CHAPTER 18: ST. MARTIN'S LANE
Until the time of James I, St. Martin's Lane was a country lane
linking the churches of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and St. Giles-in-the-Fields;
as such it was probably in existence at the beginning of the 13th century,
and there may have been a field path there even earlier. Except in the
immediate vicinity of the church, the Agas view (circa 1560–70) shows no
buildings in the lane, and its rural character is shown by a warrant of circa
1608 "to issue 100 l. towards making a vault (or sewer) for draining etc.
from St. Martin's Lane as far as St. Giles', so that the King's passage through
those fields shall be both sweeter and more commodious." (ref. 36) In 1612 the
vestry ordered (ref. 35) that the lane should be paved, but the "water of the Sewer"
was still to be "carryed above the ground." As late as 1625 it was reported
to the vestry that "St. Martin's Lane is now full of great muckhills, all wch
by default of the Scavengers, is at this time neere 300 loads wch uppon every
Rayne is brought downe before the King's Pallace."
Extract from the "Agas" view
Building on the open ground on either side of the lane was proscribed
by Royal Proclamation. Some efforts were made to render this proscription
effective, witness, for example, an order of the Middlesex Sessions for 18th
January, 1613–14, to "John Dunne of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, yeoman,
not to convert, nor at any time hereafter during his lease being twenty years
to suffer to be converted, a stable by him newly erected in St. Martin's Lane
in the fields, to a tenement, habitation or dwelling house"; nevertheless
buildings steadily increased in number during the reigns of James I and
Charles I. In 1608–9 the Earl of Salisbury bought four acres of ground
(the original "Swan Close," see p. 4) on the west side of the lane, which
included the whole of the frontage from the parish boundary, i.e. Newport Street, down to what is now the south-west corner of St. Martin's
Lane (just north of the Westminster City Hall), and he proceeded almost
immediately to build and lease houses there. The frontage to the new
churchyard, on the site of the National Portrait Gallery and St. Martin's
Place, was built up between 1615 and 1624 (see p. 112). At the same time
the Earl of Bedford was building on the east side.
Cecil, Earl of Salisbury
During the 17th century the lane was inhabited by a number of
famous people, who lived, almost without exception, on the west side, where
there were large houses with stables and coach houses annexed to them. The
east side seems to have been occupied mainly by traders and artisans. Among
the more notable residents may be mentioned Sir Theodore Mayerne
(1613–43) (fn. a) , physician to James I, Daniel Mytens (1622–34), painter, Sir
John Finett (1613–40), Master of the Ceremonies, Sir Ralph Freeman
(1631–38), dramatist and Master of Requests, Abraham Vanderdoort
(1630–39), keeper of the pictures of Charles I, Sir William Alexander, later
Earl of Stirling (1630–35), Carew Ralegh (1636–38), son of Sir Walter,
Scipio Lesquire (1623–26), Sir William St. Ravy (1640–41), and Sir John
Suckling (1641), the Royalist poet. During the Commonwealth period many
eminent Cromwellians lived in the lane, including Sir Philip Stapleton
(1646–48), Major General Mytton (1652–55), Charles Fleetwood (1653–70),
Sir John Clotworthy (1652–54), Sir William Armine (1644–51). The wife
of the latter, Lady Mary, "the truly honourable, very aged, and singularly
pious lady," eulogised by John Sheffield, afterwards Duke of Buckingham,
continued to live there after the death of her husband until her death in
1675–76. Among the post-restoration residents may be mentioned:—Anthony
Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury (1675–77), Dr. Edmund Dickinson
(1675–86), physician and favourite of Charles II., Colonel Panton (1666–67),
Sir Philip Warwick (1671–72), Sir Edward Hungerford (1682–85), and Sir
Charles Cotterell (1675–1710).
In the late 17th and first half of the 18th century the residential part
of the lane seems to have become a fashionable situation for doctors and
artists. Well-known members of the medical profession who lived there were
Sir Edmund King, Samuel Collins, Sir George Wakeman, Sir John Colbatch,
Gideon Harvey, and Dr. Misaubin, while the artists included Sir James
Thornhill, Van Nost, the sculptor, Francis Hayman, Sir Joshua Reynolds,
William Hogarth, Henry Fuseli, and Louis François Roubiliac.
Old Slaughter's Coffee House (Plate 102) at Nos. 74 and 75, on
the west side of St. Martin's Lane was founded in 1692 by Thomas Slaughter
and became a favourite resort of artists living in the neighbourhood. It
was demolished circa 1843 when Cranborne Street was made. New Slaughter's Coffee House was established a few doors further south at No. 82
Panelled ceiling to first floor, No. 31 St. Martin's Lane
In Cecil Court, on the west side of St. Martin's Lane, the child
Mozart lodged in 1764 at the house of "Mr. Couzin hare cutter."
No. 31, St. Martin's Lane.—This house is now the oldest in the lane.
