The St. John and Tillard estate: Introduction and builders

Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1957.

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'The St. John and Tillard estate: Introduction and builders', Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town, (London, 1957), pp. 52-55. British History Online [accessed 25 June 2024].

. "The St. John and Tillard estate: Introduction and builders", in Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town, (London, 1957) 52-55. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024,

. "The St. John and Tillard estate: Introduction and builders", Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town, (London, 1957). 52-55. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024,

In this section

CHAPTER V - The St. John and Tillard Estate

The greater part of the development of the precinct in its later form was accomplished after 1716 under the ownership of Isaac (after 1722 Sir Isaac) Tillard and his brother William. But the first and most radical change of the old precinct lay-out was made during the ownership of the St. Johns. This was the con struction of the wide western arm of Spital Square as a continuation eastward of the entrance from Bishopsgate Street to pass immediately north instead of south of the third Earl of Bolingbroke's house. A new terrace of six houses was con structed on the north side of this arm of the Square (Nos. 4–9 consec), and the redevelopment at this time probably also included the construction of the later No. 38 (formerly No. 37) facing east and Nos. 37 and 36 (formerly Nos. 36 and 35) on the south side of this arm between No. 38 and the Earl's house. The Earl's house (later Nos. 34 and 35) was also probably rebuilt at this period. All these buildings are shown on the plans prepared in about 1711–12 for the proposed building of one of the ’Fifty New Churches’. A comparison of these plans with Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1677 leaves it uncertain whether the gateway from Bishopsgate Street was moved one house-width northward at this time. The old entrance to the precinct and priory churchyard was henceforward a cul-de-sac at its southern end but still retains the name of Spital Yard previously given to the whole open space before its reconstruction.

It is not certain when this rebuilding by the St. Johns took place. Sir Paulet St. John's widow, Elizabeth, had been interested in building within the precinct in 1673 when ’a certaine void peeice or parcell of ground (being already encompassed about by buildings) now or late, in the possession of Elizabeth Lady St. John’ within the Liberty of Norton Folgate, was proposed by her son the second Earl of Bolingbroke to be exempted from the provisions of a Bill prohibiting building on new foundations in London. (fn. 1) But the old lay-out still existed in 1681–2 (see Plate 2).

In November 1711 the inhabitants of Norton Folgate Liberty said there was much vacant ground within the precinct of St. Mary Spital belonging to the third Earl's mortgagee and heir which was considered likely to be much improved by building. (fn. 2)

The later Nos. 1 and 2 Spital Square, on the north side of the entrance from Bishopsgate Street, were not rebuilt at this time, and a court-yard was left between Nos. 2 and 4. In 1711–12 this court is described as leading to the coach-house and stables of Lord Bolingbroke. The configuration of the north end of the court shown on the plans of 1711–12 is similar to that shown on Ogilby and Morgan. It may represent the ’great base court or yard’ mentioned in 1580. (fn. n1)

On 12–13 July 1716 the St. John estate in Norton Folgate was conveyed by William, Lord St. John, John Oneby of London, esquire, Edward Skeate of London, gentleman, and Jeremy Sam brooke of London, esquire, to Isaac Tillard of Stoke Newington, esquire. (fn. 3) The premises were described as being in Norton Folgate and the parishes of St. Botolph Bishopsgate and St. Leonard Shoreditch ’and the precinct of Saint Mary Le Spittle without Bishopsgate or Some or one of them’, and as lying ’at or neare the Spittle Gate and in Hollywell Street [Shoreditch High Street] in or neare Shoreditch French Court, White Lyon Street in or neare Norton Folgate and the New Court or Square within the Spittle Gate’, together with nine acres of ground ’behind or neare the said Messuages … commonly called or knowne by the name or names of the Field Ground and the Parke’. This latter ground pre sumably included the area called Porter's Close on Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1677.

The estate consisted of that part of the priory precinct which had been granted to Stephen Vaughan, lying in the Liberty of Norton Folgate east of Bishopsgate Street, and in addition other property granted to Stephen Vaughan adjoining this to the north and lying in the parish of St. Leonard Shoreditch (see pages 39, 42). After the acquisition, perhaps in 1719, of property from the Wheler family, the area of the Tillard estate was virtually coincident with the eighteenth-century boundary of the Liberty of Norton Folgate except on the north where it was more extensive (fig. 9).

