Survey of London: Volume 18, St Martin-in-The-Fields II: the Strand. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1937.
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CHAPTER 1: THE CHAPEL AND HOSPITAL OF ST. MARY ROUNCEVAL AT CHARING CROSS
On the Thursday before the feast of St. Luke (18th October), 1236, "Gilbert, the Marshal of England, Earl of Pembroke" dated a charter (fn. 1) from "London, in the house of the hospital of Runchivalle." This is the earliest reference to the foundation at Charing Cross which has come to light. It had probably been formed only a year or two before, for there is no suggestion of its existence in Henry III's confirmation (in 1232) (fn. 2) of the grant by William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, of certain houses and curtilages at Charing to the Augustinian house of St. Mary at Roncevaux in the Pyrenees. (fn. n1) The community at Charing consisted originally of a prior and brethren who were subject to the rule of the mother house, and who seem in many cases to have been aliens themselves. Most of the references to the hospital in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries are in connection with the appointment of attorneys or proctors to take control during the absence of the prior from England. Thus in 1292, the prior nominated (fn. 4) William de Cestre and Peter Arnaldi de Sancto Michaele as his attorneys during a five years' absence. A fair sample of the difficulties which arose from this system is set out in a Writ of Aid (fn. 4) granted in 1321 to "William Roberti, canon of the hospital of St. Mary, Rouncevall, appointed proctor in England of that hospital for the recovery of their lands and rents, as it appears that upon the death of John de Rouncevall, their late proctor, not being aware of his death they did not appoint a new proctor, wars and other impediments hindering them, so that their lands and rents were taken by divers men."
In 1379, in accordance with the statute dated at Gloucester, "for the forfeiture of the lands of schismatic aliens" the chapel and lands of St. Mary Rounceval were seized into the King's hands. Three years later their custody was granted (fn. 4) to Nicholas Slake, "King's clerk," for his life. In the same year Slake obtained powers "to arrest and bring before the king and council all persons whom he should prove to have collected alms in the realm as proctors of the hospital and converted the same to their own use." In the following year the prior of Rounceval brought an action (fn. 5) in the King's court to regain possession and won his suit, but it is probable that he never regained full control over the community, for in 1390 the King's clerk, John Hadham, was granted (fn. 4) the wardenship of the hospital, and he was succeeded (fn. 4) in 1396 by John Newerk. In 1408–9 the prior brought a lawsuit (fn. 5) against John Newerk for having broken into the prior's houses and removed a sealed chest worth 20s. which contained the muniments of the house. Once again the case was decided in the prior's favour, but in 1414 Henry V ordered the final suppression of the remaining alien priories and from this time the mother house lost control of the foundation at Charing Cross, although by a special licence (fn. 4) from the King, dated 1432, the master of the English house was allowed to receive "bulls and other letters of indulgences, pardons and other things for the profit and advantage of the chapel or hospital from the prior and convent of Roncidevall in Navarre," and he was allowed to send 10 marks a year for the support of the mother house.
