Survey of London: Volume 20, St Martin-in-The-Fields, Pt III: Trafalgar Square and Neighbourhood. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1940.
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CHAPTER 13: PANTON STREET AND OXENDON STREET
Early History of the Site.
Panton Street and Oxendon Street stand on the site of the close of land marked on the plan of 1585 (see p. 2) as Scavengers Close. This seems to have been used as the parish laystall—hence its name—for in a presentment (fn. 35) of the "Commons" of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields made in 1549 is entered "a Close Called the ledstalle being ij Acres and at the ende of that Closse ther ys a Meadowe in the Tenure of Wyllm depont by estimacion iij acres." (fn. n1) The area of Scavengers Close was 3 acres, but discrepancies in measurements were of frequent occurrence at this date, and it is probable that the description applies to Scavengers Close, for Depon's close of 3 acres is that shown to the south of it on the 1585 plan and marked "Wydowe Goelyghtly" (see p. 89).
Scavengers Close was bought by Henry VIII from the Mercers' Company and described in a list of the "Kynges new purchest landes" (fn. 158) as "iii acres of pasture in a close ny to the muse" in the tenure of Thomas Wood. In 1548, in company with other lands originally belonging to the Mercers, it was leased (fn. 159) to Sir Anthony Denny for 21 years, and 12 years later a reversionary grant was made to William Doddington. (fn. 26) It is not surprising that the somewhat clumsy official recordkeeping then in vogue occasionally proved inadequate to cope with the large transfers of land of the Tudor and Stuart periods; in this case confusion arose in the Ministers' Accounts between the 3 acres of Scavengers Close previously owned by Thomas Wood and the ground of the Mews granted to him and later to John Golightly in the time of Henry VIII (see p. 8). Actually Scavengers Close was sold via John Tamworthe (fn. 160) to Thomas Wilson (fn. 161) and in 1571 it was presented as a "concealed land" (fn. 162) (the Crown having received no rent for it during the last few years of Denny's lease).
The plan of 1585 (p. 2) shows a building marked "Gynnpowder howse" in the north-west corner and three other small buildings, one of which may have been the conduit referred to in various deeds. In 1619 Richard Wilson, a descendant of Thomas, sold (fn. 163) extensive property in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields to Robert Baker, whose widow, together with her daughter Mary and her son-in-law, Henry Oxenden, in 1637 granted (fn. 164) a 32 years' lease of "a messuage, a cookhouse, a tennis court and 4 acres of ground" there to Simon Osbaldeston.
In 1631 Osbaldeston had obtained through his patron, Philip Herbert, Lord Chamberlain, a royal grant of the keepership of Spring Garden and its bowling green. (fn. 165) The public were forbidden to resort there in 1634 (see p. 59) and Osbaldeston, in order to make up for this loss of income, opened a similar establishment near the Mews, which included not only the "ordinary" and tennis court mentioned in his lease, but was also "made to entertain gamesters and bowlers at an excessive rate." (fn. 92) The place came to be known alternatively as Piccadilly House (from its position at the end of Piccadilly) or Shaver's Hall (probably in reference to Osbaldeston's having served as "gentleman barber" to the Lord Chamberlain). (fn. 166) In 1640–1 Shaver's Hall was taken over by Captain Geares in whose possession it was when surveyed for Parliament in 1650. (fn. 167) The Survey describes the main building as "strongly built wth Brick" of 3 storeys "and over the same a fair walk Leaded and inclosed wth Rayles very curiously Carved and wrought." The tennis court was also built of brick but had a tyled roof.
In 1669 Shaver's Hall with all its appurtenances was bought (fn. 168) by Thomas Panton, succinctly described by the Dictionary of National Biography as a "gambler," who in 1671 petitioned the Privy Council "that having been at great charge in purchasing a parcell of ground, lying at Pickadilly, part of it being the two bowling greens fronting the Haymarket, the other part lying on the north of Tennis Court," he might have leave to continue with his development of the property in spite of the king's "late proclamation" against building. (fn. 169) Sir Christopher Wren reported that "by opening a new street from the Hay-markett into Leicester-fields" Panton's scheme would "ease in some measure the great passage of the Strand, and will cure the noysomness of that part," and recommended that a licence to build be granted provided that the houses were built of brick "with sufficient scantlings, good paving in the streets, and sufficient sewers and conveighances for the water." Panton Street first appears in the ratebooks in 1674 and Oxendon Street, named after Baker's son-in-law, in 1675. Panton was also responsible for the erection of houses on the east side of the Haymarket at this time.
Panton Street was described by Strype in 1720 as "a good open street, inhabited by tradesmen." On the south side lived in 1696–1730 Thomas Hickford, proprietor of "Hickford's Great Room" used for auction sales and entertainments.
Oxendon Street was, according to Strype, "a good, open, well built, and inhabited Street"; with "a Chapel of Ease, called, The Tabernacle" on the west side. This chapel, which lay to the east of Coventry House, was built by Richard Baxter, the famous presbyterian divine, and author, among many other works, of the Saint's Everlasting Rest. The chapel was opened in 1676 but, in the words of the then Vicar of St. Martin's: "Mr. Baxter being disturbed in his Meeting House in Oxenden Street by the King's drums, which Mr. Secretary Coventry caused to be beat under the windows, made an offer of letting it to the parish of St. Martin's at the rent of £40 a year. His Lordship hearing of it said he liked it well, and thereupon Mr. Baxter came to him himself, and upon his proposing the same thing to him, he acquainted the Vestry, and they took it upon those terms." (fn. 35)
The chapel was fitted up for Church of England services at the expense of the pewholders, and it was maintained as a daughter church of St. Martin's until the completion of the new church in 1726, though in 1684 when St. James's was constituted a parish church it was thought that the extra chapel would prove superfluous.