Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1970.
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King Street and Floral Street Area
Plates 48a, 50a, 55c, 83
As with the other Covent Garden streets, nothing in King Street survives from its first building in the years 1633–7, (fn. 16) under the Bedford leases tabulated on page 302, and its present aspect is mainly late nineteenth-century. Nevertheless, most of the original sites retain their integrity. There are five houses with façades that date in their upper parts from the mid or late eighteenth century, and perhaps another five with vestiges of the eighteenth century in their fabric. Most of the survivals are on the north side of the street, where the better houses were always situated. From the first, four or five people of title were to be found in the street and it continued to be a 'good address' throughout the later seventeenth century: in 1672, for example, seven titled persons lived there, all on the north side, and this element became insignificant only in the second decade of the eighteenth century. It had not precluded a trading element earlier. When in 1667 'shops' were first generally specified as such in the parish ratebooks, five or six appear in King Street, although other house-ratepayers were certainly tradesmen. (fn. 17) By 1675 a 'coffeeman' was assessed at the east corner with Bedford Street: his name was given as 'Mr Jerome' in 1685 and in 1691 the assessment was for a 'coffee house'. (fn. 16)
By the early 1670's at least two houses had been rebuilt, both on the south side and both by tailors for their own occupation. (fn. 18) A rather more consequential rebuilding, of which some details are known, was carried out on the site of No. 27 in 1690–1. The client was Thomas Morton, a laceman, who had lived there since 1673. (fn. 16) For the rebuilding of his premises he employed Benjamin Stallwood, bricklayer, and William Jackson, joiner, with whom he concluded an agreement in June 1690. Before building, they were to set the house-drain deeper, 'whereby the said Dreyne (if possible) might be inoffensive'. Then they were to erect a four-storey house (including the garret storey), with a shop on the ground floor, having a frontage of 27 feet and a depth of 40 feet plus a closet wing. Behind the house a gallery with a rough-cast front and slated roof, supported on columns, extended back to a rear building of similar height to the house, brick-built, with sash windows and dormer windows looking on to the garden, and containing a first-floor parlour. In the main house in King Street the ground or 'shop' storey, divided into front and rear rooms, was to have a clear height of 10 feet, the second or dining-room storey 11 feet, the third storey 10½ feet, and the garret storey 8 feet. No fine decorative treatment of the interior was specified except that the staircase, which rose to the garret storey, was to have 'a handsome Rayle and Banister'. The woodwork, apart from oak doorcases and windowframes, seems generally to have been of fir. The brick front contained sash windows, and was finished with a small eaves-cornice under the tiled roof, which was broken by three pedimented dormer (or 'Lucerne') windows. On the ground floor a shop front was to project 3 feet, under a slated roof. The only decorative work specified was placed to catch the customer's eye at the entrance, where Morton required a 'Shell over the Entry Doore trussed over with carved Cantalevers and some Fruit worke plaistering in the Hollow of the Shell, the Shell to be covered with Slates'.
Morton permitted Stallwood and Jackson to use sound old material from the previous house, for which they were to allow him £180. Three payments totalling £400 were to be made as the work progressed, and a final payment was to be made according to the valuation of four arbitrators. By the end of 1691 Morton had paid £890 in all, but was dissatisfied with the work and brought a Chancery suit against Stallwood and Jackson, accusing them of using bad materials and working to insufficient scantlings. The outcome of the suit is not known, except to show that arbitrators had valued the newly built house at £1,350. (fn. 19) Satisfied or not, Morton stayed in the house until his death in c. 1716. It was later, under the sign of the Three Kings, the premises of notable cabinet-makers, George Nix, John West, James Whittle and Samuel Norman. (fn. 20) David Garrick lodged here with West in 1748. (fn. 21) The house was burnt down in 1759, (fn. 22) and replaced by the building which survives vestigially today
Strype in 1720 called King Street 'a handsome large Street, with well built and inhabited Houses, especially on the North Side', and notes the characteristic it shared with Bedford Street as the residence of eminent tradesmen. (fn. 23) King Street is the only Covent Garden street to be illustrated by Tallis. (fn. 24) His view of c. 1838–40 (Plate 55c) shows shop fronts to every house on the south side, but domestic ground-floor fronts at Nos. 35, 36, 37, 39 and 40 on the north side at the east end. The 1850 Post Office Directory shows a very mixed occupation of the street, with only a few houses occupied by tradesmen connected (rather indirectly) with the market. Comparatively few houses were in divided occupation. The construction of Garrick Street in 1859–61 opened a communication with Cranbourn Street and the West End, and no doubt brought more throughtraffic to the street, but the Post Office Directory in 1900 does not indicate, apart from the appearance of fruit salesmen at the extreme east end of the street, a very different character from that of 1850: some increase is apparent in the number of premises concerned with bookselling, art and journalism. These activities and others ancillary to the stage and screen are still represented, but half the premises in the street are now connected more or less directly with the activities of the market. (fn. 25)
Ratepaying occupants in King Street include: Maurice Aubert, 1633–43, the Queen's surgeon; Lady Banfield, 1633–8; Sir John Brooke(s), 1633–43, member of the Long Parliament; Edward Carter, 1633–50, surveyor in the Office of Works; Dr. Smith, 1634; Dr. May, 1635–9; Sir James Bagg, 1636–7; Edward Gorges, first Baron Gorges, 1636–7; Sir Henry Crofts, 1637; John Trenchard, 1638–43, 1647, 1651–5, agent to the fourth Earl of Bedford, member of the Long Parliament; Lord Mountreavor, 1639; Sir John Miller, 1639–43; Sir Selwin Parker, 1639–43; 'My Lord Vauze', 1640, ? Edward Vaux, fourth Lord Vaux of Harrowden; 'Lord Seamor', 1641, ? Francis Seymour, first Baron Seymour of Trowbridge; Samuel Cooper, 1643, miniature painter; William Alington, first Baron Alington, 1644; Captain Thomas Constable, 1644–66; Captain Greenefeild or Greenvile, 1644–7; Colonel Jepson, 1644, probably Colonel William Jephson, officer in the parliamentary army, member of the Long Parliament; Edward Poole, 1644–5, ? member of the Long Parliament; 'Mr. Tate', 1644–5, probably Zouch Tate, member of the Long Parliament; Sir Ralph Ashton, 1645, ? member of the Long Parliament; Colonel Hobson, 1645; Sir Edward Partridge, 1645, 1647, member of the Long Parliament; Humphrey Edwards, c. 1647, 1651– 1653, regicide, member of the Long Parliament; Richard Jennings, c. 1647, ? member of the Long Parliament; Sir Adam Loftus, 1647; (Sir) Gregory Norton, 1647, 1650–1, regicide, member of the Long Parliament; (Sir) Richard Knightley, c. 1647–61, member of the Long Parliament; Lady Elizabeth Digby, c. 1650–62; Sir Thomas Smith, c. 1650–65, member of the Long Parliament; Lady Littleton, 1651; Thomas Rugg, 1651—c. 1663, diarist and later compiler of 'Mercurius Politicus Redivivus'; Dr. John Colladine, 1652–62; George Evelyn, 1652–64, member of the Long Parliament; Lady Jane Gerrard, 1652–72; Lady Martha Norton, 1653–5; Robert Gordon, fourth Viscount Kenmure, 1656; Lady Verney, 1656–67; Sir Thomas Bridges, 1657, 1675–1706; The Lady Marchioness Clanricarde, 1662–70; Sir Robert Bernard, 1663–5; Dr. Henry Clee (Cley, Klee), 1663–72; Countess of Oxford, 1663; Colonel John Pinchbeck, 1663–72; Lady Ratcliffe (Radcliffe), 1664–72; Richard Gorges, second Baron Gorges, 1666–1711; Dr. Stephen Boughton, 1669–78; Samuel Speed, 1669, ? divine; Sir John Baber, 1671—c. 1702, physician to Charles II; Charles Howard, third Earl of Berkshire, 1671–8; Sir Thomas Orpe (Orby), 1671–6; Lady Greene, 1672; Viscountess Bayning, 1673–8; Lady Corbett, 1673; Richard Wiseman, 1673–6, surgeon; Thomas Manton, 1676–7, presbyterian divine; William Harbord, 1677–81, ? politician; Countess of Berkshire, 1679–91; Sir Samuel Morland, 1679–82, probably the diplomatist, mathematician and inventor; John Partridge, 1681–2, astrologer and almanacmaker; Dr. Richard Lower, 1682–90, physician and physiologist; Lady Dorrell, c. 1684–6; Dr. Robert Fielding, c. 1684–92; Edward Russell, first Earl of Orford, c. 1690–1727, admiral; Dr. William Gibbons, 1691–1728, physician; Thomas Arne, 1708–33, upholsterer and father of Dr. Thomas Arne, the composer, who was born here in 1710; Dr. John Brinsden, 1710–15; Lewis Goupy, 1710–33, painter; Dr. Charles Morley, 1712–14; (Sir) Henry Hicks, 1715–38; Dr. Hugh Chamberlen, 1716–28, physician; Nicholas Rowe, 1717–18, poet laureate; Dr. Thomas Pellatt, 1719–23, physician; Sir Nicholas Dorigny, 1721–4, painter and engraver; Thomas Archer, first Baron Archer, 1728–57; Colonel George Liddell, 1730–2; Dennis Delane, 1739– 1744, actor; (Sir) Humphrey Howarth, 1743–9; Raphael Courteville, 1744, organist and political writer; John Travers, 1747–58, musician and organist of St. Paul's Church; John Collet, 1752–62, painter; Rev. Edward Dorrell, 1754– 1768; Moses Mendes, 1754–6, poet and dramatist; John Howe, Baron Chedworth, 1757; James West, 1758–72, Secretary to the Treasury; Daniel Wray, 1758–70, antiquary; Thomas King, 1761–7, actor and dramatist; Samuel Paterson, 1776–86, bookseller; John Raphael Smith, 1787–1805, portrait and miniature painter; Messrs [George] Leigh and [John] Sotheby, 1792, auctioneers; John Young, 1793–4 possibly the mezzotint engraver, who studied under John Raphael Smith; Thomas Attwood, 1794–6, ? the musician; Rev. Thomas Rackett, 1808–23, ? antiquary; (Royal) Institute of British Architects, 1835–7; John Green, 1846– 1870, proprietor of Evans's Supper Rooms; Arthur Allom, 1861–6, architect; National Sporting Club, 1891–1929; Communist Party of Great Britain, since 1920.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge lodged in King Street during part of the winter of 1801–2. (fn. 26)
Nos. 1–4 (consec.) King Street
This corner block fronting north on King Street and east on the Piazza was built in 1883–5 (fn. 16) (Plate 48a). The design is uniform but Nos. 3–4, fronting some 42 feet to King Street, were the first to be built, a fact reflected in a perceptible difference of material between the two parts.
