Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1966.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
The Greek Church (Later St. Mary's, Crown Street) and St. Martin's Almshouses
The buildings described in this chapter (Plates 16, 17, 18, 19, fig. 71) occupied sites now forming that of the building erected by the London County Council in 1938 at No. 107–109 Charing Cross Road for the St. Martin's School of Art and the College for the Distributive Trades. This site had until then always been in divided occupation, but for the first 140 years or so of its use, until 1818, it was in the single ownership of the parish of St. Martin in the Fields. The parish held it from 1677 by lease and from 1686 as freehold; from the latter year it lay geographically within the area of the parish of St. Anne.
The physical disposition of the site as it was first built upon in the years 1677–86 survived without radical rearrangement until the period 1869–74 (fig. 71a). The history of the site before the erection of the present building will be discussed in two parts. First will be described the area most of which was originally occupied by a Greek church: from 1874 to 1934 this area was occupied by the church of St. Mary's, Crown Street, later Charing Cross Road (approximately plots A, B, C, on fig. 71a), and its clergy house, latterly No. 109 Charing Cross Road (approximately D on fig. 71a). Secondly will be described the circumjacent area (E, F, G on fig. 71a), originally occupied by the almshouses of St. Martin's parish and later by church and local authority schools.
Site and Curtilage of Greek Church
The occupation of this site began in the period when the revived power of the Ottoman Turks under the Kiuprili viziers was causing Greek Christians to seek refuge or relief in Western Europe. Some came to England, and the 1670's saw a melancholy attempt to establish among the raw brick carcases of Soho a shrine of Byzantium. Royal and episcopal support was not lacking, but an accumulation of troubles condemned the enterprise to a very short life.
It had been embarked upon in 1674, (fn. 7) when a petition to the Privy Council from three Greeks, Daniell Bulgaris, Lewis Orbinaty and Demetry of Constantinople, sought leave 'to Build a Church in any part of the City of London or Libertyes there of, where they may freely exercise their Religion according to the Greek Church'. A number of the refugees were doubtless seamen from the archipelago and the petition mentions that some of the Greeks were 'serving on Board his Maties Fleete, & in Merchant Men'. In January 1674/5 permission was granted, evidently on the assumption that the Greeks would become naturalized. (fn. 8) In the following month Bulgaris (a priest) was acquiring British nationality. (fn. 9) But the church-building project languished for want of 'means, methods and interests', (fn. 7) until in 1676 the Greeks were joined by another priest, Joseph Georgirenes, whose added energies succeeded in at least getting the church built. Georgirenes, a native of Melos (the Milo of the armless Venus), had been consecrated Archbishop of Samos in 1666; increasing Turkish oppression after the subjugation of Crete in 1669 made his position difficult, so that in 1671, 'wearied with their injuries, he retired to the Holy Grotto of the Apocalypse, in the Isle of Patmos'. (fn. 10) His subsequent removal to England had in part a literary purpose, 'to publish a Book in print, called Anthologion, for the use of the Eastern Greek Church'. (fn. 7) This did not materialize, but by July 1677 a translation of A Description of The Present State of Samos, Nicaria, Patmos and Mount Athos by Georgirenes had been made in England 'by one that knew the Author in Constantinople', and was published in London in the following year.
On Georgirenes's arrival in 1676 his compatriots asked him (by his own account) to take charge of the work of getting the church built. He evidently lost no time in obtaining the approval of the Bishop of London, Henry Compton, late in 1676 or early in 1677. The bishop further promised 'to speak to the other Bishops, and other Gentlemen to bestow their benevolent Contributions'. Next Georgirenes looked for a site, and rather unfortunately turned westward from the City to the new-building suburb of Soho, in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields. There he sought the co-operation of the prominent building speculator, Nicholas Barbon, who, Georgirenes relates, 'as soon as he was acquainted with my design, promised to give me a peice of ground, and to build the Foundation at his own charge'. Where this was is not known, although Barbon was at that time about to lay out the Military Ground in building (see page 383). Georgirenes represents himself as reporting Barbon's promise to the bishop, whose goodwill led him to make an alternative offer which turned out ill for the Greeks. According to Georgirenes the bishop 'promised to give me a peice of ground himself, and sent one Mr. Thrift with me, and marked out the ground'. (fn. 7) This was Richard Frith, the bricklayer, and Barbon's keen rival as a building speculator in Soho (see page 30). The site thus accepted by Georgirenes was on the west side of Hog Lane, in Soho Fields, and was held on sub-lease by Frith from Joseph Girle, a brewer, who held it from the Crown lessee, the Earl of St. Albans. The bishop intended to induce the parish of St. Martin to acquire it from Frith and (no doubt) to make it over in some manner to the Greeks. The exchange by which the parish obtained the site (together with that of St. Anne's Church) from Frith was made in August 1677 (fn. 11). But later events show that Georgirenes, who was 'unacquainted with ye language' of his benefactors, (fn. 12) had failed to understand the intermediary nature of the bishop's role or the dependent legal status of what he was being 'given'.
