High Holborn from the parish boundary to Little Turnstile

Survey of London: Volume 5, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1914.

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'High Holborn from the parish boundary to Little Turnstile', in Survey of London: Volume 5, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt II, ed. W Edward Riley, Laurence Gomme( London, 1914), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol5/pt2/pp3-9 [accessed 25 July 2024].

'High Holborn from the parish boundary to Little Turnstile', in Survey of London: Volume 5, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt II. Edited by W Edward Riley, Laurence Gomme( London, 1914), British History Online, accessed July 25, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol5/pt2/pp3-9.

"High Holborn from the parish boundary to Little Turnstile". Survey of London: Volume 5, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt II. Ed. W Edward Riley, Laurence Gomme(London, 1914), , British History Online. Web. 25 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol5/pt2/pp3-9.


The whole of the space between the parish boundary and Great Turnstile was occupied by houses at least as early as, and probably long before, the reign of Henry VIII. In 1545, Edward Stockwood sold to Thomas Dyxson, 5 messuages and 5 gardens in the parishes of St. Andrew, Holborn, and St. Giles-in-the-Fields, (fn. 1) and when, in the following year, Dyxson transferred the property to Richard Clyff, the western and eastern boundaries are described (fn. 2) as the tenement of John Coke and the inn called The Antelope, respectively. In the course of the next century, the five houses seem to have been divided or rebuilt as seven houses, four of which were in St. Giles, the remaining three being in St. Andrew's. (fn. 3)

Between the westernmost of these and Great Turnstile there were, in 1545, three houses in the possession of John Coke. (fn. 4) These had belonged to the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem before the dissolution of that monastery. (fn. 5)

Great Turnstile is mentioned as early as 1522, under the name "Turngatlane" (fn. 6); it was also known as "Turnpiklane." (fn. 7) It is quite certain that in 1545 no houses had been built along the sides of Great Turnstile, and none probably were erected there until many years later. The earliest records so far obtained of such houses on the eastern and western sides of the lane are dated respectively 1632 and 1630 (fn. 8), and probably these dates are not far removed from the actual time of building.

Reference was made in a previous volume (fn. 9) to the ten houses belonging to the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem, which, in the reign of Henry VIII., occupied the frontage of High Holborn, between Great Turnstile and certain property belonging to the Hospital of St. Giles, and it was then suggested that their western limit practically corresponded with the boundary between Cup Field and Purse Field. Definite proof of this has not been obtained, but it will be shown that the St. John's property must have extended to within a little of this, thus occupying the site of about thirty numbers. Obviously, the houses must have been very scattered. It is also possible that certain buildings were in existence further to the west, towards Little Turnstile, as early as the reign of Edward II., (fn. 10) and certainly the whole of this part of the frontage to High Holborn was covered in the early part of Elizabeth's reign.

Agas's map (Plate 1) shows a single line of buildings extending between the two turnstiles, but this is not an adequate representation of the state of affairs in the closing years of the sixteenth century. In order to describe this, so far as the records which have come to light in the course of the investigation for this volume will allow, it will be necessary to go into some detail, but as the point has never before been dealt with, it has been thought desirable to do so. Although the results in some cases fall short of certainty, it is hoped that thereby an idea may be gained of the somewhat complex system of houses, gardens and orchards that existed between High Holborn and the site of Whetstone Park. The accompanying plan will render the description of the properties more easy to follow. It should be understood that the plan is quite a rough one, and intended merely to give a general idea of the situation about the year 1590. The discovery of further records would, no doubt, modify it in certain details.

Figure 2:

Rough Plan of High Holborn between the Turnstiles, circ. 1590

Where now is the entrance to Little Turnstile, there then existed an open ditch or sewer. In the Survey of Crown Lands (fn. 11) taken in 1650, reference is made to a certain property "scituate and adjoyninge to Lincolnes Inn Feilds alias Pursefeild," being 214 feet long from Purse Field south, to Mr. Lane's houses on the north, and 22 feet wide, which ground was "heertofore a ditch or comon sewer and filled upp to bee part of the Pursefeild." Lane's houses were on the projecting north side of Little Turnstile, and the sewer lay 21 feet to the east of the present line of Gate Street. (fn. 12)

In 1560, Lord and Lady Mountjoy sold (fn. 13) to Thomas Doughty and Henry Heron "syxtene meses, mesuages or tenementes adioyninge nere together … scytuate and being in Holborne," called by the name of Purse Rents, together with six additional gardens. From the inquisition (fn. 14) held on the death of Doughty in 1568 it appears that he held eight of the houses and three of the gardens.

