Survey of London: Volume 3, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt I: Lincoln's Inn Fields. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1912.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
Before proceeding to deal with the individual houses in Lincoln's Inn Fields, it seems desirable to devote a few pages to the history of the area as a whole. It is in this way possible to treat at some length points which otherwise can hardly be dealt with, such as the circumstances in which the erection of houses was begun in the Fields, the existence or otherwise of an authoritative plan on which the buildings could be erected, the maps and pictorial representations of the Fields, the laying out and preservation of the central space, etc. Apart from these considerations, however, the history of the evolution of the modern square from the "three waste Common-fields, called by the names of Purse-field, Fickets-field and Cup-field," (fn. 1) can hardly fail to be of interest to all students of London local history.
From the map (Plate 2) showing these "Lincoln's Inn Fields" (fn. 2) as they existed towards the end of Elizabeth's reign, it will be seen that Cup Field, which extended from Lincoln's Inn wall a little more than halfway across the present central garden, has been entirely merged in the modern square, while of Purse Field, reaching from the west of Cup Field as far as the nameless stream, which was once the chief tributary of the Thames between the Tyburn and the Fleet, about two-thirds has been so utilised. On the other hand, Fickett's Field, situated to the south of Cup Field and Purse Field, has contributed the merest fraction towards the modern Lincoln's Inn Fields. It will be evident, therefore, that in a history of the latter, Fickett's Field hardly counts, (fn. 3) and any detailed notice of it would be quite out of proportion to its importance in this connection. Here, then, it is proposed to confine attention to Cup Field and Purse Field.
The first direct references to these two fields occur in the early part of the reign of Henry VIII., when we find them in the possession respectively of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, at Clerkenwell, and the Hospital of St. Giles in the Fields. It is, however, possible to obtain some light on their earlier history.
In a MS. book (fn. 4) containing, inter alia, some early documents relating to property that belonged to the Hospital of St. John, are transcripts of a number of deeds relating to a certain property, which seems to have come into the hands of the Hospital in 1431. (fn. 5) This consisted of 24 messuages and 10 acres of arable land in the parish of St. Giles. Its northern and southern boundaries respectively were the highway of Holborn and Fickett's Field. From the map (Plate 2) it will be seen that these 10 acres must have included Cup Field or part of Purse Field. The property was bounded on the west by a tenement of the Hospital of St. Giles, a fact which strongly suggests that this limit was identical with the later boundary between Cup Field and Purse Field, belonging respectively to the two Hospitals. There is no trace in this book of any other estate belonging to the Hospital of St. John on the south side of Holborn in St. Giles. For nearly a century we are left entirely in the dark as to what became of these 24 messuages and 10 acres. At the end of that period, however, certain records are available in two other MS. books containing particulars of leases of the property belonging to the Hospital of St. John (a) between 1503 and 1526, (fn. 6) and (b) from 1530 until the dissolution of the Hospital. (fn. 7) In these records the only possessions of the Hospital on the south side of Holborn which are mentioned are as follows, counting from the east:—(i.) a tenement with garden; (ii.) a tenement (or cottage); (iii.) a tenement, bounded on the west by the lane called "Turngatlane" (fn. 8) (iv.) two tenements and seven cottages, bounded on the east by the lane called "Turnpyklane" (fn. 8) (v.) a tenement, with one garden formerly two gardens, bounded on the west by a tenement of the Master of Burton St. Lazarus (who was the warden of the Hospital of St. Giles). The relation between this property and the 24 messuages of a hundred years before is rendered uncertain by the fact that something like half of the houses seem to have disappeared. On the other hand, the facts (a) that both properties are bounded on the west by the possessions of St. Giles, and (b) that in both cases no other land belonging to St. John's Hospital can be traced in the neighbourhood, point to the identity of the two. At any rate the 24 messuages of 1431 include the later property. The question now arises, what has become of the 10 acres? These, we may conclude, lay in the rear of the 24 messuages, between the latter and Fickett's Field, and we may therefore trace them by seeing what were the southern boundaries of the later properties. They are described, again counting from the east, as follows:—(i.) and (ii.) the gardens of Lincoln's Inn; (iii.) a field belonging to the Hospital, and in 1522 in the tenure of Richard Sutton; (iv.) and (v.) a field belonging to the Hospital, and in the tenure, in 1519, of Robert Barton, in 1530 of John Braythwaite, and in 1544 of James Norris. The position of the last-mentioned field is itself sufficient to identify the field with Cup Field, but the question is placed beyond doubt by the names of Braythwaite and Norris. (fn. 9) The next field to the east, between Cup Field and Lincoln's Inn Gardens, was evidently "the Conyngerfeld (fn. 10) of Lincolnes Inne," mentioned as being in 1529 the eastern boundary of Cup Field. It is now part of the Gardens of Lincoln's Inn, but in 1522 was in the hands of the Hospital of St. John. (fn. 11) Now Cup Field in old deeds is always reckoned as 6 acres in extent (it was actually 7½), and it is, therefore, clear that by itself it cannot represent the 10 acres of land of 1431. Seeing, therefore, that "Conyngerfield" was also a portion of the Hospital property, it is a natural assumption that this also formed part of the earlier 10 acres.
