The east side of Trafalgar Square

Pages 56-57

Survey of London: Volume 20, St Martin-in-The-Fields, Pt III: Trafalgar Square and Neighbourhood. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1940.

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Prior to the formation of Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's Lane continued southward to the Strand. A brief outline of the early history of the properties on the east side of the lane south of St. Martin's Church was given in Volume XVIII of theSurvey. The Swan Inn, which abutted on St. Martin's Lane, was in the same ownerships as Swan Close until the sale of the latter to the Earl of Salisbury in 1608–1610 (see pp. 4 and 5). This was the inn at which Ben Jonson was served with good canary by Ralph, the drawer. (fn. 28) In 1668 an order was given (fn. 36) that the post-house should be removed from the Swan to the Red Lion on the other side of Charing Cross (see p. 66). In 1679 the inn, together with the properties adjoining it, was sold by Sir John Lowther and John Cozance to Nicholas Barbon and others (fn. 80) and to Commissioners appointed under an Act (fn. 81) of 1661 for widening certain streets. St. Martin's Lane, which had previously been only about 17 feet wide, was widened to 32 feet, certain alterations were made to the south side of the churchyard, and new houses were erected by Barbon on the east side of the lane. At the beginning of the 18th century the sign of the Swan was changed to that of the Star. (fn. 82)

In 1720 Strype described Hunt's Court, west of the Swan, as a "pretty handsome square Court, with five or six good built and inhabited Houses, having a good Air from a Garden on the East side, and hath a Free-stone Pavement, with a Door at the Entrance, to shut up a Nights, for the Security of its Inhabitants." During the next few years a number of small houses were erected in the neighbourhood of the churchyard by Joshua Drayner and others. (fn. 82) A network of small courts was formed round the church, and by the beginning of the 19th century the area had become one of the worst slums in this part of London. Under the provisions of the Charing Cross Act (fn. 66) all the buildings between the church and the Strand were cleared away and Adelaide Street, Agar Street and King William Street (now King William IV Street) were formed on the site.

Golden Cross Hotel

When the old Golden Cross Inn was demolished c. 1830 (see p. 14), a new Golden Cross was erected on the island site between the Strand and Duncannon Street (Plate 36b). This in its turn was pulled down in 1936 and yet another Golden Cross now occupies the site.

Morley's Hotel

This building occupied the whole eastern side of Trafalgar Square. It had an interesting plaster front designed in the Ionic order on regular lines and possessed a certain charm. The well-proportioned bay standing on Doric columns with splayed end treatment of the main block afforded a happy junction with the Strand and was made to serve as an entrance to the Post Office, which occupied the ground storey of the building at the southern end. The whole design was a simple example of town architecture of the Regency Period (Plate 38b). The hotel was demolished in 1936 and South Africa House now occupies the site.

Charing Cross Hospital

This hospital was founded by Dr. Benjamin Golding. It was for a time known as the West London Infirmary and was housed for a few years in Villiers Street. (fn. 83) The present building was erected in 1831–34 from the designs of Decimus Burton. The treatment of the corner facing the Strand is very successful (Plate 38a). The blocks facing Chandos Street and King William IV Street were erected at a more recent date.


  • 28. Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 36. Cal. of S.P. Dom.
  • 66. Act 7 Geo. IV c. 77.
  • 80. P.R.O., C 54/4524/29 and 30.
  • 81. Act 13 and 14 Chas. II, c. 6.
  • 82. Middx. Reg. 1737, IV, 595, etc.
  • 83. W. Hunter, Charing Cross Hospital, 1914.