Eight years later (1576) Thomas Doughty, junior, sold (fn. 15) that part of the property to "Buckharte Cranighe, (fn. 16) doctor of physyke." In the same year Queen Elizabeth granted (fn. 17) to John Farnham, one of her gentlemen pensioners, the whole of the combined Doughty and Heron property, increased on the Heron side by two houses, five cottages, three stables and an orchard, none of which are mentioned in the previous deeds. Farnham immediately sold the property afresh to Doughty (fn. 18) and Heron. (fn. 19) The latter in 1589 sold to (fn. 20) Rowland Watson and Thomas Owen, nine houses, which, by the names of the occupiers, can be identified as nine of the ten sold by Farnham, and which are stated to contain in length together on the street side 35½ yards. In 1669 the same property, then consisting of seven houses, was sold (fn. 21) by William Watson to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and is obviously to be identified with the six houses in High Holborn leased by the college in 1800, (fn. 22) and described as Nos. 246 to 251, High Holborn. The length of the Holborn frontage of Nos. 246 to 251 accords well with the dimension required (35½ yards), and the identification of these houses with the property sold by Heron to Watson (B on accompanying plan) may be regarded as fairly certain.

In 1592 Heron sold a further portion of his property (fn. 23), the purchaser this time being Anne Carew. (fn. 24) This consisted of (i.) six messuages (C on plan) abutting north upon the lands and tenements of Master Watson (i.e. B), and south upon Heron's garden; (ii.) a messuage in the occupation of Sir Thomas Gerrard, (fn. 25) abutting north on Heron's garden and south on "the White Hart feilde" (i.e., Purse Field, which was held with The White Hart); (iii.) the said garden and an orchard (fn. 26) lying together and containing three roods, the garden adjoining west on "the lands late Burcharde Crainck," and the orchard towards the east, abutting on the messuage and garden of William Cook; and (iv.) the messuage and garden of Cook (H on plan) abutting south on Cup Field, on the north on a tenement of Mistress Buck, widow, and east on a garden late of Thomas Raynesford. In the light of (iii.) it is now possible to assign the Doughty property (afterwards Burrard Cranigh) to position A.

Plots A to F are thus roughly settled, but before leaving them it is necessary to trace further the history of F until its development by building. On the death of Anne Carew the property seems to have passed (fn. 27) to her son George, afterwards Baron Carew of Clopton and Earl of Totnes, and by him to have been bequeathed to Peter Apsley, grandson of his brother Peter. In 1640, John Apsley sold (fn. 28) to Daniel Thelwall and William Byerly, together with other adjacent property, a messuage with an orchard containing half an acre, "scituate over against the said messuage and extending from the way or path there to the feild side," all formerly in the occupation of John Waldron. Of this William Whetstone held a lease, which he had obtained certainly before 1646 (fn. 29), and in 1653 reference is made (fn. 30) to "all the newe buildings thereon erected." It is most probable, therefore, that this was the scene of the building operations described in the Earl of Dorset's report to the Privy Council on 11th December, 1636, when he complained that "one William Whetstone," having lately erected five brick houses in Lincoln's Inn Fields, without proper permission, had "for the better countenanceing of himselfe therein, and for the finishinge and mayntayneing the said buildings, counterfeited his Lopps hand, as also the hand of his Secre, frameing a false lycence," etc. It having been decided that this was "a presumption of a high nature, and a fraud and offence not fitt to be passed by wth out exemplary punishment," instructions were given for the demolition of the houses, (fn. 31) but it is not known whether this was actually done.

At any rate, Whetstone succeeded in stamping his name on the new thoroughfare which parted the property in High Holborn from that in the adjoining fields, though the western part was at first known as Phillips Rents. The Phillips in question was perhaps the John Phillips mentioned in a document (fn. 32) of 1672, as having lately been in occupation of a piece of land in the rear of Purse Rents, "being southward upon a way [i.e., Whetstone Park] leading from Partridge Alley towarde Great Queene Street."

