Survey of London: Volume 5, St Giles-in-The-Fields, Pt II. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1914.
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XLI.—SITE OF WELD HOUSE.
The history of that part of Aldwych Close lying within the angle formed by Great Queen Street and Wild Street has already been traced (fn. 1) up to the division of the greater portion of it between Sir Edward Stradling and Sir Kenelm Digby in 1629. Eleven years previously, Henry Holford had leased to John Ittery the extreme southern portion, reaching 100 feet northwards from Sardinia Street, and a trench had been dug separating Ittery's portion from that lying to the north. On the transfer of the latter to Sir W. Calley and Geo. Strode in trust for Stradling and Digby, Ittery's portion was included, and added to Stradling's share. Stradling without delay began the erection on his portion of "a faire mansion house with stables and other outhouses. (fn. 2) On 12th December, 1632, the ground, with the mansion, etc., was sold by Calley and Strode to Stradling, and was then described as extending south from the partition wall (fn. 3) between Digby's and Stradling's portions "together with that parte formerly demised to the said John Ittery, and then enclosed together with the same, at the end next Drewry Lane by a square lyne 300 foote, and at the other and next Lincolne's Inne Feildes 296 foote." By 1632 Stradling had also divided his portion into two by a brick wall, "beginninge at the west end towards Drewry Lane and extendinge itselfe eastwards towards Lincolne's Inne Feildes 144 foote, and then towards the north in length 132 foote, and then again eastwards towards Lincolne's Inne Feildes 132 foote, and standinge distant at the west end thereof from the fore-mentioned particion wall 157 foote, and at the other end next Lincolne's Inne Feildes 31 foote." (fn. 1)
On 20th December, 1632, Stradling sold that part lying to the north of this second partition wall, including the house, etc., to George Gage. The house had not yet been completed, but a provision was subsequently made that Strode was to finish, before Easter, 1634, "the dwelling house and buildings now erected or begun to be erected, within and without … in all respects, fitt and necessary for one or more dwelling house or houses." (fn. 4)
The date of completion of the house may therefore be ascribed with probability to the year 1634.
Gage used the house as his own residence, and while "lyeinge sicke in the said messuage of the sickness whereof he died" made his will on 14th August, 1638, bequeathing the premises, (fn. 6) together with other property, to William Darrell and William Bierly to sell for the payment of his debts. On 25th February, 1639–40, it was purchased by Humphrey Weld for £2,600. (fn. 7)
The portion of Stradling's property which lay to the south of the second partition wall, and which extended to the southern limits of Aldwych Close, Stradling seems to have sold to Dr. Gifford for 500 years for £400 without right of redemption. (fn. 8) In 1649 Andrew Gifford sold the property for £650 to Weld, who assigned it to his mother, Dame Frances Weld, in trust. Three years later she re-assigned it to him.
Humphrey Weld thus became possessed of the whole of Aldwych Close lying to the east of Wild Street, and to the south of the gardens of the Great Queen Street houses, and he now began to develop the property by building. A reference to Hollar's Plan of 1658 (Plate 3) shows that by that year the whole of the east side of Wild Street, south of Weld House, and all the north side of Sardinia Street had been covered with houses. (fn. 9) Weld himself stated about 1670, that he had by that time laid out £15,600 in building. (fn. 7)
The street which had at least since 1629, (fn. 10) and probably since 1618, (fn. 11) led from Great Queen Street to Kemble then Street, then Princes Street, seems for some time to have been without a name. It is referred to in early deeds as "the back side of Drury Lane," "a way leading from Princes Street to Queen Street on the back side of Drury Lane," etc. In the Subsidy Rolls up to 1646 inclusive, it is merged in "Cockpit Side." The earliest instance of the name Weld Street or Wild Street (fn. 12) so far discovered is in a deed of 24th April, 1658, (fn. 13) which refers to "the street now called Wild Street, but heretofore called a way or passage of 40 foote breadth leading from Queenes Street to Princes Streete."
