Survey of London: Volume 8, Shoreditch. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1922.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
Shoreditch High Street, East Side.
The greater portion of the east side of Shoreditch High Street (formerly Holywell Street (fn. 1) ) has been so completely altered by (i) the clearance for the erection of the Bishopsgate terminus of the Eastern Counties Railway, (ii) the construction of Commercial Street, and (iii) the clearance for the extension of the Great Eastern Railway to Liverpool Street, all of which took place before the publication of large-scale Ordnance maps, that it is very difficult to identify the sites of the various holdings in early times.
The priory of St. Mary Spital lay just without the parish, but the property belonging to and immediately adjoining it extended northwards for some distance within the parish boundary.
Stow records (fn. 2) that among the buildings reaching from the bars northwards, at the close of the 16th century, was "one row of proper small houses with Gardens for poore decayed people, there placed by the Prior of the said Hospitall: every one Tenant whereof paid one penny rent by the yeare at Christmas, and dined with the Prior on Christmas Day: but after the suppression of the Hospitall, these houses for want of reparations in few yeares were so decayed, that it was called Rotten Rowe, and the poore worne out (for there came no new in their place): the houses, for a small portion of money, were solde from Goddard to Russell a Draper, who new builded them, and let them out for rent enough, taking also large Fines of the Tenantes, neare as much as the houses cost him purchase, and building: for hee made his bargaines so hardly with all men, that both Carpenter, Brickelayer, and Playsterer were by that Worke vndone. And yet in honour of his name, it is now called Russels Row."
The "official" name for the houses in question was Crown Rents, and they were in a bad condition even before the dissolution. On 4th June, 1538, the prior leased to William Sherland for 99 years (fn. 3) The Crown, together with 21 tenements "called the Crowne Rentes, lying and extendyng togyther in the said Strete [i.e., the Kynges highwaye] on the southe partie of the said Crowne, also there eight othere tenementes . . . next adjoining to the forsaid tenemente called the Crowne agaynste the southe partie and . . . William Goddardes tenementes on the northe partie;" and the indenture stated that the "said mesuage and tenementes . . . lie at thys presente day in greate decay and farre oute of all reparacione." There were two other tenements included in Crown Rents, lying between Magpie Alley (now Fleur de Lis Street) on the north and the parish boundary on the south. These were not included in the lease above-mentioned, but on the dissolution were granted, together with the site of the priory and other of its possessions, to Richard Morysyn. (fn. 4)
Owing to the bad condition of the property Sherland's rent had been fixed low (£3 a year), but in 1542 his long lease was cancelled and one for 21 years at £5 a year was substituted. (fn. 5) Apparently he had done nothing in the interval in the way of substantial repairs, for all the houses were still said to be "in great decay." Two years later, the freehold of the property, described as The Crown and twenty-three tenements called the Crown Rents, in the tenure of William Sherland, was sold to William Breton and Henry Ashfield. (fn. 6) By 1561 the property had come into the hands of George Goddard, who in that year mortgaged it to Richard Blount, and on 10th May, 1563, it was retransferred from Blount to Goddard. (fn. 7) In the same year Goddard sold it to Thomas Russell. (fn. 8) So far as can be checked, therefore, the account given by Stow seems to be justified. (fn. 9)
In the early part of the 18th century the property, comprising 30 houses fronting Holywell Street and 4 in the rear, was in the possession of the Rev. Peter Wood, and from the information contained in a series of leases made by him, (fn. 10) can be shown to have had a frontage to the street of 387 feet from Magpie Alley (fn. 11) (i.e., as far as Unicorn Alley, the site of which is approximately marked by the northern corner of Commercial Street), and a depth varying from about 87 feet on the north to 92 feet on the south. (fn. 12)
