CHAPTER 14: WHITCOMB STREET
Whitcomb Street and Wardour Street follow the line of an ancient
thoroughfare or path known as Hedge Lane or Colman Hedge Lane, in
existence in the reign of Henry VIII, and probably much earlier. It is
shown both on the "Agas" map and on the plan of 1585 (p. 2). By
1682 the upper part as far south as Panton Street was known as Whitcomb
Street, and that name was extended to include the whole street circa 1780,
though for a short time at the beginning of the 19th century the lower part
was known as Dorset Place.
Whitcomb Street has always been a byway, and during the reign of
James I it was so narrow and inconvenient that the vestry ordered (ref. 35) posts to be
set up there to prevent "the passage of any carts that way." The parish watchhouse stood at the upper end after its removal from Cockspur Street in 1683,
but because it was "remote from the most public streetes of the parish" it
was ordered in 1691 that it should be removed to a position near the church.
Thomas Stronde, a mason, became the tenant of the old watch-house, and
was allowed to take off the roof and erect a second storey thereon, but when
he further increased his accommodation by excavating a cellar he was ordered
to fill it up again "it appearing … that the same (if Continued) will much
prejudice the King's Conduit to the same watch-house adjoining." (ref. 35)
In 1720 Strype described Hedge Lane as lying "on the Backside of
Suffolk-street into which it hath a Passage; a place of no great Account for
Buildings or Inhabitants: But the new buildings adjoining to it, hath something improved it. On the East Side is Blue Cross Street (now Orange
Street), then George Yard, or Inn, a large Place for Coaches and Stabling."
The buildings in the lower half of the west side of Whitcomb Street
have always consisted largely of stabling and have frequently been tenanted
in conjunction with the houses in Suffolk Street. This arrangement was continued after the re-development of the area by Nash (see p. 91) and several
of the stables, etc., erected at that time still survive though converted to other
uses. The east side of the street seems in the 17th and 18th centuries to
have been largely given up to builders' and stone masons' yards.
Nos. 12, 14, 16 and 18.—These four houses have a brick front of
two storeys over the ground floor, which has had a modern shopfront inserted,
forming part of the showrooms of Hampton's furnishing store (Plate 96a).
A stone tablet let in the front of the second floor bears the inscription
"I.A" and the date 1692, the year in which the houses were erected. The
staircases have moulded close strings with square newels and turned balusters
and a panelled dado to the walls. Some of the rooms still retain their square
panelling and moulded cornices, while a few of the windows have their
original stout sash-bars and early glass.
Occupants of Nos. 12–18 to 1800 (According to the Ratebooks)
No. 12.—James Lovelace, Beadle (1693–94), Widow Lovelace (1695–1707), Mary
Macdugall (1708–09), Giles Granville (1710–25), George Lawes (1726–39), John Burnell or
Bunhill (1740–64), — Hidieman (1765–75), John Groves (1776–88), Anne Groves (1789–).
No. 14.—James Townshend (1693–1707), Widow Townshend (1708–18), William
Bowers (1719), Edward Bowers (1720–25), Elizabeth Bowers (1726–32), Edward Palmer
(1732–53), Caleb Carrington (Carpenter) (1754–66), John Gibbs (1766–75), Thos. Palmer
No. 16.—Richard Johncock (1693–1700), John Willey (1701–03), Thos. Bentley
(1704), Richard Johncock (1705–07), William Spedding (1708), Erasmus Patterson (1709–10),
— Heslop (1711–12), James Vaughan (1713), Timothy Buckly (1714–17), Peter Julian (1718),
Lancelot Snowden (1719–30), Matthew Linardy (1731–38), John Pearson (1738–49), John
Watson (1750–61), — Watson (1762–63), James Birrell (1764– ).
No. 18.—John Wilson (1693), Widow Colverson (1694), Joseph Hawkins or Hodgkins
(1695–99), Richard Hodgkins (1700), Joseph Hodgkins (1701–04), Widow Hawkins (1705–10),
William Perkins (1711–14), John Carrold (1715–22), Joan Carrold (1723–30), Jas. Head (1731–40), John Lewis (1740–48), William Hopkins (1749–56), Mary White (1757), Samuel Everingham (1758–60), Thomas Bright (1761–66), Samuel Hartley (1767–69), Jas. Hartley (1770–77),
Sarah Beckett (1778–82), William Adams (1783–84), Jno. Kholer (1785–92), George Mings
(1793–95), Jos. Kefer (1796–97), George Pridham and — Rapier (1798), Geo. Lymes (1799),
Richard Andrews (1800– ).
These four houses were formerly known as Nos. 6–9. There is some confusion in the
ratebooks as to the occupants of the first three in the early 18th century, but the above lists appear
to be substantially correct.