Bow Street and Russell Street Area: Bow Street

Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1970.

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'Bow Street and Russell Street Area: Bow Street', in Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden, (London, 1970) pp. 185-192. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

In this section

CHAPTER VIII - Bow Street and Russell Street Area

Bow Street

Plates 52a, 52c, 54b

Few Streets in Covent Garden have changed their original character more since the late eighteenth century than Bow Street. The present aspect of the street is determined by two factors: its function as part of a through-route from Waterloo Bridge to St. Giles's and Bloomsbury, and the public or semipublic nature of the large buildings that front upon it. Originally, however, the street did not form part of an important line of communication, having no northward opening into Long Acre (Plate 7), and until the building of Smirke's Covent Garden Theatre in 1809 was essentially the usual street of houses, shops and taverns.

Its first occupants appear in the parish ratebooks in c. 1633. The west side, which was developed under the Bedford leases running from 1631–3 tabulated on pages 294–7, was the first to be completed, by 1635–6.

On the east side the northern half of the frontage was formed by the brick wall built in c. 1610 by the third Earl of Bedford (see page 24), and the ground behind this, which had been granted on long lease by the second Earl in 1574 to Sir Edmund Carey, (fn. 6) remained undeveloped for the time being, as did a piece of fee-farm property immediately to its south. The rest of the eastern frontage, southward to Russell Street, turned slightly westward from the wall, and the building-up of this part was completed three or four years after the west side. (fn. 7)

Unlike the other main streets in Covent Garden Bow Street did not take its name (which it bore by 1638 (fn. 7) ) from the Russell family or the royal family. No doubt, as Strype supposed, the name derived from its shape. (fn. 8)

The ratebooks suggest that the first houses in the street varied considerably in value, and the occupants were also diverse. Some people of title occur from the beginning. The first residents also included the building speculator, Richard Harris, who, when not in gaol, weathered out the vicissitudes of his career at No. 4 (on the site of the Russell Street market): further north one of the first residents was a schoolmaster, Thomas Haywood or Howard. (fn. 9) The street seems never to have achieved uniform residential respectability; nor was it quite as much a superior tradesman's street as Bedford Street or King Street. Perhaps it was more animated than they were and more attractive to lively or talented people. By the late 1690's the residents included Grinling Gibbons, William Wycherley (probably, in lodgings (fn. 10) ), Doctor John Radcliffe, Marcellus Laroon the elder, Doctor Humphrey Ridley, the penman John Ayres, Lady Craven, and the proprietor of Will's coffee house. (fn. 7)

This last had been established in 1671 in a newly built house at No. 1, by a William Urwin, from whom it took its name. It occupied part of the site of a larger property which had previously included, under the name of the Three Roses, the corner house (No. 21 Russell Street, originally the site of the Goat tavern) and No. 20 Russell Street. (fn. 11) Under Dryden's patronage Will's rapidly became famous, and by the 1690's had been extended to take in the upper part of the corner house. (fn. 12) At about this time, however, Urwin was 'lapsed in his fortunes' and his mortgagee, Doctor William Oldys, the civilian, (fn. 13) had to put in a manager. (fn. 14) In the 1720's it was sufficiently prosperous to include the upper part of No. 20 Russell Street. (fn. 15) No. 1 Bow Street continued under the name of Will's coffee house until at least 1730, (fn. 10) but in 1743 it was known as Chapman's coffee house, and by 1751 the name Will's had been transferred to a coffee house in the Little Piazza. (fn. 16) (fn. 1)

The building-up of the street had been completed in 1673–7 with the erection of eleven houses at the northern end of the east side, where a garden is prominently shown in Hollar's view (Plate 1). In 1659 the leasehold interest here, acquired by Sir Edmund Carey, had passed to the Honourable Arthur Annesley (fn. 17) (who was created Earl of Anglesey in 1661), but by 1673 all or most of the street frontage was again in the fifth Earl of Bedford's hands, (fn. 18) and had been built upon by 1675. (fn. 7) The lessees from the fifth Earl included (Sir) Richard Blake, a 'gentleman', and a 'chirurgeon'; another is known to have been a building tradesman, Thomas Thurban, bricklayer. The pre-lease articles of agreement were very specific in respect of materials and scantlings and included a requirement that the roof-timbers, first floor and external woodwork should be of oak. The clear room-heights on the ground, first and second floors were 10, 10½ and 9 feet respectively. The elevations were to be uniform, to a design approved by the Earl's surveyor. (fn. 19)

At the extreme northern end of the east side two 'uniform' houses were built at this time by the same Blake who was the Earl of Bedford's lessee, but seemingly as lessee of the Earl of Anglesey, or by right of tenure from the two Earls together. His building-work included a gateway high enough to take a laden hay-cart, probably communicating with the Red Lion Inn: (fn. 20) maps of the 1680's show Red Lion Court opening into Bow Street here from Drury Lane.

