The Wheler estate

Pages 96-99

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

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CHAPTER VI - The Wheler Estate

This estate in its original extent consisted of the forty-three acres of Spittlehope or Lolesworth field, also known in the Middle Ages as the Bishop of London's field. The names Spittlehope and Lolesworth perhaps indicate the marshy nature of the ground whose ’wettnesse’ was noticed in 1672. (fn. 1) In 1649 the hamlet was designated by the old name of the field as the ’hamlet of Spittlehope’. (fn. 2) Until the second half of the sixteenth century the field formed part of the Manor of Stepney. It was bounded on the south by the line of the later White's Row and Fashion Street, on the east by Brick Lane, on the north by Swanfield, later forming the hamlet and parish boundary, and on the west by the precinct of the Priory of St. Mary Spital, later the Liberties of Norton Folgate and the Old Artillery Ground. In 1498 ’Spittelhope alias Lollesworthe’ was leased for ninety-nine years by the Bishop of London to the prior (fn. 3) and in 1538 by the prior to Robert Lorde, gentleman. (fn. 4) In 1509–10 the field was called Lollesbury in the Stepney court rolls, and an area within it, apparently excluding its southernmost part, called ’Spyttylfeld’. (fn. 5) At that time a southern part of the field, known as ’le bryk place’ was in the tenure of Hugh Brampston. (fn. 5) This was probably the four acres in the south-east part of ’Sputelhope otherwise Lollesworth’ leased by the prior to Hugh Bramston, fishmonger, in 1527. (fn. 6) The name suggests that it may already have been used to dig bricks, although Stow gives 1576 as the date when ’Lolesworth now Spittlefield’ was ’broken up for Clay to make Bricke’. (fn. 7) It was perhaps this use of the field which caused the fine obtainable on the renewal of the lease of ’Spitel Hope’ to be estimated in 1549–50 at one hundred pounds ’by reason of the vicinity to the city’. (fn. 8) In that year a John Bramston had a ’Tyle-garth’ on the east side of Brick Lane (fn. 9) and had probably succeeded also to Hugh Brampston's ’bryk place’ since a John Brampston possessed in 1561 a field behind the site of the priory. Archery was practised here, as Agas's map suggests. (fn. 10)

In 1549–50 the tenant of all ’Spitel Hoppe otherwise Lollesworth’ was ’Mr. Polsted’. (fn. 8) Between this period and the 1560's almost if not quite all of the forty-three acres were sold by the lord of the manor, although no record of the sale is known to exist. In the 1580's and 1590's the tenure of Lolesworth field was disputed in the courts. It appears that in the 1560's it had passed into the ownership of Christopher Campion, who had also obtained part of the priory precinct in 1540 (see page 46). On his death in 1572 the freehold passed to his widow, Ann, who sold this in 1580/1 to Richard Cely of Lambeth, gentle man. In 1583 Raffe Bott, later described as of ’the precinct of St. Mary Spittle’, gentleman, who in 1586 held the Brick House there, asserted in the Court of Requests the validity of a lease of an orchard and other premises which he had tried to obtain from Cely. (fn. 11) He was apparently unsuccessful in this, but by January 1589/90 he and a John Digges had purchased Lolesworth, described as late part of the demesne lands of the Manor of Stepney, from Richard Cely and Roger Bramston for £800. In that year Bott had disputes in the Courts of Requests and Chancery over the title to Digges's moiety with Edmund Tylney, esquire, Master of the Revels, to whose kinsman, Clark Tylney, Bott was guardian. (fn. 12) Bott was still at law over his title in 1593 but in the following year he was able to convey Lolesworth to Richard Hanbury, goldsmith. Hanbury's tenure was apparently subject to rights of a creditor of Bott, (fn. 13) but the freehold evidently became securely vested in him.

The field was leased in 1596 by Hanbury to Edward Hemmynge of London, brickmaker. (fn. 13)

The transference of the freehold of Lolesworth to the Wheler family was apparently brought about by the marriage of Richard Hanbury's daughter Elizabeth to Sir Edmund Wheler, (fn. 14) who thereby also acquired property in Datchet, Buckinghamshire. In 1631 the freehold was vested in Richard Wheler of Westminster, esquire, who in that year leased it for ninety-nine years, under certain trusts, to a John Wheler of Datchet, gentleman, and others: the ground was then said to have been lately in the occupation of Elias Elliott. (fn. 15) The reversion of this lease devolved upon Sir Edmund Wheler's son, William Wheler, of Datchet and of the Middle Temple, while the lease and trusts devolved upon his kinsman, William Wheler of Westbury, Wiltshire, (fn. 16) whose father John Wheler of London, grocer, may possibly be identifiable with John Wheler of Datchet. (fn. 17)

