XI.—No. 51 LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS.
General description and date of structure.
On 26th July, 1638 (fn. 1) , William Newton sold to David Murray a
plot of ground 123 feet in width, bounded on the north by "a way or
passage there leading out of Pursfeild into Princes Street," and designed
"for the several scites whereon three messuages are intended shortly to
be erected." The expressed intention was duly carried out, for in the
early part of 1641 (fn. 2) we are told that Murray "hath at his great cost and
charges erected and built three several capital messuages," and that the
northernmost was actually in the tenure of the Earl of Bath.
The ground covered by the three houses in question was, from the
measurements, obviously that on which Nos. 51 to 54 used to stand, and
as the rate-books show that the division of Nos. 53–4 into two houses
took place at a comparatively recent date, it is clear that the three original
houses were Nos. 51, 52 and 53–4, and that they were erected in 1639 or
They formed part of a series of houses which extended from No.
2, Portsmouth Street, to No. 56, Lincoln's Inn Fields, inclusive. Of these,
No. 55 alone remains, but records have been preserved of those demolished.
Sardinia Street has been formed partly on the site of No. 51.
The appearance of this row of houses when erected can best be
seen in the Wilton House picture (Plate 6), but, owing to alterations,
no single house had retained all its original features when the property
was acquired by the Council.
They were constructed chiefly of brick. The ground storey formed
a simple base for an Ionic Order of pilasters extending the height of the
first and second stories. The capitals were of stone with carved swags.
The bases were also of stone and stood on brick plinths.
The pilasters had an entasis, and at a third of their height they
carried decorative bands and were enriched with Tudor roses and fleurs-de-lis, supported on either side by a decorative eye and staple.
The pilasters formed bays in which the windows were placed, and
over the straight arches of the first floor windows was introduced a projecting band (preserved at No. 2, Portsmouth Street until the demolition
of that house, and seen in the Wilton House picture), which was probably
introduced to counteract the perpendicular effect of the narrow bays.
Balconies at the first floor level are shown in the Wilton House picture
and in Bower's design for the silver medallion (Plate 7), but none of these
were in existence at the time of demolition. The cornice ran in an
unbroken line, and was of wood enriched with modillions, somewhat similar
to that still to be seen at Nos. 55 and 56, Great Queen Street. Surmounting the cornice was a high pitched tile roof, which contained
hipped dormers of two sizes alternating.
No. 51 was demolished in 1904. Considerable alterations had been
carried out, both externally and internally, by Sir John Soane, about 1794.
Moreover, from 1705 until 1732, Nos. 51 and 52 were utilised as the official
residence of the keeper of the Great Seal, and certain small alterations
were, no doubt, effected in both the houses at that time.
Plate 61 shows on the left portion of the illustration the front of
this house, which was designed in harmony with those adjoining. It
was constructed of brick, and had been faced with stucco and painted.
Originally the front was enriched with six Ionic pilasters, four of which
were subsequently removed, probably about 1794, when the addition of
a large projecting semi-circular bay window at the first floor level, and the
alterations to the cornice and the top floor, were executed. The iron railings
which fronted the court yard (Plate 62) were designed by Sir John Soane
at the same time.
The plans of the house as it existed before Soane's alterations are
preserved in the Soane Museum, one being reproduced on Plate 63, and
in the same collection is a drawing showing some of his proposed alterations
(Plate 63). It will be noticed that the plan possesses some features which
are typical of the period, such as the two projecting rooms at the rear,
which may have been used as "powder" rooms. Soane removed the two
staircases and substituted a more imposing semi-circular-ended staircase,
thereby improving one of the back bedrooms, but he converted the other
into a dressing room.
Interesting features in the house were: (1) a ceiling of umbrella
pattern, with circular glazed opening, in the back room on the ground
floor (Plate 64), designed by Soane, and sketched on other plans in his
collection. (2) A deal mantelpiece with enriched mouldings, and plaster
panelling in the ground floor front room (Plate 65); the former has been
re-erected in the room of the chairman of the London County Council
at the County Hall. (3) A marble chimneypiece (Plate 64) in the style of
Soane. This has also been preserved, and, together with three other
chimney pieces originally in the house, is now in the London Museum.
