Survey of London: Volume 5, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1914.
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XLVI.—SITE OF LENNOX HOUSE.
In 1590 William Short, the same who ten years later bought Rose Field, purchased of John Vavasour two messuages, two gardens and four acres of land, with appurtenances, in St. Giles. (fn. 1) The precise position of the property is not stated, but from evidence which will be referred to, it is known that it lay to the west of Drury Lane, and comprised The Greybound inn in Broad Street, with land to the south lying on both sides of what is now Short's Gardens.
A portion of this property he leased, (fn. 2) in 1623–4, to Esmé Stuart, Earl of March (afterwards Duke of Lennox), for a term of 51 years as from Michaelmas, 1617. It is possible to ascertain within a little the boundaries of this part of the Short estate. In a deed (fn. 3) dated 10th January, 1614–5, relating to Elm Field, the land lying between Castle Street and Long Acre, the northern boundary is stated to be "certain closes called by the name of Marshlands alias Marshlins, and a garden sometime in the tenure of William Short or his assignes;" and in a later deed, (fn. 4) dated 2nd February, 1632–3, relating to a portion of the same field, the northern boundary, said to be 249 feet distant from Long Acre, is referred to as "a way or back lane of 20 feet adjoining the garden wall of the Right Honble. the Duchess of Lenox."
The distance of the "back lane" from Long Acre corresponds exactly with that of the present Castle Street, and it is therefore clear that this was the southern boundary. The property afterwards came into the possession of the Brownlow family, and an examination of the leases which were granted in the early part of the 18th century, shows that it reached as far as Drury Lane on the east and Short's gardens on the north. On the west it stretched as far as Marshland. (fn. 5)
Whether the house leased to the Earl of March was one of the two (the other being The Greybound) purchased by Short in 1590, or a house quite recently built, there is no evidence to show.
The Earl, in February, 1623–4, succeeded to the dukedom of Lennox, and on 30th July of the same year he died. His widow (fn. 6) continued to reside at the house. Letters from her, headed "Drury Lane," and
dating from 1625 to 1629, are extant, (fn. 7) and she also, in 1628, joined with other "inhabitants adjoining the house of the Countess of Castlehaven, in Drury Lane," in a petition to the Privy Council. (fn. 8) There is, therefore, ample evidence that she actually resided at the house.
In 1632 she married James Hamilton, second Earl of Abercorn, and died on 17th September, 1637, leaving to her husband, in trust for their son James, "all that my capitall house, scituate in Drury Lane." (fn. 9)
The Earl sold the remainder of the lease (fn. 10) to the Duchess's cousin, Adrian Scroope, who apparently let the house, as the Subsidy Roll for 1646 shows the "Earl of Downe" as occupying the premises. (fn. 11) In 1647 Sir Gervase Scroope, Adrian's son, sold the lease to Sir John Brownlow, (fn. 10) who certainly acquired the freehold also, though no record of the transaction has come to light. Finding the house too large (fn. 12) Sir John divided it in two, and in 1662 Lady Allington (fn. 13) was paying a rent of £50 for the smaller of the two residences. (fn. 10) Sir John died in November, 1679. By his will (fn. 14) (signed 10th April, 1673) he left to his wife all the plate, jewels, etc. "which shall be in her closett within or neare our bedd chamber at London in my house at Drury Lane … and the household stuffe in the said house, except all that shall then be in my chamber where the most part of my bookes and boxes of my evidences are usually kept, and except all those in the same house that shall then be in the chamber where I use to dresse myselfe, both which chambers have lights towardes the garden." He also left to his wife "that part of my house in Drury Lane which is now in my own possession for her life if she continue my widowe," together with "that house or part of my house wherein the Lady Allington did heretofore live, …, by which houses I meane yards, gardens and all grounds therewith used"; and moreover the furniture "of two roomes in my house in Drury Lane where I use to dresse myself, and where my evidences and bookes are usually kept."
The estate afterwards came into the hands of Sir John Brownlow, son of his nephew, Sir Richard Brownlow, who at once took steps to develop the property, letting plots on building lease for a term of years expiring in 1728. Except in one case, information is not to hand as to the date on which these leases were granted, but in that instance it is stated to be 21st May, 1682, (fn. 15) a date which may be regarded as approximately that of the beginning of the development of the interior part of the estate by building, (fn. 16) though at least a part of the frontages to Drury Lane and Castle Street had been built on before 1658 (see Plate 3).
At the same time (circ. 1682) apparently Lennox House was, either wholly or in part, demolished. A deed of 1722 (fn. 17) relates to the assignment of two leases of a parcel of ground "lately belonging to the capital messuage or tenement of Sir John Brownlow then in part demolished, scituate in Drury Lane, in St. Giles, sometime called Lenox House." The description is obviously borrowed from the original leases, since reference is also made to "a new street there then to be built, intended to be called Belton Street," which street was certainly in existence in 1683. (fn. 18) What is apparently Lennox House is shown in Morden and Lea's Map of 1682 as occupying a position in the central portion of the estate, with a wide approach from Drury Lane, and this is to a certain extent confirmed by the tradition that the first Lying-In Hospital in Brownlow Street (occupying the site of the present No. 30) was a portion of the original building. It is remarkable, however, that no hint of a house in this position is given either in Hollar's Plan of 1658 (Plate 3) or in Faithorne's Map of the same date (Plate 4).
The name of Brownlow Street was in 1877 altered to Betterton Street.