Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1970.
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The 'great street' from the Piazza to the Strand, mentioned in the proposals for building over the site of Bedford House (see page 37) was laid out between December 1706 and May 1710 under the Bedford building leases tabulated on pages 312– 315. Five houses at the north end of the east side (Nos. 15–17 and 19–20 on fig. 32) were built and paid for by the second Duke, who then let them for short terms. Some of the new houses were occupied as early as 1707 and by 1709 the street was completely filled up. (fn. 2) The original appearance of the street may be judged from the only two surviving houses, Nos. 26 and 27, although the fronts of both have been altered. The width of the houses varied considerably, the largest being at the north end near the Piazza.
Most of Southampton Street was built to a width of 50 feet, but at the southern end, below Nos. 5 and 37, the width was reduced to only 40 feet. Where the break occurred the Duke of Bedford put up a gate across the street to keep out the heavy vehicles which would otherwise have passed along Southampton Street to and from the market. (fn. 3) The gate-keeper was appointed and paid by the Duke. (fn. 4) Until 1861 the gatekeeper's lodge was a small 'wooden structure' in the middle of the street, (fn. 5) where it can be seen in one of Tallis's views of the Strand of c. 1838–40. The gate was removed in September 1872. (fn. 6)
The narrow southern end of the street had been widened in 1830, partly by the sixth Duke of Bedford but mainly by the Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues, acting under the statute of May 1826 for improving Charing Cross and the West Strand area. (fn. 7)
By that time some of the original houses were already rebuilt and in 1900 only two remained. Of those nineteenth-century buildings which also no longer survive two are of some interest. No. 14, on the corner of Tavistock Street, was rebuilt in 1855–7 by the architect Charles Gray, (fn. 8) some of whose work can be seen elsewhere in Covent Garden at No. 22 Henrietta Street and in Burleigh Street. In this building, called Tavistock Chambers, Gray used coloured bricks to demonstrate that the cost of even elaborate brickwork was not greater than that of imitative cement. (fn. 9) At Nos. 28–29 a Gothick shop front, inserted in 1873 for Messrs. Cox and Sons, the ecclesiastical suppliers, enlivened an otherwise dull building of 1832: it was demolished in 1893 for the widening of Maiden Lane (fn. 10) (Plate 58b).
The Dukes of Bedford appear to have been particularly concerned to prevent any deterioration in the appearance and social character of Southampton Street. When in 1739 the proprietor of the Bedford Head tavern erected a small portico to his house projecting 5 feet above the footway and supported by two pillars, the residents complained to the fourth Duke that it 'not only interrupts the View of the Neighbouring Inhabitants, but is also an Offence & Eye sore to the whole Street'. At the same time they took the opportunity to remind him that 'this street in particular, by the Vigilant & prudent care of his Grace's Ancestors, has been constantly kept free from the passage of heavy and burdensome Carriages which are permitted upon sufferance only, & that upon extraordinary occasions.' (fn. 3) An example of the latter occurred in 1764 when the street was opened to all traffic for three weeks while Half Moon Street (now part of Bedford Street) was being repaved. (fn. 11)
From c. 1708 there was a tavern at the south corner with Tavistock Street called the Bedford Head (fn. 12) (No. 14 on fig. 32). In 1745 it was used for masonic lodge meetings (fn. 13) and in November 1749 'The Grand Clubb for promoting the Arts of Drawing painting etc' met there 'to settle the preliminaries for the Establishment of an Accademy in London' but nothing materilaized from the meeting. (fn. 14)
The Dukes' policy for the street seems to have been successful during the eighteenth century. Unlike some neighbouring streets there appear to have been few shops; only one of the six inhabitants listed in Mortimer's Universal Director for 1763 being described as a shopkeeper—Gervase Leverland, a prosperous woollen draper who lived at No. 26. (fn. 2) The residents may be described as respectable rather than fashionable.