This was one of the six buildings erected around the Piazza between 1876 and 1890, the elevational drawings of which were either supplied by the ninth Duke of Bedford's consultant architect, Henry Clutton, or in some degree related to his designs (see page 82). In this case the design appears to be essentially Clutton's work. Inch-scale and full-scale details and profiles were certainly prepared by him for Nos. 1–2, and were the subject of correspondence in the period December 1883—June 1884 between his associate, A. J. Pilkington, the steward of the Bedford estate, John Bourne, and the Duke's surveyor, W. S. Cross. (fn. 27)
An eighty-year building lease of Nos. 3–4, from Midsummer 1882, was granted in July 1884 to Alexander Blackford, clothier, (fn. 28) who had previously occupied a shop at No. 4 (and at No. 5), and who was the first ground-floor occupant of this part of the new building. (fn. 25) The building lease of Nos. 1–2, for seventy-nine years from Midsummer 1883, was granted in May 1885 to David Laing of Duke Street, Adelphi, builder. (fn. 29) The first occupant was Edwin Blamey, basket-maker. (fn. 25)
Facing the Piazza, the building has a fivestoreyed front of two wide bays. In the 'portico' stage of channel-jointed stonework are two wide and lofty arches containing the ground-floor and mezzanine windows. The upper face is generally of fine red brickwork, but stone is used for the cornice-moulded sills defining the three tiers of windows, two to each storey, and for the surrounds that link the windows vertically. While all have moulded architraves with shouldered heads, the first-tier windows have balustraded aprons, and those of the upper tiers have segmental sills projecting on brackets. The front is finished with a plain frieze and a cornice of stone, which are broken to form pediments above the windows. An open balustrade partly conceals the dormers in the roof. The King Street front is generally similar, but being wider it has a 'portico' stage of three bays, and there are six windows in each upper storey. Only the first and fourth windows in each storey are dressed with stone in the elaborate manner of those in the Piazza front, the rest having simple architraves.
Nos. 5–7 (consec.) King Street
Nos. 5 and 6 were built in 1873–4, when existing leases expired, under eighty-year Bedford building leases from 1872 granted in January 1874 to William Howard of Chandos Street, builder, and Augustus Freeman, victualler, respectively. (fn. 30) Each house continued in the occupation of the previous tenant of the site, Edward Blackford, clothier, at No. 5, and Freeman, licensee of the Essex Serpent public house, at No. 6. The architect of the uniformly designed buildings was Alfred Cross. (fn. 31)
No. 6 had already been in the occupation of a licensed victualler in 1676, and by 1743 was known as the Essex Serpent (which had previously, in 1724, been the distinguishing sign of the licensed premises at No. 11). (fn. 32)
No. 7, of which the lease expired at the same time as those of Nos. 5 and 6, was not then rebuilt, out of regard for the occupant, Miss Pike, a linen draper described by the Duke's steward, John Bourne, as 'a poor, and most eccentric, but not unworthy tenant', whose lease was renewed. (fn. 33) No. 7 was eventually rebuilt in 1895–6. (fn. 16) The architect was A. M. Ridge, who was instructed to copy the fronts of Nos. 5 and 6. (fn. 34)
Above their modern shop fronts, these three houses thus share a uniform frontage, of yellow stock brickwork. Each house is four storeys high, but Nos. 5 and 6 have three windows in each storey whereas No. 7 has only two. All the window-openings have jambs and segmental arches of moulded brick, above heavy stone sills projecting on cyma-reversa brackets. A bracketed entablature finishes the fronts.
Nos. 12 And 13 King Street
This building was erected in 1874 to the design of Spalding and Knight, architects, for Barr and Sugden, seedsmen, under a seventy-nine-year Bedford building lease. (fn. 35) A fourth storey was added in 1883. (fn. 36)
The large-scaled front, four storeys high and four windows wide, is an eclectic Victorian Renaissance design executed in yellow stock brickwork with stone dressings. These last link the second- and third-storey windows, the former being surmounted by ornamental panels and the latter by triangular pediments. The fourthstorey windows are set in round-arched openings in the brick face, which is finished with an openwork stone parapet in front of the four pedimented dormers.
No. 14 King Street
The 'best Second Rate' house erected here in 1704–5 may still survive vestigially in the present building. A forty-one-year Bedford building lease from Michaelmas 1704 was granted in April 1703 to William West, an embroiderer living on the north side of the street, who undertook to spend £200 on the house. (fn. 37) The first ratepayer was a Mrs. Elinor Edwards. In 1745 a repairing lease of this and the three houses westward was granted to (Sir) Henry Cheere, the statuary, but he did not live in any of the houses. (fn. 38) Another repairing lease to a shoemaker occupying the house in 1766 required, among other things, the replacement of the wooden cornice in front by a parapet, the repair of the shop front, and the fitting of some new stone chimneypieces. (fn. 39) Other repairing leases were granted to sitting tenants, usually at intervals of twenty-one years. A comparison of the present building with Tallis's view of 1838–40 (Plate 55c) shows that since that date the front wall has been rebuilt with an entirely different fenestration-pattern. This and the present stucco dressing probably dates from a lease to H. O. Fawcett, a printseller, in 1862. (fn. 40)
The front is of an elaborate Italianate character very similar to Nos. 27–28 Bedford Street. Rusticated or panelled piers again flank each storey, the windows are dressed with a varying degree of richness, and a highly ornate modillioned cornice finishes the front.
No. 15 King Street
This house was built in 1773 under an eightyone-year Bedford building lease granted to Catherine Clow, a button-seller. The lease contained careful specifications of the scantlings and materials to be employed. The building was occupied by button-makers or -sellers until 1885. (fn. 41) Some alterations were carried out by Locke and Nesham, architects, in 1851. (fn. 42)
Apart from the altered ground storey, this stock-brick front is a lively design showing the influence, if not the hand, of James Paine (fig. 20). The Venetian window of the second storey, and the three-light window above it, both dressed with Doric pilasters and simple entablatures, are set in a shallow recess and framed by an elliptical arch of gauged brick rising from wide piers. The plain three-light window of the fourth storey is set in a segmentally arched opening in the brick face, which is finished with a stone coping. Two dormers project from the front slope of the slated mansard roof.
Much of the interior finishing appears to be original. The plain open-well staircase rises between the front and back rooms, and is top lit. The rooms generally have simple joinery, typical Regency chimneypieces, and some have enriched plaster cornices to finish the plain walls.
Nos. 20–22 (consec.) King Street
See Nos. 20–26 (consec.) Bedford Street, page 262.
