XXVIII–XXIX. Nos. 181 and 172, HIGH HOLBORN
General description and date of structure.
The land at the eastern corner of Drury Lane and High Holborn
may perhaps be, either wholly or in part, identified with certain land held
of the Hospital of St. Giles by William Christmas in the reign of Henry III.
"with the houses and appurtenances thereon, situate at the Cross by
Aldewych." (fn. 1) Aldewych was Drury Lane, (fn. 2) and the Cross by Aldewych
would almost certainly be situated at the junction of the two roads. The
indentification of the western corner as the site of Christmas's land
seems to be excluded by the fact that this was occupied by property of
John de Cruce, (fn. 3) who was certainly a contemporary of William Christmas. (fn. 4)
It is possible that the land in question was situated on the north side of
Broad Street, but as it is known that Christmas owned land on the south
side of the way, some of which may even possibly be the actual land referred
to, the identification suggested above seems reasonable. Whether in
Christmas's time there was at this spot an inn, the forerunner of the later
White Hart, is unknown. (fn. 5) Blott's suggestion that the sign of the White
Hart was adopted in honour of Richard II., whose badge it was, even if
correct, does not necessitate the assumption that no inn was there
before that king's reign (1377–1399). The sign might possibly have been
changed in Richard's honour.
The first mention of The White Hart does not, however, occur until
a century and a half later. In 1537 Henry VIII. effected an exchange of
property with the Master of Burton Lazars, as a result of which there
passed into the royal hands "one messuage called The Whyte Harte, and
eighteen acres of pasture [Purse Field] to the same messuage belonging." (fn. 6)
In 1524 "Katherine Smyth alias Katherine Clerke" was living in The
White Hart. (fn. 7) She was apparently succeeded as tenant by William Hosyer, (fn. 8)
but there is no evidence whether he actually resided in the inn. (fn. 9)
In 1567 the occupant of the inn is said to be Matthew Buck, and in 1582
it was Richard Cockshott. (fn. 10) In 1623 Hugh Jones is mentioned as barber
and victualler, at Holborn end, next Drury Lane. (fn. 11) The survey of Crown
Lands taken in 1650 describes the premises as follows:—
"All that inn, messuage or tenement commonly called … The
White Harte scituate … in St. Gyles in the feildes … consistinge of
one small hall, one parlour and one kitchen, one larder and a seller underneath the same, and above stayres in the same range, and over the gatehouse, 9 chambers. Alsoe over against the said halle and parlour is now
settinge upp one bricke buildinge consistinge of 6 roomes, alsoe one stable
strongly built with brick and fflemish walle, contayninge 44 feete in length
and 37 feete in breadth, lofted over and covered with Dutch tyle; and two
other stables next adjoyninge, built as aforesaid, and 2 tenements or
dwelling houses over the same. Alsoe one large yard contayninge 110 feete
in length and in breadth 46 feete. Now in the occupation of one Anthony
Ives, and is worth per annum £38.
"All yt tenement adjoyninge to ye north side of the abovesaid
house, being a corner shopp, consisting of one seller and a faire shopp
over the same; alsoe one kitchin, and above stayres two chambers. Nowe
in the occupation of Richard Raynbowe, a grocer, and is worth per annum
It would seem that at the time of the transfer of The White Hart to
Henry VIII. there were no buildings to the east of the inn. The fact that
no such premises are mentioned in connection with the exchange is not,
indeed, conclusive, and it is more to the point to observe that no mention
of the buildings is contained in any of the grants of the property, during
the 16th century, which have been examined. Moreover, on 13th
November, 1592, a certificate was returned by the Commission for Incroached Lands, etc., (fn. 12) to the effect that four cottages, with appurtenances,
on the south side of the highway leading from St. Giles towards Holborn,
opposite certain small cottages built on the Pale Pingle, (fn. 13) were possessed
without any grant, state or demise from the sovereign. Plate 2 shows
the cottages in question, occupying the site of the buildings to the east of
The White Hart.
It may be taken therefore that these four cottages were the earliest
buildings on the site, and that they were erected probably not long before
1592, when their existence was first officially noticed.
By 1650 they had grown to a long range of buildings. In that
year they were described as follows:—
"All that range of buildinge adjoyninge to thaforesaid inn called
The White Hart, abuttinge on the high way on the north, with two
tenements on the south side of The White Hart, lyenge uppon the way leadinge into Drury Lane, all which said buildings are now divided into xxj
severall habitacions in the occupation of severall tenants, and are worth
per annum £24."
The whole property, including The White Hart, the courtyards and
gardens, is said to "contayne in length from Drury Lane downe to the
first [tenement] 96 feete, and in breadth 76 feete; the other length backward from the stables to the lower side of the garden 125 feete and 93 feete
in breadth, bounded with the highway leadinge from St. Gyles into Holburne on the north and Drury Lane on the west." The entire site therefore had a length of 221 feet, and a width of 76 feet along Drury Lane,
increasing to 93 feet behind the inn. Allowing for the subsequent widening of High Holborn at this point, it is clear that the area is represented at
the present day by the sites of the houses from the corner as far as and
including No. 181, High Holborn, while the southern boundary runs to the
north of Nos. 190–191, Drury Lane, then turns to the south a little beyond
the eastern boundary of those premises, and thence runs in a slightly curved
line as far as the eastern boundary of No. 181, High Holborn. (fn. 14)
A reference to the map in Strype's edition of Stow (Plate 5) will show
that in the 18th century both High Holborn and Drury Lane were very
narrow at this spot. Moreover, in course of time, the large courtyard of the
inn became used as a public way, and grew crowded with small tenements.
In 1807 the leases of the property expired, and an arrangement was come
to between the Vestry of St. Giles and the Crown, by which the latter and
its lessees gave up sufficient land to enable the frontage line both to High
Holborn and Drury Lane to be amended, with the result that the west end
of the former and the north end of the latter were widened by 15 feet and
7 feet respectively. On its part the Vestry consented to the stopping up
of White Hart yard and the building thereon of the Crown lessess' new
premises. (fn. 15)
Two of the houses, Nos. 181 and 172, erected in accordance with the
arrangement, are illustrated in this volume.
Plate 9 shows the distinctive early 19th-century shop front, which
was attached to No. 181. The design embodied a large, slightly bowed
window with segmental head, flanked by two doorways. The window was
fitted with small panes of glass, having bars forming interlacing segmental
panes above the transom. The doors were of quiet and refined design,
with excellently treated side posts, having brackets, carved with acanthus
ornament, supporting the entablature. The whole exhibits a distinctly
Another interesting early 19th-century shop front existed at No.
172, and is illustrated on Plate 10. The door to the house and that to the
shop adjoined one another in this case, and were slightly recessed. The
rounded angles to the window added interest to the design. The general
treatment, though simple, possessed much distinction.
Both houses have recently been demolished.
In the Council's collection are:
No. 181. General view of premises (photograph).
(fn. 16) No. 181. Shop front (photograph).
(fn. 16) No. 172. Shop front (photograph).