Early history of the west side of Whitehall and Charing Cross

Survey of London: Volume 16, St Martin-in-The-Fields I: Charing Cross. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1935.

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'Early history of the west side of Whitehall and Charing Cross', in Survey of London: Volume 16, St Martin-in-The-Fields I: Charing Cross, ed. G H Gater, E P Wheeler( London, 1935), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol16/pt1/pp1-4 [accessed 14 July 2024].

'Early history of the west side of Whitehall and Charing Cross', in Survey of London: Volume 16, St Martin-in-The-Fields I: Charing Cross. Edited by G H Gater, E P Wheeler( London, 1935), British History Online, accessed July 14, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol16/pt1/pp1-4.

"Early history of the west side of Whitehall and Charing Cross". Survey of London: Volume 16, St Martin-in-The-Fields I: Charing Cross. Ed. G H Gater, E P Wheeler(London, 1935), , British History Online. Web. 14 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol16/pt1/pp1-4.


The whole of the land on the west side of Whitehall from the site of Downing Street to Charing Cross and thence along the south side of the highway as far as and inclusive of the site of St. James's Palace was acquired by Henry VIII before 1532. The greater part of this ground was used in connection with the royal palaces of Whitehall and St. James's, and in the formation of St. James's Park, but some part was subsequently sold or let on lease. Materials for the early history of that part of the property which comes within the scope of this volume are scanty. An attempt has here been made to fix the relative positions of the various holdings into which the ground was divided, and to give some account of their history, but the evidence available is so fragmentary that no definite conclusions can be based upon it.

(i) To the north of the inn called The Bell, which extended some distance north and south of the Bars of Westminster, (fn. n1) were gardens belonging to the office of the treasurer within the Abbey. This property was on 15th July, 1500, leased to John Jamys, yeoman, under the description of seven cottages with one barn, lately built by John Millyng, deceased, and one vacant piece of land, with a garden adjacent, situated by the White Cross. It abutted on the croft of Henry "Marbull" on the north, on the field leading to the Hospital of St. James on the west, and on the highway leading from Westminster to Charing Cross on the east. (fn. n2) On 3rd June, 1528, a further lease of this property was granted to Dr. Richard Duck. (fn. n3) In a list of "divers tenements" belonging to Westminster Abbey made circa 1530, (fn. n4) two of the cottages were stated to be sublet to Thomas Rawlyns and Thomas Swallowe at the annual rents of 40s. and 28s. respectively. The property was included in that acquired by Henry VIII from the Abbey in 1531. (fn. n5)

(ii) In 1308–9 Thomas Chese and Egidia his wife bought (fn. n6) one acre of land in Westminster from William le Clerke and Edith his wife. Seventy years later Stephen Chese, son of Thomas, sold (fn. n7) this property to John West, keeper of the Palace of Westminster. It was then described as a parcel of meadow enclosed with hedges, ditches and walls, lying between the meadow formerly of John "Botywyk" on the north and the meadow of the Abbot and Convent of Westminster on the south. It abutted on the highway on the east and on the common ditch of Westminster on the west. John West retained possession of the property until 1405, when he sold it to John Legburn. (fn. n8) In 1423 the latter transferred it to Roger Westwode and others. In a deed of 1433, by which the meadow was sold to Robert Forster, it was stated that a dovecot had been built there. In 1449 the property passed into the hands of Henry "Marbill" and Alice his wife, and nine years later an agreement was made "betwene David Selly of the towne of Westm' … of ye oone parte esquier and Herry Marbull of ye same towne … gentyllman of ye other parte … for a dyke betwene ye tenement of ye seid David at one tyme John Botirwyk of ye parte of ye north, and ye tenement of ye said Herry late Robert forster of ye parte of ye South." By 1478 five messuages had been erected on Marble's ground. The property remained in the possession of his heirs until 1531, when it was sold by Hugh Marble to Thomas Cromwell in trust for the King, and a lease of it, which was then in the possession of Thomas Rawlyns, was bought in at the same time. The property was then stated to lie "agenst the white crosse and agenst the grene before the kings manor latelie called Yorke Place."