No. 26 King Street
The premises of Debenham, Storr and Sons, auctioneers, who have occupied part of this site since 1813, (fn. 16) were built in 1860 (Plate 68). The architect was Arthur Allom, but The Illustrated London News noted at the time that Matthew Digby Wyatt 'was appointed as referee and consulting architect, and acted in that capacity from time to time during the progress of the works'. (fn. 43) Allom, who was a son of the better–known Thomas Allom, is said to have been a relation by marriage of one of the partners, John Storr. (fn. 44)
The contractors were G. Mansfield and Son and the ironwork was supplied by Walter Williams of the Albion Ironworks, Birmingham. The second and third floors were designed for residential use. (fn. 43)
The building attracted considerable attention. In the main auction room the treatment of the mahogany rostrum as an integral part of the design was praised. With regard to the exterior, The Companion to the Almanac thought the front 'showy', but The Builder called it 'a good bold front: the blocking course of the frontispiece has an incised ornament, and the heads on the keystones on the ground floor are very well modelled'. (fn. 45) The enthusiastic description of the front of this 'noble pile of buildings' in The Illustrated London News may be quoted:
'In viewing the exterior of the building one cannot fail to be struck by the originality with which every part of the work is stamped, and the difficulty in ascribing to it any particular style or period of art, though the leaning is towards the classic or Italian school. Allom has avoided the hackneyed use of the five orders in columns or pilasters, and has treated the front in a flowing, natural way, the ornament being introduced with careful taste and made subordinate to the general purpose of utility, thus obtaining, at no very great expense in enrichments, a dignity and character suited to an important public edifice. This is seen in the broad splay given to the ground and first floor windows, thereby securing an abundant and equal distribution of light with boldness of effect. The minor details also evince much taste, and the corner adjoining the Westminster Fire Office exhibits the harmonious union of two buildings of different designs, a matter requiring at all times great judgment on the part of the architect. The material of the facade is generally of Portland cement, and the colour is unusually warm and rich in tone. The keystones, modillions, dentils, acroteria, and trusses are well executed in Ransom's siliceous stone. The treatment of the ironwork, in point of design, deserves mention.' (fn. 43)
The building occupies a blunted wedge-shaped site at the west end of King Street, but its frontage is mainly aligned with the north side of Garrick Street. Cement-faced and eclectic Italianate in style, the large-scaled and imposing front is four storeys high and nine windows wide. The groundstorey windows and central doorway are recessed with splayed reveals in a series of openings, their segmentally arched heads rising from channelcoursed piers and having mask keystones. The three middle arches are set slightly forwards, their piers are vermiculated, and the inscribed entablature extending above the whole storey is here broken forwards to rest on consoles, the cornice rising to form a pediment above the doorway. The wall face of the next two storeys is plain, bounded with straight quoins, horizontally divided by the third-storey sill-course, and finished with a deep bandcourse. The secondstorey windows are recessed in tall openings having rounded angles to their straight heads, concave reveals enriched on the inside with a foliated moulding, and triple keystones with incised decoration. The third-storey windows have architraves, their outer mouldings rising against the panelled keyblocks. The small roundarched windows in the top storey are placed between large moulded panels, having incurved angles. A moulded frieze, and a bold cornice enriched with dentils and block-modillions, finishes the front which curves in plan at each end, sharply at the west and more widely at the east, where a smaller-scaled bay is introduced to provide an effective link with the front of the Westminster Fire Office.
The interior is ingeniously planned, with the main staircase rising out of a charmingly designed hexagonal vestibule, its domed ceiling opening through a balustraded oculus to the second-storey landing.
Nos. 27 And 28 King Street
These two buildings have matching fronts and since 1858 have been occupied virtually in common or by very closely related institutions. They have, however, different building histories. No. 27 is vestigially a building of the eighteenth century, but much altered in 1808–10 and again in 1853–4 and in 1856–7. No. 28 was newbuilt in 1857–8, when No. 27 had already been given almost its present appearance (Plate 69a).
No. 27 was originally built about 1760, probably by the bricklayer, George Hoare of Cannon Street, London, in association with Joshua Cox of Gray's Inn, gentleman. Hoare and Cox then sold the freehold of the house to Joseph and John Harris and Thomas King, mercers. (fn. 46) This firm (latterly in the person of Joseph King) occupied the premises until 1808 when its representatives (including the assignees of the estate of Joseph King, then a bankrupt) sold the property on 7–8 October for £5,500 to the Westminster Fire Office. (fn. 47)
The Office had been founded in 1717, and since 1751 had been located in leased premises in Bedford Street, first at the site of No. 36 and then, from 1795, at the site of No. 20. (fn. 48)
On acquiring the house the Westminster Fire Office had extensive alterations and additions carried out to the designs of their surveyor, J. G. Mayhew. (fn. 49) His plans were approved in November 1808, at an estimated cost of £3,265, and the premises were finally completed for occupation in March 1810, when the cost (including furnishings) had risen to some £6,730. Mayhew was given a gratuity of 200 guineas. It is not known exactly what was done, but the work included the provision of a stone 'portico' (probably in fact two, for each of the two doorways which flanked a central window). It was decided to make a board room on the ground floor, although as built it had a skylight. This and the windows were bordered with stained glass. To accommodate an enlarged board of directors six new chairs were acquired, perhaps from Hurley and Grant of Piccadilly, to the same pattern as the eighteen provided by Ince and Mayhew in 1792. (fn. 50) All twenty-four are still in the possession of the Westminster Fire Office. (fn. 51)
The directors chose the building-tradesmen by ballot. The tradesmen included the architect (Sir) Jeffry Wyatt [Wyatville] in the capacity of carpenter and joiner: his foreman, Currie, acted as clerk of works. To celebrate the completion of the work the tradesmen dined with the directors. All their bills were discharged by August 1810. (fn. 49) (fn. 1)
These alterations left No. 27 with the elevation shown in Tallis's street view of 1838–40 (Plate 55c). It is essentially the same design as the present front, with the Office badge conspicuous at second-floor level.
In 1836 the Westminster and General Life Office was established, to be run in connexion with the Fire Office. Its actuary was also the secretary of the Fire Office, and it occupied two or three rooms in No. 27 rented from the Fire Office. (fn. 52)
In 1849–50 alterations costing £485, to give better accommodation, were carried out at No. 27 by the Fire Office's surveyor, Charles Mayhew, the son of the previous surveyor. The builder was John Kelk. (fn. 53)
In February 1853 the Fire Office accepted proposals from Charles Mayhew for the alteration of the front of No. 27 'for the purpose of making the Office more public'. The lowest tender, from Messrs. Soward, was accepted at £388 10s. in March. The alterations were not completed until August 1854, at a cost of about £500. One detail known of the work is that the surveyor was authorized 'to put French casements and Balconets to the front of this House with Patent Plate Glass in the Windows'. (fn. 54) Despite the modest cost of the changes, therefore, it may have been at this time that the front received its present dressing of mouldings and enrichments.
Some eighteen months later the Fire Office decided on a further, and substantial, scheme of alteration. In April 1856 the board accepted Charles Mayhew's plans, by which more accommodation in No. 27 would be provided for the Life Office, and a new board room would be constructed for use by both offices. Messrs. Mansfield and Son's tender was accepted in August at £3,860. The work was completed in November 1857 at a final cost of £4,493. Mayhew was given a gratuity of 200 guineas. An inscription recording his responsibility for the fine new lateclassical board room was placed on the clock which he designed for that room (Plate 69c). (fn. 55) (fn. 2)
In the meantime and despite these improvements the Life Office had taken the opportunity to acquire the adjacent site of No. 28. In October 1856 the architect Thomas Little, a director of the Fire Office, had prepared plans for a new building on this site. (fn. 57) Agreement for a building lease of the site from the seventh Duke of Bedford was reached in January 1857. (fn. 58) At this time and for some months to come it was uncertain whether the Life Office would itself immediately occupy the building to be erected at No. 28. (fn. 59) The site was cleared and the present building erected later in the year (by John & Charles I'Anson) to Little's design, with a front matching that of the recently altered No. 27. (fn. 60) (fn. 3) The lease of the site of No. 28 was made to the Westminster and General Life Assurance Association in January 1858 for eighty years from the previous Lady Day. (fn. 62) In July the new building was being fitted for occupation by the Life Office. (fn. 63)
In 1875–6 extensive alterations were made at No. 27 to incorporate Nos. 34–36 (consec.) Rose Street, under the direction of F. W. Porter, architect, who was paid some £618. The builders were G. Trollope and Sons, whose tender was accepted at £7,237. (fn. 64)
In 1906 the Fire Office was taken over by the Alliance Assurance Company, and the Westminster and General Life Assurance Association by the Guardian Assurance Company. (fn. 65) In 1938 Nos. 27 and 28 were united internally. (fn. 66) In 1951 the board room was redecorated, and chandeliers from Bath House, Piccadilly, installed, under the direction of Professor (Sir) Albert Richardson. (fn. 50)
The Alliance Assurance Company merged with the Sun Insurance Office in 1959, and in 1965 the Sun Alliance merged with the London Assurance. The Westminster Fire Office now (1968) operates, as a subsidiary of the Alliance, from No. 50 Regent Street. (fn. 51) Nos. 27 and 28 King Street are occupied as offices of the Sun Alliance and London Insurance Group.
