Survey of London: Volume 4, Chelsea, Pt II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1913.
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XCVII.—XCVIII.—THE OLD MANOR-HOUSE (Destroyed) No. 1, JUSTICE WALK, and Nos. 23 and 24, LAWRENCE STREET.
Lawrence Street derives its name from the family of Lawrence, who owned for many years the old Manor House, which is presumed to have been situate at the north end of the street. It is not necessary to go in detail into the history of Chelsea Manor, but it may be noted that Sir Reginald Bray was lord of the manor from 1485 to 1503 and was succeeded by his nephew Sir Edmund, Lord Bray, who surrendered his claim in 1510 to Sir William, afterwards Lord, Sandes, in right of his wife. Both the Brays were buried at the old church. Lord Sandes sold the manor to King Henry VIII., who built the new manor house in Cheyne Walk (completed 1543). The old house was leased before 1557 to Richard Jervoise, to whom or to one of whose sons is the fine monument in the old church, and in 1557 (fn. 1) it was granted to John Caryll. In the same year he sold it to James Bassett, whose wife Maria parted with it in 1559 to Thomas Parrys. (fn. 2) The property changed hands again, and in 1583 it was sold by Robert Chamberlain and William Mounsey to Thomas Lawrence. (fn. 3) This last was Thomas Lawrence, goldsmith, who died in 1593, and was buried in what was henceforward known as the Lawrence Chapel in the old church, for the chapel attached to the lords of the manor remained with the possessors of the old manor house and not the new. Thomas Lawrence's son, Sir John, the first baronet, succeeded his father and died in 1638. His son Sir John (died c. 1681) and grandson Sir Thomas (died 1714), the latter being Secretary for Maryland, successively held the property. Sir Thomas left one surviving daughter, Margaret, who married Crew Offley, and inherited the property. Margaret Offley died in 1725 and was buried in the old church.
Faulkner, (fn. 4) tells us that "Ann, Duchess of Monmouth and Buccleuch, relict of James, Duke of Monmouth, resided in the great house in Lawrence Street about the year 1714," and this house came to be called Monmouth House. But it is clear from a note of Dr. King's that the old manor house was pulled down bfore 1704, and from his further note that "now it is built into several tenements, the offerings come to much more yearly" proves that it was not rebuilt as a great house. Indeed, on his map is shown a block of four houses at the north end of the street, built by Mr. Chase, who leased a portion of the glebe adjoining as additional gardens for the two larger houses. A passage between the two is specifically mentioned. (fn. 5) Now, if we consult the rate-books, we find that from 1695 onwards, there were four houses, apparently on the western side of the street, all rated at the same value (£18) and they are clearly shown on Dr. King's map. These are followed in the earlier years by two houses (rated at £28) which must have been on the eastern side. In 1705–6 there appear between these two sets of buildings, four new houses, the two in the centre rated at £28, and those at the side at £18. This would be the block already referred to, and it would agree with the drawing in the Chelsea Public Library (Plate 57), which shows four early 18th-century houses in one group, the two in the centre being larger than those at the sides, which occupy the projecting wings. The central folding-doors in the drawing belong to the passage, while the windows above are sham features to give dignity to the building. Mr. Beaver (fn. 6) tells us that a part of the block was pulled down in 1835, and a reference to Thompson's map (1836) will show the two western houses alone standing on the site. We can thus trace the Duchess of Monmouth in 1715 to the eastern of the two centre houses, which had been tenanted for two years previously by Josias Priest. Her neighbour in the eastern wing was "the Worshipful Richard Woodward," until 1718, (fn. 7) when the Duchess is found in occupation of the two houses, which together are rated at £63. She remained here until her death in 1732, when her name gives place to that of her daughter the Rt. Honble. Isabella Scott, who remained until 1738. After being empty for four years, the house was taken by Nicholas Spriemont, who was later the manager of Chelsea China Manufactory, which was close by. (fn. 8) Dr. Smollett came to live in the next house (westwards) in the year 1750.
Nos. 23 and 24, Lawrence Street, which have the appearance of being originally one house, are good early Georgian buildings, and no doubt formed part of the building scheme above referred to. It will be noticed that there is a well designed hood which spans the two doorways; it is remarkably similar to one shown in a like position in the drawings of Monmouth House, and it is quite possibly the same hood. Opposite Nos. 23 and 24, and at the northern corner of Justice Walk, is another good house of rather later date. The doorway, which is in Justice Walk (in which street the house is No. 1), is of excellent design, and some good wrought iron balconies occur to the windows which overlook Lawrence Street.