Duke Street

Pages 77-79

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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Date and Description.

Only three seventeenth-century houses remain in Duke Street, namely Nos. 2, 3 and 4, but of these No. 2 has retained more of its original features than most of the premises on the York House estate. It now has a cement exterior, but it is probable that it formerly had a brick front with gauged work to the arches and quoins. The entrance doorway has a pedimented Ionic doorcase executed in wood (Plate 55). The staircase, which is of substantial construction, has stout turned balusters to the basement flight, while the main flights up to the top floor have spiral balusters, square newels with carved pendants, and a heavy handrail with the moulding forming a capping to the newels. The staircase walls have a bolection moulded dado (Plate 54). Some of the rooms retain their original bolection moulded panelling and deep cornice. The cornice to the back room on the ground floor has an unusual lozenge decoration to the corona member and an extradeep bed moulding. The architraves to the doors in the back room on the first floor are enriched with carved acanthus leaf and some of the other doors have the moulded architraves, typical of the late seventeenth century (Plate53c ). The front room on the ground floor has a statuary and brocatella marble mantelpiece with detached Ionic columns supporting the shelf (Plate 52b).

Figure 18:

Plans of No. 2, Duke Street

The interior of No. 3 contains no features of architectural interest. No. 4, like No. 2, has a cement front. The stairs have close strings, square newels, turned balusters and dado panelling, while the hall has some bolection moulded panelling and a semicircular arched screen with panelled pilasters.

State of Repair.


Ground Landlords.

No. 2—J. A. Phillips; Nos. 3 and 4—A. G. Towell.

Historical Notes.

A list of the occupants of Nos. 2, 3 and 4, Duke Street, is given in Appendix B.

No. 2.—The plot of ground on which this house was erected was sold on 1st June, 1676, (fn. 252) and in 1678–81 the house was in the occupation of Edward Christian, who built several houses on the York House estate. Richard Campion, one of the original mortgagees of the estate and the builder of some of the houses there, was in possession in 1691–1707. He is described in the deeds as a "carpenter." After his death his widow continued to occupy the house until 1725.

Figure 19:


Francesco Geminiani, the famous Italian violinist, lived at No. 2 in 1726–7. His pupil, Matthew Dubourg, performed in the "Great Room" in Villiers Street in 1721 (fn. n1), and it is probable that Geminiani himself appeared there on more than one occasion.

No. 2 seems to have been empty for six years after Geminiani left, but in 1733 it was taken by a distinguished soldier, William Barrell, who remained there until his death in 1749. Barrell had served under William III and Marlborough, and was granted the rank of colonel in 1707. He was appointed brigadier-general of the 28th Foot in 1727, and was afterwards removed to the King's Own. He was promoted major-general in 1735. He led his veterans in the Duke of Cumberland's army at Culloden Moor in 1746, where they seem to have done their fair share of the "butchery," for after the battle "there was not a bayonet of this regiment but was either bloody or bent." (fn. 254)

Figure 20:


Later residents at this house do not appear to have been of note.

No. 3.—This was one of the first houses to be erected on the York House estate, the sale of the "Ground and Messuage" being made in 1674, the purchasers being Charles Toll and Charles Morgan. (fn. 255) The house was not, however, entered in the ratebooks until 1678. Its occupant for the next ten years was Sir John Barkman Leyenbergh, the Swedish Resident. (fn. n2) Leyenbergh had previously lived in the Piazza, Covent Garden, where Pepys visited him on 21st January, 1666–7, (fn. 256) with Sir William Batten, and noted that he was "a cunning fellow" and his house "ill-furnished." Leyenbergh married Batten's widow in 1671. Pepys and Leyenbergh were on bad terms in 1670, perhaps over Batten's privateering accounts, for which the widow was responsible, and but for an order from the King Pepys would have challenged the envoy to a duel. The two men were, of course, near neighbours in York Buildings, and they seem then to have been on good terms, for in the Pepysian Library is a folio history of Sweden which Leyenbergh presented to Pepys in 1687 "in memory of twenty-six years of happy friendship." (fn. 257)

As stated above (p. 72) the Admiralty Office was at No. 3 from some time in 1689 until June, 1690, about the middle of which month the office was moved "to the late Lord Jeffreys' house in St. James's Park." (fn. 258)

From 1716 until 1741 a wine merchant, Charles White, whose name is frequently given in its French form "Le Blanc," was in occupation of the house.

No 4.—The freehold of the ground on which this house stands was purchased in 1675 by the governors of St. Margaret's Hospital, sometimes known as the Green Coat School or Hospital, Westminster, a foundation which in 1873 was incorporated with the United Westminster Schools Trust. (fn. 259)

The only famous resident at the house was the antiquary, Humfrey Wanley, who probably took possession towards the end of 1704, about the time at which he was appointed librarian to Sir Robert Harley (then living at No. 14, Buckingham Street, see p. 73). Wanley had been an assistant in the Bodleian Library. From March 1701–2 until 1708 he held the post of secretary to the S.P.C.K. He had helped Dr. George Hickes to compile a catalogue of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts which was published in 1705. It was Hickes who introduced Wanley to Harley with the recommendation that he had "the best skill in ancient hands and manuscripts of any man, not only of this … but of any former age." (fn. 119) Wanley's claim to same rests upon his catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts which, in the words of the preface, is a monument to "his extensive learning and the solidity of his judgment."


  • n1. "On Monday next will be perform'd a Consort [sic] of Vocal and Instrumental Music. The first Violin by Mr. Dubourg. Tickets at half-a-guinea each." In April, 1742, Geminiani gave a concert at the Haymarket which provoked from an admirer a verse ending with the admonition: "Britons, be just, and present worth allow What Orpheus was, Geminiani's now."
  • n2. There is a warrant among the Treasury records dated 23rd September, 1678, "to deliver, Customs free, to M. Leyonbergh, the Swedish Envoy, at his house in Duke Street within York Buildings, near the Strand, a trunk of his clothes."
  • 119. D.N.B.
  • 157. Cal. of Treas. Books.
  • 252. P.R.O., C. 54/4457/15.
  • 253. Daily Advertiser, 21st April, 1742.
  • 254. Historical Records of the British Army.
  • 255. P.R.O., C. 54/4413/11.
  • 256. Pepys' Diary.
  • 257. A. Bryant, Life of Pepys.
  • 258. Hist. MSS. Comm., S. H. Le Fleming.
  • 259. Endowed Charities (County of London), V, p. 309.