How far Weld House was identical with the mansion built by Stradling and Strode is uncertain. Blott, after mentioning the latter, says: "Adjoining it, on the south side, were the grounds and premises of Weld House, Drury Lane, occupied by Lady Frances Weld, widow. In 1657, Weld House and Stradling House. underwent a complete transformation, the two houses were united together and became one building, having, besides extensive additions made to it, a chapel (fn. 14) built in the garden; the front arranged to face Aldwyche Close instead of Drury Lane, and an approach made to it called Weld Street. This extraordinary enlargement was not to make the building a residence suitable to the dignity of the Welds, but rather for State purposes, such as the accommodation of princes and ambassadors in London." (fn. 15)
Blott gives no authority for his statements, one of which, relating to the formation of Weld Street, is demonstrably wrong. The statement that the "extraordinary enlargement" was carried out with a view to the reception of princes and ambassadors in the building is probably only an inference from the indisputable fact that ambassadors did afterwards reside in a portion of the house. (fn. 16) Nevertheless the view of the house given in Hollar's Plan of 1658 (Plate 3) certainly does suggest the amalgamation of two distinct houses, and the Subsidy Roll for 1646 shows that at that date two large residences existed side by side, (fn. 17) although of course these may have been only portions of one very large house.
As early as 1664 the house (or houses) seems to have been split up among a number of occupants. The entries in the Hearth Tax Rolls for 1664–1674 in respect of this portion of the street (amending the wrong order of the first roll) are as follows. The numbers in brackets represent the number of hearths taxed.
|Sam Nelson (6)||Samuel Nelson (6).|
|Lord Baltimore (15)||Cecill, Lord Baltimore (15)|
|Lady Spencer (16)||Lord Marquess of Winchester in 2 houses (30) (fn. 18)|
|A.||Gilbt. Crouch, Esq. (7)||Widow Tattershall (6).|
|B.||John Wolstenholm (14)||John Wolstenholme, Esq. (14)|
|C.||Humph. Wild, Esq. (14)||E (20)|
|The Portugall Embassador's House.|
|D.||Humph. Wild, Esq. (16)||Humfrey Weild, Esq. (16)|
|E.||Countess of Exeter (9)||E (10)|
|F.||Mary Sanders (9)||Mrs. Mary Sanders (9)|
|G.||John Worsley (3)||John Worsely, Marchht of Intercost (6)|
|Samuel Nelson (6)||Samuel Nelson (6)|
|Lord Baltimore (15)||The Lady Baltimore (15)|
|Marquess of Winchester (3)||Marquess of Winchester (30)|
|A.||Thomas Hawker (fn. 19) (7)||Thomas Hawker (7)|
|B.||Mary James (13)||E (13)|
|C.||The French Embassadour (20)||Spanish Ambassador (20)|
|D.||Humphrey Wild, Esq. (16)||Humphrey Wild, Esq. (16)|
|E.||Thomas Weedon, Esq. (5)||Madd. James (5)|
|F.||Mary Saunders (9)||Mary Saunders (9)|
|Mary Watson (1)||Mrs. Watson (1)|
|G.||John Worseley (6)||John Worsley (6)|
Of these neither (A) (fn. 19) nor G (fn. 20) formed part of Weld House, and (B) is doubtful. (C) and (F) however, certainly did, the former being the ambassadorial residence (see below) and the latter being mentioned in a deed of 1673, quoted by Parton (fn. 21), as "the wing of the said great house, late in Mary Saunders's possession." The house was therefore at this time in at least four distinct occupations. (fn. 22)
The two chief residences thus formed were evidently the house occupied by Weld himself and the ambassadorial house, immediately adjoining on the south. The former was the scene of a wild riot in 1671, when, Humphrey Weld having attempted to arrest the ringleaders in a tumult close by, the rabble, in a fury, attacked his house. (fn. 23)
The Portuguese Ambassador seems to have taken up his residence at Weld House in 1659, for on 9th July in that year he (Francisco de Mello) wrote from "Wild Street" to William Lenthall, announcing the arrival of his credentials, and asking for an audience. (fn. 24) The extracts from the Hearth Tax Rolls given above show that he was still there in 1665, gone in 1666, that the French Ambassador was there in 1673, (fn. 25) and the Spanish Ambassador in 1675. Numerous references to the residence of the last mentioned occur. (fn. 26) On the flight of James II. in December, 1688, the mob sacked the ambassador's house.
Shortly afterwards Weld House and the ground belonging to it were purchased by Isaac Foxcroft, who let out the property on building lease. (fn. 27) The house, or a portion of it, was however, still standing in 1694. (fn. 5)
In the Council's collection is:—
North-east side of Great Wild Street, in 1906, looking south-east (photograph).