Site of Nos. 13-20, Cockspur Street

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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'Site of Nos. 13-20, Cockspur Street', in Survey of London: Volume 16, St Martin-in-The-Fields I: Charing Cross, (London, 1935) pp. 154-157. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]


The triangular piece of ground lying between Cockspur Street and Warwick House Street was, when first met with in the early part of the seventeenth century, the freehold of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. Situated as it was on the north side of the ancient way from Charing Cross to St. James's, there is no reason to suppose that it was acquired by Henry VIII when making his extensive purchases in the neighbourhood, (fn. n1) and it may have belonged to the Abbey from time immemorial. At some date before 1600 it had been secured by the Vestry of St. Martin-in-the-Fields at a nominal rent, and had been used as a site for the parish pound. In the early years of the seventeenth century the pound was removed and the site used for the erection of the parish almshouses.

The earliest leases by the Dean and Chapter to the Vestry have not been traced, the first discovered being that granted on 4th December, 1611, (fn. n2) for 40 years. The ground is therein described as "contayning by estimacion one Rood … lyinge on the South side of the Kinges highwaie leadinge from Charing Crosse towardes Knightesbridge, and on the North side of the Common waie … leadinge from Charing Crosse … towardes the Mannor house of St. James … and adjoyneth to the Ditch of St. James Fieldes on the west parte, and upon a common passage betweene both the said waies on the east parte." The dimensions are said to be 200 feet on the norths 160 feet on the south, 120 feet west and 22 feet east.

At this time the almshouses had already been erected, the work having been carried out in 1603 and succeeding years. (fn. n3) On 23rd September, 1613, it was ordered that "every poore parson that from henceforth shall be admitted to dwell in any of the roomes of the Almeshouses shall before he or she shall be admitted to dwell there and to Receyue any pencion or exhibicion of the parishe shall (sic) make a due conveyance of all his or their goods to the Churchewardens and overseers of the poore for the tyme beeing wch they shall be possessed of at the tyme of the decease of him or hir to the use of the poore of the said parishe." (fn. n4) The nature of the conditions attached to admission may be further gathered from an instance on 10th July, 1614. (fn. n5) "It is agreed … that Thomas Puttrell' and Alice his wyfe shalbe admitted into the roome in the almeshowse wherin the widdow Turner lately dwelled & dyed, Upon condition that they behave themselves quietly, soberlye & honestly & that shee shall from henceforthe execute the place of a Searcher for suche as it shall please God to visit wth sicknes wth in the parishe of St. Martens." On 18th November, 1624, the Vestry appointed (fn. n6) certain persons to be joined with the churchwardens for the space of three years to "order the Almeshouses and the Almesfolks according to their discretions, examining their Conversations from tyme to tyme, and Reforming their disorders by suche meanes as they shall thinke fitting, and during that tyme have power to displace and place, as they shall finde iust cause."

That part of the ground which lay to the south of the almshouses was sublet by the Vestry to Sir Gregory Fenner, (fn. n7) who built a house there, and whose name appears in the ratebooks from 1623 to 1647. Lady Fenner remained at the house until 1655, when she was succeeded by Sir George Penruddock, who stayed until 1661. On 12th February, 1666–7, the Dean and Chapter granted to Francis Smith a lease (fn. n8) of "all that greate Messuage, Mansion house or Tenement heretofore erected … by Sr Gregory Fenner Knt deceased, abutting uppon the streete leading from Chareing crosse to Sr Phillip Warwicks house and the Mannor house of St. James's on the south parte, and abutting as well uppon the Almeshouses and other Tenemts adioyning there as uppon … the Pall Mall on the north parte." The house was subsequently pulled down, and in 1713 the site was occupied by four houses, with a 65-feet frontage in Warwick (now Warwick House) Street. (fn. n9)

The remainder of the ground (to the east of the almshouses) was let by the Vestry to various tenants, (fn. n10) and the rents applied to the use of the poor. In 1659 these rents (after an abatement of one-fifth had been made) produced nearly £96 a year. (fn. n11) The Dean and Chapter had renewed the Vestry's lease in 1628 (fn. n12) for 40 years, but in August, 1666, granted a lease to Richard Whittle of one of the Vestry's houses. (fn. n13) This indication of policy alarmed the Vestry, who on 22nd October took into consideration (fn. n14) "how to prevent ye letting of Leases by ye D: & Chaptr to straungers over ye heads of the old tennts yt built the houses by ye Almse houses." In the course of 1667, however, further leases were granted, (fn. n15) and on 15th September 1668, the question of the "bad usage of or poore by the Deane & Chapter … Concerning their takeing away all ye Rents of the houses neere unto ye Almshouses, being 96li per annum" was again discussed, and it was resolved that a petition to the King should be prepared. (fn. n16) Nevertheless the Dean and Chapter prevailed. Henceforth all the houses lying to the east of the almshouses were subject to leases granted direct by them, and the new lease (fn. n17) granted to the Vestry on 13th November, 1683, comprised only "those their buildings … commonly called the Almeshouses and the Round house," with a frontage to Cockspur Street of 83 feet 10 inches. The lease contained a provision that "for as much as parte of the said demised premisses being now used as a Round house hath, by reason of the leud people therein putt, and in time of Contagion by reason of the disseased people therein bestowed, greately annoyed and preiudiced the neare Neighbours being Tenants and undertenants of the said Deane and Chapter," the Vestry should "within the space of one yeare … cause the said Round house or prison with the Stocks and whipping post there to be removed from the place where they now stand, and to bee placed in some other place, att such convenient distance That the said Neighbours being Tenants of the said Deane and Chapter … may not thereby bee annoyed." Not only was this done, but the almspeople also were removed (fn. n18) and the almshouses let to William Powell "to be built into Tenemts." Powell erected three houses (Nos. 13–15, Cockspur Street) on the site. The westernmost, at the corner of Pall Mall and Cockspur Street, was acquired in 1825 by H.M. Commissioners of Woods and Forests for the improvement of the street, and rebuilt after the widening had been effected. The freehold of Nos. 14 and 15 was purchased by the trustees of the St. Martin-in-the-Fields Almshouse and Pension Charity from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1871. (fn. n19)