During the nineteenth century the private residents and other tradesmen gradually gave way to the offices of newspapers and magazines and the headquarters of various societies. The first and most famous of the newspaper offices was that of William Cobbett's daily paper The Porcupine, which was printed at No. 3. The first edition appeared on 30 October 1800 and within five weeks orders for it rose to 1,500. (fn. 15) The paper pursued an independent and often unpopular line and when in October 1801 it opposed the preliminaries of the Peace of Amiens the printing office was attacked by the mob. (fn. 16) In the following month Cobbett sold the paper to John Gifford although he continued to be the ratepayer for No. 3 until 1803. (fn. 17)
Societies with offices in the street have included the Surrey Archaeological Society at No. 6 from c. 1856 to 1860, (fn. 18) and The Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment at No. 36 in c. 1865–6. (fn. 19) From 1884 to 1887 the Hobby Horse circle of artists and designers displayed examples of their work at No. 28—the office of the architect A. H. Mackmurdo. (fn. 20)
Until 1899, when the eleventh Duke agreed to allow No. 26 to be used by a market salesman, no lessee had ever been permitted to carry on any market business in the street. (fn. 21) The effect of this policy is still apparent, for none of the present buildings are occupied by market businesses, although the north end of the east side of the street has been part of the market area since 1886–7, when the houses there were demolished to make way for market improvements. (fn. 22)
Ratepaying occupants in Southampton Street include: Ambrose Godfrey, 1707–41, chemist; Dr. William Gardner, 1709–15; 'Mrs. Oldfield', 1709–13, Ann Oldfield, actress; Robert Wilks, 1709, actor; Major Ward, 1710–29; Colley Cibber, 1714–20, actor and dramatist; Lady Anna Maria Barrington, 1715–17; Lady Brown, 1715–23; Captain James Price, 1715; Dr. Thomas Pellatt, 1717–18, 1723–31, physician; John Fitz William, Viscount Milton, later second Earl Fitz William, 1718; Lady Wyndham, 1720–8; Captain Broughton, 1721–5; Dr. Edmund Packe, 1728–30, chemist; Dr. John Beaufort, 1730–44; Dr. Charles Coats, c. 1736–43; Sir Rowland Hill, 1737; Dr. William Douglas, 1739–45; Dr. Robert James, 1745, physician; David Garrick, 1749–72, actor; Anthony Relhan, 1758–67, physician; Dr. Henry Krohn, 1769– 1797; Frances Abington, 1771–3, actress; Thomas Linley, 1789–95, musical composer and part owner of Drury Lane Theatre; Dr. Melville, 1791–9; Charles Smith, 1794–7, ? painter; Dr. John Wright, 1798–1800; Thomas Cook, 1807–11, ? engraver. (fn. c1) J. H. MacDonnell, member of the London County Council 1928–55, and actively associated with the Survey of London for thirty-six years, practised as a solicitor in Southampton Street from 1915 to 1941. In 1942 he removed to Maiden Lane, where he continued to practise until his death in 1964.
Southampton Court (now part of Maiden Lane)
The proposals for building over the site of Bedford Ground (see page 37) included a short street to join Southampton Street with Maiden Lane, the east end of which had hitherto been blocked by part of Bedford House. This was laid out in 1706–7 (see leases on pages 320–1 and fig. 32), not as a street but as a narrow foot passage which until c. 1800 was called Southampton Court. It was widened together with Maiden Lane between 1872 and 1893. (fn. 23) One of the original lessees was Ambrose Godfrey Hanckwitz, the chemist, who built his laboratory here (see below). (fn. 24)
Nos. 25 Southampton Street and 1 and 2 Henrietta Street
See page 232.