It was the Earl of Bedford's intention to make a communication northward also, to Long Acre, and his leases of 1673 included provision for the payment of an additional ground rent if this was effected. Nothing more was done, however, than the creation of a northward cul de sac, where a carpenter, Thomas Chaplin, was the Earl's building lessee in 1675. (fn. 21)

Immediately south of the Earl's houses two others (Nos. 29 and 30) were put up on sites that were no longer part of his estate. (fn. 6) The builder was the bricklayer, Richard Frith, who evidently took advantage of a looser control than was exercised over the Earl's houses to employ bad materials. The Tylers' and Bricklayers' Company fined him for using defective tiles supplied to him by the Deptford fishmonger, Thomas Pitcher, (fn. 22) and some twenty-six years later, in 1702, one of these houses, which was at that time inhabited by Grinling Gibbons, fell down. (fn. 23) Gibbons thereupon moved to an adjacent site southward, and built himself a new house under a lease from the first Duke of Bedford. (fn. 24)

In 1720 the street found favour with Strype— 'open and large, with very good Houses, well inhabited, and resorted unto by Gentry for Lodgings'. (fn. 8) A few years later, however, the parish had a poor-house or nurses' house in the street, (fn. 25) and 1739 saw the disappearance of the last private titled ratepayer. In the following year Sir Thomas De Veil appears in the ratebooks, at the site of Laroon's old house, No. 4, but the establishment of his magistrate's court here (see page 188) no doubt spoilt the street residentially. By 1743 there were eight licensed premises in Bow Street. (fn. 26) The making of Broad Court in 1745–7 on the site of Red Lion Court gave a dull orderliness of appearance to this vicinity, but despite the eminence of the building tradesmen employed by the fourth Duke the scale and social character of the development was quite humble (see page 40 and Plates 52b, 59a).

Since 1732 there had been a small pit-entrance to Covent Garden Theatre on the west side. A larger entrance was made a few doors further south, perhaps about 1776. (fn. 7) By the end of the eighteenth century columned porches had been built, but the theatre still had no façade of its own to Bow Street.

The fifth Earl's intention of making a way through into Long Acre was finally brought about by the fifth Duke in 1792–3, and the passage which he then made was surrendered to the Paving Commissioners of St. Martin in the Fields as a public highway. At first it had a bar across it. (fn. 27) The extension to Long Acre was widened nearly to its present breadth in 1835 by the Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues. This was in conjunction with the construction of Wellington Street (see page 226) and was of great importance in opening Bow Street for the first time to heavy through-traffic.

By this period Bow Street was nearing the end of its history as a residential street. Proximity to the theatre seems to have made the northern end of the street particularly disreputable. When the Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues were negotiating in 1833 for the purchase of ground here they found that the Duke of Bedford's lessee, James Robinson, owned a brothel on part of the desired site at the northern corner of Hart Street, as well as another opposite, on the east side of Bow Street. During the lengthy negotiations Robinson's solicitor accused the Commissioners' surveyor, J. W. Higgins, of prejudice against 'my client's profession', while another of the Commissioners' officers voiced the conviction that Robinson was prolonging his tenure of 'the naughty house in Hart Street' until 'the Rutting Season is over'. (fn. 28) (fn. 2) The clearing of the site evidently made little difference to the character of the locality. In 1844 the occupant of a building at this northern corner of Hart Street complained to the parish vestry that he had 'numerous Brothels situated around my house', and suggested that the notorious name of Bow Street should be changed to Wellington Street. (fn. 29)

Whatever its social character the appearance of this northern end of the street had been transformed by the building of Robert Smirke's Covent Garden Theatre in 1809. (fn. 3) The subsequent visual history of the street is that of the large buildings which now dominate it—the Opera House and Floral Hall (1856–60), the Police Station and Magistrates' Court (1879– 1880), the Broad Court rebuilding (1897, by R. S. Wornum (fn. 30) ), and the Telephone Exchange (1964–7).