For the time being, however, Georgirenes's efforts met with fair success, and in the years 1676 to 1682 he collected some £1,500. (fn. 7) Apart from natural concern for distressed fellow-Christians there was a political and sectarian interest among Anglicans in the history and liturgical uses of a church which seemed to preserve primitive traditions independent of Rome. (fn. 13) (fn. 1) In March 1676/7 Georgirenes and Bulgaris asked for assistance from the King, who gave £100. (fn. 14) The Duke of York, despite his religion, seems also to have been an especial benefactor, perhaps unfortunately for the Greeks. (fn. 15) The building of the church (in the centre of the site and not directly abutting on Hog Lane) evidently began in 1677 while Frith still owned the site. (fn. 16) He himself did the bricklayer's work, with bricks supplied by his lessor Joseph Girle, and by John Wells, and already in July of that year was being fined by the Tylers' and Bricklayers' Company for using bad bricks. They were said to be 'sammell [soft or badly baked] and crasey and too short'. (fn. 17)
Georgirenes set up an inscribed tablet on the church to commemorate its foundation. This still survives and is now re-erected in the cathedral of Aghia Sophia, Moscow Road, Bayswater (Plate 16b). Translated, the legend runs: In the year of Salvation 1677, this Temple was erected for the Nation of the Greeks, the Most Serene Charles II, being King, and the Royal Prince Lord James being Commander of the Forces, the Right Reverend Lord Henry Compton being Bishop, at the expense of the above and other Bishops and Nobles, and with the concurrence of our Humility of Samos, Joseph Georgirenes, from the Island of Melos.
The progress of building had mainly to wait on subscriptions, (fn. 7) although for a time an additional source of income was in prospect. Georgirenes had seemingly been accompanied to England by another Greek from Melos, 'Lawrence Georgerini', who was perhaps a relation and who brought to Hog Lane from the Cyclades a knack in pickling mackerel. He sought to put this happy skill at the service of his compatriots by asking for fourteen years' patent rights, to provide a maintenance for the church. The government was interested in the potentialities of this for trade, and also for the victualling of the armed services, and in December 1677 a warrant was issued for the patent, but no record of a grant survives. (fn. 18)
In October 1678 the church was sufficiently complete to be caught in the vivid light cast by the supposed narrative of the Popish Plot, and at the same time Georgirenes was involved in a complication of embarrassments. He had recently had to accuse a 'servant', one Dominico Cratiana (or Gratiano) of absconding with funds given for the church, and Cratiana was brought to trial at Bristol. Eventually the accusation failed (according to Georgirenes because of his own ignorance of the English language and law). More seriously, Cratiana then made counter-charges against Georgirenes, evidently from September 1678 onwards, which seemed to bear on the Popish Plot. (fn. 19) In October Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey died violently, probably by murder, and in November the informer, Bedloe, surrendered himself at Bristol. On the twenty-sixth of that month Cratiana, then imprisoned in Bristol's Newgate, deposed that Georgirenes, who was evidently also in that city, had said that he hoped to hear Mass in Bristol cathedral: (fn. 20) at that time or later he also accused Georgirenes of saying that the Duke of York would soon be King and that then he, Georgirenes, would have a bishopric. (fn. 21) Secretary Coventry was promptly informed (fn. 22) and the House of Lords ordered Cratiana to be brought to London for interrogation (fn. 23) (as Georgirenes had independently requested). (fn. 12) This was done by 21 December, when Cratiana was ordered to be kept in the Marshalsea to await examination. (fn. 24)
On the same day the second chief informer on Godfrey's supposed murder, Miles Prance, was arrested. Three days later he produced an account of the deed. Georgirenes's uneasiness must have been worsened by the fact that his new church figured in Prance's narrative. This, true or false, told how Godfrey's corpse had been carried in a sedan chair 'as far as the new Grecian Church in The Soho', where it was put on the back of a horse for conveyance to Primrose Hill, and the chair 'left in one of the new unfinished Houses', to be collected on the way back. (fn. 25)
In the event, the occurrence of the church in Prance's notorious tale is not known to have embroiled Georgirenes himself in the subsequent interrogations and trial, nor is any more heard of the Lords' examination of Cratiana. No doubt they decided that he had merely contracted at Bristol the notion of blackening his accuser. But the episode was, perhaps, less than helpful in Georgirenes's relations with the Bishop of London and William Lloyd, the vicar of St. Martin's, who were both active in the investigation of the Plot.
