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 14: WHITCOMB STREET
Whitcomb Street and Wardour Street follow the line of an ancient thoroughfare or path known as Hedge Lane or Colman Hedge Lane, in existence in the reign of Henry VIII, and probably much earlier. It is shown both on the "Agas" map and on the plan of 1585 (p. 2). By 1682 the upper part as far south as Panton Street was known as Whitcomb Street, and that name was extended to include the whole street circa 1780, though for a short time at the beginning of the 19th century the lower part was known as Dorset Place.
Whitcomb Street has always been a byway, and during the reign of James I it was so narrow and inconvenient that the vestry ordered (fn. 35) posts to be set up there to prevent "the passage of any carts that way." The parish watchhouse stood at the upper end after its removal from Cockspur Street in 1683, but because it was "remote from the most public streetes of the parish" it was ordered in 1691 that it should be removed to a position near the church. Thomas Stronde, a mason, became the tenant of the old watch-house, and was allowed to take off the roof and erect a second storey thereon, but when he further increased his accommodation by excavating a cellar he was ordered to fill it up again "it appearing … that the same (if Continued) will much prejudice the King's Conduit to the same watch-house adjoining." (fn. 35)
In 1720 Strype described Hedge Lane as lying "on the Backside of Suffolk-street into which it hath a Passage; a place of no great Account for Buildings or Inhabitants: But the new buildings adjoining to it, hath something improved it. On the East Side is Blue Cross Street (now Orange Street), then George Yard, or Inn, a large Place for Coaches and Stabling."
The buildings in the lower half of the west side of Whitcomb Street have always consisted largely of stabling and have frequently been tenanted in conjunction with the houses in Suffolk Street. This arrangement was continued after the re-development of the area by Nash (see p. 91) and several of the stables, etc., erected at that time still survive though converted to other uses. The east side of the street seems in the 17th and 18th centuries to have been largely given up to builders' and stone masons' yards.
Nos. 12, 14, 16 and 18.—These four houses have a brick front of two storeys over the ground floor, which has had a modern shopfront inserted, forming part of the showrooms of Hampton's furnishing store (Plate 96a).
A stone tablet let in the front of the second floor bears the inscription "I.A" and the date 1692, the year in which the houses were erected. The staircases have moulded close strings with square newels and turned balusters and a panelled dado to the walls. Some of the rooms still retain their square panelling and moulded cornices, while a few of the windows have their original stout sash-bars and early glass.
Occupants of Nos. 12–18 to 1800 (According to the Ratebooks)
No. 12.—James Lovelace, Beadle (1693–94), Widow Lovelace (1695–1707), Mary Macdugall (1708–09), Giles Granville (1710–25), George Lawes (1726–39), John Burnell or Bunhill (1740–64), — Hidieman (1765–75), John Groves (1776–88), Anne Groves (1789–).
No. 14.—James Townshend (1693–1707), Widow Townshend (1708–18), William Bowers (1719), Edward Bowers (1720–25), Elizabeth Bowers (1726–32), Edward Palmer (1732–53), Caleb Carrington (Carpenter) (1754–66), John Gibbs (1766–75), Thos. Palmer (1776– ).
No. 16.—Richard Johncock (1693–1700), John Willey (1701–03), Thos. Bentley (1704), Richard Johncock (1705–07), William Spedding (1708), Erasmus Patterson (1709–10), — Heslop (1711–12), James Vaughan (1713), Timothy Buckly (1714–17), Peter Julian (1718), Lancelot Snowden (1719–30), Matthew Linardy (1731–38), John Pearson (1738–49), John Watson (1750–61), — Watson (1762–63), James Birrell (1764– ).
No. 18.—John Wilson (1693), Widow Colverson (1694), Joseph Hawkins or Hodgkins (1695–99), Richard Hodgkins (1700), Joseph Hodgkins (1701–04), Widow Hawkins (1705–10), William Perkins (1711–14), John Carrold (1715–22), Joan Carrold (1723–30), Jas. Head (1731–40), John Lewis (1740–48), William Hopkins (1749–56), Mary White (1757), Samuel Everingham (1758–60), Thomas Bright (1761–66), Samuel Hartley (1767–69), Jas. Hartley (1770–77), Sarah Beckett (1778–82), William Adams (1783–84), Jno. Kholer (1785–92), George Mings (1793–95), Jos. Kefer (1796–97), George Pridham and — Rapier (1798), Geo. Lymes (1799), Richard Andrews (1800– ).
These four houses were formerly known as Nos. 6–9. There is some confusion in the ratebooks as to the occupants of the first three in the early 18th century, but the above lists appear to be substantially correct.