White Conduit House
18th Century London, UK

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ORIGINS

From "The Gentleman's Magazine"

The house derived its name from an old stone conduit, which bore on a carved stone in front the date 1641, and the initials and arms of Thomas SUTTON, the founder of the Charter House ... that institution, even in its earlier monastic times, had been partly supplied with water from this spot: but so long since as 1654 the governors had recourse to the New River Head, and in 1831 the last ruins of the Conduit were removed.

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(The Charter House - SUTTON's Hospital - was painted by Gainsborough.)

 
From "Chronicles of Charter-house" by William John Duff, 1847

CHARTER-HOUSE was formerly supplied with water from a conduit at Islington. At the Rolls Chapel is the following:—

'R concessit Edw. North Mil' domum et scitum nuper Priorat 'Carthus' London, ac etiam caput et originalem fontem unius canalis sive aquseductus situat' in quodam campo in parochia de Islyngton, voc' Condyte Field'

white conduit

The conduit (of which the above is a representation) was rebuilt by the executors of Thomas SUTTON, who, it will be recollected, was a benefactor to the highways of the parish of Islington.

Thomas Sutton effigy
Effigy of Thomas Sutton, from his monument

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1649

From "Notes and Queries" No. 44, Saturday August 31, 1850

NOTES ON THE SECOND EDITION OF MR. CUNNINGHAM'S HANDBOOK OF LONDON

White Conduit House.—
The old tavern of this name was erected in the reign of Charles I. The workmen are said to have been regaling themselves upon the completion of the building, at the instant the king was beheaded at Whitehall.

Old White Conduit House
1731: THE OLD WHITE CONDUIT HOUSE
A Set of Views of Noted Places near London drawn and engraved by C. Lempriere

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1749

1749 White Conduit House

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1754

From "The Sunday Ramble" by Anonymous

White Conduit House
The garden is formed into several pleasing walks, prettily disposed; at the end of the principal one is a painting, which serves to render it much larger in appearance than it really is; and in the middle of the garden is a round fish-pond, encompassed with a great number of very genteel boxes for company, curiously cut into the hedges, and adorned with a variety of Flemish and other painting; there are likewise two handsome tea-rooms, one over the other, as well as several inferior ones in the dwelling-house. ...

White Conduit Loaves were for a long time famous, and before the great augmentation in the price of bread, during the revolutionary war with France, they formed one of the regular 'London cries.'

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THE BARTHOLOMEWS

Robert BARTHOLOMEW
m. Elizabeth
- Christopher BARTHOLOMEW Chr. 7 January 1741 St. Michael Bassishaw, London
- [Elizabeth BARTHOLOMEW b. June, Chr. 6 July, 1742 St. Mary-St. Marylebone Rd., St. Marylebone, London]
 

ROBERT BARTHOLOMEW

From "The History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary, Islington, in the County of Middlesex"
by Samuel Lewis, June 1842

(As reviewed in "The Gentleman's Magazine", July 1842)

The Daily Advertiser for August 10th, 1754, informs us of the attractions that Conduit House then presented:—

This is to acquaint the public that at the White Conduit House the proprietor, for the better accommodation of gentlemen and ladies, has completed a long walk with a handsome circular fishpond, a number of shady pleasant arbours, inclosed with a fence seven feet high to prevent being in the least incommoded from the people in the fields. Hot loaves and butter every day; milk directly from the cows; coffee and tea and all manner of liquors in the greatest perfection; also a handsome long room, from whence is the most copious prospect and airy situation of any now in vogue.
I humbly hope the continuance of my friends' favours, as I make it my chief study to have the best accommodations, and am, Gentlemen and &c., your obliged humble servant, ROBERT BARTHOLOMEW.
Note. My cows eat no grains, neither any adulteration in the milk or cream. Bats and balls for cricket, and a convenient field to play in.

The house and gardens became celebrated as a place of great resort, not only for the lower order of the people, but also for respectable tradesmen and their families in the afternoon, as a tea-house, &c.

