Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.
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Duke Street first appears in the ratebooks of the parish of St. Martin in the Fields in 1673. Like York Street (now Duke of York Street) it was probably named in honour of James, Duke of York, later James II.
All of the ground on the west side of Duke Street formed part of the land leased in 1661 by Henrietta Maria's trustees to the Earl of St. Albans's trustees for thirty years; subsequent grants extended this term to 1740. The freehold of the whole of this side of the street still belongs to the Crown. The ground on the east side of the street from King Street to a point four hundred feet north (i.e. to the north side of Mason's Yard) formed part of the land granted freehold by Charles II to the Earl's trustees in 1665. The remainder of the ground on the east side formed part of the land leased to the Earl's trustees in the same way as that on the west side, but in 1830 the freehold of this and adjoining property in Jermyn Street and Piccadilly was granted to the Governors of Bethlem Hospital in exchange for property owned by the hospital at Charing Cross where the Government wished to make improvements. (fn. 2)
In 1671 the Earl of St. Albans's trustees granted four leases, each for forty-five years, of land fronting Duke Street. Between 1672 and 1674 they granted eight more similar leases. (fn. 3) The lessees included Edward Stanton, (fn. 4) carpenter, (fn. 5) who was probably a member of the family of masons and sculptors, several of whom were prominent in the seventeenth century; (fn. 6) Henry Murrell, (fn. 7) woodmonger; (fn. 8) and Francis Norris, bricklayer (evidently a sub-lessee). (fn. 9) The ratebooks of the parish of St. Martin for 1673 and 1675 record respectively 12 and 20 names in Duke Street, and that of 1686 for the newly formed parish of St. James, 37 names. Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1681–2 and Blome's map of 1689 (Plates 2, 3) show that the building of houses along both sides of the street had been completed. The backs of some old houses, now demolished, are shown in fig. 54.
In 1720 John Strype described Duke Street as containing 'several well built Houses, which seem to be better inhabited than Berry-street, or Riderstreet. On the West Side are two small Courts; the one called Feather Court, and the other Gray's Court; (fn. 1) opposite to this Court is a very large Yard [now Mason's Yard] for Coaches and Stabling, with some Houses; of which one is very good, with a handsome Garden to it, in which lately dwelt the Duke of Shrewsbury. This Yard is called St. Alban's Mews, and hath two Passages into Duke-street; of which one is for Coaches and Carts, and hath another Passage into Blackmorestreet [now Ormond Yard], . . . More towards King's-street is a pretty neat Court, called Prince's Court, with a Freestone Pavement neatly kept, and not meanly inhabited: it hath a Door with open Iron Bars half way, to shut up a-Nights for the Security of the Inhabitants.' (fn. 10) The reason for this superior character of Duke Street was probably that, as already mentioned, much of the ground on the east side of the street formed part of the freehold granted by the Crown to the Earl of St. Albans's trustees in 1665, and a more substantial class of house could therefore be erected than on the relatively short leasehold terms prevailing in Bury Street and Ryder Street. The ratebooks show several houses with high assessments on the east side of the street and backing on to the houses on the west side of St. James's Square; until the beginning of the nineteenth century their inhabitants were often people of title. Charles Talbot, twelfth Earl and only Duke of Shrewsbury, and one of the leaders of the Revolution of 1688, whom Strype mentions as having a house in St. Albans Mews (now Mason's Yard), is listed in the ratebooks as the occupant of a house on the east side of Duke Street to the south of the mews, from 1686 to 1693, but the garden of the house may have extended as far north as the mews.
In 1738 doubts arose about the ownership of a number of houses on the east side of Duke Street. The points at issue involved a number of the proprietors of houses in St. James's Square, and the matter is discussed on page 59.
In 1772 Edward Gibbon inspected a house in Duke Street on behalf of a friend. 'Yesterday morning . . . I went to see a House for you in Duke Street to be lett for any term or in any manner. The pro and Con are dispatched in a few words—Vile street good quarter—An excellent house spacious and convenient but a little old fashioned.—The price ten Guineas a week.' (fn. 11)
Nos. 2–3 Duke Street and No. 1 King Street
Nos. 2–3 Duke Street (Plate 273a) and No. 1 King Street were built between 1910 and 1912 on an awkward L-shaped site formerly occupied by a yard, stables and coach-houses. (fn. 12) The architects were E. Vincent Harris and Thomas A. Moodie of New Square, Lincoln's Inn, and the builders were Messrs. Patman and Fotheringham of Theobalds Road. The whole of the ground floor, and part of the first floor were originally designed as galleries for an art dealer. The building appears subsequently to have been used as shops and offices, and on the lower floors communication was provided between the two arms. (fn. 13) These were permanently separated in 1954.
In 1957–8 No. 1 King Street was extensively altered to the designs of Messrs. Gotch and Partners of City Road. This work included the redesigning of the façade, which had formerly matched with that of Nos. 2–3 Duke Street.