Although they date from the 1850's, these handsome neo-classical fronts in painted stucco still show strong Regency influence. A Roman Doric colonnade of five bays, alternately narrow and wide, forms a free-standing screen in front of the ground-storey windows and doorways. Above its entablature is a balcony railing of rich cast ironwork, with open panels of foliated Vitruvian scrollwork extending between panelled dies surmounted by ball-finials. The windows of the three upper storeys reflect the original separation of the sites and are arranged in two groups of three and two. All are dressed with moulded architraves, but those in the second storey are each finished with a laurel-garland frieze and cornice, and those in the third storey with a plain frieze and cornice. Each tier of windows is underlined with a continued sill-band, having a deep plain fascia above mouldings, that to the third storey resting on small consoles. In the second and third storeys the wall face is horizontally channelled, but in the fourth storey there are moulded panels between the windows. The corona of the highly enriched main cornice is supported by large vertical scroll-consoles flanking the panels. The most striking feature of the front is the large and splendidly vigorous cartouche of arms, with a wreathed portcullis surmounted by the Prince of Wales's Feathers. This replaces the centre window in the third storey of No. 27, and rests on the sill-band which is boldly lettered The Westminster Fire Office.
Nos. 29 And 30 King Street
Although possessing a uniform facade these premises are evidently not of one build (Plates 68c, 83a). No. 30 was built or rebuilt in 1859–60 for the sitting tenants, Hamburger, Rogers and Company, gold-lace makers, under an eighty-year Bedford building lease from Lady Day 1858 granted in November 1860 to Robert Rogers. (fn. 67) The architect named when the tender for the work was published was Charles Gray Searle (who was similarly named as architect of No. 24 Floral Street at the rear). The tender of the local builder William Howard was accepted at £2,589. (fn. 68)
The freehold of the site of No. 29 was acquired by the Bedford estate in June 1860 by a transaction to which Searle was a party. (fn. 69) In November 1861 a seventy-five-year building lease from Christmas 1860 was made to J. J. and C. K. Smith. (fn. 70) The premises were built in 1861 for occupation by Lepard and Smith, wholesale stationers. (fn. 71) The published tender names not Searle but Messrs. Francis as architects. The builder was probably William Howard, whose tender was the lowest at £3,893. (fn. 72)
Whoever was in fact the architect, these houses share a well-designed front of Italianate character, executed in painted stucco. No. 29 retains an excellent shop front of painted stone or stucco, with its doorway and side windows framed in elliptically arched openings, between engaged Composite columns which support an entablature. A similar shop front at No. 30 has been almost completely removed. The upper face of the two houses has three lofty storeys, each with four widely spaced windows, two to each house. Those of the second storey are dressed with segmental-headed architraves broken by keystones. A cornice underlines the pedestal of the third storey, where the windows have balustraded aprons, moulded architraves, plain friezes, and segmental pediments which rise against the plain aprons of the fourth-storey windows. These last are simply dressed with moulded architraves and have tall keystones which rise to meet the bracketed crowning entablature. The wall face of the second storey is coursed with channelling, but that of the upper two storeys is plain except for the straight quoins at either end. A pedestal parapet, broken by five projecting dies, finishes the front. No internal features of interest have survived.
Nos. 31 And 32 King Street
Both these houses are basically of early eighteenth-century date, refaced in 1860. No. 31 was built in 1713 (fn. 16) after the previous house on the site, built only five or six years before, had been destroyed by fire in May 1712. The building lessee of the site from the second Duke of Bedford in 1706 had been a Gilbert Lacy, merchant tailor, and it was to him that a new lease was granted in 1717 after he had spent £600 on rebuilding the house. (fn. 73) The occupant of the previous and of the newly rebuilt house was not, however, Lacy, but Thomas Arne, an upholsterer, and father of the composer, Thomas Augustine Arne. The latter was born in the previous house in 1710, but as Thomas Arne senior remained in the rebuilt house until 1733 his son must have spent some of his childhood years in the house which survives vestigially to the present day. The composer's sister, Susannah, actress and daughter-in-law of Colley Cibber, was born in this house in 1714. (fn. 74) From 1787 to 1805 the house was occupied by John Raphael Smith, the portrait painter and engraver. (fn. 75)
No. 32 was built in 1707 at about the same time as the short-lived house at No. 31. The building lessee from the second Duke of Bedford was Margaret Griffith, a widow, who undertook to spend £300 on building a 'second-rate' house (as defined in the 1667 Act). (fn. 76) It was substantially repaired in 1748, when new windows were put in and the eaves-cornice replaced by a brick parapet. (fn. 77)
In 1848 Benjamin Verity, 'artificer in brass', took a lease of No. 31, (fn. 78) and in 1860, when he was described as gas fitter, took a repairing lease of both houses, which were henceforward occupied in common by the firm of Verity (subsequently electrical engineers). (fn. 79) The refacing of both houses was carried out by Nelson and Innes, architects, (fn. 80) but the details seem to have been closely specified by Charles Parker, the Duke's surveyor. (fn. 81) Some internal alterations were made in 1876 by the architect Thomas Verity. (fn. 82)
A coarsely detailed and over-elaborate stucco front of Italianate character conceals the early date of these houses. Inside No. 32, however, is evidence enough in an early eighteenth-century staircase, dog-legged, with moulded closed strings, and a heavy moulded handrail resting on twisted turnings, two to each tread, and square newels turned in the form of stout balusters (fig. 21). No. 31 has, in its second and third storeys, small closets with simple panelling and angle fireplaces typical of the early eighteenth century.
No. 35 King Street
This much-altered building was erected in 1866 under a sixty-year Bedford building lease from Christmas 1865 granted in June 1866 to Stephen Smith, a silversmith previously of Duke Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields. The architect is not known, unless it was the 'Mr Trehearne' with whom Smith called on the Duke's surveyor, Charles Parker, in March 1866 'to settle about the Factory' which was being built at the rear. Stephen Smith (and Son) occupied the premises as silver- and electro-plate manufacturers until 1888. (fn. 83)
The large-scaled front, four storeys high and four windows wide, has been stripped of much of the original neo-classical ornamentation, executed in cement, which is shown in a photograph of 1938 reproduced on Plate 69b. The Ionic tabernacle-frames of the second-storey windows, shorn of their pediments, and the modillioned and dentilled crowning cornice, also mutilated, are now the only surviving features of a striking and highly ornate design, reminiscent of James Pennethorne.
No. 36 King Street
This house was built in 1715–16 under a forty-one-year Bedford lease from Lady Day 1715 granted in June of that year to Morgan Mathew of London, gentleman. Mathew surrendered a twenty-one-year lease of the same site from 1709 granted to him in 1706. No period of 'peppercorn' rent was included in the terms of his new lease but Mathew covenanted to build a 'secondrate' house (as defined by the 1667 Act). (fn. 84) Mathew's initials and the date 1715 appear on the rainwater-head on the front of the building. Mathew does not seem to have occupied the house, and the first ratepayer was a Richard Crompton. In 1750–1 repairs and alterations were made, doubtless giving the house its present street front (Plates 69b, 82a) but leaving the rear elevation as built in 1715–16. (fn. 85) The house was thereafter occupied by a tailor, Thomas Rackett. (fn. 86) From 1808 to 1823 the ratepayer was the Reverend Thomas Rackett, probably the antiquary and scientist. (fn. 87)
The house retains its original carcase, back elevation, and some interior features of interest. The King Street front, a mid eighteenth-century rebuilding in stock brickwork, is four storeys high and three windows wide. The window-openings have flat gauged arches of red brick, a stone sill extends below the first tier of windows, and there is a block-cornice of stone below the top storey, which appears to have been heightened. The back elevation, with its projecting closet wing, is largely original. Red brick stringcourses mark the floor levels, and the flush-framed windows are set in openings having stone sills, and jambs and flat gauged arches of red brick. Part of the original roof structure is still visible, suggesting that it was constructed with twin parallel hipped ridges running the depth of the building.