No. 26 Southampton Street
This house and No. 27 adjoining, are the only two surviving original houses in the street (Plate 76a, 76b, figs. 33–4). No. 26 was erected in c. 1707– 1708 under a sixty-one-year Bedford building lease granted in October 1707 to William Farrer esquire of the Inner Temple. (fn. 25) The builders were probably the same workmen as those employed elsewhere on the site of Bedford Ground (see page 39n.). Farrer himself was the first occupant, living there from 1709 until 1713. (fn. 2)
Succeeding occupants were Charles Eversfield esquire, 1714; Lady Anna Maria Barrington, 1715–17; Lord Milton, 1718; and Thomas White esquire, 1719–44. From about this time the house seems to have been in some form of commercial occupation:- Gervase Leverland, woollen draper, 1745–74; Richard Woods, 1775– 1781; John Richards, laceman, 1782–1803; William and John Wright Pocock, upholsterers and cabinet-makers, 1804–25; James Ruinart and Sons, wine merchants, 1825–44; London Gaslight Company, 1847–86; Licensed Victuallers' Gazette and the Licensed Victuallers' Mirror, 1887–93. (fn. 26)
In April 1893 the eleventh Duke of Bedford granted a twenty-one-year lease of the premises to W. H. Bingham Cox, a brewer: on Cox's death in 1899 the premises were assigned to George and Edward Coleman, both of Covent Garden market, who obtained a relaxation of the restriction on market business which the Bedford Office had maintained in Southampton Street. (fn. 27) In 1903 the Colemans assigned their lease to Messrs. Samuel French and Company, theatrical publishers, who still occupy the building, and who at the time of their entry replaced the original ground-floor front with the present shop front, designed for them by W. R. Phillips, architect. (fn. 28)
No. 26 is a large terrace house of conventional plan, containing a basement and four storeys. The wide hall and spacious staircase compartment are on the north side of the ground storey, where the rooms were remodelled in 1903. Except for the ground storey, the crowning cornice and parapet, the original front has not been substantially altered. It is built of brown stock bricks dressed with fine red bricks. These are used for the moulded storey-bands and for the jambs and flat gauged arches of the window-openings, of which there are four evenly spaced in each storey, with a blind half-window on the left side of the front. The sashes are of various dates, but those of the upper two storeys are set in exposed box-frames, slightly recessed and moulded, above moulded sills. The front was probably finished originally with a wooden eaves-cornice, but now has a frieze, boldly moulded cornice, and plain parapet of painted stucco.
Inside the house, the hall retains an original arch that opens to the staircase compartment. The arch, which has a panelled soffit, moulded archivolt and plain keyblock, is supported on pilasters with simply moulded caps. The lunette contains a fanlight with a hexagonal lantern flanked on either side with three pear-shaped lights. The opening below is now furnished with a pair of three-panelled doors. The dog-legged stair of wood has cut strings dressed with carved brackets, and slender square balusters turned with twisted shafts above urns, now arranged in pairs as some have been removed for use in the upper flight, which is of modern construction. The service stair, which is of plain character, now begins at second-storey level. Apart from the staircases, little of interest remains in the upper storeys.