Of the original street, only the range from No. 35 to the corner of Russell Street retains the old site-divisions, with unremarkable buildings of comparatively recent date. They include, however, two public houses, the Globe (at No. 37) and the Marquis of Anglesea (at No. 39 Bow Street and No. 23 Russell Street), which occupy sites where licensed premises were situated at (though not uninterruptedly back to) an early date. On the site of the Globe a victualler was in possession by 1682, (fn. 31) while the Marquis of Anglesea occupies the site of a victualler's premises in the same year (at No. 39), (fn. 31) and of Edward Miles's coffee house at the corner of Russell Street in 1663. (fn. 32)

Ratepaying occupants in Bow Street include: Lady Dorothy Fowles, 1633–41; Dr. Robert Gifford, 1633–41; Sir Edward Payton, 1633–9, parliamentary pamphleteer; Sir Egremont Thynne, 1633–6; Lady Milleson, 1635; Thomas Savile, first Viscount Savile of Castlebar and later first Earl of Sussex, 1635; Sir Thomas Sherley, 1635–6; Sir Richard Tichborne, 1636; Lady Arthurlong, 1637; Dr. Lawrence, 1638; Christopher Lewtener, 1637–9, ? Christopher Lewkenor, member of the Long Parliament; 'Monsieur Amy Merriott', ? Paul Amyraut, 1639– 1640, divine; Lady Carey (Carewe), c. 1640–3; Captain Daniel Goodriche, 1640–4; Sir William Mountick, c. 1640–1; Countess of Castlehaven, 1641–3; Colonel Vaviser, 1643; Captain Welby, 1643; Sir William Lister, c. 1645, member of the Long Parliament; Brian Stapleton, 1645–52, member of the Long Parliament; Dr. Walter Charleton, c. 1651–6, physician; Thomas Wharton, c. 1651,? physician; William Clarke, 1653–5,? (Sir) William Clarke, later Secretary at War; Edmond Waller, 1654–6, poet, member of the Long Parliament; 'Doctor Whitacre', 1654–7,? Tobias Whitaker, physician; 'Thos Blunt Esq', 1657, ? Thomas Blount, author; Lady Coveley (Covell), 1658–60; Sir George Wakeman, 1663–4, physician to Queen Catherine of Braganza; 'Lovelace Esq', 1664,? John Lovelace, later third Baron Lovelace of Hurley, Whig; Sir Richard Corbett, 1666; William Denton, c. 1667–79, physician and political writer; Charles Howard, Viscount Andover and from 1669 Earl of Berkshire, 1667–70; Sir Thomas Ashton, 1668; John Austin, 1668–9, Catholic writer under pseudonym William Birchley; Major Michael Mohun, 1671–6, actor; Dr. Richard Lower, 1672–81, physician; Dr. Edward Duke, c. 1675–81; Thomas Hawker, c. 1675–82,? portrait painter; Henry Powle, c. 1675–8, later Master of the Rolls and Speaker of the Convention Parliament; Thomas Jordan, 1676–80, poet; Grinling Gibbons, 1678–84, 1689–1721, wood carver and statuary; William Longueville, 1679–81, lawyer and friend of the poet Samuel Butler, who often visited him in Bow Street; Marcellus Laroon the elder, 1680–1702, painter and engraver; Dr. Charles Conquest, 1682–92; Charles Sackville, sixth Earl of Dorset, c. 1684–5, poet and courtier; Colonel Sackville, c. 1684–93; Captain David Lloyd, c. 1686–8, naval captain and Jacobite agent; Dr. John Radcliffe, 1686–c. 1702, physician; Edward Cooke, 1688,? dramatic poet; Lady Colliton, 1691; Dr. Humphrey Ridley, 1691–c. 1702, physician; John Ayres, c. 1698, penman; Lady Craven, c. 1698; Captain David Overy, c. 1702; Dr. Bigg(s), c. 1705–12; Dr. Thomas Walker, c. 1705–14; Dr. Thomas West, c. 1705–6; 'Mr. Tonson', 1707, Jacob Tonson, publisher; Dr. Richard Adams, 1708–15; Colonel Townsend, 1726–9; Robert Wilks, 1727–32, actor; Lady Catherine Paul, 1729; Edmund Curll, 1730–1, bookseller; George Douglas, fourth Baron Mordington, 1730–4, Whig pamphleteer; Charles Johnson, c. 1736–8, dramatist; Lady Oliphant, c. 1736–9; (Sir) Thomas De Veil, 1740–6, magistrate; John Hippisley, 1740–7, actor and dramatist; 'Dr. Scott', 1740–6, ? Dr. Daniel Scott, theological writer and lexicographer; Dr. Coats Molesworth, 1742; Charles Macklin, 1743–8, actor; Spranger Barry, 1747–58, actor; Colonel John Mostyn, 1748–51, later Governor of Minorca; Henry Fielding, 1749–53, novelist and magistrate; (Sir) John Fielding, 1754–80, magistrate; John Rich, 1754–61, proprietor of Covent Garden Theatre, succeeded in same house by Mrs. Rich, 1761–7; Messrs. Harris and Co., 1768–92; David Ross, 1755–60, actor; Bonnell Thornton, 1759–62, miscellaneous writer and wit; Richard Yates, 1764–79, comedian; Samuel Howard, 1765–77, ? organist and composer; Daniel Dodd, 1772–3, ? painter; Robert Carver, 1775, landscape and scene painter; William Thompson, 1776–80, 1782, ? portrait painter; Charles Lee Lewes, 1778–80, actor; John Richards, 1781–90, ? John Inigo Richards, R.A., landscape and scene painter; Sir Sampson Wright, 1781–92, magistrate; William Thomas Lewis, 1793–9, actor; William Smith, 1798, ? actor; Thomas Harris, 1808–20, co-proprietor of Covent Garden Theatre; William Gilpin, 1811–14, ? William Sawrey Gilpin; William Wycherley, dramatist, lodged in Bow Street in 1715 and earlier years.