Notice must now be taken of another property of Heron, "parcell of the lands of the late dissolved Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem." In 1586 he sold to John Buck (fn. 33) eight houses (seven with gardens attached) and one garden plot, the first house being described as "all that messuage or tenement with a garden and backsyde, now in the tenure, farme or occupacion of one Thomas Raynesford or his assignes." The position of Raynesford's messuage and garden is obviously J (see above) and as H is distinctly stated to be bounded on the north by a tenement of Mistress Buck, (fn. 34) the Buck property may be assigned to position G.

In October 1583, Heron had sold (fn. 35) to Anne Carew five houses with gardens, a garden with a little house, and three other gardens. The only information given as to the position of the property is that it was situated in St. Giles-in-the-Fields. It is, however, possible to locate it approximately. In 1634, Peter Apsley sold (fn. 36) to Sir John Banks, the attorney general, "all that messuage or tenement with appurtenances, scituate in High Holborne, in St. Giles, together with the court or yard lying on the south part of the said messuage, and the garden beyond the said court, extending to the feildes lying on the south of the said messuage, as the same is enclosed with a brick wall, and as the said premises were lately heretofore in the occupation of Sir John Cowper, Knt. and Bart. deceased, and formerly in the occupation of Sir Anthony Asheley, Knt. and Bart. deceased." (fn. c1) In 1661 Sir Ralph Banks sold (fn. 37) the house to William Goldsborough, and in 1716 Edward Goldsborough assigned (fn. 38) the remainder of a lease of 500 years granted in January, 1692, by Grace and Robert Goldsborough in respect of premises described as "all that messuage, tenement or inn, with appurtenances, scituate in High Holborne in St. Gyles-in-the-Feilds, known by the name of The George, together with a courtyard or backside lying on the south part thereof, and the peice of vacant ground or garden beyond the said court and belonging to the said messuage and extending to a certain street or place there called Whetstones Park, lying on the south side of the said messuage or inn." There can be little doubt that the premises are identical with those described in the deed of 1634, and it may therefore be asumed that the Carew property included the site of The George, which a reference to Horwood's Map of 1819 will show is now occupied by the eastern portion (No. 270) of the Inns of Court Hotel.

This identification is confirmed by the following. Sir Ralph Banks owned two other houses, one behind the other, adjoining Goldsborough's house on the east, and these Goldsborough bought at the same time as he purchased his own house. In 1663, he sold them to Edmond Newcombe, and in the indenture (fn. 39) embodying the transaction they are described as being 40 feet broad and 160 feet long, and bounded on the east by "the house in which Firman now dwelleth." In June, 1716, a mortgage was effected by Prescott Pennyston and Thomasin, his wife, of two messuages in High Holborn, adjoining the inn called The Unicorn. Thomasin was the daughter and heir of Elizabeth Hollinghurst, formerly Tompson, cousin and devisee of William Firmin. Now Unicorn Yard occupied a position corresponding approximately to the western half of the present No. 274 (the position is well shown on Horwood's Map, though the numbering does not quite accord with that of the present day), and distant about 58 feet from No. 270. Assuming the two houses to be one behind the other, as was the case in Newcombe's property, this leaves the 40 feet required for Newcombe's house, and 18 feet for Firmin's house, corresponding almost exactly with the old No. 274 shown by Horwood. The Carew property may therefore be assigned definitely to position K with a fixed eastern limit at No. 270. It has not proved possible to determine its frontage towards the west, and perhaps it did not extend as far as Raynesford's house (J). It is, however, known that it included a tavern called The Three Feathers. (fn. 40) It seems a reasonable assumption that this was in the neighbourhood of Feathers Court, shown in Horwood's Map as occupying much the same position as the present Holborn Place, but entering High Holborn somewhat further east. The Three Feathers would therefore correspond approximately to the present No. 263.

