Survey of London: Volumes 31 and 32, St James Westminster, Part 2. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1963.
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Rupert Street Area: Vesey's Garden and Watts's Close
Between the site of Panton Square and Colman Hedge Lane (now Wardour Street) lay a plot of ground bounded on the south by the lane leading from the Military Yard to Piccadilly (now Coventry Street), and on the north by Knaves' Acre. On the plan of 1585 (Plate 1) it is marked as part of the Burton Saint Lazar lands acquired by Henry VIII, and a parliamentary survey made in 1650 describes it as 'commonly called the Leastall' and then in the tenure of Christopher Vernon of Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire, gentleman. (fn. 3) In the previous year Vernon (whose title seems to have been questioned) in association with 'Auditor Povey' had sub-leased the ground to the trustees of the parish of St. Martin in the Fields, and they in turn had sub-let part of it to John Watts and John Pheps for fifteen years. (fn. 4) The map of 1664 marks the whole plot as 'parish Land'. (fn. 5)
After the Restoration the whole of the Bailiwick of St. James, of which this ground formed a part, was leased by Queen Henrietta Maria and her trustees to the trustees of Henry Jermyn, Earl of St. Albans. (fn. 6) In 1676 Charles II granted the freehold of the plot to St. Albans in exchange for the surrender by the latter of his leasehold interest in Nell Gwynne's house in Pall Mall. (fn. 7) The ground was then described as a long slip of three and a half acres divided into three parts called 'the lay soyle veseys garden and Watts Close' (fn. 8) (fn. 1) (see fig. 2).
The Earl of St. Albans appears to have immediately disposed of the ground for building, for 'some grant or conveyance' was made to John Duckett, John Rowley and Dr. Nicholas Barbon. (fn. 9) The layout consisted of a straight street, now Rupert Street, which was connected to Colman Hedge Lane by two narrow side streets. No attempt was made to relate the layout with that of Colonel Panton on the west or of Sir William Pulteney on the north.
Ogilby and Morgan's map (Plate 3a) indicates that the development of the estate was finished by 1681–2. By this time Duckett, Rowley and Barbon had sold the freehold of some of the houses to Sir Anthony Deane for £3600. (fn. 2) By 1687 the latter had sold this property to Richard Bourne, by whose family much of it was rebuilt in the 1720's and 1730's. (fn. 9)
Rupert Street is first mentioned in the ratebooks in 1677, when building development began; 'Vesies Garden', the previous name of part of the site, is also mentioned in this year. The street was evidently named after Prince Rupert, for the adjacent part of Colman Hedge Lane (now Wardour Street) became known as Princes Street at about the same time. A similar association of the names of two adjacent new streets to honour a member of the blood royal is to be found in another part of the Earl of St. Albans's estate in Duke and York Streets (the latter now Duke of York Street); this similarity perhaps suggests that the names were bestowed by the Earl rather than by the builders or speculators to whom he disposed of the land.
In 1720 Strype described Rupert Street as 'a pretty handsome, well built Street', (fn. 10) but both the ratebooks and a number of enrolments in the Middlesex Land Register indicate that much rebuilding took place in the 1720's and 1730's. The White Horse public house at the corner of Archer Street has existed under that name since at least 1739. (fn. 11)
As originally laid out Rupert Street came to an end at the northern boundary of the Earl's estate (Plate 6). Its extension (as a foot-way only) to Brewer Street took place in 1873–4 at the instigation of the St. James's vestry, assisted by the Metropolitan Board of Works. (fn. 12) The formation of Shaftesbury Avenue a few years later involved the demolition of a number of buildings in the central part of the street. None of the present buildings in Rupert Street to the north of Shaftesbury Avenue dates from before 1880, but to the south there are traces of early eighteenth-century residential buildings, early nineteenth-century shops and late nineteenth-century hotels and restaurants.
Nos. 22–28 (even) Rupert Street, Nos. 27–31 (odd) Wardour Street: Rupert Court
On 20 February 1728 (?/9) George Bourne, esquire, of Enfield granted fifty-one-year leases of all of this site (except perhaps Nos. 22 and 24 Rupert Street) to George Whetton, described as of Marylebone, builder or bricklayer; in three of the leases John Whetton of St. George's, Hanover Square, bricklayer, was co-lessee. (fn. 13) No leases for Nos. 22 and 24 Rupert Street have been found, but the freehold of their site was also owned by Bourne. One of the leases mentions that it 'is intended shortly to be erected and built a Court leading from Princes Street [i.e. Wardour Street] to Rupert Street and four new Messuages or Tenements on each side of the same together with the passage or Entrance into the said Court at each End of the same'. (fn. 14) The new court first appears, with eight names, in the ratebook for 1729, and as George Court in the following year. It is evident that the adjoining houses at either end were rebuilt at the same time.
Rupert Court is entered through a two-storey archway and passage under part of the Blue Posts public house at No. 28, which has existed here since at least 1739. (fn. 11) The premises in Rupert Court have been combined to provide two shops on the north side and three on the south side; these have partially reconstructed mid nineteenthcentury shop-fronts. The two upper floors have been reconstructed with warehouse windows, probably in this century.
