Southampton Street and Tavistock Street Area: Tavistock Row

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

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'Southampton Street and Tavistock Street Area: Tavistock Row', in Survey of London: Volume 36, Covent Garden, (London, 1970) pp. 222-223. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]

Tavistock Row

Tavistock Row was the name given in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to all the houses on the south side of the Piazza between the east corner and Southampton Street. It consisted of two groups of houses separated by a passage from the Piazza into Tavistock Street called Tavistock Court. The houses to the east of Tavistock Court (Nos. 1–3) were built during the original seventeenth-century development of the Piazza and are described on page 94. Those to the west (Nos. 4–14) were built between 1706 and 1714 on the site of Bedford House garden under the leases tabulated on pages 314–17.

The houses built in the early eighteenth century were not required to match the Jonesian style of the old portico buildings on the north and east sides of the Piazza. They were not even uniform in appearance, for the later houses had to comply with the regulations contained in the two London Building Acts of 1707 and 1708 which were passed between the granting of the first and last leases (see page 39). The effect of these Acts on the appearance of the houses in Tavistock Row can be clearly seen in Collett's painting of the Piazza (Plate 29b). The houses shown here belonged to two basic types. All were four storeys high originally, but the earlier buildings can be recognized by the flat arches of the windows, and the wooden eaves-cornice, sometimes surmounted by a later brick parapet and in one house by a Chinese fret railing of wood. The later buildings were conspicuous for having windows with segmental arches and prominent triple keystones, and their fronts were carried up to form plain stone-coped parapets. Except for the casements in the fourth-storey windows of the houses flanking Southampton Street, the windows are shown furnished with sashes in exposed boxes.

By the early nineteenth century most of the houses in Tavistock Row had been converted into shops (Plate 35a). All of them were demolished in 1884–5 to make more room for the market. (fn. 2)

From at least 1720 there was a tavern at No. 10 called the Queen's Head, later known as the Stag. (fn. 3)

Ratepaying inhabitants of Tavistock Row, most of them artists or actors, include: Richard Escourt, 1708–12, actor and dramatist; John Vander Vaart, 1711–26, painter and mezzotint engraver; Christian Frederick Zincke, 1715–48, enamel painter; Samuel Scott, c. 1736–47, marine and landscape painter; Richard Wilson, 1748–50, landscape painter; Richard Yeo, 1749–58, medallist; Jeremiah Meyer, 1759–85, miniature painter; Nathaniel Dance, later Sir Nathaniel Dance Holland, 1770–82, painter; William Bigg, 1783–91, painter; Thomas Major, 1784–99, engraver; Charles Macklin, actor, who lived at No. 6 from 1788 to 1797; (fn. 1) Mary Robinson, 1796–98, ? 'Perdita', actress, author and mistress of George, Prince of Wales (George IV); William Humphrey, 1798–1800, ? engraver and printseller; John Henry Johnstone, 1807–28, actor and vocalist.

Non-ratepaying residents in Tavistock Row include: James Deacon, c. 1749–50, watercolourist, miniature painter and wood-engraver; (fn. 4) Samuel de Wilde, c. 1816, portrait painter. (fn. 5) R. G. Coslett, c. 1818, miniaturist. (fn. 6)


  • 1. A watercolour of 1837 (Plate ) which is often said to show his house does not in fact do so.
  • 2. B.O.L., Annual Report, 1884, vol. 2, p. 2; 1885, vol. 2, p.1.
  • 3. R.B.; G.L.R.O.(M), LV(W) passim; B.O.L., Estate Plan of 1866.
  • 4. Walpole Society, vol. 22, 1934 (George Vertue Note Book III), p. 153.
  • 5. Annals of the Fine Arts for MDCCCXVI, ed. James Elmes, 1817.
  • 6. Annals of the Fine Arts for MDCCCXVIII, ed. James Elmes, 1819.