Nos. 39-41, Charing Cross and the Timber Yard

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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'Nos. 39-41, Charing Cross and the Timber Yard', 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 [accessed 14 July 2024].

'Nos. 39-41, Charing Cross and the Timber Yard', 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,

"Nos. 39-41, Charing Cross and the Timber Yard". 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.

In this section


History of the Site.

Reference has already been made (see p. 45) to the grant to Thomas Browne of a piece of waste land formerly used as a timber yard, the greater part of which was resumed for its original use in 1560, and to the circumstances in which the southern portion, with a width fronting the street of 152, or more correctly 148, feet, came to be used for the erection of Wallingford House, and a further strip 70 feet wide for the formation of Wallingford Garden.

From 1653 the northern boundary of the timber yard was Kirke House, and the length of the frontage is said in that year (see below) to be 84 feet. A century earlier, however, the ground did not extend so far northwards, for in 1557, when the grant was made to Browne, the boundary in that direction was the house of John Kempe. On 12th June, 1551, Kempe had received a grant of a messuage, with garden adjoining, for a term of 21 years at a rent of 20s. (fn. n1) In 1566 the Ministers' Accounts contain a note to the effect that the house had been demolished and its site, with the garden, had been, in 1561, reduced to one piece of land for the Queen's "Tymbre yarde." (fn. n2) It would seem, however, that the land was not at once actually included in the timber yard, for from the figure of 182 feet given in 1572 as the frontage of the timber yard remaining after the deduction of the 90 feet granted to Sir Francis Knollys (fn. n3) it would appear that the frontage north of the site of Wallingford Garden was only 54 feet, (fn. n4) instead of 84 feet. This leaves 30 feet for Kempe's frontage. On 8th May, 1607, a grant was made to Simon Basil, the surveyor of works, and others, of the piece of land called "le tymber yarde" with certain houses called "workehowses," enclosed with a wall of stone and burnt brick on the highway leading from Westminster to Charing Cross, between the stone wall of St. James's Park towards Spring Garden on the west, and the highway on the east, abutting on the north on a house in the tenure of Dame Anne (sic) Cheke and a house or inn called "le Roose," and on the south on the house and garden in the tenure of Lord Knollys. The measurements are given as 210 feet in length from south to north and 120 feet in width. (fn. n5) The grant was for 40 years and the rent 5s. Basil and those joined with him (fn. n6) in the grant were all officials of the Board of Works, and as the grant was to them and their successors in office, it is evident that this was a purely official transaction. The description of the property is, however, very puzzling, Lady Cheke's house lay beyond Kirke House, which was apparently on the site of The Rose (see p. 82), and the measurement of 210 feet, after deducting 70 feet for the site of Wallingford Garden, granted to Knollys four years later, is irreconcilable with the figure of 84 given in the parliamentary survey made in July, 1653. (fn. n7) This runs as follows:

"All that Messuage … and parcell of ground scituate … over against Scotland Yard, Consisting of two Lower Roomes and one Entery, whereof one of them is now divided into three small Roomes; Two Chambers over Head, And the one of them is alsoe divided into three small Roomes; Three little Garretts, a Little Paved Yard, An house of Office and a small shead, One Stable with a Hay Lofte over the same, Two Workehouses and a Large Plott of ground thereunto Adioyning, Butting upon the streete Leading from the muse to White Hall East, and West upon the Old Bowling Greene, Adioyning to St. James Parke, And Bounded with Wallingford house south and Kirke house North; Conteyning in Length 120 Foote and in breadth towards the streete 84 Foote, in the midle 79 Foote and a halfe, And at the West end 46 Foote and a halfe, All which wee value to be worth by the yeare Twenty Pounds. Memorandum, the aforesaid premises are not under Demise But in the present Possession of the State."

Six months later the trustees for the sale of Crown Lands sold (fn. n8) the property for £400 to Hugh Peters "of the Citty of Westminster Esqr," no doubt the well-known preacher of that name who on 16th October, 1660, was executed at Charing Cross, only a few yards away.

