Kentish Town Road and Highgate Road, west side

Pages 52-59

Survey of London: Volume 19, the Parish of St Pancras Part 2: Old St Pancras and Kentish Town. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1938.

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Mr. King writes: After the destruction by Fire of the old Workhouse situate in the Back Road the Poor were removed to a House at the southern end of Water Lane which was a handsome brick edifice once the Mansion of a Gentleman, afterwards an inn, and ultimately the Parish Workhouse, being greatly delapidated a new workhouse was built in 1809. About 1825 on the same site the triangle forming the base thereof by the Hampstead and Kentish Town Roads was let on building leases, Union Terrace being the boundary. The Watch House, Cage, and the Stocks of the parish together with the Pound which stood at the Southern point of the Triangle.

No. 1. The Engine House, Prison Cage, Stocks and Pound occupied the Space where Brown's Diary is now situate, at the Back of which, No. 2, was old Pancras Workhouse and Chapel (3), which stood until it began to decay, when it was removed to its present site in the King's Road, Camden Town. Adjoining No. 4 is a Gate, now a private road on which are built 12 houses called Union Terrace, with a gate at each end.

Union Terrace is now called Dewsbury Terrace, a short thoroughfare connecting Kentish Town Road and Chalk Farm Road. Part of the site of the old workhouse was conveyed in 1778 to the Overseers by Susanne Comburne, for 99 years with a house called the Mother Black Caps or Halfway House. The remainder of the site, copyhold of Tottenhall, was given by General Fitzroy at the same time. A plan of it will be found at page 13 of The St. Pancras Poor (1905) by Walter E. Brown, together with an account of the various workhouses in the parish from 1718 to 1904. This workhouse was superseded by one opened in 1809 in King's Road, and the old premises were sold in 1817. Camden Town Tube station now occupies part of the site.

When St. Giles in the Fields was erected a line of road was formed from thence leading direct into Hampstead and ever since known as the Hampstead Road, passing the Britannia Tavern onwards, on the other side of the Halfway House called Mother Redcap was a very narrow lane leading into Kentish Town not passable either for Man or Beast in consequence of the frequent overflow of the River fleet which found its way thus connecting it with the flow of Water which continually passed at the back of the "Back Road" crossing Battle Bridge direct into the fleet ditch, hence then it derives its name as Water Lane, and continued to be so called until the present buildings were erected, then it was called "the Kentish Town Road."

A certain number of the early houses remain, e.g. Nos. 65 to 95, 101 to 107, and 119 to 131, but they are small and unimportant.

No. 5 a soap manufactory situate in the Hampstead Road [Chalk Farm Road] adjoining a Nursery Ground No. 6. The road from the Workhouse to the house Providence Place No. 7 was called Water Lane. The River Fleet winds its current at the back of the Castle Tea Gardens and crosses the Meadow No. 8, which passes into a connecting branch of the same River, and by a sharp angle turns under the Road, then crosses the fields opposite and directs its way past Battle Bridge onward to Bagnigge Wells [in King's Cross Road] till in its circuit it comes to the Fleet Ditch and deposits its sewage into the Thames at Blackfriers Bridge. The fleet ditch is an immence depot which used to be uncoverd and entirely open. After a time it was arched over to form a carriage road, in the center of which a double row of Stalls were erected for the sale of Animal food and vegetation, known as Fleet Market, but these have since been removed and a new Street formed called Farringdon Street, on the side of which is built a splendid market of a superior kind, but by no means a successful one. Barges and other Craft used in former days to come up as far as Holborn Bridge and there unload their cargoes.

The Regent's Canal was constructed across this land about 1819 and the North London Railway in 1850. The River Fleet crosses close to the railway and gave much trouble to the engineers when building the viaduct carrying the line to Camden Town station.

From No. 7 to No. 9 is called Providence place, known as the entrance of the Village, where stood as represe[n]ted six wooden Cottages, since pulled down and replaced with Brick fronts; the vacant frontage is now filled up by small Shops continuing to No. 10, on which spot a Splendid Gin Palace is erected in lieu of the Old Castle Tavern. Sold and all cleared away for improvements in 1849.

Providence Place was the name of the houses which fronted the high road from Clarence Road to Castle Road. From a lengthy and detailed inventory of the household goods of Mr. Samuel Hoggins, deceased, at his dwelling-house at the Castle, Kentish Town, taken 10–12th October, 1758, it is evident that the Castle was a spacious and well-appointed inn.