Behind Crown Rents lay an open space also belonging to St. Mary Spital, and included, though not specifically, in the grant to Morysyn. Morysyn transferred the property to John Hales, (fn. 13) and the latter in his turn to Stephen Vaughan. (fn. 14) From him it descended to Sir Rowland Vaughan, on whose death it came to Lady Elizabeth St. John, his daughter, (fn. 15) widow of Sir Paulet St. John, eldest son of Oliver, 1st earl of Bolingbroke, and subsequently to Paulet, the third earl, who died in 1711. On 12th July, 1716, the property was sold by William, Lord St. John, to Isaac Tillard. (fn. 16) The Tillard property did not extend as far north as did Crown Rents, for the latter are said to be bounded on the east in part only by the Tillard estate, the other part abutting on "houses and gardens of Manday [Maundy]." (fn. 17)
From the fact that the Tillard estate included the site of the Norton Folgate Almshouses (purchased in 1728 from William Tillard), which extended 63 feet north of the then end of Blossom Street, (fn. 18) or, say, about 130 feet north of the present end of that street, it is evident that it reached northwards to about 120 feet from Unicorn Alley. It is shown below that the Maundy property extended this distance south of Unicorn Alley, and it is evident therefore that this was the actual boundary between the two properties. (fn. 19)
We come next to the Maundy property. This formed the whole or part of a close called Cistern Close, which also belonged to the priory of St. Mary Spital. On 4th July, 1543, the King granted (fn. 20) to Richard Andrews and Nicholas Temple, inter alia, all those lands containing 40 rods of assize commonly called "taylors yardes," then or late in the tenure of William Goddard, lying in a close called "Sesternes close," containing two acres, lately belonging to the house or new hospital of the Blessed Mary without Bishopsgate, as well as two messuages, with their appurtenances, formerly in the tenure of Richard Gadd and late of William Goddard. On 1st February, 1543–4, Andrews transferred (fn. 21) the property to William Bolles, and the two tenements and piece of land called "le Cesterne," containing 40 "virgates," were in the hands of the latter's descendant of the same name at his death, (fn. 22) some time before 1607. The next mention of the property occurs in a survey (fn. 23) (dated 1635) of the estate of Vincent Goddard, which had descended to William his son, where it is described as "fortie taylors yardes . . . conteyning . . . twoe acres . . . lying in a certayne close called Sesternes Close and one mesuage now into diverse mesuages divided." On 16th November, 1649, William and Mary Goddard sold to Richard Sanderson (fn. 24) "all that messuage or tenement . . . with the orchard, garden and ground therewith holden . . . contayning . . . two acres . . . called Cesterne Close." Cistern Close, otherwise called "Ricrofte Rents," is stated in 1720 (fn. 25) to have included eight houses which, in 1734, were part of the estate of Ann Maundy. A deed of 17th December in that year (fn. 26) describes her property as consisting of 20 messuages, on a parcel of ground 260½ feet from east to west, 128 feet broad at the east end, and 1202/3 feet at the west, situated in "Unicorn Alley, otherwise Cistern Close." As has been shown above, Cistern Close must here have adjoined the Tillard estate, and the measurement of 260½ feet shows that the former reached exactly from Crown Rents to the parish boundary on the east.
The history of that part of the high street which lies between the northern corner of Commercial Street and the Bethnal Green Road, now wholly occupied by Bishopsgate goods station, is very uncertain. The southern portion of this frontage was occupied by the Great House. This "greate capitall messuage or mansion howse called the Greate House," (fn. 27) was leased by the prior of St. Mary Spital on 12th October, 1535, to William Goddard for a period of 190 years. (fn. 28) The latter's grandson, William, is said to have "divided the Great House into divers and sondry tenementes and habitacions," filling them with Spaniards, Italians, French and Dutchmen, who paid large fines and rents. (fn. 29) No. 48, Holywell Street, which occupied the south corner of the entrance to a passage known as Goddard's Rents, leading from the high road to Swan Fields, was described when sold to the parish authorities on 21st July, 1642, as held for the residue of a term of 190 years beginning 12th October, 1535. (fn. 30) It is thus to be identified with a portion of the Great House, which must have extended northwards at least as far as the site of the passage. (fn. 31)
The property to the east of this included what was afterwards known as Webb's Square. It seems to have been sold by Goddard to Paul Hudson (fn. 32) in 1637, and in 1684 John Hudson (apparently his son) of Bovington, Herts, is found in possession of the freehold of premises on both the north and south sides of the square. (fn. 33) On the south, Hudson's property extended 70 feet beyond the line of the square, (fn. 34) exactly meeting the Maundy estate.