Goldsmith, in his Citizen of the World, thus celebrates the 'hot rolls and butter' of White Conduit House:—

After having surveyed the fair and beautiful town of Islington, I proceeded forward, leaving a fair stone building called the White Conduit House, on my right. Here the inhabitants of London often assemble to celebrate a feast of hot rolls and butter; seeing such numbers, each with their little tables before them, employed on this occasion, must no doubt be a very amusing sight to the looker-on, but still more so to those who perform in the solemnity.

Hither Goldsmith himself and a few friends would repair to tea, after having dined at Highbury Barn.

Mr. Lewis gives several particulars of its subsequent history, and concludes by saying that the old house was succeeded by the present magnificent tavern, with its spacious concert room, in the year 1829.

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ELIZABETH BARTHOLOMEW

From the Old Bailey Trial Notes online

1767

Elizabeth BARTHOLOMEW was victim of theft; in her testimony she stated:

I keep the White Conduit-house.
On the 6th of August, two men and two women past me, as I sat at the bar, and went up stairs, but I should not know them; ... I fetched some money down that day about six in the evening, to pay a butter bill; then the money was all in my bed-room in a bureau chest of drawers, under two locks; about a quarter after ten I went to wind my watch up, and it was gone; then I turned about to the drawers; the key would not go into the lock, I found that broke; the drawers were unlocked; then I missed my money, 49l. in silver, in a canvas-bag; I found afterwards there were two crown pieces missing from a little drawer, but I did not miss them immediately ...

She then "sent word to the Angel inn, which my son keeps" and indicated that while the thieves should only have gone to the first floor, her bedroom "is up two pair"; Elizabeth "sent to Sir John FIELDING, and had the watch advertised" but she recovered neither watch nor money.

Witnesses included:
Charles MASON, "I am a waiter at the White Conduit-house ..." "I was [there] that evening; I saw them all four come down stairs about 8 o'clock; there were the two prisoners at the bar, and THOMAS the evidence; I remember I was speaking about Mr. MANNING being robbed at the same time."
Catharine BURDETT, "I live at the house ..."
Richard THOMAS, "As we came from Highgate that night, we went in at the White Conduit-house, for a bottle of syllabub, and a bottle of wine ..."

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CHRISTOPHER BARTHOLOMEW

From "The Every-day Book and Table Book" by William Hone, 1837

Christopher BARTHOLOMEW, who inherited a good fortune from his parents, was prosperous in his business, and had every prospect of success and eminence in life, fell a victim to an unconquerable itch for gambling in the Lottery. At one time, the White-conduit-house, with its tea-gardens and other premises, as also the Angel-inn, now the best tavern in Islington, were his freeholds: and he rented land to the amount of 2000l. a year, in the neighbourhood of that place, and Holloway. He was remarkable for having the greatest quantity of haystacks of any grower in the neighbourhood of London. He kept his carriage and servants in livery, and was believed to have been worth 50,000l.

He was not only the proprietor, but the landlord of White-conduit-house, to which, by his taste in laying out its grounds, and the manner of conducting his business, he attracted great custom. On one occasion, having been unusually successful in the Lottery, he gave a public breakfast at his tea-gardens, to commemorate the smiles of Fortune, as he so expressed himself upon the tickets of admission at this fete champetre.

At times he was very fortunate in the Lottery, and this tended to increase the mania which hurried him to his ruin. He was known to have spent upwards of 2000 guineas in a day for insurance, to raise which, stack after stack of his immense crops of bay were cut down and hurried to market, as the readiest way to obtain the supplies for these extraordinary outgoings; and at last he was obliged to part with his freehold, from accumulated difficulties and embarrassments, and he passed the remaining thirteen years of his life in great poverty, subsisting by the charity of those who knew him in "better days," and by the paltry emolument he derived from serving as a juryman in the sheriffs court for the county. His propensity to the Lottery, even under these degrading difficulties, never forsook him.