The ground storey has been stripped of all interest, but the original plan survives on the second and third storeys, where the staircase rises between the front and back rooms, the latter opening to the closet wing. The staircase is plain and probably altered, with a heavy swept handrail, turned newel-posts, and square-section wooden balusters. The front room on the second storey has a plaster cornice enriched with modillions and paterae, presumably of the same date as the front, but the back room retains its original deal panelling, with raised-and-fielded panels in ovolo-moulded framing. The front room on the third storey is lined with plain deal panelling in ovolo-moulded framing, and some similar panelling survives in the back room. The roof and top storey have been largely reconstructed.
No. 37 King Street
The identity of the architect of this house, which was built in 1773–4 for occupation by John Lane, a lawyer and the parish vestry-clerk, is unfortunately not known, but it may have been the elder James Paine. In 1771 Lane, who then lived at the next house eastward, (fn. 16) had contemplated moving to the existing old house on this site, (fn. 88) and employed Paine to survey it. His report, of February 1772, which Lane submitted to the Bedford Estate Office, recommended complete rebuilding, (fn. 89) and it may therefore be that Lane employed him to design the house, which is in Paine's manner (Plates 69b, 82).
The Duke's surveyor, John Gorham, gave some qualified assent to Paine's judgment on the old house, (fn. 89) and an eighty-two-year building lease of the site, from Lady Day 1773, was granted to Lane in February of that year. The covenants in the lease specified the scantlings and floor-heights (12 feet 6 inches on the first floor), and required Lane to put in at least three marble chimneypieces. (fn. 90)
Lane lived here until 1785. (fn. 16) He was active in the establishment of the parish workhouse, and something of his vigorous personality (as well as his nicely calculated standard of ethics) appears in the letter he wrote to a churchwarden in 1777, waiving payment of his legal charges in this business. (fn. 91) (fn. 4)
Lane had earlier, in 1762, interested himself in a newly built house in Hertford Street, Mayfair, evidently as a speculation. (fn. 92)
No. 37 King Street probably remained in private occupation until the first quarter of the nineteenth century, but by the 1820's it was occupied by a printer. In the 1850's the curate of St. Paul's lived in all or part of the house, and from 1863 to 1879 it was occupied by the local builder, William Howard. (fn. 71)
In 1880 alterations were made by a sub-lessee to suit the building for occupation by (Sir) Henry Wombwell's Fielding Club. (fn. 93) (fn. 5) This was succeeded in 1888 by the British Chess Club until 1897. (fn. 25) At some period subsequent to 1880 the ground-floor front was given its present appearance by the substitution of a large but tactfully designed window for two windows of domestic character.
From 1965 to 1968 the house was occupied by the Savage Club.
The handsome late-Palladian front, four storeys high and three windows wide, is built of stock brickwork dressed with red brick, stone and stucco. The altered and stucco-faced ground storey has a round-arched doorway on the left of a wide elliptically arched window. Both arches spring from a delicately moulded impost, which is returned round the slender plain pilaster-strips flanking the doorway and window. Above each pilaster is a fluted bracket of concave profile, supporting a projection of the ground-storey cornice. Underlined with a pedestal having a brick die between a plinth and sill of stone, the secondstorey face has three shallow round-arched recesses, each containing a window proportioned to a double square. A stone sill-band underlines the three windows in the third-storey face, their openings proportionately less high than those below. The windows of both storeys are furnished with barred sashes, recessed in openings having plain plastered reveals and flat gauged arches of red brick. A deep plain bandcourse marks the fourth-storey level and provides the springing for a wide semicircular arch of gauged red brick. This frames a shallow recessed face, treated in the manner of a thermal window but having blank recesses on either side of the single segmental-headed window. A stone-corniced pediment finishes the front, the short horizontal returns of the cornice resting on three block modillions and stopping against the brick arch, which rises into the tympanum. This fourth-storey treatment is repeated in a simpler form on the back elevation, above a wide canted three-light bay.
Internally, the most distinctive features are the entrance hall and staircase. The ceiling of the entrance hall is divided into three square compartments by transverse arches rising from scrolled consoles. Each compartment contains a circular panel supported on four pendentives, and has a central boss. The staircase compartment is semielliptical in plan, with landings on the chord of the ellipse at the second, third and fourth storeys, and a stone stair up to the third storey. This has wrought-iron square-section balusters, bowed outwards in the lower half, and a rail veneered in mahogany on the top and sides. The top veneer, where the original survives, is cross-banded. The staircase wall is ornamented with plain round-headed semi-circular niches, one at the ground storey and two at each storey above; in addition there is a fluted frieze enriched with urns and vases at the level of the third-storey landing. Crowning the staircase compartment is a quasiCorinthian cornice, with courses of egg-and-dart moulding, dentils, six pairs of finely scrolled modillions supporting the corona, its face enriched with fluting between satyr-masks and paterae, the masks occurring above the modillions. The lantern light is modern. The remainder of the interior retains little of its original decoration, except for ceiling cornices on the second and third storeys.
On the second storey, the front room has a handsome cornice, with an egg-and-dart moulding below a band decorated with fluting and paterae, and a cyma with acanthus leaves and masks. The rear room has a similar cornice, enriched with egg-and-dart moulding, dentils, fluting and paterae on the soffit of the corona, egg-and-dart moulding repeated, and a cyma with acanthus leaves. On the third storey the same plainly moulded cornice is used in the front and rear rooms.
No. 38 King Street
This house was probably built or heavily reconstructed in 1773-4 (fn. 16) (Plate 83b). The site had been granted away in fee farm by the fourth Earl of Bedford to Edward Carter in 1636, (fn. 95) and in 1773 was owned by Lady Ann Shadwell (widow of Sir John Shadwell, physician) (fn. 87) of Holles Street, Marylebone. In July of that year she granted a long (eighty-four-year) lease to Thomas Dobb, a glass manufacturer, who built a large showroom in the garden at the back for the display of his wares. Dobb was soon bankrupt and seems never in fact to have occupied the premises. (fn. 96) Henceforward the site was assessed for rates in two parts, probably corresponding to the house at the front and the large room at the rear. (fn. 16) This feature was soon utilized as auction rooms and in 1776 Samuel Paterson, the famous bookseller, set up business here until about 1786. (fn. 97) In 1789 another well-known auctioneer of books, Thomas King, took the premises and, in successive partnership with Chapman and Lochee, remained here until about 1821. (fn. 16) A few years earlier King and Lochee had diverted the business from the sale mainly of books to that of objects of interest in natural history. (fn. 98) In 1829 the two parts of the site were both assessed to the auctioneer John Thomas and in 1831 were united in a single assessment to John Crace Stevens. (fn. 16) Under Stevens and his successor Henry Stevens, the auction rooms here were well known for the sale of objects of zoological and other scientific interest until the 1939–45 war. (fn. 99)
A four-storeyed house, No. 38 has a very plain front of stock brickwork, with three windows in each of the upper storeys. Its late-Georgian character has been impaired by the Victorian sashes, which are set in plain openings with plastered reveals and flat arches of gauged brick.
No. 40 King Street
The date of building of this house (Plate 83b) is not known. It appears to have been held in the eighteenth century under a series of Bedford repairing leases. The ratebooks suggest some reconstruction or rebuilding in 1753–4, before it came into the occupation of Moses Mendes, no doubt the poet and dramatist. He was succeeded in 1757 by Lord Chedworth, one of the last titled ratepayers in the street, and he in 1758 by the antiquary, Daniel Wray, until his removal to Dean Street, Soho, in 1770. The ratebooks suggest further reconstruction in 1776–7 and 1780–1. (fn. 74)
Nos. 41 and 42 King Street
This building was erected in 1877 for occupation by Boyd Burnet and Company, linen drapers, under an eighty-year Bedford building lease from Midsummer 1876 granted in April 1878. (fn. 100) It was one of the six buildings erected in or adjacent to the Piazza between 1876 and 1890, the elevational drawings of which were either supplied by the ninth Duke of Bedford's consultant architect, Henry Clutton, or in some degree related to Clutton's designs (see page 82). In this case the elevation was 'wholly and entirely' the work of Clutton, but the carcase was the work of C. F. Hayward under Clutton's general supervision. As built, English bond is used but in the original specifications Clutton required the best hard-burnt red bricks to be laid in Flemish bond except for each fifth course which was to be wholly of headers. Clutton also specified that the Portland stone should be the best brown, from the Whitbed and Mutton Cove quarries. The builders were Cubitt and Company. (fn. 101)
The front accords with the other buildings in and around the Piazza designed or influenced by Clutton (Plates 77b, 83b). The lower 'portico' stage of channel-jointed stonework contains a wide elliptically arched opening between small pedimented doorways, with circular windows over them. The upper face is of red brick, with stone used for the ornamental bands defining the three storeys, and for the dressings which link the three windows of each storey into vertical features, rising above the cornice and balustrade into prominent dormers, framed by consoles supporting segmental pediments.