Reconstructing the early history of Cup Field, we may then say, with a fair amount of probability, that in the days of Edward II. 10 acres of arable land lay behind 24 houses situated within the parish of St. Giles on either side of Great Turnstile; that in 1431 this land passed into the hands of the Hospital of St. John; and that a hundred years afterwards it formed two fields, Cup Field and "Conyngerfeld," the latter of which eventually became a portion of Lincoln's Inn Gardens.
With regard to the early history of Purse Field very little can be said. As, however, the field is found, at the beginning of the 16th century, in the possession of the Hospital of St. Giles, it seems reasonable to assume that it is represented in early times by a number of fields belonging to that Hospital mentioned in various documents (fn. 12) about the reign of Henry III. as lying between Holborn and Fickett's Field.
The history of the two fields from the time of Henry VIII. presents no difficulties. On 7th March, 1529, the Prior of the Hospital of St. John granted, together with the inn called the Ship in the Strand, "a felde called Cuppefeld… adjoyning to the Conyngerfeld of Lincolnes Inne," to John Braythwaite for a term of 40 years. (fn. 13) The function of the field was evidently to provide pasture ground for use in connection with the Ship (fn. 14) Inn. On the confiscation of the property belonging to the Order of St. John, the field came into the possession of the Crown, and in 1541 passed, by way of exchange, to the Guild of St. Mary Roncevall, Charing Cross. (fn. 15) Queen Mary re-instituted the Order of St. John, and endowed it with a considerable part of its former property. Included therein was the inn called "le Shipp" and a field called "Cupfeld." (fn. 16) On the accession of Elizabeth the Order was again suppressed in England, the estates reverting to the Crown.
Purse Field was also during the same period attached to an inn. (fn. 17) On 6th June, 1524, (fn. 18) the Warden of the Hospital of St. Giles farmed to Katherine Smyth, alias Clerke, the inn known as the White Hart, at the corner of Drury Lane and High Holborn, with a cottage, "and a pasture of land, lying in the parish of the aforesaid St. Giles, called Pursefeld, and two pightles of land thereto belonging, lying between the aforesaid close called Pursefeld and the highway which leads from St. Giles to Holborne."
In the year 1537 Henry VIII. effected an exchange of property with the Order of Burton St. Lazarus, who had the custody of the Hospital, as a result of which there passed into the royal hands "one messuage called the Whyte Hart, and eighteen acres of pasture to the same messuage belonging." (fn. 19) This property can be traced through various grants until 1598, when it was leased for a term of 60 years as from Michaelmas, 1624, to Nicholas Morgan and Thomas Horne." (fn. 20)
We see then that in the reign of Elizabeth both fields were pasture grounds in the hands of the Crown. (fn. 21) It was probably, however, the fact of their being accessible from the City rather than that of their belonging to the Crown that led to one of them being chosen as the site of the first historical occurrence which can be definitely located in Lincoln's Inn Fields. This was the execution, on 20th and 21st September, 1586, of Anthony Babington and his fellow conspirators. No details are known by which the precise spot where the scaffold was erected can be identified. (fn. 22)
With the arrival of the 17th century, it began to be apparent that the Lincoln's Inn Fields could not much longer escape the encroachments of the builder. The increase in the population of the City had been so great as to excite the apprehensions of the Government, which had taken such steps as the economic ideas of the day suggested to keep within reasonable limits the population of the City and its immediate neighbourhood. One of the precautions adopted was to prohibit the erection of any buildings on new foundations within three miles of the gates of the City, a provision which would accordingly render it necessary to obtain a special licence before building on the Fields.
On 24th March, 1613, (fn. 23) the Morgan and Horne lease of Purse Field was settled on Sir Charles Cornwallis, who, without losing any time, applied for a licence to build a house there. The Society of Lincoln's Inn at once made an earnest and successful protest to the Privy Council. (fn. 24) Not only was the licence refused, but the Privy Council, on 31st August, 1613, issued instructions to certain local justices which, after mentioning that complaint had been made "by the students of Lincoln's Inn that some doe goe aboute to errect new buildinges in a feild neere unto them called Lincolnes Inne Feildes, wth an intent to convert the whole feild into new buildinges, contrary to His Matie's Proclamacion … and to the greate pestring and annoyaunce of that Society," required them "to restrayne and forbid that building by such effectuall meanes as you shall thinke meete."