Nos. 22 and 24 Rupert Street, their brickwork painted yellow, are each two windows wide, with three storeys and garret. Each has a nineteenthcentury shop-front with display window centred between house door and shop door, and the two shop doors are adjacent. The first- and secondfloor windows are flat-headed with modern sashes in concealed frames. Each house has two dormers in a blue slate mansard roof. No. 22 has some plain panelling in the entrance passage which leads to a cramped open-well staircase with closed strings, turned balusters and column newels. No. 24 has a dog-legged stair with open strings and thin square balusters.
No. 26, also of three storeys, two windows wide, of brickwork painted yellow, has a modern shop-front. The first floor has flat-headed windows with box-frames and a bandcourse runs immediately below the sills; part of another bandcourse extends from the north end to the north first-floor window, two-thirds of the way up the window; comparison with the Wardour Street entrance to Rupert Court suggests that this is possibly an impost band remaining from the eighteenth-century archway to Rupert Court. The second-floor windows have segmental heads and box-frames. The stone-coped parapet now conceals the roof, but the line of the former mansard roof is clearly visible against the side of the Blue Posts next door. Part of the back of No. 26 at second-storey level is visible from Rupert Court, including a narrow segmental-headed window with a box-frame and a narrow bandcourse one quarter of the way up the window. A closet projects at the south end. There is a plain side wall to Rupert Court with one doorway.
In the southern part of the four-storey front of No. 28 (the Blue Posts), an archway two storeys high gives access to Rupert Court. The ground and first floors of the public house have been modernized with neo-Georgian woodwork. The second floor, with the archway under part of it, has three windows with moulded stucco frames carrying an entablature, and a deep sill-course with an egg-and-dart moulding on the lower edge; this floor has a heavy entablature with modillion cornice and paired end-brackets. These first three floors are faced with cement, scored to imitate stone. The top floor, above the first heavy cornice, also has three windows and is faced with red painted brick, bounded by raised cement quoins, and carries a crowning entablature with THE BLUE POSTS incised on its frieze, a dentilled cornice and plain blocking-course. The two-storey passage into Rupert Court is the depth of the house and is flat-headed except at the front where a round-headed arch has been made, perhaps when the first two floors of the public house were modernized. From Rupert Court the back wall of the upper two storeys over the passage is seen to be of stock brick and one window wide, the windows flat-headed with concealed frames, the roof slanting downwards from south to north.
Nos. 27 and 29 Wardour Street (Plate 127c) are a pair of houses four storeys high with the twostoreyed entrance passage to Rupert Court between them. Each house is three windows wide, at No. 27 increased to four in the two upper storeys above the passage. The roof, now hidden by a stone-coped parapet, may have been heightened in the early nineteenth century and the present third floor substituted for garrets. No. 31 is also four storeys high and three windows wide. All three houses have flat-arched windows with exposed box-frames, set in a cemented face. The entrance to the passage leading to Rupert Court has an elliptical arch with keyblock and impost bands. At both No. 27 and No. 29 access to the main staircases is from the side in Rupert Court. No. 27 retains its early nineteenth-century shop-front, the display window and shop door filling the whole width of the front. At either end is a pilaster with a voluted capital supporting an entablature having an enriched architrave and a cornice with acanthus leaves on the cyma moulding. The shop-window projects slightly, with rounded angles, and the entablature is carried round it at one end and over the modern door at the other. The back walls of both No. 27 and No. 29 are partly visible from Rupert Court, cement-faced with flat-headed windows, some with concealed frames.
The interior of No. 27 was inspected in 1950, when the first-floor front room was found to be panelled in two heights with moulded dado-rail and box-cornice. The floors above were found to have been altered in the early nineteenth century, but the staircase above the first floor retained the eighteenth-century closed strings, square newels and turned balusters with moulded handrail.
The staircase at No. 29, with a narrow open well, has open strings, thin square balusters and a continuous handrail ending in a spiral at the bottom. The dog-legged staircase at No. 31 has a closed moulded string, much mutilated; the firstfloor landing has sunk ovolo panelling in two heights with a moulded dado-rail.
Wardour Street, South End
Wardour Street and Whitcomb Street are marked on the plan of 1585 as a highway leading from the Uxbridge Road to the Mews; the former is called 'Colmanhedge lane'. In 1679 the portion of the street between Brewer and Coventry Streets appears in the ratebook for the first time as Princes Street, (fn. 15) a name which with Rupert Street was chosen in honour of Prince Rupert. In 1878 this name was abolished, and the whole street between Oxford and Coventry Streets became known as Wardour Street. The boundary of the parishes of St. James and St. Anne runs down the centre of the street, and only the western side comes within the area to be described in the present volume.