No. 43 King Street
Plates 30a, 31b, 44a, 67a , 77, 78, 79
The first house to be built on this site formed the westernmost unit on the north side of the Piazza, and shared the common elevational design and open arcaded ground storey of the other portico houses. From 1689 or 1690 this house was occupied by Admiral Edward Russell, (fn. 16) grandson of the fourth Earl of Bedford and nephew of the fifth Earl, whose daughter he married in 1691. He had played a leading part in bringing William of Orange to England, and as Treasurer of the Navy and commander of the fleet was the dominant naval figure in the French war of 1689–97, defeating the French fleet at La Hogue in 1692. (fn. 102) In May 1697 he was created Earl of Orford. (fn. 103) Later in the same year he took a twenty-one-year lease of this house from his uncle (who by then had become the first Duke of Bedford). (fn. 104)
Orford had no further service afloat, but was First Lord of the Admiralty in 1694–9, 1709–10 and 1714–17. (fn. 103)
In June 1716 Orford obtained from the trustees of the third Duke another lease of the site, to run for forty-one years from the expiry of his existing lease at Michaelmas 1718. By this he was required to pull down the old house and build a new one within two years from June 1716. (fn. 105) The ratebooks for 1716 and 1717 show that the new house, which is that still surviving, was built in those years.
A requirement of the lease was that the house should be constructed 'ranging even with the houses on the North Side of King Street'. (fn. 105) As built, this meant that the open street-level arcade was abolished, and henceforward the portico walk west of James Street was truncated, ending against the eastern wall of Lord Orford's house. Thenceforward the house seems usually to have been regarded as being in King Street, although the parish ratebooks list it in the Piazza until 1831. This was the first major breach in the architectural uniformity of the north and east sides of the Piazza.
Unfortunately no documentary evidence has been found to establish the architect's identity. On stylistic grounds, however, it is clear that the architect was Thomas Archer or someone working in a manner closely akin to his (for example, Francis Smith of Warwick). Archer's responsibility for the design is perhaps made slightly more likely by the fact that in 1726, shortly before the death of Lord Orford, he and Archer were to become distantly related, through the marriage of his great niece, Katherine Tipping, to Archer's nephew, Thomas Archer of Umberslade, Warwickshire. (fn. 106)
Orford died in 1727 and by his will left his leasehold 'Mansion house' in Covent Garden, with his other real property, to his niece, Lady Anne Tipping. (fn. 107) (fn. 6) She died soon after him, and her estate passed to her two married daughters, Laetitia, wife of Samuel Sandys, and Katherine Archer. In May 1728 the two husbands agreed to settle the destination of the house by the sporting expedient of the lot. This fell to Thomas Archer, who paid Sandys £2,200 for the house and furniture. In May 1729 they joined in assigning the house to two trustees for Archer and his wife: one of these was Archer's uncle and the putative architect of the house, described as Thomas Archer, the elder, of Whitehall, esquire. (fn. 108)
An inventory attached to the assignment of 1729 lists some or all of the rooms in the house. On the ground floor the hall, dining-parlour, the great dining-room and closet, the drawing-room and closet, and 'Green Coffey Rooms and closets' are mentioned. (fn. 7) On the first floor were another dining-parlour, the lord's closet, a back room, a closet, an ante-chamber and the lord's bedchamber (which contained tapestry hangings, velvet bed-furnishings lined with red velvet, and a 'gouty chair'). On the second floor were six rooms (including the nurse's, steward's and housekeeper's) and closets, and above were four garrets and a 'gallery'. (fn. 108)
The external appearance of the house during Archer's occupancy is shown in the engraving reproduced on Plate 77a. Batty Langley's adverse opinion of the front, published in 1734, is worth quoting in full:
'The house, lately the Lord Orford's, joining to the great piazza, is certainly one of the most expensive and worst buildings about London; and that its errors may be avoided in future designs, 'tis very reasonable I should point them out. 1. The rustic pillasters, being divided into very small courses, are of poor, low taste, and have not that bold and grand aspect they would, were they larger; nor do they seem to be so well able to support the pillasters over them. 2. These fluted pillasters, crowned with composite capitals, are not much, if anything, higher than a Tuscan pillaster of the same diameter: so that they make as awkward a figure with their flutings and carved capitals, as a sturdy welch-man taken from the plough-tail would do, were he to be dressed in the tye-peruke, and embroidered cloaths, of a courtier. 3. Here is also the common error of breaking back the entablature over each pillaster, which afterwards has the courses of its architrave and freeze broken by the heads of the upper windows; as has been observed of Shaftesburyhouse in Aldersgate-street. 4. The entrance into this house is very absurd: for here, where two Tuscan columns of substantial dimensions should have been placed, to sustain the incumbent weight of the middle part of the front; there are two small Corinthian columns on pedestals in their stead, which fill up the entrance indeed as little as can be, but seem to have as great a load on them, as Atlas with the whole world on his shoulders.' (fn. 110)
The younger Thomas Archer, who was created Baron Archer in 1747, (fn. 103) remained here until 1757, (fn. 16) when his leasehold tenure had nearly expired. (fn. 8) He was succeeded in the house by James West, Secretary to the Treasury and a close associate and supporter of the Duke of Newcastle. (fn. 112) West obtained a new twenty-oneyear lease of the house in January 1758. (fn. 113) A wealthy bibliophile and antiquarian, West remained here until his death in 1772, when the subsequent sale of his library and collections excited great interest. (fn. 87)
As in Soho, this was a period when the residential quarters of the seventeenth-century aristocracy were undergoing a decisive degradation, and henceforward Lord Orford's old house ceased to be a private residence. In May 1773 a fifty-five-year lease, to run from Midsummer 1779, was taken by David Low, described as a peruke-maker of Covent Garden (probably Southampton Street). The rent was £200 per annum. (fn. 114) In January 1774 Low opened the house as the Grand Hotel. He invited the Duke of Bedford's chief agent to the opening. (fn. 115) The hotel was intended for residence by a wealthy clientèle, with a top price of 15s. a night for a suite of two rooms. (fn. 116) From an early date the occupant of the house on this site had enjoyed the use of the most prominent pew in the church, in the centre of the east gallery, over the communion table: (fn. 117) the respectability of Low's hotel is shown by his and his successor's eagerness to obtain the continuance of this privilege for their customers. (fn. 118)
By 1776 Low had added a range of bedrooms to the northern rear wing of the house, and made a coffee room in the basement. (fn. 119) Other decorative work of this period, probably installed by Low, survived into the nineteenth century. He also made an opening into the house from the portico walk. (fn. 120) Low later claimed that his alterations cost him £6,000 or £7,000. (fn. 121) He fell into difficulties with mortgagees, and by 1779 the ratepayer was another hotel-keeper, Isaac Froome, evidently as Low's lessee at a rent of £525 per annum. By 1786 Low was bankrupt and his assignees put the lease of the property up to auction, when it was bought for £1,600 by Froome. (fn. 122) (fn. 9) The character of the establishment is brought out in a letter to the Duke of Bedford in 1788 from Froome who sought the Duke's inspection and recommendation of 'the only Hotel for Families on your Grace's estate . . . being fitted up in a Stile of Elegance for the reception of the Nobility and Gentry requiring temporary residence in Town'. (fn. 124) (fn. 10)
From 1795 until the 1830's the building was usually in divided occupation, as a hotel and a coffee room. (fn. 126) The appearance of the latter in 1804, evidently not much altered since Low's day, is shown on Plate 78b. It was at that time in the possession of Charles Richardson, who had acquired the famous lion's head originally at Button's coffee house, which can be discerned on the end wall. (fn. 11)
In 1833 (and perhaps earlier) part of the premises was let off in apartments as Covent Garden Chambers. (fn. 127) In the following year the lease was renewed to Walter Richardson, wine merchant, for twenty-one years at £260 per annum. (fn. 128) In the previous year, however, some fittings, including a carved marble slab (part of a chimneypiece) and two 'landings' of inlaid oak. were removed by the Duke. (fn. 129) (fn. 12)
In the years 1835–7 the newly formed (Royal) Institute of British Architects had its first headquarters here, under a sub-lease at £100 per annum from Walter Richardson's mortgagee, Sir Henry Richardson. (fn. 131)
By this time, however, part of the premises, still known as the Grand Hotel, was in the hands of a former actor and singer, W. C. Evans, (fn. 132) who during the 1840's made the house very well known as a late-night rendezvous for song-andsupper entertainments in the basement. (fn. 133) Evans was succeeded in about 1846 by John Green, a self-styled 'father of the music halls'. (fn. 16) Under 'Paddy' Green the song-and-supper part of the establishment, still retaining the name of 'Evans's', prospered greatly. (fn. 134)
In 1850–1 some alterations of unknown extent were made to the building. (fn. 135) In 1855 Green took a forty-year lease of the premises (fn. 136) and had a large singing-room or music hall constructed at the back of the hotel (Plate 67a). It was approached via the old singing-room in the basement, which had been made, probably by Evans, out of the former coffee room. The architect was W. Finch Hill. This expensive piece of work, with its Bath-stone columns and elaborate gas-lighting, was built in four months, to be ready to receive the provincial visitors to London 'during the week of the Cattle Show'. The contractor was W. Jackson, and the work, with some alterations to the hotel, cost nearly £7,000. (fn. 137) The appearance of the new room was applauded as a sign of improving public taste by The Builder and also by The Art Fournal, which thought it 'one of the most elegant rooms in London; its proportions are magnificent, and its style of decoration sufficiently classic, without that sombre look it too frequently assumes'. Green was also congratulated on 'having elevated the moral tone of its amusements and made them unobjectionable', (fn. 138) a fact of which he was contentedly self-conscious. (fn. 139) In 1871 alterations were made to the music hall and the hotel, by the architect J. H. Rowley. The former was enlarged, redecorated with much use of lookingglass, and boxes were constructed all round it. The cost was again about £7,000. (fn. 140)
It was probably during Green's tenure, which ended about this time, that the upper part of the façade was given its present appearance, which it had certainly acquired by 1877 (fn. 141) (Plate 44c).
