Northumberland Street

Pages 21-26

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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The buildings now standing in Northumberland Street have all been erected since 1850, but the street itself, which was renamed in 1760, is on the site of Hartshorn (or Christopher) Lane, and was certainly in existence in the time of Elizabeth and probably earlier. Although this street originally extended to the river, only the upper part of it now remains, and it is so narrow in comparison with its neighbours that it passes almost unnoticed, though the adjective "handsome" was applied to it in the eighteenth century.

In 1491 the Abbot of Westminster granted to Thomas Walker, citizen and grocer of London, and his son, Richard, two cottages and a waste piece of ground and a stable lying between the inn called "le Cristofer" on the east and four cottages of Thomas Walker on the west and abutting north on the street and south on another piece of ground belonging to Thomas Walker. (fn. 80) The ground granted contained 27 feet in width and 136 feet in depth. In 1516 Humfrey Cooke, who is described as a carpenter of the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, (fn. n1) and who seems to have become possessed of the rest of Walker's property in the neighbourhood, obtained a similar lease. (fn. 81) Included in the grant was a house called "a Gatehouse," which was probably the entrance to the alley leading to the river which later became Christopher or Hartshorn Lane.

Humfrey Cooke died in 1531 leaving his leasehold property to his daughter, "Christeane," and her husband, John Russell, and his freehold property in trust for the education of his younger children. (fn. 82) Soon after his death an action was brought in the Court of Chancery to ensure the rights of the minors to their property and in the petitioner's bill it is stated that Humfrey Cooke senior bought the "mesuage called the Cristofer, one Close, syx litill tenements and syx gardeyns in the parishe of Seynt Martyns in the Felds" from Robert Chesman of "Kentishe town" by indenture bearing date 4th December, 1514. (fn. 83)

The freehold of John Russell's property was sold (fn. 84) by the Abbey to the King in 1546 and purchased from the latter by Russell. Russell also became possessed of the Christopher, etc., in right of his wife, since her brother and sisters died young. In his will, (fn. 85) dated 19th December, 1564, Russell described himself as "Citizen and Carpenter of London dwelling in the parishe of St. Martin in the feilds, Maister Carpenter as well to the quenes matie as also hath ben to her moste deare father and brother the famous kinge Henrie the eighte and king Edward the sixte and also to the Late kinge Phillippe and quene marie." He left to his "wellbeloved wief" his "best Antique cuppe with a Cover of silver all gilte, sixte gilte sponnes, sixe Apostles spones, the beste Featherbedde and bedstede, the beste twoe Pillowes, the beste boulster, the beste paire of blancketts, twoe paire of the beste sheetes wth the beste Coverlett and beste Curtynes to the same … and … the Inne of myne called the Christofer with the foure tenements to the same belonginge and one tenemente wth one Gatehowse there whiche I purchased of the Kinge Henrie theighte." (fn. n2)

The whole property descended through John's son, Francis, to his grandson, also named John. In 1586 the latter had granted a lease to William Penfold and Alice, his wife, of "all those twoe mesuages … nowe standinge … uppon the Wharffe called Penfolds Wharffe otherwyse called Russells Wharffe and sometymes called Stowes Wharffe … and nowe in the tenures … of the said William Penfolde and of one Edward Jenyng and John Slanye. And also all the said Wharffe … beinge … betwene the Waye … leading from the mesuage … nowe in the occupacion of Oswell Wowyn Sadler (fn. n3) to the Thamys on the one syde and the garden nowe in the occupacion of master Cooke and the waye parcell of the said Wharffe latelye demysed to master Colshull deceased and nowe in the occupacion of the saide master Cooke on the other syde And the lyttle garden latelye made over the Sewer or ditche by Roberte Brett, and the yarde or waie leadinge to certaine newe stables latelye buylt by John Trott deceased nowe in the occupacion of Oswell Wowyn abuttinge on the upper ende towarde the streate there And the Thamys adioyninge to the other ende of the premysses towards the southeste parte And also the Cartewaye footewaye and passage leadinge from the saide wharffe to the highe streate … And also free way … to passe … in and oute at the great gate nexte the streate and the myddle gate at all … tymes." (fn. 86) (fn. n4) In addition to this property John Russell held five tenements in the Strand, the Christopher, then in the tenure of Daniel Dunster, and a brewhouse on the west side of the lane in the tenure of Robert Langley. (fn. 90)