The alarm, however, which had been caused by the attempt did not immediately subside, and proposals were put forward to prevent anything of the kind in future. Quite recently (1607) the land to the north of the City outside Moorgate had been drained and laid out in walks, with the result that a marshy and offensive tract had been converted into a pleasant place of recreation. This example was not lost on those who were interested in keeping Lincoln's Inn Fields open. Early in 1617 a petition was presented to James I. from gentlemen of the Inns of Court and Chancery and from the four parishes adjoining the Fields, asking (fn. 25) "that the feildes commonly called Lincolnes Inn Feildes, being parcell of His Maties inheritance, might for their generall Commoditie and health be converted into walkes after the same manner as Morefeildes are now made to the greate pleasure and benefite of that Citty." This petition, we are told, "His Magtie did take in very gracious and acceptable parte and did highly commend and allowe of the same as a matter both of speciall benifitt and ornament to that parte of the Cittie." The Privy Council accordingly, on 4th May, 1617, issued a circular letter to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, the Justices of the Peace for Middlesex, and the Benchers of Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, Middle Temple and "Inward" Temple, urging them to solicit subscriptions to meet the cost of "soe worthie and comendable a worke," and therein themselves to set a good example. They supported their appeal by pointing out that the project "wilbe a meanes to frustrate the covetuos and greedy endeavors of such persons as daylie seeke to fill upp that small remaynder of Ayre in those partes with unnecessary and unproffittable Buildinges, which have been found the greatest meanes of breedinge and harbouring Scarcity and Infection, to the generall inconvenience of the whole Kingdome."
The matter seems to have slumbered for nearly a twelvemonth, when His Majesty "againe called it into His remembrance, and enquireth after the successe." The Privy Council thereupon, on 20th March, 1618, forwarded a letter to certain high officers and councillors of state suggesting that they should take steps to hasten the collection of the contributions, and also to make terms with the parties interested "eyther in the inheritance or by Lease in the groundes to be made walkes." (fn. 26) As a result, in the same year a Commission was granted which, after reciting that Lincoln's Inn Fields, if they were reduced into " faire and goodlye walkes, would be a matter of greate ornament to the Citie, pleasure and freshnes for the health and recreation of the Inhabitantes thereabout, and for the sight and delight of Embassadors and Strangers coming to our Court and Cittie, and a memorable worke of our tyme to all posteritie," states that "the same may be most speedely, substancially and gracefully accomplished and performed, as well by removing and repressing all nuisances and inconvenient buildinges which confine upon the same, as by the ordering and contriving of the groundes themselves in such sorte as may be most for comblines and beautie." The Commissioners, among whom was Inigo Jones, the surveyor-general, were thereupon ordered to survey the Fields and obtain information of such nuisances as had taken place "by erecting of houses, pety tenements and cotages," and also "to inquire accordinglie of all other nuisances, inconveniences and annoyances whatsoever whereby the ayre in those partes now is or in tyme may be corrupted or made unwholesome, and the same to demolishe pull downe and reforme" according to their discretion, and to take such order that "the said closes and groundes commonlie called Lincolnes Inn Feildes according to [their] wisdomes and discrecions may be framed and reduced both for sweetnes, unformitie and comlines into such walkes, partitions or other plottes and in such sorte, manner and forme both for publique health and pleasure as by the said Inago Jones is or shalbe accordingly drawne by way of mapp or ground plott exhibited plained and sett out and approved by us." (fn. 27)
The steps leading up to the appointment of the Commission have been given in some detail, not from the importance of the Commission in the history of the Fields, for there is no proof that it ever accomplished anything, but from the fact that it has been freely stated by many authors (fn. 28) that under this Commission Inigo Jones was instructed to draw up a design for building in the Fields.
Whether Inigo Jones ever did prepare a plan for elevations is a matter which will be best discussed below in connection with the early representations of the Fields. What must be pointed out here is that his part in the above Commission was simply to lay out the Fields into walks. In fact, not only was the control of building in the Fields no part of the Commission's functions, but any building at all was absolutely inconsistent with the object for which the Commission was appointed, namely, to frustrate the covetous and greedy endeavours of such persons as daily sought to fill up that small remainder of air in those parts with unnecessary and unprofitable buildings.
The Commission was a failure, and before the lapse of many years a complete change had come over the aspect of the Fields. The man chiefly responsible for this was William Newton, of Beddenham in Bedfordshire. In 1629 he acquired (fn. 29) the lease of Cup Field, and in 1638 he purchased (fn. 30) from Lady Cornwallis her interest in Purse Field. Soon after he presented a petition (fn. 31) to Charles I. In this he mentioned his freshly acquired interest in Purse Field, pointed out that under the existing conditions the Crown only received an annual rent of £5 6s. 8d. in respect of the property, and asked licence to build 32 houses on the field.