The following is a list of the occupants of No. 51, according to the evidence of
|Before 1700 until after 1703.||John de la Fontaine.|
|Before 1708 until 1732.||The lord chancellors.|
|1737–44.||Sir Edw. Hulse.|
|1750–1.||Mrs. Jas. Jurin.|
It is possible, by reference to other documents, to do something towards filling
the gap between the erection of the house in 1639–40 and the year 1700. The Jury
Presentment List for 1683 shows that John de la Fontaine was even then resident
at the house. From the Hearth Tax Roll for 1675, however, it appears that he was
then residing in a house in Portsmouth Street, and that the occupier of No. 51 at
the time was the Earl of Bristol. (fn. 3) A deed of 1686 (fn. 4) states that the house was then
"in the tenure or occupation of John Dlafontaine Esq. or his assignes" and had
previously been in that of "Dame Elizabeth Whitmore, Widdow." (fn. 5) A deed of
1659 (fn. 6) mentions that the latter was then in occupation of the house, and the Hearth
Tax Roll for 1667 shows that she was still in residence in that year.
The lord chancellors who resided at this house and No. 52 were Earl Cowper,
Viscount Harcourt, the Earl of Macclesfield, and Lord King.
William Cowper, first Earl Cowper, was the great-grandson of Sir William
Cowper, Bt., (fn. 7) whom we have found taking an active part in the development of
Lincoln's Inn Fields for building. He was called to the Bar in May, 1688, and in
a few years not only was he the decided leader of his circuit, but he had
obtained an extensive practice in Westminster Hall. (fn. 8) He showed his political
principles by collecting a company of about thirty volunteers to meet the Prince of
Orange on his landing. (fn. 9) In 1695 he entered Parliament, where he soon acquired
a reputation as a consummate debater. In October, 1705, he succeeded Sir
Nathan Wright as lord keeper. He was then in his 41st year, and is said to have
been the youngest lord keeper that had ever been appointed. (fn. 10) A year later he was
raised to the peerage as Baron Cowper, of Wingham, in Kent. From 1692 to 1705
Powis House had been used as the official residence of the keepers of the Great Seal. (fn. 11)
In the latter year, however, it was purchased by the Duke of Newcastle, and fresh
quarters had to be found. For this purpose Nos. 51 and 52 were rented, and there
accordingly Cowper was accommodated. (fn. 12) He took a very prominent part in the
negotiations for the Union of England and Scotland in 1706, and, on the consummation of the Union in May, 1707, became the first lord chancellor of Great Britain.
He resigned office in September, 1710, owing to the defeat of the government following
the Sacheverell trial, over which he had presided. On the death of Queen Anne
in 1714 he was appointed one of the lords justices in whom the supreme power was
vested during the interregnum. On 21st September he was re-appointed lord
chancellor, and shortly afterwards was again settled at Nos. 51–52, Lincoln's Inn
Fields. (fn. 13) In 1718 he was created Viscount Fordwicke and Earl Cowper, and in the
same year resigned office for the second time. He died on 10th October, 1723.
WILLIAM COWPER EARL COWPER
In the interval between Cowper's two chancellorships the seals were in charge
of Simon Harcourt, particulars of whom are given under No. 45, Lincoln's Inn Fields.
Thomas Parker, first Earl of Macclesfield, was the son of an attorney at Leeke.
He was placed in his father's office, and in due course was admitted as an attorney. (fn. 14)
Becoming dissatisfied, however, he relinquished his growing practice, and in 1691
was called to the Bar. His progress was rapid, and he soon became known as the
"silver-tongued counsel." (fn. 15) In March, 1710, he was appointed lord chief justice,
and on Cowper's resignation in that year was offered the position of lord chancellor,
but declined, being "the first lawyer represented to have refused an absolute offer
of the seals from a conscientious difference of political opinion." (fn. 16) With Cowper, he
was one of the lords justices until the arrival of George I. in England. He speedily
became a great favourite with the new king, who in 1716 created him Lord Parker,
Baron of Macclesfield. (fn. 17) After Cowper's second resignation in 1718, he was made
lord chancellor, and in 1721 was created Earl of Macclesfield. As the result of an
enquiry made into the alleged embezzlement of chancery funds, he resigned the seals
in January, 1725, but was subsequently impeached, found guilty, and fined £30,000.