In 1613, Michael Apsley, brother-in-law and heir of John Russell, granted (fn. 91) his ground at the southern end of the lane "called Christofer lane and now called hartshorne lane" to the Earl of Northampton, who enclosed some of it within his garden and bequeathed the rest to the Wardens of Trinity Hospital, Greenwich, in whose possession it remained until it was leased by them to the Earl of Northumberland in 1759. (fn. 68) The extent of the property at that date is shown on the plan reproduced here. The Duke of Northumberland purchased the freehold in 1821 by authority of the Act 1 and 2 Geo. IV cap. 39.

Figure 5:

Plan of Northumberland House and of the Trinity Hospital property leased to the Earl of Northumberland in 1759

Michael Apsley died in 1618 leaving (fn. 92) all his freehold property, including the northern part of Hartshorn Lane, to Edward Apsley, son and heir of Sir Edward Apsley of Thakeham, Sussex. Edward Apsley, junior, under the title of "Colonel" was in 1644 commissioned to raise a parliamentary army in Sussex. (fn. 93) He roused the indignation of the parishioners of St. Martin-in-the-Fields by stopping the Hartshorn Lane sewer, which he was afterwards forced to reopen (see p. 25). He died in 1651 leaving (fn. 94) his property to his nephew, Edward Fenwick (then a minor), son of his brother-in-law, George. (fn. n5) There is a note on the will that "the Leases concerning my howses in Harthorne Lane are at Mr. Hougor a Grocer his shopp is at the topp of the lane."


All of Apsley's property in Hartshorn Lane was acquired by trustees of the Earl of Northumberland circa 1660. (fn. n6) The Earl used part of the ground on the west side of the way adjoining the wall of Northumberland House for a coalyard, but granted leases of the remainder to Edward Boggas, who in turn leased it to Craven Howard and Hugh Marchant for use in connection with Marchant's waterworks. (fn. 95) The ground on the east side of the lane was in 1666 sold to John Breedon. (fn. 96) In 1703 Breedon's heirs sold it to Francis Tuckwell, "Cittizen and Fishmonger of London." (fn. 97) There were then two houses facing the Strand, one being in the tenure of William Spring, goldsmith, (fn. n7) and twenty houses on the east side of Hartshorn Lane, of which one was a brewhouse "in the tenure of Robert Breedon the elder, Brewer." (fn. n8)

In 1720 Strype described Hartshorn Lane as "a Place much clogged and pestered with Carts repairing to the Wharfs; and therefore not well inhabited. On the East Side is Plough Court (leading into Spur Alley) which is but small; and lower down is a Place called the Limewharf [shown in the reproduction of part of Morden and Lea's map, p. 27] a Place indifferent well built."

Hugh, Earl of Northumberland, who carried out extensive alterations and repairs at Northumberland House (see p. 15) bought up as much of the surrounding property as he could in order to improve the amenities of his house. As stated above he obtained a lease of the Trinity Hospital property on both sides of Hartshorn Lane in 1759, and he seems at once to have set about rebuilding the houses thereon. The street was renamed in his honour and it is described by Dodsley in 1761 as "a handsome street now building in the Strand, by Northumberland House, down to the Thames, the houses in Hartshorn alley being pulled down for that purpose." (fn. 73) Most of the rebuilding seems to have been carried out by John Lambert, "carpenter," who was granted building leases of the property. (fn. 99) Several of the houses at the northern end of the street were also rebuilt about this date.


Views of houses in Northumberland Street in 1874 are given on Plates 13 and 14. The whole of the southern end was swept away in connection with the formation of Northumberland Avenue.

The Hartshorn Lane Sewer.