At the time of the conveyance an old precinct gate may still have survived. The previous year part of the priory buildings is said still to have been standing. In February 1714/15 John Bagford wrote a letter prefaced to Thomas Hearn's edition of John Leland's Collectanea: in this he spoke of the remains of dissolved monasteries as the oldest houses in London: ’the oldest I have seen is now standing at the Spittle in Bishops-Gate Street, being the Spittle House, strongly built with Timber, with a Turret at one Corner, which I take to be very ancient.’ (fn. 4) This does not seem likely to refer to the Earl's house, and may perhaps refer to the gateway, the 'grete gate' mentioned in 1676 (see page 45).

Figure 9:

The St. John-Tillard estate, lay-out plan. Based on a plan in the Public Record Office and on the Ordnance Survey 1873–5
----- Boundary of estate
. . . . Norton Folgate Liberty boundary
Hatching denotes buildings swept away by Commercial Street

Near the site of the later No. 22 Spital Square an ’Old House’ is marked on some of the 1711–12 plans, approached by a flight of steps and traversed by a winding passage: this may perhaps represent a priory building converted into tenements. ’Old buildings’ are also marked north of it, near the later Nos. 18 and 19, but these are not readily identifiable on Ogilby and Morgan and may not have been ancient.

The development of the estate under the Til lards consisted in Spital Square and Folgate Street of the development of areas already wholly or par tially built-up in the seventeenth century, and in Elder Street, Blossom Street, Fleur-de-lis Street and the northern cross-street called Porter Street on Rocque and later known as Blossom Terrace, of the construction of substantially new streets built on the former Porter's Close and the ’Field Ground and the Parke or Porter's Field’. The completed lay-out is shown on Rocque's map of 1746 (Plate 3).

The greater part of the estate was intended for mainly residential purposes and there seems to have been no desire to provide improved access from Bishopsgate Street to the built-up area of Spitalflelds. The comparatively narrow western entrance to Spital Square was left unaltered and the Square was kept free of wheeled traffic by bars or posts. The full width of Fleur-de-lis Street was not carried west to Bishopsgate Street or east to Wheler Street, from which it was separated by part of the Wheler estate. Access from Bishopsgate Street to Wheler Street was provided by the existing line of White Lion (now Folgate) Street which in consequence probably had a less residential character than the rest of the Tillard estate.

Most of the domestic buildings of the estate were built between 1722 and 1727. The south eastern part of the northern arm of Spital Square and the northern side of the eastern arm were not built until 1732–3 and the southern side of the eastern arm probably not until 1739.

The Tillards were of Huguenot origin, and had settled at Totnes in Devon in the sixteenth cen tury, members of the family being mayors of that town in the early seventeenth century. (fn. 5) Isaac Tillard was knighted in May 1722, (fn. 6) and died in May 1726 ’at his House in Spittal Square of a Pleuretic Feaver’. He was described as ’a Gentleman of Great Merit and of the Best of Characters’ and as ’Colonel of the 2nd Regiment in the Royal Hamlets’, a Lieutenant for the City of London and Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Middlesex and the Tower Hamlets, a Justice of the Peace, a Commissioner for the Land Tax and Sewers for Middlesex and the Tower Hamlets, and a Governor of St. Thomas's Hospital. ’His Corps was interr'd at St. Stephen Walbrook, the Herse being preceded by a fine Detachment of Grenadiers, headed by Mr. Triquet, (fn. n2) all the Honourable Trophies of Knighthood carried by Mourners, on Horseback, and a Train of several Coaches and Six’. (fn. 7) In his will Sir Isaac left two houses in Blow Bladder Street and Panier Alley to Christ's Hospital, and left £100 to St. Thomas's Hospital. He left,£100 to the overseers of the poor of Norton Folgate to be laid out for the benefit of the liberty by them acting together with ’so many of the inhabitants of the said Liberty as are my tenants paying Twenty pounds per annum rent’. He made his brother William his residuary legatee. (fn. 8) William Tillard, said to have been an officer of the East India Company, (fn. 5) apparently lived in Spital Square until its completion in 1739. In 1729 a deed was witnessed by his rent gatherer and by his footman. In 1741 he no longer lived in No. 34/35, which he leased in 1742 (see page 70). In 1741 and in his will, made in October 1743 and proved in April 1745, he was described as of Featherstone Buildings, Holborn. He left £100 to the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge and £100 to St. Thomas's Hospital, and specified that the Norton Folgate Girls’ Charity School might continue to occupy its premises in Blossom Street until 1750: he also left £50 to the poor of the liberty. His property in Norton Folgate was divided between his sons James and William, the former being left the property in Spital Square, the south side of Folgate Street, and Norton Folgate High Street between the Square and Folgate Street, and the latter being left the property on the north side of Folgate Street, in Elder Street, Blossom Street and Fleur-de-lis Street, and in the High Street from Folgate Street north to ’the alley leading … to Flower de Luce Street’. (fn. 9)

