Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1970.
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The Parish and Vestry of St. Paul
The History of the establishment of Covent Garden as a parish is made obscure by the lack of many of its early records. Most of the church- or chapelwardens' accounts are missing before 1663 and, more seriously, all the vestry minutes before 1681. Much of the early history has, therefore, to be deduced from the records of the sometimes jealous mother parish of St. Martin in the Fields.
When the church of St. Paul was being built the fourth Earl of Bedford probably hoped that it would immediately become parochial. His first arrangements included the provision of a vestry room, and of a house and stipend for the minister, who was to be of his own choosing. The Attorney General spoke in 1633 of an expectation that the living would be a vicarage of £100 per annum. (fn. 14) The vicar of St. Martin in the Fields, however, claimed that an Act of Parliament was needed to make the precinct of Covent Garden independent of St. Martin's, and in April 1638, when the dispute came before the Privy Council, the vicar's argument was upheld. The Privy Council ordered that the church should be made parochial, with the patronage vested in the Earl, when a Parliament was next held, but that in the meantime the church should be consecrated as a chapel of ease to St. Martin's, whose vicar was to nominate and pay the curate. The Earl's £100 per annum and minister's house, although not yet attached to the living as an endowment, were recognized as yearly benefactions giving him a right to nominate a preacher (presumably additional to the curate), subject to the approval of the Bishop of London. (fn. 15) The church was consecrated on 27 September 1638. (fn. 16)
On the previous day the Earl and the inhabitants of Covent Garden on the one hand and the vicar, churchwardens and parishioners of St. Martin's on the other came to an agreement, by which the boundary of the chapelry was delimited. It formed an enclave almost entirely surrounded by St. Martin's parish. In the version by which the agreement is known, the boundary was to 'extend 40 foote without the new [now?] or late bricke wall of the said Covent garden and shall also include Bedford house'. (fn. 17) This description of the boundary was, as will be seen, retained in later enactments of 1646 and 1660, although its rationale is not very apparent. The line of the former wall, which had been built in c. 1610 (see page 24) enclosed the fine, newly built central area of the Bedford estate: there were, however, new buildings outside the wall, as well as a rather older fringe of houses and gardens. Probably the 40-foot-deep extramural perimeter represents a compromise by which St. Martin's lost not only the new, wealthy streets but also some of the poorer parts outside the wall. In any event, the chapelry and parish boundary seems never in fact to have observed the prescribed line exactly.
The administrative arrangements in the agreement do not seem very explicit. The management of the affairs of the chapelry was given to chapelwardens and overseers of the poor, who were to be chosen by the vicar of St. Martin's and the inhabitants of the chapelry from among themselves. The chapelwardens and a 'competent number' of inhabitants were to participate with St. Martin's in the levying of any rate to which the chapelry was subject: disputes over what was a 'competent number' were to be referred to the Bishop of London. All tithes due to the vicar of St. Martin's remained payable as before. On the three Sundays after Easter the inhabitants of the chapelry and of the mother parish were to worship in each other's church. (fn. 17)
The next few years after the consecration were marked by disputes between the officers of the mother parish and of the chapelry, chiefly concerning the right of the latter to dispose of money collected by them. (fn. 20) Law was invoked (chiefly against the chapelwarden, Richard Harris), and at one period the St. Martin's overseers took their stand at the chapel doors to collect their alleged dues themselves. (fn. 21) The Covent Garden men in turn seem to have appropriated some of the revenue arising out of the chapelry for the use of its own poor, by pretending that it was raised for the repair of the chapel, confessedly 'to prevent the Collectors of Saint Martins parish from having the same'. (fn. 22)
In 1640–1 some inhabitants of Covent Garden (mostly, it would seem, tradesmen) tried to obtain the necessary Act of Parliament to make the chapelry a parish, (fn. 23) and (on the evidence of a draft Bill of 1640 in the Bedford Office) the Earl also had the same intention. (fn. 24) A first reading was given to a Bill in the House of Commons in February 1640/1. But there was a counterpetition, the turn of national events did not favour the progress of private Bills, and it did not get beyond the committee stage in August 1642. (fn. 25)
Finally, in September 1645, an ordinance to make Covent Garden a parish passed quickly through the Commons and was sent to the Lords. They made alterations, and after two conferences (at which the Commons were represented by Zouch Tate and Denzil Holles, both residents in Covent Garden) the amended ordinance was approved on 7 January 1645/6. (fn. 26) An explanatory ordinance was approved on 31 January. (fn. 27)
In 1643 the Commons had appointed sequestrators of the vicarage of St. Martin's, who had been empowered to maintain a minister at Covent Garden chapel, chosen by them and such Members of Parliament as lived in the chapelry. (fn. 28) When the Lords appointed a committee to consider the ordinance in September 1645, however, they required 'the Patron of the said Living to have Notice of it', (fn. 29) by which they presumably meant the fifth Earl of Bedford, then living in retirement from public affairs at Woburn.