Nevertheless, the work of completing the church went on. In 1679 contributions were still being paid towards building, (fn. 26) and in February 1679/80 Georgirenes described the church as 'almost finished'. (fn. 27) It is shown on Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1681–2 (Plate 2).
By then, however, the Greeks' brief tenure of the building was coming to an end. Writing in 1682 Georgirenes was to give a reason of practical convenience for relinquishing it. But this decision may have owed something to the unhappy atmosphere that seems to have surrounded the Greek community. Cratiana was not the only compatriot to trouble Georgirenes. In February 1679/80 the latter was obliged to put an advertisement in The London Gazette contrasting his stature and growth of whisker with that of a brother priest, Joachim Ciciliano of Cephalonia, who had illicitly collected funds in Georgirenes's name and 'Lewdly spent' them. (fn. 27) (fn. 2) Probably a graver cause of difficulty was the dissension which had arisen between Constantinople and London over the doctrinal implications of Orthodox worship. This appears in a letter sent to England by Sir John Finch, the ambassador at Constantinople, in February 1678/9. He had received from the Bishop of London details of the observances required of the Greeks before they could worship in London: possibly the apprehensions awoken by the Popish Plot were stiffening the bishop against any departure from Anglican usage. The Patriarch of Constantinople had now sent five archbishops, accompanied as interpreter by a Greek priest who had visited England and seen the church there, to interrogate the ambassador. The Greek authorities found quite unacceptable the bishop's prohibition of certain practices common to the Orthodox and Roman churches, and themselves put forward large claims, including one that the London church should have 'the same priviledges with that of Venice, and that it might be under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, to whom any priest should be sent to be judged'. The ambassador rejected this as 'extravagant and unreasonable', but referred the whole to the Bishop of London, to whom he was writing on the same subject a year later. (fn. 28) At that time, in 1680, the Epistle Dedicatory to the bishop, prefixed by Thomas Smith to his Account of the Greek Church, refers to the gratitude owed to the bishop by the Greeks in Constantinople and London for his help in setting up the church, but hints that 'the Governours of their Church' may not have had 'such a gratefull resentment of the favour, as it highly challenges and deserves'. (fn. 29)
Probably in 1681 the Greeks decided to get rid of the Hog Lane building. Georgirenes explains that it had been 'found inconveniently situated, being too remote from the abodes of most of the Grecians, (dwelling chiefly in the furthermost parts of the City)', and that another church was to be built elsewhere. (fn. 3) Its intended location is not known. He says that the bishop promised to countenance this new church, but that when he found a purchaser for the Hog Lane building the bishop 'would not consent thereto, lest the Party should make a Meeting house thereof'. (fn. 7) Georgirenes next tried to sell the building to St. Martin's parish, with the bishop's cognizance. It then appeared that Georgirenes had misunderstood the nature of his tenure of the church, which he supposed had in some manner been given him by the bishop. The latter's benevolence in 1676– 1677 had, however, been limited (whatever his ultimate intentions) to ensuring that the lease of the site proposed for the church, together with a circumjacent area, should be acquired by St. Martin's parish from Frith in exchange for other property and made over (presumably by a sublease) to the Greeks. This exchange, as has been seen, had been made in August 1677. (fn. 11)
When appraisers appointed by Georgirenes and the parish, probably late in 1681, reported that the 'Church' was worth £626 (as Georgirenes states) this was perhaps a valuation of the building with the ground on which it stood. The parish made a valuation of the building alone in December 1681, and finding it contained twenty-four 'squares' valued it at £7 per square. They therefore offered the Greeks only £168 for the conveyance of 'their pretended Right' in the building. Georgirenes, who claimed to have spent £800 on the construction of the church, relates that he then found another purchaser at £230: the parish offered £200, and on his refusing this took posses sion of the church. After an unsuccessful attempt to obtain legal redress Georgirenes published his account of the business in 1682, and thereafter no more is heard of him or his fellow worshippers in Soho. (fn. 30) (fn. c1)
In January 1681/2 the parish of St. Martin obtained the promise of a grant from the Crown of the freehold reversion of the church site and surrounding ground, which was agreed to be made to the Earl of St. Albans and by him transferred to the parish. (fn. 31) The grant was in fact delayed until 31 May 1684, when it was made to St. Albans's heir, Thomas, Lord Jermyn, in trust for the parish. (fn. 32) The conveyance from Lord Jermyn to the parish was made on 31 March1 April 1686, (fn. 33) by which time the site lay within the newly created parish of St. Anne.