In 1874 and 1875 the Savage Club occupied premises here, but the use of part of the building as a hotel seems to have continued until 1880. (fn. 71)
Designs were prepared in 1876–7 by Henry Clutton, as the ninth Duke's consultant architect, to bring the Grand Hotel into harmony with his remodelling of the buildings in and adjacent to the Piazza, (fn. 142) but this was not done, although the buildings on either side were designed or given elevations by Clutton. It was, however, in the years 1877–80 that the entrance to the hotel from the portico walk received its present door and doorcase (Plate 45b). (fn. 143) The designer is not known.
Evans's Hotel closed about 1880. (fn. 71) In c. 1882–3 the premises were occupied by John Hollingshead's Falstaff Club, for which the upper part of the house was decorated with paintings (by Albert Calcott) and plaster reliefs illustrating The Merry Wives of Windsor. (fn. 144) In c. 1884 until 1890 this was succeeded by the New Club, run by an associate of Hollingshead's, Colonel F. A. Wellesley. The New Club enjoyed the patronage of the Prince of Wales and attracted a wealthy and aristocratic membership: both it and the Falstaff Club staged 'dances and entertainments' as well as providing the usual club facilities. (fn. 145)
In 1891 the premises were taken by the newly founded National Sporting Club, which staged its boxing contests in the former music hall. (fn. 146) Plans for the alteration and decoration of this boxing hall were made in 1911–12 by the architects Mewès and Davis, but it is uncertain whether they were carried out. (fn. 147) The club remained here until its closure in 1929. The premises were then taken by the present occupants, George Monro, fruiterers, for whom extensive alterations were carried out by E. A. Shaw and Partners, architects and surveyors. They included the removal (between May 1932 and February 1934) of the original columned entrance, to provide access for lorries to the warehouse at the rear. (fn. 148)
In 1929 there had been an intention to build a theatre on part of the site (fn. 149) and although this was not done the third floor was hired in 1934 by the Players' Theatre Club, previously in New Compton Street. This soon closed, but in October 1936 a theatre club was re-opened on the third floor by Peter Ridgeway, as the New Players' Theatre, until its move to Albemarle Street in October 1940. (fn. 150) (fn. 13)
When the alterations were made for George Monro the staircase of Lord Orford's time was removed. In 1962 it was re-erected by Professor Sir Albert Richardson in South Walsham Hall, Norfolk. (fn. 151) (fn. 14)
Despite its mutilated front and altered interior, No. 43 King Street is still an important example of a town mansion, adjoined by houses on either side, yet having some of the characteristic features of a small country house. In fact, an examination of its original plan, elevation, and interior arrangement and decoration, shows it to be closely related to several of the compact but opulently finished country houses of about the 1720's, generally attributed to Thomas Archer or to Francis Smith of Warwick. Originally containing a semi-basement, three storeys, and roof garrets, the broad-fronted house was planned as a double pile, the front range being deeper than the back (figs. 25, 26). On the ground and first floors, the front range is divided by substantial walls into three compartments. The large middle compartment was originally a two-storeyed staircase hall, entered through a screened porch recessed below the first-floor landing gallery. On the west side of the staircase hall was a deep front room, and on the east side a shallow front room and the secondary staircase. There were two large rooms in the back range, each with a closet in a projecting wing. On the ground floor these rooms were equal in size, being divided by a central passage leading from the staircase hall to the garden, but on the first floor the passage space was included in the large east room. The large garden extended north to a stable and coach-house range fronting to Hart (now Floral) Street.
Except for some minor details, the engraved view reproduced on Plate 77a shows the front as originally completed. Executed in brick, probably stocks and red rubbers, with lavish dressings of stone, it was a striking Baroque design exhibiting some wilful eccentricities typical of Archer, whose knowledge of Roman sources seems evident in the treatment of the attic stage, perhaps derived from the Villa Lancelotti at Frascati. Above the semi-basement, originally treated as a plain plinth behind a wrought-iron railing, the front is composed of two stages divided into three bays, properly expressing the three-compartment plan of the front range. The bays, respectively two, three, and two windows wide, are divided in the ground storey by boldly projecting stone piers of fourteen channel-jointed courses, each pier being finished with a Doric entablature-block. Across the side bays these are linked only by a plain band-course that corresponds in width with the frieze, but the full entablature is returned across the middle bay where it originally rested, with minor forward breaks, on two slender plain-shafted Corinthian columns forming the three-bay screen to the recessed porch. Above each of the rusticated piers stands a giant Composite pilaster, its disproportionately short shaft cabled and fluted. The four pilasters rise through the two-storeyed upper stage to support entablature-blocks of which only the corona and cymatium are returned across the face of each bay, above a frieze-band that corresponds in width with the bed-mouldings. It may be remarked here that this very arbitrary manner of treating a giant order and its entablature is more typical of Francis Smith than of Archer.
The window-openings vary in form, although those in the side bays were originally alike in having plain projecting aprons of brickwork, stone sills of three mouldings, and segmental arches of gauged brick with triple keystones, the middle one dying into the stone storey-band above. In the middle bay the windows have plain elliptical arches, rising from moulded imposts and having triple keystones. In this bay, however, the windows were separated by narrow vertical channels in the brick face of each storey. The front was originally finished above each side bay with a high parapet, its brick die containing two sunk panels extending between panelled stone pedestals placed over the Composite pilasters. In the middle bay the parapet rose in concave curves to meet the plain stone pilasters flanking the narrow attic face. This contained a round-arched window, its triple keystone dying into a plain stone band below a dwarf parapet of brick, flanked by profile scroll-consoles of stone. (fn. 15)
The wrought-iron railing to the front area, composed alternately of leaf-headed and plain vertical bars, was broken centrally by a pair of gates, each finished with a pyramidal cresting of rich scrollwork. These gates opened to the short flight of steps ascending to the middle bay of the porch, where the side intercolumniations were furnished with richly scrolled railings of wrought iron, as noted by John Carter. Within the porch, the front wall contained a tall door of three panels, framed in an architrave broken by a Baroque fluted keystone. On either side was a sash window, furnished with shutters, and in each narrow side wall was a niche, recessed within a plain margin in a channel-jointed stone face which was continued between the architraves of the door and windows.
The extent to which the front has been altered, at various times, can be seen by comparing the engraving on Plate 77a with the recent photograph on Plate 78a. The present front-area railings, where they exist, are of a heavy Victorian design in cast iron, and the recessed porch has given place to an opening fitted with a rolling shutter. All the brickwork has been heavily coated with stucco, so that most of the subtle surface modelling has been obliterated, particularly the vertical channels between the windows in the middle bay. All the original small-paned sashes have gone, and the third-storey openings have been lengthened by removing the projecting aprons and fitting iron guard railings of standard Regency Gothick design. Perhaps the most destructive change was made by replacing the original concave-ramped parapet with a full attic storey, having seven straight-headed windows placed to correspond with those below, in a plain face divided by plain piers and finished with a simple entablature of frieze and cornice, broken and returned round the piers. Above each side bay is a simple blocking-course, and above the middle bay is a panelled parapet extending between dies surmounted by large tall-necked urns of curious design, a Victorian interpretation of Vanbrugh.