He died in April, 1732, at his son's residence in Soho Square.
THOMAS PARKER EARL OF MACCLESFIELD.
Peter King, first Baron King, of Ockham, in Surrey, was the son of a grocer
and salter, of Exeter, and was bred to his father's business. He had, however, a taste
for church history, and a treatise by him on the Constitution of the Primitive Church
coming into the hands of Locke, his mother's cousin, (fn. 18) the philosopher persuaded
his father to send him to Leyden University. On his return to England he entered
the legal profession, and met with great success. In 1708 he was made recorder
of the City of London, and in 1714 chief justice of the common pleas, in both of
which offices he gained an excellent reputation. When the great seal had been in
commission for nearly five months after the resignation of the Earl of Macclesfield,
he was appointed lord chancellor and raised to the peerage. In November, 1733,
his state of health forced him to resign. Not being able to attend at St. James's to
surrender the great seal with his own hand, the king sent the secretary of state to
his house to receive it. (fn. 19) He died in the following year.
PETER KING BARON KING
In addition to the above-mentioned, the following residents in No. 51 seem to
call for special notice.
Sir Edward Hulse was one of the leading London physicians in the beginning
of the 18th century. He was first physician to George II. and received a baronetcy
in February, 1739. Although he retired to Dartford Heath some years before his
death in 1759, he was apparently still in practice when he left Lincoln's Inn Fields
in 1744. He afterwards grew childish and became impressed with the idea that he
would die in want. His family were, therefore, in the habit of putting some guineas
daily into his pocket, and making him believe that he had taken them as fees. (fn. 20)
His successor at No. 51, Lincoln's Inn Fields, was James Jurin, also a physician,
and one of the most learned men of his day. Not only did he enjoy a very large medical
practice, but he was foremost in promoting all branches of natural philosophy. He
made many experiments and published many papers on physical phenomena, and
from 1721 to 1727 acted as secretary to the Royal Society. The rate-books, confirmed
by the Lists of Fellows, Candidates, etc., of the Royal College of Physicians, show that
it was in 1745 that he took up his residence at the house. He had, however, lived
in the Fields before, the List of Fellows, etc., for 1724 showing him at "Lincoln's
Inn Fields." The fact that the rate-books for that year are very incomplete makes
it impossible to identify the house he occupied on that occasion. On 19th January,
1750, he was elected president of the College of Physicians, and a few weeks later,
29th March, 1750, died in his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, (fn. 21) in the 66th year
of his age.
Bourchier Cleeve, who followed Jurin's widow at No. 51, was a prosperous
pewterer, and is chiefly known as the writer of A Scheme for Preventing a Further
Increase of the National Debt, and for Reducing the Same. As this is dated 1756, it
is quite possible that it was, at any rate partly, composed during his residence in
Lincoln's Inn Fields.
In the Council's collection are—
* Exterior of Nos. 51 and 52 (photograph).
* Iron railings to forecourt (measured drawing).
* Plan of first floor before alterations in 1794 (copy of measured drawing).
* Plan of first floor showing proposed alterations in 1794 (copy of drawing).
* Ceiling of umbrella pattern, back room on ground floor (photograph).
Ceiling of umbrella pattern, back room on ground floor, another view (photograph).
* Mantelpiece and details of mouldings, front room on ground floor (measured
Chimneypiece and panelling, front room on ground floor (photograph).
* Marble chimneypiece (photograph).
Marble chimneypiece, back room on ground floor (photograph).
Door, cornice, chimneypiece, etc., front room on first floor (photograph).
Wood chimneypiece, back room on first floor (photograph).