Again the Society of Lincoln's Inn made an endeavour to save the Fields. On 5th June they presented petitions (fn. 32) both to the king and the queen on the subject, asserting that the building contemplated would deprive them of the fresh air, annoy them "with offensive and unhealthfull savors," and cause many other inconveniences, to their great discouragement and the disquieting of their studies. Their opposition, however, was not successful, the prospect of a largely increased revenue from the property outweighing other considerations. Even before their petition was presented, a licence (fn. 33) had, on 14th February, 1638, been granted to Newton to build the 32 houses, and on 26th June a grant was made to him of Purse Field, in fee farm, as of the Manor of East Greenwich, in free socage, at a rent of £200. (fn. 34). Newton at once started operations. A few houses he seems to have built himself, but his usual procedure was to sell the land in plots. Certain of the agreements relating to the houses to be built on what is now the west side of the Fields contained covenants on his part that no buildings should be erected between those houses and the wall of Lincoln's Inn, and specifically granted the right of walking and recreation in the Fields. (fn. 35) The former provision may be connected with the agreement come to between Newton and the Society of Lincoln's Inn in 1639, according to which "the square peece of ground extendinge from Turne Style Lane to the new buildings neere Queene's Streete, and from thence to or neere Lowche's Buildings, and from thence to the south-east corner of Lyncolnis Inn wall, shall from thence fourthwth and for ever hereafter lye open and unbuilt." (fn. 36) So successful was Newton in the disposal of his plots, and so quickly was the work carried out, that by August, 1641, all the houses on the south side of Purse Field, and most of those on the western side of the Fields, had been built, as well as others on outlying parts of Purse Fields in Great Queen Street, etc. At the same time extensive building operations were threatened in Fickett's Field (fn. 37), and there could be no doubt that Newton intended shortly to turn his attention to the north and south sides of Cup Field. The Society of Lincoln's Inn determined to make another effort, and, the result of their previous petitions to the king and queen not having proved encouraging, this time resolved to lay their grievance before the House of Commons. On 16th August, 1641, they presented their petition. (fn. 38) The House was sympathetic and promptly ordered (fn. 39) a stay to be "made of any farther Building in Lincolnes-inn-fields (especially by Mr. Newton) till this House shall take farther Order therein." Newton, of course, lodged a counter-petition, (fn. 40) and set about propitiating the Society. (fn. 41) The matter dragged on for months, and the strong feeling that existed is shown by the fact that in June, 1642, a large quantity of timber that had been stored in the Fields for use in building was maliciously set on fire. (fn. 42)
No settlement had been arrived at when, in August, 1642, the Civil War broke out. In the following year (20th July, 1643) Newton died, (fn. 43) and we hear of no fresh building operations in Lincoln's Inn Fields for ten years. From the terms of a petition addressed to Parliament in 1645, (fn. 44) we get a glimpse of the condition of the Fields during the interval. The petitioners relate the circumstances in which Newton had "for his owne private lucre" erected many houses in the Fields ("inhabited for the most part by Popish Recusants"), and state that since then many thousand loads of dung and dirt had been laid there, and a common horse pool made therein. Accordingly petitioners were "almost quite deprived of their former liberty of Walking, Training, drying of Cloathes, and recreating themselves in the said fields," and the paths had become foundrous and impassable in wet weather.
In 1653, Humphrey Newton, William's brother and sole surviving trustee, sold to Arthur Newman (fn. 45) the northern strip of Purse Field, with liberty to build as many houses as he should deem fit. From the terms of the agreement between the Society of Lincoln's Inn and Sir William Cowper, referred to below, it is clear that these buildings were all erected before 1657.
The latter year saw the arrangements made for the completion of the three sides of the Fields by building on the north and south sides of Cup Field. This field had recently come into the joint possession of Sir William Cowper, Robert Henley, and James Cowper. (fn. 46) Anticipating the opposition that would be raised by the Society of Lincoln's Inn to any indiscriminate building, they entered into negotiations with them. As a result, an agreement was concluded. (fn. 47) This recites that the three individuals in question "being the persons interested in the Inheritance of Cupfield… have designed the continuance of one Row or Range of buildinge, called Portugall Row, in the sayd Feild, Eastward towards Lincolne's Inne wall, and of one other Row or Range of buildinge alonge the North side of the sayd Feild, leading from the buildings lately erected by one Newman on the north-west side of the sayd Feild to Turne Stile"; and that "the sayd Society of Lincolne's Inne, being interested in the beniffitt and advantage of the prospect and aire of the sayd Feild, are willing and contented" for them to proceed "in their sayd designe." Among other conditions, Sir William Cowper, Robert Henley and James Cowper agreed that the new buildings should "beare equall proportions in front, height, breadth, strength and beauty, with the sayd Row called Portugall Row, or in a more firme or beautifull manner," (fn. 48) and that each of the two rows should be 40 feet distant from Lincoln's Inn wall. By indenture of the same date, Sir William Cowper and his colleagues sold to trustees for the Society, for the sum of five shillings, all the remainder of Cup Field, and by another indenture the trustees leased it to the three individuals in question for 900 years.