In the meantime the parish of St. Martin proceeded to the disposal of the site under its leasehold tenure. On the north, west and south sides it built almshouses; the history of this part of the site will be discussed later. The history of the church building, together with the ground immediately to its north and east, continues to be dealt with here.
In the early months of 1682 the parish was negotiating with the congregation of French Protestants at the Savoy, and in July leased to them for thirty-one years at £12 per annum the 'New Erected Building commonly called or known by the name of the Greek Church', and the piece of ground adjoining it on the east. (fn. 34) (fn. 4)
By March 1685/6 the lessees had, as covenanted, erected on the eastward piece of ground (B on fig. 71a) a building abutting on Hog Lane (later No. 10 Crown Street) which was no doubt for a time 'the French Ministers House'. (fn. 35)
North of this house was a site (D on fig. 71a) which St. Martin's parish did not let to the French congregation but retained for a 'charity house' (later No. 11 Crown Street) built in 1686 to accommodate female pensioners. (fn. 36)
North of the church, and also not leased to the French at this time, was an open space appropriated as an additional cemetery of St. Martin's parish for the burial of the poor from the adjacent almshouses. It was consecrated in March 1685/6, together with the site of the church. (fn. 37) (fn. 5) In 1700 a piece of this ground ten to thirteen feet wide (a-a on fig. 71a) was leased by the parish to the French for the northward enlargement of the church, (fn. 38) but the rest (c on fig. 71a) remained open until the nineteenth century.
The French congregation which acquired the church in 1682, and retained it until 1822 under a succession of leases from St. Martin's parish, was generally known as L'Église des Grecs and the neighbourhood was known to the French as the 'quartier des Grecs' into the mid eighteenth century. (fn. 39) The church was associated and served with that of the Savoy, and like the Savoy conformed to Anglican worship. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries it was used also for English services in connexion with the almshouses, with an Anglican minister. (fn. 40) By 1700 it had become necessary to enlarge the chapel northward, as indicated above, and a new lease was taken of the augmented site. (fn. 41) In the 1730's the church seems to have supplanted that of the Savoy. (fn. 42) Well into the eighteenth century the congregation was of very good standing, (fn. 43) and Hogarth's Noon, published in 1738 (Plate 16a), is said to portray the church and its smartly dressed congregation. (fn. 44) From c. 1691 to c. 1714 a French Protestant school of high reputation was held in Greek Street, adjacent to the church and almshouse site, with which it communicated (see pages 173–4).
In 1818 the freehold of the whole site described in this chapter, now occupied by No. 107–109 Charing Cross Road, was agreed to be sold by St. Martin's parish (see below), and the French congregation removed to Edward (now Broadwick) Street, St. James's, in 1822, when it had only two years of its lease to run. (Thence it moved in 1845 to Bloomsbury Street, now Shaftesbury Avenue, for the remainder of its existence.) (fn. 45) The chapel is shown during the last years of its occupation by the French on Plate 17b, 17c.