Nos. 7 and 8 Bow Street and 52 Floral Street

See page 182.

The Royal Opera House and the Floral Hall

These are described in Survey of London volume xxxv.

Bow Street Police Court and Police Station

Bow Street's association with the maintenance of law and order dates from 1740, when (Sir) Thomas De Veil, a justice of the peace for Middlesex, acquired the lease of No. 4 Bow Street and transferred his office there. (fn. 33) This house stood on the west side of the street a few yards to the south of the Royal Opera House on the site now covered by sheds connected with the market, and with the addition of the adjoining No. 3 in 1813 it remained the court-house of the Bow Street magistrates until the opening of the present building on the east side of the street in 1880. The first Metropolitan Police Station in Bow Street was opened in 1832 at Nos. 33–34 upon part of the site now occupied by the new telephone exchange on the east side of the street, where it remained until it too removed in 1880 to the present building adjoining the magistrates' court.

De Veil's house had been built in 1703–4 by John Browne, a surgeon. (fn. 34) The court was probably held in one of the principal ground-floor rooms. (fn. 4) Under De Veil the Bow Street office began to acquire its pre-eminence within the metropolitan magistracy, and two years after his death in 1747 Henry Fielding, the novelist and playwright, was appointed to the Bow Street office. (fn. 35) Fielding was the originator of the small band of 'thief-takers' which later became known as the Bow Street Runners, (fn. 36) and after his death in 1754 he was succeeded by his blind half-brother, (Sir) John Fielding. In 1763 Fielding's court-room was described by Boswell as a 'back hall', (fn. 37) and this no doubt was the high narrow room with a public gallery depicted on Plate 60d. (fn. 38)

On 6 June 1780 the house was attacked during the Gordon riots but the damage was evidently not extensive for on 14 June Sir John wrote to Robert Palmer, the Duke of Bedford's agent, 'My lease is not of long duration. I shou'd be glad to know from you how far it can be extended by his Grace, so as to justify my repairing the old office which I am inform'd may be easily done and which I wou'd wish to do immediately in order to establish the Public office.' (fn. 39) Sir John died on 4 September 1780 but in April 1781 his executors received a ten-year extension of the lease from the fifth Duke of Bedford, in consideration of the cost of repairing the damage sustained during the riots. (fn. 40)

By 1811, when the magistrate James Read renewed the lease of No. 4, a new court-room had been built in the yard behind (Plate 61a). This was a single-storey building measuring 20 feet by 30 feet and connected to the house by a narrow passage only 6 feet wide. Two years later in 1813 Read acquired the lease of the next-door house, No. 3 Bow Street, at the back of which there was a 'felons room' which could be entered from the room immediately behind the public office at No. 4. (fn. 41) Later the yard behind No. 3 was converted into cells and a gaoler's room. (fn. 42)

A drawing reproduced on Plate 60a shows the front of No. 4 in 1825 when it still retained much of its early eighteenth-century appearance. The court-room entrance, formed out of a window of the ground storey, is on the left.