These arrangements had not been effected without some action by Parliament. In February of the same year (1657) the House of Commons, having under consideration the question of raising a large sum of money, decided to impose fines of a year's rent on every new building erected since 1620 within 10 miles of London, and not having 4 acres of land, and it was further resolved that in the Bill to be prepared for this end clauses should be inserted restricting future building. (fn. 49) In this connection the Committee had before them the agreement which has been detailed above, and the Act, as passed in June, 1657, contained a provision that it should not extend to any houses which at any time before 1st October, 1659, should be built by Cowper and Henley, on condition that within one month after [erecting the houses they should " satisfy and pay the Lord Protector and his successors one full year's value of all and every the said houses to be built." (fn. 50)
During 1658 or 1659 the small gap that had hitherto been left towards the northern end of the western side of Lincoln's Inn Fields was filled up, (fn. 51) and the building in the Fields was thus complete. The three sides were from an early period known by distinct names: (1) the north as Newman's Row (afterwards Holborn Row and sometimes Turnstile Row (fn. 52) ), from the name of the builder of the houses in its western half; (2) the west as Arch Row, from the presence of the archway between No. 54 and No. 55; and (3) the south as Portugal Row. The reason for this name is not known. (fn. 53) It is, however, certain that in 1641 the residence of the Portuguese ambassador was in Lincoln's Inn Fields, (fn. 54) and in the absence of more precise information it may be assumed that his house was on the south side, (fn. 55) which derived its name from this circumstance.
Two maps are extant showing Lincoln's Inn Fields during the period of building—viz., Faithorne and Newcourt's map (Plate 4) and Hollar's map of the area now forming the west central part of London (Plate 3). The former is dated 1658, and the representation of Lincoln's Inn Fields cannot, therefore, very well be later than this. It is certainly not earlier, for the building on the north side of Cup Field is complete. The date is, moreover, confirmed by the fact that no houses are shown on the south side of Cup Field, and one at least was erected in the latter part of 1658. (fn. 56) The map may, therefore, be taken as a representation of Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1658, and is evidence that the houses on the north side of Cup Field were erected before those on the south.
The second map above referred to has been assigned to varying dates, but, so far as the portion dealing with Lincoln's Inn Fields is concerned, it is apparently about the same date as the preceding. The existence of the gap towards the north end of the west side shows that the date cannot be later than 1658, and the presence of buildings on the north side of Cup Field suggests that it is actually in that year, a few months earlier than Newcourt's map. It is, however, somewhat doubtful whether much stress can be laid on the latter point, because in point of fact the map is incorrect. It shows the houses on the north side of Purse Field not completed, whereas we know that they had all been built before any house was erected on Cup Field.
Besides these two maps, there are three pictorial representations of Lincoln's Inn Fields which it is convenient to deal with at this point. The first is an oil painting preserved at Wilton House, and reproduced (Plate 6) by kind permission of the Earl of Pembroke. The central portion of Cup Field is shown as it was between about 1660 and 1734, and Carlisle House (the house on the extreme right of the central row) appears as it was before its destruction by fire in 1684. (fn. 57) Judging by these considerations, therefore, the date of the picture lies between 1660 and 1684. It is no great objection to this date that the figures in the foreground belong to about the middle of the 18th century, for these may have been painted in afterwards. The latter supposition is much more likely than the only possible alternative, namely, that the picture as a whole was painted about 1750, but that the artist endeavoured to represent the Fields as they were three-quarters of a century beforehand. If he had wished to do so, he would surely have also drawn figures to correspond.
That the picture is an accurate and painstaking attempt to reproduce Lincoln's Inn Fields as it was before the artist's eyes, is suggested by a number of details. (1) The distinction in the treatment of Cup Field and Purse Field (fn. 58) is clearly shown. While the former field has its paths fenced in, the latter has no fencing except the rail that encloses it as a whole. (2) The distinction between the houses on the north side of Purse Field and Cup Field respectively is equally clear. (3) The balconies at the first floor level on the west side are not symmetrical either as regards position or length. (4) The house on the right of Lindsey House is not quite uniform with the house on the left hand in several small details, and notably in having a belvedere on the roof.
The picture has been in the possession of the Earls of Pembroke from the time of the 9th Earl, but nothing is known for certain of its earlier history. (fn. 59) It is possible, however, that in the great care which the artist evidently bestowed on the house to the right of Lindsey House we have an indication of the origin of the picture. From some time before 1683 until his death in 1692, this house was inhabited by Sir Robert Sawyer, whose only daughter and heiress in 1684 married the 8th Earl of Pembroke. It is, therefore, suggested that the picture was painted, about the year 1683 (fn. 60), for Sir Robert Sawyer, on whose death it passed into the hands of the Countess of Pembroke. It is, of course, nothing more than a suggestion, but it accounts both for the detail shown in con nection with that particular house, and for the fact that the picture is afterwards found in the possession of the 9th Earl of Pembroke.