In 1822 the whole site was bought by trustees for a body of Calvinistic Independents. (fn. 46) They occupied the chapel, perhaps intermittently, until 1849: (fn. 47) the minister from 1823 to 1833 was the Rev. John Rees, (fn. 48) in 1848 the Rev. Charles Brake, and in 1849 the Rev. Robert Hunt. (fn. 49)
Between 1823 and 1846 a schoolroom was built on the former burial ground immediately north of the chapel. (fn. 50)
In 1849 mortgagees of the property determined to sell the chapel and it seemed likely to become a 'dancing saloon and music hall'. (fn. 51) The rector of St. Anne's, the Rev. Nugent Wade, thereupon bought in December of that year the freehold of the chapel, of No. 10 Crown Street, and of the site north of the chapel (A, B, C on fig. 71a), for £1,500. (fn. 52) He was aided by a 'liberal grant' from the Metropolis Churches Fund. The chapel was to be used as a chapel of ease to St. Anne's, with all the sittings free. It was conveyed to the Church Building Commissioners in June 1850, (fn. 53) and was consecrated as St. Mary the Virgin on 29 June. (fn. 54)
The necessary alterations, which had been estimated to cost £1,030, were made by P. C. Hardwick; the builders were Warne and Son of Lisle Street. (fn. 55) The pews were replaced by open seats, the eastern parts of the galleries removed, and the centre of the east wall set back to form a sanctuary. A 'small but sufficient' chancel was enclosed by a low screen, and two prayer desks provided for 'antiphonal worship'. In the chancel were red hangings below walls of yellow, blue and grey, and the sanctuary roof was coloured. Stained-glass windows were provided by James Powell and Sons. (fn. 56)
The Ecclesiologist was warm in praise both of the 'adaptation of a conventicle of barbarous architecture' and of the 'missionary' character of the church in a 'poor demoralized neighbourhood'. It noted that the daily services 'are, we hear, thronged by the poor'. (fn. 57) St. Mary's was more ritualistic than the mother church, and the wife of the rector of St. Anne's had expressed to him the hope that 'you do not let Mr. Hardwicke draw you into anything you do not approve of'. (fn. 58) There was, indeed, strong hostility, led by the churchwarden, Joseph George, among those parishioners of St. Anne's who disliked the 'Histrionic mode of Worship' in a church which they thought had been 'imposed on the Parish without consulting its opinion or wish'. (fn. 59)
East of the church No. 10 Crown Street (B on fig. 71a) was occupied by the curate and school-teacher. (fn. 60) The school north of the church was put in trust for use as a National School in 1852. (fn. 52) A district chapelry was assigned to St. Mary's in 1856. (fn. 61)
In 1861 the curate-in-charge told the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that 'except for kind friends it would be impossible to keep ye church going'. Because of 'the extreme Poverty of ye people . . . ye struggle has been for the last four years terrible'. (fn. 62) But the congregation, though poor, was said to be numerous, (fn. 63) the church had wealthy supporters, and in 1867 a step was taken towards a comprehensive scheme of enlargement, estimated to cost £10,000. (fn. 64) In that year the site of No. 11 Crown Street, the former charity house of St. Martin's (D on fig. 71a), was bought by the curate of St. Mary's for £1,100, (fn. 52) to be the site of a new clergy house, of which the foundation stone was laid by Mrs. W. E. Gladstone in July 1869: £2,700 had by then been subscribed towards the cost of the whole scheme of which the clergy house was part. (fn. 64) The completion of the house allowed the clergy to remove from No. 10 Crown Street and this to be demolished (together with the eastern bay of the old nave) for the construction of a chancel for the church, of which the corner stone was laid by Canon Liddon in April 1872: (fn. 65) the faculty was granted in November when the cost was estimated at £1,875, all of which had been subscribed. (fn. 66) The chancel was consecrated on 27 May 1873. (fn. 67) Early in the same year and as part of the same scheme new school buildings were erected on the site of the north range of former almshouses (E on fig. 71a) (see below), and a north aisle was added to the old nave, approximately on the former school site (c on fig. 71a): these were completed in July 1874. (fn. 68)
The architects for the whole were R. Herbert Carpenter and (until his death in December 1872) W. Slater. (fn. 69) Contractors included Gibson Brothers of Southall (fn. 65) and Gough of Chelsea. (fn. 70) The central figure of the reredos was executed in white marble by Miss Grant, and the retable of alabaster and marble, and the sedilia, by Forsyth. (fn. 70) The organ, said in 1867 to be by Gray and Davison, was rebuilt in 1873 by J. W. Walker and Sons. (fn. 71)
The large scale of the chancel (Plate 19) had been adopted in anticipation of the rebuilding of the nave, (fn. 72) but this was not carried out at that time. The nave was thus still substantially the old Greek church when in May 1897 the London County Council served a Dangerous Structures Notice on the vicar of St. Mary's because of the unsafe condition of the west end of the church, (fn. 62) and subsequently itself had the roof of the nave taken off. (fn. 73) (Plate 18). In 1900 the old nave was replaced by a new one, of which the corner stone was laid in June. (fn. 74) The church was re-opened in April 1901 but work continued and by the end of 1903 some £6,251 had been spent. The architect was A. R. G. Fenning and the builders Dove Brothers. (fn. 62) The work was completed in 1904. (fn. 75)
Conrad Noel, who held mission services in this 'church of unpopular causes' in the first decade of the century, records that the high altar was 'raised above the level of the church by a remarkable series of steps' (twelve in number), (fn. 65) and that a Lady Chapel, screened off by an iron grille, contained 'a lovely altar-piece painted by Selwyn Image' (curate at St. Anne's in the 1880's). (fn. 76) By the time of its demolition the old nave had contained stained glass thought to be of sixteenth-century German origin, (fn. 77) and in 1925 the windows contained many fragments of old glass. (fn. 78)
In 1932 St. Mary's was united with St. Anne's (fn. 79) and by the end of 1934 the church had been demolished. (fn. 80) The rector of St. Anne's was 'inundated with requests' for the contents. (fn. 62) The seventeenth-century stone bearing the Greek inscription which recorded the construction of the old nave was acquired by Mr. Philip Argenti and presented to the Greek Orthodox cathedral of Aghia Sophia, Moscow Road, where it is now re-erected (fn. 81) (Plate 16b). The corner stone of 1900 was similarly set up in the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Kenton, Middlesex, which was built with the aid of funds from the sale of the site. (fn. 62)
The sale was concluded in March 1935, when the site of the church and clergy house was bought for £45,000 by the London County Council, (fn. 52) to form part of the site of a new building to house the St. Martin's School of Art. The school already occupied that part of the whole site of which the history is described below.
