Survey of London: Volume 5, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1914.
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LI.—SITE OF MARSHLAND (SEVEN DIALS.)
Included in the property transferred to Henry VIII. in 1537 was "one close called Marshland." (fn. 1) In 1594, Queen Elizabeth farmed the close to Thomas Stydolph, his wife, and his son, Francis, for the life of the longest liver, and in 1598 she farmed it for the sixty years following the death of the longest lived of the three to Nicholas Morgan and Thomas Horne. The latter immediately conveyed their interest to James White, and subsequently it came into the hands of Sir Francis Stydolph, who thus held a lease for the length of his own life and for sixty years afterwards. In 1650, while he was still in possession of the close, it was surveyed by Commissioners appointed by Parliament (fn. 2). In their report, the close is described as "all yt peice or parcell of pasture ground comonly called … Marsh close alias Marshland … on the north side of Longe Acre, (fn. 3) and … betwene a way leadinge from Drury Lane to St. Martin's Lane on the north; (fn. 4) and a way leadinge from St. Gyles to Knightsbridge, and a way leadinge from Hogg Lane into St. Martin's Lane on the west; (fn. 5) and Bennet's Garden (fn. 6) and Sir John Bromley (fn. 7) and Mr. Short on the east." These boundaries are in accord with the plan showing the design for laying out (Plate 39), and with Faithorne's Map of 1658 (Plate 4). The extension of Marshland to the east of Neal Street (formerly King Street) has never been noticed, but the fact is quite clear. One proof will suffice. On 23rd September, 1728, James Joye sold to trustees of the charity schools of St. Giles, Cripplegate, property specified as "part of the Marshlands in St. Giles in the Fields," (fn. 8) and situated on the east side of King Street. Part of the property has since been thrown into the public way, but part can still be identified as No. 82, Neal Street, (fn. 9) on the east side.
In 1650 the buildings on the Close were:—
(i.) The Cock and Pye inn, a brick building of two storeys and a garret, standing on ground 117 feet from north to south, with a breadth of 48 feet at the north end. This is probably the building shown on Hollar's Plan of 1658 (Plate 3), at the southern angle of the close. From it the close was sometimes known as Cock and Pye Fields.
(ii.) A house with wheelwright's shop and shed attached, covering with yards, gardens, etc., 3 roods.
(iii.) A shed of timber and Flemish wall, with tiled roof, containing two small dwelling rooms, occupying, with a garden, half an acre.
(iv.) A piece of ground, half an acre in extent, "late converted into a garden, beinge very well planted wth rootes."
(v.) Three tenements of timber and Flemish wall, with thatched roof, on the north side of what was afterwards Castle Street, occupying, with gardens, etc., half an acre.
(vi.) "All that conduit scituate and adjoyninge to the aforesaid 3 tenements, and standeth on the southest corner of the aforesaid Marsh Close, consistinge of one roome heirtofore used to convey water to the Excheqr. Office, but of late not used."
Sir Francis Stydolph died on 12th March, 1655–6, and his successor, Sir Richard, at once entered on the remaining 60 years' term and in 1672 obtained an extension of this for 15 years. (fn. 10) Morden and Lea's Map of 1682 shows that by that date a considerable amount of building had taken place on the close, though the details are not clear. (fn. 11) This is probably to be connected with the lease which James Kendricke obtained for 31 years as from Michaelmas, 1660. (fn. 12) In 1693 Thomas Neale, "intending to improve the said premisses by building" (fn. 13), obtained a lease of the close until 10th March, 1731–2, undertaking to build within two years sufficient houses to form ground rents a mounting to £1,200, the ground rents to be calculated at from 5s. to 8s. a foot frontage, except in the case of houses fronting King Street (now Neal Street), Monmouth Street (now Shaftesbury Avenue), St. Andrew Street and Earl Street, where the amount was to be from 8s. to 12s. a foot. Building operations were apparently started immediately, (fn. 14) but do not seem to have been completed until well into the 18th century. (fn. 15)
Neale's plan was one which excited considerable notice at the time, the streets all radiating from a common centre. Evelyn records in his Diary under date of 5th October, 1694: "I went to see the building neere St. Giles's, where 7 streets make a star from a Doric pillar plac'd in the middle of a circular area."From the fact that on the summit of the column were dials, each facing one of the streets, the district obtained the name of Seven Dials. The top part of the pillar, however, has only six faces, a fact which has worried antiquaries. In explanation Mr. W. A.
Taylor, the Holborn Librarian, has pointed out (fn. 16) that the plan (Plate 39) now at the Holborn Public Library, of the proposed laying out shows only six streets, Little White Lion Street not being provided for. (fn. 17)
The pillar was taken down in July, 1773, on the supposition that a considerable sum of money was lodged at the base. "But the search was ineffectual, and the pillar was removed to Sayes Court, Addlestone, with a view to its erection in the park. This, however, was not done, and it lay there neglected until the death of Frederica, Duchess of York, in 1820, when the inhabitants of Weybridge, desiring to commemorate her thirty years' residence at Oatlands and her active benevolence to the poor of the neighbourhood, bethought them of the prostrate column, purchased it, placed a coronet instead of the dials on the summit, and a suitable inscription on the base, and erected it, August, 1822, on the green. The stone on which were the dials, not being required, was utilised as the horseblock at a neighbouring inn, but has been removed and now reposes on the edge of the green, opposite the column." (fn. 18) Plate 40 shows the column as at present.
Little of architectural interest now remains in the district of Seven Dials. Plate 41 is a view of Little Earl Street at the present day. Suspended from No. 56, Castle Street is a wooden key used as a street sign and trade mark, probably dating from the reign of George III., at which time the predecessors of the present firm carried on a locksmith's business at the premises. The exterior retains an 18th-century appearance, and a small Georgian coat of arms remains over the doorway. The interior has been many times reconstructed, and does not now contain anything of architectural interest.
In the Council's collection are:—
No. 54, Neal Street. Exterior (photograph).
No. 54, Neal Street. Detail of staircase (measured drawing).
Nos. 54, 56 and 58, Castle Street. Exterior (photograph).
(fn. 19) No. 56, Castle Street. Street sign (photograph).
No. 50, Castle Street. Exterior (photograph).
Nos. 1–6, Little White Lion Street. General view (photograph).
No. 10, Lumber Court. Exterior of ground floor (photograph).
(fn. 19) Little Earl Street. General view looking east (photograph).
Little Earl Street. General view and No. 15 (photograph).
No. 15, Little Earl Street. Exterior (photograph).
Nos. 12–16, Great White Lion Street. General view of exteriors (photograph).