The residence No. 10 stands at a pleasant distance from the Road, near the Castle Inn, occupied by Mr. King, the father of the Artist who pens this Sketch. It was formerly the residence of William Suckling, esquire, Lord Nelson's uncle and was often visited by that great naval officer at intervals from public service, who took much pleasure in Horticulture, and planted several shrubs in the garden, also some extraordinary box trees, preserved with great care by Mr. King, who experienced much satisfaction in shewing them to his friends. At the back of his residence is Primrose Hill, a place of daily resort for its delightful prospect.

The cowlair No. 11 belonged to Farmer Mortimer [Richard Mortimer]. Some time after his death Sir Henry Hawley let it to Mr. King, which he converted into a beautiful lawn and in its arrangement spared no expence to render it truly picturesque. There was a stream called the River Fleet which meandered round his Garden, and when the Workmen were repairing the embankment they pitched upon an Anchor and part of a barge, which clearly proves that the river Fleet was once navigable.

On 13th May, 1815, Lewis William Buck of Duddon, Devon, esquire, Sir Henry Hawley of Leybourne, Kent, bart., and the Rev. Thomas Hoope Morrison of Yeovil, Devon, leased to Thomas King of Kentish Town, gentleman, a messuage in Kentish Town on the west side of the road from London to Hampstead, containing 1 r. 12p., and a plot adjoining the garden containing ¼ acre, for 19 years. (fn. 131) This is evidently the lease referred to by our Mr. King. The "Cow Lier" is numbered 133 on Thompson's map of 1804, and stated to contain 1 r. 20 p., belonging to Richard Mortimer and occupied by Mr. Clark, being part of a farm containing 67 acres. William Suckling, brother of Admiral Nelson's mother, was born on 15th July, 1720, and buried at Barsham Church, Beccles, 26th December, 1798, in the 69th year of his age. His wife was Mary, daughter of Thomas Rumsey of Kentish Town.

Nos. 12 to 16. Unfortunately Mr. King appended no notes to his sketch of this portion of the road, from the Castle Inn on the south to Mr. Morgan's house on the north. Prince of Wales Road now joins the high road here, and houses called Southampton Terrace were built on it about 1819, four of them lying southward of Prince of Wales Road (then called Grafton Place). (fn. n1)

No. 17. On this spot stood an old Chapel, which was pulled down in the year 1784, and the residence of Richd Morgan built thereon, when the oak pannelling of the Chapel was used up for wainscotting in sundry parts of the new Building, and the Grave Stones used to pave the inner frontage.

The ground on which this chapel stood was given to the parish by Robert Warner in the year 1449. Several parishioners went to his house and asked him to sell a plot of ground to build a chapel on. He told them he had bought it lately and if he sold it people would say he was in need of money; but for the worship of God and the welfare of the parishioners he would give them the ground. He forthwith marked out the ground with stakes, with room to go outside the chapel in processions. In addition, he gave £5 in money and apparently superintended the building of the chapel, stipulating that if he expended more than £5 he should be reimbursed. He commissioned John Prudde, glazier, to provide a glass window of three lights in the gable of the chapel. The other parishioners contributed. Some trouble afterwards arose out of a squabble between Warner and another prominent landowner, Thomas Ive, who brought an action against Warner in Chancery. Because Thomas Ive sat in Warner's pew in the chancel and his wife "on another next in the body of the said chapel and his servants in another" Robert Warner declared it would be worse for them all, and took the key away from the vicar on several occasions, saying that he should do no service in the chapel when Ive was present. (fn. 132) The site is now occupied by Nos. 209 and 211, Kentish Town Road.

In 1773 the Vestry gave instructions to the trustees for the Church Lands to report on the advisability of rebuilding or again enlarging the chapel, which was only 53 feet in length by 26 feet in breadth. Eventually a new chapel was built in Highgate Road (see page 56) and opened in 1784, the site of the old chapel being sold in that year to Mr. William Morgan. The action of the Trustees in selling the site, with the burying ground attached, was strongly criticised by the Vestry, it being alleged that they had no power to dispose of consecrated ground. A record of monumental inscriptions in the parish church of St. John will be found in Appendix XI.

No. 18. Old Chapel House. A Boarding Establishment for Young Ladies conducted by Mrs. Lovelace and Daughters for several years, who received a large number of Pupils. No. 19 was the Old Jolly Anglers kept by J. Rose, which was destroyed by fire in the year 182—. No. 20 an avenue leading to Anglers Lane.

Anglers Lane leads to Prince of Wales Road and a modern public house now stands at the southern corner, nearly on the site of the old inn. A few early houses remain north of the lane.

