Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1960.
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In this section
- CHAPTER VII
St. James's Fair, St. James's Market and Surrounding Streets
St. James's Fair was established by Edward I, who in 1290 granted to the leprous maidens of the Hospital of St. James the right to hold a fair on the vigil, the feast and the morrow of St. James and the four days following, i.e., 24–30 July. (fn. 2) The earliest surviving lease of St. James's Farm is dated 1455, and from this date (though probably the custom was much older) the tenant of the hospital's farm enjoyed the profits of the tolls of the fair. (fn. 3) The last lessee of the farm before St. James's Hospital and its lands were surrendered to Henry VIII in 1531 was Thomas Arnold, who in 1540 brought an action in the Court of Requests against William Moraunt, keeper of St. James's Palace and bailiff of St. James's Fair (see page 23), complaining that the latter had collected the tolls himself for the previous two years and deprived Arnold of the profits. Moraunt had been able to do this by preventing the stall-holders from erecting their booths on Arnold's land and directing them 'within the utter courte of St. James and the highwaye' (fn. 4) —i.e. the road known as St. James's Street, which was probably formed at about this time (fn. 5) (see page 431). The ruling of the Court has not survived, but it appears that for the rest of its existence the fair was held in St. James's Street. The profits of the tolls were included in a Crown lease of St. James's Farm in 1551, (fn. 6) and continued to be enjoyed by succeeding tenants. (fn. 7) When Thomas Poultney received an assignment of the farm in 1590 the profits of the tolls were also assigned to him. (fn. 8)
Like others near London, St. James's Fair was prohibited during times when plague was prevalent, and for this reason it was not held in 1593, 1603 or 1636. (fn. 9) In 1648 the Committee of the Militia of Westminster 'desired that the fair at St. James' may be put off for this year lest under colour of repairing thither there may be a meeting of many persons, which may prove dangerous to the Parliament'. (fn. 10) In spite of this request the fair was held, and although an affray took place it had no political significance. The affair involved 'one goodman Hall', a poor man aged eighty, who had permission from Ann Street to sell his wares outside her house in St. James's (presumably St. James's Street). Next door was a house tenanted by James Supple, a vintner and one of the building speculators in Pall Mall Field. Hall having omitted to ask Supple for permission to sell his wares during the time of the fair, Supple's wife Mary, 'did forcibly and violently runne upon him and flinge both him and his wares on the ground'. She was reproved by Ann Street's son, William Painter, who appears to have been the more willing to join in because the Supples owed the Streets rent. Thereupon Mary Supple assaulted Painter and gave him 'very scandalous and opprobrious Language'. Painter himself was arrested on the charge of James and Mary Supple, for assaulting them. (fn. 11)
Scenes like these must have frequently taken place and at the fair in 1661 several whores and 'infamous persons' (including one called 'tory Rory') were removed to the house of correction for indecent conduct. (fn. 12)
In 1665 the fair was removed to the recently established St. James's Market. An advertisement in The Newes of 1 June 1665 states that 'Whereas St. James Fair has been formerly kept in the Road near the House of St. James; be it known, that hereafter it is to be kept in St. James' Marketplace to begin the 25th of July 1665, and to continue for 15 dayes at least in the Place aforesaid: A special care being taken for a better Regulation of the People thereabouts then has been formaly.' (fn. 13) After this date no mention has been found of the fair.
St. James's Market
Like St. James's Church, St. James's Market was established under the aegis of the Earl of St. Albans to serve the growing number of people who had come to live in the new buildings in the vicinity. In March 1663 and again in the following June inquisitions were held at the Green Dragon tavern (fn. 14) in Pall Mall (fn. 15) to enquire into a proposal that three markets should be held each week in St. James's Fields and two others in the Haymarket. It was decided that these would not be prejudicial to the interests of the King or of the merchants and traders in the area, and so on the following 21 November the King granted by letters patent the right to hold the markets to John Hervey and John Coell, (fn. 14) as trustees for the Earl of St. Albans. (fn. 16)
The existence of a market place on leasehold property of the Earl of St. Albans is first mentioned in a building lease of July 1663 (fn. 17) and the ratebooks confirm that it had been laid out and houses built around it before the end of the year. Building in Market Lane and St. Albans Street soon followed. (fn. 15) The market itself was proclaimed on 27 September 1664 'to be kept in St Jame's Fields for all sort of Provisions every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday'. (fn. 18) (fn. 1)
A market house was built in 1665–6. (fn. 19) On 1 April 1666 Pepys wrote in his diary 'So all up and down my Lord St. Albans his new building and market-house, and the taverne under the market-house'. (fn. 20) Kip's perspective view (Plate 4) clearly shows a large building with a simple front, probably classical in style, having a pedimented centre facing down St. Albans Street and twin pediments at each end. Although this cannot be accepted as definite evidence of the building's appearance, it is likely to be a more reliable representation than that given on Ogilby and Morgan's survey of 1681–2, and Blome's slightly later map (Plates 2, 3), both of which show the market house as a Jacobean building of two storeys, with three entrances separated by projecting turrets, these rising against a high hipped roof. The true value of this representation may be assessed by observing that both cartographers have introduced gable-fronted houses into St. James's Square, and Blome shows a steeple astride the roof of Wren's church.