At the Restoration the sale was regarded as invalid, and a few days before Peters' death the Earl of Manchester applied for a lease of the property, on which four houses had recently been built (no doubt by Peters), "each of them two roomes on a floore, all worth … about 120l. per annum." (fn. n9) There was some difficulty as to the rent to be charged to the earl. On 22nd November, 1660, the lord treasurer wrote (fn. n10) that in spite of his desire to please his lordship he felt obliged to urge that the rent should be £40. On 28th November, 1660, the attorney–general was informed that "It is his Mats pleasure that this grant shall passe at the rent of 20li"; and in the royal warrant for the preparation of the grant the sum was further reduced to £5. Possibly even this was too much, for the earl does not seem to have obtained the property, which on 26th January, 1660–1, was leased to Deniel O'Neale for 31 years at a rent of £20. (fn. n11)

The site of the timber yard was included in the manor of Westminster, which was, with many other properties, on 30th June, 1665, assigned to trustees on behalf of Queen Catherine, as her jointure. In 1678 two leases of the manor were made. The one, on 17th July, was by the King to Joseph Sheldon and Nicholas Charlton on behalf of John Hall for a term of 80 years from Christmas, 1676; the other on 23rd December was by the Queen to the same individuals for 78¾ years. On 17th July, 1688, John Hall sold the remainder of the terms of the two leases to Sir Humphrey Edwin for the sum of £1, 645. (fn. n12)

Edwin died in 1707 and his property was subsequently divided. In 1738 the site of the timber yard was for the greater part in the possession of Humphrey Edwin (grandson of Sir Humphrey) and his sister Martha (afterwards married to Sir Hew Dalrymple), while the rest was in that of John Edwin, and his sisters, Anne, Hannah and Susannah. From the constats drawn up in that year for leases to John and Humphrey Edwin (fn. n13) it appears that the street frontage was occupied by four houses in the respective occupations (reckoning from south to north) of John Bowles, James Nagle, Samuel Ansell, and Widow Moorwood. In the space between them and Spring Gardens, with frontages on that street, were the premises of the Charitable Corporation (fn. n14) The Ship Tavern, (fn. n15) the latter lying to the north of the former and having a passage to the main street between the houses of Ansell and Nagle.

The occupier of The Ship at that time was Thomas Clark, (fn. n16) whose predecessors had been Benjamin Barnes (1717–30), Mary Spoyle (1715–16) and William Rogers (1708–14), and from a deed of 1712 we find that the house of Rogers was then known as The Crown. (fn. n17)

The ratebooks show that Nagle's house was occupied from 1741 to 1750 by Charles Thom, a fact which enables us to identify it with The Fleece. (fn. n18)

Ansell's premises were from 1710 to 1714 in the occupation of Isaac Colsten (Costin), and the deed of 1712 mentioned above shows that the latter's house was then known as "the Blew Posts Eating house," probably the Blue Posts in Spring Gardens, where Charnock and his gang met on the day fixed for the assassination of William III (1696).

At an earlier date one of the houses on the site of the timber yard was "Lambe's Ordinary." In the London Gazette for 19th-23rd January, 1681–2, is a notice by "Richard Girling, who some time kept the Ordinary near Charing Cross, commonly called Lamb's Ordinary." The ratebook for 1675 shows "Lambe's Ordinary" as one of the "timber yard" houses, that for 1677 gives the name "Patrick Lambe" in respect of the house, and in that for 1678 the entry runs: "Mr Gurling and partnr."

It is possible that one of the several "Rummers" at Charing Cross was also a "timber yard" house. In 1683 The Rummer is mentioned in the evidence of Hugh Mainwaring given in connection with the escape of Lord Grey. (fn. n19) It is said to have then been in the occupation of Mr. Lawrence. Lawrence does not appear in the ratebooks in respect of any of the houses in the neighbourhood, but "Thos. Laurenson" is shown next to "Hugh Manwaring" as occupying a house on the site of the timber yard, and this is confirmed by a deed of 1678. (fn. n20) It would seem from Mainwaring's evidence that he was himself a resident at The Rummer.