No. 21 the White Lion and Bell, is of very antient date, being the principal inn of entertainment on the road and much resorted to by travellers. The open space at the back as well as the ground on which Crown Place [is] now built was the Stable Yard leading to the stables situate where the King's Arms now stands, formerly known as the Green Dragon. In this house the parish vestries were holden. It was taken down in 1811, purchased by Mr. Gambee, when three houses were erected on its site.

A public house, formerly the Green Dragon, since then the King's Arms, kept by a retired Bow Street Officer named Croker. No. 22 is the Vicarage House, on which ground several shops are built, also leading to the Corner, more shops are built, which forms part of the Holmes Estate, leading up to Mansfield Place, No. 23, which entirely belonged to Squire Holmes and still remains in the family.

In 1785 the Green Dragon "now the King's Arms" with a barn and two gardens containing 1r. 23p. "lately in the occupation of Ponsford and now of Tompkins" with an unfinished messuage behind the same, and 11a. 2r. of land was conveyed by the Thomas Cooper mentioned below to Joseph Kirkman of Tottenham Court Road, St. Giles, brewer, by whom the premises were demised to Thomas Cooper a year later. (fn. 133) "Crocker" appears a few years later when as Robert Crocker of Kentish Town, victualler, he mortgaged three newly erected messuages (Nos. 1, 2, and 3), in King's Arms Buildings in Kentish Town. In 1806 he mortgaged Nos. 4 to 9. (fn. 134) In February, 1817, being then bankrupt, he, with his mortgagees, conveyed to James Dodd the elder, of Somers Town, the Green Dragon, now called the King's Arms, with the yard and skittle ground, in Crocker's Place, and Nos. 1 to 9 lately erected on part of the yard and gardens of the King's Arms. (fn. 135)

Holmes estate. No. 24 Image House was formerly occupied by a Mr. Capper, a coal merchant, afterwards let for a school for young gentlemen, since pulled down and converted into shops. That portion where the trees and Barn stand, Six excellent Houses are built. House No. 25 is where farmer Holmes lived; the whole space is known as Holmes Terrace.

No. 26 York Place on which are built 10 uniform houses in the year 1794 and are all respectably tenanted.

All these houses appear to remain but with shops in front.

The "Holmes Estate" appears in 1785 (fn. 136) as three closes containing 25a. 3r. 1p., owned by Thomas Cooper of Ashton, Cheshire, esquire, only son of Thomas Cooper, late of Pancras Street, St. Pancras, brickmaker, and was demised by him in 1788 to William Francis, cowkeeper, and William Morgan the elder of Kentish Town, farmer, (fn. 137) the occupier being Richard Holmes. Richard Holmes laid out Mansfield Road now called Holmes Road and the neighbouring streets, from 1790 onwards. In 1840 the site of Image House was vacant ground.

The next five houses drawn by Mr. King are without any notes by him. They were probably swept away when the Midland Railway line to Hampstead was built over the site in 1863.

The frontage of garden ground of No. 27 is converted into shops and houses. No. 28 is pulled down and three shops built thereon called New Chapel Place.

No. 29. One of the old country inns, known as the Bull and Gate, where the "Social Villagers" used to hold their meetings. No. 30. Nine very pleasant houses known as Upper Craven Place. No. 4 was built for a ladies school and has continued ever since. No. 5 was tenanted by a Mr. Kendrick, whose son shot himself by blowing out his brains, which scattered about his room. He was only 23 years of age.

Thomas Greenwood, who died in 1810, owned the Bull and Gate and adjoining property. (fn. 138) He appears to have granted building leases from 1786 onwards. His wife Elizabeth took the property under his will. When it passed to his son Thomas Greenwood of Russell Square, esquire, in 1824, the Bull and Gate was tenanted by David Beynon. (fn. 139) The whole estate was then described as formerly the freehold inheritance of Samuel Shore and Francis Edmunds, afterwards of Mr. William Truman and since of John Craven, the trustee being Joseph Shepherd Munden. (fn. 140) In 1786 James Haygarth of St. Pancras and William Timmins of Bethnal Green, brickmakers, were building five houses in Craven Row, of which the northernmost was leased to Mary Emmotte of Charlotte Street, Rathbone Place, mantua maker, in 1789, and assigned by her executor in 1798 to Joseph Shepherd Munden of Kentish Town, comedian, (fn. 141) who afterwards appears as the occupant of a house on the site of the Convent now standing on the other side of the road (see p. 35).