In the ordinance the Earl was declared to be patron of the living, the chapelry was made parochial within the same boundary as in September 1638, and freed from all tithes to St. Martin's. The rector was given a stipend of £100 per annum charged on the rents of three houses in the Piazza (Sir Edmund Verney's two houses, and Edward Sydenham's): additionally a parochial rate was to raise £400 per annum for salaries, of which the rector and assistant minister were to receive £150 each. The assistant minister was to be chosen by the 'governors' of the parish. These were named, and numbered thirty-four: the list was headed by the Earl, but did not include the rector or any ex officio member. The provision for the replenishment of this close vestry was imprecise. Vacancies were to be filled by a majority of the resident householders or 'in default thereof' by a majority of the governors. The new parish was not to be completely dissociated from St. Martin's. It was charged with a perpetual annual payment to the poor of the mother parish, and also (in an obscurely worded clause) with one fifth of the 'public debts' and one fifth of the highwaymaintenance charges of that parish. In return, it was entitled to one fifth of the St. Martin's poor rate. (fn. 30) The levying of a poor rate within the parish for its own purposes was not specifically authorized, but in fact a rate was thenceforward made by the Covent Garden overseers. Until 1653 the poor rate seems to have been audited by the governors, and thereafter by the justices of the peace for Westminster. (fn. 31)
Not very surprisingly, St. Martin's had to go to law to obtain its dues. (fn. 32) Perhaps to clarify the mutual obligations another ordinance 'for making Covent Garden a Parish' was read in the Commons in March 1647/8, but no more is heard of it. (fn. 33) In May 1654 Covent Garden's obligation in respect of one fifth of St. Martin's highway charges was settled as a duty to repair a specified part of the roadway (from Tyburn Fort to the Mews), (fn. 34) but disputes continued and on at least one occasion, in 1658, the fifth Earl himself presided over a meeting of the Covent Garden governors to consider the business. (fn. 35)
The ordinance of 1646 had, of course, never received the royal assent, and at the Restoration it was necessary for Covent Garden to obtain an Act of Parliament to confirm its parochial status. (fn. 1) St. Martin's offered no complete opposition: experience no doubt had made it seem desirable that Covent Garden should 'have nothing to doe with our Revennew'. (fn. 38) Some inhabitants of Covent Garden, on the other hand, feared the financial burdens of parochial independence. (fn. 39) In August 1660 a Bill was introduced in the Commons, but its progress was slow and it did not receive the royal assent until 29 December. (fn. 40)
The delay had arisen chiefly out of the adjustment of the poor rate between Covent Garden and St. Martin's. In the end the Act did not effect a complete separation of the parishes in all respects. It gave the precinct parochial status, within the same boundary as before, discharged it from all tithes due to St. Martin's, confirmed the Earl as patron of the living, and gave the nomination of a curate to the rector of St. Paul's subject to the Earl's consent. (fn. 2) The provision of the rector's stipend of £100 per annum by a rent-charge on the three Piazza houses was renewed, and the churchwardens were authorized to raise a rate of £250 per annum out of which the rector was, as before, to receive an additional £150. (The curate's stipend was, however, to be much less than that of the 'assistant minister' under the 1646 ordinance, at only £50 per annum.) There were to be three churchwardens, chosen respectively by the Earl of Bedford, the rector, and the majority of resident householders. (fn. 3) They were authorized to make, in addition to the rector's rate, a scavengers' and church rate. The poor rate and highways rate, however, were to be made not by the officers of Covent Garden alone but by the Covent Garden churchwardens acting with the overseers of the poor and surveyors of St. Martin's. (fn. 43)
The poor-ratebooks for Covent Garden subsequent to this Act, which form part of the annual accounts of the Covent Garden overseers of the poor, give no indication of the participation of St. Martin's in making the rate, (fn. 44) although in 1662 one item of disbursement by the Covent Garden overseers is said to have been occasioned by an arrest made 'as Joynt overseers with St. Martins'. (fn. 45) The St. Martin's vestry minutes, however, testify that until 1662 St. Martin's regarded Covent Garden as a 'precinct' rather than a parish. (fn. 46) In 1661–3, no doubt to clarify the matter, Bills were introduced in Parliament to confirm Covent Garden's parochial status. (fn. 47) No Act was passed, but lawsuits between St. Martin's and Covent Garden demonstrated the need for a clearer understanding. (fn. 48) In 1662 the Earl of Bedford was concerning himself in procuring an agreement. (fn. 49) A final accommodation was probably reached in 1666, between the churchwardens of the two parishes. (fn. 50) Covent Garden continued to be responsible for the maintenance of a section of St. Martin's highways, but thenceforward the poor rates seem to have been unequivocally separate.