No. 27 Southampton Street
This house (Plates 76a, 76c, 76d, figs. 33–8), which is well known through its associations with David Garrick, was erected in c. 1706–8 under a sixty-one-year Bedford building lease granted in December 1706 to Samuel Rolt esquire of Milton Ernest, Bedfordshire. (fn. 29) The builders were probably the same as those employed on No. 26 and elsewhere on Bedford Ground. Rolt himself apparently occupied the house in 1708. (fn. 2)
Other occupants between 1708 and 1749 were John Danvas esquire, 1710–19; Lady Wyndham, 1720–8; Mrs. Elizabeth Wyndham, 1729–34; — Windham esquire, 1736; John Boulthy, 1737–9; and William Farr, 1741–8. (fn. 2)
Garrick bought the lease in July 1749, two years after he had become joint proprietor of Drury Lane Theatre. According to Mrs. Garrick he paid 500 guineas for it, 'Dirt and all; 'tis reckon'd a very good Bargain', she wrote to Lady Burlington at the time. (fn. 30) Work on refitting the house began at the end of the month and was completed in October when the Garricks moved in. (fn. 31) In December 1751 Garrick obtained from the fourth Duke of Bedford a twenty-one-year reversionary lease of the house from 1767 at an annual rent of £24. (fn. 32) The proximity of the house to the theatre was not always an advantage: in November 1755 a riot broke out in the theatre during the performance of a French ballet, which Garrick had persisted in presenting despite public hostility, and some of the audience 'went and broke Garrick's windows in Southampton street—part of ye Guard went to protect it'. (fn. 33) In December 1771 Garrick obtained another twenty-one-year reversionary lease of the house from the fifth Duke, but in March 1772 he moved away from Southampton Street into the Adelphi. (fn. 34)
Between 1772 and 1800 the occupant was William Sheldon, the lawyer involved with R. B. Sheridan and T. Holloway in preparing a scheme for the promotion of opera at the King's Theatre in the Haymarket in 1791. (fn. 35) By 1801 James Eastey, a hotel-keeper, had taken over the house, which from then until 1863 was known as Eastey's Family Hotel. (fn. 36) The next lessee was A. C. S. Draper, a fruit salesman, who in March 1865 obtained a seven-and-a-half-year lease from the eighth Duke at an annual rent of £160. During the currency of this lease a number of alterations were made to the front of the building, giving it its present appearance. Details of the alteration were prepared, and presumably carried out, by M. Limbird of Long Acre, a builder, in 1871. (fn. 37)
The bronze memorial tablet to Garrick over the front door was erected in 1901 at the cost of the eleventh Duke of Bedford's estate. It was cast by Parlanti from a model prepared by H. C. Fehr, the sculptor, after a sketch by C. Fitzroy Doll, the architect. (fn. 38)
Four storeys high, with four windows evenly spaced in each upper storey, the front of No. 27 Southampton Street is generally built in a tawnycoloured brick with dressings of fine red brick and painted stone or, more probably, stucco. The ground storey was faced with channel-coursed stucco in 1871, the three windows being dressed with moulded architraves, panelled friezes, and cornices. The doorway, on the right of the windows, has a moulded architrave and a cornicehood on consoles, above which is the tablet commemorating David Garrick's occupation of the house. The second storey, where the windows have Victorian sashes in straight-headed openings dressed with red brick, is finished with a moulded cornice of painted stucco or stone that is returned across the straight rusticated quoins of red brick flanking the front. The windows of the two upper storeys have barred sashes in exposed boxframes, slightly recessed in openings having jambs and gauged flat arches of red brick, broken by slightly projecting triple keyblocks of brick. Similarly finished window-openings were a feature of some other houses in Southampton Street, notably No. 35, now demolished (Plate 58c). Moulded sill-bands of painted stucco or stone extend below the windows of both storeys but stop against the straight quoins. The front is finished with a disproportionately large entablature and a low parapet, all finished in painted stucco.
The interior retains many of its original decorative features. The ground-storey front and back rooms are finely panelled and finished with heavily moulded dado-rails and bold cornices, the raised-and-fielded panels in two heights being set in ovolo-moulded framing. The hall is lined with similar panelling and its ceiling is enriched with moulded decoration in circles, scrolls and rosettes. The door from the hall to the front room has a fine doorcase, its moulded architrave, carved with egg-and-dart and bead-and-reel ornaments, being surmounted by a carved frieze of cyma profile and a cornice. The altered door to the inner hall is set in an arched opening having a panelled soffit and moulded archivolt. The panelling of the staircase compartment is similar to that of the hall, except that the dado matches with the stair railing and has small pilasters to correspond with the Composite column-newels. The cut strings of the staircase (Plate 76c, 76d) are dressed with carved brackets, and the moulded and ramped handrail, its sides enriched with carving, rests on square-section balusters with turned twisted shafts, three to each tread. From the second storey to the third, the handrail is not carved and the walls above the dado are not panelled (Plate 76d), while the upper flights are more simply finished with balusters of a coarser pattern, two to each tread.