The front of Nos. 2–3 Duke Street is a striking composition in the late Palladian manner, reflecting the influence of Sir Robert Taylor's work, especially the attributed front of No. 3 The Terrace, Richmond. The ground storey is of Portland stone, laid in regular chamfer-jointed courses and containing three wide openings with round arches rising from plain imposts. The fine red brick face of the two upper storeys is underlined by a stone pedestal, broken by the projecting balconies of the three tabernacle-framed windows in the principal storey. Each balcony has a panelled soffit resting on scrolled trusses, and its front has an open balustrade between solid pedestals from which rise free-standing Corinthian plain-shafted columns, standing in front of antae and supporting a triangular-pedimented entablature. By contrast, the third-storey windows are small and square, and simply recessed with plain margins in the brick face. Finishing the front is a fine modillioned cornice, stopped at each end by a massive console-bracket, and above is a balustrade divided into three bays by projecting pedestals.
No. 6 Duke Street
No. 6 Duke Street was built in 1922 by the Clerical, Medical and General Life Assurance Society, whose headquarters at No. 15 St. James's Square adjoined the property to the east. The architect was W. Curtis Green of Pickering Place, St. James's Street. The ground floor was divided into four shops with an entrance lobby in the southernmost bay and a picture gallery behind; the upper floors were fitted up as offices during the course of 1923. In 1927 the Assurance Society converted the back portion of the building (which they had formerly used in conjunction with No. 15 St. James's Square) into offices for letting. This work was carried out by W. Curtis Green and Partners. (fn. 14)
The classical front, which is of Portland stone, shows a curious disparity between the scale of its fenestration and that of its ornamental parts, arising perhaps from a well-meant desire to give this building some affinity with Nos. 2 and 3. The front of No. 6, however, embraces four storeys as against the three of Nos. 2 and 3, and each floor has five windows instead of three, although both fronts have much the same overall height and width. Here, the ground storey is divided into five equal bays by channel-jointed Doric piers with enriched capitals, supporting a simple entablature. The five windows in the second storey are united with those in the third storey by their framing, the second and fourth by plain bandarchitraves, and the first, third and fifth by bandarchitraves flanked by panelled pilaster-strips with large consoles supporting boldly projecting triangular pediments (an obvious echo of the three tabernacle windows at Nos. 2 and 3). The square windows in the fourth storey are uniformly framed with band-architraves, and an enriched dentilled cornice, of similar girth to that of Nos. 2 and 3, completes the front.
Nos. 11–13 And 15–17 (consec.) Duke Street
All these houses are illustrated on Plate 203c. No. 16, the Chequers, has been a public house since at least 1732, when Henry Mason, the then occupant, was granted a victualler's licence for an unnamed tavern there. (fn. 15) The ratebooks show that he had lived there since 1717. In 1740 he was succeeded as occupant by Robert Morgoridge, (fn. 16) and in 1744 William Morgridge was granted a victualler's licence for the Mason's Arms in Duke Street. (fn. 17) By 1751 the name of the tavern had been changed to the Chequers. (fn. 18)
Thomas Moore, the poet, lodged at No. 15 in 1833. (fn. 19)
Nos. 11–13 Duke Street have been much altered, but their carcases probably date from the early eighteenth century at least. No. 11 has above its nondescript shop-front a face of plumcoloured brick, perhaps a mid eighteenth-century refronting, two storeys high and two windows wide. The modern sashes are set in plain openings with slightly cambered arches of gauged brick, and a trellis-panelled iron balcony projects above the shop-front. The four-storeyed fronts of Nos. 12 and 13 are respectively two and four windows wide. Despite the facing of painted stucco, jointed to imitate stone, and the classical architraves of the windows, the fenestration pattern and the flat bandcourses between the storeys of No. 13 point to an early building date. No. 12 has a Gothic balcony above the shop-front, and the south part of No. 13 is open at the ground storey to give access to Mason's Yard.
Nos. 15–17 are probably older than their fronts would suggest. No. 15 is four storeys high and three windows wide, and above the shop-front it is faced with stucco, detailed in the 'Grecian' taste. The windows have moulded architraves, eared in the second storey, and resting on sills supported by guttae in the third storey, and the attic is underlined by a Doric cornice. Behind the parapet rises the vertical face of a modern garret. Nos. 16 and 17 are three-storeyed houses with garrets, and above the shop-front each house has a plain brick face, two windows wide. The ground storey of the Chequers has an early Victorian front of three bays—a window between two doors—with partly fluted pilasters supporting a simple entablature.
Nos. 18–20 (consec.) Duke Street
Around 1674 William Younge erected two houses in Duke Street. (fn. 20) In 1809 one of these, No. 20, was part of Miller's Hotel, and was said to require rebuilding. (fn. 21) Robert Miller obtained a new lease in 1816, and covenanted to rebuild the house at a cost of £1200 by October 1834. (fn. 22)
The other house built by Younge was replaced by the present Nos. 18 and 19, presumably in 1835, when the Governors of Bethlem Hospital leased the two new houses separately to Spicer Crowe of George Street, Euston Square, builder. (fn. 23)
Nos. 18 and 19 (Plate 203c) are a uniform pair, each having a simple and well-designed front of late Georgian character, four storeys high, with a stucco-faced ground storey and an upper face of yellow brick. There were originally three openings of similar form in the ground storey of each house—a door and two windows, framed by channel-jointed piers and flat arches with vermiculated keyblocks. Each upper storey has two windows, the barred sashes being recessed in plain openings with flat arches of gauged brickwork. There is a dentilled cornice of stucco below the fourth, or attic storey, and the fronts are finished with a moulded parapet of stucco.
