The Pitt Estate in Dean Street: No. 78 Dean Street

Pages 235-237

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.


In this section

No. 78 Dean Street

For the building of No. 78 see the table on page 250.

The most notable occupant of this not greatly altered house (Plate 112c) was the actress Margaret (Peg) Woffington. Her removal to London from Dublin in 1740 is said to have been made under the protection of an admirer, a sprig of Irish nobility probably named Theobald Taaffe, from whom she was soon estranged. (fn. 2) The literary authority for this tale seems dubious, but it may nevertheless be true. In 1740 No. 78 was assessed for rates successively to a Mr. and then Mrs. Taaffe. The former may well have been the Theobald Taaffe who in 1742 had an account at the bank now Drummond's, and was no doubt a kinsman of the fourth and last Earl of Carlingford, Theobald Taaffe (d. 1738), for a note in the parish ratebook suggests that the rates were actually paid by the late Earl's heir, Nicholas, sixth Viscount Taaffe. Whichever members of the family inhabited the house, they were succeeded as ratepayers at Michaelmas 1740 by the Irish actress. She is named Mrs. Woffington until 1745 and thereafter Margaret Woffington until she ceased to pay rates here early in 1748.

It was during this period that Miss Woffington's association with David Garrick ran its course: their cohabitation is, however, usually placed in Southampton Street, Covent Garden, (fn. 3) and it is therefore uncertain whether it was in Dean Street that they entertained Samuel Johnson and Garrick grumbled at his paramour's extravagance with the tea. (fn. 4) The supposed ménage à trois with Charles Macklin is also usually placed at the latter's house in Bow Street, Covent Garden. (fn. 1) From c. 1744 Miss Woffington had in addition a house at Teddington. (fn. 5)

She was succeeded as ratepayer for the years 1748–9 by Captain James Young, possibly the naval officer who later became an admiral. From 1770 to 1776 the occupant was Francis Delaballe, described as a 'merchant'. (fn. 6) From 1781 to 1823 the house was occupied professionally by the successful surgeon, Jesse Foot (who lectured here on venereal disease in 1790–1), and, for a period, his nephew of the same name. (fn. 7)

In 1833 the freehold was bought from the Crown for £1,100 by William Wood, a solicitor, of Richmond Buildings, founder of the firm of W. J. Fraser and Son, which still occupies the house. (fn. 8) In the years c. 1840–51 the house was partly occupied by the Rev. Thomas Long, rector of St. Patrick's from 1848, together with the Rev. Mr. Darcy (1842–7) and the Rev. Thomas Barge, later rector, in 1849–51. (fn. 9)

Architectural Description

This and the two houses northward, Nos. 79 and 80, which were built two or three years earlier than the larger houses to the south (see table on page 250), have their fronts set a little further forward, probably adhering to the original building line of the street (Plate 112c). No. 78 is a single-fronted house of modest dimensions and conventional design. Its plan mirrors that of No. 79, so that they share chimney-stacks in the party walls and have adjoining closet-wings at the back. No. 78 is the less altered of the pair. It has a front of three storeys, three windows wide, built of variegated stock bricks dressed with red rubbers, which are used for the jambs and segmental arches of the window openings, and for the moulded bandcourse at first-floor level. The doorway, on the left of the two groundfloor windows, has a wooden doorcase consisting of two Doric pilasters with fluted shafts, supporting a triglyphed entablature which, apart from the crowning members of its cornice, is returned and recessed above the doorway opening. The windows have plain stone sills, plastered reveals, and sashes with a single glazing-bar, probably of mid-nineteenth-century date. The front is carried up to form a plain parapet, finished with a narrow stone coping, and in the slated mansard roof are two segmental-headed dormers. The cast-iron railing to the front area, and the partly glazed door, appear to be mid-Victorian.

The entrance hall and staircase are on the south side of the front and back rooms. The frontroom fireplace is centred in the north wall, the chimney-breast having a wide face slightly projecting from narrow side faces. The backroom chimney-breast is splayed across the northwest angle, backing on to the splayed fireplace in the closet. The hall was probably altered about 1800, by the surgeon, Jesse Foot, for it is now of the same width as the staircase compartment, from which it is separated by a screen composed of a partly glazed door between side-lights, surmounted by a large semi-circular fanlight with radiating glazing-bars. This screen, of about 1800, extends between the two Doric fluted pilasters that originally dressed the opening between hall and staircase. The walls of the hall, the staircase, and the ground- and first-floor rooms are wainscoted in deal, with plain panels in two heights set in framing moulded with an ovolo and an inside fillet. The six-panelled doors and window shutters are similarly moulded, and while some of the doorways have stepped architraves, others have been refurbished with narrow architraves of Regency pattern. Generally, the most salient mouldings have been removed from the dado-rails, and no original chimneypieces have survived. All the rooms have box-cornices, those in the ground-floor back and first-floor front being enriched with dentil courses. The closets and upper rooms are lined with plain rebated panelling.

The dog-legged staircase is typical of its date, having cut strings extending from the ground floor to the half-landing above the first floor, the basement and upper flights having moulded closed strings. The cut strings are ornamented with carved bracket step-ends, and the railings are composed of moulded handrails resting on plain-shafted Doric column-newels, and squaresection balusters, two to each tread, turned with slender Doric columns above urn-shaped bases.


  • 1. The ratebooks of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, for the period during which Miss Woffington was a ratepayer in St. Anne's do not contain her, Taaffe's or Garrick's name, although a 'Joshua Woffindon' was a ratepayer in Hart Street. Macklin was assessed in Bow Street in 1743–8.
  • 2. J. Fitzgerald Molloy, The Life and Adventures of Peg Woffington, 1884, vol. I, pp. 21–2, 48; Janet Camden Lucy, Lovely Peggy, 1952, pp. 33–4, 37.
  • 3. Joseph Knight, David Garrick, 1894, p. 57; Margaret Barton, Garrick, 1948, p. 66; D.N.B.
  • 4. Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill, 1887, vol. III, p. 264.
  • 5. Margaret Barton, op. cit., p. 80; Carola Oman, David Garrick, 1958, p. 57.
  • 6. The Universal Director … by Mr. Mortimer, 1763.
  • 7. R.B.; Boyle's Court Guide; D.N.B.; J. Menzies Campbell, John Hunter, 1952, p. II.
  • 8. Deeds in the possession of W. J. Fraser and Son, 16 Oct. 1833.
  • 9. P.R.O., HO107/1510/2, 4; Directories.
  • 10. W.P.L., H.50, 52, 54–5, 57, 60.