The exterior is in stock brickwork with stone dressings and carved panel
enrichments (Plate 106a). The ground floor which is now a shop was
formerly utilised as bank premises. The front room on the first floor has
panelled walls with arched recesses, and a panelled ceiling finished with a
deep modillion cornice. The panels which contain painted representations
of the seasons and other subjects are formed by ribs decorated with the
guilloche (Plate 104). The rooms to the floor above have square panelling,
and in the front room is a wood mantelpiece which has, on each side of the
fire opening, a range of blue and white tiles depicting Aesop's Fables. The
upper flight to the stairs is original.
The occupiers of this house up to 1800 as given by the ratebooks were: William Prosser
(1636–58), John Phelps (1659–65), William Morgan (1666–91), Widow Morgan (1692–94),
James Timberlake, coachmaker (1695–1723), Elizabeth Timberlake (1724–32), Richard Payne (1734–37), Charles Carne
(1738–43), William Hewitt (1743–49), James Lafitte (1750–53), John Smith (1754–83), Edward Bright (1784–95) and
Stafford Price (1796–).
May's Buildings date tablet
May's Buildings.—Nos. 17–22 on the north
side of May's Buildings, a court between Nos. 40
and 42, St. Martin's Lane, are the original houses
built at the time of the formation of the court.
They are faced with stucco, and have flush frames
to the windows above the ground floor. The
interiors are of no interest.
In 1904, when the Coliseum was built
on the south side of
May's Buildings, the
south wall of No. 42, St. Martin's Lane was
rebuilt further back to widen the entrance to
the court, and the stone date tablet inscribed,
"May's Building: 1739," was refixed on the
Plan of No. 44, St. Martin's Lane
Thomas May (alias Broadmax alias
Knight) obtained in 1738 an Act of Parliament (ref. 181) authorising him to grant building leases
of property in St. Martin's Lane and Feather's
Court which had been left him by Henry May,
his kinsman, by his will dated 1727. Leases
were granted to Thomas Parton, bricklayer,
who proceeded to erect May's Buildings. The
houses on the north side were taken over at
various times between 1866 and 1913 by
Harrison & Sons, printers. (ref. 182) Only 6 of the
original houses now remain. <Title deeds and leases for May's Buildings in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are in Hampshire Record Office.>
Nos. 42, 43 and 44, St. Martin's Lane.—These premises consist of four floors and basement. Shop fronts have been
inserted. The exteriors are in red brick. Nos. 42 and 44 have a moulded
brick band at second floor level and a brick modillion cornice to the floor
above. The window openings have brick dressings and segmental heads
with the frames slightly recessed.
No. 43 has a more elaborate front, consisting of fluted Doric pilasters
extending from the first floor to the top of the second floor and finished with
a classical entablature, all in gauged brickwork (Plates 107a and 107b).
Internally, the walls generally are panelled in two heights and finished
with a moulded cornice, though alterations have taken place adversely
affecting the appearance of the rooms.
The upper flights to the stairs to Nos. 43 and 44 are original and
comprise close moulded strings and turned balusters.
The plan of No. 44, reproduced here, is typical. The treatment
showing the winders to the stair landing kept back from the wall, thereby
forming a well allowing the light from the roof to reach the lower parts
of the staircase, is a feature which can be seen in several houses of this
period in the neighbourhood (Plate 107a). As stated above, the south wall of
No 42 was rebuilt in 1904.
Plan of No. 55, St. Martin's Lane
Plan of No. 56, St. Martin's Lane
These three houses were built in 1739 by Thomas Parton, bricklayer, (ref. 183) at the same time that May's Buildings were erected.
According to the ratebooks and other sources the residents to 1800 were—
No. 42.—John Prignan (1739–41), Henrietta Johnson (1743), Henry Dickes (1744–45),
Wm. Ayrton (1746–48), George Rigg (1749–53), Wm. Simpson (1754–56), Elizabeth Simpson
(1757–66), John Simpson (1767–72), Charles Conolly (1773), Barth. Conolly (1774–79), Jas.
Tomlinson (1780–84), Sarah Hamilton (1785–87), Rt. Spence (1789–90), Jno. Gittos, oil and
Italian Warehouse (1790–).
No. 43.—Anthony Call (1740–42), John Clark (1743), Richard Thomson (1744–45),
Catherine Cunningham (1746), Wm. Palmer (1746–55), Jas. Nunn (1756–57), Lewis Topp
(1758–59), Jos. Treble (1760–).
No. 44.—Williams (1742), Catherine Laroune (1743–58), Dan (ref. 1) . Payan, jeweller,
(1759–97), Hugh Russell (1798–).
Nos. 45, 46 and 47, St. Martin's Lane.—These houses date from the
early 19th century, and have been much altered internally. The continuous
treatment of the shop front is an interesting feature.
The connection of Harrison & Sons, the printers, with these
premises began in 1840, when T. R. Harrison went into partnership with
J. W. Parker at No. 45. The entrance to Kynaston's (later Chemist's)
Alley (fn. b) lay formerly between Nos. 46 and 47. The alley originally extended
to Bedfordbury, but in 1855 part of it was roofed over with glass to form a
machine room. When excavations were carried out at the Bedfordbury end
of the court in 1889, a quantity of old pottery dating mainly from the
16th and 17th centuries was unearthed. This is now preserved by
Messrs. Harrison & Sons. (ref. 182)
Plan of Chippendale's premises in St. Martin's Lane.
