King Street and Floral Street Area: Rose Street

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: Rose Street', in Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden, (London, 1970) pp. 182-184. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

In this section

Rose Street

A comparison of the modern map with those of Rocque or Horwood (Plates 7, 8) will show how the original character of Rose Street has been obscured by changes made in the 1860's. The construction of Garrick Street deprived the southern arm of its identity as a street of houses, which is now apparent only in the drawing of 1851 reproduced on Plate 50b, while the westward extension of Hart (now Floral) Street broke across the long narrow alley-like approach to Long Acre. The circumstances in which this tortuous and ill-favoured link between that street and Covent Garden had come into being in 1638– 1640 are described on page 268.

Something of the haste with which at least the greater part of the street was developed is apparent in the St. Martin's ratebooks, where a score or more of ratepayers were assessed in 1640 but none in previous years. In this ratebook the street is designated Red Rose Street, which was the name originally given to the southernmost north-south arm (fn. 3) and to the east-west arm. (fn. 4) The northern arm was originally called White Rose Street (fn. 4) and its appearance in the ratebooks has not been certainly identified, but, if not included in the Red Rose Street section, it cannot have preceded it by more than a year or two. (fn. 5) On Lacy's 1673 map (Plate 2) and later maps the distinction of nomenclature is not observed. (fn. 1)

All of the street was laid out beyond the wall made in c. 1610 to enclose the centre of Covent Garden (see page 24). The greater part (including virtually all that now surviving) was built on land already sold off by the fourth Earl of Bedford in 1635, (fn. 6) and most of this was left in St. Martin's parish when the boundary of the chapelry and parish of St. Paul was delimited.

Lacy's map of 1673 shows the east-west arm extending westward beyond the point where the northern arm turned off, and subsequent maps show a connexion here with another alley running into Long Acre called Angell Alley: this western extension of Rose Street has now been swallowed up in Garrick Street.

As originally built, many of the houses in the street were no doubt, as the Privy Council judged, 'fitt for mechanicks only and persons of meane quallitie'. (fn. 7) One poet of note, Samuel Butler, lived and died in the street in 1680, (fn. 8) but a better indication of its character is probably the ambuscade and assault to which Dryden was subjected in December of the previous year, as he was returning from a coffee house to his residence in Long Acre. (fn. 9) The period around 1690 saw some rebuilding, part but not all of it under building leases from the fifth Earl and controlled by his requirements for a specified outlay on the work. (fn. 10) It was probably at this period, in about 1688, that Lazenby Court was made, to give access to Long Acre and Hart Street via Conduit Court. (fn. 11)

The early nineteenth-century vestry minutes of the parish contain some references to brothels in Rose Street (fn. 12) and the degraded nature of much of the street is apparent from an article in The Builder in 1853 on London's cholera-infected quarters. Rose Street was 'thickly inhabited by a poor, and in some instances bad class of people' (some of them cellar-dwellers) and was without a water supply for forty-eight hours from Saturday to Monday. (fn. 13) Walford, writing in 1874, recalled the character of the street before Garrick Street was made: 'here might be seen low gambling-houses; floors let out to numerous families with fearful broods of children; sundry variations of the magisterial permission "to be drunk on the premises"; strange, chaotic trades, to which no one skilled contribution imparted a distinctive character; and, by way of a moral drawn from the far-off pure air of open fields and farm-yards, a London dairy, professing to be constantly supplied with fresh butter, cream and new milk from the country.' (fn. 14) (fn. 2)

Except for the public house pleasingly visible from Garrick Street, Rose Street now consists largely of the side and rear elevations of buildings in other thoroughfares.

No. 33 Rose Street: The Lamb and Flag Public House

The freehold of this site was sold by the fourth Earl of Bedford in 1635 and very little documentary evidence of its history has survived. The first building on the site was a brick house erected by Thomas Constable in 1638–9. (fn. 4) This house was rebuilt in 1688 (fn. 11) when the passage through the ground storey (now called Lazenby Court) was probably made. The carcase of the present building appears to date from the early eighteenth century but the brick façade is modern (1958) and replaces a stucco front of the mid 1840's (Plates 50b, 74d).

The earliest date at which the house is definitely recorded as licensed premises is 1772 when it was called the Cooper's Arms. The tavern had probably been transferred there from the west side of the street, where until 1771 there had been a Cooper's Arms since the early eighteenth century. From 1751 to 1771 the licensee of the Cooper's Arms, George Cook, is shown in the ratebooks as occupying both sites. (fn. 15) The name was changed to the Lamb and Flag in 1833. (fn. 16)

Although modern, the simply designed front has a convincing early ninteenth-century appearance. Three storeys high and two windows wide, it is built of red brick, the second- and thirdstorey windows having barred sashes recessed in plain openings with flat arches of gauged brick. The ground-storey window is flanked by two-leaf doors, framed by plain pilasters supporting a simple fascia. The carcase of the building is probably of early eighteenth-century date. Part of the doglegged staircase survives, and, although partitions have been removed to make one large room on the ground and on the first floors, some plain panelling survives. The back wall is of stock brick with a stone coping, but parts of the original closet-wing walls survive, their part-coloured brickwork matching that of the cellar walls. The framed and weather-boarded wall, on the west side of the open passage at ground-storey level, is a picturesque feature.


  • 1. Strype's Survey of 1720 seems to be mistaken in saying that the southern as well as the northern north-south arm was (or had ever been) called White Rose Street.
  • 2. Walford notes the existence (recorded also elsewhere) of a street sign dated 1623. The known history of the street makes it very likely that this date was wrongly deciphered.
  • 3. P.R.O., C10/93/2.
  • 4. Ibid., C8/84/53.
  • 5. Ibid., SP16/400, no. 100.
  • 6. B.O.L., Muniment Register II, p. 1015, D, boundle 8, no.1.
  • 7. P.R.O., PC2/49, p. 493.
  • 8. D.N.B.
  • 9. Charles E. Ward, The Life of John Dryden, 1961, pp. 143–4.
  • 10. E/BER, Rose Street, leases; P.R.O., C10/240/131.
  • 11. R.B.
  • 12. W.P.L., H.807, ff. 35–6; H.845, p. 238.
  • 13. The Builder, 24 Sept. 1853, p. 602.
  • 14. E. Walford, Old and New London, 1874, vol. III, p. 264.
  • 15. G.L.R.O.(M), LV(W), passim; R.B.
  • 16. P.O.D.
  • 17. John Strype, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, 1720, vol. II, bk. VI, p. 93.
  • 18. Some Olde London Shope Signes [sic], 1891, p. 3 (copy in G.L.C. members' Library).