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UNTIL the beginning of the nineteenth century time had dealt kindly with our great Capital, at least from the point of view of a lover of the past. In the confines of the City there were still many houses of timbered or half - timbered construction, which had evidently existed before the Great Fire, and the plain but well-proportioned buildings which came into being shortly after that catastrophe were so common that they hardly attracted notice. Merchants dwelt where their business was carried on, and worshipped hard by, in the City churches where their fathers had worshipped before them; and, if they went on a journey, they started from one of those quaint galleried inns of which a solitary survivor yet remains in the Borough High Street. The west end of London terminated at Hyde Park Corner;
Tothill Fields were fields indeed ; houses had begun to spread in the direction of Paddington, but farther east Tavistock Square and the Foundling Hospital marked the northern limitations. On a plan dated 1802 Mile End appears to be in the country, and most of the present South London was market garden or marsh.
Even during the writer's childhood the City was still old fashioned; Kensington—the "old Court Suburb”—had somewhat the appearance of a country town, while that part of Chelsea which bordered on the Thames was a straggling river-side hamlet. But in this time of rapid change, a generation makes all the difference. Growth and destruction have gone hand in hand, and soon perhaps it will be as difficult to find an old house within the four-mile radius as to light upon an unrestored church-or to flush a snipe in Eaton Square.
The writer, for many years, has employed his spare time in examining those older portions of London which have now been to a great extent “improved” away; he has visited them again and again, making notes on the spot, with brush and