Survey of London: Volume 3, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt I: Lincoln's Inn Fields. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1912.
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III.—No. 15 LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS.
Description and date of structure.
The decorative features of the house would point to the period of erection being a little earlier than the middle of the 18th century, probably about 1742, which is the date on one of the lead cisterns. This theory is strengthened by the fact that the ratebooks contain no mention of the house between 1730 and 1742.
In the ground floor front room is a carved wooden mantelpiece (Plate 17). Two female hermæ support the shelf and a head of Medusa is the central feature of the frieze. The overmantel with pier glass is enriched with floral carving, and a swag is suspended from the centre of the frieze beneath a cornice and broken pediment.
An ornamental cast lead cistern (fn. 1) (Plate 16), with the legend F T 1752, is fixed in the basement kitchen. A second cistern, illustrated in the same plate, is situated in the coal house and has obviously been reduced to two-thirds of its original length. It bears the legend W C 742.
Condition of repair.
|1667. (fn. 2)||"Sir Henry Bellasis." (fn. 3)|
|1675. (fn. 2)||"Maddam Willis."|
|1683. (fn. 2)||Samuel Somerset.|
|1695. (fn. 2)||Sir John Cooper.|
|1723.||Madame Martha Gamlyn.|
|1788–93.||Sir John Wilson.|
Sir William Watson, the son of a London tradesman, was born in St. John's Street, in 1715. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to an apothecary, and in 1738 set up in business for himself. He had from his early youth displayed a keen interest in science, and in 1741 was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, of which he subsequently became vice-president. In 1745 he was awarded the Copley medal for his researches in electricity, and subsequently became a trustee of the British Museum. In 1757 he moved from Aldersgate Street to No. 15, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and soon began to practise as a physician. From 1762 until his death he was physician to the Foundling Hospital. In 1784 he was elected fellow, and in 1785 and 1786 censor of the Royal College of Physicians, and in the last-mentioned year was knighted. He died at his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields on 10th May, 1787. His writings, giving the results of original research in botany and electricity, are numerous and valuable. In particular, his researches in electricity "were of so interesting a nature that they gave him the undisputed lead in this branch of philosophy, and were the means not only of raising him to a high degree of estimation at home, but of extending his fame throughout Europe." (fn. 4)
On Watson's death the house was taken by "Mr. Justice Willson," who had recently (November, 1786) been made justice of the common pleas and knighted. Sir John Wilson was born in 1741 in Applethwaite, Westmoreland. He was called to the Bar in 1766. During the vacancy as lord chancellor following Thurlow's retirement in June, 1792, he was a commissioner of the great seal. He died at Kendal in October, 1793.
Wilson was succeeded (after a short interval) in the occupation of No. 15 by "Dr. Ainslie." It is almost certain that this was Henry Ainslie, (fn. 5) the son of a Kendal physician. He was senior wrangler in 1781. He began to practise while still at Cambridge, having obtained a licence ad practicandum from the University in 1787. (fn. 6) In 1793 he settled in London and in 1795 was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and physician to St. Thomas's Hospital. He delivered the Harveian oration in 1802. He died in 1834. His residence at No. 15, Lincoln's Inn Fields only lasted for two years, namely, 1796 and 1797.
In the Council's collection are—
Entrance doorway (photograph).
* Lead rain water head (drawing).
* Chimney piece, front room on ground floor (photograph).
* Ornamental ceiling, front room on first floor (photograph).
* Ornamental ceiling, back room on first floor (photograph).
* Carved stair bracket (measured drawing).
* Ornamental cast lead cisterns (2) (measured drawings).