CHAPTER 7: VILLIERS STREET
Date and Description.
The entrance to Villiers Street from the Strand is approximately on
the site of the Strand gate to York House, while the upper part of the street
follows the line of the lane which led from the gatehouse to the main building.
According to the ratebooks there were at least six tenements standing on the
east side of this lane before the demolition of York House. These houses
were pulled down in 1674, and most of the new houses on either side of
Villiers Street were built in 1674–5. A comparison of the rates charged
shows that the Villiers Street houses were for
the most part smaller than those in Buckingham
Street. In some cases they were used at first
merely as annexes to their Buckingham Street
Detail of staircase in No. 34, Villiers Street
The whole of the west side of Villiers Street
was pulled down circa 1862–5 in connection with
the formation of Charing Cross Railway Station.
On the east side only three of the original houses
remain, namely Nos. 32, 33 and 34, which were
until recently numbered 7, 5 and 3 respectively.
Even of these the upper storeys appear to be a
later addition, while Nos. 32 and 33 have had the
fronts stuccoed and the interiors altered. No. 34
has a brick front with recessed panels and plain
horizontal bands between the storeys. The portion
of the staircase from the first to the second floor is
original and comprises stout turned balusters,
square newels with pendants and close strings. The
small back room on the first floor has a window
with a solid frame and a transom and mullion
contemporary with the stairs. It probably originally contained leaded lights.
No. 32—J. Lyons & Co. Ltd.; No. 33— S. C. and J. Corazzi.
State of Repair.
The names of the occupants of Nos. 32, 33 and 34, Villiers Street, as shown in the ratebooks,
are given in Appendix B. None of them appear to have been of note.
From about 1680 until the middle of the eighteenth century there existed in Villiers
Street a fashionable concert room. The first of the annual celebrations held by the Musical Society
from 1683 until 1703 in honour of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, was held there, when an
ode set to music by Daniel Purcell was performed. (ref. 221) Little is known about the room except from
newspaper references, (fn. a) and even its position is uncertain. In 1712 Sir Richard Steele became the
tenant of a house a few doors from the lower end of Villiers Street on the west side, and fitted up
part of it as a concert room to seat 200 people. (ref. 222) Whether this was the same room as the earlier
Music Room is uncertain. The Concert Room remained in existence until about 1753, when it was
pulled down and replaced by stables and coach-houses.
The greater part of the Spectator was produced during the period of Steele's residence in
Villiers Street (1712–24). He seems frequently to have used the concert room for social and literary
gatherings as well as for music.
Evelyn of Wotton
Few celebrities seem to have lived in the street, but mention must be made of John
Evelyn, who "took a house in Villiers Streete, York Buildings, for the winter [of 1683–4], having
many important concernes to dispatch, and for the Education of my daughters." (ref. 223) This house has
not been located.
Rudyard Kipling occupied chambers in No. 43 (formerly 19) over the shop of "Harris
the Sausage King" in 1889–91, and wrote The Light That Failed there. (ref. 224)