Meanwhile the house at Charing Cross was suffering from lack of money. In 1423 the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a verdict (fn. 1) against the chapel in a dispute with the vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, who complained that the master and brethren had been defrauding him of some of his parochial dues under pretext of certain forged papal letters. This attempt to get funds having failed, the master of the chapel, in the same year, obtained (fn. 1) a relaxation from the Pope of "one year and forty days of enjoined penance" to penitents who, during a certain period, should "visit and give alms for the sustentation and repair of the chapel of the poor hospital of St. Mary the Virgin, Rouncevall in the diocese of London, whose buildings are in need of no small repair." Chaucer's "gentil Pardoner of Rouncival … that streight was comen from the court of Rome," did not lack successors. (fn. n2)
In 1475 the King granted licence (fn. 4) for the foundation of "a fraternity or perpetual gild of a master and two wardens and the brethren and sisters who may wish to be of the same in the chapel of St. Mary, Rounsidevall, by Charyngcrosse." Three years later the "custody, advowson and patronage" of the "chapel or hospital" and "all lands, profits, oblations, rights and commodities belonging to it" were granted (fn. 4) to the fraternity for the sustenance of the chaplain and of "two other chaplains celebrating divine service, and of the poor people flocking to the hospital." The gild remained in possession until their final surrender to Henry VIII in 1544. (fn. n3)
A few of the yearly accounts of the gild in the time of Henry VIII have survived. (fn. 6) These record inter alia payments for "Castying a way of the myre and dyrt owte of the high way"; "Seyllyng of our ladies grete Chamber"; "Rewgh Castyng of the Bartilmentes of the Chapell"; mending "the pewes in the chapell'"; "mendyng of the grete Antiphon' that lieth in the Quere"; "mendyng of the velvett Bonett for our lorde"; (to Ric' White Glasyer) "mendyng of the Chambre Wyndowes and of the Chapell' wyndowes"; "a newe bell' rope for the grete bell' in the steple"; "Reparacions don' apon' the Wall' yt goith from the chapell' dore to the gate"; "Repayryng of our lady Wharffe." The almshouse building does not seem to have been repaired or redecorated during the periods covered by the accounts. Later documents give the information that it measured 80 feet by 23 feet, and it probably contained at least nine beds, since there is a record of a payment "for lynyng' of ix coverletts for the Almes beddes." There are also payments for "naylles for to mend iii beddes in the Almonse house"; for "threde for turnyng' and mendyng' of the sheitts"; for straw "for the Almes beddes," and for "a newe Buckyng tubb'" (for boiling linen). The allowance per patient was 1d. a day and this seems to have covered the cost of food and of any medical aid that was given. Few of the patients seem to have spent more than three or four days in the almshouse, and against many of their names is the entry "died." (fn. n4)
In 1529 Henry VIII took possession of York Place (afterwards known as Whitehall Palace) (fn. 9) and soon after began extensive building operations there. In 1531 he bought up the houses along the street frontage as far as Rounceval, but not content with these he seems also to have taken over some of the actual Rounceval property, including the almshouse building. Among the payments for the "King's Manor of Westminster" (fn. 10) in 1531–2 are "for two pounde of Frankensence delyvered at Rouncyvalle for Eyring of the Almonshouse there wherein the workemen be paied," and "for one paire hengies [hinges] and hokes sette upon the payehouse Dore at Rouncyvale." As was his custom Henry VIII legalised matters later by Act of Parliament. In 1536 (fn. 11) he obtained authority to purchase from "John Henbury, Maister of the Hospytall of our Lady of Rounsidevall', Willyam Jenyns and Thruston Mayer Wardeyns of the same Hospitall' iij tenements and a wharf wyth thappurtenances lying in the parisshe of Seynt Margarett," (fn. n5) but he had apparently no permanent use for this property for three years later he leased (fn. 12) it to John Rede under the description of "unum tenementum cum uno le Wharff in tenura dicti Johannis Rede scituatum … apud Runsivall' … necnon unum tenementum … ibidem in tenura Ricardi Harryson et unum aliud tenementum … vocatum le plumerye alias le Almessehowse ibidem." (fn. n6)