The Crown lease was not due to expire until Christmas, 1756, but in 1738 two reversionary leases of 30 years were granted to Humphrey and John Edwin at rents of £89 3s. 1d. and £48 3s. 9d. respectively. (fn. n21) In 1758 the Westminster Bridge Commissioners purchased the four houses on the street frontage, as well as The Ship, and another house which had previously formed part of The Ship. (fn. n22) The remaining house on the Spring Gardens front was not purchased. The Crown's interest in all the houses on the site of the timber yard was acquired on 25th September, 1765, at a cost of £2,960 15s. (fn. n23) An extant plan of The Ship and its passage (fn. n24) in 1758 shows that the distance between Spring Gardens and the main street was then 125 feet, indicating that the street widening effected by the commissioners at this point was about 25 feet. (fn. n25) On the new frontage of 83 feet four houses were built (the later Nos. 39 to 42, Charing Cross) and leased to Kemble Whatley for a term of 64½ years from Lady Day, 1766, at a rent of £68. (fn. n26) Of these Nos. 39, 40 and 41 survived until recently (see Plate 81). Their sites are now occupied by the premises of Glyn, Mills and Co., while the southern half of Martin's Bank covers the site of No. 42.

Figure 20:

Nos. 36–48 Charing Cross in 1840

Description of Structure.

Nos. 39 to 41, Charing Cross, were three-storey buildings, with attics above, and the ground floor adapted as shops. Their fronts were originally in plain brick, but efforts were made in later years to treat Nos. 40 and 41 in a more decorative manner, and their general wall surfaces have been given a coat of plaster. At a still later date the roof of No. 40 was raised. (fn. n27) The ground-floor front of No. 41 was also altered in character.

Historical Notes.

The following are lists of occupiers (taken from the ratebooks) of Nos. 39–41 from the time of the erection of the houses until 1840:

No. 39
1759–71 Nathaniel Law (fn. n28)
1772–1823 Thomas Andrews
1824–26 Thos. Birch
1827–32 Wm. Mitchell
1833– W. and W.O. Mitchell
No. 40
1760–62 Mary Ann Barnesby
1763–64 (Ratebooks missing)
1765–76 Mary Ann Jackson
1777–81 Lucy Necks
1782 — Collins
1783–97 Joseph Cooper
1798–1801 William Wigstead
1803–16 Hy. Thos. Hardacre
1817–25 Wm. Buckton
1827– (Sir) Jas. N. McAdam (fn. n30)
No. 41
1759–96 James Addinall
1798–1803 Robert Dodd
1804–06 Richard Dodd
1807–09 Robert Dodd
1810–13 (fn. n29) John Horseman
1814–17 (fn. n29) Frances Horseman
1818–31 (fn. n29) Frances Holland
1832– (fn. n29) John Hill.

No. 42, with which No. 41 was combined in 1810, was the Salopian Coffee House, (fn. n31) and the appellation was afterwards attached to the joint establishment. "The Salopian" is of interest from its connection with Thomas Telford, the eminent engineer, who for 21 years made it his headquarters in London. His presence attracted a host of visitors, and he came to be considered a fixture of the establishment, to be bought and sold with the goodwill of the business. When he resolved to take a house of his own, and gave notice of his intention of leaving, the landlord, who had but recently entered into possession, almost stood aghast. "What! leave the house!" said he, "Why, sir, I have just paid £750 for you." (fn. n32) The story is a good one, but unfortunately the ratebooks do not confirm a change in tenancy about the date (1823) required.

In the Council's collection are:

(fn. n33) General elevation of Nos. 37 to 41, Charing Cross (photograph).
(fn. n33) Elevation to Charing Cross (copied from a drawing in the possession of H.M. Office of Works).
Plans of ground, 1st and 2nd floors (copied from a drawing in the possession of H.M. Office of Works).