The establishment of the Metropolitan Police by Sir Robert Peel's Act of 1829 did not affect the Bow Street magistrates' office, but the ancient parish watch-house in St. Paul's churchyard was taken over by the Metropolitan Police Commissioners (see page 126). It proved quite inadequate for the needs of the new force, and in 1832 the headquarters of the Covent Garden police division was transferred to a handsome 'new Station House' which had been built in 1831–2 on the east side of Bow Street on the site of Nos. 33–34 (fn. 43) (Plate 60c). The sixth Duke of Bedford granted a sixty-one-year building lease of the site to William Bucke, esquire (apparently the builder), who granted a sub-lease of the finished building to the Police Receiver. At first the Receiver declined the lease because of a restrictive covenant forbidding tenants to do anything on the premises which might annoy any of the Duke's tenants. He was no doubt apprehensive about the noise to be anticipated from the prisoners in the cells, which were grouped around an open courtyard behind the house. The Duke's agent eventually agreed to modify the covenant by inserting the words 'otherwise than by the occupation of the said premises as a police station and for the temporary confinement of prisoners prior to their confinement.' (fn. 44)

The police remained here until their removal to the present station in 1880, when Nos. 33–34 were converted into a market warehouse: the building has since been demolished.

Meanwhile the old magistrates' court at Nos. 3–4, opposite the police station, was beginning to feel the pressures of increased business. In May 1840 the Receiver of the Metropolitan Police Force (to whom responsibility for the maintenance of the magistrates' courts had been transferred by an Act of 1839) applied to the seventh Duke of Bedford for permission to demolish and rebuild both the houses used for the court. The Duke's agent welcomed the proposal: 'on account of the vicinity of the Market and the two Theatres, I think it desirable that the Police Court should be retained in Bow Street', he wrote, (fn. 45) but the scheme was nevertheless dropped and instead the Duke granted a repairing lease of both houses. (fn. 42) Repairs included the refacing of No. 4 with a suitably imposing stucco front incorporating the royal arms (Plate 60b), but the court-room itself was not enlarged and in particular nothing was done about the narrow passage into it. Conditions in the court continued to deteriorate and in April 1860 The Builder described them as 'in winter bad, but in the heat of summer perfectly abominable'; the building should be 'entirely reconstructed'. (fn. 46)

Two years later the Bedford Office suggested to the Receiver of the Metropolitan Police that the leases of Nos. 3 and 4 Bow Street should be surrendered in return for a building lease of a site in Russell Street opposite Drury Lane Theatre. The Receiver declined the offer on the grounds of cost, despite being warned 'of the injury and inconvenience which the business of the Police Court and Station are to the public as well as to the Duke's tenants, and the strong and reasonable objections that exist to the renewal of the lease of No. 3 and 4 Bow Street when his Grace has to consider and decide upon that subject'. (fn. 47)

Perhaps with this veiled threat in mind the Receiver agreed in 1867 to rebuild the police court on the east side of Bow Street alongside the police station when the existing lease expired. The site was to extend back from Bow Street and then turn at a right angle to include the same area as had been offered by the Bedford Office in 1862. (fn. 48) But this scheme was also abandoned and despite its obvious inadequacy the old court was still in use when the lease expired in 1872. By this time the Commissioners of Works and Public Buildings had become responsible for the provision of police court buildings, (fn. 49) and they were obliged to apply to the Bedford estate for a temporary tenancy of the building until a suitable alternative site could be found. The Bedford estate agreed to grant a lease on a year-to-year basis at a greatly increased rent. (fn. 50) Towards the end of 1873 the Commissioners proposed to move the police court away from Bow Street altogether to a site on the east side of Castle Street (now Charing Cross Road). (fn. 51) The necessary Parliamentary Bill was prepared, but again the scheme was abandoned. (fn. 52)

The problem of finding a suitable site was eventually solved in 1876 when the ninth Duke agreed to the suggestion of his steward, Thomas Davison, that the Office of Works should be offered a new site on the east side of Bow Street opposite the Opera House for a building to house both a new police court and police station. (fn. 53) The proposed site was bounded by Bow Street, Broad Court and Cross Court on its west, north and east sides respectively and on the south by No. 29 Bow Street, a property not owned by the Duke. (fn. 5) At this time the site was covered by nineteen individual houses, the leases of which had to be acquired by the Office of Works at their own expense before the site could be redeveloped. (fn. 54)