Burials took place in the chapel at least until the end of 1541, but it had then begun to be dismantled. In 1541–2 "our Lady Tabernakill" was taken down and set up in St. Margaret's Church. (fn. 13) Two years later the final surrender took place. (fn. 14) In the following year the King resumed (fn. 15) the properties in lease to Rede and handed the whole over to Sir Thomas Cawarden, one of the "Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber." Cawarden obtained a formal grant in 1550 (see Appendix A) and seems to have disposed of it almost at once to John Rede. (fn. n7)
From the descriptions given in the deeds and from later plans the extent of the Rounceval property can be roughly determined. Its street frontage extended northward from and including No. 8, Charing Cross (fn. 17) to approximately the centre of Northumberland Avenue. We know from the accounts that there was a "great gate" to the street and that the churchyard, which contained a rood and a half of ground, was surrounded by a lime-washed mud wall. The churchyard and chapel were certainly at the northern end of the property, though it is probable that the chapel did not abut directly on the street. (fn. n8) The rest of the ground extended in a south-easterly direction towards the river behind the sites of Nos. 1–15, Whitehall and of the Hermitage (now Craig's Court). The greater part of this ground was, at the time of the surrender, let out in gardens or allotments (see Appendix A). A wharf gave access to the river. There is no evidence by which the exact position of the almshouse can be determined, but it probably adjoined the royal property or it would not have been commandeered for use in connection with the King's works. (fn. n9)
John Rede adapted the chapel and "great chamber," which seems to have adjoined the chapel, for a residence. His will, (fn. 18) dated 1557, shows that he had divided the chapel into three storeys with three or four rooms in each. He had also built five tenements to the east of his own house. His nephew and heir, Robert "Reade," who died in 1567, made further additions to the main building. (fn. 19) He left his property to his wife, Elizabeth, who subsequently married a near neighbour, John Hill. (fn. 20) She died in 1577, as did her eldest son, John Rede. The Rounceval property passed intact to John's younger brother, Robert. None of it seems to have been sold outright until 1605, when Sir Francis Fane and Sir George Fane bought (fn. 21) from Robert Reade 10 messuages and three gardens. The purchase was probably made as a marriage portion for their sister, Frances, who, about this time, became the wife of Sir Robert Brett, Gentleman Usher of the Privy Chamber and King's Sergeant. Brett is first shown as the occupier of a house by Charing Cross in the ratebook for 1604. His son was christened there in December, 1607, when Prince Henry, who was himself only 13 years old, stood godfather and gave his name to the child. (fn. 22)
In 1612 Brett brought an action in the Court of Exchequer (fn. 23) against Gabriel Brewer concerning a small piece of ground and a building adjoining both their houses, in the course of which Brett stated that he then had in his possession all the Rounceval property granted to Cawarden "except certaine parcells thereof inclosed within the house and garden of Henry, Earl of Northampton." In the following year Brett sold (fn. 24) his house to Northampton together with ten messuages "neare Charing Crosse." (fn. n10)
Some kind of subsidiary agreement must have followed this sale, for not only did Brett continue to live in his house, but he bequeathed a leasehold interest therein to his wife. (fn. n11) Brett's will, which dated 23rd August, 1620, (fn. 25) transferred all his freehold property to his executors, Sir Humphrey Lynde and John Baron, and subsequent transactions show that this included three messuages on the west side of Northumberland House which had apparently been reserved out of the sale to Northampton. These houses were on the site of those known at the beginning of the nineteenth century as Nos. 1–3, Charing Cross. Their later history is detailed below (pp. 8, 9).
Before his death the Earl of Northampton founded a hospital at Greenwich for 13 poor men of East Greenwich and 8 poor men of Shottisham, Norfolk, his birthplace. By his will, dated 14th June, 1614, (fn. 26) the Earl endowed this hospital with inter alia "the messuages and gardens in Saint Martyns parishe in the feildes which I latelie purchased from (fn. n12) Robert Brett, Michaell Appesley and Sir Edward Mountague." The change of ownership made little difference to the tenants of the property. Their names can be traced in the ratebooks. Sir Robert Brett's young widow, Anne, continued to live in the largest house. In 1623 she married Sir Francis Cottington, afterwards Baron Cottington, and his name is shown in the ratebooks until 1634, when his wife died. The "earl of Cleaveland" was rated for the house from 1635 to 1638, and "Lord William Hamilton, Earle of Leverick" (Lanark) in 1640 and 1641.