  • n1. P.R.O., E. 315/223, fo. 146. The rent of the messuage is duly entered in the Ministers' Accounts for 1556–7 (P.R.O., S.C. 6, Elizabeth, 191), and takes the place of an entry figuring in earlier Accounts from the time of Henry VIII of a rent of 20s. received from the Clerk of Works of the Manor of Westminster for "a tenement now used for depositing plaster." (See, e.g., Ministers' Accounts, temp. H. VIII, 2101.)
  • n2. P.R.O., S.C. 6, Elizabeth, 1422.
  • n3. "Also we do certifye that the reste of the saied pece of ground nowe callyd the Tymber yarde conteyneth in lengthe from Southe to Northe one hundreth fourscore and two foote and in bredthe from Est to Weste one hundrethe twentye and thre foote, wherein are buylded certayne houses called Storehouses for to laye Tymber in when it is framed and other necessaryes as occasyon maye serve." (P.R.O., E. 310/19/91, fo. 9.)
  • n4. Granted to Knollys between 1572 and 1611 = 58 feet, site of Wallingford Garden = 70 feet. This leaves 54 feet for the rest of the timber yard.
  • n5. P.R.O., L.R. 1/51, fo. 141.
  • n6. Thomas Baldwyn, comptroller of works, Cornelius Cure, chief mason, and William Portington, chief carpenter.
  • n7. P.R.O., E. 317, Middx., 76.
  • n8. P.R.O., E. 304/L. 35, 12th January, 1653–4.
  • n9. Records of H.M. Commissioners for Crown Lands, A, pp. 197 ff. The length of the frontage is said to be about 90 feet.
  • n10. Ibid.
  • n11. P.R.O., L.R. 1/61, fo. 188.
  • n12. P.R.O., L.R. 1/63. Sir Humphrey Edwin was lord mayor in 1697–8. He was a strong Nonconformist, and gave great offence by attending in full civic state a Dissenting Meeting House during his term of office.
  • n13. P.R.O., T. 55/4, pp. 438 ff.
  • n14. The full title of this body was "The Charitable Corporation for Relief of Industrious Poor by assisting them with small Sums upon Pledges at legal Interest." The society was incorporated in 1707 with a licensed capital of £30,000, but subsequent licences were obtained to increase this sum to £600,000. On 3rd February, 1727–8, the following notice by the Corporation appeared in the Daily Journal: "By Order of the Committee, there will be exposed to Publick Sale, by Auction, on Thursday, the 8th of this Instant February, at Two o'clock in the Afternoon, several Sorts of Goods and Merchandize, viz. Superfine Crimson and Scarlet Broad-Cloth … Silk and Worsted Stockings … Mercery Wares, Clocks, Watches, Rings, Plate, &c., being pledged to the said Corporation, and forfeited for want of Redemption. N.B.— The Goods will be shewn at the Corporation-House in Spring-Garden, near Charing-Cross." As a result of extensive embezzlement, the Corporation fell into financial difficulty, their loss to 15th February, 1731–2, being estimated at £421,825 (Report relating to the Charitable Corporation, 1732). As some compensation Parliament "granted them a Power to make a Lottery for the Sum of 500,000l., whereby, from a strong Propension, or, rather, Infatuation of the People to Lotteries, they cleared about 80,000l." (Strype's edition of Stow's Survey (1755 edn.), II, p. 373.)
  • n15. There were two other houses of this name at Charing Cross. The earlier one is referred to in several deeds of circa 1785 as on the south side of Buckingham Court (e.g. in the description of a piece of ground on the west side of the street, abutting south on the Admiralty, north on Buckingham Court and "west on the Ship Alehouse"—Middx. Register, 1784, IV, 234), and the later one was the well-known Ship Hotel at No. 45, Charing Cross.