Site of St. Martin's Almshouses
On the perimeter of the leasehold site which St. Martin's parish acquired in 1677 (E, F, G on fig. 71a) the vestry built almshouses to replace those in Cockspur Street. (fn. 82) Building possibly began in 1680 (fn. 83) although the first mention of the almshouses in the parish archives is in accounts for building in 1683–4. (fn. 84) The poor were ordered to be removed from the old almshouses in March 1683/4. More almshouses were ordered to be built in April. (fn. 85) Water pipes were laid in May 1685 (fn. 86) and building probably finished in 1686. (fn. 83)
There were eighteen or twenty almshouses in three similar ranges on the south, west and north sides of the site. Latterly they accommodated sixty poor women, some or all of whom were paid monthly pensions out of the rent of the adjacent church and other parish rents: in the early days children were also lodged here. (fn. 87)
On the east side, fronting Hog Lane (D on fig. 71a), was a 'charity house' (later No. 11 Crown Street) of slightly different design, in which were accommodated four 'decayed Gentlewomen' and their maidservant, with higher pensions than the other almswomen. (fn. 88) Its site, unlike the other almshouses, was not taken into that of the schools built in 1873 and enlarged in 1890–3, but into that of St. Mary's clergy house built in 1869 (see above).
For the almshouses built in the period from August 1683 to January 1683/4, there survive churchwardens' accounts of payments, totalling some £981, made to twenty-five building or allied tradesmen or builders' merchants. Eight suppliers of bricks are mentioned. (fn. 6) At the conclusion of this period of expenditure, in January 1683/4, a payment of unknown amount was made for 'a draught', either of the almshouses or of their site, to 'Richard Ryder Surveyor', who was thus possibly responsible for the simple design (fn. 84) (Plate 17a).
The freehold of the entire site, including the almshouses, was acquired by St. Martin's parish in 1686 (see above).
The almshouses (and the charity house) continued to be used by St. Martin's until 1818. In 1817 their 'very old and ruinous' condition caused the parish to decide to remove its poor to new almshouses to be built in the recently acquired burial ground at Camden Town. (fn. 89) The Act of Parliament to authorize the sale of the entire site now occupied by No. 107–109 Charing Cross Road was obtained on 8 May 1818. (fn. 90) The almswomen were removed to Camden Town in October. (fn. 91)
The location within St. Anne's, Soho, gave that parish an interest in the site, particularly for the accommodation of its paupers. The eventual failure of St. Anne's to make the purchase seems attributable in part to the inability of its open vestry, when very numerously attended, to act consistently or effectively. In July 1818 St. Anne's had appointed a committee to treat with St. Martin's. The committee thought the purchase 'most desirable', and the St. Anne's vestry clerk, Emanuel Allen, offered £3,000 on behalf of the parish, but St. Martin's would accept only the highest offer over £3,500. The St. Anne's open vestry thereupon authorized the committee to offer St. Martin's '£50 beyond any other offer they should receive'. The committee thought it more prudent to set a limit of £4,500, and Allen contracted for the purchase at £4,102 10s. In mid August the St. Anne's vestry refused to be bound by the agreement. A week later the vestry considered, without deciding, whether to purchase the premises for a workhouse, and appointed another committee, which reported a fortnight later to a large meeting of the vestry. The report dwelt at length on the 'totally unfit' state of the existing workhouse in Rose Street, where the healthy had to share beds with the diseased, and recommended the purchase on the terms of Allen's contract. The vestry, however, rejected the proposal by one vote. (fn. 92)
Allen was thus left with his contracted right to the purchase at £4,102 10s. By 1819 he had transferred this to Francis Const, of No. 25 Soho Square, a wealthy lawyer and property speculator. Const in turn found purchasers, at £4,500, and in October 1822 (no conveyance having yet been made) he, Allen and the parish of St. Martin's joined in making the sale. (fn. 52) As has been said, the purchasers were trustees for a body of Calvinistic Independents. The chapel premises were to be held by them jointly, under a mortgage. The remaining four parts of the site—the former charity house and the three ranges of former almshouses (D, E, F, G on fig. 71a)—were each held individually by one of the trustees. (fn. 93) Hence-forward the former almshouses were occupied privately as cottages.