In the 1640's Lolesworth field remained almost entirely undeveloped. In March 1648/9 William Wheler of Datchet and his wife Jane conveyed to trustees all that part of Lolesworth which lay south of the line of Lamb Street and Brown's Lane (then called Lolesworth Lane). This was in trust for his wife for her life, and then in trust to raise portions for his seven daughters. The trusteeship of only two of the four trustees became effective, that of Edward Nicholas, son of Sir Oliver Nicholas of Manningford Bruce, Wiltshire, and of George Cooke of Datchet, gentleman. (fn. 15) Nicholas and Cooke were responsible for building in the vicinity of the open Spital Field in the 1660's and 1670's. In 1675 they relinquished their trusteeship for the partition and division of this southern part of the estate among the daughters. Subsequent developments on this part of the estate included the market and market area, Christ Church Spitalfields, the Wood Michell estate, and Nos. 56 and 58 Artillery Lane (see Chapters XI–XIV).

The rest of the estate, north of the line of Lamb Street and Brown's Lane, passed from William Wheler of Datchet to William Wheler of Westbury. This was probably partly by a deed of December 1646, of which details are not known but which later formed the foundation title-deed of that section of this northern part of the estate which passed to Sir Charles Wheler of Birdingbury. (fn. 18) The remainder of this part came to William Wheler of Westbury by the will of William Wheler of Datchet, made in March 1648/9 immediately after the conveyance in trust for the seven daughters, and proved in the following May. By this, his property was left to his son William and then in default of his heirs, to William Wheler of Westbury. (fn. 19) In 1652 the estate may have been vested in the son and widow, (fn. 20) but by 1654 the estate was vested in William Wheler of Westbury. (fn. 14) (fn. n1)

Development under Sir William Wheler

It was by this William Wheler that the northern part of Spitalfields was first laid out in streets in the 1650's and 1660's, to form that part of the hamlet and parish designated for rating purposes in the eighteenth century as the New Town, distinct from the more southerly Old Town.

William Wheler was Member of Parliament for Westbury from 1640 to 1648 and again in 1659. He was an active member of the Long Parliament and a member of the Westminster Assembly in 1643. He had a house called Rogers in Cannon Row, Westminster, and appears to have held a post in the First Fruits Office. His political loyalties were not very clear-cut: he was knighted by Cromwell in 1657 and was active as Parliamentary Paymaster, but his wife, a sister of William Lord Hervey of Kidbrooke held the office of laundress to Charles I, by whom also her husband was knighted: by his will he made a bequest of the sword with which the king knighted him. (fn. 22) On Charles II's Restoration he was created a baronet, with special remainder to a kinsman, Charles Wheler of Leith Hill, Surrey, esquire, later of Birdingbury, Warwickshire. (fn. 23) His friendship with the Earl of Sandwich, whose son he made a remote conditional heir in his will, brings him into the diary of Samuel Pepys who visited him in 1663 to attempt to borrow £1,000 on behalf of his patron, and to see the Earl when he was convalescent at Sir William's house. (fn. 24) The Rev. Sir George Wheler, to whom he was a benefactor, remembered him at this period as ’a Comely Old Gentleman with a round plump Face, a rudy cheerfull countenance, addorned with curled grey hair’. (fn. 25)

Sir William died in 1666 at Derby, where there is a monument to him in All Saints' Church. (fn. 17) His will of 1665 mentions his ’Capitall Messuage now divided into three Tenements’ in Spital Yard, in the occupation of a silk throwster and his under-tenants. This was possibly the Brick House which Raffe Bott had also possessed together with Lolesworth field in the late sixteenth century and which was probably sold by Sir William's heir in 1719, or perhaps the large house with regular plan and projecting central feature bequest is supported by a statement of Sir George Wheler in his autobiography. (fn. 21) shown on Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1677 facing west immediately south of the future site of Sir George Wheler's Chapel.