Thereafter the chief cause of friction between the parishes (apart from the maintenance of the highways, which involved Covent Garden in disputes also with St. Marylebone and St. George's, Hanover Square (fn. 51) ) was the boundary dividing them. This ran mostly behind or through the backs of houses, and the rating of properties on the boundary was a constant source of disagreement until well into the nineteenth century.
One fundamental matter on which the Act of 1660 was silent was the constitution of the governing body of the parish. Directions were given only for the election of churchwardens. No light is thrown by the St. Martin's vestry minutes, which refer merely to dealings with 'the gentlemen' of Covent Garden. In September 1662, however, the Bishop of London issued a faculty to the rector, churchwardens and parishioners of Covent Garden. Its purpose (like that of other London faculties of the time) was to eradicate the alterations made to the fabric of the church during the Interregnum. For this purpose it established 'a select Vestrey … of honest able and discreete Inhabitants' who were authorized, in addition to restoring the church, to manage the affairs of the parish. It was to consist of the rector, churchwardens, the Earl of Bedford, and thirty-one other named parishioners, all being Anglicans 'of principall Rank and Reputacion in the said parish'. Vacancies were to be filled by co-option. (fn. 52) This bishop's faculty would thus seem to be the authority for the select vestry which ruled the parish until 1827. The vestry clerk's words in 1732, however, not only indicate a modification of the vestry's composition but perhaps suggest some vagueness about its authority: 'The Vestry in most cases is in the nature of a select one, composed of the Church-Wardens, or any two of them being present, and the Antients of the Parish, who have served the Office of ChurchWardens.' (fn. 53) By 1821 the vestry was calling itself a select body 'by usage', (fn. 54) and does not seem to have had recourse to the faculty to justify its existence against the attacks of the 'reformers' of 1827. (fn. 4)
The vestry minute books contain references to disagreements between some or all of the parochial authorities and inhabitants in 1681, 1707, 1716, 1738, 1754 and 1757. The dispute of 1754 issued in print, but although the extravagance and irresponsibility of select vestries was brought into the debate, the validity of the vestry of St. Paul's does not seem to have been directly questioned. (fn. 55)
The vestry minutes survive from 1681. (fn. 5); Until the second quarter of the eighteenth century they are mainly concerned with the sale of pews, grants of dispensation from serving parish offices, and the election of churchwardens. The first minute, of 29 April 1681, records 'a Publick meeteing in ye Vestry' (to enquire into complaints against churchwardens) at which the fifth Earl of Bedford and the rector were present. (fn. 58) Thereafter the rectors hardly ever attend, and the Earls never.
Apart from this minute, the vestry books include those of some other meetings at which nonvestrymen were present (in 1720, to buy an organ; 1744, to suppress robberies; 1751, to discuss rating the market; 1754, to hear complaints against churchwardens; 1758, to elect an organist; 1775, to discuss the workhouse Bill before Parliament; 1784, to poll for a lecturer; 1787, to suppress ginshops; and 1789, again to elect an organist). At the poll for a lecturer in 1784, twenty-seven of the 442 voters were women. (fn. 59) The vestry minutes also sometimes record the summoning of a public meeting of ratepayers, without noticing the meeting itself.
Also included are some proceedings of other bodies, particularly sittings of petty sessions from c. 1711 to c. 1729, at which some parish officers were appointed. The vestry room was also utilized for some deliberative or juridical meetings of Westminster magistrates in petty sessions which were not recorded in the vestry minute books. (fn. 60)
From the 1730's onwards any church rate was made by the vestry as a whole, which decided about repairs or redecorations to the church. On one occasion, however, in 1778 the vestry resolved (perhaps to annoy the rector) that 'as a Vestry' it could not make a rate to remedy 'the Cold and Dampness of the Church'. (fn. 61)
It appears that from the beginning the rector paid no parochial rates (see page 127), a practice formally authorized by the vestry in 1699 (fn. 62) and which continued, despite questionings in 1748, (fn. 63) until the late eighteenth century. (fn. 64) The early ratebooks, in the 1650's and 1660's, show that it was usual (though not invariable) for the overseers of the poor also to pay no poor rate in their year of office. (fn. 65) This exemption reappears in the poor-ratebooks from about 1702 onwards. (fn. 66) It perhaps extended to the parish officers: in the years c. 1711–39, at least, the vestry clerk was exempted ex officio from the poor rate, (fn. 67) as was a parish beadle in 1727. (fn. 68) In 1748 the vestry decided to enquire what the practice regarding ex officio exemptions was in other Westminster parishes, (fn. 69) and thereafter the ratebooks seem to indicate that the vestry clerk paid his poor rates. (fn. 70) In 1765 the vestry ruled that (with the evident exception of the rector) only the churchwardens, overseers of the poor and scavengers should be exempt, and then only from the church rate, poor rate and scavengers' rate respectively. (fn. 71) In 1772 the vestry clerk was excused all parish rates, like the other Westminster vestry clerks, (fn. 72) but so far as the poor-ratebooks indicate, the vestry clerks in fact continued to pay their assessments. (fn. 73) After about 1778 the overseers seem to have paid their poor rates, (fn. 66) as did the rector from about 1783. (fn. 64) By that date, therefore, the practice of exemption from rates would seem to have been very limited if not extinct.