The adjoining properties (L and M) have already been referred to. The house (M) next to The Unicorn was in Elizabeth's reign in the possession of John Miller, and in 1607 was described as "all that messuage, cottage, tenement or house with a forge," in High Holborn, "reaching to a certeyne pasture adjoyninge to Lincolnes Inne on the south syde," and bounded on the west by the house and land of John Thornton. (fn. 41) Beatrice Thornton, widow, is shown in the Subsidy Rolls as far back as 1588 as resident at or near this spot, and this circumstance is undoubtedly to be connected with the name of Thornton's Alley, which was hereabouts. (fn. 42)

The premises (N), which in the early part of the seventeenth century comprised a single inn, The Unicorn, had in 1574 been purchased by Francis Johnson from John and Margaret Cowper, as three messuages and three gardens, (fn. 43) and are described in 1626 (fn. 44) as having been "now longe since converted into one messuage or inn commonly called The Unicorne." Apparently its use as an inn was of recent date, for in the description of (M), dated 1607, the eastern boundary of that property is said to be "a tenement in the occupation of John Larchin, baker," and in 1629, when the premises had been re-divided into two, one is said to be (fn. 45) "now in the tenure of Mary Larchin, widdowe, and is now used by her as a common inne, and is called by the name or signe of The Unycorne." The dimensions of the premises are given as 45 feet wide on the north, 40 feet on the south on Lincoln's Inn Fields, and 156 feet long.

No records of the time of Elizabeth relating to property between The Unicorn and the house at the corner of Great Turnstile have, so far, been discovered. The latter (O), having a frontage to High Holborn of 39 feet, was certainly at the time in the possession of the same John Miller (fn. 46) who held the property (M).