Parts of the market house were occasionally let off for purposes unconnected with trade. In 1674 Richard Baxter, the presbyterian preacher, held a number of meetings in 'divers Rooms over the Market-house laid together'. (fn. 21) He had been most anxious to preach in this part of London, for he considered that it was 'the habitation of the most ignorant, Atheistical and Popish about London'. (fn. 22) There were, so he believed, 'forty thousand more than can come into the Church [i.e., old St. Martin's Church], especially among all the new buildings in St. Jameses, where Neighbours many [sic] live like Americans, and have heard no Sermon of many years'. (fn. 21)
At one of Baxter's meetings an incident occurred which could have had tragic consequences had it not been for the timely intervention of his wife. 'The Roof of that Markethouse', so he wrote, 'is a vast weight, and was ill contrived to lye much on one Beam in the middle of the Floor : the place being greatly crowded, the Beam gave so great a crack as put all the people in a fear. But a second crack set them all on running and crying out at the windows for Ladders. . . . After the first crack she [his wife] got down the stairs through the crowd, where others could not get that were stronger. The first man she met, she askt him what Profession he was of ? He said, a Carpenter. Saith she, Can you suddenly put a prop under the middle of this Beam? The man dwelt close by, had a meet prop ready, suddenly put it under, while all we above knew nothing of it; but the mans knocking encreased the peoples fears and cry. We were glad all to be gone; and the next morning took a skilful Workman to take up the boards, and search the Beam; which we saw had two such rents, so long and so wide, and the sound part left was so slender, that we took it for a wonder that the house fell not suddenly.' (fn. 23)
Despite these structural weaknesses, there is no indication that the market house was ever rebuilt. In 1696 the building was described as having 'been erected about 30 years' and would, in the opinion of the Surveyor General, require rebuilding at the expiry of the Crown lease in 1740. (fn. 24) This requirement does not seem to have been fulfilled, for an illustration in the Westminster City Library of the interior of the market house immediately prior to its demolition in 1818, shows it then as a building of considerable age and in a very poor state of repair. (fn. 25) It was probably substantially the same building as that erected in the 1660's A plan of 1815 (fig. 41) shows it as a broad H-shaped building with staircases in the angles and with the market stalls lining the interior and exterior walls. (fn. 26) The various plans of the market place in the maps of Rocque, Zachary Chambers (fn. 27) and Horwood bear little resemblance to each other (see Plates 5, 6) and may have been only conventional representations.