In July 1876 an agreement was reached between the Duke and the Commissioners of Works and Public Buildings for a ninety-nineyear lease at an annual rent of £1,100. The lessees agreed to secure the surrender of all the existing leases and to extinguish the right of way through Duke's Court, a passage from Bow Street into Cross Court through No. 27. (fn. 54) The lessees also agreed to give up a triangular piece of ground fronting Bow Street in order to set the frontage of the new site back from its original line by about 20 feet at the north end with a view to the ultimate widening of the north end of Bow Street. (fn. 55) This agreement of 1876 was ratified in the same year by the Bow Street Police Court (Site) Act which authorized the Commissioners to proceed with the building. (fn. 56)

By April 1877, when work began on clearing the site, over £100,000 was said to have been paid for the purchase of the existing buildings and in compensation to the dispossessed tenants. (fn. 57) A legal dispute over the boundary of the site delayed the start of building-work until March 1879 when the contractors, George Smith and Company, began to excavate for the foundations. (fn. 58) The building was completed towards the end of 1880. Its cost was £38,400, exclusive of the architect's fees and legal charges. (fn. 59) The architect was (Sir) John Taylor of the Office of Works. (fn. 58)

The old court at Nos. 3–4 Bow Street was vacated at Midsummer 1881: six years later these two houses were demolished to allow for the expansion of the market. (fn. 60)

Since the demolition of No. 29 Bow Street and re-alignment of Martlett Court in 1905 (fn. 61) the site of the Police Court and Station has been completely isolated from surrounding buildings. At ground level the plan is divided into two parts by the van entrance from Bow Street, the courts occupying the north part of the site and the police station the south. Two blocks of cells form the south and east sides of the internal quadrangle. Apart from the placing of the entrances, the disposition of the plan is not clearly expressed in the principal elevation, the architect being concerned, according to The Builder, that the Bow Street front should 'be of rather ornamental character, so as to harmonize to some extent with the opera house opposite'. (fn. 57) The engaged order in the central feature faintly reflects the Corinthian portico of the Opera House, but otherwise the eclectic treatment, combining Graeco-Roman and Renaissance elements, suggests the influence of C. R. Cockerell and James Pennethorne (Plate 61b). The composition is, in fact, reminiscent of Pennethorne's University of London building at No. 6 Burlington Gardens. Portland stone is used throughout the Bow Street front, the splayed north-west face, and for the dressings of the short return front in Broad Court.

The Bow Street front has a central feature, four storeys high and three bays wide, its second and third storeys dressed with an engaged Corinthian order of plain-shafted columns. This is flanked by projecting pavilions of one wide bay, and three-storeyed wings, each three windows wide and on the same plane as the central feature. The ground storey is coursed with channelled joints, as are the clasping piers of the pavilions and the wide piers terminating the front laterally, all of which have stone courses with raised faces. A simple architrave and cornice finishes the ground storey, below the pedestalcourse which underlines the lofty second storey and incorporates the panelled pedestals of the columns and piers, the balustrades of the middle windows, and the panelled aprons of the wing windows. A moulded sill-band, broken only by the Corinthian columns, underlines the windows of the third storey. Above this extends the main, Corinthian, entablature, its frieze having raised panels in the projections above the piers. The central feature and projecting pavilions are surmounted by the attic storey, and the wings are finished with open balustrades stopping at each end of the front against pseudo-belvederes of Vanbrughian inspiration, arcaded on each face and surmounted, above the entablature, by acroteriae of scrolls and palmettes. This Grecian note pervades the central attic, where the central face is divided into three bays by boldly projecting piers with panelled faces. The pavilions are similarly treated, and the crowning balustrade is broken by projecting dies in the centre, and above the piers of the pavilions by tall pilastered pedestals bearing acroteriae.