The vestry was concerned intermittently with the question whether to rate the buildings in the market. From 1679 to c. 1698 rates were collected from the individual shop- or stall-keepers, although often only by recourse to the magistrates. (fn. 74) In one year, 1705, the parish tried to charge rates on 'the proprietors for the Rents of the Market', but the assessment was not paid, (fn. 75) and until 1768 the market and its occupants disappear from the ratebooks. In 1728 and 1735 the question was discussed in the vestry (fn. 76) and in 1751 an annual payment of 50 guineas was accepted from the fourth Duke of Bedford in lieu of rates. (fn. 77) In 1767–9 the vestry again agitated the question but again accepted a payment in lieu, in the form of an additional 20 guineas from the market lessee. (fn. 78) Thereafter the market lessee alone was rated for the market, until 1811. From 1813 to 1826 the individual tenants were assessed as well as the market lessee. In 1827 and 1828 the lessee alone paid, and from 1829 onwards, with the reorganization and rebuilding of the market, the sixth Duke paid a lump sum for the market land and tolls. (fn. 79) Five or six years later the vestry agreed to accept payment on a sliding scale related to the market revenue. (fn. 80)
By the mid eighteenth century the market had become a nuisance against which the vestry had to petition the fourth Duke (see page 132). Increasingly it became concerned by the encroachment of market carts into surrounding streets and the necessity for constant cleansing of the roadway, 'particularly in the Colliflower season of the Year'. (fn. 81) The parish administration was also burdened to an unusual extent by the need to control the many taverns, gin-shops, coffee-houses and brothels for which Covent Garden was notorious.
By the 1760's the post of vestry clerk was sufficiently important for his salary to be settled at £100 per annum compared with £4 plus expenses in 1740. (fn. 82) In 1778 a vestry office was made in the south-west wing of the church. (fn. 83) By the late eighteenth century it was usual for the vestry clerk to be a solicitor and to be clerk also of the boards of trustees set up by local Acts since 1736. The administration of the workhouse required particular attention (as a retiring vestry clerk said in 1806) 'to counter the various arts which the profligate Paupers are constantly practising to deceive and to defraud'. (fn. 84)
The transformation of the parish from a wealthy residential area to a dirty, crowded and disorderly work-place imposed a burden on the parochial machinery and on the ratepayers that was aggravated by the inequitable incidence of the county rate. This bore heavily on parishes which had lost residential status since the early eighteenth century. Attempts to lighten this burden in 1779 were unsuccessful, and it was not alleviated until an equalization Act of 1797. (fn. 85)
In common with other select vestries in London, that of Covent Garden was assaulted in the late 1820's by the party of 'reform'. (fn. 86) As elsewhere, the criticism was chiefly levelled against the extravagance of the vestry and local boards. The attack was led by James Corder, a grocer in James Street. At a vestry meeting in February 1827 he claimed the right to attend as a ratepayer, and was ejected. (fn. 87) A committee was formed, of which a lawyer in Bedford Street, James Phillips, was the secretary, and a subscription raised. (fn. 88) By July an action in the Court of King's Bench had been commenced by Corder (whose counsel was the Attorney General) against the vestry chairman (represented by the Solicitor General). In December the defendant, on legal advice, conceded Corder's case on the eve of the trial. (fn. 89) Thus the select vestry came to an end.
In default of other legal enactment, the parish for the time being became subject to the provisions of Sturges Bourne's Act of 1818, with an open vestry of ratepayers, but with plural voting according to the amount of rate paid. (fn. 90) Neither the friends of the old vestry nor its opponents liked this arrangement, and a year or more of bitter struggle followed.