Meeting one day, in the year 1807, with an old acquaintance, he told him he had a strong presentiment, that if he could purchase a particular number in the ensuing Lottery it would prove successful. His friend, after remonstrating with him on the impropriety of persevering in a practice that had been already attended with such evil consequences, was at last persuaded to advance the money to purchase a sixteenth, and go halves with him in the adventure. It was drawn a prize of 20,000l., and from the proceeds from this extraordinary turn of fortune, he was prevailed upon to purchase an annuity of 60l. per annum. Totally addicted, however, to the pernicious habit of insurance, he disposed of his annuity, and lost every shilling of the money; yet such was the meanness of his mind and circumstances, that he frequently applied to persons who had been served by him in his prosperity, for an old coat, or some other article of cast apparel; and not many days before he died, he begged a few shillings to purchase necessaries.

BARTHOLOMEW in intellect and manners was superior to the generality of men, and at one time possessed the esteem of all who knew him. His fate may be a warning to all ranks, particularly to those who are in trade, not to engage in hazardous pursuits. He died in a two pair of stairs room, in Angel-court, Windmill-street, in the Hay market, in March, 1809, aged 68.

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CRICKET & THOMAS LORD

From "London Society" edited by James Hogg, Florence Marryat, 1863

The game [of cricket] that the ... noblemen and gentlemen had learnt in the Artillery Ground, near Finsbury Square, they afterwards practised in the White Conduit Fields. This White Conduit Club consisted of Lord WINCHELSEAa, Sir H. MANN, and all the leading patrons of the game; but the exact date of the formation of that club cannot be ascertained; but it was in the year 1787 that the Marylebone Club was formed of its members, and used to meet early in each season at the 'Star and Garter' in Pall Mall ...

One of the attendants on the White Conduit Club was Thomas LORD, a Scotchman, said to have fled to London because, from his Jacobite predilections, his nativE land had proved unpleasant. LORD ... took a piece of ground in the year 1787, where now stands Dorset Square, which ground soon went by the name of LORD'S. From the time this first Lord's Ground was formed, the White Conduit Club was re-established, or became the nucleus of another, under the name of the M.C.C.

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1820'S

1824

From "London" by Sholto Percy, Reuben Percy, Thomas Byerley

White Conduit House, where the humbler class of the inhabitants hie, merry-hearted, on a Sunday, is one of the most celebrated of all the tea-gardens in the neighbourhood of London, numerous as they are. ... The garden ... is very spacious, and a neighbouring field was formerly attached to it as a cricket-ground, where a club of noblemen and gentlemen assembled to practise that game.

1827

1827 White Conduit House

From "The Book of Days" by Robert Chambers, 1869

From White Conduit House, the view was unobstructed over fields to Highgate. The pretorium of a Roman camp was visible where Barnsbury Terrace now stands; the remains of another, as described by STUKELY, was situated opposite old St. Pancras Church; and hordes of cows grazed where the Euston Square terminus of our great midland railway is now placed, and which was then Rhodes' Farm.

The Conduit was then in a pitiable state of neglect — denuded of the outer case of stone, a mere core of rubble; the house was a low-roofed building, with a row of clipped trees in front, and a large garden in the rear, well supplied with arbours all round for tea-drinking; and such was its popularity at the commencement of this century, that fifty pounds was often taken on a Sunday afternoon for sixpenny tea-tickets. Its bread was as popular as the buns of Chelsea; and 'White Conduit loaves' was a London cry, listened for by such old ladies as wished to furnish a tea-table luxury to their friends. On week-days, it was a kind of minor Vauxhall, with singing and fire-works; on great occasions, the ascent of a balloon crowded the gardens, and collected thousands of persons in the fields around. It was usual for London 'roughs' to assemble in large numbers in these fields for foot-ball play on Easter Monday; occasionally 'the fun' was diversified by Irish faction-fights; the whole neighbourhood is now covered with houses. The old tea-garden built upon; and the house destroyed in 1849; a large public-house now marking the site of the older building we engrave.