  • n16. MacMichael (The Story of Charing Cross, p. 48) quotes from the Daily Advertiser for 1st May, 1742, the following: "To be Sold by Hand, On Monday next, and the following Days, till all are sold, The genuine Household Furniture of Thomas Giles, at the Ship Tavern, Charing Cross; consisting of all sorts of clean Household Furniture, and all sorts of Kitchen Furniture. Note, There is a Parcel of neat Wines to be dispos'd of at the same Place." The ratebooks show that Giles succeeded Thomas Clark at The Ship in 1739, and the book for 1742 contains his name crossed through with the note "Shut up." MacMichael's account of The Ship is marred by his identification of it with the later establishment of the same name at No. 45, Charing Cross.
  • n17. "All that Messuage … near Charing Cross … called the Crown Tavern then in the occupacion of William Rogers, Vintner." (Indenture dated 12th March, 1711–2, between Thomas Edwin and Charles and John Edwin, Middx. Register, 1735, I, 85.)
  • n18. See advertisement, quoted by MacMichael (ibid., p. 49) from the Daily Advertiser for 29th October, 1741, of Charles Thom, that he "is remov'd to the Fleece next Door to the Ship Tavern at Charing Cross, where all Gentlemen may depend on good Entertainment and Attendance."
  • n19. Cal. of S. P. Dom., 1683, p. 379.
  • n20. Recited in P.R.O., L.R. 1/63.
  • n21. P.R.O., L.R. 1/68, fo. 1, and 1/67, fo. 144.
  • n22. (a) Indenture dated 1st November, 1758, between (1) Sir Hew Dalrymple and Dame Martha his wife, (2) Humphrey Edwin, and (3) Samuel Seddon and John Simpson (P.R.O., L.R. 1/306, fo. 38); (b) indenture, dated 1st December, 1758, between (1) Humphrey Edwin and Mary his wife, (2) Richard Chiswell, Walter Baynes and William Hill, and (3) Samuel Seddon and John Simpson (P.R.O., L.R.1/306, fo. 41); and (c) indenture dated 7th February, 1759, between (1) Charles Dalrymple and Elizabeth his wife, only child of John Edwin, (2) Susannah Edwin, Peter Hind and Lewis Way, executors of the will of John Edwin, and (3) Samuel Seddon and John Simpson (P.R.O., L.R. 1/306, fo. 43).
  • n23. P.R.O., L.R. 1/306, fo. 53.
  • n24. Ibid., fo. 40.
  • n25. At the northern end of the premises it must have been nearer 35 feet (see p. 86).
  • n26. P.R.O., Works, 6/35, pp. 522–523.
  • n27. It is shown without the addition in Tallis's Street View reproduced on p. 79.
  • n28. "It being intimated to the Board that Mr. Nathaniel Law, Linen Draper, who Occupies one of the New Houses Erected on Ground belonging to this Commission on the West side of the Street leading from Charing Cross towards Whitehall, had put up a Sign at his said House, which Projects from the Front thereof into the said Street: Ordered That Mr. Seddon do acquaint the said Mr. Law that this Commission have Resolved not to permit any Tenants who hold under Leases from them to Fix up any Signs in any other manner, than such as shall be Fixed Close to and flat against the Front Walls of their Houses, And that they expect the said Mr. Law to Conform to that Rule" (P.R.O., Works, 6/35, p. 194, 22nd May, 1759).
  • n29. Combined with No. 42.
  • n30. Sir James Nicoll McAdam, son of John Loudon McAdam, the "macadamiser" of roads, was born in 1786, and was knighted in 1834. He was chief trustee and surveyor of the metropolitan turnpike roads. He died in 1852.
  • n31. It is referred to in a deed of 1784 relating to the property on the site of Kirke House (immediately to the north), which is said to be bounded on the south by "A Messuage … in the occupation of Mrs. Wright, commonly called … the Salopian Coffee house" (Middx. Register, 1785, I, 207). The ratebooks show "Ann Wright" at No. 42.
  • n32. Samuel Smiles, Life of Thomas Telford (1867), p. 302. Smiles identifies the Salopian with The Ship Hotel, which is a mistake. The Ship was at No. 45.
  • n33. Reproduced here.