The fenestration is of a restrained Renaissance character, the main feature being the series of tall windows in the second storey, all finished with pediments. Those of the pavilions are emphasized by triangular pediments, the rest being segmental, and all are supported on decorated consoles rising from plain jambs flanking the moulded architraves. The third- and fourth-storey windows have plain architraves, the sides lugged top and bottom, with small foliage-flanked cartouches above the heads. The two entrances in the ground storey of the pavilions are markedly different, breaking the symmetry of the design, but expressing the disposition of the plan. The police station entrance is approached by steps flanked by stone pedestals supporting iron lamp-standards. The door surround is of Mannerist character, and its large segmental pediment, which rises against the second-storey pedestal, is supported on paired carved consoles. The northern, van, entrance, also flanked by pedestals and lamps, is comparatively plain, having a segmental arch of channeljointed voussoirs with a scrolled keystone below the pedestal-course. A sturdy iron railing protects the area between the entrances. The splay to the north-west corner contains the main entrance to the courts. It is flanked by the angle piers to the wings already described, and has a doorway like that of the police station, but with a straight entablature instead of a pediment. There is a pedimented three-light window at the second storey and above this a semi-circular arch with a solid tympanum carved with the royal arms. The spandrels are carved with Tudor roses in light relief. The parapet contains a panel with the date 1879. The Broad Court front is faced in white Suffolk bricks with Portland stone dressings. The windows and the magistrates' door have simple stone architraves. A central feature to the front is provided by a pedimented three-light window to the second storey. The elevations to Crown and Martlett Courts, like those to the internal quadrangle, are of stock brick and except for a length of red brick facing to Martlett Court, where the cell windows have eared stone architraves, are of utilitarian design.

The Builder stated that 'Dannett and Co.'s fireproof construction' was to be used for all the floors except a few where brick arches were necessary, and that 'Claridges Seysell asphalte' was to be applied to the floors of the cells, corridors and 'rooms requiring frequent washing'. It also stated: 'Internally, with the exception of the Courts and a few of the more important rooms on which some slight degree of ornamentation is bestowed, the building has been kept quite plain.' (fn. 62)

Telephone Exchange

This extension to the Russell Street telephone exchange is one of only two completely new buildings to have been erected in the area described in this volume since the war of 1939–45. It was begun in 1964 and opened in 1967. The designer was G. R. Yeats, then Senior Architect in the Ministry of Public Building and Works. (fn. 63) It is a reinforced-concrete framed building containing a basement and five lofty storeys (Plate 63c). The Bow Street front, with a recessed ground storey, is divided into four wide bays by five slender columns of square section, rising the full height of the building and faced externally with polished black composition slabs. The three central columns are partly concealed in the second storey by a projecting curtain wall of vertical concrete panels, finished with grey stone chippings, leaving a series of clerestory windows to light the interior. Each third-storey window has an apron of concrete panels, projecting and stopping short of the columns. The four-light windows fill the openings and have narrow return lights and, above a heavy transom, clerestory lights. The fourthstorey windows are similar to those of the third, each being surmounted by a narrow concrete fascia that forms the sill of the tall window above. Deep aprons of concrete panels, like those of the lower storeys, form the finish of the front.