The reformers' hostility was mainly directed against the vestry clerk, Garrard Roche, a solicitor in Charles Street, who was also clerk of the various local boards. At a numerously attended open vestry in the church in January 1828 Corder contested Roche's continuance as vestry clerk. A conservative tradesman complained that 'the Church was a perfect Beargarden', but Roche held his place by 486 votes to 301. (fn. 91)
The reformers then turned their attack on the trustees of the parish workhouse in Cleveland Street, St. Pancras, and a day in February found Corder, Phillips and others concealed in a public house opposite the gate, ready to storm the entrance when the trustees were admitted. The conduct of business was prevented, and a similar scene was repeated some months later. The same conservative gloomily prophesied that they would 'have Law, Law to the end of it'. (fn. 92)
The sixth Duke of Bedford, despite his liberal Whig professions, rather favoured the old vestry, and disliked the attacks on him in the radical press. A more ebullient conservative, the rector, Doctor Randolph, tried hard to drum up his patron's active support for a Bill to restore a select vestry, and in February 1828 the Duke joined with the rector and others in petitioning for leave to introduce such a Bill. (fn. 93) The Duke, however, refused to champion the cause quite openly, and was angry when the conservatives made known his support for the Bill. (fn. 94) The conservatives had in fact avoided giving the formal public notice of their petition which was necessary, under the standing orders of the House of Commons, if the Bill was held to relate to the management of the parish poor relief. A committee of the Commons (chaired by the Duke's brother) reported favourably on this point, but the opposition was now alerted, and counter-petitioned. The matter was referred back to another committee, under Sir Francis Burdett, and it was then decided, on 28 February, that the conservatives' petition was inadmissible. (fn. 95)
The reformers had the support of the radical newspapers, but the conservatives enjoyed that of the chief Bow Street magistrate, Sir Richard Birnie, who in March, at a stormy petty sessions, appointed other overseers of the poor than those recommended by the open vestry. The manner and substance of his action were unfavourably commented on. (fn. 96) Since the opening of the vestry great publicity was also being directed against apparent abuses found in the accounts of the old vestrymen. (fn. 97) Perhaps opinion was tending towards the reformers, and in April Corder ousted Roche from the vestry clerk's place, at a two-day poll in the church, by 467 votes to 460. (fn. 98) The rector, who could find nothing better to say of the reformers than that 'Mr Phillips is—I won't say what—Mr Croder [sic] a wet Quaker', was sure that many of Corder's votes from market stallholders should have been disallowed. The Duke thought the Doctor not conciliatory enough. (fn. 99)
His own steward preferred a representative vestry to either an open or a closed self-perpetuating body, (fn. 100) and in March the reformers addressed an open letter to the Duke's lawyer with a suggestion for a vestry of £30 householders elected by all ratepayers. (fn. 101)
The state of the parish was now worse than before, as the new vestry clerk and Roche (who was still clerk of the local boards) obstructed each other's business. (fn. 102) In June the vestry decided to prepare a Bill to regulate the management of the parish. (fn. 103) The former members of the select vestry held aloof, and Doctor Randolph denounced the Bill as a 'party job'. (fn. 104) By September a draft was ready, on the lines suggested in March. (fn. 105) The introduction of the Bill hung fire, however, and the winter wore away in acrimonious attempts to settle the parish accounts before the magistrates. (fn. 106) At last, in February 1829, the reformers petitioned for leave to introduce their Bill. This would have set a £50 qualification for vestrymen, but left their election to all the ratepayers. (fn. 107) In March, under the sponsorship of John Cam Hobhouse and Sir Francis Burdett, it was read for the first time. (fn. 108) The Duke remained unfriendly to the vestry (appointing as his churchwarden a candidate not recommended by them), but limited his opposition to the introduction of amendments. (fn. 109) In May 1829 the Bill, amended by both Houses, received the royal assent. (fn. 110)
The Act repealed all the enactments since 1736 by which local boards had been established. Their functions were now vested in a committee of twenty-seven elected members, plus the rector, churchwardens and overseers of the poor. The ratepaying qualification of the committeemen was £50. The franchise was confined to £20 ratepayers, evidently by amendments made in the Commons. (fn. 111) (fn. 6) The same voters were to elect auditors of the parish accounts and overseers of the poor. (fn. 113) The vestry marked the occasion by recording in their minutes the anticipation of 'immense savings'. (fn. 114) (fn. 7)
In April 1830 Corder and the new ratecollector, John Callaghan, were able to report gratifyingly on the working of the Act to the sympathetic parliamentary enquiry on vestries which was then being conducted by Hobhouse. Callaghan, who had been one of the leading agitators for reform, remarked on the absence of abuses under the new system. (fn. 116)
