Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.
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Little St. James's Street and Catherine Wheel Yard
Little St. James's Street was originally a small passage about ten feet wide (fn. 1) leading from St. James's Street into a stable yard on the Pulteney estate. (fn. 2) From about 1680 the passage was called Catherine Wheel Yard, taking its name from a tavern which stood at the east end of the north side. (fn. 3) This name was adopted, and has survived in use to the present day, for the western extension of the passage which was made in 1690–1 over the stable yard site and across Cleveland House garden. At the same time the passage was also extended northwards and southwards over part of Sandpit Field which had not been taken for the formation of Green Park (see page 27). This north-south line led from Cleveland Row along the west side of Cleveland House and emerged into St. James's Place south of the site of No. 26 (fig. 81). A small part, covered over by the terrace of Spencer House, survives to the west of Spencer House but the rest was stopped up when Bridgwater House was built.
In 1722 the original passage was described as 'intended to be called' Little St. James's Street, (fn. 4) but the old name persisted in use for some years afterwards. When a new north—south way was opened in the 1840's on the east side of Bridgwater House, it too was named Little St. James's Street.
The stable yard which stood on the Pulteney estate (now covered by the bend in Little St. James's Street and premises on the south-east corner of the bend) was described in 1651 as a yard, fifty-two feet square, with brick-built stables, lofted over, around each side. (fn. 5) By 1667 some of the stables had been converted into dwellinghouses (fn. 6) and by 1680 they and ten small houses on the north side of the passage were described as being 'impaired' or 'old and ruinous'. (fn. 3) A new stable yard, to the west of the one on the Pulteney estate, was laid out in 1690–1 on part of Cleveland House garden purchased by the Marquis of Halifax and leased by him to John Underwood, citizen and leatherseller of London, in trust for John Rossington. Rossington laid out the yard which is still called Catherine Wheel Yard on this site with stables on the north and south sides. (fn. 7)
Probably about this time the western range of stables in the old stable yard was cleared to extend the passage from St. James's Street into the new stable yard and in 1721–2, after the passing of the Act of Parliament allowing the Crown to convey the freehold of the Pulteney estate (see page 27), most, if not all, of the other old buildings were cleared away for redevelopment. William Pulteney, who had inherited the Pulteney estate, granted building leases to Edward Austen or Austin, a bricklayer, of sites on the north and south sides of the passage 'intended to be called Little St. James's Street'. (fn. 8) Austin built several houses in the street and may have been assisted by Thomas Dance, plasterer, who designed the central block of Guy's Hospital, (fn. 9) and to whom Austin mortgaged at least five houses in the street. (fn. 10)
When Lord Montfort was considering building a new house on the site later occupied by Spencer House, he applied in 1754 to the Crown for permission to erect arches over that part of the northsouth line of Catherine Wheel Yard which adjoined the site on the west, in order to build over it. The passage was almost subterranean at this point and dark and noisome. The Surveyor General thought it would be even more resorted to by 'very mean persons' if it were covered over, but approved of its being closed up instead. (fn. 11) This part of the passage was consequently closed and the terrace on the west side of Spencer House was built over it.
The rest of the north-south line of Catherine Wheel Yard was closed up shortly after 1843 and Bridgwater House built over it (see page 496). At the same time Little St. James's Street was extended in a southerly direction to meet Cleveland Row, and was widened where it entered St. James's Street (see pages 479, 496).