Above the Bull and Gate to-day four unimportant early houses remain. These are no doubt part of the row shown by Mr. King.

No. 32. Ten very pleasant Houses commanding a very extensive View over Hampstead at the back, and in front over Holloway and all parts adjacent, called Lower Craven Place. No. 31 is Kentish Town parochial Chapel, built in the year 1784, in liew of the Old Chapel since removed, which stood upon the site of Ground where Richard Morgar's residence now stands. The frontage of this Chapel was pulled down and the same enlarged by being brought forward with the addition of Two Spires in the year 1846. Burials were allowed in the Vaults under the Chapel, which at that date were reported as entirely filled.

Nine of the ten houses appear to remain; they are numbered 19 to 35 Highgate Road. No. 19 was the side wing as shown by Mr. King, but the front has been covered with plaster. No. 35 is a larger house with 3 windows in place of 2 and may have taken the place of two earlier ones.

In 1784 the Old Chapel, on the site of Nos. 209 and 211, Kentish Town Road, was sold, and the present building consecrated by Christopher Thurlow, Bishop of Bristol and Dean of St. Paul's, on 21st July of that year. This site was bought in 1779 and building commenced in May, 1782, Mr. James Wyatt being the architect. In 1845 it was reopened for worship after being practically rebuilt. (Plate 8a and 8b and Appendix XI.) (fn. 142)

No. 23. The old fleet ditch (fn. n2) ran in front of the road into a common drain which meanders through Mansfield Place and at the back of the Castle Tea Gardens into the Common Sewer. No. 34. A small Wooden Shed built on four Wheels by a poor man who made a footway over the ditch, and known as Francis Terrace beyond the Gateway 11 houses are Erected known as Francis Place. No. 35 is a Gateway entrance, leading to Corkers Lane, being a near cut to Hampstead.

Corkers Lane no longer leads to Hampstead but is now a short turning leading to the railway sidings. Fitzroy Place was a row of houses northward of Corkers Lane, and Francis Terrace occupied the frontage from Corkers Lane to the Fleet.

No. 36. Very pleasant residences adjoining the Retreat, now built upon and known as Upper Fitzroy Place.

The Retreat was opened in June, 1863, by Edward Weston, proprietor of Weston's (late Royal) Music Hall, Holborn (now the Holborn Empire). It (the Retreat) was a place of entertainment but it was sold up in 1866. It is fully described in St. Pancras Notes and Queries.

No. 37. Down this gateway leads to Pleasant Row and Mortimer Terrace, very pleasantly situate, with gardens to each on the other side of the Road.

The lane shown with a gate at the end is now Pleasant Row. Mortimer Terrace was built at the rear of a rectangular plot and parallel with the high road, with which it was connected by Pleasant Row and Wesleyan Terrace. The railway now occupies most of the site.

No. 38. Workshops of James Bush, carpenter and builder. The whole frontage... is now covered with Shops.

The Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway crosses the road here. It was opened in 1868, but none of the houses to the north or the south illustrated by Mr. King remain to-day. Nos. 81 to 89 (two of them with their gardens), 97 to 107 (refronted), 109 to 113, and 115 to 121 all to the south of the arch date from the first half of the 19th-century. Just north of the railway arch is a more important structure, double fronted, and known as Southampton House. It is No. 137 and has a fair entrance door and segmental arches to the ground floor openings.

No. 39. Farmer Mortimer's residence.

Richard Mortimer in 1803 occupied this house with 67 acres of land. In 1806 he enfranchised 28 acres, copyhold of Tottenhall, now occupied by Lismore Circus and the roads converging on it. Gordon House Road and Mansfield Road were laid out at that time.

No. 40. A small Westlyan Chapel since removed to Gloucester Place, 1828.

No. 41. Usually called Squire Brailsford's residence, at the side is a road leading to Hampstead.

No. 42. An old establish'd Academy kept by Mr. Cooper, who died suddenly of Apoplexy in the year 1788 whilst sitting at his Desk giving Lessons to his Pupils; amongst the number was the Artist of this Sketch. His Successor was A. Mensal, esqre. from Aberdeen, who married the Widow.

This was Gordon House Academy. The lane to the south was a footpath leading to Hampstead by the side of the River Fleet, now represented by Gordon House Road as far as Gospel Oak Station and Mansfield Road as far as Agincourt Road at the parish boundary. "A.A.M. Mental (sic), Gordon House Academy, Kentish Town" appears in the Directory for 1808. Frances Mensal of Gordon House Academy, his daughter, married Simeon Bull, architect, who died in 1818. His brother Henry William Bull of Staines, solicitor, was grandfather of the late Sir William Bull, M.P. for Hammersmith (1863–1919).