The sequel was rather unfortunate. The cost of obtaining the Act was found to have been nearly £1,200, and almost half of this was Phillips's bill. The auditors were critical of his charges, and in the ensuing dispute he had to be summoned for withholding his rates. (fn. 117) A more serious disappointment was in store. The old select vestry had had some unhappy experiences with its rate collectors. In the 1770's the rector's rate had been embezzled, (fn. 118) and more recently the collector of all the parish rates, a schoolmaster in Hart Street, had died with some hundreds of pounds of parish money unaccounted for and irrecoverable. (fn. 119) Then, in November 1835, the committee of management heard that Callaghan, their reforming collector, had left home a fortnight earlier 'in a very ill state of health'. It was soon known that he had taken some £1,500 of parish money with him. For nearly two years nothing was heard (it was rumoured he was in America) and the parish had to content itself with attempts to get some satisfaction from his sureties. (fn. 120) Too typical of the others, however, was the hotelier whose circumstances were found to be 'very shattered'. (fn. 121) In the meantime Corder resigned as vestry clerk, in April 1836, when his reputation had won him the post of clerk to the Board of Guardians of the Strand Union, newly formed by the Poor Law Commissioners. (fn. 122) By early in 1837 his official dealings with his old parish were evidently embittered, and resolutions deploring his 'malignancy' and 'effrontery' were moved in the Covent Garden vestry. (fn. 123) In August 1837 news came that Callaghan had been arrested in Liverpool. He was brought to London, and examined by the magistrates. It then became apparent that for at least a year his residence under an assumed name at Parkstone in Dorset had been perfectly well known to Corder, by whom he was owed money, and with whom he maintained a correspondence. (fn. 124) The committee of management resolved to investigate Corder's conduct, but it seems that nothing positive was done. (fn. 125) (fn. 8) The relationship of the parish to the Strand Union and the Poor Law Commissioners was in any event difficult, and in 1839 it was necessary for the parish publicly to refute charges in the newspapers that it was obstructing the workings of the Poor Law Amendment Act. (fn. 126) Within the parish, the animosities engendered by the events of 1827–9 were still alive in 1845–6. (fn. 129)
In 1855 the Metropolis Management Act united the parish with others in eastern Westminster to form the Board of Works for the Strand District. (fn. 130) The vestry was finally abolished by the Local Government Act of 1899 which created the Westminster City Council. (fn. 131)
The history of the watch-house or round-house is described on page 126. It existed by 1655. (fn. 132) In the late seventeenth century its repair was the responsibility of the churchwardens, (fn. 133) and until the 1730's the maintenance of order was the responsibility of the parish beadles and constables. Like most of the other Westminster parishes, St. Paul's then obtained an Act to make the parish watch more effective. Being examined before a committee of the House of Commons in March 1735 6 a parishioner said 'That he, often suspecting the Watchman near his House to be asleep, ordered his Servant, one Night, to take away his Lantern; which he did, without the Watchman's Knowledge; and that he has often met the said Watchman crying the Hour, without either Lantern or Staff, only a Walkingstick.' (fn. 134) The Bill received the royal assent in May 1736. (fn. 135)
It empowered the vestry with the rector and nineteen other named inhabitants to appoint twice yearly as many watchmen as they thought fit. The watch committee, which was to fill vacancies by co-option, was empowered to levy a rate not exceeding 6d. in the £, subject to the approval of two magistrates. (fn. 136) In 1739 twenty watchmen were employed. (fn. 137) As the vestry acknowledged in 1802, the parish was 'peculiarly obnoxious to scenes of Profligacy', (fn. 138) and it is not inappropriate that Bow Street is so closely associated with the history of attempts to suppress crime and disorder.
In 1829 the Act of 1736 was annulled and the functions of the watch committee vested in the general committee of management. In the same year, however, the Metropolitan Police Act supplanted the parish watch by the new police force. (fn. 139)
Paving, Cleansing and Lighting
There are few references to the upkeep of the streets within the parish in its surviving records before the second half of the eighteenth century, although the churchwardens were authorized to make a scavengers' rate by the Act of 1660. From the 1670's until at least 1703 the churchwardens repaired the railings round the Piazza, and in the early eighteenth century made 'fire plugs' in the streets. (fn. 140) In 1729 the churchwardens, overseers of the poor, scavengers and surveyors of streets agreed to set the recipients of outdoor relief to road-sweeping. (fn. 141) By 1756 the parish scavengers were paying the 'raker' £200 per annum to clean the streets. (fn. 142)
An Act of 1762 established commissioners for paving, cleansing and lighting the streets of Westminster (and some adjacent parishes). (fn. 143) An amending Act of 1771 transferred most of their powers to parochial committees, except for 'optional' streets where the inhabitants had, by an earlier amending Act of 1765, been empowered to do their own paving under the supervision of the commissioners. (fn. 144) By 1783 the residents in the better streets of the parish had exercised this option, but in that year joined with the rest of the parish in obtaining an Act which vested the powers of paving, cleansing and lighting the whole parish in a committee of inhabitants. (fn. 145) It consisted of the rector, the Duke of Bedford's steward and twenty-one other named inhabitants. There was a property qualification of £2,000, and vacancies were filled by the vote of all ratepayers. (fn. 146) The other Westminster parishes obtained similar Acts at this period.
