Old Compton Street Area: Portland Estate, King Street, North side

Pages 205-207

Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1966.

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King Street, North side

King Street formerly occupied part of the present line of Shaftesbury Avenue and ran from Wardour Street to Moor Street. Only its northern side east of Dean Street lay within the area of the Portland estate. West of Dean Street the north side consisted of the glebe land, lying south of the churchyard, granted to the rector of St. Anne's by the Act of 1678 which established the boundaries of the parish and of the church site; in the Act the glebe was said to measure 213 feet from east to west and 45 feet from north to south. (fn. 1) The greater part of the south side of the street originally lay within the area of the Military Ground and the general history of the street is described in Chapter XVI.

Here is discussed only the north side, including, for convenience, the glebe land.

East of Dean Street, a few buildings can probably be identified in the ratebooks for 1679 and 1681, and in 1683 this part of the north side appears fully built although probably not fully tenanted. The ratepayers' names included in that year three known builders. Two at adjacent sites were Augustine Beare, glazier, and Richard Campion, carpenter, who were associated in the building of the parish church. The third was Nicholas Pollentine, a joiner, whose dealings with Frith in respect of his site here have already been mentioned (see page 33). The outcome was a Chancery suit in 1685, from which it appears that in October 1682 Frith agreed to remunerate Pollentine for work done for him by the lease of a house in this part of King Street, which Pollentine undertook to finish 'with all beautifull and ornamentall accomodacion', including sash windows, as Frith should order. The house was valued at the rate of £38 per square. The lease was made to Pollentine, for forty-four years, in 1684, but it appears that the mortgages with which Frith had already encumbered it made his lawyer unwilling to surrender the title-deeds, and from this arose the dispute. (fn. 2)

Apart from throwing light on Frith's business procedure the records of the case show that in this part of the street Frith's own tenure was by the end of 1682 dependent on a lease or leases from Thomas Crosse of Westminster, brewer (later Sir Thomas Crosse, baronet). The lease of 1684. to Pollentine was in fact made by Crosse with Frith as an associated party. (fn. 2) A Michael Cross(e) appears as ratepayer for a single site in 1679 and 1681 and a Nicholas Crosse for a single site in 1683 and 1684.

Richard Davis, painter, is mentioned in Pollentine's suit as possessor of the adjacent house in 1682.

Considerable rebuilding took place in the 1730's, apparently all eastward of Frith Street. At the easternmost end, beyond Greek Street, Portland leases were granted severally to building tradesmen, Henry Crosse of St. Anne's, joiner, William Laurence of St. Anne's, carpenter, and Owen Sainsbury of St. Marylebone, carpenter (the last having a building lease). (fn. 3) Between Greek Street and Dean Street the Portland lessees were not building tradesmen, but some themselves granted leases for building. One of these lessors was Sir Thomas Crosse, whose lessees included John Doley of St. George's, Hanover Square, carpenter, and George Weston of St. James's, plasterer, acting together. (fn. 4)

Something of the quality of the rebuilding undertaken by a lessee of the Portlands independently of the requirements of any building lease from them as ground landlords is indicated by a building agreement referring to a site here, between Frith Street and Greek Street, in 1735. The owner was Philip Elias Peltier or Pelletier, gentleman, who then held a sixty-four-year term from the Portlands. (fn. 3) The agreement is known only in an unsigned draft but is endorsed 'settled', and was evidently carried out. (fn. 5) The other party was Edward Allen, carpenter (of Boyle Street, St. James's), (fn. 6) who does not seem to have worked extensively in St. Anne's. Allen undertook the work for £325, to be paid in instalments as it proceeded. For this he agreed to pull down the existing house and erect a new one, eighteen feet in front and twenty feet deep with a closet at the back. Above a cellar and vaults there were to be three storeys and a garret-storey. The height of the ground-floor rooms was to be ten feet, and of the first- and second-floor rooms (probably) nine and seven feet respectively. The front of the house was to be faced with 'grey' stock bricks, and the windows (of Crown glass in the two lower storeys and of 'Castle' glass above) were to be set in to a depth of four inches. The street door was to be given a wooden 'frontispiece'. Within, a handsome staircase was to ascend from cellars to garrets. On the ground floor there was to be a marble chimneypiece in the front parlour and ones of Portland stone in the back parlour and closet; on the first floor all the chimneypieces were to be of marble and on the second floor all of Portland stone. All the rooms on the three main floors were to be wainscoted. The doors on the ground and first floors were to be painted mahogany colour. The work was to be executed according to a plan provided and signed by Allen. (fn. 7) The first occupant rated in 1736 for the new house, which had presumably been built to these requirements, was a Major Mackenzie. (fn. 5)

None of the houses erected east of Dean Street before the formation of Shaftesbury Avenue now survives. (For the present Nos. 75 and 77, and Nos. 93–107 (odd) Shaftesbury Avenue see pages 300).

Westward of Dean Street, the commencement of building on the rector's glebe land had had to await the institution of the first rector in 1686. The Act of 1678 had empowered the rector to lease the glebe for a term not longer than fortyone years, at a ground rent of forty shillings per foot frontage; subsequent leases could be granted for forty years at an 'improved' rent. (fn. 1) In March 1687 the rector, John Hearne, was granting a lease here to the Michael Cross mentioned above, for the full permitted term. The house on the site was said to be in building by the lessee and to abut on either side on houses being built by a John Webley, gentleman, and a William Robins, mason. (fn. 8) Another builder here was the Richard Poyck of St. Anne's, bricklayer, (fn. 9) who also built a house on the south side of the street (see page 412). The houses on the glebe do not appear in the 1691 ratebook but are all listed in a tax book of 1693. (fn. 10) They were assessed for rates more highly than those east of Dean Street, and the early inhabitants included (in 1693) a Dr. Symson and a Colonel Coy, and (in 1697) a Colonel Tiffany.

By 1889 the 'glebe houses' in Shaftesbury Avenue were yielding £760 per annum in ground rents. (fn. 11) In 1892 they were pulled down and 'new and important buildings' erected in their place, under a long lease from the rector and with the consent of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The passage to the south-west door of the church between Nos. 65 and 67 Shaftesbury Avenue was enlarged at the same time. (fn. 12)


  • 1. 30 Car. II, c. 7, private.
  • 2. P.R.O., C7/590/95.
  • 3. Nottingham University, Portland MSS., Soho lease book.
  • 4. Nottingham University, Portland MSS., Soho lease book; M.L.R. 1733/2/467.
  • 5. R.B.
  • 6. Survey of London, vol. XXXII, 1963, pp. 546–7.
  • 7. Berkshire County Record Office, D/ED. F. 152.
  • 8. M.L.R. 1716/1/118.
  • 9. Ibid., 1713/4/153.
  • 10. Corporation of London Record Office, assessments box 83.2.
  • 11. Guildhall Library, MS. 10731/2.
  • 12. Twenty Years in Soho, 1911, pp. 19–20.