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 23: SITE OF NOS. 25–34, COCKSPUR STREET
That part of the tenement leased by Henry VIII to Thomas Swallow (see p. 122) which lay to the west of the site of the entrance to Spring Gardens from Cockspur Street, seems wholly or in part to have been identical with that leased by Robert King in 1595 to John Banfield. This is described in a deed of 1605 (fn. n1) as containing eight messuages, in the tenure of John Banfield, Widow Jones, John Doby, Henry Nicholls, Hugh Barbone, Hugh Morrys, Gregory White and Gregory Westcott. Most of these names can be identified in the ratebooks, and their position makes it practically certain that the ground lay west of the Spring Gardens entrance. When Banfield had received an earlier lease in 1579 the premises consisted of only one messuage with a yard, garden and barn, and certain stables, and in the interval he had "bestowed in buildings upon the said demised premisses at least Fower hundred marckes" and had made "diverse severall dwelling howses thereupon." (fn. n2) The sales of the freehold to George and Thomas Cole (1618) and William Gamble alias "Bowyeare" (1621) both mention Banfield's lease, which was due to expire in 1635. Of the history of the property during the remainder of the seventeenth century nothing is known.
In 1703 William Bowyer sold (fn. n3) to Thomas Pearce a portion of his freehold, and from later deeds it is possible to delimit the Pearce property accurately. It extended in length from the corner of Spring Gardens westward as far as (and including) the later No. 25, Cockspur Street, on the further side of the Red Lion Gateway, and in depth to the north side of Red Lion Yard (fn. n4) continued through to Spring Gardens. It thus included at the east end a strip about 7 feet wide from north to south, which was afterwards (in 1825) purchased by the Crown and included in Nos. 10, 12 and 14, Spring Gardens, on the site of Wigley's Exhibition Rooms.
Pearce let the greater portion of the property on building leases, the houses on the sites of Nos. 30–32, Cockspur Street, only not being rebuilt. (fn. n5) The house on the site of No. 32 was the residence of two well-known booksellers. Thomas Chapman appears in 1686 at a house corresponding more or less with No. 31, (fn. n6) moving in 1691 to No. 32. (fn. n7) From the titles of the books published by him it appears that these houses were respectively known as "The Chirurgeons Armes" and The Golden Key. (fn. n8) No. 32 is marked "Empty" in the 1698 ratebook, and in the following year Luke Stokoe (given as "Stoke," afterwards "Stokey") appears and continues until 1725. His address was The Golden Key and Bible at Charing Cross or The Golden Key against the Mews Gate. (fn. n9)
The most important building on the property in early times was The Red Lion inn. (fn. n10) Before about 1710 the entrance to the inn was from Spring Gardens. (fn. n11) For many years previously the names of the occupants of the inn appear (for relatively high assessments) as the last (or first) of the entries for Cockspur Street. In the book for 1709 there is a note "in building" against the name of Griffith Davis (fn. n12) (the then occupier of the inn), and thereafter his name is shifted to the other side of the newly constructed entrance from Cockspur Street into Red Lion Yard. The fact is obviously to be connected with two leases granted by Pearce to Davis about this time. The first, (fn. n13) of which the date has not been ascertained, was of the innhouse and stableyard, coach-houses, etc., called The Red Lion inn and "all that Peice … of Ground containing in front towards Spring Garden Twenty two foot and in Depth towards the … Stable Yard Forty two Foot … Except Four Foot out of the said twenty two Foot of Ground Left for a passage next the French Church." The inn itself was apparently in the interior of the yard, and the piece of ground, with frontage on Spring Gardens, was used for the erection of a house which blocked the old entrance into the yard (fn. n14) and made a new entrance necessary. This was provided by the second lease, (fn. n15) dated 6th March, 1709–10, of "all that Peice … of Ground… abutting North on the Great Street Leading from Charing Cross to Saint James, South on the Stable Yard belonging to the Red Lyon Inn, West on the Messuage … of Mr. Samuel Awbery, East on a Messuage… then Lately built by William Baldwin, which said… Ground contained in front … twenty two foot … and in depth twenty Nine feet towards the East, and thirty one feet towards the West and South … together with the Messuage … and Gateway." The "messuage" is now represented by No. 25, Cockspur Street, and the gateway was between that house and No. 26. The inn (at any rate the later inn (fn. n16) lay behind the house.
No. 27, Cockspur Street, was the British Coffee House. The lease (fn. n17) of the ground with "the messuage … thereupon in building" was granted by Pearce on 18th July, 1709, and the house appears for the first time in the ratebook for 1710 as in the occupation of "Widow Phenick." It apparently at once obtained the name by which it was afterwards famous. (fn. n18) Mrs. Fenwick (or Moreau (fn. n19) ) died in 1728, (fn. n20) and was succeeded by George Forrest (1729–34), Archibald, Isabella and Jane Douglas (1735–55), Robert Anderson (1756–72) and Helen Anderson (1773–77). The last mentioned is said to have been a sister of John Douglas, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, and is described by Mackenzie as "a woman of uncommon talents and the most agreeable conversation." In 1770 the premises were rebuilt (fn. n21) from the designs of Robert Adam, and stood without alteration (save for the disappearance of the ornamental urns and carvings on the friezes above them) for over a hundred years. Adam's design is reproduced on the opposite page. (fn. n22) The house was a great resort of Scotsmen, and many anecdotes are connected therewith. (fn. n23) It was considerably extended in 1817 by the addition of premises in the rear running along the north side of Red Lion Yard. At a later date it was known, with the adjacent No. 26, Cockspur Street, as The British Hotel. It was demolished in 1886–7.