The fact that Goddard, when selling to Hudson renounced on behalf of the heirs of William Bolles suggests that this property was part of Cistern Close. It is, however, rather remarkable that it is never called by that name. Moreover, in an early document, (fn. 35) the "stone house" is said to occupy the space between the Great House west, the orchard of The Swan east, Braytoft's garden (i.e., the garden of Stratton's House, see below) north, and the garden of the Great House south. There is no record of any part of Cistern Close having been used as the orchard of The Swan, and it would rather seem that the orchard was Swan Fields, to the east of the parish boundary. In that case the Stone House and the garden of the Great House reached as far as the boundary, i.e., included the site of Webb's Square, and Cistern Close, so far from occupying two acres, was less than half that area.
So far as we have proceeded, all the property had formerly been in the possession of the priory of St. Mary Spital. In the case of the next house to the north, this is doubtful. In 1563, (fn. 36) Charles Goddard mortgaged to Thomas Weaver "all that mesuage or tenemente . . . in Halywell Strete . nowe in the tenure or occupacion of Anthony Stratton," as well as an acre and a half of ground called the Lampitts, on the other side of the parish boundary. All these premises lay "betwene the greate tenemente of the late priorie or hospitall of St. Marie without Bisshoppsgate . . nowe in the tenure of Elizabeth Henyngham, (fn. 37) weadowe, on the sowthe, and a tenemente late of the said Elizabeth and nowe of Thomas Litton . . . and a gardeyn, barne and free land late of the said Elizabeth, and nowe of . . . John Bratofte on the northe parte, and doth extend itselfe on the kinges hyghe strete called Halywell Strete on the west parte unto a certeyn litle lane in Stebunhuthe . . . leading from the lodging called the Swanne unto the Spittilfeldes on the este parte." On 23rd May, 1565, Goddard and Weaver sold (fn. 38) the property to John Braytoft, and from him it may be traced to Katherine Botley. (fn. 39) On the latter's death in 1624 the property is said to be of unknown tenure. Trace of it is lost for 30 years, at the end of which it formed part of certain premises purchased by Walter Bigg, (fn. 40) and in 1655 was further transferred to Thomas Byde. (fn. 41)
In the last two transactions, in which it is referred to as "heretofore in the tenure of Anthony Stratton, since called Stratton's tenemente or Stratton House," the premises are said to be freehold. This disposes of any suggestion that it belonged, like the property immediately to the north, to the manor of Stepney. It is just possible that it had originally formed part of the St. Mary Spital property, but (i) Vincent Goddard's claim (fn. 42) to it on the ground that it had been included with the Great House in the 190 years' lease, seems to have failed, and (ii) the possibility that it was one of the two messuages, the freehold of which was included with Cistern Close in the grant to Andrews and Temple, (fn. 43) is excluded by the dates.
At this point, we enter the manor of Stepney. North of Stratton's house were two tenements sold by Goddard to Thomas Lytton, (fn. 44) from whom they were purchased by Thomas Girling in 1574. (fn. 45) Girling in his turn sold (fn. 46) the property under the description of "two mesuages or tenementes . . . late in the severall tenures of Symon Twytton, tallowchaundler, and Walter Grene, yoman, and now of Henrye Sutton, gentleman, and Jeofferey Whitworth, tallowchaundler, and Johan, his wife," to Andrew Underhill, who in 1583 disposed (fn. 47) of it to Edmund Moore. (fn. 48) From him it came into the hands of Thomas Large, at whose death in 1640 it is found to have become 4 messuages and 7 cottages held of the manor of Stepney. (fn. 49)
Next came The Swan (a "customary tenement"), the position of which can be approximately identified by the fact that the entrance to Swan Yard was under the southern portion of No. 54, the site of which is now occupied by the southern portion of Bethnal Green Road.
The next building of importance was The Bell, situated in what was afterward known as Byde's Place, a narrow passage which entered the high road between Nos. 59 and 60. The Bell and premises adjoining were formerly copyhold of the manor of Stepney, but on 17th April, 1617, the lord of the manor freed (fn. 50) to Henry Hodge, "all that customary messuage or tenement called the Bell and also those two other customary messuages or tenements adjoining, and one croft of land customary to the Bell on the backside thereof towards the east adjoining containing three acres, (fn. 51) and two other messuages, tenements or cottages, late newe built with brick . . . and nowe or late were parcell of the customary messuages, landes, tenements . . . of the manor of Stepney." The property was devised by Hodge to Henry Crowley, by whom it was sold on 28th March, 1653, to William Godfrey. (fn. 52) The principal building was described as a messuage, tenement or brewhouse called "Ye Bell" in occupation of John Byde, (fn. 53) alderman of London. (fn. 54) Godfrey's executors on 19th March, 1657–8, disposed of (fn. 55) the whole property to Thomas (afterwards Sir Thomas), son of John Byde.
