Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1970.
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Until 1895 this was known as Hart Street. The part east of James Street was called Hart Street from the beginning, and was so named in the 1638 ratebook. (fn. 2) It evidently took its name from the White Hart Inn which was built in 1632–3 in Long Acre with a frontage on and yard into Hart Street east of the present Nag's Head. (fn. 3) The western part was at first called Elm Street (fn. 4) (from Elm Close, an alternative name of the Mercers' Company property north of Long Acre (fn. 5)) or Garden Lane. (fn. 6) In the eighteenth century the parts east and west of James Street were named Great Hart Street and Little Hart Street respectively in the parish ratebooks.
Until the early 1860's the street was blocked at its west end beyond No. 24, where the south side now breaks forward opposite Conduit Court, by the rear curtilage of No. 29 King Street. This west end was thus a cul de sac, save that after about 1690 pedestrians could reach Long Acre through Conduit Court, and could reach King Street, very circuitously, via Conduit Court, Lazenby Court and Rose Street (see Plate 7).
The street was laid out immediately south of the northern range of the brick wall which since c. 1610 had enclosed the central part of Covent Garden (see page 24), and which was demolished to make the northern frontages of the new street. This is mentioned, as an unnamed way 24 or 25 feet wide, in deeds of 1633 (fn. 7) (west of James Street) and 1636 (fn. 8) (east of James Street). On the south side of the street the frontages were formed by the rear premises of the leasehold sites in King Street and the Piazza, but nine or ten occupants were assessed for rates on this side of the street in 1637. On the north side seventeen or eighteen were assessed. On this side the part west of Banbury Court had been sold by Francis, Lord Russell in 1618 to the Earl of Pembroke (see page 268), and the part eastward of this as far as James Street was alienated from the main Bedford line in 1640–1 when it was settled on the fifth Earl's younger brother John. (fn. 9) East of James Street some sites were granted away in fee farm by the fourth and fifth Earls but others were retained until the sale of 1918.
Although blocked at its west end, the east end of the street opened from the first into Bow Street, and James Street afforded access to the Piazza and Long Acre. The latter was also accessible from the beginning (in addition to the passage through the yard of the White Hart tavern) via Phoenix Alley (now Hanover Place), which is named in the 1638 ratebook, (fn. 2) and, probably, via Blackamoor Alley (later Leg Alley and now Langley Court) which existed under that name by 1653. (fn. 10) Both these passages are shown on Hollar's mid seventeenth-century aerial view. (fn. 1)Of the other two surviving passages into Long Acre, Conduit Court was probably made in c. 1686–90 by Leonard Cunditt, an innholder in Long Acre, (fn. 11) and is shown on Blome's parish map of c. 1686. This does not show Banbury Court, which is not mentioned by Strype in 1720 but is shown on Rocque's map published in 1746.
The first premises to be assessed for rates in the street were mostly valued at low figures, but one or two more substantial properties occur on both sides and at both ends. The first occupants included two majors, a captain and a doctor, and in 1651 Sir John Clotworthy was lodging in the street. (fn. 12) The goldsmith, tailor, barber and shoemaker mentioned in records of the 1650's and 1660's (fn. 13) were doubtless more typical of the street, and in 1690 it contained nine licensed victuallers. (fn. 14) A 'French school' is mentioned in the following year, evidently at the time of its closure. (fn. 15) In 1703 the churchwardens were authorized to take a house in the street for the use of the parish poor. (fn. 16) Strype spoke of the street in 1720 as 'not over well built or inhabited; the South Side being for the greatest Part taken up by Coach-houses and Stables belonging to the Houses in Covent Garden'. (fn. 17) One or two cabinetmakers occur in the street in the 1740's and 1750's, (fn. 18) and also auction rooms (fn. 19) (probably at No. 53 where an auctioneer had premises in the 1770's). (fn. 20) In the 1750's a stonemason, Thomas Stephens, had premises in the street, (fn. 21) doubtless at No. 16 where he was located in 1773. (fn. 22) In 1751 a ratepayer identifiable as a schoolmaster appears at the site of No. 12, (fn. 23) and was succeeded by another until the building on that site was taken by the British and Foreign School Society in the 1820's, and subsequently rebuilt in its present form (see page 62). The parish girls' charity school was also somewhere in the street in the 1770's. (fn. 24) A sedan-chair maker is mentioned in 1775 and a fan-mounter (at No. 48) in 1785. (fn. 25) A disorderly house at No. 49 attracted the attention of the parish vestry in 1787, (fn. 26) and by the early nineteenth century the parish records contain a number of references to nuisances in the street. Disorderly houses were complained of again in 1819. (fn. 27) In 1829 the Committee of Management set up a sub-committee to consider complaints of the presence of four 'Dung Pits'. On