All of the ground on the west side between a point a little north of Winnett Street and Coventry Street formed part of the Laystall, Vesey's Garden and Watts's Close, and building began soon after the grant of the freehold to the Earl of St. Albans in 1676 (see page 111). Blome's map shows that this development had been completed by 1689; much of it was evidently of poor quality, and some rebuilding took place in the 1720's and 1730's. The present aspect of this part of the street is very similar to that of Rupert Street.
Nos. 7–11 (odd) Wardour Street
On 10 November 1725 George Bourne of Enfield, esquire, leased the site on which these three houses stand to Henry Parsons of the parish of St. James, watchmaker, for forty-two and a half years from midsummer 1727. There were then only two houses on the site. (fn. 16) The ratebooks show that they were demolished in 1726, and that the three houses which replaced them were first occupied during the second half of 1727; No. 11 has subsequently been drastically altered. The first inhabitants were, respectively, John Neville, Richard Mulford and William Moore.
No. 9 was built with No. 7 as a mirrored pair with a uniform front and adjacent house doors (Plate 127b). Each has three storeys and a garret and is two windows wide. On the ground floor at No. 9 the shop door is next to the house door; the display window is modern. The two upper storeys are fronted with yellow stock brick formerly stuccoed, with red brick segmental arches over the windows, which have flush frames. There are two dormers in the mansard roof, which is covered with blue slate (at No. 7 with red tile). No. 9 was occupied for many years by Benjamin Smart, goldsmith and dealer in bullion, and by other members of his family; the house now bears raised figures attached to the brickwork—'No. 9' between the second-storey windows, '1798' between the first-floor windows, and between the two floors a cement tablet, almost as wide as the house, bearing the words EXCHANGE AND BULLION OFFICE in two rows of raised capital letters.
Nos. 27–31 (odd) Wardour Street
Nos. 41 and 43 Wardour Street
This building, whose ground floor is now occupied by a restaurant, was built in 1904–5 for Willy Clarkson, the famous theatrical wig maker and costumier; the architect was H. M. Wakley. (fn. 17) Inscriptions record that the wig-making business was established in 1833, that Sarah Bernhardt laid the foundation stone of the present building in 1904 and Sir Henry Irving the coping stone in 1905. Street directories show that Clarkson's occupied the premises from 1905 until 1940.
The building contains four storeys and a garret. The front, with a width of three broad windows, is designed in a style combining Baroque and art nouveau forms, realized in brick and green stone with buff stone dressings. The doorway is centred between display windows, and at either end of the ground floor an Ionic pilaster with garlanded capital supports a great bracket-stop upon which stands a large urn with a tall conical top. The outer windows of the three floors above are in canted bays faced with green stone and contained in tall recesses, three storeys high, with stone surrounds finished with segmental pediments broken to receive small iron-railed balconies serving a pedimented dormer behind, and beneath each balcony is a large foliated cartouche. On either side of the flat-headed central first-floor window is a cartouche, one inscribed 'Estb. 1833', the other 'Rebt. 1904'. From the centre of the second floor is suspended on wrought-iron brackets a great iron plaque inscribed 'Costumier Perruquier' on both sides, with '41' on one dial and '43' on the other. On either side of the door metal plaques record the visits of Bernhardt and Irving mentioned above.
No, 77 Wardour Street: The Duke of Wellington Public House
In Tallis's view of Princes Street (c. 1839) this was a building of three storeys and a garret, two windows wide on the Princes Street front and three windows wide on the Upper Rupert (now Winnett) Street front; next to the latter was a house two windows wide, now incorporated in the public house. They now form a four-storey stuccoed building surmounted by an arcaded balustrade which conceals the roof; there is a sillcourse at third-floor level. The ground floor has been refaced with modern woodwork. The windows of the upper three floors have moulded architraves, the second window from the east on each floor on Winnett Street is blind, the firstfloor recess being framed in fluted Corinthian pilasters carrying an entablature and blockingcourse. A dormer between the two west bays on Winnett Street has a pediment with a monogram HP in relief.
In 1810 the architect Matthew Habershon exhibited at the Royal Academy a design for the Royal Worcester Porcelain warehouse, for Messrs. Flight and Barr, whose premises were at the north-west corner of Coventry and Princes (now Wardour) Streets. (fn. 18)
The Rialto Cinema and Café de Paris
No. 3–4, containing the Rialto Cinema and a large basement restaurant, was built in 1912–13 and opened as the West End Cinema. The structure, with a well-considered plan in the Beaux-Arts tradition, was designed by Hippolyte J. Blanc in partnership with his son, F. E. B. Blanc, but it was completed and decorated by Horace Gilbert. (fn. 19) The auditorium is formed as an oval, with its long axis orientated to coincide with that of the narrow entrance vestibule in Coventry Street. The oval wall is visible from Rupert Street, this elevation being unusually well designed for the side of a theatre, with staircase pylons flanking the curved wall face. The Coventry Street entrance front is composed of a tall arch, framing a large window, now partly masked by signs, and the crowning feature is a form of belvedere, rising in front of a gable. The auditorium, with one gallery, was planned to hold 700 people, and the original decorations in cream and gold were neo-Greek in style.