  • 1. In 1763 Boswell visited this latter house, in the belief that it was the coffee house 'so often mentioned in The Spectator'.
  • 2. The Commissioners had at first offered £500, but, after sticking long at £525. finally gave £735 for Robinson's interest.
  • 3. In 1834 Sydney Smirke suggested the entire removal of the east side of Bow Street to create a great quadrant-shaped and colonnaded piazza which would join Covent Garden and Drury Lane Theatres.
  • 4. A drawing of 1740 by Marcellus Laroon the younger in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle correctly entitled 'Night Walkers before a Justice' shows the magistrate apparently sitting in his front parlour. A nineteenth-century caption describes the scene as 'a French Gentn Brought at night before the Justice at Bow S—' but as the disposition of windows and door in the drawing does not correspond with the plan of the houses in Bow Street this is probably incorrect. Laroon's father had lived in the former house at No. 4 Bow Street for over twenty years (1680–1702) before it was rebuilt in 1703–4.
  • 5. This site had been suggested before: in 1827 R. H. Best exhibited at the Royal Academy a 'Design for a Police Office and other buildings forming a quadrangle in front of Covent Garden Theatre, and opening a view of that structure from a proposed street connecting Waterloo Bridge with Holborn'.
  • 6. E/BER, Muniment of Title, Middlesex, D, bundle 2, no. 1.
  • 7. R.B.
  • 8. John Strype, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, 1720, vol. II, bk. VI, p. 93.
  • 9. R.B.; P.R.O., C9/2/111.
  • 10. H. B. Wheatley and P. Cunningham, London Past and Present, 1891, vol. 1, p. 229.
  • 11. R.B.; P.R.O., C5/92/8, C10/421/42, SP16/254, no. 22; Lacy's map.
  • 12. R.B.; The London Gazette, no. 2957, 15 March 1693/4.
  • 13. D.N.B.
  • 14. P.R.O., C10/421/42.
  • 15. R.B.; Wheatley and Cunningham, op. cit., vol. III, p. 517.
  • 16. G.L.R.O.(M), LV(W), 1743, 1751.
  • 17. E/BER, Drury Lane, deed poll of 24 March 1659/60 (confirmation to A. Annesley).
  • 18. P.R.O., C10/226/30.
  • 19. E/BER, Bow Street, leases of 10 Dec. 1673 to Blake, Boscher, Lloyd and Thurban.
  • 20. P.R.O., C10/226/30; C10/227/20.
  • 21. E/BER, Bow Street, lease of 1 July 1675 to T. Chaplin.
  • 22. Guildhall Library, MS. 3047/2, 1 Dec. 1675; Survey of London, vol. XXXIII, 1966, p. 118.
  • 23. R.B.; B.M., Burney Collection 118b, The Post Man, 22–24 Jan. 1701/2; Walpole Society, vol. 22, 1934 (George Vertue Note Book III), p. 10.
  • 24. R.B.; E/BER, Bow Street, lease of 7 March 1701/2 to G. Gibbons.
  • 25. W.P.L., H.804, p. 130; CWA 1735.
  • 26. G.L.R.O.(M), LV(W), 1743.
  • 27. Bedfordshire Record Office, R.1521, 1593; B.O.L., Estate Plan, 1795, second plate.
  • 28. P.R.O., Crest 26/96.
  • 29. W.P.L., H.844, f. 105v.
  • 30. B.A. 10147.
  • 31. R.B.; G.L.R.O.(M), LV(W), 1690.
  • 32. R.B.; P.R.O. C10/114/37.
  • 33. R.B.; T. A. Critchley, A History of Police in England and Wales, 900–1966, 1967, p. 20.
  • 34. E/BER, Bow Street, lease of 20 Sept. 1703 to J. Browne.
  • 35. Critchley, loc. cit.
  • 36. Critchley, op. cit., p. 323.
  • 37. Boswell's London Journal, ut supra, p. 281.
  • 38. Percy Fitzgerald, Chronicles of Bow Street Police Office, 1888, vol. I, facing p. 32.
  • 39. B.O.L., Correspondence, Fielding to Palmer, 14 June 1780.
  • 40. E/BER, Bow Street, lease of 10 April 1781 to W. Addington and K. Brydges.
  • 41. Ibid., Bow Street, leases of 27 May 1811 and 9 Aug. 1813 to J. Read.
  • 42. Ibid., Bow Street, lease of 28 Feb. 1842 to J. Wray.
  • 43. W.P.L.s, H.840, p. 190.
  • 44. E/BER, Bow Street, lease of 5 Nov. 1832 to W. Bucke.
  • 45. B.O.L., Correspondence, Haedy to Duke of Bedford, 23 May 1840.
  • 46. The Builder, 21 April 1860, pp. 247–8.
  • 47. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1862, pp. 82–4.
  • 48. The Builder, 2 Nov. 1867, p. 797.
  • 49. 34 and 35 Vict. c. 35. public.
  • 50. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1872, vol. II, p. 12; E/BER, Bow Street, agreement of 9 May 1873.
  • 51. The Builder, 29 Nov. 1873, pp. 940–1.
  • 52. M.B.W. Minutes, 5 Dec. 1873, p. 568.
  • 53. B.O.L., London Reports, vol. I, p. 433.
  • 54. E/BER, Solicitors' Papers, no. 72.
  • 55. Ibid., loc. cit.; The Builder, 21 June 1879, pp. 686–90.
  • 56. 39 and 40 Vict., c. 238, local.
  • 57. The Builder, 7 April 1877, p. 357.
  • 58. Ibid., 8 March 1879, p. 262.
  • 59. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1880, vol. II, p. 5.
  • 60. E/BER, Solicitors' Papers, no. 73; B.O.L., Annual Report, 1887, p. 172.
  • 61. B.O.L., London Reports, vol. III, pp. 344–5.
  • 62. The Builder, 21 June 1879, pp. 686–90.
  • 63. Information kindly supplied by the General Post Office and the Ministry of Public Building and Works.
  • 64. Boswell's London Journal 1762–1763, ed. F. A. Pottle, 1952 ed., p. 277.
  • 65. Sydney Smirke, Suggestions for the Architectural Improvement of the Western Part of London, 1834, pp. 49–50.
  • 66. Robert Raines, Marcellus Laroon, 1966, no. 56.
  • 67. Colvin, p. 75.