  • 1. Middlesex Feet of Fines, 37 Henry VIII., Mich.
  • 2. British Museum Addl. MS., Charters, 15636.
  • 3. Namely, reckoning west to east: (i.) Star; (ii.) unnamed house of John Bishop; (iii.) Sun and Dolphin; (iv.) Gridiron (easternmost house in St. Giles); (v.) Eagle and Child; (vi.) Cock and Coffin; (vii.) unnamed house in occupation of Thos. Fisher. (Close Rolls, (a) 1652, Alexander Goddard, etc., and Philip Cotham; (b) 1652, Alexander Goddard, etc., and Jonathan Read; (c) 13 Chas. II., Samuel Bishopp and William Rymes).
  • 4. Sale by Robert Harris to John Coke (Land Revenue Enrolments and Grants, vol. 311, p. 204.
  • 5. Survey of London, Vol. III. (St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Part I.), p. 3.
  • 6. British Museum MS. Claudius E VI, 218b–219.
  • 7. Grant to Thos. Ellys, 22 Henry VIII (Land Revenue Miscellaneous Books, No. 62); grant to Thomas Bochier (Patent Roll, 36 Henry VIII. (745)).
  • 8. Lease of 21st July, 8 Chas. I., by Henry Hurlestone to John Allen and Thomas Clements (Chancery Proceedings, Bridges 5–105, —Suit of John King); Close Roll, 6 Chas. I. (2853)—Indenture between Wm. Newton and Anthony Bailey and John Johnson.
  • 9. Survey of London, Vol. III. (St. Giles in-the-Fields, Part I.), pp. 3–4.
  • 10. Certain properties, some of which include houses, are mentioned as extending from Holborn on the north to Fickett's Field on the south, but some, at least, of these may have been to the west of Little Turnstile. The records in question, when dateable, may be referred to the time of Henry III. or Edward I.
  • 11. Parliamentary Survey (Augmentation Office), No. 25
  • 12. It was afterwards occupied by Chamberlain's Stable (Survey of Crown Lands) and this formed the eastern boundary of a piece of ground, 21 feet in width "abutting upon the footeway leading from Master Newman's building [west portion of north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields] to the Little Turnstile on the west," purchased by John Weston [Whetstone] from Edmond Gregory in 1661 (Close Roll, 13 Chas. II. (4087).)
  • 13. Close Roll, 2 Elizabeth (566).
  • 14. Inquisitiones Post Mortem, II. Series, Vol. 149 (74).
  • 15. Close Roll, 18 Elizabeth (990).
  • 16. Burrard Cranigh, M.D., by his will proved 21st November, 1578, left his lands, etc., in Holborne to be sold to pay his debts and legacies (Somerset House Wills, Langley, 41).
  • 17. Patent Roll, 20th July, 18 Elizabeth (1144).
  • 18. Close Roll, 18 Elizabeth (990).
  • 19. Close Roll, 18 Elizabeth (994).
  • 20. Close Roll, 31 Elizabeth (1318).
  • 21. Close Roll, 21 Charles II. (4270).
  • 22. Blott's Blemundsbury, p. 201.
  • 23. Close Roll, 33 Elizabeth (1375).
  • 24. Daughter of Sir Nicolas Harvey, and widow of George Carew, dean of Windsor, who died in June, 1583, and was buried in the church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields (Dictionary of National Biography).
  • 25. No doubt the same afterwards occupied by Sir William and Lady Segar, and Lord Bothwell (see plan of 1658 in Black Books of Lincoln's Inn, Vol. II.) The easternmost portion of the northern boundary of Purse Field is described as "the late garden wall of Sir William Seager, Knt." in the grant of the field to Newton in 1638 (Patent Roll, 13 Charles I. (2775)), and as "the garden of Bothwell House" in the sale of that part of the field in 1653 (Close Roll, 1653 (3715))—Indenture between Humfrey Newton and Arthur Newman).
  • 26. It is no doubt this intermixture of gardens and houses that caused the peculiar shape of Partridge Alley, seen on the map accompanying Strype's edition of Stow (Plate ), and better still on Hollar's Plan of 1658 (Plate ).
  • 27. It is strange, however, that her will (Somerset House Wills, Hayes, 61) bequeathing her property to her son, Sir George Carew, only mentions "all such leases as are in my possession, as inter alia Savoy, St. Giles."
  • 28. Close Roll, 16 Charles I. (3228).
  • 29. Chancery Proceedings, Bridges XX, 45. Suit of Henry Harwell.
  • 30. Chancery Decree Roll, 1922. Suit of William Duckett and Hugh Speaks against Henry Harwell, George Smithson, Daniel Thelwall and William Byerly.
  • 31. Privy Council Register, Vol. 47, p. 24.
  • 32. Chancery Proceedings, Bridges, 447–82. Suit of Peter Broome and Thos. Barker.
  • 33. Close Roll, 28 Elizabeth (1263).
  • 34. On 13th June, 1592, administration of probate was granted to John Buck's widow, Margaret Buck. He had, therefore died quite a short time previously (Arch. London Probate Acts, II., 88).
  • 35. Close Roll, 25 Elizabeth (1155).
  • 36. Close Roll, 10 Charles I. (3018).
  • 37. Close Roll, 13 Charles II. (4086).
  • 38. Middlesex Registry Memorials, 1716, III., 63.
  • 39. Close Roll, 15 Charles II. (4143).
  • 40. John Apsley sold the inn in 1639 to Daniel Thelwall, William Bierley and Sir Chas. Dallison. See Close Roll, 22 Charles I. (3343)—Indenture between Dallison, Thelwall, Bierley, and George Smithson and George Gentleman.
  • 41. Close Roll, 5 James I. (1910). Indenture between Gregory Miller and Geo. Flower.
  • 42. Parton (Hospital and Parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, p. 354) records the fact of the residence of Sir Anthony Ashley and Sir John Cowper (see above) in Thornton's Alley.
  • 43. Middlesex Feet of Fines, 16 Elizabeth, Easter.
  • 44. Close Roll, 2 Charles I. (2677). Indenture between Frederick Johnson and Mary Worliche and Francis Cole.
  • 45. Close Roll, 5 Charles I. (2800). Indenture between Francis Cole and Robert Offley.
  • 46. See warrant given in Indenture of 9th April, 1630, between Wm. and Joan Newton and Anthony Bailey and John Johnson. (Close Roll, 6 Charles I. (2853). Newton, the designer of Lincoln's Inn Fields, had married the daughter and heir of Gregory Miller, son of John.
  • c1. In the Calendars of State Papers Domestic are letters from Sir Anthony Ashley addressed from 'Holborn' or 'High Holborn' dated 21 June 1598, 11 May 1610 and 12 May 1618.