No. 20 (Plate 203c) is a double-fronted house and the four-storeyed front is larger in scale than that of Nos. 18–19, although similar in style and materials. In the ground storey are two modern shop windows, set one on each side of the plain doorway in the painted stucco face, which is coursed with chamfered joints and finished with a flat profiled cornice. The three upper storeys are faced with yellow brick, each storey having three widely spaced windows, equal in width but of a height proportionate to the storey. The lowest are dressed with moulded architraves and the middle window is accented with a triangular pediment on consoles, but the openings in the upper two storeys are plain, with flat arches of gauged brickwork. A simply moulded cornice completes the front.
Nos. 34–36 (consec.) Duke Street
Nos. 34, 35 and 36 Duke Street were erected in 1859–60 by Henry Faulkner, a builder, who had previously rebuilt his own premises at No. 51 Jermyn Street. All three houses appear to have been used as separate private hotels until Nos. 35 and 36 were joined by an opening in their party wall in 1875. (fn. 24)
In 1908 Faulkner's legatees converted the ground floors of Nos. 35 and 36 into shops, according to the designs of T. C. Trafford and Son of Jermyn Street. No. 34 was similarly altered in 1912–13 by P. R. Berry of Ebury Street. The upper floors were gradually changed from residential to office use. (fn. 24)
The houses are contained in a five-storeyed block built of grey brick liberally adorned with cement. The upper storeys have nine windows grouped in threes, each group consisting of a wide window flanked by two narrower ones and the middle group forming part of a slightly projecting feature. Moulded architraves frame all the windows, and in the second and third storeys each group is set against a background of cement, the wide centre windows in the third storey being further elaborated with triangular pediments and balustraded balconies finished with ball-finials. A modillion cornice marks the fourth-floor level, and there is a small top cornice and a parapet, both reconstructed recently. Nothing remains of the original ground storey except a continuous entablature at first-floor level and two Doric porches, the north porch, which no doubt served two houses, having three columns.
Nos. 38–42 (consec.) Duke Street and Nos. 2–10 (even) Ryder Street
Ten old houses at Nos. 38–42 (consec.) Duke Street and Nos. 1–5 (odd) Ryder Street were demolished in the summer of 1880 by the Office of Woods and Forests, (fn. 25) and in March 1881 a building agreement was signed with Barrow Emanuel, of the architectural firm of Davis and Emanuel, for the redevelopment of part of this site. Three months later Emanuel assigned his agreement to Frederick Fearon, who subsequently acquired the remainder of the site for the erection of a single block of residential chambers. (fn. 26) Building work started in the spring of 1882, and was completed in the latter part of 1883. Fearon's architects were Messrs. Jameson and Wallis of Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury. (fn. 27) The builders were Messrs. W. and C. Macgregor of London and Edinburgh. On the ground floor there was a range of shops, with a private entrance from Ryder Street to the back premises of the Turkish baths in Jermyn Street. The first and second floors were divided into two-room flats, with single residential chambers on the third and fourth floors. The attic and basement were reserved for kitchens and servants' accommodation. (fn. 28)
The building was badly damaged by enemy action in October 1940 and in April 1941. (fn. 27) The damaged portions were subsequently put into temporary repair, but only the ground-floor shops and the flats on the first floor were reinstated. The second, third and fourth floors were occupied by the Ministry of Works until 1951. (fn. 29) Subsequently this part of the building has remained empty.
This is one of the better late nineteenth-century buildings in the area, a neo-Palladian composition with Flemish Baroque detailing, carried out in stone or cement, but now heavily painted (Plate 275c). The two extensive fronts are generally uniform though of different length, and they meet in a narrow splayed corner. Strong horizontal emphasis is provided by the balustraded pedestal above the rusticated and fluted Ionic pilasters of the ground storey, and by the bracketed entablature above the third storey, which is supported by giant Composite pilasters with partly fluted shafts. The secondary entablature of the attic storey is sustained by short pilasters of Doric character, with panelled shafts. Variety is given to the bay spacing on both fronts, but more successfully in Duke Street where two wide bays alternate with single narrow bays throughout its ten-bay length. The ground-storey shop-fronts are framed by semi-elliptical arches with rusticated piers and archivolts, and the round-arched doorways in the narrow bays are similarly treated. In the wide bays between the giant Composite pilasters are shallow canted bay windows of two storeys, treated in the early Norman Shaw manner with casements below the transoms and lunettes above the middle lights. The attic-storey windows are divided by mullions and transoms, and at the north end of the Duke Street front are two survivors from the series of pedimented dormers that originally enlivened the skyline.