Survey of London: Volume 16, St Martin-in-The-Fields I: Charing Cross. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1935.
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CHAPTER 17: X—NO. 57, CHARING CROSS AND NO. 15, SPRING GARDENS (DEMOLISHED)
History of the Site.
No. 56, Charing Cross represented the last of the eleven comparatively small "tenements" mentioned on p. 82. We now meet with a much larger property covering the whole of the space between the high road and the wall of the Spring Garden and St. James's Park, certainly as far as the site of The Red Lion, and most probably beyond the parish boundary as far as the site of Warwick House. In the days of Henry VIII this was occupied by a tenement with barn and stabling, in lease to Thomas Swallow. (fn. n1) On 1st August, 1548, the premises were leased (fn. n2) to Ralph "Kyrkeby" for 21 years at an annual rent of 60s. They are described as situated together near Charing Cross, and abutting opposite the stone wall of St. James's Park. On 2nd January, 1559–60, they passed out of the ownership of the Crown, being included, with other land in St. Martin's, as well as property in Lincolnshire, Somerset, etc., in a sale (fn. n3) to William Doddington. In the following year Doddington sold the premises in St. Martin's to John Tamworth. (fn. n4) By means which have not been ascertained that part of the St. Martin's property which lay south of the main road (i.e. the original premises leased to Swallow and afterwards to Kirkby) had before 1579 (fn. n5) come into the hands of Robert King and Anne his wife. (fn. n6) In the meantime building had taken place, for a fine of Easter, 1579, (fn. n7) concerns 8 messuages, 8 tofts and 8 gardens, and when in 1617 William King and Mary his wife sold the property to Sir John Ashfield and Wheathill Audley, it consisted of 10 messuages, 10 cottages and 2 gardens. (fn. n8) In the following year (1618) Ashfield and Audley sold (fn. n9) to George and Thomas Cole "all those mesuages, curtilages, stables, barnes, yardes, Innes … and other … hereditamts … which sometyme were the lands, tents and hereditamts of William Doddington, and by him conveyed unto John Tamworth, scituate … neere Charinge Crosse … and nowe are in the severall tenures of Robert Boyd, gent., John Bamfeilde, John Baron, Tristram Hyecrofte, and Bartholomewe Browne."
The portion of the property leased to Boyd (or Boys (fn. n10) ) was the eastern part, stretching from the site of No. 56, Charing Cross, to beyond The Mermaid. George Cole endeavoured (fn. n11) to arrange with Boyd's sublessees for the conveyance to each one of them of an estate for 2,000 years at reserved rents amounting to £60, but they insisted on the conveyance of the fee simple. This was therefore done, the premises being charged with perpetual fee-farm rents amounting to £39 10s. during the continuance of the existing leases and to £58 13s. 2d. thereafter. (fn. n12) In 1621 the Coles sold (fn. n13) the freehold of the remaining portion of the premises to William Gamble alias Bowyer ("Bowyeare"), and on or about the same date disposed of the fee-farm rents mentioned above, also to Bowyer. (fn. n14) The freehold was subsequently disposed of piecemeal, and particulars are not in every instance available, but the fee-farm rents had an entirely different history, which is, however, of comparatively small interest. (fn. n15)
The extreme eastern portion of the property, the freehold of which was sold to William Clarke in 1618, (fn. n16) comprised a messuage in Clarke's own occupation, and three cottages adjoining (fn. n17) "betweene the dwellinge house of John Gilbert, (fn. n18) Taylor, on the East parte and the dwellinge house of Thomas Marshall, Taylor [see p. 127], on the West parte." Although it has not been possible to trace the succession of the property from Clarke in 1618 to James Horton in 1738 (see p. 125), there is no doubt that the premises included the later Bull Head or Buffalo's Head. In the sale of the fee-farm rents by Gamble alias Bowyer to Price in 1679 they were described as then or late in the occupation of Nicholas Higmore (Highmore), Thomas Crawley, Michafer Alferye (Michepher Alphery), Widow Higgs and Thomas Nason. The last-mentioned is known to have been the occupier of The Bull Head. How far back the sign goes cannot be said, but it was in existence in 1636. (fn. n19) There are several references to it by Pepys. (fn. n20) In 1670 it acquired notoriety as the supposed meeting-place of the gang of ruffians, headed by Colonel Blood, who attacked the Duke of Ormonde, with a view to hanging him at Tyburn. The deposition of Pretty, the drawer at The Bull Head, and of his boy Wilson, was to the effect that between 6 and 7 o'clock on the evening of 6th December, 1670, five men on horseback, all in long cloaks and with swords, stopped at the tavern to drink. About 7 o'clock the duke's coach, preceded by a linkman, passed by, and soon afterwards the men, without finishing their wine, rode off after it. (fn. n21) The story of how the duke was overtaken close by his own gate at Clarendon House, was seized, bound and carried off, and how he finally managed to free himself, and with the help of the porter of Clarendon House, who had followed him, and other assistance, got safely home, is well known.