In June 1871 the north range (E on fig. 71a) was sold to the vicar of St. Mary's, (fn. 94) for demolition. Here was erected in 1873–4 a building to house the St. Mary's National School, which was previously on a site immediately north of the church (c on fig. 71a). Accommodation was provided for 600 children. The building was part of the larger scheme for the rebuilding of St. Mary's church premises by the architects, R. Herbert Carpenter and (until 1872) W. Slater. (fn. 68) Gough of Chelsea was one of the contractors. (fn. 95)
In 1877 the school was transferred by the St. Mary's authorities to the London School Board under short leases. (fn. 96) In 1888 an Inspector of Schools complained of the proximity of the cottages, whose inhabitants were of 'the lowest class' and performed 'gross indecencies' within view of the children and teachers. (fn. 97) After some opposition from the St. Giles Board of Works to the expenditure of public money in a locality where, though this school was full, the demand for school places was lessening, (fn. 98) the School Board took a longer lease of the existing premises from the St. Mary's authorities in May 1890, (fn. 52) and in August and October bought the freehold of the two surviving ranges of cottages. (fn. 99) The twelve cottages were then yielding £304 per annum from weekly tenancies and a ground rent of £50, and the purchase price for the leasehold and freehold interests was £4,700. (fn. 100) In 1891–3 the sites were laid out by the School Board architect, at a cost of £4,811, as playgrounds and auxiliary buildings, with cookery and laundry centres fronting Charing Cross Road (fn. 101) (fig. 71b).
By December 1912 only forty children were on the roll of the school. It was decided by the London County Council to close the elementary school at Easter 1913 and transfer the building to the St. Martin's School of Art, then in Castle (now Shelton) Street, St. Martin in the Fields. (fn. 102) The School of Art had been founded there in 1854 by the vicar and parish of St. Martin's. (fn. 103) Shortly afterwards it became independent of the parish and from 1894 was aided by the London County Council. (fn. 104) In October 1913 it opened in the former St. Mary's school building, (fn. 105) of which a new lease was obtained by the Council from the St. Mary's trustees in February 1914: the lessors retained the use of some rooms for parish purposes. (fn. 52)
In 1931 the Council decided to extend the premises of the School of Art to include those of the cookery and laundry centres. (fn. 106) In 1933 the site of St. Mary's church and clergy house became available for purchase and was bought by the Council in March 1935 (see above). In August the site of the school building held on lease from St. Mary's trustees was bought by the Council for £4,000 from the rector and churchwardens of St. Anne's (with which the benefice of St. Mary's was by then united). (fn. 52)
The entire site was cleared in 1937 (fn. 107) and a new building was erected to house both the St. Martin's School of Art and the Technical Institute (now the College) for the Distributive Trades, formerly in Horseferry Road. (fn. 80) The tender of Gee, Walker and Slater, Limited, was accepted at £79,943. (fn. 108) The building, No. 107–109 Charing Cross Road (Plate 139a), was erected to the design of E. P. Wheeler as architect to the Council, the assistant architect in charge being H. F. T. Cooper. It was opened in May 1939. (fn. 109)
The Greek Church and St. Martin's Almshouses
Discounting the restricted and probably inaccurate view in Hogarth's Noon, the earliest representation of the Greek church is in the oblique prospect of the south side given in Schnebbelie's watercolour of 1819 (Plate 17b). A view from the south-west, drawn by Emslie in 1898, shows the west front and south side after the east end bay had been demolished to make way for the Gothic chancel of St. Mary's (Plate 18a). Emslie's view, which shows the Greek church 'nave' about to be demolished, is supplemented by an engraving in Two Centuries of Soho. (fn. 110) The west elevation had an upper range of four windows, and below the third was the main doorway of the church, presumably marking the middle bay of the original front of 1677–80. The south side, and presumably the north, contained two tiers of six windows and a doorway at either end. The lower windows, which were the larger, had interlacing Gothick lunettes, and were set in round-headed openings with brick arches rising from plain imposts to keyblocks, the latter merging into a bandcourse that continued across the side elevation and had a short return only on the west front. The upper windows were almost square, with straight or slightly cambered arches. Schnebbelie shows a projecting eaves-cornice, but this was replaced by a low parapet above a bandcourse. Apart from the simple dressing of the lower windows, the only ornamented feature was the west doorcase, with plain Doric pilasters supporting a deep lintel, bearing the Greek inscription already referred to, and a simply moulded cornice. The stone Greek cross above the doorway was a relatively late addition.