Sir William left his Spitalfields estate and other property to his widow for her life and then to Charles Wheler of Charing, Kent, esquire, and his son George, later Sir George Wheler. (fn. 26) These appear to have been unrelated to him, and the bequest was said by Sir George to have been made in consideration of kindness shown to Sir William, when a young man, by Charles Wheler's grandfather when he ’was of ye first fruites office’. (fn. 21)

Charles and (Sir) George Wheler were prevented for a time from coming into their inheritance by obstruction from Sir William's widow, who died in 1670. (fn. 27) Then in the early 1670's Sir Charles Wheler of Birdingbury, the heir to the baronetcy, established in Chancery his right to part of Sir William's Spitalfields estate, ’to go along with ye Barronett’. By the division made in 1674 Charles and George Wheler were left with that part of Sir William's estate which consisted of all the land on the west side of Wheler Street and all that part on the east side of Wheler Street which lay north of the ditch dividing (Great) Pearl Street (Calvin Street) from Westbury Street (Quaker Street), and west of Grey Eagle Street and Farthing Street. They also had a disconnected piece on the north-west corner of Brown's Lane (Hanbury Street) and Brick Lane. In the part that went to Sir Charles the chief later developments were by the Wilkes family and by Truman's Brewery. The chief developments on Charles and (Sir) George Wheler's section were the erection of Sir George Wheler's Chapel, and some rebuilding by his son Granville Wheler. Part of the property still remains in this branch of the family.

In 1654 William Wheler had begun to lay out streets in his estate north of the line of Lamb Street and Brown's Lane, and to grant leases, mainly for ninety-nine years. In the first year or two a site on the north side of Brown's Lane was leased to a brickmaker (fn. 28) and another, probably near Corbett's Court, to a weaver. (fn. 29) Two pieces of ground near the southern end of the west side of Wheler Street were leased, one consisting of the ’Great White House’ in the ’Old Brick Orchard’ with an adjacent half-acre, (fn. 30) and the other of two mansion houses with a stone-walled garden and a pump: (fn. 31) they had perhaps formed part of the precinct of St. Mary Spital Priory. In April 1656 a ninety-nine-year lease of ground probably near Vine Court was granted to Andrew Bond, tyler and bricklayer. (fn. 32) Thomas Wildgoose, a carpenter, was also granted a lease in this part of the estate. (fn. 33)

The first main development on the estate was the building of Wheler Street running north from the unbuilt part of Lolesworth to Bethnal Green. On its west side Sir William granted leases himself, as in 1661 when he granted part of the later site of Hope's brewery (see page 80) to a brewer and tailor, (fn. 34) and in 1662 when he leased to Isaac Corner, bricklayer, ground called the Licoras Garden near Fleur-de-lis Alley. (fn. 35)

On the east side of Wheler Street Sir William disposed of much of his estate to lessees by whom it was subsequently developed. By December 1656 William Browne, weaver, had taken a lease of three acres of pasture: he built along the east side of Wheler Street and also laid out, at right angles to it, ’the greene waie or lane there called the newe street’ subsequently named Westbury (later Quaker) Street. (fn. 36) Builders on Browne's land included Henry Rogers, carpenter, Charles Ware, carpenter, and John Somers of Norton Folgate, labourer. (fn. 37)

In June 1657 Philip Lepiers, weaver, took a lease of garden ground south of Browne's land. This remained undeveloped longer than the rest of the estate, under the name of Lepiers' or Leper's Garden, and it was not until the years 1670–2 that (Great) Pearl Street (now Calvin Street) was built on the ground. (fn. 38) Among the builders of the street were John Wise and Edward Baker, both carpenters, and William Gurling and Jacob Saywell, both bricklayers. (fn. 39) In May 1671 a Peter le Caine was permitted to complete ’Tyleing in’ three new brick houses which he had built in ’Lepars Garden’ as a workshop to house several ’Broad Loomes’ for one Bertrand Di Barbore, on condition that they were used for no other purpose. (fn. 40) By 1677 (Great) Pearl Street was not completely built-up. (fn. 41) It is noticeable that at that date the part of the east side of Wheler Street formed by the western side of Lepiers' Garden was set forward, making the street narrower at that point. (fn. 41)

The eastern part of the estate, east of the line of Grey Eagle Street, consisting of Long Hedge Field and Conduit Close, was leased for ninetytwo years by Sir William to John Stott, mariner, of Stepney, in March 1660. (fn. 42) Stott, described in his will of November 1670 as ’now att Sea, Gun- ner on Board the good Shipp Loyall Merchant', (fn. 43) laid the ground out in streets between 1661 and 1670, with building in Black Eagle Street, Grey Eagle Street, Monmouth Street, Brick Lane, and the eastern parts of Westbury Street, Phoenix Street and King Street. Builders taking leases from Stott included John Deane of St. Botolph Bishopsgate, house carpenter, and Richard Harvey of Stratford, Essex, and Charles Ware, also carpenters; William Sefton, bricklayer; and Gowen Key, plasterer. (fn. 44) Part of Stott's land on Brick Lane was developed as Truman's Brewery.