No. 43. From early recollections this was always known as the "Ruins," it having been a large building destroyed by Fire and remained so for 30 years, before the Rubbish was cleared away for rebuilding.

No. 44. The seat of G. Rose, esquire, solr, formerly occupied by J. Suckling, esquire, Uncle to Lord Nelson. The whole space is cleared away and three substantial Villas built upon the site. Thomas King, father of the artist J. F. King, lived here (Grove Cottage) after Mr. Suckling.

No. 45. This seat was destroyed by Fire. Occupied by the late J. Slack, esquire, who, with his Housekeeper perished in the attempt to save his only Child of 9 years of age, which was effected by the courageous conduct and humanity of a neighbour named Lewis Weber and as a reward the inhabitants of Kentish Town subscribed and presented to him £600.

According to W. E. Brown, Thomas Slack, a sugar baker, and his servant Sarah Burrill, were buried 9th December, 1815, in St. James's Burial Ground, Hampstead Road.

No. 46. Miss Hanwell's Establishment for Young Ladies of long standing for respectability and excellent management. She had a large number of Pupils.

In Holden's Triennial Directory for 1808 appears "S. & J. Hanwell, Grove House Boarding School, Kentish Town."

No. 47. A gentleman seat delightfully situate, commanding a most Picturesque view over Hampstead.

No. 48. A beautiful residence called the Gothic, occupied … by Sir James Williams to the time of his death; in the front of which there was up to the year 1794 a hollow pipe formed from a tree and used as a high-water fountain mark connected with the Hampstead Ponds, for whenever they reached the extreme height of this tube it used to overflow as here represented; it is now removed.

On 15th December, 1847, Sir James Williams of The Gothic, Kentish Town, and of West Smithfield, J.P., died. He was knighted 10th April, 1824, and was a senior partner of Williams, Coopers and Co., stationers, West Smithfield. (fn. 18)

No. 49. A Dairymans Farm with land attached, the property of Earl Mansfield, known as the Common. The footpath is formed from Road drift scrapings, like unto that before Southampton Terrace was built.

This farm covered about 130 acres and was held in 1803 by Edward Austin. The northern boundary was the stream shown above and the southern Mansfield Road, Kentish Town; it extended westward to Hampstead and formed the southern portion of Lord Mansfield's estate.

No. 50. This cottage and shop is of very old standing situate at the extreme end of the village, occupied for a long period by Joseph Empy, a Bell-hanger, since then as a farriery and general smithy until the year 1850, when it was clear'd from the ground to make way for improvements.

Sir Francis Burdett returning from a visit to his father in law (Thomas) Coutts, esquire, residing at Holly House, pleasantly situate on the top of Highgate Hill. Swains Lane, leading to Highgate Town, connecting the stream which flows from the opposite ditch circuitously into the river Fleet.

"Holly House" or rather Holly Lodge, has been dealt with in Part I of this survey (Village of Highgate). The stream shown drained the ponds on the Ken Wood estate and, flowing along the southern end of Swain's Lane, turned south into the pond mentioned above (see p. 44) behind Kentish Town House.

Note. The portion of the drawing referred to above does not appear in our reproduction.


  • n1. In the British Museum Crace Collection (Pfo. 36, No.98) is "a view of the houses at Kentish Town from the 'Castle Tavern' to Old Chapel Row," a pencil drawing dated 1788, 29" by 5". This appears to be a drawing by Mr. King afterwards incorporated in the panorama, but if so the date 1788 must be too early.
  • n2. A very interesting survey of the Fleet about the year 1820 is in the possession of The London County Council. It is in the form of a panorama and includes sketches of at least two tea gardens of a similar character to the Old Castle.
  • 18. Gentleman's Magazine.
  • 131. Ibid., 1815/8/167.
  • 132. P.R.O., C 1/25/188.
  • 133. Middx. Reg. 1786/6/320.
  • 134. Ibid., 1806/6/272, 1808/1/331.
  • 135. Ibid., 1817/3/620.
  • 136. Ibid., 1786/6/320.
  • 137. Ibid., 1786/6/435, 1788/5/476.
  • 138. Ibid., 1810/9/280.
  • 139. Ibid., 1824/3/775.
  • 140. Ibid., 1786/2/118.
  • 141. Ibid., 1802/2/327.
  • 142. St. Pancras Open Spaces and Disused Burial Grounds, by W. E. Brown (1902), p. 65.