investigation, two were judged to be 'offensive', as the neighbours threw filth and dead animals into them. Only one was recommended for removal, as the footway on the south side of the street in their locality was not made use of, and the abolition of all the pits would have been an inconvenience to stable-keepers. (fn. 28) In the early 1840's brothels, particularly near Bow Street, were again attracting parochial attention: (fn. 29) one good man living on the corner with that street suggested in 1844 that the name of Bow Street should, by reason of its ill fame, be changed, and likewise that of Hart Street, 'which is as notorious as any Street in London—Any name would be better than the old one'. (fn. 30) In 1848 a doctor resident in James Street made a different complaint, of the stench from the cow-shed at No. 11 Hart Street. Investigation, however, proved inconclusive: some neighbours supported the complaint, while others 'attributed their improved state of health to the fact of their proximity to the Cows'. (fn. 31)
In 1861 the Duke of Bedford's steward reported that the street was almost entirely occupied as warehouses, workshops and stabling. To ease the congestion on market-days the Duke decided to undertake the expense of opening the west end into the newly made Garrick Street, and this was done by 1865. (fn. 32) At the same time the subordination of the street to the market was emphasized by the decision that as leases on the south side of the street fell in the sites should be rebuilt as seedsmen's warehouses, in the hope of attracting the seed trade to Covent Garden. (fn. 33) The Post Office directories of the later nineteenth century show the extension of trades connected with the market in the street, and by 1899 the congestion from market traffic was again bad enough to discourage the retention of No. 12 as a school-building. The market-trades are still very strongly represented, together with some activities ancillary to the world of opera and ballet. In contrast to the mid nineteenth century, the north side, which was then largely taken up by the backs of coach-building and other premises in Long Acre, is represented by more individual sites in the directories than is the south. A few very plain buildings on the north side probably date from the first half of the nineteenth century, but the present character of the street is mainly that of late nineteenth-century warehouses and workshops.
No. 12 Floral Street
No. 24 Floral Street
This building was erected in 1858–9 (Plate 74b). An eighty-year building lease from Lady Day 1858 was granted by the Duke of Bedford in November 1860 to Robert Rogers, a gold-lace maker at No. 30 King Street, of a piece of ground including this site at its northern end and the premises in King Street at its southern. The accepted tender for this warehouse from William Howard, a local builder, was published in October 1858 and named C. G. Searle as the architect. (fn. 34)
The front is an excellent example of industrial architecture, making its effect with a formal pattern of windows, furnished with metal casements of late-Georgian character, set in a plain face of stock brickwork. There are three lofty storeys, the second and third each having a central group of four windows, almost square in proportion, with stone sills and segmental arches of brick. At each end is a very wide window of three equal lights, its flat gauged brick arch resting on an iron lintel-plate supported by slender Doric colonnettes of cast iron, placed in front of the mullions. This general pattern is repeated in the ground storey, with doors replacing some of the windows.
Nos. 46 And 47 Floral Street
These small houses with shop fronts were built in or shortly before 1830 (fn. 35) and retain much of their early nineteenth-century character (Plate 74a). Each house has a narrow front of three storeys, one window wide, to Floral Street, and No. 47 has a return front, three windows wide, to Hanover Place. The shop fronts are furnished with barred sashes, placed between slender plain-shafted Doric pilasters which support a deep fascia and a dentilled cornice, all of painted woodwork. The two-storeyed upper face of stock brick has plain sill-bands of painted stone or stucco extending across the Floral Street front only, and is finished with a narrow stone coping. The barred sashes of the windows are hung in openings having plastered reveals, stone sills, and shallow segmental arches, the brickwork dressed with stucco to simulate three voussoirs, the middle one projecting slightly. Dormer windows project from the steep slope of the slated mansard roof.
No. 52 Floral Street and Nos. 7 And 8 Bow Street
These houses were erected in 1838, when the north-west end of Bow Street was widened by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. The Commissioners' architects, Thomas Chawner and Henry Rhodes, had required the excessive width between the windows of the upper storeys, shown in the elevation submitted to them, to be reduced, but they are still very widely spaced. (fn. 36) The first occupants of No. 52 Floral Street were Thomas Stevens, the parish surveyor of pavements, and the sculptor Peter Skae; of No. 7 Bow Street a dentist and a chemist; and of No. 8 (probably) a firm of gasfitters. (fn. 37)