The leasehold interest of the Earl of St. Albans in the market, which was due to expire in 1740, was conveyed in 1695 to Sidney, Lord Godolphin, together with the right, granted by letters patent, of holding the market in the market house and market place. (fn. 16) In 1696 Godolphin obtained a reversionary Crown lease of the market place and market house for ninety-nine years from 1740 (fn. 28) and granted a sub-lease to the trustees of the Pulteney estate. Surviving accounts of the trustees, for the period 1712–13, show that they were responsible for sweeping and cleaning the market and for repairing the market house. They also paid a Captain Rathbone for 'a Militia Horse for the Markett'. (fn. 29)
In 1720 St. James's Market was described as 'a large Place, with a commodious Market-house in the Midst, filled with Butchers Shambles; besides the Stalls in the Market-Place, for Country Butchers, Higglers, and the like; being a Market new grown to great Account, and much resorted unto, as being well served with good Provisions. On the South-west Corner is the Paved Alley, a good Through-fare into Charles-Street and so into St. James's Square, and those Parts; but is of no great Account for Buildings for Inhabitants.' (fn. 30) Provisions were 'usually a fourth Part dearer than in the Markets about the City of London, most of the Provisions being brought from thence, and bought up here by the Stewards of People of Quality, who spare no Price to furnish their Lords Houses with what is nice and delicate'. (fn. 31)
By the early nineteenth century St. James's Market was no longer of such good repute. Writing in 1856 the Reverend J. Richardson remembered it and the adjoining streets as being 'very properly avoided by all persons who respected their characters or their garments, and were consequently only known to a "select few", whose avocations obliged, or whose peculiar tastes induced them to penetrate the labyrinth of burrows which extended to Jermyn Street, and westward to St. James-square'. (fn. 32)
The adoption of Nash's plan for a New Street from Marylebone Park to Carlton House involved the removal of St. James's Market and the demolition of most of the houses in Market Lane and the market place. By April 1816 the demolition had begun and the houses between the market and Pall Mall were swept away. (fn. 33) The market house was not demolished until 1818, when the remaining tenants delivered up their stalls and shops to the Commissioners for the New Street. (fn. 34)
The Crown lease of the market place and market house had by this time passed to the Duke of Leeds, the eventual heir of Sidney, Lord Godolphin. (fn. 19) The Duke was paid £22,000 for his interest in St. James's Market, (fn. 34) although Nash considered it worth only £18,000 and was greatly loth to pay out any more. (fn. 35)
Part of Waterloo Place and Regent Street were then laid out on the site of the old houses in St. James's Market and St. Albans Street, and Charles Street was extended eastward into the Haymarket (fig. 42).
A new market was laid out in 1817–18 (fn. 36) on a more restricted site to the west of the Haymarket and between Jermyn Street and Norris Street (fig. 43), at an estimated cost of about £20,000. (fn. 37) The builder was James Burton, who had been granted a ninety-nine-year lease of the site. (fn. 36)
Nash had been particularly anxious for a new market to be built; 'an open Market', so he wrote in 1816, 'seems indespensable, St. James Market being totally removed and a pledge if not given at least understood that a new Market should be substituted—open shambles are essential to the poor and the poorer description of tradesmen who cannot pay large rents nor will the greater Butchers etc. supply the poor from their expensive shops at the same low terms as the poorer Butchers who pay smaller rents for the Shambles'. (fn. 37) The new provision shops which had sprung up in the neighbourhood had evidently attracted away the market's former aristocratic clientèle and weakened any hostility which might have been felt to the destruction of old St. James's Market.
A photograph in the Crown Estate Office (fn. 38) (fig. 44) gives a fair idea of the strictly utilitarian character of Burton's market buildings, showing the shops, with their small-paned windows and simple entablature-fascias, surmounted by two storeys of living accommodation, each having two widely spaced windows in plain openings with segmental arches, the brick fronts being finished with a narrow eaves-cornice. Unlike its predecessor, the new St. James's Market did not have a central market house.
By the 1880's the buildings in the new market were dilapidated. There were two cases of typhoid fever amongst the inhabitants in 1882 and the vestry clerk of St. James's complained to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests that the buildings there were 'not altogether suitable for human habitation'. (fn. 37)
The lease granted to Burton expired in 1916 and at the end of the war the plans of the Office of Woods and Forests, made previously, for the closure of the market and the redevelopment of the whole site were put into operation. These involved the widening of the existing passageway from Market Street (now St. Alban's Street) to the Haymarket, to form a new street, now called St. James's Market, and the consequent demolition of the houses on the south side of the market built in 1817–18. (fn. 39) The remaining houses were let as part of the island site, bounded by Jermyn Street on the north, the newly made street on the south, the Haymarket on the east and what is now St. Alban's Street on the west. This site was subsequently occupied by a cinema.