  • n1. Specified as being on the south side of the highway leading from Charing Cross to the Hospital of St. James. (Survey of London, XIII, p. 258.)
  • n2. Westminster Abbey Register, 11, so. 37.
  • n3. "More pd out to Mr Sy: Greene towards the new erecting & building of the hospitall or almeshowses at the pound at charing crosse, to bee pd out by him to workmen as they shall goe forward ther—xvli [This entry crossed out and a marginal note inserted: 'this mony pd out the 7th of September, 1607, in these presents']" (Vestry Minutes, I, fo. 97–14th June, 1603); "More pd out the xiiijth of December to Mr Greene for his paymt of the buildinge of the poore howses at charing crosse for more works don ther since that tyme the summe of ten pounds [This entry crossed out and a marginal note inserted: 'xli discharged by his account the 13 of June 1605']" (ibid., I, fo. 98–28th October, 1607). Part, perhaps all, of the money was obtained by subscription. There is a note on 23rd September, 1613: "Touching xl given by the Widdowe Alcocke towards the building of an Almeshouse, The executor is to be talked wth and to be treated wth so that the mony may be gotten in to the use of the poore so soone as may be." It apparently was not forthcoming, as it was resolved on 3rd June, 1619, "That the Churchewardens doe forthwth sue Pilcher who marryed the Widdow Alcocks daughter for a legacy of tenne pounds given by the widdow towards the building an Almeshouse at the Townesend." (Vestry Minutes, I, ff. 83 and 133.)
  • n4. Vestry Minutes, I, fo. 83.
  • n5. Ibid., I, fo. 100.
  • n6. Ibid., I, fo. 15.
  • n7. It was ordered on 9th July, 1650: "That ye tyme which ye Parish hath in ye house wherein ye Lady Fenner, ye widdow of Sr Gregory Fenner Knt deceased, now dwelleth shalbe added to ye remainder of ye yeares which is yet cominge in ye Lease Graunted by ye Feofees of the parish formerly to ye sayd Sr Gregory Fenner, etc." (Ibid., II, fo. 293.)
  • n8. Westmr. Abbey Register, 20, fo. 23.
  • n9. See indenture, dated 4th December, 1713, between (1) Philip and William Thomas, (2) Robert and Susanna Paine, and (3) Clement Hobson. (Middx. Register, 1713, V, 131.)
  • n10. The circumstances connected with the building of some of the houses are rather curious. Take for example the case of Roger Merricke. On 12th June, 1611, it was ordered "on the behalf of Roger Merricke and Katherine his wife, That Forasmuche as they have beene inhabitants in this parishe 40 yeares, and have delivered xli in monie to be bestowed towards the building of one or two roomes in some convenient place wt in the parishe for their succour to dwell in during their lives: That the said xli shallbe bestowed in building neare the Almeshowses at the townesend … and so muche more added thereunto out of the Poores stocke as will fynishe a building fitt for them. Wch xli the vestrie were Content to accept of to the use aforesaid uppon condicion that the said Roger Merricke and his wife should make no title to ye said Tenement or Roomes to be builded, but onely during their owne lives, nor so long otherwise then uppon their good and orderlie behavior" (Vestry Minutes, I, fo. 65.)
  • n11. See table "concerning the Leases at ye Townsend," dated 30th June, 1659. (Vestry Minutes, III, fo. 202.)
  • n12. Westmr. Abbey Reg., 13, fo. 246.
  • n13. Ibid., 17, fo. 193.
  • n14. Vestry Minutes, III, p. 353.
  • n15. See e.g. lease to John Murdock, 12th February, 1666–7. (Westmr. Abbey, Reg. 18, fo. 25.)
  • n16. Vestry Minutes, IV, p. 31.
  • n17. Westmr. Abbey Deed, 17276.
  • n18. On 21st March, 1683–4, it was ordered "that the Senr Church Warden take care that the Poore People in the old Almes houses neare Charing Cross be removed to the new Almes houses neare the Greeke Church, with all convenient speede, and allow them such a Quantity of Coales to Ayre their Roomes as he shall see cause." (Vestry Minutes, V, p. 11.)
  • n19. See Endowed Charities (County of London), V, pp. 417–8, 444.