The principal front room on the second storey was formed in about 1945 and lined with unpainted pine panelling of early eighteenth-century character. The remaining rooms on this level have plain panelling in two heights, and plain panelling in ovolo-moulded framing survives in the third-storey front room. A feature of interest in the basement is the lead water-tank, dated 1710 and ornamented with an embossed geometrical design framing flowers, wreaths, a shell, and the initials F. D. (fig. 38).
Nos. 31 Southampton Street and 3 Maiden Lane
Ambrose Godfrey's chemist's shop and laboratory. Demolished
At some time before 1680 Ambrose Godfrey, or Godfrey Hanckwitz, was brought over from Germany to assist the Hon. Robert Boyle, the philosopher and chemist, in his scientific experiments. (fn. 39) From 1671 until his death in 1691 Boyle was living in Pall Mall, where he had a laboratory, (fn. 40) and it was perhaps here that Boyle in 1680 arrived at a method of preparing phosphorus. (fn. 41) Godfrey may have been concerned in this work, for he later sold phosphorus at 50s. an ounce. (fn. 42)
At first Godfrey lived with his wife and family in lodgings, in a single room in Chandos Street, Covent Garden. But during his travels in Germany Boyle had also met with a member of the Rosicrucian sect who claimed to be able to produce gold from base metals and to be in possession of the secret of the Philosopher's Stone. Boyle brought this philosopher over to London, where for a while he lodged in the Godfreys' already overcrowded room in Chandos Street. Here a 'digesting furnace' was established and the philosopher set to work. Boyle, who provided all the funds for this unconventional ménage, frequently asked Godfrey for progress reports—'what news etc ? and what has he done ? and what have you seen? being continually the query'. (fn. 43) In later life Godfrey confessed that the philosopher had 'bewitched' him, and matters went from bad to worse when the philosopher's wife arrived from Holland. By this time Godfrey had found separate lodgings for his unwanted visitor, but the ungrateful philosopher had turned against his distracted compatriot: 'he even sent his troublesome wife to me at my door', Godfrey long afterwards recalled, 'who scolded in the German tongue and made people stare … saying you are my ruin, you brought me over, or else I was well in Holland; and this railing was by his [the philosopher's] consent, and it was then he began to question my fidelity, whether I delivered all what Mr. Boyle gave. I was now teased almost out of my life, with the continued song, money, money, sometimes he, sometimes his wife, a terrible bawling creature.' (fn. 43)
The dénouement of this domestic fracas is not recorded. Boyle died in 1691, and the next that is known of Godfrey is that in December 1706 he took a building lease of two adjoining plots on Bedford Ground, one on the west side of Southampton Street (No. 31 on fig. 32) and the other on the south side of Southampton Court, now Maiden Lane (No. 3). (fn. 24) In Southampton Street he built himself a house and used the site in Southampton Court for his laboratory. (fn. 1) The latter, which measured 97 feet by 16 feet 6 inches, was described on a Bedford estate plan as 'a low building with a Cockloft at one end', (fn. 44) and it had an entrance from the back yard of No. 31 as well as from Southampton Court. The interior is illustrated in the set of engravings made in or after 1728 and reproduced on Plate 56. Plate 56b shows the east side of the laboratory, with the door into Southampton Court on the left, the entrance from the yard of No. 31 Southampton Street in the centre, and on the right a door into the garden of a house in the Strand which was also owned by Godfrey. (fn. 45) Plate 56a shows the apparatus used for the preparation of phosphorus which was apparently carried out on the west side of the laboratory, with a door from Southampton Court on the right. The laboratory was still in use in 1859, when one of the original furnaces was making charcoal. (fn. 46) In 1862 the building was converted into a potato warehouse, (fn. 47) and in 1872 it was demolished for the erection of Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church, part of which now occupies the site. (fn. 48)