In 1745 and 1769 James Tillard was of St. George's Bloomsbury and in 1745 William Tillard was of the Inner Temple. (fn. 10) In 1785 and 1794 the northern property was owned by William Tillard of Southampton Street, Bloomsbury. (fn. 11) By 1808 the two properties were probably reunited, the southern portion at least being owned by William Tillard, then described as of Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury. (fn. 12) In 1827 all the Tillard estate in Norton Folgate was owned by James Tillard of Petham, Kent, from whom it descended to the Rev. James Arthur Tillard of Barnsley near Cirencester, who in 1867 was possessed of the reversionary interest. In that year he mortgaged his interest in the estate, the right being reserved to him, after the expiry of certain life interests and prior to the mortgagees taking possession, to grant leases for twenty-one years, repairing leases for sixty years or building leases for ninety-nine years. In March 1871 the mortgage was paid off and in June the Rev. James Arthur Tillard conveyed his reversionary interest to his son the Rev. James Tillard of West Mailing, Kent, who in turn mortgaged his interest, the period of the mortgage being extended in 1881. In 1905 the Rev. James Tillard died, as of Penshurst, Kent, leaving the estate to his children. Almost all the estate was subsequently sold, a considerable part by auction in 1919. (fn. 13)

Builders on the Tillard Estate

Of the builders working on the Tillard estate the most prominent in taking leases appears to have been William Goswell who was a lessee in Norton Folgate High Street, Spital Square, Elder Street and Blossom Terrace. A William Goswell of Norton Folgate, carpenter, took a lease from the Earl of Bolingbroke in 1697 and was deceased in 1728. The lessee from the Tillards, also a carpenter, was probably a son, and occurs as party to deeds from 1725 to April 1739, being described as deceased in July 1739. (fn. 14) He was doubtless the William Goswell who was one of the two workmen named, together with the architect, on the 1736 foundation stone of St. Leonard's Church, Shoreditch. (fn. 15) Francis Goswell of Blossom Street, bricklayer, occurs in 1725 as witness to a deed concerning William Goswell, who in 1734 had his yard near Blossom Street, probably on the west side in the vicinity of Blossom Place. (fn. 16)

Thomas Bunce of Thrall (now Thrawl) Street, Spitalfields, plasterer, is known to have been a party to deeds from 1724 to 1738. He was active in Elder Street, Fleur-de-lis Street and Blossom Street. He was probably responsible also for the building of ’Bunches Alley’ which existed on the north side of Thrall Street in 1732. (fn. 17)

Jonathan Beaumont, described as mason of London, who took leases in Spital Square, Fol gate Street and Elder Street, was apparently a resident in Norton Folgate in 1729 when a ’Mr. Jonathan Beaumont’ was an overseer of the poor for the liberty. (fn. 18)