In 1643 when Sir Roger Palmer was assessed by the Committee for the Advance of Money for delinquency he was described as of "The Strand, Charing Cross." His name does not appear in the ratebooks, but it seems probable that he lived either in Brett's house or in one adjacent thereto, and that he was responsible for the formation of Angel Court. He died in 1657 leaving (fn. 28) all his property to his brother, Sir James Palmer, and in the following year the latter died, having bequeathed (fn. 29) to his son Philip Palmer "all those Houses in Angell Court neere Charing Cross in the tenure … of John Robinson, Mr. Wingfeild, Widdow Heale, — Smith, Mary Juet, widdow, Gregory Ellis a Cooke liveth in a house there where a Tayler liveth, Tong's House, Widdow Strickson's house, Mrs. Barnes House, Thomas Parker's house and Cotton's house with the great house let to Nathaniel Impes for certaine yeares to come." Angel Court is first shown in the ratebooks in 1648, but it may have been formed some years previously. It probably took its name from the "tenement near Charing Cross called the Angel," which Robert Reade let to John Pemmerton circa 1580, (fn. 30) and which in 1583 was stated to have been divided into "divers tenements." (fn. 31)
Lionel Empes was rated for houses in Angel Court from 1657 until 1698. (fn. n13) His house was frequently hired for the use of foreign ambassadors or visitors to the Court as, e.g., in 1682 when the ambassador from "the King of Bantam" was accommodated there. (fn. 34) Empes' widow, Frances, continued to live there until her death in 1712.
Philip Palmer transferred his rights in the property to his brother, Roger, who was created Earl of Castlemaine in 1661. In 1666 and 1667 Castlemaine petitioned (fn. 35) for the King's help in obtaining a renewal of his lease from the Mercers' Company, who held the freehold in trust for the Hospital of Holy Trinity, Greenwich. (fn. n14) He stated that the Company was asking for a fine of £1,800 for the lease, which it valued "in proportion to the great rise of rents since the fire of London, but which are now diminishing." The report on the first petition stated that "the houses are all paper buildings and very slight and old." The original lease did not expire until after 1670 when Castlemaine was still treating for its renewal.
In 1677 Castlemaine was accused by Titus Oates of being a Jesuit. A search was made for him, but the Serjeant-at-Arms reported to the House of Lords that he "could not find Lord Castlemaine, but that his Deputies had found two altars and several large books at his lodgings at Charing Cross." (fn. 36) Castlemaine was tried before the House in 1680, for complicity in the so-called Meal-Tub Plot, but was acquitted. He died in 1705. His lease of the Charing Cross property seems to have expired circa 1695, in which year Samuel Prior, who is stated in a later deed to have obtained a lease of the premises from "the Warden and Poor Men of the Hospitall of the Holy Trinity," (fn. 37) moved from the tavern on the opposite side of Whitehall to one of the Angel Court houses. (fn. n15) Prior died in 1705 and his widow, Mary, soon after married Thomas Johnson, who proceeded to pull down and rebuild the houses on the street frontage and those in Angel Court which subsequently became known as Johnson's Court. He mortgaged the property in August, 1717, (fn. 38) when it was described as "Six New erected brick messuages … fronting the Street called Charing Cross … now or late in the Severall Tenures of — Portal, Widow Cressett, Andrew Drummond, (fn. n16) Cecill Wray, Henry Warcopp and — Beck. And all those Two Severall Messuages … in the yard belonging to the Mansion house heretofore in the Tenure of … Lionell Empes … wherein One Sir Robert Brett formerly dwelt on the ground upon which the said Mansion house formerly stood and other ground thereto adjoining and in the roome of other late old messuages … there are built the said Two severall messuages or Tenements … together with the ground belonging to the said Mansion house ranging with the wall of the garden belonging to Northumberland house and extending to Scotland Yard And One Messuage … adjoining to a Tower of Northumberland House And also all those severall Messuages in a Court there on the backside of the said Front houses called … Angell Court now or late in the severall Tenures … of John Spaune, Widow Worcester, Widow Bland, Francis Barry, John Tounshend and David