, 1811, conveyed by the Rev. R. Smith, heir at law of the above, in consideration of the sum of £5,500 to William Wilson, Esq., of Milk Street, London, and Nether Warton, Oxon., from whom the property has descended by will to his son-in-law, the Rev.
Daniel Wilson, the present Bishop of Calcutta ; and is now possessed by his son, the Rev. Daniel Wilson, M.A. The living is valued in the King's Books at £30; the present nett income, as returned to his late Majesty's Commissioners for inquiring into Ecclesiastical Revenues, is £1,155.
The following is a list of the Vicars of Islington, from the catalogue published by Mr. Nichols, in his account of Canonbury, with the date of the year of their resignation or death.
8. John Cooke....
9. William Hardy 10. John Dames 11. William Chapell 12. William Canon 13. Richard Dally 14. John Croxby 15. William Leche 16. John Farley 17. Robert Smith. 18. John Fayley 19. John Wardall 20. Thomas Goore
22. Thomas Warren...
23. John Cocks
24. James Robinson..
1337 27. Meredith Hanmer
30. Leonard Cook..
31. Dr. Cave*
32. Robert Gery
33. Cornelius Yeate.
34. George Carey..
35. Richard Streat..
1438 36. George Stonehouse
38. Richard Smith
39. Dr. Strahant..
40. Bishop D. Wilson
21. Edward Vaughan, LL.D....... 1509
Robert Brown, founder of the sect of Brownists, appears to have been the most remarkable among the lecturers of this parish—a man of a most imperious and ungovernable temper. His sect long survived the revolt, and many of his opinions were afterwards received with some modification by the Independents. Dr. Gaskin, the late lecturer, held the situation forty-six years, which he resigned in 1822, on being preferred to a Prebendary's stall in Ely Cathedral. The Rev. J. E. Denham, A.B. was appointed lecturer on the resignation of Dr. Gaskin.
[In our next number we intend to give some account of the Chapel of Ease and the District Churches. We shall esteem it a favour if any of our readers could furnish us with a few particulars respecting them, especially of those now in the course of erecting.]
* WILLIAM CAVE, M.A.-This learned Divine was born in 1637; and educated at Cambridge, where he took his degree D.D., in 1672. He was chaplain to Charles II., and in 1684, was installed Canon of Windsor. Dr. Cave published two very elaborate and useful works relating to Ecclesiastical History and Antiquities, the Lives of the principal Fathers, within the first centuries of the Church, and a Work of a more extensive nature, wherein he gives a history of all the writers for and against Christianity to the 14th century, with an account of their publications and doctrines. Dr. Cave died in 1713, and was buried at Islington.
+ This clergyman was honoured with the friendship of the great Dr. Samuel Johnson, who frequently visited him at Islington, and was at his house for a few days during his last illness. He bequeathed to Dr. Strahan a part of his library, and left in his hands for publication "Prayers and Meditations, composed by Samuel Johnson, LL.D."