Survey of London: Volume 18, St Martin-in-The-Fields II: the Strand. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1937.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
CHAPTER 7: VILLIERS STREET
Date and Description.
The entrance to Villiers Street from the Strand is approximately on the site of the Strand gate to York House, while the upper part of the street follows the line of the lane which led from the gatehouse to the main building. According to the ratebooks there were at least six tenements standing on the east side of this lane before the demolition of York House. These houses were pulled down in 1674, and most of the new houses on either side of Villiers Street were built in 1674–5. A comparison of the rates charged shows that the Villiers Street houses were for the most part smaller than those in Buckingham Street. In some cases they were used at first merely as annexes to their Buckingham Street neighbours.
The whole of the west side of Villiers Street was pulled down circa 1862–5 in connection with the formation of Charing Cross Railway Station. On the east side only three of the original houses remain, namely Nos. 32, 33 and 34, which were until recently numbered 7, 5 and 3 respectively. Even of these the upper storeys appear to be a later addition, while Nos. 32 and 33 have had the fronts stuccoed and the interiors altered. No. 34 has a brick front with recessed panels and plain horizontal bands between the storeys. The portion of the staircase from the first to the second floor is original and comprises stout turned balusters, square newels with pendants and close strings. The small back room on the first floor has a window with a solid frame and a transom and mullion contemporary with the stairs. It probably originally contained leaded lights.
State of Repair.
From about 1680 until the middle of the eighteenth century there existed in Villiers Street a fashionable concert room. The first of the annual celebrations held by the Musical Society from 1683 until 1703 in honour of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, was held there, when an ode set to music by Daniel Purcell was performed. (fn. 221) Little is known about the room except from newspaper references, (fn. n1) and even its position is uncertain. In 1712 Sir Richard Steele became the tenant of a house a few doors from the lower end of Villiers Street on the west side, and fitted up part of it as a concert room to seat 200 people. (fn. 222) Whether this was the same room as the earlier Music Room is uncertain. The Concert Room remained in existence until about 1753, when it was pulled down and replaced by stables and coach-houses.
The greater part of the Spectator was produced during the period of Steele's residence in Villiers Street (1712–24). He seems frequently to have used the concert room for social and literary gatherings as well as for music.
Few celebrities seem to have lived in the street, but mention must be made of John Evelyn, who "took a house in Villiers Streete, York Buildings, for the winter [of 1683–4], having many important concernes to dispatch, and for the Education of my daughters." (fn. 223) This house has not been located.
Rudyard Kipling occupied chambers in No. 43 (formerly 19) over the shop of "Harris the Sausage King" in 1889–91, and wrote The Light That Failed there. (fn. 224)