From a plan in the
possession of the Sun Insurance Office Ltd.
The Hop Gardens is a small
court between Nos. 49 and 50, St.
Martin's Lane, extending backward
to Bedfordbury. Prior to 1649 it
was known as Jenefer's Alley from
the occupant of a house at the
western end, Roland Jenefer. The
ratebooks from 1652 to 1655 give
the alley as Fendalls Alley, but from
1656 onward it appears as The
Flemish Hop Garden (later the Hop
Gardens). It was probably named
from an inn with that sign. (fn. c)
Nos. 55 and 56, St. Martin's
Lane.—No. 55 is entered from
Goodwin's Court and is similar in
plan and wall finishings to No. 56.
The basement, however, still retains
some old brick baker's ovens continuing under the roadway. The
mantelpiece in the back room of the
first floor has characteristic architrave bolection moulding, and the
front room has a carved mantelpiece
in the rococo manner.
No. 56 is on the north of the
entrance leading to Goodwin's Court
and comprises three storeys and attics, over a basement with shop to the
ground floor. The upper rooms have plain panelling in two heights with a
moulded cornice in wood. The upper floors are reached from a central
staircase between the front and back rooms, which extend to the full depth
of the site. The stairs have turned balusters and close moulded strings with
square newel posts, while the balustrading to the back of the half landings
is kept back from the wall, forming a small well on each floor similar to that
in No. 44 already described. The back windows of the premises have flush
frames and appear to be contemporary with the buildings.
Goodwin's Court first appears in the ratebooks in 1690, replacing
Fishers Alley which had occupied a similar position in preceding years, and
it seems probable that the houses in the court and those on either side of it,
i.e. the present Nos. 55 and 56, St. Martin's Lane, were erected in that year.
No. 67, St. Martin's Lane
The occupants of Nos. 55 and 56 as given by the ratebooks to 1800 were—
No. 55—Robert Lewin (1690–93), John Rutt (1694–1702), Paul Misnier (1703–16),
Stephen Alion (1717–23), Isaac Reed (1724–25), Widow Reed (1726), Thomas Palsgrave
(1727–39), Wm. Bradbury (1740–41), Wm. Parkin (1742–59), John Bouttats (1760–66), John
Lassell (1767–78), Richard Kilsby (1779–86), and James Buer (1787–).
No. 56—Daniel Baxter, apothecary (1690–1714), Wm. Baxter (1715–20), James
Bouden (1772–13), Richard Kilsby (1774–95), Jane Kilsby (1796), Thos. Phillips (1799–).
Nos. 60 and 61, St. Martin's Lane.—Rebuilt during last century.
These two houses with a stable yard and other premises at the rear were leased (ref. 185) by James,
Earl of Salisbury, to Robert Burges, bricklayer, in July, 1753, and sub-let by the latter to Thomas
Chippendale and his partner, James Rennie, in August, 1754. (ref. 186) Chippendale's lease was operative
from December, 1753, and it is probable that he carried out extensive alterations to the premises
to fit them for the business of cabinet making. The elder Chippendale died in 1779, and was buried
in the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields; his son, also Thomas Chippendale, carried on the business in St. Martin's Lane, though with several changes of partnership, until 1813. The plan
reproduced on the opposite page from the records of the Sun Insurance Office shows the allocation
of the premises in 1803.
No. 62.— The first and ground floors of the premises have been
redecorated and no traces remain of the early wall treatment. The top
flight of stairs has close strings with turned balusters of mid-18th century
date. The windows at the back have flush frames.
This house was, with Nos. 60 and 61, leased by James, Earl of Salisbury, to Robert
Burges, bricklayer, on 6th July, 1753, and was probably built by Burges. The occupants given
in the ratebooks from 1753 to 1800 are: Robert Burges (1753–77), George Graham (1778–85),
John Le Mesurier (1786–87), Matt. Kerr (1788–92), Thomas Chippendale (1793–1813).
Thomas Chippendale, the younger, who succeeded to his father's cabinet-making business in 1779, took over No. 62 in 1793, and on the 1803 plan inset on p. 120, No. 62 is marked as
"Mr. Chippendale's dwelling house." Chippendale removed to the Haymarket, in 1813.
No. 63 probably dates from the early 19th century.
No. 67.—This building is sited in a courtyard off the east side of St.
Martin's Lane, behind No. 63, and is three-storeyed, of brick and timber
construction. The ground floor has been adapted and remodelled as offices.
The walls are of brick of modern work. The two upper floors appear to
retain their original framing and fenestrations, and are now used as studios
and workshops, by a firm of stage designers. They are timber framed,
plastered on the exterior, with the roof tiled.
According to a note in the ratebook these premises were "burnt out" in 1788. They
were occupied in 1789–93 by Anne Tapp, who was succeeded by Francis Tapp (1794–1803),
John Vernon (1804) and Alexander Copland (1805–13). The latter is described as a "builder"
in Holden's Trade Directory for 1805–07.