The Gaumont Cinema
Formerly the Capitol
A cinema, at first known as the Capitol, was erected in 1922–4 on the site described above. The architect was Andrew Mather, (fn. 40) and the contractors were Messrs. Arthur Vigor. (fn. 41) On the Jermyn Street front there were five shops, (fn. 42) and a restaurant was opened in the basement in 1927. (fn. 43)
To obtain the maximum development of the site, the architect was obliged to raise the cinema, containing stalls and a large upper tier, to the second-storey level, leaving the ground storey and basement free for the large galleried restaurant, and for shops along the Haymarket and Jermyn Street fronts, flanking the corner entrance to the cinema. The exterior, faced with Portland stone, was in the 'Regent Street Renaissance' manner, the ground storey being devoid of interest and the second storey having segmental-headed windows set in a rusticated face. The third and fourth storeys were embraced and divided into bays by Ionic pilasters, supporting a deep entablature with oblong windows in its frieze, and the attic storey over the Haymarket end had circular windows linked by festoons. The corner entrance to the cinema was emphasized by the tower-like treatment of the upper face, with its large arch-headed windows and a curious superstructure crowned with a concave roof and an illuminated lantern— a giant urn-shaped rival to the globe on the London Coliseum. The interior of the cinema was decorated in a coarse version of the Adam style, coloured in lilac and silver, the main ceiling having painted panels and medallions by Colin Gill, A.R.A. Oliver Bernard, the stage designer and architect, was responsible for the plaster cyclorama on which the films were originally projected, against a ground of coloured light appropriate to the emotion of the moment.
In 1936 the interior of the building was entirely reconstructed, and the shops and restaurant were eliminated; the architect was W. E. Trent. (fn. 44) The cinema was re-opened as the Gaumont on 4 February 1937. (fn. 45) In 1951 the lantern on the corner turret was replaced by a flagpole. (fn. 44) The cinema was closed in 1959.
Norris Street, a short street leading off the west side of the Haymarket, is first recorded by name in the ratebooks of St. Martin's in 1674. It had probably been laid out some years earlier, for in 1661 the Earl of St. Albans's trustees had granted to Godfrye Norris a lease of four houses and a yard in the Haymarket and what was later to become St. James's Market. (fn. 46) In 1720 the street was described by John Strype as 'a Place of a pretty good Trade for Salesmen'. (fn. 30)
Old 'St. Albans Street'
One of the streets which were entirely destroyed for the formation of Regent Street was St. Albans Street, a name still used for another street in the vicinity (see below). This was described by Strype in 1720 as 'handsome [and] well built', and ran from the north side of Pall Mall up to the market place. (fn. 30) In 1710 Swift lodged on the second floor of a house there; he had 'the use of the parlour to receive persons of quality'. (fn. 47) Later in the eighteenth century William Hickey's father, a solicitor, lived in St. Albans Street. He 'purchased the house next to his own . . ., pulled it down and rebuilt it as an addition to his. . . . This addition made it a most capital mansion, one of the advantages being, instead of a common passage, the entering into a handsome hall, with a fire place, the room that had been my brother's, and the clerk's office being a part of it.' (fn. 48)
St. Alban's Street
The whole of this street was originally part of Market Lane. Until the formation of Regent Street and the consequent improvement of a number of adjacent side streets Market Lane was a narrow thoroughfare running from Pall Mall to Jermyn Street; part of its east side formed the east side of the market place (Plate 6), and further south another part abutted on the back of the Opera House. In about 1797 Thomas Leverton, who was architect to the Land Revenue Department and surveyor to the Theatres Royal in London, proposed that the whole of Market Lane south of Charles Street should be converted into 'a Corridor of General Communication to the Theatre, and that the old Houses on the west side of Market Lane should be used as Dressing Rooms, which would be the means of removing the Inhabitants, who are of the most exceptionable Class'. (fn. 49) This proposal was subsequently adopted in modified form by Nash when he built the Royal Opera Arcade upon the site of the southern portion of Market Lane (see page 242).
At the time of the demolition of St. James's Market in 1816–18, the paving committee of St. James's Vestry re-named the section of Market Lane to the north of Charles Street as St. Alban's Place, (fn. 50) but the 1819 edition of Horwood's map still marks the northern end of the street between Norris Street and Jermyn Street as Market Lane. This northern end subsequently became known as Market Street. (fn. 51) In 1936 both St. Alban's Place and Market Street were re-named St. Alban's Street.
In 1816–18 a stable yard was built on the west side of the street to the design of (Sir) John Soane, for the Earl of St. Germans (see page 208).
The Western Synagogue
The Western Synagogue was built in 1827–8 by Robert Abraham (fn. 52) behind No. 12 St. Alban's Place and at the back of houses on the north side of Charles Street. (fn. 53) It was built by a congregation from Denmark Court, Strand, which had been founded in 1774. (fn. 54) No illustration of the building has been found.