Although the basic plan survives, the interior of the house has been considerably altered and stripped of much of its original splendour. The most important change was made during the 1930's, when the handsome oak staircase was removed and the compartment was floored over at second-storey level. John Carter's sketches (fn. 152) and published description (fn. 153) of c. 1814, and the panelled dado surviving on the north, east and south walls in the upper stage of the compartment, combine to show how the staircase was arranged. Beginning with a short curtail flight rising west against the north wall, just beyond the door to the garden passage, it turned south to continue with a long flight against the west wall, and finished with a short flight rising east against the gallery landing above the entrance porch.
The lofty upper stage of the compartment, with its excellent woodwork and rich Baroque plaster decoration, now serves as a boardroom (Plate 79, figs. 27–29). It is well lit by the three windows in the middle bay of the front. Their tall, segmentally arched embrasures are fitted with seats, and are lined with shutters and soffits of small raised-and-fielded panels, matching with the large panels on the piers flanking the windows. The east, west, and north walls have at each end a slightly raised face of woodwork, with an oak door of eight panels framed in a broad moulded architrave below a single panel. On each wall except the west there is a panelled dado with a moulded rail, ramped up at each end to correspond with the handrail of the original gallery balustrade. On the west wall, where there was no gallery, there is only a modern skirting. All the panelling is raised and fielded, and set in ogeemoulded framing.
Between the panelled doorcases, each wall is modelled in plasterwork with two large panels formed by raised and richly moulded bolection frames, their sides straight but their heads and bases broken, the former rising in a segmental curve enriched with acanthus leaves, and the latter rising in a flattened curve above acanthus sprouts and scrolls tied with ribbons. Within each panel a plain margin is formed by a narrow inner frame, enclosing a field decorated with a circular medallion modelled in low relief with a classical figure subject, in a simply moulded frame suspended by a vertical ribbon. This is freely tied at the top with an oak-leaf garland that descends on either side of the medallion, to meet the scrolling acanthus leaves and sprouts below. A similar garland of bunched oak leaves hangs from a ribbon knot to form a pendant in the space between each pair of panels. The walls are finished with a simple moulding below a small cove, its surface plain but for the crossed oak branches in the middle of each side, and the scrolling acanthus leaves in each angle.
A heavy bolection moulding frames the ceiling, where raised mouldings are used to divide the flat surface into a geometrical arrangement of panels. A boldly moulded frame, enriched with a band of laurel garland, encloses the large central oval, which is surrounded by four panels in simply moulded frames. These are separated by margins extending at 45 degrees from the angles of the ceiling, each of which is decorated with a motif composed of a female mask crowned with a formalized scallop-shell and flanked by scrolling acanthus leaves, with a chain of bunched oak leaves extending into the margin between the panels. The oval panel contains a chandelierboss of scrolling acanthus leaves and oak branches, but the surrounding panels are plain.
It is reasonable to assume that a North Italian stuccador was responsible for this plasterwork, possibly one of the craftsmen who executed the similar but richer decoration of the staircase compartment at Mawley Hall, Shropshire, a house generally attributed to Smith of Warwick.
The handsome oak staircase was skilfully adapted for re-use at South Walsham Hall and despite some inevitable alterations retains many of its original characteristic features. The architravemoulded cut strings are ornamented with richly carved scroll-brackets, and the moulded handrail, beginning with a curtail-scroll and a wide segmental sweep, rests on square-section balusters turned with twisted columns above urns, placed three to each tread. The handrail is ramped up at each turn of the stair, to rest on newels formed as fluted Corinthian columns on bombé pedestals. Each angle of the landing gallery is rounded, probably an original feature, with the balustrade breaking back over a pair of newelcolumns to continue round in a quadrant curve before returning back to join the next straight length of railing. The fascia of the landinggallery string is ornamented, at equal intervals, with the applied carvings noted by John Carter. These trophies or 'devices' are composed of crossed palms, wreaths and coronets, or anchors, sextants and other nautical instruments wreathed with rope. (fn. 154) Carter's sketches show that these trophies were originally placed between carved scroll-brackets on a much deeper string that was treated as a Baroque bracketed entablature. The geometrically patterned parquetry of the intermediate landings is recorded in a drawing now in the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects. (fn. 155) According to Carter, the ground-storey stage of the compartment was wainscoted and finished with a plain coved cornice. The fireplace had a plain bolectionmoulded chimneypiece, and the soffit of the landing gallery was divided into compartments containing roses, presumably of plaster.
The ground storey is now devoid of interest, but when Carter visited the house he noted that the east front room had a ceiling 'painted with ornaments, Neptune and Amphitrite, etc', which he thought was modern. This room had a splayed chimney-breast, and set into the east wall was a portrait of Lord Orford 'in armour and a prodigious peruke'. Each of the large back rooms contained a fine chimneypiece, that in the west room being composed of 'a kneed architrave, deep frieze, with rich scrolls, and a lion's head, his skin displayed in festoons of drapery.' The east room chimneypiece, which he sketched, had a moulded and eared architrave below an oblong frame containing a looking glass, flanked by carved scrollconsoles and finished with a cornice. Both rooms had ceiling painted with figures and foliage.
The lofty second-storey rooms have been altered, but the back rooms, though sub-divided, generally retain their original doors, windowembrasures, and railed dados of raised-and-fielded panelling in ogee-moulded framing. In the west front room Carter notes a 'side term chimneypiece, with exuberent foliages' that still survives, although the ceiling 'painted with compartments' has gone. The carved wooden chimneypiece has an architrave of egg-and-dart moulding flanked by terms, festooned with garlands and breaking into scrolls below profile female heads. Above the architrave extends a frieze richly carved with acanthus foliage, broken by a central tablet similarly carved. The cornice-shelf breaks forwards above the tablet, and back over each term (fig. 30). The small east front room now contains a similar chimneypiece to the one described, but according to Carter it had only a 'plain architrave chimneypiece'. In the west back room there was a 'double compartmented mantle and jamb chimneypiece' which his related sketch shows to have been a typical early-Georgian example, with flat panelled jambs and a segmental-arched head, panelled on either side of a keystone. In this room the ceiling was painted 'with foliages, festoons of flowers, and a rich sculptured rose in centre', the last thought by Carter to be original work. The east back room chimneypiece was generally similar to that in the west room, but enriched with 'side scrolls of foliage', and the ceiling was 'painted with Baccanalian symbols, etc'. Carter, whose judgment was not always reliable as to dating, thought that the plasterwork of the staircase compartment was 'later work' and that the painted ceilings were 'supposed to have been wrought in the time of the Adams's, architects'. Nevertheless, his general assessment of the building is valuable and interesting. 'In this edifice is testified a considerable degree of grandeur, symmetry, and a convenient appropriation of parts; and notwithstanding many subsequent styles have appeared since its erection . . . still it has ever been held as a design of great architectural consequence, down to the present hour.' This, at a time when Baroque architecture was still misunderstood and generally disliked, was high praise indeed.
It remains to add that the secondary staircase, simply finished but strongly constructed round an oblong open well, survives above the secondstorey landing. Below this are modern flights of stone steps, descending to the doorway opening to the portico walk of Bedford Chambers. This has a stone doorcase of 1877–80, a very interesting Mannerist design possibly inspired by the original grand entrance to Covent Garden Theatre in the north-east angle of the portico walk (Plates 33, 45b ). Here, the two-leaf door, with decorated panels and heavily studded framing, is set below a similarly treated tympanum in a round-arched opening, its enriched moulded archivolt rising from enriched cornice-imposts, above piers of four channel-jointed courses raised on high plain pedestals. Against each pier stands an Ionic pilaster, its shaft broken by projecting vermiculated blocks that correspond to the courses of the piers. These pilasters, which have garlanded capitals, support an appropriate entablature, but its architrave and pulvinated frieze are broken by a large panelled tablet that projects to rest on the fluted and garlanded scroll-keystone of the arch. The dentilled cornice is returned to form a segmental pediment.
A contemporary engraving of the music hall, built in 1855 for John Green, shows that it consisted of a large and lofty main hall of oblong plan, with an arcade of four bays on each long side (Plate 67a). One arcade opened to a wide aisle, but the other had one blind bay on either side of two bays containing a gallery. The arches were formed with blocked and enriched archivolts rising from entablature-blocks above Composite columns with plain shafts of Bath stone. The plain frieze and enriched crowning cornice extending round the main hall were broken forwards above the columns to support the guilloche ribs that divided the high cove and flat ceiling into square compartments, each containing an octagonal panel. The ceiling octagons were filled with elaborate metal grilles, and from the bosses at the intersections of the ribs hung two rows of gas-lit lustres.