The responsibility for the actual building of the individual houses on the Tillard estate is not easily determined from the available records, as the various lessees doubtless contracted some of the work out to other builders. The doorcases in clude distinct types for which the same builders were presumably responsible but it is impossible to associate the distribution of the types with the identity of the lessees. One type is the Doric doorcase with triglyphed entablature and rusti cated pilasters which occurs at Nos. 24 and 26 Folgate Street (Plate 60b) and Nos. 17–19 Spital Square (Plate 81c), with which Jonathan Beau mont was associated, and at No. 10 Folgate Street (and also formerly at Nos. 117–14 Spital Square), with which Beaumont may also have been asso ciated. The same type existed at No. 19 Folgate Street for which Daniel Le Sueur took a building lease, and still exists at Nos. 9–13 Elder Street (Plate 63a), with which Thomas Brown, pavior, and Thomas Bunce, plasterer, were associated. A rather similar but richer doorcase is at No. 15 Elder Street (Plate 79c, 79d), also associated with Brown and Bunce. Poorer versions of the same type occur at No. 28 Elder Street (Plate 62c), of which the building lease was taken by Isaac Dupree, weaver, and at Nos. 17–25 Wilkes Street (Plate 71a), on the Wood-Michell estate, of which the building lease was granted to Marma duke Smith, blacksmith, perhaps identifiable with Marmaduke Smith, carpenter (see page 183).

The pedimented doorcase of No. 30 Elder Street, of which the building lease was taken by Isaac Dupree, is very similar to those formerly at Nos. 30–32 Spital Square (Plates 80a, 80b, 80c), built by William Goswell and with which the name of Samuel Worrall, carpenter, is also associated.

The doorcases of Nos. 30–32 Spital Square have affinities with that of No. 25 which, together with Nos. 21–24 and 26–27, was also erected under a building lease granted to Goswell (Plates 58, 59b). The doorcases of Nos. 21–27 are also similar, however, to that of the contemporary house facing Spital Square on the corner of Church (now Nantes) Passage and Lamb Street (Plate 64b). This was erected on the Wheler estate under a building lease granted to Samuel Worrall (see page 106). The brick pilasters of this house are, in turn, reminiscent of those on No. 4/6 Fournier Street (Plate 66b), built a few years before by Marmaduke Smith, carpenter, who probably witnessed one of the deeds relating to Nos. 21–27 Spital Square. The general character of these latter houses is, however, distinct from that of No. 4/6 Fournier Street.

The building leases granted to Goswell relate to houses, such as No. 29 Folgate Street (Plate 61b) and those formerly on the eastern arm of Spital Square, of noticeably different character and quality of construction.


  • n1. This court-yard is erroneously omitted on Rocque's map of 1746.
  • n2. Probably a silk dyer living in Princelet Street.
  • 1. House of Lords Papers, 25 Feb.–8 March 1672/3, No. 97a, and Minutes of Committees 13 Feb. 1672/3–19 Nov. 1685, p. 31.
  • 2. L.P.L., Papers, St. Botolph Bishopsgate, box 1, No. (2).
  • 3. M.L.R. 1716/4/65–7.
  • 4. Johannis Lelandi Antiquarii De Rebus Britan nicis Collectanea Ex Autographis Descripsit ediditque Tho. Hearnius, 1715, vol. i, p. lxxviii.
  • 5. Procs. Hug. Soc, vol. xi, 1917, p. 94.
  • 6. W. A. Shaw, The Knights of England, 1906, vol. ii.
  • 7. A. Boyer, The Political State of Great Britain, vol. xxxi, p. 55.
  • 8. P.C.C. no Plymouth.
  • 9. Ibid., 127 Seymer.
  • 10. M.L.R. 1745/3/388; 1769/4/473.
  • 11. Ibid., 1785/5/29; L.C.C.R.O., E/EV/32.
  • 12. Ibid., 1813/8/187.
  • 13. Deeds of Captain A. G. Tillard Trust; Sale Particulars in Bishopsgate Institute.
  • 14. M.L.R. 1741/1/98.
  • 15. Survey of London, vol. viii, 1922, p. 99.
  • 16. M.C.R.O., M.L.R. memorial 1735/1/12.
  • 17. New Remarks of London by the Company of Parish Clerks, 1712, p. 192; Keate estate deeds of Tylee and Co.
  • 18. S.C.L.L.C, Norton Folgate Minute Book 1729 1790.