By the 1820's, if not before, the committee was evidently exercising a close and systematized control over encroachments and the alterations of street frontages. (fn. 147) In 1829 it was replaced by the general committee of management. This, through its paving sub-committee, continued the minute regulation of hoardings, railings, areas and projecting shop fronts. (fn. 9) The cleansing of the vegetable-littered streets was by this time very onerous. Contractors were employed by the committee's surveyor of pavements but their work gave perennial dissatisfaction. The collection of house-garbage had also been put out to contract by the early nineteenth century. (fn. 10)
In 1855 the paving, cleansing and lighting responsibilities of the committee were taken over by the Board of Works for the Strand District.
The parish seems to have had no workhouse of its own before the eighteenth century, and use was made of the Westminster bridewells in Tothill Fields and at Clerkenwell. (fn. 150) In 1703 the churchwardens were authorized to take a house in Hart Street for the use of poor and sick pensioners, (fn. 151) and in the 1720's and 1730's maintained a parish nurse in a house in Bow Street, near the corner of Hart Street, 'for keeping the Casuall poor'. (fn. 152) By 1734 the parish had a workhouse, held on lease from the Earl of Exeter's lessee, in that part of Exeter Street also known as Denmark Court, (fn. 153) where it is shown on Rocque's map of 1746 (Plate 7). In 1763 the keeper was being paid 2s. a day for the maintenance of each able-bodied pauper or child, and 2s. 6d. for each old or infirm pauper. (fn. 154)
By 1774 the Exeter Street premises were too small, and dilapidated. (fn. 11) The vestry, conscious of the rapidly increasing cost of maintaining its out-door poor, decided to build a new and bigger workhouse. Through Robert Palmer, the Duke of Bedford's steward, the parish obtained the lease of a site in Cleveland Street, St. Pancras, on the Bedford estate. Plans were prepared by an Edward Palmer of St. Clement Danes, surveyor, to accommodate 200 paupers, at an estimated cost of £3,000, but it was decided to build a larger workhouse to take all the poor. (fn. 156) The necessary Act of Parliament was obtained in May 1775. (fn. 157) It constituted the rector, churchwardens, overseers of the poor and vestrymen trustees to borrow £5,000 for the purpose, charged on a rate to be levied at not more than 4d. in the £. (fn. 158) The workhouse actually built (presumably to Palmer's design) cost, however, nearer £7,000. (fn. 159) It was finished in or before 1778, by which time the parish charity schools for boys and girls were installed in it (see below).
The Act had authorized the trustees to make an additional burial ground for the parish on the workhouse site. To allow its consecration, the freehold of the site was obtained from the fifth Duke in 1788, for £750, (fn. 160) and the burial ground was consecrated in 1790. (fn. 161)
Miscellaneous work was done by the paupers in the house. In 1792 the vestry declined a request from Messrs. Grimshaw and Sons of Manchester for twelve pauper boys to be apprenticed in a cotton mill, 'as the principal object of the present Application may probably tend to a numerous succession of Apprentices only, and not to retain them as Journeymen afterwards'. (fn. 162)
In 1796 the Act authorizing the rebuilding of the church gave the trustees thereby appointed the power of managing the workhouse also. (fn. 163) In 1802 and 1819 tenders were obtained for building an infectious ward and an infirmary respectively, each being to the design of Thomas Hardwick. (fn. 164) By the parish Act of 1829 the administration of the workhouse was given to the general committee of management, but in 1836 it was taken over by the Board of Guardians of the Strand Union. (fn. 165) The building survives as the Out-Patients Department of the Middlesex Hospital, and is described on page 40 of volume XXI of the Survey of London (1949). (fn. 12)
Parish Schools (after 1775)
Until the construction of the parish workhouse in St. Pancras the boys' and girls' charity schools were located in St. Paul's parish (see page 127), but by 1778 had been removed to the workhouse. (fn. 166) The numbers were evidently reduced, from thirty boys and twenty girls to fifteen boys and fifteen girls. (fn. 167) In the 1790's the charity children continued to have their own teachers, (fn. 168) but there seems to have been a tendency towards the assimilation of the workhouse and schools: in 1792 the school trustees accepted a suggestion from the vestry that 'as a spur to Industry' the charity children should be set to 'useful labour', (fn. 169) and by 1822 the posts of workhouse master and schoolmaster had been united and the charity children and pauper children were taught together, on the Madras system. (fn. 170) The posts of workhouse master and schoolmaster were separated again in 1833. (fn. 171) In 1836, however, the workhouse was taken over by the Strand Union and the charity children dispersed. (fn. 172)
An attempt was made to raise funds for the continuance of a parish boarding school for the charity boys, but this proved impossible, and henceforward they were educated at the National School of the parish of St. Martin in the Fields, which was already educating some boys from St. Paul's parish. (fn. 173)
The removal of the girls' school to another site had been in contemplation since at least 1822, (fn. 174) and its continuance after 1836 was assured by hiring premises in Hand Court, Maiden Lane. The girls' school remained here until its closure in 1868. (fn. 175)
In 1845 there was also an infants' school in Exeter Street, perhaps newly established there. (fn. 176)