In his new laboratory Godfrey was able to make a wide variety of chemical experiments, and to sell his products at his shop in Southampton Street. (fn. 42) A visit there in October 1710 is described by Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, the German book collector and connoisseur, who was then in England. 'We went to the house of the well-known German chemist Gottfried … we bought from him a supply of English salt, etc. and saw his incomparably handsome laboratorium, which is both neatly and lavishly appointed, being also provided with all manner of curious stoves. For an ounce of salt we had to pay a shilling, but for the essence of lavender that goes with it … five shillings. We also purchased phosphorium at eight shillings, a drachma.' (fn. 49)
Some years later Godfrey invented 'a new Method of Extinguishing Fires by Explosion and Suffocation', in which containers holding water 'impregnated with a certain preparation an Enemy to Fire' were exploded within the burning buildings. This device was first demonstrated on a specially built house in Belsize Park in April 1723 before a distinguished audience, but it was not entirely successful. A second attempt was made in May in Westminster Fields, with more satisfactory results, (fn. 50) and in November 1727 The Weekly Miscellany reported that Godfrey's 'Fire Watches', as these extinguishers were called, had been remarkably successful in preventing the spread of fires in London. (fn. 51) In 1730 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.
Ambrose Godfrey died in 1741. His eldest son, Boyle Godfrey, who lived in Tavistock Street from 1731 until 1753, (fn. 2) had dabbled in alchemy and 'squander'd away in a very profuse manner' the large sums of money which his father had already given him. He therefore only inherited a pension of 10s. a week 'that he might not want bread', and the house, shop, laboratory and business passed to Godfrey's two other sons, Ambrose II and John. (fn. 52) But they did not inherit their father's commercial acumen, and within five years both were declared bankrupt. (fn. 53) The business itself survived, managed now by Ambrose II with the help of his nephew, Ambrose Godfrey III, who was Boyle Godfrey's son. (fn. 54)
Ambrose Godfrey III inherited the business from his uncle in 1756, (fn. 54) and on his own death in 1797 he bequeathed it jointly to his son Ambrose Towers Godfrey and his assistant Charles Gomond Cooke, on condition that they should form a partnership to be called Godfrey and Cooke. (fn. 55) The two parties signed their articles of partnership in May 1797. (fn. 56) In the following July they took a repairing lease of the premises (fn. 57) and it was probably at about this time that they inserted the elaborate colonnaded shop front into the ground floor of No. 31 Southampton Street which can be seen in Plate 57a.
Ambrose Towers Godfrey neglected the business and squandered his fortune. (fn. 58) After his death in 1807 and of his younger brother (who was not connected with the firm) in 1812 the male line of the Godfreys came to an end, and the business was managed by Cooke. (fn. 59) In 1826–7 he opened a second shop in Conduit Street, Mayfair. (fn. 60) After his death in 1842 the business was carried on under the management of William Ince, who had been Cooke's assistant for twentysix years, and who later became President of the Pharmaceutical Society. (fn. 61) The firm remained at No. 31 Southampton Street and No. 3 Maiden Lane until 1862, but thereafter it was continued at the shop in Conduit Street until 1913, when it removed to the Royal Arcade off Old Bond Street. There it finally closed its doors in 1916. (fn. 62)
After the removal of the firm from No. 31 Southampton Street in 1862 another of Charles Gomond Cooke's assistants, William Dart, started a chemist's business on his own account in the next door house at No. 30, (fn. 63) where he displayed the name Godfrey and Cooke on the fasciaboard of his shop. Both Nos. 30 and 31 were demolished in 1893. (fn. 64) A photograph taken shortly before their demolition (Plate 57a) shows the parapet of No. 31 surmounted by a stone phoenix, the sign by which the business had been known in the eighteenth century, and a tablet bearing the date 1680. This date may perhaps have been intended to commemorate Robert Boyle's success in the preparation of phosphorus, or, erroneously, the date of the establishment of Godfrey's business in Southampton Street.