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THE GUILDHALL LIBRARY

Sun Fire Policies:
22 November 1826
Insured: George NORTHOVER, carpenter: 6 Victoria Place near White Conduit House/White Conduit Fields
26 November 1829
Other property or occupiers: Coles Terrace Islington near White Conduit House

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1837

From "The Every-day Book and Table Book" by William Hone

1826 White Conduit setting
Drawn by Joseph Fussell, engraved by Henry White: September 1826

The view of the "White Conduit" is from the north, or back part, looking towards Pentonville, with Pancras new church and other buildings in the distance ...

About 1810, the late celebrated Wm. HUNTINGTON, S.S., of Providence chapel, who lived in a handsome house within sight, was at the expense of clearing the spring for the use of the inhabitants: but, because his pulpit opinions were obnoxious, some of the neighbouring vulgar threw loads of soil upon it in the night, which rendered the water impure, and obstructed its channel, and finally ceasing to flow, the public was deprived of the kindness he proposed. The building itself was in a very perfect state at that time, and ought to have been boarded up after the field it stood in was thrown open. As the new buildings proceeded it was injured and defaced by idle labourers and boys, from mere wantonness and reduced to a mere ruin.

There was a kind of upper floor or hayloft in it, which was frequently a shelter to the houseless wanderer. A few years ago some poor creatures made it a comfortable hostel for the night, with a little hay. Early in the morning a passing workman perceived smoke issuing from the crevices, and as he approached heard loud cries from within. Some mischievous miscreants had set fire to the fodder beneath the sleepers, and afterwards fastened the door on the outside: the inmates were scorched by the fire, and probably they would all have been suffocated in a few minutes, if the place had not been broken open.

The "White Conduit" at this time merely stands to shame those who had the power, and neglected to preserve it. To the buildings grown up around, it might have been rendered a neat ornament, by planting a few trees and enclosing the whole with an iron railing, and have stood as a monument of departed worth. This vicinity was anciently full of springs and stone conduits; the erections have long since gone to decay, and from their many waters, only one has been preserved, which is notoriously deficient as a supply to the populous neighbourhood. During the heats of summer the inhabitants want this common element in the midst of plenty. The spring in a neighbouring street is frequently exhausted by three or four o'clock in the afternoon, the handle of the pump is then padlocked till the next morning, and the grateful and necessary refreshment of spring-water is not to be obtained without going miles in search of another pump. It would seem as if the parochial powers in this quarter were leagued with publicans and sinners, to compel the thirsty to buy deleterious beer and bowel-disturbing "pop," or to swallow the New River water fresh with impurities from the thousands of people who daily cleanse their foul bodies in the stream, as it lags along for the use of our kitchens and tea-tables.

"White Conduit-house," has ceased to be a recreation in the good sense of the word. Its present denomination is the "Minor Vauxhall," and its chief attraction during the passing summer has been Mrs. Bland. She has still powers, and if their exercise here has been a stay and support to this sweet melodist, so far the establishment may be deemed respectable. It is a ground for balloon-flying and skittle-playing, and just maintains itself above the very lowest, so as to be one of the most doubtful places of public resort. Recollections of it some years ago are more in its favour. Its tea-gardens then in summer afternoons, were well accustomed by tradesmen and their families; they are now comparatively deserted, and instead, there is, at night, a starveling show of odd company and coloured lamps, a mock orchestra with mock singing, dancing in a room which decent persons would prefer to withdraw their young folks from if they entered, and fire-works "as usual," which, to say the truth, are usually very good.

Such is the present state of a vicinage which, "in my time," was the pleasantest near spot to the north of London. The meadow of the "White Conduit" commanded an extensive prospect of the Hampstead and Highgate hub, over beautiful pastures and hedge-rows which are now built on, or converted into brick clamps, for the material of irruption on the remaining glades. The pleasant views are wholly obstructed. In a few short years, London will distend its enormous hulk to the heights that overlook its proud city; and, like the locusts of old, devour every green field, and nothing will be left to me to admire, of all that I admired.