In the meantime, in 1837, a committee of parishioners headed by the rector had opened negotiations for a building lease from the sixth Duke of Bedford of a site in Hart Street, that of the present No. 12 Floral Street. This had probably been in the posssession of a schoolmaster back to at least 1751, (fn. 177) and since 1828–30 had been occupied by the Adelphi schools for infants, boys and girls. These schools were affiliated to the non-denominational British and Foreign School Society, a body supported from its foundation by the Duke, its President. (fn. 178)
An obstacle to the granting of a building lease was the intolerable din created by the pupils of the Adelphi schools. Despite the Duke's own defence of the schools against complaints, his steward, Christopher Haedy (who had tested the uproar in person), was determined that any lease should be granted only with 'swingeing conditions', rigorously enforced, to protect the Duke's other tenants. No openings were to be allowed in the back or sides of the building and the children were not to be allowed into the yard at the rear. Haedy reserved the right to prohibit the use of the building as a school at all if in his opinion annoyance was being caused. He himself evidently considered that this insecurity of tenure and the lack of facilities for ventilation would make his conditions unacceptable. (fn. 179) The committee was not deterred, however, and in 1838 agreed to the terms of a lease that prohibited all annoyance from any cause, 'be it teaching, singing, chanting, playing or bawling'. (fn. 180)
The committee's architect was E. H. Browne of Beaufort Buildings. His plans were contrived to 'throw all the noise into Hart Street', with a schoolroom on each of three floors. The builder was Johnson Hawke of James Street. (fn. 181)
The 'commodious and substantial' schoolrooms were opened in October 1838. The estimated cost had been £1,500 of which the Government contributed £400 through the British and Foreign School Society: the Duke gave £50. Accommodation was provided for 800 day scholars and a resident master. Some 474 pupils attended in the first year, from various parishes, of which Covent Garden contributed less than a quarter. (fn. 182)
The infants' school on the ground floor was Anglican, 'conducted on the plan adopted by the Bishop of London', while the boys' and girls' schools on the first and second floors respectively were (by a trust deed of August 1839) (fn. 183) affiliated to the British and Foreign School Society. Each school had a separate entrance. (fn. 182) In contrast to the factions which had divided the parish in respect of its secular administration, the Anglican and dissenting interests co-operated harmoniously here in the erection and management of the schools, (fn. 182) a fact observed with pleasure by Haedy in 1841. (fn. 184)
In view of his severe restrictions on the schools' tenancy, the managers were doubtless the more annoyed when the property next door at No. 11 became a brothel in 1842. (fn. 185) Its supersession by a dairyman's cow-house in 1847 was little improvement, as the cows could be smelt as far away as James Street. (fn. 186) Possibly for these reasons the attendance at the boys' and girls' schools declined from some 383 in 1840 to 200 in 1849. (fn. 187) This trend may, however, have been reversed, or perhaps the infants' school flourished, as in 1860 the seventh Duke, at the rector's suggestion, undertook the cost of altering the schools. The contract was agreed with the local builder, William Howard, at £1,787, and the architect employed was C. G. Searle. (fn. 188) The present building bears the date 1860 and presumably owes its appearance mainly to this alteration (Plate 62c). The Italianate style approximates, however, to that publicized and recommended for school buildings in 1841 by Charles Parker, (fn. 189) who had subsequently become the Duke's surveyor, and is known to have made suggestions for the 1860 alterations: stylistically, therefore, his influence may have been predominant.
The re-opened schools educated 340 boys, girls and infants, and residential accommodation was provided for a master and mistress and second schoolmistress. Some adult institutions were also housed here. The whole is said to have been under the rector's supervision. (fn. 190)
In 1874 the management of the schools was transferred to the London School Board. (fn. 191) The lease of the site from the Duke expired in 1899, and the Board did not renew it as the congestion of the street on weekdays made it unsafe for children. (fn. 192)
From 1900 to 1918 the building was used by the rector, by right of yearly tenancies from the eleventh Duke, as a club for market workmen, and other parochial purposes, under the name of St. Paul's Institute. (fn. 193) (fn. 12).
Architectural description of No. 12 Floral Street
Except for the staircase tower on the east side of the front, the former schoolhouse is recessed some 6 feet from the general building line of the street. The front is an austere but striking essay in the Italianate manner. The recessed face has three lofty storeys, each with four closely spaced windows, their tall round-arched openings framed in wide moulded architraves broken only by keystones. There is a panelled pedestal to the second-storey windows, and a bracketed sillcourse to the third storey. The generally attenuated effect of the design is heightened by the treatment of the tower shaft, which has quoined angles. The crowning cornice of the recessed face is returned round the tower, below a belvedere stage having two narrow roundarched openings in each face, and a bracketed eaves-cornice beneath its pyramidal lead-covered roof.