We now turn to the second of the pictorial representations. This is a print (Plate 6) in the possession of Mr. H. Fancourt, of Barnet, inscribed: "Prospect of Lincoln's Inn Fields from E.N.E." A photograph of the print has been shown to Sir Sidney Colvin, of the British Museum, and he has stated that the print is undoubtedly Hollar's, and from the costumes of the soldiers and civilians, was drawn some time between 1640 and 1660. Since Hollar joined the Royalist forces in the Civil War and, after being captured by the Parliamentarians at Basing House, made his escape to Antwerp, not returning to England until 1652 the date of the print must, in all probability, be either 1640–45 or 1652–60. The last mentioned period may, however, be shortened by at least three years. It will be noticed that in Hollar's View of West Central London the houses on the north side are shown without pilasters, and that this representation is correct is proved by the Wilton House picture. Here they are shown with pilasters. It is inconceivable that Hollar should have represented them thus after he had drawn them correctly in the View, which has been shown above to be (in that portion) not later than the early part of 1658. That the date is before the erection of houses in 1658 on the north side of Cup Field is also rendered probable by the fact that the break in the elevation of the houses on the north side is not shown. The alternative dates for the Prospect are, therefore, 1640–45 and 1652–57. In either case the print cannot represent a state of things actually existing, for even in 1657 only half of the houses on the north side had been built, and there was a gap in the west side. It is difficult to get any nearer to the truth. The fact that the archway on the west side is shown as single instead of triple, as it actually was, suggests that the print might have been drawn before the erection of the archway some time later than March, 1641. It may, however, be only an error. Of more importance is the representation of the pilasters on the houses on the north side. It does not seem likely that Hollar would have made so serious an error involving one-half of the print, if the houses had really been in existence for him to copy.
If, which is rather improbable, the print could be dated 1638 or the early part of 1639, it might be regarded as a design for elevations of the houses to be erected in the Fields, and Heckethorn has suggested that in this print we have the actual design drawn up by Inigo Jones. (fn. 61) It is, of course, possible that William Newton, before starting his building operations, would either draw up for himself, or get someone to draw up for him, a design by which to work, and that the person commissioned was Inigo Jones. Even, however, if this were the case, this print can hardly be the design in question, since it is very improbable that any original design for the houses in the Fields would have had its effect made unsymmetrical by the central feature of the west side being placed so much to the right.
Whether, in fact, the above supposition be correct or not, this is not what Heckethorn means. He is referring to the often repeated statement that Inigo Jones was commissioned to draw up an authoritative design of elevations for houses in the Fields. (fn. 62) This statement is occasionally made in the form that the drawing up of such a design formed part of Inigo Jones's duty in connection with the Commission of 1618, but this has been shown to be quite devoid of truth. There are, however, strong reasons against the assumption that any authoritative design ever existed. If there did it would surely have been the case that when Newton received from the king the grant of Purse Field, and the licence to build thereon, these would have been given to him on the express condition that such a design was to be followed. As a matter of fact, the grant (fn. 63) contains no conditions of any kind whatever. The licence (fn. 64) states that the houses are to be built in accordance with "the true intent and meaning of our proclamations in that behalf published," (fn. 65) with the exception that notwithstanding the provisions of such proclamations, Newton may add "stepps to ascend into the first entry of the same." It is also provided that Newton is not to allow "more familyes than one to inhabit in one howse together," he is to be permitted to destroy all footways and lay out new ones, and use of the sewers is secured to him. But among all these permissions and restrictions there is not a word as to the elevations of the houses having to conform to a certain design.
When, again, Newton sold his plots to builders, it might be supposed that a clause relating to such a design would have formed part of the agreement. But in no case has such a clause been found, although all kinds of other matters are dealt with.
Moreover, the fact that in the agreement with the Society of Lincoln's Inn in 1657 that body felt it necessary to insist upon the style of buildings to be erected implies that there was no recognised and authoritative scheme in existence.
Finally, it may be observed that if there ever was such an authoritative design, it could not have extended to the north of the square, for in the sale of the land on the north side of Purse Field to Arthur Newman in 1653 it is distinctly provided that the latter might build on that plot as many houses as he wished.