In the early part of Charles I's reign a considerable amount of building was going on in the neighbourhood of St. Martin's Lane and Covent Garden, in spite of proclamations to the contrary. Prior to this time the sewage of the district had gone into the open ditch and so been carried above ground to the Thames near Scotland Yard. With the increase in the number of houses the "annoyance" became so great that the owners of the ground were forced to take action. On 9th December, 1634, the Privy Council ordered (fn. 93) that the Earls of Bedford, Salisbury, Suffolk and Leicester, "and other persons interested in the passage of water intended to be carried through a great sewer by Hartshorn Lane, are to treat with the inhabitants dwelling near the place where the sewer is to pass, and if they cannot make a reasonable accord with them, they are to attend the referees who are to make a final agreement." The sewer, which extended down St. Martin's Lane and Hartshorn Lane to the river, was duly constructed, but in November, 1655, several inhabitants of the parish complained to the Protector that Colonel Apsley had stopped the sewer nine or ten years previously "which caused the water to break out in our houses and two children's lives were lost." The sewer had been reopened by the order of the Commissioners of Sewers, but Colonel Fenwick, "the present owner of the soil," threatened again to stop it. (fn. 15) In 1663 Sir Thomas Hesilrige and Henry Shelley (the Earl of Northumberland's trustees) tried to turn the tables on the Commissioners by complaining that the enlargement of the sewer in Hartshorn Lane had weakened "the foundacions of their seaverall houses," but their case was dismissed on a technical point and the sewer remained. (fn. 100) It next comes into notice in 1694, when Craven Howard, Hugh Marchant and others petitioned the Commissioners for "an Order for breaking open a certain Sewer in St. Martin's Lane and Harthorne Lane, and for laying of truncks and pipes in the bottom of the same sewer, for conveying of the Sewer water and other water to and from the Overshott mills for raiseing of Thames Water for the better supplying of the Liberty of Westminster and places adjacent with Thames Water" in accordance with a concession made to them by letters patent dated 8th May, 1694. In return for the use of the power provided by the sewer water the petitioners promised to repair and maintain the sewer. Sir Christopher Wren and Richard Rider reported favourably on the project, and a formal agreement was made. Craven Howard and Hugh Marchant had already obtained leases of the greater part of the strip of ground between Northumberland Garden and the site of Northumberland Court on the west and Hartshorn Lane on the east, and on part of this ground the mill was erected. (fn. 99) Apparently the scheme worked satisfactorily for a time, but it was never very successful and probably ceased to be profitable after the establishment of the Chelsea Waterworks in 1722.

In July, 1775, Peter Valleton and "others Inhabitants of the Strand by Charing Cross" petitioned the Commissioners that the sewers in the Strand might be cleansed, " The Stoppage of which they Apprehended was Occasioned by the Dams made by the Proprietors of the mills in Northumberland Street in order to work the said mills by which means the Water forced itself into their Vaults and Kitchens." (fn. 100) The sewer was inspected and it was found "that the Bottom and Springing Walls of the said Sewer were in some places wash'd away by the Water falling over … the said Dams." Susannah Vickery informed the court that "she was Lessee of the Water Mill … from Mr. Royston and had Granted a Lease thereof to one John Allen a Starchmaker at Lambeth" and the latter was therefore ordered to remove the dams and make good the sewer. Nothing effective was done, and in August, 1776, the inhabitants again complained that the lower parts of their houses were "oftentimes 3 or 4 feet deep in water." Upon enquiry it was found that the sewer water had "not been used for several years past for the Original purpose of supplying the Inhabitants with water by means of the said Water Works but that the Proprietors make use of the said Sewer Water for no other purpose than to turn a Corn Mill." The Commissioners ordered an accurate plan of the sewer to be made, part of which is reproduced below, and after considerable litigation the patent of Marchant's Waterworks was repealed by Order in Council of 16th June, 1779. (fn. 100)

Figure 6:

Plan of Hartshorn Lane Sewer.