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1855

From "Household Words" by Charles Dickens

MUSIC IN POOR NEIGHBOURHOODS

There was so much robbery and dissipation in the public-houses, combined, as it would appear, with music and dancing, that he [FIELDING] recommended stringent measures; and his essay led to the enactment of the statute of 1752, whereby such houses and rooms were placed under magisterial control. ...

During the second half of the century there do not appear to have been many such places licensed. ... others were ... White Conduit House ... [which] lived until a few years ago; for information as to where it is now ask the bricklayers.

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1858

From "Yseldon. A perambulation of Islington" by Thomas Edlyne Tomlins, 1858

In the fields on which Cloudesley Terrace has been built, were also deep ponds, and close by, at the back, on the north side of "White Conduit House", (now Albert Street,) and at the south end of Claremont Place, there existed a deep and dangerous pool called the Wheel-Pond; this pond was fed by the land springs, and the overflowings of the water received at the White Conduit, and many persons were drowned in this water either by misadventure or suicide.

[White Conduit House] is only now remembered by a Public House called by the same name at the end of Penton Street, and built on the northern extremity of what were the grounds belonging to the Tea Garden. The old house stood on the east side of the foot-pathway from Clerkenwell towards Highgate in the line of Amwell Street, and seems to have owed its prosperity to the newly opened road about a century since.

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From "Walks Through Islington" by Thomas Cromwell, Henry Sargant Storer, 1835

White-Conduit House as it was to the recollections of many: at present scarce a feature of the house or gardens will agree with it.

Before the premises were taken by their late proprietor, Mr. George BOWLES, the fish-pond had been filled up, and its site planted; the paintings spoken of, defaced or removed; and a new dancing and tearoom, called the Apollo Room, erected at the northwest angle. Under Mr. BOWLES's superintendence, the genteel boxes, curiously cut into the hedges, were replaced by others, of larger size, and handsomer appearance: an orchestra, and even a small theatre, arose in the grounds: the Apollo Room became, as it continues, an excellent billiard-room: and the two handsome tea-rooms, one over the other, which formed the circular-ended building, looking over the fields, depicted in so many views of the spot and neighbourhood, were replaced by a structure of imposing altitude and size, which consists, as to its upper portion, of a noble apartment for balls, concerts, dinners, &c., and, below, of several convenient rooms of smaller dimensions. This structure was begun in December, 1828, and ready for the reception of company early in the summer following.

One remarkable circumstance attending its erection was, that the proprietor, with a view to make its appearance as light as possible towards the gardens, having placed a series of cast-iron columns to support the upper story, and nearly completed the building upon that plan, the superincumbent weight was found to exceed what those columns would sustain, and symptoms of a general downfall became too apparent to be misunderstood: in which emergency, with haste that was rendered almost desperate by the danger, for their lives were actually in peril, the workmen ran up brick piers around the pillars, and finished the basement on that side with a wall, pierced only by windows, as in front.

With regard to the grounds, though they are doubtless rendered more convenient for the reception of the throngs of visitors who have patronized them of late years, they have lost all the rural charm, and much of the agreeable disposition of the walks and trees, by which they were formerly characterized: the shrubby maze, in which our childhood was delighted to play at hide and seek, exists no longer: the chimes, from a pretty miniature steeple, which, in the same happy days, we were wont to listen to, have been long silenced: and it must be also observed, that the prospect from the house, once so delightful that MALCOLM was perhaps justified in considering it unequalled by any other view from London, is totally destroyed by the new buildings to the north and west. For the last-mentioned alteration, the late proprietor was of course no wise responsible: but his theatrical exhibitions being considered as greatly to exceed the limits of the license of the twenty-fifth of King George the Second, as the scenes in the gardens on his "Vauxhall" nights did those of innocent and moral recreation, White-Conduit House was deprived of its license by the magistrates, and the concern is at present in other hands, and, it is right to add, far more properly conducted.

