Survey of London: Volume 5, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1914.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
XCIV.—NORTH and SOUTH CRESCENTS and ALFRED PLACE (Demolished).
The sites of North and South Crescents and Alfred Place, together with the corresponding portion of the east side of Tottenham Court Road, belong to the City of London Corporation, and form a part of the property of which some of the proceeds are by the Act 4 and 5 William IV., cap. 35 (private), devoted to the upkeep of the City of London School.
For many years before the passing of the Act an annual sum of £19 10s. had been paid by the Corporation, out of the rents of certain lands usually called the estates of John Carpenter, towards the education and clothing of four boys. These estates were popularly identified with certain properties in Thames Street, Bridge Street, Westcheap and Houndsditch, and the North and South Crescents area in St. Giles-in-theFields. Unfortunately, no direct connection can be traced between the last-mentioned property and John Carpenter, who died about 1441.
It seems probable, however, that this part of the City estates had a different origin.
In 1567 Lord and Lady Mountjoy sold to Sir Nicholas Bacon the tithes of two closes in Bloomsbury, known as the Great Close of Bloomsbury, containing 45 acres, and Wilkinson's Close, containing 4 acres, together with a third close, having an area of 5 acres, and being then or lately in the tenure of John Hunt. (fn. 1) The tithes are mentioned in the account of the division of the property of St. Giles's Hospital (fn. 2) as falling to the share of Katherine Legh (afterwards Lady Mountjoy), but no reference occurs to the third close, which nevertheless was most probably obtained at the same time. In 1574 an exchange of land was effected between Sir Nicholas Bacon and Sir Rowland Hayward and other City dignitaries, whereby the latter acquired the five-acre close in question. (fn. 3) The deed relating to the exchange does not appear to have been enrolled, and consequently no particulars are available as to the property which was transferred to Sir Nicholas Bacon.
The earliest record in the possession of the Corporation relating to the estate in St. Giles is contained in a rental of 1667, (fn. 4) "The Rentall of the Lands and Tenements, sometimes of Mr. John Carpenter, sometimes Town Clarke of the Citty of London," and is as follows: Margaret the Relict and Executrix of Richard Reede, late Margaret Pennell, for a Close with the appurtenances cont. by estimacon five acres, more or lease, and being in the Parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields to him demised for 61 years from Lady-day, 1652, at £4." Two other properties included in the rental are described as having been taken by the Corporation in exchange from Sir Nicholas Bacon, but it is unfortunate that no such statement is made with regard to the 5-acre close, as such would have prevented any doubt as to its identification. Nevertheless, scarcely any doubt is possible. The rental of 1667 shows that the John Carpenter estate included property acquired by way of exchange from Bacon, and the presumption of the identity of the 5-acre close contained in that exchange with the 5-acre close leased to Richard Reede in 1652 is practically overwhelming. Moreover, it is difficult to see with what other land the close could possibly be identified. It is quite certain that it was not in that part of the parish of St. Giles which lay to the south of Bloomsbury Manor, for there was in that direction no 5-acre field, of which the history, as detailed in this volume, does not preclude the possibility of its being identified with the close in question. It is moreover fairly obvious that the close could not have been actually included in the Manor of Bloomsbury, since it was in the hands of Mountjoy.
We are thus almost bound to identify the latter with the North and South Crescents estate, which, with one exception (Cantelowe Close), is the only St. Giles property in the neighbourhood not in the manor of Bloomsbury.
It may, therefore, be assumed that the connection of the land with the Carpenter Estate only dates from 1574, and that it was obtained by the trustees of that estate in exchange for other property.
The land remained unbuilt on until the estate was laid out early in the 19th century. Although the houses were of no architectural merit, the plan is by no means uninteresting. It consists of Alfred Place running parallel with Tottenham Court Road, with a connecting cross road at either end, crescents being formed in these opposite the north and south ends of Alfred Place.
It is probable that George Dance, the younger, who was City Architect at the time, modified his idea for the improvement of the Port of London in the preparation of this design. (fn. 5) The former scheme is embodied in a coloured engraving (fn. 6) by William Daniell, published in 1802. (fn. 7)
All the houses have recently been demolished.
In the Council's collection are:
North Crescent—General view (photograph).
South Crescent—General view (photograph).