(iii) It will be seen from (ii) that the land to the north of Marble's tenement was in 1378 in the possession of John "Botywyk," and in 1458 in that of David Selly. This ground was charged with a rent of 2s. to the keeper of the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey, and the successive owners of the ground can therefore be traced in his accounts. In the account for the year 1405–6 there is an entry of a payment of 2s. for the rent of a meadow, late of Roger Belet and then of Alice "Boterwyke," lying opposite the hermitage at "Charryng." The only record that has been found of any transaction between Roger Belet and John Butterwick is a Final Concord of 1372–3, by which Roger Belet of Laleham and Agnes his wife sold to John Doget of "Botterwyk" and Alice his wife three messuages, forty-four acres of land and eight acres of meadow in "Knyghtbrigge," Eye and Westminster. The meadow in question was probably included in this sale. In the account of the keeper of St. Mary's Chapel for 1388–9 there is a note that the rent of 2s. for the parcel of ground opposite the hermitage was unpaid, because the ground was in the hand of the abbot and "iacet vacua," and this entry is repeated in the accounts for the years 1393–4, 1395–6 and 1398–9. John Butterwick died circa 1390, (fn. n9) and it was probably because of his death that the ground was taken into the abbot's hand. From 1400 till 1454 Alice Butterwick and her descendants, Elizabeth Roote and Richard and Robert Scarburgh, were in possession of the property. In the St. Mary's Chapel Account for 1454–5 Thomas Bradshawe appears as responsible for the rent of 2s. and in 1458–9 he is succeeded by David Selly. In 1468 David Selly sold (fn. n10) the property to William Dixon, brewer. It was then described as a certain tenement with a parcel of meadow adjoining, formerly belonging to John "Boterwyk," and lying near Charing Cross, between the tenement and meadow of Henry "Marbill" on the south and the garden which formerly belonged to Lord Bardolf and afterwards to Lord Beaumont on the north. It abutted on the highway on the east and on a meadow belonging to the Abbey of Westminster on the west. The measurements are given as being in length 126 yards 1 foot 2 inches on the south side and 122 yards 1 foot on the north side, and in width 54 yards 2 feet 3 inches at the east end and 31 yards 1 foot 3 inches at the west end. The property remained in the possession of Dixon and his descendants until its acquisition by Henry VIII. In 1530–1 Katherine Dixon, widow, paid the 2s. rent to St. Mary's Chapel. In the next account which has been preserved, that for 1533–4, the 2s. due from "Katrina Dixon" is placed among the allowances "pro diversis tenementis que dominus Rex prostravit causa ampleandi locum suum." The actual sale of this property to Henry VIII has not been found.

(iv) In 1468 the tenement of David Selly was said to abut north on the garden formerly of Lord Bardolf and later of Lord Beaumont. Thomas, 5th Baron Bardolf, held a considerable amount of landed property in different parts of England. He died in 1407 of wounds received at the Battle of Bramham Moor, and was afterwards attainted for his rebellion. Part of his estates were granted to his daughter Joan, wife of Sir William Philip, and at her death in 1461 they passed to her grandson, William, 2nd Viscount Beaumont, who also succeeded to the title of Lord Bardolf. If the statement in the deed of 1468 is correct, the garden at Charing must have belonged to the 5th Lord Bardolf and have descended by inheritance to William, Viscount Beaumont. The latter died in 1507 without issue. In the inquisition taken after his death (fn. n11) the jurors stated that he died seized of, inter alia, lands and tenements in the town and fields of Westminster and St. Giles's called "le Beaumontes londes," which were worth 40s. a year. The whole of "Beaumonts Lands" afterwards came into the hands of the Crown. From later deeds it is obvious that they were divided into several scattered parcels, but no information has been found concerning the exact position or size of the "garden" at Charing Cross.