Copied from a plan in the possession of the Council


  • n1. He was also the keeper of Durham Place (see p. 87).
  • n2. Russell also left "a garden plotte lyinge in the saide parishe of Saincte Martyns lyinge nexte the Erle of Bedfords stable." C. L. Kingsford had not seen the other deeds relating to the Christopher when he wrote Piccadilly, Leicester Square and Soho, which contains much valuable topographical information concerning this neighbourhood; he therefore assumed that the boundary last given applied to the whole property and stated that the Christopher was on the east side of St. Martin's Lane.
  • n3. "Oswell Wowyn" had a lease of part of the Brewhouse property (in Spur Alley) from Thomas Wilson (see p. 28).
  • n4. This deed of 1586 contains the first reference that has been found to an actual thoroughfare from the Strand to the river at this point, though the lane may have been in existence some years previously. The date at which the lane was formed is of some interest in connection with Fuller's statement about Ben Jonson, who, it is conjectured, was born in 1573. "Though I cannot with all my industrious inquiry find him in his cradle, I can fetch him from his long coats. When a little child he lived in Hartshorn-lane near Charing-cross, where his Mother married a bricklayer for her second husband." Several of Jonson's biographers have suggested that the "bricklayer" was the "Mr. Tho. Fowler," Comptroller of the Works, who married Mistress Margareta Johnson at the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in November, 1575. This conjecture may represent the truth, but there are three facts which render it doubtful: (i) Mrs. Margaret Fowler was buried in 1590, yet in Ben Jonson's Conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden it is stated that at a feast which took place some years after that date Jonson's "old Mother dranke to him"; (ii) Thomas Fowler makes no mention of Ben in his will which was proved on 14th February, 1595–6; (iii) Thomas Fowler's house, which was afterwards in the occupation of Sir Thomas Lake, can be traced in the ratebooks and overseers' accounts. These show that it was situated not in Hartshorn Lane, but on the north side of the Strand and on the west side of Sir William Hewet's house (afterwards Hewet's Court, west of Bedford Street, see p. 128).
  • n5. Letters of administration were granted to Sir Arthur Hesilrige. There had apparently been an attempt to deprive Fenwick of his inheritance for a "pretended Will or scrowle exhibited … on the part … of Sr. Allen Apsley, William Newton and John Pay" and registered in the Canterbury Court in 1651 was declared null and void.
  • n6. No record has been found of the transaction by which this was accomplished.
  • n7. At the sign of the Golden Cup. This was No. 6, Strand, which in 1784 was in the tenure of Robert Williams, "goldsmith, jeweller, watch-maker and hardware man." The premises are used as a jeweller's shop at the present day.
  • n8. Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, whose murder in 1678 was the cause of political repercussions which continued for several years, occupied a house and wharf at the end of Hartshorn Lane on the east side from 1672 up to the time of his death. In partnership with James Harrison, who married his sister, Godfrey had formerly carried on his timber-merchant's business in Greenes Lane near by, where he took a house in 1659. He gave up this establishment in 1668, when he went on a visit to France. At an enquiry held five years after Godfrey's murder, a certain Mary Gibbon gave evidence that Mrs. Jane Harrison had invited her to Hartshorn Lane to see the corpse three or four days after it was found.
  • 15. P.R.O., E. 315/104, f. 150.
  • 39. The London Goldsmiths, Ambrose Heal.
  • 68. L.C.C., Deeds of Northumberland House.
  • 73. London and its Environs, R. and J. Dodsley, Vol. V.
  • 80. Westm. Abbey Muniments, 17177.
  • 81. Ibid., 17188.
  • 82. P.C.C., 5 Thower.
  • 83. P.R.O., C. 1/616/17.
  • 84. P.R.O., E. 315/333 f. 55.
  • 85. P.C.C., 21 Crymes.
  • 86. P.R.O., C. 54/1245.
  • 87. Fuller, Worthies, ed. Nuthall, II, p. 224.
  • 88. Registers of St. Martin in the Fields, 1550–1619, Harleian Soc.
  • 89. P.C.C., 8 Drake.
  • 90. P.C.C., 9 Rutland.
  • 91. P.R.O., C. 54/2168, no. 31.
  • 92. P.C.C., 123 Meade.
  • 93. Cal. of S.P.Dom.
  • 94. P.C.C., 215 Bowyer.
  • 95. Middx. Register, 1733, IV, 68.
  • 96. P.R.O., C.P. 25 (2) 690 Mich., 18 Chas. II.
  • 97. P.R.O., C. 54/4915/7.
  • 98. Ratebooks of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
  • 99. Middx. Registers.
  • 100. Westm. Comm. of Sewers. Orders of Smyth. Court [L.C.C. Records].