It was at The Buffalo's Head that in 1698 Defoe first met Duncan Campbell (fn. n22) (see p. 72).
Thomas Nason, the earliest known occupier of the tavern, first appears in the ratebook for 1635, and continues until 1659, when he is succeeded by Robert Joyner, (fn. n23) whose place is taken in 1671 by William Baker. The Hearth Tax Rolls for 1660 and 1674 show Joyner and Baker assessed at 20 and 21 hearths respectively, suggesting a comparatively large house. Later occupiers were Richard (or Henry) Collett (1680–91), William Price (1693–5), Thomas Duppa (1696), James Urwin (1697–1703), William Yoxon (1704–10), John Emery (1712–26), Philip Shirley (1727–34), Benjamin Church (1735–40), and Bower Church (1741–66). The house is that shown with a porch in the view of 1740 (Plate 86).
It is in connection with Bower Church that the earliest reference has been found to the ownership of the property since the transfer to William Clarke in 1618. On 10th November, 1747, Nathaniel Atkinson and Isabella his wife, one of the daughters of James Horton "late citizen and Silkdyer of London," sold (fn. n24) to Church the third part of a moiety of "all that Messuage … heretofore occupyed as two Messuages … formerly known by the name … of the Bull head or Buffalo's head Tavern, and now called … the Cardigan head Tavern, Scituate over against the Mews gate … now in the Tenure … of the said Bower Church." James Horton's will (fn. n25) unfortunately does not contain details of his property, but it would appear from succeeding transactions that he was the owner of one moiety of The Bull Head. The other moiety does not come into view until 1773, (fn. n26) when it seems to have formed part of the estate belonging to Thomas Greenhill, late of Bath, mercer. It has not proved possible to trace the connection either between Horton and Greenhill, or between both and William Clarke in 1618. Both halves were reunited under George Potter in 1787. (fn. n27)
It will have been noticed that by 1747 the sign of the tavern had been changed to The Cardigan Head. This alteration had taken place before 1738, for Hogarth's Night (Plate 111), published in that year, shows the tavern (on apparently the wrong side of the road, see p. 252) under that sign. In 1787 a further change is indicated by a reference (fn. n28) to the tavern as "all that Messuage … formerly called … the … Buffalo head and afterwards … the Cardigan Head Tavern and since … the Westmer Tavern or Coffee House." (fn. n29) Before 1795 the sign had been once more altered and was then The Star. (fn. n30) The ratebooks show that George Potter's last year of occupation was in 1801. For the next two years the premises were empty, and on 24th February, 1803, the Phœnix Fire Office purchased them from the assignees of Potter's estate. (fn. n31) They were thereupon rebuilt. On 21st December, 1819, the Pelican Life Office purchased the property, but the Phoenix Fire Office continued to occupy No. 57, Charing Cross, while the Pelican Life Office occupied No. 15, Spring Gardens. (fn. n32) The premises were demolished for the formation of the Mall Approach.
Description of the Structure.
The premises were erected in 1803 or shortly after (see above) from the designs of J. Michael Gandy (fn. n33), and are shown in Rowlandson's view of 1809 (Plate 117).
The exterior to Charing Cross (Plate 89) had a brick front with stone dressings, and showed an adaptation of two orders superimposed. The main floor was divided into three bays by coupled Doric columns, with Ionic columns to the floor above similarly treated. Carved features of the Pelican and Phœnix, both symbolical and decorative, were situated between the windows on the second floor. The general architectural effect was marred by the insertion of modern sheets of plate glass.
The interior generally was plain. The staircase had an iron balustrading with a mahogany hand-rail. The front room on the first floor had a marble mantelpiece with carved ornaments in low relief and a decorative cast-iron register grate, with a curious revolving fire-guard stamped "Jowett's Patent." The mantelpiece and grate are now preserved at the Council's Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch, together with a bay of the iron balustrading from the stairs.