The synagogue appears to have occupied the first floor of a stable block and No. 12 St. Alban's Place was occupied by the rabbi. (fn. 53) Between 1865 and 1870 the building was repaired and redecorated from the designs of J. D. Hayton. (fn. 55)
In 1905 the congregation was joined by that of the former Maiden Lane Synagogue. For a time they considered a project to rebuild the premises in St. Alban's Place, but this scheme was later abandoned in favour of an entirely new site elsewhere. The old building was demolished in the summer of 1914. (fn. 56)
No. 10 St. Alban's Street: The Pall Mall Safe Deposite
When the leases of Nos. 11–13 (consec.) Norris Street expired in 1890 the Office of Woods and Forests decided to retain the old buildings for a further two years until the leases of the adjoining property in St. Alban's Place should expire. They obtained possession of this latter property, which comprised Lane's Hotel and No. 4 St. Alban's Place, in April 1892 and immediately cleared the whole of the site. The first rebuilding project, for a block of shops and residential chambers by Arthur Green, did not materialize. This was followed by another abortive scheme for a theatre from the designs of Charles J. Phipps and A. Blomfield Jackson. (fn. 57)
By the spring of 1897 the Office of Woods and Forests was negotiating for the erection of a fireproof depository, with six shops in Norris Street. It was particularly specified that the façade of the new building was not to look like that of a factory. The main front, as seen from Regent Street, was to be of Portland stone and the remaining elevations of red brick. The architects were Arthur and Leslie W. Green. Their plans were finally approved in June 1897. (fn. 58)
Work was started in the autumn of 1897 and completed in the latter half of 1898 (Plate 277c). As originally designed the main façade was to have lettering on the cornice, immediately below the attic storey. After objections from the Office of Woods and Forests, however, this was changed in 1899 to the present arrangement of lettered scrolls over the pilasters at third-storey level. These appear to have been designed to match the scrolls which were already in place on either side of the entrance arch. (fn. 59)
In 1948 the balusters which had formerly decorated the lower part of the attic, immediately below the clock, were removed. Similar balusters were also removed from beneath the sills of the second-storey windows. (fn. 60)
The Safe Deposit is a four-storeyed building of red brick dressed with stone, its most important feature being the main entrance, monumentally treated in the Baroque manner to fill the vista from Regent Street. This part of the front is entirely stone-faced, the four storeys being arranged in two stages, with the windows grouped so that the lower stage contains only one tall round arch, and the upper stage a single mullioned-and-transomed window within a pedimented frame. Flanking the rusticated lower stage are two-tier pedestals, the lower tier composed of heavily battered rustic courses, and upon the pedestals stand paired Corinthian plain-shafted pilasters rising through the upper stage and supporting the main entablature. Above this is a low attic stage with paired brackets supporting a swanneck pediment at either side, and over all is the crowning triangular pediment, its tympanum containing a clock-face within a moulded architrave broken by blocks.
Nos. 14–16 (even) St. Alban's Street
Formerly No. 2 Market Street and Nos. 1–3 (consec.) St. James's Market
The present building at Nos. 14–16 (even) St. Alban's Street was erected in 1907 by J. Styles and Son, builders and decorators, who had occupied one of the old buildings on the site since 1860. The architects were Messrs. Treadwell and Martin of Charing Cross Road. The building was designed to serve J. Styles and Son as both office and workshop, but is now used as a restaurant and a block of flats. (fn. 61)
It is a five-storeyed building of red brick with stone dressings in a vaguely Georgian style. Equal fronts with five windows crowded into each upper storey face St. Alban's Street and St. James's Market, and on the east of the St. James's Market front is a projecting wing of three bays. Display windows with stone surrounds fill the ground storey, having over them a deep stone fascia and a prominent cornice. The windows in the upper storeys are uniformly flat-headed, with moulded stone architraves, and only the addition of keystones and cornice-hoods in the second storey relieves the monotony. A Doric pilaster striped with broad, horizontal bands of stone is placed at either end of the St. Alban's Street front and of the eastern wing, and there is another at the western end of the St. James's Market front. Just below the capital of each pilaster is a small stone cartouche, and on the rounded angle of the building, at second-storey level, is a large, foliated cartouche proclaiming the name of the builders in ornate gilt letters. The crowning cornice is surmounted by a balustrade.