1835 White Conduit house
1835

The name on the fascia seems to be "White Conduit House Hotel Tavern". Elsewhere it is suggested that the Tavern was not built until 1849, but this is possibly a typographical error for 1829? The remains of the small old Conduit House building can be seen still in place.

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1848

From Acces2Archives

THE LONDON METROPOLITAN ARCHIVES

Middlesex Deeds — Pentonville
Assignment of lease for remainder of 99 years from 25 December 1848:
1. William DENNIS of Caledonian Road, Islington, builder
2. Henry SHAW of Fetter Lane, City of London, printer
Premises: parcel of ground previously forming part of premises called White Conduit House, for many years used as tavern and tea garden, with messuage lately erected known as No. 4 Queens Terrace, being house at north west corner of new street called Albert Street, at Pentonville, in the parish of St. Mary Islington. (ref.ACC/1266/004: 1850)

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Sources:

A2A, LMA, Guildhall Library, Google Books Online, The Gutenberg Project, The Oliver Cromwell Association, The Chambers Association, IGI

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Mr. Tilbury, the White Conduit House, Wilkes, a duel, in an 18thC fiction

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From "Walks Through Islington" 1835

In May, 1760, it was the subject of a mock-heroic poem, in blank verse, published in the Gentleman's Magazine, which, as it conveys an animated picture of the place, not only at the time it was written, but down to a period considerably subsequent, we will insert entire.

WHITE-CONDUIT HOUSE.

"And to White-Conduit House
We will go, will go, will go."
Grub-street Register.

Wish'd Sunday's come: — mirth brightens every face,
And paints the rose upon the housemaid's cheek,
Harriott, or Moll more ruddy. Now the heart
Of 'prentice, resident in ample street,
Or alley, kennel-wash'd, — Cheapside, Cornhill,
Or Cranbourne, thee, for calcuments renown'd, —
With joy distends: his meal meridian o'er,
With switch in hand, he to White-Conduit House
Hies merry-hearted. Human beings here,
In couples multitudinous, assemble,
Forming the drollest group that ever trod
Fair Islingtonian plains, — male after male,
Dog after dog succeeding — husbands, wives,
Fathers, and mothers, brothers, sisters, friends,
And pretty little boys and girls. Around,
Across the garden's shrubby maze,
They walk, they sit, they stand. What crowds press on,
Eager to mount the stairs, eager to catch
First vacant bench, or chair, in long room plac'd!
Here prig with prig holds conference polite,
And indiscriminate the gaudy beau
And sloven mix. Here, he who all the week
Took bearded mortals by the nose, or sat
Weaving dead hairs, and whistling wretched strain,
And eke the sturdy youth, whose trade it is
Stout oxen to contund, with gold-bound hat
And silken stocken, strut. The red armed belle
Here shows her tasty gown, proud to be thought
The butterfly of fashion: and, forsooth,
Her haughty mistress deigns for once to tread
The same unhallow'd floor. — 'Tis hurry all,
And rattling cups and saucers. — Waiter here,
And waiter there, and waiter here and there,
At once is call'd ; Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe ;
Joe, on the right, and Joe upon the left,
For every vocal pipe re-echoes Joe ! "
Alas! poor Joe ! like Francis in the play,
He stands confounded, anxious how to please
The many-headed throng. But should I paint
The language, humours, customs of the place,
Together with all curtseys, lowly bows,
And compliments extern, 'twould swell my page
Beyond its limits Hue. Suffice it then,
For my prophetic muse to sing, ' So long
As fashion rides upon the wing of time ;
While tea, and cream, and butter'd rolls ', can please;
While rival beaux, and jealous belles, exist;
So long, White-Conduit House, shall be thy fame.* "

* White-Conduit Loaves continued, until within these ten years, to be one of the London Cries.

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Mr. Tilbury, the White Conduit House, Wilkes, a duel, in an 18thC fiction

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