No trace of Byzantine splendour appears in the interior that Schnebbelie drew in 1819 (Plate 17c). He shows a typical Protestant meeting house, with high panelled pews, and a gallery with a panelled front supported on plain Doric columns, below a plain flat ceiling. The west gallery contained a cased organ, with the royal arms above and an Act of Parliament clock on the gallery front below. Opposite, against the east gallery, rose the high pulpit with a hexagonal type suspended above it.
P. C. Hardwick's efforts to transform this plain 'conventicle' into a High Anglican church have already been noticed, and it was probably he who added the Romanesque porch, with its corbelled arch and gable, to the east end of the south side, as seen in Emslie's drawing.
The house which was no doubt originally the French minister's, as depicted by Schnebbelie, appears to have had an exterior of later date than 1686, especially when compared with the neighbouring charity house of that date (Plate 17b). Its brick front was a charming composition of two storeys, the lower containing a door, with a corniced doorcase, between two simple Venetian windows, and the upper having three wide straight-arched windows, all provided with external shutters.
The three ranges of almshouses erected round the south, west and north sides of the irregular quadrilateral site, were extremely simple, utilitarian structures of two storeys (Plate 17a). The plain brick fronts were divided by a storey bandcourse and finished with an eaves-cornice below the high-pitched roof of tiles. Many of the windows were divided casements with diamondleaded lights, some doorways had plain wooden hoods, and three houses in the north range had gabled dormers in the roof.
St. Mary the Virgin Church and Clergy House, Built 1869–74
The original design for St. Mary's embodied the solid virtues of High Anglican church architecture in an austere Gothic building of simple form, bold in scale and of impressive height, executed in plain but good materials with the construction honestly expressed, and offering a concentrated effect of splendour in the chancel. (fn. 111) Built of red brick sparingly dressed with stone, the church was to consist of an ark-like body, broad and lofty, its length divided into six equal bays of which the eastern two formed the chancel and the western four the nave, the latter having three arched bays opening to a north aisle, of similar height to the nave. The chancel and the north aisle alone were completed to Slater and Carpenter's design (Plate 19).
Massive buttresses of brick, rising into gablets above the parapet line, projected externally and internally to divide the bays and support the sexpartite vaulting of the chancel, which was of brick with stone ribs. The side walls were relieved of weight by high arches linking the buttresses inside and out, each arch on the south side framing a clerestory window consisting of two lancets below a cusped circle. High in the east wall was a group of five lancets, stepped to conform with the arch of the vault. The nave was to have been continued in the same style as the chancel, but the south wall was to have had internal arcading below the clerestory windows, each composed of three lancets stepped to conform with the vaulting. A large rose window was intended for the west front, above the double doorway.
Appropriately, the focus of the interior was the chancel, with a great reredos some thirty feet high below the east window, and a rich baldachino raised above the communion table which was elevated twelve steps above the nave floor. The organ was placed in a gallery on the north side, above the vestry entrance in the west bay, and high in the east bay was a small window into the oratory of the clergy house. Mansfield and Portland stone, Minton's mosaic, and Derbyshire and Devonshire marbles were used for the steps and paving, and the retable was of alabaster and marble. The marble figure intended for the centre of the reredos represented Our Lord reigning from the Tree.
The clergy house, on the north side of the chancel, had a tall and narrow front of five storeys, the plain brickwork dressed with stringcourses and moulded labels, the latter arching over the lancets of the staircase and the paired two-light windows of the rooms. The garret storey had windows set in twin gables rising against the steep, slated roof. Adjoining the clergy house was the narrow east front of the school range, with three windows in each of its three lofty storeys.
St. Martin's School of Art and College for the Distributive Trades, No. 107–109 Charing Cross Road
This is in many ways the most distinguished front in Charing Cross Road, a design of conservative modernism carried out in dark red brick, with stone used for the three-bay entrance features at either end of the front, and for the groundstorey frame (Plate 139a). In the four-storeyed brick face above are large metal windows set in groups of three, six and three, below a moulded brick entablature which underlines a range of twelve studio-type windows. The stone face of the recessed attic contains three groups of windows, wide between narrow.