Monthly Archives: August 2009

Locating Alsatia

Map of Whitefriars in 2009

Map of Whitefriars in 2009

Establishing the topology of Alsatia will be an important theme in this project. To begin with, a map of the area today. Of course, it has been heavily redeveloped several times; despite this, indications of its position and history are are preserved in some of the roads and street-names. A crypt from the religious house still exists, in Magpie Alley.

Henry Harben’s Dictionary of London (1918) states: “The precinct comprised the area from Whitefriars Street east to Temple Lane west, and north from the Thames almost to Fleet Street, in Farringdon Ward Without.”

Lombard Lane was previously Lombard Street, and part of the precincts (Harben; see also Harben’s entry for Pleydell Court and Street)

Also shown is another sanctuary, Salisbury Court, once the place and Inn of the Bishops of Salisbury. (Harben)

Map generated from Open Street Map data under a CC-BY-SA license. Click to enlarge.

Laroon’s “Squire of Alsatia”

The Squire of Alsatia, by Marcellus Laroon

The Squire of Alsatia, by Marcellus Laroon

Marcellus Laroon was born in 1649 in the Hague, and brought to Britain by his father, an artist, around 1660. After serving an apprenticeship as a painter and working in Yorkshire, he settled in London around the mid 1670s, setting up at 4 Bow Street, Covent Garden. The market there provided him with the subject matter for his series The Cryes of the City of London, drawne after the Life, a set of 74 portraits of London characters first published in 1687. One of them is The Squire of Alsatia, the reproduction above taken from a reprint of 1813. (The credit beneath it reads: Pub.d Aug.t 10. 1813 by R.S. Kirby 11 London House Yard.)

A dandy, dressed a la mode, with a large befeathered hat, lace neckerchief, cane and sword, strikes a pose. The flamboyance implies aristocratic status, but is a facade. James Granger, in his Biographical Dictionary of England, identifies the real-life subject as Bully Dawson, “a notorious gambler and black-leg [card-sharp] of his time” and goes on:

…. one of the gamesters of White Friars, which was notorious for these pests of society, who were generally dressed to the extremity of the mode. Their phraseology abounded with such words as are sometimes introduced by pretenders to politeness and “dunces of figure,” whom Swift reckons among the principal corrupters of our language. The reader may see much of this jargon, which indeed requires a glossary to understand it, in Shadwell’s comedy, entitled “The ‘Squire of Alsatia,” which was brought upon the stage in this reign.

The scan above is taken from a print in my possession, and is in the public domain. Click on the picture for the full size version, which may be freely shared.

Update 6/9/2009: Image uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.