It may, therefore, be assumed that there never was an authorita tive design to which buildings had to conform, and that such uniformity as actually existed must have been the result of agreement. We have an instance of this in the stipulation made by the Society of Lincoln's Inn in 1657, and referred to above; another instance may be found in the case of No. 55. This house was built some time after No. 54, and when arrangements were made for its erection partly over the arch and for the continuation of No. 54 northwards over the arch to meet it, it was stipulated that uniformity should be observed in the front. (fn. 66)
If then the print is not a design, authoritative or otherwise, made before the erection of any buildings, it must be a sketch, made after the commencement of building operations, based upon existing buildings, perhaps assisted by plans of intended houses, and conveying a more or less intelligent anticipation of what the square would look like when all the buildings were erected. In this connection attention should be called to the strikingly disproportionate amount of space occupied by what was actually the least imposing side of the Fields. Can it be that the print was drawn as an advertisement of the prospective houses on the north side? There are two occasions when such might have been suitable: (i.) in 1641, when Newton's building operations on the west side and the western portion of the south side seemed to be approaching an end, and he was meditating the completion of his scheme; (ii.) in 1653, when Newman had purchased the ground on the north side of Purse Field for the purpose of building. But the possibility must not be overlooked that it may have been merely a suggestive sketch made by a clever and very industrious engraver.
The third representation of the Fields (giving simply the west side) is reproduced in Plate 7. It is the design (fn. 67), by G. Bower, for the silver medallion to commemorate the partial destruction of the Franciscan Monastery and adjoining buildings in 1688. The illustration is useful in confirming the relative heights of the houses as represented in the Wilton House picture. It also shows the screen walls and piers to the courtyards and the posts and rails to the fields very similar in disposition.
We have now traced the history of Lincoln's Inn Fields from the earliest time to the completion of the original buildings. Further details as regards rebuilding, etc., will be found under the head of the several houses dealt with. In order, however, to complete the story, it is necessary here to give a short account of the development of the central portion.
In the agreement of 1657, to which reference has been made, Sir William Cowper and his colleagues pledged themselves within two years to have Cupfield "levelled, plained, and cast into grass plots and gravel walks of convenient breadth, railed all along on each side, and set with rows of trees." No such arrangement was ever made with regard to Purse Field, which remained in the hands of the owners of the houses fronting it, and the fencing there erected was merely round the field itself.
The works in Cup Field were probably carried out within a few years of 1657, perhaps not before the end of 1659, when in the times of uncertainty before the Restoration the military were drawn up in Lincoln's Inn Fields. (fn. 68)
In 1666, on the occasion of the Great Fire, Lincoln's Inn Fields was one of the four places set apart for the deposit of people's goods under the protection of the trained bands. (fn. 69)
Morden and Lea's map (Plate 5) shows the Fields as they were in 1682, and is interesting as giving a good representation of the district in its middle period, between the rural conditions of Elizabeth's time and the sweeping changes in the neighbourhood caused by the formation of Kingsway.
In 1683 the Fields were the scene of one of the saddest incidents of Charles II.'s reign. William, Lord Russell, was in that year accused of complicity in the Rye House Plot, was found guilty, and, in spite of the strongest efforts on many sides to save his life, was beheaded in Lincoln's Inn Fields on 21st July. A brass tablet was in 1897 placed by the London County Council in the floor of the shelter in the Fields, purporting to indicate the exact spot where Lord Russell suffered. It is probable, however, that this is wrong. The site of the shelter is wholly within Cup Field, and it is most likely, having regard to the different condition of the two fields at the time, that the execution took place on the open space of Purse Field rather than in Cup Field, which was intersected by rows of fencing. This, indeed, is placed beyond reasonable doubt by the fact that Lord Russell entered the Fields by way of Little Queen Street. (fn. 70) (fn. c2)
Five years later, on the destruction of the Franciscan Monastery attached to No. 54, Lincoln's Inn Fields, the papal emblems were collected and burnt in the Fields. (fn. 71) The scene is represented on Plate 7.
It would seem that the enclosing of the central portion of the Fields did not prevent the misuse of the ground. It is not possible definitely to locate in this quarter all the abuses and nuisances which are mentioned as taking place in "Lincoln's Inn Fields," since that name also embraced what was sometimes more particularly called Little Lincoln's Inn Fields (Fickett's Field). (fn. 72) There can, however, be no doubt that the use to which the Fields were put proved of great annoyance to the inhabitants, and that their ill-kept and unguarded condition was a source of danger to the public. (fn. 73) In the preamble to the Act of 1735, it is stated that "the great Square, now called Lincoln's Inn Fields … hath for some Years past lain waste and in great Disorder, whereby the same has become a Receptacle for Rubbish, Dirt and Nastiness of all Sorts … but also for Want of proper Fences (fn. 74) to enclose the same great Mischiefs have happened to many of His Majesty's Subjects going about their lawful Occasions, several of whom have been killed, and others maimed and hurt, by Horses which have been from Time to Time aired and rode in the said Fields (fn. 75); and by reason of the said Fields being kept open many wicked and disorderly Persons have frequented and met together therein, using unlawful Sports and Games, and drawing in and enticing young Persons into Gaming, Idleness and other vicious Courses; and Vagabonds, common Beggars, and other disorderly Persons resort therein, where many Robberies, Assaults, Outrages and Enormities have been and continually are committed."
