James Lackington’s bookshop The Temple of the Muses, Finsbury Square, London, by William Wallis (fl.1816-1855) after Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1793-1864), published in London: Jones & Co., 1828. Etching and aquatint with added hand-colouring.
At the peak of his career Lackington became the proprietor of a shop with a frontage of 43 metres (140 feet) at the southwest corner of Finsbury Square. Crowned with a dome from which flew a flag, it was called 'The Temple of the Muses', and was one of the capital's tourist attractions.
Within was an immense circular counter, round which it was said was room enough to drive a coach-and-six. 'Lounging rooms' were reached by way of a broad staircase, and there was a succession of Galleries, where the stock was cheaper and shabbier the higher one climbed. The Finsbury Square bookstore sold over 100,000 books a year – no mean feat back then.
Image credit: http://www.alzheimercafeiow.org.uk
Perhaps remembering his debt to the founder of Methodism James Lackington used his wealth to build churches for the movement's followers. He gave the name Temple to all three of the churches that he built, the two others being at Sandown in the Isle of Wight , pictured above, and Taunton.
The Taunton Temple Methodist Church on Upper High Street, rebuilt in 1868. Image credit: Derek Harper
Aidan Turner, who plays Ross Poldark. As a mere blogger I probably don't have the right to reproduce actual BBC Poldark images to publicise the series, which is what I seem to be doing in this article. Stern warnings about copyright are a bit off-putting. Hence these images of the actors which seem to be in the public domain thanks to Wikipedia. Bit of a shame really, but the lawyers probably insist.
When James Lackington settled in retirement at Budleigh Salterton in 1807 and built a chapel for local Methodists it was apparently because he was so struck by the ‘spiritual Destitution of the place’. But he faced determined opposition in the shape of the local landowner Lord Rolle, whose tenants were told not to help with the project. Lackington was obliged to bring workers and building materials from Exeter. His arrival in Budleigh had clearly presented a challenge to adherents to the established Church of England and antagonized local dignitaries like George Warleggan, the villain of ‘Poldark’.
Image credit: Fairlynch Museum
Not too many Budleigh Salterton people realise how appropriate the use of the Temple Methodist Church is for the town’s Literary Festival. But this former Budleigh resident who revolutionised the world of bookselling with the radical changes that he introduced some 200 years ago, would be delighted that the Fore Street church will be hosting some of the events being staged over this mid-September weekend.
In an edition of his autobiography published in 2004 by the Merton Historical Society he tells his own story with relish and candour, and it is an entertaining read. The original edition of his autobiography merited the following comment from his editor in 1827: ‘It is easy to find more important autobiographies than that of this pertinacious bookseller, sceptic and methodist, but few are more lively, curious, or characteristic.’