Precisely how far north the manor of Stepney extended is difficult to say, but it certainly took in No. 62, a copyhold house in possession of the parish. (fn. 56)
Detailed evidence as to the condition of properties north of Church Street (formerly Catlin's Alley) in the 16th century is lacking in all but a few instances. There seems, however, no doubt that this part of the parish was not so thickly covered with buildings as it afterwards became, and that in many cases merely the frontage to the high road was occupied, the open ground behind the houses reaching as far as Cock Lane (now Boundary Street). Some instances may be given.
(i) In 1587 two messuages called The Cock-in-the-Hoop and The Lamb, (fn. 57) bounded on the west by the high road, on the east by "the comon "waie theare leadinge towards Hackney" (i.e., Cock Lane), and on the south by "the comon lane theare called Cocke Lane" (i.e., probably New Inn Passage, formerly Dirty Lane), were sold by Robert Atkinson to John Turner. (fn. 58) In 1615 they were still two houses, (fn. 59) but by 1636 (fn. 60) they had grown to nine, obviously by the expedient of building along the side and in the rear.
(ii) In 1547 Thomas Mayow sold to Edward Thomas a messuage called the White Horse. (fn. 61) In 1580 Peter Moone and Elizabeth his wife, formerly wife of John Thomas, son of Edward, sold it (fn. 62) to Hugh and Robert Offley under the description of the messuage called The White Horse, between a tenement late of Holywell Priory on the south, a tenement late belonging to the parish church, in occupation of William Upchurch, (fn. 63) on the north, the way called Cock Lane and a tenement of St. Mary Spital on the east, and the Queen's highway on the west. The Offleys were acting on behalf of the parishioners of St. Andrew Undershaft, and at the enquiry into the parish charities in 1830 it was stated (fn. 64) that the premises then consisted of three houses, viz., Nos. 68, 69, and 70.
(iii) Another case of houses with grounds running right back to Cock Lane is afforded by a lease (fn. 65) dated 20th October, 1538, by the prioress of Holywell to William Butterfield of two tenements in Shoreditch abutting west on the King's highway, north on ground belonging to Holywell Priory, south on a tenement of Joan Pulter, and east on a lane called Cock Lane. (fn. 66)
Between Nos. 79 and 80 was Hare Alley, the name of which is met with as early as 1674. (fn. 67) In 1725 William Barnett and Mary his wife purchased (fn. 68) "all those seven messuages, houses, cottages or tenements . . . "scituate in or near the east side of Holliwell Street and Hare Alley," and three years later sold (fn. 69) "all those five new erected messuages, etc., in or near the east side of Holliwell Street and on the right hand going into Hare Alley." The premises had therefore been rebuilt in the interval, and the tablet still in existence on No. 80 was obviously erected by William and Mary Barnett to commemorate the event. In 1900 the premises were purchased by Jeremiah Rotherham and Company, Limited, who demolished them and re-erected the tablet on the new building with an appropriate inscription.
South of the churchyard was the glebe (Parson's Yard, etc.), the property of the archdeacon of London for the time being, in virtue of his office as rector of St. Leonard, Shoreditch. Details of this estate are given in the sale on 23rd June, 1655, by the Parliamentary Commissioners, (fn. 70) from which it appears that it consisted of a plot 329 feet from north to south along the high road (thus reaching as far as Jane Shore Alley), 191 feet west to east along the churchyard, 250 feet north to south on the east side, and 91 feet east to west on the south side. In addition to a large number of tenements, many of which had only two or three rooms, it contained a great barn 78½ feet by 33½ feet, a smith's forge, and a great garden in three parts, 94 feet by 50 feet, 180 feet by 90 feet and 115 feet by 58 feet respectively.
The church and churchyard are described in detail on pp. 91–125.