Golden Square Area: Upper and Lower James Streets, Lower and Upper John Streets, and Bridle Lane

Pages 165-166

Survey of London: Volumes 31 and 32, St James Westminster, Part 2. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1963.

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In this section

Upper James Street

The four streets leading into Golden Square, Upper and Lower James Street and Upper and Lower John Street, probably derive their names from James Axtell and John Emlyn, the joint owners of Gelding Close at the time of the grant of the licence to build in 1673. At the partition of 1675 all of the ground on both sides of Upper James Street was taken by Isaac Symball, to whom Emlyn's share had passed (fig. 18). In 1709 the ground on the east side was acquired, together with the four houses which had been built there, for the charity established by Richard Reeve (see page 146), which still owns the property.

Lower James Street

At the partition of Gelding Close in 1675 all of the ground on both sides of Lower James Street was taken by James Axtell. In 1684 Martha Axtell granted fifty-one-year leases of all of the ground on the east side of Lower James Street to John Taylor, John James, and Abraham Bridle. Similar leases of the ground on the west side of Lower James Street were granted at the same time to William Barker, Samuel Horner, Abraham Smith and William Partridge of St. Martin's, blacksmith. (fn. 1)

Lower John Street

The ground on the east side of Lower John Street probably formed part of the parcel jointly granted by Axtell and Emlyn before the partition of 1675 to William Partridge. (fn. 2) At the partition of 1675 all of the ground on the west side of Lower John Street was taken by Isaac Symball, who shortly afterwards granted a nine hundred and eighty-year lease of part or perhaps all of it to John Wells, gentleman.

By 1677 Wells had agreed to sub-lease part of the ground to John Norman, citizen and plumber, who (perhaps in association with Arthur Cowell, bricklayer) built two houses here. (fn. 3) Six years later Wells had granted sub-leases to William Parsons, painter stainer, Joseph Gray, carpenter, and Josiah Beehoe. (fn. 4) A tablet formerly attached to one of the houses was inscribed 'This is John's Street Ano. Dom. 1685.' (fn. 5)

Nos. 1, 2 and 4 Lower John Street

No. 1, a two-windows-wide house, and No. 2, three windows wide, have four-storeyed fronts of yellow stock brick, extremely plain in character and probably of late eighteenth-century date. The ground storey of No. 2 is filled with a shop-front of about 1830, having plain Doric pilasters supporting a simple entablature. The windows above, those of the first floor alone having barred sashes, are set in plain openings with flat gauged arches of yellow brick, and the front is finished with a narrow stone coping.

No. 4 (with 4a) is a small house of about 1685, now four storeys high, in which each upper floor appears originally to have been planned to provide one room, having two windows to the street, an angle fireplace in the south-east corner, and a closet and small staircase on the north side, both lit by narrow windows. The much altered front is picturesque in its small scale and the small-paned casements of the windows. The interior is also greatly changed, but the first-floor room and the staircase are partly lined with plain rebated panelling.

Upper John Street

At the partition of 1675 all of the ground on the west side of Upper John Street was taken by James Axtell, and by the agreement of February 1683/4 Richard Tyler of St. Martin's, brickmaker, undertook its development. In August 1684 Martha Axtell granted him a fifty-one-year lease of the greater part of this ground, with a frontage to Silver (now Beak) Street, and seven houses were built there, some probably by John Bunce, Rice Williams and Abraham Morison, to whom Tyler granted sub-leases. She also appears to have entered into articles of agreement with John Angier for the development of the remainder, where two more houses were built. (fn. 6)

All of the ground on the east side of the street was taken in 1675 by Isaac Symball, who probably granted nine hundred-year leases of it to William Pye of St. James's, carpenter, to whom he granted similar leases of the sites of Nos. 32–34 Golden Square in 1685. In 1687(?/8) Pye leased the ground on the east side of the street to Abraham Morison, and subsequently it came into the possession of Henry Rogers, who built five houses there. (fn. 7)

Bridle Lane

Bridle Lane formed the boundary between Gelding Close on the west and the Pulteney estate in Windmill Field (Chapter IX) on the east. The ground on the northern half of the west side of the lane formed part of Isaac Symball's moiety of Gelding Close, while the southern half belonged to the Axtells (fig. 18). All of the ground backing on to the houses on the east side of Golden Square was granted away as part of the curtilages of those houses. The lane probably takes its name from Abraham Bridle of St. Martin's, carpenter, to whom leases of parts of Gelding Close were granted in the 1680's by both Isaac Symball and Martha Axtell.

Inevitably, as a narrow passage-way between two important streets of large houses, Bridle Lane was first developed as a mews. Although only one old stable building survives among the presentday warehouses and back-premises, the visual character of the lane remains little altered.


  • 1. M.L.R. 1714/2/98–9.
  • 2. Ibid., C8/400/7.
  • 3. P.R.O., C6/224/24.
  • 4. L.C.C. Members' Library, file 458.
  • 5. Notes and Queries, 8th series, 1894, vol. V, p. 41.
  • 6. M.L.R. 1734/5/131; Royal National Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital deeds, 4 Jan. 1725.
  • 7. Royal National … Hospital deeds, loc. cit.