(v) On 25th February, 1481–2, the Abbot of Westminster leased (fn. n12) to John Kendall a piece of ground "iuxta Charingcrosse," abutting on the highway leading to Charing Cross on the north and on the highway leading to Westminster on the east, upon the close demised to William Underhill on the south and upon a vacant piece of ground on the west. It contained 520 feet in length (i.e. westward from Charing Cross along the south side of the highway) and in width 63 feet at the west end, 68 feet at the east end and 100 feet in the middle. At the same time Kendall obtained a lease of another piece of ground containing 100 feet in length and 66 feet in width at "le north west" end and 63 feet in width at "le Southest" end, and abutting on a road leading to the close of William Underhill on the north, on the said close on the west, on "le Cawcy" going towards Westminster on the east and on a certain old wall on the south. Four years later a further lease of these pieces of land was granted to Basilide Smyth, widow. (fn. n13) In 1524 William Salcote, carpenter, obtained from the Abbey (fn. n14) a lease of divers cottages at Charing Cross, which he sold to Thomas Cromwell in trust for the King in 1531. (fn. n15) In the Account of the keeper of St. Mary's Chapel for 1530–1 (fn. n16) there is an entry of a payment of 3s. 4d. by William Salcote for cottages "nuper dimissis Basilide Smyth vidue" lying near Charing Cross, opposite the chapel of St. Katherine and adjoining to the tenement of John Pomfret. From the measurements given of Salcote's property it is obvious that it did not include the whole of the ground granted to Basilide Smyth, and it is probable that the remainder of it was comprised in the lease of 1512 (fn. n17) from the Abbey to John Pomfret, "bruer," and Joan his wife of a close of land, with a barn adjoining, near Charing Cross on the west side of the way. John Pomfret died in 1531 leaving (fn. n18) "unto Elizabethe my wyfe duryng hyr lyffetyme my convent seale of the White lyon besyde charyng cross … and after the decease of my sayd wyffe to Remayne unto my son in law John Bennett." In the following month Bennett sold his rights in this property to the King. (fn. n19)

In the absence of more precise information it is impossible to be sure that the properties described above included the whole of the ground on the west side of the road, the later history of which is dealt with in this volume, but they certainly account for the greater part of it, and no record has been found of the acquisition by Henry VIII of any other property which can be definitely assigned to this area.


  • n1. The Bars of Westminster occupied approximately the site of the Holbein Gate, see Survey of London, XIV, p. 3.
  • n2. Westminster Abbey Register Book, I, fo. 121.
  • n3. Ibid., II, fo. 245.
  • n4. Westminster Abbey Deed, 18049a.
  • n5. By the private act, 23 Henry VIII, c. 33, quoted in full in Appendix A of Survey of London, XIII.
  • n6. Final concord, Middlesex, 2 Edward II.
  • n7. P.R.O., Ancient Deed, A. 1866.
  • n8. P.R.O., Ancient Deed, A. 1546. The subsequent history of this property until its acquisition by Henry VIII has been taken from Ancient Deeds, Nos. A. 1527–9, 1532–3, 1539, 1543, 1547–9, 1562, 1864 and 13077.
  • n9. See Survey of London, VI, p. 5.
  • n10. P.R.O., Ancient Deed, A. 1520.
  • n11. P.R.O., C. 142/24/29, 1st October, 1 Henry VIII.
  • n12. Westminster Abbey Deed, 17174.
  • n13. Westminster Abbey Deed, 17175.
  • n14. Westminster Abbey Register, II, fo. 40b.
  • n15. P.R.O., Ancient Deed, A. 6071.
  • n16. Westminster Abbey Deed, 23311.
  • n17. Westminster Abbey Register, II, fo. 40b.
  • n18. Westminster Wills, 19 Bracy.
  • n19. P.R.O., Ancient Deed, A. 1560.