In the 1660's Sir William appears to have developed the northern part of his estate, between Wheler Street and Stott's land, by leases made after the lessees had been responsible for building. John Underwood, a scrivener, took leases in 1661 in Wheler Street and also in Sherfield Street (later Phoenix Street, its first name being derived from Sir William's manor in Hampshire). Builders working in the latter street included Abraham Roberts and Richard Webb, bricklayers, and Joseph Ball, carpenter. (fn. 45) Thomas Axcee of Shoreditch, weaver, took a lease from Sir William in 1665, probably of ground in King Street. (fn. 46)

It may be noted that in the lay-out of the southern part of the estate some of the lines of communication do not seem to have been carried through. In particular the indecisive southern end of Grey Eagle Street suggests the failure to fulfil a scheme.

The quality of construction in this first buildingup of Sir William's estate was probably not very high. Within sixty years a house in Quaker Street was an ’old ruined messuage’ and was rebuilt by John Darby, carpenter, (fn. 47) and other ’old ruinous’ houses in the same street were rebuilt in 1735 and 1736 as part of the estate of the Whelers of Charing and Otterden. (fn. 48)


  • n1. That William Wheler of Westbury acquired his estate from William Wheler of Datchet partly by purchase and partly by bequest is supported by a statement of Sir George Wheler in his autobiography.
  • 1. See O.E.D. sub ‘Hope’, and Ellis, pp. 104–5. But see English Piace-Name Society, vol. xviii, The Place-Names of Middlesex, 1942, pp. 152–3.
  • 2. P.R.O., C3/462/61.
  • 3. B.M., Add. Ch. 209.
  • 4. Ibid., 210.
  • 5. P.R.O., SC2/191/63.
  • 6. Bishopsgate Institute, Deeds of St. Mary Spital, Bundle 7.
  • 7. Stow, vol. i, p. 168.
  • 8. W. Robinson, The History and Antiquities of. . . Hackney, 1842, vol. i, p. 332.
  • 9. Ibid., p. 341.
  • 10. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1560-–3, p. 372.
  • 11. P.R.O., Requests 2/58/29.
  • 12. Ibid., C2 Eliz. B.22/35; C3/229/102; Requests 2/56/57.
  • 13. Ibid., C2 Eliz. H. 9/28.
  • 14. V.C.H. Buckinghamshire, vol. iii, p. 252.
  • 15. Market deeds, 19 March 1648/9.
  • 16. V.C.H., loc. cit.; P.R.O., C5/64/75.
  • 17. Autobiography of Sir George Wheler, ed. E. G. Wheler, 1911, Appendix I.
  • 18. M.C.R.O., Ace. 240, deed of 23 Oct. 1719.
  • 19. P.C.C. 69 Fairfax.
  • 20. L.C.C.R.O., MSS. of Lee and Pemberton, Sur vey of Stepney Manor, 1652, f. 37 etseq.
  • 21. Autobiography, p. 6.
  • 22. Ibid., Appendix I, II, and his will P.C.C. 96 Carr.
  • 23. P.R.O., C66/2926 No. 7.
  • 24. The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 16,17 Feb., 7 March 1662/3.
  • 25. Autobiography, p. 7.
  • 26. P.C.C. 96 Carr.
  • 27. Autobiography, pp. 8, 16, 20–1.
  • 28. M.L.R. 1735/5/305.
  • 29. Ibid., 1718/6/69.
  • 30. Ibid., 1735/4/351.
  • 31. M.C.R.O., Ace. 311 No. 99.
  • 32. M.L.R. 1722/4/267–9.
  • 33. Ibid., 1719/4/347–8.
  • 34. Ibid., 1733/4/188.
  • 35. Ibid., 1721/1/252.
  • 36. B.M., Add. Ch. 4790.
  • 37. Ibid., and M.L.R. 1724/3/478; 1733/3/373; 1735/2/379.
  • 38. M.L.R. 1743/1/149–50.
  • 39. Ibid., 1716/6/7; 1724/5/176; 1730/6/132.
  • 40. P.R.O., PC2/63, p. 4; The Wren Society, vol. xviii, p. 30.
  • 41. Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1677.
  • 42. Recited in ’Abstract of Mr. Jef Feries Title to a Leasehold Estate in Spittle Fields’ in MSS. of Truman, Han bury, Buxton and Co.; and see M.L.R. 1719/1/264.
  • 43. P.C.C. 68 Duke.
  • 44. M.L.R. 1720/2/147; 1729/3/57; 1729/6/139; 1732/5/107; 1735/4/297.
  • 45. Ibid., 1734/2/208; P.R.O., C5/458/54.
  • 46. Ibid., 1731/5/430.
  • 47. Ibid., 1733/3/145.
  • 48. Ibid., 1735/3/408; 1736/3/469.