Walker and the ground … of the said Court." Thomas Johnson died (fn. 41) in 1719 and the property passed to his son, Thomas, who died in 1732 leaving (fn. 42) his interest therein to Andrew Drummond and John Goodchild as trustees for his mother, Margaret, then the wife of John Raspin. In 1751–53 the Earl of Northumberland bought (fn. 43) the tenant rights in a small portion of Johnson's Court for the erection of a gallery (see p. 15). His son obtained a lease of this ground from "the Warden and Poor Men of the Hospital" in 1812 (fn. 44) with an additional strip of the court which he used for an area. The freehold of this property was sold to the Duke of Northumberland in 1821 under powers obtained by Act of Parliament. (fn. 45) In 1789 a fresh lease of the remainder of Johnson's Court together with the six front houses was granted (fn. 44) to Francis Watkins, optician, who was also in possession of property on the west side of the street. (fn. 17) In 1782 Watkins granted a sub-lease to James Booth of part of Johnson's Court which was for a time known as Booth's Buildings. (fn. 46) (fn. n17) The houses there were rebuilt circa 1812 when the court was renamed Trinity Place and a lease of it was granted to Louis Mitchell. (fn. 44) The front houses, then numbered 4–8, Charing Cross, were leased to separate tenants in the nineteenth century. The whole of the Trinity Hospital property on the west side of Northumberland House, with the exception of a strip of ground at the back of Craig's Court which had been sold to the Earl of Harrington in 1871, (fn. 47) was purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works on 13th April, 1876, and was utilised in connection with the formation of Northumberland Avenue. The present Nos. 1–8, Charing Cross, Nos. 1–6, Northumberland Avenue, and part of the roadway now occupy the site.
The former Nos. 1–3, Whitehall.—In 1629 Sir Humphrey Lynde sold (fn. 48) to Thomas Grinsell three messuages in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields with warranty against the heirs of Sir Robert Brett. Thomas Grinsell was the brother-in-law of Isaac Walton whom in 1645 he made a trustee with Henry Brown of "his freehold messuages … neere Charringe Crosse" for such persons as he should afterwards appoint. (fn. 49) Grinsell died a few months later leaving his wife, Anne, as his residuary legatee. In the will of the latter, dated 17th November, 1647, (fn. 49) the three messuages are described as: "That howse neere unto the great messuage called Suffolke, Northampton or Northumberland howse and neerest unto Whitehall late in the tenure … of … Richard Smith and Thomas Smith or one of them And nowe in the tenure … of Charles Titford Victualler … one other of the said howses … situate on the other side of the howse called the Chaireinge Crosse Taverne and beinge next and adjoyninge to … Northumberland howse. … And nowe in the tenure of John Hardinge, Sadler … and … my Third Howse … commonlie called by the name … of the Chairinge Crosse in the Strande nowe or late in the tenure … of William Bestwick, Vintner And alsoe the shopp or shopps thereunto … formerly or nowe belonging … one whereof is nowe or latelie was in the tenure of Robert Edmunds, And the other beinge a little Shoppe is adjoyninge to it on the West Side thereof." The last-mentioned house (on the site of the later No. 2, Whitehall) became the property of Anne's daughter Jeane, who later married Thomas Hanwell. In 1679 Bernard Underwood, who had bought the house from Jeane's son, Thomas, (fn. 50) sold (fn. 51) the premises to Thomas Pargiter under the description of "All that messuage … heretofore called … the Kingshead Taverne and lately … the Crowne Taverne Situate … neere a place where Chering cross formerly stood … between the messuage … in the occupacion of John Maydman on the East part and the messuage … of Mary Dew on the West part … together with all Shopps cellers … and appurtenances … which said premisses … now are in the occupacion of Charles Rogers, Watchmaker."
The house on the site of the later No. I, Whitehall was bought by the Duke of Somerset in 1742–3 (fn. 52) in order that he might repair the north-west turret of Northumberland House (see p. 13), but the property must have been re-sold, for in 1777 the freehold was purchased from Henry Williams by Thomas Noble, silversmith. (fn. 53) The sites of these three houses were thrown into the roadway when Northumberland Avenue was formed.