In 1707 a Bill was brought in for "beautifying and preserving the Square called Lincoln's Inn Great Fields." (fn. 76) Nothing, however, came of it. At last the inhabitants and proprietors of houses in the Fields came to an agreement among themselves to take in hand the proper enclosing, laying out and maintenance of the central portion, and in 1734 applied to Parliament for power to carry out their design. As a result, the Act 8 Geo. II. cap. XXVI. was passed "to enable the present and future Proprietors and Inhabitants of the Houses in Lincoln's Inn Fields in the County of Middlesex to make a Rate on themselves for raising money sufficient to inclose, clean and adorn the said Fields." Among other provisions the Act directed the method of appointment of Trustees, and defined their powers, prescribed penalties for encroaching, committing nuisances, etc., dealt with the question of raising funds, and provided for compensation to Anthony Henley and William Cowper, the holders of the 900 years' lease of Cupfield. (fn. 77)
On 2nd June, 1735, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the inhabitants, etc., of houses in the Fields met and elected 21 trustees. On the same day the trustees held their first meeting, and resolved to advertise at once for tenders for enclosing and adorning the Fields, and to warn, through the columns of the Daily Advertiser, all persons from riding horses or laying rubbish in the Fields. Eventually it was decided to lay out the Fields with grass and gravel walks, enclosed with an iron palisade upon a stone plinth, and containing in the centre a large basin, to be filled with water. This basin was the source of much anxiety to the Trustees, and after a chequered existence of about half a century, was filled up in 1790, "after much debate and opposition among the inhabitants." (fn. 78)
In the early part of the 19th century the garden was re-arranged practically on its present plan.
On more than one occasion attempts have been made to build over a portion of the Fields. At the end of the 17th century Mr. Cavendish Weedon, of Lincoln's Inn, "caused to be curiously engraven on two copper plates a noble design for the beautifying Lincoln's Inn Fields … the one setting out the particulars of the design of building a beautiful church or chapel in the center of the said Lincoln's Inn Fields … and the other of the manner of beautifying the said Fields." (fn. 79) The latter is reproduced in Plate 8. The engraving (fn. 80) shows in the distance the gardens of Lincoln's Inn and New Square, while on either side of the Fields are shown Holborn Row and Portugal Row. As the engraving is in the form of a design for laying out the Fields the architectural character of the houses need not be commented on. In the centre of the Fields is shown the proposed church (fn. 81) for divine music, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Transverse and diagonal paths lead up to it. Fountains and statues of the twelve apostles were also proposed as adornments. If this project had been carried out it would have made a very handsome square.
The idea of erecting a church in the centre of the Fields appears to have carried considerable weight, for in 1712 Colin Campbell designed a large church, about 280 feet square, for this site. (fn. 82) Moreover, in 1819, and again in 1824, applications were made to the Society of Lincoln's Inn for permission to erect a church on the eastern part of the Fields. (fn. 83) In 1842 a suggestion was made that the Royal Courts of Justice should occupy the centre of the Fields, and Sir Charles Barry drew up a design. All such projects, however, came to nothing.
By degrees the character of the square altered, and the houses, which had at first been used entirely for residential purposes, became utilised mainly as offices. Not only did the use of the garden by the residents on whose behalf it was enclosed in 1735 grow less and less, but the need for a public open space in the locality became increasingly urgent. In these circumstances several endeavours were made to secure the opening of the garden to the public, but this the trustees found impracticable, owing to the terms of the Act of 1735. After two unsuccessful attempts to secure an Act which would enable it to acquire the garden on behalf of the public, the London County Council came to an arrangement with the trustees whereby the latter agreed to part with their interests to the Council for the sum of £12,000, and this arrangement was authorised by the London County Council (Improvements) Act, 1894. On 7th November in that year the Council obtained possession of the garden.
In The Council's collection are—
* Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1911 (drawing).
* The Fields of Lincoln's Inn at the end of the 16th century (drawing). Patent Roll, 1618 (photograph).
* Extract from Hollar's map of the area now forming the west central district of London (photograph).
* Extract from Faithorne and Newcourt's map (photograph).
* Extract from Morden and Lea's map (drawing).
* "Prospect of Lincoln's Inn Fields from the E.N.E." (photograph).
* Lincoln's Inn Fields. Picture preserved at Wilton House (photograph).
* Design for reverse of silver medallion by G. Bower, showing Arch Row in 1688 (photograph).
Design for obverse of silver medallion (photographs).
Obverse of silver medallion (2) (photograph).
Reverse of silver medallion (photograph).
* Design for laying out Lincoln's Inn Fields (Cavendish Weedon) (photograph).
Instrument for collecting funds for musical service in Lincoln's Inn Chapel, 1697 (Cavendish Weedon) (photograph).
Elevation of church (designed by Sir C. Wren) proposed to be erected in Lincoln's Inn Fields (photograph).